(Eng) Report from Active Resistance conference by Chuck

Chuck Munson (cm150@umail.umd.edu)
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 10:00:28 -0600

Active Resistance - Chicago - August 1996

"Don't go into the pen!!!"
"What's for dinner at the Ballroom today?"
"Damn, security is certainly tight at this conference"
"Is that black flag verlour or black velvet?"

August 27th, 1996
by Chuck0 Munson

I just got back yesterday from spending three days at the Active Resistance
Conference in Chicago. While there are still events going on this week, I thought
I'd share my thoughts concerning the weekend when most of the core meetings and
workshops were held.

Most of the conference participants I talked to considered the conference a success.
They were impressed with the overall organization of the events. Many thanks should
be expressed to the A-Zone crew and other folks for a job well done.

The conference had over 600 attendees as of Sunday. There were folks from all over
North America: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Lousiana, Virginia,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Toronto, and on and on. Active Resistance is definitely
one of the bigger anarchist events of this decade.

There were almost to many events to keep track of. I spent most of my time at the
workshops, the Ballroom, and hanging with friends. I made it to one rally and missed
most of the Countermedia and other cultural events and attractions.

The Autonomous Zone Infoshop (located on North in the Near West side of Chicago)
served as the registration facility and coordinating center for the event. The
A-Zone has recently moved into this new space, which includes a library and kitchen,
as well as the other furnishings befitting a meeting space. The A-Zone also
contained a message board, filled mostly with requests for rides, and various sheets
detailing workshop times and locations.

Most of the worshops, the core meetings, and the Free Skool took place at this old
factory which was dubbed the Spice Factory (maybe it really used to be a spice
factory). This three story space, which looked like it was in the middle of being
re-habbed, served as the main meeting space. A black velvet flag hung from a
flagpole out front. Mornings were the times for Workshops, which ranged from prison
issues to labor issues to healthcare to freighthopping. The afternoon was reserved
for the "Core" meetings. Free Skool workshops were held in the early evening.

The Core Meetings had to be the most interesting part of A.R. Here was an attempt by
anarchist to seriously talk about certain issues for several consecutive days. I
participated in the "Community Organizing" core, which included the same
participants over 4+ days and met in the same area of the factory. The three-hour
sessions including guest speakers such as Lorenzo Kombao Ervin, George Friday, and
Tom Knoche. The rest of the sessions were devoted to brainstorming, discussions, and
small group activities. One day I joined a small group which discussed the strengths
and weaknesses of the Infoshop movement. Other groups talked about Critical Mass,
Food Not Bombs, and the Anarchist Black Cross. By the end of all of this we had lots
of sheets of paper on the walls filled with all kinds of ideas and critiques. The
conference organizers even managed to type up all these notes every night, so they
could be photocopied and distributed to us during the next day's session. I've been
told that all the notes from the core will be assembled into a book that will be
available to all anarchist activists.

The other two cores, which I didn't attend, were "Collectives, Cooperatives,
Alternative Economics" and "Building Revolutionary Movements: Education and
Development." The structure of these sessions followed the framework that I
discussed for the "Community Organizing" core.

It's still to early to tell what kind of effects these workshops had on the
participants for the long run, but I think that many were certainly inspired by what
they learned and the the people they met.

Many of the social activities and all of the communal food activities were held at
the "Ballroom," a big warehouse loft located several blocks from the Spice Factory.
Dinner and lunch grub was cooked up by Seeds of Peace. It was very cool to see 200
anarchists lined up for food and then see them having a good time eating their
dinner. There were literature tables during the meals. Participants included
Perennial Bookstore of Massachusetts and Left Bank Distribution from Seattle. Some
informal caucuses took place during the meals and I'm sure that many friendships
were rekindled or started. The Ballroom was also home to a puppet-making area, a
multimedia area, and a fun dance held on Saturday night. One of my favorite things
was to go out back and sit on the train tracks and look at the Chicago skyline.

It should be mentioned that all of this took place only blocks away from the
Democratic National Convention being held at the United Center. Several protest
events are taking place this week in conjunction with that "Convention."

What was that about "Don't go into the pen!" that was mentioned earlier? On Sunday,
many of the A.R. participants joined with some local organizations in a march to
protest the war on immigrants. It wound up at the "protest pen", a fenced-in parking
lot near the DNC. This has been designated by the Democratic powers as the free
speech pen. Several of the local groups went into the pen, whereas the anarchists
stayed out in the street until we dispersed. A wise move.

Chuck Munson