The crowd around me pulsed and vibrated to the funky rhythm coming from the beat-box instrument I had summoned, which hovered over my left shoulder. Standing on the ledge of the fountain, I could feel the splash on the backs of my legs as the water rose from the center and fell in the pool. I had the attention of dozens of fellow students as I belted out my improvised protest song. It was a simple hook over a simple beat, and some of my fellow students rapped along with me when it came to the hook. I was feeling inspired, and I was inspiring courage in others. It felt good to exercise my skill in this way, fighting against what I believed was wrong.
We were taking positive action against the new administration crackdown on various forms of expression which were deemed “obscene” and “heretical”, protesting in the central plaza of the university. The new city governor had installed a new cleric upon his installation on the island, and the resulting crackdown on liberal behaviors was immediate and severe. Gender norms were aggressively enforced, which I find particularly offensive, with non-compliance resulting in immediately imprisonment and re-education. Today I was wearing my baggy green slacks and brown jacket, with a hint of my yellow shirt visible below the collar, my tan flat cap and heavy boots – it wasn’t a very subtle act of civil disobedience as my lilting, feminine voice gave away my gender immediately.
Typically this time of day, students could be found engaged in a wide range of scholarly activities – reading textbooks, exchanging notes, discussing lectures, flirting, socializing, imbibing, gaming – typical activities of the youthful and vigorous. Today we filled the plaza with protest signs and songs, exchanging ideas to subvert the machinations of power, but all enjoying our recently re-invigorated sense of power and freedom. The student body was not going to take this dramatic reversal of social norms lightly. We planned to make a full march around the campus, culminating at the steps of the cathedral.
It wasn’t just the students involved in the protest either. Most of our teachers had joined the party-like atmosphere in the plaza. Many of them had moved to the island school specifically because of the intense acceptance of total freedom of expression which was embodied by the previous governor, a former public relations administrator who was promoted through the management ladder after he married the arch-cleric’s niece. But they were both homosexual, having tricked the uncle with quite a public display at the opening of a new market in an out-of-the-way town. After transferring away from the hell of social conformity that was the capital, the two transformed the university into a bastion of free expression. Nothing was forbidden which did not cause material harm to another – public nudity became a triviality and trans-sexual students finally were able to dress and act as they felt. Artists and artisans from all over the archipelago flocked to the tiny island, which soon boasted a marketplace and harbor bursting with activity.
There were others in the plaza besides the students and teachers though. The entire area was ringed with university police, there to ensure that the student body didn’t riot and start destroying property. No matter how good of intentions the organizers of any gathering have, there are always a few ignorant thugs who think destruction is the way towards progress. The students were at complete ease in the presence of the authorities, though, because there was no feeling of animosity towards the campus police or even the university administration. There was no undercurrent of hatred threatening to break out into violence – there was no need as recent history lead them to assume they would be granted their freedom of assembly.