Category Archives: Issue #121: Summer 2016

Bring Back the commons – Alameda D.A. criminalizes squatting

By Woof Woof-Howl

On Wednesday January 20, 2016 the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (DA) issued arrest warrants for 4 organizers working with the non-profit Land Action. The organizers, now being called The Land Action 4, face 7 criminal charges-3 of which are felonies, up to 8.5 years imprisonment, and $89,000 in fines. Among the allegations is that these organizers were involved in a “Conspiracy to Trespass,” a common charge used to target civil rights organizers.

The organizers are being charged for their involvement in the occupation of an abandoned house in the Cleveland Heights neighborhood near Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA. Two of the defendants, Patrick Xu and Wren Hyde, were the on-site property managers on behalf of Land Action. The occupation began in mid-September of 2015, and for the next 3 months the occupants made multiple improvements to the property. On December 17th the owner of record noticed the occupants, and through a family connection to the DA’s office, petitioned the DA to intercede on the owner’s behalf. Subsequently, in negotiations with an agent of the DA, the occupants agreed to move out of the property. However, the DA broke the agreement and arrested Xu as he was removing the last of his belongings from the property. Arrest warrants were issued for Wren Hyde, Kelly Jewett, and Steven DeCaprio; none of whom were physically on the property at the time the warrant was issued.

Several neighbors said no one had entered the house since 2010.  According to the prosecution’s official complaint, the owner of record admitted to not having lived in the house since 2003. Over the years, the sagging foundation has caused exterior walls to buckle and shear, creating large cracks in the stucco that collect rain during storms. At the time of the occupation, the property had accumulated 5 years of unpaid back taxes, which made it eligible for tax foreclosure. Land Action was preparing to take ownership of the property via the legal doctrine of Adverse Possession, a.k.a. “squatting to own,” by filing certain documents with the Alameda County tax assessor. After discovering the occupation, the owner payed the most recent fiscal year’s taxes, leaving $45K still unpaid as of this article’s publication.

Hundreds of abandoned/vacant properties have been occupied in the Bay Area in recent decades. Disputes over these properties generally remain in the civil realm. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the court rules in the title-holder’s favor and the occupants are ordered to leave. Very rarely do they end with arrests, and never before have they resulted in felony charges. But this time, the DA has pushed what has historically been considered a civil matter into criminal court.

The DA is attempting to criminalize squatting, and with it, Adverse Possession, precisely because these tactics have been very effective here in the Bay. The squatters movement has provided safe haven to thousands of dissident voices over the years. During the Occupy encampments many activists were able to organize full-time because they lived in squats. Squatters have also posed a major obstacle to the widespread speculative practice of hoarding properties only to leave them empty and unused and thereby inflate housing prices. So we can read the DA’s actions as a fairly bald-faced attempt at political repression.

But there’s more. Especially disturbing to the DA was Land Action’s attempt to use the doctrine of Adverse Possession to claim ownership over a property without paying market value for it (This is a privilege local government would rather reserve for capitalists – see the 12th street remainder parcel scandal, in which Oakland City Council tried to give luxury condo developers an acre-sized lakefront parcel for well under market value, an action that the City’s own Attorney declared was illegal).

So the DA is acting on the commonly held, knee-jerk moral impulse that “housing should cost something.” The average person on the street is likely to tell you the same – if you don’t pay for it, you don’t deserve it, and anyone who lives in a house for free must be either a parasite or a criminal – which means this fight is also about land, and what it’s worth.

To many people, the Alameda DA’s actions may not seem so newsworthy given that the Bay Area is already one of the most expensive places on the planet. We already live under the boots of capital, so what difference does it make if squatting is legal or not? Whatever the outcome of this court case, I hope that you, dear Slingshot reader, will use this moment to remind your conventionally minded friends what’s really at stake when the average citizen believes “housing should cost something.”

At the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, the old feudal order was crumbling under the pressure of popular uprisings. The princes, the religious authorities, and the new mercantile elite allied against the common people to devise new means of social control. Thus began a centuries-long campaign that robbed the peasantry of their land, especially their collectively held land, the proverbial village commons. By this bloody process of dispossession, the European peasantry was transformed into the world’s first modern landless population: they had been made into a dependent working class that had no choice but to accept the yoke of capital.

In the birthplace of Capitalism land used to belong to everyone and everyone belonged to the land. Now, all over the world people believe land is a commodity to be bought and sold. A perverse “common sense” tells us that people don’t have a basic right to shelter, that home is a place we must earn through a life-time of toil in service of capital interests. Let’s remember how much bloodshed over centuries it took to condition people to believe that filthy, capitalist lie.

So if anyone ever asks you, what’s land worth? Maybe they’re a landlord, and they want to know, is it worth… $1200 a month? Go ahead and ask them back, “how much will you pay me to keep your kidneys?” And they’ll be very disturbed by that question — they’ll say, “listen, sicko. Why should I pay you for my kidneys?” Indeed, why? Who’s got a gun to our heads, who’s holding the very preconditions of life itself for ransom? It’s the very definition of sick. And now you begin to see the level of depravity necessary to conduct the centuries-long campaign of dispossession that has produced the global landless. The depravity necessary for the IMF to conduct its programs of privatization in an effort to “develop” so called undeveloped territories. By ripping us from the land and holding us apart, we become like a thundercloud over a mountain, ready to hurl millions of volts just to bridge that gap.

We must look to history in order to understand what it means when the average “freedom loving” American believes the property regime we live in is reasonable and natural. The Alameda County DA’s attempt to criminalize squatting is just one more nail in the lid of a psychic coffin that has been centuries in the making. The ruling class has ripped us from the landscape so thoroughly that we’ve forgotten that we were once one organism – only then could the ruling class sell our own flesh back to us, by the pound and by the square foot.

Whatever happens with this court case, remember that if you value liberty, land is beyond all price. So wherever you are, fuck capitalism, fuck privatization, fight the enclosures, and BRING BACK THE COMMONS.

contribute to the Land Action 4 legal defense!

https://www.gofundme.com/m3vz8wva

Nuit Debout – French youth take to the streets!

By Winter Oak / the Acorn (w/ Slingshot edits)

The spirit of resistance has captured the imagination of a new generation in France, as youth-led opposition to neoliberal labor “reforms” has spiraled into full-on rejection of the whole capitalist system on the street and in the squares. While in the US the 99%, faced with decades of declining wages and economic stratification are either rallying around “great hopes” offered by electoral politics or degenerating into racism, immigrant bashing and fear — in France seizing the fucking streets offers a better alternative.

After a general strike and day of action on March 31 there was a call for people not to go home afterwards but to stay on the streets, beginning a wave of overnight “Nuit Debout” (night stand) occupations that have spread from Paris across France, Spain, Belgium and Germany. The March 31 “moment” has been symbolically extended by the renaming of the days following the day of action: March 32, March 33 and so on. “According to the nuitdeboutistes, time froze when their meetings began on March 31.”

Similar to Occupy Wall Street and the Indignados in Spain, Nuit Debout has no leaders and no demands. Rather, people have formed general assemblies to discuss issues and decide policies. The occupations have set up kitchens, medical services, gardens and libraries. On the morning of April 11, police moved in and cleared the camp at the Place de la République in central Paris, but thousands of people returned and re-established the occupation that night. As Slingshot goes to press there are actions in 60 French cities with plans for another general strike on April 28.

On Tuesday March 36 (April 5 in the old pre-revolutionary calendar) there was a massive turn-out on the streets all over France, with increased police violence and defiant resistance. In Paris police fired tear gas and charged the crowds of youngsters who countered with stones, glass bottles and eggs, chanting “police everywhere, justice nowhere!” and “everybody hates the police!” Police arrested 130 students, leading to an evening protest outside a police station involving hundreds of people and more clashes.

In Marseilles people blocked a freeway throwing traffic into chaos and the offices of the ruling Socialist Party were redecorated. In Brittany, the main railway line was blocked in Rennes city center, while banks, chain stores and the Socialist Party offices were targeted in Nantes. Another hotspot was in Toulouse, where a wildcat protest and invasion of the city’s railway station was followed by an overnight Nuit Debout occupation of between 500 and 1,000 people.

When an authentic wave of revolt surges up from the collective heart of a population, there is little that can stand in its way. Like the waters of a mighty flood, it either sweeps away everything in its path or finds a different course that takes it past all obstacles. This is what is happening in France — a rejection of the capitalist system has emerged from deep within society, most notably amongst the youth.

The French state, frightened of a serious threat to its power, probably imagined it had found the solution in the wake of the November 13 terror attacks in Paris. The draconian “state of emergency” has been combined with increased police brutality and the usual “anti-terrorist” media paranoia to try to create a climate in which revolt is impossible. It worked to some extent with the COP21 protests in Paris, where the anticipated atmosphere of rebellion was significantly dampened.

But when the state started making noises about evicting the ZAD protest camp (“Zone a Defendre” meaning “Zone to Defend”, a play on the government term “Zone d’Aménage-ment Différé,” or “Urban Development Zone”) to make way for a new Nantes airport, the huge response of solidarity and defiance showed that the rebel spirit remained intact.

And with the planned El Khomri labour laws, the Socialist French government certainly overestimated its power over the people. Named after minister of Labor Myriam El Khomri, the law would expand a ‘normal’ working week to 46 hours, limit penalties for illegal termination; and limit unions. While obedient trade unions failed to make much of a fuss about this serious attack on workers’ rights, others were outraged and a youthful grassroots campaign emerged out of nowhere to oppose it.

The state has tried to crush it with police violence and general levels of repression under the “state of emergency”. But this hasn’t worked. Indeed, the flood waters of revolt have merely swept up the tools of the state’s repression and used them as battering rams against its legitimacy.

As one statement from protesters explained: “What is being born here has little to do with the labour law. This law is just the tipping point. The one attack too many. Too arrogant, too blatant, too humiliating. The surveillance laws, the Macron law, the state of emergency, the stripping of nationality measures, the anti-terrorist laws, the penal reform project and the labour law all add up to a system. It’s one big project to bring the population to heel. Everyone knows that what makes a government retreat is not the number of people on the streets, but their determination. The only thing that will make a government retreat is the specter of an uprising, the possibility of the loss of total control”.

Resistance is spreading. A new generation is at war with the system. The tyrants are running scared. Vive la Révolution!

Reprinted with revisions from winteroak.org.uk

 

Nothing left to lose – lessons & inspiration from the 2000 DNC

By P. Wingnut

To inform and encourage mass protests of the mainstream party conventions this summer, following is an account of my experience protesting at the 2000 Democratic Convention in LA. Slingshot is publishing several accounts of past convention protests on pages 10-12. This isn’t meant to be just nostalgia. What we need are lessons about what might work this year plus inspiration to get ourselves off facebook and out into the streets. When so many people are seduced by the empty promises of electoral politics, street action is particularly crucial.

Direct action during an election year isn’t just about the conventions. Black Lives Matter-inspired protests are popping up everywhere and are powerful because they are focused on local police killings. Or what about the hundreds who were arrested trying to shatter the collective stupor during Democracy Spring protests in Washington, DC.? And from May 4-15, thousands will blockade fossil fuel infrastructure in support of a just transition to renewable energy during the Break Free protests. Resistance outside and against the system is where the action is.

When I think back to the 2000 DNC, I want to start off by admitting that I went mostly for the spectacle and the idea of street action — which is always a good thing. Street chaos is exciting, empowering and it exposes the violence inherent in the system. I tend to think that a riot organizes more people than 10,000 fliers. Most people understand that they are oppressed and inherently connect with ruptures in acceptance of this shit.

The convention was just an excuse — which is what it ought to be in 2016, too. The two party system stopped bothering me years ago — it is a part of the mainstream reality along with freeways, corporate food, soulless jobs, climate change, meaninglessness and ugliness. Electoral politics aren’t better or all that much worse than the things listed above — the shit is all terrible. To stay sane and happy, I ignore as much as I can, refuse to participate if possible, and do what I can to fight and undermine this horrible reality.

The electoral system is a distraction from the real forces that shape the world — capitalism and techno/materialism. Don’t believe the hype! Electing someone “better” to lead a fundamentally bankrupt system is as meaningless as thinking you can reform consumerism buying the right thing or defeat the employment system by joining a union.

This year, racist violence associated with the election is boiling right below the surface — and many are concerned that bringing chaos to the streets in this context will only inflame dangerous forces. But the racist anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant rhetoric is a flawed response to real economic and political forces that have ground down the lives of millions of people for the last 40 years — declining wages, income stratification and betrayal. What’s desperately needed are inspirational sparks that help turn anger away from racial scapegoats and towards the real enemies: the economic elite, corporations and the systems of economic exploitation that steal and concentrate the wealth that regular people toil to create. Now is the perfect time to bring the spirit of Occupy and the 99% back into the picture as a positive response to divide-and-conquer racism. Working people of all races united against the 1% are an unstoppable force.

To understand the 2000 DNC protests, you have to realize how things felt just after the massive uprising at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in November, 1999. 50,000 people seized downtown Seattle shutting down the meeting and block-after-block of the business district despite thousands of heavily armed police who were on a rampage all day — emptying their cans of pepper spray on us, shooting us with rubber bullets and filling the air with tear gas and flash bang grenades. The WTO was probably the high point of my life (so far, anyway) — an inspiring rupture in the fabric of business as usual.

Radicals were so used to being invisible and atomized before the WTO but suddenly, all our isolated, tiny, ragtag communities of anarchists, environmentalists and labor militants came out of the shadows and for the first time in our lives, we mattered. We controlled the streets. Not only that, but I don’t think we ever felt so alive and in the moment before. It was profoundly sexy. I remember being out in the street until 3 am dodging police and tear gas and having to force myself to leave. The WTO protest brought up fundamental economic issues and transcended single-issue politics through leaderless mass action similar to Occupy years later.

Based on that electric sense of excitement and power, a few of us headed to Los Angeles the following summer. No doubt about it — we were looking for trouble. We wanted to do everything we could to disrupt the convention and expose the bullshit of the two-party system and we knew if we succeeded, it was going to be fun and fucking intense. Facing riot cops and the real threat of violence is scary, but mostly it is exciting. After the WTO, I couldn’t calm down for two months — I dreamt of police lines and explosions and probably had a little bit of PTSD.

When we showed up in Los Angeles, we quickly learned that the police had been thinking about the WTO a lot as well. They were determined not to ever let what had happened in Seattle repeat itself.

There were 2 or 3 marches scheduled per day during the convention — each organized by various interest groups focusing on labor, the environment, war, etc. It was blazing hot but we went to all the marches anyway — even though they felt pretty pointless because our numbers were small and we were surrounded by unlimited lines of police.

We couldn’t do shit. You could march around in the abandoned downtown LA heat knowing no one could see you and you couldn’t disrupt anything. If you wanted, you could charge the police line and get arrested, but so what? It was totally different than Seattle — we controlled nothing, the cops had total control and it wasn’t sexy or exciting. I guess the best we could say is that we were exposing the violence inherent in the system — perhaps images of the massive police overreaction would help shake the legitimacy of corporate democracy.

We went to every march anyway because we were all waiting for a chance — a mistake by the police. We hoped against hope that something was going to give and we wanted to be in the right place at the right time. Overall, this is an excellent strategy not only for a particular protest, but for the radical movement and even for life in general. You can’t be in the right place at the right time if you’re alone at home with your computer. Despite the hopeless situation, people did go on little rampages even though it meant certain arrest.

At night, somehow there was going to be a Rage Against The Machine concert in the protest-pen right in front of the fucking convention hall. Even though the pen was surrounded by police and a 14 foot chain link fence, it seemed like the concert had a lot going for it. It attracted an extra-large crowd — so lesson #1 is that having large numbers really does help even when the police are heavily armed and you are trapped in a tiny fenced-off area.

The crowd wasn’t necessarily mostly radicals — I think a lot of them just wanted to see a free show. Lesson #2: to get large numbers we need to draw folks outside the radical scene. Cliques, security culture, activist jargon that isolates us, refusal to associate with people who have different political perspectives — all of this suffocates the openness we need to pull off big things.

The concert was at night — which almost always works to encourage disorder. Although I don’t think there was a plan, a few people started throwing empty plastic water bottles and other small objects over the tall fence at the police. It was a laughable and totally symbolic act. The bottles had to be thrown straight up in the air to clear the tall fence, so they fell harmlessly on a huge stretch of empty concrete between the fence and the police line. I am pretty sure my friends and I were making fun of the masked macho-types throwing stuff. But then somewhat to our surprise, this modest act worked!

Around 8 pm while Ozomatli was playing, “police suddenly shut down the lights on stage and LAPD Commander Gary Brennan declared the gathering an illegal assembly and ordered the audience to leave. Ten minutes later 400 police officers, most on motorcycles or horseback, began to wade into the crowd. Another group of police began firing ‘non-lethal munitions’ into the crowd, including rubber bullets, small bean bags fired from shotguns and pepper spray,” according to WSWS (who recall more details than I do.)

My friends and I made it out into the street to avoid getting surrounded in what looked like it might be a mass arrest. Some people ran away but a lot of people stood up to the police, maybe falling back a little when there were bullets flying, but then coming back. We finally all got hit with rubber bullets and the crowd got pushed back and dispersed. For a lot of people, what happened was terrible, scary or didn’t represent a dignified way to protest. Many people howled about the police brutality. A lot of people were there for a concert and were outraged that the police charged them even though 99.9% of the crowd hadn’t thrown anything. The police ordered everyone to disburse but then didn’t let people leave.

We had spent the whole day waiting for something to happen, and in the end, the police overreaction did our work for us. Lesson #3: the system always seeks order and management and often a win will be creating disorder — and this can be by mistake because you can’t organize dis-organization. Normally our strength isn’t a direct confrontation with power, which we’ll usually lose, but rather changing the game or even running away from the police. The police are happy when they know where you are and understand what you’re up to — but when they don’t, that’s chaos and that’s what really undermines an authoritarian system.

As far as I can tell, the 2000 DNC didn’t change the course of history, undermine the two-party system, or whatever. But if you live your life only measuring your experiences that way, you’re missing the point. It ended up feeling like it was worth it — a memorable experience. Since 2000, the police response to convention protests has become more and more intense, and the number of people willing to protest seems to be falling. But there’s really no telling what will go down this year if someone doesn’t try. The sense of danger and desperation is at an all time high — racism, immigrant bashing and violence are in the air, class inequality has never been so in our face in our lifetime, and the planet’s ecosystem is breaking down. We may be getting close to the point where no one has anything left to lose and if enough people get out into the streets, you never know what might happen.

 

Introduction to issue #121 (“Slingshot box”)

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

There were moments when it looked like this issue would be canceled. Rather than bore you or ourselves with all the details, it is worth articulating why the paper keeps coming out despite all the obstacles and evidence that we should just give up and throw in the towel.

To live well, you must come to terms with your own mortality. If you woke up focused on the reality that “I will soon be dead forever” how would you have energy to make your oatmeal?

Similarly, resistance to the capitalist monster that is daily destroying the earth is a pre-condition for freedom, for being able to see reality clearly, for having fun and for being able to love. Being in Slingshot collective is one of the ways we fight the system. It keeps us sane and that keeps us alive — not walking dead employees / consumers who are just going through the motions.

There are a lot of articles about protests and riots in this issue because having these experiences has been transformative for us. Like taking LSD or falling in love or becoming a parent, going beyond talking and actually standing up to fight the system changes you forever. Afterwards, you know on a gut level that the system is fucked, that mainstream options aren’t the only way, and that anytime enough people stand to fight, we can win. Once you know all that, you can’t just turn it off and go along with it anymore. Once you’ve been handcuffed or seen your garden or your squat seized or watched chainsaws take down a forest, you’re always a member of the rebel alliance and the force will be with you.

There are many ways people struggle for a better world. As individuals, we’re small and isolated. But being an individual is also a strength because on an individual level, you’re free. No matter how top-down and micro-managed the world becomes, you still control your own decisions and you still have your own creativity. It’s up to each of us to refuse the boxes the system wants to force us into and the rules we never agreed to.

And while we might be weak individually, we can cooperate with others to create communities of resistance. These can be the bridge from powerlessness to creating spaces where we’re free to do as we please.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But that isn’t the end of the story — life is still full of exciting opportunities even in the face all the eco-destruction, war, racism, refugees, income stratification, gentrification and the boring, sanitized, managed world.

It is precisely because everything we care about is so at risk — we’re being priced out of town, we’re being poisoned, our lives and freedom may be taken from us at any moment — that the moments of beauty and love that we still experience every day are all the more poignant. In the whole universe, there is nothing like the feeling of biting into a ripe peach. Or sinking into someone’s warm arms. Or seeing the clouds in the sky. The corporations and the cops and the fucking freeways are puny, temporary, and ridiculous compared to the things that really matter.

There are many ways to respond to all of these intense paradoxes, and Slingshot is one of ours. Won’t you join us?

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

We’re a collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: A. Iwasa, Ash, Dov, Eggplant, Elke, Fern, Isabel, Jesse, Kermit, Kerry Liz, Korvin, Larry, Lew, Max, Patrick, Peter, and all the authors and artists!

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on August 21, 2016 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 122 by September 17, 2016 at 3 pm.

Volume 1, Number 121, Circulation 22,000

Printed April 22, 2016

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

Phone (510) 540-0751 • slingshot@tao.ca slingshot.tao.ca • twitter @slingshotnews

 

Corrections: The world map in the 2016 organizer fails to show South Sudan. Also the days were mislabeled April 21-23 in the spiral organizer. Sorry about that.

About the poster: The slogan is the name of an amazing deep ecology zine that existed in the 1990s. Find a copy if you can. The skull was drawn and sent to us by a prisoner but sorry we lost his name. Thanks Jenn Dieges for the flower collage.

Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $3 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library . slingshot at tao.ca

Circulation information

Subscriptions to Slignshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per 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. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

 

Occupy This – Infoshops and radical spaces

Compiled by Jesse D. Palmer

Here are some new radical community spaces we’ve learned about, plus updates to information published in the 2016 Slingshot Organizer. We collect info about these spaces not just so you can have a swell road trip this summer, but because autonomous, public radical spaces are an important tool in building the personal communities of trust, cooperation and love that are essential in fighting the grim forces of capitalism and building a livable world. DIY projects, independent art and music venues and other collective efforts are worthwhile on their own, but even more importantly they are where we meet others and make connections.

In many cases, such spaces are one of the only ways new people who want to join the radical “scene” can plug in, because all too often our projects are limited by their grounding in cliques and closed friendship circles. New connections people make at these spaces last and continue to expand for years.

In a way, radical spaces can be like the best part of an Occupy camp where there is a lot of cross-pollination between different types of people. And yes, like Occupy, these spaces can be fucking frustrating — sometimes all-too fragile and temporary. Sometimes they are disorganized, dominated by a few people, or subject to disruption by dysfunctional people. But claiming physical space is necessary if we really want to grow the resistance. And with all the frustration, there’s also a lot of space for experimentation, creativity, learning and growth. If you have any info about other spaces we don’t know about or have corrections for the 2017 Organizer, send them to us by July 29. We try to update the information on-line at slingshot.tao.ca/contacts.

Flyover Infoshop – Carbondale, IL

A one year old space with a stage, free zine library, a lending library, a kitchen made from scrap and salvaged items and the Carbondale Tool Lending Library which hosts classes. They host sewing workshops, jam nights, letter writing for prisoners, political reading groups, consent discussions, free massages, political presentations, community meals, parties, and training sessions. They also planted an organic vegetable garden in the abandoned lots across the street. The space is “founded on anarchist principles . . . an environment where no one has power over anyone else.” Across the street is also St. Shoe Shine, a store that employs formerly incarcerated folks and the newly opened Center for Empowerment and Justice that seeks to become a community space and currently focuses on getting legal and material aid to formerly incarcerated folks and families of currently incarcerated folks. 214 N Washington St. in Carbondale, IL 62901 flyoverinfoshop.org.

Bridgetown DIY – La Puente, CA

A DIY collectively operated zine library, lending library and meeting space that hosts shows, meetings, movies, dance classes, art classes, workshops, speakers and art shows. (They’ve been operating a ton of interesting events for 3 years and it seems like Slingshot fucked up for not listing them sooner. Sorry.) 1421 Valinda Ave., La Puente, CA 91744 facebook.com bridgetowndiy

The Universe Building – Detroit, MI

A collectively operated safe space that hosts art events, movies, a weekly community gathering / concert on Friday night, campfires, maker activities, and drum circles. They write: “Universal Intentional Organization is a grassroots movement of revitalization in community through cooperation & volunteer beautification work to restore & utilize abandoned, condemned or vacant space for intentional living along with the facilitation of cultural happenings & events, workshops & education for teaching independence to one another through environmental sustainability, permaculture knowledge & eco-friendly co-creation of our collective.” 1 E Montana, Detroit 48203 734-417-9233 / 616-570-1459

Savannah Tribe Intentional Community – Savannah, GA

An intentional community and safe space that hosts gardening and alternative living experiments, a Sunday cafe, workshops, Food Not Bombs, and couch surfers. 631 West 37th St., Savannah, GA 93415 912-999-6988

Common Gardens (AKA People’s Republic of Ketmora AKA West Driftless Church of the Flying Spaghetti monster) – Dane, WI

A large farm that hosts collectives and cooperatives and promotes art, radical feminism and agricultural innovation. They are training a new generation of farmers and work with local restaurants and food banks to build food security and food sovereignty. They host events with bands, brewers and speakers who address issues from homelessness to hunger to youth incarceration. They have space for Wwoofers, couch surfers and friends. 6389 Rimmel Ct. Dane WI, 53529, commongardens@gmail.com 608-849-7739

Vortex Coffee and Drinks Co-op at Donut Panic – San Diego, CA

A radical worker cooperative space that is vegan friendly with a small zine library. They say they are “a nexus for nourishment and finding other rad spaces in San Diego.” 6171 Mission Gorge Rd., #113, San Diego, CA 92102 619-280-1894

Quercus Community – Richmond, VA

Located at the former home of the Wingnut Anarchist Collective, the project hosts music and DIY events as well as Food Not Bombs cooking. They describe themselves as an “egalitarian, income-sharing community” that is “dedicated to ecological conservation, social justice, personal growth, and leading lives of beauty, agency, and fun.” 2005 Barton, Richmond, VA 23222 quercus.richmond@ gmail.com

Third Space Art Collective – Davis, CA

A DIY all-ages art, music and performance space. 946 Olive Drive, Davis, CA 95616. thirdspacedavis.com

Quincy Natural Foods Coop – Quincy, CA

A food coop in a small town in the beautiful Feather River canyon that is a community gathering spot. 269 Main St. Quincy, CA 95971. 530-283-3528. (Note: it is near the famous railroad-geek attraction the Keddie Wye bridge.) They also have a location in Portaola at 60 North Pine St. Portola, CA 96122 530-832-1642.

VerdEnergia Pacifica – San Jose, Costa Rica

A cooperatively owned permaculture community and reforestation project in the mountains of Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica. They have been working to repair destroyed cattle land into a food forest in one of the most

de-forested areas in the country. They are an educational/volunteer center and also offer permaculture classes. Please contact them before visiting – no drop-ins, please. 500 metros oeste de la escuela en Lanas, Mercedes Sur #2, Puriscal, San Jose Costa Rica. Verdenergia.org

Corrections to the 2016 Slingshot Organizer

• The new address for Sopo Bicycle Cooperative is 1270 Caroline St NE, Ste D120-392 Atlanta, GA 30307.

• Power U Center in Miami, FL moved – their new address is 745 NW 54th St Miami, FL 33127 305-576-7449 info@poweru.org.

• AK Press has moved. Their new address is 370 Ryan Avenue, Unit 100 Chico, CA 95973.

• The North Country Food Alliance moved to 2 East Franklin Ave, Suite #1, Minneapolis, MN 55404. It’s also the union hall for the Twin Cities Industrial Workers of the World.

• The Wingnut Anarchist Collective in Richmond, VA no longer exists.

• It appears the Heart of Art Gallery in Los Angeles, CA has lost their space.

• We got mail returned from the Blood Orange Infoshop in Riverside, CA. It seems like the project changed to the Black and Brown Underground, but it is hard to tell if that is still operating – let us know if you know.

• The Root Social Center in Brattleboro, VT hosts the Root Radical Lending Library which has its own projects, events, and website: therootsjclibrary.weebly.com

• The mailing address for Durham Bike coop is PO Box 1225 Durham, NC 27701.

• The Horn Of Plenty in Reservoir, Australia is now closed permanently.

 

Take the roots out of the problem – Mexican farmers seize land for a better life

By Jayme Winell

A group of Mexican campesinos, rural farmers, peacefully seized 200 hectares of a sugar cane plantation where many of their grandparents had worked since the mid 1900s in San Isidrio de los Laureles on December 20. Sugar cane work is brutally hard and dismally paid and the community surrounding the plantation has struggled with poverty for generations. The ranch named “El Refugio,” or “The Refuge” is located amidst very dry country toward the Pacific coast in Chiapas Mexico. The land includes a natural spring which from which clean, pure water gushes forth that is believed to be sacred and will bless children.  The water is known as the “Blessed River.”

Just a few years ago the owners of the ranch relaxed in their two pools filled with water from the Blessed River while the campesinos of San Isidro worked their sugar cane fields. After the land was seized, the children and grandchildren of those campesinos could finally swim in the cool, clean waters, playing and running with enthusiasm and energy. This new generation, their parents believe, will have access to a more dignified life with land to call their own.

Despite living on the very fertile land that produced such profits for the owners, members of the San Isidrio community were unable to meet their families’ basic needs. In an average eight hour day, they would earn 60-80 pesos, or about 5 US dollars. Over the course of the last five years they began talking about how to change their situation, or as they like to say, how to take out the roots of the problem.  They identified having access to land as being a major goal.

In 1994 there were widespread land recuperation projects successfully completed by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejercito Zapatista Liberacion Nacional, EZLN). The EZLN used a strategy of training in secret, making surprise attacks on key land holdings and then quickly setting aside weapons to focus on founding self-governing systems, economic cooperatives, health clinics and schools. The watershed moment of 1994 certainly reached the minds and hearts of San Isidrio campesinos but physically was far away.  It would take another twenty-one years for them to take similar action.

They joined the organization Semilla Digna/Dignified Seed, became adherents of the EZLN Sixth Declaration from the Lancondon Jungle and aligned themselves with the National Congress of Indigenous Peoples (CNI).  As an organization they believe that land belongs to those who work it and that the defense of Mother Earth is of utmost importance. They have taken part in workshops ranging from organic agriculture, to human rights, to participatory theater about illegal police detention.

The land and community building project in San Isidrio at “The Refuge” is still a work in progress.  They fear police repression and vigilante violence on the part of the owners but so far have been able to guard the ranch twenty-four hours a day.

 

In Their Own Words: From The Radio Zapatista Project:

How do you feel being in control of land that your grandparents worked on?

“Happy, content that our children will live more dignified.”

When and how did you decide to take over this land?

“Around 2010 we had a reawakening of consciousness and we said that since we’re from here then we should also defend the territory. It’s very integral there: there is water, trees, it is sacred land and so…we decided to recuperate the land. It’s not right that we have always been here but someone from outside comes in and buys what belongs to us.”

What is your view of politicians?

“Before, we let politicians deceive us. they said ‘if you vote, lots of things will change.’ But …all they did was promise and promise and promise but they never deliver. So last year we decided to not vote…  Sometimes the politicians bring programs but they don’t get at the problem from the roots.”

There is grafitti about taking care of the Earth. How do you view yourselves taking care of the Earth?

“We have started a cooperative on some land, it is not much, about a half hectare, but we don’t use any petrochemicals. We use some fertilizer but it is organic and insecticide, well repellent, that is also natural.”

Is there something else you’d like to tell us people in other places?

“Well, that you are never alone. We are always organizing. And now may people get inspired to fight for their lands, for yourself, for your families, for our children. Fight together and organize together because alone we won’t achieve anything. But if we articulate that another world is possible, it depends on how many of us are ready to do lots of things…together.”

 

To hear the full interview with community members of San Isidrio de los Laureles, go to Radio Zapatista:  http://radiozapatista.org/?p=16211

Fight the toxic prison – organizing between ecology and incarceration

Edited by Fern’s Dad

The Prison Ecology Project (PEP) addresses the intersection between the environment and incarceration. Initiated by Paul Wright of Prison Legal News and the Human Rights Defense Center, PEP seeks to bring environmental activists and the skill sets of the ecology movement to the struggle against the prison industry, prisoner’s rights, criminal justice reform and prison abolition. PEP builds on the experience some radical environmental activists gained when we were either thrown in prison for eco-actions, or organized support for imprisoned activists. These experiences gave us an inside look at the prison epidemic in the US. With the steady stream of urban uprisings against the police state, there has never been a better time to organize at this intersection of ecology and incarceration.

One way to accomplish this is to expose the stream of environmental and health violations flowing from overcrowded prisons around the country as a weak point in the system of mass incarceration. A prime example is the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) plans to build a massive maximum-security prison on top of a former mountaintop removal coal mine in Letcher County, Eastern Kentucky, an area surrounded by sludge ponds and coal processing and transport operations. This produces an environmental justice nightmare, where prisoners, who are disproportionately low-income and people of color, face toxic conditions behind bars. The prison site is a mile from a rare and biodiverse pocket of Eastern old-growth called the Lilley Cornett Woods.

As of December 2015, the BOP got $400 million approved for the prison’s construction. The newly formed Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is organizing to stop the Letcher county prison and looking to grow a coalition of opposition.

Stopping one prison is not a magic bullet to ending the US police state, the one that gave way to world’s largest prison nation and in turn serves as the apparatus of repression that keeps the planet shackled to industrial capitalism, but it’s a pretty good place to build from. In particular, it is a powerful place that the environmental movement can express solidarity with the growing rage over the racist criminal justice system.

PEP is helping to organize a convergence in support of eco-prisoners & against toxic prisons June 11-13 in Washington DC. For over a decade, June 11 has been a day of international solidarity events with environmentalists and anarchists imprisoned for their actions in defense of the Earth. The gathering will have networking, strategizing and organizing June 11/12, culminating with a mass action on Monday the 13th. The gathering will put dual pressure on both the BOP and the EPA regarding the Kentucky prison, and environmental justice issues related to prisoners in general, while continuing to fight for the release of eco-prisoners in the spirit of June 11th. We also hope to see this effort build stronger bonds between the eco-defense movement and the movements against police and mass incarceration.

For those interested, but can’t make it to D.C., the BOP has 5 regional offices or you can organize your own June 11 event anywhere. For more info, email FightToxicPrisons@gmail.com

 

The City Is Ours: Squatting and Autonomous Movements In Europe From The 1970s to The Present ed. by Bart Van Der Steen, Ask Katzeff and Leendert Van Hoogenhuijze, PM Press 2014

Reviewed by A. Iwasa

The City is Ours begins with a preface by George Katsiaficas, who I consider to be the next Noam Chomsky. Though he is an academic, I feel like he has long overcome that world’s tendency towards dry writing.

The foreword was written by Geronimo, the author of Fire and Flames, a history of the German Autonomist Movement,.  Though he is as passionate as he is in his earlier writings, a diatribe against anti-sexism almost completely derailed my train of thought as I read his foreword.

That written, this book starts off strong before calming down to a more nuanced, academic feeling with the introduction.

I was reading the book with a real sense of urgency, having recently become involved with the squatters’ and squat supporters’ collective, East Bay Homes Not Jails.  After living in two squats that had been evicted in Oakland the previous year, I was ready to look just about anywhere for advice.  The subtitle of the book should be stressed, this isn’t just about squatting, it’s also very much about European Autonomist Movements.

But it was well worth working through all the historical context to get to the actual material about squatting.

The chapter on Brighton was one of the major highlights, written by two groups, one explicitly of squatters, the Needle Collective.  It’s exactly the sort of writing I was hoping for when I got the book.  Though the post-World War II emergence of squatting in Britain and general historical context is touched on, this is mostly a fiery account of squatting in Brighton from 1969-2012.

An interesting side note to the mostly academic writing style of the book was the amount of documentary film footage referenced, much of which I was able to find on the youtube!  Taking breaks from reading to watch some of these videos reminded me of history classes in high school big time, but far more interesting.  This could make a fun Squatting 101 textbook and study guide!  Possibly the best of these films was 69, about a Youth House, Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen.

The chapter on London was written by a Lecturer in Law, Lucy Finchett-Maddock.  Though the emphasis on her specialty comes off as dry at first, the flip of it is she also focuses on the political organizations of the squatters, even going back to the Ex-Servicemen’s Secret Committee, who were one of the many groups helping homeless families get into squats in the post-World War II wave.

As a participant in East Bay Homes Not Jails, these sort of organizational forms were some of the specific things I was hoping to learn more about.

The next chapter is about the Rozbrat squatted social center in Poznan, Poland.  Being the only chapter about what I consider to be Eastern Europe, I particularly enjoyed it on several levels.  How the emergence of the Polish squatting movement fit into the post-State Communist era, and how Rozbrat in particular also fit into the Anti-Globalization Movement was fun and exciting to read.

As a participant in the Infoshop Movement with many white relatives of Slovak descent, there was something homey feeling about this chapter for me.  There was even a reference to Anarchist Soccer!

The final chapter, Squatting and Autonomous Action in Vienna, 1976-2012, is solid. The whole book, for the most part, should probably be called Autonomous Action and Squatting.  In some ways, this book is more like what I had hoped Fire and Flames and The Subversion of Politics would have been like:  an exciting, well written and researched history of Autonomists.  But it wasn’t as full of helpful advice on squatting as I hoped it would be.  Still well worth reading and discussing for what it is.

 

PM Press, PO Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623

DIY deodorant

By A. Iwasa

One of the little things that I think has improved my life over the last eight or so months has been making my own deodorant.  I’ve experimented with a few different recipes, but am currently doing this:

1 tablespoon of baking soda to 1 table spoon of organic coconut oil, smooshing them together and adding about 8 drops of tea tree oil per ½ cup or so.

Not exactly science; since fall I’ve only been places where the coconut oil is solid at room temperatures, and I refuse to heat it to work with it more easily.  And I keep having to abandon supplies, and just trying to make sure my jar is full before I leave, so I’m half assing it like I always do.

Break off the boards build our dreams

By Daddy LongShanks

By the time Nosebleed squat started, I’d been houseless for almost two years and considered myself something of a pro-squatter. The upside of squatting is zero dollars rent and total freedom to spend your days as you please, free of indentured servitude to the corporate ogre; the downside is zero stability, frequent unplanned moves and occasional loss of possessions up to and including all of them. The average life-span of a squat in San Francisco, according to my Homes Not Jails cohorts, is three weeks; my own experience more or less confirms that statistic. Moving more than once a month adds up to plenty of stress on its own, but squatters have more to deal with: periodic confrontations with angry property owners, and police, who invariably take the gentry’s side against their ragtag, would-be disseisors.

The first night I stayed there, we agreed to set the roster at five, not to accept any more members (other than overnight guests), and set some loose house rules. (They can only be loose in a household of anarchist cat people.) After lone-wolfing it for so long, I was happy to be part of a group again, building a house with others outside the capitalism box. Safety in numbers, the synergy of human interactions, personality dynamics I’d missed (a little). We all had our failings and foibles and eccentricities, but no one was judging, or hiding in shame. We were all fuck-ups of one kind or another and that was okay. It was some kind of wonderful.

We discussed intelligence gathered so far on the property, over dinner and drinks in the kitchen. From the street, Nosebleed wasn’t much to look at, but inside the house was full of retro charm. What it lacked in size it made up with a cozy, finished basement and a fenced backyard with garden. It was an inheritance property. The owners appeared to live in the East Bay. They had major renovations planned that would involve extensive construction, as evidenced by blueprints and other Department of Building Inspection documents we’d intercepted. This dampened any hopes for a long-term tenancy, though not completely: we’d all seen enough construction projects stall for long periods, sometimes indefinitely, for reasons one could only guess: owner moves or sells the property, dies, runs out of money; plans delayed or derailed by permits, Planning Department bureaucracy, complaints from other homeowners, etc. Though hope was further eroded by the fact that The Great Recession was itself receding by this point (early 2013), and construction was starting to pick up again all over the place.

Water and power, at minimum, are considered necessary by self-respecting squatters for decent indoor living. In this respect, Nosebleed was a peach, boasting not only these baseline amenities but also a gas stove and furnace, working washer and dryer, and even hot running water — a rare luxury indeed! That first night, I washed a load of clothes and went to bed earlier than the others, setting up my tent in the basement. Indoor camping! I would have camped outside, but we wanted to maintain a low profile.

To access the basement, one had to go outside. When I did so, I noticed that our clamoring voices were clearly audible to the next-door neighbors, who struck me as the sort of married couple who wake up early and pack their kids off to school before leaving for work themselves. At that very moment, I could hear talking, loud as day, about strategies for dealing with cops if they showed up, and how we should fabricate and memorize a story so as not to be taken off guard or caught in a lie if owners or others came calling.

I brought this up the next night, my second in the house. Again we stood in the kitchen eating dinner, by dint of no furniture so far. “You guys, we’ve gotta talk quieter,” I exhorted them. The response seemed to be a collective shrug. Not wanting to come off as a fussbudget, I didn’t press the issue. After dinner, I took a hot shower, something I’d anticipated with relish all day. When I emerged a half hour later, steamy and well-scrubbed, I was in congenial spirits, starting to really look forward to this little house adventure and already feeling fondness for my surrogate squatter family. Wicked sugarplums were dancing in my head, of how cool and fun this house could be. Maybe we would make it so cool that the owners, when they got wind of our unauthorized tenancy, wouldn’t even mind! The permission squat of my dreams come true!

But the next day the squat blew up. The owner showed up, found one of us and threatened to call the police. He ran off with a few of his belongings and the rest of us lost everything we had left in the house. We understood. I think we’d all been through our share of squat busts by that point. Nonetheless, I was disappointed. It was a nice house, and we were a fun group. It was too bad the experiment never got to play out. That night, I walked by the house and saw it boarded up, and looked over the fence into the dark, desolate garden we’d hoped to cultivate. That squat, lasting only two days, came to symbolize for me the wasted potential and brusquely shattered daydreams of those attempting to build a better world at this early and subliminal stage of human enlightenment.

When I became homeless and hit the street for the first time in my adult life in San Francisco in mid-2011, I had no conception of how to live outside the prescribed course of mainstream capitalist society, and thought my life was ending. Thanks to Occupy SF, Homes Not Jails, and Noisebridge (as it was then), I discovered another life outside the mainstream that offered total freedom at the heavy cost of constant struggle, insecurity and instability. Unfortunately, I became addicted to crystal meth, which took me away from the larger activist community I’d begun to be involved with. Eventually, after brushes with the law and worsening circumstances, I emerged with a heightened spiritual sense and consciousness level — there is something to be said for the view that suffering leads to enlightenment, I’m afraid! I was determined to plug back into the grassroots communities and make up for lost time as best I could. I still sleep in abandoned houses and explore, but now I don’t need heavy drugs to do so.

Contact the author at longshanks@spaz.org