Sept. 14 Headwaters Rally: A Missed Opportunity

I want to start with a story. Twenty years ago the anti-nuclear movement was in its infancy. The Clamshell Alliance in New Hampshire was born in 1975. The state had broken ground for Seabrook, a nuke plant in that same state. First they had an action with 18 people planting trees on the site. They were arrested. Then they had a rally that was attended by 1500, and 180 marched to the site and were arrested. Then in May of 1977, they planned a mass occupation. Numbers surpassed their expectations and over 1400 people were arrested and over 1000 did bail solidarity for several days, costing the state $50,000 / day. Then in 1978 they planned another mass occupation, the biggest ever, as the anti-nuke movement was exploding everywhere and the Clamshell Alliance was one of the most together organizations. They got bogged down in discussions over whether cutting the chain link fence to occupy the site was non-violent, discussions over tactics used by police against other anti-nuke demonstrators in Europe like water cannons and tear gas, and discussions with the cops who wanted them to just occupy a part of the site symbolically, have some speeches, declare victory, and go home without any arrests. The group meeting decided that they couldn’t reverse a decision made by a larger group in consensus months earlier, and the occupation would proceed. Pressure continued to mount, and a smaller group ultimately reversed the decision. They held an alternative energy fair on the site, everyone had a wonderful time, no arrests occurred, and the Clamshell Alliance was never the same again.

It is hard to criticize the Headwaters activists that made the decision to cancel the post-rally civil disobedience action on Sept. 14 because they are my friends and comrades and because they were dealing with absolutely impossible logistics and living in a pressure cooker. When the rally site was moved to Stafford, the only opportunities for cd would be to bus people to the Carlotta site we did cd at in September of 1996, and we could assume the cops would not let the buses down Fisher Road, much less let people disembark; or a march to the town of Scotia (PL company town) a couple miles away, only accessible by interstate 101 or by fording a small river. Given the show of force by cops from every county north of the south Bay (I saw a city bus sized prisoner bus from Alameda county), we could assume they would not let a march onto highway 101. Impossible logistics. Question is, would a cd on a freeway onramp be better than no cd at all? Personally, I think so. The support rally would have had terrific acoustics under that overpass and at least the cops would’ve been the ones to smother the cd, not us.

I’ve been invoking a perspective learned from John Trudell in many of my rants about Headwaters of late. That being, that what the corporations and governments think they have is not power at all, it’s authority. The true power lies with the people, but only when we recognize that fact, when we gather it together and use it. We had that power in great numbers and we won’t have it again for quite a while.

The sandbagging action was a great one, and there was nothing symbolic about it at all. I’m amazed at the local people coming out saying, yeah, we want Hurwitz and Maxxam out of our neighborhood, too. But it still feels like a missed opportunity. A big one.