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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Stony Brook Students Protest the War in Iraq

    It was 8:07 a.m. and nearly 200 people were marching to the beat of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra down Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington, D.C. The bass drum set the rhythmic pace of its soldiers-for-peace. Together the mass began to chant “The people-united-will never be defeated” as more followers chimed in the chant grew louder “The PEOPLE UNITED will never be DEFEATED!” The oncoming traffic honked.

    The Rude Mechanical Orchestra, which is a 30-odd-piece New York City-based politically active marching band, and describes itself as a “motley mix of rusty players,” were not suited in the traditional, often military-style uniforms worn by your hometown high school marching band.

    They were draped in a punk version of band attire, clothing that was worn by the forefathers of the anti-establishment punk movement. They are a musical mass of greens and blacks. A cinnamon-colored Mohawk haircut held up the caboose of this motley train. She was the cymbal crasher keeping the rhythmic beat, her hair resting higher then a marching band cap would. Behind her cinnamon hair was a swarm of posters and protesters. Together this diverse train marched toward 1111 Constitution Ave.

    “Exxon-Mobile-BP-Shell-take this war and go-to — hell!”

    The players broke into a new beat. Their own politicized version of a Le Tigre song “Decepatcon.” Their horns blared and echoed as the melody bounced off the cold concrete city structures. Soon they took to the streets and obscured the path of traffic. A dark-haired woman, that had been leading the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, began to chant through a blue and white megaphone, “Here’s to the man. And his bombs his bombs his bombs. Here’s to the man and his mother f–king war games.” The trumpets roared in harmony.

    This was the rude morning escort to the IRS building on 1111 Constitution Ave., where protestors from all walks of the protesting world had joined together in objection to Americans taxes paying for the war. The clamoring Rude Mechanical Orchestra was escorted by two men that bore a sign made from a twin sized sheet that read “1 DAY of the IRAQ WAR = $720,000,000.”

    The parade was greeted by the grateful faces of the War Resisters League, which is an organization that has been “resisting war since 1923,” and on their website they claim to be “the United States’ oldest secular pacifist organization.” The War Resisters League, the Funk The War Initiative and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra are a few of the prominent groups that led the parade to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq on Mar. 19. They are among many followers that came from places, ranging from Maryland to California, for the daylong demonstration. The crowd was littered with members from United for Peace and Justice, Ground Zero for Peace, Stony Brook’s own Social Justice Alliance (SJA), and the pink ladies of Code Pink. These are just a few of the many organizations that had joined together to create a unique protesting recipe filled with a verity of social networking spices.

    “Not for wars and occupation, money for jobs and education!”

    The cold faces of the police officers stood vigilantly blockading the doors of the IRS building that resides at 1111 Constitution Ave. Looming above on the face of the building is the slogan “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” Within minutes, the protesting mass had dispersed around the yellow police tape.

    “This is what democracy looks like! Show me what hypocrisy looks like!”

    The officers, outfitted in all black, began making arrests and by 8:29 a.m. there were 11 people sitting Indian-style on the gravel in front of the IRS building. By sunset there would be more then triple that amount in custody ranging from the elderly to college-age students. Just before midnight, 28 would be released after paying $100 out of pocket for “forfeiting” escaping a citation but taking an arrest on their record. The remaining arrestees chose to take a citation, meaning they have to go back to court on a later date.

    “I think that it wasn’t a huge turnout number-wise, but an important symbolic step moving beyond traditional means of protesting,” Said 23-year-old Kevin Young, one of the arrestees and a Stony Brook graduate student who is an active member of SJA. “The events were characterized by a higher level of creativity then past protests, they were conceived as a series of targeted direct actions at sites of strategic economic departments.”

    “Hey, hey, ho, ho, this racist war has got to go!”

    “They wouldn’t be able to handle it if everyone crossed,” said 22-year-old Jason Alegrias, a music major at Stony Brook University and a member of SJA in reference to the yellow police tape that separated the scores of protesters from the arrestees, police and the IRS building.

    “Yeah they’d shoot us,” said co-member Jena Harris shrugging her shoulders.

    As the arrestees began to be moved, one of them, a small snowy haired women dressed in pink wearing a black fanny pack and restrained by zip ties, stood up and began to dance around an officer. He quickly grasped upon her arm, but like the Energizer bunny, she kept going and going. Officer Mount attempted to maintain his stone cold face, but the side of his mouth stretched open and a smile crept out. The smile quickly morphed into laughter as the woman continued to dance, no longer around him, but with him. They looked into each other’s eyes as if they were old friends at their high school reunion. It’s a brief moment. Other protesters that had been constrained by zip ties, continue to be escorted to an armored truck that is stamped with a U.S Department of Homeland, Federal Protective Police symbol.

    Like cheerleaders with posters, the crowd cheered, “One — drop Bush not bombs, 2 — a little bit louder, 3 — it’s time to stop this racist war!”

    A middle-aged man in a corduroy blazer follows the crowd as everyone’s attention became focused upon the containment vehicle. “Homeland comes from Gestapo,” the professor from Connecticut who asked for anonymity said, “I guess citizens who are protesting are considered terrorists.”

    21-year-old Alex Saiu, a Stony Brook student and SJA member who looks more like a young Ernesto “Che” Guerava then a college student, yelled “Pack up more domestic terrorists!” as people are moved from the gravel pow-wow to the armored truck.

    The doors opened and someone from the crowd screamed, “We love you Sarah!” A college-aged girl being guided up the metal stairs into the vehicle turned her upper body and responded with a gratified smile. A tour bus filled with tourist’s crawled along the street following traffic. Gawking, their eye transfixed upon the protesters.

    “Troops out now — Iraq for Iraqis!”

    By noon a new kind of protest was being served. About 200 college-aged students joined in the Funk the War initiative and gathered in Franklin Park, on 14th and K. Together they plastered the four street corners with highlighter pink tape and began a civil disobedient dance party.

    “Drop beats, not bombs!”

    The Rude Mechanical Orchestra began to play, but it quickly morphed into a battle of the bands. The host of the Funk the War event, which was created by the Students for a Democratic Society, dressed in a polar bear costume pulled out a mini-portable DJ booth on a Radio Flyer wagon and the sound that emitted from the two-foot speaker and hand-held CD player overpowered the Rude Mechanical Orchestra. A remix of the popular song titled “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. bellowed from the speakers and the 200 or so college-aged students morphed the protest from a march into a dance.

    The protestors danced, marched and sang all the way down to Armed Forces Recruiting Center on 14th and L Street. They filled the streets and blocked traffic in every direction all while being shoved by frustrated police officers.

    “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!”

    A handful of counter protestors stood, waiting in front of
    the recruiting center. Written across poster boards in red and blue ink their signs read, “God bless our military and their families,” and “Recruiters gathering freedom’s protectors one at a time.” Their red, white and blue American flags waved in the wind as the army of anti-war protestors passed them by.

    “Troops out now! Iraq for Iraqis!”

    “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!”

    “Drop beats, not bombs!”

    The mass only grew louder as it approached the recruiting center.

    A counter protestor, Candy Dainty, stood as stiff as the Queen’s Guard in front of the Buckingham Palace. Her ruby red hair was more vibrant then the sign she held so adamantly above her head. She stood firmly as the protestors surrounded her. “I think they’re stupid,” she said in reference to the army in front of her, “They need to watch what they’re wishing for.” She retires to her position holding the sign, which reads, “Support our troops and their mission,” above her head.

    Smack! Mrs. Dainty is jolted from her stiff pose, but quickly fixes herself as a Queen’s Guard would. She was clearly disgruntled as she scanned the crowed for the culprit. A young protester wearing a red handkerchief over his nose and mouth had just smacked a makeshift sticker on Mrs. Dainty’s poster. The United States Postal Service sticker was now a part of Mrs. Dainty’s sign, and read, “I suck Bush’s dick” in blue pen.

    “Exxon-Mobile-BP-Shell — take this war and go to — hell!”

    “It was really empowering, it was the best protest I’ve ever been to,” Alex Saiu said, “It reminded me of this quote by Emma Goldman, ‘If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution.'”

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