[Hpn] Anarchists ask for accuracy

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 08 Dec 2000 19:45:42 -0700


Anarchists ask for accuracy

Not all anarchists fit the stereotype, and many have an
alternative approach to the controversial philosophy

By Sarah Thompson
Oregon Daily Emerald
September 18, 2000

Angry young protesters clad in black. Yelling in the
streets. Breaking windows. Chaos.

Recent mainstream media coverage of events, such as the June
18 protests in Eugene and the World Trade Organization
protest in Seattle, has added to the stereotype of
anarchists as violent trouble-makers. However, the reality
of the anarchist movement in Eugene is quite different than
what the stereotype would lead a person to believe.

"Primarily, I think the media looks for the stereotypical
anarchist to interview," said Audrey Vanderford, a
self-proclaimed anarchist living in Eugene and a University
graduate student in the folklore department. Her focus is on
political pranks, with a specific interest in street
performances at large protests, such as action at the World
Trade Organization situation in Seattle. "Black-clad, young,
white, male, angry, ungrammatical, spewing violent talk. It
fits into the larger message that the mainstream media will
always give, which is anarchist equals terrorist."

While some anarchists do fit the stereotype and do believe
in violent tactics, they definitely do not represent the
majority of the Eugene anarchist community.

Some are young, and some are old. Some dress in black and
have body piercings; some don't. Some have attended the
protests and riots and have interacted with the police, but
many haven't. 

The truth is that anarchists are a very diverse group of
people with different beliefs.

Shelley Cater is a 35-year-old anarchist and forest
activist. She is also mother to two children and works on
the crew of Cascadia Alive!, a public-access television show
in Eugene/Springfield produced by anarchists.

"The textbook definition of anarchism, without rule, without
rulers, is something I guess anybody who calls themselves
anarchists would have to hold as a basic tenet," Cater said.
"As far as the finer points about how to bring it about, how
to produce a paradigm that doesn't exist inside the paradigm
of destruction and greed, that's a tougher one. Everybody
has different views about tactics."

Cascadia Alive! is the anarchist media outlet. Cater helps
produce the public access show, which is aired live on cable
channel 97 at 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights.

"Every week we allow other people to have their voices
heard, and we do a very minimal amount of controlling what
goes on the show," Cater said. "Sometimes that results in a
really boring show or a really controversial show or a
really informative show. It just always comes out the way it
comes out." 

Vanderford defines anarchism as "the rejection of domination
in all its forms -- sexism, racism, capitalism, homophobia,
nationalism and environmental destruction." She said that
anarchists believe that humans are inherently good and that
they don't need institutions, such as the government, police
and religion to protect them from each other.

"Anarchists believe in 'mutual aid'," she said. "The idea of
building an alternative community that provides and assists
each member in a non-hierarchical, non-exploitative manner."

Mutual aid is, in fact, a large part of what the Eugene
anarchist community is about. However, nobody is sure of
exactly how large that group is.

The number of people who actually consider themselves
anarchists is pretty small, said Lucy Humus, a Eugene
resident and part of the anarchist community.

"Then there's this huge community of anywhere from 200 to
800 people who interact in a mutual aid-type way," Humus
said. 

While the national media has recently been portraying Eugene
as a hotbed for anarchy, Cater says that this is a false
notion. 

"I know anarchists in every city I ever visit in this
country," she said, "and some of those communities are way
more together than we are."

However, because of all of the media attention Eugene has
been getting, Cater said that a lot more anarchists are
coming to check out the scene for themselves.

"There's anarchists all over the world," she said. "It's a
very powerful movement. It's a movement with a lot of
history." 

A history that is filled, at least one anarchist said, with
misrepresentations.

"The media's interpretation of the anarchists is exactly
what police feed them," Steve Heslin said. "It's the same
misrepresentation that was started in 1886 with the Hay
Market anarchists."

It's true that the anarchy movement is nothing new, and in
Eugene, anarchists have been working to achieve their goal
for a long time through various projects. Community gardens,
such as the one at Scobert Park in the Whiteaker
neighborhood, have sprung up in different locations around
the city. Here, anarchists and activists work together
planting and maintaining organic gardens that provide food
for those who need it and a beautiful place to visit for
others. 

There are also housing co-ops, education and day care
programs and, of course, political activism. Protesting and
rallying are the activities that receive the most attention
from both the media and the Eugene Police Department.

Cater and Humus both said that they choose not to
participate in the protests and riots, and that sentiment is
shared by many anarchists.

Food Not Bombs is another project run primarily by the
anarchist community. It provides free meals to those who
need it weekly at Scobert Park. Humus said that Food Not
Bombs has at least 400 chapters around the world.

"They're all getting food from their local community,
cooking it and serving it hot for free in a public place,"
Humus said. "It's a perfect example of shared leadership and
cooperation." 

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