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Bush Inauguration, Washington DC

Is it me, or is this whole country so blah that demonstrators don’t really demonstrate, and supporters don’t support? The Bush inauguration, total bust. Empty bleachers and Bush went by in his motorcade in 2 seconds flat. Can’t walk around, can’t go from one side of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other, thousands of people stuck at the checkpoints. I thought that one of the traits of a free people was that the people trust their leaders, and vice versa. How much trust does George W. Bush have in the nation that re-elected him, if even his most die-hard ticket holding big spending fans can’t get through security to see him?

i honestly think it is harder to work as an independent photographer in this country than almost any other, right now, with the obvious exceptions of North Korea, Belarus, maybe a couple of other places. But it’s amazing, the degree to which we are denied the ability to simply walk around, no matter how many credentials are hanging around your neck and how many times you were X-rayed and metal detected and searched. There’s a point where there’s no return, and I think we’ve reached it.

Overheard: Two nice Republican ladies pass by a small group of anti-war demonstrators. One lady says to the other, “I can’t believe they let them do that.” The other lady replied, “Yes, they should send all of them to Russia.”

That’s it. Going back to New York.

by [a former member] at 2005-01-21 09:21:04 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) | Bookmark | | Report spam→

(photographs of this whole non-event up on my gallery page)

by [former member] | 21 Jan 2005 09:01 | | Report spam→
I could not have said it better myself!

Since I was not there, how could they have maintained the integrity of security and still be able to give us the freedom we so treasure in this country? I have a difficult time defending our access to these events when the argument of security is so loud.

by Abby Probasco | 22 Jan 2005 09:01 | | Report spam→
the integrity of security?!?

Lyndon Johnson, when he was president, spoke of how he was haunted by the protestors in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, chanting, “LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Remember, JFK had just been killed in Dallas. So security, then, as now, was a loud concern. But at least Johnson heard the dissent. Today, you can’t get close enough to the White House or the President to voice any opinion. Lafayette Park is an empty, barricaded free-fire zone for the Secret Service.

Societies have lived with terrorism, assasinations, and internal and external threats throughout history. That is no argument for imposing security so heavy that it prevents the public from attending public events, that it prevents accredited journalists and photographers from doing their jobs, that it makes a mockery out of “the freedom we so treasure.”

What freedom is there when you cannot cross the street? When you are searched and profiled and X-rayed again and again, and still not considered trustworthy enough to exercise your basic democratic rights?

If George W. Bush were truly as popular as he says he is, would he be so afraid of the very people who elected him? Part of leadership is courage, the courage to face those you are accountable to. And when you are the President, you are accountable to 250 million American citizens who pay your salary and have entrusted you to the highest office in the land.

The excuse of security has been used by regimes to restrict and control the public’s access to almost anything. This is not the kind of society we want to live in. We have to face the mirror, and make some hard choices. If slightly less security means, say, we lose 10 or 100 people more to terrorism than we are now, but that 250 million citizens can live normally and freely, then that is a price that we should pay.

This sounds extreme, and it is. The truth is that a reasonable level of security will still guarantee a reasonable level of safety and accessibility, instead of the lockdown, clampdown, fortress mentality we have now.

I am not a radical complaining against everything. I, do, however, have a sense of history and the proper roles of government and people in a free society. And what we are seeing now makes a mockery out of everything this country used to be about.

by [former member] | 22 Jan 2005 11:01 | | Report spam→
Define a reasonable level of security? The deaths have now gone way beyond the 10-100 mark with the bombing on 9-11. There is nothing comforting if you’re the one who loses someone in the 10-100 people you claim we should be willing to sacrafice.

by Abby Probasco | 23 Jan 2005 12:01 | Chicago area, United States | | Report spam→
wow. i’m not as gifted with words as some of my colleagues, but i’ll give this a shot.
well a reasonable level of security is a situation where we can accept some personal responsibility and be given the access to do our work. the clearance process was thorough, and for many of us who regularly work on capitol hill and at the white house, we have been check many times before.
i have now attended 3 inaugurations, not as many as some, but i’ve lived in DC long enough to have seen the radical shift.
during Clinton’s last inauguration the streets were lined with waist high metal fences, and lined with thousands of unarmed military personnel. this year the secure zone was lined with 8 foot high steel mesh fences and thousands of police officers wearing riot gear.
Logan Mock-bunting was here and he made a really interesting observation, he said he was standing there looking at three rows of these 8 foot fences and the empty street lined with riot police and he could hear the Bush over the loud speaker talking about freedom, and the experience seemed so Orwellian to him.
between 14th and 15th streets along Pennsylvania Ave, the police had people standing away from the giant fences, and back on the sidewalk 10 feet away. i was walking on the street section attempting to get in front of the protesters who were standing on the street (not protesting, just standing). typically here, journalists can not only circumvent these sorts of things, but as long as we are openly displaying our credentials, we can cross police lines to get around things like this. so, i was walking on the street, inches from the sidewalk and a police officer yells through the fence, “get on the fucking sidewalk.” i held up my inauguration issued press credentials as well as all of my local credentials, and he proceeded to soak me with pepper spray.
it is simply crazy.
i can understand being sprayed when things are hectic, in a crowd control situation. that happened later too, but this was a journalist, who was obvious from the gear i was holding, to the mass of credentials i was wearing, i was sprayed out of spite. what a bizarre power trip.
that is just my opinion, and i’m sure plenty of people will disagree with it, but i don’t think that anyone who was there will.

by [former member] | 23 Jan 2005 13:01 | arlington, va, United States | | Report spam→
There is no doubt we’re in a not-so-Brave new world. It’s true that when the Pres. speaks of Freedom and the desire to help free the oppressed around the world, and liberate them from their own regimes, it takes a weird turn when you are then, and there, immediately constricted from the most obvious ability to move around. Why did we have finger prints if not to allow some special ability to move? The most obvious question for the next Press Conference (and you can be sure none of the reporters are smart or courageous enough to ask even this one) is:
Do you believe that the desire for freedom, that which has been given by God, and not by man, is in anyway diminished when, in the name of security, the NY Transit Authority decides, with no good reason nor proof of efficacity, to forbid photography in the Subways of New York City? No one has proven that this will do anything except prevent law abiding citizens from exercising their right of expression.
It would be nice to hear a question asked about a REAL subject but the overpaid idiots (our confreres) in the print/tv realm are way to happy asking about the supposedly newsworthy stuff which is, in the end, or little real relevance.

by David Burnett | 23 Jan 2005 15:01 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
I wasnt there but David’s experience seems easy to imagine.

The thing is the authorities seem to use the understandable need for heightened security precautions to hold open season on the press, and particularly on us photographers. We are more conspicuous than print or radio folks, and less established looking than a TV crew. In short, “trouble-makers.”

I know from long experience that the default attitude of the cops and the DAs office is that a photographer, and especially a freelancer, is a scumbag ambulance chaser by definition. And it always seems worse when a republican is in power – as in Guiliani in NYC, or Bush in DC.

In any event, I think that Alan’s pictures say a great deal about the event. I like the picture of the marching band with the red flags and the statist architecture in back, especially when paired with what the republican ladies said about sending the protestors “back to Russia.”


by [former member] | 23 Jan 2005 15:01 | bogota, Colombia | | Report spam→
i want to thank my colleagues for sharing their thoughts and experiences on this, and i want to add, at this point, most of us in the journalistic community and especially in New York after 9/11 have lost friends and colleagues either here or overseas, not to mention the non-fatal injuries, imprisonments, and close calls. It is not that I am “willing to sacrifice” them for the sake of a little access. That was not my point at all. My point is that, in the world we live in, there ARE going to be casualties. There were casualties before 9/11 too, don’t forget that. But these losses, especially if they are of people we knew and loved personally, do not, should not, and can not be used to justify the destruction and curtailment of civil liberties, to be used as an excuse to impose outrageous restrictions on a free press, and on public rights.

Too often, Americans seem to believe now that safety and security are more important than our positive freedoms, the freedom to express, to work, to speak, to play. It has been said before but I will say it again, all of the dead and the wounded will have suffered in vain if the result is that America becomes a less free, less tolerant, less open, and less civil society than it was before 9/11. The real victory in the war on terror is not just stopping terrorists. It is also to assert that a truly democratic and free society works, and thrives, no matter how it may be threatened.

by [former member] | 23 Jan 2005 16:01 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
(just a quick reference: if you haven’t seen it yet – check out anthony suau’s book titled Fear This. it’s all in there.)

by [former member] | 23 Jan 2005 18:01 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Thank you Alan for starting out this incredible dialog.

I have often been treated like the “ambulance scumbag chaser” Stephen writes about (I thought I was the only one experiencing this). Has this always been the case or is this a recent phenomenon? As a professional, how are we to conduct ourselves to change this perception but still get the job done?

David, you’re being modest about your writing,it is very good.

by Abby Probasco | 23 Jan 2005 18:01 | Chicago area, United States | | Report spam→
Ben Franklin ( I believe it was he…) stated: He who gives up freedom for security deserves neither…

twas ever thus

by David Burnett | 23 Jan 2005 18:01 | Washington DC, United States | | Report spam→
writing after that line isn’t easy. And even less for a non American to speak about America’s freedom and America’s security. I’ll try then to speak only about security and freedom in general, even thought I felt really weird beeing treated like a cow in NY demonstrations and beeing finger printed like a criminal when entering the country. BUt hey we get used to everything even if, I guess, we shouldn’t!

Freedom and security is kind of a hardball: if you have one is kind of hard to have the other one no? It’s like a blanket that is too short. Or you have your feet out or you have your shoulders out. No way that you’ll be able to sleep properly!

I love freedom and I guess it’s a dangerous choice of life: you can fall when you run, your plain can catch fire when you are travelling, you can go to the toilet too often if you taste something new, you can be run over by a car in London because you looked right instead of left….. Life is so hard for us EU and US people.

I think security might be the choice to go: I’ll find a job I can do from home, by internet for example, I’ll do my groceries with Fresh Direct, I’ll use fedex pick-up to send around stuff, I’ll have no gas in my building (we never know it could explode), Air conditioned with Ionizer and anti allergenics, No knifes and hard corners, and stuffed walls. Common total security is important. I’ll dye one day but the later the better and my family will not be worried!

I think people is going nuts. That people is scared of death is not a new thing but we are going too far. I mean, that some people accept to live a meaningless existance in name of security that’s gross. And I’m not talking about US only, come on I’m Italian: “do you know mister Berlusconi?” that’s another “democratic dictator”! I’m just sick that the security pro’s are the majority…

Such a nice world: people is scared of terrorists and elect the worst of them to be their leaders!

by [former member] | 23 Jan 2005 21:01 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
I was wondering what life was back in the US since I haven´t set foot back in the US in over 2 1/2 years. I miss a real Starbucks Chai with all the sugar, a real good microbrew, a 2 inch prime rib with trimmings, lobster from downeast Maine, BOSTON CLAM CHOWDER. Can´t wait to come home in March for a few months and then back here for another 4 years. However, I do like paella, tapas, good wine, and seafood here in Barcelona.

I also like the ability of the Spanish people to protest something, and when they do, they do it in numbers, kids to grandmas, all 1 1-2 million plus in the streets. Barcelona or Madrid, pots and pans at night till midnight sometimes. First time I saw was when Ernest Lluch was assisinated by ETA several years ago. Very peaceful, very orderly, and the police was there but sitting in their battle vans, pretty much the same for the protests against the war against terror campaigns. I had just came from Maine, where 8 welders were protesting a possible job loss at Bath Iron Works, with signs of honk if you support us. There wasn´t any police to reign in the out control Maine welder, but Izar workers, Izar a spanish ship builder, goes the other extreme. They like to burn old cars and tires, the police don´t do much, let them burn it, and come by later to clean it up. Works great for a friend of mine with AFP, Rafa Rivas, gets his pictures, protestors always like their pictures taken here, but hard to get the police shot.

The point is, I couldn´t fathom the other extreme of how people lived here under Francos rule for 40 years, listening to friends who said it was common for people to go away for awhile for speaking Catalan, Vasco, Gallego in public. Very common for a too free journalist with a different point of view, for people who peacefully assembly or in secret, for anyone to list grievances against the government. Something I hope our bill of rights still mean something back in the US.

After 40 years of repression, the people in Spain just let it all out, so there are large number turnouts etc. Something I wish people would do for whatever it may be in the US.

Never had a problem so far with police or security, but some photographers like wearing motorcycle helmets during some manifestations and knee pads also. Meet personally, Maragall president of Catalunya, not to hard to meet the Spanish president, and spent an afternoon walking around photographing the prince and princess with 30 other photo/video journalist usually 3 feet away and then cocktails. No 8 ft. fence, no pepper spray for looking at them wrong, they even didn´t check my press card, just my camera 80-200 lens. Just case it was a nuke or something. Maybe security is to lax, but how can government by the people for the people work if you cannot even see the governing people live and up front.

There is actually a avenue called John F. Kennedy here in BCN not too many streets in US for lluis campanys, and I´m hoping the US doesn´t loose it´s grip on what freedom is.

I was actually in a plaza called George Orwell when I actually looked up and saw the controversial video police surviellance camera just put in last year. Then maybe, I thought the whole world is going east/west 1984, and I just don´t know it, as I´m happy, soon to be with my real Starbucks Chai coffe, here its to strong and not enough of the flavor I remember well back home.

Sorry just ranting and raving without without any touch ups on thoughts, but this is exactly what I like about Lightstalkers, gives me a chance to feel what it is really going on back in the US.
Have a great week.

by [former member] | 24 Jan 2005 12:01 | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
yep, what a strange trip!
I agree with David B. that probably the most bizarre thing was to experience all the grand talk about freedom and liberty while at the same time feeling more restricted and fenced in, x-rayed, patted down, nosed against metal fences, randomly denied access etc. etc. than ever…. (at least I didn’t have my balls pepper sprayed – sorry, David H.)
So far the best image I’ve seen to express the absurdity of this sad affair was a shot by Tracy Woodward that ran in the Post (and on-line in their web essay) showing a high-up view of the motorcade full frontal with all the secret service guys jogging alongside like men in black. Nothing like a full-fledged coronation with all the pomp and circumstance and gloating, while officially ignoring a war that’s supposedly being fought in the name of spreading democracy. great.
And how do you visualize that? To me, the most frustrating part was not being able to get access to any of the balls – that’s what the story was about, in my mind. The silly parade and security, yes, maybe, but I am not sure that any stills have been able to capture my experience of that part of it all. But the gleeful celebration of the corporate sponsorship would have been it. I saw Mario Tama’s shots on the Getty site, and boy, if I could have gotten my hands on the Lockheed Martin display where revelers had their picture taken with a cardboard cut-out of the royal couple, while a video screen overhead showed off the latest weapons systems….. oh well. next time. Hopefully there won’t be….
in the meantime, I put my visual 5 cents on my gallery.
cheers everybody,

by Katja Heinemann | 24 Jan 2005 12:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
And the cost, we are expected to bear. Financial, human, emotional. What is going to happen to this country when the (slim) majority wakes up? After a suicide bomber walks into a Starbucks in Anytown USA during the morning rush-hour? Will that happen after a new and improved patriot act is enacted? What will happen when it is too late to go back?
I’m afraid to think about it.

by Eric | 24 Jan 2005 17:01 | San Francisco, United States | | Report spam→
Do you all really believe this country is on the brink of becoming a totalitarian state or are you just upset because this particular inauguaration was not accessible to all the press?

by Abby Probasco | 24 Jan 2005 19:01 | Chicago area, United States | | Report spam→
The brink? No. Are lifestyle decisions being made that affect us long-term? Yes.

by Eric | 24 Jan 2005 21:01 | San Francisco, United States | | Report spam→
The first step of totalitarism is to control the press and the media. It is not happening only in the US but also in Italy and France (the others I’m not informed enough to say). Journalists in France are having a really hard time to have informations regarding state activities, Italy is even worse as Putin is a good friend of Berlusconi not one of the 3 TV state owned channels sent a reporter to Beslan, That between others, Berlusconi is a champ to control media.
I feel like this is the begining of the “democratic totalitarism” you just have to limit the access to the press, control the high levels of the media and big corps and ajust the reality to your truth. If you are good enough you’ll get 52 % of the people believing in you. It’s a question of marketing and everybody still feel they are in a democracy because is the majority that wins.

by [former member] | 24 Jan 2005 21:01 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
unfortunately, and i write this with the heaviest of hearts, we are on the brink of becoming an authoritarian though not totalitarian state. Not totalitarian because the state thus far has only limited interest in controlling what you do at home, and what you think. (private property and competitive choice, respectively, both part of the American ideal)

however, in public life and public activity, the state is probably more intrusive than it has been at any time since the Civil War (Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus), or World War Two (the internment of Japanese-American citizens). Certainly photography was never banned in the NY subways before, not even during the Red Scares after both World Wars. The flouting of the Geneva Convention at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib are without precedent at all in American history. (atrocities and abuses in Vietnam never were backed up by reports calling the Geneva Convention “quaint” as Gonzales did.)

The FBI at the height of the J. Edgar Hoover era certainly wiretapped extensively, and had more resources devoted to watching the (very few) Communists and (increasingly many) anti-war and civil rights groups than it did fighting crime, with the COINTELPRO program. Throughout the 1950s and 60s this “internal security” apparatus grew and was essentially out of control, but post-Watergate reforms and Hoover’s death curtailed the FBI extensively. What we are seeing now is a resurgence of that kind of state intervention in domestic life.

Like I said before, I’m not one of those radicals who complains about everything. Some surveillance of the Communist Party was probably justified, since we now know that it was in the pay of the USSR throughout the Cold War. But wiretapping Martin Luther King certainly was NOT justified. Nor was detailing FBI agents to keep track of JFK’s sex life. Nor was infiltrating SDS and other anti-war groups with agent provacateurs.

So it’s not that we haven’t been through these crises in American history before. We have, and eventually enough people realized that security did not justify everything and anything. However, we have to start that process now, and do the realizing, before it gets worse and worse. Make no mistake, the Bush Administration’s attack on civil liberties, public rights, and public access ARE historic in their scope and will destroy many of our freedoms unless we resist.

What I find most shocking is “just upset because this particular inauguaration was not accessible to all the press?”

I am absolutely stunned that you use the phrase “just,” as if this inauguration were not an important historical public event, as if it did not affect the lives of every American citizen (and spend $40 million of our tax dollars), as if the press’s access is unimportant. ACCESS is EVERYTHING. Your intelligence, your talent, your wit, your subtlety, all of that is meaningless and pointless unless you have the ACCESS to exercise it. The press in a democratic society MUST be free to work, to have access, to be able to move and do what it wants. Otherwise, all you are left with is what THEY want you to see, to read, to know. And that is absolutely unacceptable, and authoritarian.

by [former member] | 25 Jan 2005 03:01 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
I wish I could express myself as Alan does. And by the way agree totally.

by [former member] | 25 Jan 2005 06:01 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
Please know I am playing the devil’s advocate to continue this wonderful and informative dialog. It is critical we know how to defend our views if change is ever to take place. Nice job people.

by Abby Probasco | 25 Jan 2005 07:01 | Chicago area, United States | | Report spam→
Alan, fabulous man, you’re speaking the thoughts that are running loose in my mind. next time, i am up for stating my case, i’m going to ask you to write my speech.

by [former member] | 25 Jan 2005 08:01 | arlington, va, United States | | Report spam→
I thought you would all appreciate a modern historical perspective.

One comment on my part—some thousand plus Americans (they may have called them “Muslims” or “Middle-Eastern” men but the vast majority were no different from you or I) were picked off the streets, out of their houses, from work, the gym, the coffeshop, and stripped of all basic constitutional rights. What ever happened to these men?
I think the time to be surprised at anything done in the name of the security has long passed.

I fear the solution is one people would rather not discuss.

by Jonathan Fox | 26 Jan 2005 09:01 | Midwood, United States | | Report spam→
1600 Pennsylvania Meets Madison Ave.

by [unverified member] | 26 Jan 2005 10:01 (ed. Jan 26 2005) | new york, United States | | Report spam→
I’m Irish and worked as a photojournalist in the UK for some years. Both Ireland and the UK have lived with terrorism for many decades now. I know that terrorism has evolved into something utterly monstrous these days, but I still believe that the only way to deal with it is to learn to live with it. We must maintain our freedoms and learn to regard terrorism as the utter nuisance that it is. Kerry was absolutely right in that regard.

Bush, on the other hand, is so guilty of fear mongering that he should be made to pay. He should be taken to task by the American people and severly reprimanded. He is personally responsible for doing so much damage to this once great nation. I’ll tell you this too, the TV news media were suckers. Americans need to learn about the world and America’s place in it. If and when they do, people like Bush (and tabloid TV stations) will never be able to manipulate the people to the extent he did, ever again. He forced a war on the American people.

This man Bush is very dangerous and he has way to much power. He doesn’t listen. He hears only what he wants to hear. A person like that should not be allowed to run a democracy.

9/11 was the first major attack on the public on United States soil. Perhaps over time, the American people will become more pacifist, like Europeans.

I wonder will humans ever evolve beyond the desire for needless slaughter?

by Paul Treacy | 24 Feb 2005 14:02 (ed. Feb 24 2005) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→

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Abby Probasco, Photographer Abby Probasco
Chicago Area , United States
David Burnett, photojournalist David Burnett
Washington Dc , United States
Katja Heinemann, Photojournalist Katja Heinemann
Brooklyn , United States
Eric, Freelance Photographer Eric
Freelance Photographer
Austin , United States
Jonathan Fox, Editor / Translator / Pho Jonathan Fox
Editor / Translator / Pho
Barcelona , Spain ( BCN )
Sarah Shatz, Sarah Shatz
New York, Ny , United States
Paul  Treacy, Photographer Paul Treacy
London , United Kingdom ( LGW )


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