The Last Time I Protested At An Inauguration

“It’s naive to think you can separate art and politics” — Steve Van Zandt
“In dark times / Will there also be singing? / Yes, there will also be singing / About dark times” — Bertolt Brecht
“You think that you have won, it’s just a sign of what we’ve become” — me

January 20, 2017 will not be the first time I stand within shouting distance of a President, protesting at his inauguration.

In 2001, just weeks after Bush v. Gore, I was on one of the dozens of buses filled with like-minded people, leaving New York City on the way to Washington, DC to show our disapproval for the direction the country was headed.

I have two memories from the day that stay with me:

1. Standing in our blocked-off Protest Zone for hours, the bonding amongst fellow protestors is sincere, thoughtful, and empowering. We also notice people in American flag shirts and cowboy hats in the buildings above us pointing and laughing. It’s sad but not in a direct, personal way. It was just symbolic for how we felt about the country at the time. That those in power didn’t actually care about the entire electorate. That there is a difference between a healthy exchange of ideas based on facts, and disrespect and disregard for the lives of others.

2. The brief rush of energy that happens as Bush passes by. I can’t see his car through the crowd but suddenly we are all one screaming “Not My President” as officers in riot gear with batons move forward.

We weren’t just saying, “…um, we have questions about the results of this election” — we were also saying that we were sincerely concerned about the ability of this person to run our country. Sadly, Bush became everything we feared and more.

I went home and wrote “On and On”. I wanted to tell the story of as many people as I could fit into one song. Every line is a brief portrait of a different American who feels that the people elected to lead us, be there for us, and take care of our future, actually don’t have our best interests at heart. Each one asks “What about my….”

Some will read this and say they politicians never have cared and never will as long as money and power are involved. I get that.

But until that day comes, I’ll continue waking up early to scream at Presidents. And then I’ll go home and write songs about the people they were elected to serve.

EMMETT WILLIAMS — On and On
2001 Inauguration Protest