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3 Ways Movements Spread Nonviolent Civil Disobedience

6:26 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

More: Kit’s social media & blogging slideshow.

Civil Disobedience Misconceptions

We have entered an age of protest. Social media tools allow new ways to mobilize activists into public and private spaces and also provide new avenues for amplifying their actions. The Internet, when used properly, can drive activists to an action — or a worldwide coalition of actions — and then make sure thousands more people see and hear about them afterwards. Using simple tools like hashtags, we can monitor the response to actions in real time in a way never possible before.

A large street march with an Idle No More banner

An #IdleNoMore street march in Victoria, British Columbia. Successful movements use modern social media tools while empowering everyday people to take the streets.

Social media buzz during and immediately after a direct action is an interesting measure of its success. Actions which capture the imagination of their viewers, or which take place in very visible ways can quickly multiply beyond their numbers. Less than a dozen people took part in planning and executing Austin’s Free Santa chalk action, but perfect timing and smart use of social media drew international attention.

Of course, the critics will flood onto social media too. In some ways, they are also a measure of success — a tiny action with little impact is unlikely to attract trolls. The more of your opponents (and their sock puppets) who respond, the more you are getting noticed. Successful movements also find themselves under fire from mainstream media propaganda, like the NYPD and New York Post after recent arrests unrelated to Occupy Wall St. Unfortunately, this propaganda quickly becomes accepted truth — I’d wager that more people can repeat police & media-spun myths about widespread public defecation and destruction at Occupy camps than can speak to the movement’s actual demands, however clearly members have articulated them.

When I glanced at the #IdleNoMore hashtag recently, I was disheartened to see someone suggesting that the movement should cease civil disobedience and instead organize around cleaning up trash on the roadways and beaches of Canada and the United States. Obviously, some statements like this come from a position of racism (or at least privilege) — there’s a long tradition of telling the oppressed to just settle down rather than engage in troublesome free speech. Even taken charitably, such statements are ridiculous — the Adopt-A-Highway campaign is hardly a hotbed of revolutionary change.

Yet some of these statements come from genuine ignorance about the effectiveness of direct action as part of a movement. The same mainstream media that happily spreads anti-activist propaganda is loathe to share stories of the effectiveness of mass movements; when they do show up at a protest they are notorious for highlighting the “weirdest” looking, least articulate protester they can find in their sound bytes. Before last year’s #NoNATO protests, police deliberately kindled fear of widespread disruption among the city’s people and business owners. Chicago peace activist Sue Basko told me that because she was a public organizer of the protests with her name on march permits, she fielded many calls and emails complaining about public transportation delays and disruption, even though most or all of this disruption was caused by the NATO conference and its security apparatus.

Some people will always be “inconvenienced” by civil disobedience, mass protest, and other forms of nonviolent direct action. It’s the job of the activist to educate the public about the necessity of free speech in all its forms, even when it makes some people late for work. What follows should not be taken as another white guy telling Idle No More or other new activist movements what to do, but rather highlighting some of what I think they are doing right.

Create Your Own Conversation

It is important to court the mainstream media and major alternatives by sending out press releases and cultivating relationships with sympathetic journalists. Yet even the most understanding of reporters can’t tell your story as well as you can tell it yourself. Make smart, consistent use of whatever tools you have available to start your own conversation. The true effectiveness of street movements is how they break through the mass media’s messages and make real people have real conversations. Don’t waste your time fighting with trolls, but instead look for opportunities to cultivate dialogue.

In my opinion, it’s better to master a few social networks rather than to push to be on them all. Idle No More has spread effectively onto Facebook, Twitter and beyond by playing to the strengths of each site. Pinterest may be the hottest new thing, but if all you’re going to do is cross-post links to your Facebook page then you might want to wait. Don’t overlook old fashioned methods like flyering or street art. Devote your resources to the areas where you can focus and then see if you can build coalitions with existing activist networks elsewhere that can spread your message along with their own.

Teach People To Take The Streets

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#PeacefulStreets Project: More Unconstitutional Copwatching Arrests in Austin

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

More on the Peaceful Streets Project: Antonio Buehler and Peaceful Streets, Police Accountability Summit, and The Buehler Bubble

Under your department’s rules officers are free to create a chilling effect upon far more speech (photography/recording is deemed a form of speech for First Amendment protections) than is necessary to achieve a substantial government interest … We believe that if challenged, such a directive would be deemed to be unconstitutional. -National Press Photographers Association General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher in a letter to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo

Police accountability activist Antonio Buehler arrested a third time for filming police; Occupy Austin’s Sarah Dickerson arrested also

Antonio and Sarah embrace as others look on.

Antonio Buehler and Sarah Dickerson embrace outside the Travis County Jail after their copwatch arrest (Photo: Kit O'Connell).

September 20 marked another Peaceful Streets Project copwatch. Though these happen often, this copwatch had a heightened tension due to a recent court decision in the trial of long time copwatcher John Bush. Bush was arrested for filming the police in mid-December of 2011, before Antonio’s New Years Eve arrest which inspired the Peaceful Streets. Despite video evidence showing a lack of interference with police duties, John Bush was convicted for refusing orders that would have put a traffic sign between their cameras and notorious Austin Police Department Officer Jason Mistric. Mistric is known for harassing cyclists and for threatening Occupy Austin members, including myself, with pepper spray in February.

Pixiq has the lurid tale, from Mistric’s Facebook stalking of Bush and his wife (using the porntastic nom de plume Max Rock) through to last week’s conviction for “interfering with public duties:”

A Texas cop watcher was found guilty Wednesday for not moving away while he was video recording a cop on a public street last winter. John Bush was charged with failure to comply with a lawful order when a cop ordered him to stand behind a street sign to continue recording. Austin police officer Jason Mistric claimed he was ‘interfering,’ even though the video shows he was merely standing on a sidewalk, several feet from where officers were making an arrest.

Further complicating matters was the recent Austin Police Department flip-flop on filming distance. As previously reported on Firedoglake, Austin Police Department threatened to require a 50′ to 60′ filming distance from any police situation; this threat was issued after Buehler’s second arrest during a 6th Street copwatch in late August. Last week, APD seemed to back down. KVUE reported, “No restrictions on distance public can stand, film officers:”

Austin police say there are no rules for where you can stand and record what they do. At a news conference in August, they said they’d like anyone filming to stay 50 to 60 feet away, but now there are no restrictions. Of course, it was the Aug. 26 arrest of Antonio Buehler that put this issue in the spotlight. … Police now say it’s up to the officers to decide a safe distance.

To this journalist, this announcement seemed like a victory for first amendment rights. Unfortunately, rather than a message of respect toward our right to film public servents, this was instead a notice to activists — we can arrest you at any time. Early Thursday evening, Twitter’s @chapeaudefee reported that Peaceful Streets’ Joshua “Comrade” Pineda had encountered a tense situation where while copwatching he was threatened to back up or face arrest:

.@Pisce_Incarnate [Comrade] was just harassed by about three officers and DUI officer w/expensive camera. [Police] locked down the sidewalk so Peaceful Streets members could not approach. No reason given why. Told them arbitrary distance to step back. Our teams are debriefing about the situation.

@chapeaudefee is Sarah Dickerson, a member of Occupy Austin who livetweeted during Occupy Boston’s eviction and other events. As a member of OATX Team Chupacabra, she contributed alongside this journalist to Firedoglake’s live coverage of September 17, 2012. Though she’d escaped arrest during tense situations with both Boston and New York police, before the night was out the Austin Police Department arrested her for filming the arrest of Antonio Buehler.

Peaceful Streets Project members use the Lonestar Liberty Bell alert network to communicate by phone. At 1:08am Antonio phoned in an alert — he and his copwatch team were filming a Driving Under the Influence police stop west of the club district; Oborski, the same officer who arrested him for falsified assault charges last New Years’ Eve was running the stop. Five minutes later, another alert came in: Read the rest of this entry →

Pussy Riots Everywhere (#PussyRiot Update)

10:20 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Putin with a gun juxtaposed in front of activists in colorful balaclavas.

Image: Putin Meets Pussy Riot by Punk Toad / Flickr

The love affair with Pussy Riot shows no sign of slowing down since the trio of punk women were sentenced to 2 years in prison. Neither has the legal system’s attack on their actions, with Russia Today reporting two more members of the group now under fire:

A new criminal case was launched into two Pussy Riot members who escaped police after participating in an infamous ‘punk prayer’ in Moscow’s main cathedral. The announcement comes days after their co-participants were sentenced to two years in jail. “We have launched a separate criminal case against the unknown members of the ‘Pussy Riot’ band, and are seeking to establish their identities,” a police spokesperson told the Interfax news agency.

As an aside, what does it say about the American mainstream media that a Russian news agency sometimes accused of pro-Putin bias has become a major source of news for myself and many others I know?

Getting back to the Pussy Riot, the sentence was met with worldwide protests that featured rallies in many countries and several United States cities. Six were arrested in NYC for obstructing a sidewalk during a Pussy Riot solidarity march. Four Germans protested inside Cologne Cathedral in support of the group and may themselves face up to 3 years in prison. Most flamboyantly, a member of Ukrainian women’s movement Femen protested Pussy Riot’s sentences by taking a chainsaw to a cross while topless.

The fate of these women has struck a chord, but why? Writing in The Atlantic, Joshua Foust compares the outcry to Kony 2012 while a fellow Atlantic scribe, anthropologist Sarah Kendzior, questions how gender affects the media presentation and popular response to Pussy Riot:

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Watercooler: Police

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Police abuse of power may have existed for as long as there have been police, but the topic has received renewed attention thanks in large part to the brutal crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement and other activist groups in the United States in the last year.

The topic is an inevitably controversial one; there’s little that can divide activist groups quicker than a discussion of police-interaction tactics. For every occupier chanting “shame!” during arrests there’s another trying to reach out to the officer’s humanity. I’ve heard about villages in other countries with tiny police forces that the people personally control, and I’ve experienced temporary communities where the people mediate rather than police. I have friends who want everything from reform to total abolition of the police system. When I reported as a citizen journalist from February’s ‘Fuck the Police’ march in Austin, a friend of mine unfollowed me on Twitter; I couldn’t blame her because she’s an EMT and she sees police trying to save lives on a daily basis.

I don’t know what the answers are, I just know that what we have now seems broken. What does policing or personal safety look like in an ideal world? Feel free to share your ideas, but please keep it civil. I’ll check in with this conversation a few times tonight.

This is tonight’s MyFDL open thread. What’s on your mind?

Watercooler: Occupy Music

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Music can unite us, but also divide us. I don’t always enjoy the music at Occupy; I’d sometimes rather listen to Drastik IV, whose video here uses footage from Occupy Austin, than most of the twangy folksinger types — an attitude that might not be popular here on MyFDL. For every person who loves a dubstep-fueled street party, there’s another occupier who’d rather we had a drum circle or a sing-along.

When Tom Morello called for his original May Day Guitarmy march, he invited everyone, regardless of talent or whether they were using a handmade acoustic guitar or a plastic Walmart toy.

I watched as the 99 Mile March of the Guitarmy arrived in Liberty Square and celebrated with song, dance and music. While the voices were sometimes out of key, what mattered was the people are singing together — the real unifying effect of music. Police crack down on drumming (as seen in 2 of today’s arrests) not, in my opinion, because of the noise it makes but because of the way that sound and rhythm can empower the people and lead them to greater acts of civil disobedience. Music inspires.

Real music made by people, for people, rather than a recording company, is a powerful tool of the 99%.

That’s what’s on my mind tonight. How about you?

This is the latest MyFDL open thread.

Watercooler: Guthrie’s March

7:13 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Been a rainy day, some stong lightning here so I shut off my laptop for a little while and watched it. It is nice to see Texas finally get the water it needs. Though this summer has been hot, it’s been a contrast to last summer’s desperate dryness. Our grass has mostly stayed green although some of my garden has had trouble keeping up with the heat!

Today the Occupy Guitarmy’s 99 Mile March reached New York. If you haven’t heard, Tom Morello’s Guitarmy, now a regular part of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, have been marching from Philadelphia, site of the Occupy National Gathering, back to the home of the Occupy movement itself. The march is in honor of Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday, as many see him to be a musical forefather of today’s people’s rebellions. According to Twitter, about 50 people made the march. They stopped in Staten Island today, after some obligatory harassment by NYPD, and plan to complete the journey tomorrow.

This is tonight’s MyFDL open thread. What’s on your mind?

Watercooler: Mud

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

I had a lovely weekend camping at a small camp-out in the Texas hill country, a small followup (or ‘decompression‘) for the bigger festival I attended last month. I had a great time dancing in the rain, but now all that’s left is the mud on my dancing boots. It’ll soon wash away — except today it’s raining in Austin, so now it’s not the time for drying my things.

A DJ turned the Ben Harper song to the right into a foot-stompingly good mix late Saturday night, but I found a live track for you in all its unaltered glory. And speaking of dancing, how about this story of dancing in New York from the Daily Mail (admittedly, not the world’s most reliable paper)?

Caroline Stern, a dentist, and George Hess, a movie prop master, were waiting for a train at the Columbus Circle station after a late evening at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night’s Swing last year when they began dancing the Charleston to a musician playing the steel drums. … That’s when police came in and spoiled the fun, they told the New York Post.

The officers demanded their ID. When Ms Stern only had a credit car, the police ordered the couple to go with them.

When Mr Hess pulled out a camera to start recording the incident, the officers called for backup and the situation turned nasty, the couple says.

After being wrestled to the ground, they spent 23 hours in jail. Though the incident occurred last summer, it’s receiving renewed attention because of a lawsuit the couple brought against the city. Besides, if Occupy Wall Street has taught us anything, it’s that the NYPD hasn’t gotten any less repressive of free expression in the last year.

That’s what’s on my mind tonight. This is tonight’s open thread. Come chat with MyFDL.

Mark Adams’ Hunger Strike (Occupy’s Political Prisoners Update)

6:00 am in Uncategorized by Kit OConnell

Earlier this week I wrote about Occupy’s Political Prisoners, specifically Mark Adams (shown in the video to the right) and the NATO 5. There have been new developments in both cases.

Hunger Strike

Mark Adams, sentenced to 45 days (of which he is expected to serve 28 at Rikers Island) for his involvement in the December 17 reoccupation attempt, has reportedly begun a hunger strike.

Support Mark Adams quotes a statement by Adams:

Yesterday, Trinity Wall Street “Church,” the NYPD and the State of New York sentenced me to forty five days in jail for my political beliefs and actions. … On [December 17], my intention was to facilitate the on-going efforts to convince Trinity Church that our use of the space was consistent with their principles and mission. I wanted the unused and deserted lot to the community within Occupy Wall Street and beyond, so that through collective grassroots effort we would build an alternative society built on mutual aid, solidarity and anti-oppression.

For those intentions, I am now serving a forty-five day sentence on Riker’s Island. In response I have taken my protest out of the streets and into the jails. As of 2pm June 18, 2012 … I have been on a hunger strike. I will continue the hunger strike until I am released, to draw attention to the political nature of my arrest, sentencing and the greater themes and goals of the occupy wall street movement. This punishment has further strengthened my resolve to build a society, alongside my comrades, that does not further the corporate agenda of the prison industrial complex, compassion for all, community, solidarity, and mutual aid for all. Everything for everybody.

11 Indictments for the NATO 3

Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly, the three activists charged with terrorism (and arrested with FDL’s TarheelDem in the same terrifying raid) were indicted by a grand jury on July 12, but the defense was not allowed to know their charges! The National Lawyers Guild finally obtained this information June 20.

From an NLG note on the Occupy Chicago Press Relations Facebook page:

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