About 25 activists protested the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf yesterday afternoon by simulating death, blocking rush hour traffic in Harvard Square and placing stickers on the window of an armed forces recruiting station.
Chanting, "We won't die for the price of gas, Uncle Sam go kiss my ass," the demonstrators marched through the streets of Harvard Square for more than an hour. They then proceeded along Mass. Ave. into Central Square, where they showed drivers their anti-intervention signs and banners, including "Yankee gangsters invade the Middle East for passing motorists."
In their most dramatic action, the protesters held a macabre "die-in" at the corner of John F. Kennedy and Mt. Auburn Sts. As some demonstrators carrying banners prevented cars from entering the intersection, members of the group dressed in plastic "body bags" took up positions in the middle of the street.
Then, as some protesters loudly counted down and others made the sound of incoming shells, the activists plunged to the blacktop, writhing in an efort to simulate the agony of exposure to chemical and nerve agents.
Minutes later, as the group marched up JFK St. towards the Square, an impatient driver tried to drive through the crowd. As the car advanced, a protest organizer announced its license plate number over a megaphone and stated that the man almost ran him over.
The protesters said their defiant tactics were necessary to convey the urgency of the situation.
"In order to stop this war effort, people are going to have to do a wide variety of disruptive things," said Fred W. Greenpea, 36, a tour guide and former Harvard extension school student.
A protest organizer, who identified himself as a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, said that the group included a wide variety of people holding diverse political views. The organizer, Karl Adam, said he was opposed to the U.S. presence in the Gulf because of a desire to "overthrow this whole program of U.S. imperialism and capitalism."
Most bystanders interviewed by The Crimson reacted positively to the demonstration. "It was very brave," said Tufts junior J. Tieder, adding, "Not many people are behind this sort of movement." As the group of protestersmarched down Church St., workers in nearby shopstook note, pressing their noses to the windowglass to catch a glimpse of the anti-interventionparade.
"They're making their point," said Christian M.Sullivan, 17, a student at Cambridge Rindge andLatin School.
But Sullivan's fellow student, who identifiedhimself as John H. Smith, 16, had a differentopinion. "If I had a car, I'd run them over too,if they blocked my way. They ought to be a littlesmarter and walk on the sidewalks," Smith said.
The group drew stares from passers-by andoccasional toots of support from motorists as theyproceeded down the middle of Brattle St., snarlingholiday traffic.
"Hell no, we won't go," the group of about 25protesters chanted as it turned onto Mt. AuburnSt., where some demonstrators donned plastic bodybags. Adam told the group through a batteredmegaphone that 35,000 real body bags had beenshipped to the Gulf in anticipation of U.S.casualties. He later claimed that the U.S.military has ordered 135,000 body bags inpreparation for a Middle East war.
The protesters soon returned to the Square,where they held one of the afternoon's three"die-ins."
"This could happen any day in the Gulf," anarrator told the crowd, adding that suchdevastation could be seen in the U.S. as well, ifnuclear weapons are used.
After the protesters recovered from theiraffected paralysis, the group entered the HarvardSquare T station. They stood and chanted in frontof the hurried commuters for a short while, butwere soon approached by two MBTA police, who toldthem to go outside.
As they moved upstairs, the demonstratorscreated a spectacle, flaying their bodies on thesteps and escalator of the station. Some shouted"Bam, bam!" as others passed out leaflets toonlookers.
As the activists stood up, a transit policeofficer grabbed a protester's shoulder and warnedhim that he was trespassing.
After witnessing the eviction of the group fromthe station, bystander M. Marjorie Kerby, 33, aunion bricklayer, questioned the police officersabout their actions for about 10 minutes.
"I asked them who owned the subway station,"Kerby said later. "God, I could have sworn thetaxpayers owned it."
Kirby said the officers "were rather rude atfirst and wouldn't answer any of my constitutionalquestions."
Cambridge and Harvard police officers payedlittle attention to the protest and made noapparent efforts to interfere with the group.
After emerging from the subway, the protestersheld another "die-in" in the street in front ofChristy's Market. While a few cars beeped and manywaited, one vehicle drove through the protesterslaying on the ground. No one was hurt.
Meanwhile, a Japanese video crew doing adocumentary about MIT and Harvard filmedprotesters. The woman in charge of the crewpleaded for a Harvard student among the protestersto interview, eventually finding one of the two orthree who took part in the demonstration.
Echoes of the '60s suffused the protest, as aburly bystander yelled, "Get off the street, youhippies," and a bearded man marching with thedemonstrators rolled up the sleeves of his red andblack checked shirt and played a few notes on aharmonica.
After wrapping up their boisterous HarvardSquare activities, the group marched to CentralSquare for a more subdued demonstration.
Reaching the intersection of Mass. and WesternAves., the group held signs in front of the TaxMan storefront, trying to inform passing commutersof their cause.
Just before 6 p.m., the group stuck five yellowand pink stickers bearing anti-war slogans on thewindow of the U.S. armed forces recruiting centerat 955 Mass. Ave. One protester briefly sat down,blocking the door to the center.
Army officials declined to comment on theprotest.
Asked if he had qualms about interefering withthe plans of those buying presents for theholidays, Greenpea said brazenly, "I have noregrets."
They later adopted the seasonal theme,chanting, "Holiday shoppers listen to this, thepeople of the world are mighty pissed. We've gotto stop this bloody war. We've got to end thisChristmas gore."
Joshua A. Gerstein and Seth A. Gitellcontributed to the reporting of this story.