No longer speaking to each other in the hopeful pre-election rhetoric of change and possibility, the crowd coming together in Meridian Park last Thursday was, in fact, angry. Many people wore small white buttons reading simply “Fuck Bush.” It was not the “we shall overcome,” “study war no more” Emerson and Thoreau crowd. Although there were many families in attendance, children, older men and women, and people dressed to go to work after the march, an increased number of people identifying themselves as “militant” anarchists seemed to have bloomed in the last four years. And they stood, last Thursday, about 200 of them, black clad beneath a black flag, with a banner reading “Okay Liberals--Can We Riot Now?” Later in the day, this group would push through police barricades, but unlike the last inaugural, when militants opened a second parade route for protesters by rushing a roadblock, this push resulted only in the expected pepper spraying, clubbing, and arrests.

We had hoped to see journalist Amy Goodman, Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights, and veteran and journalist Stan Goff speak. We had also come to continue teaching our son about participatory democracy, a task that is becoming more akin to searching for fossils, every year, by showing him how many different groups and different ideologies exist, not on paper, not “covered” in the news, but in the flesh. We also wanted to show him how these groups come to their ideas by research, by scrutiny, and by experience. And this idea, that there can exist a true diversity, that people can exchange ideas, argue, persuade, hold each other in check, and lobby, is perhaps the most important reason why we were there.

The counter inaugural groups in D.C. represented one half of the country who voted and an unknown number who didn’t. They were there because they believed that democracy exist, and that diversity is not represented by a “multi-cultural” cast of characters who all hold the same ideologies and draw the same incomes. The women, blacks, Hispanics, and gays who are a part of the Bush team, or members of the team’s family in the case of Cheney, bring nothing new to the table ideologically, intellectually, or despite their claims, morally. They are strategic faces placed upon right-wing opportunists.

Washington was in fact filled with true believers on Thursday, such as my husband and me and the folks in cowboy hats. The $250,000 a plate crowd resembled the militants in both their extreme costume and cynicism . And these true believers, members of our polarized culture, were brought together on the street level as they bustled through Washington, left and right, both vying for proximity to the parade, and to the media.

We walked with D.C. independent media and a number of other organizations, 40 people wide and ten blocks long to McPherson Square, where other groups were gathered. The activists “Billionaires for Bush” were there dressed in furs and pearls in parody of the real billionaires. Earlier in the day, they had held an auction in front of the FDR memorial to sell Social Security to the highest bidder. The group’s spokes people do not veer off their ironic message of support for the president; one of their main slogans is “Widen the Income Gap.” Folkies mingled with progressive businessmen, punks with Catholic Worker pacifists. Small presses and newspapers had their PR people working overtime. The old and long-ignored Communist Party U.S.A. sent a fit and bright looking couple to shout speeches through a megaphone, but they were as comic and authentic an oddity as the live armadillo pacing its cage at the Texan’s inaugural ball.

We did, fortunately, get to see Stan Goff, a Vietnam war veteran, writer, and heavyweight thinker, dressed in a black coat and jeans, addressing the crowd in the hours before the march got underway.

While we stood and mingled, listening to Goff in those morning hours, a car bomb killed 26 more people were killed in Iraq, the caterers arrived at the Washington Hilton, and the Bush twins tilted their heads gently to don their matching $5,000 tear-drop shaped earrings.

Goff looked out over the sea of signs and faces, at a force keenly aware of how small it was, how inadequate to the task at hand, and he said the things that everyone wanted to believe the most. That we live in a Democracy, that empires always fall, that we’re there for a reason.

“We are going to win,” his voice rang out. “We are going to win.” Cara Hoffman is a novelist and contributing editor at AltPress Online.com By Cara Hoffman

Last week, my family and I drove eight hours to walk a few miles on some closed-off roads, to walk until we had blisters, and, we hoped, to hear a few journalists speak. What can I say? These are extreme times, and they inspire these kinds of pilgrimages. It was a cold, bright day in Washington, D.C., on January 20. The city was inundated with police, plain clothes officers, surveillance cameras, and the mink and black-tie clad supporters of the Bush administration’s domestic policy and the war. The inauguration boasted the tightest and most expensive security for any event held in the United States.

While the 40 million dollar pep rally, sparkling with polished armor reinforced limousines and shiny bullet proof glass, was getting underway, the cool kids were gathering, by the tens of thousands, along the parade route and in parks throughout the city.