It’s been the year of the protestor in DC, and that’s after a 2010 filled with Tea Parties and Rallies for Sanity. We’ve seen protestors on our walks to work, outside and inside our memorials, sitting in the middle of the street and, yes, in our jails. Some protests have gone really well: they’ve raised awareness or made for some badass photo opps, or both.
Others have utterly flopped: did you hear about the Occupy The Art Institute of Washington protest? Yeah neither did anyone else.
So here they are! Relive the all the obnoxious traffic, repetitive catchphrases and handcrafted signage of the most memorable protests of 2011!
courtesy of Max Cook
Last January protestors took to the streets after the Smithsonian removed David Wojnarowicz’s controversial film from the National Portrait Gallery’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibit. The decision and resulting outcry made national news and reopened the ever-exciting debate on censorship in national museums. Secretary G. Wayne Clough has since stated that the museum needs to have better communication, even though he claims his decision would be the same now. Seems to me that communication is just fine, at least from the Republicans to the Smithsonian: “We threaten funding; you do whatever we say; the public freaks out; repeat.
I personally think people should be allowed to dance in front of memorials as long as it doesn’t distract from other people being able to use and enjoy the space, but that’s not the only reason I’m listing the Jefferson Memorial dancing arrests as a memorable 2011 protest. I’m also including it because of the additional protest launched in the comments section to Don’s original post on the topic. People really didn’t like Don… The video in his post contains a sub-saga: watch for the police officer’s respectful warning, then his sighed acceptance that he’s going to have to arrest these folks, then his eventual and quite literal throwdown.
A week later, dancers came back to the Jefferson Memorial and danced without arrest:
When protestors first took on the Keystone XL Pipeline, no one had really heard much about it besides the people working on the project and devout environmental activists. After weeks of arrests, marches, hand-holding, hymn-singing and White House sit-ins, the pipeline became part of a national debate. Perhaps the protests were too successful: while most of the activists involved demanded the project be stopped, Republicans have taken on its furtherance as a 2012 election issue.
In October a large group of activists marched on the National Air and Space Museum to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the related exhibits at the museum about drones and other military machinery. This particular assembly included mass pepper spraying and arrests, brought together multiple grassroots organizations and emergency response teams and required one of the most popular museums in America to shut down. The sheer drama makes this one of the most awesome protests of 2011.
When the mayor of a major metro area shuts down a city street, gathers hundreds of protestors and gets himself arrested, it makes the list. What will his actions come to? That we don’t know yet, but we’re waiting.
You knew it was coming. The most memorable protest of 2011 is obviously the Occupy DC protest that has become a loved and hated part of our everyday lives. Of course, this includes mini protests like bridge-storming and structure-building. It also includes the protestors’ relatively respectful use of McPherson Square, the endearing way they adapted to practicing religious and national holidays from a tent city, and their stunning dedication to assembling even in the freezing cold. They shaped the way we talk about economics this year and inspired some of the biggest local news stories of 2011.
For that reason, among many others, I name them the most memorable protest of 2011. Here’s to even wilder protests next year, but with better traffic…