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Posts Tagged ‘activism’

Inspiring Terrible Things

January 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Federal agents are fighting the greatest scourge since Bolsheviks infiltrated washrooms across America. Throughout the nation teams of local police and the FBI—Joint Terrorism Task Forces—are scrutinizing security footage and wiretaps while prosecutors issue grand jury subpoenas.

On December 26th, 2012, Matthew Pfeiffer reported for imprisonment to Seattle’s Federal Detention Center. He joins Katherine Olejnik and Matthew Duran, held in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating anarchist collectives in the Pacific Northwest. The price of silence, for not offering circumstantial evidence against photographs and names presented during closed sessions without judge or legal representation, can amount to continued incarceration until March of 2014 when the grand jury dissolves.

None are charged with any further crime. None are suspected of wrongdoing. The US attorney in charge admits that this imprisonment is a form of coercion to compel testimony. Read more…

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Engaging Open Engagement

October 29, 2012 1 comment

Engaging Open Engagement 1

Soup lay at the end of the unwashed masses. Organizers cold only guarantee food for two hundred and fifty, a decent headcount of the social activists, liberal arts college professors, provocateurs and assorted art damaged scum standing between the stragglers and a free meal. We’d already sorted out where they kept the kegs.

Conversation hung overhead. It had all been over my head anyway, the presentations on theory choked with references to unknowns. Slide shows, tales of past glory, rotating panels swam circles around me and it was going to take a second beer to quiet them all down. For two afternoons I’d haunted lecture halls and classrooms with an eye on the audience to know when good points were being made. The audience was too busy checking their e-mail to pay attention, so I remained confused.

Registration to Open Engagement had been free and I didn’t have anything better to do over the course of a rainy weekend. Perfect conditions for an infestation of lowlifes and cell phone compulsives.

Soup and beer for the taking but the Yale Union seemed empty. Keynotes and panels had overflown with devotees of all stripes. Patrons wearing brooches sat on the floor next to androgynous radical knitters. Rooms had been so crowded were indie rock yuppies in scarves that the pack of women in wheelchairs would turn at the door to leave. The after party was stacks of needless chairs and half empty tables.

Pete dragged me from my beertime reverie to meet an arts professor from Gainesville, where foxes eat your chickens and the Christians hate everything except alligators in the canals. I said that it was impressive such a regressive backwater would shell out the cash to send her west where agitators contemplate the public perception of monuments. It wasn’t surprising to learn that she had snagged a ticket from a stewardess friend and was crashing on couches. This wasn’t a work trip, this was a place to network. Her contract was up in a year and Gainesville was not a good place to die, whatever statues might litter the town. Read more…

Pussy Riot to Ai Weiwei: The Confused Crushing of Dissent

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Protesters in Times Square. Protesters in London. Protesters in France. Protesters in countries all around the world wearing masks and waving signs: Free Pussy Riot. Protesters safe from arrest and prosecution standing outside Russian consulates while new laws frighten Muscovites from becoming the next Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

Worldwide outcry is the expected end of the predictable soap opera that was the Pussy Riot trial and not even the brazen antics of a chainsaw wheeling Feman activist in Kyiv serves as a surprise twist before the credits roll. The moment a Youtube video of women violating the patriarchal order of the Orthodox Church, spiritual legitimacy for the return of Vladimir Putin and hungry for tax breaks and former properties, embarrassed powerful old men there was no question that an example would be made. Heavily armed security forces conducted raids and arrests, court proceedings so transparently scripted that even embittered Russian journalists became disruptive, Madonna risking nothing by making trite declarations from the stage, accusations of Western hypocrisy and paranoid allusions to foreign agents infiltrating Russian activist groups– each scene played out tired and stale. The only development more surprising than the accused not receiving the maximum sentence was that authorities orchestrating this pantomime bothered to frame their reactionary persecution as legally legitimate. Read more…

Whose Streets?

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Excitable boys and girls marched merrily along Broadway, destination unknown. They could have slipped under the radar but some hapless cop found a bullhorn thrust into his hand: Please stay on the sidewalk. A simple request, asked with all the defeat and fatigue of a broken father left alone with the kids for the weekend. The malcontents must have obeyed if the absence of scuffling and breaking glass was any indication. I couldn’t be bothered to leave the couch I was calling a bed for the week to peer out any windows.

Another first of May and another May Day march. Vegan anarchists used to invite me along. What do you do on May Day? Dance around the maypole and smash the state, they would reply. I always declined graciously, the same way I would whenever babysitting Food Not Bombs who, at the halfway mark of their meeting, would run through a rousing rendition of the Hokey Pokey.

Anarchists love to dance. Read more…

Will the Chinese Own Governor Gav?

April 25, 2009 5 comments

Hometown hero Gavin Newsom officially announced his candidacy for Governor of California on April 21st, flaunting his technical savvy by simultaneously championing his cause on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Not being as cybernetic as most of my peers I was forced to enjoy the video spectacle and was once again struck by how embarrassing it is when our supposed leaders pander to the people by utilizing shitty resolution for the sake of networking. Show a little class and stream your own videos.

There’s nothing particularly striking about his pep talk, aside from my being struck with uncontrollable laughter as soon as his well manicured mug appears. San Francisco is hailed as the nation’s leader in universal health care, ecological innovation and retaining teachers amidst grievous budget cuts. He repeatedly uses the term “we” instead of the political assertion of “I”, which has become something of a hallmark in all of his communiques. He is not running for governor so much as we are all being invited to run for governor. I guess this means I’ve been traveling the state with an SFPD escort all this time. The message is that San Francisco is doing better than California and the allusion is that it’s because we’ve had Gavin Newsom at the helm, single-handedly steering us into calmer waters as the rest of the world drowns in a fiscal tempest. The “green economy” is our guiding light, as evidenced by happy laborers installing solar paneling. Voters and the Board of Supervisors, advocates and PACs are not invited to share in the glory of our solar panels.

The elections won’t take place for another year but this never prevents pollsters from harassing the recluses and bored housewives who generate public opinion. If Jerry Brown and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who are both assumed to be entering the race, run then Newsom places third. If Senator Dianne Feinstein throws her hat into the ring he drops to fourth, but he has commented that if she does he will bow out– as long as she announces her candidacy early enough. In an effort to court less slick Democrats Newsom has been spotted meeting with under-enlightened prospective voters in traditional hicktowns San Diego and Stockton where he plans to replace their images of gay marriage with his successful chain of yuppie eateries and wine bars.

So will the San Francisco model work the length and breadth of a state as large and diverse as California, and more importantly can Newsom convince skeptics he can handle the responsibilities given his track record? Are solar panels the key to economic solvency and can his experience managing lifestyle businesses trump the fact that China owns our collective asses? Perhaps we should examine a little bit of recent history wherein out intrepid leader laid down and allowed a foreign government full reign of policing the streets of San Francisco. Read more…

The Future Is La Antigua Guatemala

March 20, 2009 4 comments

La Antigua Guatemala is a small city which enjoys a robust tourism industry and hosts innumerable Spanish language schools for foreigners. Buried in the colonial architecture (which earned the city status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) lies all the trappings of modern civilization. The relative wealth of La Antigua amidst the poverty and violence of Guatemala has afforded the city opportunities to modernize, and the government seems open to all ideas which may propel La Antigua into the 21st century as assuredly as any western nation.

Towards the end of last year the municipality introduced a free wireless zone in its central park, earning it status as the first digital city of Latin America. The novel concept of free wi-fi for all has been championed by consumer advocates the world over but in San Francisco the process has been bogged down by negotiations with competing providers and to this day there is no such service, but in La Antigua they just decided to roll up their sleeves and make it happen. When one thinks of Guatemala they probably don’t imagine internet cafes and people using their laptops in the park, but access is available to all who would wish to make use of it.

As encouraging as that development is the people of La Antigua are preparing to lay the ground-work for another first, and possibly becoming the first city of its kind in the entire world. According to Rudy Giron’s excellent La Antigua Daily Photo, a group of dedicated people are busy laying the framework for an alternative fuel project for the city. Biopersa organizers went from restaurant to restaurant collecting spent cooking oil with the intention of reprocessing it into biodiesel for municipal vehicles and the local hospital. If the initial steps are successful and the idea takes hold La Antigua Guatemala could be the first city which operates its city vehicles entirely on reprocessed biodiesel.(See bottom for an update.) Read more…

Ping Pong with the Big Boys

January 15, 2009 3 comments

After two years of effort by activists and the National Park Service to delay it a land auction was recently held in Salt Lake City by the Bureau of Land Management; the date of the sale was publicly announced on election day and received as much press coverage as could be expected. Protesters waved signs and marched outside while, shuttered away from the angry and desperate chants, were a collection of oil and gas representatives hoping to purchase parcels totaling almost 150,000 acres of Federal Land which they could dynamite, mine and drill.

Among their stuffed shirts and tailored suits was 27-year-old environmentalist Tim DeChristopher who signed the paper work to register as a bidder. Through the auctions he held paddle 70 high, driving up prices on some parcels and eventually finding himself indebted to the Federal Government for $1.8 Million, the going rate for 22,000 acres in the southeastern corner of Utah.

DeChristopher’s intentions to disrupt the proceedings are not subject for debate, but possible consequences are a matter of discussion. Although an immediate internet fundraising drive went into high gear to collect $45,000 as a down payment jilted gasmen are quick to accuse him of too little too late– bidders are required to be able to pay a minimum of $81,238.50 the day of the auction and complete the purchase no later than January 6th. The activist’s hope is that the sum he has collected will be enough to delay the parcels being resold until the incoming Obama administration takes over with new officials leading the BLM which has been criticized by environmental groups for their massive land sales to oil and gas prospectors.

The registration forms to take part in the auction have a passage which states it’s a Federal crime to “knowingly and willfully make any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements“; the industry shills are hoping that this includes bidding with no intention to pay and praying that DeChristopher receives the maximum five year prison sentence for disrupting their orgy. Not so forthcoming is the fact that, according to Pat Shea, a lawyer representing DeChristopher as well as the former head of the BLM under the Clinton Administration, oil companies are routinely offered lines of credit to pay off their auction debts. In other words the oil and gas companies can pay any way they damn will please and now that some young punk who wants to save land from their drills has sat down at their table they want the book thrown at him. Read more…