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(en) US, Miami, We Laughed at Danger (and Broke All the Rules) - Jordan memory will never die

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 10 Jan 2004 14:05:38 +0100 (CET)


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posted by Pete Spina on infoshop.org Friday January 09 2004 @ 10:42AM PST
It is November 23, 2003. At around 11 p.m. we load into our van, ready to leave
Johnston Memorial Hospital in Smithfield, North Carolina and head back north.
Morninglory turns to us. Jordan wanted her to tell us that he loves us all
and that he never would have traded this for anything.
We are leaving Jordan behind in North Carolina. When we arrived at the hospital
his fever was 103.7º F and his hands were going numb. The doctors said it was
the flu and gave him something to bring down his temperature. We decided it
would be best if he spent the night with a person we know in Raleigh.
Allie and Madmartigan, our medics, will be staying with him.

Rewind a bit. Start somewhere else.

November 16, around 11 p.m. I am on the phone with Jordan.
They saved a space on the van if I still want to go to Miami.
They leave tomorrow. So do I want to go to Miami? I need
some time to think, but there is none. Fifteen minutes later I
call back. Work can fire me; I don’t care. Cool, he says.
We’ll meet the others in Baltimore.

I hate Baltimore. No offence to people, but it’s bad luck.
In October of 2002, my last band played a show at an old
warehouse called the Bloodshed. A street kid mugged a
friend several blocks from the show—stabbed him seven
times. He survived. So has my dread of Baltimore.

Our affinity group has been together in various incarnations
since Bush’s inauguration in January of 2001. Jordan is
the energetic, optimistic and organized one; Walter, a
college student and the closest any of us come to being a
firebrand intellectual; Madmartigan, a certified EMT and our
group’s medic; Sawblade, perhaps the most dedicated of
us, already down in Miami along with Betty doing the nuts
and bolts ground work; Rianne, another student and the
calmest of our group; Badger, a massage therapist with a
knack for cooking and herbal remedies; Patrick, an old friend
recently moved and lastly myself, Pete, a Wobbly and at 25,
the oldest.

Our affinity group is part of a cluster of other affinity groups
working together. An affinity group is really just a group of
friends, working together. It is also the main organizing
structure for protests. Varying in size from as few as three
to as many as fifty people, affinity groups are social as well
as political associations. Affinities often cluster with other
affinities they can trust. These decentralized social
networks are flexible enough to get things done during the
longest spokescouncil or the longest road trip.

We load the vans the next night at a friend’s house
outside of B-more, two big 15-passenger deals rented for the
trip. One is the “Red” van, loaded with anything that
might be suspect or considered contraband: gas masks,
protective padding, bandannas, medical supplies, banners,
etc. The other van is “Green,” loaded with food,
sleeping bags and tents. Just a precaution if we are detained.
New Jersey rides in the “Red” van, Baltimore in the
“Green” one. Each van is packed to the gills with
hardly any room to sit.

We get caught in a massive traffic jam somewhere in
northern Virginia. Someone shouts, “On-Ramp Dance
Party!” The doors swing open, everyone jumps out and
the music gets turned up. Other drivers look on, bewildered.
Josh from the other van brings out a sign that says, FUCK
THIS SHIT! He runs down the road with it, showing it to
everyone stuck in traffic. One biker guy coming down the
on-ramp sees the sign, looks at us and pulls a u-turn right
back up the ramp. After twenty minutes traffic begins
moving again and we rush back into the cramped quarters of
the vans.

Jordan drives. He brought a cooler filled with energy drinks.
This past summer he went on the Warped Tour, tabling for
Anti-Racist Action and came home with five cases of energy
drinks. For over a month, all anyone drank were those
ghastly energy drinks, our eyes bloodshot and our hands
twitching. I don’t know how he stomachs them. I nod off
looking at the stars through the window and when I wake up
we’re in South Carolina and everyone wants to eat
breakfast at Waffle House.

Driving the length of Florida itself takes eight hours.
It is now Tuesday, November 18 and we’ve heard a
rumor that police are setting up checkpoints at every exit off
Route 95 in downtown Miami. There was another report,
confirmed by legal, that activists were pulled over and
harassed as far north as Fort Lauderdale. We decide it is
best to avoid Miami completely and loop around it to our
campsite twenty miles south of the city. At least one van
has to stop by the convergence space to pick up Sawblade
and Betty and drop John from Baltimore off at his hotel. It is
9 p.m. as we arrive at the campsite south of Coral Gables.

The campground seems remote enough to be secure.
Wide flat fields of mown grass, a few shade trees, some
firewood bins and numerous cooking grills flank the paved
access roads. Low scrub and palm forests surround the site.
Other activists are also camping here. We set up our tents
by headlight. The plan is to wake up by 9 a.m. but some of us
need a little persuasion.

“Shut up the hell up and go to sleep!”

“Yeah, yeah,” come the moans.

At 7 a.m., November 19, I notice two green and white
Miami-Dade squad cars parked near the restrooms when I
wake up. I get my boots on and slowly walk in that direction.
Both squad cars turn around and pull out. I ask someone
from one of the other groups what the cops wanted.

“They waved me over to them,” he says,
“and asked me who I was, where I was from, how long I
planned on staying and if I had any tattoos.” He shakes
his head. “I didn’t answer of course. Then one officer
nudged the other with her elbow and said, ‘I think some
friends of ours are gonna be seeing them real soon.’
Then they got back in their cars and sat there. They’ve
been there at least since I woke up at six.”

He’s from the Bergen Action Network from New Jersey.
We both agree to set up watch that night in case they return.
Security is always a concern. In Philly during the Republican
National Convention in 2000, undercover state troopers
infiltrated the puppet warehouse on Haverford Street and
proceeded to report that the puppet-making supplies were
actually bomb-making supplies, things like water bottles and
paint cans. Police raided the space, arrested 71 people and
destroyed all of the puppets.

Sawblade isn’t surprised when I tell him what the cops
were up to here.

“Do you know what it’s like downtown right
now?” he asks. “It’s martial law. There are cops
in full riot gear with shotguns on every street corner.” He
and Betty were handing out anti-FTAA fliers downtown
yesterday when U.S. Marshals detained them for nearly an
hour, photographed any tattoos and demanded their Social
Security numbers.

“We’re looking for people looking to commit terrorist
acts,” the Marshal said.

“And who might that be?” Sawblade asked.

“Anarchists,” the Marshal replied. “We’ll be
keeping an eye on them.”

A legal observer from the National Lawyers’ Guild
arrived and asked them for their action names and affinity
group in case police arrested them.

“Affinity group?” an officer asked. “So you are
terrorists.”

“It’s our Constitutional right to be here,” Betty
said.

“Then what’s with all the secret code words?
What’s an affinity group?”

“I don’t know,” Sawblade replied. “Why
don’t you look it up on Google?”

“Google?”

“Yeah, www.google.com.” The cop asked Sawblade
to spell out affinity group and Google for him, both of which
he wrote down intently as if he had just scored a major
intelligence coup. In the lead up to the FTAA summit, the
corporate media screamed with headlines warning of an
impending anarchist armageddon. Police fueled the
misinterpretation with scare tactics. Nowhere was it
mentioned that the federal government diverted $8.5 million
from the Iraq reconstruction bill to pour into security
operations for Miami. The city constructed an enormous
fence around the Intercontinental Hotel where the summit
would meet and equipped thousands of police officers with
everything from armored personnel carriers, tear gas
launchers, new shotguns, tasers, electric shock shields,
batons and tactical assault bicycles. The vast arsenal has
only one purpose: to be unleashed on us when we take to the
streets.

It’s a classic strategy. We talk about it on the drive to
the convergence space. They want to drive a wedge into the
global justice movement: marginalize, disrupt or isolate the
radicals while alternating between a carrot and a stick for
the reformers. The anarchists’ greatest fear is that
progressives and liberals will abandon or betray them in their
hour of greatest need; the progressives’ and liberals’
greatest fear is that anarchists will force them into an
impossible, no-win situation. What neither group realizes yet
is that they need each other. It’s worth remembering that
Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties
Union, was inspired to his calling by none other than Emma
Goldman, an anarchist. Without the anarchists and
anti-capitalists, there would be no greater vision, no soul to
the movement. Without progressives and liberals, all dissent
would easily be labeled terrorism and violently stamped out.

Still, nearly everyone at the convergence space at 2300
North Miami Avenue seems to define themselves as both
anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist, or as anarchist
explicitly. The basic principles of anarchism are now the
core principles of activists in North America, just as it has
spread in Latin America, Europe and elsewhere. It happened
before any of us realized it, because our actions speak
louder than cops’ words.

The convergence space is a massive, disused warehouse
with a gated courtyard to the side, covered by an enormous
blue tarp. Within the courtyard an entire kitchen has been
set up on folding tables to feed the thousands of people
coming to town. Outside, a dozen colorful banners calling for
an end to capitalism and the FTAA drape the cyclone-fence
gate and concrete walls. Inside, the building has been
sectioned off into a medic space, a welcoming center, an art
space, a fully operational Independent Media Center and a
vast open floor which doubles as a meeting area for the
spokescouncils or a place for tired folks to crash for a while.

Sawblade and Walter come up to me. There will be two other
spokes meetings before the main spokes, for the Padded
Bloc and for the Black Bloc. Each will be vouched for only,
except that no one knows where the Padded Bloc is meeting
or if they are even here. Police surveillance increases as the
day wears on, with helicopters periodically hovering
overhead. A system is devised with spotters on the rooftop
looking up and down Miami Avenue to identify any
preemptive police response before it happens. Down 23rd
Street on the roof of the Salvation Army building, police and
federal agents watch our spotters with binoculars of their
own.

In front of the convergence space corporate media set up
their cameras and do live reports, the same reporters who
will later “embed” with the police. Folks are careful
not to let any photographers inside. The entire spectacle
takes many of the local residents off guard. This is
Overtown, home of Miami’s historic black community,
founded in late nineteenth century. It is the poorest area of
Miami and the most harshly dealt with by the police.
Reactions are mixed. Some locals tell us they respect what
we are doing, but we don’t know Miami police.

“See their guns? They’re going to fuck you up,”
one man tells us. Another man says that he appreciates
what we’re all about. Most just walk or drive by, curious
but not interested in getting too close. The city is a police
state and no one wants to be a target.

The Black Bloc meets at 5 p.m. in the upstairs of a nearby
thrift shop with a sympathetic owner. All clothing: $1 for
protesters, her sign says. Filtering in by small groups, we sit
down in a circle among the clothes racks and used furniture,
go over introductions and vouch for people. If no hands are
raised when you call out your name, you are asked to leave.
Ninja Stick, Compañero, Ladybug, Sawblade, Betty.
Polecat, Morninglory, Madmartigan, Yossarian, Guppie.
Dandelion, Piquetero, Radigal, Benedict Arnold, Endo.
Patrick, Yellow Jacket, Bluntslide, Underdog, Bunny. Twelve
affinities or clusters present from across the country. The
publicized direct action march begins at Government Center
downtown on the day of action and intends to reach the
fence by noon. No one likes this idea. Downtown is
swarming with police.

Two of us dressed in “khakiflage,” anything an
unassociated respectable citizen would wear, and scouted
the fence. Police hold key points throughout the city near
parks, plazas, government buildings, chain stores and metro
rail stops. There is a weak point in the fence. Far to one end
is a gated entrance near a hotel that is not as well-built.

Bunny starts in now. He says we have an aerial scout who
will be in contact with us as a spotter. Everyone’s eyes
go wide. People want to concentrate on the fence coming
down. The Black Bloc decides to meet at a separate location
and join the march later.

The spokescouncil packs the main room of the convergence
space at 8 p.m. that night with almost two hundred
participants. Over there’s Starhawk, an organizer of the
Pagan Cluster who I met in New York during the World
Economic Forum protests in 2002. Lisa Fithian is also here,
recently interviewed by the New York Times Magazine; I
met her in Philly back in 2000. Some see them as celebrities
of sorts or leaders of this movement, but the truth is that
each one of us decides how involved we are and acts
accordingly.

A woman from APOC, Anarchist People of Color, facilitates
the meeting and gives us some news: Steelworkers from
Wisconsin announced plans to join us in the direct action at
the fence. John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, made a
statement that the mainstream unions will support us, with
conditions. We must promise not to start any breakaway
marches from the permitted union march and not to engage in
direct action at the intersection where the march turns. We
agree.

Food Not Bombs cooks dinner out in the courtyard. Police
helicopters hover directly over the space and the empty lot
next door, shining spotlights on us. It reminds me of a prison
riot movie, like we are all on lockdown waiting for the
Governor to send troops in. I put my hand to my forehead and
don’t like what I feel. I call Madmartigan over and ask if
he has a thermometer.

“Do you have a fever?” he asks me and puts his hand
on my head. “You’re a bit warm. Let’s get you to
the medic space down Miami Avenue.”

At the medic space ten blocks down Miami Avenue they
take my temperature. It’s high, but not severe. I feel
dizzy and nauseous. Did I eat any of the donated food? No, I
haven’t had the chance. Are you drinking water? Yes, I
have several bottles. A number of people reported flu-like
symptoms already. It is nothing to be alarmed about, but I
need to rest.

We arrive back at camp late that night. I go over to a tree
and vomit. My affinity group is leaving at six tomorrow
morning. I decide to stay at camp. No one thinks any less of
me. They tell me to sleep. I wake up at 7 a.m. the next
morning, November 20, and everyone has left. Each tent is
zippered tight and tied with dental floss, a precaution I
learned from traveling. It won’t stop anyone from
breaking in, but you’ll know if they did. I drink some
water. I dress. I sit around camp for about forty minutes but I
can’t wait here while my friends are in the city.

It is a mile to the nearest bus stop on Eureka Drive. From
there I get a connection to the metro rail. Dress is total
“khakiflage:” blue jeans, dress shirt and a shoulder
slung knapsack. In the knapsack I carry a white baseball
cap, a blue hooded sweatshirt with a Carolina Panthers logo,
a black hooded sweatshirt, a black hat, a pair of black
Carhartt pants and three bandannas. I wear sunglasses. I
look like an upscale commuter going to work in business
casual. I even part my hair to the side.

It is 10 a.m.; three hours after the direct action march
intended to converge at Government Center. Police line the
sidewalks. Unaffiliated protesters wander the streets,
heading for Biscayne Boulevard to the east where the
AFL-CIO rally is planned.

On the streets of Miami, squads of riot police hold the
intersection of Second Avenue and 1st Street. Formed into
tight ranks, they march down Second Avenue with military
precision, chanting and beating batons nearly two feet long
against their shields. For a moment I feel lost in some Latin
American dictatorship, like Chile under Pinochet, when the
only difference between police and the military is the color of
their uniforms. The palm tree lined boulevards reverberate
with the impression that fear is a particle dispersed through
the atmosphere in parts-per-billion, like pheromones or
petroleum distillates. At 3rd Street a mass of blue-shirted
Steelworkers waving blue flags marches down the street,
picking up dozens of stragglers. The police herd them
towards the only entrance to Biscayne Boulevard, near the
northern end of the sealed off union rally.

The rank-and-file Steelworkers by far seem the most
militant, some even covering faces with blue bandannas as
they walk past riot cops. Others, primarily older retirees,
seem to despise the archetypal anti-globalization protester,
commenting on how they can understand why the police
want to “crack a few heads,” as one put it. But in all,
most have simply traveled to Miami to voice dissent against
the FTAA. Many of them wear t-shirts that read, FTAA
Sucks. If the FTAA passes in full force, it will mean the end
of the U.S. steel industry and of business unions like the
AFL.

Biscayne Boulevard is an expansive, multi-lane street with
broad concrete and grass dividers with palm trees splitting
the lanes into opposite directions down the middle.
Protesters fill the boulevard, penned in on all sides by police.
Thousands of officers from dozens of agencies with
shotguns and riot gear, flanked by armored personnel
carriers and water cannons, all face inward at the crowd.
What appears to be some form of experimental crowd
control weapon sits on the back of a truck. It has a large,
black cylinder set on a swivel mount, attached to a portable
generator. It might be anything from a microwave emitter to
some form of sonic weapon or just simply a speaker,
although it hardly resembles a public address system.
Regardless, it sits there, unused. Speculation is often more
intimidating than knowledge.

I try to find my friends. The labor march will begin at the
Bayfront Amphitheater soon so I join the union crowd going
up the long, metal-railed walkway to the amphitheater
entrance. I run into Mike McClean from Bergen Action
Network.

“It’s good to see you,” he says. “But listen,
I’m worried. That cop is pointing at my friend here. I
don’t like it.”

Up ahead a U.S. Marshal points our way. Mike’s friend
wears a camouflage army jacket and does not look at all like
a unionist. The Marshal, along with several cops in riot gear,
pushes his way into the crowd. He points at Mike’s
friend. “You. You’re coming with me,” he
demands.

“Why?” the guy says. “What did I do?”

“Come on.” The Marshal grabs for him, pushing a girl
aside.

“What is he being arrested for?” People shout.
“What are the charges?”

Several people fall to the ground as cops knock them back.
Police push and viciously swing batons at anyone in their
path. I go to pull Mike out of harm’s way as another
officer begins clubbing the top of what is now a pile of
people. I feel a heavy crack against my shoulder and ribs as
an officer lays into me with his baton, sending me at a rolling
tilt straight into the crowd of unionists. Cops drag Mike and
the others away. A Steelworker with arms thick as logs
picks me up and positions himself between the police and
me. “Don’t get arrested,” he whispers.

Cops throw Mike to the ground and handcuff him,
then shoot him at point blank range with tasers five times.
He screams and his body contorts in pain. Another officer
stands with his shotgun pointed at the crowd, barking at
everyone to stay back. The crowd recoils and watches with
a terrible, tragic fixation. Everywhere, thugs rule the streets,
brutal thugs with batons and guns and badges. There is
nothing I can do.

With little hope of finding my friends I start walking north
and west towards the convergence space. A short while
after I leave, all hell breaks loose on Biscayne. Police tell
people they can remain so long as they are peaceful, but
within seconds advance, firing volleys of rubber bullets and
tear gas grenades, firing indiscriminately into the crowd,
using tasers and shock shields on anyone who gets too
close. Some protesters make barricades out of wooden
pallets in a desperate attempt to hold them back. Fires are lit
from the rubbish left behind from the rally, but the police
have penned in Biscayne Boulevard. The people are
overwhelmed.

The city just beyond the perimeter is a ghost town. It
is a long, lonely walk through the empty streets to the
convergence space. There, at around 4 p.m. organizers make
an announcement: police have raided the medic space. They
entered and pepper sprayed everyone inside. There are
confirmed reports of arrestees being beaten or tortured.
There are indications that police will raid the convergence
center next. If you do not want to be arrested, leave the
convergence center now.

Everyone thinks of Genoa in 2001, the G8 protests
where police raided the IMC and beat protesters until blood
ran down the halls. To be arrested means to be tortured.
Dozens of people flood out into the streets of Overtown. At
least five police helicopters hover directly overhead. The
helicopters shadow people through the streets. Squad cars
travel in packs through the neighborhood. Officers throw
people against walls, beat them, dump their belongings into
the road and then cart the arrestees off. Local residents
flock to street corners to see what is happening.

A used clothing store is right in front of me, a different one
than earlier. I dart in through the doorway and nod at the man
behind the desk. He is white, an older man with a beret and a
graying ponytail. A button on his vest says U.S. OUT OF
IRAQ NOW. I know I can talk to him. I ask if it is okay if I
just hang out here for a little. He looks at me and says there
are some chairs in the back. The thumping sound of
helicopter blades echoes inside. After a few minutes two
men enter, one middle-aged and another in his thirties. The
older of the two looks at me and says hello, then goes
towards the front room. I decide it’s time to leave.

At the front entrance the middle-aged man turns to me and
asks in a booming, dramatic voice, “So, are you the one
they’re after?”

“I’m sorry?”

He continues. “Are you THE anarchist, the leader
of all this mayhem, the person who wants to destroy all
civilization and bring our wonderful society crashing
down?”

I don’t say anything.

“If George W. Bush were in front of you now,
what would you do? Would you spit in his face? Would you
throw something at him?”

I can’t tell if he’s joking or just crazy.
“I’m a writer,” I blurt out.

“A writer?” he says. “A writer? So you
come here to this fine community to write LIES about us like
all the others have? This community, built in 1886 by the
black folks when no one else would have them, then came
the Latin Americans and the Jews and the Cubans, the
Colombians and the Haitians. Are you going to write lies
about my friend here, because he is a Gypsy?”

His friend is starting to laugh. I realize he’s just
busting my balls.

“Hemmingway was a writer,” I respond.
“Some of his most sympathetic characters were
Gypsies.”

“Hemmingway,” he says. “Hemmingway
lived with Gypsies. Hemmingway fell in love with a Gypsy
woman.” The man looks out at the helicopters terrorizing
his neighborhood. “I hate these fucks,” he says.
“Look what they’re doing. But I apologize, wholly, for
my uncouth behavior. You must know who I am, don’t
you?”

I shake my head, meekly. His friend groans and slaps
his hand to his head.

“I,” he booms, “am the Advocate. And this
is the Advocacy Group. Did you know that when the City of
Miami wanted to bulldoze the black church down the road
here, they only wanted to pay them $12,000 for the property,
worth $600,000? But I lobbied and organized on their behalf
and got them $450,000 so they could build a new church.”
He shows me the newspaper clippings. “This is my
community, not theirs,” he says. “In the
sixties,” he explains, “I fought the cops in the
streets, too. I went to the Days of Rage with a motorcycle
helmet and a rolled up newspaper. We would sew our
pockets shut so the cops couldn’t plant anything on us,
but I will tell you a secret,” he says. “There are
better ways to fight.”

“Okay.” I have heard this speech before.
“When I am older and wiser, with d u e respect, I’ll
say the same thing. But right now, I’m young. This is the
way it is.”

The Advocate takes this in and just nods. Another
straggler from the convergence space wanders over, looking
up at the sky. “I suppose you want to come in, too,”
he says. The other guy just looks at him, not knowing what
to expect. “Well, come on in, we’re all friends here.
Make yourself at home. It will be a while before they
leave.”

I ask him for directions to the nearest metro rail stop.
Night is coming and I need to get back to camp. “Oh, you
don’t want to go through Overtown right now,” he
says. The Advocate calls his friend over and tells him to give
me a ride to the nearest metro stop. Once in the car I start to
put on my seat belt. His friend says not to worry about it.

“No law in the land is going to mess with us,”
he says and takes off.

For the trip back, first on the train and then on the
bus, I zone out. It is 10 p.m. before I reach camp. No one is
there. Nothing seems to have been tampered with. If
everyone has been arrested, I will need to stay here longer.
$10 per night per tent and I have forty bucks. That means if
no one comes back, I need to break down camp. I need to
call people back home and wire for bail money. I need to do
legal support.

It occurs to me that I am alone.

An hour passes. I see a pair of headlights as a van
rolls into camp. It is the Bergen Action Network kids, or half
of them. We talk. They thought I had been arrested with
Mike and the others. I ask if anyone saw my group. They
haven’t. Soon enough another van rolls in. It is the
“Green” van. Allie is with them. She tells me that
other activists were tailed out of the campsite that morning
and pulled over. Police arrested two kids on weapons
possession charges for the multi-tools they carried. She
insists that I sleep.

Nighttime on the tip of Florida is not like nighttime
elsewhere. The land is so flat that it seems you can see
straight to the horizon. The sky is dark and the stars are out.
Far to the northeast, the city lights of Miami create a haze
that overpowers everything else. At midnight it looks like the
sun is rising. The last lines from Albert Camus’ the
Stranger come to me: It was as if that great rush of anger
had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and gazing up at
the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars for the first
time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference
of the universe. And just like that I fall asleep. About 2 a.m.,
November 21, everyone else returns and wakes me up.

“I thought you were all arrested,” I tell Jordan.

“We thought you were arrested,” he says.

Sawblade nods. They talked with someone who said I
was arrested along with Mike McClean. Everything got
screwed up, the Padded Bloc never materialized and the
police were insane. From his hotel room overlooking the
fence, John, our aerial scout, watched as police opened fire
on everyone who approached. Groups were bringing the
fence down, but people aren’t bullet proof. It could have
been worse. I nod in agreement. That night we post watch.
Bergen Action Network takes the first shift, followed by
Badger and me and then Sawblade and me. No one else
takes it seriously. They figure if police want to raid the
camp, they will, whether we are watching or not. I don’t
sleep.

The next morning at 11 a.m., after everyone wakes
up, Danny from Baltimore notices a strange guy in slacks
and a dress shirt standing at the edge of our campsite,
watching us. Danny goes up to him and asks if he can help
him with anything. The guy tells Danny that he really
shouldn’t be asking him that.

“That guy is cop,” Danny says to the rest of
us.

Jordan and Walter go over to talk to him. The man
says that someone stole his cell phone last night from his
car and that he’s going to call the police. We all know
what that will mean. Jordan comes up with an idea. This is a
county campground but the campsites are legally considered
private property; police need a warrant to search them. At
his suggestion, all of us go down to the camp office to talk to
the woman in charge of running the camp and tell her about
it. As we approach the office, we see fifteen Miami-Dade
squad cars with twenty officers formed up in front of them,
wearing bullet proof vests and holding clubs.

Louise, the camp manager, tells us the man who
called the police is not even camping here. She doesn’t
know who he is. She also says that she knows we’re
good kids and will help us however she can. Jordan and
Walter go up and ask to speak to the officer in charge.
Jordan explains to her that we don’t know who this guy
is, the one who reported his cell phone missing, but he
isn’t camping here. We have notified a legal team of our
situation. Jordan goes on to make it very clear that if they
really want to pursue this and search our camp, it’s
going to be very messy, legally, for both of us. We will be
writing down every badge number and examining the search
warrant very closely. They do have a search warrant,
don’t they? Of course, individuals will be held
accountable for any and all police misconduct. This county
could be hearing a lot from us.

And it works. The officers are overheard saying that
they will get into a lot of trouble for doing this and that a
“stolen cell phone” isn’t worth it. One by one and
within ten minutes, the police cars leave. Jordan called their
bluff.

Some of us want to leave today while others want to
do support work back at the convergence space. We decide
that each van will leave separately, one today and another on
Saturday. Anyone who needs to be back soon should be on
the first van. The rest of us are staying another night, at
least. While no one trusts the campsite anymore, we agree
that it’s our best bet for right now. One van goes into the
city to the convergence space; the other packs up and heads
home. Allie, Madmartigan and myself stay at camp to make
sure no one comes back.

Later that day someone from Bergen Action comes
up to us. “Guess what I found?” he asks me. While
they were breaking down camp they found a dime bag of pot
stuffed under an outside corner of a tent. They flushed it
down the toilet. The strange guy, the stolen cell phone, the
police cruisers arriving within five minutes of his phone call;
it all made sense now. We have eight tents spread all over
the place. I run like a madman and shout for help to move
them. One after another we pick the tents up and look
beneath them, but we don’t find anything. I’m not
taking any more chances. We rearrange the camp, nice and
tight, with all the tents in a circle around the camp grill in the
middle of the field to give a good open view of our
surroundings. We even bring a picnic table over. That night
before the others get back, Allie, Madmartigan, myself and
three of the Bergen Action folks feast on no-name brand
soda, chips and some miso soup we cooked up. Allie even
got a bottle of wine and now I don’t feel quite as bad.

Everyone else comes back. The mood changes
slightly. Sawblade wants to talk with me. He and Betty are
not coming back with us. Patrick might stay too, until
everyone is out of jail. “They’re torturing
people,” he tells me. “I don’t know who to talk to
about this. All the APOC people are being singled out in jail.
There are at least five confirmed cases of sexual assault.
Our people are being raped in jail.” Police brought
immigration authorities into the jails, going after people of
color. Queer and transgendered activists are also being
assaulted. One APOC was beaten severely with a hammer
and went to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage. “We
need to get them out,” Sawblade says.

A short distance away, some people from Baltimore
are getting rowdy. I go over and ask them to be quiet.
Everyone deals with things in different ways, I tell myself.
Five minutes later, they are being noisy again and I lose it.

“Will you guys shut the fuck up already, what the
fuck is the matter with you?”

“What?” Danny says. He’s drunk.
“Fuck you, man. Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Our people are being fucking tortured in jail and all you
can think to do is be a stupid, drunken shit,” I growl.
“One of your friends is in there and you aren’t doing
shit to help him.” The words are mine but the voice
comes from somewhere else. It pours derision on them,
vents rage at everything that is happening, dumps scorn on
everything in its path. Morninglory breaks down in tears.
I’ve sent them over the edge, sobered them up and
broken their spirits. It accomplishes nothing. I disengage and
storm off, back to Sawblade and Betty, back to reality.

It’s often very hard to gauge what experiences
like this take from you, but also what they give. They bring
you to a physical and emotional breaking point where the
only things you have to hold onto are yourself and your
friends. And they stop being just friends at that point, often
hundreds or thousands of miles and years from where you
began. Somewhere they become your brothers and sisters,
your comrades. And it ceases to be a cause or an issue to
you; it becomes the movement. It gets in your blood.

I sit down next to Sawblade. “I shouldn’t have
done that,” I say.

“What should you have done?” he asks.

“I don’t know.”

The next day, November 22, we get up early and
begin packing our things. Check out for the camp is at noon.
We head into Miami for what is the last time. The
convergence space is still buzzing, although spirits are
diluted. People are getting out of jail and filtering through.
The threat of a raid seems less immediate, but still a
possibility. Fifty people were arrested the day before while
waiting outside of jail for their friends. Our group sets to
work doing jail support, bail coordination and fund-raising.

The famous I.W.W. organizer, Joe Hill used to say that a
pamphlet is read at most, once, but a song is memorized and
sung over and over again. In between meetings and phone
calls for fund-raising, Madmartigan comes up to me.
“I’m working on a new verse for the Tear Gas
song,” he says. “Would you mind singing it?”

The song, “When the Tear Gas Fills the Sky,” began
in Seattle. Written by Desert Rat while he was in jail, many
others have since added it to over the years. A friend of mine
learned it from Desert Rat and taught me how to sing it. The
chorus goes like this:

So I called upon you brother, and you asked what I would do,

And I told the truth dear sister when I spoke these words to
you,

I will stand beside your shoulder, when the tear gas fills the
sky,

If a National Guardsman shoots me down I’ll be looking
him in the eye

I will wash their pepper from your face and go with you to
jail,

And if you don’t make it through this fight I swear
I’ll tell your tale.

I will stay with you in the prison cell in solidarity

And I will not leave that cursed room ‘til you walk out
with me

For we the people fight for freedom, while the cops just fight
for pay,

And as long as the truth is in our hearts we’re sure to
win someday.

I will not falter when that iron fist comes out of the velvet
glove,

I will stand beside your shoulder to defend this land we love.



I sing this in the courtyard of the convergence space and
soon dozens of people pick up the words. There is a point
when everyone breaks down, eventually. Sometimes it
doesn’t hit until much later, sometimes it hits fast. You
do what you can in between.

Jordan is trained as a medic, but right now we need
dishwashers, so off he goes to wash dishes, no complaints. I
go to the sink to rinse out my cup.

“Hey,” he says, “you want me to do that?
My hands are already wet.”

“No, I’m just rinsing it,” I say.

“Oh, okay. Hey you got something on your
shirt.”

I stare at him, ready for a trick.

“Yeah, look.” He makes a face. “I’m
not going to do anything,” he says and goes back to
scrubbing.

I look at my shirt. There’s nothing there.

“Made you look.” He whistles.

About this time, people start shouting. The gate is
shut and locked.

We’re being raided.

Everyone runs inside, curses and looks out through the iron
gates on the far side of the building at nearly fifty bike cops
who rode down Miami Avenue and blocked off the cross
street. They give the finger and taunt. “Put that on your
website, bitch!”

People panic, going in different directions. Older
activists want to negotiate, younger ones want to stand and
fight. Immigrants among us are at major risk. Sawblade and I
move immediately to switch clothes with a few APOC
friends and do what we can. If they raid, we go down
defending our comrades. People return the taunts of the bike
cops with shouts of “Rapist!” Many people are just
freaking out. This is it, the last straw. We’ve had enough
of it. Fuck Florida, fuck Miami and above all, fuck the police.
Some people made signs earlier begging for rides
“Anywhere but Florida,” or “Get me out of this
Hell State.” No love is lost.

Almost as suddenly as they arrived, the bike cops
inexplicably ride off again. “When you come back for
your trials, we’re going to fuck you up!” they shout.
They had a saying: you can beat the rap, but you can’t
beat the ride. They knew the charges wouldn’t stick.
Instead of folding, a lot of us hardened. With all of their
manpower, weaponry and money they might win here, but
they will never persuade.

It is November 23, 2003 and we have just crossed the
Florida state line. We are now in Georgia. A cheer goes up
through the van. Jordan has driven for eight hours now,
running on energy drinks and bad conversation: I was riding
shotgun and nodded off for a while. Leaving Miami we
picked up two traveler kids, Rat and Minerva. We had the
space after Betty, Sawblade and Patrick chose to stay. Both
have hiking packs and their clothing is covered in patches.
Travelers are a tribe apart from us city folk, sort of modern
day anarcho-punk hobos. They’re solid and we’re
happy to help them out.

Morninglory requests Against Me!, track 3, We Laugh at
Danger (and Break All the Rules). As the song plays we
scream the refrain until our lungs give out.

“Maaaaaary! There is no hope for us!”

“If this GM van don’t make it across the
state line!”

“We might as well, laaay down and die!”

“Because if Floooooorida takes us, we’re
takin’ everyone down with us!”

“Where we’re comin’ from, yeah!”

“Will be the death of us!”

At the first rest stop we take bathroom and smoke
breaks. Jordan looks exhausted but says he feels fine.
Whenever he drives to actions, he brings along this cheesy
pirate hat he got working at Six Flags Great Adventure that
he makes the driver wear. (He was the guy in the Bugs
Bunny outfit.) The hat sits on the dashboard now. Everyone
stretches and we watch as a local Sheriff’s car drives
by. Jordan has a really funny shirt that gives me an idea. It
says: gay as in happy, queer as in fuck you.

“You know I have a great thing to say if we get
pulled over,” I tell Jordan. “We should just say
we’re counselors taking psychiatric patients on a field
trip.”

“Oh yeah,” he says. “Madmartigan can be
the school nurse, since he has an EMT shirt on. John is older
so he’s the psychiatrist...”

“Obviously.”

“Obviously,” Jordan continues. “You can
be the bad counselor who hits the kids and I can be the cool
counselor who gives everyone cookies.”

“What is this you’re talking about?” Allie
asks.

“Quiet,” Jordan says. “You’re
supposed to be a mental patient.”

“Well what do I have?” she asks.

“Uh, I think we all have Oppositional Defiance
Disorder,” Madmartigan interjects. “Seriously,
it’s in the DSM IV, I’m not making it up.”

“Shit and I wanted Tourrette’s,” Allie
says.

We get everyone together and load up again. It will
take at least another sixteen hours of driving to get to
Baltimore and from there it’s a four hour drive back to
New Jersey. Halfway through South Carolina, Jordan says
he needs to switch with John. He doesn’t feel well and
his hands are tingling. He thinks it is from the lack of sleep
and the energy drinks, so he just asks to lie down on the pile
of packs next to the sliding door. Over the border in North
Carolina, Jordan motions to Madmartigan. He’s running a
very high fever. He’s shaking and he says he can’t
feel his hands.

“Somebody call 911,” Madmartigan says.
“Get directions to the nearest hospital.”

John guns it, following the directions. The closest
hospital is in Smithfield, near the exit for Selma off Route 95,
about eight miles away. Johnston Memorial Hospital.

We pull up in front of the emergency room and
Madmartigan rushes in to ask for a gurney. Jordan can’t
feel his hands. He’s thirsty and his neck is stiff. After
several minutes, not a gurney but a wheelchair is brought out
and Jordan is moved inside. We all have a sense of urgency.
I hold onto his cell phone and wait outside.

Jordan gets a call from Greg, a friend back in New Jersey. I
explain our situation to him. “God,” he says. “Is
he okay?” Greg says he knows people in North Carolina,
if we need a place to stay or anything else. He will call back
once he gets a hold of them.

Walter comes out for a moment. Jordan’s fever is very
high, but they don’t think they will have to admit him.
The doctors are pretty sure it’s the flu. Walter thinks I
should call Jordan’s parents. Making the call I cut
straight to the point. Your son is being admitted to the
hospital. They think it’s the flu. Allie is out here with me.
We sit down and try to calm ourselves. The phone rings;
it’s Greg. He gives me the phone number of someone he
knows in Raleigh. If we need anything, Greg wants us to call
back at anytime, no matter what. Jordan walks outside,
holding a barf bag. A gauze mask covers his face on which
he has written in magic marker, FLU!!! He wants to go home.

It is November 23, around 11 p.m. and we are getting ready
to leave Johnston Memorial Hospital. Jordan, Walter,
Madmartigan, Allie and me talk about what to do next. We
feel it is best if Jordan stays here for the night and not travel,
as long as at least one person can stay with him. Since Allie
and Madmartigan are our medics, they offer to stay. I tell
them about Jim’s place in Raleigh. Jim can pick them up.
Here is his number. Everyone else wants to leave. The van
needs to get back to Baltimore by 8 a.m. tomorrow. Jordan
agrees. He’ll wait and stay in Raleigh, coming back the
next day.

People make their farewells and shuffle back to the van. I
stick around for a moment to say goodbye. Jordan is lying
down now, head against his backpack on the sidewalk. He
looks up and says, “I’m never taking that pirate hat
to another action. It’s just bad luck.” I nod and smile.
He raises his fist up to me and I return the gesture, bumping
my knuckles against his.

Of our original group only Walter, Badger and I remain. We
get home to New Brunswick on Monday morning, November
24. At our friend Maya’s house we get more news.
Jordan has been admitted to another hospital, this one in
Raleigh. He has meningitis. They’re doing tests on him.

Tuesday morning, November 25, my roommate wakes me up.
Maya is at my apartment. We need to go to the hospital.
Jordan has bacterial meningitis. We go to the hospital.
Badger had been there earlier. The CDC directed the hospital
to administer antibiotic shots to all of us as a prophylaxis
against the meningitis. Jordan’s case is the worst the
CDC has ever seen. That day we receive another phone call.
Doctors told Madmartigan that Jordan has a five-percent
chance of making it through the night. Maya, Ed and Julie,
Walter’s housemates and friends of ours in ARA, all
want to go to North Carolina. We leave in Julie’s car as
soon as she gets out of work.

That night, ten miles outside of Baltimore on Route 95,
Julie’s battery light goes on. She asks if this is bad. I tell
her it means that her alternator just crapped out. We call
AAA to get the car towed, but the nearest service station
doesn’t open until 8 a.m. the next morning. We call a
friend in Baltimore who picks us up and gives us a lift to stay
at another friend’s house. Around 2:30 a.m., Maya and
Julie look at each other. Something is wrong. It felt okay until
then. At our friend’s house in Baltimore, we can only
wait.

It is 7:30 a.m. on November 26 and we’re ready to go to
the service station. Julie gets the call. She doesn’t have
to say it; she just starts crying and the waiting is over.

Last night, all the radiators at Walter, Maya and Ed’s
house overflow, flooding bedrooms on the first and second
floors. When I met Jordan two years ago for the Inauguration
protests, the first thing he did was suggest that we name our
affinity group La Resistance, after the kids in the South Park
movie who flew an anarchist flag. Everyone wanted the
Mole as their action name. Last summer before Jordan went
to Chicago for a month to do union organizing, he made all
his friends promise to avenge his death, should he die. Last
night at 2:30 a.m., our friend Jordan passed away.

Perhaps for our generation, this is the way it is. Carlo
Giuliani died at the age of 23. Rachel Corrie was 22. Jordan
Feder was 23. We have no Kent State, no Haymarket. Our
friends were not the first to fall and will not be the last. We
came of age knowing that the world does not, in fact, belong
to us. We may lose, but that doesn’t mean we
shouldn’t try. Jordan did not die while stopping police
from harming his friends, nor did he die while putting his
body in harm’s way to improve the lives of others. He did
both of these things and lived to sing about it before he left
us. As time passes his friends will say, it is a month since
Jordan died, it is a year since Jordan died, it is five years,
and so on. He was the kind of person you wait your entire
life to meet.

Until we meet again.




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