Volume 74, Number 19 | September 08 - 14 , 2004


Villager photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Creative signs and costumes added to the spirit of the Aug. 29 United for Peace and Justice march.

A moving moment: Saying ‘No Bush’ with N.Y.C. style

By Wickham Boyle

Sun., Aug. 29, 2004: The heat is brutal, as if big sacks of wet, warm laundry hung around your shoulders and slung across your belly. The sweat runs rivers on the populace who pour into this island between two rivers; protesters from across continents and counties converge on N.Y.C. to make minds known.

We have come to protest an administration loved by half. This notion confounds me and divides us like slavery. I am stymied that half of my country loves what I abhor. Neither eye sees that the color of the other is beautiful or valuable. Why is white wedding more valuable that gay marriage? How did the rich get to be more fatted while millions fall into poverty? The spins are endless. And so hundreds of thousands take to the streets.

The official estimate is just under 400,000 protesters — old, young, black, white, brown, native and transplanted — filling 25 blocks. When we three arrive at the Downtown starting point we see an undulating sea of humanity, fashion and innovation. These are my people and as we make our way to an entry point, past very peaceful police, I am choked with pride; even as I prepare to protest what has become of my country, I am overwhelmed by the notion that we still — well, for the moment — can shout our recriminations without fear of reprisal.

We arrive, a triangle of women, me the mom at 53, flanked by my girl child of 19 and a 32-year-old L.A. transplant, a former student of mine who became beloved to our family. In fact we three tip the triangle on its side so often as we morph from who is mother, auntie, wise woman or weepy child. There never seems to be the necessity to define who we are to each other and so we are the perfect troika to soldier off into the steamy stew chanting up Seventh Ave. We are the past, the present and the future making it known to whoever will listen, that we want to live in a world that is different.

When we merged into the phalanx, the most noticeable element of this protest march was how it resembled a seriously political Halloween parade. I mean that with great respect and pious kudos. There was an individualistic stamp to these marchers evinced in fashion, costume, signs, music and pageantry. I swelled with pride as we entered our individual outfits into the parade. My shapely daughter wore a homemade T-shirt that proclaimed, “BOOBS against BUSH,” ever-elegant Heather had a small placard tapped to her designer jeans that read “THE ONLY BUSH I TRUST IS MY OWN,” and my Tibetan prayer shirt had a bumper sticker affixed that read “INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST” with Bush’s face smack in the middle of it. We were by no means the most creative, or vitriolic, and we attempted to keep a running list of what we saw. Here are some:

“If you can read this, you are not our president”

“Bush stole the election and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”

A multilingual T-shirt that read: “I’m sorry my president is an idiot, I didn’t vote for him”

A big buff gay man wore a T that said, “Fairy for Kerry”

“Cakewalk or Quagmire?”

“Steal one election shame on you; steal two shame on us”

Two women in homemade paper Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods: “KKK for Bush”

A big placard reading “NO CARBs: Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush”

A huge banner hung off a fire escape, “Friends don’t let friends vote G.O.P.” as six young people, who could have stepped off the set of “Friends,” cheered the crowd.

“CON Woman/ Condoleeza Rice”

“If someone bombed Crawford, Texas, I promise I won’t come there and throw a party”

“Someone smart for President in ’04”

“Save America defeat Bush”

“NO blood for Oil”

“Oil whores make oil wars”

“Books not Bush”

“RNC out of NYC”

“Gay marriage is better than senseless killing”

“Dissent is patriotic”

“Fermez La Bush”

“Elect a Madman, You Get Madness”

“Whom Would Jesus Torture?”

“The Worst President EVER”

“Pink Slip Bush”

Pictures of Bush and Cheney with the caption “ASSES of Evil”


After block upon black of flag draped coffins filed by, the chants rising and falling, the drums, the whistles making a Doppler effect as they wrapped us and released us to a kind of crowd quiet, we stepped from the official march and sat down on a curb to watch. A man, with no prompting other than humanity, offered us water and there wasn’t a notion that it would be anything but cool and refreshing.

We sat and greedily collected every breeze wafting by, we commented on fashion, on the beautiful pregnant women walking with babies in tow and in belly. We saw Cynthia Nixon, the actor who plays Miranda in “Sex and the City,” and in general we expressed gratitude for the diversity parading before us. This all mingled with our love of each other and how that was echoed by all who brought their passion, creativity and undaunted belief that we can make it better. I felt proud again of my little slice of America. I hope it spreads.

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