While interviewing the folks in my “This Day in History” segment, I was alerted to the fact that there would be an economic-related protest in Freedom Square in a few days, so before leaving for a long weekend out of town, I swung by the protests. To be forthcoming, I’ve never been a big fan of protests. Whatever they achieve in term of moral, I’ve always found them to be lacking in mobilization or even organization. Nevertheless, protesting is a national pastime in DC, so I was curious what I could find and show.
What I found at Freedom Plaza on Thursday, Oct 6, was a mishmash of messages and a confusing array of viewpoints at an event that had no real unifying theme, probably because George W. Bush is no longer in office. During the 2000-2008 years, such a loose string of causes was always glossed over by straightforward distaste at the 43rd President. Although there were allusions to the former commander-in-chief, there were just as many dismissive comments about Barack Obama. I expected anti-corporate populist economic rhetoric, but also found plenty of anti-war, pro-Palestine, Nazi equivalency, along with tons of other tangential messages. The entire affair felt more like a networking event than a grassroots mobilization. I left before they started organizing marches through the city, to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance.
The highlights were the people I spoke with. As usual, every person I spoke with was very friendly and happy to indulge I my usual style of interviewing. It’s the kind of thing that makes me think this project could have some sort of future to it if I figure out the winning formula. People are all too kind with their time and words most times and there is nothing more fun than talking with folks who usually don’t get interviewed. The most surprising thing, and that of which I most proud this time around, was the diversity of reaction to my Steve Jobs question. Juxtaposing two events and capturing a moment in time felt very impromptu and authentic to me. (I’m especially appreciative of Will’s time, the Iraq War veteran, since my brother also served time in that war. I can only imagine how hard it can be to be a military person who is genuine about their anti-war viewpoints. He put off a march he was coordinating to the Chamber to speak with me, and I want to specifically thank him for that.)
A low point was the presence of the media. This may have been the most covered protest per capita in history. I realize it may be ironic, if not downright Palin-esque, to complain about the media, but this was truly a circus. It felt as if there as many media and citizen journalists like yours truly at the event as there were protestors, to the point that it was initially hard to get an interview. For the people drawing any attention to themselves, you wouldn’t get them right away, or if you approached them, some other schmuck like myself would just interrupt. I saw reporters doing the bulk of talking to people they were interviewing. There was an endless supply of equipment better than I’ll ever own. And tons of media passes. Media passes to an event in an open public square? Who was handing them out? Some were obviously homemade. Why not just show up wearing a fedora with a “press” tag on it, like some Roaring 20s newpaperman version of the Mad Hatter? After shooting tons of b-roll, I left somewhat disgusted, had lunch, and resolved to give it another try, mostly because I didn’t want to admit to the person I was having dinner with that night that I didn’t get any interviews. I have enough footage that I may just do a second video, without interviews, of what came from the stage, because I think it would tell its own story.
Finally, I hope no one’s car got towed. Even bike parking was hard to come by.