Tens of thousands of people are expected to converge on President’s Bush’s second inauguration in D.C. on Jan. 20. Hundreds of organizations will bring a wide range of tactics and philosophies to the protest, including counter-inaugural actions, homeless outreach, and a “die-in.” The Indypendent spoke to Jim Macdonald, an activist with the D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN), a group of organizations and individuals working locally to end U.S. military intervention abroad and attacks on civil liberties at home.
What message does DAWN seek to communicate to people inside the U.S. with the inaugural actions?
Jim Macdonald: DAWN would like to communicate that if we build things from the grassroots with an open, non-hierarchical, democratic process – that really is our only hope for the changes we want to see.
Some activists and members of the left seem disillusioned or pessimistic when it comes to protest nowadays, especially after the election. Do you think protest changes under a second Bush administration?
Our particular action in some ways represents shifting tactics. We were never all that interested in the election. For groups that were interested in the election I think that they need to concentrate less on electioneering and more on producing social change. We want to show people that we have to do some much more fundamental changes than the sort of quick-fix solutions that so many were hoping for.
And what does that mean?
We have got to get involved with topics in our community that matter. As an anti-war group we tend to be abstract, not always in touch with our community. For instance, our group has endorsed an action on the day before the convention where we will be trying to feed homeless people and ultimately try to realize that what is happening with the war does have a real effect for people in our community.
Another difficulty protesters have faced is an increase in aggressive police tactics. How do we keep protest effective when faced with these types of tactics?
In New York they arrested almost 1100 people. Frankly, they could not handle it. People were stuck in that jail as much because of the NYPD’s own incompetence as it was to keep people off the street. If we had any sense of strategy, knowing that they really couldn’t handle a mass civil resistance of any kind, then we wouldn’t be demoralized by the fact that they swept us all off the streets that day. What if 50,000 of those 500,000 on August 29th had laid down in the streets of New York and refused to get up? That’s only 10 percent of that crowd. Once they start using much more violent tactics to disperse a crowd like that I don’t see how they could hold up in any kind of court of public opinion.
Do you see the anti-war movement getting to the point where it is possible to organize civil disobedience on that scale?
I don’t know if we will be ready in the next year. We don’t look at this as a short-term movement that has to have a result right now. Because we are going to have a lot of things that will look on the face of it like failures but I think they’ll be the ultimate success of our movement to radically change the way society is run and will function.