Hundreds of us have been marching up and down College Street trying to get to the Planned Parenthood rally which was scheduled to take place at the NASCAR place (Hall of Fame? Museum?). The women and men with the Planned Parenthood group are wearing bright pink tee shirts that say Yes We Plan, of course a play on Si Se Puede, Obama's line (Yes We Can) from 2008. There's also an image of a wheel of birth control pills on the shirt. But alas, this has been a bit of a logistical nightmare. Blocked streets, lots and lots of police, buzzing helicopters. At the corner of Stonewall and Brevard, at around 1:45, I finally gave up. The police seemed to be growing frustrated; the tone of their "Back up, please," felt a little too non-negotiable. The would-be rally-ers were annoyed and frustrated, too. All they wanted to do was cross the street.
All of this seems a little par for the course, I guess, except that all along College Street, right in front of the convention center, there are anti-choice folks yelling and badgering passersby who roll their eyes or question them. A young African-American student from the University of Texas (Austin) said she felt that this presence was harassment. These protesters are carrying those extremely disturbing signs -- about 5 feet by 3 feet -- with images of aborted 21-week fetuses. (Us Missourians know the images I'm talking about.) The protesters include a bunch of kids, ranging from stroller-age to teens, who hold their signs up and gaze blankly forward. The loudest of the protesters is on the corner of College and Stonewall. He is amped and angry. He is using words like filthy, wicked, disgusting, degenerate, evil, etc, to describe "women who are fornicating and not married. "The answer to loose living," he says, "is not killing your baby." One of his sidekicks is the guy managing the amplification speaker. This guy is just standing in jeans and a short-sleeved button down shirt. But here's the kicker: slung across his back is a shofar. One of those long spiral-y ones. Yes, a shofar. As in ram's horn.
I was just standing there staring, as I tend to do, when one of the convention volunteers, a nice guy from around Fort Bragg, came over to me and asked what I made of this. So I told him. What I told him was that: 1. I wondered if anyone using such angry and violent language of objection had been anywhere near the front door of the convention in Tampa and; 2. no matter what I thought of these people and their beliefs, I valued their right to speak their piece and was very proud that nobody was physically harming them (eyerolls, mocking laughter, and viscerally expressed counter-beliefs not causing physical harm, except maybe to his blood pressure, but whatever). 3. and of course that I felt really sorry for the kids holding the mangled fetus signs. I am ready for this convention to get down to its meat and potatoes.
At the blogger orientation earlier today we heard the line-up for tonight. Oh, and one other thing. If you are a hip, wired, youthful media type, and you are directing an older, let's say more "veteran" person of letters to the convention center, you say this: "You can go ahead and mag in a little further down on College." "Magging in" means passing through the magnetometer, the screening device. Just so you know. Some other cool phrases I am picking up: "That hashtag is really polluted." "We've got a really strong ground game there." Until later!