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(en) US, Fresno, Alt. Media, Community Alliance newspaper Article on Modesto based DAAA Collective

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 5 Jan 2005 23:08:05 +0100 (CET)


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News about and of interest to anarchists
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Anarchist Movement, Groups and Organizations "Anarchism is
based on the idea that organization does not require rulers" that
people can get together and deal with all the problems facing them
without an authority directing them. Only for those who think that
the only way to organize is to have a boss giving orders, does
"anarchy" mean "chaos." - from "Anarchists.... What We Stand For" (Direct Action
Anti-Authoritarians handout)
If I were to say that Modesto, California, is a wellspring of anarchist
activity, what assumptions could be drawn? One could assume
Modesto is subject to vandalism and random violence. But this would
only be an assumption. The fact of the matter is that these anarchist
activities include support for the impoverished, labor solidarity,
ethical ecology and information for the disfranchised.

Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians (DAAA), based in Modesto, is an
affinity group that focuses on anti-hierarchal community building.
Operating without leadership or rules, they strive to improve the
quality of life for all in their community through mutual aid and
education. Given the stereotypes associated with anarchism, here are
some definitions to help shed light on a rather convoluted subject.
The following are quotes taken from the DAAA outreach leaflet:

Direct Action: "Direct action is about empowering people,
it's about breaking from dependency on others to run our lives.
Direct action is any sort of action that works to directly stop or
change something."

Anti-Authoritarianism: "When we think about the core values
of this country that we treasure and love: freedom, democracy,
autonomy, it becomes clear that none of these things exist within the
current capitalist landscape. There's no freedom in renting
yourself out in order to survive... The things we truly strive for:
creation, love, meaning, accomplishment, community, self-worth;
these things are not commodities... They are only created in a
social relationship that lacks hierarchy, which lacks social class,
bosses, coercion, and illegitimate authority. Since we can't find
them in authoritarian structures, we're going to have to look
elsewhere."

Open movement toward freedom from oppressive rule. Well, there
we have it. This sounds rather agreeable. I spent a day with members
of the DAAA collective: Doug Gilbert, 20 years old, Brian Robinson,
32, and the Rev. Terry Clancy, 17.

Food Not Bombs projects aid the less fortunate by gathering citizens
to take action against waste and hunger (see ). DAAA has been
running Food Not Bombs meals in Modesto parks, providing "a
plate for the system's waste, and a banner and platform for the
poor to organize under." FNB is a movement without central
leadership or direction that feeds the poor without incentive or
religious affiliation, and gives the poor and homeless a place to
organize and make their needs known and harder to overlook. Food
gathered by FNB is liberated from the stigma of being
"trash," taken because it was otherwise discarded by less
appreciating establishments (i.e., through dumpster-diving and
donations). Trash from area dumpsters is reappraised and made into
hot vegetarian meals available to all.

On a Saturday, one of the days the DAAA feeds in Cesar Chavez
Park in Modesto, I lent a hand and helped them prepare that
day's meal. Carmella: "Where do you guys get the food
for the feedings?" Rev. Terry: "Trader Joe's
dumpster. Every day's like Christmas!" Every day,
perfectly edible food is thrown out by supermarkets and restaurants.
Doug: "And a friend of ours works in a bakery and gives us
what they would normally throw away."

One person's waste is another person's subsistence.
DAAA hosted a "Really Free Market" and offered free
food and clothing on Nov. 26 (Buy Nothing Day) at a busy
intersection. Items were donated, traded, and given away: food,
blankets, clothes, diapers, and toys were among the many items.
DAAA counted the event a success. As indybay.org reported,
"All in all, an autonomous zone, although short, was sustained
beneath the trees in a corporate shopping mall, not only through the
work of an anarchist collective, but mostly with the help of a
community that directly saw the benefit in sharing over competition,
and solidarity over class division." Unfortunately this sort of
compassion is rare. Rev. Terry: "We're an oddity to [the
people fed]. 'What church are you with?' Is this
community service?' 'You're not getting
paid?' "

The homeless are constantly harassed by local police and fined for
numerous dubious offenses, then subsequently driven from a town
because they can't afford to pay the fines. Food Not Bombers
are chased from one park to the next by cops and local
establishments because no one wants to "attract more
homeless."

DAAA responded to continued harassment by police and complaints
from a local church that shared space with the park they were feeding
in. Someone from the church had a car broken into, and blame was
instantly placed on the homeless, although evidence pointed to a
petty thief.

Doug: The situation was that the church called the police, lied about
the situation, and the police turned around and told the Good
Samaritans, (church group), to leave. They didn't say anything
directly to us, although the church did ask the police through
petitions to get rid of us and other people who feed in the park. Brian:
"Because they said there was 'too much
vandalism,' " he scoffs, giving the reason that the police
gave the Good Samaritans for making them leave the park in
response to the stolen purse.

DAAA has taken the initiative to "Reclaim the Parks"
with an occupation in Tower Park complete with feedings and
"Know Your Rights" education. In August of last year
DAAA helped organize a protest march of homeless and activists
from Tower Park to Graceada Park.

DAAA gave voice to many of the concerns of local homeless that
turned to the "aid" of Modesto Mission. Thanks to
Modesto bylaws, there's no alternative shelter, despite repeated
complaints of compulsory church service attendance, the strict
enforcement of sex separation"men and women are kept apart
from friends, family, and lovers, and being caught breaking the rules
means expulsion"and repression of alternative religious views.
A letter enumerating their concerns was published and sent to
Modesto Mission, inviting the mission to meet with them to address
the issues. (Find that letter at www.ainfos.ca/03/jul/ainfos00131.html.)

Sadly, some who were deterred by other homeless organizations from
joining the protest were instructed to voice their grievances through
"the proper channels" because it's best not to
'rock the boat'.

DAAA also lends its help to the organization of workers. DAAA
supports Stockton truckers organizing under Industrial Workers of
the World (IWW), showing solidarity for strikers and cheering them
on as they've gained nearly 70% of their demands. The IWW
truckers demanded that the DAAA supporters stick around after a
day of picketing during the strike when pizza showed up. Unity
means friendship: Rev. Terry (to Doug): "Remember how they
made us eat with them? They were really grateful."

Downtown Modesto, like most urban areas, is full of fun-seeking
youth and panhandlers trying to get by"particularly on
weekends. This poses a problem when these people stand in contrast
to an image that business and local government are trying to project.
The police have made it a policy to intervene with their "round
'em up, scare 'em out" policy, and this is where
Anarchist Cafe sets up against an empty wall in downtown Modesto between a
Jamba Juice and a Starbucks. There, DAAA provides free
information about injustice and self-empowerment against
oppression, and conversation (about everything from anarchy to
religion to neo-conservatism to pop music), flyers and zines covering
everything to organizing in the workplace, to newest copy of
'Green Anarchy', and free snacks. Brian: "Some of
their customers complain [about our presence], but the employees of
Jamba Juice usually defend us. They're really cool with us.
There's this one guy that works there who raises his fist and
says 'Freedom of speech!' He's awesome."
"Cool! Donuts!" comments a young passerby. "Can
I get one?" Doug: "Yeah. Everything you see here is free
for you to take. The information is free, but we have to ask for a $5
donation for the shirts."

DAAA procured donuts discarded from the local Krispy Kreme. Rev.
Terry: "We try to have some kind of free food every
week." The aforementioned shirts are do-it-yourself-style silk
screens using stencils made by DAAA to raise awareness and
revenue needed for small purchases for the group's various
causes; for instance, and most obviously, to make more shirts. The
designs include stencils from www.notmygovernment.com, (a
collective friend in the bay area), and PETA. Slogans include
"Oink, Oink. Stay in Line!" and "Meat =
Murder." A shirt showing unity for the Zapatista movement
depicts a masked Zapatista peering over "EZLN" in block
lettering.

"Copwatch" is a part of the Café and DAAA's
public activity. The group carries a video camera "just in
case," to monitor the activities of local cops, and try to record
arrests and general police harassment. Kids who have gotten to know
the group and what they're about report potential harassment
to DAAA. Rev. Terry: "Once I caught [the cops] arresting a
homeless man. So, I started filming it. They yelled at me and told me
I was violating Penal Code 148. We didn't know what that was
at the time. We know now that it's interfering with an arrest,
and we weren't breaking any laws by observing an arrest. They
detained me and lectured me. It was like an hour of dumb cop
talk."

After spending the day with people with whom I began to identify
with personally and politically, I began to wonder what brought them
to allegedly extreme conclusions and direct action. Carmella:
"So why anarchy?" Doug: "Anarchy strives for a
higher standard of living for everyone, while at the same time
maximizing personal freedom, and creating a better community and
'work' environment. It advocates a horizontal structure
of decision-making that includes everyone. Local solutions for local
problems. Environmentalism is essential to the movement. Rev.
Terry: "I've always been critical. Anarchy is open and we
all have a part. Most 'liberal' action works within a
system that perpetuates what liberals are supposed to be against.
Anarchy just makes sense. Mutual consensus and aid works on both
large and small levels." Brian: "I don't consider
myself an anarchist. Well, I guess I am, but I don't like labels. I
saw what was wrong and I'm trying to do something about it.
Eventually I just saw that this (anti-authoritarian) is the way I always
was."

DAAA sees the dismantling of authoritarian rule as the means to
meet a higher standard of living, in opposition to the idle wishing of
Central Valley towns for a Nordstrom's or an Ikea (as if our
problems will be solved through more consumer culture). The
betterment of a community depends on the health and contentment
of all its citizens"and DAAA Modesto is working to build a
community of mutual aid and independence governed by a real social
contract. They, and those like them all over the world, are working to
raise the standard of living locally, and networking to cultivate
solidarity globally.
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