While thousands filled the National Mall around the Capitol building where President Obama is sworn in for his second term, a smaller crowd gathering at Meridian Hill Park is largely critical of the president and his policies.
Dissent against the status quo and entrenched power emerged as the theme of the rally organized by the Arc of Justice Coalition (@arcofjustice13). Overall, there was a consensus that Martin Luther King’s birthday was more important than the Inauguration, and rally speakers often referred to him rather than the President as an example to follow.
Speaker Jean Athey of Peace Action advised listeners to ignore the “sanitized” version of King, and instead remember that King was a revolutionary and radical who made people angry. “He knew what he was doing was dangerous,” she said.
He took on the three major issues of the day: racism, capitalism, and militarism, she said. These goals closely resembled the issues raised by the protestors at the rally, which included drone warfare, military spending, loss of civil liberties, and the corrupt influence of corporation on the political system.
Protestors carried four full-size model drones down 14th Street as they made their way toward the White House.
Update: Not everyone had negative things to say about President Obama. Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence pleaded with ralliers to support the President’s new gun control legislation, proposed in the wake of the Newtown shooting.
“Whatever grievances you have, lay them down for a few months. Obama’s gun package is the most important initiative put forward in American history. Finally we are going to reduce gun violence in this country.”
He explained that the gun industry is combating declining sales by persuading people that they must arm themselves 24/7 and accumulate more and more weapons, including assault weapons.
“This is comprehensive reform to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” he said. “We have to seize this opportunity [while] the President is putting the full weight of the White House behind it.”