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(en) US, An Overview of Brunswick: One Anarchist's Impressions and Interpretations of the G8 Protests

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 13 Jun 2004 09:57:26 +0200 (CEST)


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The following report consists of a brief account of the activities
that I participated in while in Brunswick, followed by an analysis
of the events and their aftermaths.
A brief account of the events
I arrived in South Georgia late Tuesday afternoon. We were told
that about 150 people had marched against the Iraq war that
morning, and that the police presence had been "large but not
threatening" (I took that to mean not a lot of riot cops.) We
checked out the "Fair World Fair" at the Georgia Coastal
Community College, whose students had persuaded the
administration to make the courageous move of sponsoring the
fair. Then we drove to one of the Fix Shit Up (FSU) houses, a
project that grew out of the recent seanet conference in NC, and
where work was winding down for the day. Finally, after a quick
stop by the church where IMC had set up shop, we went to the
yard of a local pagan and set up our tent, then left for a scheduled
"vigil" against the war. This event's saving grace was
that some young anarchists entertained themselves by writing
"smash the state, no G8" in the sand of the nearby beach,
then began recruiting local kids by explaining anarchist ideas to
them in understandable terms. Shout out to ya, comrades.

The next morning we joined the FSU people, and spent half a day
scraping paint off of columns at a house slated to be a shelter for
poor pregnant teens.
(http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/06/11/9167856)
After a delicious, free vegan lunch, we took off for the enviro
march. We were late, but caught up with them at a local park,
thanks to being given a lift by some masked black blockers in a
mini-van. (Yes, it was as surreal as it sounds.) As we arrived a
pagan ceremony was taking place, and my traveling companion
commented that "This is a little bit granola-crunchy for my
tastes." Following the ceremony the crowd marched to the
gates of the Hercules Chemical plant. The plant is located across
the street from a school with no windows, a feeble attempt to
protect the kids from the plant's fallout. A festive die-in took
place, followed by a resurrection (presumably a pagan
innovation).

As far as I could tell, this ended the scripted part. Someone
yelled, "(name withheld) wants to go to the bridge", and
people started linking arms and marching toward the causeway to
St Simons island, led by a young black block contingent. The
atmosphere was electric, alive with possibility and danger. We
were met by cops, a stand off ensued, the drumming reached a
crescendo. I let out a primal scream and felt alive. Long after
having been informed that the permit was revoked and we must
disperse or else face arrest, the block negotiated a circular street
crossing with the police, and eventually the crowd drifted away.

The next day started with a storytelling circle. It featured people
who had been to Palestine, followed by a march to tear down a
symbolic "wall" at the intersection of the previous days
standoff, all apparently organized by some pagans. As we
approached the intersection, the black block apparently made an
impromptu decision to cross the now unguarded causeway to St
Simons. After a brief internal struggle, I declined to follow.
Returning to the permitted area, I found the main event organizer
badmouthing the block. Unsettled and vaguely pissed at both
sides, I left. Over half the march had followed the block, and I
didn't even bother to look for a "March for
Reparations" that was scheduled to start soon after, and that I
had planned to support.

I showered and began to prepare to travel to Savannah, to hiss
and boo at Bush and Blair's victory speeches. However,
when we heard that arrests had been made on St Simons
(http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/06/11/9424492)
we dropped our plans and joined the jail solidarity. When we
arrived at the courthouse, it was pouring rain and the cops were
searching a Canadian. They had been randomly checking
ID's, and had seen a passport. They threatened to arrest us as
we approached. My companion had no ID, so we left, but
returned when things were calmer. (The Canadian had not been
arrested.) We spent the evening playing Frisbee, getting
threatened by and ridiculing the cops, and mostly resting.

At 10 PM we were ordered out of the park. Why? "Because
my boss said so, that's all I know." I felt sorry for the
pathetic bastard. We had almost cleared the security zone when
the pagans starting grabbing hands and saying, "oh let's
dance before we go, let's do!" So we joined hands and
began a spiral dance, singing about bringing down the fortress,
swaying, chanting… all the while surrounded by a circle of
perplexed cops, who made no move to stop the festive
celebration. (The apparent boss started taking photos.) As the last
echoes faded, he lowered his camera and said, "Um, now
ya'll really are gonna have to leave."

(I was quick to cancel the trip to Savannah, and do jail solidarity
instead. This was because I had seen statements out of that town
that indicated some local organizers were being played for pawns
by the mayor and police chief, asking that "outsiders" not
damage their city, or carefully crafted relations with the local
powerbrokers. I was a little queasy at the thought of going to
something organized under such circumstances, and so was
quick to bail on that trip. So I was delighted, and more than a little
surprised when I heard that an unpermitted march of hundreds
was in a standoff with police.)

The next morning we said our goodbyes, and headed home to N
GA. (Later reports say that some people got arrested doing jail
solidarity in Brunswick that same day.
http://atlanta.indymedia.org/newswire/display/30312/index.php )
On the way home we bought a newspaper and learned that while
the men folk of the G8 talked about big important matters of
state, the "lil women", the wives of the world leaders,
went shopping on Sea Island. Now isn't that precious?

What went wrong? What, for that matter, went right?
The turnout for the protests was very small. Why? First, there
was the massive police presence, coupled with memories of the
brutal attacks in Miami. In the months leading up to the G8, this
led to anarchist calls for "autonomous direct actions." ( I
have yet to hear of any autonomous actions actually taking place,
and I am not surprised. What tried to sound like strategic
thinking, begins to appear as a strategic retreat.)

Based on my experience and perception (and I wasn't
everywhere) the actual oppression by the police in Brunswick was
small. The police activity that I saw had more the appearance of
intimidation, than of brutal attack. Reports are that a military
Humvees' machine gun was pointed at a an observer before
the protests began… but once they began I never saw a single
machine gun, only frames to mount them on. I saw convoys of
state patrolmen racing thru the streets with sirens blaring and
lights flashing, but I saw far less riot cops than in Miami. And riot
cops are the ones who attack. I saw less violence, but I heard
more threats. In short, this wasn't the Miami model, which
was an attack. Brunswick, I fear, was the beginning of the
occupation, the dawn of the police state as business-as-usual.

The police drumbeat leading up to the G8 accomplished its goal
of scaring away protestors. This had the interesting side effect
that, of those who did show, the majority were weighted to the
radical side, and tended to bold, decisive actions.

Another dynamic leading to the small turnout was the perception
of south GA as a rural backwater with no progressive community.
This was said to portend a small turnout, which proved to be a
self-fulfilling prophecy. Everyone thought that no one would go,
so few did. (Of the committed anti-globalization activists, though,
there were people from Canada, Belgium, France, and probably
elsewhere.)

What, then, was the effect of this small turnout? What does it
mean for the prospects for global justice organization, or for the
local organizers who put the protests together? The corporate
media (and even some indy media journalists) have declared the
global justice movement a corpse. This is surely premature, as we
will see when the focus moves to more "progressive"
locales.

More immediately, I can say that the Georgia progressive
community has built bridges for the future, especially between
Atlanta and Brunswick, and between the anarchists and pagans
(and possibly others). Had other areas been more involved, I
don't think that the locals would have been territorial. That is
to say, the "outsiders" would have been welcome to join
in the organizing, I'm sure. But as the locals were forced to
go it practically alone, for the reasons detailed above- this was a
southern organized protest, if not a strictly Georgian affair- it may
well be that the bonds that were forged are stronger and more
permanent. Nothing lends adhesion to a political movement like
surmountable adversity.

Moving from the matter of attendance, what of the controversy
about the black block actions? I will cop to some prejudice here: I
camped with some of the black block kids, and I really liked
them. Plus, they lent a lot of excitement to the affair, and I
admired their courage in challenging the restriction on entering St
Simons (which wasn't even where the summit was held, it
was a buffer island!)

Having said all that, I think the block should have at least waited
until the pagan's wall went down, out of solidarity with their
fellow protestors (Lets face it, their just weren't enough
people to be splitting up!) And even if they had waited, the march
for reparations would have been affected. What is most
distressing is the apparent lack of communication all the way
around. The criticisms of the block's actions that I heard, and
that I share were not about what tactics are appropriate, about
"good protestors vs. violent protestors". Rather, they were
found at fault for a lack of coordination and communication. This
portion of the protests played out like some capitalists bad parody
of "life under anarchy," all chaos and confusion.

Quite the opposite can be said of the FSU activities. They went
smoothly by all appearances, a model of communal functioning,
of individuals throwing in for the greater good of all, within and
outside of the group. As someone with platformist sympathies, I
particularly liked what I considered to be an example of the
assumption of collective responsibility. The FSU participants
came to an agreement on a media message, agreed on who would
deliver the message… then refused to allow the media inside the
houses except at certain times, and even then the blow-dried
talking-heads could only speak to the designated representatives
of the anarchists. In stark contrast to the divisive actions of my
friends in the Brunswick black block, and in spite of the youth of
the organizers, the FSU action was a model of anarchist political
maturity.

Such maturity was in evidence outside of anarchist circles as well.
The pagan organizer who was so pissed at the black block youth
for drawing people away from "her" event, having had
time to cool off, passed up an opportunity to bad mouth them to
the local press. She had only words of praise for all of her fellow
protestors, which I think was appropriate in light of the fact that
she was speaking to the enemy. I might be thoroughly angry at a
fellow activist or group, but I would never detail their failings to
the cops. The same standard applies to the press.

I heard rumors that some FSU people had an opinion about the
block actions, but I can not confirm this. If true, they are quite
capable of speaking for themselves, and I have yet to see any
statements to that effect. I did hear one woman who identified
herself as an indy media reporter (I don't know where from)
say "I am not even writing about the block. Blacks marched
in the streets of Brunswick today, and that is the big story as I see
it. Fuck those damn kids."

As they used to say in the newspaper of the small town where I
grew up, when reporting about some bougie social event,
"…and a good time was had by all." There was much
solidarity demonstrated, much human contact established across
ideological and geographical boundaries, and also more than a
few hurt feelings. For my own part, as one who has traveled to
Miami and DC to resist the global death machine, I was a bit
peeved that so few came to my home state to join us in opposing
the G8.

I will close with an emblematic anecdote. One of my fellow
campers made a gift for our host, a pair of hand-decorated cloths,
suitable for framing, that read, "I was at the G8 protests in
Brunswick. Where the fuck were you?
===================================
Copied from infoshop.org


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