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Word Cops On Patrol

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Maybe you know the kind of day l'm talkjngabout Theairiscrestingthe big 60, winter is on the wane, and the Diag is bristling with anticipation. Something spontaneous just might happen. On any given day I may or may not be one of those events. Even that assumption can trip you up. The weather was prime and the people were there to hear some slagging on the Govt Sojust as I have f orthe last 1 5 years or so, I put on my baggy pants, painted my hair green and stroiled up to the Diag to unload. Just about the time the GOP rumbled onto the scène to finish off the Democrats last November it was time to hibemate for the winter. Buttoday was different. It's high noon now and you have to start somewhere. Somebody yells out "Stoney . . . what do you think of Newt?" "Fuck Newt Gingrich!" I sayit !oud enough so that the MTV casting party ambiance is rippted but not concemed. There 's always the chance that no one will listen. Unfortunately ayoung, but heavily armed U-M policeman s listening. Meanwhile l'm letting even more steam off about Grinchrich. l'm just starting to warm the voice and noli the words off the tongue. "You can't say that here, piek upyourthingsandcomewithme!" I heard his voice and met nis glare. Yet, I feit I' ve done this all bef ora At just about every school l've spoken at The same command and stare, l've spoken on the podium at the Republican convention, as the host of my own TV show, and as well on the campuses of University of California at Berkeley and the Unhersity of Michigan. Each venue has it's own peculiar set of rules. Free Speech in my twenty-odd years of axperience can be as unpredictable as Michigan weather. The officer motions toward my performing box and he repeats the command. I inform him as calmly as pcssible that the Constrtution gives me tacít permission to critique the powers that be. He's not buying the f ree speech rap at all. Starts twisting his neck and talking into his radio, l'm thinking this couid be a long day with another trial of the cent ury to bore people with forthenextsixmonths. He'sdone talking 011 the radioand starts demanding some ID. He wants toseeifthe green hairispictuned on the license. My head says I should cower and comply. My body senses that I might have a bettergo of it if I just start doing a crazy dance. The crowd is getting bigger and the laughs are starting to come. Meanwhile the Word Cop is announcing that if I won 't give him my ID "he'll just get it himself." Now I guess that he's auditioning for an episode of "Cops." About 200 people are watching him search my bag of tricks. He seems pleased as punch when he finaily finds the wallet containing the ID. When he finds the ID, he removes it like state evidence. Now another officer shows up and stares at me for awhile. Probably hoping I 'II say that word again. While the officers are waiting for some reinforcements, time s of the essence. Now l'm working the lungs overtime hoping I can gather the Diag together for the moving Wockade off cam pus. Three years ago at Oregon State University the students took over the administration building until the cops set me free. Wow nothing describes the feeling of...getting away. Would this be one of those days? I keep talking, trying to make a desperate situation interesting. These are tense moments. Not knowing whether the riot squad is hyped to go ormaybe Dr. Thundersplatt is searching for a more reasonable solution to the Word Crime. It's in these moments that I flash back to all the great times Tve had on the Diag. To stand tall when you knowyou're right, to f ace off with the conservative twats on theirown turf, that's what the Diag means to me. l'm not about to let some rookie security guy fence me away f rom the cheapest and I think most cosmically connected online facility there is: The Diag. Out under the blue sky with my feet firmly planted in Mother Earth. And by golly l'm going to hold my ground and maybe some other people will too. "Let's put these mountain bikes to good use by building a barricade because I am going nowhere!" The tensión is doubling in a funny sort of way. Now l'm counting six cops. More desperate jokes. What do you say when that might be all you are going to be saying for awhile? Now l'm getting mad knowing that I have to go back to work (cabdriving) with no license and who knows what charges. Word Cops cruising the Diag. Just like they will be surfing the internet soon. I find out later that f there had been women and children present theywould have pressed charges. Like what is this lil' house on the prairie Diag? I mean what century are we living in? People have a right to listen to protected speech in the DIAG for pete's sake! Shouldn 't there be a Free Speech area in every city, village, and farm where people who can 't afford to go online can voice their opinión? So now the cop conference is over and the offending officer offers to give my license back. I say, "Why don't you put it back where you found it? I never gave it to you...remember?" Now he's in a jam, he can't very wed just put it back with the same nonchalance that he took it with. Fmally he says, "If you want it, come down to the DPS office to get it" With that, all of the uniforms leave. There I am tangling with the Word Cops on my first day out. Anything afterthis is anticlimatic. I manage to joke that "these officers and I travel around the country performingthis word search and seizure circus. How'd you like the show this afternoon?" I am exhausted, must go home and cali lawyers and the media. I decide to go down to DPS in the moming. Trouble can wait. In the moming I am riding my bike down Kipke (find that on your map drivers!) to retrieve my DL CXrt of DPS comes the veteran officer I had seen the day bef ore at the Diag. He yells behind me as I ride by: "Hi Stoney! Everything's OK. You can piek up your stuff in there." I smile. The spirit of the Diagcomesthroughagain. People ask me all the time why I speak at U-M and UCB. Mainlyforthe simple reason that I can. And you bet I am going to continue to do it. As I tucked the DL back into my wallet and rolled intothehotsun, Ithought of all the times I didn't get away. Too many stories to tell. This one is among one of the sweeter tales. The day following the return of my license I attended my first-ever drug test orientation meeting up at the Yellow Cab office. The pink, wrinWedfaceofFtonaldFteaganflickeredspookily f rom the video monitor. He stemly reminded me of my right to remain silent white the Feds took the piss out of my bladder and the words out of my mouth. As I sat listening to the plan to ship my urine to Utah for testing, I coukJn't help but wonder, "What will it take toget our right to privacy back?" In the end, itwill be up to us. And as a result, there is one place I know of where you can say "Fuck Newt Gingrich!" and be pissed off at the same time. The Diag! Want more laughs? Try the Diag, noon-ish to 2 pm-ishanyMondayorTuesdaywhentheweather permite. Or check out "Stoney Does Houston," a satirical look inside the 1992 GOP convention- available at Liberty St. Video. And, of course, watch Ns cable TV show, STONEY SPEAKS TV, every Tue. at 8:05 pm, channel 9, CTN here in Ann Arbor. For further Information about Stoney's 1996 campaign, you can wríte: STONEY SPEAKS TV, 317 S. División #84, Ann Arbor Ml, 48104.


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