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(en) The commoner #7 - j23 sacramento 2003 action report/fieldnotes - amory starr

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 15 Jul 2003 06:27:46 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

three months before the cancun WTO ministerial, at which
third world resistance to biotech is a huge stumbling
block, the US Department of Agriculture invites ministerial
delegations from 180 countries to a tightly controlled
meeting with biotech companies. only 75 of the countries
accept the invitation (123 of 540 invited delegations) and
the EU pulls out at the last minute. activists come from
the whole west coast. there were 9 of us from fort collins
plus a member of our community who now lives in the
sacramento area. we also traveled with some denver folk.
these are my fieldnotes and observations. they contain some
experiences and ideas from other members of the affinity
group, but are neither comprehensive nor fully collective.

the mobilization wasn?t huge, but it was mostly
uncontrolled by police. even the permitted march was
apparently seen as a threat, and was attacked by police.
the message and focus of the protests was very clear at all
times, with great art, lots of leafleting, and informed
activists talking, talking, talking about the issues.

there were awesome affinity group actions, fantastic
infrastructure, much less vanguardism than recent actions,
security culture didn?t completely take over, and there was
a very high level of solidarity and street smarts!
multi-day actions are often poorly planned and are always
exhausting, but this time they gave people from various
cities repeated opportunities to work together, and this
resulted in a sense of connection and the development of
working relationships for the future. according to folks
from our group who were there, the last big action at
Monsanto on Wednesday was very bonded and emotional.

it was the best direct action structure i?d witnessed since
a16 (dc 2000). (but i?ve never been to an OCAP action.)
many north american manifestations have either: {a} failed
to plan anything, leaving it all for affinity group actions
planned overnight once people got there [cinci tabd 2000,
ftaa qc 2001, dc sept 2001], or {b} planned only permitted
actions in advance resulting in grumpy direct actioners
[dnc la 2000, wef nyc 2002]. this time we arrived to a very
well worked-out framework: for Sunday there was a quadrant
system for direct action clusters. and for the rest of the
week, affinity groups were able to adopt sites that had
already been fully scouted by the sacramento organizing
team. this enabled at least six really great affinity group
actions to take place. (saturday ge trees action at
expedix, sunday mandella garden occupation, monday die-in
in delegates? path, tuesday cascadia summer ge trees action
at uc-davis, tuesday safeway action, wednesday monsanto

not a single window was broken during the week, so it was
interesting to see the media totally disabled from accusing
the black blocs of violence (all the photos of black bloc
and police confrontations showed a bloc sitting on the
ground holding hands). even the grafitti said things like
"eat organic"! sacramento locals were interested, good
humoured, patient and friendly while we blocked traffic.
they read our manifestoes, came out to watch and have
conversations, and we didn?t meet a soul who likes biotech!
even one of the prison guards at Rio Consomes was a broke
gmo farmer!

we also learned a lot within our affinity group. we did
more intensive legal support than before, including the
whole bonding out process. we did two affinity group
actions, one included scouting and collecting materials. we
brought our puppets, and saw what a big contribution they
are. we also talked a lot about how the group was working
and started to recognize that going to these actions is a
week of opportunities to be accountable to each other.
increasingly, we?re seeing that one of the things that?s
really radical about these actions is exactly that,
figuring out how to be accountable to each other in a whole
series of settings.

we had a breakthrough about how we had been conceptualizing
authority. where we had been using the word ?fascist?, we
started using ?mother?. at actions, people are taking
responsibility for themselves in some very intense new ways
(courage in the face of intimidation, harassment, and
violence) on very little sleep and sort of lose their
normal abilities to take responsibility for more mundane
things (packing lunches, getting themselves up in the
morning, avoiding parking tickets), yet the mundane things
often affect the group and our ability to do what we came
to do. we had been allowing people to take authority over
particular moments like getting everybody into the cars,
but we were also constantly rejecting the necessity of that
role, calling them a "transportation fascist", as if it was
an egotistical character disorder. acknowledging that these
roles are actually necessary because most people need to be
focused on the action, rather than the mundane stuff, we
legitimized these roles and started to call them
"transportation mother" or "morning mother". having people
really be in charge of these roles also frees up the folks
to whom these roles tend to fall by default, allowing them
to put their energy into other stuff. we even talked about
bringing with us someone entirely green (perhaps one of our
parents who is supportive but doesn?t want to be in the
streets) to be our "house mother", who would grocery shop,
cook, clean up the house, answer the land line, and
videotape the tv news while we are in the streets.

many of us were frustrated by intermittent individualism
and feeling like we weren?t really an affinity group. the
prospect of limiting the trip to groups or sub-groups that
had worked together before was not appealing to anyone,
because there have been so many cases of people joining our
group for mass actions as their first political action (or
their first contact with our activist community) and some
of those people contributed a lot and went on to become
part of the community. through a series of late-night
discussions, many of us also agreed that rather than being
exclusive, a small collective should develop a basic
structure and everyone should have to agree to that in
advance. the point is distinguishing between stuff that?s
important to develop inclusively and democratically -our
action- and stuff that?s like the basic foundation of group
functioning that ends up sucking a lot of group
resources?stuff like sticking to the buddy system, out of
bed 1.5 hours before time to go (people constantly
underestimate how long it will take them to meet their
individual needs in cramped quarters and do not leave time
for collective needs like navigation and getting puppets
into the truck), participating in affinity group meetings
(this time we didn?t have a single one!), parking legally,
drug & alcohol policy... we feel that accommodating
individual proclivities like laziness and wanting to go on
dates is too much burden on organizers.

we learned about some new roles, such as puppet master (er,
puppet mother), who makes sure that all the nuts and bolts
are in place (and organizes repair work) before the puppets
are grabbed out of the truck 5 minutes before an action
with arms and legs falling off, and media
analyst/archivist, who liberates a stack of newspapers each
day, has videos ready to tape the tv news, etc. we also
started thinking about some distinctions about how the
continuum of legal support should relate to the degree of
individualism of the arrest situation. snatches, mass
arrests, harassment, and arrests related to planned
affinity group actions have the most right to group legal
support resources.

check out the following media stories: Sacramento News &
and the two big Sacramento Bee stories:
and of course our own indymedia: http://www.biotechimc.org.


our first caravan arrived on friday and our second on
saturday. most of us attended the teach-in all day saturday
at sacramento state, which included community agriculture
alternatives and two sessions on food/technology/war (the
same companies sell war, trade, and food). several speakers
emphasized that there are fewer farmers than prisoners in
the US. they emphasized that in the US we?re losing 4,000
farmers a week because they are tricked into buying
technology. "66% of biotech is sold in the US and it?s not
functioning. the model is destroying rural life and
ecologies here and we?re exporting it." Ignacio Chapela
said "we mortgaged our environment and culture for a small
increase in yield." someone even mentioned a study which
showed Monsanto soy to be 4% lower in yield.

according to a Food First study, pro- vs. anti- gmo
discourse is covered 7:1 in the mainstream media. the
contamination of Mexican corn was covered in Newsweek
International, but Newsweek US didn?t have a line! the
story seems to be that the contamination has won: "The
genie is out of the bottle. stop whining and eat it." so
somebody said "that?s why we have to take direct action to
get it into the news."

Drinah Nyirenda emphasized that the logic for gmos being
necessary to solve hunger is ridiculous. "Putting more food
in the supermarket will not solve hunger." he explained
that what has intensified hunger in africa is "1.
marketing/commodity boards have been replaced with private
traders?it?s easier for them to buy from large importers
than many small farmers. 2. privatization of government
banks that used to provide credit. with no buyers, now
farmers just grow for their families and send able bodies
to the maquillas?why would seed make a difference when
farmers have no market and no credit to buy any inputs?
gmos have nothing to do with hunger!" african delegates are
so outraged by biotech that african delegates issued a
statement at the Rome FAO meeting "we object to our image
being used to push biotechnology?" [Statement from all the
African delegates (except South Africa) to FAO negotiations
on the International Undertaking for Plant Genetic
Resources, June 1998] Nyirenda also argued that "it?s
racist to say that people are incapable of producing their
own food."

apparently, there were three goals for the sacto meetings
1) sell biotech and market it in the name of the world. 2)
precision agriculture, without people 3) challenging
european right to regulate. it?s not about the wto or
hunger, it?s about the right to regulate.

Starhawk also spoke at the teach-in, connecting the
analysis with the actions to come. "what is non-violent
direct action? why are we taking it??they are killing the
soil for profits. no value higher than corporate profits.
they tell us "if you go along, we?ll feed the poor"...they
say "a rising tide lifts all boats." they?re unclear on
economy - and tides. tides rise and fall, that?s what it
means to be a tide?as the promise breaks down, they get us
by threats or fear. we?ll get you or the terrorists will
get you?so you don?t ordinarily break into your neighbor?s
house, but if the house is on fire and the door is locked
and there is a child inside, then you are probably going to
do it?similarly now there is a clear and present danger. we
must take strong and peaceful action to stop it from going
on? direct action is action that directly confronts
oppressive power. non-violent does not mean
non-confrontational?oppressive power works because it has
our compliance?there is no public debate, no voice,
promoting their agenda without public education?direct
action makes people pay attention to the issue by raising
the costs. so people at least worry about should they be
discussing it. exposes the violence and power that
underlies the system. violence doesn?t look like executives
sitting around conference tables, but the decisions they
make can be immensely violent. GMOs are not considered a
weapon of mass destruction? in our action we try to embody
the alternative in organizing and action? in solidarity and
service with the people on this planet who have the least."

saturday night spokescouncil was held at the seiu hall and
was packed with about 300 activists. lisa fithian started
off by saying that the justice for janitors strike was
settled before the manifestations began because the city
was worried they would join forces with us. the city told
the building owners to settle. the janitors got full family
health coverage.

we prepared for sunday?s action for which three goals had
been developed in previous spokescouncils: 1 "welcoming the
delegates" 2 "disrupting the proceedings" 3 "transforming
the space into what we want to see". five "non-violence
hallmarks" had also been agreed to, posted, and published:
"1. we will use no violence, physical or verbal, towards
any person. we consider speech or acts that are racist,
homophobic, or sexist to be violent. 2. we will carry no
weapons. 3. we will not bring or use any alcohol or illegal
drugs. 4. we will not destroy property. 5. we will respect
the rights of all people."

unlike recent actions, it didn?t seem that starhawk and
lisa fithian were entirely running the show. they weren?t
standing at the back whispering to each other. starhawk sat
as a spoke, away from the facilitators, and spoke for the
pagan cluster. she identified herself. lisa fithian was one
of the facilitators, didn?t identify herself or say why she
was so important. none of the spokescouncils included the
police and media exclusion announcement, and it turned out
that journalists had in fact been in the meetings. a couple
of the facilitators introduced themselves and identified
their organizations, but never explained why they were
running the meetings. they did refer to some of the
framework having been developed "in previous

fithian also read an interesting draft agreement that she
said been developed by labor, religious, and black bloc
groups: "we are different, neither allies nor greatest
enemies?we will be together and in solidarity?we will
protect each others? bodies and rights?do not put other
people at risk?do not turn people over to the police?.do
not let people within our groups interfere with other
groups?respect work of medics, legal, indymedia?share food
and water?support anyone who is injured?respect other
groups? projects? time and space?do not negotiate with the
police on behalf of other groups."

the meeting split into four working groups attached to
physical quadrants off of the convention center (each about
9 square blocks) in which each quadrant cluster should make
action along the three goals. this action framework had
been planned at previous spokescouncils. we chose one of
the quadrants, which was very welcoming, and we met with

there was really an incredible amount of police presence in
the neighborhood. our host, who had been volunteering at
the welcome center, told us that the volunteers had been
having a good time counting all the different types of
vehicles the police were using to patrol the area, bikes,
motorcycles, vans, paddywagons, unmarked crown royals,
regular cruisers, helicopters, suvs, armored vehicles? plus
all the undercover vehicles, including a fancy convertible!


after a morning meeting, our cluster met up at 1 pm and
took a zigzag route along the sidewalk to the meeting point
at 15th & N. then we moved as a rogue march into our
quadrant. we circulated through our quadrant for hours,
with police trailing but not getting aggressive. then we
met up with another cluster, combined, separated,
recombined. the whole time we were just taking streets,
snake marching through the traffic, turning when the cops
blocked our path, but staying in the quadrant. eventually
people got bored of this, and when a call came through, the
actions moved toward a community garden at 14th & P around 4

after years of struggle against the city?s redevelopment
agency which wants to put condos on the beautiful 30-year
old block garden full of fruit trees, community groups have
been banned from setting foot in the Ron Mandella garden.
the j22 garden occupation had been planned for months. one
guy did a tree sit while others locked down in a circle,
and others installed permaculture. once they were in, calls
went out to the larger action to join them in support. when
we got there, about a thousand people surrounded the
garden, clustered at the gates. police arrived slowly. soon
the larger march lost interest in the garden, refused to
form a soft blockade, and headed back towards downtown. the
people at the garden seemed disappointed. i started to feel
that the march was fickle. bored downtown, bored at the
garden, not willing to do any real work like figuring out
how to really support the garden.

the delegates are supposed to attend an IMAX film at 6 pm.
we pass by the heavily guarded IMAX theater and circle
through nearby streets for a while. i wondered why we
didn?t just shut down the intersection at IMAX the first
time we went through, but then i understood that
maintaining mobility until the actual time of the event
meant less chance we?d be cleared away already. while bike
and motorcycle cops block traffic along some nearby
streets, the only police presence following the march is a
lone squad car, from which an officer repeatedly reads "i
am officer blah blah. by the powers vested in me by the
citizens of California i declare this an unlawful assembly
and order you to disperse. if you do not disperse you will
be subject to arrest. you will also be subject to
non-lethal weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray,
concussion grenades, electrical devices?" but he had no
backup at all, none of the other cops seemed to be working
with him. so we just laughed at him. an activist with
bullhorn responded to the officer?s speech every time with
"the citizens of California can speak for themselves. they
do not need to be represented by the police." the cop even
tried to follow us as we snake marched into traffic down a
one-way street, and got stuck in the oncoming cars. (he
finally had to back out.) diva said "this poor officer has
lost his affinity group."

eventually we headed back to IMAX to greet the delegates.
as we approached, another group came from the garden.
running is one of the cool new things that people do a lot.
so the two groups ran really fast toward each other and
then everybody embraced and celebrated. this is part joy
and part making sure the two groups don?t get divided. this
combined force snuggled up to the barricades so the
delegates would be able to see us. it seemed like a pretty
chill setup. the police had their line and we were well
behind it, with puppets and so forth. but then they decided
they didn?t want the delegates even to see us. they cut off
the alleys and the streets and pushed people north and west
away from the theater while also encircling us from behind.
some people escaped before we got encircled. the remaining
people, about 150-250, were on the sidewalks trying to exit
but were denied exit. it was kinda crazy because they
encircled us and had tazers out, so it wasn?t really like
they wanted us to disperse. then they started doing
snatches. rice master from our affinity group and 13 other
people were arrested snatch-style and everyone else was
eventually let go. this snatch-style arrest of random
non-high profile people is a European tactic. as far as i
know, a new tactic for US crowd control. it frightens
people because they learn that they can be grabbed for no
reason. (previous reports of snatches in the US were
generally high-profile organizers.)

encircling, frightening, and then slowly releasing people
was successful in dispersing the group, which made our way
back to the welcome center to eat and then to the
Washington neighborhood center for spokescouncil. the media
team announced that we had made national news. ABC had
explicitly connected sacto with the breakdown of the Egypt
pre-ministerial. so resident bush had to give a speech
about hunger and poverty in the third world.

after spokescouncil we got the news that the police were
arresting everyone at the garden and a lot of people were
really upset and ran out of other meetings to go down
there. there was a rumour that they had encircled and were
arresting even the onlookers, but this turned out to be
false and they only arrested about 24 people. unfortunately
just as the garden arrestees arrived at jail, rice master
and the others from the afternoon were on their way out.
the incomers were dejected by the lack of opportunity for
solidarity. at 4:30 in the morning, rice and others were
dropped off with $2 each in a remote part of town.

sunday night on the way home, one of our cars, containing
the jail support person and all the ids (stashed under the
floor mat) got pulled over. the driver?s id was under the
floor mat. when he told the officer it was there and
reached for it, the officer thought he was reaching for a
weapon. we were detained for about an hour by 7 unmarked
cars representing 3 police agencies, they illegally
searched the car, which had action maps an our "van packet"
(jail solidarity handbook, medical info, list of events for
the week, maps, all of the contact info for our legal
infrastructure?) sitting on the back seat. but they didn?t
ask us any questions about the action or our roles.
everyone else had to come down to the road to pick up their
ids, and the driver was charged with a traffic violation
called "possession of too many ids" (we?re not sure this is
a real law) but was not cited for anything that justified
the traffic stop or established probable cause for the
search. despite having been trained well, none of us
managed to say "we do not consent to this search" because
we really didn?t want to antagonize them. we?re pretty mad
at ourselves about that. we realized that we could have
said in a friendly way to some of the officers we were
talking to "hey, could you just make sure it goes in the
record that we didn?t consent to this search?"

monday j23

monday was the permitted march, starting at 1 pm after a
long rally at the west steps of the capitol building.
despite the permit, there was heavily armed police presence
along the entire route, lots of riot gear, including a
pretty prussian blue mini-tank, an armored vehicle guarding
starbucks (robocops with big guns on top taking menacing
postures), the weird green guns, and harassment of people
at the back, including an elderly lady, a guy on crutches,
and two people in wheelchairs. the march peacekeepers were
good, legal was there, and com was good. at one point cops
tried to snatch david solnit, who was in a huge puppet.
they took him down to the ground, tried to tazer him
(people heard it but seem to think they missed), and
confiscated his bullhorn. people gathered around, grabbed
him, and were successful in preventing arrest. folks
gathered to shout "shame". this was one of many instances
of people being really heads-up and having strong
solidarity in the streets.

after the march people were hanging around in the park and
you could just feel that it wasn?t over. before long there
was a "run" (some of the black blocs did a lot of running
during the week) in attempt to get out of the park without
being blocked off by the cops. they didn?t quite make it,
although someone we knew was right up front and thought
they could have. there was a standoff for a while and then
people sort of melted back into the park and hung out on
the grass. the permit was over, but people didn?t want to
leave. there was a lot of energy still. we were standing
around and suddenly saw about 10 bicycle cops heading
diagonally across the grass. then the first one turned
slightly and in a moment they were encircling this little
circle of black bloc kids sitting on the grass. people were
really alert; immediately there were about 500 people
surrounding the circle of cops! they weren?t expecting
that! it was awesome. people were packed in really tight,
shouting "shame" and "let them go". there had been a line
of non-robo state troopers (brown uniforms) protecting the
capitol building, but i didn?t think they would move off
the building. i kept looking at the other side of the park
to see if more robos were coming. suddenly the line of
brown moved to encircle the larger group of protesters, i
jumped through the line as they had a hard time closing it
quickly, but most of our group was trapped inside. so then
there were two circles of cops, both sandwiched by
protesters. mainstream tv was caught between the inner
circle of riot cops and the browns, and we could see a big
video camera held up in the air and pointed right into the
inner circle of the kids surrounded by riot cops. before
very long at all both lines of cops got pulled off! it was
a nice victory. one person got arrested, i think not from
the bb group, and i don?t know the circumstances of that.
also they tazered some people in the inner confrontation
and, as shown in a lot of photos, pretty aggressively
attacked a woman outside the inner ring who got in their
faces saying "shoot me, those are my kids". some time
during this mess, space albatross said to a sheriff "you
need to control your officers," who responded "i?m trying

the cops pulled out of the park and everybody relaxed for
real. food not bombs showed up with one of their
buffet-bike-trailers to feed people. at 4, the pagan
cluster started taking off their clothes and turning into
mud people. they were maybe headed for the ribbon cutting
of the biotech tradeshow set up for the delegates, but they
didn?t say where they were going. the brown cops were
amused, peered curiously into the circle, and then followed
us languidly out of the park. there were only a few bike
cops for the first few blocks as the cluster took the
streets and headed down the K street pedestrian mall. but
when they turned north off the pedestrian mall, suddenly
the police were arriving so fast we couldn?t keep track of
them. 10 motorcycle cops, 10 more, 10 bicycles, 10 more
motorcycles, blaring their sirens. it was very sudden,
intense, scary convergence, particularly since there wasn?t
much that they were responding to. there were only about
100 people in the pagan group and they were moving along
west on I, not blocking anything, so it was weird that they
got so much more attention than the larger, roving marches
had before. then there were about 6 suvs and vans and the
armored car, all with robocops riding on the running
boards. but they didn?t even unload before they turned
south and sped off east on J street toward some other
conflagration. the pagans got corralled and pushed north,
eventually into a park where they negotiated with the
police that anyone who wasn?t naked wouldn?t be arrested.
folks loaned the nakeds clothes, but one guy wouldn?t get
dressed and he was arrested, dragged naked across the
asphalt. later a mudgirl wearing pants and post-its on her
nipples was arrested on the K street mall, right across the
street from the theater where the Food First debate was to
take place.

three of us had gotten separated from the larger group of
pagans, and as we tried to catch up found ourselves walking
down a pretty empty block. we were approaching a bevy of
police vehicles from the rear. normally they leave you
pretty much alone behind their lines if you are just a
couple of people, unless you get too close to them. we were
still about a block off, across an intersection from them.
suddenly three robos break out from the group and are
walking toward us. at first we thought "coffee run". then
they seemed really purposeful crossing the intersection
toward us. they passed another guy who we thought they
might be headed toward. we looked up and down the block -
nothing they could be headed for, except us. the guy they
had just passed motioned us to get the hell out of there.
we turned and started walking, looked back, realized that
walking wasn?t going to do it. we started jogging, then
running. there wasn?t a big group to join, or anywhere to
hide. no open coffee shops or anything. we ran about six
blocks. we kept passing other police guarding buildings or
directing traffic. they saw us running and smiled, but
didn?t move. we thought any minute the inter-agency radios
would start working and some group of cops would pull up or
come off their guard positions to grab us. we needed to get
out of sight. finally we found a cafe on the K street mall
right next to where the Food First debate was to be held.
before long there were 20 robo cops in formation right
across the street and another vanful a few yard away. they
had just arrested the post-it notes girl, but after doing
so had left an aggressively heavy guard for an educational
event. we put on bandanas (not knowing yet that they had
been declared illegal earlier in the day) and got a quick
escort into the debate.

we talked to some folks who said they had done an affinity
group action, a die-in, and the delegates had to step over
them because there weren?t enough cops to move off their
line to do anything about it! this action never seemed to
make indymedia. i?m still not sure where it took place or
where the delegates were going. it was around the time of
the supposed ribbon-cutting at the trade show.

at the debate there was a dumb USDA guy (David Heywood), a
dumb guy from CropLand - i?m always amazed that the status
quo doesn?t ever come up with any new arguments! they just
keep repeating their ridiculous, simplistic mantras. they
also had a sweet-voiced Irish apologist who argued that
biotech has nutritional benefits (Maratina Mcgloughlin). in
response to her, Silvia Ribeiro (ETC, Mexico formerly RAFI)
said "well that was a nice vision of biotech, now let?s
talk about reality." she said that all the talk of
nutritional benefits and benefits to hungry people and
small farmers are a cover for the reality which is that
there are 4 main biotech crops, 91% of which are owned by
Monsanto. 96% of biotech is grown in the US, Canada, and
Brazil, 100% of which is devoted to insecticide and
herbicide-tolerant designs.

Amadou Kanoute, an African, argued that "we are being
presented as the reasons for the need of biotech?the US is
oversupplied. production is on the rise, consumption is
falling?2.5 billion people in the EU want mandatory
labeling. they are not ready to buy it. why grow things
that you cannot sell? this has put Africa on the map?200 of
800 million hungry people are in Africa. this is presented
as the place to use biotech to keep people from
suffering?they are giving it free and then they?ll be
asking us to pay in 15 minutes?this is not demand driven
and it?s not cost effective?there are alternatives to
handle stryger [an invasive African weed, which results in
a lot of crop loss], but alternative results are not
publicized?it is not poverty focused. it only affects 30%
of producers, while it is small-scale farmers who feed the
population in Africa. GE is "poor-washing". images of the
third world are being used to sell."

while they were talking about hunger in South Africa and Bt
cotton, rice master said "and they eat cotton in South
Africa, right?" later Ribeiro said "we in the third world
do not want to be fed by pesticides. we prefer food, in

Anuradha Mittal, Food First made some sharp connections:
"hunger is a very complicated issue. 78% of developing
countries reporting child malnutrition are exporting
food?but it?s not a matter of poverty. 36 million americans
are starving? in Africa AIDS medication is withheld if they
won?t buy biotech. and then we see the creation of a police
state in sacramento..."

Mittal, Ribeiro, Kanoute and Nyirenda had all emphasized
this issue of the colonial psychology of biotech. Mittal
said "we in the third world are quite capable of thinking
for ourselves?" and Nyirenda had called it "racism" to
imply that people cannot make their own decisions about
food. the sac mobilization direct action crew had also
taken up this concept and one of the media messages they
had emphasized was "food sovereignty" (for which no good
rhyming chants have been developed yet), the assertion that
all people have the right to determine for themselves the
production and distribution of their food.

at that night?s spokescouncil, david solnit facilitated a
planning session for the next day?s actions. he started
with a brainstorm, then organized those ideas to make
decisions first on elements (things that people are
interested in that could be part of any -or most- actions,
like mobility or sitting down and holding space), then on
locations, then on timing. it was a good breakdown of how
to do the tactical part of planning. he used voice votes
from the whole room, not spoke votes, to get decisions on
these issues. at some point lisa fithian aggressively burst
in to insist that we could do several actions, not just
one. we settled on not marching together, but convening,
dispersing, and reconvening on a series of locations. the
convention center at 10 am, the jail at 1:00 pm, and the
garden at 4:30 pm. at some point someone suggested that we
needed to free not only the ministers but also the
corporate media, who, apparently, had been kept locked in
the press room and weren?t allowed to leave the building or
interview delegates.

i thought the facilitation seemed less vanguardist than
usual. solnit did judiciously and anti-democratically
exclude from the "location" decision any sites suggested in
the brainstorm that he suspected might have affinity group
actions already planned (two did). but the other movers and
shakers were seated where they didn?t have his ear and at
least had to shout for attention. a few times he didn?t let
them speak, other times he let them interrupt, sometimes he
put them in the stack. starhawk, of course, got to speak as
often and for as long as she wanted while ordinary people
were rushed and cut off. although from my perspective it
seemed like a big improvement because it wasn?t the usual
crew whispering behind the facilitator and speaking
whenever they wanted, it definitely didn?t sit right with
people new to the scene. someone new in our group (and new
to activism) reacted strongly to the authoritarian process
and asked "by what process were these people elected?" and
a girl turned to us and asked "are those people in charge
of us?" and "why is that girl [doyle] being so mean to
people who want to speak?"

toward the end of the spokescouncil, the door got locked
from the inside, police outside were rattling on the door
and shining a spotlight in the windows and people got
really nervous. solnit never addressed this by getting and
sharing information from security, he just tried to keep
the meeting going. starhawk went to the front and said
something awesome about not giving in to the police
attempts to frighten us. at one point solnit said that
nothing had changed outside, then someone whispered in his
ear and he said "actually the presence is increasing" but
when we got outside all we found was that the 10 robocops
had moved from across the street to outside on the sidewalk
and were being expertly harassed by a bevy of
self-appointed legal observers. so either he didn?t have
good information or he was busy trying not to care about
it, but when the bigshots started leaving out the back door
i felt betrayed that they had information they weren?t
sharing and were making us sit still without being able to
make either informed or collective decisions. i felt i
could handle the fear as long as everyone was sticking
together and sharing what they knew, but i lost it when
that changed.


some of us did the 10 am convergence on the convention
center. others got word of an affinity group action and
eventually most of us ended up at an action at the
so-called "Life Sciences Building" at uc-davis. the killer
tomatoes, the ge tree people, several awesome affinity
groups were there, apparently it was organized by Cascadia
Summer. two folks, pacific yew and port orford, had
suspended themselves with climbing ropes inside a 4-story
stairwell, weaving their ropes through a fancy DNA
sculpture, and then u-locked their necks together. space
albatross, from our affinity group, had u-locked himself to
the banister next to them. they locked down sometime around
2 pm.

the cops managed to completely disrupt business in the
building, preventing people who work there from going in or
out. eventually they kicked everyone out except one medic
and one legal observer, and they hung a sheet when they cut
the guys down. they refused to let them bring themselves
down. there were no injuries. the three were arrested at
about 6 pm. at first police said they?d "cite and release",
then they said they would take them to the jail, but they
wouldn?t book them. but when they found out that the guys
weren?t giving their names, suddenly there was a felony
conspiracy charge, an ever-changing set of 2-4 misdemeanor
charges, and $10,000 bail each. the guys held solidarity,
which they said helped a lot with morale. the police tried
to break them. the jail was kept really cold and they were
denied blankets. (it was so cold that one of them went on
"suicide watch" because he learned that he could get a
blanket that way.) they were able to call us a lot, so they
did every few hours. it was pretty grim at first. the legal
team couldn?t get a lawyer in until morning, which
surprised everybody.

see photos and stories at:
http://www.biotechimc.org/or/2003/06/1315.shtml and


pablito and firefly met the bus of folks coming from
sacramento to davis for an undisclosed action. this group
marched?to Monsanto!, where it took 3 federal agencies to
guard the unpopular company from 50 activists picnicking in
a community garden across the street.

the rest of us did scouting, collected materials for our
guerilla garden action, jail support, and stuff like that.


the arraignment of the uc-davis arrestees. they didn?t give
names (even when the police thought they figured out one of
the names). they looked really strong! at first we were sad
that they were all chained up, but then we realized they
were chained together, which was an aid to their
solidarity. and, having been separated, they were glad to
be back together then we met with the lawyer, spent time on
the debrief, emails, and web updates, and made the signs
for our guerilla garden.


this morning, before the tedious process of bailing the
three activists out of jail (mad max is now an apprentice
bail bondsman), we left something behind in sacramento. we
planted a guerilla garden on one of the corner plots in one
of the intersections in the neighborhood between the
welcome/convergence center and the Washington Center (medic
area/fnb/spokescouncil). we had noticed that some of the
corner plots were barren. wednesday, we scouted all the
corners from C to F between 12th and 16th to make a list of
the barren ones. we eliminated all which weren?t entirely
residential and one which was entirely shaded. we asked
staff at the nearby boys & girls club if they wanted the
kids to participate or if they wanted it put on their
property. they said they were fine with us doing it as long
as it didn?t involve their property or the kids. then
driving past the other corners, bling had a good feeling
about one of them and went and rang all the bells in the
building. she talked to a guy who was excited to take care
of it and to encourage local homeless folks to eat out of

so friday morning before it got hot we pulled up with
plants, jugs of water, seeds, some inadequate garden tools,
laminated signs. asked another neighbor if we could use his
hose. scratched around the very dry soil and eventually got
all the plants in, watered them in, spread some mulch a
little too thin, talked to some neighbors, including a guy
who seemed to be doing his morning rounds, checking out the
neighborhood on his bike. he invited us and all our friends
to garden, exercise, and drink beer in his backyard. other
passersby were excited about the garden (the signs got
their attention). when we apologized for bringing so much
police presence into their neighborhood, two people said
"no, actually i thought it was interesting." Here?s a link
to photos and the imc report:

the signs in the garden read:

edible corner: please eat and
care for me!

What you see here today is an
outgrowth of the biotech ministerial
protests occurring in the city of
Sacramento, June 2003. We the
activists believe that while it is
important to make clear to the
proponents of biotech research and
genetically engineered food
"solutions" that we reject their
argument/public relations/media
manipulation, we are currently and
always actively engaged in offering
community-based solutions formed of
our own approach. We can feed

Edible landscaping is the best way
for urban soil to render a full and
diverse edible crop within the
confines of one?s community. Edible
landscaping plots can be large or
small. Here on this corner, we?ve
planted a mix of annuals and

This is a permaculture garden. It is
designed to imitate a natural forest,
but is entirely edible to be more
useful to people. Keep adding plants
and seeds - some will take root.
Then stop by to snack!

back home

it?s hard to go to sleep tonight in an empty room.

even though i dreaded sleeping on the floor, too much
walking, having to rush my makeup?

now i?m used to waking up in an activist den,

meaningful work demanding nudges and pleading to get up,

courageous friends at smile?s reach in all directions.

but on further thought what?s really wrenching tonight is
having to let go of the collaboration and trust.

every problem was collective - and solved that way.

every decision, every logistical maneuver, every action was
shot through with manifest and necessary trust,

some longstanding, some hard-wrought, some built in the
moment with a long look, a nod, or some unexpected

this trust feels great, feels like??being human - and gosh
i don?t get much of it, even in what is a pretty conscious,
functioning community here at home.

i think i want a lot of things, but how much better can
life really get than that space of trust?and our clarity
about its importance

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