DC Diary: We thought they were `our streets’

April 16, 2000G and 20th streets12 p.m.

Every other Sunday for as long as we can remember, we’ve had to leave the Hatchet office to find the news. Today it came to us.

By noon we had already been wandering the streets of D.C. for seven hours. We moved from Washington Circle in the dark to K Street, when it was almost light. Constantly wary of the Metro police, who stood clutching batons and canisters of tear gas (and clearly unamused) behind blockades, we toured the city on the tail of the Mobilization for Global Justice – shorthand for the patchwork of activist groups storming the city, championing causes from the end of capitalism to the end of organized government. Though they came from all over the world, they ironically screamed Our streets! as they marched.

The perpetual whirring of helicopters overhead and sirens in the distance was old news by the time we returned our tired bodies to The Hatchet office, a townhouse at the corner of 20th and G streets. By then we thought we’d seen it all, from near-tussles with the cops to young people squatting in the streets, arms shoved into PVC pipe and screaming revolution. Then the sirens shrieked across our front door.

Jamming the stairwell we raced for the exit to catch where the police bus was headed. It stopped at the end of our block, where a substantial mob was growing, just next to the University Police headquarters. The fact that no one could tell what was going on only made more people – protestors, bystanders and media – jump into the throbbing horde.

Police encased in riot gear stormed the mob, ready to put down the brewing insurrection. They cleared the road by tossing traffic obstacles, like hunks of wood set out by the protestors, on to the sidewalk. Then they shoved and prodded the sitting protesters away from their perch.

When several protestors resisted, police beat a few of them with their batons. One officer appeared to hurl a protester out of his path.

Almost as suddenly, the officers retreated toward their bus. Many of the protesters, now clearly identifiable as members of the anarchist movement in black outfits and dark bandanas obscuring their faces, attempted to surround the vehicle and moved up the street – sweeping us up in their disgruntled procession. Within minutes, two blasts of green smoke exploded from the street, set off by police before escaping into the bus and driving away.

In some of the strangest moments of our lives, we grabbed our crew and huddled in the doorway of our office as the anarchists laid siege to our stretch of G Street. They literally flooded the street and amused themselves for a while by vandalizing a nearby dumpster, rolling it in the street and trying to set it ablaze. For all we know, the scary-looking group might be looting Leo’s now, were it not for one forward-thinking anarchist. He stood up and yelled, Hey guys, the IMF’s the other direction.

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