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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.

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    Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    The Power of Direct Action: A summary of actions against the World Bank and the IMF

    I just posted this to a thread on a blog site called "The Smirking Chimp," on a discussion lamenting the lack of effective opposition in the United States. The problem as I see it, though, is that people are needlessly disempowering themselves. They can and should do more, especially people of privilege, who can afford to take these kinds of actions like the ones described here. Many white middle class people are perpetuating the system of oppression that alienates us all by doing nothing. While they do nothing, many die by their complacency. If I stay away from the streets or take noneffective actions like voting or writing members of Congress, then I still take home a pay check and survive. But, in doing so, I continue to help perpetuate the millions of deaths worldwide directly attributable to our way of life.

    In terms of action taken by never more than 75 or 80 people in any one action and as few as 3 in others in a city of millions of people, here is the power of direct action for a few people taken at the World Bank/IMF this weekend.

    Thursday - a group drops a banner at Paul Wolfowitz's press conference, disrupting it and drawing away the media.

    Friday - outside the IMF, a group takes action in an educational media stunt highlighting World Bank/IMF abuses in the field of health

    Friday - Activists determined to draw the connection between the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the private institutions it funds, enter the offices of Halliburton, Bechtel, and Shell and create a big disturbance while at the same time showering each office with flyers showing the abuses. One activist is injured during the protests at Halliburton as a guard trips him trying to prevent him from leaving. Other activists stumble into meeting of G8 delegates and confront them less than 8 feet away for half an hour.

    Friday - 45 activists in the dark go to Wolfowitz's Maryland home and serve him with an eviction notice while chanting for half an hour outside his home. This comes on the heals of several similar actions - neighbors have told activists that Wolfowitz has been looking to sell his home because of the protests.

    Saturday - While many activists are in various direct action trainings, a few activists go to the World Bank and dump 5 pounds of birdseed on a delegate's SUV and then films birds feasting nearby on the seed and the reaction of the driver.

    Saturday - following a day of trainings, 75-80 activists (the largest action of the week) including dag take the streets of downtown DC and disrupt the parties and the hotels housing delegates to the World Bank/IMF meetings. Activists enter the St. Gregory hotel and almost make it up the elevator before police intervene. Activists go to 5 hotels, 4 confirmed to be housing delegates, some repeatedly. One activist is arrested while several managed to avoid arrest thanks in large part to affinity group solidarity. Traffic is snarled on downtown streets for more than 90 minutes.

    Sunday 3AM - 9AM: Activists take part in what is called the IMF Soccer Riot by playing soccer in streets in front of Fairmont Hotel, housing many delegates to World Bank/IMF meetings. Activists blast music and air horns while chanting for many hours. Police decide only to harrass but not dislodge activists who stay until morning to harrass delegates going on shuttles to meetings. Activists suffer one arrest (charges later dismissed). Other activists break off in the morning to the Washington Marriott and block delegate van for more than 10 minutes while harrassing many other delegates. A police captain finally shows up and personally forces activists away from delegate van. Activists later return to repeat the process, then go to the IMF where they (only 3 of them) confront hundreds of IMF delegates inches away. Police react by moving half of the delegates to another security check point. Activists remain harrassing delegates for more than half an hour before tiring from the all nighter.

    This is the power of direct action. If you all would see how much power there is in it, you could truly begin to change the evils of the system of oppression that has always been practiced in this country. With more people doing the same things, we could have shut the meetings down. I bet we could have done so with less than 1,000 people despite the fact there were 5,000 delegates.

    Economic imperialism, military imperialism, internal colonialism are the American way of life. The lie is that we live or have ever lived in a democracy; the electoral system, which has never been representative and always oppressive to large numbers who have never been truly a part of the system, has been the great defuser of any grassroots bomb that might go off.

    There's no need to be defused. People of all ages can take action or SUPPORT those taking action. In fact, we need more support networks than anything else. We need homes to sleep, we need legal support, medical support, we need people to cooperate on juries. We need organizational support. We need everyone willing to work together as equals, starting in our own home communities. That's where this begins. Everyone has institutions of power; when we go after them locally, we can figure out later how to connect them nationally and globally. But, it doesn't come from a national or international savior (an MLK or a Cindy Sheehan). It comes from us sitting down in our neighborhoods, talking about the issues that face us, and working together to take action to stop them.

    What happened this weekend is a good example of how a few can do a lot. We know that those delegates at the Fairmont were not able to sleep, and many were shocked by the disruption. You can read it on their faces. But, it won't mean anything if we don't follow through and build on these very modest successes. So, we'll be back out there this week, in my case taking on the warmongers, the immigrant-haters, and the economic imperialists, all of whom might as well be one and the same.


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