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FORTY MILE per hour winds whip across the Ellipse, where Greyhound after Greyhound is disgorging Communist after Libertarian after Democratic Socialist after backpacked unaffiliate. Flags snap in the gusts--bright red banners for members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who also carry posters bearing the face of Chairman Bob Avakian. They lockstep around the park, a march within a march. chanting "You Can Take This War and Shove It Up Your Ass, I'm Going to Fight for the Working Class." The wind spins the noise around in circles--without moving, you can hear the cries of the yellow-flag Youth Against War and Fascism. "1,2,3,4, We Don't Want Your Fucking War. 5,6,7,8 We Won't Even Registrate." The wind lends a frantic quality to the scene. The public address system, mute at this staging rally, forces organizers to scurry back and forth with bullhorns, trying to line people up. "What's that black flag for?" an unaffiliated student asks another young man. "Anarchy, man." "Oh, Anarchy, yeah, that's cool." It is not a situation that lends itself to organization.
But the march gets underway, at last. Standing in front of the White House, next to 20 high school girls with Instamatics, who reveal the truth that all protesters are "you know, funny." it's easier to gauge the makeup of this crowd of 30,000. Twenty per cent, tops, are card-carriers. Colorful, armed with mountains of leaflets which the wind delivers far and wide, every member well-versed in the words to all the chants, they seemed larger than their numbers, these Libertarians, these Socialist Workers, these International Socialists Another 5 per cent of the crowd is relatively unclassifiable--including the smiling, paunchy gays holding the "Piss on the Pentagon" banner, the toothless fellow dressed up as Uncle Sam advising men to sign up for "Husband's Lib." The rest, a melange, college students for the most part, mixed with a few veterans of other older movements. Past the J. Edgar Hoover Building, home of the FBI, past the Treasury Department, past a few bemused Washingtonians, the march winds on for 45 minutes, spilling out onto the lap of the Capitol, under a shaky wooden stage. A few voices emerge from the sixties to start things off: Rev. William Sloan Coffin, now pastor of Riverside in New York; Peter Yarrow, who as the first third of Peter Paul and Mary did this sort of thing a long time ago.
But it would be too easy to dismiss the rally as sixties nostalgia. As Stokeley Carmichael, a period piece himself, points out, the current anti-registration drive is huger, more politicized probably more effective, than the anti-war movement in its first three or four years. People are already mobilized, Carmichael said. In the 80's, we must be organized as well. Mobilizing is to seek influence, organizing is to seal power."
THERE ARE NEW heroes organizing for power; Rev. Barry Lynn, the cleancut ministerial force behind the Coalition Against Registration and the Draft (CARD) holding up his three-year old daughter so the crowd can see her "Heck No, I Won't Go" t-shirt; Rev. Ben Chavis, joining admiration for past leaders from Frederick Douglass to Malcolm X, with a salute to the "people of Zimbabwe whom we must all salute," and a call for more social spending programs.
Counter-demonstrators pestered every major demonstration of the sixties; at D.C., there aren't many, but they're of a different, more virulent breed. Members of the Collegiate Association for the Research of the Principle (CARP), a group which members say owes its "inspiration" to Rev. Sun Myung Moon, began the afternoon heckling. Within an hour, they were jumping out of the crowd and toward the stage, flailing, screaming about Communist aggression, conspiracies, treason. Finally the police come to push them away. "Whose side are you on," one of the Moonies asked the cops. "Yours--but they've got a permit," a policeman answered. A tactical retreat, and then the Moonies regroup to hand out literature at the edge of the rally.
THE FRONT PAGE of the World Student Times, the CARP newspaper, features a cartoon of Bella Abzug and Stokeley Carmichael standing in front of the White House lecturing to some hippies. From all sides, Soviet tanks, planes, and aircraft carriers are converging. "Ivan...Let's meet at the big building with the white column. I hear they have a natural food line," one tank commander is saying. "When they've all burned their draft cards, open the curtains and let the tanks roll. We'll say we were invited by the fire commissioner," another Russian responds. Inside the newspaper, a professor at George Washington University is quoted as saying "Yes, Soviet expansionism is very much a direct threat to our country, and not only to our country, but to the whole of Western civilization...Yes indeed, the Soviets and their proxies are a direct threat to the free world--there's no question about that."
It's getting chilly on the Capitol steps; a few too many speeches, the crowd starts to drift away. So the organizers pull their trump card, the cast of Hair, and for a few minutes everyone dances and sings, believes for five minutes that this is going to be the age of Aquarius.
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