Category Archives: Autumn 2010 (10/1/2010)

Stopping traffic in Sacramento-disability rihgts activists fight to remain independent!

The Terminator was not home to see the women in wheelchairs and hospital beds hauled away by Sacramento police. Over 20 people blockaded the street outside California’s state Capitol with tents and wheelchairs. A military man in a Hummer revved his engine as he yelled, “Why do they gotta be out here in the streets like this?!” With passion, a woman replied: “Because I’d rather get arrested in the streets than die in a nursing home!” The cops were their own comic relief, slicing our larger-than-life Schwarzenegger effigy with knives, shoving it over in a dramatic enactment evocative of Saddam’s statue being toppled during the fall of Baghdad. All in a day’s work, they dragged the gruesome, axe-wielding puppet into custody.

California’s budget deficit has led politicians to cut essential social services yet again, pushing those teetering at the margins of society into grave uncertainty. The latest round of cuts affect the potential independence of 470,000 elderly and disabled Californians who depend on the landmark In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) to accomplish daily tasks of eating, bathing, cleaning, and going to the bathroom. The program was once a shining example of the transformative power of assisted living in keeping folks out of nursing homes and other live-in medical facilities. Should the cuts go through, more than 308,000 elderly and disabled Californians could lose their health care workers and be sent to nursing homes or county hospitals. Activists in the disabled community contend that this forced institutionalization is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In June, a coalition of disabled and their allies began a month-long camp-out on a median strip outside a Berkeley supermarket to protest Sacramento’s proposed reductions to health care services. They called it Arnieville, a modern-day version of the Hoovervilles that cropped up across the country during the Great Depression. For 30 days, they camped outside, screened films, held workshops on disabled culture, and spoke with passersby about the difficulties the Berkeley disabled community faces. The intent of the encampment was to focus the frustration and anger felt by many into actions that would empower people to change the course of their destiny. “Most people you see on the streets are either disabled or foster care kids. The government is failing its end of the social contract, to be a safety net for those with no support network,” according to Mandy DeMuff.

Forced institutionalization violates peoples’ basic right to live in community, and it does not save money in the long run. A study by Connecticut College Professor Candace Howes shows that California could save nearly $300 million per year if, instead of eliminating the IHSS program, it transitioned one-third of its nursing facility residents back into the community. Housing one person in a nursing home can be as much as 5 times costlier than paying the wages of a health care worker to provide services in the home.

“The politicians don’t realize that one day every single one of us will be disabled,” community organizer Sheela Gunn told me. “They have no idea that half the people in this country live one paycheck away from homelessness.”

Sheela is one of thousands who depend on social security to supplement income lost due to disability. They pay for rent, food, and medical care on a shoestring budget. But the balancing act of social security is a double-edged sword — the government’s guidelines for those living below the poverty line make it impossible for an SSI recipient to save money, keeping them perpetually on the brink of disaster. Even basic purchases like a new wheelchair or respirator must be routed through advocates and friends to avoid having their bank accounts seized. The penalty for savings means recipients must spend their meager earnings month to month, making it nearly impossible for those without a support network to rise above their situation.

Disability and houseless rights advocate Dan McMullan talks about the need for popular uprisings throughout California to confront the symptoms of poverty in afflicted communities. “The Arnieville encampment broke through the myth that people are disabled and poor because they’re bad or unwilling to pick themselves up by their bootstraps. This story of the American Dream is what the rich tell us every day so they can continue wiping their asses with $100 bills.” He suggests that decentralized actions throughout the state have the power to apply grassroots pressure to turn the tide against cuts to disabled services

The harsh prospect of being forced out of their home into an institution is causing some to make grim preparations. I spoke with a woman in a wheelchair who matter-of-factly described her decision to undergo surgical sterilization. Her reasoning was, when she lost her health worker and moved to a medical institutiion, she would not become pregnant if sexually assaulted by an aide at the nursing home. This woman’s story is a grim reminder that the cold statistics of Sacramento’s balance sheets have real human consequences.

The adversity faced by many in the disabled community creates a pluck and determination that is greatly inspiring. Their grace and humor displayed by those in terrifying circumstances remind us to confront these grave times with a light heart and share our experience compassionately, even with those who may not have the ability to listen. They show us the richness of experience those with little material resources can share, and point out the spiritual bankruptcy of wealthy politicians who amass their riches at the expense of others.

Overcoming war think

After nine years, it feels like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may drag on forever. Obama’s announcements of a gradual drawdown and pullout are at odds with the 50,000 military “advisors” in Iraq and the seemingly-thriving armed resistance to occupation in Afghanistan. We’ve been living with war for so long that we’ve become numb and apparently unable to resist. Anti-war protests are either tiny or don’t happen at all. War now seems normal and even invisible to many people. But these wars are not inevitable nor are they permanent — we can still rise up and stop them.

A key lesson of these wars is that power has its limits. The US military — the most powerful, modern, well-funded fighting force in history with all its drones and computers and disciplined hierarchy — can’t really win these wars against a handful of ragtag, do-it-yourself, guerilla fighters. Understanding that power is limited is crucial to our resistance to these wars as well as our struggle against corporate domination of our lives and industrial destruction of the earth.

There is always the option to resist. The people who win aren’t the ones who are “realistic” and who look at long odds and conclude, “oh, it isn’t worth even trying.” Every resistance movement is going to feel lost and hopeless sometimes — its participants too weak and isolated and the opposition too strong. The key is having the courage to continue anyway. How can we take this lesson from these wars and apply it to stopping them?

Living in a permanent and pervasive war culture is deeply corrosive on a social and psychological level to everyone in the US and around the world. The war culture empowers greedy and selfish elements of society who dominate others with fear, concentrate power based on violence, and seek to crush local control in favor or massive corporate, military and political hierarchies. Right-leaning military contractors and their politician counterparts are the biggest winners of these wars.

Living with only minimal popular resistance to these wars over these last nine years, has put radicals on the defensive in struggles across the board, even those that are seemingly unrelated to the war. War-think has fed an atmosphere of fear, strengthening hierarchical solutions and weakening community self-determination and cooperation. It is perhaps no accident that the most vigorous “movement” in the US today is the Tea Party, whose approach is based almost entirely on fear of the “other” being channeled into a blinding rage. This constant sense of being “against” without any positive vision for a better world is a symptom of a war-based outlook with its cycles of destruction and scorched earth. Building a new, better society requires vision, sharing and creativity — never easy but even more difficult to nurture as the war drags on.

On a human level, the wars are grinding up thousands of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, while concentrating suffering in economically-struggling communities within the US that provide the bulk of troops through an informal poverty draft. There’s never enough money for workers or poor people during the current recession, yet there is always plenty to spend on war.

War culture can become a self-perpetuating psychological/political cycle in which popular movements to stop the war seem weak, frivolous and ineffective and those waging the war appear to be all-powerful, “serious, realistic” men and therefore unquestionable. The justification for the war no longer matters — the priority becomes winning so the people sacrificed so far will not have died in vain.

When the US invaded Iraq, millions of people colorfully and lovingly went into the streets to protest. Governments and the media bent over backwards to ignore the resistance or trivialize us as naive, and this strategy took its toll on our morale. The leaders had learned the lessons of Vietnam well — but they were the wrong lessons. After Vietnam, military and political leaders claimed they would never fight another unwinnable, ill-defined, colonial, foreign war. But what they really understood was that to fight, they had to keep control over the home front.

There is no easy strategy to stop the war or liberate ourselves from the industrial machine that is killing the earth, but it is clear that whatever we’re collectively trying isn’t working the way it is supposed, to, and we have to take some chances and try some new strategies. The way the war has become a background track to our lives is related in some subtle but real way to the sense of meaningless, resignation, and social isolation that so many people feel. It is tied in some complex way to growing corporate power and our inability to reach a social consensus on the phasing out of fossil fuels.

A bold, broad resistance would address all of it at once, painting a positive vision for the future based on values of cooperation, love, and community — an awe for the time in which we live and the earth we live on. Our goal must be to change the dialogue and transcend simplistic and limiting terms of debate that pre-determine the outcomes in line with what is “acceptable” for our rulers. We refuse to pick between paper and plastic, the Taliban or the US Army, free markets or a dehumanizing welfare bureaucracy. The error is deeper than picking the wrong options — the error is thinking that there are only two options.

We need to reject simplistic thinking and morality — good or evil — and humbly embrace the complexity of human individuals and social projects. Simplistic thinking is like mental junk food: empty calories. People are yearning for honest new types of discourse that treat them as intelligent, capable individuals who can actively participate in community to reach common goals. The current moment is full of dangers and disappointments, but also opportunities because the rulers are not all-powerful, they have no clothes, and people won’t be satisfied being ruled through fear forever.

Who’s running the Show? New collective seeks to amplify the voice of the dispossessed

The meeting had gone through the standard operating procedure–that is, it started late with only a couple hardcore attendants, it mushroomed in size and had to move just as the other meeting in the back room commenced. The other meeting–Berkeley Liberation Radio–became loud with maniacal laughter as the Bay Area Booking Collective upstairs struggled to write guidelines for shows. One show collective person added to the expanding list, ” ….a show space alcohol free, or a space where getting drunk is not the emphasis…” This was said just two and half minutes before the crusty old pirate radio people below lit up their weed, no shit. I waited till the butt end of the meeting to initiate my interview–an hour after an exciting show had started down the street, so my time with them was brief.

I asked, “Why combine your energies and your collective resources for something that is just about expression–for entertainment–when there are so many other hard life necessities not taken care of?” There was the obligatory silence of contemplation then I got my answer: “It’s about creating community–a safe space.”

A look at the demographics of the group was very, very Bay Area: it was multi-ethnic, all ladies & gender-variant folk, and discernibly under 30 years of age. This is the America that is denied stage time, and these people are beyond complaining about getting equal time but are determined to create it.

The Bay Area has a well-known history of movements creating art and culture outside the industry–be it from LA, NY, or Europe. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy to create, showcase your work, and gather with like-minded people. The truth is that it takes a lot of mental energy to establish a space and draw a crowd.

The Bay Area Booking Collective formed in January of 2010 and has had regular meetings in both Berkeley and San Francisco twice a month. Ties are being made to the outlands–places like San Jose–so that they can fully represent the “Bay Area” in their name. This writer first got wind of the project in a one-off-zine that had a print run of less than a hundred–but it is small steps like these that allow for new groups to gain ground. While holding meetings, the collective members have also been hard at work setting up shows, accommodating touring bands, and practicing and playing shows in their own bands.

When reading the group’s mission statement, it is clear that the collective comes from a place where people live within the reverberation of oppression. The collective seems ultra-aware of the need to not amplify the alienation of show participants, the venue’s staff, or its neighbors. The basis for them to support a show can be found in their mission statement. They seek to:

-Book events that merge different music genres, skills, resources, art, creative expression, and communities.

-Book events that are Trans-Bay.

-Book affordable events. No one turned away for lack of funds.

-Create a positive atmosphere where peoples’ physical access and well-being are considered and respected.

-Build a community that is accountable to one another, the neighborhoods we live in and have events in, and anybody the events effect.

-Create an environment that inspires relationships that are meaningful, enriching, positive, and supportive.

In some ways their task at hand is easier than the past. For one, having a rock n’ roll good time is now more commonplace. The old people of today can appreciate (or ignore) the booty shaking, the modest volume, and the unclassically trained performers. Also, the Bay Area lived under what once was referred to as the “Hippie Mafia” till the peak of the Baby Boomers in the early 1990′s. Mostly this referred to Bill Graham, a figure lionized by historians, but hated by the people trying to book their band at his gulags or argue with his thug security guards. They would have loved to feed him to the lions. Bill helped to make an industry of grassroots music that is still in operation but now there is no illusion that his legacy is attached to the counter culture.

Thankfully the days of the Hippie Mafia are gone. One of the groups who directly challenged the monopoly of Big Bill was Maximum Rock n’ Roll, who helped to open a club in radical Berkeley using a criteria of eradicating racist, sexist, homophobic, and violent behavior on the stage and off. The Gilman Street Project has itself been greatly lionized for these and other reasons. Sadly, counter-revolutionary times have turned the space into the “Alternative Music Foundation,” a showcase for hetero-normative, violence-saturated white boy bands. What was “for the punks, by the punks” is now just a shadow of the Bill Graham venues, motivated at the bottom line by making money rather than making revolutionaries. A lot of the people in the Bay Area Booking Collective grew up going to Gilman, but have been largely alienated from its resources and forced to make their own version of a radical night out.

The booking collective is trapped in the old song and dance of wanting but being unable to open their own club. They, as well as many before them, have been trying to open an all-ages music space in San Francisco, but with no result. The war on youth has never ended, neither here nor in other big cities like New York or Seattle. But it’s not like this problem will go away–or the need for all-ages shows and spaces that people can truly call their own. The libratory nature of rock n’ roll, punk, and most of the creative arts is that they are as accessible to ordinary people as they are to the stars or the abnormally privileged.

I asked if they plan to make their events tie in to what goes on in the outside world. The news the day of the collective meeting was of another oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, of “peace” talks between Israel and Palestine, of the sit/lie ban in SF. Could the collective’s events respond to issues like these, both far and near? They told me they have info tables with pamphlets and zines at shows. They strive to have speakers and workshops along with the standard bands and DJs. This indicates that they are setting up a pattern to address the outside world. This doesn’t seem to be that far from the tradition of political entertainment in the Bay Area–events like the punk show counter-protest outside the Democratic National Convention, or the time MDC (Millions of Damned Christians) played to the Pope’s passing motorcade. The point is to set up a space where we as artists are not just responding to events, but creating them–and tipping the balance into a visionary new world.

The steps to making a new world are often tiny at first, but consistent meetings and shows go a long way towards creating spaces infused with radical politics–even if only for a few hours at a time. Punks often sound like a skipping CD, beeping about how they hate going to meetings, but gathering twice a month, as the BABC does, actually helps to make the wheel of revolution move. They meet the first Thursday of the month at the Long Haul in Berkeley (3124 Shattuck), and the third Sunday of he month at Modern Times Bookstore in SF (888 Valencia). Of course one can also find them by logging onto their internet site, or you can call the Bay Area hotline 510-BAD-SMUT, which lists events that they and others create. Or better yet, start your own group to fit the local needs where you live, and reach out to form alliances with BABC or the other groups presented in this rag.

Issue #104 introduction

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

Publishing each issue of Slingshot is like putting a note in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean — hoping that someone will find it and that it will brighten their day. If not, we enjoy the act of hurling the bottle anyway. It keeps us in good practice, just in case.

The shore we stand on is called the counter-culture or the radical community or the anarchist ghetto. The note in the bottle is the story of our lives and our struggles — what we’ve learned so far and what we still hope to know. It can be a complex, confusing, rambling note — perhaps written in a language the reader will need to get translated. As we throw this bottle, we have the strong sense that our lives are meaningful and worth sharing, though they may be marginalized and far off the beaten track. In our darker moods, we feel like we’re wasting our time chasing hopeless causes. There’s no TV reality show or video game based on our odd, funky lives. Gardens, long meetings, and crowded communal kitchens are not the most marketable stuff — though that may be the point behind the whole patchwork of do-it-yourself alternatives to the corporate machine that is killing the earth.

The process of editing and selecting articles for the paper is complicated. This issue we spent half of a five-hour meeting discussing just two articles because there were good reasons both for printing them and for deciding not to. We aspire to have real communication as part of our decision making process – that includes moments of friction, delirium, and hysterical laughter. While working as a collective can be hard, we admire each other and our differences and end up growing through the creative process. Sometimes the combination of our perspectives allows us to achieve something none of us could as individuals. Other times we miss the mark. Inevitably most issues have a little of both.

Often when working on Slingshot, we find it hard to put down our unfinished work and go to sleep. Over the hours before the sun rises, endless thoughts assault our minds — as if we don’t have enough in our world to keep us awake at night: friends getting hurt, police raids on our resistance houses — plus a million assorted hopes and fears. In the end, this issue is the result of multiple sleepless nights, and it is only when we put it to bed that we get to go as well.

When a new issue is published, it smells fresh and the paper feels soft. The words are close to their initial urgent thoughts. But like our bodies, each new issue gets old, becomes brittle, and slowly but surely yellows with age. Occasionally, our ideas seem wiser over time, even as the current events we cover become distant memories. Other times, we look back and see that we were naïve – which is both a good and a bad thing.

It goes without saying that all in this world is rare and wonderful — the people, the troubles, the ephemera. We hope that comes across in this note in a bottle.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editing.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot Collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collectives members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Aaron, Abhay, Arise, Autumn, Brian, Dee, Dominique, Eggplant, Glenn, Jesse/PB, Kathryn, Kermit, Kerry, Kwikness, Lew, Melissa, Ona, Peter, Sandy, Shannon, Terri.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, November 28, 2010 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 105 by January 15, 2011 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 104, Circulation 20,000

Printed October 1, 2010

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

Phone (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca • slingshot.tao.ca

Circulation Information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue or back issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. In the Bay Area, pick up copies at Long Haul or Bound Together Books in SF.

Slingshot Back Issues

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues of Slingshot for the cost of postage: Send $3 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. PO Box 3051 Berkeley, CA 94703.

Returning Home – Tristan Anderson continues recovery after suffering head wound in Palestine

Editor’s Note: Tristan Anderson, Slingshot author and friend and comrade of many activists in the Bay Area and around the world, has returned home to California after being injured during a protest in Palestine. He was struck in the head March 13, 2009 by a high velocity tear gas canister at a protest against the Israeli apartheid wall being built through Palestinian land near Ni’ilin. Tristan sustained a traumatic brain injury and was in critical condition for months enduring operations and infections in an Israeli hospital. After finally becoming conscious and stable he has been doing the hard, slow work of recovery. His girlfriend Gabby and his parents were with him in Israel for over a year through this difficult process. This summer Tristan returned to his parents’ house in the Sierra foothills where he continues healing.

Tristan’s long-term memory and language abilities are intact. He knows who he is and he remembers his life, but suffers major cognitive difficulties associated with heavy injury to his right frontal lobe. He is also hemiplegic and can no longer move the left (dominant) side of his body. He has lost sight in his right eye and is in a wheelchair.

Tristan is different now, but he is still with us. He recognizes his friends and has good memory of the past and a strong sense of who he is. But there are many challenges integrating into his old and new life and community. Learning to live with the pain and difficulties caused by his injury has been a hard reminder of the lingering effects of war and violence. Tristan’s injury exists in the context of Israel’s continuing assault against people in the occupied territories, where people are killed and injured on a daily basis.

Tristan wrote this letter for publication. For more information on Tristan, check justicefortristan.org

LETTER FROM TRISTAN

Hi Slingshot People,

This is Tristan. A year and a half ago I was in Israel/Palestine. One day I was in the Palestinian village of Ni’ilin protesting the Apartheid Wall that takes away much Palestinian land.

We marched to the Wall and the crowd tore part of it down. We marched back to the village and the protest continued for several hours. After the protest was mostly over, the Border Police were still worked up. As my friend Gabby tells me, the Border Police fired a high velocity teargas grenade at the small mellow group of people I was in. It hit me in the forehead. I was knocked unconscious and got some brain damage.

Then I was in the ICU and rehabilitation hospital for 15 months. It was so boring and I wanted to leave but they wouldn’t let me. Thank you so much everyone who went to my benefits and protests. Now I am pretty good. I am at my parent’s house. The whole experience was intense. I have no memory of the protest. I only remember things some time later in the hospital.

Today I am mostly better but still bored. Feel free to call or visit on weekends. I often still feel sick and my left arm and leg hurt a lot and don’t work right. My back hurts and my right eye is in constant pain and wateryness.

Israel is a fucked up racist state. I really appreciate the Israelis who have the guts to stand up against it. I have never been anywhere that people were so racist. It also meant so much to me the whole time to think of my friends and community here in the Bay Area and around the world.

I know that the Israeli government thinks that extreme violence will scare off protesters but we can’t let that happen. I hope to be there next time and I hope you are there too. Love, Tristan

a bankrupt system

As Slingshot goes to press, we are unsure if we’ll ever publish another issue of the paper at this physical location. A few months ago, our landlord declared bankruptcy and the Long Haul building where we have our office might be sold in the next few months to pay off a $1.1 million bank debt that they ran up against the building.

The idea of losing the Long Haul building is a sad thought — there is a modest beauty to the messy, chaotic hand-built loft the Slingshot collective has inhabited here for the last 15 years. During the day, it is bathed in sun through leaky skylights, and at night it has an otherworldly quality like a poorly-lit treehouse hideout.

Sharing space with the freaky openness of the Long Haul infoshop with its constant chatter of traveling punks, mumbling homeless people and self-obsessed “regulars” can be distracting and a pain, but mostly it has helped us stay fresh, flexible and able to laugh at ourselves. Long Haul is a thriving community institution despite all of its dysfunction.

It is disorienting not knowing whether we’ll get to stay here or not. We’re doing the best we can — opening a post office box so people can reach us if we have to move and then . . . just waiting as calmly as possible to learn our fate. Should we fix the leak in the roof before the winter rains come? Nah, I guess that would be pointless if we get kicked out. No point looking for another space or spending too much time agonizing until we really know for sure . . . . Time stands strangely still — the future uncertain.

The bankruptcy is one of those typically capitalist events in our lives when we realize how easily ordinary human aspirations and lives can be crushed by the heartless numbers that faceless men make up and write down. Losing the building is outside our control and not our fault — we always paid our rent on time.

I always imagined that we’d close up the Long Haul when it got knocked down by an earthquake — it is a brick building prone to collapse. That would feel like a good way to close this chapter. But having it sold by a bank and then gutted to make way for yuppies — what a boring shame.

Like so many around us and before us, the fact that we’ve lived and breathed and loved in this building — that it has become a part of us and that we’ve become a part of it — is meaningless. What matters to the system is ownership, not use. Arbitrary experiences like this remind us why we’re struggling to change this insane system. People, communities, and ultimately the earth should matter more than land titles and banks.

To repeat, we don’t know what might happen as I write this, so I’m intentionally leaving a lot unsaid. I would like to explain the circumstances, the characters, the potential causes — it is clear that particular people made decisions that invited the bankruptcy; it was not an act of nature — but for the moment we have to wait for more information so we don’t burn bridges we might need to cross. We know there is a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, but it is too early to ask for help or react until we have a better picture of the implications for our space.

Maybe the bankruptcy court will let the landlord keep the building or maybe whoever buys the building will let us stay in all our funkyness, and with our current cheap lease. Maybe someone sympathetic to us could purchase the building. Maybe we can somehow continue with higher rent. Maybe we’ll turn it into a liberated space: a squatted radical center with flags flying from the roof, a last holdout against the gentrification of Berkeley. Another world is possible at any moment — we have this world only because we all consent to its rules and spend our lives working to keep it going.

Depending on what happens, Long Haul may seek community support, so please watch this space for updates. Until we hear some news, please send snail mail to: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703. If you want to visit our physical office, call or email first to make sure we’re still here.

We Love ‘Em Vertical! Eureka Redwood Tree-sit Continues

“Everybody loves redwoods trees. Trouble is half the people love ‘em vertical and the other half love ‘em horizontal”–Anonymous County Supervisor.

The redwood tree is the tallest living organism on the planet. Their massive trunks can grow over 20 feet in diameter, and seemingly individual trees are more like communes, growing in patterns to shield each other from strong winds and interweaving their roots beneath the soil in a network that sucks up water and communicates it to the thirstiest individuals in times of need. This capillary action pushes thousands of gallons of water every day to the topmost needles. As the trees mature and lose their tops, the crowns shoot off new trunks, called reiterations, which accumulate organic material from the canopy that breaks down into soil. Huckleberry bushes, bay laurel trees, tan oaks, sword ferns, lichens, and smaller redwoods have all been reported to grow in the massive branches of old-growth redwood, making a mature tree more like an aerial grove connected to the ground by a main trunk than like an individual organism. Salamanders are born, reproduce and die all in the canopy, without ever touching the ground. The trees’ preference for misty, cool climate will likely mean global temperature rise is going to affect them drastically, making them a unique barometer of the effects of climate change. Formal scientific research of the redwoods’ canopy system is still in its infancy, knowledge that will be lost forever if the practice of commercial logging extinguishes the remaining stands of old-growth trees.

Before 1850, the coast of Southern Oregon and Northern California was populated with over 2 million acres of redwood forest. Of that original acreage less than three percent remains today. The ancient ones were milled and chipped into high-end lumber, shingles, artwork, and other construction products valued for their beauty and workability. Most of the Bay Area’s redwoods were cut to build San Francisco, much of which burned up in the earthquake fires of 1906.

Humboldt County’s wild forests have been its main form of economic output for a century. The settlers from California’s gold rush were awed by the enormity of the trees and immediately set about building bigger and better saw mills to cut them down to size. The settler’s drive to conquer the wilderness was put to the test in Humboldt and Mendocino’s seemingly inexhaustible forest. In those times, words like “carrying capacity,” and “global climate change” did not factor into their plans for harvesting timber. Photographs show lumberjacks caressing the fallen redwood carcasses with toothy smiles as proud as new fathers.

The faces of Humboldt County’s tree sitters are lined with the memories of tree friends gobbled up in the maw of commercialism. Their hands are calloused from hauling fistfuls of rope in the sun and rain. Their steps are careful, calculated with the knowledge that gravity is a force of nature, which must be respected in order to be defied. The soft, shifting mist and ethereal shafts of sunlight piercing the canopy fill the crevices of their souls with deep joy. They have suffered tragedy and triumph, watched their human comrades tortured, arrested and even killed defending the forests they love. At night the trees echo ancient melodies in oceanic dreams, swaying sitters to sleep gently like a mother. Canopy wildlife flits, climbs and crawls, ever vigilant for an unexposed nut to secret away. On good days the tree-people who spend their lives suspended in the canopies of Humboldt’s ancient and residual redwoods forests shoot the shit with the timber workers, arguing the tension between the need for local jobs and living ecosystems with good humor. Other days it’s a frantic struggle to survive, trees falling on either side of them as professional climbers ascend the tree to hogtie them with ropes.

Tree sitting was first used as a defense tactic in New Zealand but it became popular during the mass movement civil disobedience days of direct action group Earth First! in the early ’90s. At first people climbed threatened trees just as one-off publicity stunts, but eventually they began to construct tree villages and conduct their lives aloft in the canopy with the help of rope, platforms and buckets. The political tactic of blockading began to merge with the deep spiritual fulfillment activists found in returning to the wild. Many people came into forest defense with the idea that they were going to save the trees, only to later understand that it was the trees who saved them. Most of the time, a tree-sitter is like a hospice worker caring for a loved one whose prognosis is unhopeful. They form a relationship with trees on the chopping block in order to remember their legacy and help the spirits of the forest transition into the next life with dignity. The love and attention does not always revive, but through the simple act of fighting against what we are told is inevitable, the cycle of hopelessness is broken. In this way, tree-sitters must aim for the best and prepare for the worst–it is the connection to the Earth that creates something alchemical, magical moments and events that have the power to change history.

Headwaters Forest was and is an 80,000-acre complex that contained 6 groves of old-growth forest equaling roughly 10,000 acres. The campaign to protect some of the largest known stands of old-growth redwood trees in existence mobilized thousands of unlikely participants, from traveling Deadheads, druids, environmental lawyers and local residents to journalists, labor organizers and timber employees, over the course of a decade-long struggle. In those years there were always fliers to distribute, midnight supply runs to make, logging trucks to blockade. At times there was such a flurry of activity that not even the main organizers were aware of all the actions taking place.

Ten years after the call went out to save Headwaters, the federal government paid Pacific Lumber’s CEO, Charlie Hurwitz, $480,000,000 for 7,500 acres, protecting two of the six old-growth groves in question. (A third grove was saved in a later campaign). The Texas-based logging giant had used public sympathy for the forest to increase its profit margin by a factor of ten. While the solution financially rewarded Hurwitz’s planet-raping ways, the 7,500 acre parcel six miles south of Eureka, CA stands as a testament to the ability of grassroots activists to galvanize the public locally and nationally in order to protect the majesty of the old growth forest for future generations.

Just like the fairy rings of smaller trees that grow around the stumps of the dead Ancient Ones, Earth First! resistance to commercial development of Humboldt’s temperate rainforest continues to pop up with tenacity. A proposed housing development outside of Eureka has sparked the construction of a tree village occupying one of several imperiled second growth groves. Green Diamond (California’s largest single owner of redwood forest, managing over 420,000 acres) owns an area known as the McKay tract which is an important habitat for spotted owls, coho salmon and black bears. Local residents hunt the rich soils for oyster mushrooms. Some say the soil and climate in the area is the worlds best for growing redwood trees. Green Diamond, the owner of the McKay tract, threatens to extinguish the intricate relationships between trees, streams and wild animals built up over the past century by clear cutting and intensive herbicide spraying. Erosion caused by clear cutting has been shown to cause massive mudslides that damage salmon spawning grounds with fallen debris and endanger the homes of those whose property borders the area. Clear cutting devastates the land and wipes out complex ecosystems, whereas selective logging practices could allow human use of these beautiful second-growth forests while preserving the area for future generations.

Earth First!ers are organizing in the area to find a balance between human need for land use and protections for the forests and streams that salmon require in order to continue their millennia-old cycles of spawning and rebirth. In times of severe ecological degradation and global climate change, the protestors call on Green Diamond to live up to their “environmentally friendly” image and end the practice of clear cutting.

Twelve years after the timber industry’s murder of David ‘Gypsy’ Chain, killed when a tree was cut so as to fall on him, tree-sitters continue to face violent harassment and reckless disregard for safety from timber company workers as well as law enforcement. Green Diamond employees recently severed, and then hastily retied, the support lines of a tree-sitter, allowing their platform to slide over 35 feet down the tree. This hostility towards nonviolent protestors endangers lives unnecessarily and will likely continue until the company changes its policies. Visitors with any level of climbing experience are always needed and welcome. To find updates on the McKay Tract Tree Village and other actions visit www.efhumboldt.org.

Earth First! chapters across the country seek to build a movement of self-motivated love warriors to use nonviolent direct action in defense of free and wild spaces. As the endgame of industrial capitalism accelerates the destruction of the natural world, we too must quicken and intensify our resistance to the incessant conversion of the living into the dead. While the band-aid of frontline opposition is essential to preserving what wild spaces we have left, we must also radically alter our relationship with the planet from a reductionistic, objectifying form to one that recognizes the regenerative powers of the Earth as the highest intelligence. At the best of times, our organizing efforts would protect lands outright, or defeat plans to cut before they make it off the drawing board. When our efforts fall short, the experiences our community shares in the struggle inspire new forms of resistance. If your heart is free, the ground you’re standing on is liberated territory–defend it!

DIY – Do it right!

After reading the “Customize your bike – think outside the same old frame” article in the issue #97 of Slingshot (Summer 2008), I became wildly enthusiastic about installing raised ‘bmx style’ handlebars on my beat-up old mountain bike. Those raised ‘bmx’ bars should alleviate the back problems that I had been having while riding my old beater, as well as increasing my balance and stability while riding. However, due to a partial disability and a major lack of coordination, I was unable to install those higher handlebars myself.

Fortunately, a friend of mine who had already customized his own frame told me he could install a set of raised ‘bmx’ style handlebars. He installed the new handlebar set for me and I went riding off into the sunset, happily ever after.

Well not really. About a week later, I was locking my bike to a parking meter downtown when those new handlebars worked loose from the handlebar stem and flopped straight down. Cursing all the while, I walked down to the local hardware store and re-attached the handlebars using the proper-sized bolts.

About one week after the first incident, I was stopped at an intersection when the entire front wheel slipped off to a forty-five degree angle from the rest of the bike. The handlebar stem was slightly too small and had become detached from the steering tube! I had some very scary visions of what might have happened if that stem had broken loose while I was riding in front of a 2,500 lb. inattentive slaughter mobile.

While I’ m still enthusiastic and supportive of DIY, I’m now a lot more cautious. My friend was in a hurry and didn’t bother to get the proper-fitting materials for the job. I was in a hurry and didn’t bother to take a critical look at his work. I would have noticed both mechanical fuck-up’s if I had taken five minutes to inspect the bike before riding off.

Do It Yourself means Taking Responsibility for Yourself. We are not depending on OSHA, the FDA, municipal building inspectors, or any other bureaucracy to look after our safety. If we’re going to DIY that means we have to Do It Right. By Do It Right, I’m not referring to the cosmetic, superficial stuff but the fundamentals. Our dwellings should be, structurally sound, our bikes mechanically safe, and our foods non-toxic.

Doing It Right means not eating the dumpstered egg/mayo sandwiches that have been sitting in the sun for a few days. It means not causing your roof to collapse by cutting through a load-bearing beam while renovating your attic (this happened to a friend). It means not almost electrocuting yourself by cutting through the house wiring with a skill saw (another friend did this one).

You can avoid calamities more by recalling your folk tales and children’s bedtime stories than by reading a ‘how-to’ or technical manual. Remember all the bad things that happened to those folks who tried to get the last little bit…Or the stories with characters full of pride and hubris. Who did know a lot, but not quite as much as they thought they did.

I talked with several professional contractors who have over fifty years combined experience doing general maintenance and construction work. They told me that their primary learning experiences were ‘hands-on’, working with other more experienced people. You do not have to become a union apprentice to learn carpentry or any other trade. But you should be networking with people you meet in skill shares and free skool classes and helping them complete their projects.

Try listing and assembling the tools and materials you’ll need before you start a major project. Of course this list will never be complete, because there’s always going to be something you didn’t expect. However, the more complete your list, the smoother and more enjoyable the experience will be. There’s an almost euphoric satisfaction when a project ‘flows’, and everything falls into place.

When repairing anything mechanical think of it as three dimensional jig-saw puzzle. If people put it together, it can be taken apart, fixed, and reassembled. Consult the manuals, but if things look too puzzling, consult with more experienced friends, before starting to take things apart.

There is an aesthetic quality in DIY that’s lacking in the expensive, massproduced consumer crap that permeates today’s society. Whether it’s a bicycle or a house, every piece of DIY is a direct expression of the person who created it. Be proud of your work. It is an extension of yourself.

Do It Yourself! Do It Right!

Thriving Colorful – infoshops and community centers

Every year the Slingshot collective spends the month of July trying to update the radical contact list for the next year’s Organizer. We call, email and snail mail letters all over. We always seem to get a lot of responses, corrections and additions right after the organizer goes to press in August – so we have to update the Organizer in the newspaper before the Organizer is even back from the printer! This year, we sent snail mail letters to all the contacts in Europe, Latin America and Asia and we’ve been getting back a lot of great greetings and information.

Many of us had the opportunity to travel over the summer and gather new contacts as well as visit existing spaces. It is incredibly inspiring to see so many amazing radical spaces all over – many of them well organized, bright, thriving, colorful and full of creative energy. Thanks to everyone across the world who lends a hand to keep the radical community and its amazing spaces going.

Las Vegas Zine Library – Nevada

A zine library at the Beat Coffeehouse. 520 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, NV 89101. (Mail zine donations to c/o Jeff, PO Box 72071, Las Vegas, NV 89170.) lvzinelibrary.blogspot.com, email-lvzinelibrary@gmx.com

The Burrow – Winona, MN

They have a library, social center, meeting room and kitchen. 713 Washington Street Winona, MN 55987, burrow.booking @gmail.com

Copyleft Infoshop / The Den Collective – St. Louis, MO

They have an infoshop with a zine library, urban farm and show space at a collective house. 3245 Knapp Street St., Louis, MO 63107 tigerose@riseup.net

Bitch Media Community Lending Library – Portland, OR

A lending library at the Bitch magazine headquaters with 1500 books, zines and DVDs on feminism, gender and related topics. Open Tues/Thurs 5-8 and by appointment. 4930 NE 29th Avenue, Portland, OR 97211, 503-282-5699, www.bitchmedia.org/library

Hammer Time! Projects – Ft. Collins, CO

A warehouse with a music venue, meeting space, free store, tool cooperative and infoshop featuring books from the (defunct) 908 infoshop. 1000 E Laurel St. Fort Collins, CO 80524 www.hammertimeprojects.org

Experimental Station – Chicago, IL

A bunch of independent projects on one corner including Blackstone Bicycle works (bike coop), Backstory Café plus community events and projects. 6100 S. Blackstone Ave., Chicago, IL 60637 773-241-6044

Bike Sauce – Toronto, Canada

DIY bike shop that sponsors community rides and events. 717 Queen Street East, Toronto, Canada 647 724 7880, bikesauce.org

Revolver Infoshop – Prague, Czech Republic

A new infoshop – uh, does anyone read Czech? Mecislavova 8, Praha 4 – Nuscle. www.infoshop-revolver.cz/, infoshop.revolver@gmail.com

Casa da Lagartixa Preta – Santo Andre, Brazil

A house run by Anarchist Black Cross with a community library, garden and bike shop that hosts unschooling workshops, discussions and movies. Alcides de Queirós, 161, Santo André / Casa Branca, São Paulo / Brasil, 09015-550 www.ativismoabc.org

Corrections to the 2011 Slingshot Organizer

• The Bloom Collectivein Grand Rapids, MI has a new address: c/o Steepletown Neighborhood Services, Rm. 7, 671 Davis Avenue NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

• We got a letter returned from Pitchfork Collective in Denver, Colorado. Please let us know if they have ceased to exist or if they just moved.

• We forgot to include the Empowerment Resource Centre at 636 Queens Avenue, London ON N5W 3H1 519-435-0307. They briefly shut down while we were making the 2011 list and then re-opened with a slightly changed name and focus.

• We forgot to include the phone # and website for C.S.A. La Torre in Rome: 06822869 / www.csalatorre.net. They told us that there is a list of squats in Rome at: www.tmcrew.org/csa/csa.htm

• The FuoriControllo Infoshop in Savona, Italy is closing their space. They’ll keep doing book distro and other work, just without a space.

• The Krtkova Kolona infoshop in Prague, Czech Republic has closed.

• We tried to send mail to the Zagreb Anarchist Movement in Zagreb, Croatia but it got returned – they may have moved or dissolved. Let us know if you know.

• We tried to send mail to Cafe Victoria in Mexico City but the letter got returned. We don’t know whether they just moved or no longer exists. Let us know if you know.

• We got the phone number for Shirouto no Ran (Amateur riot) in Tokyo: 03-3330-2939, trio4.nobody.jp/keita/index_com.html (if you read Japanese).

• The folks at Bar Akane in Tokyo gave us their phone #: 03-5292-1877. They write: “Akane is 12 years old and is one of the oldest alternative spaces in Tokyo. We are here so that people can socialize, organize events, and get together so that people do not feel isolated in this competitive and money-oriented world. Each day of the week a volunteer staffs (for example I staff every Saturday) so each day of the week the atmosphere of the place is very different.”

• We didn’t list Espace autogéré, rue César-Roux 30, Lausanne, Switzerland, espaceautogere.squat.net/

We’re getting ready – remaining Republican National Convention defendants head to trial

Four of a group of eight anarchists who were pre-emptively arrested just prior to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN — known as the RNC 8 — are set to go on trial October 25, facing two and a half years in prison if convicted. We are asking everyone who is able to come to the Twin Cities to help support Rob Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald, Nathanael Secor and Max Specktor as they fight back against state repression. Prosecutors dropped all charges against three of the 8 defendants — Monica Bicking, Luce Guillén-Givins, and Eryn Trimmer — on September 16. Erik Oseland took a non-cooperating plea agreement to one count of gross misdemeanor conspiracy to damage property on August 27, severing him from the joint trial.

Targeted for their explicitly anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing of logistics to support protests against the convention, the RNC 8 were surveilled, harassed and manipulated by infiltrators and informants in the year leading up to the RNC. Then they were arrested and charged with felony “conspiracy to riot in the furtherance of terrorism.” Shortly after the convention, they were slapped with yet more felony charges: conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism, conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property. But a successful pressure campaign against the head prosecutor’s run for governor and widespread public outcry ultimately forced the prosecutor to drop the terrorism enhancement charges in April 2009.

The baseless nature of these charges was seen yet again when the prosecutor entirely dropped the charges against Monica, Luce and Eryn. Of course, dropping charges against some of the co-defendants is also a divide-and-conquer move on the part of the State, an effort to weaken the solidarity that has forced the State’s hand on the terrorism charges and sustained the defendants through two years of pre-trial preparations. The strength and resolve the defendants and our movement as a whole have shown are real threats to the State’s efforts to justify their repression and perpetuate the myth that the system provides us with “justice.”

The dismissals dramatically changed the defendants’ legal situation just a couple weeks after it had changed dramatically with Erik’s plea deal. When Erik took the plea, he was made to acknowledge in open court that future rulings in the joint RNC 8 case would not apply to him. One of these rulings was about the probable cause hearings held in May and June of this year.

In these hearings, the defense argued that the government had not shown any specific evidence to establish probable cause for the charges and that the charges violated constitutionally protected free speech rights. The defendants said that they would prove in these hearings that despite tens of thousands of pages of documents, hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, and four infiltrators, the government has no proof of guilt in this case. The actions and activities advocated by the RNC Welcoming Committee were acts of civil disobedience such as blocking traffic, and the actions actually taken were legal, logistical activities such as feeding and housing demonstrators. The government’s main case rests on the satirical “We’re Getting Ready” video, guilt by association, statements and actions of people who are not the defendants, and discussions by the defendants that did not constitute any kind of a real plan or conspiracy to riot or damage property.

Two of the four informants and several other cops testified on the stand during the hearings. Although they admitted to having little evidence of the defendants possessing dangerous weapons or making agreements to damage property or injure people, they wanted to paint a bigger picture of conspiracy, continually referring to “gut feelings.” When directly questioned about what RNC 8 members actually did, they came up with things such as possessing knives in their kitchens and debating the merit of property damage as a tactic. When asked about illegal activity that the Welcoming Committee participated in, all that one informant could come up with was a banner drop in which no one but informants were involved.

In their efforts to counter the defense’s assertions, the prosecutors brought up the fact that the Welcoming Committee endorsed a diversity of tactics and refused to condemn or denounce illegal tactics. They also attempted to draw connections between the defendants and other people who were convicted of crimes during the convention. Further, they argued that there’s no direct evidence of conspiracy in this case because the defendants practiced security culture. But, they argued, that doesn’t matter because it was a conspiracy and therefore the defendants were all responsible for everything that occurred with or without them.

The judge issued her ruling on the probable cause hearing on September 21, the day before the final pre-trial hearing. She ruled in favor of the prosecution, stating that the defense had failed to provide exonerating evidence for the four remaining defendants.

Thus, the joint trial for the remaining defendants is still scheduled to begin on October 25 and could last a month or more. During the trial, we’ll be packing the courtroom every day, serving a few free meals each week, working with other groups to put on fun events every Friday night, sending out announcements to the movement, doing media work, fundraising, and a whole bunch of other things.

Your help is needed now more than ever. To figure out how you can get involved, email us at info@rnc8.org. To learn more about trial logistics (including housing), to download support materials to distribute in your community, and to donate to the legal defense fund, check out rnc8.org.