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  • PIN THE TAIL/Daniel Rubin

    Observations from the 2004 Democratic National Convention

    Tuesday, July 27, 2004

    Penned-in Anger 

    The "Free Speech" area became so inhospitable today -- from the screeching microphone reverb to the vacuum truck spraying waves of dirt on spectators -- that by 2 p.m., even the 9 1/2 foot Gandhi had had enough.

    Jes Richardson, a Havertown-bred peace activist, pulled the giant symbol of tolerance to a quieter spot outside the pen, and wondered why the street cleaner had continued even after someone pointed out the huge hole in his bag.

    "Are they doing this on purpose?" Richardson asked.

    The good news was that there were few protesters to bother.

    The pen protesters seem more theatrical than anything. A woman wearing red-striped knee socks and a nightie strolled around, bearing the sign: "Prevent Abortion. Use a Condom." A bearded man pushed "No More Bushit" bumperstickers.

    Then there was the giant Gandhi. Richardson, 56, has spent the summer taking the Indian leader's likeness to the swing states, promoting voter registration and encouraging people to support whichever candidate would more likely bring peace.

    The satirical Billionaires for Bush strut through the city in top hats and tails. A giant vertebra snakes through the streets, urging the Democrats to keep some progressive backbone in their platform.

    The most action yesterday morning seemed to be outside Faneuil Hall, where U.S. Park Police objected to a peace group hanging a Democracy sign on a barrier police wanted to be able to see through.

    The argument went on for 15 minutes, attracting a dozen or so spectators who started chanting "Let them keep the sign."

    Meanwhile inside the historic hall, a meeting about the "national and global crisis" attracted a smaller crowd than portrayed in the giant oil painting hanging behind them, George Healy's "Webster Replying to Hayne."

    Those who attended the meeting, organized by a trio of peace groups, heard Ross Gelbspan, Pulitzer Prize winning expert on global warming, say, "The country is more deeply divided than it ever had been in my lifetime." Ronnie Dugger, an author and co-founder of the Alliance for Democracy, warned that Americans will never accept "the second theft of the presidency."

    More peaceful co-habitation on the other side of Faneuil Hall: both anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators sharing a corner with their placards like limo-service drivers awaiting their fares at the airport.

    Daniel Rubin

    Daniel Rubin is a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He can be reached at


       •  July 2004

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