"Ted Nugent + poopy pants = unclean vermin," read one sign at yesterday's protest at the Gothic Theatre. It was one of about thirty signs circling the sidewalk in the rain to pressure the Gothic to cancel Nugent's show because of the latter's racist comments, particularly those against Native Americans. The sign was the clear crowd favorite -- one of the only ones that actually got attention from the people standing in line for the concert -- though it probably wasn't the kind of attention the protesters were hoping for.
"You still wanna go see poopy pants?" one dad asked his teenage son. They both burst out in derisive giggles.
The signs didn't exactly have Nugent's middle-aged fans shaking in their boots (well, Velcro tennies). But those in line did see the signs, and the protesters say that's the point. They were there to show Nugent and his listeners that racism -- especially the kind that calls people "vermin" and "subhuman mongrels" -- is unacceptable.
Nugent earned the "poopy" nickname by supposedly shitting his pants to dodge the Vietnam War draft. The protesters might not care about that if Nugent didn't also wear a Native American headdress during his performances. "Only war veterans and those who have done something honorable get to wear the sacred headdress," said one protester, a member of the indigenous-rights group Idle No More. "We won't let someone with poopy pants turn our sacred symbol into a symbol of hate."
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Joining Idle No More on the sidewalk were representatives of the Navajo nation, members of the Latino group Barrio Warriors, members of the American Indian Movement, activists from the LGBQT community, and some twenty-somethings who stumbled into the circle on their way down the street and couldn't figure out how to get out. Together, everyone marched to the beat of activist Reddog Rudy's drum and chanted, "Nugent, Nugent, you can't hide. We all know you're on the racist side." It might have been the rain that kept the other 138 people who RSVP'ed to the protest on Facebook from coming, but there really wouldn't have been room for them anyway. As it was, the group of about forty had to carefully maneuver their signs and umbrellas as they circled the tiny stretch of concrete to keep from (accidentally) hitting the concert-goers standing just three feet away. Instead, the protesters hit the entering crowd with cries of "You're supporting racism!" and "Shame on you."
To be fair, if there's a nice way to call someone a racism-supporter, this group found it. Somehow, after an hour of constant circling, drumming and Nugent-chanting, everyone on both sides of the sidewalk seemed to be on good terms.
The show didn't get canceled. The concert attendees didn't suddenly join the chanting (the cowboy-hat-and-sweats-wearing demographic is a hard one to move). But by 7 p.m., an hour after they began, the protesters called it quits with as many smiles and cheers as can be expected at a protest in the rain. The police didn't shut them down; a conflict didn't break the ranks. The protesters just decided that they had made their point.
"We said what we needed to say," said Reddog Rudy.
And with that, they huddled for a group picture, shook hands, and walked past the Nugent fans to carpool home.
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