Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


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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