The weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2003, a group of students my college piled into two vans late at night. We were headed to DC where President Bush was considering going to war in Iraq. We wanted to convince him otherwise.
I was in the back of the bigger fifteen passenger van with my friend Bethany. We couldn’t hear the stereo and neither the conversation nor the heat flowed our way. My feet were frozen before we had even made it out of the state. We drove all night, stopping occasionally to fill up on gas and nicotine. When we arrived in DC, the sun was just coming up so we headed to a quaint diner. As we waited for our food (and, for some of us, the bathroom), two cops walked in and sat down. I knew this was only the beginning and we would be seeing more of their kind later in a less friendly environment.
The protest was being held on the mall. As we wound our way through the sea of protestors, my eyes tried to take it all in. Vietnam vets were selling antique anti-war buttons. People were handing out leftist papers. Others were covering their faces with handkerchiefs. One of the girls I was with did this and I asked why. She said that the government took satellite photos of people at protests. Back then I thought she was just crazy and paranoid but ever since the passing of the Patriot Act, I’m completely on her side.
My numb feet pounded on the frozen ground as we hoisted our hand-made signs: “Bush and Dick Make Love Not War”, “He tried to kill my daddy!”, and “Disco 4-ever, Imperialism Never!” As other groups passed ours, we were congratulated on our disco slogan. The group of drag queens seemed to like it especially.
The day consisted of spurts of speakers and anti-war cheers. My group took time to warm ourselves by slipping into one of the many free museums. At one point exhaustion took over and I fell asleep on a bench in front of an Ella Fitzgerald exhibit.
After the march and more protesting, our group climbed back into our vans, our feet still frozen but our hearts warmed and hopeful. We promised that should America go to war, we would come back to DC to protest, decked out in disco gear.