I moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area about a year and a half ago with two years of organizing under my belt and high hopes of utopian radicalism I was sure would transform me. What I found was swarms of liberals, separate group of judgmental disillusioned activists, and dozens of the most boring marches and rallies I have ever attended.
As a disillusioned black bloc stylist and an initiator of radicalism in the East I was deeply disappointed and unsure of how to approach organizing in an environment that felt so foreign and stagnant.
After hearing about the protest on January 18 I was delighted to spot a blac block flier for a breakaway march (laughing at the “wear comfortable black clothing”) I felt optimistic. I decided to break out my old bandanna, bring along my camera, wipe the dust from my action first aid kit, and lend my voice and body to the anarchist tradition I’d been missin’.
My first impression of the masses that filled San Francisco was positive. Although numbers were not as impressive as those in Washington, DC. The streets were swarming with a general mood that held more determination and militancy than I had expected. Organizers estimated 200,000 were in attendance.
When the breakaway march began we were a mixed group of blac block, pink block, punks, radicals without stylistic statements, and confused liberals who were unaware of their fate. We were 1000 strong in the beginning and ended with approximately 200 after a militant tour of San Francisco that visited the financial center, smashing windows and graffitting symbols of US. oppression and capitalist filth, such as, the SF Chronicle, CitiCorp, Victoria’s Secret (has anyone figured out what it is yet???), the INS building, and the anarchist delight-Starbucks. Two were arrested and no injuries were reported.
I left the escapade excited, my head whirring with thoughts and questions. The militancy, size, and organization of the march was impressive and reassured me that the anti-capitalist community is indeed growing. Clearly, January 18, 2003 was an important turning point. Still, I was left with the same questions that I always have after smashing up a city…what next? What else?
How many newspaper boxes must we knock over before war is ended? How many windows must we smash before we effectively smash the state?
While the march was successful and inspiring I also worry that the most radical and militant of us are not using our energies to “push the envelope” as the saying goes. That there is a lack of discipline and focus.
The police reaction to the breakaway march left an uneasy impression on me. Their presence was minimal and I was completely awed at how we were left to do our bidding with minimal annoyance from law enforcement.
It made me think about how change is never comes without sacrifice and struggle. We are on the verge of a shift in consciousness and with the inspiration of mass demonstrations and militant anti-capitalist marches, it is time for us to step forward and carry our message forth in new and creative ways.
We have to use the momentum and vigor to inspire those in fear to step forward and defy. The reward is worth the sacrifice. A lock down on a bridge, a hunger strike in a school hallway, strategic blockades…creative and daring declarations of conviction in different places every day, everywhere-each one inspiring and giving courage to those too afraid to stand up; this is what it will take to move forward. It is the daring action of one person that has often inspired mass movements.
Block up February 16 but take it a step forward and stand up as individuals or in groups and disrupt, speak up, and push for a new world with creativity and militancy the next day as well.