Send­ing a Mes­sage, With Unim­peach­able Clar­ity

The Washington Post Sunday - - Politics - By Paul Schwartz­man

The pro­test­ers as­sem­bled on the Mall yes­ter­day with a plan to voice their less-than-gen­er­ous views about a cer­tain pres­i­dent and his vice pres­i­dent. They would form a hu­man chain to spell out I-M-P-E-A-C-H, even in­clud­ing an ex­cla­ma­tion point.

But only 150 or so showed up, far fewer than the 1,000 or­ga­niz­ers had hoped for. As their photo op­por­tu­nity ap­proached, they knew they’d be lucky to spell I-M-P.

“We’re go­ing to have to scrap the big plan,” Ge­orge Ri­p­ley, the protest’s leader, an­nounced. He ad­vised his al­lies to re­ar­range ev­ery­one. They would still form I-M-P-E-A-CH-!, he in­sisted, only on a tad smaller scale.

“A night­mare,” a pony-tailed con­fed­er­ate said, shak­ing his head.

Ri­p­ley, 57, grabbed a mega­phone and chanted stage in­struc­tions, and the scrum be­gan its re­align­ment. There were moth­ers dressed in pink, Naderites, peaceniks in tiedyed T-shirts, a guy in a Ge­orge Bush mask wear­ing prison stripes, and one Robert Gree­nough, with two dan­de­lions en­twined in his long red beard.

“It’s sad, isn’t it?” he said of the turnout. He and his wife, Joyce, had cer­tainly done their part, bring­ing their sons, Jor­dan, 10, and Josh, 14, who seemed hap­pily lost in his iPod, which blared A Static Lul­laby, a rock band.

Ri­p­ley paced back and forth, ex­hort­ing ev­ery­one to find a spot. The Columbia Heights res­i­dent said he had slept near the Mall overnight to get tick­ets so news pho­tog­ra­phers could go to the top of the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment and cap­ture the mo­ment for pos­ter­ity.

“Let­ter A!” he called out to the crew form­ing the let­ter. “You’ve done a spec­tac­u­lar job!”

A few feet away, Chris Driscoll, 53, of Takoma Park, re­fused to read a scin­tilla of sig­nif­i­cance into the crowd’s size. “It’s an im­por­tant ef­fort no mat­ter how many peo­ple we get here,” he said.

The ap­par­ent ap­a­thy puz­zled Jaime To­daro, a soft­ware writer who at­tended as a mem­ber of Code Pink, a group that has been es­pe­cially ac­tive in wag­ing war protests lately. No less than four peace medal­lions dan­gled from her ears.

When the sub­ject of protest­ing the war comes up, she said, her friends and neigh­bors in Rockville ex­press in­ter­est. “But they al­ways seem to have some­thing else to do; their own lives seem to be more im­por­tant,” she said. “This is the most im­por­tant thing I could be do­ing to­day.”

While ev­ery­one waited for the pho­tog­ra­phers to reach the top of the mon­u­ment, a guy in a tie-dyed T-shirt led them in a chant:

“ Give me an I! . . . Give me an M! . . . Give me a P! ...”

Bryan Kid­ney, 39, visit­ing from Kansas, watched the scene from the side­walk. “I don’t want to im­peach Bush — I thought I’d stick by him,” he said.

His loy­alty did not stop him from telling his son, a col­lege stu­dent in Lawrence, Kan., about the demon­stra­tion. “There he is,” Kid­ney said, point­ing to a shaggy-haired young man sit­ting among the crowd form­ing the let­ter “C.”

William Kid­ney, a day past his 21st birth­day, sat on the grass, his smile sug­gest­ing pure de­light. “You don’t see this kind of thing back in Lawrence,” he said.

A book was be­ing passed around. Ri­p­ley im­plored the pro­test­ers to share their ideas, po­ems and art­work. Then a cell­phone rang. The pho­tog­ra­phers had reached the top of the mon­u­ment and were snap­ping away.

“Thanks so much,” Ri­p­ley told the crowd, be­fore an­other idea came to mind. Would ev­ery­one form a big cir­cle around a gi­ant “W,” with a pink slash run­ning through it? How about it? There were a few mur­murs and mum­bles as the pro­test­ers started drift­ing away.

“I can’t do it,” Ri­p­ley said with a sigh. “Party’s over.”


At the Wash­ing­ton Mon­u­ment, pro­test­ers make plain their views about the pres­i­dent and the vice pres­i­dent, us­ing their bod­ies and props.

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