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(en) US, Report from Unconventional Action Carolinas Consulta, May 12-13

Date Thu, 31 May 2007 11:39:26 +0300


On May 12th and 13th, a faction of Unconventional Action hosted a Carolinas Consulta in Chapel Hill, NC, as a way for anarchists and anti-authoritarians from across the Carolinas to develop strategies for resistance against the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2008. Here we present the results of those discussions. --- This was also intended to deepen the broader personal and political networks of solidarity and mutual aid across the Carolinas and to share news and feedback about local struggles.
It may seem strange to organize a gathering primarily focused on mobilizations so far in advance. We believe it is important for anarchists to be developing our own strategy for the conventions right now: both so that we are not forced to act within a framework of authoritarian and/or reformist-led permitted marches, and so as to spark a new dialogue that brings the failures of capitalism and electoral politics to the forefront of public debate. By strategizing, coordinating, and organizing early on, we can seize the initiative and create a situation conducive to accessible, participatory direct action.

This cannot be a closed-door process. We believe a good strategy enables a wide range of groups with different skill-sets to coordinate and integrate a range of tactics, in a way that respects and encourages the autonomous decision-making of those groups. Past experience has taught us that it is unrealistic to expect hundreds of people from different parts of the country to be able to develop an effective strategy at a last-minute spokescouncil held two days before we hope to shut down an entire city center. Ideally, affinity groups across the country should know exactly what their roles will be many months in advance, so they will come mentally, physically, and tactically prepared to fulfill them.

Although a strategy must be publicly determined and widely known, tactically, individuals and groups of friends decide what roles they will play within it, and only they need to know the specifics of what they take on.

Here we present summaries of some of the presentations and discussions that took place, along with two of the strategy proposals that came out of the consulta. These are the result of our discussions and info-sharing, as well as contact with local organizers in Denver and the Twin Cities. They by no means represent all of the discussions that went on at the consulta or all of the wishes of those who participated; that would take a much more detailed report. This is meant to open further dialogue, not to be the last word on the matter. It is our hope that others will develop their own amendments and counter-proposals and bring them to the pRe-NC in Minneapolis this September, where a final strategy can be consensed upon and made available across the country. Even then, such a strategy is not binding upon anyone, of course—it simply offers an opportunity for people to plug into something bigger than themselves.

Goals for the Protests
distilled from brainstorming early in the consulta

To be inspirational, energizing, inclusive, and relevant to everyday life
To remind people of the government’s failures and manifest a viable alternative to the two-party system
To organize actions with a clear message, that are self-replicating—i.e., that offer a model that can be repeated in other contexts
To create sustainable structures and momentum that continue beyond the protests
To shut down the cities, delay and disrupt the conventions and media coverage To deter cities from wanting to host the conventions in the future
To respect and work with local people and movements on their issues and concern
To support community projects and local organizations in the host cities
To provide awesome medical and legal care for everyone involved
To focus on the themes of “No War, No Warming” and “No Borders”
To offer space for a range of tactics to provide opportunities for all varieties of activists
To use the media to our advantage

Denver

From August 25th through 28th, the Democratic National Convention will take place in Denver, CO. Currently, the city of Denver is planning on spending $50 million just on security. The convention will be happening at the Pepsi Center, and the nearby Auraria Campus has been rented out in its entirety—presumably for large events and to house some of the delegates. However, the fancy hotels in Denver are located closer to the financial district; they include the Four Seasons, the Adams Mark, the Marriott, and the Brown Palace. For traffic to move through the city, Speer, Colfax, and Broadway are the main routes through the city center, as well as access to I-25. As of now, all of the places of note are within about a two-mile radius, unless delegates stay at even fancier hotels in the surrounding areas.
The Denver-based organization, Recreate68, has already started organizing against the DNC. They are calling for “Days of Resistance”—four days of themed protests (themes, not yet announced)—and a “Festival of Democracy”—four days of free music, food, and skill-sharing—to coincide with the convention. Although locations have not yet been decided, the Civic Center Park and the City of Cuernavaca Park are likely gathering places for rallies and demonstrations.

We talked about having a coordinated day of action, themed “Denver’s Day Off,” to shut down the city on the first day of our mobilization. This could include multiple marches (coming from the north and southeast) converging to support blockades around the Pepsi Center and the Auraria Campus. It was emphasized that the major day of direct action should be planned for the beginning of our mobilization, based on the lessons of earlier demonstrations; when direct action occurs at the beginning of a mobilization, it sets the tone for the rest of it, but when it occurs at the end, it is usually isolated and unsuccessful. Also, it is important to remember that because the DNC and the RNC are so temporally close together, that what we do at the DNC will affect the RNC.

Some further specific proposals included a big critical mass, a reclaim the streets, a march against police brutality (on account of Denver’s history of police violence), and coordinated actions targeting corporations that support or benefit from the financial infrastructure of the DNC. There was also interest in squatting actions and redistribution of resources to locals in Denver, as well as general discussion of how to establish positive connections with local communities.

The Twin Cities

From September 1st through 4th, the Republican National Convention will be hosted in St. Paul and Minneapolis, MN. It is currently estimated that 100,000 protesters will be present along with 45,000 politicians and their lackeys. RNC Welcoming Committee, a group of Twin Cities-based anarchists, has already been organizing for many months, mainly with a focus on logistics and infrastructure-building. While the primary RNC events will take place inside a perimeter fence in downtown St. Paul, 10,000 of the 45,000 delegates will be staying in Minneapolis along with the capitalist media, and the Minneapolis Convention Center has been rented out for large events. These two cities are about 12 miles apart, separated by a wide river spanned by 5 bridges and connected primarily by Interstate 94. For these and other reasons, many believe that the RNC presents strategic vulnerabilities unique to any trade summit or party convention of recent years.

Points of interest in Minneapolis include the Minneapolis Convention Center, in downtown, which will host “the delegate experience,” a week-long event; the Minneapolis Hilton, which is located just northeast of the Convention Center at 1001 Marquette St. and will be the headquarters of the capitalist media throughout the week; and the on/off ramps of I-94, located just southeast of the Convention Center. This is the only nearby access to I-94, which is the primary route delegates are likely to take back and forth between St. Paul and Minneapolis. There are five bridges between the Twin Cities that delegates might use, the main being Cappelan Memorial Bridge, on which I-94 runs.

Because we currently know very little about “the delegate experience” or other events in Minneapolis, our strategy discussions centered mainly around possible blockade sites between the cities such as these bridges, I-94 on- and off-ramps (which are narrower), and key intersections surrounding the main RNC site in downtown St. Paul. That site is the Excel Energy Center, which, along with the Saint Paul Hotel, will be surrounded by an unknown length of security fence. Projected perimeter fence scenarios can be found on the RNC Welcoming Committee’s website, but in no projected case will the fence contain the key intersections on Kellogg Blvd. and University Ave., the two downtown I-94 off- and on-ramps, or the large 8 by 8 block financial district to the East, adjacent to the Saint Paul Hotel. We also know that a local anti-war group is planning a permitted march on Sept. 1st and RNC Welcoming Committee folks are communicating with them.

One possible strategy for the Twin Cities involves multiple, simultaneous actions on the first day. This could mean 20-30 blockades on key intersections around downtown St. Paul, with a special focus on the narrow on and off ramps of I-94; these could be organized according to a variety of tactics and preferred levels of confrontation. Further blockades could occur simultaneously at key locations on routes between the two cities. Finally, a large critical mass bike ride could descend from Minneapolis to St. Paul on I-94, just in time for rush hour traffic. This strategy was popular because it is simple and easy to comprehend, deals with one of the major problems of past mass mobilizations (where consecutive rather than simultaneous actions proved easy for police to isolate, disperse, or prevent), and provides opportunities for a wide range of people with different approaches and different levels of tactical experience to work together. In our discussions we thought it might make sense for militants to be concentrated in the tighter areas of downtown St. Paul, while civil disobedience such as lock-downs could be used to block wider routes in between the cities. However, this strategy is not dependent on such a situation, and allows for affinity groups to decide autonomously how best to blockade their specific targets.

We also discussed the possibility of a direct approach to the security fence, deciding that approaching from the East would make the most sense given that the Saint Paul Hotel borders the fence on that side, and that would allow for a march through the financial district. Also discussed but not factored into a formal proposal was a night-time “anti-ball.” One final note: we did not name many specific locations for blockades—not because they do not exist, but because until other strategy proposals emerge and more outreach is done we want this proposal to remain flexible and open.

Next…

Along with discussing strategy ideas for the conventions, we also started forming groups to research the infrastructure of the conventions, to develop internet communication, to write and compile resources for a multi-media DNC/RNC 2008 workshops kit, to publish propaganda, and to create educational and inspirational travelling roadshows to prepare folks for the conventions.

The Carolinas Consulta was organized in part to encourage other regions to do the same, because we believe that the process by which we coordinate strategy proposals and organizing can result in anarchist networks and infrastructure that will last long after the Democratic and Republican Parties are dead and gone. These networks and infrastructure are at least as important as shutting down the conventions. To that end, we encourage others to organize consultas in their regions, to publish and distribute materials about the conventions, and to initiate dialogues with other groups and individuals.

What’s next? Once the strategy discussions have reached a certain point, it will be time for smaller groups to think tactically—to figure out what they are capable of and interested in doing. It will also be important to put on direct action trainings, medic trainings, and legal workshops, and to produce outreach materials. Finally, fundraising will be important: for local organizing groups and legal funds, for transportation costs, and for expenses such as maintaining convergence centers in the host cities.

unconventional_action@mountainrebel.net (website soon to come)
recreate68.org
pReNC@riseup.net
nornc.org
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