9/12 Protest — Washington, DC

A pictorial view of the massive protest by Americans on September 12, 2009

Non-Partisan Views and Protests

Many commentators who weren’t at the protest claimed that the participants were die-hard stereotypical Republicans targeting the Democratic party.  Were they to see images such as these, they might have looked for the facts before letting loose with their naysaying words.

Plenty of protesters regard both parties as betraying their offices.

On a sign with two variations on its two sides, one protester depicts President Obama and his 2008 Republican challenger Senator McCain as playing a game of “Good Cop / Bad Cop.”  The two politicians take turns at being “Good Cop” whenever the side is rotated.  The image of McCain as “Bad Cop” shows the Republican with an ugly cruel scowl (unfortunately not captured by my camera).

The Protesters Are Not Who The Media Say They Are

One protester announced himself as all four of the following combined into one person: gay, conservative, proud, American.

Do you tire of reading commentary saying that critics of the Democratic Party agenda are racist?  These protesters knew that this is not what motivates them, and used their signs to express this message.  (The second sign above is yet another protester who is not a Republican.)


Two variations on the old MasterCard ad slogan.  The second photos cuts off the bottom of the sign: it goes on to say “Freedom PRICELESS.”

The Vast National Debt

With the United States national debt on course to reach a percentage of GDP not seen since World War II — and alarming news stories projecting that foreign investors will soon be unwilling to buy American securities — several protesters highlighted the alarming (and ever-increasing) amount.

$5 billion per day (that’s $5,000,000,000) amounts to about $16 per American per day — $16 for every man, woman, child, senior citizen, housewife, loafing brother-in-law, whatever.  For every person not earning, there’s that much more to be repaid by earners.


This chart of “Average Federal Spending per Household by Administration” shows scary amounts incurred in the past — and the big increase by the new occupant of the White House.

The sign begins “The United States Government’s Course is Unsustainable.”  As with other signs, this one communicates that both parties ran up this out-of-control debt.  (“$11T” [for trillion] is written just under the top of the arrow.)


The sign on the left is a twist on Obama’s campaign promise that he would deliver “change.”


The Debt and Its Effects

Patrick Henry said “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”  Did he foresee when his nation would, without a significant war being conducted, conduct itself in such a way that Americans would change “Death” to “Debt” to make a point?


This man brought a genuine piece of money from 1920s Germany to warn that America might have to devalue its money through hyperinflation as Germany did nine decades ago.


The last Administration promised an education program with “No Child Left Behind.”  This protester changed the last word to stress a different fate.


Two protesters likened the current spending of the Federal Government to that of disgraced, imprisoned investment-house fraud perpetrator Bernard Madoff, whose shenanigans cost his clients an estimated $65 billion.


The first sign singles out Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank for their financial irresponsibility.  The second sign reads “Deficits R Us,” with the “R” backwards, in imitation of the name of a toy store chain.


The legitimate concern that the Federal Government will wreck the health care industry in America prompted many of the protesters to come.  The concern was real: the President had spoken to the Congress and the American public in a nationally-broadcast prime-time address just three days earlier, and the subject has been forefront in the news for months.

The first sign shows a graph depicting “Age-based priority for receiving scarce medical interventions under the complete lives system.”  An idea has circulated that President Obama’s plan would lead to elderly people being deprived of medical services that would lengthen their lives.  Democrats deny this, and accuse their opponents of lying.  However, the President’s own words substantiated this view of his position.  On his ABC prime-time special, he said that beyond a given age, an elderly person should receive inexpensive pain-relief rather than services that would treat the condition and lengthen the patient’s life.


The schematic chart shows an “Organizational Chart of the House Democrats’ Health Plan.”


Third photo: the Grim Reaper endorses ObamaCare.


Right: a Florida Democrat who survived cancer doesn’t want ObamaCare.

The phrase “Keep Your Laws Off My Body” has long been a slogan of  the abortion-choice movement.  Here, one word has been changed to make a point against a President who is pro-choice.  A person can be both pro-choice and against the proposed takeover of health care.

Using a symbol for medical care inside the “O,” this sign makes its point concisely.


Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst during Obama’s speech had taken place three nights prior.  The first sign challenges Obama statements about coverage for illegal immigrants.

Nasty, but it makes a point.

(For the benefit of those whose knowledge of Ted Kennedy over the last few decades comes only from major media, this sign is in reference to Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in Kennedy’s car in 1969 while Kennedy made phone calls to save his career rather than send help to rescue her while she was trapped in the river waters which eventually submerged her.)

Atlas Shrugged

Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged depicts a United States of the future spiraling out of control, its government corrupt and controlling its citizens without regard to feasibility or morality.  In the last two years, major news sources such as The Wall Street Journal have reported that current readers find eery resemblances between events in the novel and those occurring now.  The first six months of 2009 saw more copies of Atlas Shrugged sold than in all of 2008, which in turn had been the year of the highest number of sales in the fifty-plus years that the novel has been in print.


A Virginian holding a sign reading “Atlas Will Shrug” meets up with a man in a tee shirt reading “I am John Galt” (Galt is the hero of the novel).  They had not come together and did not know one another.

Right: a shirt is embroidered with the words “Atlas Will Shrug.”

A married couple from the Greater Washington D.C. Area hold signs inspired by Ayn Rand.  The sign on the left references Atlas Shrugged, the sign on the right communicates a tenet of Ayn Rand’s philosophy in a rephrasing of her words.


The above three signs and the above tee shirt reference the hero of Atlas Shrugged.

These two signs highlight the author of the novel rather than just the one novel of hers which has become the most famous.  Ayn Rand wrote three other novels, and several volumes collecting her non-fiction are readily available in major book stores.  Ayn Rand has never been part of the status quo on the political right.  She frowned on several prominent Republicans.  She said: “I am not a conservative—I am a radical for capitalism.”

Rob Tracinski publishes a print periodical called The Intellectual Activist and a daily email newsletter titled TIA Daily, both of which analyze current events from the perspective of the philosophy of Ayn Rand.  He attended the protest with a sign quoting Ayn Rand.

Congress and Its Lax, Oblivious Approach to Legislation

The reports that Congress passes legislation without a chance to understand it, that Congress recently received 300 new pages for a bill in the middle of the night just before the vote, outrages Americans.  When Congressmen practically boast that they haven’t the time to read bills before they are voted, it doesn’t take much foresight to realize that unconscionable sections will be slipped (if not crammed) into legislation.  Protesters put their objections onto their signs.

President Obama promised that the $787 billion stimulus package voted into law early in his presidency would jump-start the economy, because (he said) the money would go to “shovel ready” projects.  One sign-maker turned this phrase into a critique of the President’s approach to health care.

Attitudes About Congress

The exquisite art work on this sign is the work of the woman carrying the sign.

The phrase is a play on the July-August 2009 program which used $3 billion to pay consumers for cars which were then destroyed.

Tarring and feathering miscreants was a tradition in America two centuries ago.  This man suggests that the tradition is fitting for those in government now.


Cleverly, this design depicts the top leaders in the Federal Government as the “knucle-head” comedy trio of movies of the 1930s-1960s.  MOE becomes “BO” (the President’s initials); LARRY becomes HARRY.


As much as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has complained that her opponents do little more than compare the Democratic leadership to Nazis, sometimes the comparison is apt.

This woman came from Easton, Pennsylvania to object to the course taken by the government.  In the year leading up the protest, Congress poured a vast amount of money into promoting solvency of reckless firms which had “toxic assets” on their books.  Congress is in the background in both photos.

Protesters Citing Problems Prominent in the late 20th Century

In calling Al Gore “an idiot,” this protester might have been too nice to him.  Gore’s actions suggest he’s a profiteer on the scare-mongering he engages in.  When asked about his investments in the very technologies he promotes as a so-called expert on environmental issues, Gore was palpably annoyed by the congresswoman who in 2009 rightfully questioned Gore’s integrity.  An article on geothermal energy in The New York Times in 2009 reported that this presumably-promising technology can cause earthquakes; in the last paragraphs, it was acknowledged that Congress didn’t hear about this, that Gore in his frequent testimony to Congress never addressed this, and that Gore stands to profit substantially should geothermal succeed.
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Clever Twists on Names and Phrases

When campaigning for President, Barack Obama used the slogan “Hope.”   This woman started with a pro-Obama tee shirt but changed “Hope” to “Hopeless.”

“Yes We Can” was an Obama campaign slogan.  The button on the right indicates an unintended potential “achievement.”

When Bill Clinton first ran for President, campaign manager James Carville famously put the slogan “It’s the Economy, Stupid” where Clinton would see it each morning, so that Clinton would stay on message as he faced crowds.  This sign suggests what Obama needs to consider if he is to grasp Americans’ discontent.

Obama campaigned that he offered “change you can believe in.”  The sign on the left merely alters “change” to its sound-alike.  The photo on the right shows a sign that alters the once-familiar protest slogan “war is not the answer.”


Who doesn’t know Donald Trump’s catch-phrase from The Apprentice?

Taking Cues From the Founding Fathers

The above four protesters carried messages from the author of The Declaration of Independence and our third President, Thomas Jefferson.

Democrats and their sympathizer have dismissed town-hall protesters as “angry mobs.”  This tee shirt suggests that the Founding Fathers could be regarded as an angry mob.  The wording may be unfair to the Founders, who were civil.  Nonetheless, the protesters seek the liberty earlier sought by their counterparts of two centuries earlier.

The woman holding the sign told me that she and her husband estimate their sign was photographed by more people than any other at the protest.  While I was near them, there was never a time when people weren’t photographing it.

Abraham Lincoln was not a Founding Father.  (Nine Presidents held the office between the last participant in the Founding and Lincoln’s inauguration.)   However, the quote is appropriate.

Principled Objections to the Usurpation of Rights

The sign of this North Carolinian points up that rights have come to be so frequently collectivized that legislators don’t act on the premise that rights belong to individuals.

Objections to Obama’s Operational Style

Right: the color patterns of familiar Obama advertisements has been adapted to fit Obama’s predecessors.


Obama’s campaign slogans were “Change We Can Believe In” and “Yes We Can.”  These protesters reversed that.  Candidate Obama promised that his administration would conduct its spending and make decisions in a “transparent” way, one that would prevent corruption.  The man on the right believes the reality has been otherwise.


Rob Tracinski (see information above) brought a sign countering Obama’s claim that “We are our brother’s keeper.  We are our sister’s keeper.”



Below: the idea that “drinking the Kool-Aid” means to take poison (in reference to the mass suicide of the Jonestown Massacre) led to Obama being depicted on a sign as the face on the Kool-Aid pitcher.  The third photo below shows the whole sign.

Mainstream Media

Many right-wingers are understandably upset that major news media ignores them when it is not misrepresenting their stories.

UPDATE APRIL 2010: I have added a page of photos I shot at the Tax Day Tea Party of 2010 in Washington, D.C..

This page © 2009 David P. Hayes.  All photos were shot on-scene with my camera.