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UFPJ press conference in NYC - a brief critical rant

i'm listening on pdx indy radio to the press conference that United for Peace and Justice just held in NYC. They felt the day was a fabulous success. And it's true that a march of 4-500,000 people is impressive. But the organizer who was speaking was psyched that the march was so "festive". WTF? Why is it that liberal organizers in the U.S. are always seeking events that are "festive"? What, exactly, are we supposed to be "festive" about? The deaths of so many Iraqui children? The dissolution of civil liberties here in the U.S.? the continued destruction of the environment by globalized capitalism? The tenacity and cruelty of racism? The increasing heavy-handedness of the police state? I know it's no fun to mope around all the time, and i ain't suggestin' that. But this emphasis on "festive" is, honestly, shallow, and insults the millions (even billions) around the world who suffer as a direct consequence of U.S. policies.

But i think i know what UFPJ means by "festive"...

i think they mean "peaceful". That is, the raving anarchists didn't break any windows, and no one broke any big rules, and everyone stayed pretty much under control and behaved well. (Not entirely well, though -- we heard reports today of UFPJ organizers at the march's end in Union Square linking arms to prevent protesters from going to Central Park, for which UFPJ failed to get a permit.)

i think they also mean "not angry". Many liberal organizers are afraid of anger. Indeed, i have myself been accused of having "anger issues" when all the person really mean was that i have anger. Having anger and having anger issues are two different things, but for those who are afraid of anger, period, the distinction is lost.

And lastly, i think they mean "on message". This was a straightforward "ABB" (Anyone But Bush) event from the start, and though i know there were folks there whose issues are with capitalism and authoritarianism, not merely their current figurehead, an organizer at this press conference went on about how the anti-Bush message was clear. Great. Whatever. So put Kerry in and see what kind of a difference it makes. Turn the steering wheel a slight bit to the left and the car's still heading for a cliff.

That's the end of my rant. But here's a great quotation from an Alexander Cockburn essay that appeared in Counterpunch today:

After argument with an ABB-er the other day, I asked him about his long-term political perspective . Here he was, I said, beating the drum for a man who stood for everything he opposed: war in Iraq, war in Colombia, war on drugs, war on the deficit, war on teen morals. Oh, he said, the day after we elect John Kerry we'll go to war on him.

Yeah, right! Back in the early and middle 1990s the liberals and progressives were exactly as indulgent to Clinton as they are to Kerry now. After almost four years of Bill Clinton, Washington's liberal advocacy groups, foundations and public interest networks resembled the Vichy French after six years of Nazi occupation.

Pressed for explanations for their pusillanimity, the liberal advocates explained that the Republican hordes who swept into Congress in 1994 were so barbaric, as was the prospect of a Dole presidency, that they had no choice but to circle the wagons round Bill Clinton.

So the Democratic Party, from DLC governors to liberal public-interest groups mustered around their leader and marched into the late Nineties arm in arm along the path sign-posted toward the greatest orgy of corporate theft in the history of the planet, deregulation of banking and food safety, NAFTA and the WTO, rates of logging six times those achieved in the subsequent Bush years, oil drilling in the Arctic, a war on Yugoslavia, Plan Colombia, a vast expansion of the death penalty, re-affirmation of racist drug laws, the foundations of the Patriot Act.

The serious rebellion took place in the streets, in Seattle right at the end of 1999, and the insurgents most certainly didn't come from the progressive/ liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

There's a strong case for arguing that the importance of these presidential contests is disastrously exaggerated.

Just for the record 29.Aug.2004 18:27


UFPJ did not "fail" to get a permit. They filed for one a year ago and were denied one by the city, which secretly instituted new rules for park use (and UFPJ and other groups WILL be pursuing this issue). Perhaps, writer, you can channel your justified anger into some real organizing and after some experience at coordinating an event for a quarter of a million people you can responsibly talk about pulling such a thing off with everyone safe and sound at the end of the day.

..... 29.Aug.2004 18:50


I applaud you for vocalizing your frusteration. Hopefully the peacekeapers won't keep UFPJ for speaking for themselves in response to your anger. I think that the march was a success but it is the night time events which are the most critical, least likely to be covered and were the police will show there true colors. So I think it is early to reflect to deeply on the days events.

Sunflower, obviously everyone has different levels of involvement and yours should be applauded and is aknowledged by your community.

I have anger. I like my anger. It scares cops, it releases me from dangerous situations. My anger is cleansing. My anger heals.

Others are afraid of my anger. When I do yoga to 'rage against the machine' it can be a little unnerving as I channel that anger towards a release that is nonviolent.

Peacekeepers suck ass!

By the way I don't think you really addressed the indepth analysis that had nothing to do with the march. That was supper dooper rad and totally mind blowing!

Can you read? 29.Aug.2004 18:51

Angry, too

"...coordinating an event for a quarter of a million people you can responsibly talk about pulling such a thing off with everyone safe and sound at the end of the day."

Don't you realize that's the exact thing the writer is critiquing? We're operating on a completely different set of goals.

The cops like your anger, too 29.Aug.2004 19:20


They push your buttons.
You do exactly what they want you to do.

Fear your anger? Or fear the effects of clear channel? 29.Aug.2004 19:28

Sue Denim

Yeah, anger easily keeps you in the "free speach" zone. Anger makes you go home when they start pepper spraying baies, anger makes you gn indoors when they start disappearing muslims, yeah anger makes you managable for the police. Anger is a tool or a weapon. I am a simple country girl and I realize that my anger is a tool I utilize not that they can use against me....

It is obvious 29.Aug.2004 23:19


The cops have your number down to the repeating decimal-group.

Anger is a Tool 30.Aug.2004 00:27

this is pasted on my handlebars

I have learned through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmitted into
energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmitted into a
power that can move the world.

-- M.Gandhi (1869 -1948)