Peace Activists Meet the Billy Club

DC protestI must be deep in a terrible night terror. I'm begging someone, anyone pinch me, shake me, pour a bucket of cold water on my body. Do whatever it takes to wake me up and show me that this is not real. That sharp pain in the back of my head from the club can't be real Awaken me. A group of huge men pounding into a helpless girl in the street can't be real. This can't be happening, not in this country, the land of the "free."

Let me rewind a bit.

The sun was bright, and the crowd was fiercer than ever. Black, brown, red, yellow, white, all united for the same cause: peace not war. The chants were in perfect unison: "No blood for oil! No blood for oil!" This march was beautiful and empowering all at once. This crowd was actively and peacefully speaking out for what they believed in and they were being heard. The energy was unexplainable. Then it all stopped. It all came to a screeching halt.

Up until this point I had virtually ignored the police, just thrown up an occasional peace sign to them every now and then. But a point was reached where the police officers refused to be ignored any longer.

The march itself actually stopped. I looked back and saw a huge crowd gathering where the police were. I jogged back to see what was happening, but in my heart I already knew.

When I reached the crowd the scene could not have fulfilled my most horrific nightmare. There she was, no more than 120 pounds, being jumped by a group of huge men in uniform in the street. Wait. This can't be. We're here for peace. How did this come about?

I whipped out my camera and snapped away, with every intention of sending these pictures to every media outlet possible so that this vile police brutality could be seen. After four brutal shots my shutter sounded off, and my film began to rewind. This can't be! Why now? I'm out of film! I turned my back to the brutality that was taking place in order to turn off my camera and zip up my bag.

My body jolted forward. An excruciating pain rose from the lower right part of my skull and spread by way of throbbing pain through my head. No, this can't be. I've seen this in countless documentaries. Read about it in numerous books. But was this really happening to me? I was just there for peace, how could this be happening?

I turned around in order to see where it was coming from. As I turned I was met by a huge white man yelling "MOVE BACK!" Confusion spread over my face as I thought, "Move back from what?" It didn't make sense, I was several feet away from the girl who was being attacked and was simply checking my camera.

Then without notice it came again. This time a hard vicous stab, with that evil club, in the stomach. As I bent over screaming "What are you doing?" I stumbled back into a crowd of "Are you ok?"

In this surreal moment I had flashes of my people of the 60s and 70s fighting for what they believed in. I was shocked into a harsh reality. Police brutality is still alive and well, and it was happening to me and countless others, all there for peace.

I'm not naive, I knew this type of thing still took place, but at that moment, the experience gave me what no documentary or book could provide. It woke me from my slumber, and thrust me into the reality of a brutal world where police can turn you into "the enemy" just for speaking your mind. Now I'm awake, and I simply refuse to roll over and return to my slumber. I must use every inch of my heart, soul, and energy to fight the police brutality that takes place but is hidden from the people of this country.
After my awakening, I realized that if I simply stood there with tears in my eyes chanting "Stop police brutality!" and then wallowed in my emotions about the event, the police would have been successful in their endeavor -- they would have achieved their goal.
I decided to march on. We all decided to march on. Our energy wasn't subdued because of this brutal attack. It simply charged the crowd. The chants became louder, "No blood for oil! U.S. off Iraqi soil! Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!"

We continued our peaceful march to the White House with more clenched fists and peace signs in the air than ever. Onlookers from the street joined in. It was beautiful. Continuing to march for what we believed in was the first step of action. But my struggle to fight police brutality has just begun.

This is a personal account of what took place at a "peaceful" anti-war demonstration in Washington D.C. on March 22, 2003. To read more about the protests in D.C., visit

Charmaine Bee, 20, is a volunteer for the DC chapter of Critical Resistance, an organization dedicated to abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex.

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