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(en) US, Boston, Media, RELAX, AMERICA. ANARCHY IN THE STREETS AIN'T SUCH A BAD THING.

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 28 Jul 2004 16:34:41 +0200 (CEST)


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The Boston Public Library anchors one end of Copley Square, an
ornate old building with broad, low steps leading up. Inside, the
Massachusetts delegation of the Democratic National Convention
was holding its opening night party. Outside, a fife and
drum band (three children and a slightly exasperated-looking
older woman) played intermittently as delegates wandered in and
out of the doors. At the bottom of the steps, under the watchful if
passive eyes of a dozen cops, two protesters held up signs. One
read "Bush = Kerry," the other "Tweedledee / Tweedledum /
Tweedlewannabe -- who cares?" Holding the signs were Jamie
"Bork" Loughner and Jesse (who declined to give his last name).
They were anarchists.

In 2000, the presence of the protest community -- and
it is a community -- was felt almost equally at
the Democratic convention as it was at the Republican. The
prevailing wisdom from the protestors at that time (as well as
gadfly Ralph Nader) was that there was no difference between
either party, and that the whole system was corrupt. The
contested election that year, and the four years of unprecedented
upheaval since then, have devalued that argument to most
Americans, and the protests at the Republican convention in
New York in August are expected to be far more fierce than the
ones here. But don't tell that to Jamie and Jesse. They've heard it
enough already.

Jamie is a protester from Washington, D.C., whose activism on
behalf of that city's have-nots has made her well known both
among anarchists and the broader community. I asked her if it
was tougher being an anarchist with Bush in the White House.
"It's been tough being an anarchist since we started," she said,
"but recently they've been making more of an effort to demonize it."

Pic:
http://www.blacktable.com/images/0407pics/dnc/rabkin/jesse.jpg
Attention Policepeople, please do not beat up Jesse, the smiling
anarchist. Thanks.

Both Jamie and Jesse voiced their concerns that voters have
been sold on the "anybody but Bush" argument, without having
a real reason to support Kerry. Anarchists, along with all DNC
protesters, were, in their view, being marginalized by an
apathetic and resigned public.

Jamie told me that it had been more of a challenge to get people
to protest the Democratic National Convention with the
Republican convention so soon afterward. "Having
the two conventions back-to-back is hard on people," she said.
"Not everybody can take a month and a half off."

As we talked, delegates filed in and out of the library behind us.
For the most part, they ignored the protesters; those who did look
tended to give a slight smile. The reaction wasn't one of shock or
anger or even distaste. Instead, the delegates' reaction, when
there was one, was condescending: The protesters, their
expressions seemed to say, are barking at the moon.

But Jamie and Jesse were not deterred. Earlier in the day, they
had walked along Massachusetts Avenue, holding their signs.

"The reaction was 90 percent positive," Jesse said, grinning.
That kind of positive reaction was his fuel. As we talked, his face
would light up with quick smiles, one after another. As I took his
photo, he asked me if he should smile in the shot, saying, "I
usually don't smile when I'm protesting." I found it hard to
believe him.

"There are two things that would make me happy," Jesse said.
"First, if people would have the realization that the solution to
problems is not in the electoral system. Second, if people would
see anarchy not as people going around breaking things, but as
people who create things."

"I've never broken a window in my life," he said. "Well, not
deliberately, at least."

If you ran into Jesse in another context, you might think he was
a construction worker, with his powerful hands and broad
shoulders. But he works in IT, designing Web sites for small
businesses and social organizations. He used to separate his job
and his political philosophy, but he said that he now only works
for "people that I like." His beliefs have caused him trouble in the
past; he lost his job with a government contractor, Jesse believes,
because his employer found out he was a Wiccan.


http://www.blacktable.com/images/0407pics/dnc/rabkin/sign.jpg
Signs, signs, everywhere signs...

"Working for a contactor meant I had no employee rights," he
said. "Contracting becomes a customer relationship where the
employee loses rights while the system enhances the rights of
corporations."

As a cadre of police officers milled about, looking more bored
than menacing, Jesse said that the situation was "laughable."

"You just have to grin and bear it because it's business as usual,"
he said. At other major events, Jesse has worked to rehabilitate
low-income housing and, with environmental groups, has helped
publicize the leaching of toxins into the land around chemical
companies. With his easy grin and quiet humor, it was hard to
imagine him as a threat, and when a group of other protesters
briefly approached, Jesse waved his hand at them, laughed, and
said, "Do these people look like folks you should be scared of?"
They didn't.

Being a protester, though, often means being in danger. Jamie
was arrested while protesting the Free Trade Area of the
Americas talks in Miami; she filed a lawsuit against the Miami
police, stating that they had painfully rotated her thumbs in order
to get her to state her name. Jesse, too, acknowledged the risks:
"My daughter worries about me."

But here in front of the library, their interactions with the cops
were brief. "They asked us to get off the steps," Jesse told me.
"We did, and they've left us alone." I asked him he if planned on
going to the "Free Speech Zone," the infamous area where
organizers have attempted to corral all protestors. He laughed:
"I'm not going to put myself inside a razor-wire cage."

Half a block from the library, past a T entrance blanketed in a
huge CNN advertisement, is the Community Church of Boston,
which houses the Convergence Center and is the home base of
many of the DNC protesters. (It's where they cook their meals,
make their signs and, sometimes, babysit each other's children.)
The Community Church is what might be uncharitably described
as a storefront church, tucked between a liquor store and a trendy
bar and grill restaurant. The inside was hectic, with people
carrying supplies struggling to navigate the three flights of stairs. At the welcome
desk, I was told that the media would only be allowed in for two
one-hour periods, and that I would have to come back later. But
on this first night of events, there didn't seem to be much going
on at the Center; most of the protesters, I was told, were at a
"People's Party" in another neighborhood of the city.

Just inside the door, a sheet was posted with "SECURITY
CULTURE" in bold letters across the top. It was a list of do's and
don'ts, including a warning to "discuss sensitive information 'on
paper'" and to "immediately destroy the paper after the
discussion." Perhaps corporate America and the anarchists have
a bit more in common than they think.

pic:
http://www.blacktable.com/images/0407pics/dnc/rabkin/cnn_subway.jpg
Little known fact: America's Campaign Headquarters are located
in Boston's Copley Station.

A few moments after I took a picture of the building's exterior, a
female protester came up to me and brusquely asked me what I
was doing, telling me that "by consensus, there's a media-free
zone around the building," and saying that it had seemed like I
was taking pictures "sneakily." Standing in the middle of
Boylston Street during a lull in traffic is, of course, sneaky
behavior here in Boston.

If anything can be said to characterize Boston's DNC, it is this
culture of fear that has overtaken all sides. The protesters fear the
police will crack down; the police fear the protesters will grow
violent; the delegates fear any disruption, and Bostonians fear
that their city, their economy, and their lives will be turned
upside down for a week. All the while, of course, Homeland
Security would have us all fearing a terrorist attack.

There is little patience left, and little willingness on anyone's part
to step back and listen rather than shout. Those who aren't
avoiding Boston entirely already have their agendas, and the city
during the convention is one giant set-piece battle: Everyone has
marching orders and stares only straight ahead.

As I walked back to the T, a panhandler asked me for change. I
asked him how things were going with all the delegates and
protesters around. "So-so," he said. "Almost everyone ignores
me. The delegates do, the protesters do. A good day is one where
I make enough that I don't have to come out again for a few
days. This isn't a good day."

He paused for a moment, looking across the street at the
delegates streaming into the library, and then said, "Yeah, the
DNC's slammed Boston."


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