Occupy Salt Lake protesters switched from camping in Pioneer Park to staging a play in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday with garish costumes, cross-dressing actors and sometimes bawdy language to mock Utah legislators.
“We are giving this hallowed body as much respect as we think it deserves: not very much,” said Jesse Fruhwirth, spokesman for Occupy Salt Lake.
The play depicted a debutante ball that brings out to society some corporations that it says are behind bills promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and passed by conservative Utah legislators — including anti-immigration and school privatization laws.
Actors portrayed Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, and Reps. Steve Sandstrom, R-Orem, and Keith Grover, R-Provo, as special friends of ALEC and corporations who are willing to do their bidding.
Fruhwirth also played a weak “Lady Democrat,” depicting Utah Democrats who sheepishly try to silence chanting protestors and urge them to be nice and simply attend legislative committee meetings to talk.
“We’re mocking some of Utah’s most corrupt lawmakers in their place of work, the people’s house,” said organizer Justin Kramer.
Jessica Lee, who wrote the play, said ALEC is planning an annual meeting in Salt Lake City later this year, so the group wanted to draw attention to how it works with corporations to promote model legislation in the states.
“We wanted to do something more creative than a rally, so we came up with protest theater,” she said.
However, no legislators watched the play. They were in chambers a few feet away debating bills Wednesday afternoon, so the audience included only the participants, news reporters and some lobbyists. Organizers said, however, they plan to put at least part of the play online.
The play was among protests or rallies planned in 70 cities nationwide on Leap Year Day to attack ALEC and corporations.
“The public is never informed that a group representing the most privileged people in America is drafting the legislation that disempowers the most vulnerable,” said David Osborne of Occupy Portland, which issued a call for the protests against ALEC.