Magazine article The New Yorker

JITTERS; AT THE BARRICADES Series: 3/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

JITTERS; AT THE BARRICADES Series: 3/5

Article excerpt

The Republican National Convention was still several weeks away when the folks at the New York Civil Liberties Union decided to set up shop in a defunct shoe store in order to prepare for all the marches, rallies, and inevitable arrests. The Protecting Protest Storefront, a few blocks north of Madison Square Garden, on Eighth Avenue, is the one with a big poster in the front window that reads, "We're not anti-police. We're anti-police brutality."

In the weeks since it opened, the storefront has become a repository for random civilian queries and grievances. A young woman named Ezili, who described herself as a singer-actress-writer-composer, stopped by one afternoon to ask advice about how and where she might perform a protest song she'd written. "I actually wrote it years ago, about Reagan," she said, "but I changed it for Bush." Then, beating out a rhythm on one of the folding tables, she sang a jazzy a-cappella version of "Song for George Bush: I'm Not Gonna Let You Bring Me Down":

Men and women had to die'Cos you told a whoppin' lie.Someday soon you will pay.I can hear God say,I'm not gonna let you bring me down.

Ari Rosmarin, a nineteen-year-old Columbia junior who mans the front desk, gave Ezili the telephone number for one of the protest organizers. A little later, a fabric importer who works in the area popped in to say that he thought the civil libertarians were misguided. "After 9/11, this is not the time for protests," he said. "If you take a hundred cops to protect protesters from getting out of line, that's a hundred cops not doing what they should be doing, which is protecting me."

Rosmarin, a genial mop-top from Santa Monica, greets most of the walk-ins. "A construction worker came in and said he wanted a political sticker to put on his helmet," he said. "It turned out we didn't have anything except one that said, 'Marriage for Everybody.' " The hardhat politely declined. His buddies on the job, he said, "already give me enough trouble for wearing a Red Sox T-shirt." Someone else came in to report that he agreed with one of the signs in the window. It was the text of the First Amendment.

One evening last week, about a dozen volunteers--including three lawyers, a couple of law students, an actor, and a woman who referred to herself as "a retired grandmother"--sat down in folding chairs at the storefront for a training session run by Steve Theberge, a twenty-three-year-old community organizer for the N. …

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