A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
First few lines of all posts of last 24 hours || of past 30 days | of 2002 | of 2003

Syndication Of A-Infos - including RDF | How to Syndicate A-Infos
Subscribe to the a-infos newsgroups
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) We Can Do This: Direct Action against Global Capitalism and US Imperialism - An interview with anarchist organizer Ingrid Chapman By Chris Crass

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 18 Dec 2003 12:30:04 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
http://ainfos.ca/ http://ainfos.ca/index24.html

Ingrid Chapman has been involved in direct action organizing for
the past 4 years. At 23, she has helped pull off successful mass
actions, worked with thousands of activists around the country and
bases her work in the question, "How do we build broad based
movements capable of challenging global capitalism and US
imperialism?" While it is easy to get depressed about the state of
the world these days, those in power would also like us to forget
that the largest anti-war movement in history was mobilized this
past year and that global movements for justice are standing up
against capitalism. Ingrid Chapman is one of the many younger
generation radicals developing visionary politics and strategic
practice to build our movements.

CC: How did you get into activism and radical politics?

IC: Growing up in Yakima, Washington. It's a conservative town
where being a liberal felt like being a radical. In middle school and
high school I had feelings that things weren't right. I wanted to do
something but didn't know how to fight back. So when I went to
school at the University of Washington I joined a bunch of groups:
Student Greens, Students for a Free Tibet, an animal rights group
and Students Against Sweatshops. Then I started a group focused
on global warming working to get the University to divest from the
Global Climate Coalition. The GCC is a lobbying group made up of
Exxon-Mobile and other big oil and energy corporations trying to
keep the federal government from taking any action against big
business (they funded science research arguing global warming
doesn't exist). Sophomore year in school I got heavily involved with
organizing students against the WTO summit in Seattle.

Organizing around the WTO Summit had a big influence on me. I
worked with high school and college students in Seattle to get as
many people informed and mobilized to fight against the WTO
when they came to town. I worked with the Direct Action Network
to actually shut it down. We weren't calling for reforms, but for the
abolition of the WTO. Learning about the WTO and global
capitalism and working with so many different people for the direct
action protest really radicalized me.

CC: What does being radicalized mean to you?

IC: I started seeing the connections between different issues (that
others and I were working on). I started thinking about root causes
and some of the main causes being capitalism, racism and the lack
of real political power. It was clear that we could build power
through organizing, that most people are denied power in this

Protesting in Seattle was my first experience with large numbers of
people using their collective power to really fight back. After
Seattle, I quit school and immersed myself in global justice
activism. I went to DC for the IMF/World Bank actions and then to
Los Angeles for the Democratic National Convention. At that time
I was involved with a collective called Freedom Rising. Our goal
was to support local organizing of these big actions by bringing
skills and lessons learned from previous actions. LA was a big
learning experience. Issues around racism and white privilege of
white people like myself were brought to the forefront. There was
also a big effort to fuse mass action organizing with community
organizing by using the momentum of these large-scale actions to
highlight and strengthen local struggles for self-determination and
justice. The first time I started talking about issues of racism and
white privilege in activism was after the WTO protests, but I don't
think I really got it at all until I was confronted on it in LA. Working
on issues of racism in the organizing was a priority of the local LA
activists and organizers - many of whom were people of color. Ever
since I left LA, learning about racism and white privilege and how
it affects my own organizing and that of other white folks has been
a priority for me.

In 2001, five young white folks from the global justice movement
formed a collective called Active Solidarity. We formed to create
Challenging Racism workshops geared towards white activists to
explore how racism impacts our social justice work. The workshop
was originally created for the Institute for Social Ecology, a radical
school in Vermont where we had all attended summer programs.
Our collective settled in the Bay Area and we took the Challenging
White Supremacy 15 week workshop series and formed several
study groups to better understand how racism functions in white
sectors of social movements. Many white activists heard about
what we were doing and asked us to do the workshop in their town
and for their group. We became more organized and we created an
accountability council of organizers of color and experienced white
anti-racist organizers to give us feedback. This came from a
recognition that as white folks we do not have the best
understanding of how racism functions. Then we did a spring and
summer tour in 2002, doing workshops with activist groups on the
East Coast and in the Mid-West.

CC: What were you trying to accomplish?

IC: Racism acted out by and perpetuated by white folks has
historically and currently divided movements for social justice and
if we're ever going to really build a mass movement that will truly
challenge this fucked up system then we must confront the racism
within it. As white folks we must take responsibility for
challenging each other to confront our own internalized racial
superiority. That superiority stems from schooling, media and
everything in the dominant culture pushing the idea that white is
right, normal, the best. This can transfer to predominately white
groups thinking their way of organizing and activism is the normal,
right, best way and not recognizing all of the important community
and political organizing within communities of color. This must be
done if we want to be part of a mass-based movement that really
comes from the grassroots.

CC: You were heavily involved in the anti-war activism in the Bay
Area that shut down the financial district the day after war was
announced. How was that organized and what were the actions

IC: The action was organized through a spokescouncil model based
on affinity groups (AGs), which are small groups of people who
feel they can trust each other, work well together and share
common goals. A call had been put out months in advance for
massive direct action the next business day after Bush declared
war on Iraq. The goal was to stop business as usual in SF's
financial district. Many of us had gone to a lot of the big marches
and felt they were good, but that we needed to escalate our
response to the war. The call was put out by the spokescouncil,
Direct Action to Stop the War, with a menu of different key
intersections and corporations profiting from the war. People were
asked to form AGs and pick a target that they would disrupt.
People also formed clusters, which are groupings of AGs that
choose to work together. At spokescouncil meetings, which have
spokespersons from all of the AGs, coordination of the overall
action took place: who would be at which target, what kind of
action would it be, what was the tone at the action, did they want
support and so on. There were also working groups that took on
logistical tasks that were needed for the action to be effective.
Such groups worked on outreach, setting up the spokescouncil
meetings (finding spaces, developing agendas and recruiting
facilitators), legal support, medical, media, communications, and an
orientation group that helped orient new people to how the
organizing functioned and how to plug in before the action as well
as the day of. The spokes met every week for months leading up to
the day of action and each week more and more AGs were forming
and plugging in. Involvement ranged from faith-based groups, to
radical queer groups, to community based organizations, to people
who had never been involved in direct action before. There was one
spokes meeting at a union hall right before war was declared where
over 250 people showed up, many representing AGs and working

In the evening of March 19th, Bush announced to the world that
war had began. With intense emotions of anger, sorrow, guilt and
fear, an emergency spokes was held to coordinate last minute
details. At dawn on the 20th, over 100 AGs moved into positions
throughout the financial district. Groups used various tactics. For
example, radical queer group Gay Shame and Freedom Uprising, a
majority people of color cluster, blocked freeway on and off ramps
with furniture and their bodies. The anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist
cluster and many others used lock boxes to blockade intersections
and corporate entrances. Many people locked arms to form
blockades. While dozens of actions were taking place around the
city, one of the most effective tactics used by many was to rove in
groups of 10-400 people shutting down intersections, recruitment
centers and corporations. This forced the police to move all around
downtown, frequently helping us blockade streets trying to keep up
with us.

By 10am it was clear that we had stopped business as usual. The
SF police chief declared that anarchy had broken lose and that
people should avoid the area. He was right: there was anarchy on
the streets, and it was highly organized. There was no one person
calling the shots, but thousands of leaders and individuals
empowered to make on the fly decisions about how their group
could help make the action successful.

One of the great things about this mass action, in contrast to many
of the recent summit convergences, was that the majority of people
involved were from the same area. The response was immediate
and there are opportunities to continue working together against
war and on local struggles for justice.

Within the spokescouncil, there were a number of AGs who played
leadership roles in bringing the message of fighting the war at
home and abroad into the mass action. On May 19th, the Racial
Justice Day of Action, different groups including Freedom Uprising
and Global Intifada took it a step further and focused the anti-war
direct action mobilization on the war at home on low income
communities and communities of color. The actions focused on
cuts to social services making the connections to how war
spending is hurting communities of color in the Bay Area. There
was also an action at the Oakland Police department linking
military and police occupations of low-income communities of color
in Oakland to Iraq and to the PATRIOT Act and INS Raids. The
day also included an action led by radical Jews and Palestinians
protesting US tax dollars going to the Israeli occupation of

One lesson from this work is the importance of connecting the
issues at home and abroad. If the focus is only on the impact of the
war abroad we're never going to build a movement strong enough to
stop US imperialism. We have to connect with how people are
impacted locally, and fight against the attacks on communities of
color and low-income white communities. The struggle must be on
a local and global level.

CC: You're an anti-racism organizer and trainer and you are a direct
action trainer with the Ruckus Society. How can anti-racism and
direct action strengthen each other? But first, what is Ruckus and
what do you do?

IC: Ruckus is an organization that provides skills based training on
direct action. This includes direct action planning, blockades,
media, political theatre, climbing, radio communications and in the
past few years challenging racism and organizing workshops have
been included. I've been doing climb training since 2000. I also do
radio communications and anti-racism workshops. One of the main
things I've been focused on is helping build a commitment to
anti-oppression politics within Ruckus.

CC: What does that mean?

IC: Working with other trainers to reflect on and challenge the
ways that racism and oppression impact the trainings, camp
culture and how white Ruckus trainers interact with different
movements for social justice. It means understanding the
importance of Ruckus looking to the leadership of organizations
and communities most negatively impacted by injustices that
Ruckus is working against. This includes developing accountability
with those groups and communities.

The FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) camp that was
recently held in Oct. in Florida brought together community
organizers of color from NYC to Oakland, Indigenous and First
Nations activists representing several Nations in Canada and the
US, organizers from Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil as well as white
activists and organizers in labor, environmental, anti-capitalist and
anti-imperialist struggles. The camp brought together all these
folks to share skills, experiences, lessons and build alliances and
relationships to help build stronger movements against the FTAA,
global capitalism and US imperialism. This was another step in a
long process of Ruckus' transforming to serve and support
broad-based movements for justice.

So back to anti-racism and direct action. Direct action as a tactic
can't be seen as something only economically privileged white
people use, because that's just not true. Direct action has been and
is used by people hit the hardest by capitalism, patriarchy and
white supremacy. The Civil Rights movement, First Nations youth
in Canada doing land occupations, people facing evictions
confronting their landlords. At the same time it must be recognized
that the risks for peoples of color and working class people are
different than it is for economically privileged white folks.

I think OCAP (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty) is an inspiring
example of using direct action to fight for people's basic needs and
rights on issues of housing and immigration. I've been working with
an organization called the Campaign for Renters Rights that is
modeled after OCAP. We use direct action casework to fight
evictions and for safe, affordable housing, empowering people to
directly fight back against those oppressing them. We work with
people in Oakland who are facing evictions or being screwed over
by their landlord. Many people come to the CRR because they don't
have much chance to win alone or can't afford to fight in court.
Property owners write most housing laws and most judges are
property owners and they all mostly favor landlords. We use
collective power of the tenants to fight evictions, which usually
means putting pressure directly on the landlord. We use tactics
such as picketing the landlord's home, business or church, and
organizing other tenants in the building or neighborhood to join
together. We get in the landlords' faces and disrupt their lives to
the point where they can't turn a blind eye to throwing people on
the street. We've stopped a lot of evictions or won large
settlements for tenants this way.

CC: You mentioned anarchism earlier, why are you an anarchist?

IC: Anarchism to me means organizing in a way that empowers as
many people as possible. Decisions should be made by those
directly affected by the issue because those who are most directly
impacted by something are going to have the clearest picture of
what's going on - it is their life, not a statistics report or some
abstract theory. To me it is about self-determination. I'm against
capitalism, against the need to compete constantly in order to get a
job that pays you little to nothing.

We need a different economic and social system that is about
working together to provide for individual and community needs. A
system that does not quantify everything into economics but
recognizes all of the important parts of making a fun, healthy,
loving community like art, music, childcare and food production.
Anarchism is a vision for a better tomorrow, a better next year, a
better world generations from now.

One of the reasons that I'm not an authoritarian communist comes
from having been born into a religious commune called the Love
family, which was made up of over 600 people who were
dissatisfied with the current economic, political and social system.
Many aspects of the communal life I can appreciate, but I've
always felt that the major problem was that there was a leader who
had ultimate authority. As years went on, he became more and
more corrupt and did whatever he could to hold onto his power.
This led 75% of the people leaving the family, giving up what they
had built together and going out into the world with nothing but
their children and the clothes on their back. Even though this was
on a small scale, I think it reflects what can happen when one
person with good ideals has all the power as opposed to power
being held in many hands, when people are accountable to each
other and empowered to support themselves and their community.

CC: What contributions do you see anarchism making to build
movement for collective liberation?

IC: Anarchism to me is mainly vision and principles to guide
organizing. I don't feel the need to only organize with other
anarchists because I feel I have as much to learn from people who
don't identify as anarchists. I've also worked with many people who
share the same principles but don't identify as anarchists.

I think there are principles of anarchism that will help us build
movement. For example, fighting institutionalized hierarchies. We
must fight white supremacy that manipulates and privileges white
folks at the expense of people of color and ultimate gives real
power to a small number of wealthy white men. We must fight
patriarchy that privileges and gives economic and political power to
biological men over women and transgendered folks. We must fight
heterosexism that privileges straight people and attacks all of us
who are queer in the many ways that we express it. We must fight
capitalism that works in conjunction with and supports all these
systems to give power to a few whom are wealthy at the expense
of the world's population. We must fight the state, which is the
political entity supporting and maintaining these systems. The
state that uses military, economic, political and social power to
enforce the rule of the few.

An example of how these systems operate is how white women,
white transgendered folks and economically poor white folks have
been given some privileges to manipulate us into thinking we’re
superior to people of color. But we've never had real power. We
will experience true power when we confront our superiority
complexes and work in solidarity with communities of color fighting
for liberation and justice. One of the main things we’re fighting
for, as anarchists, is for people to truly have power over their own
lives and over their communities.

CC: How do you sustain yourself and stay active?

IC: Part of how I sustain myself is that I have a vision of a better
world and I have the hope that it is possible. Learning about all of
the amazing historical and current struggles inspires that hope for
justice in the US and around the world. I have to continually
challenge a tendency to be driven by guilt and recognize that I am
fighting for my own liberation. Also to recognize that it is ok to
take time for myself, to hang out with friends, watch mainstream
movies, play games and play soccer. I'm fighting for revolutionary
changes and I know the changes I'm fighting for will take a long
time and so I have to be able to sustain myself mentally and
physically. I want to live in a world where I have real power over
my own life, living free from these systems that say I am
worthless, not consuming things daily that come from the
exploitation of others and the environment. I want to breathe clean
air, drink clean water, eat healthy and safe food and I want
everyone to have this.

For more information:
About anti-racism training: http://www.activesolidarity.net
About direct action training: http://www.ruckus.org
About the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty: http://www.ocap.ca
About anarchism: http://www.infoshop.org

Link: http://www.activesolidarity.net

Copied from infoshop.org

****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists
INFO: http://ainfos.ca/org http://ainfos.ca/org/faq.html
HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
SUBSCRIPTION: send mail to lists@ainfos.ca with command in
body of mail "subscribe (or unsubscribe) listname your@address".

Full list of list options at http://www.ainfos.ca/options.html

A-Infos Information Center