Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Anarchy At The Capitol

Last week, I attended National Review’s "Conservative Summit" in Washington, DC. The hotel is on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Capitol Hill, so I went down a day early to check them out. On a windy-cold Friday morning I walked to the White House, but the gates were closed and a park ranger told me that nobody could go in without getting a pass from his congressman or senator three to six months in advance.

“Hmm,” I said. “When was the last time a citizen could walk up as I have and go in?”

“September 10th,” he answered.

“Hmm,” I said, again. Then I backed off so he could attend to a group with the necessary passes. Soon, a guy walked toward me in one of those dark, knee-length woolen coats businessmen wear and with a curled wire coming down from one ear and disappearing under his collar. Something about the look in his eyes told me he’d killed before or he’d made up his mind that he would if he had to. He looked at me as though I were a potential threat, then stood nearby, keeping me in his peripheral vision. I walked toward him and he turned sharply. “How long has it been since someone like me could walk up to the White House and go in?” I asked.

He softened a bit and said, “I’m not sure. Before September 11th.”

“Is it okay if I take some pictures through that gate?” I asked.

“Sure. You can walk around the curved sidewalk there and take a picture from the front if you want to.”

“Thanks,” I said and did so.

After that, it was two miles to the Capitol where I could watch my Congress and Senate in Action. If it wasn’t so cold and blustery, I’d have walked, but I took a cab which delivered me at the foot of Capitol Hill. Looking up I saw signs declaring the big stone steps in front off-limits to citizens like me. Two Capitol Policemen stood at the bottom of the stairs to keep people away while others prowled further up. One had an assault rifle. I walked up and asked him if I could go in. He pointed back down the hill. “See that tent down there?” he said.


“Go down there, get a pass, and you can take a tour.”

I waited in line at the tent, shivering, until I got a pass. Then I had to wait another forty-five minutes for the tour to begin. Finally, we gathered near a side entrance to go through a kind of portable security building. I had to empty my pockets, take off my shoes, and walk through a metal detector. The House had taken the day off and I wasn’t allowed into the Senate Chamber. When my tour was over, I investigated wherever there were no signs telling me not to. It wasn’t long before another Capitol Police officer approached, pointed to a door, and told me to leave.

Outside again, I could see workers setting up speakers on the mall in preparation for Jane Fonda’s antiwar demonstration scheduled for the next day. If my conference got boring, I planned to walk over and observe.

It didn’t. The conference was fantastic. I stayed at the hotel until it ended Sunday afternoon, then rushed to the airport. The next day, I saw a link on the Drudge Report about anarchist vandalism at the Capitol. According to an article by Jackie Kucinich in The Hill newspaper:

Antiwar protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of the west front steps of the United States Capitol building after police were ordered to break their security line by their leadership, two sources told The Hill.

“Allowed”? I couldn’t even walk on those steps but anarchists can deface them? Kucinich went on:

Approximately 300 protesters were allowed to take the steps and began to spray paint ‘anarchist symbols’ and phrases such as ‘Our capitol building’ and ‘you can’t stop us’ around the area, the source said.

Who allowed them? Kucinich continued:

[Capitol Police Chief] Morse said, "While there were minor instances of spray painting of pavement by a splinter group of Anarchists who were seeking a confrontation with the police, their attempts to breach into secure areas and rush the doors of the Capitol were thwarted. The graffiti was easily removed by the dedicated staff, some of whom responded on their day off to quickly clean the area.”

Oh really?

[Chief Morse] added "It is the USCP's duty and responsibility to protect the Capitol complex, staff and public while allowing the public to exercise their First Amendment rights … at the end of the day, both occurred without injury to protesters or officers.”

Gee thanks, Chief.

. . . [P]olice had to stand by and watch as protesters posed in front of their graffiti [and were] instructed to make no arrests.”

First Amendment rights? That explanation is supposed to make me feel better? I’m a law-abiding citizen who got kicked out by the same Capitol Police who the next day allowed 300 antiwar anarchists to tag it and pose for pictures next to their graffiti? While our soldiers are fighting and dying overseas? Is this how it’s going to be with Democrats back in control of Capitol Hill?

I’m pissed.