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No Matter What, We Will Protest

Photographs by Leslie Van Stelten and Cary Conover

As many as 500,000 people are expected to protest at next month's Republican National Convention. Here are some of the people who answered yes to our question "Are you marching?" and explained why.


Name: John Gabriel
Age: 49
[Brooklyn]
Owner of a hair salon

I've never been to a march before—I'm a virgin. I really hold a grudge about how Bush was elected. I feel even more strongly about that than I do about the war in Iraq. They've got the father-son presidents thing down into the history books. Now it's time for him to go.

Name: Michelle Munn
Age: 35
[Connecticut]
Manager

I know that dishonesty isn't a political issue, but Bush is such a liar, his pants are on fire. How can he even sit? Marching peacefully is powerful and necessary, especially in a climate like today's, where people don't regularly exercise their First Amendment rights. Everyone has the right to express themselves. I don't care if you're the KKK. You have the right to your opinion.

Name: Mara Carreiro
Age: 33
[Queens]
Housekeeper

The Republicans have a right to hold a convention, and we have a right to march. When I go, I'll be protesting against the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, and AIDS, among many other issues. There are so many, it's hard to choose one. I'm originally from Brazil, where we have a lot of protests. I've marched for better education and to protest the fact that teachers aren't paid enough.

Name: Andy Phillips
Age: 25
[Brooklyn]
Salon coordinator

Over the past six or seven months, I've felt very helpless. I'm actually planning to move out of the country if Bush is re-elected. For the convention protests, I'm going to get together with some friends, because you have to go to these things with other people.

Name: Patrick Head
Age: 22
[New Jersey]
Wholesaler

I tried to go to the anti-war march, but there were 40 cops on every block, and you couldn't find a way to enter the march. This one is going to be big; that's why I'm looking forward to it. Prior to this, the only time I ever protested was in seventh grade, when they were going to fire the janitor and we all stood up and walked out of the school. They told us to go back inside or we'd all get detention, but they didn't fire the janitor.

Name: Han Phan
Age: 25
[Manhattan]
Student

I've never marched before, except in the school band, where I played the flute. I was at the head of the line. I'm against the current manipulation of the Constitution and building discrimination into it. That's what I'll be protesting, but I think marching's really only effective when it engages people who would normally be apathetic. For the government officials who make the decisions, public protest is meaningless.

Name: Hal Lightstone
Age: 46
[Manhattan]
Unemployed

I'm Canadian, so if I get arrested I become an undesirable alien. I really support the protesters. There is a big asshole—a supreme asshole—in the White House, and I believe he's put the country in great danger. We've now spread ourselves so thin that another attack is imminent. If Bush starts to piss off the North Koreans, I'm moving back to Canada.

Name: Dumgey Mumuni
Age: 44
[Bronx]
Distributes flyers

I'm a Democrat, and I feel it's my obligation to protest, among other things, the economy and the fact that there are no jobs. Years ago, I marched in Ghana in support of the overthrow of Dr. Hilla Limann. The new government did a better job, but I still had to come to the U.S. to support my family. When I got here, Clinton was president, and there were so many jobs. Now it's a disaster.

Name: Joe Origlieri
Age: 19
[New Jersey]
Student

We're planning to march with the Libertarians. To me, it's worth going to the march just to protest the fact that they won't let us protest. And of course, we'll be marching against the war in Iraq. I have a good friend from high school who's now in the army. When you talk to him about the torture at Abu Ghraib, he says, "That's how you get information." He never talked like that before. Marching's crucial. People don't realize how important these issues are.

Name: Lita Hernandez
Age: 32
[Brooklyn]
Fashion stylist  

I'm slightly intimidated by the police, but I'm going. I want to go with friends because at the March anti-war protest, I got separated from my group and didn't like it. I'm 100 percent against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. I hope marching helps. I think it does. I think public opinion makes newspapers like The New York Times report more critically.

Name: Ali Eskandarian
Age: 25
[Manhattan]
Musician

I marched as a child against the Iranian government, and I think motivating the masses is crucial. These warnings about possible violence at the convention are just more public relations. Things are going to happen. I just want to get this bastard out of office.

Name: Jason Ferraro
Age: 23
[Brooklyn]
Delivery person

I've never cared about politics in this way before. This is the election that will determine whether I stay in the U.S. or not. I want to make my final stand against this warmonger. I want to go and get together with other people and feel good about trying to stop him. We're thinking about making effigies of Bush—and Kerry, just to be fair. Ultimately, the Kerry effigy will eat the Bush effigy.

Name: Sonia Rabago
Age: 19
[Brooklyn]
Clerk

We're living in a time when most Americans are brainwashed, so it's important to exercise our First Amendment rights. Last year, I went to the big anti-war march in San Francisco, and we literally shut down the city. Manhattan is physically very narrow, and I'd like to see if we could do the same thing here—very peacefully, with hundreds of thousands of people just standing in the streets, just shut the city down.

Name: Felicia Spano
Age: 18
[Brooklyn]
Student

I'm not much of a protester, but I'll be there. I've only marched once before, and that was across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the gay-marriage ban. That really got to me. Both presidential candidates are bad, and as usual we have no real third-party options. I'm not paying attention to all these scary warnings about the convention protests. You just stay away from the nuts, the extreme political activists who protest everything. You hang around with the people who are knowledgeable.

Name: Wolfy
Age: 34
[Brooklyn]
Owner of a silk-screen company

We're planning some events where the proceeds go toward signs and T-shirts for the convention protests. We were at all the anti-war rallies and marches, and I think it's very important for there to be a physical, rather than a theoretical, protest. The Republicans are shielding themselves from opposition positions, which is why these public displays of dissent are so vital. They're also for people who feel hopeless—and desperate to know they're not alone.

Name: Qwonjit Nelson
Age: 23
[Bronx]
Mother

Bush is full of crap, and he has used his power and his religion to do a lot of very bad things. His kind of Christianity is actually blasphemy. When I was a kid, I marched in D.C. with my grandmother to protest rollbacks of rent control. We have to speak up and to march, although the other side wants us to go away.

Name: Chris Abitbol
Age: 18
[Manhattan]
Student

I used to go to a lot of riots during the Giuliani years, mostly related to police shootings. I was born in France, and I also protested there over the policies of the right-wing candidate Le Pen. I think public protests have an effect on people who are on the fence on certain issues. Watching that many people gather in one place helps open their minds and eyes.

Name: Elizabeth Shanklin
Age: over 21
[Bronx]
Teacher

We have to gather together. The word idiot comes originally from the Greek idios, which means private citizen—if you withdraw into yourself and aren't part of the larger community. Will it change things if we march? Absolutely not, but it's critical that we do something about what's going on. I think our most urgent issue is electoral reform, but most people don't know what that means.

Name: Sam Clark
Age: 49
[Manhattan]
Real estate agent  

I grew up in Michigan, where my father was a union official and a delegate to the Democratic conventions. I went to the March on Washington and have marched in the street many times since then. I think protest is so important. We should have taken to the streets over the Supreme Court decision that determined the 2000 election.

Name: Dave Pawson
Age: 30
[New Jersey]
Owner of a clothing company

Because my girlfriend wants to go and shoot pictures. I've never marched before, but I'm going this time. We're spending millions of tax dollars on a war that's just senseless. Gasoline prices are going up. Bush is on a power trip, and we're totally powerless. He's a jackass who needs a smack in the head.

Name: Lauren Brady
Age: 22
[Manhattan]
Student

I think it's effective to march, but registering more Democrats, and encouraging those who are registered to actually vote, is more important. My issues are the war and the same-sex-marriage ban. And the Patriot Act. I'm also angry about post-9-11 racial profiling of Middle Eastern men. They didn't go after white men after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Name: Michele Odell
Age: 39
[Manhattan]
Writer

How can the government be blaming the CIA for faulty intelligence? Even if it was bad intelligence, Bush has let the genie out of the bottle. The administration didn't prepare at all for post-Saddam Iraq. And then there's Kyoto, and the Geneva Conventions and the International Court. It's very hard not to feel discouraged about what's happening. I'm trying to feel enthusiastic about Kerry. At least he went to Vietnam and fought for his country. For a bunch of draft dodgers to question his patriotism is just too much.

Name: Gypsy
Age: 54
[Manhattan]
Unemployed

I can't vote, but I'm marching. My issue is the Bush economy. I worked for the same company for 30 years. I managed a bunch of buildings until I was laid off in November 2001. I've marched against many things, most recently AIDS. I think big protests work if there are enough people and everyone's peaceful. The greater the numbers, the bigger the impact.

Name: Shirley C.
Age: over 21
[Manhattan]
Retired

Protest is nothing new for me. As an African American person, I've been involved in protests for many years. I went to the March on Washington and heard Malcolm speak. It's our right to protest, and we're right to do it. We the people are supposed to be peacefully in the street.

Name: Bob Smith
Age: 35
[Queens]
Web designer

I usually don't get politically involved, but this is too much. The Bush presidency has been a crime against humanity—and might even spell doom for the country. I'm really scared of his "holy war," his "never-ending war," and his use of God as an excuse to justify doing whatever he wants. I'm going to be taking photographs and shouting my opinions.

Name: Elijah Campbell
Age: 45
[Manhattan]
Engineer

I think marching's very important, and I've done it many times. Speaking, dialoguing on the street, writing. It's all effective, and we have to do it. I'm going to be speaking there as well—if I can get a spot. I want to talk about the 9-11 attack and about how Bush knew it was going to happen.

Name: Ryan Havers
Age: 26
[Brooklyn]
Musician

My girlfriend wants to go, so we're going. I think it's ridiculous that you can get arrested for speaking your mind, so I'll be protesting the very idea of a "free-speech zone." Under the Bush administration, the country's values aren't the ones it was founded on, and I'm also nervous about the reinstatement of the draft.


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