I attended a DC Foie Fest 2016 protest in front of Boundary Road restaurant on H Street in DC one cold January 2016 evening. I’d never been to a protest before so I was curious if the stereotypes would hold true – a bunch of angry, obnoxious vegan hippies would be screaming bloody murder at all those who passed by…and would I become one myself? Also, I hadn’t been to H Street in a couple of years and was curious to see how the Streetcar was performing.
I arrived five minutes before the stated 6:00 p.m. start time and when I passed the restaurant to find a parking spot, the first thing I noticed was that the restaurant was incredibly small and there was almost no foot traffic. Well, considering it was freezing outside I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. When I arrived in front of the restaurant a few others showed up and we ended up chatting about how there was almost nobody inside. Both Patricia and Ilena from my table at the work party showed up…clearly we were the best table and most dedicated volunteers 🙂
A few minutes later, Alka arrived with the posters and the paper mache ducks. I took a poster and we all stood outside the restaurant facing each other in two rows leaving space for the public to walk between us. For a long while, there was little foot traffic and of the few who did walk by us or went inside the restaurant, no one was hassled, harassed, or put off. This clearly wasn’t the angry obnoxious group that comes to mind when people think of animal rights protesters…everybody was civil, pleasant, and friendly. There were several people who took the flyers, were appreciative we were protesting, and some stopped to chat about the protest against Foie Gras. The best part of the evening was the two cops stopped by and took the flyers, the animals who walked by, and the Streetcar operators and cars slowing down to see what we were doing…some of whom honked in approval…I think 🙂
By the end of the hour, there were more diners who went in but it wasn’t the massive crowd I was expecting considering the event was termed a “Fest.” Sometime during the evening, a reporter took photos of us and an article was published in the Washington City Paper. The paper made it sound like we didn’t make an impact and was dismissive of the number of protesters. However, I honestly thought we had many more protesters than was needed for such a small restaurant, small amount of attendees, and little foot traffic on the streets. That was my only disappointment…the very limited opportunity to engage with the public, most of whom were in a hurry to get out of the cold…and I don’t blame them.
I was glad I attended the protest, it was my first, and I got to see that not all protesters justify the labels thrust upon them by the media and the general public. I, however, won’t be returning to an event this small or one in the middle of winter…the drive time to and from and the lack of engagement opportunities ensure I’ll wait for a larger event. And in case you were wondering about the streetcar…they are still in the testing phase… 🙄