Protesting in the Banana Republic
--by Carol Schiffler
Monday, June 4, 2001
It should surprise no one that the most bizarre incident in the pro-democracy movement just took place in Florida today as our illegitimate government sunk to new lows, arresting two grandmothers and a Tampa Bay gay activist for walking onto Legends Field, the site of yet another Yee-Haw-We-Love-Them-Tax-Cuts rally, and unfurling a Gay Pride banner.
That's right. A banner. Try as I might, I cannot fathom the rationale behind this one. What exactly were they thinking when they threw two Florida seniors and a gay man on the ground and dragged them off for questioning? Literally dragged, according to the report from a Tampa radio station.
O.K. So there were signs on the stadium walls that very clearly stated, "No umbrellas." (Apparently the only thing the p(R)esident fears more than Gay Pride banners is an umbrella.) But really. It is not as if the stadium was suddenly besieged by a rampaging hoard of liberal lumberjacks wielding power tools and bellowing big, hairy epithets. These were three peaceful, law-abiding citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. Or trying to.
Outside the stadium, things were a little less - how shall we say - fascist. Approximately one hundred protestors lined the roadway along Dale Mabry and Martin Luther King carrying signs denouncing the so-called Bush energy policy, which as far as I can tell, consists entirely of sucking oil and gas out of fragile eco-systems and building weapons of mass destruction cleverly disguised as power plants. Several protestors wore large black oil drums, and a towering inflatable oil refinery presided over the Sierra Club sponsored event.
Both the former governor of Texas and his baby brother were in attendance, and while we did not see the Toxic Texan's motorcade this time, we were able to successfully get our message out to the thousands of motorists that traverse downtown Tampa during rush hour. And the message was well received - two "Sore-Loserman's", (note to our Freeper friends: that is so OVER), vs. hundreds of honks, cheers, and thumbs-up.
The protest began in stifling ninety-seven degree heat, but by the time America's Occupant-in-Chief touched down at the airport, rain was falling and lightening was crackling overhead. In what is becoming a very familiar meteorological phenomenon, George and Jeb arrived at the stadium amidst a downpour. (All that was missing was the "BWAHAHAHAHHH.") But the protestors remained undaunted. Throughout the sudden summer cloudburst, young and old alike stood chanting "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Big Oil has got to go." A sympathetic Tampa Police officer took several children into his car to weather the storm, and Sierra Club members passed out bottled water to help counteract the effect of four hours in the hot Florida sun.
When the storm finally passed, protestors marched in solidarity to the stadium gates where the event was dispersing. Grand Old Petroleum party faithfuls filed silently past our receiving line, apparently all awash in something vaguely resembling post-orgasmic bliss. Perhaps it was the thought of using that three hundred dollar tax rebate to put gas in their SUVs. Perhaps it was the memory of kicking sand, (yes, literally), on those three Florida activists. And perhaps it was because - well - they always look a bit anethesized. At any rate, they passed us without incident.
Later, safely home, showered, and tucked in bed, my husband and I watched the corporate propaganda machine spinning away. Predictably, their version of the protest began with, "A handful of protestors..."
Now I was going to end this report with that line because it sounded pretty doggone snappy, but unlike the mainstream media, I am going to throw my sound bites to the wind and share a little postscript with you.
This protest was a screaming success.
Yes, three activists were arrested for attempting to give the former governor of Texas an impromptu lesson in diversity. And yes, we were rained on. And yes, if one hundred people showed up for a "Send Barbara Olson to the Orthodontist" fundraiser, the media would have given it in-depth team coverage.
But think about it. Somewhere on a muggy Monday evening in Florida, a weary commuter turns on his television to catch the eleven o'clock news. As the well-modulated tones of the television anchor begin weaving their trance-like web, our friend looks up startled. "A handful of protestors?" he half asks and half exclaims. That man will be at our next protest.
Yours from the front,