Last night, Wednesday August 27, I was at the Nader event. Ralph spoke, as did Cynthia McKinney Green Party Presidential candidate who gave a speech that was pre-recorded and displayed on screens. The Green Party vice presidential candidate, Rosa Clemente, was also allowed to speak live, along with an activist from Utah; a couple of folk songsters and Jello Biafra hobbled up with a cane and spoke about the need to participate in the process. There was even a movie star, or perhaps two there.
Shawn Penn was mobbed by photographers while he read from a speech he or someone he likes wrote for him. He said some weird things equating animal rights activists with Moslem terrorists and the actions of the US Military. He seemed to be implying that the actions of the US government were providing the role model for such diverse parties as the animal rights activists who allegedly attacked research scientists in Santa Cruz and the Moslems who use themselves as human bombs. He had an attentive audience, but it seemed to this attendee that his speech was meant for his fellow wealthy liberals concerned about violence that seems to be breaking out all around them. There would be some alienated animal rights activists in the audience, but then how many of them were going to vote for Nader?
Jello seemed to recovering from whatever caused him to be walking with a cane and his rhetoric seemed to be geared for the liberal crowd. He did mention the march that afternoon but not the seemingly invisible protests at which something like 100 persons were arrested. Approximately half of them were still being detained as of Wednesday night.
When Tom Morello came on with his IWW hat on and looking like a version of Woody Guthrie as played by David Carradine in that 70’s movie about Guthrie, Bound For Glory, I figured this would be my chance to get an announcement made about the demonstrators who had been busted Monday night. I was standing just in front of him. I had managed to get up there with my Indy Media press pass. Morello refused to make an announcement about the prisoners. He said it was his show…I could not understand what he meant by that. I was not trying to hog his show, this was legitimate information about real political activists who had become the victims of the police state that he ostensibly was opposed to also even if he called himself an unaffiliated socialist now. What would have been so hard to break into the raps he gave between songs to tell the audience that persons were detained because they could not make bail? Thousands of dollars were raised for the Nader presidential campaign but none was available for the protesters who risked their necks in the street. It seemed strange to me. This was something that would have been announced automatically at an anti-war rally. Was he an anarchist or simply a poser who happened to like dressing like an Anarcho-syndicalist?
It has been my experience that when demonstrators who held the same political beliefs as you were arrested in the attempt to express those beliefs, that the artists and other persons who felt solidarity with those who were arrested, would come to their aid, writing letters to the local paper, raising money for bail, providing legal aid etc. It is not something to be expected when you are told to go away like a little kid causing a nuisance. It made me wonder about this disconnect between the activists in the streets and these comfortable liberals watching Nader. However, some of them had been in the streets with me, some had been sprayed with pepper spray; others had just been released from jail only hours ago. Why was I the only one saying anything? Why were people with Rage Against the Machine tee shirts shushing me? In addition, why were people treating these speakers and singers like gods? Were we not the people that they were here to support and motivate to further efforts? I began to suspect that this was not the case.
I was so pissed off that I left the show when I got a call from a comrade, the Pieman, who was stranded at Civic Center Park and needed a ride. I told the Nader fans who had ridden to the event with me at Denver University that I was leaving, they wanted to stay. These were people who had just been in jail and they were totally immersed in the cult of personality around Nader. It was ok; I needed to get away from there before I did something to upset people.
I drove to the Civic Center, and there met my anarchist friends from LA who had driven up with me to Denver. I told them about how Morello, this so-called ‘Night Watchman’, had rejected any attempt to interject some real life anarchist activism into his preprogrammed entertainment.
Aaron, the Pieman, did not need a ride. I was even more pissed. I had wanted to listen to Nader, but my bozo Yippie comrade had taken me away from the event. Just like the night before another Yippie, Dean had asked me to help him when I had wanted to talk to Mark Rudd who was speaking at the City of Cuernavaca Park. It was like the Yippies to insist on their agendas, and as both Dean and the Pieman had disabilities, I felt duty bound not to refuse them.
This is an important point, when you are part of a group, in this case the anti-war, anti-capitalist movement for freedom and the liberation of the peoples of the world from ignorance and oppression, you are loyal to your comrades. Just like in any army, if one falls, or calls for you, you come. We had been on the lines together, fighting Nazi’s, the Klan, the police, whatever agents of repression we had to confront, we confronted them, and we still do as best we can. Someone may be a bozo, but he is a comrade and I will be there for him or her, just as I would expect him or her to be there for me, no matter how many years it has been. Someone like Nader may be a god to some, but he is just a politician to me, and my comrades come first. Always. Any young activist has to learn that, it should be instinctive. When we are tight and love one another like brothers, like family, then the man cannot destroy us. He can infiltrate and try to mess us up, but if we stay true to our vision of human liberty and justice, then we cannot be defeated, not unless we give up ourselves. That is why when a phony comes along wearing the same hat as me, a union cap that says on the back Solidarity, it burns me up when that so called brother looks at me like I don’t understand, its show business, well buddy fuck show business, we are here to change the world not entertain some rich liberals.
My anarchist comrades and I were concerned about the attempted raid on the Convergence center earlier in the day and I had heard that the Long Haul in Berkeley had been raided. Apparently, an animal rights activist had sent emails from their computers. We went to the convergence center and on the way up; they told me how they were not having luck getting rides to Minnesota. I was so upset, and wired, I decided on the spot to go myself. When we got to the center, I announced that I was fed up with the bullshit in Denver and was leaving ASAP. I got two more riders and the five of us left that evening. It took about 15 hours and my riders and I were there after a night of Midwestern corn.
The convergence center in St Paul was a very different trip. The computers had internet access, unlike the ones in Denver where I had to beg Indy Media to let me use theirs. It was a big space, with a second floor movie theater. It had a large kitchen, a medical room and space where several meetings could happen at the same time. In wealthy Denver, only a tiny space in an industrial neighborhood could be afforded. Here in St. Paul we were in a residential neighborhood, it had a nice park only two blocks away and we had places to sleep in friendly liberal’s homes within hours of arriving. Denver was a constant hassle to find housing and I had to pay for a crappy motel a couple of nights.
Over all we could see that the activists in Minnesota had their acts together. I only wished I could stay. It was like a radical heaven after the Denver Police State hell where over 52 agencies had been involved in policing the protests, the city spent $50 million dollars on security, and the only legitimate threat came from Aryan Nation speed freaks out to kill Obama. They were accidentally busted. We, the peaceful protestors of American policy were treated like enemies of the state. We felt we were, but in reality, we were only unarmed peaceful protestors, with conviction and righteous anger as our only weapons. They saw the anarchists, middle class kids mostly, as armed and dangerous terrorists. Someone had their priorities mixed up. The Bush war on Terror had come home and we were its victims, people out to exercise out first and fourth Amendment rights. They should be thankful we do not go for our second Amendment rights.
Someone from the jail support committee could have called the Nader people and asked permission through channels for permission to speak about the prisoners. Nobody did, they didn’t think of it, or whatever. When I was there I realized that this was an opportunity and my sense of being part of a movement overcame my individual sense of being just another guy in the crowd. I realized that if I didn’t act nobody would. It may have been insignificant, but it reawakened in me a passion for righteousness akin to religious fervor. This was just as important as being on the line in the streets. This was a place where the important would have to face the poor and oppressed and I was the man to do it. I failed in that task. But I learned a lesson, we need to not take anything for granted and we have to realize that if we don’t seize the day, it will pass us by and we will wonder why nothing happened.