was 'Healing'...............?now how do I make this work

Thomas Cagle (nh-adapt@juno.com)
Wed, 8 Dec 1999 08:05:02 -0500

Hi Graeme and list,
There are several threads in this message stream about the WTO and
activism. I think all the thoughts expressed have some merit. I guess for
me it comes down to style. I want to make use of one fragment of the
homeless-disenfranchised population, I want to use their anger and I want
to use their zeal. 

I personally think that too often our message gets lost as parts of it
did at WTO by the presentation of destruction of property as our sole
issue. i.e. we or people like us were there solely to bust up the town.

I have no problem with destruction of personal property *if* it can be
shown as part of a lesser evil. That goes hand in hand with the larger
protest. I will give specific examples from past ADAPT actions. 

In Columbus OH we were locked down without a means of exit, or facilities
to use the bathroom. In time a latrine was set up, that killed a couple
of large plants and soiled (literally) a waste basket. For all the
governors protest of our destructive ways, it was easy to ask of the
people that objected to us for that putative destructive behavior "just
where the hell did you expect us to pee"? Better still our side of that
story was well circulated among OH-ADAPTers, so that a month or a year
later they would know how to reply to similar taunts.

Having your group know what the issues are, and agreeing to choices made
about destruction of property is part of your controlling the issues you
protest. Managing the aspects of protest gets very hard when your numbers
grow much beyond 500. They  become acute when your numbers grow beyond
about 1000. As WTO shows they escape the control of organizers when
protesters numbers grow into to tens of thousands. It becomes easy and I
think even convenient for shills to break windows and brand the entire
group by default. This justifies the mayor-governor-president for use of
martial law, rather than give up control and concede to power-sharing.
IMO when the numbers evolve to a size where there are thousands of
protesters, I would break the numbers into smaller brigades (of 500 or
less) and fan out over a larger area. In short if you can't get to the
building you are focused on? No problem. Lock down the entire city. A
quick inventory of the geography of the area should point out several
weak links in it's infrastructure, be they major bridges off ramps to
thruways etc. Billy-bob-joe-sue protester can sit in at any of those and
stick their protest in the cities figurative dike in ways that can't be

Martial law has it's limits too. Rather than go solely for the WTO
meeting, I might block access to a cities food supply with 10 to 50,000
people. Once the infrastructure is plugged delivery of food becomes
problematic, and once the media works out that's what your doing, they
will help advertise and exacerbate your endeavor. 3 to 5 days is more
than enough time to put one heck of a monkey wrench into a cities food
supply. 50,000 protestors is 100-500 brigades, more than adequate to this
size protest. A single brigade paying their toll(s) at a key toll-booth
in pennies can virtually stop a throughway... Stacking other brigades at
other sites can virtually eliminate a police force no matter how well
their own infrastructure works. They can't arrest the first one if they
have 16 other brigades in the way. Permutations on this theme are
endless. It is one way among a countless number.

Your issue is to control the topic of discussion. If you can't jump the
barricades, don't try. Go someplace else.

I will in a cold second, use minor destruction of public property *when*
it helps turn the public discourse to ends I want addressed. IMO bleeding
on an issue makes good theater, If not real blood then red tempura will
do. Smaller groups and more of them greatly increases you chance to paint
the street in front of the thing you object to. Your chances to make that
theater happen improve when the civil authorities own system is
encouraged to collapse. Putting all your bodies in one small geographical
area only enhances their (the police) efficiency. Why do their work for
them? Make them do your work for you. 

The precedence of protest needs to looked at too. ADAPT will often put
the most obviously disabled in the front of a line. Clubbing a
vent-dependant quad ends a policeman's career, as he/she can work out.

I must also point out that the thinner you stretch out a police
population the easier they are to co-opt. Preaching to a police
department, when done without rancor can do much to take the steam out of
their effectiveness. The general rank & file needs to know the issues. A
standard ADAPT line we pointedly make to police officers is: "we're
always recruiting--you could get to be disabled in the blink of an eye",
substituting homeless, or a multitude of other catch phrases could just
as easily be substituted. This only works when the cops are thinned out
 geography. When they are in phalanx strategies, you will never get the
chance to dilute them. 

Somebody once said of protest "when your numbers are in the tens, they
need to smell you, in the hundreds they need to hear you, in the
thousands they only gotta see you". Make what you do have it's greatest
impact while still carrying your story.

WTO is history, you can bet that the powers that be are taking a similar
stock of the week. 

Tom C.

On Mon, 06 Dec 1999 21:13:53 -0500 Graeme Bacque <gbacque@idirect.com>
>Non-member submission to HPN from ["Brian Burch" <burch@web.net>]
>Subject: Re: SEATTLE: 'Healing'...............?
>Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1999 13:26:25 -0500
>Thanks for bringing this matter up.  You are right---we don't even have
>common definition of violence so examining the
>strengths and weaknesses of forms of non-violent protest is very hard 
>to do.
>I, for one, do not consider property damage to be violence.  My major
>problem with it is if it is done in such a way as to cause injury to
>It seems what happened in Seattle, from our side, was a minor bit of
>property damage.  However, there was a great deal of physical violence
>directed against activists.  I have a different problem if there was a
>consensus decision taken---that was participated in by those using
>damage as a tactic---that there should not be property damage.  That's a
>matter of process and agreement on tactics---not a moral issue.  That 
>is, if you agree to a decision to not use property damage
>as a tactic you should be bound by your decision.  If you did not 
>agree to non-property damage and you take care to ensure
>people are not going to be physicially harmed by your actions and if
>ultimately you are willing to take responsibility for the action, then 
>I have no problem with economic sabotage.
>There is a different matter that you bring up---the matter of use of
>to defend yourself or others.   While I would prefer to not use physical
>force to defend myself, I will not make that decision for others.  And I
>will not condemn someone who uses force to stop the injuring of a 
>person unable to defend her/himself---something that (it is rumoured) 
>happened at the Safe Park protest in Toronto and therefore prevented
>injuries being inflicted upon a protester by a police officer.
>The political and economic powers-that-be do enough work to divide us 
>that we don't have to do so ourselves.  Our sisters and brothers are 
>treated the same by the police if they sit on the ground, throw
barracades or 
>break windows.  Perhaps we can learn to accept one another with a
>unifying vision.
>In peace,
>(Rev.) Brian Burch

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