By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
A young man in a yarmulke stands in front of three Warriors, shooting them the finger, refusing to move. One enormous guy with long black hair and a black T-shirt and a bandanna covering his face starts grabbing for the Warriors' signs. His shorter, thinner buddy, in a green shirt and a bandanna, joins him. They succeed in bending a couple of signs. A few marchers try to stop them--"Walk on! Let them pass! This is what they want!" No cops are in sight.
"We're the ones being peaceful!" one of the Warriors shouts. But by then fists have been thrown. The big guy in the black T-shirt punches one of the Warriors, a bearded and longhaired guy from "all around Texas" named Jason Dorsett, in the back of the head. The big guy's buddy in green screams into my tape recorder. "These guys are fascists! They don't belong in the march!" His eyes are wide and blood-red, and spittle flies out of his mouth. "These guys are pro-Bush! These guys are pro-murder! All they're here for is to fight!"
But you're the ones throwing all the punches. Is that gonna solve anything?
"Yeah, it's gonna get them out of our march. We confront them to show them that they cannot organize in public. Their point of view is not welcome here; it's not welcome in America. It's bullshit."
Someone else yells, "Nazis out!"
The guy in black is back. He leans over me to throw another punch at Dorsett, who's developed the unfortunate twitch of sticking out his tongue to wet his dry mouth. He'll swear later that he didn't even know he was doing it, but at this moment the protesters read the gesture as antagonistic. Dorsett throws an elbow at the guy in black to defend himself.
"I don't do anything wrong to 'em," he's screaming toward the tape recorder and the Warriors' cameras. "I just smile back and say you have the right to your opinion and please don't rip my sign down. They ripped my sign down."
One of the Warriors is carrying an American flag--or he was, till a marcher tore it off the cardboard pole. The Warrior says he purchased it from a Vietnam veteran. He and the guy in black fight over the flag, grabbing at it and yanking on it till the marcher disappears into the crowd with it.
You could choke on the symbolism.
Then the cops arrive and yank out the Protest Warriors. The marchers begin singing:
Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, goodbye.
A few days later, Air America's Lizz Winstead says she saw the Protest Warriors during the march. She was among the demonstrators carrying coffins draped in American flags and stopped briefly to see Lipton and Alfia in action.
"All they brought to New York," she says, "were markers and confusion."
"You guys wanna swing it out, swing it out," one officer says. "Just go somewhere private." Rob Garcia, the Iraq War veteran and leader of this small band of Warriors, says the group got too split up and became too vulnerable to attack. "People in this country are pissed, 50-50, right down the line," he says. "It's nothing like I've ever seen."
The Warriors continue their activities throughout the day Sunday, with most ending up outside Macy's, their signs lining a wall outside the department store. Passers-by spit and shout, and their megaphone is destroyed. But there are no more acts of physical violence against any of them.
The next morning, 15 are gathered outside their headquarters, taunting the leaders of United for Peace and Justice to come down for a debate. As it turns out, they are just two doors down from the Warriors. But they will not oblige, no matter how many times Lipton calls them cowards through his new megaphone.
"We're having the time of our lives," Lipton says between taunts. "We feel like we're living a movie here, fighting for freedom. It's totally exhilarating."