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(en) US, NYC, MEDIA, Anarchists Emerge as the Convention's Wild Card By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD New York Times "Their reputation precedes them."

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 20 Aug 2004 11:33:57 +0200 (CEST)


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Self-described anarchists were blamed for inciting the violence in
Seattle at a 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in which 500
people were arrested and several businesses damaged. They have been
accused by the police of throwing rocks or threatening officers with
liquid substances at demonstrations against the Republican convention in
Philadelphia in 2000 and at an economic summit meeting in Miami last year.
Now, as the Republican National Convention is about to begin in New York
City, the police are bracing for the actions of this loosely aligned and often
shadowy group of protesters, and consider them the great unknown factor in whether
the demonstrations remain under control or veer toward violence and disorder.

The city is trying everything from giving protesters discount coupons to
using an army of police officers to deter violent protests, and police
officials said yesterday that they have identified about 60 people as
militants, some of whom were arrested for violent acts in past protests.

In a show of force yesterday, the department rolled out its arsenal to
show reporters the techniques it is using during convention week. [Page B1.]

But even anarchists who are against violence are warning of trouble and
admit that they are planning acts of civil disobedience, including
blocking intersections, staging "chaos on Broadway'' when the delegates
attend Broadway shows on Sunday night, holding a "die-in'' near Madison
Square Garden, sneaking into parties and other functions and generally
harassing the 4,853 delegates and alternate delegates.

"This is where much of the real business happens, the business of buying
and selling our laws to the highest corporate bidder,'' said a message
on an Internet discussion list on Tuesday that included the sites of
several corporate parties planned during the convention. "Excellent
targets for street actions! Please spread the word.''

Jamie Moran, the 30-year-old anarchist from Brooklyn who, with a few
colleagues, operates the RNC Not Welcome Web site and discussion list,
makes a point of casting himself as the moderate face of the movement.
He calls police suggestions that they may be attacked "fear-mongering''
and has urged his fellow anarchists to cast off their dark clothing and
body piercings in favor of more conventional attire, if only to blend in
better.

Like many anarchists, he disavows violence against people. But things
get murkier when it comes to property, particularly property belonging
to perceived corporate enemies.

"I never cry over the destruction of corporate property,'' Mr. Moran
said in an interview. But "that doesn't always mean it's strategic. It
can be indiscriminate and un-strategic.''

Sarah Strombeck, 27, is one self-described anarchist who says she is fed
up with the disruptive techniques of her colleagues. She said she was
jailed for two weeks after being arrested during a demonstration at the
2000 Republican convention, and says protests have largely been ineffective.

"They cost the movement so much,'' Ms. Strombeck said. "People just get
beat up. Some don't want to put the time and effort into community
organizing'' advocating for better schools, health care and fair wages.

Part of the difficulty in discerning which ideas floated for disruptions
are real and which are not is that the anarchists, a subculture that
includes young people disaffected with political parties and graying
adherents to a political philosophy at least a century old, are far from
a monolithic group. They pride themselves on organizing in collectives
and "affinity groups" that operate autonomously and make decisions by
consensus, eschewing hierarchy or any whiff of commands from on high.

Chief John Timoney of the Miami police, whose officers scuffled with
anarchists during a World Trade Organization meeting last year and in
2000 during the Republican convention when he headed the Philadelphia
police, said they pose a number of challenges to the authorities. He
said in many cases the violence can be attributed to a small, hardcore
band that moves from city to city, instigating violence.

"These guys are pretty sophisticated and just wait for opportunities,''
said Chief Timoney, who as a ranking officer with the New York police
confronted anarchist demonstrations during the 1992 Democratic
convention. "They are going to look to provoke the cops. It's all a game.''

With an obscenity, he dismissed allegations that his officers needlessly
roughed up demonstrators in Miami, saying anarchists and other
anti-authoritarians repeatedly provoked the police.

In Philadelphia, he said, groups of anarchists simply ran down streets,
prompting officers to pursue them and creating the impression of chaos.
In Miami, he said, they swarmed around officers seeking to arrest
troublemakers during otherwise peaceful demonstrations.

Police officials typically send undercover operatives to gatherings of
suspected protesters and watch postings on the Internet, but they
usually do not know exactly what is planned until the moment it happens.
In addition, some of it could be idle chatter or disinformation:
Internet plans to throw acid at officers, for example, were not
fulfilled in Miami, nor was a plot to damage news media trucks fulfilled
at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last month.

"At the end of the day there is too much information,'' he said. "You
need be able to decipher the wheat from the chafe and it is not clear.
You can't overreact to the Internet because it can be a 16-year-old kid
in Chicago mouthing off.''

Mr. Browne, however, said the police were taking all threats seriously.

"We're taking the wheat as wheat,'' he said, adding that the threat
posed by anarchists "is nothing the N.Y.P.D. can't handle.''

Two years ago, at the World Economic Forum in Manhattan, the police
thwarted many attempts to disrupt traffic and vandalize property, making
150 arrests and keeping the violence to a minimum. Some protesters said
afterward that they had largely given the city a pass in deference to
the Sept. 11 attack.

But New York may represent a different challenge given the passions over
the war in Iraq and the fact that the city has its own vibrant, if
fragmented, anarchist scene.

There are "Anarchist Soccer" games on Sundays in Tompkins Square Park,
Anarchist People of Color picnics in Central Park, salons and even a
small makeshift bookstore in the East Village called Mayday almost
entirely devoted to anarchism.

Definitions vary but most see anti-capitalism as the bedrock of their
ideology. They question and disdain authority and hierarchal government
as corrupting and intrusive in personal affairs. "Neither slave nor
master'' is a common slogan.

Some are zealots; others see anarchism as a way to raise awareness of
problems like hunger, greed and materialism.

"My guiding vision is a society without a state, but I am not
necessarily a fundamentalist,'' said Meddle Bolger, 29, an anarchist
from Sonoma County in California, who has led several San Francisco Bay
Area demonstrations as part of Green Bloc, an anarchist group with an
environmental bent. He said he is in New York now to take part in the
Aug. 31 day of civil disobedience and rehabilitate community gardens in
the South Bronx.

Chuck Munson, a 39-year-old anarchist in Kansas who runs the anarchist
site infoshop.org, said he has observed more young people, particularly
those once drawn to the "do-it-yourself politics'' of the punk movement,
drawn to anarchism after the first Persian Gulf war and the fall of the
Soviet Union.

After those events, "people saw the traditional radical left as not as
relevant any more,'' Mr. Munson said. "I think it opened up interest in
anarchism.''

The 1999 Seattle protests, known in anarchist circles as "the battle in
Seattle,'' is now seen as a turning point. Many anarchists believe that,
despite any sullying of their reputation, it raised awareness of what
they consider the evils of global capitalism.

The standard mass marches of chanting slogans and waving signs, they
believe, hardly make as forceful a point.

"Direct action gets the goods,'' Mr. Moran, the Brooklynite, said.


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