New York, NY – June 30, 2007. The “Filthy Rich for Fossella” solicited “donations” for their favorite chickenhawk congressman as the Rude Mechanical Orchestra rocked the Peace Action Rally Saturday in Staten Island’s largest peace event in years. John Lawrence, aka “Vito Fossil”, wasn’t shy about asking for donations directly – he made a pretty fair Faux-sella, according to rally attendees.
The Peace Action rally, held on Staten Island’s North Shore (very close to the SI Ferry Terminal), drew a good crowd and offered a variety of speakers and performers.
Democrat Steve Harrison, who did surprisingly well in a run against Congressman Vito Fossella in the last election, spoke about ending the Iraq War now. Harrison traded barbs with “Lotta Bucks” – Sally Jones of Peace Action, very much in character as a member of the Filthy Rich for Fossella. Harrison concluded his remarks with a call for the impeachment of George W. Bush.
Bill Tate spoke on behalf of councilman Mike McMahon’s office – reiterating the theme of the day: the need to end the war now and find a way to get the troops home as quickly as possible. Tate added that any political leader who fails to see the necessity for peace is a “self serving, flag waving hypocrite” and a “rabid jingoist”.
Tate was followed by Bronx native Fernando Braga, a member of Iraq Veterans Against The War. Braga spoke about the racist orders he was given in Iraq – he was told it was ok to kill any Iraqi children perceived as threatening as, according to his superiors, “Iraqis don’t understand the meaning of life.” Braga left a literal soapbox, saying that we need to see a lot more GI resistance as “the politicians won’t do it for us.”
Debra Anderson, whose husband served in Iraq, spoke about the human cost of the war on the families of soldiers. At one point she raised her voice demanding to know: “Where is the outrage!?” At times visibly shaken, Anderson offered an emotional, first person account of the unnecessary suffering the war has caused.
Tiffany Schwabacher, President of the College of Staten Island Peace Club, spoke about the need for increased resistance. “It takes more than just disagreeing with your television screen to make a difference. By becoming involved in the community…the goals of peace, even in our own neighborhood, can be achieved,” she said.
Sandwiched between speakers, New York City’s activist marching band, the “Rude Mechanical Orchestra” rocked the rally. Formed for the resistance to the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2004, the RMO wore green and black “uniforms” in a salute of sorts to college marching bands. Unlike the average marching band, RMO has a pop sound – at times reminiscent of the B-52′s. A stirring backbeat and energetic antics combined with flutes, a clarinet, a banjo and a saxophone to produce a unique and vibrant sound. Two clowns joined in the fun – dancing with children from the audience.
Although they had planned to preach, Reverend Billy and Savitri D, Director of the Church of Stop Shopping, did not make the event. Instead, Reverend Billy spent the day awaiting arraignment at NYC’s infamous “Tombs”. The night before the event Reverend Billy, aka Bill Talen, had been arrested at a Critical Mass bike ride – for reading the First Amendment aloud. As SDS member Tom Good approached the stage to explain why Rev Billy was not in attendance his cellphone rang – Savitri D was calling to say that Billy had finally gotten a docket number and would soon be arraigned. The crowd cheered the news and laughed ironically when Good announced that the NYPD had arrested Rev Billy for reading the First Amendment.
The rally ended with a lively rendition of “There’s No Business Like War Business” from The Filthy Rich for Fossella – a street theatre group that plays off Congressman Vito Fossella’s refusal to meet with his working constituents, preferring to reserve his time for Halliburton and other corporate sponsors. Lotta Bucks (Sally Jones), Moira Drugs of the pharmaceutical industry (Eileen Bardell) and Merce N. Aribuchs of Blackwater Ink (John Bostrum) are “The Filthy Rich” who came to fundraise for Staten Island’s own Vito Fossil. Fossil, aka John Lawrence, fielded questions from the audience but always found a way to return to the main theme: he would need money, and lots of it, before he would agree to meet with any of his constituents. When asked why he is often seen working out at the Y when he should be working in Washington, Fossil said “Don’t you want a good looking Representative? Look at this body!” When heckled by some middleaged, conservatively dressed, rally goers – Fossil dismissed their concerns with “oh you silly hippies”. Although the Filthy Rich as a whole were very impressive – it was Vito Fossil himself who stole the show, so to speak. An observant member of the audience quipped – “This is Vito Faux-sella’s first visit to the North Shore!” Unfortunately, unless the community’s residents can generate some revenue, it may be his last.
As the Filthy Rich sashayed off into the sunset, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra packed up their instruments and the face painters stowed their wares, rally organizers were all smiles – rally attendance had exceeded expectations. Despite Reverend Billy being temporarily indisposed, everyone who had made it out to the event felt gratified -with the possible exception of Vito Fossil who continued to panhandle as the crowd dispersed.