Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

The Big Show

April 08, 2011 By: Mel Category: Politics, Seeking

Why do anarchists spend months organizing protests around events like the G20 or the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings?

I’ve heard some reasons over the years, but none of them are very convincing to me. Some people say that we need to publicly protest those institutions of power. Some say it is about not letting them take over our cities and streets. Some see it as an opportunity to build solidarity with like-minded people. Some people just get a rush from confrontation and smashing things up.

But aren’t there better ways to do all those things?

Maybe the question isn’t so much what we are doing there. Maybe the question is, what are they doing there?What are those meetings for anyways? Decisions are made long before those meetings happen, as anyone who has to lobby the key players weeks or months in advance can tell you. Very little of import actually occurs there. It is mostly a media opportunity for glorified PR people/presidents/head hoohas.

Honestly, I am beginning to think that these events are planned just for us. Clearly, a media event is for public consumption. But I mean that these events have the added benefit of keeping activists occupied with shit that won’t make a difference. It makes us predictable.

If we are spending months organizing protests at the G20, we are taking that time away from organizing in our communities. If we are spending our money on international flights, we can’t use it for other things. If we focus all our energies on the World Bank and IMF only twice a year, then we leave them to perform business as usual every other day. It is a game. We are playing by their rules. Why are we letting them set the schedule?

And don’t even get me started on the grand excuse these meetings are to give shit tons of money to the “security” apparatus.

These events attract media. If we think we can get productive media attention, that media attention might do something, then maybe it is worth a little energy. But otherwise, shouldn’t we use our time more wisely? Shouldn’t we at least be surprising?

Is Protest Possible?

September 28, 2009 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Seeking

The G20 meetings in Pittsburgh brought out thousands of protesters, although you might not know that given the little media attention they have gotten.    You can see an eleven minute video over at Fluxview of a permitted protest.  The city was very stingy with permits.  In fact, the only reason even a bit of protest was permitted in Pittsburgh was because the ACLU took the city to court.

Even the permitted protest was surrounded by cops in riot gear, but they let the protesters be.  Anyone who tried to gather without a permit was attacked.  In this video, some kids who had gathered in a park for a concert (kids who look like they were expecting a confrontation) were tear gassed and possibly shot at with rubber bullets.

Massive protest is allowed, just barely.  It has to be permitted.  It can’t disrupt the normal day to day.  It can’t pose any real challenge to order.  If it does, it will be squashed immediately.  And the police (and military) are very good at squashing.  That is because they have spent decades developing an arsenal of “less lethal” weapons that too few Americans seem to mind being used on us.

They don’t just have batons anymore.  They have pepper spray, light flashes, and rubber bullets.  You can peruse a list of items commonly used by police and military in this Department of Defense Nonlethal Weapons and Equipment Review.  Note, throughout the review, how it talks about “riot control” and “crowd control.”  They describe these weapons as meant to be used when “engaged in missions where a noncombatant threat exists” or for “crowd control during civil disturbances.”

In other words, less lethal weapons aren’t to protect us from harm, they are to protect the authorities from unarmed challenge to the system (and to protect property, of course, which often amounts to the same thing).

Many of the less lethal weapons used by police and military have been thoroughly tested on Palestinians by the Israeli army.  The sonic cannon (or something similar) that they used on Pittsburgh protesters was used on Palestinian protesters in Bil’in as early as 2005.  Tear gas and rubber bullets are regularly used on Palestinians.

And less lethal weapons are dangerous.  Hundreds of unarmed U.S. citizens have been killed by tasers. According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights, hundreds of Palestinians have been intentionally and seriously injured by the Israeli army, often with less lethal weapons like rubber bullets.

As Naomi Wolf points out in this video, protest works, but only if it isn’t the controlled and sanitized version that the authorities allow us.

But the authorities aren’t going to allow it.  We are caught between a sea of bureaucratic permits and an army of cops with less lethal weapons.  Amazingly few citizens seem concerned about the loss of freedom or the threat from overzealous authorities.

In this situation, is protest even possible anymore?

Thoughts on the People’s Summit

September 21, 2009 By: Mel Category: Events, Seeking

The overwhelming thought I had after attending the People’s Summit opening day on Saturday was, why?

Why did I bother to go?  What is the purpose of these gatherings?  Are they a good way to spend our time and money?

I’m not trying to say that it was a total waste.  I heard some interesting speakers.  I have pages of notes on topics I would like to write about.  I have information on several local groups in my area.  But is that enough to travel far and wide for?

It seems that people in Phili didn’t think that was enough to travel across the city for.  The event on Saturday was sparsely attended.  And, despite the fact that the event was in the midst of two universities, the attendees were decidedly mature.

I think the summit was a missed opportunity.  We can read about the ideas that were there.  We can watch U-Tube videos of speakers.  If you are bringing people together, it should be for more than just listening to speakers on a stage.

There were breakout sessions.  The one I attended was interesting, but it would have been even better if the specific goal of the conference was to bring people together to share information and lay the groundwork for connections that could have practical impact.

**On another topic – I’m taking the Hunger Challenge this week.  I have to somehow manage to eat for $4 a day.  If anyone has any tasty recipes that don’t involve adding water to Ramen, pass them along.