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strret actions-and strategies

by George Sempepos Saturday, Aug. 12, 2000 at 2:26 PM
epsilonprods@yahoo.com North Brooklyn Greens, P.O. Box 220250, Brooklyn, NY 11222

While many may be angered at Edson's comments,
(especially at this moment when brave people
have put themselves on the line
in prison)
the point regarding the effectiveness of street
actions and their inevitable price should be
discussed.
Crucially, although the police
actions were indiscriminate and illegal, --
and as usual, innocent people have
been brutalized,--- and we now
have the appalling and unconstitutional
million-dollar-bail gimmick--
---despite all that,
the cops & DAs can claim the arrests were a response to
someone's civil disobedience-
That is, someone (allegedly) broke a law-- (maybe just an "order to disperse")-- after, they will claim,
someone announced a willingness to break laws
(i.e. commit civil disobedience if necessary)
--and so the police get to define the terms of
engagement, in the courts of Opinion- as well as the
actual Courts.
Let's recall the varieties of Civil
Disobedience: There is Civil disobedience directed specifically against an unjust law --
burning your draft card during
the Vietnam war being a famous example,
or African-Americans sitting at a restricted lunch counter.
In those cases, activists deliberately broke a law
that was in itself unjust, or part of an unjust
legal policy, and did so specifically to
call attention to it, both as a personal statement
of conscience, and as a public expression.

I think (and some clarification here would help)
the form of civil disobedience that is called
for by some activists in the events under
discussion is somewhat different, in that
the "laws" being [potentially--in the police/D.A.
rhetoric]"broken"-- are more generic,
and not specific to the (primary) cause of the activists.
Civil disobedience in these cases may be seen
as a response to an unjust limitation
being placed on freedoms of speech & assembly-
(e.g. a call to march without a "permit" and thus
face arrest). It may be an attention-getting,
solidarity-building tactic. And it just may be
determination to persevere in the
face of an arrogant, unresponsive authority.

But too often, confusion arises--
because the activists' primary cause has
been obfuscated by the issue of the
inevitable arrests, and now activists have to
try to prove that everyone who was arrested was specifically not guilty-- or else instantly
educate their audience on the free-speech rights
that were trampled by the official excuse for arrest.
Either way, we are now, as the politicians say,
off-message.

But shouldn't the goal be to stay "on-message"??
The public at-large is still largely unaware
of the substance of much of the anti-corporate,
anti-prison-industrial-complex message-- although
they are ready to hear it. Even after
these topics become so ingrained in the
public consciousness-- that they can be told
in shorthand, (like by 1970 "Stop the War!" or
"Black Power!" had become household terms),
the first priority must continue to be
to communicate,
to teach, to spread the knowledge.

So does that mean the movement should
avoid any arrest-potential actions?
Probably there's no single rule- every action should be reviewed on a case-by-case
situational basis.

Of course, no one could have predicted that
the cops would start picking out & arresting people
as they walked around at scattered locations. Nor can
we know exactly how the arrogant rulers of society might try to squash any social movement.
But the existence
of a sensation-obsessed commercial
media offers opportunities- and dangers- for
building a movement.

I think you can't afford to squander
the tiny amount of media coverage that street
events generate on the media's twisted perception.
Street events must somehow be "spin-proof"
in terms of how they will "play" to the public at-large-
the audience.
Like it or not, you are a part of
the Society Of The Spectacle.
The real story of this movement might be:
How To Succeed In(People's) Show Business.
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