The Sayings Of Chairman John Once A Rabble-rouser, Now A Politician, Street Forgets The Value Of Protest

Posted: July 26, 2000

What's the first thing you notice about the man pictured above?

That's right: his mouth is never closed. In fact, it could be argued that his mouth has been the secret to John Street's success: it has roared, ranted, raved, demonstrated, excoriated, intimidated, exaggerated and fulminated its way up the stairways of power until it (and he) reached the top: the mayor's office.

Which means, Mayor Street, that it might be a good time to shut it.

The mayor recently shared his feelings about the protesters due to arrive during the Republican convention (his thoughts appeared in the latest issue of George magazine):

"I have strong feelings about First Amendment stuff," he said. "But we've got some idiots coming here. Some will come, say whatever little obnoxious things they want to say, and go home, but some will be coming here to disrupt, to make a spectacle out of what's going on. They're going to get a very ugly response."

To anyone who knows even Chapter 1 of the Street Family History, this contempt for the grand tradition of protest would be laughable, if it wasn't so disturbing.

As we know, John Street is the younger brother of Milton, who helped define social protest (some called it guerrilla activism) in the '70s and early '80s. Whether protesting vending ordinances or lack of housing for the poor, their names could hardly be mentioned without the words "pandemonium ensued" following not far behind.

So of all the mayors in America who should be able to show a little respect for the protest thing, it's John Street. And if he thinks that hugging whales or saving rain forests aren't worthy enough, he should remember that Milton first made his name protesting the right to have a bigger cart from which to sell hot dogs.

We've found a small inspirational classic the mayor should keep by his side next week. It's called "The Sayings of Chairman John," and includes:

"People want the kind of politican who will fight for their rights. The people want a battler" (1979).

"I've always been part of the rabble rousers, and I don't intend to change now" (1980).

"We're all fired up! We ain't gonna take it no more!" (following his arrest and arraignment in 1979).

"I'm going to try to work within the system, but I will resort to [disruptive] tactics to do whatever I have to to get the job done" (on his election to City Council, 1979).

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