…wherein Jake takes the redeye to New York City and groggily attends a pro-choice march
It began with two tiny dogs.
One of them was at the curb as we pulled up to the Burbank airport. It was the size of a large ball of yarn. Well, a large ball of yarn with bangs. Adorable as fuck.
The second tiny dog was on the plane, its tiny Chihuahua head poking out of a woman’s carryon. “Do we need to get him any water or anything?” asked the stewardess. The tiny dog panted, but his owner said no.
I have to recommend the Burbank airport (AKA “Bob Hope Airport”) to all Angelenos, unless you live in or near west LA. Burbank was empty and laid-back, the dead opposite of the nightmare that is LAX.
Took the tiny plane up to San Francisco late Friday afternoon. Saw one of the most fascinating sunsets I’ve ever seen out the windows: red, yellow and brown. No meal, just a cookie snack, which caused another bizarre moment. The stewardesses began to hand out the mint chocolate chip cookies to the passengers from front to back of the plane. As the passengers received their snacks, opened the packages, and bit into them one by one, a mint smell rolled towards me like a slow-moving fog bank.
Had a two hour layover in San Fran. I was quite pleased walking around the airport, people-watching, browsing the shops, chewing on bagels. Jesus, if I’m having a grand old time at an airport, I really need to get out more.
Long flight from SF to NYC, I’ll arrive at the crack of dawn. I was unable to find a comfortable sleeping position, so the flight was an unpleasant combo of naps, startled wakings, and grumpily watching “Garfield the Movie.” You ever watch a movie and actually feel insulted? Yeah.
I stayed with a friend of mine near Times Square. Before I’d left, she’d said that once I got in, I could nap a bit before any protests got started. No such luck. Took a bus into Manhattan, and had to leave for a protest within two hours. Sigh.
Before we left, I heard about the Critical Mass protest the night before. CM is a monthly event that takes place in many cities, where people just hop on bikes and take over a lane or two of traffic. Sometimes there is an underlying political motive-usually to make a point about cyclists’ rights, or about the damage caused by car culture-and sometimes there isn’t. At this pre-RNC Critical Mass, somewhere between 5000-8000 protesters on bicycles took to the streets, and police arrested around 250 of them for “disorderly conduct.” About 1000 New Yorkers cheered them on as they began their ride.
Then it was off to the “March for Women’s Lives”, a protest against the Bush administration’s anti-abortion and often anti-female policies. It started around 11 this morning at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn. Somehow, this was a protest I had not heard about in advance. My friend was doing legal support for much of the convention, and this protest was no exception.
The Brooklyn park was starting to fill up with people even as we arrived. The sunshine was nice, the heat and humidity less so. My first glimpse of the protest was the Radical Cheerleaders, a group of activists who dress up like cheerleaders and do humorous dance routines and chants about political issues. They performed cheers mocking pro-lifers, and just about every member of the Bush administration.
Walking farther along, we saw the stage where the opening rally would take place. Thousands were already in attendance, many with mass produced signs reading “I [heart] Pro-Choice NY.” But there was plenty of message variety, possibly the funniest being the ones which argued that Bush should be “aborted before the second term.”
I should take this time to mention that protest signs which make jokes about George Bush and pubic hair are not very funny.
We saw the mass of cops, out to protect the city from the dangerous pro-choice activists, as well as a contingent of undercover cops. I guess I don’t know for sure that they were undercover, but at least four different people pointed them out to me. I mean, several beefy guys in crewcuts and baseball jerseys, at a pro-choice rally, not paying attention to the speeches, not holding signs, and only talking to each other. Did seem a tad suspicious. But this became a sort of theme throughout the convention: what’s reasonable and what’s paranoid?
The numbers grew.
Several speakers took the stage, most of them protest organizers and city politicians. Then they made ready to march across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Earlier in the day, we’d heard a rumor that some anti-abortion protesters were planning to fuck with the rally somehow, on the other side of the bridge, and that some of the pro-choicers had vowed to fight back if attacked. That’s primarily why my legal support friend was there, to watch out for trouble. I followed the observers, who bypassed the bridge altogether to be ready. Actually, this was a much more difficult task than anticipated, due to rather arbitrary police blockades. But in the end, it put me in a great position to watch the procession.
The police only allowed the protests a thin strip of road to march upon, so the protesters crossed the bridge in a thin, steady stream lasting roughly 45 years. Or two hours. I forget.
I saw representatives from all sorts of groups, some well-known, some mysterious: Planned Parenthood, Med Students for Choice, Refuse & Resist, National Organization for Women, Secular and Religious Jews for Choice, Queer Fist, Move On, Asian Americans for Choice, and countless others.
The sign that best summed up the issue for me was the one that read “Keep Your Religion Out of My Health Care.”
As it turned out, there was no conflict. In a rather pathetic display, the anti-choice folks could only muster up maybe 40 people to counter the thousands of pro-choice activists at the rally, and they didn’t attack anybody.
The march ended in a rally that I didn’t feel like watching. I was dead tired. While sitting on a bench watching the marchers go by, I think I’d fallen into brief, grumbly sleep about five times.
To be honest, I can’t remember what happened the rest of the day. I think it primarily consisted of me going back to Home Base and passing out, while my friend continued to try to get people out of prison.
Jake vs. the RNC: Day Two]]>