Subject: ON GREED, SERVILITY, AND REVOLT : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE, FRANCE.
8 January 2004
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
We have received many end-of-the-year messages, some of which discussed the economic and social crises we are now living. Among the more original messages was the essay by our research associate, Professor Douglas Dowd, in Bologna, Italy (please see Newsletter No.20, "The United States Becomes Its Own Worst Enemy" <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa> ). Professor Dowd offers a provocative analysis of contemporary American society by comparing it to the decaying political economy of the "New South," between 1877 and the Second World War. This comparison invites many new insights. . . .
One difference between the slave laborer/private property and the wage laborer/consumer is that the slave lived in bondage to his master's will, while the wage worker/consumer lives in bondage to the demands of the market place. Both workers labor under the illusion that they need their job more than their job needs them. (To perpetuate this belief, the house slave was made to constantly fear being deprived of his/her material comforts in the Big House, and being sent back to field. The field slave, on the other hand, lived with the continual threat of violence and the constant anxiety of being beaten or worse. The wage laborer, by contrast, lives in the constant fear of loosing his/her income.) What gives this illusion of powerlessness plausibility is the uncritical acceptance of the ruling class ideology, and in modern America "possessive individualism" has for the most part replaced "white supremacy" as the ruling ideology.
As long as slaves were not organized around their own collective interests, and as long as wage workers in late capitalist societies are not organized to control the political economies that govern their lives, and are not prepared to impose new guarantees of full employment, universal health care, superior education, and other requirements that better meet their needs and the needs of families and communities --as long as sullen, resentful submission continues to dominate their behavior, the outcome will be quite predictable: we will remain enslaved to the desires of others. In brief, we find ourselves increasingly entrapped in a deep epistemological error, striving for individual solutions to collective social problems. This fallacy is comparable to acting out the fear of not getting enough oxygen by pushing greedily to inhale more and more air, rather than taking into account the causes of the fear and implementing measures necessary to prevent suffocation, and furthermore to prevent anyone from interfering with our right to breath the highest quality air.
These efforts at individual solutions lead inevitably to ontological insecurities --e.g. the feeling that one can never have enough because it is "each man for himself," so that what you won today might easily be lost tomorrow.
Will the cultural and physical deterioration witnessed in the "New South" after the Civil War spread across the United States in the near future? Professor Dowd thinks it could, and much sooner than we might expect.
The 19th-century Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin,
understood as well as anyone the dynamics of "social causation". In his
novel Dubrovsky, the protagonist observes the servility of local officials
who catered to the every need of a wealthy local tyrant --"where there
is a trough there are pigs" Pushkin observed in 1832. The poet spoke the
truth : we make our leaders, they do not make us, and by tolerating abuse,
we make them stronger.
Below, readers will find five descriptions of contemporary revolt inside the United States today :
Item A., an article from the Miami Harold, sent to us by Professor Edward Herman, describes the new level of violence against peaceful protesters, seeking among other things to protect the environment of the Florida Everglades by opposing the destructive Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement.
Item B., sent
to us by Kathleen Ross-Allee on the West Coast, is a copy of correspondence
exchanged between the newspaper the Oregonian and an anti-war activist
in Oregon, in which Mary
McDonald-Lewis challenges her newspaper's use of "three small words: 'on our behalf'. . . ."
Item C. , sent to us by our research associate Richard Du Boff, describes the quid pro quo treatment the Brazilian government is dishing out to U.S. tourists, in response to the U.S. civil rights violations by U.S. customs at ports of entry into the U.S. (The criminalization of tourism?) Also, Professor Du Boff has passed on to us a bit of political humor from the libertarian magazine, MAD (visit <http://www2.warnerbros.com/madmagazine/files/onthestands/ots_437/6.html>).
Item D. is a message sent to us from the African American community, via Annie Bingham in Paris and the "comité Mumia Abu-Jamal" : (1) the January 2 benefit for WordSlanger's son at Berkeley, California, and (2) "A Revolutionary New Year!" by Sis. Kiilu Nyasha, followed by an interview with Ayodele Nzinga, aka "WorldSlanger," by Ra'shida Askey.
And item E.
offers a final picture of RESISTANCE inside contemporary America, with
an Anarchist description of the November police riots in Miami, Florida,
forwarded to us by our research associate Professor Ronald Creagh (please
see web site: <http://melior.univ-montp3.fr/ra_forum/>).
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies /
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble 3
from Edward Herman :
25 December 2004
Subject: MiamiHerald: Another Miami Protest Story: Woman Brutalized byAuthorities.
copyright Dec. 21, 2003 The Miami Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
U.S. democracy: headin toward the last roundup.
Model student recounts horrors of FTAA arrest
Laurel Ripple, 21, is everything we say we want our young
people to be -- smart, driven, socially conscious.
When she was a senior at MAST Academy, Laurel
delivered 3,000 postcards to Miami-Dade Mayor Alex
Penelas, signed by high school students opposed to his
plan to build an airport on the edge of the Everglades.
A member of the Sierra Club since she was a teenager,
Ripple spent the last six months encouraging college
students like herself to come to Miami and oppose the
Free Trade Area of the Americas.
On Nov. 21, Laurel was part of a vigil outside the county jail for the
protesters arrested the day before. After three hours, the Miami-Dade
police ordered everyone to leave. As anyone who watched the scene
unfold live on television can attest, the police moved forward into the
crowd of 100 people, cutting off about 40 protesters and trapping them
against a chain link fence.
''The front line of the police all had shields, and they kept pushing in,
pinning us against the fence,'' recalls Laurel, who grew up in South Miami.
After a few minutes, Laurel said she fell to the ground and covered her
head, whereupon an officer grabbed her wrists with one hand, lifted her
arms and began blasting her with pepper spray.
''I started screaming in pain,'' Laurel says. ``He had held the canister
close to my face that my hair and face were dripping with pepper spray.''
In the melee, she said she badly twisted her ankle. She was taken to a
makeshift jail in Earlington Heights for processing and decontamination.
''Because I couldn't walk, they dragged me,'' she recalls. ``They had a
shower set up in the parking lot. Two officers held me up as I was
drenched for a few seconds with water. I was then dragged into this tent.
It was dark. There were four men in white biohazard suits. I'm still
coughing and crying from the pepper spray. I can't really tell what is
With her hands still bound behind her back, she said she felt her T-shirt
coming apart. ''That's when I realized they had scissors and they were
cutting my clothes off of me,'' she says.
She said she begged them to stop, saying she could take her own clothes
off. And she asked why there wasn't a female officer present. ''They
didn't say anything to me,'' she says, her hands shaking as she lights a
cigarette. ``No one ever said a word to me while they were doing this.
``After they cut my shirt off, they cut off my jeans and my underwear.
I'm standing there totally naked. I felt completely violated. It was
Wearing a set of surgical scrubs, she was booked into jail barefoot, and
claims she never received medical attention for her ankle.
Her criminal charge: unlawful assembly, a misdemeanor.
Sgt. Pete Andreu, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department,
said he could neither confirm nor deny Laurel was pepper-sprayed by
police. The ''chemical agent'' could have been released by one of the
protesters, he said. He also doubted she ever asked for medical help. The
decontamination, he added, was done by the Miami-Dade Fire
The fire department said Laurel received standard treatment for ''gross
decontamination.'' ''If we had permitted her to remove her own clothes,
she could have recontaminated herself,'' said fire department spokesman
Lt. Eugene Germain Jr.
I wonder how Penelas or Miami Mayor Manny Diaz would feel if their
wives or their children were put through such a process.
Jonathan Ullman, South Florida field representative for the Sierra Club,
saw Laurel being arrested on television.
''She's a great kid,'' he says. ``I couldn't believe it.''
Ullman called the Washington office of the Sierra Club, which dispatched
attorneys to get Laurel out of jail within a few hours. The Sierra Club's
executive director wrote President Bush this month demanding a Justice
Department investigation into Laurel's arrest and the allegations of police
misconduct made by other Sierra Club members.
So far, there has been no response. Laurel's next court date is Dec. 30.
from Kathleen Ross-Allee :
2 January 2004
I am forwarding this letter exchange to you from an old college friend of mine who lives in Oregon. It is
a rather interesting exchange in response to an editorial in the Oregonian. My friend is a rather outspoken individiual and is
quite an activist. I appreciate the clarity of her writing and thought you might as well.
Love and hopefully peace in the New Year.
Three small words: "on our behalf" set me off on Sunday. Below find the result. --MM
My heart shattered, looking at the faces of those young lost lives
featured on the cover of the Commentary section of the Sunday, December
28th edition of the Oregonian. However, Editor Sandy Rowe was
inaccurate when she wrote "We have no political intention with this
tribute beyond honoring--with humility and gratitude--the sacrifice of
the 471 men and women who gave their lives on our behalf."
Language is a tricky, subtle thing, and it always carries
covert values of the dominant culture embedded in it. Editors as
skilled as Ms. Rowe know this. The men and women who died did not
necessarily die for us--not even in their own minds. This is the
message of the Bush administration only (and its few allies), one that
is widely challenged by millions of people in the United States and
abroad. Opposition to the President's position includes high-ranking
military men and women, both active and retired, along with civilians.
But any message, repeated often enough, slips into the mainstream as
"truth," especially with the media as an often willing partner.
As to those who died: their lives were taken for many reasons. Some
lost their lives because they loved the military and supported this
war. Others, because poverty and lack of options drove them to the
service. Yet others because they were "weekend warriors" and assumed
this would pay for their college education. All died because they
obeyed the call to service when it came.
But "gave their lives on our behalf"? Only some of the dead felt that
way, and only some of the living feel that way. To generalize is an
insult to both. What we can all agree on is that all of these deaths
are tragedies, and that we have only begun to calculate the loss.
Personally, I do not honor these fallen soldiers with humility and
gratitude, as the Oregonian does. I honor them with despair and rage.
I would rather those fine minds be home, discovering the cure for
cancer, writing the next great novel, finding the pathway to peace from
the pulpit or the White House... not twisted and dead under the rubble
of an Iraqi hut. And I will use that grief, use that anger, to add my
voice to a message counter to the dominant one in our language: do not
die for me. Come home, and LIVE for me.
2510 NE Klickitat St.
Portland OR 97212
> From: "Publiceditor MailBox" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Date: Mon, 29 Dec 2003 12:14:17 -0800
> To: <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: RESPONSE: Voluntary Service, Extraordinary Sacrifice
> Dear Ms. McDonald-Lewis,
> Thanks for taking the time to write to The Oregonian about the special
> section on the soldiers who have died in Iraq.
> You write so eloquently about the loss to our country and about how you
> honor the soldiers. I will share your words with editors involved.
> I know that Ms. Rowe intended no insult of those at home and abroad who
> did not agree with the decision to go to war. She also realizes that a
> range of reasons - lack of money for schooling, a need to make a living
> - resulted in many of the soldiers fighting in Iraq, not necessarily for
> a cause they shared. Her intent was to reflect that, regardless of their
> viewpoints, the soldiers still died carrying out the orders of the
> leaders of our country.
> I share with you the hope that the fine minds of soldiers soon will be
> home, "finding the pathway to peace."
> Thanks again for writing,
> Mike Arrieta-Walden
> Public editor
Dear Mr. Arrieta-Walden,
You are kind to respond so quickly to my letter. Thank you.
I know that Ms. Rowe meant no insult, and I am eager to stress that. My letter was intended to caution Ms. Rowe, the Oregonian, and your readers as to the subversive nature of language, and how we may unintentionally support a dominant political culture, while claiming not to, simply by repeating unexamined phrases. The fact of the matter is, those young people may or may not have died, in their own opinion (which is, at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters) "on our behalf." Those three inaccurate words, unfortunately, undermine the purity of the article altogether. For the only thing we know is, they died.
As the paper's editor, Ms. Rowe would have made a much sounder--and far more poignant--journalistic case for the Commentary article if she had kept the text to that bare statement alone: this was who died. As you recall, this is how the faces and lives of those who perished in the World Trade Center were presented after September 11th, and I can recall nothing more moving in journalistic history. Can you?
I must thank you once again for your thoughtful reply, and for your column. I read it faithfully, and always find it honest, and insightful.
From: Richard B. Du Boff
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004
Subject: Stopping US terrorists!
Copyright, Jan. 05, 2004
Miffed, Brazil gets tough with visitors from U.S.
by Kevin G. Hall
RIO DE JANEIRO. Federal police in Brazil have ordered immigration authorities to begin fingerprinting and photographing U.S. tourists as they arrive at airports, cruise-ship terminals and land borders.
The decision was in response to a similar move by the United States. Today, a U.S. rule takes effect at 115 U.S. airports that will require most visiting tourists, including those from Brazil, to have their photographs and fingerprints logged digitally as they clear immigration.
Brazil's reaction is one more sign of deteriorating relations between the United States and Latin America's most populous nation.
The U.S. rule was created because of terrorist threats and illegal immigration, problems that Brazil does not have. But Bruno Ramos, a spokesman for federal police in the capital city of Brasilia, said Friday that "American citizens, when they come to Brazil... get involved in trafficking of drugs, trafficking of women and bio-piracy," the theft of protected wildlife from the Amazon.
Federal Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva, angered by the U.S. rules, ordered immediate reciprocal treatment for Americans last Monday. Starting on New Year's Day, Americans were pulled out of immigration lines in Sao Paulo, photographed, and forced to dab their fingers in ink. Brazilian immigration authorities do not have electronic fingerprinting technology.
Changes had not taken place in Rio de Janeiro or elsewhere. Friday's announcement by the federal police, who are in charge of enforcing immigration rules, ordered Brazilian officials to comply with the rules nationwide immediately.
More than 220,000 U.S. and Canadian nationals visited Rio de Janeiro last year, a quarter of all foreign tourists in the country. A U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Brazil were monitoring the new screening process closely.
Tourism officials in Brazil were unhappy with the plan.
"Subjecting our international visitors to identification at the airports
might make sense in terms of reciprocity under international law, but it
makes no sense from a point of view of Brazil's interests," said Paulo
Bustos, Rio's undersecretary for tourism. "We don't suffer threats of terror;
we have open arms for international visitors, and I believe if we follow
this idea of reciprocity, we are acting on the motives of others and affecting
our own interests."
Brazil, a country of 176 million people, has enjoyed warm relations with the United States. But President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva harshly criticized the US-led invasion of Iraq, and the Brazilian media recently have taken a more hostile view of the United States.
In September, Brazil led a revolt by developing nations that caused US-led global trade talks to collapse. In October, the United States was forced by Brazil to narrow its plans for a hemispherewide trade pact by 2005.
Scheduled trade talks in Chile this month were called off after Brazil's
continued objections could not be overcome.
From: Annie Bingham and the "comité Mumia Abu-Jamal" : <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, 02 Jan 2004 09:11:35 +0100
Subject: Tr : !*"A Revolutionary New Year!" by Sis. Kiilu Nyasha
Submitted by: Sis. Kiilu Nyasha (email@example.com)
(Please email Sis. Kiilu if you would like to have a copy of the dual
portrait titled "maternity.")
I've pasted below a missive I wrote and a poem by devorah major.
With best wishes for good health, strength, love and peace in 2004.
"/Forward forever; backwards - never!"/*
We have come to the end of another year, one I'm glad to see gone. 2003
has been one of the most difficult years in my recent memory. We've all
seen our civil and human rights massively violated in an ugly display of
brutal repression both at home and abroad by the power brokers of
fascist militarism. We are witnessing the rise of racist, classist,
sexist, homophobic haters threatening individuals and communities across
the nation, while white liberals disguised as "progressives" retreat
into the safe corridors of the establishment, leading masses of people
Given the brazen onslaught of the police state at home and the
imperialist occupations abroad, we must look to the most targeted, most
oppressed victims of corporatism to form the vanguard of a revolutionary
movement for change, revolutionary change, not /reform. /(Reform is to
capitalism as a bandaide is to cancer at this stage of the game.)
Revolutionary leadership will not hail from comfortable, middle-class
white folks. It will come from the grassroots, from those with the least
to lose and the most to gain from real change -- most likely
/prisoners/, esp. Black/Brown prisoners and parolees.
It's time to step to the plate. We cannot allow all the civil and human
rights we've won through decades of struggle and the blood sacrifices of
freedom fighters, our heroes and sheroes, to be wiped out by our common
enemies. Bush, Jr., stated early on "You're either for us or against
us." Good! I know exactly where I stand. Do you?
Let us move forward into 2004 with the resolve to join in solidarity
with the peoples of the world in resisting imperialism, fascism,
liberalism, and the environmental assaults on our planet by corporate
greed. Let us stop compromising with the peoples' enemies and all their
lackeys, sellouts, and turncoats. Let us roll up our sleeves, come
together, collect our resources, time, energies, skills to/ organize. /
We must rally our neighborhoods to meet their own needs through
cooperation, militant solidarity, and love. Let us pay closer attention
to our prisoners by writing and visiting them -- fighting for their
release, the abolition of prisons and the death penalty. "Trust no one
in whom the desire to punish is strong."
Let us demand what people the world over really need: healthy food,
living wages, free health care, education, and child care, affordable
housing (beginning with a martial plan to house all houseless people in
Let us look forward to organizing a people's convention that would
address these needs and other relevant issues affecting the lives of
everyday people -- with an eye toward a peoples' congress with
proportional representation from all the ethnic groups -- and comprised
of an equal number of men and women in accordance with their percentages
of the population.
In the final analysis, let's */save our children./*
Celebrate the bicentennial of Haiti's Revolution - January 1, 2004!*
*/basra- real and imagined (from iraq footage series)
there is a family who lives
in the once prosperous port of basra
lives near the iraqi oil pipelines
snaking to the harbor
lives inside the open wound of the city
out of eyesight of the rebuilt refinery
lives bombed besieged betrayed forsaken
scorned and attacked by people
they have never wronged
when the husband has batteries
the wife would prefer to listen to music
on the radio
she knows the news
outside their home
cut through the air
too often a snarl
wash, kneel, pray
a dropped charge
guts a highway
levels a factory
causes another wall
another roof to give way
down the block
around the corner
their lives again
with the walls of the house
where they used to live
they had furniture then
three rooms instead of two
the youngest boy had not yet died
the remaining children
go hungry too often
one stays sick too much
the mother hopes the new child
that she carries will be born
not like her neighbor's
without brain or spine
each evening the mother
buries her fear
sings back her tears
and begins to cook
pan camera over to 8th century bazaar
shoes with curled tips
puzzle rings of knotted gold
out from basra
each of his seven voyages
remember tales of sherezade
thick wool tapestries
and always a princess or two
americans like to remember this
distant exotic fable
not knowing it is basra
where we now bomb
near the iraqi oil pipelines
snaking to the harbor of basra
out of eyesight of the rebuilt refinery
where the husband works
with little food
with less hope
inside the open wound of the basra
bombed besieged betrayed forsaken
attacked by people they have never wronged
this family yearns for peace
copyright©2003 by devorah major
Subject: Benefit for WordSlanger's son at Berkeley, California.
Date: Fri, 02 Jan 2004
(The following is Part 2 of Fire and Rain: An interview with Ayodele
Nzinga at www.sfbayview.com now!)
by Ra'shida Askey
Ayodele Nzinga, aka WordSlanger, is a spoken word artist from Oakland
who can't be fully appreciated until you hear her perform yourself.
I had actually been following some of her work for almost a year until
universal law fell into place and I was able to get an interview with
her. Beyond a spoken word artist, WordSlanger is definitely a teacher of
the people and a professor of the poor, as she brings truth to the
socio-economic and political circumstances we face as a people in her
poetry, in her performance and in just mere conversation.
The best talent from our best warriors will not be heard on mainstream
television and radio, because these media outlets do not want to support
people who create art for people to liberate themselves. Luckily, this
warrior woman does not allow the marginalizing mainstream media to keep
her work silent while she creates other avenues to feed the community
with her talent.
On Sunday, Jan. 4, Fire & Rain, a benefit for the son of WordSlanger who
suffered severe burns over 22 percent of his body, will be held at
Ashkenaz in Berkeley to give us all a spoken word and musical experience
that will be food for thought and liberation. Let's take a moment to see
what food WordSlanger is slangin' to us for dinner this week.
Ra'Shida: Being that you are not motivated by Hollywood, who do you
produce product for?
WordSlanger: Who am I writing to? Everybody is performing for somebody.
When I write, I am not performing for White or mainstream Amerikkka. I
am not excluding them, but I am not writing for them. My target is North
American Africans and oppressed, marginalized people everywhere.
I am interested in fostering and continuing a dialogue about what led to
the present, how it is we find ourselves right here, what's important
about now, what's real, what is relevant to our struggle, and about the
future and how it is we see ourselves in it.
When I talk about a revolution these days, it is about a revolution of
thought. Some people think that we won the revolution - that we have
civil rights and it's all good. I think they trippin'. In some ways, we
are worse off as a people than during Reconstruction.
I want us to understand the time that we live in is significant. The
Black on Black crime rate, the youth murdering each other, the high
incarceration rates, the high dropout rate, all of these things are
significant and crucial to our ability to survive as a self-authoring
people. And I think a lot of time we feel helpless. We are only 11
percent of the population, and that is a reality.
But we are also part of a larger group of people that is in actuality a
majority on the planet. This group is composed of the oppressed,
marginalized, exploited people excluded from the dialogue that runs the
world. When we adopt the latter status, it moves us beyond simple
divisive issues of race, where we can see the reality of global
corporate capitalism as it divides and devours the world.
If human beings don't take care of business, Black people won't have to
worry about their problems, because society - as we know it - will cease
to exist. If we allow ourselves to remain in our current position, would
it make it any different if the world was reformed if we remain in our
African Amerikkkans have a dual challenge, we have business in the world
as human beings and we have business as North American Africans. As
human beings, we are at a flashpoint; we have to decide whether or not
we want the future to be dominated by a Western European point of view.
North American Africans are further challenged by an unfinished
conversation surrounding the misappropriation and the resultant
traumatic existence composed of marginalization, and exclusion, here in
In my opinion, the window to complete that conversation is closing on
North Amerikkkan Africans. How can we participate in the larger dialogue
without finishing our own conversation first? Frankly I don't see how we
can join in the conversation that the world is having if we have not
taken care of our own unfinished business.
People have a dream about leaving the ghetto, chasing the Amerikkkan
dream like you can buy it from a catalog and get it shipped to you like
Readers Digest. I am looking for the North Star in the hood; I want to
change the blocks and spots into neighborhoods. Neighborhoods we have
pride in, feel safe in, are invested in, feel motivated to protect and
I believe in building community, and I will never be bigger than my
home. I feel like I am going to school for the community because I don't
plan to go leave. I'm building an arsenal. I am acquainting myself with
how prevailing culture makes meaning.
I plan to stay right there in the Lower Bottoms and build. I am pursuing
a Ph.D. to be able to better help us formulate whatever theory it is we
need to formulate in order to be effective in spite of, around or
through the systemic causes of our oppression. So in the vernacular of
the streets, I'm hood for life.
Ra'Shida: As a mother, what is the greatest threat to our Black community?
WordSlanger: Simple statistics are enough to terrify you. One in six go
to jail, one in five die before the age of 21. More are bound for the
penitentiary than college. As Marvin X likes to say, the dope man
remains the number one employer of our youth.
Just trying to beat the statistics and the odds is a full time job. I
have five sons, and it remains difficult in this society to raise men.
The system itself conspires against it.
One of the most crucial issues we need to address as a community is a
concept of family. It is imperative that we focus and concentrate on
building strong Black families and acknowledge the accomplishment as a
Ra'Shida: Why is it revolutionary to raise Black families?
WordSlanger: It's another way of creating food for the table. Soldiers
raise soldiers. We are good at division. We have been taught to divide.
We have had lessons in division every since the ship and the Middle
Passage. We don't multiply or add as well as we divide. We are slow to
pull resources, to act decisively, to have concern about someone outside
of ourselves. We lack the skills to build.
How are we going to build a community if we cannot raise a family? It is
our families that compose our communities. If you raise sons who don't
go to jail, who don't deal dope, who respect themselves and other Black
people, who honor the concept of family, then they will - in turn -
build strong Black families.
Ra'Shida: Describe the event Jan.4, 2004.
WordSlanger: The event is called Fire & Rain, and it is a benefit for my
son. He was burned over 22 percent of his body; he has had eight
surgeries so far and will have to have more. He has had skin graphs, all
the fingers on his right hand were amputated, and he is looking at a
couple of years of extensive physical therapy. He has to wear special
garments. He was in the hospital for two months. His total recovery is
anticipated to take a couple of years.
And the community came together, and most of the performers performing
are friends of mine or friends of friends who care enough to come in an
effort to make sure Koran gets what he needs and enable me to continue
to do what I do.
I do not think that there is anything worse than when you see yourself
as a protector of your community and your family and something bad
reaches inside of that circle and touches one of yours. It wounds you in
a way that nothing else does - especially when it is mother and child.
I'm a solider. Not just a soldier, a general. I have overcome immense
personal adversity in my own life. I have been through a lot of things
that have wrecked people. I am still standing, still serving food for
But when my child got hurt, it's like the whole world stopped. I say
from the bottom of my heart, it was the community reaching up and
putting its hands on me, holding me and my family, praying for us,
calling, going back and forth to Sacramento to see my son in the
hospital, dropping food off at my house, sharing limited resources,
giving me cash that enabled me to soldier through it. Community came and
they tried as hard as they could to create a space where I could
navigate through the emotional upheaval and support my son and to enable
me to do what it is I do.
A lot of the times, artists and activists work in a vacuum. You are
centered around an event, an issue, a project, and you do not really
know the type of effect you are having on the community. You don't know
whether or not they are feeling you. I felt love from the community.
And if I sound kind of surprised, I am, because you never really know
whether or not someone is listening or if they have been touched. It
gives me strength to continue doing what I do, because I know there is
an army out their traveling off the food I keep putting on the table.
There are always lessons to be learned in life. Every experience in life
can leave you with some knowledge. I know that I work for community and
that community for me is a real entity, and not a euphemism.
I try to walk what I talk. It is an important part of the whole thing to
be real about what I talk. It's from the heart. A lot of times I feel
alone in a vacuum. One of the things that is helping us get through what
happen to my son is the outpouring of concern from our community.
'Fire & Rain'
Everybody needs to come out to the Fire & Rain event on Sunday, Jan. 4.
It will be at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley, from 7:30 p.m.
until - and it is $10-$20 sliding scale. It is important that we as a
community support our own artists from our communities, because they are
the ones who create art for our better livelihood.
For all the food that WordSlanger has put on our community table, it is
time to show our support for her struggle and come to the benefit. Bring
your friends and family out to see the work of this warrior woman griot
as well as all the other performers like JT the Bigga Figga, Rudi
Mwongozi, Paradise, Gabriella, the Congo Square 2 Drum Circle and more.
This is the right way to start off 2004 as a community of soldiers.
You can find updates and enjoy the work of WordSlanger at
WordSlanger.8k.com, and for more information you can contact WordSlanger
at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta
St., Oakland CA 94607, Suite D.
Email Ra'shida at email@example.com.
from Ronald Creagh
Date: Fri, 26 Dec 2003
Subject: (en) Bringing the Heat in Miami
From: ra <firstname.lastname@example.org>
BRINGING THE HEAT IN MIAMI: An Analysis of Direct Action at the November
2003 F.T.A.A. Ministerial
VICTORY BEFORE WE EVEN HIT THE STREETS
It was almost a miracle, not to mention a victory for our movement, that
the mobilization in Miami happened at all. Miami was one of the most
repressive police states North America has ever witnessed; the $8.5
million security plan, funded by federal anti-terrorism dollars,
fortified an already incredibly brutal police force. In the days leading
up to the event, paramilitary police stood guard on every downtown
corner, arresting anyone who looked like they might be a protester. The
media engaged in a smear campaign of lies and slander about anarchists,
lionizing the police force that was to protect the city from these
invading beasts. Plans for the protest seemed to grow murkier rather
than clearer as the event approached. Many expected the worst.
Not to be deterred, anarchists entered a city with no infrastructure for
direct action and set one up in a mere few weeks. The convergence and
welcome centers, the legal, medical, and food support, the independent
media and art spaces‹these expressions of mutual aid, solidarity, and
gift economics were living examples of the world we are fighting for.
This infrastructure, pulled together in such a short period of time, was
comparable to analogous structures that have taken months and even years
to set up in cities that regularly host mobilizations. Our ability to
put down such roots in the face of such repression is a moving example
of the strength of our movement.
WE ARE EVERYWHERE
On Thursday afternoon, as a mass of activists were beating a spirited
retreat from the police line to the sound of marching drums and
whistles, a legal observer turned to face his comrades. ³As your legal
observer, I advise you toŠ² he began, echoing the familiar words of many
a legal observer before him, ³Špull shit into the middle of the street
and set it on fire!!² Cheering ensued all around.
This anecdote foregrounds a marked difference in our movement today from
the atmosphere of even three years ago, when direct action tactics such
as property destruction were extremely controversial. Many of the
liberals who claimed we were going to wreck ³their² movement with our
confrontational approaches are gone‹they¹ve joined us or disappeared.
And the new people who have gotten involved have, in large part, done so
because they are attracted to the opportunity to confront power, rather
than merely beseech it.
The mainstream media kept referring to an elusive minority of ³bad² or
³violent² protestors, the so-called ³self-described anarchists²‹as if
there was any other kind! But make no mistake about it‹besides the Root
Cause and union marches, Miami was largely an anarchist mobilization.
The entire infrastructure described above, including the convergence
center, planning framework, and Indymedia coverage, was organized on
decentralized anarchist principles. Nearly everyone involved was indeed
a ³self-described anarchist.² Even many of the N.G.O. employees in Miami
were closeted anarchists! And not only that: people and press mobbed a
forum in Lake Worth called ³A New World in Our Hearts,² to hear about
anarchy from anarchists themselves‹and some of the attendees were
inspired to offer assistance, or even join the protests themselves.
This is not to say that we anarchists are not still struggling with
internal problems‹with sensitivities to race, class, and gender, for
example, which groups like Anarchist People of Color brought to the
forefront. One manifestation of this was discrimination against older
people or people perceived, especially by the security crew, to be
³normal,² i.e. from outside the anarchist community proper. In one
episode which almost beggars belief, a group of long-time anarchist
organizers who had dressed in civilian clothes to avoid police attention
were set upon by some other activists who attempted to force them to
give them their food! If we dismiss, alienate, or immediately suspect
people who look and dress differently than the stereotypical
black-hooded anarchist, we will piss off our most valuable allies‹and
many anarchists as well!
On the other hand, there were some remarkable bridges built across
demographic lines. One of the best examples of this took place on
Tuesday, November 18, when some anarchists typically associated with the
Black Bloc got together for a ritual with the Pagan Cluster. Words
cannot describe the feelings of solidarity and love experienced by these
two groups, groups many would have written off as incompatible: singing,
dancing, drumming, raging, and continuing an alliance built in the
front-lines of earlier street battles, we wove a web that knit our
communities together to be stronger and more inclusive. The black and
gold bracelets that were shared that night could be seen on many a wrist
over the following days, an uplifting affirmation of common cause and
courage in the face of adversity.
SUPPORT FROM UNEXPECTED PLACES
Presumably, one of the reasons the powers that be picked Miami to host
the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas was the
ostensible absence of an anarchist community. All sorts of rumors went
around in advance about how the locals were all going to be hostile to
us, would perhaps even attack us. The discovery we made upon arriving in
Miami‹that not everyone there is a pro-capitalist Cuban refugee, that
there are people everywhere who are suffering under the heel of the
corporate class and know it‹should be a reminder not to get carried away
by our own alarmism in the future. In countless experiences with locals,
we received heartfelt support and encouragement. Most people don¹t
believe everything they see on television, nor do they appreciate their
neighborhoods being overrun by belligerent police officers‹nor do they
believe corporate capitalism offers us the best of all possible worlds.
The police and media spent months and millions spreading the lie that
small family-run businesses in downtown Miami would be destroyed in an
orgy of anarchist violence. In an effort organized from the convergence
center the week before the days of action, many activists visited
businesses with letters of solidarity explaining anarchist ideas, the
content of the proposed F.T.A.A., and what to expect from the upcoming
demonstrations‹not to recruit, but to give people an idea of why the
protests were taking place. Most welcomed these activists with open
arms, glad to hear what they had suspected all along to be police hype
dispelled by the protesters themselves. One person working at a local
business said she had enough papers and letters from the police on the
upcoming protests to start a fire‹and she just might! In support, some
shops even gave protestors free food or offered their stores as havens
to those wishing to escape the police. Outreach efforts like these are
powerful direct actions themselves, not to mention examples of
successful acts of resistance in a city suffering such vicious police
occupation that just walking downtown put individuals at risk of arrest.
DIRECT ACTION PLANNING
Despite all the pressure and police intimidation tactics, or perhaps
even partly owing to the ambience they created, there was an incredible
energy among activists in Miami in the days leading up to the F.T.A.A.
ministerial. The convergence space was buzzing with activity;
spokescouncil meetings were held every night to plan for the actions.
The spokescouncil meetings focused on a direct action framework for what
was to be the main day of action, Thursday, November 20, as well as a
jail solidarity plan, preparations for smaller actions throughout the
duration of the convergence, and general logistics for the convergence
Arriving in Miami, everyone wanted to know what the direct action plan
was. As a large percentage of those participating in the actions came
from far away, much of the organizing was done in a decentralized
fashion. Consultas were held regionally throughout the U.S.; affinity
groups and clusters made plans to implement when they arrived. In the
months leading up to the event, it really seemed like people were coming
with tight, organized plans to contribute to a larger collective action.
Early the preceding summer, the plan for a Padded Bloc emerged, and
organizers in Pittsburgh announced that a large number of people
equipped with armor and shields would be ready to defend areas from
police. This plan didn¹t actually materialize. Word of this plan helped
to build momentum as people prepared for the protests, but it also
spread the illusion that more people planned to attend than actually
did, and that people were more prepared then they ended up being.
What happened in the end was far less organized than many expected. In
conference calls and a consulta in Gainesville, a small working group
was formed to plan a structure for direct action. This group planned a
very basic framework that relied heavily on the independent planning of
those who were to participate in it; but it seemed that the plan was not
clear enough for many to know how to plug into it, even if they were
prepared to do so in the first place. A 7 a.m. gathering was planned at
Government Center a few blocks from the fence surrounding the hotel
where the summit was taking place. The idea was that people would rally
and then march towards the fence to carry out actions to ³bring down the
fence and shut down the F.T.A.A. meetings.²
In an attempt to placate the A.F.L.-C.I.O., there was an agreement made
at the spokescouncil meetings that the direct action would stay clear of
the intersection of Flagler and Biscayne between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the
hours when the union march was to take place. Some felt that this
decision was forced through without regard for the perspectives of many
activists. Flagler and Biscayne is the main intersection in downtown
Miami; it was the area outside the fence closest to the F.T.A.A. meeting
site, and it ended up being the only place close to the fence that was
accessible. This plan disregarded the rules of thumb that have helped to
make direct action successful in the past: it meant that direct action
activists would be alone out on the streets, with no permitted areas or
safe zones to retreat to. Essentially, agreeing to a separate time of
day for direct action offered the police a perfect excuse to brutalize
and arrest everyone on the streets of downtown Miami outside the hours
of the permitted march.
Naturally, this situation scared off many people who were uncertain
about participating in direct action; it also gave the police a
justification for picking people off before they got to the action, or
at least blocking them out. These considerations may explain why the
turnout for direct action in Miami was so much lower than expected‹in
the end, it was not so much the intimidation of the police as a lack of
concrete and convincing preparation on our part that discouraged more
people from joining in.
This submissiveness to the wishes of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. hierarchy
compromised the times and places of the direct action while gaining
little except empty words of ³solidarity² from the union officials.
After months of frustrating negotiations with them, representatives of
the A.F.L.-C.I.O. hierarchy were still being introduced as ³allies² by
facilitators and certain others at spokescouncil meetings. We anarchists
can choose our own allies, thank you very much; we should not
unquestionably accept such loaded terms as descriptions of organizations
that have done little in the past to warrant being called allies. And,
not surprisingly, while affinity groups of rank and file union members
did join the protesters in the streets, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. hierarchy
urged union members to flee the protests into their buses as soon as
their permitted march ended.
Ultimately, this ³direct action free² period during the main hours of
the protest reinforced separation between members of unions and direct
action activists, a separation that must be destroyed for both our
sakes. Yes, it is important not to provoke unnecessary conflicts, but
when representatives of a hierarchical organization that has a history
of selling out workers¹ struggles inform us that the best way we direct
action activists can show solidarity with them is by not engaging in
direct actionŠ well, even if a spokescouncil of anarchists decides to
honor their request, that shouldn¹t prevent the rest of us from making
up our own minds about the issue responsibly, and being prepared to do
the organizing to make another approach possible if we deem it worthwhile.
IF YOU ATTACK ONE OF US, YOU ATTACK ALL OF US
Despite all these factors, the protesters made the best of their
situation. At the last minute, a section of the Black Bloc decided to
meet at the Convergence Center, many blocks away from the fence, where
it was felt they could at least marshal a whole bloc to defend
themselves, and travel into downtown side by side with puppeteers and
foreign media for safety; but the puppeteers with automobiles, and most
of the media, ended up driving to downtown, leaving them isolated on
foot. For a time, this bloc march had the advantage of surprise, and it
took a few minutes for the police to mobilize to block their route; but
after a scuffle the bloc was contained, and attempted negotiations with
the police only resulted in the bloc being contained again and brutally
attacked with tasers and clubs. Ultimately, the group was forced to
disperse, and some were arrested.
The larger group of protesters met as planned in Government Center at a
peaceful rally, and then marched to the fence. Once there, a single
grappling hook was successfully thrown and hooked on the
³anarchist-proof² fence‹and it did wobble! But as the Padded Bloc didn¹t
end up coming together, the police were able to attack an essentially
undefended crowd. They attacked mercilessly with concussion grenades and
rubber bullets, and charged peaceful and dancing protesters with their
clubs and batons, brutally beating many. Heroic defenses were staged,
bottles thrown, but little could be done in the face of such
A couple hours later, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. march took off. Many protesters
tried to join, but were stopped at first by the A.F.L.-C.I.O. marshals,
who only much later let the protesters in. Even inside the march, some
protesters were attacked by police, and though steelworkers‹not
marshals!‹came to their rescue, a few were arrested. At the conclusion
of the march, new conflicts began with the police, that proved to be
some of the most dramatic and exciting of the dayŠ yet even then, the
overwhelming force of the police ultimately forced us to split apart and
flee to safety. Protesters were attacked by police wielding batons, tear
gas and pepper spray and other chemical agents, and rubber, wooden, and
plastic bullets. Over one hundred protestors were treated for injuries;
quite a few were hospitalized‹one with a bits of a police bullet in his
head! Small groups leaving the protests were also targeted by police.
As people regrouped themselves, it was clear that the protest was
neither a failure nor a success. It was far from a victory‹many of us
were wounded and bleeding, others in jail. The fence was not taken down
and we had not had the numbers or militancy that we had hoped for. But
it was a show of strength and courage that we assembled that day in the
heart of the world¹s most well-defended police-state, and survived.
WHAT DID WORK: Building Alliances, Putting Down Roots, and Taking Aim
Outside the haze of tear gas and robo-cops wielding guns and batons,
there were many successful aspects of the Miami mobilization against the
F.T.A.A., and it¹s important that these efforts aren¹t obscured by all
the discussion of police brutality. Here are a few:
-Free housing, free food, free legal and free medical support was
provided by and for thousands of people throughout the mobilization.
Talk about workable alternatives to capitalis
-The Green and Eco-Bloc set up a community garden in Overtown, and
distributed cherry trees throughout the neighborhood as well as sharing
gardening skills and other resources that will be of lasting value.
-Hundreds of people participated in the Root Cause march, which crossed
the thirty four miles from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, one mile for every
country involved in the F.T.A.A. discussions. The march connected
important struggles in South Florida to the F.T.A.A. and brought out the
ways that poor communities and people of color in the region are already
being affected by ³free² trade. Many alliances were built and
strengthened between those who took part in this march.
-Six weeks before the F.T.A.A. ministerial, the anarchists in the Lake
Worth Global Justice Group organized the Free Carnival Area of the
Americas (F.C.A.A.) in Lake Worth, Florida, about one hour north of
Miami. The F.C.A.A. opened a warehouse to provide space for puppet and
art making, planning meetings and workshops, and other preparations for
protests against the F.T.A.A. They put out a call for activists to join
them in this effort in the weeks before the F.T.A.A. ministerial. The
art and puppets were used in the Root Cause march and the direct actions
in Miami, and the activist infrastructure in Lake Worth contributed in
other crucial ways to the mobilization. Many other inspiring and
successful events occurred under the umbrella of the Free Carnival Area
of the Americas, too.
-Both prior to the main days of action and after, anarchists in South
Florida organized three press conferences and public forums. One of
these events, entitled ³A New World in Our Hearts,² was held in Lake
Worth a week before the main days of action. It attracted large numbers
of people from the Lake Worth community and helped to get many involved
in organizing and playing other supportive roles, such as providing
much-needed housing for activists arriving from out of town.
-A couple affinity groups working together compiled and distributed
packets including posters, wheatpaste, stickers, annotated maps, and
similar redecorating tools to dozens of other groups and individuals.
Several crews covered various Miami neighborhoods with messages of
resistance to the F.T.A.A. in the nights before the main day of action.
These groups went entirely unnoticed by the police, and put up a massive
amount of posters and graffiti in neighborhoods whose only source of
information on the F.T.A.A. might otherwise have been the corporate news
-Autonomous direct actionsŠ One can guess that many affinity groups
organized covert actions in Miami that have not been widely publicized.
A communiqué on Indymedia announced that multiple military recruiting
centers had suffered property destruction. Rumors have circulated about
other similar actions. The powers that be have made a point of keeping
silent about all such activities, of course, and from this we can deduce
that they regard them as a genuine threat which must not be encouraged
by any free publicity.
-³The Really Really Free Market² took place on the day after the main
actions. Hundreds participated in setting up this working example of a
gift economy in action. Groups set up blankets and booths providing free
stuff from food, art, literature, and music to massages, new banner
dropping methods, funny hats, and healing circles. This action
highlighted our alternatives to ³free² trade and capitalism, and showed
examples of how human beings can provide for one another through mutual aid.
MIAMI SCORECARD: What we did, what we didn¹t do, what we learnedŠ
Before we conclude, let¹s review some of the goals we have to choose
from whenever we engage in mass direct action:
a. costing our enemies money and otherwise interfering with their misdeeds
b. enjoying the liberating experience of taking on the powers that be
c. revealing the capitalist state for what it is by provoking police
d. learning how to act and apply power in anti-authoritarian masses
e. communicating with ³the world² through mass media
f. communicating with locals about the issues
All these goals were achieved in Seattle, when we had the element of
surprise on our side, and some of them were in Miami‹though more of them
could have been, had we been better prepared for the approaches we
attempted, and augmented them with other tactics. Attacking the fence,
in the presence of such a police mobilization, was perfect for provoking
police repression, obviously; it was also moderately good for learning
how to act in anti-authoritarian masses, though the police presence
discouraged many from attending and interfered with our ability to work
together freely. We were able to attract some mass media coverage, for
those who value that, though it was mostly along the spectrum that runs
between ³Murderous Anarchists Hope to Destroy City² and ³Harmless
Protesters Brutalized by Police,² which at best only portrays us as
victims and frightens people away from future protests; the massive
police presence prevented us from doing anything that could have really
grabbed worldwide attention on the news, let alone invested others with
a sense of their own limitless power. The goal of interacting with
locals was achieved in part before and after the main demonstration by
those who took the time to go around and do so‹though we can always
stand to do better there. Among other things, a more concerted,
extensive effort to get graffiti and posters up around the area would
have avoided the risks posed by police in the occupied zone, while
demonstrating our power and omnipresence and thus raising morale.
As for the goal of actually striking effectively against the powers that
beŠ considering the massive police presence around the fence, this would
have been better achieved by small groups operating outside the centers
of police occupation, targeting corporate property and infrastructures
efficiently and stealthily. Had such plans been widely deployed and
successful, they would have achieved many goals: they would have sent a
stern message to both Miami and the world that hosting such contemptible
events will result in great costs; they would have provided a new model
for others in the anti-capitalist movement to try out themselves, as the
older models become obsolete in the face of new police tactics; our
enemies would have to consider widening the areas and methods of police
surveillance next time, which would cost them more money, frustrate more
citizens, and generally add to their already acute overextension. The
drawback to such covert activity is that, unlike mass activity, it must
be invitation-only, and thus doesn¹t lend itself to movement-building or
skill-sharing; the main reason to go to a mass action rather than
staying home blowing up banks is to have the opportunity to work with
many others in collective projects that anyone can join in. On the other
hand, many among us prefer the covert model as a matter of personal
taste, plenty of us know each other well enough to arrange such
activities together, and it¹s no secret that some of our more
experienced folks didn¹t participate in actions in Miami because the
overtly planned activities seemed suicidal and no covertly planned
activities seemed to be in the works.
So what did we need in Miami that we didn¹t have? We should have had
more clandestine planning sessions, for one thing. Direct action should
not be planned like civil disobedience; in order for it to be safe, to
elicit the confidence it needs to succeed, and to be unpredictable
enough to stand a chance of working, it has to be arranged among
friends. No organizing any massive spokescouncil can do could compensate
for the lack of private initiative and planning, if affinity groups
don¹t prepare effectively amongst themselves. More of us should have
been forthcoming with our own ideas: even those of us already known for
our resourcefulness often hesitate to come forward and actually organize
something, feeling that someone else must already be doing it or that it
must already be too late‹but all too often it turns out that no one else
is working on the things we¹d like to see happen, and we find out after
it really is too late that the ideas we¹d had would have worked out
perfectly if only they had been tried. Frequently we end up doing at the
last minute what we should have had the confidence to do ahead of time.
If we¹re going to have to organize groups and lay plans anyway, we might
as well get over our fear of doing these wrong and just go ahead and try.
Ultimately, if an effective resistance is to be mounted, all the forces
in a protest have to work together. This means everybody‹from rank and
file workers, puppeteers, and black-clad anarchists, to dancing Pagans
and locals from Overton‹everybody has to find a way to contribute to
what others are doing, to complement others¹ projects without
obstructing or endangering them. The long, steady process of building
this cooperation can¹t be bypassed by communicating with hierarchies. A
single representative from the management of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. is a poor
substitute for actual communication with union workers. No amount of
anti-racist workshops could possibly substitute for the experience of
interacting with people of different economic and racial backgrounds.
Many of the problems with the protest resulted from people¹s
over-reliance on the spokescouncil to provide some master plan that
would magically coordinate the whole movement. Of course we need to
coordinate in order to work together, but that isn¹t going to happen if
we sit around waiting for orders at a spokescouncil meeting. We can do
this inside and outside the spokescouncil meeting, months before
protest, in private as well as in more public meetings. Every affinity
group should come to town with a hundred secret plans to stop the
F.T.A.A. single handedly, as well as ideas they can share with other groups.
But, to repeat this once more, with the full brunt of the forces of the
terror war being brought to bear against us in Timoney¹s Miami it was a
wonder, albeit a symbolic one, that a single grappling hook reached the
fence at all. If the more confrontational among us could have wrought
more havoc there, it would have done much to discredit the idea that a
militarized force of any size can succeed in dominating a decentralized,
flexible gathering of freedom-hungry people; all the same, what we did
just by being there at all was impressive and important‹and maybe enough.
The difficult time we had in Miami is going to occasion much discussion
of tactics at future demonstrations, but perhaps that focus is
misplaced. Shutting down such meetings was always a symbolic goal,
remember, even when it was possible by such straightforward means. Now
that the government has to spend eight and a half million dollars every
time a ministerial takes place, and not only paralyze the city but also
terrorize its inhabitants, it might be that they¹re doing our work for
us: the once-secret meetings are impossible to keep out of the public
eye, the ³free² trade they concern is associated with massive police
repression and suspension of human rights, and there are more
opportunities than ever for us to bring up our alternative. All we have
to do is show up, cause them enough consternation that they¹ll have to
make the same preparations for the next one, and get away without
Let¹s be realistic, anyway: although there are improvements we could
have made in our strategizing for mass activity in downtown Miami‹we
could have gotten more militant people to the fence at once Thursday
morning, or turned the retreat from it that afternoon into a forward
march that was routed to pass by corporate targets, to name two
examples‹there¹s only so much we can accomplish under such intensive
surveillance and repression. But the fact that they had to spend over
eight million dollars to achieve this is a sign of their weakness, not
of their strength‹they sure can¹t do that everywhere, all the time. It¹s
taken them four years since we won in Seattle to fully develop their
anti-Seattle security system, and by now we should be ready to move on
to the next unexpected line of attack. We¹ve learned so much about mass
activity in the training ground these summits have provided us‹now we
should take those lessons back to the unguarded environments in which
such tactics first thrived. Next time we succeed in coming together in
great numbers without the police state getting wind of it in advance,
it¹s going to be spectacular. Let¹s start focusing our energy on how to
get people together for mass action outside the context of international
trade meetings‹let¹s call our own days of action proactively, organize
surprise group activities in our own communities, even hijack crowded
events and turn them into mass actions. That¹s the future: more
unanticipated covert activity at mass action demonstrations, more
unanticipated mass actions in other settings!
So what¹s next? For starters, let¹s not forget to support all the people
who were arrested in Miami, especially the ones with felony charges.
They need both emotional support and assistance with legal costs, and we
need to provide these in abundance so others will not be afraid to take
similar risks in the future. And above all, let¹s not neglect the work
in our own communities that generates the social foundation from which
these efforts grow. Now is the time to start new infoshops, new outreach
programs, even new anarcho-punk bands. Let¹s plan for the next massive
demonstration such as the G8 in Georgia this June, or the Republican
National Convention in New York City‹just to be there to keep the heat
on them without killing ourselves or getting all of us in jail, to keep
them focused on protecting themselves from that angle so they won¹t see
what¹s coming at them from the other sideŠ and perhaps, also, to try out
some new ideas, to show off how much more creative and powerful and
dangerous than them we are.
As the Black Bloc sang with the Pagans:
No Army can hold back a thought
No fence can chain the sea
The Earth won¹t be sold or bought
All Life shall be free.
Postscript: One Activist¹s Perspective on
RACE RELATIONS IN THE HEAT OF THE MIAMI PROTESTS
The neighborhood closest to the main action was an African-American
ghetto, blasted and impoverished. Not everyone there was thrilled to
have us around at first; walking and riding around Overtown before the
demonstrations, we sometimes heard locals shout out taunts to the effect
of ³let¹s here it for free trade!² This didn¹t seem to be an expression
of political or economic principles, but rather of resentment against
the predominantly white outsiders who were invading their space‹it
probably hasn¹t boded well in the past when a bunch of white folks
showed up in Overtown.
All the same, considering what we learned later about the misinformation
the police had spread there, the locals were really patient with us in
the days leading up to the action. After all the chaos was all over and
we had made some friends in the area, an older man wearing a black power
t-shirt confided in us that the police had put the word around Overtown
in advance that people there were encouraged to rob and beat up
activists‹not only would the police turn a blind eye, but it might even
improve their relations with the community. Our friend explained that no
one there trusted the police, or followed their instructions. All the
same, given the bad impression of white folks in general that it¹s safe
to suppose many in Overtown have, they were generous not to take
advantage of the opportunity to try to redistribute a little wealth.
Encouraging locals to assault activists was not the only way our enemies
rolled out the red carpet for us. The first time I walked through
Overtown, I was approached by a small crowd of children who asked me how
much I was getting paid. This was perplexing to me. I answered that as I
had been unemployed since 1994, I wasn¹t getting paid anything. They
persisted in asking the question, until I finally answered that the last
time I was getting paid, I¹d been getting five dollars an hour, under
the table. Satisfied, they went away; but I heard this question over and
over, and I soon figured out what it meant: the rumor had been spread
thoroughly that we protesters were being paid to protest. For folks who
live in dire poverty and have to deal with police harassment constantly,
it would make sense to conclude that white folks who presumably have an
easier time getting work and wouldn¹t otherwise be on the receiving end
of so much police attention must be doing it for some financial
incentive; but the rumor was so widely disseminated that it couldn¹t
have just been a hypothesis somebody came up with. In my opinion, it
must have been spread in advance as disinformation. It certainly made us
look less like crusaders for global justice and potential allies in the
struggle, that at first everyone who saw us thought we were there
gentrifying their neighborhood on salary.
All these strikes against us notwithstanding, the attitudes of Overtown
residents towards us changed dramatically as soon as we were in open
conflict with the police. As we retreated into Overtown ahead of the
police onslaught Thursday afternoon, everyone we passed cheered us
on‹most people had come out onto the street to see what was going on,
and now that they saw we shared a common enemy with them, one who was
attacking us as if we were a real threat, they embraced us as friends.
Several people I briefly spoke with encouraged us to step up our level
of confrontation with the police‹the implications were that if we could
escalate the conflict, they would join in. That makes sense‹though they
have every reason to revolt, people who suffer poverty and constant
police repression already are not going to engage in an uprising unless
it looks like it is going to work. For a moment that afternoon, I could
imagine what would happen if we somehow were able to hold our ground
against the police and create a space for the residents of Overtown to
join in. That happened in Quebec‹I remember a local throwing a snowball
at the riot police there a couple hours before all the locals joined in
showering the cops with projectiles, just as a man in Overtown was seen
throwing a football at the pigs in his neighborhood that afternoon‹it
can happen anywhere people are angry, if resistance can reach critical mass.
Unfortunately, we were fleeing in disarray and desperation from the most
militarized police force North America has ever seen, in no condition
for touching off the sequel to the L.A. riots of 1992. The most we could
hope for was to get out of the situation without concussions or
handcuffing scars. Before we¹d arrived at the inhabited areas of
Overtown, we¹d been pulling dumpsters and other obstacles into the
street to slow the police advance; encouraged by the support we were
receiving, we decided to ask around how people on the street felt about
us doing that there. Everyone said they felt fine about it; two of us
began pushing another dumpster into the middle of the road.
At that point, out of nowhere, a large black man wearing a jacket with
an American flag on the back came charging up at us, screaming and
waving a two by four. I managed to get between him and my friends and
defuse things enough for all of us to get away with only superficial
injuries, but the important thing was that we had miscalculated our
place in the situation. Looking around at the people who had just given
us the go-ahead, I saw them shaking their heads at the guy who was
attacking us, but also withdrawing some of their unconditional
permission for us to be there fighting the police now that it was
causing internal strife in their community.
That experience was a reminder that although folks who are really
suffering under capitalism don¹t have reason to trust us as allies until
we are actively challenging its power, we also have to be careful in the
process not to make things any more difficult for them than they are.
They didn¹t mind the police chasing us into their neighborhood, by and
large‹the police were going to be there anyway, and it was a relief that
they were there pursuing white folks for once, rather than locals; but
when our interactions with them resulted in drama among the residents,
that was a problem. It also drove home the point that you can¹t consider
the opinions of any demographic in one bloc; everyone we¹d talked to was
in favor of us making barricades, but that didn¹t mean ³the people of
Overtown² were in favor of it, it just meant certain ones were. Whenever
people of one background try to consider the perspectives of people from
another‹especially when white activists do so, I¹m afraid‹it is all too
easy to summarize and oversimplify.
That episode passed quickly, but by then we were surrounded‹police on
all the streets around us. We ran down an alley, only to see with dismay
that they had closed off the street ahead of us too. In a matter of
seconds, a full line of police cars blocked every street around us from
corner to corner, and police on foot were arresting every activist in
range. We hunkered down in the alley, trying quixotically to hide
between the scattered weeds at the foot of a chain-link fence, a
veritable lightshow of blue and red reflecting off the brick wall facing
us. A helicopter swooped low overhead. It seemed it was all over.
At this moment, just as we were trying most desperately to will
ourselves invisible, a couple local kids came into the alley and walked
up to us, hands in their sweatshirt pockets as if they were pretending
to hold guns with which to rob us. They quickly abandoned this
half-hearted charade, however, and started asking us questions about
what we were doing. At first, of course, we had to explain that we
weren¹t being paid to protest‹something that I¹m sure was becoming
clearer by the second anyway. Then we explained‹succinctly, and not
without a little impatience lest our new friends¹ presence attract the
attention of our riot-armored foes‹what we were doing there, and asked
their advice as to how we could extricate ourselves from the situation.
There wasn¹t much they could tell us‹being completely surrounded in
foreign territory by thousands of armored police whose specific goal is
to beat and incarcerate you is a toughie however you look at it.
Eventually they wished us luck and moved on.
We spent a tense hour and a half in that alley, waiting for the sun to
go down and the police lines to break up so we could make a dash for
safety. Long after darkness had fallen, the lights were still flashing
all around us, and police still marching past both mouths of the alley,
and the helicopter was still overhead, now scanning the alley with its
spotlight. Those were some tense minutes for all of us‹except the member
of our party who had spent an entire sleepless week volunteering at the
convergence center, who actually took advantage of the situation to nod
off for a while! The only explanation I can come up with for why they
never came into the alley to arrest us is that, for the whole duration
of the protests, the police never moved in groups of fewer than thirty,
and in that ³dangerous² neighborhood they feared to break up their
numbers to pick off stragglers. I recount this story here in case it may
be useful to others trying to escape under similar circumstances one
day‹heaven help us, such circumstances are getting more and more common.
Finally the police forces moved on, and we made our way out onto the
street two at a time, without any incriminating material, in the cutest
boy-girl couples we were able to throw together (these work for getting
through police lines, I swear‹hold hands, look deep into each other¹s
eyes a lot, focus on seeming harmless‹earlier that day a companion and I
had penetrated the police defenses as far as the front door of the hotel
hosting the ministerial, thanks to our lovebirds masquerade). There we
found locals waiting to guide us to safety, freely telling us where the
police lines were now and offering to lead us down the safest routes.
Trapped inside police lines, fearing almost for our lives, nothing could
have been sweeter mercy than this. Thanks in no small part to their
help; we arrived back safe at the convergence center an hour later,
grateful to be free and alive.
Our guides, of course, inquired if we had any money, and we penniless
anti-capitalists scrounged in our pockets to see if there was any
leftover subway change to share. I emphasized to one of them that there
was no price that could be placed on such assistance, and she let me
know she would have done it for free, needless to say, as she wanted the
same things we wanted. All the same, the situation‹basically paying a
native guide to lead us out of a dangerous situation, as if we were in
wartime Morocco or something‹was a reminder of how much economic
inequality there still is even between people on the outside of the
capitalist system. What I¹d give to live to see a day when the means she
has access to and the means I have access to are no different, to never
have to wonder again to what extent I¹m being regarded as a potential
source of income rather than a fellow human being!
That¹s what we¹re fighting for, when we contest our enemies¹ free trade
conventions and economic power in general. Next time we need to make it
clearer to locals in advance what we¹re trying to do, so we won¹t have
quite as much misinformation and misunderstandings to cut through to
find common ground. If we can get a full-scale anarchist insurrection
going in any city in this empire, there are millions who will join in,
who need it even worse than we do‹but we have to work towards this
conscientiously, with an acute awareness of the challenges other
communities face, and in constant dialogue as to what our role in the
larger struggle should be.
I¹ll conclude with the letter some friends distributed in Overtown after
the demonstrations were over. Good for them‹let¹s see more of that!
An open letter to the residents of Overtown from some F.T.A.A. protestors:
Thank You Very Much!
Over the last week there were times when anti-F.T.A.A. protestors were
pushed into Overtown by the police. We want people to know:
1) We had no intention to bring any heat into your neighborhood. In
fact, many of us talked about the need to not do that.
2) We very much appreciate all the help and moral support we received
from hundreds of residents.
3) We understand that the police brutality we experienced is just a
small slice of what poor people of color deal with everyday. We
recognize this system is racist. We are dedicated to smashing racism and
the system behind it.
4) We oppose the F.T.A.A. because it is an attempt by the rich to exert
even more control over all of our lives. It is also the continuation of
the colonial relationships that have been enslaving, killing and
stealing land for over 500 years.
5) We know there are a lot more problems than the F.T.A.A. We are
against the entire greedy corporate-military-police-war machine that
oppresses life. We are for community empowerment, self-determination,
justice and total liberation. ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
For more info on:
For free posters unmasking free trade for what it is, other radical
material and literature, or to find common cause to overthrow the state
and all other forms of domination, please contact us: CrimethInc.
Protesters-for-Hire, P.O. Box 2133, Greensboro, NC 27402 USA
Francis McCollum Feeley
Research Center Director <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa>
and Professor of North American Studies