This is a bit of a ramble, I am attempting to tie together a few loose ends from the past. I was trying to discover if I remembered a group called Red Thumb in San Francisco and Minneapolis, but all I could come up with on the internet was Tribal Thumb, close enough, they were radical, probably Marxist and seemingly into the Armed Struggle sort of mentality that spin offs from the Weathermen branch of SDS were into. I was simply seeking to job my memory, as I was not in either town before 1980 and the events being described were for me at the time part of the recent radical history of the places I had moved to, San Francisco in early spring 1980 and Minneapolis mid summer 1981. Prior to that I had lived in Boulder, CO from 1975 until I left in the fall of 1979 for a stint with the Yippies in NYC and then on to San Francisco where I was promoting the Rock Against Racism organization that I had become part of in Boulder in winter of 1978-1979.
I had been involved with the coop movement in Boulder, working briefly at the Boulder Food COOP, living at the Ontological Society communal farm in Lafayette, CO where we grew organic vegies, raised turkeys and goats and had a collective landscaping business. I had friends doing Solar energy projects, and was involved in creating the incipient punk rock scene with my radio show on KGNU the local community radio station, putting on shows at the Free School and Tulagis on the Hill and generally involved with the local artsy radical community. But Boulder was not a heavy political town, by the mid to late seventies, the Marxists were mostly on campus and we, anarchists were mostly in town. The community was more New Age than anything with most of the more political types moving on after the Boulder Mall was instigated in the late seventies making radical alternatives in town to hard to maintain in the face of the real estate increases. We did have one left liberal book store, Left Hand Books, a project of NAM that I was able to stock an anarchist shelf for, but the radical institutions like the Carnival Cafe and the STP family had pretty been run out of town by the end of the seventies. Carnival Cafe was paved over as a parking lot in 1977. In 1971 Deputy Dawg, one of the STP family of street freaks was shot and killed execution style by the Marshall of Nederland, CO, a favorite hang out of the STPers. I knew one of them, I can’t remember his name, the guy worked as a dishwasher at the Carnival and I had a crush on his girlfriend, she was a cancer, that’s all I remember, he wore a black leather biker outfit that reeked in true STP style. Supposedly they originally came from New York where they were a younger offshoot of the Motherfuckers anarchist collective.
Minneapolis COOP Wars. Were a series of takeovers of local coops by members of the Marxist CO (Coop Organization) who wanted to push a harder political line in the coops and take them over forcibly from the more hippie oriented community. This was in 1975-1976, the effort failed and the community became more suspicious of the radical left, although my experience of Minneapolis was that I was in COOP heaven, with more Coops than anything in Colorado and more organized than in San Francisco at the time. I worked at the All COOP Assembly newspaper as their guinea pig advertising sales manager. It was a disaster, flaky new age promoters would advertise and then not want to pay. I got out of that and got a radio show at the new community station KFAI, where I played African and Caribbean discs that I found in a West Indian market. Little did I realize that the missionary colleges in town were full of Africans craving their music. I was swamped with requests and soon found myself searching the country for music for them. There was one label in Brooklyn, where I could order records from. As far as I know I was the first DJ outside of Brooklyn playing modern Afro-pop on the radio.
In the Bay area there was a COOP movement that was basically radical leftist in nature, partly an outgrowth of the Diggers scene in San Francisco an anarchist group that worked on the premise of word of mouth contact and ripping off the system to feed the growing numbers of hippies in the Panhandle near Haight Asbury in 1966-1967. Rainbow Grocery, the Peoples Warehouse and a group of affiliated coops sprang up in the seventies with groups like Tribal Thumb being some of the more hard core radicals affiliated with the Symbionese Liberation Army.
This is a statement published by the Tribal Thumb at the time of the Patty Hearst Trial reprinted in a blog by Paul Krassner that I have reproduced below.
“It has become known to the Tribal Thumb orbit that the CIA, FBI and CCS [Criminal Conspiracy Section] have made undercurrent moves to establish a basis for the total eradication of the Tribal Thumb Community . . [They] are involved in working overtime to unravel the mystery of Popeye Jackson’s execution in an effort to plant Tribal Thumb in a web of conspiracy in that execution . . .
The FBI’s heavy involvement in the case of Popeye’s death largely is due to the death of Sally Voye, who in actuality was moonlighting (outside her employment as a teacher) as a narcotics agent for police forces. Moreover, she was Popeye’s control agent. Popeye was an informer on the movement.
Several days ago, Patty Hearst was slipped out of her jail cell by the FBI and Mr. Randolph Hearst and taken to a nearby jail to identify a man being held there (we’re withholding his name for now) who was allegedly closely associated with Tribal Thumb, to make an identification of this man’s alleged trafficking of large quantities of arms to Tribal Thumb and the Symbionese Liberation Army. The result is that Miss Hearst pointed the comrade out as the trafficker of such weapons . . .
Donald DeFreeze escaped from the California prison system with help from the FBI and California prison officials. His mission was to establish an armed revolutionary organization, controlled by the FBI, specifically to either make contact with or undermine the surfacing and development of the August Seventh Guerrilla Movement.
We make note of the fact that the first communique issued by the SLA under the leadership of Donald DeFreeze was in part a duplicate of a communique issued by the ASGM. Further examination of those communiques establishes that the ASGM had surfaced and was in the process of developing some kind of operational format, when the SLA hastily moved, hard pressed for something spectacular to cut off this thrust by the ASGM. The result was the incorrect and unfounded death of (school superintendent) Marcus Foster.
It is evident that the FBI through its sources of information knew of the underground existence of the ASGM and that the movement was obviously making plans to become public knowledge via armed actions against the imperialist state. Having had their attempts to infiltrate agents into the ASGM’s mainstream frustrated, they sought the diverse method of establishing an organization they could control. So they made three approaches: Donald DeFreeze, who was in contact with Nancy Ling Perry, who worked at Rudy’s Fruit Stand, from whom Patty Hearst often bought bagels and fruit juice.
DeFreeze was let loose and given a safe plan to surface as an armed guerrilla unit. That plan was to kidnap Patty Hearst–strategized by the FBI, Randolph Hearst, Patty Hearst and Nancy Ling Perry. The format of that plan of kidnapping Patty Hearst was extracted from a book, published by a publishing company named Nova owned by the Hearst Corporation, entitled Vanished [Tribal Thumb may have meant Black Abductor, by Harrison James, pseudonym for James Rusk, Jr., published by Regency Press, not affiliated with Hearst].”
Ultimately the scene in the Bay Area became so polarized that there was a shoot out and killing of the founder of the Tribal Thumb.
“Shoot Out at the People’s Warehouse
The People’s Food System was not just a network of food stores. Its members saw it as an organization dedicated to radical social change, mostly agreeing on the importance of democratic procedure in running a collective organization. The People’s Food System also attracted people who were interested in using the System for their own ends. One such group was Tribal Thumb, a small collective of people who were connected to an eatery called Wellsprings Reunion, located in the South of Market area. The leader of the group, Earl Satcher, was a saxophone-playing ex-convict whom many people saw as the “cult” leader of the Wellsprings group. Tribal Thumb and a few allies in Veritable Vegetables were accused of intimidating members and trying to take over the People’s Food System. The dispute escalated into threats of violence and led to several secretly held meetings of the People’s Food System to discuss what actions should be taken. An emergency meeting was held on April 26, 1977 at the People’s Warehouse space. Called to discuss the expulsion of members deemed disruptive to the organization, the meeting degenerated into a hostile confrontation between opposing sides. Tribal Thumb members and their allies, (including two Dobermans), were in the parking lot, reportedly intimidating and threatening Food System representatives against voting for the expulsion of disruptive members. During the break, gunfire broke out in the parking lot, leaving ex-San Quentin 6 member Willie Tate critically wounded. Tribal Thumb leader Earl Satcher was shot dead. Although the shock of the gunfight soon wore off, the Food System began to succumb to larger changes.”
My own thoughts as I read through some of the literature collected in the Yippie house at Number Nine Bleecher Street in New York and at the Bound Together Book collective on Hayes Street in San Francisco I was impressed by the connection between the Anarchist Black Dragon Collective in Walla Walla State Prison in Washington State, and the Tribal Thumb and the CO group in Minneapolis. I did not know these people personally but I understood that in the very recent past, as I read in 1979-1980, that there had been a strong armed struggle group affiliated with the food coops in the west. Boulder seems to have been an island of hippie peace when I was there in the mid seventies, as the STPers mostly had been dispersed by then having moved to New Mexico and Texas by that time.
I was trying to figure out for myself if I wanted to move in the direction of armed struggle or stick to the cultural revolution line that I had found with the Rock Against Racism organization and the Yippies in New York. Previously in 1969 as a high schooler I had become part of the Anti-war movement hooked up with a local leftist group in Connecticut call AIM, American Independent Movement. They published an underground paper called “View From the Bottom” in New Haven. I called myself a Maoist at the time, but really I was a stoner who distributed Black Panther papers and our own High School underground “Glass Onion.” I sold pot, hash and acid for a little cash and was constantly harassed by the local cops who had impeccably bad timing in searching me, every time they did I was not holding. It was my usual modus operandi in high school to have my stash in my pockets as I hitched from one small Connecticut town to another.
This is one of the few references on the internet to my group the Mindless Thugs, in the summer of 1980 we were very active in San Francisco. Looks like we inspired Apio of Venomous Butterfly Publications, also known as Wolfi and other AKA’s in ways that I had never thought. We had a nice breakfast in Los Feliz one day and talked about our youths in religion, me in a Gnostic spiritual commune and he in a Baptist seminary.
“I originally made a version of this flyer (with different pictures) in 1981, the year after the so-called “mindless thugs” summer in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. That summer (1980) anonymous anarchists attacked the buildings of gentrifying businesses moving into the area. The local newspapers referred to the vandals as “mindless thugs” despite very clear statements of the reasons. Increasing police harassment in the area, not just of anarchists, but of the homeless, of non-assimilating, poor and working class queers and radical faeries and so on led to increasing tensions in the area that occasionally broke out into small riots. The Haight-Ashbury Merchants Association began to call for a truce, having the audacity to suggest that anarchists and others harrassed by pigs should “invite a cop to dinner”. This was my response and one of the very first flyers I ever made.”
This is one of the few places on line where I can find anything specific about AIM. We did support work for the Panthers when they were on trial in New Haven as well as for local labor and the anti war movement.
“Abramovitz moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where she became active in an existing organization and went on co-found other organizations. She became active in the American Independent Movement, an organization who summarizes their goal, “The American Independent Movement (AIM) has been working since 1966 to get people together against the rich, powerful few who run New Haven and the whole country”. She’d also go on, while in New Haven, to co-found with other women, New Haven Women’s Liberation, an organization that allowed her to focus on welfare rights, organize anti-war rallies in Washington, D.C., and the unionization of Yale University clerical workers.”
Some sites on line with Rock Against Racism info. There were lots of groups, initially started in England, there were local versions across the USA. I was involved with the group in San Francisco, New York and Boulder. Interestingly the Detroit people came to San Francisco in the spring of 1980 and tried to take over the local group from Mary Malice and her friends, it didn’t work. Just like the Max’s Kansas City crew around Trowser Press who tried to turn it into a commercial enterprise in New York didn’t succeed thanks to yours truly and the New York Yippies.