Budget Protest Turns Surreal

March 27, 1997

Budget Protest Turns Surreal

The protest began in typical fashion, the Los Angeles Times reported. Nine typical hippie protesters with typical goatees and typical long hair dressed all in white drove into Washington last week in a typical psychedelic school bus with a typical protest: The federal government spends too much on defense and not enough on social programs.

But when Peter Schumann and his Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater troupe pulled out their puppets 100 yards from the Capitol, things got a little weird.

The huge and deformed Uncle Sam costume named Uncle Fatso, the giant monster with a silver head called the Great Warrior, the blue figure named Mother Embracer and the 12-foot-tall Skeleton Horse emerged.

Then about two dozen local volunteers showed up to help serve as puppeteers. Schumann's group recruits volunteers as it travels around the country protesting everything from social injustices to U.S. foreign policy.

The troupe seemed disappointed with the turnout until Ben and Jerry showed up. Yes, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.

"I'm here because the country is giving the Pentagon more than it ever asked for when it's cutting programs for kids in school, for health care, for women with children," Ben said just before he suited up as Uncle Fatso.

Jerry brought along a handful of public relations people.

Then the parade began. The puppets, led by Schumann, marched down the street, blowing horns and shouting "Where does all your money go?"

The lone congressional member scheduled to join the event, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., missed the puppet protesters because Capitol police made the band take its cacophony elsewhere.

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