The Shadow on the Tribute to Emma Lazarus -- 2004 RNC Protests

Shadow on the Tribute to Emma Lazarus

During our stay in New York City during the 2004 RNC protests, we were unable to visit the Statue of Liberty. It seemed, since we were fighting for freedom and liberty, like a great way to spend our free time in New York. We instead went to Battery Park where we could view the Statue of Liberty across the New York Harbor. In the park was a memorial in tribute to Emma Lazarus bearing the same sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. The memorial was surrounded by three metal police bars, which cast a shadow of bars across the tribute. It seemed symbolic of the state of freedom in New York at the time.

The shadow of imprisonment

(crisscrossing metal bars)

stretches across the words of a poet

no longer is this land for the tired,

the poor, the huddled masses

now sweating in the streets

just for the right to survive!

the right to freedom!

they are made like exiles

these masses yearning to breathe free

to live in the land their ancestors

fought to be free in

the land where their brothers,

sisters, mothers, and fathers

were sent off to war

while we were told it was to protect our freedom

yet, if Emma Lazarus were here

she would rip down those bars

around your memorial

she'd cry at the feet of Liberty

and scrawl her sonnet

on every street corner

and every wall

until the sound of Liberty

and freedom rang from

every corner and every rooftop

and the voices in the streets

marched through the city

without being silenced

without being forgotten

and repressed, and suppressed

these are the voices of the tired!

the words of the poor!

We are the huddled masses!


Robin Coe is a journalist and author. She wrote the fantasy novel "Fly on the Wall" and graphic novel "Illustrated Book of Wrath".

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