Four UFPPC members have begun to engage in street theater to demonstrate our opposition to unilateral military actions, with a specific focus on the scandal of torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Here's a first report on their activities....
TAKING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD
By Burk Ketcham, Ted Nation, and Sallie Shawl
United for Peace of Pierce County
June 1, 2004
At a recent meeting of United for Peace of Pierce County it was decided that street theater should be used to emphasize our opposition to unilateral military actions, with a specific focus on the recent revelations of prison tortures in Iraq.
The play: "Torture? -- The Buck Stops at the Oval Office."
The cast: M. J. Ewing, Sallie Shawl, Ted Nation and Burk Ketcham.
Our first performance: Friday, May 28th, from 7:00 to 9:30 a.m. on a sidewalk across the street from the entrance to the Meydenbauer Convention Center in Bellevue.
The audience: those entering the convention center for the Washington State Republican Party's 2004 convention.
No action. No dialogue. Few props.
We arranged ourselves in a line with the two in the center standing on boxes with black pointed hoods (black pillowcases) over their heads and jumper cables with two ends held in outstretched hands and the other ends attached to the holder's clothes. Those on either side held these signs:
TORTURE? -- THE BUCK STOPS AT THE OVAL OFFICE
GOD BLESS THE WHOLE WORLD -- NO EXCEPTIONS
It was obvious that our presence provoked a lot of discussion among those standing in front of the convention center or entering its doors. But 6th Street, where we were standing, is quite wide, and we could not hear what they said. Of course we could hear the several oaths and jeers which were intended for our ears.
Two crossed the Rubicon to vent their anger. As it happened, both were Marines (not in uniform) recently back from Iraq. The first, a very agitated young man, thought our actions very disrespectful and informed us that our troops had been greeted warmly in Iraq. He was incensed that, as previously agreed, we did not respond verbally to his taunts. There was some concern that he might get physical but he finally marched away in a huff. The second Marine, probably an officer, was more controlled and wanted to inform us that the tortures were exceptions.
How effective was our effort? It is hard to tell. We feel that our presence was disturbing to those $epublicans because we spoke a simple truth. We did not paint a pretty picture and pictures can be stronger than words. We think it was a memorable image in the manner of "The Scream," Edvard Munch's famous painting.
A second performance was held at noon the following day, with some changes in the cast, at the corner of 38th Street and Steele Street in Tacoma. There was a lot of feedback -- both positive and negative. The God Bless sign was replaced with the following sign:
IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION
Our conclusion: We should continue to be creative in getting across the horrors of this war and the destruction of American values by the Bush regime.
UPDATE 1 -- June 5, 2004
From 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. on June 5, 2004, UFPPC demonstrated for a strong peace plank at the Washington State Democratic Party Convention, which was held this year at the Tacoma Sheraton.
Ted Nation, Sallie Shawl, and M.J. Ewing again enacted the street theater torture victim scenario, evoking the ordeal endured by Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison who were forced to wear a black hood and hold cables while standing on the box in the belief that if they lowered their arms or fell down, they would be electrocuted. Ted and M.J. stood on a box on the eastern sidewalk of S. 13th St., and Sallie preformed her act of conscience beneath the flagpole on the plaza behind the Sheraton, next to a sign quoting Matthew 7: "Ye shall know them by their fruits." This is the text alluded to by Al Gore in his widely remarked NYU MoveOn address last month, and again in Tacoma the evening before the demonstration, when Gore was the keynote speaker at the dinner opening the convention.
The street theater performers and about twenty other UFPPCers holding 'fact campaign' signs as well as handmade signs were noticed by hundreds of delegates and alternates streaming into the convention. The reception from Washington Democrats was notably friendlier than the reception from Washington Republicans a week earlier.