This article is the second in a three-part series
The stench of marijuana smoke and thick humidity hung heavy amid a flood of protesters who infiltrated GW’s campus Sunday.
Whispers of Seattle echoed like a game of telephone from one group of protesters to another.
Thousands of protesters arrived, each group with a different message but the same goal – to rally against meetings being held by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
But it was Saturday’s events that portended the brouhaha to come.
Yellow school buses lined the street Saturday with neat rows of Metropolitan Police motorcycles beside them. The sidewalk was a sea of protesters, which had grown and grown as afternoon turned to evening.
Metropolitan Police Department arrested hundreds of peaceful protestors and hauled them off in school buses Saturday for marching without a permit.
Fight police terror! Welcome to the police state, became a mantra for the crowd.
A group of about 200 protesters, 20 of whom were GW students, surprised Georgetown stores with a somewhat impromptu rally against stores that they say sell goods made in foreign sweatshops.
Human need, not corporate greed! the crowd shouted, drowning out all other noise. But soon they had competition from Kenneth Cole employees, who had placed a microphone in the window and started chanting advertisements intended to entice patrons and mock protesters.
A young man dressed in nothing but a grass skirt getting hauled off by MPD captivated most observers.
Let him go! they shouted.
Rumors circulated that the police forced the man to put shorts on under his grass skirt, and he was allowed to return. Soon after, a group dedicated to saving the Redwood Forests upstaged the man in a skirt.
The troupe undressed with a sign that read We would rather wear nothing than the GAP.
One young woman was wearing black underwear with the word CRAP, a spoof of the GAP logo, across her behind. The protestors also satirized a GAP commercial by singing Just can’t get enough . money.
The Old Town Trolley passed by filled with D.C. tourists.
Jay Varellas said he participated in a sit-in at the University of Kentucky during the week leading up to the D.C. protests.
We’re gonna keep on fighting, so we can keep on winning, Varellas said.
At the end of the Georgetown rally, with megaphones in hand, activists shouted for everyone to meet at the Department of Justice.
This march would escalate tensions between police and protesters and would be the one to result in hundreds of arrests. From a bench across the street from 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., observers saw protesters, who seemed more like revelers, dancing and chanting in the streets. Moments later the carefree ambience ceased.
The protesters held signs asking to save Mumia Abu Jamal, a man on death row for murder. The crowd also called upon Janet Reno to save Elian Gonzalez.
About 50 MPD officers, dressed in full riot gear, marched in unison from just outside the Marvin Center.
Apprehension mounted for all the bystanders who ran behind the officers. As the police locked the protesters in a corner, more protesters arrived. A group of GW students who had been marching around campus rallying against the University lock-down joined the march after the first wave of officers arrived.
James Land, a protestor from Fairfax, Va., said he was most impressed by the diversity of the crowd.
It’s a coalition from the left and right, said Land, who added that he voted for Republican Bob Dole in the last presidential election. He said he came because he wanted to address admission of China into the World Trade Organization.
Meanwhile, GW bystanders greeted GW protesters, all of whom stood, mouths agape, shocked by the surreal scene. Enter the National Guard.
A camouflage tank attempted to drive through the street as protesters stood in front of the intimidating vehicle. Eventually the tank passed. But no one seemed to notice where the tank went.
The next morning, the air hung even thicker. Traces of vinegar suffocated walkers-by, who failed to identify the odor. By 5 a.m. Sunday, protesters already had taken to the streets.
Protesters blocked campus streets with bags of mulch, garbage dumpsters, broken wood, cars and any other object they could find. Rainbow colored string was draped around poles and trees, creating large cat’s cradles around groups of protesters.
Many of them sat in the street with their arms linked. Some made human chains outside Corcoran Hall and the GW parking lot on F Street between 20th and 21st streets. That group used sleeping dragons, devices that allow protestors to link by getting their arms stuck in pipes.
One female protester, who ran to the side of the parking lot near a bush, pulled her pants down, squatted and urinated.
Let’s take action, she said.
Walking around campus, observers noticed overturned benches near the Ambulatory Care Center, spray paint sprawled on the Smith Center, Funger Hall and the street, and a vandalized George Washington statue outside Francis Scott Key Hall.
A freshman who stood outside Thurston Hall said he took action when he saw George Washington draped in paper and propaganda.
We asked them to respect our property, said Daniel Peaslee, who lives in Thurston Hall. He took the paper off of the statue, but hours later new decorations appeared on the statue.
As protestors engulfed F and G streets, students gathered outside fraternity houses and residence halls to observe the chaos. At about noon Sunday, MPD rushed G Street between 20th and 21st streets with a large bus and car. Police and protesters quickly clashed, and officers swung at a few of the people in the street.
Protesters later responded by throwing a garbage dumpster in the middle of the street and setting the trash aflame. They also smashed the back window and spray painted the hood of a University Police car.
Later a fairly peaceful group marched past the Marvin Center toward 21st Street and down F Street past Thurston Hall. They were meeting an even larger group of protesters who had gathered at the Ellipse to hear speakers and musicians.
By about 5 p.m., an awkward tranquility filled campus. Fraternity members had come off their steps and into the street for a makeshift block party. Protesters walked by amid flying Frisbees and blaring music.
But the day’s events overshadowed even fraternity parties, which until Sunday were a rarity this year. One alumnus of the Sigma Chi fraternity offered sardonic commentary on the shut-down street.
I feel confined and very worried, senior Gabriel Petruccelli said. I couldn’t even walk around on my street. The Sigma Chi house remained barricaded most of the day Sunday.
Another senior and member of Phi Kappa Psi, John Abishahin, said he was disappointed to see protesters destroying University property that might have been paid for with his tuition.
I don’t think it was very fair for some of the protesters to spray paint our campus, because we’ve done nothing wrong, Abishahin added.
As night approached, altercations between protesters and police continued to arise despite fraternity feasts. Head to the Marvin Center. Head toward F and 19th streets.
Basically as Saturday turned to Sunday, five protesters turned to 20 turned to hundreds turned to thousands. And one day turned to another without any sense of closure. And Monday still loomed.
This article appeared in the April 17, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.