At about noon in San Francisco on Saturday, a team of six protesters pushed off of Fisherman’s Wharf in a boat with a 33-foot inflatable chicken that resembled President Donald Trump fastened to it. The chicken was outfitted in giant prison fatigues—and as they headed toward Alcatraz, a banner on the side of the boat that read “Transporting Prisoner 00045” was unfurled.
“It’s the Cock of The Rock,” organizer Danelle Morton told The Daily Beast.
They circled Alcatraz twice at five miles per hour, then coasted along the banks of the city to show off the inflatable bird to the weekend crowds on San Francisco’s Embarcadero.
The stunt was the brainchild of 62-year-old Morton and her crew of five organizers, all of whom met while planning a protest last April aimed at pressuring President Trump to release his tax returns. The Tax Marches drew crowds of thousands in cities across the country and hosted speakers including Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Maxine Waters.
And thanks in large part to Morton, the marches had their own symbol: oversized inflatable Donald Trump chickens made in China.
Since the Tax Marches, the chickens—which come in a variety of sizes—have popped up at opportune moments in several U.S. cities. Tax March organizer Taran Brar made The New York Times when he blew up his 33 footer near the White House in August. Protesters organizing in front of Rep. Darrell Issa’s office in Vista, California, also propped up a chicken in October. Still another was spotted near the yacht of billionaire Breitbart News investor Robert Mercer in September.
And now one has floated in the shadow of Alcatraz.
Saturday’s stunt was originally conceived by Morton last August, when a right-wing rally was scheduled to descend on Crissy Field in San Francisco. The field overlooks The Golden Gate Bridge, so Morton and her team planned to put the chicken on a boat and photobomb any picture that rally attendees wanted to take of the water.
A GoFundMe page was set up and donations poured in: $10,000 in 36 hours, Morton said. “People were clearly digging the fact that we were going to troll the Nazis with the chicken,” she said.
But the rally was called off, leaving Morton and her team with a choice: refund their donors, or ask them to trust that their money would be used for an equally powerful chicken stunt.
“We are confident that there will be another a suitable occasion for our chicken within a year,” they wrote to the donors. “If we do not find one by August 2018, we will donate all of the money that remains in our GoFundMe to charity.”
Out of 398 donors, only 10 asked for their donations to be refunded, Morton said. Planning for the Presidents’ Day sea operation started soon after.
To outfit the chicken in its prison uniform, Morton enlisted a neighbor of hers in Vallejo, California. Vicky Nebeker, who works in theater design, started stitching the 10-foot-by-10-foot prison outfit in early January using her Pfaff walking foot industrial sewing machine.
The shirt—that bore the number 00045—was made out of scenic fabric, stitched together at the shoulders and laced at the back like a corset. It was a strategic move to prevent it from capturing wind while on the water.
“I became concerned that if I made it in an entire piece, it would turn into a sail and take that chicken right off the boat and right into the bay,” 63-year-old Neberker said.
Cinder blocks on its feet and ropes fastened to its chest and belly also helped to keep the giant fowl in place.
Two boats used by the crew came courtesy of two fishermen who were interested in the stunt and agreed to rent their boats for a small fee. On Monday, the chicken, Morton and her crew sat in one boat. Another boat with professional photographers, snapping pictures of the scene, trailed behind.
For Morton and the organizers, the hours spent planning and executing the stunt were worth it to remind the public and politicians that people still care about President Trump’s actions that could land him behind bars — not least the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the presidential election.
“My generation ducked and covered. We grew up with the threat of Russia. We grew up scared to death; parents built bunkers,” Neberker told The Daily Beast. “We need better people in our government. I mean just better people.”