Saturday, October 10, 2015 WXPort
 Hot TixBand GuideMP3 StudioBest Music PollSummer GuideThe Best
 DNC Daily Updates   l   DNC Guide   l   DNC Events Listings
Stuff at Night
The Providence Phoenix
The Portland Phoenix
FNX Radio Network
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

The spectacle of protest


WEDNESDAY, July 28, 2004 -- Ostensibly, the protest on Wednesday at high noon in Copley Square marked an exercise in self-reflection, an opportunity for progressive activists to ruminate on the question "What Have We Become? Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib" in the post-9/11 age. The list of speakers – including Nancy Murray, of the American Civil Liberties Union, Josh Rubenstein, of Amnesty International, and US Representative Dennis Kucinich – did their part to rail against the sad state of human rights and civil liberties under the Bush administration. And protest sponsors – such peace groups as United for Justice with Peace and Boston Mobilization – rammed home the point by stationing their members in groups of three, while sporting orange prison suits and holding panels of wire, as if they were caged military detainees.

For the most part, though, the protest consisted of a series of spectacles.

There was, for instance, the Women Weeping, all shrouded in black, each of whom filed into Copley Square in singular fashion. The 12 or so activists advertised themselves as a "walking lament for the wounds of war," and, for dramatic effect, carried limp rag dolls to symbolize the innocent children among the Iraqi war dead. By their side was a lone man dressed in a Scottish kilt, playing a funeral dirge on the bagpipes. The women staked out a circle in the lawn, then stood speechless and motionless, doing their best to project a solemn look as photographers swarmed around them.

Then came the single woman show of Jeri Shepherd, a Colorado attorney and progressive activist who I had first met on Monday night, during a protest of the soiree for gay delegates and advocates, the Unity 2004 Celebration. On that night, Shepherd had donned a white floppy cloth hat covered with Dennis Kucinich buttons. Today, she wore a silver crown, part of a homemade Statute of Liberty costume (complete with green toga and a plastic torch). Shepherd recited the Bill of Rights and other articles of interest in the US Constitution as a scrum of reporters and photographers chronicled her every move. When I asked Shepherd the inspiration for her costume, she replied, "It’s what’s going on today. It’s important to emphasize that this" – she motions her hand over her costume, the symbol of liberty – "is what’s in jeopardy."

By far, the biggest spectacle of them all occurred by happenstance. Minutes into the speech of the ACLU’s Murray – a speech condemning what she called "the totalitarian penal colony in Guantanamo Bay" – arrived a menacing figure from the past. It was Reuben Israel, the anti-gay Los Angeles street preacher who garnered headlines during the March constitutional convention for his "GAYS/GOD ABHORS YOU" storyboard. This time, he carried a different sign, one extolling the value of "SUPPORTING JESUS CHRIST." As Murray spoke, he stationed himself behind her and goaded the protesters with cries of support for President Bush.

Not surprisingly, the scene devolved. One by one, protesters approached Israel in attempt to reason with him, or urge him to move along. Some got up in his face and shouted back. But none of it seemed to faze Israel, who railed at the crowd: "You want freedom to speak. You’re hypocrites." He then added what he must have considered the ultimate in pejorative terms when he labeled the several dozen protesters surrounding him "leftist, pinko, communist scums."

For many of the protesters, all they could do was laugh. As Andy Sluk, a 23-year-old Ohio activist who sported a "Free Palestine" button and a nose earring, "When people scream and rant about communism, I want to say to them, ‘Update your rhetoric about 30 years.’ What does communism have to do with us?"

Issue Date: July 28, 2004
Back to the DNC '04 table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group