Wednesday, January 14, 2004
The Cut Scene
(It is February 15, 2003 - the day of the mass rally in New York City that attracted over a quarter million people in protest of the imminent war with Iraq. The rally was coordinated with thousands of other protests across the world involving millions of people. The location is a street corner between 60th Street and 3rd Ave. Ten police officers stand behind blue barricades warning 'DO NOT CROSS'. Most of the police officers are talking among themselves. Iron holding pens are lined up in front of the stage to the left of the officers to control the crowd.)
(To the left of the officers is a crowd of at least twenty-five visible people packed to the edge of the curtains. The protestors are multi-ethnic and range from young to old. A few hold radios broadcasting speeches from the rally. Many are recording the scene with camcorders and digital cameras.)
(A mom with a baby carriage - decorated with antiwar stickers - stands near the front of the stage. A group of five young-to-mid teenagers dance and jump around while enthusiastically beating on tom-tom drums, plastic buckets and metal pots. At least six signs held by protestors read 'No Blood For Oil.' A man wearing a George W. Bush mask carries a sign that says 'Empty Warhead' with an arrow pointed down at his head. Three old ladies dressed entirely in pink hold a sign that reads 'Pink Ladies for Peace.' Two women of Middle Eastern descent are dressed in full burqas and veils. An enduring hippie carries a sign declaring 'US Socialists against the War.' A man in his thirties, dressed like an anchorman while wearing a cardboard television set that covers his shoulders and head, renders propagandistic news reports.)
(Though upset that they are being prevented from attending the designated rally area on First Avenue, the crowd, for the most part, is calm and mellow. Most are relieved and overjoyed to see how many other regular people are in agreement.)
(TED WOLF pushes his way, methodically, through the crowd until he reaches the police barricade. He is wearing a blank, blue baseball cap, black Ray-bans, and a press pass dangles around his neck. A small notebook and pen are clutched tight in his fists. Two policemen, both white and young and with dark moustaches, guard the barricade while the remaining officers hang back and shoot the shit.)
TED - How's it going, officers? Can I cut through? I'm press.
(TED flicks his press pass with his pen. POLICEMAN #1 ignores the request while POLICEMAN #2 scowls and turns away.}
TED - Come on, my boss will ream me out unless you let me cross over to report your side of the story.
POLICEMAN #1 - Glad to see that you care. Don't go quoting me, though. My name in the paper won't help me put bread on the dinner table. But some of the other boys love to shoot their mouths off.
(POLICEMAN #1 pulls back the barricade and allows TED to cross through. TED heads off stage right, in search of some colorful quotes from more forthcoming policemen.)
(Seeing an opening, a few people in the crowd attempt to sneak through. But POLICEMAN #2 rams into them with the barricade, using more force than necessary. Some of the other police officers in the background watch the proceedings with amusement, yet make no motions of becoming involved.)
POLICEMAN #1 - Please, people! Listen to me! For your own good, get back!
POLICEMAN #2 - Move back! Everybody better get the fuck back NOW!
(Some of the people near the front take a step back and try to urge the crowd behind them to do the same. PROTESTOR #1 - a young woman with peace marks written in black magic marker on her cheeks - slips through the crowd and approaches the barricades to address POLICEMAN #1.)
PROTESTOR #1 - Let us through, damn it! You cops don't have the right to stop us from getting to the rally!
(PROTESTOR #2 - a young man in his thirties carrying a 'No Blood For Oil' sign - begins an ubiquitous protest chant while cupping his hands over his mouth.)
PROTESTOR #2 - Whose streets?
(Most of the people in the crowd, including PROTESTOR #1, back him up.)
CROWD - Our streets!
PROTESTOR #2 - (louder) Whose streets?
CROWD - (even louder) Our streets!
(POLICEMAN #2 waves his club in the air at the awakening crowd.)
POLICEMAN #1 - Look, lady, it's for your own protection. The city wasn't expecting this many people. You should be thanking us. We're providing public safety.
(POLICEMAN #2 stops taunting the crowd with his nightstick.)
PROTESTOR #2 - Safety for who, all the merchants and storeowners? None of us want your 'neighborly' help.
POLICEMAN #2 - Merchants and storeowners are what make this city. They've earned the right to not have a barrage of punks smashing in windows with bricks and looting!
PROTESTOR #1 - This isn't Seattle with so-called rabble-rousers busing in to wreak havoc. They're busy protesting in their own hometowns. We represent New York City and we have a legal right to get to the court-approved rally site! So step your asses aside and let us through! You're holding up half-a-million people!
POLICEMAN #2 - What did you say? You best apologize to the people who, night and day, risk dying for you. (raises his nightstick at the crowd.) You people should be ashamed of yourselves. Do any of you comprehend the vast amounts of money and attention that the city's wasting on your selfish nonsense instead of working to keep you safer? You're depleting valuable resources from America's War on Terror!
PROTESTOR #2 - I just wanna know one thing. Did you rip-off that speech from Bill O'Reilly or that fat tub of lard - Rush Limbaugh?
POLICEMAN #2 - Don't you dare provoke me!
(PROTESTOR #2 timidly takes a step back.)
PROTESTOR #1 - This isn't about you guys. We're protesting against George Bush and his Neoconservatist warmongering!
POLICEMAN #1 - You're making it about us! Why don't you just go home so we can too and spend time with our families?
PROTESTOR #1 - Well, boo-hoo for you! The country's in a recession and the unemployment rate is skyrocketing; meanwhile you're being paid over-time pay to do your job, which seems to be stand around and menace!
POLICEMAN #1 - You're pushing it, lady. I'm trying awful hard to play nice.
POLICEMAN #2 - Well, one thing's obvious here - who has jobs and who doesn't.
PROTESTOR #1 - Is that a fact? I'm a computer programmer.
PROTESTOR #2 - I'm a veterinarian.
(Two twenty-something protestors - jointly carrying a banner that reads 'We Don't Want Your Fucking War!' - edge up closer. PROTESTOR #3 has duct tape wrapped around his body and PROTESTOR #4 is clad entirely in black.)
PROTESTOR #3 - I'm unemployed.
PROTESTOR #4 - Awesome, me too.
(PROTESTOR #3 and PROTESTOR #4 have obviously just met at the rally even though they are carrying a banner together.)
POLICEMAN #2 - You scumbags are all pro-Saddam instead of supporting your own troops!
PROTESTOR #2 - Just because we're against the war doesn't make us pro-Saddam!
PROTESTOR #1 - We support the troops so much we don't want to have them die so Donald Rumsfeld will have enough oil to rub in his hair!
PROTESTOR #2 - Stop watching Fox News and at least try to read a newspaper!
POLICEMAN #2 - (through with arguing) All you people need to back the fuck up!
PROTESTOR #1 - I'm not moving any-the-fuck-where until you let us get to our rally!
(TED reappears onstage and instantly joins the mini-commotion, beside the officers.)
TED - Look, I know you people are emotional and pissed but the police are just doing what they were told to do.
PROTESTOR #4 - That defense didn't go over well at the Nuremberg Trials!
TED - Let me give you some personal advice, man in black. Calling the police 'Nazis' will not help your cause.
PROTESTOR #1 - If you're a journalist, aren't you supposed to remain impartial?
TED - Well, yes.
PROTESTOR #1 - Then why are taking their side?
PROTESTOR #3 - (quietly so the police can't hear him) I saw you smiling and joking with the pigs before. Are they your buddies? Do you make it a point to pal around with them?
TED - I'm not on anybody's side. My only aim is to not see anyone get hurt.
POLICEMAN #3 - an older veteran - appears in the background carrying a tray filled with donated coffees from a local merchant.)
POLICEMAN #1 - (softly to POLICEMAN #2) We better go get our free coffees before they're all gone and we have to pay out of pocket.
(POLICEMAN #1 and POLICEMAN #2 back away from the barricades and join their fellow officers for coffees, leaving TED alone to stand in.)
PROTESTOR #3 - Bull-fucking-shit. As a reporter your only true aim is to get the story and if someone got hurt that would make it a bigger story.
TED - Maybe that's not the kind of story I want to write.
PROTESTOR #4 - But you'd prefer the story of the reporter who stuck his neck out for the cops.
TED - Well, pardon me for caring. I don't know why I do. Go off and do whatever you think best serves your cause.
(As TED turns away, PROTESTOR #1 grabs hold of his left shoulder.)
PROTESTOR #1 - And what's your cause? The reason we're out here is because you people haven't done your job correctly!
TED - What do you mean?
PROTESTOR #1 - This administration has crammed the airwaves with half-truths, out-and-out lies and deliberate propaganda in this bloodthirsty push for an unjust war. All the while, you people cheer them on and back them up by providing mealy-mouthed amplification.
TED - And what's the motive for this alleged conspiracy?
PROTESTOR #1 - The same boring motive that it always is. Money, money and money. War is bullish for newspaper sales and television ratings. The purpose of the press should be to serve as a check and balance in our system and you have failed as miserably as the Supreme Court in Election 2000.
TED - (so mad, he's sputtering) I resent that. Just last week, I wrote an expose on how Secretary of State Colin Powell's report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction to the UN Security Council had been partly plagiarized from a college student's thesis paper written over a decade ago. Does that make me a cheerleader?
(TED grips the barricade with his notebook and pen still in hand.)
PROTESTOR #3 - Oh yeah, well if you're such a fucking liberal why aren't you out here standing with us? And why are you reporting from behind a police barricade?
(TED releases his grip on the barricade.)
TED - I came here with the intention of telling your story to the world. Or at least the ones that read me.
PROTESTOR #4 - The only intention you distorters really have is to ensure inattention.
PROTESTOR #1 - Who do you write for, anyway?
TED - New York City Magazine, I'm Ted Wolf.
PROTESTOR #2 - Hey! I read that story you wrote about the faked documents. He's cool, everybody. But - wait - wasn't your dad Alexander Wolf?
PROTESTOR #1 - Really, Alexander Wolf?
TED - (taken aback) Uh-huh.
PROTESTOR #2 - Your dad was at the March on Washington and all the big rallies against the Vietnam War. He proudly stood on the people's side of the barricades.
TED - Well, I'm not my father. Nor am I Norman Mailer. While my heart might partly agree with you, I need to maintain my neutrality.
PROTESTOR #4 - What part of Bush's 'you're either with us or against us' speech didn't you understand?
PROTESTOR #3 - Hey, if you're a reporter, where's your camera?
PROTESTOR #4 - Yeah, doesn't this story rate any pictures?
TED - Of course, we're taking pictures. (points at sky) Our photographer is shooting a wide aerial shot of the crowd from a chopper as we speak.
PROTESTOR #3 - That's it, an eye in the sky? Why aren't you taking close-ups of the crowd?
PROTESTOR #4 - He's probably afraid that some of the signs we're carrying might make too many people think.
(Some of the people in the crowd mutter in agreement.)
TED - Guys, I'm the writer, not the news bureau chief. And I don't make the photo layout decisions, either. I just go where they tell me to go.
PROTESTOR #4 - And report what they tell you to report.
TED - What makes you so sure of yourself? How do you know for certain that you're doing the right thing? Surely, you don't believe that Saddam Hussein is a benevolent ruler.
(PROTESTORS in the crowd hiss and boo Ted's comments.)
PROTESTOR #4 - I know that most of the planet condemns this war. There are millions of us demonstrating in hundreds of cities all over the world today. Besides, it's not our country's duty to play policeman and try to force democracy everywhere in the world. Especially since they can't even do it right here.
(PROTESTOR #5 - a thirty-something male with a camcorder - waves his hands frantically at the crowd.)
PROTESTOR #5 - (points at the left off-stage) Watch out, everybody. The horses are coming! Fat pigs riding horses are going to trample us!
(People in the crowd begin to scream and rush forward to get out of the way of the charging mounted policemen - who are offstage. The policemen on stage lock their arms in front of the barricades, as the panicking crowd pushes into them. POLICEMAN #2 takes a swing at PROTESTOR #4. The crowd is packed tight. TED cowers behind the policemen.)
PROTESTOR #1 - (hysterical) Why are you doing this to us? We're just regular people.
POLICEMAN #1 - I told you to go home!
PROTESTOR #2 - But we can't even if we want to. You have us packed into a pen!
(PROTESTOR #6 - a teenaged African-American girl - begins to scream over and over again.)
PROTESTOR #6 - (shouting at the top of her lungs) LET ME GO HOME! LET ME GO HOME! LET ME GO HOME!
PROTESTOR #1 - This is madness!
PROTESTOR #2 - You don't have the power to stop this tidal wave of anger! THE PEOPLE!
PROTESTOR #3 - UNITED!
CROWD - WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED! THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!
PROTESTOR #4 - Who do you protect?
CROWD - WHO DO YOU PROTECT! WHO DO YOU PROTECT! WHO DO YOU PROTECT!
(POLICEMAN #2 addresses PROTESTOR #6, who is still screaming.)
POLICEMAN #2 - SHUT THE FUCK UP! BITCH! OR I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING REAL TO CRY ABOUT!
PROTESTOR #6 - (unperturbed) LET ME GO HOME! LET ME GO HOME! LET ME GO HOME!
(The LIGHTS GO OUT and the CURTAIN FALLS DOWN.)