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(en) US, Media: Arizona Anarchists Unite to Build Freer Society

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Wed, 6 Nov 2002 06:03:06 -0500 (EST)


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> Local anarchists unite to build 'freer society' 
The weekly meeting of Monsoon Anarchist Collective in Tempe
begins a little late. Anarchist time, someone jokes.

The perception of anarchists has long been of loners who
hate government and break laws, an image fueled by protests
and arrests here and around the world.

Getting arrested for a good cause is a badge of honor, local
anarchists say, and they are anti-authoritarian. But, they
add, overthrowing capitalism requires organization and
cooperation. So, the 25 men and women sit in a circle of
chairs at Gentle Strength Cooperative's community room and
run the meeting by consensus, not Robert's Rules of Order.
They congenially discuss plans to distribute clothing and
food to the homeless; advocate for political prisoners;
protest; screen T-shirts with anarchist slogans.

"For so long, ever since the 1920s, the general sentiment
among anarchists had been this time is not our time. . . .
Maybe this time is our time to do something," said Terry
Hughes, a Tempe resident and herbalist.

About 70 people across the Valley are active in the Phoenix
Anarchist Coalition, a group that includes the Monsoon
collective and the West Valley's Anti-Power Society.

Anarchists and organizations with an anarchist framework,
such as Earth First!, Anti-Poverty Coalition and Food Not
Bombs, have increased in number and are more connected than
ever in Arizona.

Across state lines, anarchists have formed the Southwest
Anarchist Network. Also, a conference will be held in
Arizona next spring, and in Tempe, a Phoenix Anarchist
Coalition center is being planned.

They are serious about change, as serious as the union
organizers rooted in anarchist ideals who were responsible
for securing the eight-hour workday. Despite that, people
can't get past stereotypes, the anarchists say.

"They see protesters and they see angry, young protesters,
and that translates into not a legitimate form of
organization," said Kate James, 22, a Tempe resident who
works in a medical office. She's a third-generation Arizonan
and one of the few college students.

The Phoenix Anarchist Coalition organized about two years
ago, after some anarchists were arrested on May Day, the
international workers rights day, during a protest in
Phoenix.

In recent years, protests against the World Trade
Organization and the International Monetary Fund in Seattle
and Washington, D.C., have brought out thousands and
energized the movement, said Brian Tomasi, 28, a writer and
musician in Tempe.

Everyone may come to anarchism from a different perspective,
and coalition members don't agree on everything. They are
finding a common goal, though, as more people connect to
their ideals.

"People have realized that the tactics of the '60s and '70s
have not worked to change our world for the better, so
people are exploring other tactics," James said.

Their structure mimics what they want to create: A society
without hierarchy, without White supremacy, without
patriarchy, without capitalism, without majority rules or
minority rules, with no rule of anyone over anyone else,
they say. 

"They think anarchists are a bunch of chaos freaks and that
we want to go around and smash everything when really we
want to get rid of corruption," said Kat Mayes, 20, of
Phoenix.

For Columbus Day, Tomasi, James and 19 others went to
Denver, where they protested with anarchists and Native
Americans against the racism of the parade, they said. They
carpooled and slept in sleeping bags at a community center
provided by anarchists there. The trip cost less than $50,
including gas, which is why they could go. Most work in
retail or office jobs and don't make a lot of money.

"There's a tension between wanting to put food in our mouths
and wanting to build a freer society, but in the end, I'm
committed to a freer society," Tomasi said.

When they distribute clothing, and sometimes food, to the
homeless in downtown Phoenix, they spread out the clothes on
their cars and homeless men and women stop and pick out
clothes and sometimes take literature.

Police always stop to talk to them and suggest they donate
the clothes directly to the shelters. They tell the police
they'd rather do it themselves. 

Detective Tony Morales of the Phoenix Police Department said
that police officers have a low opinion of people who intend
to break the law. Citizens have a right to protest
peacefully, he said, but if they break the law, they will be
arrested, he said.

"There are people who are professional protesters, nothing
better to do than travel around the United States and do
that," he said. "That's their thing and they are certainly
free to do that, but when they cross the line . . . . 

"If they think that's a good thing, then OK, but you're the
one who's going to sit behind bars in some nasty jail, not
me."
By Kelly Ettenborough


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