Twelve Years of Capital Bikeshare Fun

me and Cabi on H St

Now celebrating its 12th anniversary, Capital Bikeshare is the most inexpensive and reliable transportation system in Washington, DC.

Imagine paying a flat fee of $95 to go wherever you want in Washington, DC, and its suburbs. No more worrying about parking tickets, searching for Ubers or consulting Metro schedules.

Instead, you just go on a transportation system that’s available 24/7, in all weather, and you never have to worry about traffic jams.

Did I also mention it will keep you in shape? Your annual membership entitles you to spinning classes that feature challenging (real) hills and the thrill of being part of a rolling community.

It’s Capital Bikeshare, the cheapest and most reliable way of getting around Washington, DC. While the Metro may be on fire, and the roads jammed because it’s a Monday, Capital Bikeshare rolls on.

CaBi rainbow

An idea so brilliant that you think some tech tyrant like Elon Musk would’ve come up with it. Nope. He’s too busy boring tunnels through bedrock to shave a couple seconds off car trips.

Instead, bike sharing began with communal experiments in the 1960s and since then has been adopted by cities worldwide.

Washington, DC, has enjoyed Capitol Bikeshare (CaBi) for twelve years now.

It allows me to live downtown without a car. Surrounded by Cabi stations, I use the system constantly. It’s the easiest way to get around DC and it allows you to make more trips to do more things than you ever could do with a car.

Here’s how I’ve used Capital Bikeshare :

Multimodal Commuting: For years, I took the Metro to Silver Spring. But the first part of my trip was a half-mile ride on bikeshare to the U Street Metro. Twice a day, I would be on a CaBi.

Commuting Bail-Out: During my commutes, when the Metro would break-down, I’d bail out, exit the station and get on a CaBi to continue my journey home.

Recreation: With a bike always available on the corner, I’ll take CaBi down to the National Mall to see the sunrise or just to ride around the neighborhood.

Coffeeneuring: Bikes and coffee is a lifestyle and there’s a biking challenge that celebrates this: Coffeeneuring. It’s an annual, international affair where riders are challenged to ride to seven coffee shops over seven weeks.

Bike to Bar: Sometimes I’ll bike to a bar and then walk or Uber home. No worries about a DUI that way.

Bad Weather: While I do love CaBi, I have real bikes, too! But if the weather is rainy or nasty (like when the city coats the streets in salt before snowstorm), then I’ll let CaBi get dirty instead of my real bike.

Night: I also prefer to use CaBi at night because they’re so big and bright, even the highest driver can see them.

Safety: Drivers seem to notice me more when I’m on a Cabi and treat me better. I’m not a “cyclist”; I’m a person on a bike when I use a CaBi.

Theft Avoidance: I kept my bike once locked up overnight outside Union Station and someone slashed the tire trying to steal it. Now I take CaBi to the train station.

Airport: Biking to DCA is a dream! You make a left off the Mount Vernon Trail, go through a tunnel, and you’re at the airport, with a convenient CaBi station right there. And the ride home at night past the monuments is breathtakingly beautiful.

Rewards: The short-lived Bikeshare Angels program was perhaps a little too good, allowing riders to rack up too many rewards. The new rewards program is not as generous but you still get rewards like e-bike credits for taking bikes to places where they are needed.

CaBi at DCA

These are just a few of the ways that I’ve used Capital Bikeshare. I genuinely like the bikes. Their wide tires and heavy frames seem ideal for the potholed streets of DC.

One downside of CaBi is availability. I’m fortunate to live in the flat part of the city. Those uphill see their bikes disappear downhill and then they don’t always come back. Capital Bikeshare trucks bikes back uphill to meet the demand but it’s a constant struggle.

Despite this, given the crowded roads and Metro mishaps, Capital Bikeshare is still the most reliable transportation system in the city and one that deserves increased investment from city leaders.

How Cults End: The 1776 Restoration Movement

1776 Restoration Movement cult meeting

All cults end in death.

That was my assumption, prior to reading the excellent Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell.

Cults are defined by language, according to Montell, which only insiders can understand. Scientology has terminology like valence and thetan that is baffling to outsiders. This is by design, a secret knowledge that only cult members can access.

Language is also a way of identifying the elect. For example, right-wing groups refer to themselves as “Patriots.” Anyone who supports this movement to overthrow the government is a “Patriot” while anyone who opposes them is “Antifa.”

Calling yourself a “Patriot” makes anything possible, even attacking the Capitol. Or as “Patriots” might call it, a normal tourist visit.

Cultish also makes the point that there’s no such thing as brainwashing. There are age-old techniques at manipulation and peer pressure but even in Jonestown, not everyone drank the koolaid. Followers argued with Jim Jones, even after years of indoctrination by him. Some were forced into suicide while others ran off. People retained their free will.

Fortunately, most cults never reach this point. Most just fall apart due to their own internal splits. Followers don’t always follow.

The 1776 Restoration Movement

This is the case of the 1776 Restoration Movement (1776RM), the rump descendent of the People’s Convoy. This small group, which briefly car-camped on the National Mall in the name of freedom, has recently shrunk even smaller.

The 1776 Restoration Movement has split into three factions:

  1. Santa. After being evicted from their West Virginia parking lot/squat camp, the erstwhile 1776RM cult leader “Santa” went to Ohio, where he has filmed videos describing a fantastic organization that doesn’t exist while his elderly mother does chores in the background.
  2. The Patriot Q Faction. The QAnon members of the group leased land in the WV mountains, which they intend to improve into a terrorist training camp/Country Bear Jamboree for fellow “Patriot” groups who want to storm the Capitol again.
  3. The J6 Cult. Those without the means or will to leave the DC area have joined the  cult around January 6th prisoners held at the DC Jail, where they harass corrections officers and make a nuisance of themselves.

The Human Cost

On this blog, I have mocked the 1776ers for their fumbling attempts at treason. Watching them on YouTube, it seemed like the craziest, dumbest reality program ever.

Yet, if you look behind the drama of the livestreams, their lives are appallingly sad.

Before 1776RM, these were folks who had jobs, family and indoor toilets – all of which they have lost due to their association with the cult. Early on, cult leaders put out a call for people to sell everything and join them in the name of freedom – and some did.

One woman cashed out her 401K and quit her job to join the group; now she’s semi-homeless. There’s photos of another 1776er online, showing him happy and partying with friends; he now shambles alone through the woods, muttering to himself, like a live-streaming Sasquatch.

Others have been tangled up in legal complications for assaulting counter-protesters or seen their online reputations destroyed by association with the group.

And then there’s this very sad thread on Rose, kicked out of the cult, whereabouts unknown.

This is the wreckage of the 1776 Restoration Movement, a swirl of human flotsam left in the wake of this right-wing movement.

The people who joined this group were not brainwashed. They joined willingly. Most left months ago, for practical reasons or because they decided that the cult wasn’t for them.

The tattered remnants of 1776RM, who haunt the streets of DC with battered, flag-bedecked vehicles, can leave at any time. They retain their free will. All they have to do is turn their cars around and head home.

The 1776 Restoration Movement: Odds and Ends

All that remains
All that remains of the 1776 Restoration Movement

While I confidently wrote the obituary of the 1776 Restoration Movement, it never actually ended!

Storming off saying, “I quit!” would be the end of most things but for cult leaders, it’s just another tool in the toolbox. Leaving or threatening to leave is a way to keep followers in line by forcing them to contemplate the bleak life that awaits them once the shared hysteria comes to an end. Better to stay in the security of the cult than risk a shattering return to reality.

The Christo-fascist 1776 Restoration Movement didn’t end but instead splintered and splintered again, growing progressively smaller and moving to increasingly remote locations, like the woods of a campground and their West Virginia basecamp/parking lot.

And after being evicted from the National Mall, cult members have drifted away, the leaders exiting with their ill-gotten loot while the followers try to regain their health after ingesting rat poop.

The dregs of the dregs have remained in the DC region, attaching themselves to new cults, like the vigil for January 6th insurrectionists at the DC Jail or just shouting at people from street corners.

The Revolution WILL Be Televised

There would not be a 1776 Restoration Movement without YouTube. Live-streaming is a way of life for the cult. They are 100% dependent on it to get their story out into the world, connect with followers and, most importantly, raise money.

To watch one of the 1776RM livestreams is like PBS pledge week, with constant appeals for “superchats” and “buy me a coffee.” except the money is going for gas and vape juice. Easy money if you’re a popular streamer. No wonder they are so attached to the grift.

It’s also a way of inflating their importance. During encounters with the police, the 1776ers would tell the officers, “I have 2000 people watching this right now. Do your job!”

Does YouTube care that they’re empowering civil war? No. Unless you’re violating copyright or doing something completely illegal you have free rein to livestream whatever you want.

The next insurrection will be televised. I can picture it now: thousands of livestreamers, iPhones aloft, storming the Capitol as YouTube profits from the end of democracy.

Protect Your Mental Health

The experience of having the 1776ers in my city made me a little nuts. I became obsessed with the wannabe insurrectionists, actively working toward their failure.

I was not alone. This was a Live Action Role Playing game (LARP) where you got to play a character in a titanic struggle of good against evil. The 1776ers were fighting to save the country while the counterprotesters were combating an evil, pedophile cult.

Talking to friends about this, I sounded like a fanatic, as I described the outlandish characters and ridiculous situations of this real-life soap opera.

“Remember, you have more to lose than they do,” a friend reminded me. Unlike the insurrectionists sleeping in their cars, I had indoor plumbing, air conditioning and cable TV.

I had to disengage because their cult craziness was contagious.

Also, I think the pandemic made everyone a little nuts. Telling people to stay inside and worry for close to two years did terrible things to this nation’s collective psyche. The loss of routine, relationships, sunlight and income unhinged this country.

Now that the plague is over, and people realize that they’re not going to die, everyone wants to fight, looking for payback for the things that they lost during the shutdown.

Or maybe just to feel human again, after so much time with only the digital world for company. Suddenly, people have a desire to connect, even if it’s only a fist connecting to a face.

Next: How Cults End: The 1776 Restoration Movement

Who Defeated the 1776 Restoration Movement?

1776 signs

The 1776 Restoration Movement came to a dramatic end on August 3rd in Washington, DC.

It wasn’t the followers who deserted the leader but, instead, David “Santa” Riddell announced that he was leaving his own cult. Condemning their infighting and lack of discipline, he rose dramatically from his lawn chair to paraphrase Davey Crockett with the announcement that, “You can go to hell, I’m going to Ohio.”

After less than a month of protest in DC, it was suddenly over, as Santa picked up his chair and left, leaving his followers glumly and silently in the dark.

The Christofascist cult that was the 1776 Restoration Movement had failed. Who defeated it? Suspects include:

1. The Trolls

Life was easy on the National Mall for the 1776ers before the trolls arrived. The Park Police let them sleep in their cars and basically camp in front of the National Gallery of Art, in violation of park regulations.

Waking up in the morning, the 1776ers would climb out of their vehicles for a free breakfast as they enjoyed a spectacular view of the sun rising over the Capitol. There would be a brief “activity” like walking around with their anti-government signs and then they were free to sit and grift for money, live-streaming themselves sitting in chairs as the donations rolled in. Then more eating, a Santa lecture, karaoke and to bed in their air-conditioned cars.

While they had been trolled before by counterprotesters, they were not prepared for the unholy alliance of Defender of Ants and Anarchy Princess. Circling the camp in a van, Defender sang, “This is how legends are made” before assailing the 1776ers individually with specific and personal insults. A veteran of the People’s Convoy, he knew and hated the 1776ers for the unforgivable sin of sheltering  sex offenders in their group.

Santa knew he had violent pedophiles in 1776RM but he justified keeping them in, claiming that he knew best. He would not renounce or expel them.

Anarchy Princess, from the left of the political spectrum, was a figure so triggering that all she had to do was walk by the 1776 camp to get them in an uproar. They believed that she was a witch (“witchtifa!”) and blamed her when one of their cars caught on fire.

Rounding out this Suicide Squad (how they referred to themselves), were additional convoy veterans like Jersey Jay, Freedom Squirrel and Lori Arnold. They hated Santa and his squalid cult for turning their freedom movement into a joke, referring to the 1776ers as the “1776 Retirement Movement.”

The night belonged to them. The 1776ers could not stand their nonstop mockery and begged the Park Police to do something about it. The Park Police set up a designated protest zone, where Defender and friends yelled insults for hours, ensuring that the 1776ers got no sleep.

2. The 1776 Restoration Movement

The 1776 Restoration Movement’s greatest enemy was the 1776 Restoration Movement.

On the final night before the cult dissolved, Santa said, “I can’t fight you and the government.”

Meaning that managing the lazy, entitled and hotheaded members of the movement was an impossible job, like herding cats, but some of the cats were religious zealots while others are drunken felons. All were incompetents, easily triggered by trolls and constantly falling prey to scams.

Under pressure from the counterprotesters, one of Santa’s “security team” attacked Defender and was arrested. Another one assaulted one of their own livestreamers – an ally of the movement. The 1776ers tried to intimidate their critics by zooming out of darkness on rented scooters, everyone yelling, shouting “Scootertifa!” and live-streaming themselves, with the police trying to keep people apart, like an episode of Reno 911 but set on the National Mall.

On the final night, the 1776ers abandoned their “back the blue” beliefs to turn on the police, demanding badge numbers and threatening to take the law into their own hands. It took a dozen officers to keep the 1776ers from attacking four counterprotesters who were merely shouting insults from across the park.

3. The People of DC

I’m a street photographer. I love taking photos of this dynamic city, particularly all the protests that occur. Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, Pro-Trump demonstrations, anti-Trump demonstrations – I’ve captured it all.

everyone knows it's a cult

The one group that ever harassed me was the 1776 Restoration Movement.

“Hello, Joe,” was all it took. A counterprotester said hello to me and suddenly all the 1776ers swarmed around me and blasted a bullhorn in my face. Individually, they are uninspiring, but together they make a dangerous mob.

They acted like the street and “lawn” in front of the National Gallery of Art belonged to them. While they had a permitted spot for demonstrations, they preferred to hang out in the shade near their vehicles. All day they sat there and filmed people they deemed suspicious. “Possible antifa,” they’d say on their walkie-talkies as a tourist walked by their encampment.

Santa created a red-shirted security team to patrol “their” area. At night, they would hide behind trees and follow women around.

They had an enemies list and they doxxed and swatted people they didn’t like, revealing their personal information online and telling the police that they were going to harm themselves.

When the NPS permit came up for renewal, complaints poured in from the people of DC. Topics included their creepy Gestapo tactics, sleeping on the Mall when no else was allowed to, their unsanitary food preparation, their gas cans and piles of garbage, the pedophiles, the kids and dogs they had in hot cars and the fact that they were J6 insurrectionists.

The Park Police then announced that they would enforce the ban on sleeping in cars at night on the National Mall. If the 1776ers were caught sleeping in their cars, they would be arrested and their vehicles would be towed.

This action struck fear into the heart of the 1776ers. Their cars are everything to them, not just transportation but also their homes. They have everything in them – food, clothes, personal items. Without their cars, they are mere pedestrians.

Vehicles are both the strength and weakness of the convoy movement. A dozen people marching is unimpressive; but a dozen vehicles in a convoy is menacing.

If your town is overrun by a convoy, threaten to tow their cars. They will leave.

Who Defeated the 1776 Restoration Movement?

I’m going to say the trolls, who put intolerable pressure on the 1776ers causing them to crack. Who knew mockery was so powerful? You have to love an underdog story, too.

And that people from completely different political backgrounds could come together in common cause is remarkable in this divided time.

I never thought I’d talk amiably with someone in a MAGA hat on the National Mall but that happened. One afternoon, I talked to the trolls, asking them about the People’s Convoy, why it broke up and what happened to the people who were in it (moved on to similar causes). They asked me about what I thought about the 1776ers and we bonded over our shared hate of the layabouts.

The 1776 Restoration Movement did bring people together, but not in ways that they expected, uniting enemies on the right and left and bringing them together in conversation.

Next: The 1776 Restoration Movement: Odds and Ends

The 1776 Restoration Movement Loves The Swamp

there's not much movement in the 1776 Restoration Movement
there’s not much movement in the 1776 Restoration Movement

The 1776 Restoration Movement has fallen in love with Washington, DC, the city that they vowed to destroy.

Led by David “Santa” Riddell, a Proud Boy, and filled with January 6 rioters, the 1776 Restoration Movement (1776RM) is a right-wing cult that vowed to destroy DC. A remnant of the failed trucker convoy, they first threatened to shut down the city by blocking the highways; Washington was not impressed. They then rolled their motley collection of vehicles into the city, which they intend to occupy until the federal government was abolished and the clock rolled back to 1859 or so.

Instead, they’ve encountered a series of humiliations, from a desultory turnout for their marches to being trolled on their own livestreams.

You Can Always Go Downtown

Despite this, they’ve remained in the city. Why?

Because they’re having too much damn fun. If you watch them on their livestreams (they compulsively stream everything live on YouTube), you can see how much they enjoy life in Washington, DC.

You’re not allowed to camp on the National Mall. But because they’re a “protest” the Park Police have looked the other way.  The 1776ers sleep in their cars and monopolize the parking in front of the National Gallery of Art.

Imagine: sleeping for free in DC. Climb out of your car in the morning and enjoy a gorgeous view of the dew-soaked National Mall at sunrise. A couple of elderly ladies prepare breakfast for the group and all you have to do is endure a sermon from Santa. After that, take a stroll up to the Capitol and wave American flags around.

Marching to the White House to yell with a bullhorn

Afternoons are open. Pull your lawn chair into the shade and nap for a while. If you get too hot, get into your car and turn on the AC. Or maybe you rent a scooter and go to  theJefferson Memorial.

Hungry? Snacks are available from the coolers in the 1776RM encampment. There are also a number of food trucks nearby, offering gyros, tacos, chicken and burgers. There’s also a cafeteria inside the National Gallery of Art with a gelato stand.

But what about entertainment? If you like people-watching, 1776RM is for you. Camped out in their low-slung chairs, 1776ers watch a nonstop parade of runners, cyclists and tourists being active in DC.

Plus, the trolls! There’s always some drama going on in the 1776 Restoration Movement, from “antifa” protesters like Anarchy Princess coming by to roast the movement to incredibly complex, internecine feuds among various right-wing factions. It’s like Game of Thrones, but for fascists.

All this conflict means money for the livestreamers, who continually ask for “superchats” ($$ gifts) from their supporters watching at home. And nearly all the 1776ers are streaming, everyone pointing a camera at everyone else, to get their share of the grift.

America Loves DC

Now, Santa is threatening to leave because they’re not getting enough people at the protest. They’re down to a dozen cultists.

But they can’t quit The Swamp. It’s way too much fun.

Why go back to ordinary life when you can have a free vacation on the National Mall? Enjoying a beautiful park, taking scooter rides around, getting tacos from a food truck – you can’t do that at home.

The hypocrisy is hilarious. Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times about the city-loathing that animates Republicans.

Yet, as anyone who has traveled recently can confirm, cities are more popular than ever. Fox News says they’re super dangerous but Americans can’t stay away. In DC, there are lines down the block for museums, vast school groups posing for photos in front of the White House and dinner reservations are at premium. There is so much demand that I’ve been to coffee places that ran out of coffee and bars without beer.

Cities are where things happen. It’s where you go to start a new career, find a mate or just lead a different life. Cities are a collision of differences and out of those encounters spring new ideas that propel civilization forward.

The conservative critique of cities is preposterous. Without its cities, America would be poor and provincial.

Note too that Republicans hate cities yet choose to live in them, being ashamed of their passion for metropolitan life. They can’t stay away.

I can’t quit you….

The 1776 Restoration Movement is no different. Living in Washington is a heck of a lot more interesting than life in the country. Despite their threats, they are not going to leave. They like it too much. The 1776 Restoration Movement has fallen in love with The Swamp.

NEXT: The 1776 Restoration Movement is driven into exile.

The Humiliation of the 1776 Restoration Movement

The 1776 Restoration Movement
The 1776 Restoration Movement

The gloriously incompetent 1776 Restoration Movement has gone from humiliation to humiliation, as they struggle to connect with a disinterested public and are trolled online and in real life.

When the People’s Convoy of truckers collapsed in May, not everyone wanted to go home. A tiny remnant coalesced around David “Santa” Riddell, a middle-aged Proud Boy, who promised radical action. He would lead a massive convoy into Washington, DC.

Calling themselves the 1776 Restoration Movement (1776RM), this faction, never more than a couple dozen strong, relocated to a parking lot in Bunker Hill, West Virginia. Nearly all the trucks left, leaving the convoy reduced to mostly passenger vehicles covered in QAnon messaging and American flags.

The main issue that animated the orginal convoy disappeared too, as covid mask and vaccine mandates were lifted by the courts.

Santa and his motley crew aimed for something different, an end to democracy and a restoration of a “constitutional republic.” This meant returning the country to the 19th century.

While the People’s Convoy had been more egalitarian, 1776RM was firmly under the control of Santa, who determined what they did, who could stay in the compound and what they believed.

The Office Meets January 6th

The difference between their wild ambitions and their parking lot existence became a source of mirth for me and thousands of others following the #1776RM hashtag on Twitter. They live-streamed on YouTube everything they did, from their morning meetings to their trips to Walmart.

Channels like Just a Lazy Gamer and Meanwhile sprang up to document this comedy of conservative failure, providing clips of their infighting and incompetence, sort of like The Office meets January 6th.

1776RM constantly fell victim to trolls. The camp got excited when an anonymous benefactor promised to deliver 100 Subway sandwiches. All day they talked about these sandwiches; none arrived. A scammer promised that he would lead trucks from Texas to join them, if only they would send him money. He took their money and mocked them. The camp thought they booked evening entertainment with a band called “Johnny Troy and the Hayseeds” that unsurprisingly did not exist.

I mocked them as well, dipping into their chats to make fun of the constantly vaping Santa, their bucket-pooping (finding toilets has been a problem) and their inability to learn.

None of this mattered because every day brought a new hope, another slim reed, Santa at his morning meeting sharing yet another Facebook story about someone who heard from someone else that another convoy was coming.

Watching this, it seemed preposterous. People were sitting in a tent next to a noisy highway as Santa said that the parking lot would soon fill with hundreds of trucks. How could anyone believe this?

It didn’t matter what Santa said. He could’ve promised reinforcements from the Moon and people would’ve stayed.

Why? They wanted to believe.

Followers Are Leaders

Cults are not about the leader, they are about the followers.

It was the women that drove the movement. They were the ones who organized the meals, booked the fake bands, printed the flyers and brought in the portable toilets. Santa merely provided the inspiration for all this volunteer work.

People join a cult, not because they’re enthralled by a leader (who is often quite ordinary) but because a cult provides meaning and a sense of community.

To the outside world, 1776RM looked like a bunch of white people living in tents next to a highway. But to people inside the cult, they were key players in a battle of good against evil.

After months of planning, they finally took action on July 4th, when they used their cars and trucks to briefly block interstates in Maryland and Virginia. Santa promised that they would be on the national news; they weren’t. They barely made the local news, lumped together with another group that blocked the Beltway that day too.

That night, they celebrated in their parking lot, recounting the details of their highway blockade like it was a great battle.

On July 6th, they drove their motley collection of vehicles into Washington and parked in front of the National Gallery of Art. Thinking that they had gotten away with blocking the highway, they would now occupy DC.

I went down there to confront them. I live in the city. I saw the Trump mobs on January 6th. No way was I going to let that happen again.

But when I saw them in person, it was such a pathetic arrangement that I said nothing. A dozen or so vehicles and some old people sitting on benches, livestreaming each other – that was the 1776 Restoration Movement. It looked dull and pointless, a blip in the life of a busy city of 700,000. If you don’t know anything about them, you’d just think they were another weird protest group.

David "Santa" Riddell shortly before his arrest
David “Santa” Riddell (center) shortly before his arrest

After I left – it was too hot for that nonsense – Santa was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), who calmly walked him away and took him into custody, prompting a paroxysm of rage among the sedentary 1776RM. He’s wanted by Maryland for blocking the highway.

Santa was released the next day and got to experience the classic reunion with his followers outside the courthouse moment, something that is a staple of the local news. Drug dealers, murderers, politicians – there’s always that shot of them walking out of the courthouse and into the arms of friends and family.

Santa told his followers about how well he was treated and that he talked to the detectives for hours. They really understood, he said. Very naive to talk to the police, for the legal system is not done with him; he faces charges in Maryland.

1776RM is incompetent but it also contains dangerous elements. Two of their most prominent livestreamers took part in the January 6th attack on the Capitol; one of them called the insurrection amazing.

The livestreamers make money from online donations. These online supporters think that Trump will return to office, that DC is nothing but a movie set and that 1776RM should go free the January 6ers held in the local jail.

Protesting the Protesters

I’m not the only who hate-follows 1776RM.

Later in the week, a pair of brave incredible women went to protest the protest, standing near the 1776RM folks on the Mall and heckling them for being insurrectionists.

While 1776 RM had spent months yelling at people with bullhorns, they couldn’t take a dose of their own medicine. Getting up from their lawn chairs, they yelled at the women and lunged at them, trying to drive them off. One of the more unhinged members of the group, Xray, slapped at one of the women.

I watched all this all unfold on the livestream. Once my work day was over, I rushed down there, arriving just in time to see Xray arrested. “I’m going to Hains Point! I’m going to Hains Point!” he shouted, as the Park Police took him away. Hains Point is where the Park Police jail is located.

John "Xray" Dobbins arrested for assault by the Park Police
Xray gets arrested by the Park Police

Xray was released a few hours later. This doesn’t mean he’s not in trouble; it just means that the police aren’t holding him in jail.

For their next action, 1776RM surprised me. They walked somewhere. I didn’t think these car-campers were capable of it. Leaving their vehicles behind, they marched to the White House with a banner. Then they read their grievances with a bullhorn, shouting across Pennsylvania Avenue at a couple of uniformed Secret Service officers.

While they were gone, MPD towed away Xray’s truck for investigation, prompting him to freak out and do the unthinkable for a member of this movement: go dark. After turning off his livestream for a few hours, he resurfaced in an undisclosed location, in the woods somewhere, ranting about being targeted by the CIA.

I can’t believe I know so much about these idiots.

Fortunately, the 1776 Restoration Movement is falling apart like the People’s Convoy did. Disorganized and fundamentally lazy, its members are drifting away while Santa and others are dealing with legal problems.

Yet, the need for meaning in American life remains. Another right-wing cult will take its place because the followers demand it. They are just waiting to coalesce around a new leader and resume the struggle that gives meaning to their lives.

UPDATE: Trolled again! Another amazing woman took over one of the group’s livestreams and shared some truth with viewers.

NEXT: The 1776 Restoration Movement learns to love DC.

The Super Bowl of Horror

Lincoln Memorial at night wide angle

For those of us who live in Washington, DC, watching the January 6th hearings is like sitting down to a Super Bowl of Horror.

I saw the mob that day. They were in my neighborhood, filling all the hotels for the first time since the pandemic began in March, 2020. Empty streets were packed with people in red MAGA hats and camouflage gear.

They were armed, too, carrying poles, ax handles, clubs, tactical batons, mace and bear spray. Men were dressed up like the National Guard, with military boots, vests, helmets and backpacks. These uniforms and these weapons were designed to communicate lawful authority, though in truth they were nothing but a mob of aggrieved white people.

After they sacked the Capitol on January 6th, I saw them march back to their hotels. There was no remorse. The mob partied that night. Even the next day, when you’d think that some sense of shame might creep in, they were still running around DC, waving Trump flags.

It was the most disgusting thing that I have ever witnessed.

To watch the first round of the  January 6th hearings, I required a large glass of bourbon. I didn’t want to watch it, but how could I avoid it?

My expectations were low, given the failure of the Mueller Report and other efforts to hold Trump accountable.

Yet, this time is different. The Committee is telling a story, without interruption from Republican vandals. They are presenting the facts, using the words of Republicans to damn Republicans.

Trump did not act alone, but had thousands of accomplices – that’s the message of the January 6th Committee. They are shining light into the dark and fetid corners of the Republican Party, exposing those who would commit treason to maintain their grip on power.

There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain. Liz Cheney

January 6th was the culmination of a campaign of terror against democracy. It was no surprise to the people of DC or, frankly, anyone who was paying attention.

Trump and his followers cannot be shamed for what they did during the months up to and including January 6th, for they feel no shame. But they can be punished, not just by the courts but by the nation as a whole.

Exposed DC 2022 Brings Art to an Alley

16th Annual Exposed DC Show

I will go to any event in an alley.

The Exposed DC 2022 Photography Show features unique visions of Washington, DC. Not the postcard DC, but the real city beyond the monuments as captured by the people who live and work here.

I’ve had photos in the show in the past and love it. I’m fascinated at how different people can look at the same landmarks or events and come up with completely different visions.

This year’s show is in a Mount Pleasant alley. Steps from a taqueria and a laundromat, you’ll find 36 photos of the DC region reproduced as sturdy metal prints.

Seeing photos of Washington while you’re standing outside in Washington adds a gritty realism to the experience, making you realize that these aren’t just pretty pictures but depictions of very real people and places in the nation’s capital.

Go see Exposed DC 2022. Since it’s outside, you can visit any time of the day or night until the show closes on July 24.

Open Streets Opens Eyes

mural over 7th St
Mural over 7th and Rhode Island AV NW in Washington, DC

7th and Rhode Island Avenue NW in Washington, DC, is one of those intersections where you do not want to linger. It’s a traffic sewer, where two major thoroughfares for Maryland commuters collide in a chaotic and dangerous fashion. Whether you’re on foot, bike or car, it demands complete attention, lest you get sideswiped by a reckless driver running a red light.

I live eight blocks away and arrange my travels to avoid this intersection. Most of the time, I’m on my bike, so I pick alternate routes, even if they take me way out of my way. If I’m walking, I rarely go in that direction, because I don’t like cars roaring past me as I’m on a narrow sidewalk.

On Saturday, I biked through the intersection with a smile on my face. The reason was Open Streets 7th Street, where 1.5 miles of 7th St NW was closed to cars and open to people. It was a one-day street party, filled with fun and games for all ages. I checked out a new DDOT electric bus, ate a free popsicle, watched a spin class in the street, listened to go-go music and saw a constant parade of friends on foot and two wheels.

Without the constant danger of cars, you have a chance to pick your head up and look around. For example, on Saturday I noticed, for the first time, Jake’s Tavern in Shaw. Apparently they’ve been there for a couple of years. During this time, I’ve walked and biked right by the bar without noticing it because my attention was stolen by rampaging autos.

Pictured above is a beautiful mural at 7th and Rhode Island Av NW, above the old 7-11. How long has it been there? Months? Years? I don’t know. When I go through this intersection, my focus is at street level, warily eying distracted drivers for crazed maneuvers.

But coasting through the intersection on Saturday, with just people around me, I suddenly saw this mural. I was able to stop and look around the city, like it was meant to be experienced.

Open Streets 7th Street was just a single day. And only six hours of that. Drivers own the road for the remaining 364 days and 18 hours a year.

But during this brief spell, Open Streets opened my eyes to the beauty of Washington, DC, and demonstrated the old truth that cities are for people, not cars.

DC Gets the Old Post Office Back

marching past the Old Post Office
protest march at the Trump International Hotel

The Old Post Office is one of the loveliest buildings in Washington, DC. Built in 1899, this brawny Romanesque structure dominates Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol.

If you lived in DC in the 1990s, then you remember it as a food court that would fill with high school tour groups during the summer. With a glass skylight a dozen stories up, the food court was loud and chaotic but convenient to the museums on the National Mall.

You could also take an elevator up the clock tower to get a wonderful view of the Washington Monument, so close that it looked like you could reach out and touch it. Run by the National Park Service, it was free and there usually wasn’t much of a wait.

When the food court era ended, the General Services Administration (GSA) looked for a tenant for this unwieldy and aging property.

That tenant was Donald Trump. The reality show star promised to transform the historic property into a five-star hotel.

Instead, he turned it into a garish palace for corrupt, insider dealings. A marble floor was put over the old food court, the railings and bannisters were gilded with gold leaf and crystal chandeliers hung from the rafters. The Trump International Hotel opened in September 2016.

Security guard in front of the Trump Hotel

For people who lived in DC, it became a joke, a place for wealthy rubes to be fleeced by the Trump crime family.

More seriously, the  Trump International Hotel became how corporations and foreign governments paid off the President, paying inflated room rates in exchange for access. It also became infamous for the many conspiracies hatched in the lobby by people like Rudy Giuliani.

In the early days of his administration (2017), if you were of the right complexion, it was not difficult to get inside and have a look around. The lobby was like the 1980s – marble floors, overstuffed couches, chairs with gold trim. It was still a massive atrium, so it was cold and the acoustics were terrible. You had to shout just to have a conversation.

making deals
they will let any (white) one in

The hotel soon became a center of protest against the Trump Administration. You might not to be able to get near the White House, but you could go right up to the Trump Hotel. Everyone came to protest, from people against Trump’s rump health care plan to women making out for LGBT rights.

The hotel originally had an outdoor cafe, but guests were jeered by demonstrators so that was eliminated. With a prime location on Pennsylvania Avenue, the hotel and its faux gold Trump sign were perfect to get a selfie of yourself gagging. By the end of his administration, the Trump International was ringed by fences and guards to keep it safe.

Today, DC got the Old Post Office back. Trump sold his lease to Hilton, which will turn the hotel into a Waldorf Astoria. A place with real class, not gold-trimmed banisters.

the Trump name is gone
the Trump name is gone

The first thing Hilton did last night was to remove the Trump name. I biked down early in the morning hoping to see it blasted off the Old Post Office. But they did that before dawn, perhaps to avoid the cheering crowds which would have showed up during the day.

I would’ve paid to pry his name off the Old Post Office. It’s a beautiful building that belongs to the public and should never have been the plaything of a tyrant.

His name no longer defiles Pennsylvania Avenue. The symbol of misrule is gone. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.