August 11, 2000
7:56 AM   Subscribe

K through 5th graders in LA are being taught to lock themselves inside their school in case the police start rioting next week like they did in Seattle.
posted by sudama (48 comments total)
Two hundred parents showed up at a school meeting on Wednesday night and were told the Los Angeles Unified School District had promised to send two unarmed campus aides to help.
The Los Angeles Police Department has assigned 12 extra officers on bicycles to the immediate area.

I don't think the cops are who they are afraid of.
posted by thirteen at 8:18 AM on August 11, 2000

Nice spin though.
posted by thirteen at 8:21 AM on August 11, 2000

I'm sure they're not afraid of the cops, but when the cops are buying pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear gas (pdf) and the protestors are building puppets, where does the danger lie?
posted by sudama at 8:39 AM on August 11, 2000

Ed Pardo, spokesman for the school district, said, "The district feels it (the school) is the safest place for the children."
Perhaps the parents should move in so they can spend time with their children.

No, wait, maybe they should have the convention inside the school since it's safer there.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:54 AM on August 11, 2000

I imagine there would be a greater danger if the cops didn't have all that crap.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 8:58 AM on August 11, 2000

I was being a little puckish, calling you on the fact that you tried to make it appear that the schools were afraid of the police. Pehaps you would prefer they buy body bags, and real bullets. I know you would prefer thay not be there at all. The cops are just preparing for a storm, it is not unreasonable. I really do believe that if the protests are peaceful, and the streets are not shut down, there will be no riot. I guess it is all perspective, the most damning things I have read about the protesters have all come from monkeyfist. Even Dru's pictures
This was on the Not afraid page you linked to
I declare WAR on the oppressors and their supporters. Those who are willing to sacrifice are the true patriots in the continuing battles for freedom, justice and human rights. Death to the Nazi pigs and their running dogs.

I disagree with the method... into the ovens with me.
Real cute.
posted by thirteen at 9:07 AM on August 11, 2000

Ugh, another sucker who believes the police started anything in Seattle. I was there throughout the entire thing and though cops reacted strongly to that which they were dealt, so would any message-board pundit if put in a blue uniform. So many of the protestors I met were weenies falling all over themselves to be political, and when it came down to it, pretty unaware of why they were even protesting. I *never* side with the cops, but I think implying the 'cops started' something in this case is alarmist crap.
posted by jblock at 9:15 AM on August 11, 2000

heh... didn't notice that part. next time i'll be more careful with my links.

Anyway, if the worst thing the protestors do is block traffic, that doesn't warrant cops shooting, spraying, or gassing civilians.

If the cops didn't show up expecting violence and prepared to engage in violence, these children would have nothing to worry about.
posted by sudama at 9:19 AM on August 11, 2000

I must admit I am excited about all this violence. Sure, it sucks for all the innocent people beat down by paranoid fascist cops, but for every excessive thrashing, ten more people will have their tenuous illusion of freedom shattered and rise up in outrage. Consumerist complacency as a tool to maximize profits may be beginning to unravel.
posted by donkeymon at 9:26 AM on August 11, 2000

maybe you can tell us what's happening in this photo, jblock?
posted by sudama at 9:29 AM on August 11, 2000

Looks like theres some kind of vermin on the street and the police are trying to clean it off.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 9:52 AM on August 11, 2000

Nyarlathotep, sudama ought to thank you: your disgusting callous remarks strengthen sudama's arguments exponentially. Are you by any chance a cop yourself?
posted by wiremommy at 10:39 AM on August 11, 2000

I was there throughout the entire thing and though cops reacted strongly to that which they were dealt, so would any message-board pundit if put in a blue uniform. So many of the protestors I met were weenies falling all over themselves to be political, and when it came down to it, pretty unaware of why they were even protesting.

I was there too. I had similar impressions of the protesters - that a great many were out on a lark and didn't understand what they were asking for. At the time, I thought the police were doing the right thing.

I don't think that anymore. The protesters marched, chanted, linked arms around buildings, blocked intersections, waved signs, sang, performed skits. Yes, they started it - but the police were the ones who started the shooting, beating, gassing, and mass chaos.

Which group poses the greater danger to you and me?

I'll take an excitable mob of idealistic college students with puppets and placards over a small army with guns and clubs any day.

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:47 AM on August 11, 2000

sudama: It is the P.D's responsibility to expect trouble. They are proxys to prevent us from becoming vigilantees. The police serve their purpose. Without them there, Joe S.U.V might decide a human roadblock isn't gonna stop his 4w drive, and plow through the crowd at 75mph. A pacifist police force would be worse than useless. In regard to your posted photo, I see a cause and effect thing going on. The cops aren't beating anyone. A. People block intersection B. Cop do their job to clear the intersection. If I as a resident demand the police keep the streets clear, and that my rights are enforced, what are they to do? Do the cops ask people to move along before escallating things? They should, I agree. What are they to do if there is no cooperation? They will have to answer to me, if they are ineffective, they will be replaced. Turn it around, you have a job to do, how would you clear the street? No fair saying you would never do it, it is your job, and you really believe a law is being broken. It can be argued that the tear gas is as non-violent as blocking an intersection. Protesters being forced to move by a noxious cloud is not much different than me being routed by a mob.
Does that picture mean anymore than a picture of a protester smashing a window, or jumping up and down on a graffittied squad car? Not to me.
posted by thirteen at 10:51 AM on August 11, 2000

Harassment sure is a great way to ensure peaceful protests.

Thank goodness for The Ministry of Peac. . err, I mean the LAPD.

posted by alan at 11:12 AM on August 11, 2000

sudarma: Unless you expect the cops to show up without their guns, then when they buy pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear gas, they are preparing to be merely violent rather than lethal. The cops in the photo are tear-gassing some protesters, who necessitated some response by blocking the street - that's the point of civil disobedience: to start something. In other countries the cops repond with firehoses, or tanks, or machine guns.

Nyarlathotep: the protesters are your fellow Americans; it isn't nice to call them vermin. If we don't give citizens all the latitude we can when they act to express their opinions, we risk encumbering free speech and that's the best thing we've got.

wiremommy: accept that sudama and Nyarlathotep are ideologues talking past each other; neither is really making an argument. Plenty of people out there would find sudama's comments just about as disgusting as Nyarlathotep's - and not all of them would be cops.
posted by Nic at 11:26 AM on August 11, 2000

Nic, sudama may be impugning the cops by suggesting they're irresponsibly violent in the face of organized protest, but sudama is not calling anyone "vermin". Nyar is so over-the-top in his/her disgust for the protesters (in this thread and in others) that I suspect s/he is a troll.
posted by wiremommy at 11:40 AM on August 11, 2000

The cops can choose to escalate or de-escalate such a situation. In recent protests they have repeatedly chosen to escalate. When this choice puts children in danger, perhaps we should call for them to find a different solution to the problem of people sitting in a street. If the cops are, as thirteen suggests, our proxy, then we are responsible for putting those kids in danger by demanding a swift and violent response to peaceful protests.
posted by sudama at 11:41 AM on August 11, 2000

just a note: I was *living* in seattle during WTO. during the second day the police were far out of control. they backed off a bit on the third day. if the conference had lasted a week, they probably would have figured out how to handle it all.

there were a few protesters (or hanger-ons) during WTO who did property damage. as far as I could see, it was the police who were violent. bystanders, media, neighborhood residents, watch out! the police peppersprayed (and worse) them all.

posted by rebeccablood at 12:04 PM on August 11, 2000

Those same choices are available to protesters as well. If you trace it backwards the first wrong committed is gonna be the action of a protester. We cannot even agree on what a peaceful protest is. I do not believe it is peaceful to violate other peoples rights. People used to stand singlefile on the curb and make their views known. This should satisfy everyone. If you have to ruin my day to make your point known, I am not gonna agree with you, even if you are trying to get me elected. 4 years ago when the Democratic Convention was in Chicago I was living 1 mile from the convention hall, and the route the motorcades travelled was right in front of my apartment. I worked and lived on the same street 3 miles apart. My entire day was a police lock down. There were protester lined up the entire stretch of Grand Avenue from Halsted to Ogden, They were very visible and vey loud. They did not block the street, I was able to walk home unmolested. Why can't that happen again? The police are a firecracker, the protesters have the match.
posted by thirteen at 12:04 PM on August 11, 2000

Lighten up people. My vermin comment was insensative. Some of you know this already but most of my comments are.

For the protesters or the cops to truly "disgust" me I'de actually have to care one way or the other. Honestly I don't. I just find it amusing how in these threads generally begin with evil cops attacking the innocent protesters. Get real. All the protesters aren't sweet little angels.

Let the protesters protest! Good for them. Whether they deserve it or not they're probably going to get beaten. Some even want it to happen. It could only strengthen their cause. To think the cops are doing something wrong just because they're preparing for this eventuality is to be blind. Some of the arguments I read here make it sound like at any protest a truck pulls up, cops flood out the back and instantly start slaughtering people. I'm sure something goes down before A turns into B.

wiremommy: Nope. I'm not a cop and I have no idea what the hell a troll is.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 12:44 PM on August 11, 2000

Good point, Donkeymon.

Thirteen, talk about spin. The IndyMedia page which Sudama linked to was an open message board -- anyone is allowed to post. It's precisely equivalent to judging all webloggers by some random comment on Metafilter. Of course, if you are against killing Nazis, presumably you must deeply regret American intervention in WWII...

The notion that the police acted appropriately in Seattle is laughable. Not even the police believe that. Largely that was because we took them by surprise -- they underestimated the strength of character and moral determination of thousands of young people acting together to change the system.

In LA, the police should know better. And yet they feel it's necessary to stockpile an ansenal of such size and power that Suharto would be drooling over it. And who, pray tell, is the "threat"? A bunch of vegans wearing hemp trousers; a bunch of geeks with a fondness for the details of global trade policy.

Whenever you bring together thousands of people, property damage and violence is always a possibility. Just know that the D2KLA and DAN activists will have had nothing to do with it.

The current strategy of equating activism with terrorism is a pathetic attempt to depoliticize this movement; it may work well in the short term, but at the end of the day, people aren't that stupid.

posted by johnb at 12:55 PM on August 11, 2000

I have no idea what the hell a troll is.

A troll is someone who posts exaggerated, ridiculous, outrageous comments to message boards, newsgroups, or mailing lists in order to provoke flame-responses and generally send the group into a state of chaos. Kinda like what you've been doing.
posted by daveadams at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2000

Maybe he was trolling when he said that. ;^)

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 1:25 PM on August 11, 2000

Thanks dave. I guess in the vermin post I was trolling just a wee bit.
posted by Nyarlathotep at 1:39 PM on August 11, 2000

I thought trolls hid under bridges and waited for billy goats. No wait, those are L.A. cops.

So many people are assuming the LAPD is going to screw up the situation, either by overreacting or underreacting, that, if we get through the week without a riot of historical proportions, it could be a PR victory for the police... They've been trying some "pro-active pre-emptive" actions - as if there was a chance such actions wouldn't be noticed and wouldn't elicit a response - and the protesters have gone to the courts for a restraining order against the cops... the one phrase in the all the lagal bla-bla that got the most media attention is the demand that the police not be allowed to confiscate "signs, placards or puppets". So how are the puppets going to react?
posted by wendell at 2:52 PM on August 11, 2000

johnb: I cried spin because the posted link was made to appear as people were afraid of, and preparing for the police. I made no claim about the quote I posted, other than it was on the page. I did not expect sudama to embrace the comment, but it is out there and reflected a viewpoint, and it is valuable. To hear you tell it, the protesters are all sweetness and light, incapable of dropping ice bombs etc.
I'm all for killing Nazi's. Everybody loves to call people Nazi's. Nobody ever thinks they are a Nazi, it's really convienent. I think at the core Nazi's are the darkest aspect of a leftist philosophy, the part of socialism and communism that I fear. Crystal Night 2000, coming next week. No matter what, I do not expect to be called a Nazi pig because I wanna walk down the street in peace in my own city.
Your tacit acceptance of Donkykongs point shows that you are open to some violence, and is really just a quiet affirmation of the quote I posted. When you break it down, who is bringing the violence to town. Even if Donkeymon is right, I wonder how many other people are turned against the protesters by the violence. I imagine you will have a diminishing returns problem. Chicago has several large gatherings every summer, attendence in the millions. I cannot remember reports of violence and property destruction. The cops are just as well armed, and in present in the same numbers. Maybe it has something to to with the lack of gasmasks and ice ballons. At the major protests of the last year I have heard no reports of peaceful protesters trying to reign in their violent comrades. I have heard of human chains closing in on and screaming at women trying to pass. Why is that?
Whty does anyone even do 60's style protest anymore anyway. They no longer generate sympathy, and seem antiquated now. You might as well fire up the telegraph while you are at it !
-.. --- .-- -. / .-- .. - .... / --- .-. -.. . .-. / ..- .--. / .-- .. - .... / -.-. .... .- --- ... That'll show the man™! Again I will advocate entertainment over destruction. Put out a free weekly, you will reach more people. There used to ba a magazine here in Chicago called the Lumpen times. It was filled with the same ideas that the protesters are marching for. It was half garbage, half pretty good content. I read it all the time, a lot of people did. I am sure it reached more people than the sit ins ever will.
I have read many of your posts over the last week, you have yet to conceed that any protester has done anything wrong. I have regretted that the police have been wrong in their application of their duty. I don't expect to change your mind about anything, you are annointed with holy truth, and will judge anything you do to be necessary and good. I am not trying to depoliticize anything, tho I do blush with the thought that my simple ideas seem so ominous. The dark lord will be most pleased.
posted by thirteen at 3:14 PM on August 11, 2000

Here's why blocking streets is inherently wrong: you have no way of knowing the current situation of the people you're blocking. Say I'm driving down a street in LA during the convention with a friend in the passenger seat, and something suddenly happens to him. Maybe he has a sudden heart attack; maybe he has an allergic reaction to the chili dog he's scarfing down. In any case, he's hit with a sudden medical problem and I need to get him to a hospital. At the same moment, some group of x-hundred protesters decides to take over the street right then and there. Guess my friend's screwed, eh? Yes, the chances of something like this happening are small, but they're not nil. And when something like this does happen (as it will eventually, somewhere), the protesters will probably end up getting charged with attempted murder.

As for this entire thread, claiming all the protesters are 100% innocent and the police are 100% evil is just as ludicrous as saying the reverse.
posted by aaron at 4:29 PM on August 11, 2000

Of course no one is arguing that the protesters did nothing wrong, any more than they are arguing that the police did nothing wrong. The police are all just doing their jobs, but they are all sorts of people, just as the protesters are all sorts of people. What I am encouraged by is this: For the last 20 years as I have lived in this country, I have noticed how fat people are. People are willing to say to themselves that social injustices happen to some other person and that they probably deserved it or whatever. They have been content with the system as it has kept them fat. (Obviously this is a huge generalisation but I am pointing out a trend here as I have seen it.) The level of apathy was over all, appaling. But one of the main reasons for this is that people were by and large unable to see the poor slobs that propped up their fat bodies and were the victims of their lifestyles and who paid the price for the safety and prosperity they enjoyed, and unable to relise the price they were paying in liberty as they had no need to exercise those liberties. The system has evolved in such a way that those in control were able to keep the masses pacified with consumer goods and the American Dream™, and were able to use their positions of influence to bend the laws more and more slightly in their favor, in the interest of Conserving the position they were in. Until recently, this had gone by unnoticed. But I think that recently people have been able to catch on to this setup and take an action which they believe to have positive consequences. I believe that as this movement grows, more and more often strang arm tactics by police in riot gear will be actually used instead of just implied, and more and more people will understand the lack of freedom that has gotten them where they are today. Maybe I am idealistic in my cynicism. But until the Federal Government is no longer used to defend the interests of corporations against the interests of consumers, change will be necessary, and despite all the hangers-on who understand this not, this may be the way to acheive that change, or at least catalyse it.
posted by donkeymon at 4:32 PM on August 11, 2000

A point everyone seems to have missed in sudama's link is the fact that these kids are attending an ALL YEAR school. I heard of summer school, but if you're falling behind in kindergarten, man, we know which side of the Bell Curve slope you're on. But seriously, isn't that cool, all year school?

Maybe if we had a better educated citizenry, protests wouldn't be necessary, because we wouldn't be so reactionary about all things social, political and economic. Maybe, we'd elect the right politicians, instead of just the rich ones.
posted by BoyCaught at 4:47 PM on August 11, 2000

donkeymon, there's a problem with your theory, IMHO: Most of the activists are quite young. College students are a huge chunk of them, and a sizeable number are even under 18. By definition, these people have not had enough life experiences to fully understand how the world works, and this allows them to look at things from a highly idealized, rose-colored viewpoint. Then, as they get older and have to get out into the real world where they realize things aren't quite so simple, the vast majority of them end up falling out of such movements. And it's always been so; note how most '60s hippies ended up becoming '80s yuppies, for example.

In other words, there are always going to be a lot of people to fuel such activism, because there's always going to be a lot of young people. But the young inevitably become old, so the movements never build past a certain point. All they can do is maintain a certain level of membership by replenishing with fresh blood.
posted by aaron at 5:24 PM on August 11, 2000

Are protesters mostly young? Maybe it's just because I live in California, but I see plenty of people from kids to senior citizens at events around here.

And if activists tend to be young people, isn't it just as likely that the protesters are mostly young because unlike older folks with jobs and family obligations, young people can take a couple of weeks off from their lives to go to a protest? Also that young people are more resilient physically and thus more able to endure the vicissitudes of long hours marching, shouting, linking arms, and hoisting signs?

I'm not denying that a lot of idealistic young liberals probably get older, get paid, get laid and get lazy, and wind up losing their ideals. But I also know that my dad is actually more of a liberal activist now than he was as a young man in the sixties. I think he'd probably go to protests now if he didn't have health problems. Who knows how many older people feel the same?

Somebody's helping to fund the activism of young people-- maybe those former hippies are using their yuppie money to send their kids to protests...
posted by wiremommy at 6:26 PM on August 11, 2000

Oooh, fresh blood. Anyway, its not a membership drive type of thing. We are all members of this country, more or less, and we all have a duty to continue to fight for the ideals that this country was founded on, against those who would pervert them for their own gain. I think that you get a lot more young people because they have the free time and the largely consequence-free lifestyle that it takes to throw yourself around and subject yourself to such abuse. Sure a lot of these people are there for the fun of it, or to be cool, or to meet chicks, or whatever, but still they will be exposed to the message and some of them wil take it to heart. There is nothing wrong with being young and idealistic; in fact, I think it is something that people should try to hold onto as long as possible before their souls are ground up and spit out by the cynical, money-grubbing country we actually live in.
posted by donkeymon at 6:39 PM on August 11, 2000

Why does anyone even do 60's style protest anymore anyway?Hmm.. let's see here.. because we're concerned, because we're passionate, because we want to do what we can to create a better world for our (future) children, and because, thanks to the evolution of Western society, we have the right to make our opinions heard. The real question is, why do (non-specific) you wish to convince people not to express themselves and their concerns, or to only do it through channels that you find "appropriate"?
posted by jess at 6:43 PM on August 11, 2000

Jess: I see, you thought I meant why do you care, when I really meant why don't you do something effective. There was another sentence after the one you quoted, you should have read a bit further. I am sorry that you consider my plea for people to respect each other confining. Maybe your world of burning cities, and clogged roadways are the way of the future. Good luck with that.
Non-specific? 6'3" male, dirty blonde/grey eyes. Barrel-chested, 230 lbs.. I am a just right of center Libertarian with a strong belief in individual freedom. I'm against Monsanto and redistributing wealth and for Cloning vital organs and space colonization. I would never dream of keeping you from crossing a street, and would strongly consider breaking your cheekbones if you try and stop me from doing the same.
What you are implying is self expression is a step backwards for civilization. What if everyone expressed themselves that way. Do you want the klan shutting down the highway, while the vegetarians shut down the packing district, while the christian scientists blockade the hospitals. 365 days a year? Go back and read any of my posts, all I ever ask for is clear roads and a respect for personal/public property. I can play your way. I'm pissed about a lot of stuff too, I can peacefully break windows too. Why even leave the house, I can build a huge LFO and break every window within a mile. That would be progress.
For more information about me... Join the fanclub!
posted by thirteen at 8:37 PM on August 11, 2000

I should add that I am a burly 230, not a tubby 230. I only mention this in regard to Donkeymon's comments about fat people.
posted by thirteen at 9:05 PM on August 11, 2000

I can understand what you are saying thirteen. But part of what the protesters are trying to do is break people out of their daily routines and make them step back and ask, "What the hell are these lunatics doing in the middle of the street?" While this strategy may have only a tenuous connection with actual forward progress, the public disruption also generates a lot of publicity. If these protests were at all ignorable by the media, they certainly would be. It is a real conundrum though. I know how it was for my dad when the protests were going in DC. He works in the Capitol building and just the stress of having all these people essentially assaulting his workplace every day was really making him insane. I think that he was like a lot of people though, in that he thought that the protesters' goals may or may not be important, but he would rather they did not interfere with his life.

Oh regarding the weight thing, I was attempting more to describe a behavioural pattern than a physical trait. There is nothing wrong with being physically large. What I was getting at is that the "fat cats" are born, live and die without ever considering the benefits inherent to their positions or the moral implications of their drive to aquire more and more. This is the part where I was making a huge generalization. A lot of people who are well off have time to think about things and will come up with the idea of giving something back. A lot of what is generally considered progress by society would not have been possible without the stratification and exploitation that is a part of our society. Example: If the Medici family and the artists of 16th century Florence had been equal members of an unstratified society, the renaissance would never have happened.

Well, this is rambling a bit. I apologise.
posted by donkeymon at 9:47 PM on August 11, 2000

I'm hoping there is no violence at all, but if there is, I'd like to point out that the parking lot I normally use is charging $50 A DAY next week. I wasn't too worried about it, because there is this little strip of dirt where I can park my motorcycle for free about a half mile away... or rather there was a strip of dirt where I could park my motorcycle for free. It seems that part of getting ready for the convention included landscaping the last free parking in downtown LA. AAAAAUUGH!

I took a walk through Pershing Square today during lunch, since next week it'll be the official site of the LA DNC Protestors™ and I won't have the opportunity. I figured I'd grab a sandwich and a magazine and kick back by the the reflecting pool... only there was no reflecting pool. The water was gone and they appeared to be seeding the area for grass. When I asked why, (thinking it was for safety reasons during the protests or to allow extra standing room for protestors or something something protest oriented) I was told that they got rid of the water because homeless people were bathing in it. Well! Thank god we nipped THAT in the bud! We certainly can't have the homeless people bathing, it'll destroy their motivation to straighten up and fly right!

Welcome to LA, everybody. We'll be here all week.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 9:49 PM on August 11, 2000

My sympathies were never so much with the protestors or the cops as with the nonparticipants who were just trying to keep the teargas out of their apartments.
posted by harmful at 4:14 AM on August 12, 2000

Harmful gets the prize for the best links in the thread! Excellent reading.
posted by thirteen at 10:46 AM on August 12, 2000

Maybe your world of burning cities, and clogged roadways are the way of the future.Aww, c'mon thirteen, don't you think that's just a wee bit of an exaggeration? I'm not sure how peaceful protests=a world of pain and fire.What if everyone expressed themselves that way.What if everyone was able to express themselves through peaceful protests (and I haven't seen one pro-protest post here yet that advocates violence)? Fine by me. If the Klan holds a rally, as abhorrent as I may find their viewpoints, I believe they have the right to. And I have the right to stand there with an anti-racism placard.All I ever ask for is clear roads and a respect for personal/public propertyWell, of course peaceful protests don't include damaging property. As for clogging roads, are you honestly speaking out against the current rash of protests because they inconvenienced you? Um, that's probably the point. Sure got your attention, didn't it? Besides, I'm sure the sweatshop workers, and people far away who have been killed for their opinions, and other victims of the 'global economy' were/are pretty inconvenienced too, and I'm not talking traffic jams.
posted by jess at 12:00 PM on August 12, 2000

Thirteen, I'm a bit behind in responding, but I believe most of your points have already been addressed by Donkeymon, Wiremommy and Jess.

Nobody is claiming to be an "angel", or to have exclusive access to the "holy truth". We are each of us fallible human beings, making decisions on the basis of moral intuition and rational discourse incorporating multiple points of view. By adding your voice to the mix, you are increasing the comprehensiveness of the discourse, thereby enabling better decisions.

Having said that, I still think you're wrong on this particular issue...

In his recent posts, Donkeymon quite eloquently articulated some of the theoretical motivations behind this movement. I think he has made it clear that he did not in his first post recommend violence as an effective method of *protest*. My understanding of his point is that violence initiated by the *police* against the protestors, although terrible in itself, may have a net positive effect if it raises awareness -- by example -- of the issues of corporate and state power that are the focus of our campaign. (I say this as a likely target of police violence myself.)

Your allegation that we are "open to some violence" -- in the sense of tacitly endorsing violent revolution -- is therefore groundless.

You then make the claim that "60's style protest" is dead. I'm not sure exactly what you are talking about here. The style of protest now being practiced differs in many respects from what was used in the 1960s. However, your suggestion of "entertainment as protest" is not original, going back at least to the 5th century BC. In the 1960s, there was this thing called Woodstock, which many people found both entertaining and inspiring. Today, within the Movement for Global Justice there are many theatre groups, musicians, artists who use their talents to help broadcast the truth about child labor, money in politics, etc. The problem, Thirteen, is that the police also understand the power of these techniques. Can anyone say "puppets"? In all of the recent protests, the first thing the police do is try to get their hands on the puppets -- arresting the artists and brutalizing them in order to "teach them a lesson" (a direct quotation from a number of higher-ranking police officers). In Philadelphia the puppets were promptly destroyed. In Los Angeles, as cited in Rebecca Blood's recent post, it took intervention by the ACLU, and ultimately an official restraining order, to keep the police from stiffling the capacity to communicate our message in the creative way you suggest.

Fortunately we always have Billionaires for Bush or Gore.

Wiremommy answered Aaron's points about the relationship between Age and Morality (or what Aaron calls "idealism"). The activists of the 60s who "switched sides" in the 80s were not deep thinkers to begin with. David Horowitz has always been shallow and irrational, whereas Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader have maintained their intellectual integrity and enthusiasm after devoting most of their lives to what they believe are important causes. (Of course, the same can be said for some conservative thinkers as well)

Myself, at 25, I have been thinking about issues related to global trade, poverty, and environmental degradation (and acting) for at least a decade. No doubt my views will evolve at least subtly as I learn more, but suddenly acquiring an enthusiasm for the exploitation of children and the environment is not going to happen any time next week. And I don't believe I'm unusual in this respect.

Finally, Thirteen, Jess raises a crucial point about the alleged "inconvenience" caused to you by Nonviolent Direct Action (tm), in particular the blocking of traffic. We can agree that blocking traffic can inconvenience people, and that inconvenience is a Bad Thing. But are all episodes of inconvenience equal? Shouldn't we focus on inconvenience caused by an unjust international trading bureaucracy, which has created a "boom" for the rich by wrongfully taking money from the poor and thereby degrading living standards below the point of subsistence in many cases? I know you don't like to think of it like this, Thirteen, but by participating in--and not actively challenging--this global economy, you (and almost all of us) are tacitly causing great "inconvenience" (to put it mildly) to a great number of people.

Let us first concentrate on enforcing the Kyoto Protocol and passing the Tobin Tax, before we start worrying about your "traffic problems"....Reasonable?

posted by johnb at 3:11 PM on August 12, 2000

I'm not denying that a lot of idealistic young liberals probably get older, get paid, get laid and get lazy, and wind up losing their ideals.

Oh they grow up, become a part of the working world, become voters and parents and homeowners and realise that a lot of what they espoused and championed when they were young becomes very unrealistic when viewed through the perspective of having responsibilities and a larger stake in how things work.

Let us first concentrate on enforcing the Kyoto Protocol and passing the Tobin Tax, before we start worrying about your "traffic problems"....Reasonable?

Only if you agree with the Kyoto Protocol and Tobin Tax. So if you're asking anyone with a strong belief in national sovereignty and free trade, then it's absolutely unreasonable.

Besides, the traffic problems, as you refer to them, johnb, are merely illustrative of a larger concern: the idea that in order to get your voice heard, or that the best way to get your point across is to make things difficult for everyone BUT the people who are capable of taking action.

Boycotting a company by not buying products, for instance, sends a clearer message to the factory-level workers who are the first to lose their jobs or benefits when corporate profits take a hit.

Blockading streets affects the entire populace of a city. It goes beyond inconvenience -- it presents a sincere public safety hazard. G-d forbid that emergency vehicles need to respond to something in the blockade zone. The tactic in instances such as these doesn't do a thing to the targets of the protest. Do you think that Al Gore won't be able to freely travel if some group of activist puppeteers shuts down all of the thoroughfares leading toward the Staples Center? No. The LAPD (or worse) will open a route for him no matter how they have to do it. If they can't do that, they'll helicopter him out.

Interesting how the rights of these "activists" to block all public traffic in general in order to make their point is so universally lauded, applauded and justified. When anti-abortion protestors merely slow public access to a specific building in order to make their point, their use of the exact same principle and tactic is villified and the participants are demonised. Hypocrisy rears its ugly head again and again.
posted by Dreama at 5:21 PM on August 12, 2000

I wrote this earlier, and crashed my machine when posting. Having just returned to it, I am surprised to have been able to bring it back via necromancy. I will not alter any of it's content in responce to johnb's post, but I will add a postscript.
Jess: Your orignal post implied that I was unfairly interested in controlling how people protest. The only things I am against are burning dumpsters and blocked intersections and the like. That gave me the impression that you are for those things. Ergo, John13 thinks jess believes burning cities and clogged roadways = peaceful protest. I posted my impression of a peaceful protest way up here. I said what if the klan shut down a highway, not should the klan be allowed to protest. I don't mind if you protest. Jess Please, go protest something. There are things in need of protest going down. If blocking roads is acceptable, there is nothing to keep everyone from doing it. There is no protest season, this could become a yearlong thing. If the cops do not clear out intersections, it will be adopted by everyone. I have been wondering if the cops left the sit-ins alone, would they still be there in Philly? Or would everyone slowly trickle away defeated?
I have yet to be inconvienced by a blocked roadway. It got my attention, it is true. I have no idea why a single road was blocked, but my attention was gotten. A rock to the side of my head would get my attention as well. Is it the intention of a blocked roadway to make me feel inferior to you? Or to bring forth murderous rage? When presented with an ultimatum I will never side with the person making me choose. I think that is why so many people do not care what happens to the protesters when they are carted off. I imagine people shouting "help me!, I violated your rights, why aren't you helping me." Anyone remember the Dancing against opression themed nights at bars in the late 80's? They now have an equally lame little brother Block a street for freedom.
President Clinton gave you all NAFTA. I did not vote for him. Nobody I have EVER voted for has won an office. If it had been up for a vote, I would have voted against it. You have probably benefited more from the global economy than I have, so look to yourself before you get self rightous. I am pretty sure that I drive less, grow more of my own food, and make more of my own stuff than you do. I compost and don't drink coffee Starbucks or otherwise. The way I see it, you gave more money to the oppressors than I have, AND you inconvienced me. Yer more guilty than I, block your own driveway.
And then I crashed
johnb:I see that you are correct. I did misread the tenor donkeymon's post. There is some small evidence to support my blather, but not much. I am sorry. I have not heard anyone call the protesters angels, but I have not heard anyone condem them either. You can have a peaceful protest, but that makes you responsible for keeping it peaceful. If it goes South, you will be painted with the same brush.
I was thinking more like television and print entertainment. New media. The old style I was thinking of is milling about the street handing out fliers like Hare Krishna's. I was calling it old fashioned.. I do not need a puppet show anymore than I need to be bled by leeches, or watch a babershop quartette.
Kyoto sounds good to me, Tobin does not. Where does that leave us? It's pretty to say it the way you did in your last sentence, but I do not have time to wait for every problem on earth to be solved before I expect free movement within my own city. The worst thing would be for traffic blocking to become successful, because even if you got your Kyoto and Tobin, there would be somebody there to gum the works when you clear out. It is harmful to your ideals to make peace with two wrongs make a right, and it will not make you friends. I do not expect government to be my friend. I'm more DIY than DIFM, all the energy being spent on this could be used lobby, and directly aid those you wish to help. I already responded to jess above, but how responsible do I have to be. I don't eat fast food, there is so little that I do that contributes to monoculture. I'm like a dolphin in a tuna net here, except that you would probably actually have some concern for the dolphin.
posted by thirteen at 5:43 PM on August 12, 2000

Dreama, there are a number of things in you post which I would regard as confusions.

1) "So if you're asking anyone with a strong belief in national sovereignty and free trade, then it's absolutely unreasonable."

Free trade doesn't exist and never will. What we have now is corporate-friendly trade. What we need is people-friendly trade. Obviously corporations love corporate-friendly trade and want to preserve and extend it. But shareholders are not the only stakeholders in this world. I could go on at length but that's for another thread...

2)"Do you think that Al Gore won't be able to freely travel if some group of activist puppeteers shuts down all of the thoroughfares leading toward the Staples Center?

The goal is not to prevent Al Gore or anybody from traveling freely. The goal is communication; for example, creating a spectacle that will bring corporate media attention to what we believe are important issues with inherently broad appeal.

3)"Interesting how the rights of these "activists" to block all public traffic in general in order to make their point..."

There are no such "rights". To my knowledge no one on Metafilter has ever challenged the US Laws according to which blocking traffic and blocking abortion clinics are both arrestable offenses. (It's called civil DISobedience, remember?). So there is no "hypocrisy". Although I am personally very strongly pro-choice, I think the pro-life point of view is valuable and worthy of discussion. What I have been saying vis-a-vis the protests in Philly is: sure, go ahead and arrest the ones who are blocking traffic, but DO NOT (a) brutalize them while they are in jail (b) target alleged "ringleaders" and use obscenely high bail as punishment (c) target and abuse uninvolved people who happen to be philosophically sympathetic with the protestors' causes. ALL of these things were done in Philly and all are *clearly* unconstitutional; I predict that this will be proved in court, but not before it is too late. I might also add that, in Philly, the failure to grant legal permits to the bulk of the protestors (although probably not illegal) is to say the least not on good terms with the First Amendment.
posted by johnb at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2000

Dreama, I accidentally left out the fourth point:

4) "Boycotting a company by not buying products, for instance, sends a clearer message to the factory-level workers who are the first to lose their jobs or benefits when corporate profits take a hit"

Economics 101 time.

First of all, a corporation will not just sit back and let its market share erode. Like Nike, it will at least make some sort of PR move to try to allay activist concerns. Ideally the activists will only leave them alone after a genuine change in labor or environmental practices is actually implemented.

Secondly, even if the boycotted company refuses to change, there are usually more ethical companies around who will benefit from the lost business -- which means not only will new jobs make up for old ones, but the new jobs will have more ethical working conditions. For example, if you want to buy a T-shirt, you may choose to buy it Here, rather than at the place which This site mocks.
posted by johnb at 6:52 PM on August 12, 2000

Since everyone has conveniently ignored my earlier point, which is that blocked streets are inherently dangerous for the public, let's look at this another way.

I think we all agree that the point of such protests is to get attention. And it is. But what attention is it getting? Practically all the coverage this is getting in the media is of one sort: "Here comes the latest fight between the cops and the protesters." What are the protesters actually protesting? Nobody's saying. They're just sort of there. They're not getting any coverage of what it is they're railing against, only of the fact that they're planning to cause trouble. And when the protests actually occur, all the coverage ends up being about the confrontations themselves. In short, it's not working.

Another big question is why they're focusing on the conventions. The conventions matter less now than they ever have before, and the media's not even covering them that much anymore. At least at Seattle they were targeting a meeting directly relevant to their own arguments. At the conventions it just comes off as "we're against The Man!" And that makes them look like a big joke, a leftover dinosaur from the '60s.
posted by aaron at 6:55 PM on August 12, 2000

I think of threads like this one as being like 2 unhealthy guys fighting, and falling over dead from coincidential heart attacks. How does the red hot get cold so fast?
posted by thirteen at 1:10 PM on August 14, 2000

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