National Journal

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal

When U.S. Postal Service worker (and Florida Man) Douglas Hughes touched down on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, he did so in pursuit of a goal entirely unrelated to his gyrocopter fly-in. Rather than trying to warn Congress about lapses in airspace security (which will probably be Hughes's real legacy), he sought to persuade lawmakers to fix corruption in campaign finance.

At the very least, he succeeded in this: getting our attention.

Of course, grabbing attention is the primary goal of protests in the Washington area. Some manage to merge message and medium, while others are just happy for the headlines. Here is a collection of protests whose participants went to extreme—if well-intentioned—lengths for their beloved causes.

A Nude Demonstration for Boehner

In 2012, birthday-suit-clad protesters rushed House Speaker John Boehner's office. At least seven people participated in the demonstration, with the goal of raising awareness about potential cuts to AIDS funding due to sequestration. Among their chosen chants? "Budget cuts are really rude, that's why we have to be so lewd." See more of their semi-NSFW protest here.

The Great Cherry-Tree Rebellion of 1938

The cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin are among the true treasures of Washington. So one can imagine the horror felt when, in 1938, plans for the construction of the Jefferson Memorial called for the removal of some of them. To prevent the uprooting, on the day construction was set to begin, about 50 women chained themselves to cherry trees in the construction area. Other women at the protest grabbed shovels from construction workers and began refilling their holes.

The protest was foiled by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Michael Strauss, who served the women lunch. "After neverending cups of coffee, the ladies' need for restrooms hastened their decision to remove the chains," the Park Service's historical account states. President Franklin D. Roosevelt "then had the rest of the trees removed in the middle of the night to avoid any further conflict." The trees were not destroyed, but replanted elsewhere. + Nothing says "we're here for the protest" like fur. (Via National Park Service)

The Capitol Sled-In

The protesters figured Capitol Police wouldn't arrest children for just having fun. On a snow day this March, a few dozen Washington families arrived on the slope of Capitol Hill with sleds and a message: Sled free or die! They were protesting a long-standing ban on sledding on the Capitol grounds. By all accounts, the demonstration was a success. No arrests were made. Fun was had by all. + The sled-in on Capitol Hill, March 5, 2015. (Brian Resnick)

Code Pink Strikes Again, With Shoes

In December 2008, during a press conference in Iraq, a man threw his shoes at President George W. Bush as he spoke behind a podium with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The act was meant as an insult to the president, because shoe-throwing is seen as highly disrespectful within the Muslim community.

CodePink—the antiwar group perennially showing up at congressional hearings—paid homage to that moment in Iraq just days later during a protest outside of the White House. They chucked shoes at a person dressed up to look like Bush, complete with a giant, puppet-like fake head. To get the full effect, watch the footage below.

Man Dressed in Polar Bear Costume Takes a Cruise

In 2008, a man affiliated with the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace donned a polar bear costume, boarded a paddle boat, and staged a demonstration in the pond adjacent to the Interior Department. He was protesting the department's delay in listing polar bears for protection under the Endangered Species Act. He was arrested in a not-all-that-dramatic confrontation with police.

D.C. Residents Erect "Liberty Pole" to Protest Taxation Without Representation

Hughes wasn't the only protester to make news on the Hill Wednesday. A group of marijuana-slash-D.C.-statehood activists erected a 42-foot-high "liberty pole" as a totem of their displeasure with Congress, and the fact that D.C. residents do not have a voting member in the governing body. A fitting protest for Tax Day: D.C. residents often rally around the slogan "Taxation Without Representation."

One hundred or so volunteers are scheduled to chain themselves to the pole at different times this week. And they mean business: "If you want to take it down you are going to have to cut these things off people's arms," one protester told The Washington Post. "I came here prepared to go to jail if I need to."

{{thirdPartyEmbed type:instagram id:1jOuoPG78_}}

Not-So-Successful "Trucker Shutdown" of 2013

The Beltway is the bane of many a D.C. commuter's existence; congestion is the rule, not the exception. That's why Earl Conlon's plan to bring it to a literal standstill would not have gone unnoticed if it had occurred. Conlon, a Georgia-based trucker, planned for semis to pack the Beltway "three lanes deep" in order to bring about the arrests of congressmen he saw as disregarding the Constitution. "We're asking for the arrest of everyone in government who has violated their oath of office," Conlon told U.S. News and World Report. Conlon later admitted to The Washington Post that the protest was mostly a hoax.

"Dozens, not thousands, show up for D.C. trucker protest," Fox News wrote of the event when it occurred. Traffic was temporarily slowed to 15 mph.

Toy-Gun March on Washington

It's illegal to carry a loaded weapon around Washington D.C. So how might gun-rights groups flaunt their values on the National Mall without being arrested? In July 2013, a group of Second Amendment supporters decided that water guns might be the next best thing. "Activists are encouraged to bring fake pistols with orange tips, water guns, nerf guns, anything peaceful to make a statement about our 2nd amendment rights," the event's organizers instructed on Facebook.

A brave reporter with NBC Washington was on scene. "This might look like the aftermath of some kind of junta," NBC4's Derrick Ward reported. "But don't be alarmed: these are all toy guns. ... The only thing you're going to get down here is wet."

Occupy Foreskin

The picture says it all.

A Nude Demonstration for Boehner

In 2012, birthday-suit-clad protesters rushed House Speaker John Boehner's office. At least seven people participated in the demonstration, with the goal of raising awareness about potential cuts to AIDS funding due to sequestration. Among their chosen chants? "Budget cuts are really rude, that's why we have to be so lewd." See more of their semi-NSFW protest here.

Code Pink Strikes Again, With Shoes

In December 2008, during a press conference in Iraq, a man threw his shoes at President George W. Bush as he spoke behind a podium with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The act was meant as an insult to the president, because shoe-throwing is seen as highly disrespectful within the Muslim community.

CodePink—the antiwar group perennially showing up at congressional hearings—paid homage to that moment in Iraq just days later during a protest outside of the White House. They chucked shoes at a person dressed up to look like Bush, complete with a giant, puppet-like fake head. To get the full effect, watch the footage below.

Man Dressed in Polar Bear Costume Takes a Cruise

In 2008, a man affiliated with the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace donned a polar bear costume, boarded a paddle boat, and staged a demonstration in the pond adjacent to the Interior Department. He was protesting the department's delay in listing polar bears for protection under the Endangered Species Act. He was arrested in a not-all-that-dramatic confrontation with police.

Toy-Gun March on Washington

It's illegal to carry a loaded weapon around Washington D.C. So how might gun-rights groups flaunt their values on the National Mall without being arrested? In July 2013, a group of Second Amendment supporters decided that water guns might be the next best thing. "Activists are encouraged to bring fake pistols with orange tips, water guns, nerf guns, anything peaceful to make a statement about our 2nd amendment rights," the event's organizers instructed on Facebook.

A brave reporter with NBC Washington was on scene. "This might look like the aftermath of some kind of junta," NBC4's Derrick Ward reported. "But don't be alarmed: these are all toy guns. ... The only thing you're going to get down here is wet."

The Great Cherry-Tree Rebellion of 1938

The cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin are among the true treasures of Washington. So one can imagine the horror felt when, in 1938, plans for the construction of the Jefferson Memorial called for the removal of some of them. To prevent the uprooting, on the day construction was set to begin, about 50 women chained themselves to cherry trees in the construction area. Other women at the protest grabbed shovels from construction workers and began refilling their holes.

The protest was foiled by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Michael Strauss, who served the women lunch. "After neverending cups of coffee, the ladies' need for restrooms hastened their decision to remove the chains," the Park Service's historical account states. President Franklin D. Roosevelt "then had the rest of the trees removed in the middle of the night to avoid any further conflict." The trees were not destroyed, but replanted elsewhere. + Nothing says "we're here for the protest" like fur. (Via National Park Service)

The Capitol Sled-In

The protesters figured Capitol Police wouldn't arrest children for just having fun. On a snow day this March, a few dozen Washington families arrived on the slope of Capitol Hill with sleds and a message: Sled free or die! They were protesting a long-standing ban on sledding on the Capitol grounds. By all accounts, the demonstration was a success. No arrests were made. Fun was had by all. + The sled-in on Capitol Hill, March 5, 2015. (Brian Resnick)

D.C. Residents Erect "Liberty Pole" to Protest Taxation Without Representation

Hughes wasn't the only protester to make news on the Hill Wednesday. A group of marijuana-slash-D.C.-statehood activists erected a 42-foot-high "liberty pole" as a totem of their displeasure with Congress, and the fact that D.C. residents do not have a voting member in the governing body. A fitting protest for Tax Day: D.C. residents often rally around the slogan "Taxation Without Representation."

One hundred or so volunteers are scheduled to chain themselves to the pole at different times this week. And they mean business: "If you want to take it down you are going to have to cut these things off people's arms," one protester told The Washington Post. "I came here prepared to go to jail if I need to."

{{thirdPartyEmbed type:instagram id:1jOuoPG78_}}

Not-So-Successful "Trucker Shutdown" of 2013

The Beltway is the bane of many a D.C. commuter's existence; congestion is the rule, not the exception. That's why Earl Conlon's plan to bring it to a literal standstill would not have gone unnoticed if it had occurred. Conlon, a Georgia-based trucker, planned for semis to pack the Beltway "three lanes deep" in order to bring about the arrests of congressmen he saw as disregarding the Constitution. "We're asking for the arrest of everyone in government who has violated their oath of office," Conlon told U.S. News and World Report. Conlon later admitted to The Washington Post that the protest was mostly a hoax.

"Dozens, not thousands, show up for D.C. trucker protest," Fox News wrote of the event when it occurred. Traffic was temporarily slowed to 15 mph.

Occupy Foreskin

The picture says it all.

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.