Why Washington doesn't want your protest

Your cause is likely to get a better hearing in your hometown anyway.

Jim Bourg/Reuters
Antiwar protesters carried a peace dove as they marched up 15th Street in Washington in 2005.

Shakespeare wrote, “The lady doth protest too much.” To which Washington commuters might add, “especially at rush hour.”

Nightmarish traffic congestion caused by demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights is one of the least-known, yet most irritating, parts of life in the capital.

Protesters march down Massachusetts Avenue banging drums and carrying giant puppets of Uncle Sam. They gather at 16th and K Streets, wearing orange jumpsuits, and block the intersection, holding hands for a half-hour of meditation.

They commandeer construction cranes to display giant banners. They drive platform trucks through downtown – very slowly – while mimes on the back attempt to portray in gesture the economic crimes of the new world order.

Look, free speech is great. In fact, it’s so important, we think everyone with a grievance should focus their free speech where it can do the most good – their hometowns. Don’t come to Washington to raise our consciousness. Here’s why:

1. You won’t get on television. D.C. is the big leagues of protestation – to get people to look up from their BlackBerrys, you’ve got to muster at least 100,000 people, or do something foolhardy (see crane, above).

2. You’ll annoy potential supporters. Studies show that if you cause gridlock for 10 minutes, you’ll likely delay a car containing either the assistant secretary in charge of your issue or Wolf Blitzer, or both.

3. We already know all about it. Look, Washington is the only city in America where the TVs in taverns are tuned to C-SPAN. The reading material in waiting rooms? The Congressional Record. We’ve heard about your issue, because we’ve heard about every issue.

If you’re still set on taking over Lafayette Square for a Day of Action, here’s a tip: Do it on a federal holiday. Enjoy! We’ll be at the beach.

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