Category Archives: Summer 2003 (5/22/03)

Shoot ‘em, boys

Poor cop deportment at the Oakland Port

The Oakland Police Department dealt with anti-war protesters this spring with the same brutal force it visits upon Oakland residents every day. The mainstream media widely reported an incident in which police fired “less than lethal” ammunition — shotgun bean bag rounds, wooden bullets and concussion grenades — at non-violent demonstrators. But the media ignored an earlier incident in which a phalanx of motorcycle cops rode directly into anti-war high school students marching in downtown Oakland, running over several students. And the media routinely ignores Oakland police violence against Oakland’s ordinary citizens.

Even when a spectacular case of police brutality surfaces — like the Riders scandal in which four officers framed over a hundred suspects, requiring Oakland to pay out $10 million in legal settlements — the media depicts it as an isolated incident. In fact, police corruption and violence is rampant in Oakland and other large cities. When more middle-class war protesters are the victims, it gets some press — when the victims are poor or non-white, the media turns the other way.

Below we’ve reprinted exerpts from public testimony given by Oakland resident Scott Fleming, who was shot five times with wooden bullets (4 in the back) while protesting the war on Iraq at the Port of Oakland. We need to struggle against police violence whether its against political demonstrators or the just regular folks.

“On the morning of April 7, a number of protesters gathered at the port and set up peaceful pickets in front of a handful of shipping lines. The protesters were doing nothing more than carrying signs and walking in circles. There was a brass band there which helped create what can only be described as a festive atmosphere. There were a number of middle-aged and senior citizens in the crowd. There was nothing about the tone of the protest or the actions of the protesters that could have led the Oakland Police Department to fear violence or confrontation.

“Nevertheless, when the police arrived on the scene, all of them were wearing gas masks, and a number of them were armed with what we later learned were wooden bullets, beanbag-firing shotguns, and grenades. I have been to countless demonstrations over the years, and I cannot recall a single instance in which any Bay Area police agency has displayed these kinds of weapons or worn gas masks to a political demonstration. I can only surmise that the Oakland Police Department would not have arrived at the demonstration with this type of weaponry unless they had a pre-planned intent to use it.

“The officers lined up on Middle Harbor Road in front of the entrance to American Presidents Line. When they ordered the demonstrators to clear the intersection, the demonstrators complied and the entrance was cleared. Unfortunately, there was nowhere for the demonstrators to go after they cleared the intersection. By blocking Middle Harbor Road, the police denied the demonstrators the nearest and most direct route to leave the port.

“As the crowd milled about, it seemed that nobody knew what to do or where to go. Many of the protesters, including myself, had never been to the port before and were unfamiliar with the geography there.

“After a few minutes, and for no obvious or apparent reason, the morning quiet was pierced by explosions as the Oakland Police Department opened fire on the crowd. Neither I nor anyone else I have spoken to is aware of any act on the part of any demonstrator that could have provoked this violence.

“From this point on, the Oakland Police Department swept down Middle Harbor Road and Maritime Street firing repeated barrages, over and over again, into the crowd. They fired on the crowd for approximately an hour and a half to two hours as they pursued us for more than a mile. For much of this time, the Oakland Police Department repeatedly drove a line of large police motorcycles into the crowd.

“The munitions used upon us, especially the wooden and beanbag bullets, are extremely dangerous weapons, which was evidenced by the severity of the injuries that day. As we continued down the road, more and more people in the crowd were bleeding and bruised. A law student who was clearly identified as a legal observer by a bright green armband was shot in the head and had blood pouring down his face. A man who works as an environmental engineer for a federal agency was shot in the face and looked to me as if part of his nose was missing. I am told that one woman had tire tracks up her leg after being run down by a motorcycle officer. And [many of us have] seen the sickening and grotesque photograph of Sri Louise, the woman who was shot in the jaw and neck.

“I want to make clear that the use of these types of weapons against peaceful protesters is unacceptable under any circumstances. However, it is also clear that the severity of the injuries we saw that day was significantly increased because the Oakland Police Department disregarded the manufacturers safety warnings and misused these weapons. For example, we recovered a shell casing used to fire wooden bullets. The casing indicated that it was manufactured by Federal Laboratories in Casper, Wyoming, and fires 264W wooden baton rounds. The casing includes a very clear warning, which states: ‘Do not fire directly at persons or serious injury or death may result.’ The warning then admonishes officers to fire the weapons at the ground, from which they are intended to ricochet into peoples’ legs.

“The fact that so many people that day received injuries to their heads, arms, and torsos strongly indicates that the officers were not firing these weapons as the manufacturers intended. The fact that so many people, like myself, were shot in the back, underscores the fact that the Oakland Police Department was firing on people who were running away. As reported by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the manufacturer’s training manual states that, ‘when firing wooden bullets, areas such as the head, neck, spine, and groin . . . should be avoided unless it is the intent to deliver deadly force.’

“Oakland Police Departmental General Order K-3, governing the use of force, similarly requires officers to avoid firing these weapons at these areas of the body. According to the Department’s use of force policy, beanbag (and presumably wooden) bullets are classified as the second most severe use of force in the police arsenal, second only to firearms. In fact, these weapons are classified as being more severe than a police canine bite. Therefore, according to the stated policy of the Oakland Police Department, if the police had been justified on April 7 in shooting us with wooden bullets, they would also have been justified in unleashing police dogs on the crowd. I think we all know exactly which images that evokes, and we all know exactly how wrong that would have been.

“Word told the Contra Costa Times that his decision to shoot at us was influenced by one of the shipping lines. According to the Times, Chief Word said that ‘APL told us, ‘You have to clear the property.’ This sounds frighteningly like Chief Word allowed American Presidents Line to assist him in deciding when to use force against the citizens of Oakland.”

Let;s Blockade Miami

Folks around the country are mobilizing against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) ministerial meeting scheduled for November 17th – 21st in downtown Miami. The FTAA treaty would expand the corporate free trade policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — which applied to Canada, Mexico and the USA — to North and South America. The FTAA would also go beyond the NAFTA rules — strengthening corporate control over workers and the environment and further weakening already pathetic civil society institutions like (corporate) democracy™ and (corporate) government labor and environmental regulations.

There is already widespread popular opposition to the FTAA throughout South America. After centuries of economic exploitation and poverty, the last thing South Americans need is a massive multinational corporate giveaway. FTAA summits in Canada and Equator were met by massive resistance, but FTAA’s architects are hoping they’ll have it easy in the apathetic old USA. They’re not counting on November in Miami resembling November in Seattle. It’s up to us to give them a little surprise greeting!

As usual, the FTAA is being negotiated without any meaningful public participation — except our voices and bodies in the streets, which the organizers can’t quite prevent (yet). The FTAA would curtail labor laws, push down wages, replace family and subsistence farmers with corporate agribusiness, promote privatization of public industries and cut government services. Corporations would be permitted to sue governments who tried to pass laws to protect the public. Ultimately, the FTAA is designed to concentrate wealth and power into a few corporate hands at the expense of everyone else.

There is already discussion of a Day of Action on November 19 and teach-ins, seminars, reality tours, concerts, forums, rallies and marches all week long. Moreover, the police in Miami have already been organizing their response for a few months, so it looks like the shit could fly in Miami.

Here are (generally liberal) contacts. Hopefully the radicals will show their hand and set up a contact point soon. 202 778-3320, 510 663-0888, www.ftaamiami.org.

Workers in Iran FIght Back!

Textile workers at the Behshahr’ Chintz-making factory in Behshahr, Mazandaran Province, Iran staged an angry protest on April 16, 2003 against the withholding of their wages over the past 26 months. They were eventually joined by nearly 30,000 workers from textile and other sectors as well as the city’s residents at large. The protesters faced harsh attacks by security forces, in which tear gas and other weapons were used against them.

Behshahr workers are not alone in their struggle for payment of delayed wages. According to the 2002 survey by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, at least one million workers in Iran have not been receiving their wages. Sit-ins, strike actions, demonstrations and blockage of roads are some of the methods used by protesting workers in their struggles against delayed payment of wages and for improved working conditions and better social and income security programs.

Workers in Iran are facing many challenges in their struggles for the realization of their rights and demands. One of the main barriers is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s repressive and anti-worker labour law, policies and practices, which encompass lack of the right to organize free and independent workers’ organizations and the right to strike, persecution of labour activists and political opponents, lay offs, cut backs, and privatizations and deregulations in pursuit of the “economic structural adjustment” policies of the international Monetary Fund, World Bank and global and national corporations.

An Analysis of Class In the Gulf

The success of the New World Order depends upon crushing all eruptions of working class uprisings in the Gulf region, most visibly in Iran and Iraq, keeping them from spreading to other countries, breaking up the increasingly organized oil proletariat and replacing them with workers from even more desperate and unorganized areas of the world.

In 1991 within Iraq — as had been the case in Iran eleven years earlier — leftist-led uprisings were threatening to destabilize the centralized nation-state itself, with the potential to launch a powerful communist push throughout the region. Crushing those uprisings became a priority for the US and a main reason for the U.S. government’s promotion, funding and arming of Iraq in its long war with Iran.

In 1978 and 1979 the Iranian revolution had bubbled up from the grassroots and ejected the Shah — the main supporter of Israel in the region and the U.S. government’s military strongman in the Arab and Western Asian oil-producing world. One of the key features of the Iranian revolution — one not shown on American TV, which focused solely on the student takeovers in Iran’s capital city, Teheran, and the taking of 52 hostages — was the rebellion of the oil workers, some 80,000 strong.

With the involvement of two million people living in oil towns, striking workers shut down the massive Iranian petroleum industry. “The U.S. engineered an attempt to get oil flowing again by staffing the fields and refineries with 10,000 naval cadets trained for this purpose. The strikebreaking effort failed. The striking workers refused to send oil to Israel and South Africa. Yet through a strong and intricate network of peoples’ committees called Shura in Pharsi, oil products were distributed throughout Iran, though not to the Shah’s military.” (Terisa Turner in “The 1991 Gulf War and Popular Struggles.”)

The Iranian oilworkers were irreplaceable in the dangerous and highly technical operations of the oil system. They immediately coordinated amongst themselves a national operation, using the organization and communications technology of the industry itself.

Iranian society during the revolutionary period was democratically run from the grassroots by decentralized popular committees (Komitehs or Shuraá) for approximately two years. These Shura formed in late 1978 in all sectors of society: the schools, the military and media, the oil industry, among the rural Kurds and in the civil service as well as in local neighborhoods. Garbage collection, bread baking and distribution, education and publishing, munitions manufacture and international relations were some of the social activities that these radical democratic committees carried out. (Turner)

The Ayatollah Khomeini’s aim in returning to Iran after the upsurge from his exile in Paris, was to reassert the power of the bazaari, the mullahs and the national bourgeoisie in Iran — the basis for his authority. In this way, the situation in Iran 24 years ago is very similar to that in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Even while declaring the United States to be “the Great Satan,” the Islamic fundamentalist Khomeini crushed the neighborhood and workers’ councils that were serving to democratize the society as well as the oil industry (to the consternation of the oil companies) by reactivating the Shah’s SAVAK — the savage secret police that had been trained a generation earlier by Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s father. To gain the upper hand over the Shura, Khomeini needed a means for galvanizing the country. This was accomplished by the war with neighboring Iraq which lasted for 8 long years, killing more than 1 million Iranian and Iraqi people.

From Khomeini’s position, the war between Iran and Iraq served as a means to defeat an insurgent working class movement at home. It enabled Khomeini to concentrate the power of the State in the hands of ultra-religious fanatics (an outcome welcomed by the U.S. government as the lesser of two evils, representing the longterm interests of the oilgarchy); and, from Saddam Hussein’s position, the war served as a means to reap the material benefits of doing the U.S.’s bidding in the region and, similarly, to crush rising working class movements in Iraq, particularly around Basra, Nasria and Hilah where, for decades, there had been strong Stalinist as well as council communist movements, and among the Kurds in the North. The ruling clique in Iraq used U.S. aid to consolidate the power of Iraq’s fascist state through the terror of Saddam’s brownshirts — the Republican Guards.

For more backround on the 1991 Iraq uprising see “Ten Days that Shook Iraq” at:

www.geocities.com/nowar_buttheclasswar/Gulf_War.html

Tomorrow’s Tactics: in the news

Now that the war on Iraq is finished, Bush is already thinking about the next conquest: maybe Syria or Iran, or maybe somewhere else. Thus, it’s already time for those opposed to a US empire to figure out our next move.

The state has become extremely skilled at limiting the effectiveness of traditional, predictable oppositional movements and actions. Tame mass marches are ignored, while ordinary militant street actions get you arrested or shot at with rubber and wooden bullets. Sometimes, the most effective tactics are disruptive actions that the state couldn’t possible imagine and thus won’t know how to react to — surrealist, absurdist actions. Such actions are just too strange for the police to figure out what to do. Or maybe they aren’t even clearly protest tactics at all — they are just things that massively disrupt business as usual, cause chaos, sow confusion, and gradually rot out the empire’s ability to project power globally.

Here are a few examples, but really, you have to think up your own or else they won’t work. Be creative and remember, if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.

America’s favorite problem solver: Duct Tape

It seems like every action these days has to have lock boxes. You know, pieces of pipe that people use to lock themselves together that have to be cut apart by the fire department. The problem is that the fire department is quickly learning how to handle the problem. The police magazines probably have whole articles written on this stuff by now, and maybe some company is making a “lock box cutter tool.” Why should we support a whole industry?

What about introducing some other kinds of materials that are intended just to confuse the fuck out of the authorities. For instance, what about at the next blockade, everyone shows up with a box of duct tape and just goes at it. Taping doors, locks, access points, people to cars, cars to trees, people to trees, etc. A few layers of duct tape is surprisingly difficult to cut because it is so gummy. The gum gets stuck in knives. Maybe we could layer some wire in with the tape or something.

Or what about using those wide roles of shrink wrap that shipping companies use to seal boxes together.

Best of all, duct tape and plastic wrap look so good together, so relevant — they are the official government solution to the threat of chemical and biological weapons. When the cops arrive, you can just say you wanted to have some homeland security.

Fake fear cuts both ways

With all the hype around SARS, and before that anthrax and even small pox, the average American is more than ready to believe in crazy health risks. Instead of trying to shut down, say, Bechtel by linking arms outside its front door, how about try something a little more interesting.

Picture this. A bunch of people wearing full white body protection suits and respirators emerge from a series of white vans. They have official looking picture ID badges, white buckets full of a fancy green colored soapy water and scrubby brooms. They tape off the Bechtel entrance with yellow caution tape and start soaping down all of the surfaces and posting official “Warning – Contamination Quarantine” stickers.

They probably shouldn’t answer any questions or talk to anyone — just act official. At the very least, this is going to create chaos and confusion. At best, the building will be shut down until someone can figure out what is going on.

California’s Anti-Terrorism Center Can’t Define Terror!

The spokesperson for the California Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Center – a state agency – can’t define “terrorism.” But the center did feel justified in implying to the Oakland Police that the April 7 Oakland Port protests would involve terrorist activity – most likely encouraging the OPD to fire shotguns and throw grenades at the peaceful protest.

When asked to define terrorism, spokesman Mike Van Winkle said, “I’m not sure where to go with that.” But he was able to draw coherent, logical conclusions about terror: “You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.”

He continued: “I’ve heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact, and shutting down a port certainly would have an economic impact.”

We here at Slingshot hope this guy (and the whole agency) gets removed for these comments — although we aren’t holding our breath. According to this logic, any labor strike would be “terrorism” because it would have an “economic impact.” Or how about a boycott against, say, non-dolphin safe tuna. Actually, pretty much any act — other than going to work — would be terrorism. Like perhaps, smoking pot, or calling in late for work so you can have sex again. Economic impact, you know. Haul ‘em off to Guantanamo.

Is This What Regression Looks Like?

The INS, Special Registration and the Patriot Act I & II

Did you know that the USA PATRIOT Act stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism?

This set of laws is another chapter in the extreme anti-immigration that is happening every day in this country. Detentions, detainments, immigrant and political profiling are regular practices used by the INS in the name of anti-terrorism. Male immigrants over the age of 16, from North Korea and 24 countries in the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iraq and Iran, are being asked to come in to their local INS office for special registration, where they are interrogated, being asked everything from “Do you like Saddam Hussein?” to “What mosque do you pray at?”

For instance, in December and January in LA.., 400 immigrants many of them Iranian living in Southern California were detained for alleged visa irregularities after complying with the INS order. Families in telephone contact with the detainees stated that the detainees were forced to sleep standing up because of overcrowding, or on concrete floors. Some had been hosed down with cold water; some were denied adequate food or water. Thus far, the special registration process has led to deportation proceedings for approximately 5,400 of the 41,000 registered with over 1,700 being detained.

Many folks are being held and sent to county jails and detention centers across the country. Random people are being held based solely on their country of origin and are told that if they contact a lawyer it is an admittance of guilt. An updated INS document dealing with questions and answers about Special Registration states that legal representation is not necessary, but at your option you may be represented at your own expense. This legal representation lasts only until the authorities find something wrong with an individuals papers and then it does not exist at all. People are being held indefinitely. No one detained by the INS since September 11 has been charged with actual involvement in terrorist activity, yet President Bush declared that they “have hauled in about 2,400 of these terrorists, these killers.” The government still hasn’t divulged how many have been detained, deported, or under what charges they are being held.

In 1996 a wave of extreme anti-immigration laws were passed through congress that forced all people who weren’t naturalized citizens, that including people with green cards and people that had been living here since age one, to report to the INS if they have ever been convicted of a felony. Even if they have served jail time, they are then sent to detention centers and deported to their country of origin, some for crimes as minor as drug possession or fighting with their boyfriends. Many have been held since they were first taken in with no information on when they will be released or even what charges they are being held on.

Prisons are making $20-25 a day off of detainees as opposed to about $7-10 off of the general population because of the bloated INS budget. Many jails across the country are building new wings solely for the use of holding immigrant detainees, and are already making millions a year off of their current immigrant populations. This is a business venture for the prison industrial complex and a way for the regime to appear to be doing something to “make America safe again” while allocating funds to some of the most reactionary branches of the government.

Now we are in a throwback to American internment of citizens of Japanese origin with people arrested based solely on their country of origin.

For months, individuals inquired about the status of Patriot Act II and were told that no such legislation was being planned. It was not until a draft of the bill was leaked earlier this year, did we find out the wonderful new propositions.

Sect. 201 & 202: It would enhance the department’s ability to deny releasing material on suspected terrorists in government custody through the Freedom of Information Act. It would also restrict FOIA requests on the EPA’s worst case scenario reports which are referred to as “road maps for terrorists”.

Sect. 301-306: Authorizes creation of a DNA database on “suspected terrorists”, defined to include association with suspected terrorist groups or having supported any group designated as terrorist.

Sect. 405: Allows any suspected terrorist to be held before their trial without bail.

Sect. 501: Establishes that an American citizen could be expatriated “if he becomes a member of, or provides material support, to a group that the United States has designated as a terrorist organization.”

Sometimes I wonder, what are we doing, rather, what am I doing while all this is happening, throwing parties and living life as normal, while people are quietly being taken away and locked up, no explanation, no representation, nothing?

What can we do? What can you do?

Start by talking to everyone you know about what is going on and create an opposition climate, be outraged, and express it. Organize teach-ins, and public events to hear Muslim, South Asian, and Arabic immigrants speak who have been the targets of this oppression. Organize rallies and demos to demand that all detainees be set free, especially in front of special registration sites. Write letters to the editor of all your local papers, or make papers and write about it. Join and support the Blue Triangle Network an organization formed in opposition of the detentions of immigrants. You can find them at www.bluetriangle.org. Make media, change existing media to better represent what you think it should say. Whatever you do, do something, talk to people you know, talk to people you don’t, because as we all know, if it isn’t you yet, they will come for the rest of us next.

Imperial Ambition

In the wake of the US war on Iraq] [t]here is growing fear of US power, which is considered to be the greatest threat to peace in much of the world, probably by a large majority. And with the technology of destruction now at hand, rapidly becoming more lethal and ominous, threat to peace means threat to survival.

Fear of the US government is not based solely on this invasion, but on the background from which it arises: An openly-declared determination to rule the world by force, the one dimension in which US power is supreme, and to make sure that there will never be any challenge to that domination. Preventive wars are to be fought at will: Preventive, not Pre-emptive. Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might sometimes be, they do not hold for the very different category of preventive war: the use of military force to eliminate an imagined or invented threat. The openly-announced goal is to prevent a challenge to the “power, position, and prestige of the United States.” Such challenge, now or in the future, and any sign that it may emerge, will be met with overwhelming force by the rulers of the country that now apparently outspends the rest of the world combined on means of violence, and is forging new and very dangerous paths over near-unanimous world opposition: development of lethal weaponry in space, for example.

It is worth bearing in mind that the words I quoted above are not those of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or other radical statist extremists now in charge. Rather, they are the words of the respected elder statesman Dean Acheson, 40 years ago, when he was a senior advisor to the Kennedy Administration. He was justifying US actions against Cuba – knowing that the international terrorist campaign aimed at “regime change” had just brought the world close to terminal nuclear war. Nevertheless, he instructed the American Society of International Law, no “legal issue” arises in the case of a US response to a challenge to its “power, position, and prestige,” specifically terrorist attacks and economic warfare against Cuba.

I bring this up as a reminder that the issues are deep-seated. The current administration is at the extremist end of the policy-planning spectrum, and its adventurism and penchant for violence are unusually dangerous. But the spectrum is not that broad, and unless these deeper issues are addressed, we can be confident that other ultrareactionary extremists will gain control of incredible means of devastation and repression.

The “imperial ambition” of the current power holders, as it is frankly called, has aroused shudders throughout the world, including the mainstream of the establishment at home. Elsewhere, of course, the reactions are far more fearful, particularly among the traditional victims. They know too much history, the hard way, to be comforted by exalted rhetoric. They have heard enough of that over the centuries as they were being beaten by the club called “civilization.” Just a few days ago, the head of the non-aligned movement, which includes the governments of most of the world’s population, described the Bush administration as more aggressive than Hitler. He happens to be very pro-American, and right in the middle of Washington’s international economic projects. And there is little doubt that he speaks for many of the traditional victims, and by now even for many of their traditional oppressors.

It is easy to go on, and important to think these matters through, with care and honesty.

Even before the Bush administration sharply escalated these fears in recent months, intelligence and international affairs specialists were informing anyone who wanted to listen that the policies Washington is pursuing are likely to lead to an increase in terror and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, for revenge or simply deterrence. There are two ways for Washington to respond to the threats engendered by its actions and startling proclamations. One way is to try to alleviate the threats by paying some attention to legitimate grievances, and by agreeing to become a civilized member of a world community, with some respect for world order and its institutions. The other way is to construct even more awesome engines of destruction and domination, so that any perceived challenge, however remote, can be crushed – provoking new and greater challenges. That way poses serious dangers to the people of the US and the world, and may, very possibly, lead to extinction of the species – not an idle speculation.

Terminal nuclear war has been avoided by near miracle in the past; a few months before Acheson’s speech, to mention one case that should be fresh in our minds today. Threats are severe and mounting. The world has good reason to watch what is happening in Washington with fear and trepidation. The people who are best placed to relieve those fears, and to lead the way to a more hopeful and constructive future, are the citizens of the United States, who can shape the future.

Wandering the Winter Wonderland Against the War

After residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota for several months, I made a cameo appearance in Milwaukee, followed by a week in New Orleans, before visiting the Bay Area. I attended anti-war demonstrations in all of these cities, and made several observations on the way of the dying republic and emerging empire.

Minneapolis

It wasn’t until winter set, and it sunk in that the president was serious, that the movement expanded beyond the sectarian groups and core activist culture. Before this, the message of the protesters marching in circles was pacifism; that war is always bad and shouldn’t happen. While of course pacifists should get out and speak their mind, I was concerned whether the message was getting to most Americans that this particular war was ludicrously short of any standard of justification.

The movement that arose in winter was all about “ordinary people” standing up and being counted. Minneapolis participated in the worldwide protest days with crowds of ten thousand. Lawn signs against the war appeared throughout residential neighborhoods, proclaiming “Say NO to War in Iraq. Call your congresspeople.” The creators of the signs felt that even in this rather progressive city, the media had made the upcoming war seem so normal, popular and reasonable that ordinary people had to really struggle to bring the anti-war position out of the margins.

As wartime grew closer, counter-demonstrations grew in size and significance, and “Liberate Iraq” lawn signs appeared in identical style.

Inspired by rumors from San Francisco, some people sought to organize a disruptive day after action, but the plan was reduced by least common denominator consensus to ordinary civil disobedience.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

People in Milwaukee tell me they don’t go to protests there because they are small and disempowering (yes, I realize that’s backwards). But the turnout at the recruiting center just off campus wasn’t so bad. The kids put it on; no serious organizations were involved, except a Unitarian minister who was a police liaison. Although the group steered clear of literal disruption or law breaking, they were feisty enough that the police wanted to declare an unlawful assembly anyway. No one took the threat seriously.

If all of Milwaukee’s odd cultural elements cooperated they might have quite a resistance. Maybe next century.

Meeting the War God in Andrew Jackson’s Square

An anti-war march in the French Quarter (yes, they seriously proposed re-naming it the Freedom Quarter) was rather reminiscent of a Mardi Gras parade in Berkeley. As we dipped briefly into the Central Business District and up Decatur Street, big jock looking tourists were screaming and cursing at us. I wondered about the masses of people in opinion polls. Were they all ogres like these, or were there rational humans involved? How did they justify this war through the thin Hitlerian “big lie?” I wanted to talk to a pro-war person and learn.

As the protest wound down in Jackson Square, and I drank a lot of coffee and sat far enough away to not hear the dull speakers, my prayer was answered. A man in his fifties walked up to me and started debating me. At first it was just like the Tom Tomorrow cartoon. He’d bring up 9-11 or nuclear weapons, and I’d explain the truth of the matter, and he’d immediately change the subject. His wife listened to the discussion from a fearful distance.

He gradually slipped in concepts like the origin of human evil, and the intelligence behind the universe. I realized that he didn’t share my curiosity about the other team; he thought that the protesters needed their souls saved just like the drunkards and fornicators of Mardi Gras. What else but the great tempter himself would inspire people to gather publicly against our rightful civil authorities? I kept looking at my watch so he’d realize I had somewhere to go (anywhere).

San Francisco

The e-mail from the Slingshot zone requested perspectives on America outside the Bay Area anti-war bubble. Seeing the glorious, historic downtown San Francisco action the day after the war started, I contemplated what makes the rest of the country different. Part of it is certainly the strong anti-war public opinion in the inner Bay Area. But what really struck me was how everyone hit the streets, artists, punx, and workers. Everyone just felt that it was time to act. In other cities, the perception of “protest culture,” was that walking around with a sign was something that only the “activists” did. I didn’t see people from the rest of my life at demonstrations. People everywhere say orderly protests aren’t enough. But whereas in San Francisco that means do more, everywhere else it seems to mean do nothing. Ironically, part of the reason I strayed from Oakland was my feeling that the activist ghetto vortex was too out of touch with other people.

Boy Scouts in Battle

On the road, by train, bus and plane, people didn’t talk about the war. Unlike 9-11, there was no perception of national consensus that would make such politics polite conversation. But I still get the sense that no one, regardless of their beliefs, believes the corporate media anymore. I found the Eastern Washington local paper on the train; the front story was about U.S. troops risking their lives to save a little old Iraqi lady caught in the crossfire.

Action Account: The hump-in

Gay Shame — the militant queer action cluster — recently elevated street tactics to a new level during an anti-war demonstration in San Francisco. The crowd was massive and bored, marching down the street like cattle in typical ANSWER fashion. Amongst the gloom, Gay Shame’s bullhorn was spewing brilliant, sexy free-association chants and propaganda as fast as they could think of them. Suddenly, the Metreon theater complex was down the street, and the Gay Shame bullhorner was screaming “let’s hump the Metreon to stop the war.” The group charged up to the thick metallic columns at the entrance, surrounding them with gyrating pelvic thrusts. Then, someone noticed that a Starbucks was across the street. Everyone had a collective Seattle WTO flashback.

The bullhorn rang out “hump Starbucks!” Seconds later, all the large plate glass windows were shaking as the Gay Shame marchers took down their pants and made love to the cold glass surface. It looked like the glass might break from the exertion. The scene must have been intense for the surprised coffee addicts inside. The movement’s newest tactic in the struggle for liberation had been unleashed — the hump-in. —PB

Gay Shame — the militant queer action cluster — recently elevated street tactics to a new level during an anti-war demonstration in San Francisco. The crowd was massive and bored, marching down the street like cattle in typical ANSWER fashion. Amongst the gloom, Gay Shame’s bullhorn was spewing brilliant, sexy free-association chants and propaganda as fast as they could think of them. Suddenly, the Metreon theater complex was down the street, and the Gay Shame bullhorner was screaming “let’s hump the Metreon to stop the war.” The group charged up to the thick metallic columns at the entrance, surrounding them with gyrating pelvic thrusts. Then, someone noticed that a Starbucks was across the street. Everyone had a collective Seattle WTO flashback.

The bullhorn rang out “hump Starbucks!” Seconds later, all the large plate glass windows were shaking as the Gay Shame marchers took down their pants and made love to the cold glass surface. It looked like the glass might break from the exertion. The scene must have been intense for the surprised coffee addicts inside. The movement’s newest tactic in the struggle for liberation had been unleashed — the hump-in.