Herbal Abortion is not D.I.Y.

I ate chocolate pudding while I waited for the home pregnancy test to react in the bathroom. It’s funny how the packages all make it sound as if we’re dying to have babies. Well, some people have died trying to get safe abortions. I didn’t want to end my pregnancy with drugs or surgery, if possible, and this is a lot of the information I found out about herbal abortions.

Abortion isn’t about playing god anymore than anarchism is. If we as anarchists support self-determination, then the moral component of the abortion debate becomes defunct. Abortion is killing, but not murder. Americans would like to think that death is avoidable, and for that reason liberals have tried to sugarcoat a women’s right to choose with an it’s-not-about-the-fetus argument that disregards the emotional intensity that everyone I know has experienced when choosing to abort. When we recognize that something is dying—if only a possibility of life—then it’s possible to grieve and move forward.

In countries where abortions is legal, accessible and (gasp!) subsidized—most of Western Europe—pregnancies result in 1/3 to term, 1/3 miscarried, 1/3 aborted. These are Catholics, folks. Most women who seek abortion are over 20, many with children already. The “posterchild” (16, whore) for anti-choice campaigns is just as deserving, but less common than they’d like you to think.

So, it’s not rare, and it shouldn’t be shameful, to abort a fetus if one reasonably believes it’s a bad idea to bring another life into the world for any reason.

It’s all connected

From a purely biological perspective, birth control and abortion are dialects of the same language. Barrier and spermicidal methods generally prevent contraception by killing or averting sperm, hormones prevent ovulation or inhibit implantation of the embryo and “abortion” is the detachment and removal of the fetus from the lining of the uterus. But depending on your view, all of these things could be fucking with nature. If this bothers you, think about where you sleep and what you eat: we alter nature all the time, and some of it is really beautiful. Some of it, well, read the rest of this paper.

This is not DIY

While understanding herbal medicine can help each of us monitor our own health, by no means is abortion something to be undertaken alone. Besides the psychological crap, from the world and our own brains, inducing abortion is physically taxing. Don’t spare your partner’s weak stomach—they had a hand in this. Whether a one night stand or a long term partnership, it’s always the work of two. It’s fair to demand support and TLC. If you’re reading this as a partner or supporter, don’t wait to be asked! Offer to help without being condescending. She deserves to be cranky at this stage.

First you should know

Let me preface this section with a big disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health care practitioner. Though several herbalists and alternative health care practitioners were interviewed to verify safety, etc., everyone’s body is different. If you believe you need to use an abortifacient, at least give your doctor or local clinic a call. They may freak out, but it’s NECESSARY to have somewhere to go in case you hemorrhage. My homeopath was really supportive and offered more ideas for taking care of myself. If you choose to use any of the methods listed here, and they do not cause a miscarriage, you must receive a medical or surgical abortion. Also, don’t go it alone. Your body will really appreciate the support of someone cooking, massaging, accompanying you through this.


Two complimentary herbs that work together are black and blue cohash. One strengthens the uterus and the other induces contractions. Other herbs to combine (often referred to in herb guides as “harmful to pregnancy”) are angelica, parsley leaf and root, tansy, rue, and cotton root bark. If you decide to use pennyroyal tea, be sure to drink it hot while you are warm (think: in a hot bath). NEVER, ever, ever ingest pennyroyal oil, as you will die. It’s lethal. If you use homeopathics, take a 30c remedy of cauliphylum with the herbs. While you are taking any abortifacient, and generally for endocrine health, it’s good to also take nettle tea. It may help shorten hemorrhaging afterward and help you return to a normal menstrual cycle. Getting sufficient iron, magnesium and calcium from greens will also quicken physical recovery. Arnica, after your bleeding has slowed, will also help recovery.

The best way to take many herbs is by an infusion—a tea steeped over night and often reheated to ingest. Drink at least a quart a day as soon as you miss your period. Tinctures—distillation of herbs into alcohol—are the strongest remedy (therefore, most likely to work) and require either an herbalist or several weeks preparation. Choose a clear liquor (vodka is good) and soak the dried herb in a sealed container for 3 weeks to 3 months. Then, dilute the solution with half water and take a daily dosage of an eyedropper full 3 times a day. If you are having sex that could get you pregnant, it’s a good idea to prepare one just in case you need it in the future. Once you’re pregnant, you don’t have time to wait for distillation.

For most efficacy, take no more than two herbs at once, and for at most a week at a time. If you’ve tried two remedies, and haven’t started bleeding, see a doctor. Whatever’s inside you has been subject to enough toxicity that you need a medical or surgical abortion. After 6-8 weeks, it’s probably too late to induce abortion yourself.

Thoughts on self-care

-Take sick days, if you work and can.

-Allow a friend or lover to help you out.

-Write or draw or talk or meditate on your -thoughts and expectations and emotions.

-Prepare for some grief, but don’t force it.

-Eat food that doesn’t traumatize your body, and some that’s just plain comforting.

-Talk about it, to people you feel safe with.

Regardless of whether herbal abortion works, there is something satisfying about understanding your body and how it responds. As much as Western medicine has tried to distance women (and men) from their bodies, we can take ourselves back. Reproduction isn’t an abstract argument over population, it’s a personal choice and experience that most of us face eventually. And because each of us will respond according to our own lives and realities, we should have as many tools available as possible to help us through it.

Infoshop Update

Visit Sixth St. Books & Cafe in San Francisco

Sixth St. Books & Cafe in San Francisco has recently opened and is available for use by social justice groups, and for hosting progressive speakers and/or educational presentations. There have already been a variety of events such as folk bands, a jazz trio, readings, a talk by journalist Robert Jensen, and an SF meeting/benefit for Anarchist People of Color. There is a free-use library and free internet access, as well as plenty of space for people to relax, talk, play chess, and so forth. Check it out: 144 6th St. (between Mission and Howard St.) San Francisco. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. 415-626-8969.

Check out Chicago’s New World Resource Center

The New World Resource Center is Chicago’s oldest independent leftist bookstore. It has operated since 1972 as an all volunteer-run bookstore and community meeting space, stocking thousands of new and used volumes. The New World has moved many times in its life, but has always maintained an integrity of spirit and operation. Recently some of the volunteers banded together and bought a building to serve as the bookstore’s permanent home. If you’re in Chicago, visit them at 1300 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60622., (773)227-4011.

Danbury, CT infoshop finds new home

The Mad Hatters, aka, Danbury Independent Media Center and Infoshop of Danbury, CT has secured a new space after only being homeless for 2 months. They moved from their old space across from Western CT State Univ to the center of town. They are located between an all ages, no alcohol venue, the Empress Ballroom and the Hat City Ale House, where the local eclectics and activists hang out. The infoshop has a 1,500 + book lending library, progressive videos, various zines from around the US as well as progressive publications and a free DSL computer center. The space is also available for meetings. Visit them: 241 Main Street, 2nd floor, Suite 3 Danbury, CT 06810; Phone/Fax: 203-791-0284 www. madhattersimc.org

Arson destroys Canada’s Oldest Collectively-Run Radical Bookstore

Spartacus Books, Vancouver BC’s only non-profit, volunteer-run, radical bookstore burned to the ground April 25th when a fire tore through 311 W. Hastings St. Officials declared the cause of the fire to be arson after finding accelerant in the building. The bookstore did not have insurance and lost approximately $125,000 in inventory. Insurance premiums had risen to a level the store could not afford after 9/11.

“This is a terrible loss for the community. Spartacus Books was such a unique place.” comments Graham Sheard, bookstore coordinator. “It was organized entirely by volunteers and full of hard to find alternative resources. We were able to put information in the hands of thousands of people who would otherwise not have had access.” [Spartacus was Slingshot’s main distribution point in Vancouver.]

Spartacus Books was started in the early 1970s as a book-buying club of Simon Fraser University. It opened a storefront in 1973 on Hastings St and moved into 311 W. Hastings in 1974 where it has remained until the 3 alarm fire destroyed the building. Run by a collective of approximately 30 volunteers, Spartacus Books was open 365 days a year and catered to a wide variety of patrons.

“The diversity of people who came into the store was amazing,” says Alexander Daughtry, a longstanding volunteer who has been involved with Spartacus for the last 28 years. “You’d see university professors ordering books for their courses, anarchists putting on workshops, street kids using the free computers, students, parents and children, tourists who had heard of the store and had to come see it – there was something for everyone.”

At an emergency meeting on April 28th, the Spartacus collective decided to start from scratch and work to rebuild the bookstore. “We’re a community institution, a little fire can’t stop us,” said Alexander Daughtry. “But we need the support of the community in order to start over again.”

Donations can be made to the Spartacus Books Fund at the CECC Credit Union, 2250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver B.C. Send general mail to Spartacus Books, 2422 Main Street, Vancouver, BC Canada, V5T 3E2 or try 604.688.6138

Solidarity books in Indianapolis closes (?)

It looks like Solidarity books in Indianapolis has closed or moved and left no forwarding address. We have had mail returned from them and their phone # is disconnected. If you have any info, let us know.

Police State Update

Prisoner Teachers Can Save California

As all you left-coasters already know, California is really fucked up because they built the world’s biggest prison system with 160,000 inmates and cut taxes, gutting the education system in the process. Says one California teacher, “Every semester, English teachers at Berkeley High must write letters to parents asking them to buy paperback copies of novels that the schools can’t afford to purchase. Many teachers have reduced written assignments because increased class size doesn’t allow them to grade so many papers.”

It’s about time we put two and two together- make the prisoners teach the kids. I’m introducing this great idea in an anarchist-type publication, of course, because I know the idea will really gel with all those young anarchists who always say school is just like jail anyway. And it’s good ol’ Socialism too: Right now all those people incarcerated on public funds are working for peanuts with private industry. Paying them shit to teach our children puts the profits from the prison boom back into our communities.

There are two ways to go about this, or perhaps we can try a mixed approach. One way is to have a little prison in every community where the children can go everyday. Each classroom will be like a visiting room with a screen dividing the teacher from the students. Guards will be hired to control both the teachers and the students. The other approach will be to send children to prisons in the Central Valley ten months out of the year. The children will be housed in dormitories built into the prison complex. This option is sure to go swell with parents who always send their kids to summer camp, but is accessible even to poor families.

But what do our current teachers think of this? “We have no job security anyway. What do I have to do to get one of these new jobs anyway?”

Keystone State Kops Foiled

Last month, Camilo Vivieros was acquitted along with two co-defendants of throwing a bicycle at Police Commissioner John Timoney at the 2000 RNC protest in Philadelphia. For those of you unfamiliar with either person, Camilo is pretty much the nicest person in the world, a housing organizer in Providence, Rhode Island who inspires everyone he meets with his wholesome glow, and John Timoney is one of the world’s biggest assholes, a fanatical hater of protesters who goes from city to city to command police forces against mass actions, most recently at the FTAA in Miami.

The trial was a farce, with Timoney claiming that although he did not see who did it he was sure it was Camilo. While some activist writers claim that Timoney was betting his career on this prosecution, it isn’t so. Timoney was always a paper tiger, or a used toilet tissue tiger. We all knew that he never had the brains to run an urban counter-insurgency, and his federal handlers ran the show. Rest assured, at the next convergence the local daily will feature another stupid human interest story about the gritty street cop turned chief who gets two-fisted tough with those pesky anarchist hoodlums.

Now why did this silly prosecution happen at all? You can’t understand the Philadelphia P.D. until you go there. Before I visited the Brother Lovely City myself I read and heard all about police attacks on MOVE, the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, and couldn’t believe either side’s version of the events. But being there, especially at the RNC 2000 and seeing tactical police collide with each other and fall off their bikes, and hearing the “mainstream” press in the city rant viciously against anyone who disagrees with the police or thinks the Mumia prosecution might have been a little biased. . . It’s not so much that these particular cops are cruel, corrupt, or stupid, which they are to some degree, but what makes them unique is a wild enthusiasm with a reckless disregard for their own safety that gets them injured or shot a lot.

It’s Really Too Bad

Remember the docks protest in April ‘03 in Oakland, where the police blasted everyone with special munitions without any provocation? We had the one year anniversary last month and the port shut down to avoid any trouble and the police kept a respectful distance. The Oakland Tribune article on the front page the next day made it sound like the cops and protesters were all peace and love with each other now.

After it happened last year the Amnesty International and the United Nations were really upset. Which is weird because it wasn’t really that brutal for Oakland. Oakland has traditionally been an African-American city where police insanity is the status quo. Any attempt at militant direct action has always been met by overwhelming force. But now that the whole Bay Area, including and especially Oakland has been subjected to three degrees of gentrification, suddenly the bunch of white protesters getting bashed in a U.N. human rights concern for real! Maybe we’re turning into Berkeley or Amherst here!

But following up on the city response, by reading the Berkeley Copwatch Report online, maybe it’s still good ol’ Oakland. Rather than let the Citizens’ Police Review Board investigate, the City Attorney and City Manager set up a special 5-member panel to investigate. After meeting twice the panel concluded they were given insufficient time and resources to investigate and unanimously decided to disband (Oakland Trib 8/15/03). “It’s really too bad,” said City Council member Jane Brunner of the panel’s decision.

A Lighter Shade of Brown

Reflections on the First Bay Area Anarchist People of Color Conference

I have been asked too many times to count why people of color need or want their own spaces, their own places outside or beyond the presence of whites. And when I point out the benefits and needs of other communities – women, workers, queers, and so on — to meet independently of what they might consider “other,” people normally claim that some how the analogy is false, that it smacks of elitism, segregation, hell even reverse racism. They demand, “why do activists or anarchists of color want to further ‘divide’ themselves by creating these exclusionary events”? And it came up again at the Friday night meet and greet event on the eve of the first Bay Area Anarchist People of Color (APOC) conference. I was amazed to walk in to the Long Haul and see not one or two people of color, the number usually present at typically anarchist events, but easily forty. I was stunned, flabbergasted. I knew maybe five or six people; so much for me thinkin I get around…and then a young woman, white, walks in and when someone explains to her that it is a people of color only space for the evening, she is appalled, disgusted. “I’m an activist,” she stammers. “I’m working for equality for everyone.” She left eventually and we continued to talk, to eat, to ponder what would come of such an event.

Needless to say I was excited by the turn out and the energy in the room; it had been a quick and tumultuous journey to plan the April 16th and 17th event. It started with losing the initial community college space because the college administration associated anarchists with a risk to safety and security. We seemed to always be under pressure, but people are amazing and as each issue popped up, someone stepped up to tackle it; and so Saturday morning finally arrived. Amidst the flying blue and gold balloons of UC Berkeley’s annual open campus day with thousands of parents and prospective Cal students milling about, I saw the sign “ Anarchist People of Color gathering this way” in black and red.

The opening session was inspirational seeing so many people (many more than the event Friday night), hearing the powerful stories of people’s political development, people’s experiences, people’s fears and excitements about a gathering such as this. I can’t help but think back to the young woman complaining, chiding us that this is divisive; I can’t think of an equally powerful event from which so many people would leave able to work more intimately with other activists and/or anarchists as well as to understand their own connections to their own communities. This can only be beneficial to everyone.

Then, as with many conferences, the workshops ranged from traditional to educational to interactive. At times, I question our dogged adherence to conference type events, which seem to mirror every other conference from self-help seminars to anarchist gatherings. Some important conclusion could be drawn from this. But for me, most of the excitement was during the in-between times, outside of caucuses and workshops, in the hall ways, sitting in a circle talking about parenting over homemade tamales at lunch, relaxing in the sun discussing past experiences with predominately white activists, volunteering at the check-in table exploring white skin privilege and shame, arguing with an African American kid selling the Worker’s Vanguard with his white friend and him proselytizing that class is the only issue, and he like the white activist earlier fearing we are being blinded by race.

As I left the event Sunday afternoon, I realized that it is fear that prevents us from trusting others to solve their own issues, to reach their own conclusions; this fear is in many of us who grew up in this society saturated with a disempowering dependence on authority and outside structures. It is this fear which is dominant particularly in liberal circles ranging from the politically correct fear of discussing difference within classrooms or the activist notion that we should all agree, be on the same page, reach consensus about issues that are multifaceted, about people or cultures marginalized and consistently and endlessly under attack by institutionalized racism. It is this fear that causes people to balk at the notion of separation as a good, empowering, necessary ingredient in the struggle for creating a more egalitarian, cooperative, and trustful society.

Events like the Bay Area Anarchist People of Color conference aren’t a sign of divisiveness but of connection, of recognition that we are different (in many various and internal ways) and yet we see our difference in relationship to others, to other issues. In our mutual differences is our similarity. More events like this are needed and are coming. So far there’s been one national APOC conference and two regional ones, there’s already been a police attack on a benefit for the NYC APOC, and there’s talk of APOC gatherings in other cities and at up coming protests like the Republican convention and the biotechnology conference in SF. And it shouldn’t end with people of color. There’s been talk of re-starting a woman’s night again at the Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley, there’s a queer and trannie night already on Monday there [not a separatist event], and we even joked at the last Slingshot meeting about a men’s night. I can only fantasize about what would come of more people coming together, talking about shit in an environment of safety, trust, honesty, and respect, and then stepping out to talk to and work with others….

Gas Prices Too High?

It has been so utterly pathetic over the last few weeks to hear all these lazy Americans complaining about “high gasoline prices.” First and least importantly, gas prices are not really all that high at the moment by historical standards. If you adjust for inflation, gas in California averaged $2.42 a gallon in 1980 and 1981 (in 2003 dollars), and has generally cost around $1.75 per gallon (in 2003 inflation adjusted dollars) much of the time since 1974, according to the California Energy Commission. Another relatively unimportant fact to note is that the cause of the increase in prices is not a short supply from OPEC or oil companies — the cause of high prices is record high demand mostly from US drivers gobbling more gas than usual in all those SUVs, plus the increasing number of drivers around the world. In other words, not only do all those SUVs eat gas like there’s no tomorrow, but they collectively push up prices because they use so much gasoline. A recent chain email urging people to not buy gas for one day to punish oil companies for high prices was especially ridiculous. What about asking people never to buy gas again? That would be the best way to fight high gas prices and really stick it to those evil oil companies.

The point here is that Americans and American society are addicted to cheap gasoline, driving and fake “convenience” at the expense of anything standing in the way — certainly the environment. Threaten the gasoline supply or increase the price a few cents and Americans lose their minds.

The recent gas price increases have made it clear that this is not a “liberal” or “conservative” issue — Kerry and the Democrats have just as stupid a position as Bush. They all want to figure out a way to increase oil production to decrease prices, rather than to look at themselves and absurd oil consumption as the source of the problem.

The main cost of driving, of course, is not captured in the cost of gasoline. Numerous studies have considered all of the economic externalities associated with gasoline — costs to provide fuel that are not incurred by oil companies and not paid by consumes when they fill their tanks. Some of these costs are paid through taxes, while many environmental costs are never reduced to dollars and cents, but are instead measured in decreased quality of life, illness, and species of plants and animals doomed to extinction because so many people like driving a few miles to the store rather than walking, biking or taking transit (or not going to the store in the first place.)

For example, in 1998 the Center for Technology Assessment released a report entitled “The Real Price Of Gas” which found that the price of gasoline would have to increase between $5.60 and $15.14 per gallon if the price of gas were to include the cost of all the externalities associated with the production and use of gasoline. The report identified five types of costs associated with gasoline which are not encompassed in the price of a gallon of gas: “(1) Tax Subsidization of the Oil Industry; (2) Government Program Subsidies [road building, spill cleanup, etc.]; (3) Protection Costs Involved in Oil Shipment and Motor Vehicle Services [military]; (4) Environmental, Health, and Social Costs of Gasoline Usage;” and “other” including car accidents and subsidized parking. The environmental costs were the greatest — pollution, health problems, global warming, urban sprawl, and decreased quality of life.

When I hear drivers complaining about high gas prices, I cackle as I dream up extravagant fantasies about how to get drivers to pay for and experience the externalities associated with their driving madness. How about polluting the air in the houses of drivers so they all suffer from respiratory disease and have to fight for every breath? How about flooding their houses, so they can experience the sea level rise that is occurring because of their auto use? How about digging up their suburban back yards to make space for drilling rigs, toxic waste dumps and oil spills? How would they feel if it was their pets dying, rather than exotic animals and fish in far-away lands or Alaska? Maybe drivers could get run over once in a while too, instead of it always being cyclists and pedestrians getting killed.

The worst externality most drivers really get to suffer is when their are so many drivers all in one place at one time that it gets hard to park. Around Berkeley, the biggest battles are always around parking. Drivers want the city to spend millions of dollars to provide more parking to further subsidize driving. They want all new housing developments to provide ample parking, raising the cost of housing and blocking any consideration of alternatives to a car-dependent urban planning model.

So if parking is what makes drivers the most crazy on a daily basis, I say its time for a war on parking. Let’s dig up parking spaces and plant gardens or blockade parking lots with burning barricades of abandoned couches and tires. Remember: parking meters, meter maids (what is the modern term, anyway?!?) and parking tickets are the best friend of every cyclist and pedestrian because they raise the cost of driving and making driving a bigger pain in the ass. Car drivers have declared war on life on earth — we need to declare war on car drivers and their short-sighted abuse of the planet and our cities.

Oh yeah, and Critical mass bike ride should be every night and should go by as many freeway on-ramps as possible to make the commute a fucking living hell. Let’s block streets at random whenever we can with whatever we can. And replace the wasted oceans of traffic with bike-in theaters and art exhibits in the middle of the street.

We all know there can be legitimate reasons to drive, like for the ill and elderly, to move things too heavy to go by bike-cart, and to get places in the country not served by public transit and beyond biking range. A friend of mine who is a reformed driver put her finger on the problem: before she started riding her bike and realized it was possible to get around without her car, she just never thought about driving. She would just hop in the car to go where she was going — that was how one got from place to place.

Hopefully, higher gas prices and maybe some other increasing inconvenience associated with car use will make more people think about it. In Europe where gas prices have been much higher for years, people walk, bike and take transit a lot more often. Alternatives to a car-dependent world will require redesigning the cities to make housing closer to workplaces, schools and stores. It will require targeting social resources away from subsidizing driving and towards public transit. It will require some changed priorities — valuing health, an enjoyable trip and a healthy environment over speed and instant gratification. Car dependence is causing more problems every day, and higher gas prices is just the chickens coming home to roost — or maybe part of the solution.

¿Quién quiere más policía?

Las asociaciones vecinales de Oakland se venden a la policía comunitaria

Algunas organizaciones vecinales, que representan pocas voces, dicen hablar por todo Oakland al querer más policía, los brazos armados del Estado, en el lienzo de la ciudad. Partiendo del eufemismo de la promoción de “policía comunitaria”, los grupos ciudadanos en pro de la policía están impulsando una iniciativa para las elecciones de noviembre, para agregar más de 120 policías al Departamento de Policía de Oakland, después de luchar en contra de una iniciativa de marzo que hubiera agregado sólo 30 nuevos elementos.

La presencia creciente de la policía no hace nada para abordar los miedos de la gente, porque la policía responde sólo a su propia agenda, cuyas tácticas básicas para mantener a la gente “en línea” son el miedo y la falta de poder ciudadano. Afortunadamente existen modelos viables de patrullas comunitarias que aumentan la seguridad de los barrios de manera independiente de la red policiaca del Estado. Podemos remitirnos a ejemplos de grupos como Black Panthers y patrullas de barrios llamadas “playeras rosas” (“pink shirts”) para formular una respuesta que mire hacia adelante, frente a las chavacanerías represivas, sin creatividad y pro-policiacas, que sirve tan bien al Estado.

¿Quién quiere más policías? A pesar de las incontables maneras creativas en que la gente está organizada y activa en sus comunidades, son las organizaciones vecinales conservadoras —como la Asociación de Votantes de Oakland del Norte, la Asociacion de Vecinos de North Lake, etc— quienes tienen relación directa con el Consejo de la Ciudad de Oakland y el Departamento de Policía de Oakland. Las organizaciones vecinales que frecuentemente representan mínimos cortes de diversidad de los barrios, encubren a la policía al meter quejas como organizaciones vecinales “respetables” para eliminar faltas al orden público. No es de sorprenderse que éste sea un frente activo en la guerra de clases, en la cual estas faltas van desde molestos ladrones de reciclaje y clubes nocturnos ruidosos, hasta comercio de drogas y otros actos destructivos clasificados bajo el título distorsionado de Violencia de Pandillas.

El establecimiento reciente de una legislación de desalojo por faltas al orden público, convierte a la policía comunitaria particularmente letal. Los propietarios ahora pueden desalojar a sus inquilinos por alterar el orden del barrio (por tener fiestas ruidosas, mucha gente alrededor de su casa, jardines sin arreglar, etc). Para las personas con libertad condicional, los desalojos por faltas al orden público son criminalizados y cuentan como segunda o tercera falta. No es de sorprenderse que la policia esté utilizando esta herramienta para someter a personas con libertad condicional a un escrutinio aún más intenso.

Es bastante obvio que el sistema de policía, corte, y prisión no está eliminando la violencia que parece ser parte integral de la vida en los barrios de Oakland. La creación de reglas no transforma o elimina una situacion repentinamente: los castigos no son soluciones. Desde luego, es en los comportamientos que los policías pretenden querer eliminar, donde están haciendo su dinero. La meta de los policías es tener más policías, no quedarse sin trabajo. La estructura de tickets, multas y lineamientos de libertad condicional, que ha aumentado hasta llegar al rugido constante de los helicópteros que circulan los getos, es simplemente una excusa para no abordar las situaciones inmediatas de vida o muerte: la gente es dirigida, incluso estimulada, a romper la ley, ya sea a través de actos graves o menores, para sobrevivir.

El propósito básico de la policía, desde luego, no es promover el bienestar general de los ciudadanos, sino maneter las dinámicas de poder en nuestra sociedad. Su concepto sospechoso de seguridad comunitaria se traduce en molestar a cualquiera que no encaje dentro del marco estrecho de comportamiento apropiado. Afortunadamante la policía (el Estado) no tiene recursos ilimitados, y es aquí en donde “policía comunitaria” encaja como un eufemismo bizarro que nos hace hacer su trabajo sucio: coaptar el deseo legítimo de la gente de tener seguridad. ¡Reporten el comercio de drogas! ¡Denuncien a personas sospechosas! Participen, llamen a la policía! Al mismo tiempo, policía comunitaria implica que somos malos vecinos, malos barrios, malos ciudadanos con tendencias a la criminalidad si no “sapeamos” a nuestros vecinos.

Cuando pasa algo serio, la respuesta de la policía está basada sólidamente en la misma cultura de violencia que en principio creó el desastre. La gente en las pandillas, la gente que comete “crímenes” es sólo eso, gente que a pesar de la vida romantizada a través de los medios puede estar buscando una familia y sentido de pertenencia. Los miembros de pandillas son reflejados de manera estereotípica inflada hasta parecer máquinas inhumanas de violencia, miedo, resentimiento y falta de poder para todos. Toma mucho romper un corazón, pero el Estado policiaco estimula activamente la cultura de la violencia: violencia incontrolable de la policía, la mentalidad de la policía por sí misma y el sistema de plantación de prisiones. Si todos, la gente en las pandillas, la gente que les tiene miedo, la gente que sólo las conoce por la televisión, tuviera poder, no estaríamos en esta situación.

Vivimos atorados en este ciclo, pero no tenemos que estar aquí. Hay modelos viables de seguridad real que provienen del saber que puedes lidear con situaciones en tu barrio sin acudir a otra banda violenta: la policía. La respuesta a la policía comunitaria son las patrullas comunitarias anti-policía y pro-gente, que cuentan con una historia amplia y variada. Algunos grupos como Black Panthers y CopWatch, se han enfocado en patrullar a la policía, estableciendo un control comunitario de la policía en lugar de dejar que la policía controle a la comunidad. Hay innumerables grupos que funcionan a través del modelo de “playeras rosas” que se usa frecuentemente para proteger a gente queer, y que consisten en grupos pequeños de gente que van juntos para proveer una alternativa de seguridad visible frente a la policía. Mujeres Libres en Condega, Nicaragua, son un grupo de Mujeres que provee apoyo a situaciones de violencia doméstica, al confrontar a los perpetradores en su sitio de trabajo para asegurarse que la violencia no continúe en casa. La Nación de Islam tiene una red de fuerzas de seguridad en todos las ciudades de Estados Unidos que provee seguridad en situaciones donde la policía o seguridad contratada se utilizaría normalmente. Girl Army es otro grupo de autodefensa que enfatiza el control personal en lugar de depender de fuerzas externas.

Mientras trabajamos para crear modelos adecuados para nuestra comunidad, hay una serie de preguntas a considerar: ¿Hasta qué grado la violencia o la no-violencia es útil para las patrullas comunitarias? ¿Dónde está la línea entre patrullas comunitarias y vigilantismo? ¿Cómo podemos crear poder personal y comunitario sin convertirnos en capataces? ¿Podemos realmente hacer que las patrullas comunitarias aseguren la seguridad y dar bienvenida a todos en el barrio en lugar de caer en la exclusion de cierta gente basada en las mismas normas agotadas que nos plagan en la actualidad? ¿Podemos ganar el juego mental de la policía y ver al comercio de drogas como lo que es, una transacción no violenta? ¿Podemos estimular una cultura de disminución de daños en lugar de autodestrucción? La organización comunitaria es raramente simple. Nada sustituye el conocer y respetar a nuestros vecinos, a todos. Charlar con 5 o 10 personas con quienes nos sentimos cómodos, no niega la necesidad de construir puentes con gente que parece muy distinta a nosotros pero que vive a unas cuantas casas de la nuestra. Afortunadamente las patrullas comunitarias cuentan con una historia rica y variada que permite q
ue sean un foco práctico para la organización comunitaria. Son una buena respuesta orientada a la acción frente a la impotencia liberal de “trabajé en las escuelas, participé voluntariamente en el centro recreativo y siguen vendiendo drogas al otro lado de la calle!”

Las patrullas comunitarias estimulan a que la gente participe en las mismas calles que temen, las calles que caminan todos los días. Tienen el potencial tanto de tener efecto directo en la mejoría de la vida de la gente como un cambio estructural dentro del sistema al cuestionar el poder y relevancia de la policía. En vecindarios tan diversos como los de Oakland, la organizacion radical alrededor de la seguridad comunitaria tiene el potencial de abordar la cultura de la violencia que perpetúa homicidios, racismo y clasismo; que sostiene las quejas contra clubes nocturnos ruidosos y ladrones de reciclaje, y controla el Estado policiaco en nuestras vidas. Podemos rechazar la estupidez de la policía comunitaria, porque el camino de las alternativas viables está despejado.

La Guerra en Iraq expone la debilidad del imperio estadounidense

Para quienes tienen esperanza de limitar el poder y la violencia del imperio estadounidense, el resultado de la guerra en Iraq ha sido, de alguna manera, una cosa buena. El intento a la intervencion unilateral de las fuerzas armadas estadounidenses ha sido un desastre para los gobernantes de los Estados Unidos. Estados Unidos no ha podido ganar militarmente contra una insurgencia decidida que está armada ligeramente a pesar de sus fuerzas armadas tan enormes y poderosas. Por último, todas las balas, la armadura, los aviones, los misiles, y los aparatos de alta técnología son una forma de poder falso. La guerra contra Iraq ha expuesto esto, para que todos lo vean.

En práctica, la capacidad de matar en una escala masiva e industrial no puede traer el control. Esta capacidad sólo puede traer la muerte, que es una cosa muy lejos de controlar una población. Cada civil iraqí adicional matado a tiros por las armas estadounidenses afecta el “control estadounidense” sobre la población iraqí y solo crea más resistencia, más rabia, más manos lanzando las RPG (bombas de resistencia) y también más enterrando las bombas al lado de la carretera.

Para que un imperio como el de Estados Unidos—y el sistema global capitalista que sirven a los gobernantes estadounidenses—se aproveche de la agresión militar, el capitalismo global necesita obtener oportunidades económicas después de la guerra. Mercados libres, mano de obra barata para sus companías corporativas y materiales crudos. No van a escuchar decir esto a nadie, pero el motivo principal de los gobernantes estadounidenses en terminar con la insurgencia en Iraq no es para que los gobernantes elegidos en Iraq puedan realizar un día de elecciones en paz, sino para que las corporaciones internacionales puedan empezar a tener sus inversiones lucrativas en Iraq. La inversion y el comercio sólo funcionan en un contexto de estabilidad. El ejército del imperio estadounidense puede matar a miles de iraqís, pero no tiene el poder de crear estabilidad—en un ambiente en que los trababjadores puedan ir felices a sus trabajos a servir a sus “amos” corporativos lucrativos. Las fuerzas armadas de los Estados Unidos no han sido muy eficientes en proteger la extracción de crudo en Iraq, que debió haber sido más fácil y básica forma de sacqueo económico de posguerra.

Por atacar a la poblacion iraqí con instancias repetidas de doble brutalidad—disparar e invadir a las mezquitas, bombardear las celebraciones matrimoniales, torturar sin ropa a los prisioneros iraqis. La ocupacion estadounidense tiene todo, excepto asegurar que los iraqís tienen permitido acudir a las urnas, para elegir representantes contrarios a los intereses del imperio estadounidense, sino, representantes del estado islamico radical.

Los planeadores militares estadounidenses, han tratado de establecer numerosas bases militares permanentes en Iraq para lanzar un camino más de agresion en el Medio Oriente. Pero después de un año de ocupación, las tropas se llenan las manos simplemente para proteger sus nalgas, dejando muy poco tiempo para considerar una invasión mas a Iran o Syria más adelante.

Dado el fracaso de lograr una perceptible pos-invacion imperial calculada, 11,000 muertes iraqis y más de 800 soldados estadounidenses, deberia de ser, por lo menos un poco “desafortunado” hasta para el regimen fánatico estadounidense.

Aúnque Bush trata de no preocuparse, la situación ha empeorado porque ignoró y ofendió a todos sus aliados capitalistas, con su unilaterismo. Las debilidades militares estadounidenses descubiertas por la guerra en Iraq, también inicio una teoría política de propósitos escondidos como el Proyecto del Nuevo Siglo en America (USA)—que sería “como el único super-poder que queda en pie” los Estados Unidos podría aumentar su poder usando libremente toda su fuerza militar, sin tomar en cuenta las opiniones de sus aliados fastidiosos.

En realidad es que el poder militar estadounidense usado, ha hecho que el imperio de USA se vuelva ante los ojos del mundo politicamente debil, no más fuerte. Estados Unidos sería el único super-poder que queda en pie, pero la moneda tiene dos lados. Es decir, que cada país tenga miedo y sumision o que el escenario esté fijado a que otros bloques mundiales politicos se unan para destruir al más matón del bloque.

Dado todo lo de la guerra en Iraq ha revelado, podemos esperar por lo menos que los gobernantes del imperio estadounidense no vuellvan a tratar nada como esta unilateral aventura militar, en ningun tiempo proximo. Es un beneficio también que las fuerzas armadas de los Estados Unidos están amarrados en Iraq por el momento. El mundo afuera de Iraq ha sido pocas veces más seguro que el terrorismo militar estadounidense que ocurre ahora.

Otro matiz más claro de moreno

Reflexiones sobre la Primera Conferencia de Anarquistas de Color en el Area de la Bahía

La gente me ha preguntado muchas veces porqué la gente de color necesita o quiere tener sus propios espacios, sus lugares afuera de o más allá de la presencia de los blancos. Y cuando señalo los beneficios y las necesidades de otras comunidades— las mujeres, los trabajadores, los homosexuales (y otros “queers”), y otros grupos— para reunirse independientemente de lo que quizás consideran “los otros,” la gente normalmente dice que de una manera la analogía es falsa, que eso sabe al élitismo, a la segregación, y aún al racismo al revés. Demandan, “porque quieren l@s activistas o las anarquistas de color ‘dividirse’ aún más en crear eventos exclusivos?” Y eso se mencionó otra vez, en el evento introductorio de la noche del viernes, la noche antes que el comienzo de la primera Conferencia de Anarquistas de Color en el Area de la Bahía.

Fui sorprendido que al llegar a el Long Haul, ví a no solo una o dos personas de color, que es la cantidad que normalmente hay en los eventos típicos anarquistas, sino que por lo menos cuarenta (40) personas. Me quede atontado, pasmado. Yo ya conocía a unas 5 o 6 personas; entonces significa que no conozco a tanta gente como pensaba…y luego una joven blanca entró, y cuando alguien le explicó que en esa noche el Long Haul era un espacio de solo para la gente de color, ella quedaba consternada, disgustada. “Soy activista,” balbuceaba. “Estoy trabajando para la igualdad de todas.” Eventualmente se fue, y seguimos hablando, comiendo, y deliberando lo que saldría de un tal evento.

No necesito decir que yo estaba excitado por la concurrencia y la energía que hubo en ese cuarto; el planificar el evento del 16 y 17 de abril había sido un viaje rápido y tumúltuoso. Empezó con perder el espacio que teníamos reservado en una universidad comunitaria, por que la administracion del colegio relacionaba a las anarqistas como un riesgo para la seguridad. Parecia que siempre estabamos bajo presion, pero la gente hace cosas increíbles, y cada vez que nos salió un tema dificil en el proceso de organizar, alguien se levanto para lidear con el problema; así que al final llegó la mañana de ese sábado. Entre los globos azules y amarillos que estaban volando, ya que fue el dia anual de ciudad universitaria abierta en Cal (la Universidad de California en Berkeley), con miles de padres e estudiantes prospectivos de Cal por todas partes, ví el cartel “Asamblea de Anarquistas de Color Por Aquí” en negro y rojo.

La sesión de apertura fue una inspiración, en ver a tanta gente (muchas más que el evento de la noche del viernes), oyendo las historias poderosas del desarrollo político de la gente, las experiencias, los temores, y las esperanzas para una tal reunión. No puedo parar de volver a pensar en esa joven, quejándose y remprimiéndonos que hacer esto es divisivo; no puedo pensar en otro evento tan poderoso del cual tanta gente podría irse capaz de trabajar de manera más íntima con otras activistas y/o anarquistas, tanto como entender sus propias ligaciones a sus propias comunidades. Esto sólo puede dar beneficios a todas.

Luego, como es con muchas conferencias, los talleres recorrieron lo tradicional, lo educativo, hasta lo interactivo. A veces, tengo mis preguntas sobre el valor de nuestra fidelidad a los eventos de este tipo, porque me parece que son lo mismo que cualquier otra conferencia, desde los seminarios sobre el esfuerzo propio, hasta las reuniones anarquistas. Me parece que se puede llegar a alguna conclusión sobre esto. Pero para mi, la mayoría de la excitación ocurrió en los tiempos entre los comités y los talleres, en los corredores; cuando todas estabamos sentadas en un círculo en el almuerzo, hablando de nuestras trabajos como madres y padres mientras comiamos tamales caseros; relajándonos bajo el sol mientras hablabamos de experiencias del pasado con activistas quienes eran mayormente blancos; haciendo el trabajo voluntario en la mesa de bienvenida y explorando el privilegio de la piel blanca y la vergüenza; discutiendo con un joven Africano-Americano quien estaba a la vez vendiendo el periódico Worker’s Vanguard (La vanguardia de los obreros) y exhortando que la clase es el único tema importante, y que él, con su amigo blanco, pensaba que el tema del color nos estaba cegando.

Al irme de la conferencia el domingo por la tarde, me di cuenta de que el temor es lo que nos previene de confiarnos en que los otros puedan resolver sus propios problemas y llegar a sus propias conclusiones; este temor está en muchos de nosotros quienes nos educamos en esta sociedad que está saturada con una dependencia que nos saca el poder por hacernos depender de la autoridad y las estructuras de afuera. Es este temor que es dominante particularmente en los círculos liberales, desde el temor “políticamente correcto” de hablar de la diferencia en las clases en las escuelas, o la idea de los activistas de que debemos todos de estar de acuerdo, estar en la misma página, llegar en un consenso sobre temas que tienen varias facetas, sobre la gente o las culturas marginalizadas y bajo un ataque consistente y sin fin por el racismo institucionalizado. Es este temor que causa que la gente resista la idea de la separación como un ingrediente necesario y bueno que nos habilita para la lucha para crear una sociedad más igualitaria, cooperativa, y confiada.

Los eventos como la Conferencia de Anarquistas de Color en el Area de la Bahía no son muestra de lo que crea el desacuerdo, sino más bien de la conexión, de reconocer que somos diferentes (de maneras varias e internas) y, ya que reconocemos nuestra diferencia en relación a los otros, a otros temas. Nuestra semejanza está en nuestras mútuas diferencias . Más eventos como este son necesarios y van a venir. Hasta ahora ha habido una conferencia nacional “APOC” de anarquistas de color, y otras dos regionales, ha habido un ataque por la policía sobre un beneficio para la conferencia APOC en Nueva York, y se ha hablado sobre posibles asambleas en otras ciudades y en protestas venideras como la convención republicana y la conferencia sobre la biotecnología en San Francisco. Y no debe de limitarse a la gente de color. La gente ha hablado de comenzar otra vez a tener una noche de solo para mujeres en el Long Haul, hay una noche para los homosexuales y transexuales (queers y trannies) los lunes, y en la última reunión de Slingshot, discutimos de la idea de tener una noche de para hombres. Tengo fantasías sobre lo que vendría si más gente se juntara, para hablar de las cosas en un ambiente de seguridad, confianza, honestidad, y respeto, y luego salir a hablar y trabajar con las otras….

Your Face Here: Join the Chaos in New York's Streets

By all accounts, tens of thousands of people from all across the United States are poised to protest — and attempt to physically disrupt — the Republican National Convention (RNC) August 30 to September 2 in New York City. The RNC protests could be the largest and most tumultuous in the USA in several years.

The RNC sets up the perfect storm for chaos in the streets. New York City is the largest city in the US and one of the least friendly for Republicans. Many New Yorkers feel that the RNC was forced down their throats, and tens of thousands of locals are expected to join the protests.

The Republicans opportunistically decided to have the convention in NYC to take political advantage of the attack on the World Trade Center and to highlight Bush’s “war on terrorism.” But since they selected the location of the convention, things haven’t gone well for Bush or the war on terrorism. In the name of 9-11, Bush dragged the US into an increasingly unpopular war that may be generally recognized as a fiasco by late August.

New York is ground zero for many social groups that have been special victims of Republican policies over the years — gays, African-Americans, Arab Americans, the poor and urban dwellers, women who support abortion rights . . .

New York has a massive police force — if it was an army, it would be the sixth largest on earth — which is threatening to take a “zero tolerance” stance on protesters. As of the date this article is being written, the city has still failed to issue any permits for “legal” demonstrations. The Department of Homeland Security and John Ashcroft have announced that they expect a terrorist attack within the US before the election — perhaps at the RNC — which you can better believe will be used as an excuse to squelch public protests and whip up fear.

Thus, the stage is set for huge angry crowds, inadequate and restricted places to gather, vicious police, hype about terrorists hiding in the sewers — all in a huge, crowded urban setting — basically chaos on a mass scale. While it may be difficult for protesters to get near the heavily defended convention center at Madison Square Garden, delegates will still have to get there from almost 50 hotels, most of them within a mile of MSG. This area of midtown Manhattan cannot be entirely closed by the police because to do so would shut down the world’s economy which is operated largely from New York City.

But even given the challenging but opportunity-filled tactical situation at the RNC, we should stop and give some thought to why people should go to New York City for the RNC. Organizing to bring in thousands of activists from across the country will involve the expenditure of millions of dollars for travel and the use of huge chunks of time that could be used on many other grassroots protects or protests.

What will be accomplished by protesting the Republicans? We should think of street action as a tool — we should have some understanding of what goal we are seeking and how application of pressure on a particular point will promote that goal. Certainly the Republicans are responsible for promoting terrible policies and values, but it is just as certain that protesting them won’t change their policies or their values.

And are we just falling into an electoral politics trap by focusing on Republicans instead of capitalism in general? I’m not so ideological as to dismiss a bit of election year “lesser of two evils” pragmatism, but assuming that we think it might be slightly better for Bush to lose the election, does protesting the RNC even promote that goal? In the 1960s, many candidates used street protests to their advantage.

Perhaps the best reason to go to the RNC is to use the huge stage it will provide to send a powerful message to people — not politicians! — both in the US and internationally that the road we’re on is unacceptable. The world’s eyes will be on New York City during the convention, and massive protests will be hard to ignore. There has been relative calm in the US since the large anti-war protests before the war started, and in the absence of massive protests, there is less of a sense that there is popular opposition to the war and the disastrous course the world is on.

Visible massive protest is a tangible way to change the political climate — to make clear that there is strong opposition. News events can’t help but look different through a lens tinted by the glow of chaos in the streets.

In the US, visible protest will help those with questions about the current political direction to feel less isolated and more empowered. For viewers in the rest of the world, it will be an important reminder that Americans are not united behind militaristic, unilateral, imperial policies. When the United States appears more split, it makes it easier for people everywhere to oppose the current regime’s policies — from Baghdad to Berlin.

In the increasingly globalized world, we need to keep our eye on world public opinion. Anti-Americanism is at an all-time high, but much of this opinion is really targeted against the current rogue regime. It’s up to those on the streets in New York to de-legitimize the regime and shatter any remaining sense that the US public uniformly supports the terrorist US policies since 9-11.

Our Fuckin’ Streets!

New York offers many tempting targets for popular outrage besides the Republicans and Madison Square Garden. Besides Wall Street, it is home to the corporate media and countless corporate headquarters. If all else fails, there are hundreds of Starbucks.

Many activists, understanding that the police will be well organized around Madison Square Garden, are advocating a decentralized strategy in which action is taken to areas all over the city simultaneously. For instance, it has been suggested that people from each particular state disrupt the hotel housing that state’s delegates, so local media can’t charge “outside agitators” and to spread the police as thin as possible.

Certainly, our strength will be our diversity of tactics, spontaneity, unpredictability, and adaptability. We need to go to New York organized and ready to test for weak spots, and seize opportunities as they arise. We’ll be most successful if we avoid being rigid about any particular plan or tactics, and are instead able to drop ideas that aren’t working quickly and figure out other options.

We also need to focus on being effective and drop, to the greatest extent possible, tired and doomed scripts and behaviors — fuck the black block and swaggering around looking punker-than-thou with way too much silly attitude! Excluding our potential allies on fashion grounds will get us exactly nowhere.

For instance, while the biggest, most legally sanctioned and moderate marches may be boring, it would be a mistake to simply ignore them, since there are tremendous opportunities for small group actions within the context of a massive crowd. Radicals and militants have a special role to play in New York. We need to avoid getting trapped in situations where we are totally surrounded by gobs of police and there are just a few of us who are easily swept up and arrested right off the bat.

Going to New York with an affinity group will provide the best chances for operational flexibility, effectiveness and safety. An affinity group is a small group of 6-12 trusted comrades who agree to stick together, cooperate to accomplish goals, use their collective wisdom to identify opportunities for action, and watch each others’ backs. Affinity groups can provide decentralized and non-authoritarian “leadership by example” in chaotic and uncertain situations, because they have enough people to try something as a group that can be noticed and followed if other people in the area think it makes sense. As an individual or a couple in a chaotic situation,
you’ll often feel disempowered, scared and reserved — as an affinity group, you’ll feel courage.

So study up on New York maps, get your affinity group together and network with other groups so you can run in a pack (known as a cluster). Then make your travel plans. We have the summer to discuss our goals and figure out which actions, targets and tactics will fit those goals. But on the hot, humid New York streets, the main thing will be to be there, be visible, and fuck shit up!

For more information about the RNC protests, check out these website. www.counterconvention.org, rncwatch.typepad.com, nycplc.mahost.org, www.campshutdown.com, rncpunditpatrol.typepad.com,

The hotel assignments for the RNC are as follows:

Alabama – Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers

Alaska – Sheraton Manhattan Hotel

American Samoa – Embassy Suites Hotel New York

Arizona – The Roosevelt Hotel

Arkansas – W New York

California – New York Marriott Marquis

Colorado – New York Marriott East Side

Connecticut – Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers

Delaware – Millennium Hilton

District of Columbia – The Algonquin

Florida – Hilton New York

Georgia – The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park

Guam – New York Marriott Financial Center

Hawaii – New York Marriott Financial Center

Idaho – Park Central New York

Illinois – Doubletree Guest Suites Times Square-New York City

Indiana – Embassy Suites Hotel New York

Iowa – Sheraton Manhattan Hotel

Kansas – Park Central New York

Kentucky – The Westin New York at Times Square

Louisiana – Helmsley Park Lane

Maine – W New York

Maryland – Park Central New York

Massachusetts – Swissotel The Drake, New York

Michigan – Hilton New York

Minnesota – New York Marriott East Side

Mississippi – Hilton Times Square

Missouri – The Westin New York at Times Square

Montana – Renaissance New York Hotel Times Square

Nebraska – New York Marriott Financial Center

Nevada – RIHGA Royal New York, A JW Marriott Hotel

New Hampshire – InterContinental, The Barclay New York

New Jersey – Crowne Plaza Hotel Times Square Manhattan

New Mexico – The Roosevelt Hotel

New York – Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers

North Carolina – The Warwick

North Dakota – New York Marriott Financial Center

Ohio – New York Marriott Marquis

Oklahoma – The Roosevelt Hotel

Oregon – The Roosevelt Hotel

Pennsylvania – Hilton New York

Puerto Rico – Millennium Hilton

Rhode Island – Millennium Hilton

South Carolina – Helmsley Park Lane

South Dakota – Sheraton Manhattan Hotel

Tennessee – New York Marriott Marquis

Texas – Hilton New York

Utah – Millennium Hilton

Vermont – Hilton Times Square

Virgin Islands – Sheraton Manhattan Hotel

Virginia – Helmsley Park Lane

Washington – Millennium Broadway Hotel New York

West Virginia – Millennium Broadway Hotel New York

Wisconsin – Millennium Broadway Hotel New York

Wyoming – Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers

Face Masks

Masks are everywhere: at street festivals, carnivals, masquerade balls, and of course street protests against the world’s elite, their meetings, and their parties. The autonomous indigenous community in Southern Mexico known as the Zapatistas wear masks to be faceless — to identify with the faceless victims of neo-liberalism and corporate globalization. Masks are also worn here in the US for anonymity and solidarity as we struggle for a more human existence. This article addresses the wearing of masks in the context of the demonstrations during the Republican National Convention (RNC) to be held in New York City this summer.


In 1845, the State of New York passed a law which forbade the wearing of masks. It authorized the pursuit and arrest of anyone who “having his face painted, discolored, covered or concealed, or being otherwise disguised, in a manner calculated to prevent him from being identified, shall appear in any road or public highway, or in any field, lot, wood, or enclosure.” It was originally adopted to thwart armed insurrections by Hudson Valley tenant farmers who dressed and painted themselves as Native Americans to attack law enforcement officers over rent issues. The law was then shelved for most of the 20th Century until 1965, when it was used to criminalize transvestites and drag queens who wore too much make-up for the authorities to bear.

More recently, the law has resurfaced in two contexts: At a KKK rally in 2001 and during the large-scale protests of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in January 2002. In the last year, through efforts of the Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the New York Civil Liberties Union, the mask law was temporarily overturned as a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression. Since then, the mask law has been reinstated.

Shortly before the WEF came to New York, but only a few months after 9/11, the New York Police Department announced that they would be enforcing the mask law at the scheduled protests at the Waldorf Astoria. Despite the pledge of nonviolence signed and given to obtain the necessary permits to march, sections of the march were repeatedly cordoned off from the main body of the march and brutalized (with batons and pepper spray) without provocation — even before leaving the rally point! What was the NYPD’s justification? Some people were masking up. Some people had shields. Every attempt at defense is spun as an act of aggression.

The Situation Today

This leaves us to speculate on what the NYPD/Secret Service’s position will be on masks during the RNC. More likely than not, their position will be one of Zero Tolerance. Thus, the RNCNotWelcome Collective has concluded that it is unwise to wear masks at permitted marches where there are always interlocking steel barricades and rows of cops on either side of the street. Open battles with police in the gridded streets of New York City is almost always a losing battle (the exception being the Draft Riots of 1863, when demonstrators took to the rooftops). If the cops attack, it is best to run and regroup. In a march where the NYPD has total control, there may be nowhere to retreat — we saw this at the WEF protests and at the antiwar protests of 2003. On March 20, 2004, the one-year anniversary of the beginning of Gulf War II, the permitted march was flanked on both sides by interlocking steel barricades, creating a vast pen running from 42nd St. to 23rd St., and down the side streets from Park to Fifth Avenue. We are opposed to these so-called “Free Speech Zones;” we take our Free Speech Zones with us wherever we go.

A call for decentralized, autonomous actions instead of Black Blocs

New York City is a heavily surveilled city. From the thousands of surveillance cameras installed in public places to the thousands of tourists with cameras, those engaging in direct action have it in their best interests to remain anonymous. Even those participating in permitted marches and rallies have reason to hide their faces. A near-secret NYPD intelligence unit called the Technical Assistance Resource Unit (TARU), successor to the infamous “Red Squad” of the 1950’s and 60’s, has been filming demonstrators despite the Handschu Consent Decree of 1980 (787 F. 2d 828), which forbids such unwarranted surveillance. So, we propose making their surveillance (and their threat of making 1,000 arrests per day) more difficult.

If we are diffused throughout the city, we will have a much better advantage. After all, the real target is not Madison Square Garden, the stage of the spectacle, but the various events where deals are made — where the lobbyists wine, dine, and bribe Bush & Co. The RNC has promised to stage events and photo ops in every borough of the city, not just in Manhattan. If we are truly everywhere in this very big city, the police cannot be concentrated in one area, their communications will be hampered by their hierarchical process, their steps will be slowed by their pounds of body armor and fatigue from forced overtime.

Outside of marches, all-black clothing is rather conspicuous (even in NYC where black clothing is king), so our dress code should be “business casual.” [Or how about avoid a dress code and just try to fit in?] Sunglasses are suggested, the bigger the hipper. And hats are always in. Would you make the small sacrifice to cut your hair or take out your septum ring to stay out of jail? Racial and political profiling are commonly practiced here and we need you in the streets! When it is time to act, and if it is necessary, then mask up and perform. After your escape, the thing people will remember about you is the color of your kerchief (or your Yankees cap). Swap some clothes if that makes you feel more comfortable, then you’re ready for Plan B.

Our tone here is light, but our message is serious — the use of masks is a tactic — one that should be used strategically. When making this decision, which ultimately is an individual one, time and place are important variables — especially in NYC where the state’s position is cut-and-dry on the books. Be wise, be safe, stay strong. Peace in our lives.