Skip to main content

Where Is the Money I Was Promised for Attending All of These Protests?

Child actors?

I’ve been told by some very convinced people that the crowds I routinely see at protests are paid to be there. Please find my invoice attached.

– My first protest was against Bush’s proposed war in Iraq. I know that was a while ago, but I’m still waiting for my check. Kindly also pay for the variety of anti-George W. Bush t-shirts that I purchased. The “More Trees, Less Bushes” t-shirt came at a pretty steep price for a college student. Reimburse me. I’ll look for the receipt.

– Another Iraq war protest.

– Another Iraq war protest.

– Another Iraq war protest. This one was so big that the NYPD placed snipers on the roof of Madison Square Garden, which wasn’t terrifying at all. I helped carry a symbolic coffin for many city blocks. Convincing, no? Pay up.

– Another Iraq war protest.

– Another Iraq war protest.

– Occupy Wall Street. Fun times that I participated in for that sweet pay day I’m still patiently waiting to receive. Nobody protests against rampant financial inequality unless they’re paid to be there, amiright?

– Another Occupy Wall Street protest. I watched the police wrestle teenagers in peace sign t-shirts to the ground as they got arrested for sitting in the middle of the street. Man, the shadowy billionaires who fund protests really must’ve shelled out for the people in wheelchairs who got arrested and wheeled off by the NYPD. So convincing.

– Another Occupy Wall Street protest. A police officer knocked me over unprovoked while I pleaded for nonviolence. This was a pretty dramatic turn on my part, so I’m asking for double reimbursement here.

– Another Occupy Wall Street protest. Did you know that when the police brutally shut down the protesters sleeping in Zuccotti Park—dragging people from their tents, screaming, in the dark of night—the police also took time to shovel the free Occupy library into the trash? I cried for days. What performance art! Pay me.

– Protest against the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. I mean, why would I care that the system violently oppresses African Americans, allows them to be killed for no reason, then lets their killers off scot-free? I was paid to be there by the billionaires who hate systemic racism, too.

– Another Black Lives Matter protest.

– Another Black Lives Matter protest.

– LGBTQIA solidarity rally after the Pulse night club rampage. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to have the same pay-out for rallies or if it’s just larger protests, so I’ll check the terms and conditions of the fake protester contract I initially signed and get back to you on this one.

– Donald Trump was set to be sworn in as President. My friends and I drove for hours to Washington, D.C. so that we could collect our money for participating in the Women’s March. Almost everyone I’ve ever met was there, which means the recruiting effort to fund fake protesters must’ve really been in overdrive for this one.

– Another Black Lives Matter protest. If the police would stop murdering black people for driving in cars maybe the protests could stop, too. This all must be pretty expensive for the billionaires who fund us so maybe they could fund police re-training first? They can have that idea for free.

– Trump announced the illegal Muslim ban, so I dropped what I was doing and headed for JFK airport alongside thousands of my fellow New Yorkers. I needed some fast cash and I guess they did too. The guy in the crowd with the “We learned about this shit in Hebrew school” sign? A stroke of genius. Nobody would suspect us Jews, raised with stories of the eradication of our people for their religion, as fake protesters against a religious ban. That’s how it was pitched to me, anyway.

– “Volunteered” over the next few days to assist the lawyers fighting the Muslim ban at JFK. Those all-night shifts were pretty brutal and I still haven’t received my check, but at least now I know some lawyers so maybe I can file a small claims lawsuit if my payment never arrives.

– Bodega protest against the Muslim ban. Now whichever billionaire dreamed this one up—was it you, George Soros?—really went to town. Somehow they got almost all of New York City’s Yemeni-run bodegas to close down for the evening, risking their livelihood, just to protest the state-sanctioned ban on their countrymen entering America. Great “protest” optics, right? I had to purchase my own sign-making materials and take the extra time to bug Wali, my favorite boedga worker, to write “Refugees Welcome” in Arabic on my sign, so that’s going to cost extra. Please see “Materials fee” below.

– Last-minute protest against something terrible that Donald Trump did. There’ve been so many terrible things they’re all kind of blurring together at this point, but I know I was there, waving a sign and yelling my little heart out just like I’d been told to do, so don’t think you can skip payment on this one. I’ll check my Instagram to see what I was supposedly there for.

– Protest against the events in Charlottesville. Now here we go, this was the big times, and we were promised a huge pay day. No real American would come out against Nazism, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism that resulted in death unless there was a fat check in the offering. These anti-racist protests sprang up all around the country with a few hours’ notice, so the organizational body that recruits fake protesters must be absolutely everywhere. It’s pretty impressive when you think about it.

Anyway, by my count, I’m at about 20 protests, and what I don’t understand is why I still haven’t received my money. The first few times I could believe my check got lost in the mail, but come on, guys, if you can generate spontaneous national movements attended by thousands, I’d think you have the payroll locked down by now. It shouldn’t be harder to receive a response to my fake protester invoice than it is to get paid for a freelance writing piece (and trust me, it’s pretty hard to get paid for those!).

Please pay me. I’ve been at this for years now and I haven’t seen a dime. I’m starting to think maybe I should stop attending protests because billionaires promised me money to put my body on the line. And then what am I going to do with my evenings and weekends?

(images: Kaila Hale-Stern)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.