gordonzola: (Default)
OK folks, it’s definition time. Who would like to posit a definition for "wingnut" as it applies to a certain type of politico?

Here’s mine:

Wingnut: A person who has their mental health issues so intertwined with their "politics" that to them there is no difference. Paranoia, conspiracy theory, and poor social skills are necessary traits. In addition, ineffectiveness and failure are usually treated as signs that the Revolution is somehow coming closer to happening. The term originated in People’s Park, Berkeley, California and is usually used by slightly embarrassed anarchists and anti-authoritarians to distance themselves from "wingnut’ politics and activists who may also identify with those terms.

Sample sentence: Did you see the wingnuts protesting the "execution" of Rosebud Denovo when the cops shot her for breaking into the chancellor’s home with a machete?

Please feel free to add your own definitions or ask if someone you know fits the definition.
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I’ve been thinking about the reaction that many people had, getting upset at those of us who rejected mourning or called for celebration at Reagan’s death. It’s strange to me because, really, what is a more fitting honor for a man who dedicated his life to having people like us hate him. My reaction was instinctual*, not out of any desire to pay tribute, but that’s what he worked for. He chose his side, and it was against me, now I’m supposed to honor him? Fuck that.

HUAC snitch, union buster, destroyer of the environment, funder of death squads and terrorists, man who stood silent while tens of thousands were dying of AIDS.

Our little Reagan Memorial Stroll went well. It wasn’t super energetic or big, but we didn’t really expect it to be or try and make it that way. There are just some times a symbolic effort is enough to remind oneself that what the media is portraying isn’t the whole story. I mean, I have an analysis of the media, but there are times when it gets to me anyway.

We actually went around doing good deeds. We taped back up a memorial to the victims of AIDS on 18th and Castro that had fallen down in the wind. We righted a motorcycle using a cone in place of the broken kickstand. Our little march was greeted with some indifference, some supportive honking,**, a person or two who joined us who we didn’t know, and a fair amount of "finally!"s. But honestly, the whole thing was worth it just seeing a couple of older gay men who raised their fists and got teary-eyed as we passed by. I wrote this in a comment in someone else’s journal, but after a whole week of our truth being denied, it was a community service to publicly remember the "other" side of Reagan, the one most of us think of first.

Because of the hostility around the internet on this, I won’t out anyone else there. Out yourselves if you want to in the comments. It was nice to meet a bunch of you and good to see old friends. It was kind of like 1984 but we were dressed in suits instead of leather jackets. I’m not sure which era’s haircuts were better. Actually, I think I have the same one.

Oh and we must go to Zeitgeist again in full suits and ties! I don’t remember which LJer said it, but it was like in a Western when the saloon door opens and everyone goes silent.

*well, actually it was socially constructed, but you know what I mean
**We made the tactical error of walking with traffic instead of against it. It’s been awhile since I organized a march, so we mostly got attention when people were stopped at red lights and could see what we were up to.
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My favorite line on Ronald Reagan: Goodbye Ronnie, you touched us all, even though we asked you not to. I'm so glad I know [livejournal.com profile] anarqueso in real life.

Also, who's going to the [livejournal.com profile] jactitation organized protest on Friday? Don't let them put Ronnie into the ground without one last goodbye!

Next Friday, when the other memorials are happening
Assemble around 5 until we can't stand still
Dolores Park and then march down Market

We remember!
ketchup as nutrition
Afghanistan armaments
El Salvador death squads
CIA attacks on Nicaragua
Rust Belt
trees cause pollution
(etc etc)

Who can be there in a blue suit, white shirt, and red tie?

Block 3

Mar. 3rd, 2004 07:18 am
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On the last description of my walk to work I ignored the Safeway. I was going to write something about the UFCW strike in the Southland, but since it just settled, I think I’ll leave it for now. After that strike disaster, I doubt if the Norcal locals will be out after all, but who knows. My workplace, non-union but worker-owned and run, had just started an optional payroll deduction for the UFCW strike fund when the union voted to accept the last contract offer.

Where the Safeway sits used to be the main farmers market for this part of the city. Of course by that I mean like the Alemany farmers Market, not the Ferry Building one. You have to admire capitalism sometimes the logic is obvious. "People are already buying there food here, if we buy the land and put in a grocery store, we’ll pay the farmers less, charge the customers more, and make all that profit in the middle!" The rest is history.

At an anti-Gulf War ’91 rally that tried to march from Dolores Park to Duboce Park, the cops closed off Duboce St. right before we hit our destination. It was the calmest rally of that two-demos-a-day week, mostly because all of us were so tired.* Still, when they moved in to make arrests, a large contingent broke through the police line and ran into the Safeway parking lot, causing mass confusion among cops, rent-a-cops, shoppers, and car drivers. [livejournal.com profile] jactitation and I escaped arrest and ended up across the street for a breather, right in front of the Art Shade shop that’s in that Deco, altered-to-fit-Market-Street triangular building. When I looked up I realized Irish Matt was standing there.

He was in full white boy non-flashy hip-hop wear. Down for the Cause gear with a just slight nod towards his punk roots: baggy black pants, black slightly puffy bomber jacket, black angled Oakland A’s hat with the ‘s blacked out so it stood for anarchy. I knew Irish Matt from his ’88 anarcho-tourist days of chasing the Democrats and Republicans around to their conventions and chasing neo-Nazis wherever they turned up.

When I moved to SF, I got involved with Bay Area Anti Racist Action,** the group he was organizing for awhile with some other East Bay anarchists. It was centered around the punk scene because that’s where the Nazis and the people who wanted to fight Nazis tended to hang out. But in 1990 everyone of youth that I respected politically was listening to Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions rather than the (Canadian) Subhumans and MDC. I ended up drifting from the group because it was oriented towards street battles and beat-downs of stupid white supremacists. We did have some good times rousting the Nazis from a planned "White Workers Day" May 1 rally on Haight Street and an appearance at Union Square a few days later though. I do think that is the way to deal with Nazis, for the record, but I didn’t have the heart for non-spontaneously violence, even when people obviously deserve it. Besides, the action was mostly across the bay and you know how that is for the West Bay peoples.

When I lived at 16th and Valencia a few years later I ran into Irish Matt and didn’t recognize him. He’d dropped 30 Lbs. or so and was selling heroin on the street. Somewhere along the line he had gotten into needle exchange organizing and became a junkie. Or maybe he was a junkie all along, I’ve been dense to that kind of thing before. He ended up in prison for a bit before getting clean. I still run into him from time to time. He works just up the street from the Art Shade Shop has a kid and a sweet wife and seems to be doing well.

Usually when I see someone, even if only infrequently, my mind doesn’t fix them in one location. And usually if I pass by the same place every week, my memories are jumbled and diverse. Maybe it’s because I rarely walk on the south side of Market at 14th, but for some reason I always picture Matt there, smoking a cigarette and smirking, laughing at how we got away from the cops yet again.

*Spawning the memorable Rhetoric Factory slogan "We’re tired and we’re cranky and we don’t like the government!"
**They changed their name to Bay Area Revolutionary Action one month, but changed it back when everyone admitted they had been too embarrassed to use the more militant name.
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Every political group I’ve ever been part of has always had at least one know-it-all. Someone who just can’t be silent. Someone who needs to add just one more thing to an otherwise agreed upon proposal or plan. Maybe all social groups are like that and maybe it’s a fact of human interaction but this social dynamic isn’t always just annoying. This is the story of how this dynamic sent me to jail.

It was 1987 or so. Reagan was still president and South Africa still had apartheid rule. My college political friends and I had been planning a symbolic action for weeks to coincide with a series of speakers, teach-ins, and demonstrations to get our university to divest itself from South Africa. As with any large institution of higher learning, most of the Board of Trustees of our college had substantial business interests in South Africa themselves. Actually, that was the most important lesson that I learned in college

An obvious target for our wrath were the university bathrooms. One of the more notorious college Trustees was one of the Johnsons of Johnson Wax, an unapologetic supporter of "constructive engagement" if not the apartheid regime. Both the Art Museum and Business School on campus carry his name. Also, in every bathroom in every school building there were soap dispensers which proudly displayed the Johnson Wax logo. As a crackdown on campus protest intensified and divestment got voted down over and over again, washing our hands became a slap in the face for anti-apartheid activists.

We had it all planned. We had cases of blood red spray paint. We obtained keys to as many campus buildings as possible. We had about 15 teams of men and women ready to gender-appropriately* hit every bathroom soap dispenser, make it look like it was dripping blood, and affix a sticker with the slogan of the moment: "Johnson Wax Puts the Shine on Apartheid". After all, that’s what we saw every time we wanted to pee.

As we gathered at our anarchist collective house and divided up the campus, one of our know-it-alls had a great idea. He had just returned to town as an anarcho-tourist and hadn’t been involved in the planning, though he had previously lived in town for a number of years. "Let’s meet up at the Business School after we’re done and spray paint there." There was no real discussion that I remember. We were preoccupied with the final details for the action we had spent the previous weeks planning. Though a couple of people objected, the know-it-all insisted in that loud, forceful way that no one really wanted to fight against at that moment with so many other details on our minds. A Left mistake that seemingly has to be made over and over again, he was also older, butcher and "more dedicate to the struggle", therefore easy to defer to. Stupidly, The Business School Graffiti Fest was left open-ended, an optional part of our plan.

Since I had a car, a 1976 Buick LeSabre, I ferried a bunch of people to the farthest reaches of the school. It went beautifully. We all split up and spread our message throughout the miles of campus buildings. My group had no problems at all except for one spray paint can that blew up in my hand and left paint above the glove I was wearing. An hour later we were done and on our way to the rendezvous at the Business School.

Unfortunately, since none of us went to the Business School, our intelligence as faulty as our lack of planning was. When my carload of people arrived, others in our group** were already spray painting. In direct contrast to the earlier, well-planned and subtle action, more of us were arriving from every direction and it looked like a siege. Uh oh. My carload began discussing getting out of there when a business student came out of the building. Oops, the Business School was open late that week for midterms. The Business Student heroically ran to the Emergency Rape Phone and called the cops.

Unfortunately, my car wasn’t parked so I had to get back in and try to drive away from the scene instead of run. To make a short story shorter, we got pulled over seconds later. The campus cops all knew who we were so there was no talking our way out of it. Especially with my red arm and a couple of empty spray paint cans in the trunk. It didn’t seem like a good idea to try explaining that they were from a different spray painting excursion a few weeks before.

When we got taken to the campus police station, the first thing I noticed was that they had a copy of the poster from my campaign for Student Trustee*** on the wall that made fun of the University President. Because they hated him too? Because they hated me? Probably both.

The second thing we all noticed was that the police radio was reporting vandalism with alarming frequency. "Dispatch, I have a report of spray paint in the Ag school bathrooms. . ." "Hey, I’m in the engineering building and there’s red paint on the walls …." Even the cops were a little awed, not aware of how many others were involved. One said, "Wow. How many buildings did you people hit tonight?" I think he was only half playing Good Cop and despite himself, he was honestly impressed. We said nothing.

Unfortunately, our affinity group efficiency made the damages add up enough so that they could charge us with felonies. Hello Scared Straight program!

(To be continued)

* Though bathrooms are more politicized now, we figured an article in the campus paper headlined "Anti-Apartheid Activist Held on Morals Charge" was probably a bad idea.
**I believe at that time we were the Samora Machel Affinity Group (The Smaggots). This was before EGAG, the Emma Goldman Affinity Group.
***Which is a whole nother story . . .
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As if further proof was needed of the sectarian left being out of touch with The People, ANSWER organized a "troops out!" demo on Sunday on the same day as the Folsom St Fair Predictably, only about 5000 people showed up to the demo which is a pretty dismal showing in SF for a "mass" Sunday afternoon protest. I think there were that many people a few years ago for the joke "Legalize PCP!"* rally someone called to make fun of the NORML folks.

Emma Goldman might not have agreed in her historical time period, but this definitely fell in the frame of that fake "If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution" quote attributed to her every five minutes or so.* Folsom St. is one of SF’s big weekends, smaller in size than Pride and Halloween, but equal in prep time and looking-forwardism.

If the Leftoids ever got out of the house and had fun they might have realized that it was a bad idea to "restart" the anti-war movement on a day where they were competing with SF’s pervy population, truly the soul of the city, as well as the SF Blues Fest. We’ll leave out the Niners game ‘cuz they’re sucking so badly this year. Here’s a pic from the demo *** and here are two crowd shots of Folsom St. last year. Good or bad organizing? You be the judge.

Even though I was deathly ill all week, I knew I had to roll out of bed for Folsom. First off, [livejournal.com profile] vestalvixen had come all the way from Boston for it and I was already being a whiney and terrible host, second, I was scheduled to work a booth for my workplace and third, I always have fun at Folsom even though I’m not usually a dress-up kinda boy.

Thankfully, I woke up feeling good so I dressed to show off my cheese tattoo and headed down to our booth to hand out licorice whips and fruit leather. Everything was free, we consider it community outreach**** since our store is a block away from the fair, but people were wary and skeptical. "Do I have to give my e-mail address?", "Is the prize free after my free spin?", "What if I don’t like my prize?" Sheeesh. Of course, every time I guaranteed someone there was "no catch", they’d spin the wheel and land on the tiny little square that read, "We whip you with a licorice whip!" But it was just one smack and then they got to eat the licorice, so no one seemed upset. My RSI arm is my smacking arm so I just handed stuff out.

I know you all were giving me sympathy yesterday, but I felt good enough on Sunday to drink the beer that we smuggled in, check out The Shocker (with Jennifer Finch from L7), and make out a little with a hott LJ babe***** (not my houseguest). My favorite line of the day was one I ran into an acquaintance who was complaining that none of her freak friends wanted to go this year. She continued, "I told ‘em, if you’re not gonna go to Folsom, you might as well just move somewhere with cheap rent. It’s why we’re here."

[livejournal.com profile] vestalvixen seemed impressed by the whole thing. I’d run into someone, say hi, then someone else would come up from behind and my friend and they would start fooling around or go underneath the stage together. VV kept saying, "I love your city!". Yep, VV, it’s like this every weekend here.

I only have one question and I need to ask one of my bear friends but I’ll post it here anyway. Do bears roll around on the carpet, building up static electricity to get their body hair to stand that far off their bodies? Do they have to recharge after awhile? Do they have little pieces of carpet tucked away along the route for this purpose? Are their bear fashion mags that teach their tricks?

*"New studies show that PCP is as safe and beneficial as blue-green algae."

**The Chron had an exceptional recent butchering of this fake quote (can you butcher a fake quote?) but the search feature on their archive is so bad that I gave up trying to find it. It was something like, "If I can’t have fun, I won’t join your social movement".

***There was an overhead shot on the SF Indymedia website, but since it seems to be down again I subbed the Chron one.

****There is some irony to our (almost) vegetarian store hanging out at the leather event, but NOT ONE person pointed that out.

*****Name not mentioned because it was a bit of a pity makeout on her part. I was still a little exhausted from all the not-eating last week. It was like I was a little birdy who wasn’t strong enough to go gather my own food.

******If you can’t get enough Folsom, here’s last year’s entry.
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Happy International Workers Day to everyone on my friends list! I have a paid day off today to celebrate my status as a worker in capitalist society so what am I going to do? In a little bit, I’m going to Colma to the Shoe Depot ("The working man’s shoe store") and buy some new boots. It seems appropriate.

I’ve been avoiding the May Day events the last few years. It depresses me to see them be so pathetic. I know the big thing in recent years has been the May Day/Beltane cooperation day, but it doesn’t really work for me. It’s borne out of weakness, trying to get enough people interested so that there can actually be a march. Substituting organized labor for artists and pagans changes the meaning rather dramatically.

I’m not against the events planned today. I just feel like, "Call me when the labor movement shows up." Maybe I’ll try again in a couple of years when it falls on a Saturday and there may be some token labor representation. I’ve taken International Workers Day off myself for years before I worked at a job that honored it by simply calling in sick. I’ll always observe it, it would just be nice to do it with the group that it was intended to honor.

Our annual work party is today in Stern Grove and I’ll head over there in the late afternoon for a little bocce ball or soccer followed by heavy drinking and karaoke. I doubt Albert or Lucy Parsons would approve, but what are you going to do?

International Workers Day statement blah blah )
gordonzola: (Default)
(I haven’t had much time to write so the night described is from a couple of weeks ago.)

The week that the war started I made a bad movie choice. My friend Southbay* and I are good movie companions because we both have pink sparkly wallets and enjoy seeing movies like "8 Mile" that our pretentious friends are too good to see. We had a movie date scheduled way in advance, but current events intervened and we decided to go to the anti-war demo instead.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the anti-war demo. There we were on Market and Powell a little after 5 PM and almost no one was there. Sure, there were the requisite hippies with drums, the sectarian paper sellers, the t-shirt guy selling "No War on Iraq" and "We Support our Troops" shirts, but only about 10 other people milling about. There weren’t even any more than a couple of cops. No sign of Officer Powder. Something was wrong here.**

Of course, my new wingnut nemesis, Anti-Semite Sam*** was there. He attracts photographers and somehow he kept walking around so that we’d be in the same general area. Local folks will probably understand**** that the last thing I need, as a legal officer of my workplace, is to get photographed with an avowed anti-Semite, so Southbay and I wandered away from the not-really-a-crowd.

After another 15 minutes of people (not us) making pathetic attempts to chant, we said fuck it. Back to plan A. Let’s go see a movie. Checking the times and an actual newspaper, we determined that the only movie we both were interested in seeing, and that was playing soon, was Gangs of New York.

OK. In retrospect, it might be easy to say, "You know, it’s not a good idea to see an extremely violent movie less than a week after war starts". For some reason, that wasn’t clear to us at the time.

The opening scene was extremely bloody. Fountains of blood. Flying teeth. Gushing blood. Lots of thwacking of hard, sharp objects on bone and flesh. Bloodsicles in the snow. I kept flashing back on the pictures of dead Iraqis I’d seen earlier in the day and I’ll admit, it was upsetting in a way that I don’t usually feel at the movies.

Having said that, I enjoyed most of the movie. I mean, it’s a typical revenge story/costume drama, but it tells the history of a time in America that is relatively not discussed very often. I though Daniel Day Lewis was really good as the Butcher. It shows the Irish in their non-assimilated period, which is always worth looking at.

There is one part, however, that totally cops out. While Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis are preparing their showdown, the NY draft riots begin. Because they are isolated and preparing for battle, they get left out of the lynchings and anti-Black violence that historically-speaking, both would have supported and/or participated in. To further absolve the main characters, who we are supposed to like to varying degrees, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Irish gang even has a Black member, presented matter-of-factly and without drama. Or historical context.

While the Irish might not have been accepted as equals to the ruling class at the time, does anyone really argue that their interactions with Black people in the 1860s were uncomplicated? I would say that there were undoubtedly exceptions and incidents of cooperation and/or involvement by some Irish-Americans in the abolitionist movement, but in a movie telling an "untold story", the Black gang member (who gets lynched by other poor, probably-Irish, ghetto dwellers) seems to be able to join the Dead Rabbits simply because he chooses to.

This is a relatively minor part of the movie, but it makes to story less intelligible. If some poor Irish so easily accept Black people into their social organizations, why is much of the rest of the Black population of Manhattan being attacked, lynched, burned out of their homes and fleeing for their safety? While, truth be told, I didn’t really expect the suffering of Black people to be more than an ornament and plot device for "Gangs of New York", I think it even trivializes the position of the Irish. True, it does show Irish immigrants getting fresh off of boats and being sent, instead of the rich, to die in a war for their new country which promises them nothing but squalor. That they take their anger out on those even further down the political food chain is foreshadowed and seen as an inevitable consequence of political moves made beyond their control.

Leonardo has the Great Man thing going so somehow he is above racism. The rest of the Irish have Mob Mentality so they are racist. White people (We) can identify with the Great Man, of course, and tsk tsk about the Mob, even if we understand the bigger powers in play. All I’m saying is, picture a movie where the sympathetic, heartthrob hero, who we’ve learned to love, participates in his community’s racist violence at the climax of a 3 hour movie. Would that be seen as perpetuating racism? Or as a truer picture of how rooted racism is in American history?

Or how about showing Irish Americans who took a principled abolitionist position? Leonardo’s position is a "colorblind" one hard to differentiate from popular present day conceptions of how to view race. That is: not to see it at all. True, there are always anachronisms in these types of movies, but I would argue that this one is there to make race issues stay firmly in the past.

Believe it or not, I actually did enjoyed the movie. Longtime readers should know by now that I dwell on the negative. It makes me happy.

*I need an LJ nickname for her because I have mentioned her a few times. I hope she likes this one.
**As it turns out, contrary to traditional Left culture, the march left promptly at 5 PM. We had missed it.
***[livejournal.com profile] whythingsburn does a good job describing him here, so I don’t have to.
****Sorry, I am not going to explain it if you don’t. Don’t hate me.
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I had intense flashbacks all day on Thursday and Friday during the protests. Some things were so similar to 1991 that I would actually have moments of confusion. Weird. Maybe I had some sort of demonstration PTSD that lay dormant until now.

When the Thursday post-5PM march headed towards the Bay Bridge it took the exact same route we took in 1991 during the first Gulf War. Walking towards the Fremont St. on-ramp back then, the plan, in my mind at least, was actually to march all the way across the bridge and I secretly worried whether or not we could even make it if we tried. That’s a long walk. But I was 12 years younger back then and fully fueled by adrenaline and outrage.

On that march, a group of people surprised the cops by running up the hill on the side of the ramp towards the freeway. The cops were confused and out-flanked. The main body of the march then surged towards the ramp. It was crazy walking on the bridge that I had driven over my whole life. What a view! The crowd was momentarily alone and though tense, there was a moment to breathe. I picked up a loose lane reflector. Not to throw at the cops, but as a souvenir.* It was carnival-like for a few minutes. Even the "Arrest Stephen King for the murder of John Lennon!" guy was up there with us.

Then I looked down at the 200 ft. drop to the South of Market pavement, saw the cops moving in to force us into the guardrails and got the fuck out of there.

The next night I was near the front of the march and with friends. We surged and made it onto a different bridge on ramp with about 50 people before the police closed ranks behind us. "Oh shit," was all I could think. The cops have been embarrassed and there will be no witnesses when they arrest us: one of the most unsafe demonstration situations to be in.

But it was a thin wall of cops and after a moment’s hesitation, the crowd rushed them, forcing them to retreat. We had taken the bridge. Again.

Leaving the on ramp that night, the first thing I saw was a burning cop car with a bunch of mohawked and masked punks dancing around it. After warming myself a bit, I thought, "Hey, this might blow up," and got away before it did. This inspired the wonderful Rhetoric Factory slogan, "Let a burning cop car light up your night" that were passed out for free then next night.

But it wasn’t just the intense moments that were coming back to me. When I walked by sites of old battles, I could see how they looked in those days. The trashed Greyhound Station under the highway,** the boarded up military recruiting station, fountains dyed to look like flowing blood etc. I wish I had kept a diary back then

In 1991 I had the energy to skip work for a week and go to the two demos a day, every day, marching miles and miles through the streets and well into the night. The energy on the streets is very similar in 2003.

But I can’t say I can quite match that myself these days. In fact, I’ve felt severe anxiety many times during this week’s activities which is very strange for me. My old friends can attest that I almost never get crowd panic or claustrophobia at demos. Putting oneself in a stressful situation is always difficult, but I’m still trying to figure out where this panic and urge to escape is coming from. Being older? Not having [livejournal.com profile] jactitation around? Having a slightly more developed political analysis, and hopefully less naiveté, than a dozen years ago? Flashbacks bringing up too many old memories at once?

I haven’t figured it out. But it’s not just the stupid chants like usual.

* I still have it. Along with a piece of wood from the "shanty town" we built to protest apartheid that got demolished on my birthday in 1987. I only wish I could have gotten Mayor Jordan’s penny loafer which was liberated at an ACT UP protest I attended. I would open a museum.

** Greyhound drivers were on strike during the first Gulf War.
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-- Did anyone else find it ironic that Willie Brown absurdly described the protestors as 75-80% out-of-towners to discredit them when he was defending the rights of commuters to enter SF on the way from their non-San Francisco homes?

-- Someone was at the demo Saturday with the 1984 "P.E.A.C.E." punk compilation album cover on a stick. It was their protest sign. I was so happy to have been with a group of old punk rockers when I saw it. I listened to it today. "Here come the cops! / Here come the cops! / This is where the party stops." indeed.

-- That "No Blood for Israel" wingnut is really starting to bug me.

SF Pride

Mar. 22nd, 2003 09:04 am
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One of the things that war reinforces for me is that I’m not a good journalist. I need to brood on things a little or I end up getting caught in enthusiasm of the moment. Unless I get a chance to think for awhile, I feel like I end up repeating whole other people’s thoughts and give only a partial picture of the slightly larger partial picture I hope to draw. I threw out a couple drafts of this entry already.

Plus, the last few days have been exhausting.

The direct actions Thursday in San Francisco were amazing*. It was nearly impossible to get a sense of how many people were involved because the crowds weren’t always crowds. Protests and die-ins started and stopped suddenly as needed. Every major intersection from downtown to City Hall was blockaded at some point as well as the Federal Building and corporate offices of places like Bechtel** . There were not enough cops to deal with all the protests, many blocked intersections had no police there at all.

What was remarkable was the feeling of taking some power back into one’s own hands. Collective action that makes one feel better is fairly elusive and hard to achieve. I try not to get my therapy in the streets, but at a time when action is being publicly taken in my name, there are few options. Having an occasional win is something not appreciated enough by the left in general.

It was powerful. It was aggro. It was a reunion of old political allies and enemies. It was tense. It was a momentary break from the despair plaguing me all week. It was claustrophobic. I saw enough people from my workplace to have quorum for a membership meeting.

And yeah, there was misdirected anger and action against bad targets. As I said in my previous comment section, I don’t like actions that inconvenience people without political power. I felt empathy for people stuck in traffic. I felt bad for the professional drivers who had no choice in their driving destinations if they wanted to keep their jobs. I’m sure I’ll be talking about this with my delivery drivers for weeks. But sometimes you have to show that you’re alive and have the ability to organize.

As [livejournal.com profile] voiceandsalt wrote, it’s a big picture thing. "San Francisco Shut Down as War Begins" was the message to the rest of the country and the world and it was the best message we could send. Like a pointillist painting, it just may not have looked quite so nice up close***

So let me share as few of my favorite moments with you. While marching down Powell Street, I somehow managed to find myself behind the ISO flag. They were chanting "George Bush? War criminal! Henry Kissinger? War Criminal" etc. The woman with the megaphone was searching for new names to use and after one "War Criminal!" response there was a moment of hesitation. Then she said, "That guy from Spain?" The more drone-like ISO members dutifully chanted "War Criminal!" while everyone else cracked up. Now, I know this is the kind of thing often used to say the left doesn’t know the issues blah blah. But really it was funny, human, and a reminder that were all exhausted from being in the streets for hours.

While approaching the Bay Bridge on the same march I saw protestors run onto the off ramp amidst stopped traffic. A huge cheer went up. The police, when they realized what was going on, followed them on motorcycles in force. Trying to see what was happening, I stayed where I was up on a slight hill. At least three helicopters hovered overhead. It was dusk and the downtown sky was getting blue-black. Two huge flocks of starlings flitted frantically through the air, their mass changing shape as they switched directions rapidly, coming head on then flying perpendicular. It was really beautiful.

Walking home down Market, we were exhausted and done for the day. We stopped to wait for our stragglers. As we did, a cop SUV stopped in front of us to pick up the news racks someone had thrown in the street. They were obviously tired and cranky too. One cop threw his news rack onto the sidewalk, but it was an old glass one and it smashed loudly when it hit the concrete. We couldn’t help laughing and yelling things like "Stop the Violence!". Despite himself, he cracked a smile and looked embarrassed. Continuing his humiliation, when he went back to the SUV his door was locked and her had to bang on the side until his partner noticed. "C’mon guys, let me in!"

Like Mark 27 wrote in his 3/21 entry and like I felt during the last Gulf War, I’m very glad I live in San Francisco in times of civil crisis. There was a lot of SF pride on the streets Wednesday.

*I haven’t yet found a link that does it justice. The mainstream press is of course concentrates on the arrests and the few incidents of violence. But here’s a link anyway Indymedia SF is filled with what are either embarrassing typos or self-aggrandizing lies (100,000 people were not in the streets Wednesday. 10,000 probably). Still SF IMC is good for finding the demos.

** That’s just one Bechtel example. I was inspired in high school to research them after hearing a local Berkeley band’s 1984 anti-war song about the re-institution of draft registration and being sent off to war. It had the lyrics " My ID is pinned to my lapel. / It reads, ‘USA Incorporated, Armed Force Bechtel’" which sounded better than it reads.

***Ok, this is embarrassing. If I didn’t have to go to work I’d change this metaphor. I hate pointillism . I’ve just had the idea of it stuck in my brain from a very early age where local children’s programming had a PSA they ran over and over with the catchy phrase "Seurat knew lots about dots". I can still hear it when there’s silence.
gordonzola: (Default)
We shut down much of downtown SF today. I'm tired and going to bed. The acting police chief (father of the fajita-craving cop with anger management issues) called it the most disruptive protest in his 30 years on the job.

I woke up to helicopters and it seems like I'll be going to sleep to them also.
gordonzola: (Default)
-- Because she writes things the way I only wish I could, you should check out [livejournal.com profile] slit’s entry about what to do and how bad will things get?

-- I heard that Good Vibrations has also voted to close the weekday after war starts. It’s not on their website yet, but I have a reliable source. That means SF’s two biggest worker-owned businesses will not be honoring business as usual in the event of war.

-- I couldn’t go to the march Saturday because I had to work. The store was a ghost town though, slower than the slowest week day morning, until the rally was done.
gordonzola: (Default)
Rainbow Grocery Cooperative has just voted to close on the business day (m-f)* following the start of war on Iraq. Please spread the word so that no one tries to go shopping that day. It will not be a day for shopping or working.

Don’t know if people heard about yesterday’s attempt to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange which included the former President of the Pacific Exchange. It’s promised as a small taste of what will happen the business day after a new war on Iraq starts. More info for those plans can be found here

*yes, Rainbow is open 7 days a week. But the business day after is when the protests are scheduled. See actagainstwar.org link above.
gordonzola: (Default)
I hadn’t thought about the Rock Against Reagan arrests in a long time but right after posting that last entry I was reminded of another forgotten moment. Walking down 13th Street yesterday, I waited for the light to change at South Van Ness. A police van pulled up next to me. Whoever was in the back was banging hard on the metal walls of the van. The two young cops in front were laughing. The light changed and they sped off quickly, then hit the brakes. Then they driver hit the gas again and swerved wildly in their lane. I watched them drive away toward Bryant Street.

At 5 AM , back in 1984, when the police transferred me from The Hall of Justice to Juvenile Hall, they put six of us in the back of the police van. With handcuffed wrists and a smooth, seamless interior we fell hard against the metal sides and floor as the police stopped short and swerved their way through the deserted streets. Finally, we braced against each other, half on one metal bench he other half on a lump on the van floor.

When we finally arrived at Juvey one of those generically mustached cops asked, "Did you enjoy the ride?"

"Not as much as seeing your head on a stake", mumbled the finally-down-from-tripping, mohawked punk I had spent the last few hours with. Only I heard him though. At intake they knew him by name and said, "Sorry to see you again. This is you third time in 6 months. You’re going to be here awhile." The took him off separately and left me to wait for my parents.

gordonzola: (Default)
There are certain mid -80s styles that people don’t remember. For example, almost all punk rockers wrote on the white space of their Chuck Taylor’s. I can still remember that R had, among other lyrics and slogans, "I hate children" (from the Adolescents) on one shoe and "Mommy’s little monster" (from Social Distortion on the other). I write that and think, "Awwwww, how cute", but, without trying to claim some kind of title to oppression, the Reagan ‘80s were a time when even in the Bay Area just having short hair earned you bottles thrown from car windows and shouts of "Faggot!". R’s dyed-black, fucked up, unevenly chopped, hair and her anti-social shoe slogans didn’t exactly help her blend.

Starting high school the year Reagan was elected president definitely plunged us into a cultural war that we couldn’t fully understand. I remember vividly going to the friend’s apartment with R and our friend’s mother breaking into German to ask her how dare she bring such a girl into her home, with "schwartz hair" and obviously loose morals.* We could feel ourselves being pushed from the "Moral Majority" Christians, school administrators, and the wanna-be yuppies (a new term at the time) but, like the dot-com boom of recent years there was no clear end in sight, no way we could see how bad it would get.

Unlike the relatively recent WTO protests in Seattle**, the politics of ‘Rock Against Reagan" were more counter-cultural and less well developed. But I can say, without inflating the memory, that it was a turning point in my life. Being younger makes it easier to look at things as US vs. THEM, but at a time of a cultural mandate for neo-conservatism, being leftist/anarchist, punk and in the streets seemed to be the obvious choice. R and I were arrested together at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in SF where, after a huge outdoor concert by Dead Kennedys, MDC, The Dicks and many others. We took the streets to protest arrests earlier in the day at a "War Chest Tour", the ‘80s version of anti-corporate demonstrations where a bunch of punks would rush into some multi-national’s office and start screaming about their capitalist evils and their financial ties to both the Republicans and Democrats.

At the time, our protest became the biggest mass arrest in the Bay Area since the late ‘60s. As we rallied outside the Hall of Justice, the police moved in without warning from all sides. My weasely brother, six years older than I, made it through the police line at the last minute but I got stopped by a cop pushing me back with a riot baton in my chest. My best friend at the time and R were right behind me. I spent all night in jail before being sent to juvenile hall the next morning, being 16 at the time. R spent the night outside in a makeshift holding facility before she got shipped to juvey. My best friend lucked out with a typo on his arrest form listing him as 18 so he was released later that evening.

Going through R’s letters, I found her account of her arrest which we ran in the student paper*** I’m struck by how much better her writing was than mine. I wrote the straight-forward, newsy account and she basically did an arrest diary which she wrote while on the horrible family vacation mentioned in my last entry. Below are excerpts:

"Ahhhh, the swinefest of the Democratic convention of 1984. Let’s see, I was arrested about an hour after Gordon was. I just kept scooting back and scooting back in the dwindling crowd that was seated on Bryant Street in front of the Hall of Justice. People were getting nervous all around me. I watched the piles of various paraphernalia, switchblades, and fire crackers get larger and larger around the edge of the crowd. Last cigarettes were being passed around by everyone who had them. The cops stood lined up in front of us, glaring down, not speaking and occasionally stooping to pick up a switchblade and pocket it."

What I find interesting about this paragraph is that it shows that the forms of symbolic arrest hadn’t been codified yet. By the late ‘80s, people knew how to be arrested like sheep and not to bring weapons to demonstrations.

"After sitting and freezing for hours (R’s group was being held outside at Potrero Hill Middle School) we became bored and invented songs with lyrics like "We all live in a Fascist USA, a Fascist USA, A Fascist USA" (sung to the tune of "Yellow Submarine"). . .I talked to a girl from LA with a purple mohawk and she said she had just come up to SF that morning. She said that a lot of punks were coming up to SF because the cops were really sweeping the streets in LA for the Olympics.**** They had all heard how cool the SF cops were. I think she had changed her mind."

The rest of R’s account includes numerous and humorous anecdotes about the cops not being able to tell the boys from the girls, spotting punk "stars" in the police vans and being processed in the school cafeteria that was identical to our public school cafeteria. R’s account ends with:

"It was 3:30 (AM) when they put me in a 5 by 10 ft. cell with nothing in it but a rock hard cot and a window covered in wire with glass about three inches thick. The doors were heavy, they really clanked when you shut them. I lay down on the cot and wondered what it would be like to be claustrophobic. Suddenly, I heard the clanking of the door being unlocked and a woman led me down the hall, saying they had my father on the phone. . ."

(later, when being released) "The man told me I was being charged with unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and intent to riot. He said he hoped I had learned my lesson. Foul beast. I liked my father’s version better. He said to me on the way back, ‘I hope you learned your lesson. Don’t get caught.’"

After this was printed in the school newspaper, the howls of outrage at these words of fatherly advice were arguably the loudest.

*I’ll ask my two high school friends who read this journal to share the irony of this for a moment.

**Some of the same people were main organizers for both events actually.

***When I look back, I can see how great our student paper was. The faculty advisors saw one of their roles as defending and supporting students being critical of the school administration. They also took a lot of heat for not only the articles mentioned above, but others including one by R reviewing "pregnancy counselors", including Christian, fake, women’s-counseling services that were anti-abortion. Armed with the pregnant urine of a neighbor, R wrote a great description of the local "Birthright" clinic people telling her she’d burn in hell if she got an abortion.

****Evidently she didn’t know the SF cops had done the same thing before the Democratic Convention got underway. Even the Chronicle detailed the police dropping homeless people off at bus stations and the Nevada border

gordonzola: (Default)
In response to my 4/23 post, a reader writes that the chant "Bums, bums, we're all bums / Keep the rich on the run!" would never have been uttered because it doesn't rhyme with 1-2-3-4 or hey hey, ho ho. Now I'm not much of a chanter. It feels oddly lik e going to church to me, so I usually keep my mouth shut or make cynical comments. But there have been a number of fun chants over the years at demos I've attended that have been worth yelling.

(serious looks-fists raised) Smash the state!
(smiling-waving to any onlookers) and have a nice day!
(1988 Anarchist Unconvention war chest tour-Toronto)

1-2-3-4 Let's Boogie!
5-6-7-8 Organize to smash the state!
(spontaneous chant on the anarchist samba line at the 1988 DC abortion rights demo)

Bush, you liar,
We'll set your ass on fire!
(many Gulf War protests)

Bad cop, no donut!
Bad cop, no donut!
(after a police raid on a peaceful Castro demo/street party. I think that's when the Chief of Police's loafer got liberated by an angry, and fashion-conscious, c rowd.)

Admittedly, this is a very small number for 18 years of demo going.

And it seems like a good time to remember my favorite all-time funniest chant. I never heard this actually said out loud, but it was printed on a chant sheet handed out at a smal l sectarian demo. One can only hope that it was placed there only to encourage a new member of the organization and never repeated aloud. On the positive side, it doesn't rhyme with "ho ho".

It's illegal and immoral /
to burn down tiny countries /
just because you can!

Anyone have any other good ones to add?



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