(or other places to find my writings from the mundane to the supermundane)
The Magic of Yellowstone
A sample of Jim's writings
Buffalo Allies of Bozeman
- Name: Jim Macdonald
- Location: Bozeman, MT, United States
Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.
View my complete profile
The Magic of Yellowstone
is back...well, sort of. In October 2005, a website that I used to work on almost every day through March 2003 (wonder what started in March 2003), had virtually disappeared because of my anti-war activism. In fact, I had managed to lose the domain name for yellowstonemagic.com
due to sheer neglect. I noticed just in time to win the domain name back in an auction. This weekend, I've begun working on it again, starting with a long process of fixing dead links.
I've added a little bit of new material, fixed a lot, but there's still a ways to go.
But, in my future, I will be in Yellowstone, and this site will be back. In the meantime, I hope at least to maintain the site, and before I ever move to Yellowstone and take my activism there, I am going to re-learn the issues and the world, a world I kept in touch with through my Yellowstone Newspaper.
Anyhow, Yellowstone has been on my mind gnawing on me since my trip in May 2005. I hope to go again this year. As fulfilling and exciting as Washington, DC, has been, I don't think that I will fulfill my call as an activist until I go out there and connect my activism back to the world's most special place. War, militarism, civil liberties, will be one with the plight of the Buffalo, of the Park itself. Perhaps, I can find a niche, a collective of people who will work with me out there, or maybe there's a group already doing everything I'm about...I mean, not just protecting buffalo, or lobbying to keep snowmobiles out, but out there seeing the connections.
Yellowstone, you are my home, and I cannot wait to get back to you.
On Thursday, January 26, 2006, DAWN’s weekly actions took them to the World Bank/IMF, the home of Luis Marti, and again to the home of DC Mayor Anthony Williams.
So, why the hell did the DC Anti-War Network choose to target Luis Marti, a man very few people have ever heard of, probably even in the apartment at 2201 N Street NW, in the Westbrooke Place Apartments, where he lives?
Luis Marti is one of the 24 executive directors of the World Bank, representing Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, and Venezuela. As such, he has continued pushing so called “free trade zones”, which coerce nations to drop their tax and labor laws to attract foreign corporations, usually in the name of eradicating poverty, but which more commonly have the effect of destroying huge numbers of lives and the land where those remaining live.
We all know who George W. Bush is and who Dick Cheney is. Many of us know who Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, Karl Rove, and Condoleezza Rice are. A fair number know who Paul Wolfowitz is, but I doubt more than a few of us know who Luis Marti is or any of the other leaders of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And, yet, these people, invisible in the city where we live, wreak at least as much havoc on the world as do the bombs and bullets used on people in places like Iraq.
Recently, speaking of Iraq, the IMF approved their government a $685 million loan. So, even if Iraq ever got on its feet, even if American troops left Iraq, that nation will now be saddled with debt and therefore the obligation to take direction from the larger industrial powers. This process repeats itself around the globe. That is, the twin powers of military force and economic leverage produce conditions that make living almost impossible. Ask indigenous peoples in North and South America about it. Ask the people throughout Africa who first suffered colonization by arms and now suffer it through economic imperialism and the inevitable military conflicts that arise. Ask the people of Haiti.
And, ask the residents of the District of Columbia. Doubtless, most residents will talk about crime, or about poverty, or about education. Crime, poverty, and the broken public education system result from similar forces that occur on the world stage. Those dynamics help produce a sense of desperation, and people look for ways out. So, they work as police officers, or work at the World Bank, or the IMF, or as security guards, and that’s if they are lucky. Many get forced to the fringes of society; others turn to the military. Those who escape marginalization end up propping up the institutions that create such suffering around the globe. Those who cannot escape become forgotten.
We cannot let ourselves forget who Luis Marti is and all he and his “gang of 24” World Bank executive directors represent. We cannot pretend that the war on poor people throughout the globe is not an anti-war issue.
Tonight, we let Mr. Marti and his neighbors know that we know where he sleeps at night and that if he has any conscience at all, he will resign from the World Bank immediately and work to support the empowerment of people across the globe.
That was why we were out there.
At 6 PM, a group of us showed up at Murrow Park, across the street from the World Bank and walked over, going right up to the doors banging pans very, very loudly. We chanted things like “World Bank! IMF! Leading cause of third world death!” There, a group of security guards stood at the door but otherwise did not approach us. We fliered many of the workers and visitors coming in and out of the Bank. One man gave us a thumbs up. He was then denied entry into the Bank. He was the only person I saw who was denied entry. I cannot say why he was denied entry.
We noticed a plain clothes police officer recognized by some in our group as a Metropolitan Police Department intelligence officer named Shinton. He talked for awhile with security guards before going back to his car.
Before long, we repeated the process at both IMF buildings, again greeted by a fairly significant number of security guards, who generally stayed out of our way.
This in itself was an interesting action, if only because we were able to flyer a number of people and let employees of both places know we were there. However, I doubt this is anything that World Bank or IMF employees aren’t used to, and the police, besides Mr. Shinton, showed little interest in us.
The real aim of the action was to go to Luis Marti’s home. After leaving the IMF, we became quiet. A couple police cars tried to tail us, but we walked along the sidewalks of one-way streets against the grain of traffic. That way, police had to circle around in order to keep track of us. By the time we reached Marti’s place near 22nd and N Streets NW, no police were to be found.
We then erupted with noise! “Luis Marti! Drop the debt! We know where you sleep at night!” Of course, there was no telling whether Marti was home, and certainly neighbors nearby had little idea what was going on. Prepared for that, we gave people flyers explaining who Marti is and what his crimes are and how people might inform themselves by contacting Luis at his home at 202-466-3903, or at work at 202-458-2089, or fax at 202-522-1575, or by emailing email@example.com. In many protests, people are very uninterested what is going on, but I doubt many people protest at the 2200 block of N Street, and so people here took flyers and actually read them.
Even neighbors, many of whom must have been annoyed, had to ask what the commotion was about, and they probably at first will not be agreeable to the tactics. Yet, when they ask who their neighbor is, they will take the first step toward political education. It might take years for some of these people to recognize that there is more behind the absurdist tactics of home demonstrations. And, while it is true that some may never come around, at least that decision will be informed. In many respects, we directed this protest at the neighbors themselves, who are just as responsible as any of us for looking out for the issues of social justice. In their very homes is a person whose policies have continued the brutal genocide of indigenous people in Latin America, and yet they sleep peacefully and take no notice.
One drunken neighbor came storming out of the apartment complex. He started swearing and going up to most people in the group challenging each person to a fight, though he walked right by me without saying a word. What happened was amazing. No one stepped up to fight, and no one backed away. The man became frustrated, offering nothing political, merely extremely angry challenges to fight. A couple times he bumped people. One activist warned him that he was committing assault, but the man yelled that he was a lawyer and could hit anyone he damn well pleased. Yet, as people stood up to him without fighting, he eventually wore down, especially when one woman stood right up to him, screening herself between him and everyone else. It seemed that he either wanted someone to throw the first punch or to back down and leave. When people did neither, his strength faltered. Eventually, after about ten to fifteen minutes, another neighbor came out and managed to pull him away. He left, and no one threw a punch, which was for the best both for us and for him.
After another round of pots banging and yelling, another neighbor came out to argue, though this person was not violent. He was still quite upset, and he claimed that he had no idea who Luis Marti was and that it was not his responsibility. I don’t know what those nearest to him said, but to myself, I said, “It’s all of our responsibilities.” We are all responsible for the Luis Marti’s of this world, for not doing enough to take action against war, against poverty, and for civil liberties. My girlfriend had joined us just before this, but she had missed most of the action while making food runs used to feed many homeless people. Many in our group spend one or two days a week feeding and taking care of DC’s homeless. Some of those same people write letters and send books to people in prison. And, yet, I would be lying if I said that we did enough, that we don’t feel the weight of our responsibility, realizing that the pull to deal with the symptoms of society’s ills, which is the incredible suffering around us, is great, but the need to deal with the causes is also great. Luis Marti is part of the cause, and that also must be part of our responsibility. And, when we reject that responsibility, when you have a Luis Marti living there, and you choose not to do or say anything about it, then in a profound way your very silence is a betrayal to the cause of justice.
During this time, during all these confrontations, not a single police officer stopped by to confront us, or to “protect” us. Thanks to the mediation skills of some in our group, we managed to protect ourselves and the belligerent drunk man. We were thankful that the police seemed to have gotten the message from our previous actions by staying away.
However, as it turns out, we were wrong about that.
Since we still had energy, we chose to march on DC Mayor, Tony “the rat” Williams, who hasn’t repented in his fight for the baseball stadium or in his glee for gentrifying the city under what I think is best termed as a quasi-liberal version of Reaganomics. It seems he thinks that by increasing the city’s tax base through the funding of luxury condos and big box stores, somehow that effort will trickle down and provide services for the city. Unfortunately, what happens is quite the opposite.
We went to Williams’ place also to continue to hammer the local/global connection. I am personally disturbed how many people interested in fighting against the war put such little effort into understanding the local conditions and vice versa. Too many good people working on local issues seem to be scared of or resistant to making the connections to global issues. Instead, what happens is that people work on issues they are most passionate about – as they should – , but some of the strategies they use, some of the compromises they make, hurt the fight we should all have in common. I cannot say with a straight face that I think everyone should be out in the streets protesting the war in Iraq or the World Bank/IMF, when there are so many people suffering from AIDS in DC, when people have trouble making the rent payments, and when people are scared to walk home at night. Yet, however you choose to focus your energies, we need to appreciate the connections and recognize that there are consequences in how we choose to fight.
When we arrived, the same SUV and car we saw the previous week was leaving the apartment. We chased both down as both stopped at an intersection. Was the Mayor in the SUV? I cannot say. No one could see through the dark black glass. So, in case this was not the Mayor, we went back to his apartment where his lights were on. We sang the usual songs, and added a rendition of “Ratman” (think “Batman”), that I was afraid might have been too pleasant to the Mayor’s ears.
From there, the action seemed to be over. We began walking toward our various homes, but we had one more adventure. At the Mayor’s house, a fair number of police began showing up, though nothing compared with the previous week. It seemed that the police had gotten the message that our main purpose was to express dissent to policymakers by reaching them in the only places many of us could possibly reach them. Perhaps, they had been reading the reports I have been writing about these events and their purpose and backed off.
However, as it turns out, the police could not help themselves. Right by the Foggy Bottom Metro, as we were walking through and saying goodbye to some of our friends, a police car drove into the courtyard. This was an MPD (city) police officer. He started asking people, “Are you GW [George Washington University] students?” “Do you have a GW ID?” “Are you GW students” “Do you have a GW ID?” Those asked refused to show anything and continued to walk. A couple challenged him about asking such questions in a clearly public area right by the Metro; however, he continued to ask the same two questions.
We continued to walk.
That last event turned out to be the evening’s comic relief. As we walked, we asked everyone we saw whether they were GW students and whether they had a GW ID? In fact, on an evening where police left us alone in a very tense situation on N Street at Luis Marti’s, it was ironic that they screwed up so badly at the end. It was as if they could not help themselves and decided that the moment was ripe to show their true colors, as people who had nothing better to do than to attempt to intimidate protesters.
We had been in a far more intense situation before this, and so no one became intimidated. All of us left safely.
For the fourth week in a row (if you count the Paul Wolfowitz house demonstration as the first week in this series), we continued our weekly actions with no let up in sight. These actions seem to be reaching some of the targets and are certainly drawing the notice of law enforcement. The interactions with law enforcement have made it all too easy to show what can happen to people who use free speech, but it also shows how people can successfully face up to tactics of intimidation. Yet, the far more important goal in these protests is movement building through continuity. I find it encouraging to know that there are options out there, that there are people making the connections all the time, and that there is a committed core out there who will continue to dissent and resist this madness. The worst kind of resistance we can offer is our silence, and I am deeply encouraged that there are people who are out there making noise and doing their best to make sure that some of the biggest culprits see how absurd the world has become when people have to scream and bang pots and pans just to have their point of view heard.
Luis Marti, we will be back until you hear us.
Connect the dots.
What do Condoleezza Rice, the Kennedy Center, the Saudi Embassy, Mayor Anthony Williams, the IMF, the World Bank, and the White House all have to do with each other?
Yeah, we protested at all of the homes of those people, or we went to those places in a two hour period, but what else?
Geographic proximity? Sure. That’s not it, though.
Tons of police failing to daunt protest? Sure, but let’s think harder. Why would a group of people decide it was worth their while to go to all of these places? This report, analysis, and commentary is the story of working through that question. In fact, in some ways, that story, and that working through those connections is the microcosm of our movement.
Condoleezza Rice was the original target of the protest that began at 7PM, January 20, 2006, from outside the Metro at Foggy Bottom. A group of activists joined DC Anti-War Network’s (DAWN’s) call for an action against neoconservatives. This call for action is part of a commitment by DAWN to organize at least one action every week. Those who came did not necessarily know that they were going to Condie’s home until they arrived, but at that point, all who were involved in the action had the opportunity to participate in decision-making on the ground. The route to the Watergate, where she lives, had not been pre-planned, and the action began with a group discussing a march route that took it snaking through the campus of George Washington (GW) University.
The marchers went into the streets of GW’s campus. Some marchers with less experience in non-permitted street marches expressed that they felt this was empowering, especially when no one stopped us. One Secret Service car kept track of us, but no one kept us from marching through the streets, not even the general complacency of GW’s student body. This continued right up to the front door of the various Watergate towers.
At the towers, some protesters talked to the doormen while onlookers looked down from their office windows. From different doormen who corroborated each other separately, we discovered which tower she was in. Some said that they knew she lived on the fifth floor. Of course, the Watergate is a very strange looking building with surprisingly good outdoor acoustics. In the doorway of Condie’s tower, our sound amplified several times. As we shouted, a growing crowd of Secret Service and Metropolitan police hovered around.
Of course, Condoleezza Rice may or may not have been home. We don’t know. Certainly, her neighbors knew. They looked at us as though they had never seen a protest before. It would be surprising if she doesn’t find out, but we cannot be sure, which suggests the need to go back.
Condie’s relationship to the anti-war agenda is very obvious, an easy dot to connect, in her current role as Secretary of State and her past role as Bush’s National Security Advisor.
Before the action, DAWN’s working group made a conscious decision to go both to Condie Rice’s home and to the home of DC Mayor Anthony Williams (known not so affectionately by many in the group as “Tony the Rat,” which is an unfortunate denigration of rats). However, when you plan actions with too much mystery, you owe it to the people coming to the action to give them as much say in the action as it is going and any reassessments along the way. So, those who did the work organizing the march believed it was only right to meet to make sure that everyone was on board. After one police officer erroneously claimed that we were not allowed to protest in a residential area, we huddled up to decide next steps. One person proposed the Kennedy Center because of the relationship of the money the center receives from the oil industry, though I cannot say I knew about that, and I doubt most of the protesters did, either. Nevertheless, people were open to it, if only because more and more DC Metro Police and Secret Service were surrounding us, and some unpredictability seemed to be a good idea. It’s not as though the connections don’t exist everywhere. The Saudi Embassy is across the street from the Watergate, and so others wanted to go there to cite the relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family as well as the lack of democracy in Saudi Arabia, which ironically is a theme of neoconservative commentators. However, the two views of democracy are quite different, and similarities stop there between the two sides.
We could see the connections all over the place. The Watergate, of course, is very infamous in American folklore, but no one talked of Nixon, or the plumbers, or doors of duct tape. Nevertheless, how can you take action at the Watergate and not think of corruption, of abuse of power, of the problems that are epidemic in this so called democracy? The Kennedy Center…the name Kennedy…a man who represents some liberal neverland of an America that was imagined to have been better, but a man who got America into Vietnam, who did little on Civil Rights until he was pushed, and who was so thoroughly corrupt belonging to a corrupt family that built a fortune on bootlegging and real estate. And, there were the Saudis, a home of horrible hierarchical corruption, and a friend to tyrants like Bush. Across the way, Mayor Williams lives in an apartment, and in his single-handed crusade for a baseball stadium, for a $700 million stadium, he didn’t care enough to put his passion into making sure that DC General Hospital stayed open. More than that, the mayor has overseen a widening class gulf in this city that is sending more and more homeless people to the streets and driving the working poor (and in some cases middle class) outside of the District. This widening class gulf only serves the military industrial complex, making it easier for the powerful to exploit. The policies of Williams make it harder for people to join together to resist large overpowering forces, makes them more scared, and more consumed with their very survival.
We walked to the Kennedy Center, but I don’t think all people were convinced that this was a good place to go, even though no one raised serious concerns. We climbed the steps toward the Kennedy Center, though a security guard came toward us and tried to stop us; when the group kept going, he retreated. There wasn’t a lot of chanting or energy, and we decided to head to the Saudi Embassy after a stay that lasted no more than one or two minutes. As we were leaving the Kennedy Center, we noticed the police were driving toward us from behind but couldn’t keep pursuing because we walked back down the stairs. As sheer luck would have it, we avoided another confrontation there with police, though in fact police were all around in pretty much every direction. There were many more police than the previous Friday’s action at Cheney’s house.
We walked toward the Saudi Embassy yelling a pro-democracy chant making reference to the evils of the Bush family’s friends in the House of Saud, but that part of the action also seemed off kilter. The connections are obvious, but not all obvious connections resonate right then and there. So, very shortly after arriving, we left the embassy to surround the Watergate again across the street, walking on the sidewalk along the street from the Potomac. We saw police all over the place, in crosswalks and following us along the road, but we generally ignored them as we yelled, “Cheney, Rice, CIA, how many people did you kill today?!!!!” We noticed that the police were following along the road with a divider, so we decided to reverse course. Those police couldn’t keep following us as a result.
From there, we walked back along the Watergate and toward Mayor Williams’s. Of course, he was home. His lights were on, and then they were off as a round of the anthem, “Tony the Rat!” began. What is interesting is that police stopped tracking us for a few minutes until we showed up at Williams’s, and then more than 10 police cars showed up with many other police outside milling about. The police claimed we couldn’t stand there, that we had to picket. Then, the police said that we had to stand, that we couldn’t picket. We at first stood along the sidewalk, and when the police started their usual games, we started singing “Kum-ba-yah”, “Someone’s homeless, Lord, kum-ba-yah”, and then we broke into another round of “Tony the Rat!” You can tell that there was a spirit of fun in the air.
Eventually, the Mayor’s security started coming out, and ultimately a couple black vehicles left. Some believe that was the Mayor, but some others didn’t believe it was. I cannot say; the main car looked important with a security car escorting it, but I have no definitive confirmation that the Mayor had decided to escape the noise.
The action was scattered, erratic, all over the place, going to places as tangential as the homes of Condie Rice and Mayor Williams, and those two by plan! That says nothing of the Kennedy Center or the Saudi Embassy! It’s easy to see that the critics will wonder “how effective” we were, why we “lacked focus,” or how we are going to build a popular movement or convince people by wandering around all over the place. Those criticisms fail to connect the dots, fail to see that a movement isn’t sustained by some arbitrary definition of “effectiveness,” but by a sustained culture of action. Earlier today, I mentioned the twin goals of these actions: first, that we disrupt corrupt and murderous policymakers and let them know there was something rotten in the state of … ahem; and second and more importantly, that we work toward the internal goal of building the movement through sustained, regularly occurring actions. We may or may not have achieved the first, but I am sure we are in the process of achieving the second. I mean, some people go to movies on Friday night; I bet we had a lot more fun. And, the actions were empowering. We proved again that a group can walk in the streets of DC in protest without needing to wilt at the first sign of a police car. However, for some people, that was their first experience, and they will not forget it. It suggests that in the street there are possibilities. It means that as much as dissent has been assaulted, it is not dead to those who are not afraid.
What’s more about this action, the police continue to overreact in force, though they are never quite sure what to do with all their many numbers since our threat is not the kind of threat they imagine it is. I only heard one officer threaten anyone with arrest and that for the spurious charge of making noise in a residential neighborhood. Nevertheless, despite public pronouncements that these protests are aimed merely for expressing displeasure, and therefore for disrupting the sanitized lives of people who are perpetrating such acts of evil, they don’t seem to understand that a robust society has less dissent if it embraces the dissent that exists. And, so not understanding that, the police keep coming out, and they continue to draw more attention to us. Then, people ask questions as to why; it opens their eyes to a problem, namely that dissenters aren’t welcome. I once asked a Secret Service agent who was challenging my protest what he would do if I stood with a sign that said, “Enjoy Coca Cola,” instead of, “Your Wars Shame Us,” and he said he would do nothing to me. That’s freedom; freedom of limited consumer choice within the limited means of an economy controlled by an oligarchy of nation states and private corporate interests. I can announce to the world that I love Coca Cola, but if I dare say anything that wanders into something perceived as political, the rules change.
With those connections in mind, we decided to walk by the IMF, World Bank, and end at the White House. We know that the connections between the global justice and the anti-war movement have been made many times, and yet many still do not truly appreciate how the institutions of the monetary and political empires work together, how the movement which fights against one must also be fighting against the other. Strangely, after we left the Mayor’s, the cops stopped following us for awhile. We walked right by the IMF chanting, and the guards came to the windows to watch. We walked right up to the doors of the World Bank, and more guards watched, and then finally a police officer came. From there, we kept walking to the White House, finishing off with chanting, which was, of course, witnessed by more police.
As we left, one member of our group stayed behind. He caught up with us to tell us 3 people with very short hair – that the protester described as looking like marines – were wandering around lost asking the police where the protesters were, apparently upset with us. They weren’t able to find us; we had left. That all felt slightly comical and appropriate.
Last week’s action was more intense, in dark sidestreets, involving direct confrontations with the Secret Service and Pentagon Police. In some ways, all those same things were going on tonight. Dissent is an annoyance to the authorities but not so much to us – I mean here on indymedia where I’ll be publishing this first, I don’t know what I would do without all the insightful and intelligent criticism; it’s a marvelous cesspool of hatred that the world would be the worse for losing. I laughingly digress. To the authorities, our action is an annoyance at best and a horrible danger…a danger to what? Is freedom a danger to freedom? By stopping us, are they protecting the world from Osama bin Laden? They monitor our posts; they know who we are. They know the difference, don’t they?
We are either dangerous to our critics or horribly ineffective. Those are the criticisms, though too often these same critics will say both about us and contradict themselves. Frankly, I don’t care because I don’t ever find dichotomies all that useful. All I know is that we are people who stand up for justice and are looking for a way with limited resources to help build a movement that can tear down this oppression. We do our best, and we’ll keep going out there, we’ll keep making the connections, and we’ll keep taking action. Whether it’s local, global, economic, or even at times tangential, there’s room in this movement for anyone who is willing to work together for justice, for giving every person a voice, and for smashing the power dynamics that keep us apart from each other.
Those are the dots that we’ll keep connecting.
I wonder what we’ll be doing next week.
Here is an argument I posted on indymedia; hopefully, it's helpful for people who might be struggling with or looking for words to answer these questions, namely the question of why we in the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) are taking weekly action and why we are doing a mystery demo tonight aimed at policymakers.Some discussion might be good. I think it's important that as we plan actions where people don't know what they are getting into that we explain the context of what they are getting into and the tactical and strategic reasons for moving forward. It is also a message to the authorities that we only intend free expression, so I want to see what they will do with that tonight. Either way, you can expect a report back. And, for those who missed the emails, we meet at 7PM tonight outside of Foggy Bottom Metro.
There are at least two reasons for the tactic for these demos, one specific to a mystery demo. First on that point, the target of these protests isn't the press primarily, it's not the general public primarily, but rather it's the policy makers themselves, those who for the most part live in ivory towers and have little or no connection to the public they serve. We as protesters know very well that there's something absurd about being reduced to a tactic of disruption, of pots, pans, screaming, inane chants, as though we are the animals that are caged in a zoo. While we scream about free expression, we know that this is neither truly free nor expression. The political structure is so big, so abstracted from the people it's supposed to serve (one would think that most rightwingers would agree wholeheartedly with some on the more anarcho left on this point), that there's little more that someone can do than turn to tactics of disruption, which is a tricky thing to do while staying true to one's beliefs.
I have no qualms about yelling and screaming and banging pots and pans and showing up at the one place where a policymaker, especially as diabolical as the cabal currently in power, sleeps at night. That's the situation. What else is one to do? And, the mystery makes it all the better. But, we are not out in these actions to break any law or any windows; we are simply out to be heard and to make life more difficult for people who are frankly responsible for mass murder. This is not to say that we won't at some point act against an unjust law, but that's hardly the point tonight or on any other evening that we call these actions.
So, the first tactical reason is that a mystery action is more likely to succeed at disrupting corrupt policymakers as well as not giving them a heads up of where we are headed so that they might hear us. That part of it is public and for the world. Not all actions will necessarily be mystery actions, but it works for the working group planning this tonight.
Secondly, the tactic of these actions has an internal motive, which is movement building. Notice that there are actions every week. We believe that as an activist group, action should be our first priority, and continuity of action serves the purpose of sustaining and growing movement visibility. While it's not fair to say that this is action for the sake of action, it is fair to say that the success of the action is not simply determined by whether the action meets its external objectives. There's a strategic aim here that is internal, namely that continuity over time produces growth. Not all actions will be of this type; they may involve education events, they may be press events, public rallies, but they will be constant, and more constant than DAWN meetings, which have been reduced to 1 hour a week, so that more action work can get done following the meetings.
There are other reasons that others may have for this, but these are two considerations that I know are behind the thinking of these actions.
We will see you in the streets tonight.
On Friday, January 13, 2006, activists with the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) called for an action at the home of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; however, when scouts for the action reported lights off, the group put in pre-arranged plans for a street meeting to choose a new location, which turned out to be the home of Vice President Dick Cheney, at the Naval Observatory, at 3400 Massachusetts Avenue. An adventure of cat and mouse ensued with Secret Service and Pentagon Police pursuing the DAWN protesters.
Activists from DAWN met outside the Woodley Park Metro as Secret Service bike police and Pentagon police circled the group. As they circled, the group put in place pre-arranged plans to meet and change course. The group marched north on Connecticut Avenue. This confused the police, who expected the group to march south toward Rumsfeld’s home on Kalorama. One bicycle officer followed the group for a time on Woodley but tailed off when the group climbed a steep hill. From there, the DAWN group walked quietly to the home of Vice President Dick Cheney.
At Cheney’s house, the DAWN group set up on the side of the street in front of his house, where they began making noise, banging pots, and yelling things like “Jail Cheney!” and “Impeach, Indict, Incarcerate!” It took 15 minutes for Secret Service to come out and confront protesters. When they did, the Secret Service asked the standard, “Who is your leader?” Eventually, after a couple minutes, one protester chose to talk with police and recorded a conversation with them, which will be published. Protesters stayed for awhile to many cheers from motorists on the road.
After awhile of loud yelling and noise, the group suddenly became quiet, lighting candles and singing traditional peace songs. This behavior baffled the Secret Service, who followed along, as protesters moved south down Massachusetts. There were at times upwards of 7 or 8 officers trailing the slow moving group that had switched from boisterous yelling to a period of quiet singing. At the edge of the Naval Observatory, another of the group began confronting the Secret Service asking why they were following us, what their names were, what their badge numbers were. He states in his report that he recognized the officer who had at one point been tailing us from Woodley Park. The protester asked who gave orders to follow us. There was some confusion among officers about what was happening. The secret service officer asked at one point, “Do you have any permits?” The protester responded, “I don’t need a permit.” He asked again, “Do you have any permits!?” The response was, “Don’t play that game with me; I know darn well that I don’t need a permit.” The officer said, “I was just asking.”
We continued down Massachusetts Avenue, and the Secret Service continued to follow. We went by the British Embassy and yelled, “Jail Tony Blair!” and chants like that. At that point, two people on the inside of the fence came up to the fence. One of them gave a thumbs up to the chants. As we continued to march, the Secret Service tailed with 3 to 4 bicycles and at least one car completely on the sidewalk.
Secret Service continued to follow the group as it turned off Massachusetts Avenue onto California and then onto Phelps. At this point, 3 cars were tailing the group on the dark side streets near Dupont Circle. As we headed down Phelps, the same protester who confronted the Secret Service at the Naval Observatory called the NBC-4 newsroom. As they talked, a car on a side street hit another car three times trying to get out of a driveway. The Secret Service made no attempt to do anything about it, claiming that the car was hitting the curb, which was totally untrue. They aren’t DC Metro police, but on the other hand, no one was breaking any law in our group, either. People walked on sidewalks, and there was never an intent to break the law. Sheer dissent is criminalized, or at most, is considered suspicious behavior. How dare someone protest public officials, reducing themselves to human megaphones, reduced to sound bytes and clichés!
As the interview continued for half a block, this protester walked up to the officers. It turned out one of the police tailing us was Pentagon Police. It’s not clear why Pentagon Police, who we had not seen since the very beginning of the action, were around for this part of it. The protester asked who he was and why he was there; the officer refused to say. Other officers covered up their badges. What was more baffling was that the person in NBC 4’s newsroom became frightened (or that’s the assumption) and would not say his name even though he was asked between 7 and 10 times, according to this protester’s report. At this point, still on Phelps, one of the Secret Service officers got out of his car, which led to a round of verbal sparring between the Secret Service and the protesters. The Secret Service officer at one point said that he was there to “control” us. It’s not clear what he meant by that. He went on to say that he was giving us exactly what we wanted by giving us attention. In truth, we’d rather that Secret Service agents didn’t exist at all, but I suppose he was right. By overreacting to nonviolent protesters who merely were expressing dissent, they did expose the fear of dissent that exists in society. And, to that extent, highlighting the fear, highlighting what happens to people who speak out (and this has happened countless times), we did get exactly what we wanted.
The Secret Service continued to tail protesters to Connecticut and Florida. At that point, protesters chose to meet up with someone in the media. A couple protesters on bicycles, including me, attempted to bike slowly to see if they would follow us. However, the Secret Service and Pentagon Police stopped following the group at Connecticut Avenue.
The DAWN protesters felt the situation was rather ridiculous but felt empowered by the experience. The police were confused by the organizing, which was at once leaderless but versatile with different scenarios built into it. By overreacting to dissent, they made it easy to write this article, backing up a persistent thesis of DAWN activists that the government is at best very annoyed by the free practice of civil liberties and will use tactics of intimidation (tailing, asking misleading questions, taking a confrontational attitude toward protest) to try and shut up dissent. In fact, the use of these tactics by police convince many activists that reform of the system is impossible and that dissent must be resistance. So, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If you criminalize dissent by treating it like a poison, you create a poison that is determined to resist until a better world happens.
So, Rumsfeld, Cheney are warmongering torturers; we said a few things aimed at Cheney; and the system and ivory towers they have and the guards they have to protect them from unpleasant sounds outside their fortress showed again how thoroughly unappetizing all they represent is.
So, we will continue to show up, and as long as they continue to harass us, we will continue to speak the truth. And, their reign of fear will soon be over.
Confront the War Machine:
A Call to Action for the Third Anniversary of the Iraq War.(to this end, community groups will be having planning meetings in Washington, DC, on January 21, at the Flemming Center - 9th and P Streets NW - from 11 - 3 PM to talk about spring actions - as chance would have it, the Hip Hop Caucus will be doing the same thing on the same day from 12 - 2; though both groups are talking about ways of combining the synergies)
Now is the time to bring the anti-war movement home by directly confronting the war machine in your hometown. And, in our hometown, Washington, DC, we invite you all to come and confront The Pentagon directly.
The DC Anti-War Network, DAWN, a locally-based grassroots anti-war group in the metropolitan Washington area calls upon individuals and other local grassroots groups to observe the third anniversary of the war (a.k.a. occupation) in Iraq by organizing locally and holding nonviolent protests and actions of dissent in our communities.
Additionally, DAWN calls upon individuals and groups who don’t have prior plans in their own communities to come to Washington, DC, not to march, lobby, or protest a government that ignores voices for peace and justice but rather to directly confront the war machine, The Pentagon, with acts of nonviolent civil resistance.
In our home communities, now is the time to confront our government and those who profit from the war that has been waged based on lies and deception. DAWN calls for people to mobilize and organize locally in our communities to build and strengthen the anti-war movement. Instead of coming to Washington, New York, or other cities for just one day of protest, DAWN calls for anti-war actions over the entire month of March 2006 to mark the third anniversary of the war in Iraq. We urge people to organize against militarism in our schools and communities by confronting military recruiters who prey upon the young and the poor, to protest the use of torture that is so much a part of this war, to protest the use of depleted uranium on the Iraqi people, to make the connections between the war in Iraq with other wars and occupations, and to make the connections between the costs we are paying for war and what we are not paying for, vitally important social needs.
Join us in March 2006 by organizing, building, and strengthening the anti-war movement in our communities and also by coming for a direct confrontation with The Pentagon.
(1) DAWN calls for people to organize and choose an armed forces recruiting station in their neighborhood for protest. DAWN also encourages other kinds of counter-recruiting actions protesting military recruiters in our schools and communities. Stop the recruiters and end the war!
(2) DAWN calls for people to demonstrate, including acts of nonviolent civil resistance, against torture, especially its use in this so-called “War on Terror.” Torture is illegal and immoral and should never be carried out in our names. Whether in wartime or peace, torture is wrong. Torture must stop!
(3) Over 1.1 billion people, one fifth of the world’s population, barely survive on less than $1 per day, and half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Over 852 million people are hungry, and 16,000 children die from hunger every day. Every year 11 million children die because of hunger. Over 20 million low-birth weight babies are born every year in the global south, millions of them dying in infancy; those who survive risk lives with physical and cognitive health problems. Poverty destroys and devastates families, communities, and countries. Every dollar of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent for war and occupation takes away from what could help alleviate poverty and hunger. DAWN calls for protests against those who profit from the war and occupation. DAWN calls for actions, including nonviolent civil resistance, at local war contractors, as well as the politicians who receive money from them, profiting from the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Starve the war machine; feed the poor!
(4) In addition to organizing and acting locally DAWN calls on people not otherwise engaged in their communities to come to protest the war machine, The Pentagon, with direct actions of nonviolent civil resistance. We must stop business as usual at The Pentagon where war plans are born and implemented, including the use of depleted uranium against the Iraqi people. Now is the time for mass actions of nonviolent civil resistance to be directed at The Pentagon rather than simply the President and other politicians who see the anti-war movement as a focus group. End the war; protest The Pentagon!
(5) We call for coordination of organizing between communities, through open clearinghouses and regional meetings. For the Pentagon actions and any other actions in the DC area, we call for spokescouncils to plan actions so that ownership of the action does not belong to any one group but to the movement as a whole. While DAWN will plan a specific action or set of actions, we call on groups to use their creativity to plan their own actions, and we call on groups to work with DAWN and other groups on a unified scenario so that we can most effectively combat the war machine. Whether you are organizing locally or in Washington, we must work together, and communication and mutual respect is essential to making this month of action work. Let’s work together!
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
DC Anti-War Network's (DAWN’s) new book club –DAWN
is going to start a new book club, and I’ve agreed to bottomline it. However, I have never been in a book club, and right off the bat, I can see some challenges, not the first of which is determining what we should be reading.
I wonder how it is we get the books we need to be reading. I want this to be affordable for people, but at the same time, it’s not possible to print out a million copies of a book. Does anyone have knowledge of how to deal with dilemmas like this?
Secondly, it would be fantastic to meet at different locations, especially homes, or small intimate locations. If not there, a place like Alfishawy that’s large enough and open to activists, or Provisions Library, or some place like that.
I have read a lot of fascinating books in the last year about movement history, from several books by or about Gandhi, about MLK, about woman suffrage, and am currently reading a book edited by our friend Jo Freeman on social movements of the 60s and 70s (though that book is out of print – not to mention expensive). It’s too bad, though, because that book has some fantastic case studies that sound awfully familiar. I think it would be great to talk about the history of social movements.
My biggest concern is affordability and accessibility, but I’m also not eager to get into a copyright fight with somebody and am not sure about the fair use laws as they apply to informal book clubs. In education, we could reprint things more liberally; I don’t know how this works.
So, do people have answers? I’m eager to get moving on this.
About Matt: http://christianphilosopheractivist.blogspot.com/
- Age: 32
- Gender: male
- Astrological Sign: Leo
- Zodiac Year: Ox
- Industry: Education
- Occupation: Tutor
- Location: Livermore, CA
I was born and raised in Ohio. I am a lifelong Catholic who has long had an interest in the big questions of life. I've always had an interest in Religion and Science, so it was no wonder why I was captivated by Philosophy when I discovered the discipline graduated from the University of Toledo in 2001 with a BA in International Relations. I also married my soul-mate, Jen in 2001 and we moved to Japan for 3 years after our wedding. We both taught English in rural Tanigumi-mura village, and traveled all over East Asia. Upon returning to the US, we relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area which we love. I recently earned my Master's Degree in Education from AIU On-line. I currently am employed as a tutor and as a receptionist. I am a Christian Platonist. (I am not a Neo-Platonist). I believe that Plato's work is very compatible with Christianity. I also like Aristotle as well. I am very interested in Progressive politics and am a member of the Democratic party, although I'm not currently very pleased with my party.
When you hesitate before hitting snooze on your alarm clock, are you being lazy?
Yes - I'm always quick to do the important things - like hit the snoose bar on my clock!