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actions & protests | community building | political theory a21 bush protests

I am deeply concerned with the state of the Portland Activist community

Like the rest of you, I am a part of the activist community. As a member of this community I mean the following article as a self-reflection and a challenge- not as a critism of people, affinity groups, etc. Howevery, I am harboring concerns about the state of our community.
Fellow Portlanders:

I live in Portland Oregon. I had been out of state for school for a few years and I returned this year. I love this city, especialy the intelligence and kindness of the local activists. The activist community in our city is currently preparing for Dubya's visit in a week. While Portland is a very creative, progressive, and radical community, I have NOT been inspired by the local radicals' ability to network, develop common vision, outreach, and support the general public in their resistance. This has meant that the media has been able to take avantage of weaknesses and make much of the general public reluctant to participate in direct action. I am also worried that "acitivst-only" protests and general police repression have left too many of us burnt out, tierd, and ineffective.

Last March I followed with amazement at the quality of vision and practice that the Bay Area activist community showed when the war first broke out. The use of a cross-spectrum spokescouncil, the clarity of the media
outreach, the collective focus, etc. I was especially impressed by how the activist community created information and infrustructure that helped support and empower average San Fransiscans to shut down their own city.

The film "We Interrupt This Empire" recently showed in a small theatre in Portland. I was unable to attend but several of my friends were there: one who had been involved in the March Protests in SF. We had hoped that the
film would present to the local radicals a vision of activism that is well thought out, decentralized, meaningful to the public, empowering to people, graphically intelligent, builds future coalitions, & creates a public sentiment that activists are food for democracy and society.

My friends tell me that all of the questions after the screening were technical and focused on the How-To's of Direct Action techniques: there was very little interest in the PROCESS of organizing.

The organization around Bush's visit next week are crazy, unfocused and I think that we will see a lot of well-meaning activists tear-gassed and arrested by cops, very little of the averge portlanders will be there, so they will beleive
the stories they see on the news, and everyone who is depressed, frustrated, angry about the actions of the Administration will just feel more so.

My challenge for our community is that we work hard to: 1. Create an inspired, revivifying mood at the upcoming protest through: media outreach, community organizing, and networking between activists. and 2. build up a working community
spokescouncil in our city so there are good communication structures in place for futures events and the reestablishment of democracy in our community.

I realize that these are HUGE challenges, but I think that they may be the most important challenges of our community.

The methods we use to network will have an enormous effect on the way that Portland will look like in the future.

If we begin with confusion and all activity conducted by a activist-class, then that is what a future Cascadia will look like in twenty years.

If we begin with huge, centralized organization, then we will find ourselves in a totalitarian Cascadia.

But if we can establish the practice of a bottom-up community Spokescouncil, then I will have hope for the future of our City and Bioregion.

Thank you for your time.
In peace and solidarity,

The Barricades or Bust! 13.Aug.2003 17:01

Lars the Infidel

Hey, your points are well taken, but you have a severe case of SanFran-wannabe-there-instead-of-here-Itis. Portland has nothing to be jealous about, as far as activists and the "general public" being involved in the good fight. All those marches and demonstrations in the tens of thousands leading up to the war proved that.

Why are you concerned we don't have a spokescouncil? There are plenty of organizations and groups to get involved with in Stumptown. Sounds like too much whining and not enough action on your part. Did you even participate in any of the recent PDX public protests and demonstrations?

Anyway, what counts right now is getting your butt out in the street on August 21 when that rat bastard White House war criminal comes to town. Get out there and get a little tear gas in your face, if that's what it takes. Sounds like you're way too concerned with how things look in the media, and not focused enough on doing your part.

The good cause needs foot soldiers much more than it needs high falutin' spokescouncil discussion groups and mental masturbation think tanks.

You're over-thinking the problem, dude. Portland has been a leader in the anti-Bush, anti-war, progressive movement. And what we need to do to keep up the Big Mo is to get as many people as possible in the streets demonstrating on August 21.
That's the immediate, important challenge.
That's what will make the national news on the morning of the 22nd.
That's when the nation will know that Portland is still freakin' fed up and won't take it anymore! (apologies to Albert Finney.)
That what's so critical now, especially because public doubts are rising each passing day with the end of the Iraqi civilian and US militay body counts no where in sight.

Get your butt out in the street. See ya in the funny pages.

activist=action 13.Aug.2003 18:54


"...a vision of activism that is well thought out, decentralized..." do you mean this? Decentralized means not wasting time discouraging others' efforts, but staying focused on your own. And what is your effort?

"...My friends tell me that all of the questions after the screening were technical and focused on the How-To's of Direct Action techniques: there was very little interest in the PROCESS of organizing..." this is in fact an excellent sign. It means that these activists are interested in action. Fixation with process is the sign of an unhealthy mind.

"...so they will believe
the stories they see on the news, and everyone who is depressed, frustrated, angry about the actions of the Administration will just feel more so..." do you watch tv? perhaps it is you that feels depressed and frustrated. it sounds like it.

"...2. build up a working community
spokescouncil in our city so..." decentralization, huh?

J- so you've been at school and you've been thinking about how things are done, it's the nature of school. But it is not the nature of life- Those processes that you talk about are the tools with which we have placed ourselves in cages- think about it- what else is a process? From Industry to Science to Education, it is these "processes' that enable us to ignore the individual soul lives involved, and their expression and beauty. These are what offer a viable alternative to this death-loving system through feeling and acting, being, if you will. And that is why Portland has a particularly cool activist scene, because there are some here who understand what democracy really looks like. Be humble to those.

Thoughts 14.Aug.2003 09:07


You've put a lot of thought into this. I applaud you for sharing your perspectives, particularly your challenge to find ways to be more effective at community building. You do raise some good points, but I think you may have bought the hype from the corporate media. Lots of great work is being done in this community. The corporate media is never going to tell that story, no matter what we do. If we spend too much time watching TV or reading the Oregonian, we're only going to get depressed and start believing their lies about how the whole community is against us, everyone wants to keep this fabulous system just the way it is, everyone thinks the radicals are just a bunch of asses. Not so.

The reason you think so highly about what's been happening in SFO is because you've been learning about it through the alternative media instead of hearing about it via the corporate media. If you lived in SFO and paid attention to the morning papers, you would be just as disheartened with regard to activism in SFO.

The secret is not to pay attention to the corporate media. They are lying to you. Their job is to keep you docile and content so you will continue to perform your role as mindless cog in the wheel. Barring that, their job is to divide and conquer. To colonize and control your mind, to convince you that resistance is futile. They're very good at what they do. Don't let them in the door.

There are no things but processes 14.Aug.2003 15:19


Hey upsiedaisie,

What's the different between "action" and "process."

What made the N30 99 actions effective was the process.

A "thing"-oriented veiw is a sign of a mechanistic and abstracted mind. A "process" oriented mind is ecological, contextual, and compassionate.

Jeffersonista- Good words. I agree with many of the replies about the need for action and no too much thinking. But I also completely agree with you about the need for coordination among affinity groups.

Let's figure this out.

i agree with both sides... 14.Aug.2003 16:20

Countzero countzero@riseup.net

I agree with both sides of the argument.
I agree that we need more self critisism and accountibility, stratagy and most of all an idea of where we are going.
I also however agree that we need to focus on this protest right here, right now and let people do there thing.
We need cordination, we need spokescouncils, we need amazing organization.
But right now lets just get the whole fucking town to UofP for one day (and get everyone to go to Seattle?).
Ok? There flyers at Red and Black cafe. Get them out. Call your friends. Talk to people on the street. Call your mom.
Me and some other people are planning on trying to organize a stratagy confrence so that we can talk about these issues in mid September.
So after the protest contact me if you want to help out or are intrested.

To Lars the Infidel: YES, the goal is to get people to protest 15.Aug.2003 03:52

Big Dawg's Friend

You wrote: "And what we need to do to keep up the Big Mo is to get as many people as possible in the streets demonstrating on August 21. "

That's the thing, Lars. Do you know how many portlanders will NOT be at that protest on A21 simply because of a very few radicals who tend to dominate through violence?

So......this dreamy vision you have of Portland making the NATIONAL NEWS on A22 is so friggin short-sited that I almost feel embarrassed for you.

The "existing" activist group structures are such that they will NEVER attract and support the entire Portland community. In fact, the majority of the Porland community is alienated and downright turned off by existing group structures. And you can mock those silly middle class moms and the Intel computer programmers and all those other "people who sold out and don't care about this anyways" for not showing up at the Bush protest and claim they sold their soul to corporatists for a buck -- but I will tell you from personal experience that they won't be there simply because of your particular brand of organization and actisvism. THEY actually want to be there! But you can stay in denial.......it makes you feel good!

So, get all haughty and talk about how bourgeois Jeffersonistas is and sneer and cajole.......and have a damn good time at your protest against Bush on A21. And take a video for your records....cause it ain't making the national news!

A SF-wanna-be........... Lord, we can only wish and pray that we had a network like San Fran!

If you are a die hard Bush fan 15.Aug.2003 11:17


As I'm sure all of you are.

You'll love hearing this interview with J.H. Hatfield on Democracy Now!

Here's the mp3 file.

dearest poster 19.Aug.2003 23:37


I completely agree with what you have to say...it seems that to know what is going on at protests you have to be a 20 something Portlander with a clique...eerr..scratch that an "affinity group". A Protest is not anarchy, therefore it has a process...why not look at the cops, they have obviously studied our tactics and react in a way that puts them ahead of us...why can't we do the same? Rather than bash on him/her for critquing Portland and giving an example of what we could strive to be like...appreciate the criticism and get together and plan...stop worrying about infiltraitors and open up your groups and hearts to everyone...

The War on Reality 21.Aug.2003 02:34

TED Kandinsky

I think Jeffersonista is on to something. I bet Lars the Infidel is covered in Tatoos and piercings. Too many raging rats have ruined the potential of any real resistence to the Planet of the Apes. They seem so self assured, yet usually have never studied anything serious, most are on some Martyr trip and or are driven by the need for the Identity of an Activist(Next best thing to being Jesus or A Rock star) But when it comes to reflection and thinking deeper about this stuff, they shut down in a pissy huff. Maybe they don't watch mainstream media(Good-it is all shit) but the countless Farm animals that believe all this stuff are glued to the brainwashing machines.Just Like in Middle Earth, Sauron=Corporations,Orcs= Idiot maleable "Consumers". Anyways.. To go out and get beat up by cops and have the Media portray those against The Evil policies does not serve anyone but the powers that be. These Road warriors play right into their hands and think they are Heroic. Idiots. I suggest small peacefull bands(Like Hari Krishnas) passing out information. Also underground stickering(Home printers) blasting major cities with opposing propaganda. Examples:Bush Hates You, Little Brother is Watching You, Screw the environment I'm Worth it(Placed on S.U.V's) Etc Etc...The Abstract thinkers are the Minority. Yet their creativity is an advantage the Drones lack. . Find a way not to be so Obvious and Crude. Indirect means are more powerful now.

ugh 22.Aug.2003 01:48

cory dow

hmm, how to approach such delicate of a subject?
well, It's great to read you all talking amoung yourselves about altering "the people's" perspective, getting the "people" to protest, and how -to quote JeffersonISATA- there now seems to be a new social division: the activist-class and the duped, swindled, uneducated, ignorant, complacent-class.
I'm conflicted with much of this. I know better than to say the status quo is a harmless and enjoyable circumstance. ANd I've found myself drawn to anarchist and radical critiques. But I would say that the "sorry state of 'activism'" doesn't lie in organisational confrontation tactics, propaganda, or spokescouncil, etc. I think it lies in stale ideas of 'revolutionary' action, one that seems quite fixated on a position of victimization and resistance. Of all of the models to follow, I find the DIggers of the 60's to be the most sound. Act like the 'revolution' is over and start living it the way you imagine it. And then take RESPONSIBILITY for it. Gravitating around the presidential core on a visit does absolutely nothing. NOTHING. All it does is reassure the already active people that they aren't alone. That they aren't 'wasting' thier time. From this perspective it has only an internal effect. I'm not saying this is true for every act of resistence.
"THe People" is in fact a quite large and diverse population, not some faceless mass of people who you need to recruit for you noble cause; not sheep to be educated in the 'authentic' perspective. The 'people', when 'they' have had enough, they will speak.

SHit, If Indy Media became the central media, I'd be just as depressed. Despite it's democratic format, it seems that it's dominated by pseudo-radical/leftists. Case in point: the postings about FLash Mobs when the concpet was derided for it's lack of a revolutionary and political factor. ANd all I read was anonymous individuals attacking other anonymous individuals for being "white-middle-class" losers. Get a grip.....you've betrayed your predecessors!

ANd use your names!
Or are you so dangerous to the system that you have to adopt celebrated revolutionary nicknames?
GodBLess the anonymous WWW....

Portland, SF 22.Aug.2003 04:18

random mataz

Just FYI in SF people were dismayed with their own lack of organizing too. And their tactics. Hindsight, ya know.

Unfortunately exhortations on indy aren't too effective a means of turning it around.

Jeffersonista's points are well known amongst most of us, but applying them to the real world is like herding cats.

No reason not to try tho'.

hey cory 22.Aug.2003 06:41


uh, the diggers were around in the 16th century, not the 60s...

HIstory...What 22.Aug.2003 10:30


Actually, if you notice, I said The DIggers *of the* 60's. Yes, there were the 16th century diggers, I know this. BUt if you want some real radical education from this century in your own country ( if you are posting from it) you should check out the *other* DIggers who borrowed the name, as in the San FRan DIggers. THe Free STore, Communication company, Peter Coyote, Emmett Grogan (my personal favorite). I reccomend you read his book RIngovelio- Life played for keeps. I know it's that damn hippy movement. BUt there ideas and actions were extremely pioneering on a multitude of levels. It was support network, although netwrok is a real loose term in this case. COmpletely voluntary. ANd what I found most interesting, was that many of thier efforts were to support many of the hapless white-middle-class hippies that flocked to the Haight because of the media and found themselves starving strung out and homless. THey saw a problem and took 'direct action' to attempt and solve it. No dollars, no owners, no titles, just real life action to change peoples minds. TO quote Peter COyote : "What we were about was autonomy, finding out what authentic, autonomous impulses were. And then being responsive to them, and not making excuses, not waiting for the revolution. So you create a post-revolutionary society by saying " We Won. It's over. Now let's do what we want. And you do it... eternity is now, if you have a fantasy, take responsibility for it and actualize it, build or imply a society around it. And if it's nice, people will join you." www.diggers.org

What's wrong? 24.Aug.2003 20:06


Where are you Glory? NO repsonse? I hope I didn't take the wind out of your sails. YOu thought you were so correct; that you were shutting down another naysayer. NO, I'm quite correct, and educated. I am a student of history, I know of what has followed. I may share your frustration, but I will not succomb to such trite speach about revolution. Drop the trendy wardrobe, the 'platform', the etc... There will be no 'revolution'. All of you, get off your utopian daydream. First it was the workers; then it was a generational gap: the youth will defeat the old. Now what? Who's left? YOu hate middle America, yet that is who you wish/need to convert...I do not blame you for playing your part in trying to reshape life in this country, but......you forget about culture. ANd I don't mean that CONSUMER CULTURE that you all love to attack, though many of you all take part in it one way or another. I mean real human culture, that fabric of individuals that many of you would so like to CONTROL. Many of you are sleeping giants that would luve to control all of us IGNORANT people. YOu want to direct our thoughts much like the politicians do. Shame on you. Get the fuck off your high horse and recognize the diversity of this mass 'public' . WHO are you really fighting for? ANd have you REALLY thought about what it would be like to live in thie ficticious world that all of your books predict?. ugh..,,