FBI brands Reclaim the Streets as “terrorists” – what the fuck have they been smoking?!
In another sign that the growing anti-capitalist, anarchist, anti-car movement is gaining effectiveness, the FBI recently listed Reclaim the Streets amongst the “Threats of Terrorism to the United States.” In a May 10 statement before the Senate Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services and Select Committee on Intelligence, FBI director Louis Freeh listed Reclaim the Streets as a “potential threat” to the United States along with assorted terrorists from Egypt and Lebanon.
The report reads in part: “Anarchists and extreme socialist groups – many of which, such as the Workers’ World Party, Reclaim the Streets, and Carnival Against Capitalism – have an international presence and, at times, also represent a potential threat in the United States. For example, anarchists, operating individually and in groups, caused much of the damage during the 1999 World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle.”
The list also included “extreme fringes of animal rights, environmental, anti-nuclear, and other political and social movements” as well as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).
Getting included in such a list is always both a good and a bad sign: it means we’re doing something right and are threatening the system, but it also vastly increases the likelihood of infiltration, frame-ups based on planted evidence, government-sponsored internal movement “splits,” police use of deadly force, etc.
Reclaim the Streets is actually more of a tactic than a movement or an organization. In 1996, activists in England decided to hold the first RTS “street party” by holding a day-time rave, complete with sound system, dancing, and party games, all with a political spin in a busy intersection. The party aimed to temporarily “reclaim” the street from cars and point out how capitalism and car culture deprive people of public space and opportunities for public festivals.
The brilliant tactic rapidly caught on, and Reclaim the Streets street parties are now regularly carried out all over the globe. RTS goes beyond the limitations of the traditional “march and rally” protest by building coalition with the rave/dance/youth scene to create something that is disruptive and public like a protest, but that is also joyous, fun and beautiful like a party. Because it’s fun and crosses over with the counter-culture, it’s a lot easier for a street party to attract a large crowd.
A street party can effectively shut down a business district, in a positive, militant yet non-threatening way. Instead of handing out flyers about the world we want to build, street parties permit a revolutionary society to be conducted in the here and now, right on the street for all to see. Any passer-by recognizes that dancing is a lot better looking and more fun that smog-choked asphalt. The asphalt is what capitalism is all about creating; a world of enjoyment, art, music and social intercourse is what we’re all about creating.
So it is particularly ironic and interesting that the FBI considers these dance-based parties as a “terrorist” threat. Where is the terror? Where is the violence?
As far as we know, no RTS street party has ever (1) exploded; (2) emitted poison gas; or (3) kidnapped anyone. It is true that there has been flagrant (1) dancing; (2) loud pulsing music; (3) flyers and banners; (4) public art; (5) kissing. While you might say it is scary seeing the weird guy with the spiky hair kissing the buff longshoreman type out in public, it isn’t exactly terrorism.
Maybe the terrorism is because auto traffic gets blocked. We have noticed that a car bombing, like a street party, stops traffic until the mess can get cleaned up. But we thought the FBI only got involved when there was something seriously illegal going on or people getting hurt.
After wracking our brains, we figured it must be the video footage on Bay Area Reclaim the Streets’ web page, which shows a car getting flipped over during the first street party held in the USA on May 16, 1998. (http://xinet.com/rts.) That street party was to protest the WTO, 18 months before Seattle. Just for the FBI’s benefit (you’re reading this because it has the newly “terrorist” word RTS in it, right?) that car was donated to us by a friend to help us block the street. We drove it into position in the middle of the streets, let the air out of the tires, and flipped it. It was just a prop. Kinda like art, ya know? We didn’t flip all the cars in Berkeley, as much as they might deserve it, because, ya know, we’re about having a good party, not getting into fist fights with innocent people who happen to park in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Anyway, humor aside, the FBI terrorist listing is troubling. Getting branded a “terrorist” is usually a precursor to getting your ass shot off or thrown into prison for life, etc. What’s next, Food Not Bombs on the “10 Most Wanted List” for conspiracy to commit lunch?
At its heart, reclaiming the streets is radical and does have the potential to over throw the “American Way Of Life.” What if instead of just having a street party once every three months with a few hundred people, there were thousands of autonomous cells everywhere organizing many street parties around the world every single day? Picture millions of people dropping out from capitalism living life for joy, not for their bosses. Imagine people more interested in partying in the streets (and disrupting business as usual) than partying in some capitalist club. Instead of billions of hours wasted on MTV in some suburb, what about billions of hours wasted partying down on the interstate highway while digging it up to plant crops, bringing the whole capitalist, techno machine to its knees! (While, ironically, listening to “techno” music!) I guess that’s why the FBI is watching.