Under a statue of Robbie Burns, peace volunteers are working against the clock to stage the mock trial of George W. Bush, a play written by the group Lawyers Against the War. Organizers ask for people to hoist placards. It's a good-humored, quiet crowd; many come forward immediately to take up a sign. Folks sip coffee and greet friends. They wear toques and knitted headgear, protest buttons and white poppies in lapels. Some wear purple ribbons.
Around the edge of the park are larger banners. A spectacular one is Picasso's great anti-war work, Guernica, painted on a banner the size of a small billboard. No War On Iraq is written across the image.
"Have fun," says Halifax Peace Coalition organizer Chris Maxwell from the stage, "And get our message out".
The trial of George W. Bush begins, and a dead-ringer for Bush is read the charges against him: responsibility for the death of Iraqis and for irreparable damage done to the environment because of the war. The white-wigged Judge admonishes the crowd against spitting and other forms of displeasure; they laugh easily and boo at all the right times. It's all in fun and good spirit. Lawyers argue: Bush's defender is played by a local human rights lawyer, Philip Girard. Witnesses speak and then the Judge asks for a verdict. The entire crowd forms the jury.
"How do you find the defendant?" asks the Judge.
"It's a no brainer -guilty!" yells a wag in the audience. To cheers, Bush is found guilty, directed to be deported from Canada, and then he's whisked off by the crowd towards the American Consulate. The march has begun.
Motorcycle cops clear the street of traffic, and the 400-strong crowd chants noisily through Halifax's downtown business district, past store clerks stepping out to cheer, and window displays hawking peace t-shirts. Cars and an 18 wheeler honk in support. Five tall, lanky guys with crewcuts and an oversized cowboy hat walk alongside chanting "pro bush" "pro bush" and "who's going to protect you?". "Who's going to invade us, more likely", a protester wryly responds.
At the steps of the US consulate, a single line of security stand with arms crossed. Only a few feet away, a sound system on a bicycle cart is quickly set up, and several speakers talk of US imperialism and Canada's complicity. Some impromptu singing breaks out in the crowd, with renditions of John Lennon's "Imagine", and a few heartfelt verses of Twisted Sister's "We're not going to take it, anymore."
After about 15 minutes the crowd disperses into the night, saving their energy for the big non-welcome the next morning.
Liz vanBerkel & Jane Kansas & Jan Meyerowitz