Monday, September 26, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Arrested, Tor Released

Cindy Sheehan's arrest for protesting without a permit has put yours truly into a nostalgic mood.

I used to be a member of a now-defunct street theatre group called The Shebang Street Theatre. It started as a response to the first Iraq war, which was over before the planned protest day. Anyway, the group continued to do some political protests (mostly against the launchings of warships from Bath and Kittery (sorry, Pinky)) and also developed pagan-style celebrations for the solstices and equinoxes. My favorite of these involved a life-size paper-mache replica of Stonehenge.

I'll tell you about that some other time, and also the story of how they came to give me the name "Tor." The story I want to relate right now is about the time that I nearly got arrested for protesting racism in the Camden, Maine police department.

I can't recall the exact year, but it was at least ten years ago. A press release from the police appeared in the Camden Herald, warning people to be on the lookout for gypsies. The gypsies were out to rob everyone's houses in broad daylight, and indeed they had been spotted working their evil in the area!

Another member of the group, Pole Star, made use of his journalistic impulse by going to the police records room to investigate. He found that no gypsies had been implicated in any crimes in the area. He also found that 95% of the property crimes in the area had been committed by white guys in their teens and twenties. So it really would have made a lot more sense for the police to have warned people to be suspicious of Tor.

Anyway, we decided that people expecting a gypsy invasion shouldn't be disappointed. Shebangers being the generally bohemian sort, they tended to have the proper wardrobe and musical instruments required to portray stereotypical gypsies. Someone managed to borrow a hearse. Small Hibachi grills completed the scene.

My role, since I was (and still would be) one of the "straight" looking members of the troupe, was to be one of two trench-coated G-men. My partner and I took to the streets of Camden prior to that year's Memorial Day parade. We handed out photocopies of the press release, to the backside of which had been appended some factoids about the persecution of gypsies throughout history.

Just before the parade came into the downtown area, the hearse barreled into town. A good dozen or so "gypsies" poured out onto the village green and lit their grills and started barbecuing chicken. They played varous stringed instruments, danced, and spoke in the most painfully fake accents imaginable.

My partner and I, as part of the theater, continued to "keep an eye" on the "gypsies." After the parade had passed by, we started the next bit of the theater: to send the gypsies on their way.

Now, the police had been watching this all along, of course. They then came over to ask my fellow "G-man" and I what we were doing. We gave them a copy of the article, at which point they asked us for I.D. We gave them that, as required by law, and they decided they'd better invite us down to the police station for questioning. Just us two, not the rest of the troop.

Most of the "gypsies" had been so gloriously into their portrayals that they didn't immediately notice that two of their troupe were being led away. (We weren't under arrest; we were just not free to leave). As soon as someone noticed, things really got into a fervor. A parade of gypsies followed us the short walk to the station, and then started to shout, "FREE THE C.I.A.!" while we were inside.

After a while, the police let us go, but not before letting us know that the lady who had written the press release had had her feelings hurt by our theatrics.

We said, "Good!"



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