Category Archives: Summer 2000 (6/22/00)

Responsible Irresponsibility

At the Ford Motor Co.’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, the company issued its first ever “corporate citizenship report”, which made some amazing and contradictory disclosures.

The report acknowledged that sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are a danger to people and the earth because they contribute more than cars to global warming, emit more smog causing pollution and endanger other motorists. However, as a sign of their “corporate citizenship”, Ford pledged to continue building SUVs because they are the company’s most profitable product.

The decision to continue manufacturing the socially irresponsible vehicles was reportedly a painful one for William C. Ford Jr., the company’s chair. He worries that automakers may get a bad reputation, comparable to that of tobacco companies.

But fear will not be allowed to get the better of the makers of the Ford Excursion, an SUV which gets only 10 miles to the gallon in the city, and 13 on the highway. “If we didn’t provide that vehicle, somebody else would, and they wouldn’t provide it as responsibly as we do,” Ford said.

How “responsible” the Ford Motor Co. has been in manufacturing SUVs is dubious. SUVs are three times as likely as cars to kill the other driver in a crash; but the SUV occupants are equally likely to be killed because the sport utilities tend to roll over and they lack “crumple zones.”

Fight Global Warming

A how-to guide to the sport and science of SUV tipping

The Flatcats have struck again.

Somewhere in the East Bay Hills, in a very quiet, wealthy neighborhood, very early in the morning when all is still and cold and dark, a pair of hands work silently. Suddenly there is a slight hiss, and the front tire of a four-ton SUV with leather interior, tinted glass, 8 miles to the gallon, cell fax machine, goes flat. With 20 minutes, 14 SUVs have matching flat tires. Flyers denouncing fossil fuel use, driving, poor urban planning and corporate domination that make SUVs possible are carefully placed under windshield wipers. Another mission accomplished.

Cars, driving, too many roads, expanding suburbs, green house gas emissions: these things are destroying the earth and ruining life for its human inhabitants.

While the “above ground”, legal movement for less driving, more public transit, better urban design, more biking and other crucial social change is expanding, an equally important underground movement of sabotage and urban insurrection is quietly underway. The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Flatcats, which struck most recently on Bike to Work Day (May 16) and claimed responsibility for deflating tires on 20 SUVs, is taking up the challenge. The destruction of the atmospheric balance on the planet is at stake as hundreds of millions of vehicles world-wide emit ever more green-house gases, changing the earth’s climate and threatening the largest species extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

It is indisputable that the private automobile is the largest contributor to global climate change. For many 21st century humans, distant emissions targets negotiated by the largest auto producing nations which hope to reduce emissions to 1990 levels, which were already frightfully high, are not good enough. “Above ground” activists use public education and lobbying to bring incremental change. A few more dollars for buses and bikes, a few less for freeway construction. And these tiny changes are fiercely fought by powerful corporations with millions to corrupt public officials and buy the minds of the populace. Even if all the changes proposed by advocates were all implemented immediately, cars would still rule. More desperate measure are in order.

The art, science and sport of “SUV tipping” is expanding rapidly in many urban areas to combat auto domination, although to date these clandestine actions have been completely suppressed by mainstream media outlets fearful of encouraging greater numbers of participants in this do-it-yourself sport. SUVs are a convenient and symbolic target, since they are permitted to emit 5.5 times as much smog-causing pollution per mile as cars under federal law. But the real goal is drastically reducing everyday dependence on all types of cars, not just SUVs. And car-culture must be fought not just to prevent global climate change, but because car dependence destroys urban areas, crushes opportunities for community, and impoverishes the spirit.

Flatcats deflate SUV tires without destroying the tire or tube, aiming, or now, at annoyance rather than property destruction. Their website notes that “we are however sorry to target individuals in this manner”. But the auto culture is so entrenched, where to start? The authors of auto domination are many, powerful and disbursed: corporations of all kinds (auto, oil, road building, developers), the governments they dominate.

Following are some tips for becoming a flatcat in your neighborhood:

  • Go to an auto parts store and buy a valve core remover. These are often fastened to valve caps found in most auto parts stores.


  • Attach it to a ¼ inch dowel (found at hobby stores) or, for faster action, a cordless screwdriver. Out in the field, you remove the valve cap, put the core remover on and turn. You don’t need to completely remove the core to let all the air out.
  • Acting in a tiny group is best, but only with trusted friends and as few as possible for security. One or two lookouts, plus a person on the valve is best. For added security, a person at home in case of trouble. The person at home doesn’t need to know what is planned.
  • If the lookouts spot someone, pick an innocent signal, like yelling a common name. Don’t yell “cops!”
  • NEVER talk or brag about actions, or discuss them on the phone, inside a building or near strangers. Folks bragging may be cops.
  • Wear gloves. Any tools should be free of fingerprints.
  • Make a flyer explaining what is going on. When making the flyer, don’t use unusual fonts (use Helvetica). Consider printing the flyers out at a copy store to make it harder to trace computer printer models. Never retain originals or computer copies of lfyers.
  • Dress like you belong where you’re doing the action and have a normal activity you’re engaged in: walking the dog, jogging, etc.
  • When finished, don’t head towards your home. Go in the opposite direction and then turn back after a while.
  • Use a bike for transport. There is no license plate to trace.
  • If caught, don’t admit anything, don’t talk, don’t argue or sloganize, try to get away before cops arrive. If caught by cops, say nothing and wait for your lawyer.
  • Create beauty, have fun, don’t get caught.

Zen, 4th Street, Underhill Parking Lots, and the Art of Car Smashing

Parking, or more accurately the campaign to stop more parking from being built, is increasingly becoming the focus of efforts to save the planet, cities and people everywhere from auto strangulation. And this isn’t the erotic kind.

As traffic congestion reaches a breaking point, trouble finding parking us one of the chief headaches for drivers. The reaction from business and government: build more parking to “solve” the problem. Unfortunately, more parking doesn’t solve the problem-it only paves the way for even more driving, more auto dependence, and requires the construction of still more parking.

In Berkeley, two struggles over parking are heating up: Mayor Shirley Dean’s plan to subsidize a privately owned parking structure for the 4th Street shopping district and the University’s plan to build 1,400 parking spaces on a lot 3 blocks from campus that could (and should!) be used for housing. The 4th Street garage is an obvious attempt to give “corporate welfare” on a local scale. 4th Street is an expensive, yuppie shopping district mostly owned by West Berkeley developer Denny Abrams, who made millions from the trendy shops and bistros in the once industrial district. The proposed parking garage, seeking $2-$3 million in city funding, is claimed to be necessary so 4th Street can compete with big box stores in Emeryville which are surrounded by acres of parking. The first attempt to fund the garage was recently defeated, but Mayor Dean is expected to keep trying.

The university parking plans center around the Underhill block, a huge parking pit jus NE of People’s Park. UC Berkeley wants to build a parking megastructure for 1,000 cars on a block directly between two blocks already containing dorms. Each dorm houses 1,000 students. This begs the question of why the university would rather build 1,000 parking space for people to drive to campus than 1,000 units of housing so people could live and walk 3 blocks to campus.

The project would mean big traffic increases right next to the main bus corridor on College Avenue (which is already congested) and on two proposed bicycle boulevards. With the gutting of rent control statewide, rents have already skyrocketing 40% this year. UC Berkeley’s own documents admit that the housing shortage for students hurts diversity (on top of the gutting of affirmative action).

Enter Rick Young, a UC law student, Rick formed PALPFLHUB (People Against Lots of Parking and For Lots of Housing on the Underhill Block) and used the University’s own documents to show that the university as lying about the “need” for parking: rather than losing 1,000 spaces in recent years as they claimed, they only lost about 50 spaces.

Rick realized it was time for direct action. He started an encampment at Underhill, demanding negotiations with the Chancellor on 5 demands. Rick stayed in the lot for three weeks, garnering lots of local media attention on the issue of land use. The Chancellor was clearly waiting him out, hoping the students would leave and Rick would go away. We declared it Palpflubia and seceded.

Meanwhile, a lot of excitement was generated for the possibilities of the ongoing campaign. “Let’s turn this into an ecological demonstration project! How can we best use the underutilized spaces?” One person wanted a goat herd. One person wanted to plant trees. Others wanted solar panels. I wanted windmills towering up from the vacant triangles.

To up the pressure Rick found a junkyard car and arranged for it to be delivered at the lot-where it was eagerly smashed to bits by loads of students and wingnuts, delighted for the break from finals. Early next morning, he was arrested along with all his possessions (and all of his friends’!) including his couches. HE got out and was rearrested twice more before he was banned from the lot by Court Order.

With Rick banned from the lot and the students gone, the campaign went into a whole new phase. To build community and fun raise, every Saturday night at 9 PM people descend on the pit with couches and carpets and treats to turn the lot into a living room and watch “cheezie Americana fliks and cool politico shorts”, all brought by bike cart, electricity powered by a boat battery.

Come fall, Underhill could very well turn into a tent city as students, angry because they cannot find a place to live, join the protest of subsidized environmental destruction for the wealthy at the expense of housing, diversity and mother earth.

For more information about Rick’s campaign check out www.geocities.com/rickisyoung/ or call him at (510) 666-8464. For more information about the Bike-In Movie Night, call (510) CREW-CUT (273-9288).

Seattle in Bangkok

Residents of the Klong Dan area outside Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, along with 38 nongovernmental organizations demanded a halt to plans to build a wastewater treatment plant which would devastate nearby communities.

Inspired by the attempts in Seattle and Washington, DC to shut down the institutions of global capitalism, demonstrators converged on a narrow bridge leading to the Westin Hotel, where the annual Asian Development Bank meeting was in progress, and pushed police barricades down. The police were forced back. Some 4,000 protesters and 2,000 police clashed.

Unlike police in Seattle and Washington, DC, the police are reported (at least in the Associated Press) to have not used their clubs against protesters. A few people were injured in the confrontation with the police, possibly as a result of being caught in the crush of bodies storming the barricades.

The Asian Development Bank, which is dominated by the United States and Japan, was not shut down. Myoung-ho Shin, an ADB vice-president, attempted to stall protesters by offering to study their demand and meet with “their leaders” next month for talks. Organizers of the demonstration rejected the offer.

Demands include that the bank stop funding the wastewater treatment project and cease making loans which increase the debt of poor nations and hurt farmers and the poor.

CPS Takes Sam and Sal

When is a police state a police state? I it a police state when the state can break into your house with police and take your children away with impunity, abuse them in the name of helping them, and use psychological torture and economic discrimination to try to keep them forever?

The story I am telling is that horrible, and it is not an isolated case. The so-called “Child Protective Services”, or CPS (just one “o” as in “Oh no!” away from being CoPS), is an agency out of control.

Sam and Sal (not their real names) are two 9 year old twins from west Berkeley with great attitudes, lots of roly-poly wrestling energy, and very astute minds. They showed up at one of the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalitions (BFBC) celebrations last year.

Sam and Sal made friends with people quickly, and were eager to learn. Since that time, they came to many BFBC events, a beginner bicycle class, parades, and even rode the COUCH in Critical Mass.

Their single mom, Patty, home-schooled them because she wants them to have the best education possible. On May 20th, Sam and Sal were violently stolen by the state. Patty reports that the CPS came to her door with an army of about 10 Berkeley police. When she let them in, they threw her into a wall as they tore her children away. And then her little boys were gone.

“They didn’t show any papers, not anything, and didn’t even give me a receipt or proof that they had taken my children,” says Patty.

The official justification for this? The CPS documents read, “The Children are homeschooled and never see anyone but the mother.”

Social isolation-yeah right! These kids have had impressive experiences for nine year olds! At the first court hearing, 25 friends of Sam and Sal showed up on short notice in the middle of a work day. They were refused the opportunity to speak or even to stay in the courtroom.

Sam and Sal have suffered exactly the fate that the CPS claimed to be protecting them from. They are not permitted to finish their fourth grade school work and will have to repeat the entire grade instead of going into the fifth grade. Their medical and dental check-ups and new glasses have been postponed indefinitely, so they can’t see to correctly read. They are brutally and socially isolated, no friends can visit or call. They are allowed just one hour a week with their mom.

Now Patty has to face a very hard situation. She has no money and is faced with large fees for her attorney and court costs. The court action will be based in part on a psychological evaluation that CPS conducts. Patty needs $1,000 in addition to huge mounting legal fees in order to hire an alternate psychologist and avoid allowing the people who stole her children to decide if she is “mentally fit.”

Patty is fighting back with everything she’s got. A trial is expected to begin in mid-July, please contact her at (510) 666-0411 if you can help in any way. Patty has found two bands willing to play a benefit July 23rd from 1-4 PM at Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley) and could use another big-name band, help promoting, help the day of, and any other form of benefit that can be organized to raise money. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. $2 -$20 donation requested. Kids free! Live Music, Dancing, Potluck Brunch and Lotsa Love!

Anarchist Golfers Tee Off

The Anarchist Golfing Association (AGA) played a night-time tournament June 4 at the Pure Seed Testing (PST) research facility in Canby, Oregon.

The action targeted the genetically engineered grasses PST is developing for golf courses, putting greens, croquet and athletic fields. PST’s aim is to produce a strain of creeping bentgrass resistant to the toxic herbicide glufosinate. In other words a grass which can survive a treatment to destroy plants in the area. The use of such grass would encourage widespread use of a toxic herbicide.

The ecological impact of introducing the mutated pollen of these genetically engineered grasses into the environment is unkown. A study released in May 2000 by a German researcher demonstrated that transgenic traits flow between species. The study tracked bacteria in the gut of pollinating bees using genetically engineered canola.

The only step taken by PST to prevent the dispersal of transgenic traits in the local ecology has been the use of five-foot rye “pollen barriers”.

The AGA responded gamely. In the two greenhouses struck, AGA “golfers” overturned, ripped up and stomped on hundreds of experimental grasses in pots and flats. They pulled up seven plots of non-native, invasive grass species. Identifying tags and stakes were pulled up or rearranged, and signs were modified. The Pure Seed Testing sign was altered to read GE (Genetically Engineered) Seed Testing.”

Players scattered AGA golf balls decorated with the anarchy symbol, and golf figurines.

Mad Geniuses For a Better Tomorrow Resource Center

Started last September in the radical Fernwood section of Victoria, British Columbia, Mad G’s is a collectively run lending library and meeting space that houses a dark room, a computer terminal (currently non-internet) and various radical groups.

Groups are an impressive array including; Forest Action Network, IWW, Food Not Bombs, Resist Corporate Rule, Camassia Society for Sustainable Living, Emma Goldman Play Group (a kids group that meets four times a week), and the Tenants Union. Free Skool classes have run the gamut from an informal post modern discussion group to massage workshops, bike repair, and self defense.

Mad G’s acts as a meeting place for the Fernwood, Victoria community and features a monthly Black Cat Café-open mic forum for rants and music and announcements of future actions, skits, and comedy. www.tao.ca/~resist (240) 386-0351 Open Monday-Saturday 12-4. 1921 Fernwood Road down the skinny ass back alley in Victoria, BC.

West Coast Warriors Fight Back

Fed up with broken promises, members of the Cheam Nation began blocakading the South entrance of the Rosedale Bridge, North of Vancouver BC in mid-April. The nation, which takes issues with the general use of their traditional areas, resorted tro direct action to compel the government to act in good faith after alienation in the treaty talks with the BC government. The blocakde is at a critical point and interested supporters are asked to contact the Cheam Nation, (604) 794-7924; cheamfirstnation@yahoo.com. www.geocities.com/cheamfirstnation.

Zine Reviews

Doris #15 The DIY Anti-Depression Guide

This time around Doris is mostly in comic form. There is advice on (duh) dealing with depression. Ideas range from smashing your TV and herbal remedies to masturbation and coffee.

There is also an article on how o deal with urinary tract infections.

Doris is a well written personal zine. I always enjoy reading it.

$1.00 to:

Cindy

PO Box 1734

Asheville, NC 28802

Complete Control #6

The title of this zine turned me off at first but I needn’t have worried , this is a fine, fine zine. It is part Greg’s personal observations, part history lesson and part analysis of the mess we’re in.

#6 has Greg’s account of Seattle as well as an account by an IWW organizer, the ubiquitous Black Bloc communique, takes if Portland by a guy named Icky, news of jailed anarchist Robert Thaxton and much much more. Send a buck to:

Complete Control

PO Box 5021

Richmond, VA 23220

Cometbus #46

Aaron has been doing this for a long time now but Cometbus always seems fresh. I look forward to reading it and kick myself because I blaze through each one too fast, thus having to wait too long for the next one. The writing is a joy, easy enough to read but full of astute observations of human behavior.

#36 is all about the Dead End Café, a collectively run joint in an unnamed city. If you’ve ever been in a collective you may recognize some typical behavior.

$2.50 from:

BBT

PO Box 4279

Berkeley, CA 94704

Wild Children

This zine just appeared here at the Long Haul one day. I don’t know if it is a one shot or if it will last, I hope the latter. Scott is a good writer and I hope he continues to put stuff out where we can find it.

W.C. starts with an account of learning how to learn, moves to a tale of train hopping and then veers into a nightmarish encounter with the police. There is a lot more in this zine, a dream, a bus ride with a soldier just out of boot camp and more travel stories.

There was no price listed for this so send a buck or two to:

Scott

545 Calle del Norte

Camarillo, CA 93010

Insurgent Vol II #8

The Insurgent is out of the University of Oregon. There is lots of local news in here but also a large dose of world news of interest to anarchists. This issue has a round up of May Day actions from all over, an article on prison rape, alonmg with articles on gardens and sustainable living.

Subscriptions are $15 per year:

Insurgent

Erb Memorial Union Suite One

University of Oregon

Eugene, OR 97403-1228

Localize the Struggle for Globalization

Seattle. DC. Los Angeles. Philadelphia. The very mention of these cities where great confrontations have recently occurred or are expected in the coming months conjure images of a resurgent mass direct action movement. Thousands of radicals, particularly anarchists, are rapidly gaining experience in powerful and effective tactics of mass disruption including the widespread use of lock boxes, mobile communications, moving militant action, and even puppet deployment.

Mass direct action is powerful, visible, and effective. But just as “traditional” non-violent civil disobedience actions, like the 5,000 people arrested at the School of Americas just a week before Seattle, are now ignored and predictable, there is a danger that national mega gatherings will lose effectiveness unless activists learn to take it to the next level.

What is missing from the centralized spectacles like DC, Seattle, and this year’s fourth annual San Francisco May Day is local actions to match the national gatherings. In Berkeley, fo example, militant protests and direct action in right in town used to be common place in the 1980s and early 90s. These local, smaller but more spontaneous actions are strangely missing, even as mega-actions increase in number.

The most spontaneous and grassroots Berkeley actions were called BART alerts. An issue would come up and someone would call for a 5 p.m. protest at BART. These often turned into roving marches, sometimes tearing up targets like the ROTC on campus, etc. These actions were much smaller than Seattle, but they were accessible to the majority of people who can’t travel for a few days to a protest-families, workers, regular folks. And even more importantly, they were organized quickly, by the seat of the pants, saving resources and permitting more people to be in the streets more often.

This year’s San Francisco May Day is an example of what can go wrong with a mega action. After Seattle, people were jazzed that May Day would be bigger than ever, and there was a lot of excitement for some more militant tactics this year. Months of planning meetings began. Everything was carefully coordinated. So much work and effort went into it that the result was completely the opposite of Seattle. It felt managed, scripted, controlled. There wasn’t a lot of spontaneity. And there was barely any space for militancy.

In Seattle, thousands of people took their own initiative. There were meetings and organization but the scale of the action in the streets was sufficient to eclipse any effort by meetings and organizers to direct the proceedings. The communications system was shut down by the cops and thousands of people had to figure out what to do at their particular corners on their own. And it worked because the individual reservoirs of creativity, bravery and militancy of the thousands in the streets were far more brilliant than anything that could have been organized by committee. The cops ultimately dud us a huge favor by shutting down centralized communications structures; the masses avoided being “managed” by our own “leaders”.

How about experimenting with locally based actions/demos that aren’t so carefully scripted and don’t require such huge advance organizing efforts, but that emphasize individual spontaneity and collective creativity and militancy? Local actions could happen monthly or more in dozens of cities, providing invaluable training in street tactics. It took months to organize SF May Day, with dozens of people focused on May Day to the exclusion of most other activities.

Berkeley’s Leap Day festivities were an excellent example of the kind of action that should happen more often. As a joke, because there was no historical date for February 29 to put in the Y2k Slingshot Organizer, some one typed in the following on February 29: “Leap Day Action night – Use your extra day to help smash capitalism, patriarchy and the state! (In Berkeley, gather at Berkeley BART at 6 p.m. Bring running shoes and masks).”

As February 29 drew near, some of us decided to make this action a reality. There was one, and only one, meeting to organize it. It took two flyers: one for the meeting, one for the action itself. In the end, the action wasn’t hugely attended. 40 or 50 people showed up at the BART station plaza with black face masks, black clothes, black flags. There was a mobile sound system to give the action an RTS flavor, a computer was ceremonially smashed as the protest started. A day-of-the-action flyer appeared which targeted the corporate invasion of Berkeley by chainstores, showing their locations on a downtown map.

The crowd marched from chainstore to chainstore, with no pre-planned route, making speeches in front of each one with a megaphone and blocking the entrance with a reenactment of the Battle of Seattle, carried out with finger puppets. Finger puppets are better than the large ones at a militant action than the large ones at a militant action because if the cops charge, it is a lot easier to run with just a finger puppet. Also you don’t have to think about preserving the huge puppets which took countless hours to build in case of trouble. The finger puppets were in four designs: Turtles, black-masked Eugene anarchists, WTO delegates and police finger puppets.

At several stores-Barnes and Noble, Eddie Bauer, McDonald’s, Starbucks-the small crowd briefly occupied the store until the police arrived. At Blockbuster Video, people smashed a TV right in front of the door. The march lasted about 2 hours, blocked lots of traffic and was watched carefully by lots of cops.

All of this took virtually no organization of time to put together, but accomplished several purposes: (1) attack on business interests; (2) direct action politics in public to inspire others to action; (3) test tactics; (4) fun.

In Eugene, after the June 18 Reclaim the Streets action turned into a mini-riot last year, activists started having monthly protest events to keep out in the streets. Sort of like Critical Mass, except a protest. Same place and time each month, different route and targets. If the direct action scene wants to move beyond Seattle, take on issues in our local communities, build a movement with people who can” take off work for travel to a distant city, and continue to evolve our tactics to maintain effectiveness, it might be a good idea to follow Eugene’s lead.