Protest the Republican National
August 29, 2004
*Focus: Saying No to the Bush Agenda and attempting to give a wake up call
to all the haters --- Republican and Democrat --- in the electoral system
*Song: “Hey Ya” by Outkast
*Outfits: Pink A-Line Skirts and Pink Bloque “Dancing in Dissent”
T-Shirts, pink newsboy caps to keep out the sun, and shades to keep out
the surveillance cameras.
*Action: Marched and danced with about a
half-million of our peeps at the United for Peace and Justice march on
29 August 2004. Then we represented at the Still We Rise March on 30 August
In August 2004, the Pink Bloque headed to NYC to protest the Republican
National Convention [RNC]. We debated about whether we thought going to
the Republican National Convention would be sending the message that electoral
politics was our focus. We did not want to do an “Anti Bush”
action because we know that the wackness of the world was built by a coalition
of Republicans, Democrats, capitalists, sexist, and racist haters; so
acting like getting Bush out of office was going to end the war, end poverty,
give people health care and dignity was not something we were prepared
to do. However, we felt that of the myriad of jerks making the world a
hard place to live that George Bush Jr. was especially egregious when
it came to destroying women’s reproductive health, education, civil
liberties, and not to mention the horrific wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ultimately, we knew that the RNC protest was going to be historic –
no matter who won the election. Going to New York was also going to be
an exciting reunion that brought together many remote members of the Pink
Bloque who had moved east for school, so it was going to be historic for
After doing the “Hey Ya” dance so much at the 20 March 2004
protest against the war and the March for Women’s Lives; we felt
we could do it in our sleep [or nightmares depending on which Bloquer
you ask], so we did not have as many scheduled dance practices as usual.
Without body rolls to perfect, we had plenty of time to research the statements
the New York City law enforcement officials and the radical community
alike were issuing about the police’s willingness to crack down
on protesters that disrupted the convention. In light of the police brutality
at the anti-FTAA meeting protests in Miami in 2003 and the persecution
of protesters against the RNC in Philadelphia in 2000, we had no reason
to think the cops were joking. We learned about New York’s “No
Amplified Sound” laws, as well as the laws around not wearing masks
in public or convening on the street for any amount of time. While we
did not intend to wear masks, we were concerned about our identities being
catalogued by the Department of Homeland Security. Moreover, we were really
concerned about the prohibition on amplified sound. We had just acquired
some sweet loud sleek tiny can amps and really, what was the Pink Bloque
without our sounds? We did not want our bodies or our amps to be confiscated
and absorbed into the homeland security industrial complex. We were scared!
But, we were more afraid of not doing anything.
The United for Peace and Justice march ended up being un-permitted, after
much public struggle with the city of New York for permission to march
in front of Madison Square Garden. Despite the up-to-the-last-minute route
revisions and tenuous safety of the march, over 500,000 people marched
against the Republican National Convention on 29 August 2005. This was
the largest demonstration against a political party’s national convention
EVER and the Pink Bloque was a part of it.
Decked out in our jaunty pink page-boy caps and stylish a-line skirts,
we kicked it with Code Pink’s feeder march at the beginning of the
march. The many standstills the march took gave us many opportunities
to “shake it like a Polaroid picture”. The march was long,
and did eventually stop in front of Madison Square Garden, though no one
spotted George Bush peeking his head out to see what the commotion was.
For hours we marched, stopped, debated about how loud to turn up our sound,
danced and marched again. We repeated this ritual over and over until
we realized that our paranoia about getting arrested or our stuff taken
was preventing us from doing what we went there to do, shake up [and off]
At the end of the march route, we decided to go full blast with our amps
and our routine. We turned the amps up loud enough to drown out megaphones
imploring people to get off the street and we “Hey Ya’ed”
our butts off! We were even joined by some of our old friends, dance partners
from back in the day, family members, and some boosters we picked up along
the way. As the last few bars of “Hey Ya” echoed like the
sound of direct democracy at work, we felt the love of the crowd; then
we felt the long arm of the law reaching down and trying to turn off our
sounds. In a scene reminiscent of “Footloose”, four cops descended
on us and told us to move on, as there was not going to be any dancing
on their watch. We begrudgingly wound down our dance to the sound of hundreds
of protesters booing the cops. Exhausted, we found the nearest mid-priced
family diner and sat a spell. We contemplated the heat, the state of a
country where such a massive demonstration could still end up not shutting
down the convention, and what we wanted to order for lunch. When we got
our bearings and settled the check, members of the Pink Bloque began to
disperse to get some much-needed rest after a hard day. Others of us meandered
back to Union Square to watch the rest of the march roll in [as it still
was two hours later!]. Amid the t-shirt vendors and tired demonstrators
splayed on the grass and the concrete we spotted [or were spotted by]
Traxx, a Pink Bloque inspired dance troupe from New York. There were high
pitched squeals of “Ohmigosh! You’re Traxx / You’re
The Pink Bloque!!! It is so great to meet you!!!” They were dressed
in cute green and yellow outfits and showed us their routine to Britney
Spears’s “Toxic”. We gathered ourselves and despite
our exhaustion pulled off another flawless “Hey Ya” routine.
This time the Traxx joined us and reminded us of the joy and community
we were hoping to foment with street dance parties.
We were unaware that our actions at the demonstrations against the RNC would
be the last time the Pink Bloque would ever bust a political movement. In light
of that, it seems appropriate that our last dances were with other like-minded
ladies ready to make protesting fun and engaging in their own way and in the
spirit of the Bloque. The RNC gave us much to think about in terms of our own
efficacy, our love of the tactic, and the limit thereof. [The RNC even gave
one Pink Bloquer a chance to hang out with Andre 3000 himself!] Ultimately,
it gave us a high note to go out on. We can look at this massive mobilization
and find ourselves, a bloc of hot pink, in the tapestry of protest history.
~ Rachel Caidor
for Women's Lives
Washington D.C., April 25, 2004
*Focus: Saying no to the anti-woman agenda. Saying
yes to access to reproductive healthcare and choices for all women.
*Song: “Hey Ya” by Outkast
*Outfits: Handmade A-Line Skirts; Individually
Reconstructed Pink Shirts; Pink Accessories (including shoes, leg warmers,
arm cuffs and earrings).
*Action:This action constituted the culmination
of months of Pink Bloque organizing. This was a change in direction for
us – a national protest of immense scale. We repeatedly rehashed
the logistics; we threw dance party fundraisers; we choreographed the
hell out of the dance, incorporating old moves and biting off new ones
from Andre 2000’s SNL appearance; we practiced and practiced and
practiced. We were determined to make a more imposing pink spectacle and
so tried to recruit others to join us at this protest. We made alliances
with community groups, emailed widely, and posted the event on www.indymedia.org.
We even made a tutorial dance video and put it on our web site, so that
anyone could learn the chorus in the comfort of their own home and meet
us in D.C. to brush up on the dance in front of the Washington Monument.
The purpose of this extensive coordination and the reason we chose the March
for Women’s Lives as a significant long-term Pink Bloque goal was to diversify
and complicate the mainstream pro-choice agenda. We felt it did not include
the voices and interests of all women: it focused too much on the issue of abortion
and not enough on the issues of access to healthy birth control, affordable
healthcare, global reproductive rights issues, sterilization and the harmful
effects of Depo-Provera and other birth control targeted mostly at poor women
of color. We attempted to add this voice to the dialogue at the march through
conversations, flyers and our sassy pink presence.
The intersection of national and international social concerns is never far
off. There was an anti-IMF rally the day before the March for Women’s
Lives. Several members of the Pink Bloque attended and then joined the rest
of the group at a pre- march event in DuPont Circle sponsored by Planned Parenthood.
We taught the dance on the grass to a range of people, including a group of
cute older women from Texas and a seven-year-old girl. Posed photographs were
taken and a lot of people wanted to support us and buy Pink Bloque t-shirts.
This contributed to the hyper-consumption which characterized much of the weekend’s
events; somehow a mass protest became grounds for a mass market and those involved
readily mistook wearing the same pro-choice themed thongs for unity of purpose.
Another downer was the creepy anti-abortion bus with giant photo-shopped images
of bloody “fetus” chunks which kept circling the event.
On the day of the March for Women’s Lives, despite the dreary weather,
the streets were flooded with people heading toward the protest. There
was electricity in the air and we couldn't wait to start dancing! With
rhythm in our step, we played tunes all the way to the Washington Mall.
An especially awe-inspiring moment occurred as we wheeled our powerful
double amp system past a gathering of anti-choicers while it blared “Baby
Got Back”; they could not help but turn their heads. Our destination
and meeting point was right in front of the Washington Monument, behind
the main rally in an open grassy area. The phallus-shaped edifice served
as a beacon to all who wanted to overthrow the white supremacist capitalist
patriarchy – and many people came. Some actually practiced the dance
on the web site and showed up to practice with us. Others learned on the
Once again, the anti-choicers tried to ruin the day by shoving their graphic
posters in everyone’s faces. The signs were like the ones we would
see all weekend, computer-enhanced images of supposed aborted fetuses
(one unaborted fetus was even playing electric guitar!). We decided the
best thing to do would be to draw attention away from them by creating
a counter-spectacle. Though we were a bit intimidated by the situation,
we took a risk and blasted our music, launching into our dance routine
just across from them. The crowd loved it, and it seemed as though we
had relieved some of the tension the anti-choicers had brought to the
situation. Angry that we had stolen the spotlight, some men started walking
in between us with their signs as we did our dance routine. We knew it
was important to remain non-violent and deescalate the situation. Even
though these men were obviously confronting us, it was more obvious that
they could not dance. We therefore remained true to our tactic and danced
them off our space. People from the crowd joined in to help us give them
the message that they couldn't’t control our bodies – not
at the march that day, or ever. Shows you what some dance moves and a
couple of well pointed shouts will get ya! If only more problems could
be solved with dance-offs instead of violence.
All that dancing left us wiped out, but we walked away feeling inspired and
motivated. The number of people representing for reproductive rights was extraordinary.
Many accounts stated that 1 million people attended the march - the largest
march on Washington in recorded history. Seeing so many people gathered in the
name of reproductive freedom was an indescribable feeling. There were certainly
things about the march that we took issue with. Although we could see how it
makes a startling visual spectacle, we found the amount of signs printed by
Planned Parenthood and other Pro-choice organizations somewhat excessive. The
signs seemed to follow the logic of reduplication rather than innovation. Because
every other person was carrying the same sign, alternative perspectives were
easily obscured. We were forced to confront the fact that there might be a trade-off
for the high visibility of massive protests. With all the merchandise being
sold and the advertisements sprawling across anything and everything (even what
was called “free”), we sometimes felt like we were at the Las Vegas
of protests. At the same time, we need multiple tactics and continued opposition
to the anti-woman agenda.
During the march itself we walked, we danced, we walked, and we danced. Whenever
we stopped, a crowd would gather and get really into it. It was one of the only
actions in which people were not timid about indulging the spontaneous dance
party. We met lots of new dance partners and supporters. There were a few haters,
mostly those who preferred their old chants to contemporary hip-hop (they obviously
did not pay attention to Sir Mixalot’s disdain for Cosmo’s stereotypes
or Outkast’s cry, “’Cuz you know we’re not happy here”).
Overall people seemed glad to have some music to pump them up while they marched
the long route, which was heavily flanked by anti-choice demonstrators.
~ Natalie Chap and Lauren Cumbia
World Still Says No to War:
March 20, 2004, Water
Tower Place to Federal Plaza, Chicago, IL
*Focus: Stop the war on Iraq
*Song: Hey Ya! by Outkast
*Banner: No banner – we got tired of our
*Outfits: Home made pink skirts, “2 Cute,
2 B Arrested” patches
*Action: On the one year anniversary of the start
of the US led war on
Iraq and the protest of that war, mid-western activists came together
again to say to the war.
It was a sunny day under not such sunny US foreign policy. It is a year later
and the US military is still in Iraq with death tolls mounting and the world
still saying NO to this war. We gathered at Water Tower Place in Chicago’s
upscale shopping district, hoping to reach the tourist and shoppers from Crate
and Barrel to Armani. The planned march route up Michigan Avenue was not permitted
by the city. There was a debate going on between the march organizers, Aaron
Patterson on one side and Jesse Jackson on the other – Patterson was trying
to get us to defy the police and take Michigan Ave, while Jackson was negotiating
with police so that we would not inconvenience shoppers. Jackson and the police
ended up taking us off of Michigan Ave and out of site of a large audience.
The cops were fully geared in their turtle suits creating a wall of stone
faced hateration. Plastic cuffs and excrement were in abundance on the
march route. Nonetheless, among the protesters, there was a positive vibe
to the day. The All American Anti-war marching band was out in full force
dressed up as flowers; the punk rockers were break dancing to the Pink
Bloque tunes; and the Pink Bloque didn't’t even have to call out
the counts to get us in unison! Even with all the work we put into this
demo, another protestor asked us if we were even there to protest (Did
they think we had come to shop?!) and later asked us to turn down our
music cause they couldn't hear the speechifying (which they couldn’t
hear anyway due to a poor sound system).
The end of the march was in the classic Chicago rally spot – Federal
Plaza – where we kissed babies and then headed to a mid-priced chain
restaurant once again.
~ Dara Greenwald
Park Anti Rape Anti Racism Forum
November 7, 2003 Chicago,
*Focus: The intersection of racism and how we understand
*Song: No song
*Banner: Rape: Not In Our ‘Hood, Not in Any
*Outfits: Pink Bottoms and a Pink Bloque Top
*Action: We facilitated midnight discussion about
a rash of sexual assaults in the Wicker Park Area and how media responses to
it were racist.
It was a dark and stormy night…
Well, actually, it was a drizzly November evening when the Pink Bloque
all met at a Bloquer’s house in Chicago’s Wicker Park. We
had our usual meeting complete with check-ins and jokes and action debriefs
and future planning and talking about gossip and outfits. As the meeting
was wrapping up, some of us expressed anxiety around walking home alone
at night. The gentrified Wicker Park area had recently been in the news,
not for the outrageously dressed hipsters or horribly overpriced canned
beer bars, but for a much publicized rash of stranger rapes. Women were
being attacked on the street while walking alone at night, taken into
alleys, beaten and raped. Understandably, everyone was on edge –
and Pink Bloquers were no exception.
But what to do? Someone suggested we stage a Take Back the Night [TBTN]
march and rally. TBTNs took off across the US during the 1970s on college
campuses where feminists wanted to call attention to the crime of rape
and the fears women had of walking around alone at night and being raped.
We began to dissect this idea of TBTNs. We discussed how TBTNs accessed
some very problematic myths about sexual assault. They promote the notion
that most rapes happen to women who are walking alone at night. In fact,
in most sexual assaults the victim knows her/ his attacker. The rapes
in Wicker Park were getting a lot of publicity because of the demographic
of the perpetrators and the victims. The victims were mostly white women
in a gentrified area of town and the perps were men of color. This played
right into the old-school [takin’ it back to the reconstruction,
baby!] myth of the black male rapist. This myth, which purported that
all black men had on their minds was raping white women, was used as an
excuse for thousands of lynchings of men of color in the US over the past
hundred or so years, and has filtered through to our popular consciousness
today. This was intense. Talking about the intersections of rape and race
got us worked into a tizzy. How could we bring attention to the very real
crime of sexual assault while exposing the racist bent of popular discourse
around this particular rash of rapes? How could we do an action that was
fun and engaging around a topic that renders even the best of our friends
and neighbors silent?
We say the Pink Bloque is about dancing and dialogue in the streets; but
this time we wanted to the dialogue to be in the forefront, so we set
up at an art space in the heart of Wicker Park and put the word out to
all our homies. We elicited the help of Coya Paz and Aarati Kasturirangan,
two seasoned anti rape and anti racism activists, to break down the rape
– race nexus in an effective way. We decided we would have a dialogue
about rape and race and then break into street teams to hand out flyers
as people left the bars. The flyers would not only be about rape [in that
we wanted to give the real deal about who rapes whom and where to squash
the hysteria] but also about how men of color get targeted in our society.
That was pretty ambitious, especially since we planned it for the weekend
right after that meeting.
At midnight on 7 November, the venue was packed to the gills. In true
Pink Bloque style, we asked people to introduce themselves and why they
came. One after the other, people said, “Hey, I’m so-and-so
and I’m here to support the Pink Bloque.” It was awesome,
until the twentieth person said that and we felt the reality of how difficult
it is to facilitate an open and thorough discussion about rape and racism.
Coya and Aarati really broke down the history of the Black Male Rapist
and even tied it to how hipsters in gentrifying areas benefit from the
circulation of that stereotype. When it came time for discussion, there
were some awkward silences that even Ludacris could not fill. Conversation
ebbed and flowed, but never really got rolling. We hit the streets with
many of the crew that filled the room. We had flyers to pass out not only
about the rapes, but also about racism. We were met with the usual range
of reactions: amusement, dismay, interest, and even some hostility. We
carted around the sound system, had some fun sidewalk dance parties and
by 3am we went our separate ways.
Like the issues themselves, our response to the workshop was complicated.
We knew we did not feel good about the action and we articulated this
discomfort in various ways. We questioned our audience and our own capacity
for facilitating serious and in-depth discussions. Some of us were frustrated
with the inability to move beyond rape 101, while others of us were unhappy
because the goals of the action were unclear, and yet others felt disappointed
because we did not take more control of the event. We reflected on the
difficulties in terms of logistics [i.e. “Maybe we should have led
the discussion rather than getting guests.”], subject matter [i.e.
“It was just ambitious to get so deep about something in one night.”],
the limits of our tactics [i.e. “Maybe the Pink Bloque, while comprehensively
awesome, are not crossover artists].
It was apparent that it is difficult to have a deliberate open conversation
about rape and racism. What does it reveal about us [as people, humans,
lovers, haters] that two very fundamental and pervasive traumas such as
racism and sexual assault are not as readily discussed as more intangible
topics such as the USA PATRIOT Act? Things that make you go “Hmmmmm….”!
Is all of this too overwhelming? Too underwhelming? You want some more information,
explanation, observation and maybe even some hateration? Check out these resources:
Read: Angela Davis - Women, Race, and Class
Dr. Davis breaks it down about the myth of the black male rapist.
Maria Bevaqua – Rape on the Public Agenda: Feminism and the Politics
of Sexual Assault
Maria Bevaqua outlines the intersections between the anti-lynching movement
and anti-rape movements and how race got erased from mainstream feminist analyses
and articulations about sexual assault.
Ann Russo - Taking Back Our Lives: A Call to Action for the Feminist Movement
Ann Russo unpacks the racist history of Take Back the Night Marches as well
as really gets to the nitty gritty of what it means to be a white anti racist
If you or someone you know
has been raped:
Call: The Rape Abuse Incest National Network
1-800-656-HOPE [1-800-656-4673] or visit www.rainn.org
Say what you will about Tori Amos, she ponied up the cash so that men, women,
and everyone in between can find somewhere to heal from sexual trauma. It does
not matter when it happened, or who believes you, or if you reported it –
what matters is that you heal.
Know the facts: Most people are raped by someone they know. This makes the ordeal
of being assaulted even more confusing where there is major trust issues broken.
Get the facts at www.icasa.org or just call RAINN and your friendly neighborhood
rape crisis counselor will let you know the score.
What the heck is that? No one is sexually assaulted in a vacuum. The whole community
gets affected. The whole community has a responsibility to hold perpetrators
accountable, help survivors heal, and rebuild community in a non oppressive
way. Maybe this is what were trying to do that fateful November night. But we
should have checked out more models from:
Incite! Women of Color Against Violence – has done some work around restorative
justice and sexual assault within activist communities. Check ‘em at:
Violence Awareness Month Kick-Off
October 1, 2003
*Song: Sarai "Ladies"
*Outfits: Pink Sweat Suits
*Action: Every year, domestic violence and social
service agencies all over the United States utilize the month of October for
domestic violence awareness in their communities.
In the Pink Bloque’s hometown, the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s
Network, a coalition of more than 100 service providers in the Chicago area
who assist domestic violence victims, organized an awareness event to take place
in Daley plaza on the first of October in 2003. The Pink Bloque, via a few of
their co-workers, was asked to participate in this event. Because several members
of the Pink Bloque currently, or at one time or another, have worked to assist
domestic violence survivors, and of course because we are daters and not haters,
this issue is very close to us, and so we decided to join in the spectacle.
As a group that dances in the street, and causes a bit of a scene, there have
been many times that we’ve been asked to “perform”. Well,
unlike dancing bears, robot men, and circus clowns, perform on cue we do not.
We are not for entertainment purposes only, and the element of surprise is key
to our tactic. Sometimes this is hard for people to understand, but thankfully
after several emails back and forth with a kind representative of the Battered
Women’s Network, we were able to make it very clear that the reason we
weren’t going to use their stage wasn’t because we’re shy.
Pink Bloque members met at Daley Plaza, and after a few performances by local
theater groups, well-informed teenagers, and a few musicians, we began our action.
If you’ve ever been to a domestic violence awareness event, you know that
while the presentation is very informative, it isn’t always cheerful or
cute. So how do you cute up domestic violence awareness? We chose to disseminate
information on healthy relationships, and read the city of Chicago their dating
rights. We managed to talk to a high school class on a field trip, a few dirty
old men, and several energetic women who had definitely had
it with their partners.
~Jane Bryan Ball
(Pittsburgh, PA, Richmond, VA, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia,
PA, New York, NY.)
*Action Focus: Taking our style and message
on the road. Spreading the word that occupation abroad and repression
at home are UNJUSTIFIED!
*Focus: Taking a stand against the US Patriot
Acts, the FCC deregulation of media ownership, and the US Occupation of
*Song: Justin Timberlake’s “Rock
*Banner: Occupation at abroad and repression
at home are UNJUSTIFIED!
*Outfits: Pink muscle shirts, hot pink tank
tops, pink t shirts with black capped sleeves, pink capris pants, black
*Action: After a edu-taining workshop about
pink bloque tactics and a dance lesson, the Pink Bloque and the workshop
participants hit the streets. We danced, tactically flirted, and handed
out flyers about the wackness of the Patriot Acts, the FCC, and the occupation
In June of 2003 the Federal Communications Commission, a non-elected government
agency, voted to relax certain market ownership restrictions in media outlets.
Shortly thereafter, the congressional hearings to discuss these changes began.
The FCC wanted to change the cross ownership restrictions. To state it plainly,
changes to these rules would increase the ability of large media conglomerates
to own multiple television stations in larger markets, media companies would
be able to own up to 3 television stations and 8 radio stations. The FCC also
attempted to lift a ban that prevented companies from owning a newspaper and
television or radio stations in the same market. In larger cities this is bad
enough, but in small towns, new rules would have made it possible for one media
company to own most, or all of the media outlets within that town. This means
that fewer people would be in control of what everyone hears, sees, and reads.
It's as if suddenly your crazy Uncle Bill O'Reilly was your sole information
source.In September of 2003, on the day the new rules were to go into effect
they were blocked by a Federal Appeals court (the stay was sought by the Prometheus
Radio Project a grassroots advocacy group for low power radio stations out of
Philadelphia.) The decision was made despite the lobbying efforts of CBS, NBC,
and FOX, not to overturn the proposed relaxing of regulations. According to
the Democracy Now’s website (www.democracynow.com), over 2 million letters
opposing the new regulations relaxing media ownership restrictions were sent
to the FCC. A hearing on the new rules was set for early February 2004; however,
the passing of the new regulations is still up in the air.
As you learned already in the 4th of July action, the Patriot Act sequel was
about to go into effect and the war in Iraq was still raging, despite Bush’s
declaration on May 2nd 2003: “Mission Accomplished”. In June of
2003 U.S. military ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in cities
across Iraq, hand picked mayors and administrators (many of whom were former
Iraqi military leaders) were appointed. Bush’s approval ratings began
to drop, and in July of 2003 combat deaths equaled the same as in the first
Gulf War. So with the war raging, media companies merging, and the Patriot Act
surveiling, we felt that the wack quotient had risen to dangerously high levels.
This was an excellent time for us to be on tour. In our workshops we connected
all these issues under the theme of occupation: military occupation of other
countries; corporate occupation of public discourse; government occupation of
our private lives through the Patriot Act.
We started out the tour in Pittsburgh, PA. Despite being in the town where Flashdance
was filmed and despite having the opportunity to dance in front of the Pittsburgh
Museum of Art just like Jennifer Beals, our first workshop was er...not that
compelling, to say the least. Our presentation skills were tired and group energy
was low. This began our tour long struggle with edutainment, as in how much
“edu” there should be in our “tainment”. On one hand,
we weren’t there to just dance around, make jokes and look cute (although
we did), and on the other we weren’t preparing them for their master’s
thesis (although we could). We were there to inspire creative resistance. So
how do you cute up repression and occupation? We tried to figure this out over
delicious Vietnamese food and came up with a sleeker, more satisfying version
of our workshop for Richmond; in other words, it tasted great, but it was less
filling. Richmond was fun, but some of us left feeling that our content was
too watered down. This continued the tour long ritual of processing and recomposing
after each workshop (and the Bloque loves a process).
Each workshop was completed with dancing in the streets. On the streets of Richmond,
an angry sailor approached us to challenge our use of the word “occupation”
on our banner. “It’s not an occupation!” he insisted, “We
liberated those people.” With workshop participants in tow, we figured
it was a bad time to turn tail and run, so instead we employed some c-level
tactical flirting that seemed to get us off the hook and put President Bush
on it. By the end of the discussion the sailor had apologized for yelling at
us and told us that he appreciated what we were doing and that even though officially
he had to agree with Bush’s policies, off the record he would not be voting
for him in 2004.
In D.C. we played to a packed house, which may or may not have included an undercover
government agent (depending on the paranoia level of the Pink Bloquer you ask).
We had an excellent workshop, got to teach the dance in a public square, and
freaked a surveillance truck during the street action. The tour continued to
Baltimore, Philly and New York. Our last street action was shut down by the
cops, but the cops couldn’t shut down the network of creative activism
that was thriving at this time.
~Jane Bryan Ball
Patriot Act II: Summer of Sequels
July 4, 2003, Taste of Chicago
*Focus: The “new and improved” Patriot Act II
*Song: Gossip Folks, by Missy Elliott
*Banner:“Those who give up freedom for security deserve neither freedom
nor security,” Ben Franklin
*Outfits:Hot pink capris and pink t-shirts
*Action: Roamed the Taste of Chicago to dance and raise awareness of the Patriot
The Pink Bloque returned to the Taste of Chicago on 4th of July weekend 2003
for another round of protesting the unjust Patriot Act, this time in its second
incarnation as “The Domestic Security Enhancement Act.” The Act,
with more than 100 new provisions, would grant the government such unjust rights
as: access to your phone conversations, e-mails and other communications for
15 days without a warrant; permission to track books and periodicals checked
out from the library, as well as your credit card purchases and the ability
to use them against you if the government decides your interests are suspicious;
the right to search your home, office, car and even your underwear drawers;
the right to detain, try, and deport non-citizens without due process or even
substantial criminal charges; the ability to deny your right to get the scoop
on detainees via the Freedom of Information Act; and the right to further search,
seizure and surveillance—just to name a few. Since it was blaringly obvious
that together these provisions violated the rights of citizens and non-citizens
alike, instead of the act being passed in its entirety the provisions got sneakily
tacked onto other bills.
The Bloque took its cue from the glut of movie sequels out that summer, incorporating
the Matrix II and X-Men United into our flyers. The Patriot Act was back and
it was bigger and badder than ever. Roaming the festival in hot-pink capris
and tank tops, we set out to fill the snacking masses at the ToC in on our interpretation
of the word “patriot.” We danced to Missy Elliott’s “Gossip
Folks” and carried a banner that said: “Those who give up freedom
for security deserve neither freedom nor security,” using the words of
Ben Franklin to access a familiar authority figure to make the message easier
for people to digest. We handed out flyers informing passersby of the ways in
which the Patriot Act II was violating their rights every day (in case they
forgot), and how the new additions to the Act further put at risk civil liberties
in this country. We felt that Missy had it right with such lyrics as “I’m
a bad mamajama goddammit motherfucker you ain’t gotta like me,”
and “Need to talk what you know,” clearly outlining the fact that
surveilling your neighbors behind their backs is just plain gauche. After all,
lyrics like “Step to me get burnt like toast!” could easily be interpreted
by “Big Brother” as a terrorist threat. Dancing at the Taste of
Chicago on Independence Day was a no-brainer, important both because of the
holiday celebrating the “land of the free” and access to a broad
variety of Polish sausages-toting attendees with sequined American flags across
Security was tighter at the Taste this year, and the haters were determined
to shut us down. Nonetheless, we squeezed in three dances before a Mountie asked
us to move into a performer-only area. We evaded him and his steed long enough
to relocate and do the dance again. When approached by security in the midst
of our next attempt, we did not stop the dance and quickly employed tactical
flirting—“Wait, are you saying that we’re not even supposed
to be here?” As the Pink Bloque continued the booty shake, and the guard
watched disapprovingly with arms crossed, the tactical flirt continued. “Permit,
you say? How does one obtain one of these so-called permits?” It worked.
The guard in the bright yellow ToC-issued uniform was stymied by our polite
questions and gyrating asses. We finished the dance, got flyers into the outstretched
hands of the crowd that had congregated and fled with our hot-pink banner trailing
behind us. We made it as far as across the street where we encountered a picket
line in front of the Congress Hotel comprised of service employees fighting
for better wages and benefits from. One of the Union organisers asked us to
dance with the picketers to get attention for the strike and lift the spirit
of the protesters. We busted out the dance several more times for the enthusiastic
strikers. It was by far the most exciting action of the day.
Later, as we sipped milkshakes next to a table full of cops at mid-priced family
restaurant in downtown Chicago, one Bloque member was slyly passed a note by
a lunching police officer. “I’m not some psycho cop, and I do not
believe in the Patriot Act, either. Do you want to have coffee sometime?”
Just goes to show that you never really know who’s watching!
~Anne Dienthal and Kate Dougherty
Day Against the War
February 15, 2003
*Focus: Stop the war on Iraq
*Song: Family Affair, by Mary J. Blige
*Banner: “Don’t Need No Hateration,
Registration, in this Dance for Me”
*Outfits: Pink sweat suits, “Drop Beatz,
Not Bombz” patches
*Action: Following a day of passing out “Valentines”
inviting the public to the organized anti-war protest in Chicago’s Pakistani
community, the Bloque danced, the crowd marched, and our Anti-War Dance Mix
played on from the inside of the suitcase we towed along beside us.
In the space we have here, we can hardly begin to describe the wackness that
has characterized US Foreign policy in general and towards Iraq in particular.
The level of inanity and misinformation that brought support for this war and
the suffering it has wrought cannot be overstated. Dozens of books and films
are out there (i.e. The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied
Iraq by Christian Parenti,
Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You by Norman Solomon,
Reese Erlich, Howard Zinn (Introduction), Sean Penn,
Uncovered: The War on Iraq, Control Room).
The Bush team had many convinced that Iraq posed an immediate threat to us through
their developments of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” which were never
found and made an untrue link that Saddam Hussein was connected to Al Queda
and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in NY. Now Saddam Hussein
was a totalitarian dick but he learned his dickish ways through the help of
USA CIA education. Geez – this is a sick cycle, isn’t it? Besides,
there are other repressive regimes in the world and the US government was not
drumming up support to invade them. This begs the question as to why so many
Americans believed invading Iraq was such a good idea.
There were numerous protests leading up to the day when war was declared but
the largest mobilization happened on February 15, 2003.
World wide this was the largest protest against a war in history and how did
the US President respond? He said, “I don’t listen to focus groups.”
On Valentine’s Day, we went into downtown Chicago (we love a lunchtime
action) and handed out heart shaped invitations to join the protest against
war and racism. The Chicago protest was in the Indian and Pakistani neighborhood
on Devon Ave the following day and focused on the INS’s policy that had
been initiated on September 11, 2002 called the National Security Entry/Exit
Registration System (NSEERS) which required all male nonimmigrant over the age
of 16 from designated countries to report to the INS to be questioned, fingerprinted,
and photographed. The first 20 countries designated for this policy were Arab
or Muslim (except North Korea) and led to many unnecessary detainments. In December
of 2003, due in part to public outcry, the INS suspended yearly registration
requirements but before that happened over 82,000 people had registered and
2,870 had been detained as a result and many are now facing deportation. (info
taken from America’s Disappeared, edited by Rachel Meeropol)
Our banner reflected both a cry for peace and against this registration policy
borrowing from Mary J. Blige’s song, Family Affair, and her eloquent use
of the term haters in the line in the song, “We don’t need no haters,
just trying to love one another.” We agreed; we don’t need no hateration,
One of the challenges of this action was the bitter February Chicago weather
but in spite of that we had an amp breakthrough and discovered the 30 V portable
PA which you can read about in this publication. We also discovered that in
picking a song, we needed to be more mindgul about find a song we could listen
to 1 000 times during practice and still want to hear it during an action (this
was not one of those songs). We had another breakthrough in that others joined
in the roving dance party. We also had the most choreographed dance yet and
even yelled the counts aloud in order to stay on the beat – in spite of
Michael Jackson’s claim that when you dance from the heart then you don’t
need to count.
On March 20, the bombs starting dropping on Baghdad. Members of the Pink Bloque
joined more than 10,000 people who flooded the streets of Chicago in protesting
the war on Iraq. In that awful moment, we did not feel like it was the right
time for a party – nor did we feel much like dancing; so we left the sound
systems at home that night.Some members of the Bloque joined with other affinity
groups and some dressed up in yuppie-flage. The police were unprepared when
we all took Lake Shore Drive in rush hour and many cars stuck inside the protest
turned off their engines and cheered us on in solidarity and against the war
(of course others gave us the finger). After exiting Lake Shore Drive, the cops
encircled and detained many citizens in the march, arresting over 600 people.
A few members of the Pink Bloque found an abandoned anarchist banner held up
with wooden sticks and picked it up to return it to the group that presumably
was being detained by the pigs. An older woman passing by said to us, “Don’t
put that through a window.”
If you don’t already suffer from what the Onion coined “Outrage
Fatigue”, check out these websites:
Electronic Iraq www.electroniciraq.org
General Anti-war Activism
November 8, 2002
*Focus: The secrecy of the nasty boys of TABD
*Song: Nasty Boys, by Janet Jackson
*Banner: “Hey Nasty Boys of the TABD: What
Have You Done for Us Lately?”
*Outfits: Pink sweat suits, “2 Cute 2 B Arrested”
*Action: Represented at organized protest in front
of downtown Boeing Inc. headquarters to dance and flyer public with facts about
Boeing practices and the covert goings-on of the TABD
The Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), which had its iniquitous inception
in 1995, is a small group of some 100 powerful EU and U.S.
CEOs with unequaled and inequitable access to top government officials from
the U.S. Administration and EU Commission. TABD policies influence EU and U.S.
agenda and help set the program for the WTO. Their semiannual "dialogue"
with public officials is closed to the public -
even as it seeks to advance Big Business's control over the public sphere through
zealous and destructively effective advocacy of global
trade liberalization. The leaders of this band of elite multibillion-dollar
corporations (members, ever changing, have included capitalist moguls Citigroup,
The Dow Chemical Company, Merck and Co, Astrazeneca, Time Warner, Visa Int'l,
Deutsche Bank) rotate in hosting this meeting.
During the 2002 protest some very nasty boys led the meeting: Charles Masefield,
of British defense giant BAE Systems, and Boeing Co. Chief
Executive, Phil Condit.
In the weeks leading up to the 2002 meeting, the Chicago media focused not on
TABD’s injurious agenda, but on the protester "threat." Most
articles invoked misguided "facts" and outrageous images from
windows. One Chicago Tribune Redeye headline read: "Our City Will Not Shut
Down: Police Determined to control next week's protests" while the Suntimes
exclaimed "Goon Squad Ready for Protest". The latter title refers
to the 130 "Special Response Team" men chosen to cross police
lines and take on unruly protesters. Each member of the Goon Squad was 6'4"
or taller and was decked out in new riot gear. They and 2000 other policemen
and women were paid $1.56 million in overtime to model these lovely new costumes.
With the fear generated by the police and the media, we met and agreed we were
not going to be scared out of protesting this event. We teamed up with another
group (http://www.counterproductiveindustries.com/) who made “disinvitations”
that highlighted how exclusive the TABD meeting was and handed them out commuters
in the days leading up to the protest.
We decided to find a space for humor in a repressive environment and came up
with the patch “2 cute 2 be arrested” as a direct response to the
media and police hysteria surrounding this protest. For some reason this patch
had sticking power with the press and it is often quoted as our motto when actually
it was a contextual and specific response to this situation. Although we didn’t
choose a current pop hit, we felt that Janet Jackson’s song “Nasty
Boys” had inadvertently been written about the boys of the TABD.
The protest felt small and ridiculously policed which was quite stressful for
us but we danced anyway even when our only audience at times was the cops. The
cops were constantly shooting video of the protestors and flanking the sides
as we marched through downtown so that we were unable to get our message out
to the non-protesting crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle. The people
on the sidelines very much wanted to get our flyers and in some instances when
there was break in the wall of police we were able to get some to the audience.
We tried a new sound system, this time a boom box from Best Buy that we later
returned. It didn’t give us the volume we were looking for but we still
danced and marched through the streets challenging the secrecy of the powerful
who believe in profits over human need.
This action marked the first time we wore outfits we had dyed all the same color
as well as the first time we participated in a media spectacle of this scale.
Our cuteness did not go unnoticed and the theater critic at the Chicago Tribune
gave us a negative review! Although he did say we owed our aesthetic more to
Britney Spears than to the SF Mime Troupe – wow, somehow in our scrappiness
we successfully summoned visions of Brit.
~Amanda Parris and Dara Greenwald
People’s Global Action www.agp.org
Park At Night
September 29, 2002
* Focus: Date Rape
* Song:: Hot in Herre, by Nelly
* Banner: None
*Outfits: Black pants, Pink Bloque T-shirts
with “Can’t Touch This” silkscreen, pink hands on booty
*Action: With five different flyers in hand,
the Bloque called attention to ourselves by dancing in front of popular
Wicker Park intersections and hotspots, and passed out information containing
facts for men and women on the dangers of date rape
The idea of this action was conceived, like most other great ideas, in a bar.
A member of the Pink Bloque had recently attended a workshop on street harassment
at Ladyfest Bay Area and, back in Chicago, an inebriated discussion ensued about
ways to protect oneself against it. Talking about street sexual harassment got
us talking about various other forms of sexual violence against women. We decided
it was a good time for an action.
Flash forward. It was just like any other Saturday night in Wicker Park - except
we didn't go into the bars this time. Instead, we strategically positioned ourselves
at high-traffic intersections and in front of drinking establishments and danced,
danced, danced. We set out at the stroke of midnight clad in tight black pants
and pink baseball tees. On our shirts was written "Can't Touch This";
our asses bore hot-pink felt hands.
Our objective was simple – to inform the intoxicated club-goers and bar-dwellers
of the dangers of date rape. Our flyers dispelled common myths about rape and
set the record straight: Rape occurs most frequently with an acquaintance and
can take place within a relationship; men are also survivors of rape; ways in
which men can be allies to women; and the lowdown on date rape drugs. Each flyer
also suggested ways men and women can protect themselves and provided resources
for finding help. People paid attention. Passersby, both men and women, grabbed
flyers. Cab drivers stopped in traffic to see what we were all about. Crowds
gathered outside and inside, faces pressed to the windows of the bars and eateries.
But it didn't go off without a hitch. When we usurped the valet parking zone
in front of one club, a bouncer told us we had to leave. We had no choice but
to give him a lesson in public space reclamation. [See insert] The biggest showdown
was yet to happen. We turned the corner and headed north, positioning ourselves
across the street from a bar where yuppies go to “slum” by drinking
beer out of cans. The open windows were teeming with men eager to subject our
dance to their objectifying gaze. They catcalled and shouted for us to come
closer – but they weren't too happy when we got there. After they ascertained
the content of the flyers, they crumpled them and booed.
This action epitomised many of the internal complexities of the Pink Bloque
dynamic. During this action, we learned that in a group made of diverse individuals,
every person will have different notions about what public space is, who owns
a valet zone and what makes confrontation with a sexist jerk subversive or not,
what part of using objectification as a tactic is scary and / or effective.
~Anne Dienethal and Amanda Parris
For more information about men who are not jerks check out; www.mencanstoprape.org
For ladies fighting the good fight check out: www.rainn.org
July 4, 2002 at "Taste of Chicago"
* Focus: US Patriot Act
* Song: Hot in Herre, by Nelly
* Banner: “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,
Your Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free, the Wretched Refuse of Your Teeming
Shore. Send these, the Homeless, Tempest-tost to Me.”
* Outfits: Black bottoms, white tank tops with
“Pink Bloque” silkscreen, flyer aprons
* Action: Roamed the ToC to dance and pass out
information on the US Patriot Act, illegal detention of immigrants in the US,
and the crisis of the destruction of public housing in Chicago. Usurped Bally’s
fitness stage to implement Pink Block Roving Dance Party tactic
We decided to use the July 4th holiday, traditionally dedicated to celebrating
our “freedom loving country” (and eating encased meat products),
to strike out on own and give the people some examples of freedom loving such
as the treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and the
Way before the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandals became water cooler fodder,
the Pink Bloque was talking about the treatment of prisoners and detainees at
the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. You see what had happened was, the Bush
administration decided not to classify suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners
held there as POWs, thus denying them any rights they would have been accorded
under the Geneva Convention. This made it much easier for the US Government
to detain and torture anyone they determined was a “freedom hater”.
The PATRIOT act, passed a little over a month after 9/11, included a number
of wack provisions. It expanded terrorism laws to include “domestic terrorism”
which meant that political organizations in the US could be subject to surveillance
and even legal action. It also expanded the definition of “terrorist”
so that pretty much any political advocate that challenged the status quo could
be considered a threat to national security. This meant that any group or person
suspected of being a “terrorist” could be subject to secret searches,
including surveillance of their internet use and library records.
With all this on our minds, we went to the Taste of Chicago dressed in white
shirts with Pink Bloque and shooting stars silk-screened on them and black bottoms.
We didn’t have much of a sound system to speak of, just a rather small,
battery powered boom box. Our banner had a phrase from Emma Lazarus’ famous
poem “The New Colossus.”
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled asses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me”
We thought this phrase, usually trotted out to reinforce the phony idea that
the US is a beacon of hope and freedom to the teeming masses, was significant
because it highlighted the gap between the myth and the reality. The US, in
fact, really didn’t want any huddled masses. (except those masses willing
to work jobs for less than minimum wage). We also wanted to highlight the fact
that many of the provisions contained in the Patriot Act were used to target
immigrants, not “terrorists”. This action, as it was the first time
we ever had any semblance of choreography, was a bit scary for us (for the viewers,
too!). We were going to talk about how fucked up the government was, and all
we had to defend ourselves were poorly choreographed dance moves stolen from
Britney’s “Baby One More Time” video. Because it was the first
time we had tried to do anything in sync (n’sync), learning this short
set of moves took forever. Even after multiple practices, we were woefully out
of step with one another. Our body memory was about as good as Ronald Reagan’s.
But there were civil liberties to fight for, so we swallowed our pride (and
some Tequila Rose), gagged, and went off to the Taste. The reaction was a bit
much at first. No one could figure out what we were and why we were there. We
didn’t dance very well, didn’t match that great, were not asking
for money but rather shoving political material into peoples’ hands. We
were not prepared for the staring and comments, which actually were all friendly,
except for the lady who asked us if feminists were supposed to wear shorts.
It was laughable—people were perplexed—but the adrenaline rush set
in and we quickly set up and danced again in front of Buckingham Fountain.
It was hott, we were really sweaty and had decided to pack it up when we came
along the Bally’s Fitness Stage where the Bally Girls were performing
for the crowd. We stood there for a second, eyeing the stage, when “It
takes 2” by Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock came across the loud speakers. We
glanced around at each other and knew we had to throw down again. So we did.
All that dancing worked up an appetite and thus began our tradition of eating
at mid-priced chain restaurant in the Loop. As we sat there, sweating and eating
our mozzarella baguettes, we giggled and remarked to each other about how shocked
we were we didn’t get our asses kicked.
Because this was our first action where our “vision” sort of came
together, meaning: we used a popular song, we did a choreographed dance, and
we had semi-coordinated outfits, it really felt like a success to us. Unlike
after later actions, we didn’t feel the need to process what happened
and critique ourselves harshly. Much like after the first time you have sex
with that special someone and before you find out they fart in the bed, we just
basked in the afterglow.
Probably the biggest lesson learned was that a battery powered boom box was
NOT gonna cut it (see the sound system section).
We also learned that having people there to help us, watch our purses, hold
the banner, run for alligator on a stick was key.
We also learned that people were not going to necessarily attack us, in fact
we were told that we were “Balls Out.” Because it did go so well,
we were emboldened and determined to go out and try more things.
: Ignore Bryant Gumbel at the top and skip to the convienent timeline that provides
a nice overview of Post 9/11 events, including key legislation.
http://www.cdt.org/security/011031summary.shtml: Center for Democracy and Technology,
two things we love in one convenient website. Beyond just breaking down the
Patriot Act and offering simplified “Bottom Line” descriptions,
it offers resources on issues of civil liberties on the interweb.
http://www.globalissues.org/HumanRights/Media/Corporations/Owners.asp : good
website because it frames media conglomeration as a global issue and examines
how US media conglomeration impacts the entire world. Tons of helpful, well
http://www.theyrule.net according to the website, “They Rule allows you to create
maps of the interlocking directories of the top companies in the US in 2004.”
Nice site where you can choose a company, look at the members of the board of
directors and then see what other boards the members are on. Create your own
map or look at ones others have created, like “I smell no conspiracy.”
http://www.thenation.com/special/bigten.html: fun website that provides easy
to read diagrams of which companies own what media outlets.
May 1, 2002
* Focus: Wage Inequity
She Works Hard for the Money by Donna Summer
* Banner: “US Women Earn 27% to 36%
Less than White Men for the Same Work”
Hot pink Dickies and iron on letters
During downtown lunchtime danced and passed out flyers informing public
of wage disparity amongst various gender and racial groups
May Day is many things to many people --- some people celebrate it as an ushering
in of springtime, but it is also known internationally as a day to recognize
workers and their struggles against oppressive bosses. May Day has special resonance
in Chicago after the events in Haymarket Square in 1886. During that week, tens
and thousands of workers across the US went on strike, took to the streets,
and clamored for more humane working conditions. During a rally in Chicago,
a bomb was thrown and killed a Chicago police officer. The ensuing melee resulted
in several more police being killed and a lot of demonstrators being wounded.
Ultimately, four Chicago – based anarchists were sentenced to death ostensibly
for inciting this riot but actually for rallying the workers against the exploitation
of workers. All over the world people evoke these anarchists as champions for
workers rights – that is everywhere except the US, where May Day is not
recognized by the government and / or businesses.
Because of what happened at Haymarket Square, May Day is usually a big deal
with the radical left in Chicago. People love to break out their favorite olive
drab army jackets, gather downtown and chant “Whose streets, our streets!”
and get their obligatory nod to labor history on. We figured it was the perfect
opportunity to test-drive our hot new tactic. This was the very first Pink Bloque
dance action ever! We wanted to up the cuteness quotient as well as the feminist
content of the usual May Day rhetoric. We decided to focus on wage inequality
we decided to make a flyer about unfair labor practices in the U.S. that gave
women and people of color the shaft when it comes to the paychecks. [Really,
75 cents on the white man’s dollar? Nell Carter would say, “Gimme
a Break!” Also, because we are consumers of cute clothes that are often
constructed in sweatshops we made some flyers highlighting the very uncute conditions
in which they were made.
We all came out during our lunch breaks from our respective day jobs. We went
to city hall, hoping to see a large contingent of puppet-wielding activists;
but when we got there, we were greeted by four anarcho-hippies and two cops.
So we pressed play on the boom box and danced around to “She works hard
for the Money”, much to the amusement of the cops and the anarcho-hippies.
Fueled by the rush of not getting arrested, we moved our act to more heavily
trafficked sidewalks in Chicago’s downtown. Passersby took our flyers,
curious and amused by the pink clad women carrying around a bedsheet with felt
letters on it.
After an hour or so of rewinding “She Works Hard for the Money”
and trying to cram flyers about wage inequality into the hands of overworked
women in pantyhose and sneakers doing errands during lunch, we went back to
our jobs only to find that our paychecks had not been effected by our clamoring
for economic justice. Undaunted, we realised that it only meant that the next
time, we needed to go onto the streets with a louder system, better practiced
moves, and less expectations of a big group to join.
To find out more about the issues we addressed in this action check out:
Haymarket Scrapbook – Published by Charles H. Kerr Press