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(en) US, Another Report From 2006 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering

Date Fri, 01 Sep 2006 09:08:25 +0300


BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - Workshops and discussions centered
around topics that varied from women's health, to sex toys, to
hand-to-hand combat, to insurrectionary direct action at the 2006
Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering held in Bowling Green, Ohio over
the weekend of August 19th and 20th. Perhaps the most substantive
thing to come from this radical convergence however, was a
reinvigorating sense of unity among regional anarchists.
People came from places like Columbus, Cleveland, Kalamazoo,
Michigan and Bloomington, Indiana, and one participant even
hitchhiked from Cincinnati to participate in the first gathering for
Great Lakes area anarchists in roughly a decade. Participants were
welcomed and housed by the local organizers, including members
from such groups as the type A collective, BG Anti-Racist Action,
and Toledo's October Fifteenth Anarchist Collective. Discussion and
workshop topics varied along a wide range of subjects, but generally
focused on improving the effectiveness of, and strengthening the
regional community.
The weekend's activities began Friday night, when several groups
arrived from out of town to meet up with locals and find a place to
crash. Locals and out of towners spent about two hours congregating
at the Grounds for Thought coffee shop/bookstore, relaxing and
getting to know each other before taking to the downtown streets for
a late night game of Capture the Flag. By around 2am people began
heading off to their sleeping accomodations, which took the form of
beds, couches, porches, and hardwood floors, to rest up for the next
days activities.

As Saturday morning rolled around, local organizers worked
hurriedly, carrying armfuls of boxes through residential and
downtown streets like a line of ants taking food back to the queen, to
make last minute preparations for the event that almost wasn't.
Only three days before the gathering was to take place at the United
Christian Fellowship community center, the president of the UCF
board, over the objections of the rest of the board, cancelled the
event, expressing vague, rambling concerns about possible violence,
and threatening to have any anarchists found on the property
arrested. The UCF and local anarchists had, over the years, formed a
strong, if unlikely relationship, with the top floor of the building
being used as an Infoshop/radical library, and the whole building
frequently hosting events such as Earth First! presentations and
Anti-Racist Action benefit concerts. The last minute objection from
the UCF president was unexpected and bizarre, and led to her forced
resignation, but left the 2006 GLAG organizers working frantically to
find a new venue. They were luckily able to secure several rooms in
the BGSU Student Union building, which provided ample space, but
also created a sterile, hospital-like environment for the event.
People from around the region continued to pour in as the first day
of the gathering kicked off. Anarchists and the curious took the first
hour of the day to introduce themselves and talk about their interests
annd influences. Participants included people of various ages,
genders, and socio-economic backgrounds, all with unique ideas
about how to improve the lives of people and the planet.
At noon the first of the schedules activities, an open forum
discussion on improving communications and networking ability
among the regional anarchist community, took place. Talk centered
around security concerns, increasing face-to-face interaction, and
improving electronic communications resources, and yielded the
creation of a new website. Late arrival from an Indiana Earth First!
group delayed the start of the next scheduled presentation and
created an impromptu lunch break, sending a flood of anarchists into
the tiny vegan restaurant down the street.
As the afternoon progressed, the activities schedule continued on,
staying mostly on time. The Earth First! I-69 Roadblock crew arrived
and gave an informative presentation on the proposed I-69/NAFTA
Superhighway project scheduled to begin construction in 2008, and
provided advice and literature to help people join in the fight against
the road which would destroy thousands of acres of wetlands and
forests throughout Indiana, and wipe out at least one endangered bat
species.
A workshop from Toledo art collective The Flatcap Conspiracy,
followed. Members of the group displayed an impressive knowledge
of the history and production of zines and self-publishing, and
showed off some finished products, mostly related to anarchism or
zombies.
Males were then evicted from the main room so that a women's
sexual and reproductive health workshop could take place. Issues
such as natural and alternative contraception and menstrual devices
and techniques were discussed among the women, while the men
mainly gathered in the literature room and played with a rubber ball.

The final two scheduled events of the day were a workshop put on by
Dr. Jeanine Pfahlert, on homemade sex toys, primarily butt plugs,
and a presentation on autonomous marxism and its relationship to
anarchism put on by University of Toledo professor Manuel Yang, in
which he suggested that Marx, in his later years, had begun to
gravitate toward a primitivist ideology.
During this last presentation a reporter from the Cleveland Scene
came into the room to take notes for a story on the event and the
regional anarchist movement. The reporter's presence caused some
tension, and at times minor hostilities. He did, to his credit, honor
the requests of those who wished not to be photographed, and
showed some genuine interest when doing a group interview with
some of the event organizers.
As the first day's scheduled activities ended, people returned to their
temporary homes to relax, eat a dinner provided by Toledo Food Not
Bombs, and watch some films, including the 1999 Seattle WTO
documentary Breaking the Spell, and a video of Toledo's 2005
October 15th Uprising. The group moved festively through the
streets as they left the BGSU campus, with at least one person
removing their clothes and jumping into a public water fountain.
Many, including the Cleveland Scene reporter, returned to the
university campus later that night to attend a concert featuring two
local anarchist punk bands. The nighttime walk across campus
served as a chance for some to release all the energy they'd stored up
by sitting inside most of the day, and several let their feral side show,
stripping off their shirts and giving chase to a rabbit, which they
apparently planned on making into a late night snack. The show,
which was held in a Women's Center conference room, was loud,
full of raw energy, and included an amazing and bizarre cover of the
B-52's Rock Lobster. Campus police, one of whom was stationed
outside the building and forced to listen, at one point tried to stop the
show, but were unsuccessful due to the fact that a permit had been
granted for use of the room.

The second and final day of the gathering got off to a late start, as
participants recovered from a late night of live music, outdoor
games, and crashing frat parties.
An eye opening critique of the public education system and
institutionalized schooling as a whole kicked off Sunday's workshop
schedule. Mikey Toledo, author of the soon to be released Human
Material, discussed the various factors that have coalesced to create
the life draining, mind numbing state of the modern educational
system.
A discussion of leftist tactics and organizations was next on the
agenda, and gave people a chance to share their experiences and
views on the historic connection, and the growing divide between
leftist groups and post-left anarchist.
There was a short break for lunch as an area group opposed to
factory farming prepared their presentation. The issue of factory
farming and industrial agriculture, a topic of particular interest to
people in the Great Lakes region, was discussed, along with
information on what can be done to effectively oppose it. With time
running late, the next presentation started almost immediately. The
Zionist-Palestinian conflict was the next topic of discussion. The
knowledgeable presenter spoke for more than an hour on the brutal
and bloody history of the state of Israel and its connection to British
Imperialism and United States foreign policy.
The hand-to-hand combat workshop, which had originally been
slated for the previous day, provided an unique, pragmatic approach
to self defense and martial arts training. Stating that it's virtually
impossible to glean or retain any significant technical know-how
from a single lesson, the professional full-contact fighter opted to
focus mainly on basic principles of hand-to-hand fighting and
providing guidelined to help people engage in further study.
A short presentation on improvised screen printing techniques
preceded the final scheduled activity of the weekend, an open forum
discussion of street tactics, direct action, and insurrectionary
anarchism. The group, which had by now shrunk to about half of its
peak size, shared opinions about what they viewed as effective
tactics, based on lessons learned through their various experiences,
as well as exchanging thoughts about where they saw the movent
going on local and regional levels. Talk often turned to examples
from other parts of the world, mainly of course, Greece. One
participant humorously recounted an exchange he'd had with an
Italian anarchist in New York City, in which the Italian described the
unwillingness of American protesters to raid an unguarded police
equipment truck as "the most depressing moment of my entire
fucking life!"

The night and the gathering ended with a walk to a local park,
during which, those remaining discussed edible plants and survival
skills, and some took one final chance to go feral and chase down
another rabbit. At least one burning American flag could be seen
hanging into the street as darkness set in. Farewells and promises of
closer connection were exchanged as new found friends parted
ways, taking with them sincere feelings of real community and,
perhaps, a greater appreciation of what we're really fighting for.
on accommodation costs, it makes for friendly contact among
members.
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