More on the march

A few more details and thoughts about the protest. I didn't stay for any of the direct action, which didn't really interest me in this context (though I wish I could have gone to some of the other art events) because we had to head back to Maine for various reasons.

One thing that was striking was the military presence; I guess we knew to expect this, but the rifles were still a bit of a shock. In order to avoid Penn Station, my dad and I drove to Hudson, NY, where we picked up our cousin and drove to Poughkeepsie. From there, we took a Metro North train in. The National Guard was stationed at several of the stations on our way in. (On the way back, this was even more obvious, soldiers with rifles all over Grand Central Station, and more soldiers patrolling back and forth in the train we took back to Poughkeepsie.) There seemed to be a couple of cops on every corner of midtown Manhattan.

At the march itself, the police presence (as I said in the previous post) actually seemed a bit muted. Police in New York (who were described in many accounts as wearing riot gear) may have had helmets and bulletproof vests, but they did not have the full body armor that Chicago police wear, and many of them didn't have their helmets on. Not that the police didn't overreact to some of the independent protests, and not that the many helicopters in the sky didn't make an impression. A blimp appeared simply to be advertising Fuji Film but on closer inspection could be seen to possess an NYPD logo.

I have to say I was a little nervous about this protest. I didn't really think there was much chance I'd get arrested, or hurt; but I was worried about what the Repugnicans would do to capitalize on any disorder (which is why I didn't want to engage in direct action). They don't seem to have managed to turn the big protest against the protesters, or against Kerry; most of the press coverage seems to have been neutral to favorable.

The march itself was both joyous and determined, angry and fun. It was also incredibly creative, with homemade signs ("Dick Cheney is an evil robot"; a middle finger labeled "And the pachyderms you rode in on"; "Elephants are not kosher"; "Penguins for peace"; "Kerry sucks less!"; "Draft the Bush twins!"), puppets and masks and performances, giant Earth balloons, pig-masked people on stilts who went around saying "oh, you must be the little people, we've heard so much about you"; Billionaires for Bush (last time weren't they "Billionaires for Bush or Gore"?); a "free speech zone" hat; the inspiration of the Big Lebowski ("This aggression will not stand, man"). Code Pink gave W hundreds of pink slips (shaped like pink slips, get it?); Pink Bloque did its thing; the Church Ladies for Choice sang various ditties (Are you washed in the sins of the church? When you say your Hail Marys do you dream of bashing fairies?). Our cousin was a pallbearer in the march of 1000 coffins that symbolized the dead soldiers whose real coffins have received so little media coverage.

I love the story about the family from suburban New Jersey who decided they wanted to "do something big" for this march, and made a tank (piloted by George Bush, and with its gun turret pointing at a lone Tienanmen Square-style protester) out of insulating foam. That might have cost a little more than most people wanted to spend, but the great thing about the kind of "art" produced for the march is that just about anyone could do it – it didn't cost a lot. Some things better-crafted or more ingenious than others, but the fact that people MADE stuff, in this culture of consumption, is itself so heartening.

I've been to other marches where people did creative things – they certainly do in Chicago – but I think this one may have made a bigger impression on me because the last one I went to, the March for Women's Lives in Washington, had quite a different feel, visually, at least; it was a more mainstream march, organized by relatively mainstream organizations, and they produced enormous quantities of glossy pre-printed signs that most people ended up carrying. There was plenty of creativity, but it was drowned out by the standard signs.

Remaining questions about participants: Who are the red-, white- and blue-haired cowgirl cheerleaders with the silver missile penises who sing about "our boy from Crawford, Texas" with devilishly masked avatars of Bush, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in tow? Was that supposed to be a lasso Bush was carrying, or a noose? Anyone know anything about the anarchist (?) drum corps? I need to come up with some titles for the video I'm making...


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