The revolution will be branded

Thoughts and pictures from a short summer trip to Washington, DC.

I was in the capital in June. [I wrote this at the time but felt like I didn’t have anything all that insightful or interesting to say. Still feel that way really but am publishing it anyway as the pictures may be of interest to some people, so I’ll leave it unedited from this point on.] With all the museums and public buildings still closed from the lockdown I had ample chance to see the city itself. Washington is a beautiful city, practically an open air museum itself, and there is a lot to find yourself lost in. However, I found myself watching the people more than the monuments, statues, and landmarks. And people in DC seem on edge.

“Made for this moment.” A man walks by Black Lives Matter graffiti scrawled beneath the AFL-CIO sign on that organization’s building on 16th Street.

Washington, D.C. appears anxious. The atmosphere is tense with people who are socially distancing with their eyes as well as their bodies. D.C. isn’t the friendliest city to begin with but this visit seemed different, people were noticeably nervous around each other. Social distancing was pretty universally observed but it was commonplace for people to not only veer six feet away when passing each other on the street but also to look away from the person they’re walking by. The effect was pronounced by the fact that all we can see of each other is our eyes. It felt accusatory.

Walking and scootering around town I felt a near constant current of anxiety running through the sidewalks. Maybe I’d been cooped up in my rural hideaway for too long but the pavements were empty of people only to still be full of tension.

I was reluctant to stay in one place for too long. It was a hot week and I wanted to wear shorts but my tattoo could get me in trouble so I kept moving either to stay cool or keep from being noticed if I did wear shorts.

A group of protesters gathering at DuPont Circle. The vehicle to the left is one of several police cars and motorcycles that pulled up. I asked a fellow loiterer what he knew and he said that any time a group of protestery-looking people gather, the police show up to watch. Nothing happened during the almost an hour I was here other than chants.
Signs like this could be found outside many statues around town. A hope that protesters may not target this one for toppling.
I do not like my White House this guarded. This has to end.
The National Geographic Society boarded up against protesters, rioters, or vandals. Most of the buildings leading to the White House looked like this.
The Temperance Fountain. Erected by a staunch advocate of alcohol prohibition to give DCers something other than liquor to drink. It’s no longer an actual fountain. I went there to down a wee dram in celebration of its defeat but when I arrived the junkie screaming at himself was symbolic of so much more than I intended.
The person on the Segway or motorized scooter had been around multiple protests. I’d seen them the previous night and on Twitter dressed exactly the same the night previous.
The Department of Veterans Affairs had been attacked in the previous weeks’ protests and riots. Windows all around the building bore similar bruises.
Businesses all around the downtown area near the White House were boarded up and there were police cars everywhere. The sidewalks were empty.
The yellow lines on the ground: Black Lives Matter. This is BLM plaza now, behind the camera is the White House. Before me are concrete barriers preventing street traffic and beyond them are vendors hawking BLM gear and a handful of tourists.
The church across from the White House. Also boarded up after an attack by protesters.
Another boarded up business in BLM plaza. I asked if they really are a “medic” station like the graffiti says but nobody knew.
One of the street vendors. Business is okay when people are here he said but there aren’t many people around.
Signs like this hung from nearly every building leading to BLM plaza. Every business and institution had something similar.
The revolution will be branded.
Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Headquarters of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the continent.
The first drivable intersection from BLM plaza. Still boarded up.
Back there is the White House. The whole area in front of it had been barricaded off due to the protests and actually they had begun dismantling the outside black fence as I left.
The White House. Behind three sets of concrete road barriers, a dozen or more cops, twice that many whatever-agency-agents, and three fences. This is ugly for so many reasons. I am embarrassed as an American.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture next to the Washington Monument. Pretty much everywhere was as empty as this. I confess to loving it. DC is beautiful and not having to fight crowds on the paths was nice. No museums were open but the whole city is a museum.
I don’t know why but this spoke to me.
The headquarters of the American Chemical Society with Black Lives Matters banners and the LGBT flag.

Thomas Brown is a history teacher and freelance writer. He runs The Swamp and is featured in Grunge, Quillette, Spiked, The Bipartisan Press, Human Events, among others. Follow him at his Medium page and argue with him on Twitter.

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Categories: America, First Person Politics, Protest, The Swamp

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3 replies

  1. This kind of first-hand reporting is much appreciated. Great work!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. WoW three articles in a week! You must be on fire lately

    Liked by 1 person

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