THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING
By Joe Thompson
United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
May 30, 2008
TACOMA, Washington -- I have long enjoyed holding signs at the Tacoma Farmers' Market downtown on Broadway on Thursdays.
Usually we stand or sit on the sidewalk at the upper end of the market. We used to lean several signs against the building and shoppers could read the signs as they strolled to the shops. But then the owner of the building asked us to not put the signs against the building because he didn't want to make a political statement with his property.
Fair enough. We began leaning the signs against the curb and partly in the street. The curb was always open, since the street is closed to auto traffic and parking isn't permitted.
But there's new management at the market.
Last Thursday, my friend Dave -- another inveterate sign holder (and a veteran, too) -- decided to put on orange coveralls and stood on a sturdy plastic box with what appeared to be electric cables in each hand, and a black hood over his head. The reference, alas, was unmistakable.
The new management has put the words "market staff" on some orange vests, and a "staff" person objected to Dave's sign. It read "TORTURE" and depicted Edvard Munch's famous painting, "The Scream."
Dave stood his ground (or rather his box) as he does so well, and the police were called. The police said they got a complaint that "The Scream" was scaring babies and children -- and old folks, too! Dave, most calmly, said to the officer of the law: "I don't see any children crying."
The police looked around and agreed: they didn't see anyone weeping, either. They left after asking Dave please to consider getting a different sign.
Personally, I was impressed with way the police handled the situation. They were fair and they seemed impartial. Isn't this how we want our police to conduct themselves?
THE PLOT THICKENS
This Thursday I arrived at market early, at about 10:15 a.m. I had to leave before Dave and possibly other sign holders showed up at noon. I noticed cars parked along the curb where we usually stand with our signs; this was odd, because the street is closed to car traffic. But there was an open space where I could be seen. So I opened my camp stool and sat down on the sidewalk with my sign. Within ten minutes, a car parked right in front of me, blocking the view of my sign from the shoppers.
The friendly guy that sells flowers and shrubs in the kiosk directly across the street from my position came over. He told me the manager of the market had just told him she was allowing parking at this curb because she wanted to run off the protesters and troublemakers.
I picked up my camp stool and sign and sat down just on the other side of the car. I was somewhat in the street, but there was no auto traffic.
So I there I was sitting when the manager herself approached me. Bending over, she said: "You do know this is a closed street, don't you?"
I screamed at her as loudly as I could: "Then why are these cars here?"
Well, OK. I didn't really scream at her. But I did wonder what she was really trying to tell me. I mean, if the street is closed, then why the cars parked?
What I did say to her was: "If a car comes, I will get out of the way." She nodded and walked away.
I will not dignify this situation with the term "absurd." If, as she says, the street is "closed," then why would a car be coming?
Unfortunately, I had to leave before Dave got there. But I don't want the manager to think she ran me off so I will get there early next Thursday and stay at least until another sign holder shows up.
Wouldn't that be something if about five or six people showed up to hold up signs?
--Joe Thompson has been at this for a long time and is a member of United for Peace of Pierce County.