Thursday was the third day of our U.S. Federal Government shutdown protest, which drew far more protestors and media than before. But the peace at our protest ended abruptly at 2:20 pm.
I heard sirens and saw six police cruisers chasing a black Infiniti down Pennsylvania Ave. past the reflecting pool towards us. At first I thought it was an escort but then realized it was a chase.
The driver was trying to evade police, but rammed into the barricades at the West Lawn in an attempt to come up the sidewalk toward the Capitol.
The car backed up, hitting a cruiser. As if it were a movie, the police pulled guns and fired 5, 10, 15 rounds at the driver’s window. The tinted glass blew out, but the car turned around and fled back towards Pennsylvania Ave. I heard what I thought was an explosion from behind the trees. It turned out to be a collision with a cruiser.
Within seconds, the U.S. Capitol emergency announcement system warned us to evacuate the grounds. I thought it was a terrorist attack. My heart pounded.
Police ran from all directions with their assault weapons and black military gear. An overwhelming force of paramilitarized police enveloped our protest and the tourists. It was frightening, not just for me but for the tourists who moments before were enjoying our conversations about the shutdown protest. A film crew I had just spoken to caught the entire incident on tape. I took video with my point-and-shoot camera, but my nerves were frazzled. The video was not great, but it caught part of the drama.
We left all our signs behind, running to the Canon House Office Building, where more news cameras surrounded us. I had no idea I was speaking to CNN. I don’t even watch CNN.
None of us were shot or injured but we were close enough to be hit. Two police were injured and the woman driver was dead within moments. Her one-year-old witnessed the harrowing scene but will not remember it.
I thought later about the expressions of panic and fear on everyone’s faces and their dramatic reactions to the police armed with assault weapons. They hid against walls, ran for cover and tried to follow police orders.
The default for police is to behave as if everyone is the enemy, running towards people in their black uniforms with their guns pulled.
It’s hard to remain calm when you fear you are in danger, but even in panic you try to do what is necessary to survive. Maybe you protest like we have been, maybe you run like that woman did.
I thought about her, the woman in the Infiniti who died in front of us, shot 5, 10, or 15 times. What was her story? What desperate set of circumstances sent her here? Had she snapped? Had life dealt her an unfortunate hand which nothing could have fixed? Did she have healthcare? Was it adequate enough to have helped her?
Apparently it was not. Her story will never be told–at least not by her. Which brings me to healthcare and the issue that seems to be the excuse for our government being shut down. The Affordable Care Act…
Being on indefinite furlough doesn’t seem as serious an issue as it was the morning before this happened.
I’m still upset about it, but really not half as pissed as I am about the police who shot that unarmed woman in cold blood. Who probably needed healthcare she didn’t get.
Video of us being chased off the steps:
- Dispatch from Federal Workers’ Protest: Government Shutdown Day 1 (coolrevolution.net)
- Dispatch from Federal Workers’ Protest: Government Shutdown Day 2 (coolrevolution.net)
- Capitol Hill shooting: Mother killed, toddler safe in high speed chase through Washington (thestar.com)
- Confusion, Panic During Capitol Hill Chase And Shooting (washington.cbslocal.com)