Fwd: Vinegar-Soaked Face-Offs in the Police State of Columbia, USA

Chuck0 chuck at tao.ca
Tue Apr 18 12:32:51 PDT 2000

-------- Original Message -------- Subject: Vinegar-Soaked Face-Offs in the Police State of Columbia, USA Resent-Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 12:18:16 -0700 Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2000 15:20:39 -0400 (EDT) From: ricinger at inch.com (Richard Singer)

I'm pretty exhausted now but I wanted to write something, so here we go...

I went down to DC from NYC 7 AM Saturday morning (on 2 hrs. sleep) in Mike's van, with Mike, Demian, David, Erik, and Richard C., and then we met up with Andrew, Sarah Ch. (former NYC Wob, now living in Boston), and two friends of Andrew and Sarah from other towns... Saturday, for the most part, was pretty confused, and we had a somewhat rushed and split vote to be a "flying squadron" in a NYC DAN cluster (mainly because some of us had worked with DAN a lot in NYC), although I admit in retrospect that maybe we should have stuck with the separate IWW group or the Black Bloc.

I suppose the main event for some of us on Saturday was the nighttime NYC-DAN-based cluster meeting, but that seemed very tense, offputting and confusing to me. Part of the reason was that the meeting had been moved miles away from the original spot and we lost half our affinity group. Meetings were moving everywhere, because the cops were on the protestors everywhere, rounding people up for no reason at all. Helicopters were hovering over us as we met in a lot behind some weird little building; police motorcycles were circling the block, backfiring their engines to sound like gun shots. (Psychological intimidation by the police throughout the weekend was well-planned, highly illegal (although, of course, there are no laws for police), and very sneaky.) The other offputting features had to do with the meeting itself, as the strategizing became increasingly convoluted and constricting (although, predictably enough, most of these plans did not work out as planned anyway).

For most of the Sunday AM hours, we stuck to our plan to be a NYC IWW "flying squadron" group. We *just* missed an incident in which protestors had turned back a delegate bus, but we were part of the big face-offs and confrontations that followed immediately after that. Along with many other comrades, we pushed the cops back several blocks at a time (tearing up the fences that they'd set up) as they intermittently let loose with gas, spray, and head bashing, though with no apparent pattern in terms of timing or cause.

Nonetheless, Sunday morning felt truly festive and victorious. As affinity groups and clusters began to merge, ours dissolved and most of us ended up in the Black Bloc. Being with the Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Bloc/Black Bloc on April 16 was one of the most inspiring protest experiences I'd ever had. Just for a couple hours, it felt as though we had taken over downtown DC in the name of revolution, in addition to calling attention to the IMF and causing a lot of inconvenience for the delegates and anyone else involved (even if we didn't really stop the meetings)...

Most of my fellow NYC'ers left for home late Saturday afternoon, but Demian and I stayed behind, splitting the time between roaming on our own and meeting up with the other four remaining members of our affinity group. The highlight that evening would have been the IWW meeting if several squad cars hadn't broken up the meeting, pursuing us for the crime of congregating and talking in a park. Also, neither Demian nor I ever learned about the regrouping (which is too bad).

And the next day was a bit uglier, at least at times... D. & I roamed around a bit with a couple whom we'd met at the IWW meeting, and the morning seemed peaceful enough... But then, just as we took time off for rest and breakfast, we heard news reports of major skirmishes between police and the Black Bloc. Also, we had heard that BB members had been rounded up the night before and many more were arrested at this incident. So, we went back down to the barricades at about 10 AM, met up with the rest of our affinity group there, and encountered various face-offs that were much smaller (at least in the number of protestors), more aggressive, and more threatening than those of the day before. The police were bringing in buses, hundreds of squad cars, and small tanks, as they repeatedly surrounded us armed with pepper spray cannisters, batons, and gas guns.

The weirdest thing that happened Monday afternoon was when the protest broke into a dancing party in the pouring rain while a number of protestors offered themselves as voluntary sacrifice to the police. The police agreed to behave themselves for a short time, but then other incidents broke out a block away. Running to keep up with Sarah Ch., I ended up on the front lines again as armed-to-the-teeth robocops stood right in front of us. I needed a smoke (a good kind, not the kind that had caused me to snort vinegar half a dozen times), so I bummed a cigar from Demian. Then, while the young neo-hippie protestors around me were singing and chanting, I stood there blowing cigar smoke at the robocops. (And I could see that one cop was gettting pretty pissed off too -- I bet he wished he'd donned his gas mask, hee hee.)

But, I digress... I have to say this was quite an experience, thrilling and euphoric at times, always very tense, and sometimes very depressing. It remains to be seen how much these wild and sometimes surreal CD protests affect the evil institutions of global capitalism. But one thing certainly has become clear already -- i.e., that the cities of the U.S. are rapidly becoming police states. Some of this weekend's skirmishes were actually a bit amusing, if slightly scary, but it seems that things can only get uglier. (Plus, the jail stories that I'm hearing are ugly, indeed.) Still, I hope we have many more of these protests in the months and years to come, until many thousands of people everywhere are rising up against global capitalism and taking back their streets a little too.


Richard Singer

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