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FEAR AND LOATHING IN LOS ANGELES

by ch@nce Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2000 at 10:28 PM
coh@sfo.com 468 Turk St. SF CA 94102

Bottom line: unreigned corporate globalization is incorporating the slickest, most sophisticated aspects of fascism for its own greed, and has refashioned our reputedly unbiased media into a propaganda organ in the service of profit, pure and simple. Only this time, the oprepression is on a global scale.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LOS ANGELES

(in pale homage to HST)

Rivaling wannabe "leaders" of the "free" world, clad in the rich wardrobe of American Democracy, were feted in the cities of Philadelphia and Los Angeles last month. A gazillion cops were also on hand, specially trained and prepared to hold their gun muzzles against the head of anyone who might be so guileless, or so bold, that she or he would exclaim: "But, HE'S NAKED!"

The corporate media marked the passage of these ceremonies by pointing their cameras and microphones alternately between the unfolding political circus and their own navels. Story at 5. Pictures at 11.

Maybe it would be simpler to just tell the story. Please be patient, the following narrative is going to be a bumpy ride.

Primary Finding: Anarchists and cops are the only groups sufficiently organized, disciplined and militant to march around the streets of LA clad dome to sole entirely in black beneath the August noonday sun. The easiest distinction is one group acts from deliberate ethical intent, and the other is making that fat, fine overtime pay 'just to have some fun kickin' them disrespectful punk's asses'.

Twelve COH staffers invaded the City of Angels to protest the Democratic National Convention, and to make dammed certain that we let them know we were thoroughly pissed that deepening poverty and growing homelessness figures nowhere in the national political dialogue. Once there, we joined allies from POWER, Food Not Bombs, Media Alliance, the National Lawyers Guild, and many, many others we have struggled beside here in San Francisco.

We know, you're asking: "what could homeless people and their allies possibly have to criticize about the last seven and a half years of national policy?"

Well... there's the criminalization of homelessness, welfare reform, privatization of the "homeless industry," the actual segregation of homeless children into "homeless schools," managed care, draconian housing policies from HUD, overt racism masquerading as immigration policies and sentencing practices, this stupid-assed war on drug users turning our poorest neighborhoods into occupied territories and "containment zones," unprecedentedly savage gentrification displacing more poor people every day, spiraling corporate welfare; and all the while there's more homelessness, more homeless people, more homeless people's civil and human rights being violated, more homeless deaths and more human suffering.

Our corporate media refuses to report on but a precious few aspects of this national disgrace, and then usually only because some elected official or pundit or "think-tank" issued a press release or report designed to hijack issues surrounding welfare, homelessness and poverty as a vehicle to maintain the status quo.

What solutions do the major interchangeable presidential contenders have to offer? Compassionate conservatism? Privatizing the "homeless industry?" Charitable choice? Privatizing prisons? Another Kosovo in Columbia? More laws? More prisons? More cops? Less housing? Less education? Less treatment? And still MORE COPS? Which candidate will lose any sleep over the death penalty?

Who will author the least human suffering?

How much more fear, how much loathing can Americans endure before our society finally unravels?

Bottom line: unreigned corporate globalization is incorporating the slickest, most sophisticated aspects of fascism for its own greed, and has refashioned our reputedly unbiased media into a propaganda organ in the service of profit, pure and simple. Only this time, the repression is on a global scale.

Freedom fighters from around the world assembled in a conspiracy of hope at the Convergence Center, a run-down multi-storied warehouse on 7th St. near MacArthur Park in LA. The Convergence was quite an operation, with people volunteering together to do everything - from cooking and serving regularly scheduled, tasty vegan meals to making puppets and banners. Trainings and meetings were many and ongoing. The whole building hummed with organized cooperation and purpose. And Solidarity.

Human Need Not Corporate Greed (read: People not Profits) was the theme of one protest on the opening day of DNC 2000. It was a good fit for the COH crew: homeless people, day laborers from the Mission, ex-drug war POWs, people with psychiatric labels, and other working poor people. The same people who are commodified and milled into corporate profit by criminalizing, incarcerating, institutionalizing, scapegoating, and killing.

At this writing (8/22/00) both of our SF dailies (who operate joint publishing operations to maximize profit) reported that the CEOs of United Airlines, Sprint, Citigroup, Time Warner, Bank of America, Burger King, Monsanto, United Parcel Service and IBM have hailed the overhaul (read: "gutting") of our nation's welfare system as a success. If one measures "success" by the amount of shit one can heap on already underpaid employees because they're scared to death of losing their jobs and falling into poverty or homelessness - especially since many employees of those same corporations did become poor or homeless when their jobs were "outsourced" right on outside of our borders - then they do have cause to celebrate.

We have lots of Burger King employees right here in the City of St. Francis who are working and homeless, as well as many Bank of America employees looking at months (or years) of unemployment or temporary work following the next "staff adjustment." Media juggernaut Time Warner/AOL reports on the widening income gap are non-existent or misleading, UPS drivers wear computerized monitors on their hips to track their minute-to-minute activities while workers at their sorting depots are treated like automatons, and Monsanto's mad science threatens our very biosphere. Citigroup is widely reviled as the major underwriter for several of the most ecologically damaging third-world developments, anyone who flies United out of SFO typically spends more time on the runway than in the air, and even the interloping dot-commers flourish or perish at the whims of the corporate monopolizers of the new information/communications economy.

Today, there's millions of Americans so desperate to be able to pay rent and buy milk and have clean diapers for the baby that they would do almost anything to get any crappy, dead-end job. And they'll smile obediently every time the boss breaks the news that there's mandatory overtime.

The demonstration was a joyous festival of defiance and unity. Every age and flavor of humanity was represented as the march swelled and filled the streets of Los Angeles. Beautifully rendered, thought-provoking puppets towered above us as we chanted and sang in the rhythm of humanity. And in the peaceful company of all our old friends, and all our new allies, the dawning realization that we were part of the first unified people's movement since the 1960's became clear. It felt just like coming home. Or in the words of poet and local cultural treasure Diamond Dave Whitaker, "People on the move - now that's a movement."

But the real spectacle lay at every intersection we marched past. Regiments and battalions of black-clad LAPD shock troops stood ready, awaiting the command - the command to assault, the command to spray, the command to fire "non-lethal" projectiles, and, ultimately, the command to use deadly force. They were eager for action, and they had a string of blows to their undeserved pride reaching back from before the Rodney King uprising to amend.

This time LAPD decided to begin their potentially lethal pissing match after the cowardly cover of nightfall.

After Rage Against the Machine's protest performance, LAPD pulled the plug two songs into Ozomatli's set. They commandeered the stage and gave the estimated 10-15,000 protesters and concertgoers verbal orders that they had 15 minutes to leave the area. About 10 minutes later the cops charged into the crowd of stragglers - who were still trying to comply - and assaulted anyone handy with batons, pepper spray, tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.

Lots of rubber bullets.

There are many conflicting reports explaining why LAPD attacked hundreds of people who were only trying to follow the official police instructions. To be sure, there were some people trying to antagonize the cops (who were just as guilty of trying to intimidate and provoke all of us), but perhaps it can be broken down something like this: put an army of reactionary morons armed to the teeth in a high-pressure situation, then just ask them to sit still after a flag is conspicuously burned for their benefit and 15,000 people flip them off screaming "FUCK YOU, I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!!" along with Zack De La Rocha of RAtM. LAPD must have personalized it, or something, then - overkill.



* * *

Yes I know my enemies

They're the teachers who taught me to fight me

Compromise, conformity, assimilation, submission,

Ignorance, hypocrisy, brutality, the elite...

All of which are American dreams

All of which are American dreams

All of which are American dreams

All of which are American dreams...

- RAtM

* * *

And then lots of people started getting hurt while the Democratic Party wallowed in masturbatory self-congratulations over their last seven and a half years of solid advantage in the ongoing economic exploitation of the American public.

Dumb luck was the sole reason our group struck out down Olympic Ave. to Loyola Law School, where our van was parked. Had we attempted to exit on Figueroa, we would have probably landed in the frying pan as well. Much later, as we were preparing to leave the Convergence Center for the evening, escapees from LAPD's ambush began arriving. Many were tattooed with welts and bruises from rubber bullets and batons, others had been trampled by charging mounted police.

As we stood on the sidewalk of an otherwise quiet 7th St. gathering eyewitness accounts, a late model silver Thunderbird stopped in mid-block and the driver, a uniformed LAPD member, leaned from his window and shouted threats at us. That's when we decided it would be wise to retreat to safety until daylight.

Later that night, a few of us watched LA's FOX news coverage of the days events in a darkened motel room directly under the orbit of one of the many helicopters that droned above like mad monster hornets from some '50s Japanese sci-fi flick.

(This is where I have to break this down from the "we" to a personal level. I don't own a working television. The last time I watched TV regularly was before my last one stopped working back in '96. I find the quiet soothing, and I get to do lots more reading. Besides, I'm online so many hours already - why would I want to stare at yet another box that only tells me lies and sells me shit I don't even want? And once a person finally pulls the plug, the transparency of television's propaganda on those ramdom occasions when one does watch is absolutely shocking.- c.m.)

About 10:30 p.m., the news cut to a live LAPD press conference that was nothing less than a patent attempt to spin considerable public relations damage control around the near-riot they initiated. Commander David Kalish downplayed LAPD's role, and instead portrayed the protesters and concertgoers as violent. (Sorry, but climbing a fence to better see a concert or tossing an empty plastic water bottle over the fence at cops in storm trooper drag aren't violent acts in anyone's book.) When a couple of reporters who had been caught up in the ambush (one was trampled) started to ask questions that were uncomfortably closer to the actual events that took place, Kalish cut them off with, "You should have left the area when you were told." That's when we knew the pervasive LAPD posture of overkill and outright provocation was only going to get worse. Somehow, it was a relieving to see some of our worst suspicions confirmed.

After LAPD's revisionist version of the facts was spoon-fed to the pandering media, FOX's female anchor was promising to serve up the President blathering about something or other to a bunch of Hollywood fatcats forking over heavy dough. We thought that might be good for a laugh (our eyes were growing heavy) but instead we got an hour and fifteen minutes of "news bulletin" chronicling a high-speed chase back and forth on LA's freeways.

The amazing part of this near-hypnotic display was that this "armed and dangerous" carjacker was able to exit the freeway time and again only to re-enter it in the opposite direction, with three patrol cars in pursuit and a helicopter tracking the car, even matching its ground speed, from above. There was this conspicuous lack of law enforcement capacity to block the car whenever it left freeway traffic. Any guesses why? Maybe all the local cops were driving around the Convergence Center screaming obscene threats at protesters.

The whole time the "reporter" in the chopper was extolling praise for LAPD and cops in general - at one point earnestly gushing about how LAPD officers are trained in "bio-feedback techniques" so they can remain objective in situations when their adrenaline levels are peaking. Gee, guess that's why the cops at Staples Center exhibited such exemplary restraint, right? In fact, the whole "news alert" amounted to little more than an info-mercial selling our brave new militarized police state to all drawn to the "emergency," just like moths to the flame.

A new suspicion then dawned - isn't this the same network that churns out pro-police propaganda like "COPS?" Like "America's Greatest Car Chases?" Can we actually believe this wasn't staged? That it wasn't a stunt driver leading the distraction? Come on, this is Hollywood!

Aren't the strings to the Democrats, the Republicans the LAPD, AND the media held by the same few sets of greedy little fingers?

So, what do you suppose WE should do to hold broadcast media accountable to the People?

Protest corporate media!

Slam the NAB in San Francisco Sept. 20-23, 2000.

For more details check out:

www.mediademocracynow.org

or

www.radio4all.org.

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