Photos: Chris Faraone
This past week, the United States Marine Corps invaded Boston. Or, more accurately, they were invited into the community by Mayor Tom Menino to “showcase military equipment displays, perform community outreach projects, and honor local Marines during Marine Week Boston.”
At least that’s what the press release said. According to anti-war activists, however, Marine Week is a thinly veiled recruitment prop, and worse, one that was partially funded by taxpayers in that the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) supplied paint for a 375-square-foot “Community, Country, Corps” mural that Marines tagged in Hyde Park (two blocks from the mayor’s house). Though the value of the supplies in question is minimal, some say the value of highly visible political propaganda is significantly higher.
“I object to this without question,” says Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition co-founder John Harris. “Promoting the Marines in a time when millions of people are in opposition to the never-ending occupation is not appropriate, and certainly I don’t think that it should be paid for by the people of this city.”
This past Thursday the Phoenix hiked to Hyde Park to meet the six-man Marine “combat camera” crew, which, over the course of two weeks, painted an impressive kaleidoscopic spread at Kelly Field overlooking River Street. On one end of the mural, a Marine hands a combat-ready teddy bear to a young boy. Another scene features a corporal supplying water to Third World children, while the far-right panel, according to one artist, depicts “a smoking-hot Marine chick” saluting passers-by.
“We all thought it went extremely well,” says Major Brandon Frazee, who worked directly on the project. “The people didn’t just come out to support us, but they also asked serious questions about what we do elsewhere in the world. That’s why we were there — to show the American taxpayer what they’re getting in return. War and fighting make news, but the community outreach that we do does not.”
For doves, though, the scene on River Street was particularly troubling, as Marines celebrated the completion of their installation. A DJ crew from WAAF blared classic rock; passing motorists honked in support; attractive young women walked up to salute the boys; teens coveted the bright red Marines Hummer with a booming Xbox system in the trunk.
“Essentially, the city is disrespecting its residents by doing this,” says Harris. “Thousands in this city alone are in opposition to the war policies of the government, and to recruiting kids to get killed in wars and occupations that are based on lies.”
Still, the Marines deny that their Hyde Park billboard is a recruiting tool — even if thousands of young people will use Kelly Field and its adjoining pool this summer.
“Like any piece of art,” counters Frazee, “this one is open to interpretation. But while Marine Week could be a great recruitment event,” he adds, pointing out that Marines also cleaned up parks and recreation areas, including Boston Common, “that’s not why we came to Boston.”