At first light the trucks began to arrive. Chevy 4x4s,
Dodge Rams with torn fender skirts, rusted by years of
parking on wharves close by the sea, the odd Toyota Tacoma.
Their beds were piled with nylon nets or stacked with
plastic utility tubs, cab roofs encrusted with seagull
shit. Some held oilskin gear and fish-scaled rubber boots;
others carried dozens of empty soda cans that rattled
against each other as the trucks braked to a stop. Slowly
their occupants stepped out onto the wet surface of the
Tarmac, looking guardedly around on legs that were more
accustomed to plunging decks, the men themselves unused to
meeting in groups larger than three or four around a table
at Mike's Pastry Shop.
Most had never come near the boxy, concrete and glass
regional office of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
They were more comfortable, as their wives complained,
wearing a groove in the streets between their homes, the
wharves where their boats were tied, and St. Peter's Club,
where they gathered before and after trips. The younger
fishermen drank at Mitch's or the Old Timer's Tavern, both
within crawling distance of each other.
Slowly they gathered, in the same groups of three or
four, muttering to each other in Sicilian:
Then the younger men pulled up in late model cars or
pickups with state-of-the-art caps. They stood off by
themselves, smoking or sipping coffee from Dunkin Donut
Styrofoam cups, dressed in Red Sox ball caps and flannel
shirts even though it was a mild June morning. Though they
were natives, many had never ventured up to the new
industrial park, much less into the vicinity of the
fisheries offices. That had been the job of the women,
who'd organized themselves as soon as the federal
government had begun to restrict the men from fishing.
The slowly rising sun revealed a parade of cars and
trucks, some still covered with the early morning dew,
slowly converging on the parking lot. As yet there was
little talk, beyond the quiet banter in Sicilian, though
once the women left their cars and a group of men began to
unload a stack of placards from a big flatbed, voices rose
on the mounting tension in the air.
Nina Calogero climbed up onto the bed of a pickup,
shouting at the sluggishly gathering fishermen through a
bullhorn. She was dressed in high heels and a purple
pantsuit, her lips livened by a bright red lipstick.
Soon the signs were thrust up as the younger men warmed
to the task of demonstrating:
No sooner had the men come together in two flanks
blocking the entrance to the office building, than the
Boston TV satellite trucks pulled up. Crews emerged with
shoulder held camcorders, reporters with remote microphones
descending on the crowd.
"What do you hope to achieve by shutting down these
offices?" a highly made up blond woman wearing a WBZ-TV
windbreaker shouted out.
But her question was blotted out as soon as Nina began
"Listen everybody. I'm Nina Calogero, the president of
the Gloucester Save Our Fishermen. We're here today to
demonstrate our solidarity against government regulations
that are starving our families!"
The men began to shout their support, as the flanks of
fishermen, young and old, closed around the entrance,
making it impossible for any office staff to enter the
building. A smaller group gathered at the rear entrance,
effectively blocking that egress as federal workers tried
"If we can't work, you guys ain't working either!" the
men shouted, pushing forward with their placards.
"We gotta get to work!" one of the receptionists
shouted back. "The switchboards'll be lighting up."
"Hey, you're only losing one morning," a youthful
fisherman answered. "How do you think it feels to be out
of work every day?"
"I want the government to hear us," Nina shouted
through the bull horn. "First youze guys increased the
mesh width on us so we couldn't catch our usual size cod
and haddock. Then you started closing the grounds down,
telling us where we could fish and where we couldn't. If
that wasn't bad enough, you cut us down to 139 days at sea.
Then it was 88 days. Next you tell us how much we can
catch and you set the inspectors on us. If we overfish by
a coupla pounds you make us dump the catch, and you fine
us. Youze call that conservation?
"How's a family gonna live on 88 work days a year?
Youze people here work five days a week, fifty-two weeks a
year. And if we get bad weather on any one of them days
we're allowed to fish, we don't work!" Nina shouted, as
the TV camera crews crowded in around the truck she spoke
"When we ask for relief, you set up a program to buy us
out," she continued forcefully. "So what the hell we
gonna do once we don't have a boat to fish? Where's a man
gonna turn whose whole life is fishing? You gonna give him
an office job? And what's his family gonna do once their
boat is gone?"
Nina lowered the bull horn when some of the men began
gesturing toward a fleet of black and green police vans as
federal marshals arrived. Soon a group of uniformed men
armed with police batons and rifles moved toward the
fishermen who blocked the entrances.
"What are they saying?" Nina shouted down to the men
close to her truck. "Can you hear?"
"They telling the guys this is government property, they
"Government property?" Nina raised her bullhorn again.
"This is our property too! We're the government and
youze guys all work for us. Whatta you mean disperse? How
can you tell us to leave what belongs to the people?"
The fishermen stood firm.
"Stay right there," Nina shouted. "If they gonna
arrest you, let them do it. Let the world see how they take
our jobs away from us and then they put us in jail when we
"Ms. Calogero, Ms. Calogero!" a reporter shouted up to
Nina. "How long will you resist?"
"We're gonna stay right here," Nina shot back. "Since
federal regulations keep fishermen from the sea, the
fishermen will prevent the federal workers from going to
their jobs. If they want to arrest good taxpaying American
citizens, let them do it. Let the television viewers see
how the country our fathers and mothers came to for freedom
treats us. They take away our livelihood, then they want to
buy us out. Now they gonna arrest us. Fine. Let it
The camera panned from Nina to the men and women holding
signs and placards. Slowly the protestors were surrounded
by the federal marshals and state police that arrived with
blaring sirens. Members of the environmental police joined
the marshals. While at the edges of the parking lot stood
several patrol cars from the Gloucester Police Department,
as officers formed a barrier which would keep the
protestors from leaving.
"You're surrounded," another reporter shouted up to
Nina. "What are you going to do now?"
"We're gonna do what we came here to do," Nina answered
calmly. "We're gonna stay here until they take us all
"But you're trespassing on federal property," the
"Since when was it a crime to stand on the land that we
all own together?" Nina answered. "When was it a crime to
speak out against injustice? Hey, the black people been
doing it for years. Now the fishermen gonna raise their
voices. They arrested the blacks and they doused them with
fire hoses. Let them do it to us now!"
The cameras began to catch the first arrests, as the
fishermen who blocked the entrance to the office building
were briskly separated from each other and led away. They
filmed the faces of the workers — secretaries, receptionists,
managers, staff attorneys — as they had gathered
apprehensively behind the police cordons. Once the entrance
had been cleared the office workers were accompanied to the
cleared glass-doored entrance. They were shown streaming
"The National Marine Fisheries staff can't understand
why your people would do this to them," a reporter called
to Nina. "They say they're your friends and advocates.
They always try to help the fishermen. Why would you turn
"We're not turning against nobody," Nina answered,
jumping down from the back of the truck, perspiration
streaming down her face, her eye shadow blurred. "We had
to make a show of solidarity," she continued. "We had to
let people know we're hurting. It didn't do any good to
talk to our senators, to Kennedy and Kerry. They told us
they cared about the fishermen, but they said we had to
protect the oceans from overfishing. The fishermen are
stuck in the middle."
"A lot of the public think you're at fault," the reporter
pressed. "They believe you've taken more from the sea than
the sea can replenish."
"Let them talk to the Russians," Nina said. "We never
had factory ships like the Soviets, sneaking into our
waters, taking on millions of pounds their high-tech
trawlers sucked up from the bottom of the sea and
processing it right on the spot. All we tried to do was
keep our boats working and feed our families. One family
one boat, is that a crime?"
Two state police in blue and gray uniforms and black
trooper's hats approached Nina.
"Ms Calogero? We understand you are the organizer of
this demonstration. Please come with us."
The crowd began to break up as Nina was led off.
Gathering up the placards, those who remained loaded them
back onto the flatbed as police patrolled the parking lot,
accompanying the last of the workers into the office
building. Fishermen who hadn't been arrested talked in
groups until they, too were dispersed by the police and
ordered to leave the area. In a matter of minutes the only
vehicles in the parking lot belonged to the federal
employees, who had begun their day's work in a locked down