This week marks the 9th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Untapped caught up with Cristina Castro, founder of Make Out Not War and member of CODEPINK NYC to discuss some of their plans for public space takeover this weekend. The name Make Out Not War says it all–its members have been seen in periodic public displays of affection in Union Square and Times Square. The organization sees itself as a visual political action group that opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s first event was first held on Valentine’s Day 2009.
This is the first year anniversary of MONW. What was the inspiration behind the movement?
In 2009, CODEPINK organized a benefit party called Make Out Not War. The proceeds went to the Collateral Repair Project, an organization that assists Iraqi refugees displaced in Jordan. Afterwards, a group of us wanted to hold on to the spirit of the benefit which was fun and took an active stand against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On that first MONW kiss-in, we celebrated our love for life-affirming things, while denouncing a series of occupations that had been raging for seven years. Our first MONW was supposed to be a one-time action, but given the positive feedback we got from the crowd, we decided that we would do these kiss-ins repeatedly until our troops came home.
The protests often occur at major urban monuments in New York City. How has the city space helped or hindered the political cause?
The city space has definitely helped our cause. New York is such a densely populated space and this has allowed us to reach many people who otherwise would not have heard of us. Our action is intimate and visual in nature, so our audience is composed of people who happen to pass by the site of our action. Our goal is to create a visible reminder that there is an active opposition to these wars that so many have become accustomed to living with. To reach out to our audience, the MONW crew infuses signature CODEPINK color into the background of our action: our banner is pink, our stickers are pink, we often dress in pink, and the literature we give out is very, very pink. Having done this many times, people know who we are and what we stand for. I remember seeing our pink stickers scattered throughout the city this past Valentine’s Day and knowing we had done our job.
What are some memorable moments in the last year?
Our first MONW was pretty unforgettable. As we looked for a visible spot to hold our action, we found a huge and surreal lifeguard chair on the south end of Union Square. We unfolded a giant banner with our Make Out Not War logo, and gave out stickers advertising our cause while two couples made out on the tall chair. People loved it! Strangers joined the kiss-in, folks delighted in receiving the bright MONW stickers, and others posed for pictures in front of the towering chair. Another time, we noticed that we had been beat to the site by members of the Free Hugs movement. Seeing that they were a natural ally, MONW and the Free Huggers joined forces in one unified spectacle! On another occasion, we moved our action to the front of the Army Recruiting Station at Times Square. We were clearly a hit with the crowd that day–two women decided to make out while draped with the MONW banner–but we wound up getting resistance from the police. The juxtaposition of the embracing crowd with the hostile police officers was jarring, but it definitely stands out in my mind as symbolic of America’s great divide on this issue.
MONW is fundamentally here to to start a conversation about resisting, healing, and rebuilding. If you don’t want to engage in PDA, you can help out by distributing stickers and talking to people about the mission. E-mail [email protected] or go to MONW’s Facebook Page to get involved or come to the south side of Union Square Saturday at 1pm .