Who would have thought they would have been such reasonably good guests, these protesters from such groups as the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, and the Spartacus Socialist Youth Club? Even the feared anarchists have yet to wreak any Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade mayhem on the streets.
City organizers of the Republican National Convention, of course, had tried to pacify these proletariats with promises of discounts from Ben & Jerry's, Madame Tussaud's, and even the Museum of Sex if they promised to behave. And instead of sneering, "Let them eat cake," the New York powers that be were trying to give revolutionaries the same benefits as their reactionary counterparts.
"They're as welcome to our city as any delegate from Iowa," said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of NYC & Co., the city's convention and tourism bureau. "We announced a peaceful protest plan last week - buttons given out at our visitor center - and pretty much offer the same value-added opportunities that a delegate to the convention would get. And just under the notion that anybody who's coming to town, if they're drawn by the convention - we want them to enjoy what we have."
Still, there's one perk the flesh-baring Axis of Eve and Code Pink for Women won't be getting. The RNC gift bag. Thirty percent off "Tony and Tina's Wedding?" Great. Ten percent on merchandise at Pokémon Center NY? Fine. But being shut out of the guest goodies, the travel booty, the visitor swag? The gift bag has become a staple of any self-respecting big-time event these days, a status symbol so essential it can determine whether an event will be remembered as an unqualified success or just another boring week-long meeting.
The RNC bags won't quite live up to those handed out to participants at the Oscars, bags featuring Gucci sunglasses, diamond-studded watches, and even two-week safaris. Even so, most delegates, guests, and media covering the convention will be treated to one of the better bags ever handed out at any political convention. (We're not including fundraising events, of course.)
NYC & Co., which is helping to organize the RNC, has put together an unprecedented 22,000 black messenger-style New Balance bags. Inside are such bourgeois items as a 406-page New York City travel guide, a 35 mm disposable camera, a one week membership at New York Sports Club. Even more interesting is the box of commemorative Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with a brief history of the Republican Party on the back. The macaroni comes in the shape of elephants and stars (a perfect balance, of course, to the donkeys and stars Kraft put out for the Democratic convention).
Several hundred of the bags, which will be mixed randomly among those distributed to hotels, will include expensive digital cameras, tickets to the US Open and Yankees games, and passes to the David Letterman show.
All bags, however, will include a copy of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's book, "Leadership."
"We don't want a thing, not one thing from the mayor!" said one member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, while trying to organize a giant human-lettered "No" at the Great Lawn. The back of her shirt proclaimed, "I was born in the system of capitalism, but now I'm living for the revolution."
"No! We won't be bribed by the city!" she said.
She seemed to give it some thought, however, when told about the elephant macaroni.