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Guerrillas rocking Georgetown on Halloween night

Tonight was spectacular, a vivid display of the potential held by any tight crew of assertive, creative folks.  We started out at The Old House on M Street in Georgetown, building a solid initial presence with 3-4 drums and a small amp before things really got swinging and the crowd started filling in.  We dropped "War on Terror" and the "American Dream" as a crew, and grooved to extraordinarily tight performances by Mo, Jessica, Jeff, Laurie, Cesar, Josh, me, and several random folks who rolled through.  People passing by occassionally stopped briefly to get down like they meant it, which raised the energy every time, and we had some success getting the crowd engaged in chants including "If You care, get our of your chair," "Get the Bush out," "La Lucha sigue (the struggle continues)," and "Vive Venezuela…y Chavez tambien."

After we'd been passing the mic around for around 45 minutes, two police officers came over to challenge our right to play (inspiring a retired lawyer named Andy to approach us and offer to lend his services) before a little diplomacy prompted an agreement that we'd move 20 feet down the street to an alcove in front of a Park Service building. We rocked it there for awhile, until some Park Service rangers came by and made us clear part of that space…and then all hell started to break loose. 

We were hitting the mic (and the drums) pretty hard, and the crowd was riled up and apparently disinlinced to leave.  Sidewalks on both sides of the street were packed, so people started spilling out into the street…and then some moron among the army of police present — who at one point actually brought in a helicopter, as if they had nothing better to do — decided to charge into the assembled mass of 40-50 people with a group of officers mounted on horses

A few people spazzed a little — it's always amazing to watch someone get radicalized before your very eyes by the arbitrary imposition of state-sponsored force — but on the whole, the crew did a remarkably good job staying calm and keeping it together.  We stopped twice within a few blocks to try playing again, only to get shooed away after getting through 1-2 songs, and then managed to assemble several blocks away around a corner to check in with each other.  We tried a group dialog to plot a collective course, but people were pretty amped and had hard time staying focused.  I gather many folks ended up in Mt. Pleasant; I strolled M Street and threw down some food and a milkshake before walking home and returning phone calls.  

I haven't witnessed creative militancy as strong as this evening's since moving from the west coast three years ago.  Seeing this community of inspired, assertive and relatively fearless artists wield its cultural presence so powerfully was an amazing experience, one that left me thinking that perhaps our first reportback (from this month three years ago) was more prescient than any of us ever suspected.

Guerrilla poets came out in force this evening, with several small groups of 3-4 people arriving at various points throughout the night to join the menagerie.  Folks out & about this evening included:

  • Cesar (dressed up as a corporate pig)
  • Jaime (as Autumn)
  • Jessica (as Winter)
  • Kristen (as Spring)
  • Farrah (as Summer, a forest sprite, or perhaps a tree nymph)
  • Jazmin (as an unspecified character in a vein similar to Farrah's)
  • Stephen (at whom I never got a good look)
  • Juliana (as a Native American with a bullt hole through her head, with a sign on her back reading, "How many on the Mayflower had green cards?")
  • Mo (as his MySpace page)
  • Nik (as The Colonist)
  • Chris (in his hockey get up)
  • Ericka (as a Burner [i.e., a countercultural pilgrim bound for Black Rock City in August])
  • Josh (with a daisy around his torso consisting of alternating petals reading, "She loves me" and "She loves me not")
  • Laurie (AKA Love Bug)
  • Jay (as Dick Cheney)
  • Erica (in a roller derby costume)
  • Ken (as a pink-haired woman with lots glitter in a skirt)
  • Jeff (as himself)
  • Me (AKA Shahid, as a buffalo soldier…having lost half the elements comprising the Ali G outfit I wore on Saturday)


  1. Another take:

    What an incredibly inspiring evening. Poets trickled in over the course of the evening and the occasional passerby took the mic. At various points, we attracted large crowds — who were jamming, listening and grooving to the beats and words we were throwing down. We also attracted the police. In 2005, we had no issues with the police, but 2006 was of a different flavor. The police presence started fairly benign, we were asked to move around – but at one point the crowd swelled and police took action. Horses clamored onto sidewalks, creating what was a peaceful scene of booty shakers and admirers into chaos. The horses pushed people back, at one point we were trapped between the horses and the police on the other corner. One man, who stood up for himself, was tossed to the ground and handcuffed (to later be released). Our voices never ceased, as we moved down the street – singing Victoria’s hymn – You gotta rise up. Resuming just down the street, helicopters provided spot lights and the crowd was again cheering and bumping to the beat. We were threatened with arrest if we didn’t keep moving. So as we moved down the street – we spit impromptu poetry about freedom of speech. In our nation’s capitol, messages of peace and love were strewn aside in the name of safety. One cop said, “why do you have to turn Halloween in to a protest?” Who said this was a protest? This was a group of ARTISTS expressing themselves, the fact we drew large crowds, that impeded sidewalk traffic was only a testament to our ability to inspire (albeit many may have been at a level of intoxication where the beats were more alluring than the words). Why couldn’t the police keep the traffic flowing, while allowing us to continue? Multiple generations were the cacophony of costumed characters, ALL WERE PEACEFUL, it was beautiful. Later that evening we reflected – wouldn’t it be great if we had an excuse to dress in costume more often than once per year? After moving again, we went up a side street that DID NOT impede traffic. We were off the main drag – again, the crowd started to swell and it was at this point where our choice was to shut down or be arrested. We decided as a group to peacefully walk away – we will pick our battles – our day for civil disobedience will undoubtedly come.

    Comment by Laurie Blair — November 1, 2006 @ 11:10 am

  2. From Farrah Farley: 

    Yo my fellow dudes and lovely ladies…
    Last week was beyond words, incredible. I had such a blast and think that GPI threw the best party on "Nightmare on M Street!" YOU ALL LOOKED HOTTTT! I left my home dressed in costume (originally as the Roman God of Wine, Bacchus–later morphed into summer, to complete the lovely season trio that came to JAM). While I walked along M street, looking at everyone in AWESOME attire, I felt good positive energy–but something was missing. Finally, around 8:30, I made it to the 3000 block where GPI was rockin. The drumming, music, and awesome words of wisdom were dominating the street and seemed to be inspiring EVERY passer-by. GPI HIT THE SPOT. THANK YOU ALL FOR ROCKING SO HARDAND FOR BEING SO ORGANIZED.  I noticed how as the night progressed, the streets started to fill at an exponential rate–not only because of us–but because it's the georgetown annual tradition.
    After going to Georgetown Univ the past 4 years, I always went out on M St. to explore the scene–and there's ALWAYS mad numbers of people (mostly wasted) blocking sidewalks and streets, etc.
    After the first couple of times the PO-PO (aka 5-O–aka Park Police) asked us to shift our jam-location, I understood where they were coming from, in terms of us contributing to a little congestion. BUT once the PO-PO strolled in with the horses (one which literally pushed my face back–but im not holding a grudge, I see it as the horse trying to give me a kiss), I realized, the PO-PO did not really care all that much about crowd control. They looked at us as a, "protest." One upset officer told me, "you chose the wrong night for a protest." And I replied, "We are not protesting. we are partying like everyone else–freedom of speech-style." And he said that our actions were causing the congestion. I replied, we are not the CAUSE of the congestion, individuals are CHOOSING to stop and participate. He stormed off saying "this is ridiculous." Now, I'm not a Freudian expert, but I believe that his comment was at first directed towards GPI's lyrical ambush, but also at the Po-po's own out-of-line reaction and threats of arrest. THAT was RIDICULOUS! I was disappointed and surprised when the last officer demanded we shut it down or we'd all be arrested. 
    I expect more from our nation\'s capital in terms of\npracticing our constitutional rights. Ideally, we do NOT live in a\nmilitary state. But in some real times, I realize that we may live in one. Regardless, I was\nimpressed with how everyone reacted in such honorable and\nnonviolent ways. We jammed for several hours with an open mic for\ninterested people who shared the positive vibes that swarmed through the\nair. Last, but not least: this was my first time jamming with GPI\nwith a kick-ass SPOT LIGHT! 😉



    Comment by gpi — November 9, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

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The DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency (GPI) is an anti-authoritarian, collaborative, pro-humanity artists' collective incorporating music, rhythm, spoken word, community and resistance.

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