This is a follow-up report of the event I blogged about in "My Funny Valentine" last week-- a guerilla-style protest of the Iraq War, which was staged on Valentine's Day at the U.S. military recruitment center in Times Square by a group called Artists Against the War:
"Roughly 100 people came out in the cold last night. At the peak a line
of Grannies, Artists Against the War demonstrators and associates stood against the recruiting
station holding the Broken Hearts posters. Others held them up to the
passing traffic. The rest milled around talking to passerbys and
handing out hundreds of Broken Hearts postcards ...many people were
sympathetic, there were foreign tourists who seemed to either be with
us or baffled. The least sympathetic were the two head security people
for Nivea. Nivea had rented the northern tip of the "recruiting"
triangle for promotion of their skin care products in a picket -fenced
"Garden of Love." Those hostile security people made it quite clear
that our signs were not welcome in the Garden and they were obviously
not happy to have our assembly so close to their blissful enclosure.
Joyce and I decided to see if we could sneak the signs in, as once in
the Garden we would have the opportunity to have our poster-holding
image on the giant screen over Times Square (rented for further Nivea promotion.)
We put the signs under our coats and waited on line. After a while we
reached a lovely white wooden swing amidst the artificial flowers and arranged
ourselves in front of the camera, Nivea-given white roses in our teeth.
When the camera person said ready, we opened our jackets and expected
to be tossed out of Eden. Instead the photographer was either in
agreement or not comprehending because she asked us
to adjust the posters so that they would be more visible and minutes
later our images were projected over Times Square.
The hand dyeing didn't quite happen, the dye wasn't strong enough to
really dye skin, plus it was too cold to keep one's gloves off but I
still think it is a good idea and plan to do this as a way of making
people ask questions and further promoting March 19th. Olive Ayhens painted
hers with red acrylic before coming, and that worked better."
When I asked my New York friend Alison Armstrong if she had ended up participating in the event, she sent me a few random impressions, suggesting it was something of a fizzle:
"I was a bit
disillusioned--no tear gas,
no press, the police were very laid back and
sweet and polite--in fact it seemed nobody took
any notice... I just got
cold, there were not enuff posters, rang the
doorbells of the army recruiting station that we
were picketing and asked some young officer
dripping with gold medals if he had a brochure
with the text from the lighted billboard above
the door that kept talking about "strength the
army way," but he didn't even seem to know what it
was saying. I thought privately that it was a
bizarre contrast to/or in accord with all the
obscene light billboard ads in the rest of Times
Perhaps the symbol of the broken heart they created will somehow take on a life of its own and become an instrument of new knowledge. Certainly as symbols go, it more than succeeds as an embodiment of powerful feelings with regard to the Iraq war.