The J17 actions took place yesterday, and the whole shebang went a lot smoother than I could have anticipated. There were some initial confrontations with the police, but after a while the bulk of the people had moved to the West Lawn. The fences didnt seem to pose any problems after the protestors just tore them down.
I witnessed two arrests, one where a protestor jumped the barricade and sprinted towards the Capitol (didnt really have a chance against the 40-50 Capitol Police), and another earlier in the day. A man had gone limp and blocked a choke-point (a tiny staircase) that the police we shoving protestors through onto the west lawn, and the police dragged him off and arrested him.
At 6pm, we marched to the Supreme Court and then the White House. I was honestly shocked when the police allowed protestors onto the stairs of the courthouse - in my experience it is standard practice to arrest anyone who takes even a step upwards. The thousands of people streaming into the plaza before the court was a sight to behold, and unfortunately I didnt get any good pictures of it :/
On the way to the White House, we passed the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the history of the industry of journalism. Along the face of the building, the language of the 1st amendment to the US constitution is displayed 60 feet high. The group stopped at this point and read it in unison.
As we arrived at the White House, I took a break from photographing due to my exhaustion from the day. Sitting on the curb in front of the White House, surrounded by protestors, a white cloud began to rise from the fence. "TEARGAS!" someone yelled, and the group of people closest to the emerging cloud scattered. By the time I had ripped out my teargas supplies, the entire incident was over, and no one was hurt. Later I learned that it was not teargas, but a smoke bomb tossed over the wrought iron fence by a protestor.
By the time the group had reached the White House, most of the protestors had already marched over 4 miles (in combination with another unpermitted march earlier in the day), and the route now took us back to the Capitol. Most of the 2000-3000 protestors had already had enough for the day, and instead of walking a mile back to the capitol they chose to walk a block back to the encampment at McPherson.
At the end of the night, as the permit deadling of 11pm became closed in, the Capitol and Metro Police exhibited a show of force to those who had made it back to the West Lawn. A caravan of police cars passed in front of the Capitol, their lights flashing and sirens chirping. By 10:45, only 30 people remained on the West Lawn, complimented by the 60-70 officers between them and the capitol building. It was consensed that no one really wanted to waste resources fighting a battle against the police which would in the end not have any affect on the policies of the House and Senate, and the last 15 minutes were spent cleaning the site. By 10:55, the remaining protestors were throwing their trash into trucks, and by 11:00, the site was clear.
And now I wait.