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Commentary :: DNC : Organizing
Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
30 Jul 2004
The City of Boston and Federal Agencies transformed Boston into a totalitarian police state in the days leading up to and during the Democratic Convention of 2004. The organs of oppression prepared for the arrests of 2000. During the weeks leading up to the DNC, the FBI and local police officers harassed dissidents and anarchists across the United States. Naturally, these acts of oppression gave pause to some protesters and the numbers that turned out for the DNC were smaller than expected. Despite this, the resistance to the DNC was a success. The city saw many decentralized actions, planned and executed by small groups. This new form of organized (or disorganization) was difficult for the police to infiltrate and many actions took the police by surprise.

Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance


The City of Boston and Federal Agencies transformed Boston into a totalitarian police state in the days leading up to and during the Democratic Convention of 2004. The organs of oppression prepared for the arrests of 2000. A cage was constructed into which authorities planned to intern protesters during the demonstration. The FBI, an agency famous for lying and deception, put forth a hoax-terror operation reporting, falsely, that anarchists planned to attack the media. During the weeks leading up to the DNC, the FBI and local police officers harassed dissidents and anarchists across the United States. Naturally, these acts of oppression gave pause to some protesters and the numbers that turned out for the DNC were smaller than expected. This increased the ratio of police to protesters significantly. In fact, the forces of oppression far out numbered the protesters in Boston during the DNC, as thousands were imported from other jurisdictions.

Despite this, the resistance to the DNC was a success. The city saw many decentralized actions, planned and executed by small groups. This new form of organized (or disorganization) was difficult for the police to infiltrate and many actions took the police by surprise. Naturally, the media was prepared for large and concentrated events and mistook their infrequency for a resistance that fizzled. In reality, the opposite was true. The new mode of resistance is not played out for the media and most of its actions took place below the radar of the media. These actions were intended to communicate the resistance meme to Americans directly, in the first person and at this they were successful.

Moreover, the fear and confusion experienced by the police, facing a decentralized resistance, was both palpable and obvious. Law enforcement agencies from the FBI and Homeland Security down to the state and local police were all reporting their concerns about the decentralized actions. The impression left by law enforcement was that these actions would be violent. The reality, however, is that there were not violent. Additionally, by engaging in decentralized resistance, protesters kept the number of arrests to an incredibly low total of six (compare that to the 2000 that the police had hoped for). Due to decentralized resistance the police were left confused and their cells were largely empty. Hundreds of protesters that may have been arrested have avoided arrest by avoiding infiltration and manipulation. This increases the number of protesters that will be available for the Republican National Convention.

Even the media got whiff of the new mode of resistance. Fox News referred to them as Asymmetric Actions and other news outlets referred to them as Decentralized Actions. Since the media does not count as real anything they do not experience directly with their cameras, they have underestimated the impact of these events.

Decentralized Actions are not intended to be one time events. They are intended to seed the concept of their own replication within the minds of those that witness them. The hope is that each Decentralized Action is like a seed that will bring forth fruit and multiply in the form of more Decentralized Actions conducted by those who witness them. If this meme based theory holds up, the best is yet to come. Specifically, we should see a rise in Decentralized Actions in the months following the DNC. When these new actions sprout, seemingly from no where as more Americans become decentralized resisters, cities such as Boston will face a larger resistance without the full boot of the federal police state behind them. If the many thousands of storm troopers occupying Boston during the DNC were confused, you can imagine how confused the Boston police will be when they face this resistance on their own.

As the DNC leaves Boston, the city's resistance should not view the event as over. The DNC itself may be over but a new phase of resistance is just beginning. The evacuation of the feds should be met with a rise in Decentralized Actions.

The weekend starts tomorrow.

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
30 Jul 2004
great article, you really captured what decentralized action is all about. Creative protest affects people more than a bunch of kids screaming (although that is fun, but not so effective anymore). Its a new way of protesting, but I think it'll catch on soon enough. this is only the beginning.
Use of D-cent action with RNCNYC
30 Jul 2004
While I think this is great modus operandi for protest, I would submit that the tactics of resistance should differ based upon the number of activists participating. In this case, the smaller numbers of activists (and don't argue with that - it was fewer, but that's OK) yeilded itself perfectly to the tactic of decentralized resistance. However, MLK Jr. proved that large protests of coordinated non-violent resistance work when large numbers are present. I sincerely hope that the protests in NYC at the RNC fall under both categories - so big that decentralized action cripples response to a huge mass protest. The people will turn out, and we'll need an avenue to channel the masses, while the experienced "D-cent disruption teams" help confound the police response to it.

Democrats in particular will be looking for a venue to raise their voice in anger at GWB as JFK keeps the "moral high ground". Because he isn't Bush bashing means we harness the (soon to be pent up) anger on the left to our advantage at the RNCNYC.

Just my opinion.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
30 Jul 2004
So this was an experiment to validate a radical 'meme theory' of decentralized direct action. How very Cambridge. Will there be a dissertation?

Boston was a mixed bag. There are lessons to be learned from this attempt at decentralized direct action. The plenthora of decentralized direct actions at other convergences are also worth evaluating. But calling it a success by example is absurd.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
30 Jul 2004
And we should also start "decentralizing" the dates on which we take political action.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
30 Jul 2004
*cough* a huge reason for low turnout...

basically this article talks about how most leftist groups have decided to save their energy for the RNC. These are groups we had also outreached and were snubbed because of our anti-ABB policy. These groups WERE present at the previous DNCs. Had they been actually present here, turnout would have been much higher.
Decentalize this
31 Jul 2004
40 thousand people in the street in one location, thousands of riot cops ready to beat you back.

OR 1000 groups of forty activists at a time holding simulataneous disturbances across hundreds of city blocks.

OR 400 people per block holding 100 city blocks.

Do the math.

Decentralize that.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
31 Jul 2004
Modified: 02:36:59 AM
in the previous example decentralized actions definitely have the upper hand, but the fact was, the decentralized actions that happened at the DNC were not coordinated enough between eachother to have the massive and chaos creating impact that the given-example could have. not to mention that the turn out was nowhere near 10,000 to have those 200 groups of 50. i think it was a failure to be looked in to an perfected in the future. It is not something that can really be performed by people who just show up to do something, but it is something that must be carefully planned and coordinated and that would be my suggested approach for the future.
i also have to say that it was a devasting loss and a reminder of how the dialogue in this country has been pushed so far to the right, that so-called "radicals" think that they are doing the world a favor by letting the democrats go on with their neo-liberal business if not outright supporting them...
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
31 Jul 2004
Finally a call for "decentralized direct actrion" produces real direct action! Too many times a call for autonomous action has been issued out of laziness when organizers of somethign esle don't want to do the scut work of setting a D/A up. This time, thoug-it was real.

Spreading out to strike many targets is excellent strategy. Durign the People's Strike in DC, the city shut itself down(giving us automatic military victory as they forfeit) because they could not hope to stop spread-out but orgnaized strikes on transportaion. We used about 1,000 activists-but mostly in two conventionmal street actions athat gout rounded up. No participants in the direct actions were arrested except those doing lockdowns.

The People's Strike included burnign tires across two freeways-and becuase of that I computed that just 60 people in 20 groups of three(1 driver, one thrower, one lighter) could have blocked every major road into DC that way. Better thoug if each group has its OWN idea of how to shut down one intersection with three people.

That also keeps the Enemy from being able to standardize his response as he progresses from hot spot to hot spot. Once you know its burning tires, you load a dozer on a flatbed and clear thejams out one by one. If its tires in one place, a staged auto accident in another, a lockdown to barrels in a third, 8,000 pounds of cowshit from PETA in a fourth, and a pile of cops at a "disturbance' in yet another place it gets really complicated really fast.

Good going Black Tea-you achieved what so many of us who came to Boston could not-a challenge to the Dems a 3,000 person ANSWER march just coulodn't measure up to! I was in Boston, but only at mass marches and they were discouraging for turnout-this stuff is a breath of fresh air and a morale builder for the Battle of New York.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
31 Jul 2004
Here's how the cops are planning to respond to decentralized actions in NYC on April 29th

Called 'critical response surges' the NYPD is currently practicing rapid deployment measures to cope with the prospect of hundreds of affinity groups converging on Central Park or spreading out through the rest of Manhattan to protest the RNC. Read on.

80 Sirens Wailing, but Do Not Panic: This Is Only a Drill
- Michael Wilson, NYT
July 29

Since its debut about a month ago, it has quickly become one of New York City's hottest acts for those lucky enough to catch a free, unannounced performance. Call it "The Police Drive Fast! And Park!"

It goes something like this: On a typical block in, say, Midtown Manhattan, as many as 80 police cars quickly stream in out of nowhere, in neat rows, their lights and sirens going. The drills seem to take place on blocks with restricted parking, and each car executes a fast back-in parking job against the curb.

Sometimes, depending on the block, they park perpendicular to the curb; sometimes at a slant. The officers - scores of them - get out of the cars. They do not rush into a building. They do not draw their guns. They pretty much just stand around for half an hour or so. Then, officers pile back into their cars and, again in formation, the cars pull away from the curb and drive off.

The drills, held almost daily and coming just weeks before the Republican National Convention, are alternately impressive, alarming and even amusing, but within the Police Department, they are deadly serious - so serious that Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly refused to divulge details.

"It's part of a counterterrorism overlay that is tweaked from time to time, based on conditions and intelligence," said a police spokesman, Paul J. Browne. Suffice it to say that police vehicles are practicing moving quickly through the city en masse.

It is unclear whether the drills are part of the department's much-publicized counterterrorism operations, including Hercules, Samson and Atlas.

Yesterday's drill began at 10:30 a.m. along two blocks of Central Park South that are usually the turf of horse-drawn carriages and the uniformed doormen of the Plaza Hotel. Suddenly, a flying column of squad cars quickly filled the entire north curb, their trunks facing Central Park. It clearly rattled some pedestrians. "What is going on here?" Atle Holm, an avionics engineer visiting from Norway, asked no one in particular. "I would like to know."

Wouldn't we all, Mr. Holm. Wouldn't we all.

The strange, oddly balletic exercises in motion and stillness have their own sort-of-cool name: critical response surges. Mr. Browne would not say how many vehicles participated in a surge, or how often ("frequently," he said), or whether the surges were in preparation for the Republican National Convention ("not exclusively") or if they would continue after it was over ("they may").

"I'm being purposely circumspect," Mr. Browne said. He allowed that different locations call for different kinds of surges, and that sometimes there are surges within surges, when a small group of cars within the larger group splits off.

Moving several dozen cars from one place to another quickly in Manhattan takes work. "It's the fifth or sixth time they've done it," said Ryan Rzepecki, 25, a carriage driver, referring to the activity on Central Park South yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, there was a drill on the Upper East Side outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On Monday, police cars mysteriously appeared outside several news organizations, including the New York Times building.

Outside Central Park yesterday, there were almost as many theories as parked police cars.

"We thought it was dignitaries being transported in and out," said Georgia Staab, visiting from Santa Barbara, Calif.

"I thought maybe some Democrats got lost," said her companion, Chip Oxton.

A woman hurried past officers from the heavily armed Emergency Service Unit, talking into her cellphone: "I don't know. They have machine guns "

Indeed, what must a surge look like to a tourist? Do the police turn out like this for every little thing? Is there really any place safer than New York? Roger and Ann Wright, visiting the city for the first time with their children, asked one of the officers what was happening.

"He said they all gather at one point and then swarm an area," Mrs. Wright said the officer told her. "See if there's any terrorist activity going on."

Ralf Borchardt, a tourist from Germany, puffed a cigarette while his 6-year-old son, Garth, stared at an officer's automatic rifle. "He just wanted to know how far they can shoot," Mr. Borchardt said. "They said 300 yards, maybe 600. That's quite a lot."

In typical fashion, New Yorkers were less impressed. Several marched quickly by, seemingly oblivious to the surge. A 16-year-old from White Plains, Omega Spikes, studied the precinct numbers on the cars. "They're from the 20th Precinct to the 76th," he said conspiratorially. (Actually, a full-sized surge can have cars from all 76 precincts.)

His girlfriend, Daniqua Gallier, 17, said she had the creeps. "I felt weird, like something was really going wrong. Like there were terrorists around," she said.

Mark Luehrs, 50, a sanitation worker, went right on sweeping the streets around the surge. "You know," he said, "if you're going to have a drill, you better have it on clean streets, right?"

At the edge of the park, Mohammed A. Hossain, a food vendor, sold pretzels and hot dogs from his cart, with no idea what was going on. "I ask one time," Mr. Hossain recalled. "He say, 'I don't know.' Policeman!" Mr. Hossain offered his impression of a surge with hand motions. "Just moving - 'This way! This way!' "

The surge was not good for the sightseeing bus tours that leave from Central Park South, but Juan Caceres, who passes out fliers and sells tickets, did not seem to mind, sitting back to watch his fifth or sixth surge. The first one, he remembered, lasted 90 minutes.

"They're getting a little faster," he said.
How to respond to the NYPD's preps.
31 Jul 2004
It would be useful if there were decentralized actions outside of Manhatten as well. It might be useful for some decentralized actions to consist of spoofed actions that suddenly disappear and reappear such that as soon as the cops arrive, the action is at some other location.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
31 Jul 2004
Perhaps this is not the appropriate forum for this isuue but since this finely written piece address's the sucess of de-cent action perhaps some person could address the issue surrounding the issue of race. I ask someone to address this because while people have aired concerns with me I was not innvolved in any of the DNC organizing. I know that this is a problem not just with DNC organizing but with most "progressive" or "radical" organizing. Are groups talking about how they may be marginalizing people? Are organizers aware of this or was my ear the only one to hear these things (not just this week but in general)?
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
02 Aug 2004
So far we only seem to have text - and a few scattered photos. A good collection of photos of the decentralised resistance would be more likely to encourage locals and globals to believe the claims that these decentralised actions really hppened and to be inspired to continue spreading the meme.
Re: Boston Incubates Decentralized Resistance
02 Aug 2004
..."seed the concept of their own replication"? yeah, right - the stilted jargon is as confused and irrelevant to the lives of ordinary Americans as the puny and aimless protests that were as much below the public's "radar screen" (vintage journalese cliche) as they were that of the media. Nice try but this is doubly, a rhetorical and praxis self-delusion. Protests are ineffectual w/out focus and coherance, neither of which were in nearly as much evidence during DNC - or on this website - as they need to be.
Decentralized Resistance in Southie or Charlestown
15 Aug 2004
I would have loved to have seen the results of decentralized resistance in Southie or Charlestown. That would have truly been putting your money where your mouth is.
03 Jun 2006
Very cool design! Useful information. Go on!