Until this week, I hadn’t been to a protest as a participant since the one-year anniversary of the second Iraq war. It was 2004, and I was in Chicago. I didn’t have a sign or anything, but I chanted and marched and did all the things people that go to protests do. Since I’ve moved back to Minneapolis, the only protests I’ve been to—and I’ve been to quite a few—have been because I was writing a story about them.
Well, that changed this week when I was recruited to be a barbarian flashmobber dancing in the parking lot outside of Marcus Bachmann’s clinic. About 100 of us, dressed as glitter barbarians, entouraged over there after a brief rehearsal in the Hiawatha/Lake Target parking lot. The plan was for a few barbarians to enter the clinic and exchange words with a fake Marcus Bachmann (played by my friend and fellow actor Carl Atiya Swanson), who would chase the barbarians out while a large crowd of barbarians would do a fairly complicated choreographed dance to Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” during which time the fake Bachmann would attempt to discipline the barbarians but end up getting glittered and joining the horde.
I didn’t go to any of the organizing meetings, but I did go to three of the four rehearsals. The dance was actually fairly complicated (you can see me screwing it up in this video). I also got several of my theater friends to do this whole thing with me.
When I think about it, I can’t believe I actually did this. I mean, I’m a journalist, for crying out loud. What if I had gotten arrested? It’s one thing to get my editor to bail me out when I’m covering a story (as was the case during the RNC) but for this, I really had no excuse. I had no pretense of covering the event—I was just there to dance.
Actually, I know very well why I did it. I’m a sucker for weird experiences, and this was one that I couldn’t pass up. As I told a friend who I dragged to the event on Thursday, this would be something we’d tell our grandkids about. Besides, the reparative therapy that is practiced at that clinic—as documented by Truth Wins Out and other sources—is so abhorrent, so vile, there comes a time when you can’t just simply sit back and do nothing.
Besides, I wouldn’t have been able to go as a journalist—they weren’t invited. Even though I met Nick Espinosa, one of the main organizers, as a journalist a couple of years ago, he asked me to be a part of it as a performer/protester. Oddly, Fox News produced a video, but it’s so awful my guess is that it wasn’t an actual journalist that took it but some random person there that sent it to them. I have certain misgivings about this approach. I feel like journalists taking independent videos of the event would have probably been beneficial. While the “official video” is slick, it reads more as a music video than a news piece, and doesn’t quite capture all that happened that morning.
So what did happen? Well, we parked our cars, and waited for a quite a while, and then marched en masse to the clinic, which had been locked. Perhaps they noticed that a bunch of people dressed as a barbarians were parked within sight of the clinic. Anyway, we walked over to the clinic and found that it was locked and decided to start the scenario from when Bachmann chases the barbarians out of the clinic. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t really capture this gem of political theater. Then we did our little dance, and it was fantastic. We took a picture, and shouted a message to Bachmann, and made a quick exit.
I’m glad I did it. I’ve been doing a play all summer on this particular topic (reparative therapy) and honestly, the more we can bring to light to people that this is going on, the better. Still, though, I think I’m more comfortable in a reporter role, which is perhaps why I’m writing about this now.
Photo courtesy Nick Espinosa