I was a little disappointed with the turn-out... quantity-wise, the quality was good. Some devout local Cnidarians were already irrevocably booked due to the short notice, and not so many non-Cnidarian protestors accepted the invitation to join in. Helpful hint for the future: we like protestors, we like cacophonists, we like artists and musicians... we like lots of different types of people.
Perhaps being near strange people with a strange interest in Jellyfish doesn’t appeal to regular protestors. But the Cnidarians are a mostly harmless lot, and... even though I’m sure it must seem like a very mainstream thing to worship Jellyfish, we are in reality few and far between. And mostly, by strange coincidence, we’re largely a group of writers, artists, and musicians. I assume that’s because creative types are more innately receptive to the pull of Cnidarian Entropy.
It would have been terribly easy for large groups of anti-drone/anti-war/pro-privacy protestors to make us look like “the strange group off to the side”. In fact, we were quite prepared for being the strange little group that caused more people to look while regular protestors protested away.
Instead we had a small but very flashy protest. I’ve been to much smaller (and definitely much less flashy) protests, which is why I say “a little disappointed”. There were people we didn’t know, who didn’t let Jellyfish scare them off, some of whom had their own agendas and some of whom simply thought the idea sounded fun. What I really would’ve liked to see was MORE SIGNS. We were painfully short on those.
A word to people who, say, complain that “protesting war is more important than protesting drones”. Here’s a thought: next time, show up with anti-war signs... but let other people (anti-surveillance people, anti-Jellyfish drone people, etc), have their says as well.
Someone from Global Equality gave out to handbills to everyone. I was glad to see that, I like Global Equality. I even held a handbill up to the Sun-Phantom livestream and talked about it for a while, mentioning some of their endeavors like supporting the fight of the people of Peru whose health and general wellbeing is being destroyed by greedy US corporation owned mining operations. It’s true that the average Cnidarian would be more concerned about the destruction of the planet than about what that destruction is doing to the people around it... but the people matter too, and it’s proper for people to fight that fight as well.
I’m glad that, to some people, fighting their preferred fights in solidarity with fellow travellers is more important than quibbling over details of what is being given the top priority at the moment and then opting for doing nothing because everything isn’t exactly how they want it.
Enough lecturing. I know how much people love in-fighting, and who am I to spoil their fun.
We arrived on time for setting up the protest... and found a smaller group of Fight For Wolves protestors. This was somewhat awkward, I’m all for fighting for wolves and we did need to worry about drowning their group out. It’s a known fact that people give more consideration to charismatic mega-fauna than to, say, the scary trends of too many frog species rapidly going extinct or to the endangered status of that little plant they stomped on when they were at Grand Canyon, but am I going to quibble and say that means people shouldn’t Fight For Wolves? Of course not! If I wander by a wolf support rally when I’m not busy with another one, give me a sign and I’ll wave it! Wolves are an important keystone species anyway, their future impacts all sorts of little critters, microorganisms, and plants that people don’t pay much attention to.
The Jellyfish lovers tried to set-up a bit off to the side of the wolf lovers for a while, but then the wolf rally was over and we fanned out more. I was busy doling out signs, banner, Jellyfish, etc, and forgot to take a picture of their protest. I regret that. Hopefully our attempts at being polite to their protest didn’t cause anyone trying to find us to think “Oops, wrong protest” and leave.
At the Capitol it is easy for multiple protests to spring up at the same time. Options: stand with each other, or stand a distance apart. If anti-war protestors can stand next to Day of Resistance protestors (it happened, I have pictures), anything can happen.
Eventually, everything was out there. Signs (just not enough), banner, flag, giant Jellyfish costume. I’d been having recurrent nightmares all week about forgetting to wear a plush Jellyfish on my head, attached to me via a shackle on my neck. Well, what do you know, my only plush Jellyfish with long enough tentacles to wrap through the shackle rings was too heavy to stay balanced on my head. So it goes... the plush icon dangled from the shackle all day. I was still clearly the slave in the situation, and that’s all that really matters.
Nice as it was to see the giant Jellyfish and the Cnidarians Against Drones banner out there, I felt like we were lacking something until the chalkupy happened. The chalk art and messages were wonderful, very nicely and artfully done overall and spanning a diverse range. There were Jellyfish, and sentiments ranging from “No More Drones” to “End Imperialism” and “Hands off Iran”. I didn’t see any specifically anti-surveillance messages (aside from the anti-surveillance sign) and I probably would’ve rectified that if I’d joined in. Maybe the Guy Fawkes Jellyfish helped because Anons are associated with the Guy Fawkes mask now and they’re notoriously pro-privacy (obviously).
It was such a fancy, colourful, and long running stretch of chalk that passersby couldn’t help but notice it. Many pictures were taken. I remember a couple of girls peeking from across the street, edging away, and then returning to take photos later when there weren’t many of us left. Good, good, I’d thought something might be scaring them off... but maybe they really only wanted to avoid competing with feet while taking photos.
A fun highlight for me was that Little Fyodor came to the protest and waved the Cnidarian World Flag for us. Little Fyodor and Babushka have been my favourite local band for many many years (they filled the sad void created by Dark Shadowz ending when John Graves died) and, let me tell ya, Little Fyodor is the sort who doesn’t need a plush Jellyfish to be flashy. He’s got an aura of flash that emanates for blocks around him!
I’ll note for the record that Babushka was, of course, not snubbing us. She was at a fracking protest in Longmont. I’m sure many of our hearts were in Longmont with her.
Next time... more fun bands? We’ll make videos! And I’ll make videos, for that matter, in case there are livestream problems again.
Now I must move along to addressing the sad fact in life that if people are enjoying and expressing themselves, and being creative, and caring about things, it’s simply not the sort of thing cops like to see.
Yes, we got in trouble for the impressive chalkupy that I’m so thrilled about.
The police trouble began rather simply. One bicycle cop had made it a fair way down the line of chalk, when his expression became... Hrm. If you know what D6 police are like in Denver, picture one having a slowly dawning realisation that someone just pissed all over his sidewalk in front of him. Yep, that’s the look – followed by RAGE.
So things got a bit complicated for a while after that, but it was okay. No injuries, no arrests, no pepper spray. The worst that happened: we were all informed that we would be arrested if we chalked again. We peacefully agreed to not chalk anymore. And, honestly, I feel kind of bitter about the whole ordeal.
So I’ll simply take the memories that make me smile. Like the initial scream of “WHO DID THIS?!” being met with a long ripple of shrugs. Geeze, who knows, people chalked like mad and then the chalking was over. I was behind the scenes with some friends, taking care of my grandson, looked up briefly, said “Wow, look at them go, that’s impressive”, and felt content. People were going at that chalkupy like a group of professional speed muralists and didn’t seem to require any assistance. That’s great, the world really needs pro Guerrilla Chalk Squads right now!
(I did, at one point, manage to pass the baby so I could take a brief round of photos. I suppose a couple of people must’ve still been chalking, because I saw a few random unidentifiable body parts in photos. I pretty quickly decided I would be better off waiting to take photos AFTER the protest, especially after a disappointing photo of the Uber Jelly with a sign falling on it.)
Naturally I felt some responsibility for the chalking situation. I did, after all, say “bring sidewalk chalk”. I was maybe a couple of feet away from a cop who really really wanted confessions, so I calmly pointed out to him that “No one’s chalking anymore”. He glared... I awaited a response... he glared... I felt like I’d been Jellyfish-profiled. Granted I was wearing a Jellyfish t-shirt, and a Jellyfish necklace, and a large plush Jellyfish was dangling from a shackle around my neck, and I was standing on the Uber Chalk Jellyfish, but I wasn’t chalking.
It couldn’t be disputed that no one was chalking anymore. Not a single person had chalk in hand. People were clearly milling around the area, as opposed to being down on the sidewalk chalking. So, ultimately, after more D6 style yelling and intimidation tactics, we were threatened and that was that.
Unfortunately police intimidation has this knack for really putting a damper on fun atmospheres, and the protest began evaporating. It was a slow evaporation, due to multiple latecomers we’d been expecting finally arriving at differing times. And everyone who stuck around had fun joking about the police. Cnidarians are full of dark humour. Perhaps we look insane to some people, but we know all too well that people who don’t find ways to laugh have mental breakdowns, or kill themselves, or turn into cold bastards.
It was shortly after the police trouble when we noticed there might be problems with the livestream. An out-of-state Cnidarian who was supposed to be live-tweeting the Sun-Phantom stream informed us that, though the stream said “live”, he wasn’t getting anything.
We checked everything over. We continued checking everything over for a long time. The stream should have been working. It was recording, counting time, connected to ustream, logged in. All seemed well. I asked, on the livestream (oops), for people to tweet feedback about whether the video was working to @BaghwanB. Then I ran off to ask him to check, because I was central and he was in a group by 14th.
He saw a tweet from @usernm asking for confirmation that one arrest had occurred. Ah ha! Obviously he’d watched the police trouble on the livestream, and offered a joke verification that our video was indeed working. But, just to be safe, @BaghwanB replied that there were no arrests – we were only threatened with arrest.
And then we resumed the oblivious off-line life.
@BaghwanB’s reply turned out to be a good thing, because the arrest report was serious and being made by others as well (fortunately, unbeknownst to us, the lack of arrests correction was intercepted by others and also got around quickly). We are terribly sorry we were clueless and out of touch when people were being kind enough to worry about us!
What was left of the protest carried on, and we wasted a lot of time talking to the Sun-Phantom livestream. I’d even brought drone sounds from the most recent siege on Gaza to play for it! *sigh* I was looking forward to playing those, because I immersed myself in dronestream (+ news) for the entire siege. If you haven’t tried this... believe me, it’s no fun (and you should try it, if you have any doubts about whether you want drones constantly circling above you). Dronestream immersion made me extremely edgy, jumpy, and crabby.
Clearly it wasn’t jack to me, though, in that I was living a life of luxury compared to people who are already forced to live in that horrifying drone reality, but I wanted to share the feeling with others even if only to a yet lesser extent. Help spread at least a little understanding of what it’s like.
As many of you already know, we learned after the protest that an amazing(ly boring) 27 second garbled video made it on ustream via Sun-Phantom.
Geeze, we’d even rolled the livestream down the chalk line to make sure it was on video... and therefore it was in the right spot to catch all of the intimidating cop antics as well.
My biggest gripe is that I wasn’t bothering much with video, or even enough with photos, because I thought it was all covered. To think of all of the time I could’ve spent making videos or making a spectacle, instead of sitting behind the scenes fiddling with drone mp3s or waving a Global Equality handbill in front of a malfunctioning livestream or whatever...
As we wrapped up I took photos of all of the chalk, without people standing on it and signs falling over on it, and I recorded frivolous videos of AC Sailing and Little Fyodor waving the Cnidarian World Flag. I’m glad I have those, I only regret not having a lot more.
After we’d transported most of the props to the car, and our last group of 5 friends had just departed (which left us with us with a motley crew of 6), we were about to depart... At that point, a carload of people dropped by and mentioned that they’d been at Civic Center Square protesting after seeing on Facebook that we’d had police trouble. We were a little confused, but protesting anywhere is good so we all said solidarity to each other. We aren’t on Facebook (and, personally, I hate Facebook too much to change my lack of being there status). I believe one person from our protest is going to see if any responses are required (I’ve heard it was reported on FB that no one was arrested).
I wonder if this page is now owned by Facebook because I mentioned it by name here.
It was after we left, and were desperately chugging iced tea to recover from heatstroke (my other complaint: good Jellies it was HOT and we all got sunburns), that @BaghwanB took a peek at #CnidariansAgainstDrones on Twitter and realised there’d been a lot of concern and Occupy Denver had been nice enough to shout out for people to help us. Much appreciated!
Heck, I wouldn’t have minded seeing carloads of FTPers roll in to chalk the rest of the Capitol. A cop yelling “You can’t just go chalking anywhere you want!” when people had chalked all of one sidewalk by the street, is one of the sound bytes that keeps echoing in my head. And, frankly, I find it irritating.
Instead we basically just got very acerbic. Made a lot of jokes about the whole thing, and had a lot of laughs. There was much mockery of “Who did this?!” with replies of “It was the baby!”, “It was the guy in the wheelchair!” (Sun-Phantom was in my wheelchair due to an oxygen tank situation), etc. One of my favourite quips: Dr. Inconvenience saying “We’re rebels! Maybe we should be really bad and open a lemonade stand next!”.
Yeah, we were giggling obliviously while people online probably thought our skulls were being cracked in with batons and tear gas cannisters and we were all being hauled off in paddy wagons... because, you know, that’s the way D6 police love to do it. Sadly I must make the embarrassing confession that we were a small group and thus chose the route of obediently agreeing to commit no more such flagrant acts of terrorism, at that particular location and event, as wielding dangerous washable sidewalk chalk. But, who knows, maybe if someone had accidentally set one foot in a gutter, instead of remaining on the sidewalk, heads would’ve been rolling.
All in all, a nice little event. More signs and music would’ve been wonderful. Less police interference would’ve been exceptionally pleasant. Many cars honked in support as they passed by and, rather amazingly, I didn’t note a single incident of people flipping us off or yelling at us to get jobs. That’s almost surreal!
I’m looking forward to the next Cnidarian Protest, though I’m not yet certain which one it will be (many are in mind, Cnidarian Entropy dictates what happens when). If it’s Cnidarians Against Scientology, you can rest assured that we’ll work in Denver Police Chief White allowing himself to be scripted by Scientologists. And we won’t mind in the least if Mysterious Masked Chalkers feel like conducting an elaborate chalkupy around us. People who Fear Chalk can always stand a safe distance away from it!
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