ALERT: Squatting Anarchists protest WTO, demand housing, worry

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 4 Dec 1999 20:56:45 -0800 (PST)


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PLEASE CIRCULATE to people using peaceful means to end poverty & injustice.

Assist Seattle's WTO SQUATTERS please, if you can. I'd think they may need,
among other things -- nonviolence training, supplies, networking to allies,
demonstrations of support, organizing advice, publicity and eyw-witness
reporting.

My own TIPS FOR SQUATTERS appear following the news alert I forward:

http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302
6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/627110882/_k/FN7q9ilHEAx8QEbm
FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 03, 1999 20:44

ANARCHISTS OCCUPY BUILDING TO PROTEST WTO


By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Associated Press Writer

SEATTLE (AP) _ Speaking through a mail slot, anarchists occupying a
warehouse to protest the World Trade Organization declined to be
interviewed Friday, and suggested reporters call their publicist.

``Have a nice day,'' a female voice said.

Police and others in this violence-weary city have blamed a small number of
anarchists as the source for much of the vandalism that marred this week's
WTO meeting.

The anarchists illegally occupying the downtown building are not taking
direct responsibility for the vandalism. But they're not denying it,
either.

``Anarchism is a fairly nonviolent philosophy,'' said Jess Krug of
Lawrence, Kan., who was not the publicist, but came out of the building and
agreed to be interviewed.

``Everyone has a breaking point,'' she said. ``The cops are unable to
restrain themselves. Younger and less experienced activists have no
personal control.''

Speaking for herself, Klug refused to condone or condemn the violence that
caused more than $2.5 million in damage to downtown businesses.

``The worst thing you can do is speak out against your brothers and
sisters,'' she said.

A group of anarchists, estimated to number up to 150, invaded the
tan-colored building Sunday, just before the start of the WTO meetings.
They hoisted a big black flag from the roof showing a white skull.

``Housing is a right, not a privilege,'' said a sign in the window. ``Rent
is theft,'' said another.

The occupiers, who go by names like ``007,'' ``Nimo,'' and Spider,''
contend it is a crime to leave the building _ which they call a squat _
unoccupied when so many people are homeless.

The occupation is a protest against the WTO because big business worldwide
is a major cause of rising housing costs and homelessness, Krug said over a
hot chocolate at the Messiah coffeehouse. The coffeehouse was offering a
free drink to
anyone carrying proof they were arrested.

Local supporters have been providing food and drinks to the occupants, she
said. Heat and running water were cut off after the building was occupied.

Some law enforcement officers and other protesters have suggested that the
masked vandals who smashed downtown store windows earlier this week were
anarchists.

But police have been too busy with the protests to take any action against
the occupants of the warehouse, said Clem Benton, a spokesman for Seattle
police.

Benton also said it is not accurate to call the anarchists suspects in the
vandalism, and said no decision has been made on whether to evict the
occupiers.

Building owner Wah Lui told The Seattle Times that he wants the occupiers out.

``Their rationale is so juvenile,'' he told the newspaper. ``There's no
point in even discussing it with them.''

Lui plans to convert the building into artist studios.

AP-CS-12-03-99 2144EST
Received Id AP993374087E48B on Dec 03 1999 20:44

END FORWARD

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SQUAT FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING -- TIPS FOR ORGANIZERS OF NONVIOLENT DIRECT
ACTIONS

by Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>

People kept down by prejudice sometimes use the tactic of "non-violent civil
disobedience". Such tactics are familiar to many because those who marched
with Martin Luther King used them to win voting and other rights for people
of color. Native peoples, poor people and homeless people are using such
tactics to seek justice today.

If conditions for poor people are as bad where you live as they are where I
live (Boston), I invite you to consider squatting buildings as a way to
publicize the need for affordable housing. This article suggests my tips if
you decide to squat for your rights.

For your information, I am a pacifist anti-poverty activist who spent two
years homeless. In the last few years, I've been working with groups in and
near Boston that homeless people manage.

One of them, called Bread and Jams, now has many programs. One of those is a
"social action and service center" for homeless people in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. (That's right, homeless people run there own center here. The
center has been open since 1991. Maybe a homeless-run center would also work
where you live.)

I distilled the "squatting tips" below mainly from the failures of a three
month encampment for affordable housing in Boston in 1988. It involved
hundreds of homeless people and allies. It ended with a building takeover and
over a dozen arrests. Our nonviolent direct action campaign was called
HOMEFRONT 88.

Even today here in Boston, a group called Homes Not Jails is squatting for
affordable housing. Think about squatting where you live. Alright, here are
my tips:

TIPS FOR SQUATTING AS A POLITICAL ACT

1) BRING CAMCORDERS, TAPE RECORDERS, CAMERAS, NOTEPADS AND PRESS PASSES

This will help deter police harrassment and, if it occurs, provide you with a
record of it. It will also help you to document and celebrate any victories in
gaining your aims.

If you are journalist, bring your press pass. It can help you get access to
sites and information that authorities are trying to keep from the public eye.
It's amazing how humanely officials can act when they know that others are
watching.

2) STAY IN CONSTANT TOUCH WITH SQUATTERS WORLDWIDE

This cross-fertlizers strageties and helps you decide what may work or not
locally. It also builds morale, especially when authorities are trying to
discredit you and threatening arrests to scare off supporters.

Nowadays, the Internet is an excellent link to other squatters in a world
where over a billion people are houseless--even in wealthy nations.

Homes Not Jails (Boston chapter) homepage is a good place to start, at:

      http://www.geocities.com.CapitolHill/7996/

3) GIVE EVERY PARTICIPANT AN "EVICTION ALERT PHONETREE"

The list should include contact phone numbers for the news desks of
alternative and mainstream media--local TV, newspapers and radio, plus wire
services such as United Press and Reuters. Don't forget college papers and
radio stations.

Also include contact numbers for supporters to mobilize quickly if arrests
occur. Perhaps you can find progressive members of City Council, clergy or
other "notables" to promise to be arrested if you are "evicted" from the site.

But make sure they do not take over and coopt your aims. (For more on this,
see point 6.)

4) REQUIRE NON-VIOLENT CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TRAINING OF ALL WHO MIGHT RISK
ARREST

To help assure public support, you'll need to make sure there are no threats,
screaming or fights. Officials or the media may well use such incidents to
deflect attention from the validity of your issues.

Role-play all possible outcomes. There are fine non-violence trainers,
especially among the Quakers. You may want to contact Friends Meetings (Quaker
congregations) if you have them locally, or else the American Friends Service
Committee.

5) CREATE 'LEGAL SUPPORT" ROLES FOR THOSE WHO CHOOSE NOT TO BE ARRESTED

Never "guilt-trip" those who may not want to do civil disobedience. Make sure
they are in a spot where they will not be arrested.

Help them choose legal support tasks. These include meetings, transport,
materials, cash, outreach, publicity and legal help--to name but a few.

6) MAKE YOUR SPOKESPEOPLE THOSE MOST AFFECTED--HOMELESS PEOPLE

I think it's a form of "domestic colonialism" when non-poor people speak for
the poor, even when "progressives" do it. When actions show signs of success,
politicians and services providers often try to take control, take credit and
take any resources you win (such as housing and cash).

Homeless peoples' aims get lost in such shuffles--as well as the materials to
survive and thrive that homeless people deserve. Choose your allies carefully,
and let homeless people speak for ourselves.

7) MAKE DEMANDS THAT LINK THE KEY ISSUES -- CIVIL RIGHTS, HOMES FOR ALL,
WAGE-RENT SLAVERY

Be realistic. Demand the impossible.

What is "politically feasable" today is far short of what people need and
deserve. Accept no substitutes. You may get what you ask for -- so ask for
everything.

8) WIDELY PUBLICIZE AND ENFORCE A BAN ON ALL ALCOHOL AND DRUGS ON SITE

People who are high or agitated at your actions will undercut your credibility
with the publics who can help win your demands. If you see someone with drugs
or alcohol, ask them to take it off the site--first time, every time. Fighting
drunks will discredit your actions quickly.

9) GET ADVICE AND SUPPORT FROM CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS.

One group that comes to mind is National Law Center on Homelessness and
Poverty (which works closely with National Coalition for the Homeless). The
Law Center recently published a report on police harrassment of homeless
people, titled "Mean Sweeps". If you use the Internet, you can link to the
Law Center (and other useful information on homelessness) via the National
Coalition for the Homeless homepage at:

      http://www2.ari.net/home/nch/wwwhome.html

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helped Homefront protesters get charges
dropped. ACLU is another group worth working with, especially if people are
arrested

10) HAVE SQUATTING SUPPLIES ON SITE AND NEARBY

If you manage to hold a building, authorities may try to starve you out. So
have water, blankets, food, soap and buckets for human waste inside--before
you publicly announce your site.

Also have cell phones inside, so that you can have contact with suporters
outside. Don't forget musical instruments to celebrate your struggle--and to
accompany you as you sing "We Shall Not Be Moved".

***

Hundreds of people participated in Boston's HOMEFRONT '88. Yet our gains were
largely nullified by drinking and drugging on site and by public quarrels
(including fistfights) among would-be "leaders".

Our cause was just -- homes for all. But our reversion to "chain of comand" and
our lack of "nonviolent discipline" helped reinforce stereotypes about
activists and homeless people. And Homefront lost it's committment to direct
action, floundered for a while, then died.

You may want to tailor these guidelines for your specific needs. I hope these
suggestions help.

I send my best wishes to all of you fighting homelessness. Feel free to e-mail
me if I can assist your efforts.

Seeking peaceful means to homeless peoples' aims,

--Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net>



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