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

Graeme Bacque (
Wed, 08 Dec 1999 09:43:22 -0500

Actually, I was never referring to the issue of property destruction. You 
want my take on that one?

While personally I have no moral concerns on that subject, in situations 
like the anti-WTO protests it can be a real heat-score to engage in such 
activity, unless it is a very large-scale, generally agreed-upon tactic, 
that is. Otherwise it becomes in itself a safety issue for other, 
non-participants as generally nothing else will make the cops go nuts 
faster - or send the mainstream media into a greater feeding-frenzy of 
negativity - then will a little broken glass or unauthorized spray-paint.

Heck, by comparison the horrific abuses aimed at innocent people and the 
serious bodily injury suffered by some participants hardly rated attention 
from the press but a few broken windows (which feel no pain and can be 
quickly and easily replaced) sent them into a raging tither!

Likewise, I'd hate to see human well-being and safety taking a back seat to 
the rigid maintenance of a particular philosophy or tactical approach 
(substituting these for the damaged inanimate objects that everyone became 
so fixated on in Seattle). Those things which enhance human life and 
preserve safety of participants (to the maximum degree possible) have to be 
prioritized. Hell, philosophies come and go... and as with all things human 
they are certainly not immune to scrutiny or modification.

At 08:05 AM 12/08/1999 -0500, Thomas Cagle wrote:
>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 <>
> >___________
> >Non-member submission to HPN from ["Brian Burch" <>]
> >
> >Subject: Re: SEATTLE: 'Healing'...............?
> >Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1999 13:26:25 -0500
> >
> >Graeme,
> >
> >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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