Leap Day 2008: up the ante of absurdity

It’s only a year until Leap Day Action Night 2008 — Friday, February 29, 2008 — and discussions are already underway aimed at organizing the largest coordinated global leap day uprising yet. Leap day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed into a spontaneous, inspirational rebellion against dreary business as usual. Every other day, the wheels of global industrial capitalism spin around, running over our freedom and the earth in the process. Leap day offers an opportunity to go beyond protest — merely decrying what we’re against — and focus on living life in a positive, creative, loving, cooperative, sustainable fashion without domination of others or the earth.

The Roots of Leap Day

The first Leap Day Action Night was in Berkeley in 2000, just after thousands of people shut down the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in November, 1999. It was raucous — a mob of finger puppet-armed radicals with a bicycle sound system re-enacted the Seattle WTO protest by shutting down local banks and chain stores, smashing TVs, and simulating sex acts on dumpstered mattresses in the street. The police were too confused to control the mayhem!

In 2004, Leap Day went global with actions in several US cities and in England. In Newcastle, UK, radicals played leapfrog in a shopping mall, had a free market and posted official looking signs saying buses were free if you chatted with other people at the bus stop. In Houston, TX, guerrilla gardeners planted a garden of veggies and flowers in a public park, served free food and had a party with arts and crafts. In New York City, 50 pirates took over the streets and marched through the lower east side chanting “What do we want? Booty! When do we want it? Now!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, The royal navy has got to go!”

In Berkeley, folks marched through the streets throwing foam “bricks” at plate glass windows of chain stores and banks and running in to sprinkle glitter and popcorn. The doors of a Starbucks were barricaded with tables and chairs and tied shut with a big pretty red bow. The action was everything that big, ritualized ANSWER-type protests are not. It took no resources, no preparation, no bureaucratic structure, no airline tickets or road trips and no mysterious movement superstars with financial backing. There was exactly one meeting of 6 people to brainstorm some ideas, a few hours gathering props, a few email messages and a tiny number of flyers (not glossy postcards). At the event, no one was in charge — there were no communications and no plan. It was amazing to see tactics more in line with our goals working so well — Small, decentralized and local was beautiful.

Scheming for 2008!

Leap Day is a totally arbitrary day, and thus it puts the onus on radicals to think about what we want, and figure out how to communicate and promote our goals. The slogan of the two previous Leap Day Action Nights were “Use your extra day to smash capitalism, patriarchy and the state.”

This is a call to action to begin figuring out the goals, slogans, activities and tactics for 2008. Should climate change or other themes be more prominent for 2008? What new communities could plug into the loose parameters of a global day of action that goes beyond single issue politics? Leap Day actions happened in a handful of places in 2004 — how about dozens or hundreds in 2008?

Leap day participants from the UK emailed that “our group here were talking about Leap day last week . . . What we talked about doing was a Zap style ‘consultation’ with groups we know in the UK to see what they think. Then started promoting it big style [in 2007]. Let’s keep in touch about Leap day plans.”

Berkeley Leap-istas hope to publish a leap day 2008 (LD8) poster and stickers — send your address to LD8, 3124 Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94705 if you want some. Or, check out www.leapdayaction.org for more information as things develop.

Leap for it!