Washington, DC:
“It felt like a festival, a festival of Defiance”

| revcom.us


Thousands gather on Black Lives Matter Plaza to protest the murder of George Floyd in Washington, DC near the White House, June 6. Photo: AP.

From a member of the Revolution Club:

Last Saturday, June 6, after days of unrelenting and defiant protests in cities all over the country, which escalated after the bag of fascist feces tear gassed and brutalized protesters at Lafayette Park across the White House, thousands and thousands of people gathered all day in DC, NY, and in every state in the U.S. to step up the struggle. Refuse Fascism had also called for nationwide protests, starting at 4 pm on June 6 to bring forward a resounding "TRUMP/PENCE OUTNOW!" as part of this. And the NYC Revolution Club joined with the Refuse Fascism chapters from New York and Philadelphia and took up that call.

In DC, it was the largest crowd we had seen since the upheaval began, with different spontaneous marches and gatherings happening all over and people gathering at Black Lives Matter Plaza and Lafayette Park all day. By 4 pm it was a beautiful scene of many thousands, and many of the people coming from New York commented on how the scene was different than they had been part of before. It felt like a festival, a festival of defiance, a festival with a deep yearning for something radically different for Black people, with conviction that this “generation was not fucking taking it no more” and a real seriousness in debating the implications of what this means. Some people talked about how this must have been what the ’60s felt like.

Thousands protest the murder of George Floyd in Washington, DC near the White House, June 6. Photo: AP.

The day was marked by a variety of nonviolent protests, but it did not feel like protest as usual. While there were multiple organized actions in the city, there were also many spontaneous marches and many circles forming around different agitators and other activities going on. The wall built by the Trump/Pence regime to block off Lafayette Park became a canvas for all the different politics and art of the moment to find expression. The streets themselves, as well as all the plywood on the windows of the buildings surrounding the area, also became an extension of that, with all kinds of art being plastered, painted, chalked, and more speaking to the moment. Throughout the day hundreds of people made a point to climb up to take pictures with the Black Lives Matter Avenue sign and some chose to agitate from that perch. It was a sign of the joy, the fearlessness, the community, and the defiance of the moment. At night there was a concert and thousands dancing in the street—performers put on “Out Now!” stickers and chanted “fuck Trump!”

More so than we have seen in New York, the crowds included a lot of youth from inner city neighborhoods as well as the broad swaths of youth from different races and backgrounds that we have been seeing all over the country. And the protests in DC were overwhelmingly Black (one report said 60-70 percent Black). There were people from all generations here, and some immigrants from different countries who wanted it known they were standing with Black people—we saw signs for Sikhs for Black Lives Matter for example, as well as young Latino and Asian people, second-generation immigrant youth. Many groups of friends came together, including some people who set up water stands. There was also a tremendous amount of support from many different sections for the protesters—a church opened up its doors for people to rest when really hot and use the rest rooms, a pizza chain closed down two of its restaurants to make and deliver pizzas just for the protesters. Not everyone felt they wanted to be on the front lines, but many people who weren’t ready for that made it known in word and deed that they were with the protesters and did not want this to be held back.

One thing worth noting was how prevalent the notion was that silence is complicity and that you can’t sit this out. Also worth noting is how frequent fascism was on signs. Mainly white folk had these signs, with older people having signs making historical comparisons and younger people having things like “No Fascist USA.”

The Revcoms and Refuse Fascism in Washington, DC, June 6.

The NYC Revolution Club and Refuse Fascism rolled together among the thousands of people tightly packed along the avenue. We found a good corner where we could gather and rally people and be able to draw people in to listen, and chant together. And while some agitated, others fanned out through the people gathered to pass out flyers of BA’s “Nothing Less” statement and the “What To Do Now” piece from revcom.us, as well as “Trump/Pence OUT NOW!” stickers and to talk to people. While the NYC Revolution Club people agitated, others held up copies of HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America authored by Bob Avakian. When they would agitate that it is the system of American imperialism that has had its knee on the neck of Black people and bringing out how white supremacy and capitalism are intertwined into the fabric of this system and cannot be separated without tearing that fabric apart, people were hungry to get into it. They brought out too how the white supremacist fascist-in-chief sitting in the White House, Trump, was brought forward by this very same system and what it would mean for Black people as well as others here and around the world if this fascist movement was able to suppress this upheaval. You could tell that people were listening because they would not cheer right away but then after a little while—there would be some affirmations from the crowd, some would cheer, the chanting started getting louder and more defiant. One of us said he was a member of the NYC Revolution Club and called on people to become members too, because of what is needed is to actually put an end to institutionalized racism and murder by police. He talked about Bob Avakian, and why people need to know about this leader. And when he agitated drawing, from BA’s “Nothing Less” about the kind of society we could bring into being, one where no Black person would ever have to walk down the street in fear, where every woman could hold her head high, where immigrants wouldn’t have to fear being terrorized, there were the loudest cheers. When people’s sights were raised to a vision of a different society, where all the shit they have to deal with day in and day out, which seems permanent, could actually be brought into being by what we do.

As the handful of revcoms there fanned through the crowd, people were asking questions about who Bob Avakian is, what his history is, what did we mean by an actual revolution, why we thought there was a chance to even win. Another thing that resonated with people is that by this rebellion, the people have rocked the system back on its heels. That this actually has taken the initiative from this system and its forces of repression, and you can begin to see that they are not all powerful and there are deep cracks in how they keep us locked into their way of life. Another thing a Revcom mentioned afterward is that it’s not just that people are open to engaging different solutions and paths forward they wouldn’t normally even consider, but that people are open to struggling over what they think and are open to really looking at reality. And if we lead with reality and what is actually happening, there is real openness with people to change how they are thinking about things. Even as many people even spontaneously took up “Fuck Trump,” by the end of the day it was much more widespread and the “TRUMP/PENCE OUT NOW!” stickers were literally everywhere.

Refuse Fascism leads chants of Trump/Pence OUTNOW. Photo: AP.

One important thing that happened that evening was in response to agitation from the NYC Revolution Club, several youths from neighborhoods—Black, Brown, South Asian, men and women—did a “speak bitterness” where they brought out for all to hear the daily, unrelenting brutality they face. A 17-year-old woman spoke about the fear she feels each and every day her brother goes outside. They spoke to a deep sentiment that they are not going to live with this anymore—“They fucked with the wrong generation.” People had the conviction that they have right on their side, and many felt themselves and struggled with others that this cannot be turned back—that this was not a photo op, or a party, but deadly serious.

One big challenge we have is working on how to have an impact and how to envision speaking to millions in real ways when we objectively are small forces. Where we set up, we had a big impact on those hundreds who gathered up there and those passing by. But we are wrestling with what it means and how to wield the forces we have so that Revolution—Nothing Less! gets announced and provokes, challenges, and inspires far beyond those right around us.



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