Real Protest Or Cobblestone Activism?

August 18, 2009|By Ben Krull

Chanting "just say nay," protesters have been disrupting town hall meetings across the former colonies, as lawmakers try to rally support for the proposed Federal Constitution. Attendees have been carrying signs showing a likeness of a bald Thomas Jefferson above the caption "he's flipped his wig," and at one meeting, a James Madison bobblehead doll was seen hanging from a noose.

The protesters characterize their cause as a fertile soil uprising, while critics claim that it is a cobblestone effort, a term used to denote a manufactured social movement. While pamphleteers opposed to the Constitution have been urging like-minded citizens to attend the town halls, Eli Bosworth, spokesperson for FederalismDoesn'tWork, insists that they are not part of an organized campaign.

"No matter what the Federals might think, we just post notices on church doors letting people know when the meetings are," Mr. Bosworth said, referring to the Federalists by a shortened version of their moniker.

Whether manufactured or not, the anger expressed by the protesters is very real. "I'm not a Federal or an anti-Federal," said a man going by the name Cincinnatus, who brought his pitchfork to a meeting in Philadelphia.

"I'm just a farmer trying to stop those Francophile aristocrats like Franklin and Jefferson from taking my farm and turning it into a winery, so they can sip their chardonnay."

At the meeting, a man calling himself Bartholomew the Blacksmith said he heard that Congress was planning to levy a tax on beer to finance stagecoach service between New York and Boston. "I'll be damned if I'll pay more for my brew so some big macher can travel to see the Red Sox and Yankees play rounders," he said.

During a press conference at New York's Fraunces Tavern, John Adams tried to push back against misinformation being spread about the Constitution. "No taxes will be raised except on landed gentry, who did very well for themselves under British rule," Mr. Adams told newspaper scribes. "The Constitution will help everyday Americans: the peasant who works two shifts at the bell factory, but still needs alms to support his eight children; the weaver whose savings are wiped out when his wife needs leeches for a bloodletting; the small family farmers, who are the backbone of the economy."

The protests, however, show no sign of abating. At a meeting last week in Manhattan's Trinity Church, Gen. George Washington was addressing rumors that the Constitution would create militias for the purpose of exiling the elderly to Miami Beach, when he was confronted by a group of men wearing paper crowns.

When they mockingly chanted "hail King George!" General Washington stormed out of the meeting. Asked by a reporter about the protesters' claim that they are evoking the spirit of the Boston Tea Party, the general grew indignant.

"The only spirit these lackbrains have is the kind they drink," he said before taking off on his horse to beat the rush hour.

Ben Krull is a writer living in New York. His e-mail is

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