photo by SG

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lessons from the RNC #1 - The Building Bloc(k)s

So what have we learned?

I think a lot of things are still falling into place. I feel like no one really knows how to characterize the protests yet, there's sort of a collective lull in judgment. In the past few days, I've seen the first couple of critiques and assessments, mostly positive. But even these perspectives don't tell us where we are. In this 3-part piece, I want to examine what happened, what it means, and where we're going.

What went down? A few things.

1. We got on TV. The traditional media story ("there was a large peaceful march and a handful of trouble-makers") went up with nary a comma moved. So not really a success there. Even the most creative and innovative anarchist tactics (like Funk the War) got lumped in with the black bloc (and this is something that, for once, we can't actually blame on the media.) The bloc took over the protest and started pushing it the wrong way, away from the Xcel. Not exactly solidarity within the movement.

2. The blockades didn't work. A couple of delegates got attacked and had some harmless chemicals thrown on them. I honestly don't know if they were ever a good idea, but I think they could have succeeded. The problem was there just wasn't enough people to hold the space. How more people could have gotten involved is a whole different question, one which is sort of a waste of time to ponder. But there should be something to be said for the work, both positive and negative, of the Welcoming Committee here.

3. A couple windows got smashed. Yay? I dunno. The defense of window-smashing that I always here is "oh, well we cost them money!" Compared to the damage the financial system is wreaking on capitalism right now, this claim seems laughable.

4. Police went batshit insane. This was the most surprising part of the whole thing. While of course everyone expected repression, the response was much more than I think most people did. Particularly since our protests weren't particularly that effective. If we'd had an organized army of anarchists ready to tear down that fence, I would have expected all the gestapo tactics that the Ramsey County Sheriff and SPPD took. But we weren't even that effective, and with all their undercovers, they should have known that.

5. Solidarity forever between anarchists and poor people's campaign. I don't know how the hell this happened, but it was incredibly rad and exciting to see. Anti-Cap Bloc marching side-by-side with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.

6. A Freedom Road rally somehow ended up with as many arrests as the 4 days combined. A huge failure from the anarchist perspective. A nearly undirected march ended up being totally a waste of time and energy. Woulda coulda shoulda, I know. But if we'd been organized and prepared to take over that march, we could have made it closer to the Xcel, maybe even right down to it. We would have felt pretty good and gotten on TV as some scary and sweet motherfuckers.

In short, it was a failed plan that ended up with a lot of people getting arrested. There were some moments of beauty and some moments of terror. I got the shit sprayed out of me and was also bored out of my mind at other times.

Parts 2 and 3 will build more on what these events mean and where we need to take things from here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was reading your post and thinking about the "No Peace For the Warmakers" demo on Day 4 of the RNC. I have been thinking about tactical stuff around it. I know the march intended to get into downtown. I know that at one point the lead banner made it past a police line (During the move from John Ireland to Cedar) but that there was not enough momentum from the crowd to maintain the break through.

I think this had something to do with the level of experience of most people at the march and a lack of communication between more organized / experienced groupings who, if working in concert may have been able to sustain a breakthrough. I am interested in trying to figure out how to dialog on issues of practical tactics especially in the context of police infiltration. I think there was an assumption by some folks that there were limits on what the goals were that just didn't exist. I think those assumptions were essentially sectarian and if those sectarian assumptions hadn't been there and people had been ready to work together on the ground, across political lines the war makers would have gotten a whole lot less peace.

That said, My arrest bus was filled with people who had just taken their first political arrest and it was and remains a moving and radicalizing experience for them. that was the situation for probably 2/3 of the 800 arrestees and I actually think that it accomplishes something for people to see the nature of the state and "democracy" close up and personal.