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Commons Ground

The Green-Rainbow party gathers to demonstrate against police brutality, prisons, and the Patriot Act.

3:15 PM, Jul 26, 2004 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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CONSIDERING THE MASSIVE INFLUX of protestors this week, Boston Common seems to be about as usual. People are eating lunch in the park, sitting on benches, and jogging on the paths. There is only one big demonstration I can find in the park this morning, put on by a group called the Green-Rainbow party. They have set up on a grassy knoll near a fleet of news trucks. The stage they have erected is decorated with hand-painted signs with messages like "The Rich Lie, The Poor Die," "No More Prisons," and "Anarchy is Freedom, Government is Slavery."

There are only about 100 people convened to watch the demonstration, but as one of the speakers reminds us, "It's not the quantity of people, it's the quality." They are an eclectic group. Hippies are sleeping on the lawn or playing frisbee, a few couriers lean on their bikes, a man carries a piece of white posterboard with a potleaf drawn on it, and a woman waves a sign that says Kerry=Bush=Hitler. I am approached by a man with no teeth, horrible stale beer breath, and a Janet Jackson T-shirt who tells me the government hates me. Two kids unravel a ratty blue banner painted with the words "You're [sic] Phone is Tapped."

A woman in a white headscarf, enormous sunglasses, and a T-shirt with the president's face and the words "International Terrorist " below it has climbed onto the stage. She is holding a sign that says "Free the Lafayette 8." She starts to scream "Police State!" over and over. " "I want the helicopters to hear us," she shrieks.

When she is through she introduces a professor from the University of Massachusetts who rambles through a boring and disorganized speech about oppression. "This country was founded on abuse and violence. If we don't change our policies we'll be like the ones at Abu Ghraib," he yells, his voice cracking. "Just because we are anti-Bush does not mean we are pro-Kerry." He announces a recall of "all politicians on the wrong side of the issues." "If there's a politician who votes against homelessness, we'll put a tent city on his lawn." He gets a few lazy claps and leaves the stage.

A barefoot young man with a long, dirty ponytail and no shirt runs through the crowd, jumps onto the stage, grabs a guitar, and announces a sing-a-long. "Has anyone ever been harassed in a park by an authority figure?" he asks. "Remember, ain't justice, there's just us. If we want to beat back police brutality we all have to participate. Come up here and sing or beat on the stage or whatever you want to do."

He starts playing a song he calls "The Parks are for the People," which seems to be composed entirely of those six words. His voice is screechy and his guitar is out of tune. No one comes forward to beat on the stage, but a little girl walking by with her mother covers her ears and starts to cry.

I ask the woman in the headscarf what this protest is all about. "We are against police brutality, prisons, and the Patriot Act. It's about people, not money." She explains to me that her group is the Massachusetts offshoot of the national Green party, which has merged with the state Rainbow Coalition.

I ask her who she considers to be some of her group's political heroes. "This group cautions against heroes," she informs me. "That man," she says, as she gestures toward the stage, "is an unbelievable person. But if I called him a hero, that becomes a power and that power can become an abuse."

Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.