Stop the killing, stop the torture! – campaign demands an end to vivisection at UC Berkeley

In the East Bay, a new campaign has been formed to combat animal testing. This campaign is focused on the University of California at Berkeley and the researchers that make their livings inflicting pain on non-human animals. This has been the first time in nearly a decade that there has been an active anti-vivisection campaign in Berkeley. Most recent animal rights activism in the Bay Area has been focused around indirect and reform-based campaigns.

According to the University Relations Office, over 40,000 animals are housed on the UC Berkeley campus. Forty percent are various cold-blooded animals, fifty percent are mice and nine percent are other rodents. The remaining one percent is comprised of non-human primates, cats, hyenas (who are in the only captive breeding colony in the world, located in the hills above campus), rabbits, and invertebrates. Some of the violence these animals endure includes fluid deprivation, head restraints, and electrodes inserted into their brains. The University plans to extend the existing Northwest Animal Faculty by seventy percent with the construction of the Li-Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, which is currently under construction and taking the place of just-demolished Warren Hall. This facility is a sign that UC Berkeley is not only continuing animal testing but planning to expand.

This campaign is making use of the tactic of home demonstrations that has become popular in recent years, in which a group of activists demonstrate at the homes of vivisectors and those complicit in vivisection. These days of demonstrations have been occurring frequently.

One protest organized recently was in opposition to the tenth anniversary of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the Berkeley City Club Ballroom, which took place on September 17, 2007. Protesters stood outside with signs and megaphones calling on the city of Berkeley not to sponsor such events and for the university to stop this needless testing. One of the vivisectors harassed protesters and shoved his camera into their faces. Federal agents taking pictures also attended this event, showing how important these animal research dollars are.

October 21, 2007, 18 activists were cited and 4 arrested at a home demonstration in El Cerrito. UCPD Detective Jason Collom trailed protesters in an unmarked car and ordered around local police during the citations. These activists were all charged with disturbing the peace. Det. Collom has made it clear that he wants to kill this campaign and will use any amount of intimidation and repression that he can get away with. Unfortunately for him, the court date never even happened — since the UC police had no jurisdiction in El Cerrito — and all of the citations were thrown out.

Saturday, January 5 was another afternoon of demonstrations in opposition to UC Berkeley vivisection. The day of action was preceded by a smear article written by Matt Krupnick in that morning’s Oakland Tribune full of fear mongering that implied that there was a connection between local protests and the current UCLA campaign that has used firebombing of cars and vandalism of property to save animals. It is important to mention that nothing of that sort has gone on with this campaign.

The article mentioned that UC Police had warned the vivisectors of the day of action and that the animal facility was locked down for the day. The afternoon started off with a UCPD officer sitting ten feet away from the rendezvous point. As the protestors left the location for the mobile demonstrations, the officer did three dangerous U-turns in an unmarked Prius to follow the protesters. Activists were able to lose the trailing officer on the freeway. The day of action went fairly well, and without any further police contact or presence. Fifteen activists gathered in the cold and rain to again send the message that those who cause suffering to sentient beings for grant money and career status will no longer be able to enjoy silence and relative calm in their homes — mostly hillside mansions — while the animals they torture are locked in cages.

Since this campaign began, a main researcher of the Hyena project mentioned above has announced his retirement. He has given 10 hyenas to zoos and sanctuaries, while the remaining hyenas have received emergency funding from the national science foundation for 15 more months. Organizers see these demonstrations being a catalyst for change on the UC Berkeley campus, an opportunity for these researchers to come of age and leave behind archaic research methods.

The UC system is a for-profit institution with millions of dollars tied up in animal research. These protests are done in solidarity with the current tree-sit at UC Santa Cruz. The tree-sit seeks, in part, to stop the building of another animal research facility.

Activists also are mindful of the intense actions that are being carried out at UCLA. They feel that every student and neighbor of the UC system can help to create a hostile environment for vivisection and its practitioners.

The animal rights activists involved vow to continue with this campaign, with the demand that the university phase out all animal models of research. More reliable alternatives, like computer modeling and clinical research, exist. Most of all the organizers need more like minded folks to come out to demos. The only way to stop this silly and brutal research is to do something about it, vegan potlucks are not going to free animals from the UC Berkeley Labs. To get involved in this campaign and to be added to the e-mail list, get in touch with them at:

To educate yourself about the amount of animals used in different vivisection facilities around the State of California, go to:

Political theater for the lving room – a review of the play Take This House

Compared with most other places in the world, a likely majority of us inhabiting the United States live with plenty and abundance, so much so that we take it for granted. We eat food but know not where it was harvested, or how many pairs of hands touched those tomatoes before they came to crown our organic arugula and endive salad. We watch television, live through the internet, read by lamplight, yet remain unaware of where and how the necessary electricity was generated. And we flush our toilets, water our lawns, and wash our sore bodies in steaming showers, ever ignorant of the intricate system of pipes and dams that pump this most precious of liquid, fundamental to life itself, from distant sources to our lips and drains.

“Take This House (and Float it Away)”, a new work of theater by K. Qilo Matzen and Andrea del Moral (Change of State Performance Project), aims to provoke its audience into reconsidering our uses of and attitudes toward water. While water is ubiquitous, found in oceans and in our cells, the play focuses on a presumably affluent white couple living in the Sacramento River Delta. Stu and Marlene immerse themselves in the mundane: Stu obsessively watches birds through a living room window, and Marlene keeps herself ever active in the local Kiwanis club and playground construction projects at local schools. Over the course of several days, Sacramento becomes increasingly inundated with relentless storms. The region’s levees, second only to those of New Orleans in terms of disrepair, breach, and soon the streets of Stu and Marlene’s tranquil neighborhood are raging with the relentless flow of long-obstructed water.

The play is the result of del Moral and Matzen’s long-time artistic collaboration. While both artists have their primary foundations in dance and movement-based theater, this piece appears to be much more a “straight” play, where a great deal of the action occurs through the dialogue. The script emerged from improvisations, and from these two actors’ desires to address our use and misuse of water in a direct and relevant way. While the play seems like it could be the product of a playwright, the performance of the text is enriched by moments of sudden speed and exaggerated slowness, as well as sequences dreamlike and otherworldly, which augment with the otherwise naturalistic and comedic tone. It is in these places, the decelerated card game or the floating newspapers, when Matzen and del Moral let their physical training and aesthetic infuse the piece.

In the program for the play, Matzen and del Moral propose this question: “Would the Gulf Coast response look different if the capital of a wealthy state, and all its white, affluent residents, stood in disaster’s path?” The creators provide no answers. The audience leaves deprived of a conveniently profound revelation that explains everything neatly. Instead, in a post-show discussion, the actors ask the audience to respond to their experience, to voice their own perspectives, concerns, and ideas. Change of State rejects the notion of an external savior and calls upon its spectators to look within ourselves for our own methods and actions with which to engage the enormous dilemma of modern industrial water use and management. According to del Moral, the long-term vision places the play first in a three-part series. The second will be a slide presentation of the current water system and the benefits and limitations of alternative water technologies, followed by a final workshop with hands on community-level visioning and design.

del Moral told me of a Yurok/Wintu community whose sacred burial grounds are partially drowned by the Shasta Dam, located on the McCloud River in northern California. There is a proposal to raise this dam between 6 and 200 feet, in an effort to postpone its inevitable and growing obsolescence. If raised, the Yurok/Wintu’s remaining burial grounds will be totally submerged. These people feel that without this place, without their connection to ancestors and the land, their culture will cease to function or have meaning, and they will commit mass suicide. This threat recalls the U’Wa of Colombia, who vowed to do exactly the same if their land was opened to petroleum extraction. What is particularly shocking and illuminating of our own interconnectedness through water, del Moral informed me that if every home and business in San Francisco switched from incandescent to flourescent light bulbs, the need for the extra energy to be produced by the raising of this dam would be eliminated.

Change of State’s ultimate goal for this project, explicitly stated by the performers, is to support the creation of a new culture around water, one that recognizes it as sacred and precious, that reflects gratitude and humility toward this ultimate force of life.

"We're all Marcos now" – Subcommander Marcos and the politics of Zapatismo

Book Review: Subcommander Marcos: The Man and the Mask ($24.95 Duke, 2007), By Nick Henck, 499 pp.

The Zapatistas are widely credited with launching the anti- globalization movement on New Year’s day 1994, the first day the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect. What is less known is that in doing so the Zapatistas created a new model that has made taking up arms compatible with simultaneously taking up the cause of grassroots democracy, a paradoxical phenomenon vividly illustrated by Nick Henck in his fascinating new book Subcommander Marcos: The Man and the Mask.

When I interviewed Subcommander Marcos and reported for CNN on the uprising on that day in San Cristobal de las Casas, it appeared as if they had emerged overnight, a spontaneous rupture in the supposed political calm of Mexico and the emerging web of a restructured global system. Nothing could be further from the historical record, a record Hick Henck, associate professor of law at Keio University in Japan, recounts and examines with exhaustive thoroughness and insight. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN or Zapatista) uprising was no spontaneous rebellion, but a model of revolutionary armed struggle refashioned by local indigenous communities facing the terror of local violent greedy landholders and corrupt local and state officials.

While never having met Marcos, Henck’s biography carefully explores countless published interviews, communiques, media reports, web postings, and the two other existing published books about Marcos. Although a biography, Henck’s focus is informed by his passion to understand the movement of Zapatismo from the perspective of the man who has become a charismatic, even sexy, icon of the rebellion. Subcommander Marcos makes a convincing case that Zapatismo transformed not only the global movement challenging to “neo- liberalism” and globalization but how the movement was organized.

Despite preparing for guerrilla warfare in the jungles and countryside for 10 long years, after a mere 12 days of conflict in 1994 the Zapatistas agilely transformed themselves from an “army of liberation” into a facilitator of mass mobilization of what they call “civil society”. That they were eventually successful in achieving significant progress towards three major objectives in less than a decade has remained the backstory to coverage about the enigmatic and secretive masked pipe brandishing icon Subcommander Marcos. The Zapatista uprising put indigenous issues center-stage with the Mexican media and public for the first time, with an indigenous rights bill being debated in both chambers of the Mexican Congress. This debate led to the passage of a watered down version of the San Andres Accords between the Zapatistas, its civil society allies and the government as a constitutional amendment. Although it is impressive that the government would amend the constitution in response to the Zapatista movement, the amendment has not lived up to claims that it expanded the rights of Mexico’s indigenous peoples. The amendment also did not reverse NAFTA’s rescinding of Article 27 of the constitution, which prohibited the privatization of communal ejido land, and some indigenous groups even consider it to be unconstitutional. Lastly, the Zapatistas were one of the primary forces that contributed to the end of the PRI’s seven decades of one party rule.

It appears that for Henck the transformation of the Zapatistas into Zapatismo is of much greater significance than either the story of the former professor turned revolutionary cell leader Subcommander Marcos or their ability to change government policy and provoke a political realignment. After a few years of being ignored in the jungles the handful of FLN (Forces of National Liberation or Fuerzas Liberacion Nacional) members who composed the cell in Chiapas found the locals were sympathetic to calls to pick up arms in self-defense against the theft of their lands by rancher death squads. But the indigenous only really responded to their calls to organize and arm themselves when Marcos and his compatriots realized that “in order to survive we had to translate ourselves using a different code…this language constructed itself from the bottom upwards.” (p. 94)

This was no abstract rhetorical exercise but took on tangible dimensions for those who joined, especially among women. As Henck so fascinatingly details, once local young indigenous women discovered that joining the Zapatistas protected them from being raped and forced marriages, they began to join in droves. (p. 100-101) And as the Zapatistas gained a few allies in assorted villages those allies used their family relationships and status in their communities to literally open the tap to a rush of recruits.

As Marcos so deftly recognized, after years of futile effort the number of recruits exploded from only a few dozen members to thousands in just a matter of a few months when they finally surrendered to the needs of the local communities and “decided it would be better to do what they said.” (p. 135)

Whether this sudden change in fortunes for the EZLN was catalyzed by Marcos’s own innate skill of organizing or something that was thrust upon him from below is less important than Marcos’s own flexibility in recognizing the need to break with his own inflexible model of insurgent politics. Eventually, the EZLN formally broke off from the increasingly irrelevant and inactive FLN.

The shift from a military to political strategy resulted in a shift in the man we know as Marcos. As Henck explains, “Marcos abandoned his own personal dreams of becoming a revolutionary guerrilla hero and, reacting to the general public’s response to the uprising, began to explore an alternative role for both himself and the movement. He and the EZLN had been gearing themselves for a decade toward a predominantly military role. Now, almost overnight, they opted instead for a predominantly political one. Few politicians and military men have abandoned so rapidly a course of action pursued so intensely, for so long, at such a high personal cost to adapt, revise, and reject their strategies when faced with the dawning realization that they were obsolete.” (p. 224)

This internal shift in Marcos’s thinking makes Henck’s book invaluable less as a biography than as a case study of the emergence and evolution of a new political model, one in which a marginalized top down political organization is reformulated by those it aspires to lead to being led by them. In this process of self-organization from below the movement’s objectives become indistinguishable from the model they choose to organize themselves. As a result the EZLN transformed itself from vanguard to facilitator of a horizontal political project of movement building and decentralizing and de- evolving power to local autonomous communities.

Soon after the ending of actual fighting, the EZLN became the framework for building a national movement of movements to challenge the neo-conservative restructuring forced upon Mexico by the PRI and NAFTA. The EZLN and its network of allies soon began organizing frequent Encuentros (or “encounters”) and nationwide tours to accompany numerous rounds of negotiations with the government. These efforts were facilitated by the charismatic Marcos becoming an irresistible media spectacle that could at once attract vast national and international media coverage and attention and facilitate a bridge across the diversity of interests among its allies in civil society.

Under the emblem of Subcommander Marcos, the EZLN gave birth to a new radical democracy that at once built a national movement to challenge the global capitalist agenda while linking up to the movement as a support network to defend its project of de-evolving political power to local autonomous cooperatively run villages.

Ever able to read political forces of change and adapt, Marcos early on recognized the shift taking place: “What other guerrilla force has agreed to si
t down and dialogue only fifty days after having taken up arms? What other guerrilla force has appealed, not to the proletariat as the historical vanguard, but to the civic society that struggles for democracy? What other guerrilla force has stepped aside in order not to interfere in the electoral process? What other guerrilla force has convened a national democratic movement, civic and peaceful, so that armed struggle becomes useless? What other guerrilla force asks its bases of support about what it should do before doing it? What other guerrilla force has struggled to achieve a democratic space and not take power? What other guerrilla force has relied more on words than bullets?” (p. 235)

The answers to these questions are less important than the fact that they were being asked by the nominal leader of an armed guerilla “army of national liberation.” Merely asking these questions underlined a gradual shift of autonomous politics from the margins to the center of the methodology and strategies of the global resistance, anti-war, social justice and environmental movements that have blossomed over the past 13 years. Self-organized, de- centralized, bottom up, and horizontally organized movements, networks, affinity groups and campaigns have achieved a new level of respect, legitimacy and power since the emergence of Zapatismo. These models are exemplified by the higher profile anti-WTO/IMF/World Bank and environmental justice movements, the massive growth of the World Social Forum and less obviously the indie music, microcinema and freecycling movements to name just a few. We have Zapatismo to thank for the re-emergence of what some now call “horizontalism” since 1994.

Throughout Henck’s Subcommander Marcos its is hard to avoid asking the inevitable question of “why a biography?.” Despite all the glittering stardom for Marcos, his mask and pipe, the success of Zapatista movement is about far more than the man behind the mask. Even as he was “outted” as former UAM professor Rafael Guillén, his own identity no longer mattered. Like the similarly masked hero “V” in the film “V for Vendetta”, Marcos had become the anonymous face of those who dreamed of justice and flirted with the forbidden thoughts of escaping to the jungles and picking up a gun to get it. In Mexico at least, where millions answered his calls to mobilize against military repression, it was a dream shared by too many for either the PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party or Partido Revolucionario Institucional) or its successor the PAN (the National Action Party or Partido Acción Nacional) or needless to say the Zapatista’s “ally” the PRD (the Party of the Democratic Revolution or Partido de la Revolución Democrática) as well to ignore. As Henck generously concludes, “Marcos’s charisma served a higher cause than his own ego; it elevated the Zapatista struggle from a localized indigenous uprising to an internationally recognized symbol of resistance to neo- liberalism.” (p. 239)

If there is one failing in Henck’s biography is it exactly how Marcos was able to translate the hopes and aspirations of the indigenous led Zapatistas into an effective digital media campaign at the dawn of the internet age. Henck provides us with little to envision how Marcos’s skillful use of the internet and relationships to Mexican and international celebrities and elites could have possibly emanated from the remote EZLN jungle camps and low tech impoverished indigenous villages. But then again, that could be because it is a safely guarded secret tactic held closely to the chests of the Zapatistas. Despite the obvious need for secrecy, my insatiable craving to know how the EZLN not only crafted their message but actually got it into the right hands to build the national and international recognition and support that repeatedly halted the onslaught of the Mexican military and brought them back to the negotiating table has not been satisfied. For that one must turn elsewhere such as the writings of theorist Harry Cleaver for insights into the workings of the Zapatismo media machine.

For all my biases as the reportedly first journalist to break the story of the Zapatista’s new year’s uprising for the English language media , Henck’s Subcommander Marcos is less a biography than an enlightening case study of how one of the possibly most influential political movements of the 21th century was born, faultered and was then rejuvenated by those it sought to lead. Subcommander Marcos convincingly demonstrates that Zapatismo has created a new model in which taking up arms may finally no longer be incompatible with simultaneously taking up the cause of autonomy and democracy. This book has arrived just in time, when the anti-globalization movement appears to have run out of steam precisely because it has failed to provide a visionary model of the future in the present.

Robert Ovetz, PhD is an adjunct instructor of political science at College of Marin and of sociology at Cañada College in California. Write him at

Zine review: Exclamation Point (!)

Exclamation Point In New Zealand

Photocopied 24 pages.

Contact to order.

This sporadic zine is from the suburban town of Walnut Creek, just over the hill from Berkeley. We get what you expect from a zine made from an army one: hand drawn graphics and text, typos, and stories that end right as they get started. This issue the writer takes us with her to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and shares with us the revitalizing urge to make things happen in her home town. An eight page comic shows us the story of how simply visiting a contact in the Slingshot resource list made a boring tourist experience into one with squats, protests, and a deeper understanding of the indigenous Maori struggles. There’s also a page on slang used on the island as compared to the slang used in the states. Apparently the phrase “bro” is universal. From the looks of it expect more to come.

Zine review: Give Me Back

By Give Me Back, $1.50, 56pgs.

PO Box 73691Washington D.C. 20056

This is the third issue of this music zine focusing on independent punk and hardcore thought. Intelligent columns get feature space and the rest is for the latest bands, either through interviews, ads, or reviews. Some topics include a harrowing experience trying to get work from a sleazy porn collector and the ABCs of Fuck MySpace, which focuses on their corporate ties and punks’ lack of motivation. Also, a handy how-to guide on getting into Canada, and practical tips on caring for your tour van. This zine is starting to get respect for its efforts and not rely on or try to live up to the legacy of its predecessor Heart Attack zine. Give Me Back is providing an up-to-date physical document in the continuous fight against apathy.

Zine review: Am I Mad Or Has The Whole World Gone Crazy????: Achieving Mind Freedom In The Age Of Empire

by Eian, $4,28pgs.

P.O. Box 769, Redding, CT. 06896

As the introduction to this zine states, this is a brief “alternative history of mental illness” coupled with suggestions for ways of dealing with or treating depression. In its historical account, the zine touches on others who have written about related topics, ranging from Nietzsche and Foucault to Chilean activist Victor Jara. The text is well put together, and the outside references are woven into the text in an effective and interesting way. I wanted a more in-depth look at some of the ideas introduced, though that may have interrupted the flow of the zine. This zine explores an often documented take on mental illness, but still left me feeling inspired and excited. The strongest point is probably the collection of drawings illustrating the text. They range in complexity and quality, but all are energetic and some are beautiful.

Tanya Ciszewski – 1958-2007

Tanya Ciszewski, an early Slingshot collective member from the 1980s, animal rights activist and sensitive, compassionate person, died October 18. She was 48.

I don’t know much about Tanya’s life before I met her around the time Slingshot started publishing in 1988. She was finishing up her undergraduate degree at Berkeley and taking a good, long time to do it. She and I, along with Ian and K, became best friends within the activist scene at Berkeley. We all worked on Slingshot — writing articles, doing layout, handing out papers, and going to meetings. The four of us were always together during those years. We were part of an affinity group we joking called “people with jobs” because of the critics at protests who would yell “why don’t you get a job?” We all had jobs. I can’t remember precisely which actions Tanya and I went to jail for in those days because the emphasis was on the group and the action. There was a lot of hugging, a lot of talking and laughing and a great sense of engagement.

It is hard to pick out which articles Tanya wrote for Slingshot because no one signed most of the articles in those days — not even with pseudonyms. She was focused on animal rights — she was vegan and wore no leather. She was amazingly compassionate towards everyone and wouldn’t preach at you or act self-righteous. When Slingshot was publishing its first Disorientation issue, she ended up siding with a troubled individual who was disrupting the meetings because she always sided with the underdog, even if they were a pain in the ass. Tanya would refuse to kill ants if they were in her kitchen or mosquitoes if they were flying around her in the woods.

In many ways, Tanya was too sensitive and compassionate for this harsh, modern, capitalist world. She was often a frustrating friend because she would spend her rent money taking a stray cat to the vet. I would dread that we would meet a sick animal when I hung out with her because she was so aware of pain around her — physical or emotional, human or animal — that she couldn’t walk past: she would stop what she was doing to help. Tanya could be extremely stubborn and fierce. She mostly lived in poverty because she refused to work jobs that contributed to oppression in any way. That meant she mostly worked low-paying caretaking jobs. Tanya felt most comfortable caring for animals and people who needed help: sick people, the elderly and children.

One of her finest activist moments was when she and a group of animal rights activists occupied a 140 foot tall construction crane that was building the Northwest Animal Facility at UC Berkeley — an underground animal research lab where animal experimentation could be carried out completely hidden from animal rights advocates. She and the others climbed the massive crane in the middle of the night with backpacks of food and water, barricading the trap door at the top so they couldn’t be arrested or removed. Then they unfurled a banner and sat atop the crane, demanding an end to construction. They lasted a week atop the crane before they ran out of supplies and surrendered to police. A ground support crew gathered across Oxford street near Hearst with loud speakers and signs and you could drop by to say hi to Tanya over the loudspeaker. I’m pretty sure Tanya was afraid of heights. Her passion and commitment to ending suffering gave her super-human courage and determination in that action and at many other protests and actions. Tanya was generally mellow but she could be fierce when it came to fighting for animals or the oppressed.

We didn’t know it at the time, but Tanya was pregnant while she occupied the crane. She had a home birth on December 7, 1989. Aside from her activism, my main impression of Tanya is her incredible devotion to her daughter Leila who she raised as a single parent. Tanya never had money and struggled heroically to give Leila an amazing, alternative, loving upbringing. Leila started college at UC Santa Cruz just a few weeks before her mother’s death.

Everyone who knew Tanya will miss her sensitive, caring presence. We write obituaries to say goodbye to those we love, but also to share clues we’ve learned from others about what is meaningful in life. Tanya lived her life caring deeply about other people, animals and the earth and putting her body on the line to fight for what mattered. She didn’t let the American empire distract her with money or power, but instead concentrated on relationships and life.