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Local Protest Report

The small march made its way through busy downtown streets making noise and injecting a humorous anti-consumption message. Several major stores were marched through, with chants such as "Shop, Shop, Shop, While the Bombs Drop" until store security escorted folks out.
Buy Nothing Day, held on the busiest shopping day of the year, was held in Portland yesterday. The capitalist economy, now suffering from the bust side of the boom-and-bust cycle, looks to us, the "consumers," to help bail them out and buy, buy, buy. The beginning of the X-Mas Shopping season is essential to the US economy, making up nearly half of domestic consumption for the year. This massive purchasing of goods is essential to the continued functioning of capitalism and is even more crucial now in a time of recession. We can truly refer to the US capitalist edifice as the Military-Industrial-Christmas Complex.

In this context around thirty mostly young people, most dressed up in various costumes, went anti-shopping through downtown Portland. The small march made its way through busy downtown streets making noise and injecting a humorous anti-consumption message. Several major stores were marched through, with chants such as "Shop, Shop, Shop, While the Bombs Drop" until store security escorted folks out. An altered version of the Star Mangled Banner was sung throughout the festivities and fire juggling and fire eating was featured for bemused shoppers. People carried shopping bags that said, I Feel Empty. Some responded favorably, some were hostile, while most had looks of complete shock on their faces, particularly at Nordstroms.

This self-organized and largely spontaneous action meet up with the Portland Peaceful Response weekly vigil at Pioneer Square, briefly. There around sixty or so folks held innocuous signs for "Peace" and "Hope" and could have been confused with Christmas carolers or advocates of Holiday Cheer. It was good to have a "Peace" presence at the huge Christmas tree lighting ceremony, but the lack of political content and the timidity of the PPRC continues to disappoint. The difference between a vital and innovative approach to the War in Afghanistan, Capitalism and protest and the same old thing could not have been more stark.
Hey bakunin--could you expand, please? 24.Nov.2001 13:32

a pprc activist

Thanks for the report on the buy nothing day festivities--glad to see that the event was not canceled, as rumored by a kinda sketchy email...

Could you do me a favor, and expand on your thoughts about the pprc? I think I share your concerns, and would appreciate more feedback.

I get the impression that lots of folks are disappointed with the pprc, but since most of those folks have moved on, the group is becoming increasingly "timid" and "lacking political content"

If you have feedback, please feel free to bring it to the group (meets every 1st and 3rd Tues at PSU), or post it here, and I will bring it.

Or, send it to:  portlandpeacefulresponse@lists.riseup.net


What PPRC Lacks 27.Nov.2001 14:31

Julia julsmed@aol.com

Bakunin's report on the contrast between the Buy Nothing Day action and the PPRC peace "vigil" last Friday evening is right on. My only lament is that the festive and sharp-witted group who participated in the "spontaneous" anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist "Buy Nothing Day" action were not identified as an organized group that could be contacted to plan future activities. Even an ongoing campaign during the "shopping season" (modeled on the Buy Nothing Day action) that connects American overconsumption to the global economy and American imperalism would be an effective (and engaging) strategy, in my view.

As disenchanted as I am with PPRC, I have not yet found an alternative group in Portland that is organized in an ongoing way against the "War on Terrorism". Why is it that more large-scale organizations, such as PPRC, with their long and drawn out meetings which deliberate all of the possible implications of every potential movement in any direction, seem to obliterate the possibility of interesting and creative political action? Why is it that the only kind of action they can succeed in carrying out is a lowest-common-demonimator, bland and uninteresting "vigil" where even the signs they are carrying have been stripped of any subversive or potentially "offensive" content?

I don't have the definitive answer, but I think in PPRC's case it is connected to their (somewhat disingenuous) attempt to bring together very disparate viewpoints into a broader movement against the war (or a "peace" movement, as they prefer to call it). I have been to a number of the meetings (the overall PPRC meetings as well as two of their committees), and in each one I observed a conflict between those who are interested in tying the critique of the war into an overall critique of US imperialism, global capitalism, etc., vs. those who want to focus solely on "peace" in a way which is "positive" and "inoffensive". Many of the former were motivated, creative, and (most significantly) angry about injustice, and I believe they could have used this energy to pull off some really interesting actions to get their viewpoint across to a wider audience.

However, there appears to be some kind of de-facto hierarchy in place within PPRC, and the approach that always seemed to win out was the much less clearly-defined "Peace" perspective. Whenever someone expressed outrage or criticism of the US government in the meetings I attended, they were criticised or alienated from the group. There was a general fear expressed of appearing "angry" or "offensive" to the broader public. The organization struck me as meek and ill-defined: exactly the opposite of what is required under the current political and economic conditions.

Political action doesn't have to be so uninspired and stifling, as the "Buy Nothing Day" anti-shopping spree displayed so well. Because there was room for free expression and righteous anger against injustice, I found it empowering, energizing and fun. It encouraged me to want to do more. There must be some way that we can channel this kind of enthusiasm into an ongoing movement against the "war on terrorism". I realize that it is easier to express oneself freely and spontaneously in some kind of "affinity group" situation, where you already know well the people you are with. But it is important that we continue to attract people who are new to left politics, as well. I'd like to hear what others think about the problem of why PPRC has become so bland and alienating, and how we might learn from this in trying to create a more inspiring political campaign or organization.

the tyranny of the center 27.Nov.2001 18:43

deva drdartist@riseup.net

what i think is being referred to is "the tyranny of the center"

it is a common occurance. . .the left is a spectrum from the center to the far left

those at the center become righteous about their position because they have endorsed themselves with the legitimacy of the center. . .because their thinking is more palatable to the bland mainstream, they feel justified to deter the more radical voices, the more free and inspired voices.

the center left clings to notions of acceptability, legitimacy and so on, and ends up being weak in action, but strong in deterrence of more radical action.

especially this is more apparent now as the center left has become more timid and afraid since 9-11

the best thing that could happen for everyones efforts would be for the center left to stop trying to control things so much and leave room for the more radical voices to have their expression.