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News ::
Antagonize or Fraternize?
04 Oct 2000
Outside the Presidential Debate at UmassDrunken union members and some pro-Nader demonstrators antagonized one another while Pro-Palestinian and Anti-Death penalty demonstrators greeted ons another with cheers.
The first Presidential Debate was held at the University of Massachusettes tonight. Outside the debate site, various groups marched and rallied for their cause or candidate. Many local union memebers were present to support the Gore ticket and many other groups were there to support Ralph Nader and/or a more open debate forum.
I'm trying to understand why many union members and some pro-Nader demonstrators felt it necessary to engage in belligerent arguments with each other, rather than making inroads toward a common ground.Some of the demonstrators sat in the streets, chanting slogans, and some of the union members taunted them with phrases like, "get a job", "buy a razor", etc. Then the pro-Nader/open debate people would yell back something like "Gore is brainwashing you", or "Gore is anti-labor", etc. Though individuals here and there did engage in discussions, the general tone between these groups was adversarial.
A main factor in this dynamic was the fact that a good deal of the union workers (wearing brand new Gore/Lieberman shirts) were visibly drunk. I could smell the alcohol coming off some of them and a few even had cans of beer in paper bags. They were also highly aggressive. Large groups of them would surround Nader supporters and taunt them. I even received reports from two seperate women who said they had been sexually harassed (verbally) by drunken union members.
Given this scenario, a good move (on the part of the other demonstrating groups) would have been to ignore (as best one could) or de-escalate such behavior with non-threatening discussion. But enough of these other demonstrators (pro-Nader, open debate, Anarchist, etc.) simply escalated the situation by being aggressive right back to the union members. This lead to several scuffles and an overall bad atmosphere between the groups. These two groups should have been working together instead of being at odds with one another.
On a contrary note, there was some cohesion between other seperate groups. At the UMass debate site a pro-Palestinian group was warmly greeted by an extremely jubilant Anti-Death Penalty march. A group of about 150 from the Al-Aqsa Task Force of Boston was holding a vigil demanding "Freedom and Justice for Palestine". When the several-thousand strong Anti-Death Penalty march arrived at the site, they greeted the Palestinian group with cheers and even chanted peace and freedom slogans along with them. This was a great moment of co-operativeness that really uplifted the mood of everyone participating. These two groups showed how a simple act could build a bridge rather than burn it.
Just an observation.
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Worst Union Stereotypes On Display
04 Oct 2000
Gore-Lieberman supporters lining the police barricades had a block party of sorts last night.

Supplied with Budweiser beer, the mostly union members mobilized for the event, jeered expand the debate protesters as they filed past on Morrissey Boulevard.

Meanwhile, Arab-Americans doing evening prayers in memory of those killed by Israeli security forces in the recent uprising, were heckled and verbally abused by the same Gore-Lieberman supporters.

Big burly men shouted racial epithets and obscenities while gesturing menacingly at the praying Muslims, who continued their prayer with discipline and without response.

The drunken disorderly conduct, meant to intimidate other protesters, fulfilled the worst union stereotypes and revealed the ugly face political mobilization. This reporter personally a member of a union felt deep shame last night and was fearful for the future of the blue-green alliance forged in Seattle.

As for the response of pro-Nader marchers, this came under provocation. Actually, I witnessed many Nader marchers try to explain their protest to the union members, only to afterwards realize that those pro-Gore rallyists were mobilized to intimidate them.
Blatant Violence by Union Members
04 Oct 2000
As I was marching into the Protest zone with other protestors and Nader supporters, the visibly drunk Gore supporters/union members created a wall to try and block the protestors from proceding. The protestors were directed into a corner and then physically attakced by many of the union members. I saw a student being thrown around by the strap of his camera while another union member grabbed a wooden cross from a student and hit them over the head with it.
I attempted to calm the situation down by holding my arms out to my side and creating a physical barrier between the protestors and the union members. That only led to me being shoved to the ground several times. For the most part, students and protestors exercised an immense amount of peaceful resistance in the face of this intimidation. Mainstream press was absent from this entire event as well as the police. The police led the prtestors into the group of Gore supporters and refused to protect those being harassed.
Labor has sold out this movement. Labor worked with the student groups in Seattle, and now they have there back-door deals with the democratic party. What happened to their concerns about the environment? What about worker's rights around the world? What about democracy?
Blatant Violence by Union Members
04 Oct 2000
As I was marching into the Protest zone with other protestors and Nader supporters, the visibly drunk Gore supporters/union members created a wall to try and block the protestors from proceding. The protestors were directed into a corner and then physically attakced by many of the union members. I saw a student being thrown around by the strap of his camera while another union member grabbed a wooden cross from a student and hit them over the head with it.
I attempted to calm the situation down by holding my arms out to my side and creating a physical barrier between the protestors and the union members. That only led to me being shoved to the ground several times. For the most part, students and protestors exercised an immense amount of peaceful resistance in the face of this intimidation. Mainstream press was absent from this entire event as well as the police. The police led the prtestors into the group of Gore supporters and refused to protect those being harassed.
Labor has sold out this movement. Labor worked with the student groups in Seattle, and now they have there back-door deals with the democratic party. What happened to their concerns about the environment? What about worker's rights around the world? What about democracy?
gore's clan
04 Oct 2000
I think one of the most disenchanting things I encountered in this whole day was the lack of goodwill toward each other and the lack of an open atmosphere of discussion. Clearly the Gore people were beligerent - myself and two other Nader supporters were passed by maybe 100 Union pro-Gore marchers and actually had a beer can thrown at us, hitting the next person over. The particulars aside, it was more of a who-can-be-louder than who-can-be-more-intelligent ...and I can't say the Gore people were the only ones acting this way.

Just some thoughts...

(1) The police - while mostly civil - seemed to treat the Nader kids (let's face it, they're not of the police's generation) with a great deal of disrespect and under a whole different set of rules than the Gore camp. I witnessed a great deal of heavy-handedness - pushing with batons, crowding, boxing in - when there was nothing more than kids on one half of the road, sitting. I was threatened with arrest for having a microphone and audio recorder by an officer who told me having it was a felony. They wanted a response and they didn't get the type they were looking for.

(2) The Falun Gong people are about as nice as you'd ever want to meet. If we in this country were half as adamant about our rights we WOULD have Nader in the debates, we simply wouldn't stand for anything less. They don't do a lot of screaming, they just show up and get counted. They educate. Maybe something that can be emulated.

(3) It was awesome to see IMC people EVERYWHERE. Don't hate the media, *become* the media. (thanks Jello)

(4) Organization could have been a lot tighter with the Nader camp. There were many times where groups were dispersed thanks to questionable and selective police tactics (see (2)).

(5) We need a local version of ruckus.org. Very few people were prepared with signage or similar. The normal, average poles that held up the few that were brought were ordered left behind under the auspices of safety. Absoloutely no civil disobedience (that I was witness to) was performed to stop anything.

(6) As an ancient 28-year-old, I never thought I'd see "kids" caring as much about their future as I did last night. It really recharged my batteries and for that I have to offer some serious respect.

(7) Vote.

Regards,
Jason
See also:
http://www.crashspace.net/
Local activism over electing parties
04 Oct 2000
7 should be "Participate, create, and educate in your communities, and only after you are doing these things, should you bother voting."

I say this because trying to get a candidate or party into "office" has the potential to kill otheriwse continued community activism. In fact, you could support the laundry list of things the Greens support but never even act on those locally, instead thinking you just need to get this party in power and THEY will take care of it for you when you can do far more yourself with effort. Put direct activism over electing political parties, instead think of the party as only a small part of the overall goal...a step.
lack of communication
04 Oct 2000
This is a clear sign that there has been little or no communication between the groups in question. The green-blue alliance, if it is to be a truly symbiotic relationship, instead of a mutual parasitic one, need to involve a real dialouge between the respective parties involved. As of yet, I have not personally seen a this sort of thing on a local or institutional level. I've participated in protests and demonstrations where the labor groups will invite enviromental/human rights groups to come in support of their cause and vice versa. And i have also heard about long standing alliances between organizations like the green steel in oregon. I commend those specific instances, and consider them very valuable for all parties involved, but there seems to be a missing element of communication.
Labor union members and liberal ativists come from very different ideological backgrounds, and can get into sticky situations when working together. I know I've been warned not to talk to labor union members during demonstrations about my political viewpoints because there is fear that it will cause dissention. Or that I should come to the protest dress more "appropriately" because the labor union people don't appreciate the dirty hippie look, or radical revolutionary attitude.
Yet how can we just except these differences, and essentially sweep them under the rug and ignore them like a bad dream. I think we that if any group is going to work together in solidarity they need to have some understanding and tolerance of each other's viewpoints.
Most importantly I have felt alienated by the lack of communication, i really want to know where the union people are coming from, and hopefully help them understand where we are coming from. I want to know why the Unions do take pride in America, why is what I stand for offensive, and what do they see as positive within my movements.
If anyone knows of a forum or org that has set up these disscussion lines please inform me, if there aren't any, they need to be created. Communicate with your supposed allies BEFORE you go out on the picket line with them.

Much love,
Toby
beligerence all around
04 Oct 2000
I agree with much of what has been said about the shameful behavior of the Gore supporters. But I also want to point out the following: I witnessed a group of 5 or 6 protesters with Zapatista-style bandannas over their faces literally walk up and begin physically taunting the union members by poking sign in their faces. Now I agree that there was little point in the Gore supporters drinking in public and holding up signs for an already-enfranchised candidate. But if you go up and TAUNT those beligerent, beefy, drunken men, then you pretty much deserve whatever happens to you. Those guys are working-class shmucks like everybody else, and maybe it's not a bad idea to talk with them peaceably and try to make them see the sense in voting for Nader. Either make like Gandhi, or if you're going to be beligerent, for Christ's sake, save it for the cops. Let your frustrations out by practicing civil disobedience and crossing the barricades. But don't taunt the drunk guys. All that does is give the Boston police more credibility when justifying the obscene amounts of money they spent on security.
Other than that, it was the most inspiring protest I have ever been to. It really was. I was moved to tears that so many people care about the fate of this country.