Remember the 30-foot dragon float set aflame in front of Madison Square Garden on Sunday during the protest march? Turns out that it was the brainchild of D.C.'s own Adam Eidinger, an activist and candidate for D.C. shadow representative with the D.C. Statehood Green Party. (Eidinger was profiled earlier this week by Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard.)
Adam says he began building the dragon some 3 years ago with the help of about 20 friends, using wood, papier mache, and a wheelbarrow cart as a base. Initially known as "The People's Dragon," it was intended for use at a World Bank protest cancelled after 9/11. "We were trying to think of animals to build," says Adam, "We wanted to make the protest a pageant. One protest isn't going to change the world, so we need to make it fun in order to get people coming back."
So why a dragon? "Dragons symoblize change, revolution; in Eastern cultures, Dragons arent' friends of politicians. They tend to appear when there's corruption or injustice taking place."
The dragon was first used at a D.C. protest during a WTO meeting in Qatar, and again in February 2002 for a World Economic Forum protest in New York City. Since then, "it's been sitting in a garage in D.C. at a private residence waiting for the right moment." It was recently repainted, rechristened the "Dragon of Self Determination" (for the people of both D.C. and those of Iraq, says Adam, observing that the latter will probably have an opportunity to elect parlimentarians earlier than the former.) Bearing a banner reading "Don't just vote, take action" and with its four claws painted to read "Stomp Greed," "Stomp Capitalism," "Stomp Bush," and (for balance) "Stomp Kerry," it joined activists from Dont Just Vote for its trip up Seventh Avenue.
Now, of course, it's met a fiery end. "We don't know at this point who did it," says Adam. "It could've been marchers; it could've been a Republican; it could've been undercover police. Some people are saying I burned it and I know I didn't." Moreover, says Adam, some of his friends at the scene say that police have charged a kid with arson who, they tell him, wasn't near the dragon at the time and couldn't have been responsible. Some protesters running from the scene, he says, appear in photographs to be wearing green armbands, which activists believe to be a way undercover police identify themselves to each other. At any rate, it was no accident certainly: The activists who had taken charge of the dragon were warned away before it went up.
Adam himself wasn't there when the dragon went up: the two car batteries powering the float's internal PA system were dying, and he'd removed them to lighten the load and brought them back to Union Square.
Adam was crestfallen at the news of the float's destruction. "They also said one of the police officers had been injured, and I felt terrible; I'm a non-violent person. My worst fear was that this was going to take away from the amazing demonstration we saw that day. There were hundreds of thousands of people out there, more people than at any other political convention I know of. People should think about why that's happening, about what's changing ion this country: That's the most important thing to take away."
Still, the mourning father is willing to forgive the vandals. "At Cornell University, you know, they burn a dragon every years; it's a campus ritual. This was more dangerous, that's for sure, but let's not get carried awway. I'm upset, but not to the point where I want to see anybody go to jail for it, because I know how bad jail is." Adam's still expecting a phone call from investigators any day now, and looking forward to protesting against the war at Janurary's inauguration… no matter who wins.