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(en) US, NYC, Media, [smygo] "The Streets Belong to Us"

From Dan Clore <clore@columbia-center.org>
Date Thu, 5 Aug 2004 10:11:24 +0200 (CEST)

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A group of about 20 New York City activists today announced
their plans for roiling the Republican convention this month.
Standing in the vestibule of St. Marks Church on the Bowery
-- a landmark parish that has long been a haven for
political dissent -- they called for a day of coordinated,
nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action on August
31, or A31 in activist parlance.
"Two days before the Republicans renominate George Bush, we
will turn the streets of New York City into stages of
resistance and forums of debate," Tim Doody, a 30-year-old
English tutor at Long Island University, told a bevy of news
cameras, adding, "We will not be asking for permits to
create these free-speech zones."

Starting early in the morning, Doody said, autonomous groups
will target GOP events such as Bank of America's 9:30 a.m.
finance roundtable at Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
At 4 p.m., a wave of actions will swarm the midtown offices
of multinational "war profiteers" such as the Carlyle Group,
Chevron, the Rand Corporation, and Hummer of Manhattan.

Taking a more classic civil disobedience line, the War
Resisters League is calling for a funeral procession from
ground zero to Madison Square Garden, the convention site,
where they will stage a mass die-in in the streets.

There will also be carnivalesque street blockades with
music, free food, and dancing, along with banner drops,
guerrilla street theater, and other forms of "culture
jamming -- culminating in a mass convergence at 7 p.m.
outside Madison Square Garden, or as close as protesters can

Rather than attempt a Seattle-style action to shut down
access to the convention, which activists concede would be
impossible given the intense security, they intend to
"reclaim the streets as zones of democracy."

Organizers have been frustrated at the city's refusal to
permit rallies and marches near the convention site or in
Central Park, instead relegating dissent to the edges of
Manhattan. "The streets belong to us, not the Republicans,"
said Eric Laursen, a member of the Direct Action Network.
"And we're going to be taking back what belongs to us on
August 31."

When asked whether they were undermining the effectiveness
of their actions by announcing targets ahead of time, the
A31 organizers said transparency was part of their strategy.
"We're not sneaking around," said David Graeber, an
assistant professor at Yale and longtime anarchist. "We want
to be totally open about what we do."
[Hello David Graeber.--DC]

Indeed, the protesters took pains to present A31 as more
than just a bunch of pierced anarchists and professional
agitators mucking it up in the streets. The press conference
was moderated by Lex Lyrse, who hosts a hip-hop show on
WKCR, and Elizabeth Broad, a 25-year-old graduate student at
the New School, who came dressed more like a stand-in on Sex
& the City than any seasoned rabble-rouser.

Also joining them was Nyack Mayor John Shields, who is
currently suing the state of New York over the right to
perform gay marriages. Although Shields said he himself
would not betting getting arrested, he endorsed A31 and the
concept of taking direct action as both "constitutionally
legal and justifiable," given the Bush administration’s
efforts to "exclude the LGBT community from their
constitutional rights and use the [federal] marriage
ammendment to distract people from the crisis in Iraq."

Just how many people will be swarming the streets, Laursen
said, is still "up in the air: It could be thousands, it
could be many more."

Although A31 has no leaders, representatives from affinity
groups have been attending "spokescouncils" at a Brooklyn
loft for the past month, attracting up to 200 activists,
including people from San Francisco, Baltimore, and Canada,
with numerous European activists pledging to join in.

Laursen said the group would be reaching out to the tens of
thousands who attend the United for Peace and Justice march
on Sunday, August 29 -- many of whom will no doubt be
frustrated by being hemmed in on the West Side Highway.

Organizers insisted they would act non-violently and
assailed the tabloid hysteria about "lunatic anarchists"
besieging the city to foil anti-terror defenses.

But they conceded that individual demonstrators will be
acting autonomously, meaning there are no ground rules for
what constitutes acceptable protest, and no plans to disavow
property damage, should that occur. "As an organizer, I have
not heard a mention of anyone planning violence against
people or property," said Broad. "But if a window gets
broken, we are not going to denounce that."

Overall, activists predict the mood on the streets will be
more festive than confrontational. "Things won't get
chaotic, unless the police use force to disperse us,"
predicts John Flanigan, a direct action trainer with the No
RNC Clearinghouse. "People have verbalized concerns that any
kind of chaos on the streets will detract from our message,
and we want our outrage to be heard."

NYC activists call for a day of civil disobedience
'The Streets Belong to Us' by Sarah Ferguson


Members of a group opposed to the Republican National
Convention, many describing themselves as anarchists, said
yesterday that they would carry out illegal protest
activities on the convention's second day.

Organizers in the group, the A31 Action Coalition, said they
were calling for a nationwide day of nonviolent civil
disobedience on Aug. 31 aimed at using parts of Midtown to
stage demonstrations, without permits, against the Bush
administration. The organizers said they were looking to
break free of government intervention to have their say;
they called the process for issuing permits broken and
criticized the city's practice of using metal barriers to
create rally areas or march routes.

"It is here, at the end of the barricades, that we will
create free-speech zones, where we can create the kind of
world we want to see through music and free food and dancing
and debate," said Tim Doody, an organizer, at a news
conference at St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery, in the East
Village. He added that that if asked to move, participants
planned to sit down and refuse. "Freedom of assembly isn't
so free if you have to ask the government where, when or if."

Throughout the day, organizers said, participants plan to
demonstrate outside a variety of institutions, including a
Bank of America finance round table planned the morning of
Aug. 31 at Tavern on the Green and several corporations they
see as contributing to the Bush administration's foreign
policies or profiting from them. That evening, the
protesters plan to converge around the convention site,
Madison Square Garden, outside the official security zone.
The coalition, still being formed, represents a broad array
of interests, including education, welfare and opposition to
the war.

The notion of anarchists organizing a news conference
announced well in advance and held before a gaggle of
reporters might seem a little odd, given the popular image
of anarchists as shadowy, brick-throwing rabble-rousers bent
on wreaking havoc and spreading mayhem. But the group,
although anti-authoritarian, said that it is opposed to any
actions that hurt people and that the tradition of civil
disobedience calls for open communication of its plans
rather than disguise.

Although organizers did not disavow property damage, they
said they were not calling for it. They said they expect
many of the planned actions to stay within legal limits. For
example, demonstrating on sidewalks without blocking
pedestrians or access to buildings and without using
amplified sound is legal and does not require a permit.

Police officials warned the demonstrators against any
lawbreaking activities. "We're principally concerned about
protecting the city against terrorists or violent acts,"
said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief
spokesman. "At the same time we expect everyone to obey the
law -- even protesters."

New York Times Group Planning Illegal Protests on Second
Day of Convention By DIANE CARDWELL August 5, 2004


Even an army that opposes war marches on its stomach.

Organizers for anarchist, down-with-the-GOP and anti-war
groups are quietly creating a logistical network to feed
thousands of young, down-in-the-heel protesters expected to
flock to the city for the Republican National Convention.

Several groups, led by the nationwide coalition Food Not
Bombs, which provides vegetarian meals to the homeless, are
assembling volunteers and cooking tools and making
arrangements with food donors for the convention, organizers

"This is going to be the biggest thing we've done in years,"
said Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry, who was stripped
of his pots, pans and stoves when he tried to set up an
open-air food kitchen on Boston Common during last week's

"We expect to get hassled in New York, too, so we're going
to do the cooking inside this time," said McHenry, who has
catered hundreds of radical happenings during the past 25
years, from his office in Tucson, Ariz. "We keep it simple.
We would probably have rice and beans and sauteed veggies
and fruit salad."

McHenry thinks he can provide about 1,000 meals a day at
protest sites. Other New York-based groups will serve people
from fixed locations, including the Anti-Capitalist Kitchen
and an organization calling itself Tamales for the Revolution.

Several soup kitchens and organizers also are gearing up for
a deluge of protesters, some of them without enough cash to
pay their own way in the city.

An e-mail message sent by the Anarchist Grapevine, which is
organizing some of the protests, reassured the faithful that
they will "not starve in NYC." If the kitchens run out of
grub, protesters were urged to dive into "New York's fine

Aside from food, demonstrators who run afoul of the law will
be able to access help from the National Lawyer's Guild and
the NYC-People's Law Collective, a local anarchist legal
group, and other organizations.

The Medical Activists of New York will be present at several
locations to treat minor injuries and ailments. Blue-hatted
"radical librarians" will provide access to pamphlets, books
and fliers.

The biggest unmet need, organizers said, is housing.

"Don't plan on being able to get hooked up with a place to
crash at the last minute," advised the Anarchist Grapevine.
"Plan ahead. . . . Call your friends, relatives and other

New York Newsday THE HUNGRY OPPOSITION Organizing to feed protesters

Dan Clore

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