take 9 - boston & the dnc - sunday, july 24th
boston & the dnc!!!!sunday, july 24th
I think the last time I was on the mass pike, I had to pass myself off as a christian – this time I passed as a democrat, I’m sure!!! I entered western mass last nite proceeding to boston accompanied by a host of ‘I love you’s’, peace symbols and hand clapping. I thought I was in California driving down the mass pike into the city, so many folks were so happy to see my truck. I missed codepink’s weekend activist workshops but heard immediately about the ‘protest pen’ the city has devised to hold demonstrators both away from the convention and the public! it sounds horrendous, from 9’ tall fences with barbed wire, 6”of water standing in the pen (boston has been getting lots of thunder storms!). not only are we supposed to stand in the designated ‘free speech’ area which is surrounded by city buildings and is under the t (Bostonian for bart!) I believe, so there is black asphalt buckling and mixing with cracked cement on the ground, tall buildings on the sides, and huge old concrete & steel pillars with structures overhead that provide(d) support for public transportation – but there is barbed wire strung overhead in case some rambunctious soul wants to heft herself over the fence and into the rows and rows and rows of police that further surround the ‘free speech zone’!
i joined the large answer protest march & rally today, sunday. it was thrilling to be in yet another city with so many voices & bodies joining to protest the invasion & occupation of iraq. the march began in a park right in the middle of boston center – they call parks ‘squares’ here, green patches surround by asphalt & cobblestones. when we began marching towards the ‘protest pen’ and the convention building, cops began multiplying 3-fold. there were already tons of police on bicycles, horses, and foot – their numbers seemed to be swelling larger & faster than the demonstrators, although there were probably a couple thousand of us – cops appeared on motorcycles, in unmarked cars, in trees as well. after we walked about 3 blocks, we looked up and suddenly saw those faithful men dressed in black dangling on the upper ledges of tall buildings w/cameras in hand – some were straddled so precariously against rounded domes, legs spread, backs arched in an attempt to retain their balance as they filmed our progress. what is this? DEFINITELY a police state! soon more helicopters began circling as well – we counted 5 helicopters at once, patrolling the skies.
we handed out the few pink slip bush and join codepink papers that I had – and then began handing out deception dollars – people really love those as well -= it was fun marching on the edge of the crowd & attempting to get the police to take a flyer – as well as the bystanders. I actually did get a white boston city police officer to take a deception dollar – then he handed it back to me saying he was voting for bush – I feigned surprise & horror & we engaged in a conversation as he began walking along the sidewalk w/me & the march (ha!). I asked him why he was voting for bush. he said he likes him. of course I ask, why do you like bush? and he says because of what he did in iraq. I ask, okay, what did he do in iraq? and of course he has to start talking about how bush’s freed the Iraqi people from hussein, but more importantly the WOMEN in iraq are now FREE!!! a sarcastic laugh that I belatedly hope conveys ludicrousness & not ‘you’re an idiot’ leaps from my throat as I say, yes free be raped and murdered and to hide in their homes – he claims that happened more under Hussein – as if 1)that is the truth, and 2) that makes it alright now! I told him under Hussein, 60% of Iraqi wimmin were employed outside the home, Iraqi wimmin were allowed to attend schools, that Hussein kept extreme fundamentalist out of the government, that iraq was one of the most progressive Moslem states in the middle east – to which he said, oh no, Jordan is. I told him, as a police officer, he knows that thousands of wimmin are being raped and murdered in this country, right here, as we talk, under bush’s administration – this latter I added after he grudgingly admitted that was so.
as we walked & talked, a press person began filming our conversation. this officer claimed a friend of his went to iraq and saw that wimmin were free now. I vehemently challenged his friend’s ability to see clearly, saying codepink has been to iraq 3 or 4 times & we’ve spoken w/wimmin, we’ve seen & heard their stories, we’ve helped set up a wimmin’s watch center. the press guy is still hanging w/us when the officer turns to speak w/someone else. I continue handing out dollars until the press guy comes back & asks me why I am here. I say I’m here to convince kerry & Edwards to be progressive, to bring our troops home, to take care of people here in this country, to protect our environment, our social service programs. he wants to know what I think we should do in iraq to help wimmin there. I stare at him obliquely – the elite racist assumption, the u.s. as the great white saviors, forming his question makes me ill – as if we haven’t ‘helped’ enuff. I say we should withdraw our troops AND our corporations, turn our resources over to iraqi’s. period. he asks me how I got the officer to speak w/me, as he has been unsuccessful getting any police to speak to the press. I don’t know.
when we get to the ‘protest pen’, I am again shocked at the number of police there – they are lined up on the other side of the fence, between the pen where we are & the center where the convention is being held – they stand at least 6 deep row after row after row – legs spread, any flesh that might show is swallowed up by the dark blue uniforms covered on their chests & backs w/what appears to be the underside of turtle shells, heavy black boots on their feet, helmets on their heads – standing so totally still they might be an extension of the fence except that the fence is now vibrating slightly as demonstrators try to beat against it. the sound is totally unsatisfactory, more muffled than an aluminum pot lid hitting carpet – must be teflon coated links! I’m surprised the soldiers or police or guards or statues, whoever the hell they are, have not crumpled like dorothy’s wicked witch in this heat & humidity! I’m sopping wet & I have on shorts & a sleeveless t-shirt! between the barbed wire, the silent chain link fence, the crumbled asphalt, the thundering of the helicopters, the ‘security’ – we’re in some all too unreal war zone.
I had two other dynamite conversations at the march today. the next was with a young, straight, white couple who were standing on the sidelines obviously not dressed to march but site-see or shop! as I attempted to hand a deception dollar to them, the guy said no, ‘I’m supporting bush’ and then ‘she’s not voting, she’s undecided’ he almost brags as he points to the womon next to him. ‘well, I don’t want to talk to you then’ I quip, ‘but I definitely want to speak w/you’. I add to the man ‘you can listen if you want’.I immediately go into my rant about the largest group of unvoting people – young single wimmin – to which he flashes a fourth finger at me sporting a gold band – okay, I amend it to say ‘it is wimmin who will make a difference in this election – wimmin cannot support war & violence and hate and killing’. she smiles & tells me that’s why she’s not sure of bush. I tell her, as I’m pressed for time, ‘i’m sure of bush – I’m definitely sure – not only is he perpetuating violence around the world, in iraq, & here so he and his accomplices can get so very very rich, he has greatly hurt our country in many ways’ – I tick off education, jobs, the economy, the environment, social security & medicare. she nods in agreement, as does her husband, but he adds ‘kerry is no different’.
although part of me wants to agree and I do nod my understanding, I strongly disagree about their domestic positions – we all know kerry has consistently voted for the people – for education, for schools, for children, for gun control, for veterans, thru out his career as senator. we know, although he is not saying he’ll end this war immediately, he will not lie to get our support to go to war so his accomplices can get even richer. his wife sighs and says in that typical defeated way, ‘they all lie, how can we ever determine the truth? that’s why I can’t vote – they’re all lying to us’ – her husband agrees vigorously nodding his head. I agree with her, I even tell her she’s right, we have been told a bunch of huge lies – but then I look her directly into the eyes, grab her undivided attention, and tell her ‘ but I am not a stupid womon, I am smart. you are not a stupid womon, you are smart. we are capable of listening the news (even fox, cnn, abc), reading the papers, searching the internet, and discerning the truth. we know when someone says ‘clean air act’ and then raises acceptable emission standards for mercury into our waters & air – which disproportionately harm wimmin & children by the way – we KNOW the truth.’ I continue engaging her eyes as I say, ‘those in power want us to think we are not capable of discerning the truth – don’t fall under their spell (thank you starhawk!) and allow them to undermine your faith in yourself & your ability to see the truth. you can tell the lie and the truth. we need you to think, to vote!’ we all shook hands & hopefully only her husband was left now undecided!
the other memorable interaction I had came later, as we were marching thru downtown returning the square. I hear a pipsqueaky yet haughty voice in my right ear exclaim with extreme horror ‘is this typical for boston?’ I turn to see a middle-aged, very wealthy looking straight white couple and a policeman w/his arms extended, the left at an acute angle as if holding the demonstrators at bay, the right sweeping the couple to the side, to safety – out of our reach.she has the most disagreeable look on her face as she takes us in. before the officer can say anything, I loudly tell her ‘yes, this is typical for boston & it will be for every other city & town in the u.s. from now until the election!’ she gasps dreadfully as the officer rushs to place his body between me and the couple who are now scrambling hastily over the little bushes and grassy hills that begin the square.
the demonstration has been awesome in many ways – most of all, the energy was highly charged and posivtive – despite the ‘pen’ the police devised to hold demonstrators. we have handed out all our codepink materials and deception dollars – many folks never heard of either, many folks have! so many people are organizing on so many levels – and so many diverse groups of people. I look forward to the coming week!peace, sam