Comment on this article |
Email this article |
Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
News :: Media
BAAM #26 Out Now!
Email: trenchesfullofpoets (nospam) riseup.net
03 Oct 2009
We are proud to release the 26th issue of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter. Please print out and share. Download the PDF or read the plain text below!
In this issue:
-A Radical Response to the G20 and Capitalism
in Pittsburgh, By Audrey, Pg 2
-Baam news blurbs, Pg 3
-Smashin’ (The G20) Fashion Show, by Clara Hendricks, Page 4
-Running Down the Walls, by Jake Carman, Page 4
-Residents Take Action Against Foreclosure, Beat banks, By Jake B, Page 5
-1919 Boston Police Strike, by Adrienne, Page 8
-Bread and Roses Festival, by Jeff Reinhardt, Page 9
Click on image for a larger version
Plain Text Version
-BAAM News Blurbs, Page 3
-Smashin’ (The G20)
Fashion Show, Page 4
-Running Down the Walls, Page 4
-Residents Take Action Against Foreclosure, Beat banks, Page 5
-1919 Boston Police Strike, Page 8
-Bread and Roses Festival, Page 9
A Radical Response to the G20 and Capitalism
On September 24th and 25th, radicals and anti-capitalists from across the country got together to march, make their voices heard, take direct action, and otherwise confront the G20 Summit while the meeting of the world’s 19 richest countries and the E.U. went on behind closed doors in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The White House announced the location of the Summit only four months prior, much to the surprise of Pittsburgh locals, while radicals in the community immediately began organizing as the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project (PGRP), with participation and support from the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG), among other organizations based in Pittsburgh. Groups requesting permits for marches and assemblies found their requests denied, leading to the filing of lawsuits against the city by the American Civil Liberties Union.
No one knew how many people to expect; law enforcement estimated that 3000 individuals would show up and threatened to arrest 1000 of them. There was an issue of funding security for the summit and of attaining enough police to ensure that things didn’t get ‘out of hand.’ The city, with the help of the federal government, barely met its goal of getting 4000 police and scrambled together enough money to pay for the total security expenses that would top $20 million. Now the city and the organizers had to wait and see who turned up, and what would happen after all their hard work.
Following the trend set in Miami, law enforcement set their sights on places suspected of harboring anarchists and demonstrators. The 4-acre permaculture farm Landslide was surrounded and its residents were harassed for much of Monday. The reason the police gave for targeting them: there were several old tires piled on top of each other nearby on city property. The siege ended the next morning when, under the watch of the police, the tires were hauled off by the city, as farm residents had long requested they do, thus eliminating the stated cause of the visit.
Sunday and Monday, the police harassed Everybody’s Kitchen and the Seeds of Peace group, there to make free food and provide street medic trainings. The police impounded the Seeds of Peace bus, which contained tools for the volunteers. One member was arrested and charged with giving a false name to a police officer. She gave her nickname, ‘Thea,’ instead of her full name. After that, all the Seeds of Peace volunteers wore stickers that read, ‘My name is Thea,’ and on the 23rd they filed a harassment lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Police Department.
On Tuesday, the PGRP held a community gathering and picnic attended by 300 and heavily surveilled by police. On Wednesday, the first direct action against the G20 happened. The local media, desperate for protest footage, were on top of it within minutes. Six Greenpeace activists rappelled off a bridge near downtown Pittsburgh and hung a $5000 banner that read, ‘DANGER: Climate Destruction Ahead.’ They were arrested and bailed out immediately. Meanwhile, worries mounted that Thursday’s un-permitted march would only be a couple hundred people and would end in mass arrest.
Thursday was the beginning of the official G20 meetings and also the beginning of mass actions against the G20. At 2:30pm an un-permitted march was slated to assemble at Arsenal Park. People began arriving at 2 and by 2:30 there were around 1000 anarchists and anti-capitalists on the scene, joined by Cindy Sheehan (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported 1100, other media outlets reported as many as 2000 and as few as 500). The police had the park almost surrounded and were dressed in riot gear. You could feel the energy in the air as the march moved into the street at 2:45.
Police and the National Guard blocked off the intended route with concrete blocks, police cars, and a BEAR (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response vehicle) with an LRAD mounted on it. The LRAD, or Long Range Acoustic Device, otherwise known as a ‘sound cannon,’ is a ‘less-lethal’ weapon that the military has been using in Iraq and Afghanistan, though never before in the U.S. It can cause permanent hearing damage, leaving some victims deaf for life, and is intended to cause incapacitation in its targets by using intensely loud beeping noises somewhat similar to a car alarm. The LRAD also played a pre-recorded message in English and Spanish that said, ‘By order of the City of Pittsburgh Chief Police, I hereby declare this to be an unlawful assembly. I order all those assembled to immediately disperse. You must leave the immediate vicinity. If you remain in the immediate vicinity you will be in violation of the Pennsylvania Crime Code no matter what your purpose is,’ followed by a list of what means could be used to disperse them. Meanwhile, police began to fire smoke grenades into the crowd, and the march moved down an alley and onto another street. This same scenario played out dozens of times over the next few hours and it became evident that the police were prepared to do anything they needed to keep this uncontrollable group of anarchists away from the downtown area.
At one point early in the march, with an LRAD-equipped barricade below, a small group decided to take matters into their own hands, grabbing a nearby dumpster and wheeling it to the top of the hill. The anarchists sent the dumpster flying down the hill towards the police barricade with all their might. At the last second, the dumpster veered away from the truck. This was only the first round of what turned into an anarchist bowling game, wherein dumpsters are bowling balls. In response, the police threw canisters of pepper gas at the crowd.
Around 5pm, police brought an 18 page warrant to a communications office 15 miles outside the city. The raid resulted in arrests with two felonies and a misdemeanor for each of the two people running the twitter-comms feeds. They spent 34 hours in jail before their $35,000 bail was met, but other comms spaces continued functioning for the entire week.
During the march, lots of locals, particularly the working poor, came out of their houses to watch the march proceed down their streets. While the overall response to the anarchist march was mixed, supporters were not hard to find. One resident said, ‘I don’t want my city to be full of all these damn cops.’ Another, referring to the actions of the anarchists, said, ‘This is the best thing that’s happened in Pittsburgh by far in the last 50 years! Keep going!’ Local students even got into the mix later on that evening as the march reached at Schenley Plaza. At 10pm a Bash Back! demo began in a commercial district while students and demonstrators were still in a standoff at Schenley Plaza. The queers and trans folk of Bash Back! smashed many corporate business and bank windows, dragged dumpsters into the middle of the streets, and set them ablaze. Best of all, as the Bash Back! march passed, a Pitt Police substation had all its bulletproof windows repeatedly and determinedly beaten.
The students and anarchists ran through the streets till around 1am, when those who had not been arrested returned to their housing to get some sleep for the permitted march scheduled the next day. That night, 40 students and demonstrators (majority students) were arrested and a minimum of $50,000 worth of property damage was inflicted. Along with rubber bullets, bean-bag projectiles, smoke grenades, pepper spray, and the use of the LRAD, a number of helicopters flew overhead all night long with their searchlights on, looking for those elusive ‘violent anarchists’ who had evaded arrest all day.
On Friday, the last day of the G20 meetings, liberal groups planned a permitted march. There were many smaller marches that would lead to the general march, and I decided to join the radical queer sex-workers. When the radical queers appeared on a street corner, around two dozen riot cops stood guard across the street. They seemed more interested and amused than anything else and after 20 minutes they left us to go harass another group. We walked down towards the main march and had a lot of fun on the way. We began choreographing our marching to some show-tunes, adding a lot of color and pizzazz to the boring college neighborhood we passed through. The main march was intended to go straight downtown, with 2 stops on the way. When our group of radical queer sex-workers got to the main march, we were all astonished at the sheer mass of people who were gathered there. There were reports of a minimum of 5000, and a maximum of 10000 protesters there. There were unions, a Jobs for Justice group concerned about ‘womyn workers being oppressed by the system,’ there were anarchists, Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and just about every group you could possibly think of. Liberals and radicals came together to reject global capitalism, to discuss how ‘free trade is the problem,’ and critique the ‘style of the G20’ in general.
The entire downtown area of Pittsburgh was a clearly defined police state. There were 10-foot tall fences and other barriers set up with barbed wire at the tops. Every corner and every block had at least one line of riot cops and National Guardsmen, dictating who could go where. Police K-9 units patrolled the streets while red and blue lights flashed everywhere you looked. Entire streets were barricaded off and getting anywhere from downtown was close to impossible.
After the exciting events of Thursday night, there were whispers of a call for a similar assembly on Friday night at Schenley Plaza, the location of the previous night’s activities. Around 10pm, between 150 and 300 students, anarchists, and other demonstrators showed up, not sure what to expect. They were accompanied by a crowd of (mostly student) onlookers who stood across the street from the plaza. The demonstrators slowly arrived and rows of riot cops began lining the perimeter of the plaza. Things were completely placid aside from a bloc of Pitt students holding up a mock Stanley Cup and chanting, ‘Go Pitt! Go Pitt!’ and ‘Steelers! Steelers!’ Eventually a BEAR equipped with an LRAD showed up and red and blue lights could be seen at the nearby intersections. Somewhere between 400 and 700 law enforcement officers arrived and, line by line, they began to clear out sections of the plaza, swinging their batons around, shoving, kicking, and pinning groups in for arrest. All the while the LRAD was broadcasting the tired-out order to disperse or be subject to ‘less-lethal force and arrest,’ though many present, including many arrestees, never heard the dispersal order. People began to panic and the onlookers tried to flee while protesters and students evaded police lines. Many leapt over a line of large, thick bushes opposite the Plaza. One young person was riding his scooter around in a circle and yelling shit at the police. After making it around the seething cops once, he started around again when men in camouflage leaped out from the police line and shot AR-15s loaded with rubber bullets at him. After the kid fell to the ground they ran over and began kicking the crap out of him and put him in plastic cuffs. By this point the police upped their violence, deploying pepper gas, the LRAD, rubber bullets, bean-bag projectiles, and pepper spray. They rushed the shrinking group of protesters and students attempting to escape onto the side road and arrested another 100 or so. Pittsburgh police posed for pictures with their prey (anyone they could arrest) either on the ground with an officer’s boot on their back, or hoisted up by the plastic cuffs on their wrists, with an eye out for ‘hot girls.’ That night, about 6 helicopters scanned the city till around 3 in the morning with their sights on the communities of Oakland, Bloomfield, and Lawrenceville.
Overall, only one person from the ‘New England vs. G20’ crew was arrested, and she was released with two misdemeanors. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 21st. 190 people total were arrested during the G20, far fewer than the 1000 the Secret Service and the Pittsburgh police had threatened. Immediately after Thursday and Friday, students raised their concerns to the media about police violence, particularly of incidents where police successfully terrorized and brutalized passive students.
The protests were a very positive moment the anarchist movement in North America because, although the press did go overboard with footage and discussions of ‘anarchist violence’, the residents whom we talked with afterwards agreed with the anarchists on a lot of things. Pittsburgh locals did not reject the anarchists. Some people even blogged that they ‘wished someone would smash the windows at their work so they got a day or two off.’
There are at least 55 pending lawsuits against the city of Pittsburgh and the police department. The University of Pittsburgh administration has threatened to suspend and even expel any students that were arrested over the week and found guilty, though they are now offering clemency. The ACLU and other legal groups are helping both the students and the demonstrators with their individual lawsuits, and the student ACLU group at Pitt is making noise about the threat to expel and suspend students who were unfairly arrested. Most of the police violence is already on youtube, and the city will doubtless pay for that. There has been no word of people going deaf, or losing a significant amount of hearing as a result of the use of the LRAD.
A few questions remain: How did so few of our anarchist and revolutionary comrades end up arrested? Maybe we were better organized and prepared beforehand. Maybe it was the support of the locals, who sometimes even offered groups running from the riot cops space to hide in their houses. Or maybe it was because of students who came out feeling the same anger toward the pigs who took over their town as the protesters had towards capitalism. •
Zapatistas Face Attack
By Jake Carman
Last month, Mexican paramilitaries stepped up attacks on Zapatista farmers and communities. On September 1st, 150 members of right wing factions of the splintered Rural Association of Collective Interest (ARIC), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights (OPDDIC) attacked 60 Zapatista farmers with machetes, clubs and guns. The attack, which resulted in 1 ARIC death and 8 ARIC injuries, occurred in the Las Tazas Canyon on a plot of land called Casa Blanca. Zapatistas claimed the land in their 1994 uprising, and indigenous farmers who have worked it ever since recently constructed homes in the area.
The Zapatistas suffered eight injuries. Seven were taken prisoner and tortured for 36 hours. According to Mary Ann Tenuto Sánchez of the Chiapas Support Committee, “The prisoners were placed in deep mud holes during pouring rain, stuck with machetes, tied to orange bushes, had tubes placed in their throats, doused with cold water, made to sign declarations while blindfolded, forced to run without shoes and psychologically tortured by threats to cut off their testicles. One man had rope burns around his neck where they placed a noose and said they were going to hang him.”
The Zapatistas, a Mayan anti-authoritarian movement in revolt, rose “from below and to the left,” against Western capitalism and the Mexican government in 1994 upon the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since then, they have controlled a large portion of the southernmost and poorest Mexican state, Chiapas, building farm communities and social centers throughout the jungles and hills, and gaining tremendous influence across Mexico and the global left. •
The MST and the Land Struggle in Brazil
This summer, Brazil’s Landless Peasants’ Movement, Movimento Sem Terra (MST) made strides toward meaningful agrarian reforms. According to an August 21st MST statement entitled, “Only Struggle Can Bring Success,” through farmers’ encampments, marches and occupations of government buildings, the MST won “victories for the working class and reinstated agrarian reform on the agenda of both the government and society.”
At resulting talks, the government promised to update a 30 year old definition of “unproductive land” to allow the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) to reclaim unused land from large landowners for the use of landless farmers. In a country where 1 percent of the population owns 45 percent of the land, giant agribusinesses use genetically modified seeds for ethanol, corn, soy and pesticides for export, poisoning the land, creating slavery for thousands of workers, and ensuring rampant hunger.
Since its founding in 1984, MST’s strategy has revolved around expropriating, building settlements on, and working unproductive land. In 2003, MST forced the Lula government to settle 60,000 families on recovered land, well short of the 430,000 families Lula had promised. According to PBS, MST has “used the land to set up organic farming cooperatives and schools.”
This September, right-wing politicians have filed the third Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry against the MST in five years as a reprisal for MST’s recent victories. Landowners hire thugs to violently attack farmers, murdering 28 in 2008 alone. •
Harvard Workers Stand
Together Against Racism
For months, workers, students and concerned community members have been rallying on behalf of Ravi Raj, employee at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), and the Harvard-MIT Data Center (MDC). Raj has suffered racial slurs, anonymous threats, the mocking of his Indian accent, disparate treatment, and unfair discipline. After making a formal complaint of racial discrimination, Raj was threatened in writing with being fired by a Harvard manager. Activists in Raj’s union, the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, have led a delegation to Harvard’s Department of Labor Relations, and conducted two noisy, militant pickets to protest Harvard’s actions against Raj. Charges have now been filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, but Raj remains in a hostile work environment, and Harvard refuses to transfer him or provide a new supervisor. His job is at serious risk.
All who oppose racial discrimination are invited to join in a rally at Ravi Raj’s workplace on October 13, at 12:30 pm See calendar in the back of this paper for details. •
Zelaya Back in Honduras
After eighty days of exile, Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran President ousted by a right-wing coup, returned to his country. In a BBC interview, Zelaya said he traveled “for more than 15 hours... through rivers and mountains until we reached the capital... We overtook military and police obstacles... because this country has been kidnapped by the military forces.”
On September 22nd, thousands of pro-Zelaya demonstrators gathered in front of the Brazilian Embassy, where he was staying, defying a military-imposed curfew. According to the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project, the protesters were dispersed with “bullets and water tanks,” and the military has since surrounded the Embassy.
The following day, Zelaya met with interim President Roberto Micheletti, according to Zelaya, “to find peaceful solutions.” No progress has been made. The Brazilian embassy remains surrounded by soldiers, the de facto government has closed two news outlets and imposed censorship, and pro-Zelaya demonstrations continue in working class areas.•
Smashin’ (The G20) Fashion Show
By Clara Hendricks
A good time was had by all on September 5, 2009 at the Smashin’ (the G-20) Fashion Show fund raiser for G20 legal funds. Following a day of presentations and organizing at the New England Pre-G-20 meet-up (which continued the next day), a good-sized crowd gathered at the Community Church to watch comrades strut their stuff for The Cause. I can only assume that a fair percentage of the audience were not aware of what they were in for.
Angel wings, nipples taped with circle-A’s, necktie bras, altered American flags and more crossed the runway, along with “functional” items such as dresses with pockets (what an idea!), aprons, reversible shirts, and sweatshirts with built in bandannas (just in case). The show finished off with six of the stars, including the scantily-clad MC, shaking it in a choreographed routine to the classic “I’m too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. The night continued with a little bit of dancing, a silent auction, and some DIY karaoke, which showcased DJ Zero (who provided the music for the evening) in a fabulous rendition of “Eat the Rich” by Aerosmith.
All in all, as one of the two organizers of this event, I can safely say it went pretty well. There were some glitches along the way, notably including data-entry-related repetitive strain injury, and an extreme fracture and surgery due to the meeting of a wrist with the front of an SUV, respectively suffered by the two organizers and seamstresses (leaving us literally shorthanded). Despite these substantial obstacles, our awesome volunteer models and designers pulled through in the end, making it a night to remember. And, most importantly, the legal team from Boston made it down to Pittsburgh with cash on hand, ready to take on the G-20. •
Around a Rainy Pond or A Prison Yard, We Are
Running Down the Walls
by Jake Carman
On September 12th, 23 people braved the cold rains to participate in Running Down the Walls, an annual 5K run around Jamaica Pond. Participants of all ages and backgrounds raised $500 for political prisoners, an amount the events’ local organizers, Jericho Boston, vowed to match. According to a statement from the group, Jericho will “send $500 each to the Leonard Peltier Defense/Offense Committee and to Ojore Lutalo, a New Afrikan anarchist prisoner of war who has recently been released.”
Running Down the Walls began inside Leavenworth prison in Kansas in 1994. “We’ve been doing this in Boston for about 5 years now,” said Kazi Toure, a former United Freedom Front political prisoner and current Jericho Boston organizer. This year, 12 US cities participated, and current prisoners ran around their prison yards. According to Jericho Boston’s statement, Jaan Laaman, a political prisoner currently serving a 53-year term for alleged involvement in the United Freedom Front (UFF) anti-imperialist bombing campaign and murders of police officers, “organized more than 30 prisoners to run this year.” In Boston, runners listened to an encouraging statement Laaman recorded inside a Tucson Arizona penitentiary before setting off around the pond.
Organizers were pleased with the turnout. Henekis Stoddard, daughter of the late Richard Williams, another UFF political prisoner, said, “With 23 people, it’s a better turn out than last year, even though its raining.”
Erin Ryan, a member of Rising Tide Boston, said “It wasn’t hard to run in the rain. While we ran around a beautiful pond with swans, our comrades ran around prison yards.”
Rick Laaman, son of Jaan Laaman and member of the Jericho Movement and the Jaan Laaman Freedom Fund, said about running in the rain, “All I had to do was think about (my father’s) words. I knew I couldn’t give up.”
The youngest participant, 9-month old Antonio, rolled along the path in a stroller with his parents, Northeast Federation of Anarcho-Communists (NEFAC) and Jericho Boston members Diana and Dominic. “It was Antonio’s 2nd time. The first he was in utero,” Diana said. “It’s so important not only for children to get used to this, but it’s also the responsibility of the movement to be open and helpful to parents...if we expect parents to be involved.”
As Jericho’s statement read, “After the run, we were joined by members of the Mashpee Wampanoag community, who talked about the struggle of justice for Leonard Peltier and drummed in his honor.” They sang two songs, the American Indian Movement anthem and one called “the Peltier song,” while they played on one large drum held between them, decorated with a “Red Power” sticker. Leonard Peltier is serving a 33 year sentence for the killing of 2 FBI agents who were firing on the home of elders on the Pine Ridge reservation. Attacks on Pine Ridge folk occurred regularly, and Peltier had been asked to defend the elders’ home. There were 62 uninvestigated murders of Pine Ridge residents during that time, and, according to one of the drummers, “the first two people brought to trial (for the FBI murders) were acquitted for self defense.”
“Next year,” Kazi Toure called out after the 2-lap, 5k run, “we’ll do 4 laps!” The exhausted comrades talked him down to three. Runners left with a heightened spirit of resistance, and hopefully the dedication to physical fitness and support for comrades behind bars will carry over until next year’s run.
“I’ll run next year. I was here last year, and I participated in LA when I lived there. There’s nothing quite like it,” said Brian from NEFAC, summing up the spirit of the day. •
A Bold Victory in the Fight Against Foreclosures
by Jake B
Since the loss of her mother’s Mattapan home to foreclosure last year, Frances Louise has been living with her ten-year-old son, her mother and several other family members in a crowded two bedroom apartment. That is, until last week, when she and her son packed up their belongings from the stuffy and overcrowded apartment they had reluctantly called home and got ready for a bold move. With the backing of City Life/ Vida Urbana and the Bank Tenants Association, Frances and her son became the first Boston residents to publicly and successfully occupy a building in years.
The unit, a three story apartment on Cobden Street in Roxbury, had been vacant for one year after the former tenants were evicted for failing to pay their mortgage. The bank neglected to inform the former tenants of their rights, as Section Eight recipients, to remain in their home and pay rent to the bank as tenants. So, like thousands of other bank-owned properties, the apartment has remained vacant. The banks have preferred to let properties like the one on Cobden Street remain vacant while waiting for the market value on homes to rise. Their intention is sell the homes rather than allow former owners and faultless tenants to pay rent to the bank. For this reason hundreds of homes in Boston remain vacant while countless people are kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets.
Last week, Frances and Chris moved their belongings into the formerly vacant unit on Cobden Street, with the help of City Life and Bank Tenant volunteers, changed the locks and hung a banner from the second story window, declaring the unit occupied. With the unit secured, the organizations and tenants made their demands: Guaranty Bank, the Wisconsin bank that owns the vacant property, must sell it, along with other properties it owns in the neighborhood, to Boston Community Capital, a nonprofit bank, so that the properties could be sold or rented as affordable housing co-operatives.
At first, the bank seemed willing to discuss the demands placed upon them, engaging in discussions and negotiations with City Life organizers and lawyers. But on Tuesday, while Chris and Frances were out, two unexpected guests arrived. Two men, hired by the bank, arrived at the occupied unit, intent on destruction. The men kicked the door in, forcefully entering the occupied home. A teenage boy, living next door, was paid to do most of the dirty work, slashing air mattresses, putting holes in the walls and trashing furniture. The thugs even encouraged the boy to steal furniture and a television from the home. All has since been returned, and the boy, who has come to understand the situation, has apologized and cooperated with City Life. After the break-in, the locks were changed again and volunteers maintained a constant presence in the unit to defend against further invasion.
Ironically, the bank’s actions hurt them in the end. It seems the thugs got out of hand. According to the bank, they did hire the men, but told them not to destroy the place. True or not, the potential bad publicity seems to have been the final blow to the bank’s defense. Only days after the invasion of the occupied home, Guaranty Bank caved to all of the occupants’ demands, agreeing to sell the property, along with others that they own in the neighborhood, at their real value to Boston Community Capital. The appraisal of the home was aided by the neighbors (including the one implicated in the bank’s thuggery), who allowed the appraisers into their home to make a comparison and decide what repairs need to be done to the occupied unit. In the end, the value of the home was reduced by the damage caused to the walls and floors by the bank’s own thugs.
The occupation adds City Life to the ranks of other radical housing movements around the country who have begun to take more drastic steps towards ensuring housing for those in need and standing up to the greed of the banks. The first group to take this initiative was Take Back the Land in Miami, Florida. That group has moved about a dozen families into bank and government owned properties.
City Life hosted an occupation warming party on Saturday to celebrate the victory and show support for the occupants. Over a hundred attended, speeches were made by City Life volunteers amid chants of “occupation!” Kids games were organized and a banker pig piñata was smashed. Foundation Movement, a local hip hop group, performed at the party. Between songs they spoke on the subject of the occupation. The declaration that “housing is a human right” brought cheers to the crowd along with the realization that this great victory for housing justice is only the beginning. •
“At Once Boston Was Plunged Into Anarchy”*
90th Anniversary of the Boston Police Strike
Imagine working 73-98 hour weeks and sharing one ancient toilet and bathtub with 134 of your colleagues. Meanwhile, your crappy pay has stayed the same while the cost of living has soared. On top of that, you’re responsible for buying your own uniform and equipment, which then get infested with any of the various vermin running about your workplace. Such were conditions for Boston police in 1919, a year of great labor tumult and waves of strikes worldwide, which had not exempted Boston. In fact, the telephone workers in Boston had just won major concessions in an April strike, enjoying a degree of support from the Boston police (given their shared class status and majority Irish American ethnicity, the telephone workers were likely to have been daughters, sisters, and other relatives and associates of Boston police). The concerns of the patrollers, frequently voiced, went unheard by their superiors. In a move presumably calculated to break police departments everywhere from their patterns of brutalizing strikers, the American Federation of Labor began granting charters to police departments, including Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and St. Paul. Thus it was that the Boston patrollers became Police Union Number 16 of the AFL in August 1919. The following month, on September 9, 1,117 of the force’s 1,554 patrollers turned in their badges and walked off the job at 5:45PM.
Everyone tells you that crazy bad things will happen if the police disappear, and the newspapers certainly capitalized on the incidents that followed. Before the governor called in the National Guard, people seized the opportunity to settle scores with police who had wronged them, gathering outside at stationhouses to pelt striking officers with mud, rocks, bottles, rotten fruit. One young man reportedly approached a striking officer saying, “I’ve waited eleven years to get you! You’re not a cop now!” before punching the officer in the jaw, whose fall was observed by a jeering crowd. “Irresponsible rowdies and professional criminals”* initiated craps games with ludicrously high stakes on the Common, where crowds gathered to watch. Striker John Cadigan remarked years later that private security forces, or “hired goons,” had instigated many of the incidents found objectionable by the public. People overturned cars, damaged storefronts, looted goods. A “mob” gang raped a woman. Newspapers sensationalized every last one of these occurrences despite the fact these episodes were not particularly unusual against the city’s customary rates of similar incidents. Theft and property damage were reported at $35,000 and the city settled all claims for $34,000. Not a single school closed. Francis Russell, author of City in Terror, despite perpetuating the sensational portrayal of the events surrounding the strike, nonetheless admits that, “The life of the city went on much as usual.”
In fact, much of the public was behind the police strike. Volunteer reserves refused to scab by going on duty, police officers from other towns and cities in Massachusetts showed up at strike headquarters to lend their support, even Harvard volunteer forces assured the public that they were patrolling to “protect life and property” and not “for the sake of defeating the policemen.” Despite all the violence local union workers had endured at police hands during labor actions over the years, organized labor was incredibly supportive of the strike, with 80% of the Boston Central Labor Union, representing 100,000 workers, voting in favor of going on sympathy strike to support it (the bureaucratic nature of the organization kept the results from being known until it was too late). The newspapers and politicians shrieked that the strikers were “Bringing Bolshevism to Boston,” accusations bitterly resented by the strikers, most of whom, as WWI veterans, some as veterans of the Spanish American War, were once “hailed as heroes and as saviors of our country.”
As radicals who oppose the protection of privilege and the societal control that police represent and perpetuate, it may be difficult to know how to feel about police labor actions. On the one hand, we want human dignity respected with safe working conditions and we believe everyone should have their basic needs met and exceeded (ideally not through a wage system, but you feel me). On the other hand, for police to try to wield the very tool, organized labor, that they are so frequently called in to destroy is mind-boggling and infuriating. Though they may often come from the working class, they have signed up to protect the property and interests of the rich, of the ruling class, of the bosses. As Kristian Williams wrote in 2004 in his exquisitely researched Our Enemies in Blue (get the 2007 reprint from South End Press!),
In 1919 it was thought, clumsily, that [direct rule by the police] was a threat to be repressed. … But police ambitions cannot be permanently repressed if the cops are to continue in their capacity, reliably suppressing the unruly portions of the population. … As police organize, lobby, and strike, it seems that their negotiations have as much to do with the elites’ access to, and the smooth functioning of, the police institution itself as with wages and working conditions. … police associations are best conceived of as semi-autonomous, but constitutive part of the state.
The Boston police strike was broken with National Guard, militia, volunteers, and a massive recruitment of new hires, all of whom were hired on terms meeting and exceeding the strikers’ demands, though the United Garment Workers refused to make their uniforms and many new hires began work in civilian attire. Excessive forces patrolled the streets of Boston into December, often keeping as many as seven times the number of pre-strike police presence. Gregory Mason, writing in September 1919 for The Outlook, wrote that the city “has the appearance of an armed camp.” As for the strikers, every last one had their card stamped with ‘abandoned his duty.’
On the 90th anniversary of the strike, the Boston Public Library held a packed event with three panelists; BPD archivist Margaret Sullivan, labor historian James Green, and WWI historian Christopher Capozzola. Mercifully, no one sensationalized the behavior of the “rowdies” nor tried to make any grander points about how we need police—should anyone have tried, I came armed with history and statistics from Boston and beyond! During the discussion, Green asked how many people in the audience were descended from a striker. In a room with hundreds of people, more people raised their hands than didn’t.
*Quotes from Gregory Mason’s September 1919 article in The Outlook, presently available for viewing on the 2nd floor of the McKim building of the Copley branch of the Boston Public Library as part of a display of documents and photographs relating to the Boston Police Strike.
For those who are into that sort of thing, every annual report of the Boston police from 1885-2005 is available and searchable online for free at archive.org. Go nuts. •
Still Today, We Want Bread, And Roses, Too
By Jeff Reinhardt
On September 7, Lawrence celebrated the 25th annual Bread and Roses festival on Campagnone Common. Performers included Puerto Plata, an 84-year old Dominican meringue guitarist, Zili Misik, a Boston-based 8-piece all-female world music orchestra; Si Kahn, folk musician and labor activist, Veronica Robles, singer and ambassador of Mexican music, and the Bread and Puppet Theater.
The event attracted many political groups, ranging from the Socialist Workers Party to the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society to the Industrial Workers of the World. Several stages were set up for musical performances and most groups had tents set up around the stages. There were historical presentations and lectures, as well as history tours.
Later in the day, the Bread and Puppet Theater performed their “Dirt Cheap Money Circus,” which had acts critical of the wage system, health care reform, Obama’s “stimulus” package, the war in Afghanistan, and other issues. Colorful theater and puppetry took center stage, bringing together all the activities from around the park to the center for the performance.
The festival commemorates the famous strike of 1912 that became known as the “Bread and Roses Strike.” Lawrence was the epicenter of the textile industry at the turn of the century and home to an exploding immigrant population (thus its nickname: The Immigrant City). At least forty-five languages were spoken throughout the various mills around Lawrence, yet the speakers held one common bond: poverty, which bound them together in chains of misery.
A small pay cut is what started the strike. The women and children who worked the factories had their hours cut from 56/week to 54/week, affecting over 40,000 people already at the brink of starvation, making less than $9 a week.
On January 12, 1912 the strike began with a citywide walkout from all the major mills. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) had orchestrated the strike. Organizers Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovannitti could speak almost all the languages of the city and would regularly hold huge rallies attracting over 15,000 people.
Soon enough, the citywide mill strike turned violent. The state militia was brought in to assist police and other strikebreakers who used their guns and clubs on the mostly peaceful strikers. One young woman was killed and Ettor and Giovannitti were both arrested.
Ray Stannard Baker, a writer observing the strike wrote this:
The strike at Lawrence… was far more than a revolt; it was an incipient revolution. It was revolutionary because it involved a demand for fundamental changes in the basic organization of industry. Thinly veiled behind its demands for higher wages lay the outspoken declaration of the leaders for the abolition of the entire wage system, and the suppression of the private ownership of capital.
The strike also put women and children on the front lines and, eventually, in the headlines of newspapers across the nation. The IWW had encouraged all the female workers to picket, which they did. Media attention began to expose the brutal police conduct towards women and children, especially when nursing mothers were beaten by police and arrested.
The plight of children during the strike became the turning point. By late February, it was decided to send the children to other cities because Lawrence was unsafe. Children were sent to New York City, Barre, Vermont, and Philadelphia to seek asylum. On February 24, 40 children lined up at the train station to go to Philadelphia and were saying goodbye to their mothers when police struck, beating children and parents. Newspapers documented this shameful scene and soon it became national news. It also started a congressional investigation that brought over 50 workers to testify against the mills.
Things were looking worse and worse for the big mills until March 12, when the major mills gave into all the strikers’ demands. The strikers won 5-20% pay increases, better hours, and investigations began into the working conditions of mills all across the country. The IWW also rose to be recognized as a powerful unionizing force in the US and would remain so until the Red Scare of the 1920s.
The title “Bread and Roses” came from a poem of the same title written by James Oppenheim, inspired by women he’d seen during the strike holding a sign that read: “We want bread and roses too.” The poem has since become a labor song performed by the likes of Utah Phillips.
The Bread and Roses Heritage Committee has been organizing the festival for 25 years. They are an all-volunteer non-profit and are always looking for new folks to help out with next year’s celebration. To contact them email breadandroses99 (at) hotmail.com. •
Calendar: Get Involved
First and Third Monday: Papercut Zine Library meeting, 7:30pm. Contact papercut (at) riseup.net for location.
First Tuesday of Every Month: BAAM Public Meeting, 7pm, Lucy Parsons Center, 549
Columbus Ave, Boston. Open meetings featuring an introducton to BAAM, reportbacks, and workshops.
Second Tuesday of Every Month: Anarchist Black Cross meeting (defense and prison abolition group), 8pm. This month at 45 Mnt Auburn St, Cambridge. For future meetings: Email
bostonabc (at) riseup.net for location.
Every Wednesday: Free Radical Film Nights, 7pm, at the Lucy Parsons Center, 549
Columbus Ave, Boston
Second Sunday of Every Month: 2pm Industrial Workers of the World meeting. Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave, Boston
Food Not Bombs free community meal, 4-6pm, Boston Common, Park St T Stop, Boston
Every Sunday: Food Not Bombs, free community meal 4-6pm, Central Square, Cambridge, Ma
Month of Anarchy! A series of educational and outreach events sponsored by the Northeast Anarchist Network. Look below for events in Boston!
Take a stand for reproductive justice! 1:30 pm. Every year, the Mass Citizens for Life protests a woman’s right to choose. Each year, Boston NOW organizes a counter-protest to show our support for abortion rights and to demand that women have the right to make their own decisions about their lives and their bodies. We need everyone out in full force to show the anti-choice community that we will NOT stay silent. Corner of Charles St. and Beacon St., Boston, (between the Public Garden and Boston Common).
Take Action to Stop Insurance Company Crimes! 12pm. It’s a crime that 64% of all bankruptcies are caused by medical debt, that every 12 minutes someone dies because an insurance company denies them care, that insurance companies are keeping premiums and out of pocket costs high so that care is unaffordable even for those who have insurance. Protest at MA Association of Health Plans. 40 Court St., Boston, MA Info: (617)524-8778 or (617)541-0500
Discussion on Anarchism, 7 pm. Join BAAM for a public discussion on anarchism. We will focus on the different strains of thought within the Northeast anarchist movement. BAAM members will also give report backs from ongoing campaigns and working groups, with plenty of time to share your own ideas and projects! Please bring potluck! At the Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave, in Boston’s South End
October 7th, Party in the Plaza with Planned Parenthood, 11am-4. Free food, sexual health trivia, giveaways and more. October promotion for 3 months of birth control pills for $30 at PP’s Express Center, Davis Square Plaza, 260 Elm Street, Somerville
Prisoner Support night, 7pm. Join the Boston anarchist Black Cross for our prisoner support night. Help support political and other prisoners, write letters, fill research requests and send literature! In Brighton, email bostonabc (at) riseup.net for address.
Octover 9th - 11th
The HONK! Festivals a revolutionary street spectacle of never-before-seen proportions that will converge in Davis Square, Somerville, MA, on October 9-11, 2009! Full schedule here: http://honkfest.org/
Protest racial discrimination of Harvard Worker Ravi Raj, 12:30pm, at his workplace, IQSS/HMDC, 1737 Cambridge St., Cambridge (five minutes walk from the Harvard T), on Tuesday, 12:30 pm Let’s show Harvard we won’t stand for racial discrimination and retaliation against those who stand up for their rights!
Boston Anarchist Black Cross Meeting, 8pm. At the Democracy Center, 45 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA
Boston Anarchst Halloween Hellraiser. Starts 7pm. Your boss’s worst nightmare. Come dance, eat candy, and socialize at the rescheduled anarchist prom, resurrected from the grave! Costumes encouraged. $5-15 sliding scale. Benefits BAAM and the Boston Anarchist Black Cross. At Encuentro 5, 33 Harrison Ave, Chinatown. November 21st and 22nd,
The 1st North American Anarchist Studies Network Conference. A space to develop theoretical and empirical work that pays on anarchism. Please send proposals and/or abstracts with a brief bio to the conference organizers: at anarchiststudies (at) hotmail.com. Please keep them under 500 words, and get them in by October 10, 2009. Vendors and organizations may email us at the above address to arrange for table space. Hartford, Connecticut USA: Charter Oak Cultural Center (21 Charter Oak Ave.) Please visit: http://naasn.wordpress.com
Assembly of the Northeast Anarchist Network. Groups, projects, and individuals affiliated with NEAN will flock to Philidelphia for our general assembly sometime this winter. Hosted by the Wooden Shoe Bookstore. Check www.NeAnarchist.net
Order “Certain Days 2010” Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar from ABC!
42 full-color pages of art and writings! This year’s theme is Indiegnous Resistance. $12 Email bostonabc (at) riseup.net to order. We accept paypal and cash. Great Holiday Gift for a great cause!
Remember Sacco and Vanzetti
Commemorative Buttons, $2 each $3 for the pair.
Email Info (at) SaccoandVanzetti.org to order
Proceeds to memorialize Sacco and vanzetti, and contnue their struggle for freedom and Liberation.
-Another World Is Possible-
A BAAM Podcast project! Now with over *THIRTEEN HOURS* of anarchist and revolutionary audio recordings, including several audio-books, loads of essays, poetry, letters, interviews and much much more... All of this is available for anyone to download NOW, listen to via web-stream, or subscribe to thru iTunes or your social-networking site.
Help us save trees! (paper and money)
For a free email subscription, contact Jake: trenchesfullofpoets (at) riseup.net
Contributors to this month’s issue:
What is Anarchism?
Anarchism is the theory and practice of a human society organizing without hierarchy, authority and oppression. This means that all people have equal access to the decision-making process and to the products of their collective labor. Anarchy can be described as true, direct democracy. It is horizontal: i.e. workers working together without bosses, neighbors organizing housing and neighborhoods without landlords, and people making decisions without politicians. There are many different ideas on how to get there and what exactly it will look like. We can talk all we want, but only a truly free and revolutionary people will be able to decide what their revolution will look like. So comrades, let’s get to work!
This work is in the public domain