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INVISIBLE PICKETERS
Chaos and this yearís conventions
BY CAMILLE DODERO

This summer, David Lynn wants to create chaos. Or, as he puts it, "ruin the summer vacations" of the two major political parties. A 37-year-old self-described "computer geek who enjoys databases," Lynn is a Philly resident who watched the Republican National Convention descend on his city four years ago ó and what he witnessed left him livid. "They shut down civil rights for a few days," he says over the phone from Pennsylvania. "I saw all these protesters getting arrested just for showing up."

And so Lynn is seeking to lead a "shadow protest" against the conventions that consists of people not showing up. Through his Web site, www.shadowprotest.org, Lynn wants Northeasterners to volunteer for the assemblies, attend all the pertinent meetings ("Be polite, dress appropriately, and smile a lot," he writes on the site), and then play hooky for their shifts, forming what he calls "one giant invisible picket line."

It sounds like an easy way to disrupt things. Volunteers donít have to be affiliated with the conventionsí respective parties ó or even be registered voters. Then again, helpers do have to submit all sorts of personal information ó name, Social Security number, driverís-license number ó and pass a security-clearance check. And in the postĖPatriot Act era, those precious digits donít seem like the kind of information an activist would want to surrender.

Although Lynnís method of dissent has a decidedly anarchist spirit, he isnít a third-party voter. Heís actually a registered Democrat who pounded the pavement for Dean in Iowa. ("I would never ruin a party for Howard Dean," he says. "Never in my life.") So whatís Lynnís problem with the conventions? For one, he says, theyíre unnecessarily costly and ultimately futile. Even worse, he insists, both political conferences aim to recruit at least 16,000 unpaid volunteers ó which he considers free, exploitative, nonunion labor. Does Lynn worry about giving his political party a bad name? Nope. "The Democrats gave themselves a bad name a long time ago."

Boston 2004 Inc., the host committee for the Democratic National Convention, hadnít heard about the saboteur site. Although there will be no punishment imposed on anyone who doesnít show, Karen Grant, a spokeswoman for Boston 2004 Inc., isnít worried ó the DNC already has 11,750 committed volunteers, nearly 4000 more than it needs.

The Republicansí New York Host Committee 2004 was a little more aware of Lynnís activities than the Democrats were. "Oh, Iíve seen this," says Paul Elliott, spokesman for the Republican National Convention. Although Elliott describes the volunteer-acceptance process as selective, like hiring someone for a job or an internship ("We want to identify the best and the brightest," he says), the New York committee seems more susceptible to such a furtive attack. So far, only 2500 volunteers have pledged to help the New York Host Committee 2004 ó ideally, it needs to recruit 5500 additional bodies, more than half the target workforce.

Lynn would love to see the shadow protest infiltrate that margin. "My job is to destroy the volunteer backbone of conventions," he says proudly. "If I donít do it in 2004, Iíll do it in 2008. Hopefully, enough people will have gotten the idea this time around, that in 2008, whether Iím still breathing or not, people will say, ĎHey, remember that shadow protest?í"

So where will Lynn be during the conventions? "Iím not going to answer that."

To volunteer for the Democratic National Convention, visit www.boston04.com. To volunteer for the Republican National Convention, visit www.nyc2004.org.


Issue Date: April 30 - May 6, 2004
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