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Clown Bloq makes a statement at NATO protest event

By Colleen Connolly
On May 18, 2012

They gathered at the corner of Washington and Dearborn Streets armed with bulbous red clown noses and huge painted smiles on their faces. A few of them honked horns, others shouted "hooray, hooray, hooray" in squeaky clown voices. But these clowns were not performing at a child's birthday party. Instead, they were protesting at the National Nurses United rally against NATO.

"Think rodeo clown," Vermin Supreme, a protesting clown from Baltimore, said. Supreme and his clownish cohorts are part of a movement affiliated with Occupy Wall Street known as Clown Bloq. A rodeo clown's main job is to protect bull riders in the ring. If the people of the world are the bull riders, then the world leaders gathering for the NATO summit are the raging bulls.

Although the clowns bring a certain lightheartedness to a potentially violent protest, they aren't all about fun and games. On their website, they declare "we are not a joke."

"It all comes down to the appropriation of resources," said Supreme, explaining the real reason they attended the protest. Supreme is not a professional clown, but he does have strong opinions about the distribution of wealth in the world.

The concept of the protesting clown is nothing new in the protest world. In fact, Clown Bloq likes to remind people that they have been in vogue since the days of kings, queens, courts and jesters. After all, the group says, it was the clowns who pointed out the emperor had no clothes.

Groups of clown protesters have shown up at past major protests, including the one in Toronto for the G20 summit in 2010. Another group known as the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army has also appeared at protests throughout the United Kingdom. All of these groups have one thing in common - they want to be the jester in the king's court.

But the court has changed since the days of King Henry VIII. Another clown protester at the NNU rally said his group consisted of "corporate clowns."

"The state, they're a bunch of clowns. That's all they are," Toxic, the clown protester from New York, said. "It's a big game."

Toxic was fighting the corporate clowns with mimicry, a classic clown skill. His clown garb wasn't totally traditional, though. On his face were painted the words "kill cops."

Another benefit of the clown makeup is anonymity, something these clowns surely realized. Self-proclaimed "clowndestinos," Clown Bloq members rarely used their real names. They can't - and don't want to - escape the public eye, but their true identities remain a secret. One clown with a green mohawk simply went by the moniker "Green Goblin."

Throughout the rest of the NATO weekend in Chicago, Clown Bloq will employ different subgroups of their "clown platoon." There will be a Fly Swat team armed with "bubble proof vests, NERFmunition and the most advanced flySWAT technology known to man." The Undercover Clown team proclaims they can become invisible, but when they want to be noticed they'll wear trench coats and mustache glasses and use balloon drones and spycams.

Clown Bloq wants to make a statement, but they want to add a unique element to the traditional protest. Instead of inciting violent riots, they aim to produce a "laugh riot." They'll protect their bull riders, but only with clown makeup and red noses."It's a campaign of fear," the Green Goblin, of New York, said of the NATO leaders' agenda, "and we're attempting to lighten up the situation."


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