I listened to the NPR coverage of the pre-debate fufurrah on the bus, until the station tuned out on my cheap portable radio. The busdriver pointed out Air Force One at the Executive Terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport as we drove through. The plane was almost within egg's throw of the bus, and I contemplated that if I were intent on mayhem to the plane, that's how I would do it -- ride the bus innocuously, then hurl my glitter or eggs from the bus. Of course, I probably also overestimate my throwing arm...
A cadre of bike-mounted Tempe police passed the bus as I reached the University and Mill bus stop. I got off the bus and looked about in search of bathroom facilities, because an hour and a half bus ride on top of a can of instant breakfast is not an optimal situation. I checked in with the group of pink-clad people on one of the corners first. As I approached, I saw a man in heated debate with a passing woman, and a scruffy, button-bedecked man with a tape recorder avidly documenting the conversation. It was political, of course, with the passing woman a potential voter who had not decided herself firmly against Bush.
One of the Code Pink ladies, someone with not only a pink shirt, but lovely pink pearl-and-flower earrings, asked me if I was there for the action, and handed me a large vivid pink sign and gave me my instructions. We would start lining up about an arm's length apart at ten, but wait to hold up the signs until the signal was given. We'd hold up the signs between 10:20 and 10:27, in solidarity with all the people who'd lost their jobs. This was to be peaceful, non-confrontational. Meanwhile, I should find some shade and wait for the lineup.
I wandered off to Jack-in-the-Box, for bathroom and a nice cold drink, then sat down in an unoccupied corner of sidewalk and began writing up the events of the day. More people gathered, and I moved to join a rough line against the bar on the northeast corner of University and Mill. A young man with vivid blue and blond hair in a reverse Mohawk hailed me. "I have a prophecy," he said. "Kerry licks Bush." I, ever the slashgirl, smirked at the image of Kerry slipping the homophobic Dubya some tongue. "She didn't laugh," he said, disappointed. Evidently the bad mental image he'd been going for was much more heterosexual.
An envoy of Einstein's Bagels came around with small flyers. "Would you like free coffee?" she asked. "You're giving coffee to anarchists?" the blue-haired guy exclaimed. Evidently anarchists and caffiene are not a peaceful combination.
One of the organizers marshalled a group of us into a line for a photograph. "I want as many of you as possible to stand in a line between these two trees. Now stand facing that way, as if you're in a bread line."
"That's too much organization for us," the blue-haired guy said. "We're anarchists." He got in line anyway. We held up our pink signs as the Code Pink organizer took photos.
There were cameras out en masse. The blue-haired guy held forth on free media, and how the free media might be getting their pink slips next. He heckled some of the Corporate Media network representatives relatively gently about working for the government, being The Man, and having government security operatives as co-workers. "I'm going to moon Kerry," he declared.
"Equal air time for all candidates," I smirked. "Moon Bush too."
"You have a point," he said. "Bipartisan."
"That implies only two parties."
A Nader van cruised the area, the driver shouting out support of Code Pink through loudspeakers, denouncing the two-party system, encouraging support for Nader, and the opening of the presidential candidate debates to include other people besides just the big two. We waved. Passing cars honked; we waved our pink slips at them.
Code Pink organizers came through, and we spread out along the sidewalk on the north side of University Avenue, reluctantly giving up shade for the mild Arizona fall morning sun. (That's "searing" to non-locals.) The woman on my immediate left was from Anchorage. The woman on my immediate right was the quiet, blue-haired, multiply pierced friend of the loud blue-haired anarchist, though another woman eventually filled in the spot there as the action settled in to wait for the signal. People with cameras cruised about -- large professional cameras, hand-held personal video cameras, and some still-cameras.
At a signal, we raised our signs high, showing them to traffic. There was more honking, and a few isolated shouts of dissent. We held our signs high. Organizers walked back and forth, counting the crowd. "Great job," they announced. "We've got over two hundred people here."
"It's not a protest until there's a riot," someone commented. Tempe police kept their distance on their bicycles, watching us from across the street. A Univision (Channel 33) reporter and cameraman set up right at my section of the line, and filmed a few takes of the reporter commenting on the action, and some shots of us with our pink slips. I felt self-conscious and dowdy, and very aware of the thin soles of my shoes transmitting the heat of the pavement directly into my feet.
A party of Billionaires for Bush people marched down the sidewalk, fancifully costumed, complete with fake cigars, money ties, Enron necklaces, and hats. Their limo cruised the block. Most got a good laugh out of it; one notable exception pointed out the size of Kerry's wallet.
The action started winding down around 10:45. One of the organizers jogged across the street (jaywalking) and chatted with the police briefly. They rode off en masse towards some other hotbed of riot and dissent. I tore off a slip from my Billionaires for Bush handout, and gave the blue-haired guy the address of my journal here (since he'd be majorly featured). (Yo, dude, if you're reading this, I've got anonymous comments disabled, but you can get your own account here so you can comment.) I wandered off to sit down in the shade and wait for the Channel 3 filming (from 11-11:15) and ran into none other than my old associate the Pirate Queen, the former teamster librarian who used to run the library at the women's center; she ran freshstartwrite until recently. We chatted and rested our feet, though not in the shade.
The Channel 3 filming was a bit of an anticlimax, as we were at the wrong end of the line to see what cameras and reporters there were. The Pirate Queen offered me a ride home, which I gladly accepted, and we walked off through downtown Tempe towards her truck, holding our pink signs prominently, discussing what we'd want to do next time. I want to make another Pink Skirt for myself, and I definitely need to bring my backpack to hold my water bottle and all the pamphlets I always wind up picking up. Thicker-soled shoes would be better too, for standing in the sun, and an umbrella for shade.
It was a good event, all in all -- prominent, peaceful, and very, very pink.