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(en) US, Pittsburgh, First Draft of FTAA Consulta report posted by pog*

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 21 Sep 2003 13:45:47 +0200 (CEST)

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From August 29-August 31st groups came together in Pittsburgh
to discuss and coordinate responses to the FTAA summit taking
place Nov. 20-21st in Miami Florida.
Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) called this consulta and 45
people from 18 groups representing around 540 people planning on
heading to Miami attended. The following is our report from the
perspective of those who planned it. It is by no means a complete
account. The information below is taken from personal notes of
participants, opinions of those in POG, memory, and some varying
accounts. Weíre not sure we got everything right so please
report any glaring inaccuracies. This was our first event of its kind
and there are a lot of things we could have done differently.
Overall, we were happy with the outcome and feel it was a
positive step towards Miami.

The discussions:

The consulta centered on two key discussions. The first was
discussion of the Padded Bloc planned for Miami and the other
was discussion of other direct action possibilities in Miami. There
were also break-out sessions on Miami logistics and
Puppet/Artistic visioning. Other topics of discussions that were
briefly addressed included jail solidarity, legal, and medical.


We were slightly disappointed with the turnout, since the number
of groups represented greatly affected the scope of what the
consulta could discuss and propose. While the PB discussion had
the critical mass of groups to deal with concrete logistics, the
general disruption discussion did not (lower numbers were needed
for the PB discussion due to the lower number of expected
participants overall in Miami as well as the fact that PB
organizing is further along). We invite affinity groups that
didnít attend for reasons other than lack of time, money, or
organizing interest in the FTAA to contact us with suggestions on
anything we could have done that would have increased their
interest in attending.

Possible future meetings that would include discussions about the
Padded Bloc and or Miami in general:

1: There will be a regional consulta in Chicago October 11-12th
that aims to continue the discussions that happened in Louisville
and Pittsburgh. It will include discussion of the Padded Bloc, a
larger DA framework, communications, legal, medical, and more.
Call to action at:
http://www.angelfire.com/ill/stopftaa/consulta.html Folks should
register asap.

2: There will be a Southwest Regional FTAA consulta in Denver
during the Transform Columbus Day mobilization in Denver (oct
10-13th). This will include reportbacks from Colorado FTAA
caravan, mainstream organizers, Pittsburg Organizing Group
consulta, on the ground radicals in Miami, Padded Bloc
discussion, Other strategies/scenario discussion. Contact:

3: Lansing Michigan is holding a weekend of FTAA forums
October 25-26th. This will include educational forums as well as
discussions about networking, tactics and mobilizations for
Miami, non-violence and self defense, what to expect there, what
has come out of the pittsburgh and chicago consultas and much
more. Contact: dmitch@riseup.net

4: There may be a spokescouncil in Gainesville, FL in early
November. This would substitute for (or be in addition to) a
general spokescouncil in Miami. It would bring together
representatives from Florida groups with affinity groups coming
from around the country.

5: Discussions are under way among groups about whether to hold
a Padded Bloc spokecouncil Nov. 19th in Miami. Whether or not
this occurs will depend on whether itís logistically feasible
and how worthwhile groups feel it would be.

Padded Bloc: Some of the following was information relayed by
POG and some came out of the discussions.

Padded Bloc Communications among groups:

Besides the meetings listed above, POG has published a PB FAQ
on its website. POG has a PB list that it sends updates to. This is
not a secure list and exists solely to disseminate updates about
general PB organizing thatís occurring. One of the ideas of the
PB is that on the affinity group level groups can organize
themselves to participate in the padded bloc. These groups could
also band together to create larger clusters capable of operating
within a larger padded bloc. If groups from Pittsburgh are unable
to take part in the PB (if PGH doesnít want to take part in the
kinds of actions others do on the day of, if weíre preemptively
targeted, if weíre unable to meet up with other groups, etc.)
the decentralized nature of the organizing would allow the Padded
Contingent(s) to function on the ground in a organized way.
Padded Bloc Logistics: POG is proposing a specific decision
making and communication structure for the contingent (see PB
faq for more explanation)

A logistical rundown of what issues had already been addressed,
basically where the PB planning was:

1: The PB should be able to operate independently, without help
from Miami organizers or other groups. 2: The actual plan of
action will not be decided until the day of the protests, on the
ground in Miami. 3: The action plan will be a consensus decision
by PB participants once the contingent is assembled. 4: If
numbers allow or preferences differ, the contingent may divide. 5:
POG will be taking care of affinity group legal support for anyone
participating in the padded bloc who is traveling from PGH.

Question on numbers: POG and other groups feel the PB is not
feasible without more then 200 participants. More then twice this
number are planning on taking part in the contingent who were
represented at the PB discussion, therefore thereís no reason
to not continue with organizing.

Tactical questions POG has not addressed:

Should there be guidelines for the contingent, how/where to meet
on the day of, should the bloc have a spokescouncil, etc.

Guidelines for the contingent: One of the most time consuming
aspects of the padded bloc session was discussion of possible
guidelines for the contingent. The rationale for those proposing
guidelines was based on the following: What groups are hoping to
organize is incompatible with letting individuals take whatever
actions they deem appropriate to the situation

Some felt that because the contingent is meant to be
self-contained with a strong perimeter, it would not be possible for
people to move to a different area if they disagreed with the
tactics being employed by some folks, certain tactics will directly
justify the use of massive violence against the contingent and will
jeopardize the goals and safety of participants. The guidelines
discussion will continue among participating groups and at the
next consulta. Groups should take these guidelines back to their
affinity groups for feedback.

People consensed upon having guidelines and to some particular
guidelines/points for the contingent. People also discussed a
number of possible guidelines that could not be consensed to.
There was consensus that those planning on taking part agree in
the PB need to agree to abide by these guidelines for the safety of
all. The purpose of the guidelines isnít to impose any moral
judgments on participants, rather it is to create an environment
that allows for all participants to take action in an environment
where they can trust the bounds of actions others will take. Some
actions, more then others, have direct negative consequences for
this type of contingent. One of the goals of the Padded Bloc is to
stay together.

The guidelines-points that were consensed upon (by
representatives of 15 groups) at the consulta are:

1: The shield perimeter will be maintained 2: We will seek to make
our actions work in tandem with the permitted events. We will not
endanger the permitted march 3: The PB will make and carry out
an action plan internally. Other protest groups will not have a
direct role in what we decide to do 4: No guns, knives, drugs, or
other dangerous weapons/contraband. Duh! 5: No offensive
projectiles: Nothing thrown with the intent to harm people* 6: We
will stick to our political goals and will not be drawn into personal
grudges against the police 7: We will respect a diversity of tactics
by protesters not inside (and hence not part of) the Padded Bloc
8: PB participants must adhere to these guidelines only so long as
the PB remains intact.

*one of the reasons for this wording is that participants had
concerns about restricting responses in the event of police attack
with projectiles (tear gas, etc) in which case the only guideline is
that people should avoid actions that may hurt people when
getting rid of those projectiles. Also, the guidelines are only
adhered to when/if the PB remains a contingent.

The guidelines that we discussed but the group could NOT reach
consensus on were (some contradict each other or guidelines that
were eventually agreed upon):

1: To defend all persons at the protest no matter what actions
they take unless we have reason to believe they are police agents
2: To respect the integrity of other protest groups to the point that
we would not march through them/divide them, etc. 3: To exclude
random people who want to join the PB on the day of. Only those
pre-registered and vouched for will be allowed in the PB.

Look of the PB: San Francisco groups may have a call out for
artistic imagery that could be put on shields in Miami. The PB is a
super opportunity to get our message out visually. Groups will
have ready-made billboards just screaming for imagery that
displays our collective vision in contrast with that of the powers
that be.

Other DA Actions/ General Miami Logistics: The representative
from Florida made clear that if there is to be a larger Direct Action
protest framework they will need a lot of help. They do not have
the numbers to make it a reality without outside support. Some
folks at the consulta indicated they will be going down early to
help with this type of organizing. Florida groups will soon hold a
statewide meeting to further discuss actions and logistics for
Miami. They will be taking back the suggestions and framework
ideas of groups at the consulta. It is hoped that groups will help
organize and work in conjunction with this larger framework.

Convergence Center in Miami: As of now there is no convergence
center in Miami. People voiced a lot of differing opinions about
what value a convergence center would have, whether it would be
shutdown, what it would look like, and who could organize it.
Some feel that it will be very difficult to have a successful
convergence without a CC. They feel there is a great need for a
place people can go to plug in, meet others to discuss, rest and
recuperate, find housing, etc.

Repís from Florida made the Following Points: They are
already stretched thin. They do not have the resources or desire to
organize a convergence center. A CC in Miami organized by
anti-capitalist groups would likely be shutdown by the authorities.
If this is something that the larger movement wants to see then
there needs to be a critical mass of people willing to put the time
and resources into it to make it happen.

Additional Discussion about the CC: There is discussion about
having a convergence center type space in Northern Florida in the
lead-up to Miami. This would be a stopping place for those on
their way to Miami and would serve a lot of the roles CCís
typically do (minus the ďduring the actionĒ resources).
One national group is considering putting together a convergence
center, but these are preliminary discussions.

Puppet/Artistic Protest Elements: Starting the second week in
October people will be converging in South Florida to create a
diverse, artistic, workspace. They will create a well-equipped art
space for building puppets and props to march across the
tri-county area (about 60 miles) to the events in Downtown Miami
November 19th-21st. The idea is to have a moving procession of
the things being built for the summit. In each town folks will meet
up with the group and march to the edge of town or to Miami.
There is a lot of help needed to utilize the potential of this space
and there is a call out to folks around the country to come help.
Local organizers who attended the consulta are super excited
about the potential of this space and everyone is welcome. Many
at the consulta mentioned the need to bring a strong artistic
component to actions and this is a perfect way to make it happen.
They can provide you with housing, but the earlier you come the
better. They also emphasized that this is a safe space that
isnít for organizing any direct action in Miami. They can be
contacted at (561) 547-6686 or sfglobaljustice@yahoo.com

Medical: Medics expressed these concerns:

Those groups participating in the padded bloc cannot expect that a
ton of medics will automatically materialize to provide support.
There isnít enough communication between groups planning
DA and medic collectives.

The following recommendations were made for affinity groups and
individuals considering DA: 1: Approach medical collectives in
your area about linking up for actions. Itís most ideal when
medic support is provided by folks in your area 2: Have affinity
group medics for your group 3: Make sure as many people as
possible go through medic trainings (even if they donít plan on
being in a medic role) 4: Help put together medic trainings

Jail Solidarity: There was some discussion about the possibility of
using JS tactics in Miami. There will be a large number of people
coming in organized affinity groups and that may make it possible
to organize JS within clusters or actions. The effectiveness would
depend on how many people are arrested, but it may make sense
to plan as if there will be mass arrests. No definite plans were
made, but some groups are looking into preparing for this.

Security: Given that two police successfully infiltrated/took part
in the Louisville consulta and that our meeting was taking place
closer to November we anticipated that the police would take a
keen interest in things being discussed. We took a number of
security measures that weíre fairly confident ensured that
everyone at the morning discussion was who they said they were.
The measures used included a system of vouching for people that
didnít exclude those who lacked people who knew them,
changing the location unannounced to a more secure locale, and a
couple other small things we wonít disclose.

Many people commented that they appreciated the measures we
took and although initially apprehensive we are now convinced
they were appropriate to the situation. The actions planned for
this consulta were semi-open actions that others can plug into,
but it still makes sense to create a safe space. It is important
when planning open actions that we donít isolate ourselves
from others.

The FBI: In the days leading up to the consulta the FBI
approached a business near the consulta location to ask if a room
could be rented for the weekend in order to ďtake picturesĒ
of those attending the consulta. They were turned down by the
business (YA!), but itís likely they still observed those
attending. We must keep in mind that as our movement becomes
larger and more effective the state will increase itís efforts to
catalogue, intimidate, disrupt, and discredit us.

What didnít work out as intended:

Stack taking: Many have commented there were problems with
the way we took stack and weíd have to agree. We had three
stacks: one each for those identifying as women, genderqueer,
and men. People were able to put themselves on the stack they
identified with. The idea was to give equal weight to the three
stacks, with priority within each stack given to those who
hadnít already spoken. We hoped this would help allow often
marginalized voices to be heard. One problem came in the
diversity of attendees. 2 people from Pittsburgh were the only
ones utilizing the genderqueer stack, there were many more men
than women present and trying to speak, and the stack became
very weighted to the few women who were repeatedly speaking to
the exclusion of men who hadn't previously spoken. Unfortunately,
no system is perfect and everyone participating in the discussions
seemed to be doing so in good faith.

A corrective measure that may have helped would have been to
take 3 people at a time from each stack. This would have lessened
the monopolization of the stack while still making sure that
women and genderqueer opinions werenít buried by the large
number of men present. Stacktackers also could have made more
of an effort to pass over people who had repeatedly spoken.

* http://www.organizepittsburgh.org/about.html
POG is a Pittsburgh based progressive group concerned with
peace, social justice, and environmental issues locally,
nationally, and internationally. We are consensus based,
non-hierarchical, believe in affinity groups, and support
a diversity of tactics.

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