This past weekend, my friends in the DC Anti-War Network protested against the American Renaissance Conference at the Dulles Hyatt in Herndon. We also went out to the Herndon Day Laborer Center to protect day laborers from the Minuteman Project. Below is my report. However, following the report, I have been engaged in a philosophical discussion with one detractor who argues that we should also be protesting the NAACP, which is absurd. The discussion is ongoing. Here are some of the relevant links to the discussion: http://dc.indymedia.org/mod/comments/display/137233/index.php and for my most recent response, http://dc.indymedia.org/mod/comments/display/137278/index.php .
Here is my report. The link on the title of this blog gives a more full report from my friend in DAWN. It is helpful to read that first:
Some more thoughts on this as a participant in the actions:
I continue to be dismayed that liberals do not come out and take a stand against racism. They speak against it on their blogs, highlight the articles, give "kudos" to the activists, but they don't come out. If you can't be against the Hyatt subsidizing a racist conference, what can you be against? If that doesn't get you out trying to stop it, what will? This is very clear.
Some have said that this is a "freedom of speech" issue. It's not a freedom of speech issue. Anyone should be allowed to say whatever stupid thing comes to their head no matter what. The question here is amplification of speech, whether the Hyatt should be subsidizing that speech...not whether they can, but whether they should and whether those who stay at the Hyatt should.
The issue is not speech; the issue is power in the aid of speech, in this particular case corporate power in the aid of speech. Speech is not equal in a society that is both hierarchical and run on money and capital, and one questions the extent then to which speech is free. When that is coupled with the point that the white power groups use their speech to speak for a society where some will speak more freely than others, then the "free speech" claim is exposed even more clearly as false.
What this also turned into was an issue over property rights. It is clear that the state will when faced with a conflict between community interest (namely that racism be repudiated by society) and private property rights that the state always stands on the side of private property protection. So, no matter what society says the laws are in regards to racism, they hold no say when coming face-to-face with property rights. We have seen that over and over again, and the power of the state will be used to enforce the boundaries of property over and above any community need (unless that need happens to be eminent domain, which often is used by larger corporate interests rather than anything that resembles a true public interest).
The police protected the private property rights of the Hyatt to exclude protest even though there is an indubitable community interest to prevent power in the support of racism. Even before the incident that was written about above, the police stood with the racists. Just as pernicious, they stood for private property rights even when there is an obvious conflict with public interest.
So, who does the law stand with? It stands with the rich, those with capital, those with property, the corporations, and white racists. It always has.
Another interesting thing that happened was at the day laborer facility. Some of us were sitting on the side of the road before the center opened. A man with a truck came by and said, "trabajos?", meaning "workers." We simply said that the center didn't open until 7 AM. He got indignant and said, "I don't care about them; I need workers now!"
What happens is that contractors will try to hustle for workers desperate for a job without going through the center. Some who need work will take these job offers from these contracting pimps, but we have reports that many don't pay. So, in essence, they pimp sometimes for slave labor. It's easy to divide people who are hungry and need work.
I found being asked that question disempowering, and I also realized my own sense of privilege...the thought that I would be asked on the side of the road if I needed work for the day. There were values I had exposed, and I felt embarrassed by it, though glad that it was exposed.
I was also very happy the minutemen didn't show up. From information we have, it seems they tend to come more on weekday mornings. One worry that I had was the fear that the workers might mistake us for minutemen. Thankfully, we were able to get the message out that we were there in solidarity, and they were very receptive to our presence. Even so, it was good to leave knowing that we weren't needed that day.
I can hear people talking about the above report given by our friend and talk about the dangers of not using a turn signal. I don't recall too many people on that extremely isolated road using their turn signals. Given the extreme response, this was not about enforcing traffic laws. How one chooses to enforce laws, to whom those laws apply, is itself an issue. And, just as enforcing traffic laws was not the issue neither is the law the issue on immigration (even though those laws also protect the same privileged system that we saw protected at the Hyatt), but that's pretty obvious.