rn> L.A. Kauffman re: movement strategy: “Now What?”


Richard Moore

Delivered-To: •••@••.•••
Delivered-To: mailing list •••@••.•••
From: "T. K. Wilson" <•••@••.•••>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 05:40:03 -0500
Subject: [FixGov] Fw: [freeradical] NOW WHAT?

Good stuff here. Kauffman has some nice relaxed insights
about how things really work and a real knack for getting
her ideas across. She's always "on the money" as far as I'm
concerned.     -T.K. (Find out whether you're on the FBIs
unwanted list; link below)

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "L.A. Kauffman" <•••@••.•••>
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2000 00:21:33 -0800
Subject: [freeradical] NOW WHAT?

forward freely....
FREE RADICAL: chronicle of the new unrest
          an internet column by L.A. KAUFFMAN

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NOW WHAT? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Issue #13

Throughout the interminable U.S. election mess, the various
radical listserves I follow were pointedly quiet about the
whole affair. But even without much discussion about the
tussles within America's ruling class, there's been a sense
in which we outside-the-system types have been on hold,
waiting to see which of the two evils would prevail.

Now finally we can move on to pressing matters, like the
tantalizing inauguration protests already being planned for
January 20 in Washington, D.C. There's never been such a
legitimation crisis in our lifetimes. Or such a sterling
opportunity to show our disaffection with the many faces of
plutocratic rule: the disenfranchisement of African-American
voters in Florida; the role of big money in elections; the
corporate domination of our political system; and the insult
of having an idiotic twerp and serial executioner installed
as president.

Meanwhile, activist preparations are well underway for "the
next big thing," the Summit of the Americas meeting next
April in Quebec City, where the heads of every state from
Canada to Argentina (minus Cuba, of course) will gather to
ratify a free-trade agreement aptly called "NAFTA on

Yes, everybody agrees that we shouldn't just engage in
protest tourism, jumping from big action to big action. But,
based on how much buzz I'm already hearing about Quebec, I
suspect that won't stop many American activists from showing
up for the next Carnival Against Capitalism.

The border police, on the other hand, are likely to stop all
the Yanks they can. We learned during the September 26, 2000
actions in Prague that the FBI had almost certainly turned
over a list to Czech authorities containing the names of
every person arrested at the WTO protests in Seattle, the
A16 IMF/World Bank actions in D.C., and the protests outside
the Republican and Democratic Party Conventions. Any of
these folks who tried to go to Prague were turned away at
the Czech border.

On the subject of police repression, the preponderance of
charges against the arrestees at the Republican Convention
in Philadelphia have now been dropped. You'll recall that
people were charged with all kinds of crazy things, like
"possession of an instrument of crime" for using a cell
phone, and were held on bails as high as $1 million. This
clampdown was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on
activism - particularly on the very
dangerous-to-the-authorities alliance in Philly between
movements of color working on criminal injustice issues and
the predominantly white movement against corporate

The prosecutors have been able to make very few of the R2K
charges stick, and the City of Philadelphia should be facing
lawsuits up the wazoo for its over-the-top civil rights
violations. That said, several felony cases are still
pending, including that of ACT UP/Philadelphia's Kate
Sorenson, and the activists' legal defense effort still
needs financial and other support. (Links to R2K Legal and
much more at the end of this message.)

Meanwhile, with the loathsome George W. Bush on the way to
the White House, New York City activists are losing sleep
over a nightmare (though not too likely) scenario: Rudy
Giuliani for Attorney General. Brrrr.


New York City's Direct Action Network celebrated the
anniversary of the Seattle World Trade Organization protests
with a packed-to-the-rafters evening of events at CHARAS/El
Bohio Community Center in the Lower East Side.

The main subject of discussion there - and in many movement
circles these days - was race, particularly the tendency of
white activists to view our movements as THE movement.
People were asking: Who sets the radical agenda, and who
defines radicalism? Why is DAN so white, and what should be
done about it?

Some people suggested that DAN needed to diversify its
membership if it were to be an effective radical movement.
Others, myself included, disagreed, questioning whether the
recruitment model is the best way to tackle racial
disparities in the movement.

Attempting to recruit people of color into a pre-existing
white organization, after all, means inviting folks in AFTER
the group's character, culture, and mission are largely set.
Not surprisingly, activists of color tend to opt instead for
developing their own organizations and leadership.

It seems to me that white activists in groups like DAN,
instead of defensively castigating ourselves for the
whiteness of our organizations, should be interrogating what
that whiteness means: how it shapes our political visions;
what sense of entitlement it gives us, and how that affects
our actions and our relationships with others.

That means acknowledging whiteness as a key component of who
we are, rather than obliviously viewing racial identity as
something that only people of color have. It also shifts the
emphasis of whites' anti-racist work away from recruitment
to learning how to build productive alliances with movements
of color, alliances that respect their autonomy and


On a more whimsical note, the day after the "DANniversary,"
there was a festive anti-corporate parade through the East
Village led by Reverend Billy, the New York performance
artist and activist who has created the pranksterish "Church
of Stop Shopping."

These days, there is no shortage of corporate chain stores
to visit in New York's erstwhile bohemia. We stopped at
either three or four Starbucks - I lost track - plus two
Gaps, a McDonald's, and a Barnes & Noble.

"Today we're pretending," explained a Reclaim the Streets
flier, "that these mega-corporations are giving up and
leaving the neighborhood voluntarily." The leaflet included
critiques of each chain: Starbucks, for instance, buys its
coffee from countries where human rights and environmental
laws are routinely flouted. Moreover, it continued, "In the
U.S., Starbucks chokes off locally owned competitors by
oversaturating neighborhoods with stores. They also removed
the nipples from their Mermaid."

There was no strategic objective to the event. In classic
RTS style, it was expressive and disruptive instead. On
occasion, that character annoys me, when it seems that RTS
is merely agitating for the right of downwardly mobile white
kids to party in the street at will. But this time, I
thought it was great.

After we freaked out two Starbucks in succession - the
manager of the first one locked the door to keep us out, but
a big crowd made it into the second one - the Reverend Billy
parade triggered something wonderful to behold. The police
felt obliged to send reinforcements ahead of us, to guard
the next chain stores we would meet. Soon cops were flanking
the entrances to Starbucks number three, and then Barnes &
Noble, on one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Said
my friend Eileen, "Well, that certainly clarifies the
relationship between the chain stores and the neighborhood."


The Structure of White Power and the Color of Election 2000

Great printable posters for the Inauguration protests

D.C. Police Prepare for Inauguration protests

April 2001 Carnival Against Capital in Quebec

Organizing list for Quebec protests
write to: •••@••.•••
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FBI protester blacklist

Cases against Philly protesters fall apart
http://www.r2kphilly.org/media/nyt-121000.html (links to R2K Legal)

Direct Action Network

Church of Stop Shopping

NYC Reclaim the Streets

FREE RADICAL is an e-column on the current upsurge in
activism, written by L.A. Kauffman (•••@••.•••).
It aspires to weekly publication but in practice appears

This issue is archived at


L.A. Kauffman (•••@••.•••) is perhaps the first
person in U.S. history to be arrested for allegedly
committing a crime by fax machine. (The Manhattan D.A.
declined to prosecute.) She is currently writing DIRECT
ACTION: RADICALISM IN OUR TIME, a history of U.S. activism
since 1970. A longtime radical journalist and organizer, she
is active in a number of New York City direct action
campaigns. Her work has appeared in the Village Voice, The
Nation, The Progressive, Spin, Mother Jones, Salon.com, and
numerous other publications.

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Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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