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anger can be power

Posted on 30 August 2004 by Caryn Rose (0)


We weren’t going to march on Sunday.

Well, we had talked about it, but in the end we were honestly concerned about getting arrested, and at this particular point in our lives, neither of us could afford to get arrested. But we wanted to do something, so we decided we were just going to head up to Central Park and have a “picnic” as our way of saying fuck you to Bloomberg. But, I had signed up for the noRNC bloc’s text message service, and when we got the message that, at 11:40, most demonstrators hadn’t left the holding area yet, it was clear what we were going to do.

I put on my Joe Strummer shirt – the one that says “One day truth and justice will reign” – and we headed out the door. I had planned on wearing that shirt this week, along with a Springsteen shirt at least once (and there is some imp of the perverse in me that likes the idea that a Bruce shirt is now seditious). I liked the idea of the first band to really teach me about the ties between politics/activism and rock music was represented. Joe would have liked to know that he was there in spirit, I believe.

We took the train up to 14th, walked over to 6th, and then followed an energetic group of young anarchists down to 7th Avenue… where we reached a protest roadblock as they were stopping feeder marches from entering 7th Avenue. (The New York Times from today has a diagram about how the parade route was 100% full until about 3pm.) We moved up a little and managed to get into the main march group not long before they opened up 16th Street.

Our favorite sign so far: “BUSH IS AN EVIL FUCKING LIAR” with “And Nader is an asshole” in smaller letters on the back.

So now we are just ahead of the Lesbian/Gay/etc. coalition, and joke that we need to move away from that before either of our parents see us near that sign on the news. We find ourselves for most of the march walking next to the protesters part of One Thousand Coffins. The boyfriend is particularly struck by this form of protest. It’s real. It’s physical. It’s visually stunning.

It takes forever to walk a block. The amount of people is staggering. The level of intelligence and anger displayed is heart-warming. If there were any assholes in the march yesterday, we didn’t run into one.

“I’m marching for my grandma, and she’s pissed.”
“Have another pretzel”
“Where’s my country, dude” (held up by a 7 year old)
“Anti Bush, Pro Cock” (carried by a drag queen)

But really, no one beats “BUSH IS AN EVIL FUCKING LIAR,” you know?

We were reaching FIT and could see Macy’s up ahead, and so we knew MSG was getting close. At that moment, this group of young punk girls who were carrying a coffin stop, shift around, and turn to us and ask, “Could you take this? We have to go up there and take pictures.”

Without hestitation, we moved into position – one of us in front, one of us in back – and started walking.

They were made out of cardboard boxes, and they were hollow – there was only 3/4 of a shell, for security reasons – but you would not imagine how difficult it was to hold them and walk with them and maneuver them through a crowd, try to keep them in formation, and as we approached MSG, to hold them UP above the crowd so they could be seen. Your shoulders hurt, your wrists are sore, your arms ache. A lot of the participants were wearing clothing suitable for a funeral – shirts and ties, even – as originally requested.

Earlier in the day, the boyfriend said something about how he imagined the procession past MSG would end up being a sea of middle fingers held aloft. And it was that, but it was also so much pain and so much anger, not violent anger, but very individual and yet very global anger being channeled out of every person there. People who had been quiet all day came to life and started yelling, “Shame on you! Shame on you!” or “How do you do this? How can you live with yourself!” with such real agony you wonder what their story was, what brought them to the march today.

There were children and parents and teenagers and grandparents, from every borough and every class and every persuasion. The gay couple who’d written “Second class citizen” in marker on their arms (along with the number for the legal advisors; as we approached MSG, I got nervous, found a sharpie, and wrote it on both of our wrists – they tell you to write it on wrist, stomach or ankle).

We got to pause in front of MSG for a little while, just so people could stand there and be angry and let those emotions out, and they were huge and overwhelming and so very very real.

And then we headed off, turning east onto 34th Street. You know that big video screen on the Macy’s building on the corner there? (Or if you don’t, take my word, there is one there.) Well, at that moment they are showing footage of Dubya and something about his profession of faith. And the entire crowd started to boo, so incredibly loudly, not like the booing at a Mets game or anything like that, it was unplanned and authentic. It was then followed by a chant of “Fox News Sucks” that was probably the boyfriend’s favorite one of the day.

The protest route is lined by the curious and the exhausted and those supporting us, waving us on. Except at 34th and 6th, where we ran into the ProtestWarriors. I won’t dignify them by giving them a link, nor do I want the pingback to this blog, but they are basically ultra-right-wing assholes who try to subvert any protest efforts by the left. For all their crowing about their presence at the RNC, their representation was pathetic at best. As soon as I saw them, I felt an anger that I hadn’t felt for a very long time, and I pointed them out to everyone around me. After the booing started, we dissolved into a chant of “Go sign up”. They just looked like a bunch of thugs.

At some point I imagine we thought we would hand over the coffin and head up to Central Park, but as we neared 5th Avenue I guess we both realized both that we couldn’t and that we didn’t want to. At that point, we felt a sense of responsibility to get the coffin back to Union Square. The crowd was lighter so it was easier to walk, and also the sun was down. We could turn around walking down 5th Avenue, and turn around and look up the slight incline northward, and really see how many people were still there, both behind us and in front of us.

As we reached Union Square, the organizers of the coffin march gently herded us to one side, and then they yelled, “COFFINS UP”. Everyone held them aloft, and we heard someone asking the crowd to move aside so the coffins could come into the square.

I felt very proud at that moment.

On the sidewalk, we carefully took the flag off of the coffin – not ever having had a conversation about does the other one know proper flag etiquette, we realized that we both did – and all those years at Camp Francis did me well as I carefully folded the flag according to regulation, and we handed it back to the organizers.

Then, it was on the subway and up to the Great Lawn, which was packed. We laid on the grass for a while, and then feeling like we’d made our point – it’s our fucking park, asshole – headed back to the Lower East Side.

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
D’you know that you can use it?

–The Clash, “Clampdown”

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