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Shattering consensus and disrupting downtown

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire
strategic reflection from and to the rebellious multitudes
by carwil james

T

he wave of social movement during the drive for a war on Iraq has revealed itself to be yet another face of the “movement of movements” that has turned entire cities (Seattle, Quebec City, Genoa) into symbols of popular power. Amid the tidal wave of humanity that participated in the worldwide resistance (peaking with the 20-30 million strong joint mobilization in mid-February and extending to over 2,450 localities in the United States alone), this article highlights mass direct action and militant street protest in the San Francisco Bay Area as one high water mark of resistance. Over the course of nine months of resistance, tens of thousands built popular support for disruptive action against the war. Motivated by a radical critique of the war and the system behind it and a distrust of representative democracy, thousands broke the boundaries of mainstream protest. In an open, directly democratic effort to occupy, transform, and shut down the entire financial district, we moved beyond loyal opposition, to open betrayal of empire at the heart of its power. For many inside this experience, there was a break with official versions of social reality: in our eyes the U.S. government was neither democratic nor entitled to obedience, everyday life was deliberately interrupted, and real power and democracy were created on the streets. While the sense of rupture shatters our illusory comfort of living in a stable, democratic society that is responsive to our desires, it leaves us as true participants in history with the power to act together and decide our own future. Even though our efforts came too late, stayed too local, and involved too few to stop the invasion, they open new doors for those who want a different world. The movement of movements in the United States is a challenge to established power from below. So far, it has focused on undermining a global empire’s assault, both economic (globalization) and military (war), on the Earth and its peoples and cultures. Less energetically, it has challenged domestic structures of power (political parties, media corporations, the police, etc.) and resisted the war at home against oppressed portions of society. Its momentum has come from new tactics and alliances that allow a multitude of voices and actions to speak in simultaneous resistance. The movement of movements, I argue here, would be strengthened by learning from and extending the civic shutdown and mobilization carried out around the San Francisco Bay. This essay offers our personal, tactical and strategic experience — which peaked in a civic shutdown — as a launching point for strategizing further resistNew Urban Resistance to War and Empire 1

ance. Next, the rupture from below we created is put in the context of other recent events the make our future uncertain, and therefore laden with possibility. A range of strategies are offered to challenge power, resist wars for empire, and transform our society. Finally, I reflect upon the role of revolutionaries, radical organizing models and revolutionary desires in public resistance.

The social explosion: an Inside view
Thursday, March 20, marked a break in the life of San Francisco. Waves of actions protesting the war have swept the city since that morning. For much of the next two days, regular movement and regular business have been shut down. Mass arrests have put more than 2,300 in handcuffs. The totals are a city record and the largest law enforcement operation since the L.A. riots. Indeed, the absence of smoke billowing over our heads should not distract us from the scale of this mobilization or the depth of this change. A massive ’NO’ is being spoken in the streets of San Francisco. A ‘no’ that extends from block to block, that sustains itself with new arrivals, that takes seriously the responsibility of speaking as part of the vast majority of humanity. A dozen profiteers, suppliers, supporters or funders of the war have seen their doors blockaded shut. An occupation of the intersection of Bush and Powell is only one of dozens tying up traffic and encircling the financial district. By 10am, the San Francisco Police Chief concedes the situation is “absolute anarchy.”1 Officer Drew Cohen is more specific: “They succeeded this morning— they shut the city down. They’re highly organized, but they are totally spontaneous.”2

The Ground on which We Stood
No one plan can account for March 20 in San Francisco. Every plan for that morning was in part a channel for broadly shared feelings of outrage and common desires to do something to confront and stop the invasion. Nonetheless a key role was played by the deliberate and public planning by a handful of organizations, scores of affinity groups and hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Direct Action to Stop the War—an organization with no staff, no office and no leaders— played a central role in catalyzing and coordinating the beginnings of the civic shutdown. Based on networks of affinity groups (clusters of likeminded individuals who plan and act together), DASW articulated an open yet radical framework for resistance. The civic shutdown, its main emergency response to the war, was the space for demonstrating our political will and visions on the street. First off, the occupation and paralysis of a 1 Alex Fagan, Sr., then Assistant Police Chief, was acting head of the police, and has since major financial district was a clear political been promoted to Chief. Quoted in Nanette statement. From bike wheels to surrounding Asimov et al., “Protests: 1,400 arrested in 16 buildings, it reflected in action our radical cri- hours,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, tique of the war. This is a war for empire, oil 2003. and greed — we said with words and bodies — 2 Quoted in Joe Garofoli and Jim Herron Zamora, “SF police play catch-up,” San endorsed by the most powerful economic and Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2003.
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social institutions, whose very existence we challenge by shutting them down. Second, many believed a different form of democracy could be both tested and demanded on the streets. The formal democracy of Congress and other elected officials was not enough. We stood up as one city against a continent-wide government, put bodies in the streets in defiance of the votes of legislators, and refused to quietly follow the decisions of our “leaders.” Amongst ourselves, we insisted on horizontal decisionmaking. Tactically, the civic shutdown was a synthesis of actions we had done before. The roving masses, hard blockades, and flying squads of “Bikes Not Bombs” that combined to make the shutdown work and keep it alive were each well-practiced skills. Nonviolent occupations and blockades come from a long history of civil disobedience. Mechanized by Earth First! with an array of lockdowns devices that make arrest and removal a slow process, this tradition has become a staple of antiglobalization protest since Seattle. The militant or festive (or both) march was the key tactic of black blocs and Reclaim the Streets, who kept marching and dancing in the breakaways that preceded the war. And the 10-year-old experience of Critical Mass spawned Bikes Not Bombs, a Mass with a message that went beyond bicycles themselves. The critique of the forces behind the war opened up a wide variety of sites for protest actions: oil corporations, mega-brand shops, recruitment centers, imperial statues, stock exchanges, and the streets themselves. The affinity group-based cluster and the militant mass march had been prepared and tested. And the declaration of the entire financial district as the location where we would “transform our city from profit and war to life and resistance” set a broad and important stage. What happened next went beyond strategy.

If not us, who? If not here, where?
A skeleton of rejection had been prepared: we would undermine the activities of the war profiteers who pull $4 billion of war contracts through the Bay Area; we would expose the corporate and financial networks that facilitate and use war. We would confront the face of U.S. government power. And we would leave an unforgettable break in the usual workings of financial power in our region. We laid out the bones of this creature of resistance between the towers and branded storefronts: lines and stars and rings of metal and PVC pipe connecting human hands in nonviolent immobility. Drums and moments of silence pulsed as the beginnings of a heartbeat. The fresh arrival of the newly saddened, strident or enraged left our meeting places as newborn blood. And then, beyond all our plans, we came to life. There is an unavoidable incompatibility between the actions of this creature of resistance that we have become and the edifice of official power it challenges. It is not just that we are bent on dismantling the war machine. It is that when we act together, it becomes more and more impossible to imagine us accepting the official rules at all.
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We Interrupt this Empire
San Francisco’s civic shutdown was so far outside of normal forms of protest— which rely on waiting for a response from the powerful—that the experience of it risks being forgotten if we cannot provide it context, if we fail to put it inside some present or future strategy. The immediate impact of the shutdown was tangible: workplaces closed and thousands never made it in to the office, life and traffic were at a standstill. Bechtel, Citigroup and the San Francisco Federal Building among others were closed by blockades, while many more offices closed due to the traffic paralysis caused by dozens of blocked intersections. A sizable chunk of the Bay Area left their normal routines behind. The city government estimated its own financial costs at $900,000 a day, with businesses losing far more. For the government, this was unacceptable: the illusion that it controls the public was exposed as a lie, and the commerce it works daily to protect was interrupted. The “real economic, social and political costs” we promised to impose began to mount.3 As participants on March 20 and 21, we had many occasions to put out an explanation of what we were doing: to each other in debates over tactics block by block, to those we needed to come join us, to motorists stopped at our intersections and pedestrians witnessing a city suddenly awake. Here is some of what we said: Conventional channels of opposition are inadequate. There are designated channels for our anger, our rage, our hope. They had been flooded to the brim and had not stopped this war. By 9am on Thursday we were no longer asking others to stop the war: we were the moving force of notwar, of anti-war, of human life owning its streets and its city. The war stops here and so do you. Daily life will not continue amid a massacre in Iraq. If necessary we will use our bodies to impose a social pause against slaughter and empire. Now is the moment for you to join us. Stopping war and taking back our society will take everyone. The schedule of occasional protest between everyday acceptance cannot continue. Our democracy has failed. The closed in walls of voting booths, to which we are constantly told to retreat, offered us no exit. The last Democratic administration signed “regime change” into law and began the longest bombing campaign since Vietnam over Iraqi skies. The priorities of our economy are decided on trading room floors whose admission price is legalized grand theft, or in legislatures whose basic workings are the same. Countless voices targeted the government itself: “Move Bush, get out the way!” We must recreate democracy in the streets. If the outrage in Iraq is invasion and bombing, the outrage here is the betrayal of democracy. Many cast the shutdown as the direct enactment of public opposition to the war. A Radical High cluster flyer read, “You are 3 Quote from the goals of the Direct Action to witnessing a massive example of democracy Stop the War emergency response action, in action.” since consensed on as ongoing goals of the
organization.

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We must prove, as much to ourselves as to the authorities, that we cannot be controlled. From the Commander-in-Chief to the tip of a baton, we were refusing to be led or to be corralled. That is why we will rush through barricades, clamber onto bridges and climb atop scaffolding. And that is why such shouts went up when we saw the size and independence of other marches crossing by ours. There are no statistics, but the number of escapes dwarfs the arrest count. We act together as a city but also freely speak for ourselves on the basis of shared beliefs and shared identity. Within the mass voice of rejection were scores of groups that condensed around particular messages and visions. The revolutionary people of color cluster Freedom Uprising, the pacifist Presente! Cluster, and the Anti-capitalist/Anti-imperialist cluster sketched out longer-term resistance. Gay Shame anchored a radical queer cluster that combined identity, militancy, and a call for re-radicalizing the queer movement. Everyday life is part of the problem. Whether by silence, consumption, small acts that keep the wheels of power turning, or discounting the deaths of foreigners through common social attitudes, living “normally” in the U.S. is perpetuating global disasters. All of these voices were doing something fairly rare in American politics: defining for themselves the extent of the change that they seek. In a country where the efforts of the mass media and the bipartisan political system are focussed on manufacturing consent around a small arena of debate, these voices and acts were defiantly out of bounds. By acting publicly, visibly and persistently in this space, we contributed to a growing rupture in American social organization.

The Consensus that has been Shattered
The energy that drove us onwards during the civic shutdown and beyond came from the feeling that we were actually shaping the direction of and reclaiming control over our society. This was a jailbreak out of the single-issue, interest group politics that had dominated (and constricted) American political protest since the mid-1970s. In this model of politics, the capitalist economic structure and two-party political system that is accountable to corporate elites are taken as permanent features of American society. Those who want limited political reform must organize into interest groups and seek the loyalty of one of the two parties. The interest groups in competition for influence were essentially the whiter, more uppermiddle-class tiers of the 1960’s movements: environmentalists (not political ecologists), liberal feminists, bureaucratized trade unionists, assimilationist gays and lesbians, and civil rights leaders-turned-politicians. These sectors were reintegrated into electoral politics by the offer of gradual reform from the Democratic Party. In this model, protests are a kind of outdoor voting session for reforms that will be enacted by the government. Protest organizers literally “demonstrate” the number of their supporters, who are addressed by politicians promising legislation
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or soliciting votes. The official history of the 1960’s was crafted to conform to this model as if the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom4 and the Freedom Summers that followed had been mere lobbying efforts for the Civil Rights Acts; and, even more implausibly, as if the massive upheavals of 1968-1973 were solely a “call to end the Vietnam War.”5 Meanwhile, as the radical people of color leadership was targeted for murder and imprisonment, Republicans (later joined the Democrats as well) were targeting their communities. In White House deliberations on the war on drugs, “Nixon emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing too.”6 The wars on drugs, crime, and undocumented immigrants met the power structure’s need for new forms of social control: newly militarized police forces, a new army on the border (the Border Patrol 4 Better known as the site of Martin Luther and INS) and a mushrooming prison industri- King’s “I have a dream” speech, the iconoal complex. graphic moment used most effectively to The effort was a success: interracial soli- reintegrate Martin Luther King Jr. and by darity collapsed with crime as a wedge issue. extension the Civil Rights and Black Freedom Movements into mainstream American poliBy the 1980’s, Black Los Angeles could be held tics. For perspective, consider Michael Eric under curfew, patrolled by armed personnel Dyson’s call for a 10-year moratorium on liscarriers and presided over by an openly racist tening to or reading the speech, I May Not Get police chief without eliciting visible white out- There With You: The True Martin Luther King, rage. Periodic urban revolts were the Jr., New York: Touchstone, 2000, 14ff. 5 The depth and breadth of social change inevitable response, contained by overwhelm- sought in this period was a prerequisite for ing force. Meanwhile, negotiated arrests and insubstantial interracial solidarity amongst police facilitation were offered to movements radicals, without which — in the view of this willing to play by the rules. The compromise author — North American society cannot be transformed. For a review of the range of held. tactics and aims of this period see (for examThe embrace by both parties of a single, ple) George Katsiaficas, The Imagination of corporate-backed agenda of free trade, domes- the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968, tic prisons7, militarized borders, the disman- South End Press, Boston, 1987. For another tling of the social contract/welfare state8 and view, see Noel Ignatiev, Introduction to the United States: An Autonomist Political History, foreign wars (Iraq since 1998, Kosovo in 1999, Final Conflict Publishing, Denver, 1992. Afghanistan in 2001) took the Democratic 6 Description from H.R. Haldeman’s diary. Party out of the role of offering concessions to Quoted in Alexander Cockburn & Jeffrey St. social movements. During the Clinton years, Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press, it experimented with creating a spectacle of 73. 7 While broad, white solidarity endorsed the public involvement through public hearings war on crime, a large, liberal segment of the on its corporate health care plan (1993), mili- Democratic party remained an intraparliatary aggression against Iraq (February 1998), mentary opposition to these policies until the and a very public rollout of the WTO (fall 1990’s and the Clinton-led New Democrats. 1999). When visible opposition turned these 8 See Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, The breaking of the American social last two into P.R. disasters9, the gloves came compact, New York :The New Press, 1997. off and the system of lobbying in the streets Mike Davis, “Who Killed L.A.? A Political collapsed. Autopsy,” in Dead Cities and Other Tales, New
York: The New Press, 2002.

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The National Politics of Rupture
The political compromises that shape American politics and create an illusion of permanence have been shaken from below, above, and outside in the last five years. By rupture, I mean to describe this break from the understanding that dominant social institutions are permanent, functional and democratic. Regardless of whether they are terrified are empowered, such experience leaves people in a position where they are not sure what their society will look like in five years. As this is a strategy document for the current from below, I focus on our historic break with an interest group consensus. Equally, one could examine this sense of rupture by focusing on actions from above (the New Democrats’ divorce from the American social contract, and the assault on democracy and civil liberties by the Bush Administration) or from outside (the shocking break from American invulnerability occasioned by Al Qaeda’s on American soil, and the new visibility of foreign criticism of the United States).10 Both the street blockades and the tear gas and beatings delivered by police and the National Guard in Seattle signaled an end to interest group politics. Protesters began challenging a system, most often called “business as usual” (with its double meaning) and governments responded by criminalizing dissent.11 These new protests, which spread rapidly after the victory in Seattle, rely on temporary tactical victories in the streets, successful disruptions of summits of the powerful, and the exposure of otherwise secret or closed institutions to the wider 9 A February 1998 “town hall meeting” in public. We cooperate in large, multi-centered Columbus on bombing Iraq, broadcast live on efforts, around the week-long and drawing CNN, was infiltrated by antiwar activists (who people from around the country. Mass had been excluded from the official invite list), demonstrations, direct actions and public and others who felt the questions they hand- events all occur simultaneously. Politically, ed out were meaningful. The events failed to promote war, and bombing was held off until our strength is mobilized diversity: the particDecember. “The events in Columbus, Ohio are ipation in large numbers of key interest groups significant because for an instant, people took (labor, environmentalists, community groups, on the role of public critics. For a moment, etc.) and smaller numbers of more active and they ruptured the seamless media discourse risk-taking radicals, all of whom are increasand called into question the wisdom of government policy toward Iraq. In doing so, they ingly bound to an ethos of supporting (or least demonstrated the resiliency of the principle of not undermining) each other’s efforts. While critical publicity.” John Brady, “That’s Just Not labeled the antiglobalization movement, our Funny Anymore, Karl: Town Hall Meetings, targets have been diverse: political parties as History and Critique,” Bad Subjects, Issue 37, well as international financial institutions; March 1998. The other P.R. disaster, the rollout of the WTO in "trade-friendly" Seattle, is trade groups and law-enforcement; the media and the presidency. An affirmative commitinfamous. 10 Originally, I wrote this section with few ref- ment to work for a different world has been erences to the latter two dimensions, but I built, while ideologies with fundamental crinow feel they are essential to understanding tiques of power have swelled with new adherthe possibilities for radical change. 11 This shift marks a change from a negoti- ents. The movement of movements is constantated model to a penal model of confronting the opposition. I am indebted to a presenta- ly redefining just how deep its new challenge tion at the 2001 conference of the Society for goes. Confrontation with militarized police
the Study of Social Problems for this analysis.

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forces and contact with the imprisoned have forged a connection with those who work against police brutality and the prison industrial complex. The militarization of financial districts and deployment of propaganda against popular mobilizations have deepened cynicism and blurred the line between corporate and governmental power. The election fiasco of 2000, as Bush ascended to power on the basis of intimidation and de-registering voters, while Gore remained silent on democratic rights, left a lasting sense of illegitimacy of federal power that was unprecedented. Equally important psychologically was the month-long interregnum between Election Day and the Supreme Court’s selection of Bush. Americans experienced, many of them for the first time, life without a clear successor government.12 Mass rejection of a questionably elected regime surfaced in the January 2001 Inauguration protests. The surreality of certain Bush policies — allowing increased arsenic in drinking water, appointing a religious extremist as head of the Department of Justice, denial of global warming — was met by willingness of many to publicly deny that he was president at all. Blood on the streets of Cincinnati13 and Genoa further shattered illusions of safety in the global North. In a different, but emotionally critical way, the attacks on September 11 shook American perceptions. Once again, permanence shattered. While official nationalism was temporarily strengthened, critical questions bubbled to the surface and millions sought out new connections to the non-Western world. For the first time since American helicopters fled Saigon in 1975, foreign policy became an issue of life and death for Americans.

The Rupture Widens: War on Iraq
Before this backdrop of declining legitimacy, uncertainty and increasingly radical critique came the invasion of Iraq. A clear public skepticism and widespread opposition contrasted with Bush’s complete commitment to invasion and occupation. On August 22, 2002, some 10,000 people participated in a Portland, Ore., mobilization against both the new National Forest plan and the war on Iraq. Police attacks and the protesters’ steadfastness produce a six-hour confrontation that put public resistance in the center of the official debate on the war. Sensing that the government’s post-9/11 honeymoon had run out, White House spinmeister Karl Rove promised an autumn “product rollout” for the invasion of Iraq. Nationally, organizing structures against the war varied between the single issues/interest group model and the rupture/“no business as usual” model. Early demonstrations were called by International ANSWER, part of the Workers’ World/National People’s Campaign/International Action Center constellation. This cluster of organizations has spent three decades using authoritarian leftist cadres to staff essentially single-issue campaigns for variety of popular and not-sopopular causes. As usual, they provided the logistical backdrop for a far more diverse crowd. Not in Our Name mixed a similar strategy with a media-savvy mobilization of celebrities, the colorful and creative visuals that have cross-pollinated since Seattle, and cadre-building tactics from the Revolutionary Communist Party. Win Without War and Democratic Party-aligned
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MoveOn.org mobilized centrist citizens to their phones and computers to lobby Congress. As the fall wore on, these efforts were complemented by independent civil disobedience actions, led by a wave of sit-ins in Congressional offices in the weeks before the October 11th vote authorizing military force against Iraq. With that vote, the Democratic Party leadership essentially stepped out of the debate on the war. Alternative media documentation of the tens of thousands of anti-war calls that flooded Congressional offices exposed the failure of Congress to represent their active and skeptical constituents. Representative democracy had essentially failed the anti-war movement. Into that space stepped spontaneous demonstrations like the hundreds who marched on the San Francisco Federal Building the day of the vote, then remained to blockade its entrances the following morning.14 From October to February, the existing coalitions and the movement of movements mobilized heavily. An NGO/social movement coalition with broadly progressive, multi-issue politics, United for Peace and Justice, emerged and coordinated a national wave of protests on December 10th. The single-issue coalitions, led by International ANSWER, continued to showcase large numbers on the street. Anarchists and anti-authoritarians 12 Even the mass media suggested the organized breakaway or feeder marches linked Constitution (and in effect, the Republic) was to these demonstrations but radicalizing their at stake. This is best symbolized by dueling newsweekly covers featuring a ripped consti- message and tactics. The big coalitions overtution and a whole Constitution covered with came their organizational differences, perhaps the words “We will survive. ” out of a sense of responsibility to the less-divid13 In April 2001, 19-year-old African- ed European movement, and planned a masAmerican father Timothy Thomas was shoot sive day of protests on February 15th. in the back, fleeing an arrest for minor infracThroughout this time, the feeling of tions. After being shut out of City Hall, Cincinnati erupted in the first urban uprising betrayal and lack of democratic control was in of the 21st Century in North America. Police suspense, or perhaps up for debate. Mass imposed a curfew, arrested more than 700, mobilization proceeded on the premise that if and sealed off downtown as gentrifying businesses in the black-majority Over-the-Rhine enough people turned out we could not be neighborhood burned. Solidarity was built ignored. The Bush administration circulated with radicals who had targeted the Trans- the official fiction that the decision to invade Atlantic Business Dialogue’s meeting there had not been made.15 Calls and letters floodmonths earlier. Echoes were felt in ed the UN Security Council. Minneapolis (2002) and Benton Harbor, Meanwhile, some prepared for Day X, the Michigan (2003). 14 From this demonstration sprung Direct day the bombing16 started. In January, the Action to Stop the War. DASW spokescouncil approved the scenario to 15 Evidence that the U.S. and U.K. were occupy and transform the financial district and intent on war regardless of other diplomatic events is overwhelming. Deployment pro- spent the next two months pulling in affinity ceeded apace, advance air strikes began, groups and providing a wide variety of trainetc. Additionally, U.K. Cabinet member Clare ings. Successful black and pink blocks on Short revealed in June 2003 that Prime January 18th redecorated the same financial Minister Blair had agreed to war in summer district with revolutionary and anti-war sten2002 suggests the entire engagement with the U.N. was a charade. See Patrick Wintour, cils. The growing idea was that if we wanted “Short: I was briefed on Blair’s secret war our ever more widely shared opposition to the
pact,” Guardian, June 18, 2003.

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war to actually prevent it, we would need to act. Seeking to avoid a massive display of opposition, the U.S. establishment worked to undermine the February 15th protests in New York. The permit to march was denied and central gathering in the entire country against the war was allotted a tiny area outside the UN. Legal limbo was joined by an “orange” terror alert and warnings from the New York Police (NYPD), but the intimidation backfired and a routine demonstration was turned into an act of defiance. Hundreds of thousands flooded midtown Manhattan and joined scores if not hundreds of feeder marches. Some 600 were arrested by the NYPD. With fresh news of millions marching worldwide, and of the repression in New York, tens of thousands thronged the streets of San Francisco and the largest breakaway march yet was held, in public solidarity with the unpermitted marches in New York. Blockaded from Union Square, over 1500 confronted police for five hours, drawing on the solidarity of the main march. A police encirclement was itself encircled by hundreds of supporters from which a voice over a megaphone ordered the cops themselves to disperse. (They did.) That night, the crisis of democracy reached a new height, as an embattled George W. Bush dismissed the largest political mobilization in world history as “a focus group.”17 Tony Blair declared his decision for war an act of conscience against the desires of the public. “The breadth and magnitude of the demonstrations opened a rift between ruler and the ruled,” the New York Times reported, “convincing many that street protest had overtaken conventional democracy in expressing the popular will.”18 From then on, this crisis hung in the air, accentuated by the sidelining of the United Nations. The possibility for creative politics, the threat of real democracy against official power, remains at the center of oppositional politics in United States. For mass mobilizers the continuing challenge is to show popular rejection in a way as unmistakable as February against an increasingly wide section of official power. For direct action organizers and urban radicals, the challenge is to design actions and confrontations that actually interfere with the workings of power and create spaces for direct democracy.

Aftermath
The interruption of regular life in the financial district persisted until past midnight on Thursday and thousands contin- 16 American bombing of Iraq has been ongoued disrupting the financial district on Friday. ing since December 1998, but the U.S. DASW showed a continuing capacity to mobi- promised a new massive “shock and awe” bombing campaign as a prelude to invasion. lize hundreds into risky scenarios: a militant Many of us attempted to be accurate in refercommunity picket of the Oakland docks and a ring to this moment as an ‘escalation’, but blockade of ChevronTexaco’s world headquar- the phrase ‘bombing’ has stuck. The invasion ters. Demonstrators gathered at 5:00 a.m. on began on the day following Day X. April 7th to picket American Presidential Lines 17 Richard W. Stevenson, “Antiwar Protests Fail to Sway Bush on Plans for Iraq,” New and Stevedoring Services of America for their York Times, February 19, 2003. contributions to the war effort, Knowing that 18 Alan Cowell, “After a Weekend of dock workers in the ILWU have traditionally Protests, Blair Looks Lonely,” February 16,
10 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown
2003.

respected community pickets and ceased shipping at one of the nation’s largest ports. When the port action was attacked by police with rubber bullets, wooden pellets and concussion grenades, the picketers regrouped to march on City Hall just three hours later. By this time, the anti-war movement had emerged as a recognized political voice in the Bay Area, debating issues as well as tactics in the corporate media. Journalists researched corporate ties to the Pentagon independently and the targets of our actions advised their employees to stay home from work. Spreading efforts nationally, rising doubts about the invasion as it was resisted, and persistent local energy merged with heavy resistance in the Iraqi South. For a time the media and officials outside the Bush administration talked of a new Vietnam quagmire. Then, the collapse of Iraq’s conventional military (i.e., the refusal of tens of thousands of draftees to remain at the front, and the slaughtering from the air and land of those they left behind19) coincided with the Pentagon’s so-called “rolling victory” press plan. Pursuing this script, the Defense Department declared victory prematurely, creating an artificial “peace” while real combat continued. In person, we could point out that the occupation and the corporate invasion of Iraq were just beginning, but the mobilizing force of the daily news was taken away from us. Protest turnout dropped accordingly. Thrown out of the spotlight, many turned to other fronts of the war we had always said was waged at home as well as abroad. On May 19th, activists were outside of both the Israeli consulate and Oakland City Hall, confronting both occupation (of Palestine and Iraq) and police repression with a call for racial justice. Two weeks later, they locked down the entrance to Bechtel’s world headquarters, denouncing the private company’s $680 million20 contract in Iraq and its privatization of Bolivian water. Three days later, the convention of United for Peace and Justice backed a joint mobilization on globalization and war for September 9-13. The melding of the anti-war effort into the movement of movements was nearly complete. Over the spring, we shifted from actions intended to hurt the powerful, to actions that would illustrate where power lies. Relatively ineffective as disruption, 19 Analysts estimate an up to 90% desertion these latter protests used media visibility to rate in many units of the Iraqi armed forces, make connections between issues This shift an almost unprecedented number. During the was informed by a belief that fundamental Gulf War (1991), the rate was 42%. Carl social change is possible, but will need many Conetta, The Wages of War: Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 2003 more people than were present to achieve it. Conflict, Project on Defense Alternatives After our heady burst of confrontation, we Research Monograph #8, 20 October 2003. leaned towards exemplary actions, sketching These efforts are probably the largest anti- the contours of change rather than achieving war direct actions in the last 20 years. Yet, it. Our primary audience quickly became the anti-war movement remains largely ignorant of their occurrence, and failed to speak those who will one day join us in remaking to their implications. By fall 2003, terrorism North America. It was for them that we “experts” could propound the fiction that Iraqi worked to expose the system behind the war resistance is the result of public fear of a and to connect their urgent desire for peace “vampire”-like Saddam Hussein, who failed with more comprehensive hopes for different utterly to control his own armed forces. 20 The contract is open-ended and contin- society.
ues to grow in size.

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire 11

The Future of Rupture
The break between representative democracy and public voices on the war was so obvious that people started asking unusual questions of themselves: How can so much of the world be ignored by those with power? If I let this moment pass and the war go on, can I claim to be living in a real democracy? What is my responsibility for this massacre? If official channels are closed, where do I go? Such questions could be asked at any moment, but they are asked by far more people when there is visible public opposition, when there is a feeling of uniting with the rest of the world, and when the possibility of change seems open. As official power in the United States continues on its collision course with global and local public opinion, here are some fronts where this could happen again: Occupation and resistance in West Asia. The public face of the U.S. presence in Iraq has changed from a charitable operation to an ongoing guerrilla war. The American bid for control of mixes the viciousness of the hunt for humans (from playing cards to publicly displayed corpses) with the systematic cruelty of “low intensity warfare”. This strategy, developed in Vietnam and Central America, involves a gradually widening circle of targets: drivers at checkpoints, suspected guerrilla fighters, militant demonstrators, arms merchants in public markets, etc. In all past cases, the population at large is eventually targeted indiscriminately, as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott advised on October 29, 2003, “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens.”21 American soldiers find themselves deployed for longer than they can stand, living in constant fear, watching their comrades wounded, and ordered to carry out violence they never imagined. The homeward flow of information that generated mass opposition to U.S. intervention in Vietnam, El Salvador and Nicaragua has begun again. A parallel process is taking place around the Israeli occupation, with U.S. government backing, of Palestine. While our eyes and ears there are reporters, human rights observers and non-violent solidarity activists, the sights they are seeing on the same. The occupations that neither society can afford will face a rising tide of resistance at home. New invasions. The logistical scale of a new U.S. invasion of a “rogue state” (the mass deployment of soldiers being the key factor) requires a period of months of public notice and (for now) the formality of Congressional approval. Should Americans guns be turned on Syria, Iran, North Korea, or the Horn of Africa, we would find ourselves in the streets again with an obligation to be more effective resisters. Globalization. The collapse of the WTO talks, and the tepid advance of the Free Trade Area of the Americas amid visible repression are reminders of slowing of the globalization agenda in the face of widespread public opposition. The North American movement has the challenge of transforming that opposition into genuine 21 Geoff Earle, paralysis of the economics of empire, as attacks,” October “GOP unity is strained by 29, 2003.
12 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown

well as deepening its connection with the compelling resistance of the global South. So far, the movement has failed to proactively defend the revolts against capitalist globalization in Latin America. When the leap is made from La Paz, Buenos Aires and San Cristobal to Los Angeles and Chicago, new opportunities will open up for solidarity and change. Police and the prison industrial complex. Much activism on this front has centered around and individual prison, beating, or political prisoner. The failure in one case resonates with a broader distrust of the official justice system, often in ways that are explosive (e.g., the L.A. uprising in 1992, Cincinnati in 2001, the Diallo shooting). Visionary campaigns, surprising alliances, or a crisis in a single major city could push this complex of issues, and the institutionalized racism behind it, into the center of our lives. Criminalizing abortion. Nowhere do this social priorities of the Bush Administration contrast more sharply with public views than on the issue of access to abortion. Judicial or legislative moves to criminalize abortion would be met by a massive defensive mobilization. The million-strong April 2004 March for Women’s Lives stands alongside anti-war marches at the pinnacle of mass mobilization.22 More meaningful, however, would be an offensive effort from below to challenge to the de facto lack of access to abortion due to class, age and geography. The 2004 elections. The 2000 elections were unusual only in that manipulation and exclusion were made obvious to everyone. This time we will have to work to keep the spotlight on the limits and failures of American electoral democracy. Corporate fundraisers, the undemocratic super-delegate system, the Electoral College, media access and the two-party control of the debates are all vulnerable to protest and exposure. The non-oppositional Democratic leadership should be contested, as part of the larger failure of American democracy. In 2000, the mass participation of traditionally excluded minorities posed a dilemma to Republicans: cheat through fraud and intimidation or lose. This should be repeated and elections closely monitored. An overall assessment of whether American elections are free and fair could follow the model of Mexico’s 1994 civil society monitoring process.23 Most importantly, the extraparliamentary opposition (those of us in the streets) should be building its power for the 22 The march outnumbered any single North future. All expectations are that the shameAmerican anti-war demonstration, but did not less use of September 11th by a Republican opt for a multi city presence as did the convention in New York City will be met February 15th protests. The exclusive choice of Washington, D.C. reflects the pro-choice by a massive outpouring of resistance. Let organizational leadership’s commitment to the message be clear from the day after electhe interest group model. The price has been tion day through the inauguration (of a heavy reliance on the Democratic Party and whichever candidate) and into the future limits on access to abortion. that our resistance is here to stay. 23 Alianza Civica coordinated a nationwide monitoring process in some ways replicated Supporting self-organization. As much a
in the United States in 2004.

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire 13

priority are the surprise confrontations that emerge around creative initiative: unionizing Starbucks, squatting community centers, going on strike in a prison factory, occupying lands that could become a highway, building networks of treesits, resisting deportation, deconstructing the border, striking to prevent privatization. In them the emerging positive agenda of direct democracy, community building and ecological restoration is made real in the face of state repression.

Strategizing Resistance: From Civic Shutdown to Social Strike
Crucial to keeping the sense of resistance alive is the articulation of viable strategies of resistance that will both build popular power or impose social and economic costs on the powerful. Many people are hesitant to risk missing time at work, injuries, and an arrest record without a clear sense that they are having an impact. Conversely, meaningful and exciting actions have drawn in thousands of new faces—many of them people who had long resigned themselves to the permanence of power—suddenly risking serious changes to their lives. While to some extent, the path of resistance is a road we will make by walking, which will involve a multitude of strategies, the civic shutdown is itself a strategy of a multitude that can be adapted and extended. It is also a local strategy, in which the people of one metropolis paralyze the centers of power it contains. This offers an exit from repeated mobilizations across long distances that too often dissipate local energies, and provides the opportunity to build a sustainable resistance. To make national and global change, we will have to repeat, replicate and expand strategies of metropolitan disruption. The public shutdown/transformation of a financial district is one step along that path. If and when we do initiate the strategy again, here or elsewhere, let us do it by organizing more broadly, deeply, democratically, and with a greater intention to continue the rupture we create on the streets. Let us also be prepared to coordinate, defend and escalate our interventions to bring the war machine to a halt. The suggestions that follow are a mixture of lessons learned, proposals made, foreign experiences, past actions, and wide-eyed ambitions, offered as an antidote to reluctance to brainstorm at this scale. Much more needs to be added. Have clear intentions. The DASW framework of “imposing real economic and social costs” on the warmakers and the financial district made our diverse actions make sense. Our public scenario, map and menu of targets generated energy, momentum and focus weeks in advance. Actively promote the strategy of disruption. The case for a shutdown was largely focused on activists, while others mostly heard “We’re doing all we can to stop this war.” This left participants on the defensive as the action wore on (in part because few imagined it would last as long as it did). On this front we can learn from the Civil Rights Movement, which openly planned and advocated for its disruptions with wide sections of the community. We must be prepared to actively argue, echoing Martin Luther King Jr., for “mass civil disobedience”: “There must be more than a state14 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown

ment to the larger society; there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point. … To dislocate the functioning of a city without destroying it can be more effective than a riot because it can be longer lasting, costly to the larger society, but not wantonly destructive. It is a device of social action that is more difficult for a government to quell by superior force.”24 Ideally, we will have nearly as much public backing for our actions as for our goals. Broaden and deepen participation. Many people who had protested the war in the San Francisco Bay Area did not join us in the streets in late March. Neighborhood efforts to mobilize participation, provide training and vent outrage could have strengthened our shutdown. Visible symbols of solidarity (armbands, buttons, candles and signs in windows) are useful in breaking the image of isolated radicals disconnected from popular support. Ongoing multi-issue alliances at the local and metropolitan levels increase the sense of solidarity that motivates people to take risks. A regular interchange between different levels of action would do a lot to reduce the perceived distance between individual ‘direct action’-ists and their often anti-war communities. Develop broader, more in depth, and closer ties with the people under attack. Solidarity and knowledge of others’ experience feed actions to support them. Despite an otherwise phenomenal mobilization, our ties to Iraqis and others in the Middle East remain tenuous and limited. If Basra, Najaf, Sadr City and Kirkuk were more the names on a map corresponding to our imaginings of suffering, we would have had a more sustained response. If the dynamics of power and freedom in Iraq were more familiar to us, we would have been far better placed to critique the occupation as it began and expose the false “welcome” of American troops. Prepare sites for mass participation during the civic shutdown/transformation. A shutdown needs more than occupiers of space. Convergence and orientation centers, outreach centers and progressive printers could have been staffed by volunteers around the clock in a continuous effort to involve more people and demonstrate direct democracy in action. We have long said that our resistance is as global as capital, but instead we can show it: fill a plaza with projections, films, posters, tickers and maps of the ongoing resistance. This grassroots Times Square could be a visible and hopeful window to the worldwide movement. Create a forum for coordinating our actions and speaking to the world. A civic shutdown must have a clear way of planning its next steps, calling for greater participation, responding to repression and addressing other resisters. The participatory democracy of spokescouncils must find a way to connect with the thousands who are joining in as mass participants rather than in affinity groups. Strategize for sustainability. The civic shutdown in San Francisco brought out far more people willing to take risks 24 Quoted in Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther than had been involved before, but not
King, Jr., New York: Touchstone, 2000, 86.

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire 15

enough to keep the city in constant suspense. If the interruption of business as usual is to be sustained, it has to be made intermittent (such as weekly actions creating an essentially four-day workweek25), use rotating tactics, or base itself more on mass (non-)participatory activities (regular cacerolazos26, mass absenteeism from work, strikes etc.). Expand to working class actions. While blockading the work of office workers, who clearly bear more of the responsibility for disastrous corporate and governmental decisions, we rarely questioned the systems of control that leave much of the population obeying their orders to build and ship bombs, build oil dependent highways, and participate in the economy of brand-name sweatshops. Attacks on the structures of poverty and imprisonment which motivate that obedience and interventions at the points of production, shipping and consumption are two sides of the same coin. React to and pre-empt repression. Even in the United States, fear of repression (arrest, beatings, jail time and government attack) is central to popular fear of participating in social movements. By preparing carefully, acting in fierce solidarity on the streets, and through comprehensive legal follow up, we reduce these fears and make the repression we do face more endurable. In the case of San Francisco, our numbers, spirit and legal preparations transformed even detention centers into defiant retreats. Through demonstrated strategies of mutual protection, from the Black Bloc to conscious protection of “unarrestables” to traditions of nonviolent action, we maintain a sense of personal security even as we demand radical change. As we progress, governments adapt and escalate their response to mass protest, bringing in reinforcements, switching to mass arrest of everyone on the streets, militarizing areas with the National Guard and conducting a fear campaign in the media. While our best 25 As proposed by the Committee For Full defense remains overwhelming numbers Enjoyment in “History: It’s not made by great and broad support for our goals, clear men!,” CRITICAL MASS MISSIVES, March 28, 2003. [http://www.scorcher.org/cmhistory/ responses to repression need to be openly pdf/march28-missive.pdf] strategized. Each new deployment or 26 Cacerolazos our mass protests that origidetention center, however destructive, nate in residential neighborhoods involving opens up a new set of sites for resistance. hundreds or thousands of residents banging When repression is severe, we must raise pots as both noisemakers and symbols of deprivation. Pioneered in Argentina (see the question of whether we have democra- John Jordan and Jennifer Whitney, Que se cy or a police state to a broader and broad- Vayan Todos: Argentina’s popular rebellion, 2002 [http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/ er audience. agp/free/imf/argentina/txt/2002/0918que_s Interrupt normality at other points than e_vayan.htm]), they have spread across the the street. The message that the war is world. simply unacceptable is best conveyed by a 27 In May 1970, “One hundred art galleries refusal to go on with our daily lives as and several museums closed down to protest war, and when the usual. Interruptions can begin with the theNew York refused to Metropolitan Museum of close, 500 artists satcultural elements of daily life: raising black in there.” Katsiaficas, Imagination of the New
16 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown
Left, 131.

flags of mourning, closing art galleries in refusal to provide beauty at a the time of collective ugliness27, interventions of sporting events, audio recordings interrupting movie showings, etc. Each closed space can also be a place for gathering and catalyzing action for different world. Involve other metropolises and communicate between them. Above all, if civic shutdowns are to impact national policies they must extend to multiple cities, and be a spreading phenomenon. A few centers of activity may be enough to encourage many others to join an ongoing effort, and symbolic links between them (coordinated actions and cities along a transcontinental highway or a coastline, caravans between centers that organize along the way, regional port shutdowns, etc.) begin to knit together the sense of nationwide resistance. Towards a social strike. The extension of these acts is the cessation of normal life in more and more workplaces, schools, and universities, as people reorient their daily lives around stopping current disasters and constructing alternatives. The very idea that we can choose to do something else with our time is contagious and risky for those in power. Even fear of official enemies (as experienced in the days following September 11th) can be dangerous when it interrupts the flow of shopping, working and obeying: witness the governmental propaganda urging us to get back to business (and the mall)28, and corporate advertising of calming slo28 The extreme expression of this was San Francisco city government’s much publicized gans like “United We Stand. In God We (and subvertised) “America: Back to Trust. ” How much more threatening, and Business” logo, which literally turned the potentially transformative, are days spent in American flag into a shopping bag. a mixture of anger and hope, interruption 29 See Katsiaficas, Imagination of the New of daily life and the building of creative Left, Ch. 4, 30 See John Jordan and Jennifer Whitney, action. Que se Vayan Todos: Argentina’s popular Social strikes are not unprecedented: the rebellion, and Naomi Klein, “Out of the May 1970 student-led strike29 is the clearOrdinary” in Eddie Yuen, George Katsiaficas, est U.S. example, but Gandhian hartal & Daniel Burton-Rose (eds.), Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global campaigns (closure of all businesses in Movement, Soft Skull Press, 2004. renunciation of illegitimate rule) in India, 31 Residents of El Alto began a national pat- mass resistance in Buenos Aires in tern of civic strikes, mass closures of busiDecember 200130, paro social in El Alto ness and road blockades that paralyzed the 31 country as the government of Gonzalo and La Paz, Bolivia in October 2003 , and 32 are clear Sanchez de Lozada attempted to privatize the in the U’wa homeland in 2001 country’s gas resources. While much is examples. Rather than treat these actions as available in English about the politics of the foreign phenomena worthy of our distant protest, for the tactics and repression see Indymedia El Alto Bolivia, “Bolivia: 71 muer- solidarity, we should take the opportunity tos en la Guerra del Gas,” October 14, 2003 to learn how they were organized and make [http://bolivia.indymedia.org/es/2003/10/33 them happen here. 12.shtml]. Realistic ruptures. While the possibilities for 32 For details see Project Underground, The U’wa Struggle Continues: A Chronological visionary actions extend to the limit of comUpdate as of March 2001 [http://www.moles plete remaking of society, we must remember
.org/uwa/crisis/chron99-00.html].

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire 17

that we are constructing each action from the bottom up. Proposals that run far ahead of our ability to carry them out risk turning into empty rhetoric, or showcases for political weakness and naïveté. We cannot yet plan actions that are carried out by everyone in this society riven by divisions of race, class, sexuality and gender, as well as histories of betrayal, estrangement and isolation inside and outside of social movements. Instead we must build our capacity to act across these lines, earn each other’s trust, support each other’s struggles and create real solidarity. Additionally, with pressing tasks to focus on — like ending a war — we must mix visionary efforts at rupture with practical efforts to disrupt the war machine.

Blockading the Empire
The principle of direct action is to actually interfere with the process (in this case, war) we are opposing. In terms of time and place, there are other critical locations than financial centers the day bombing commences. The experience of the military buildup to the invasion can be a key guide for those who would resist the occupation or interfere with future wars. U.S. military attacks rely on a massive deployment of personnel, weapons and high-technology through a variety of channels. The current deployment began in September 2002 and was still moving forwards as large-scale bombing began on March 20th. The road along the way has numerous opportunities for pressure, in the forms of diplomatic action, mass protest, passive interference, direct action and support for those who refuse to participate. Bases and deployments. In much of the world, the U.S. military is an unwelcome guest, all the more so when it is on the road to war. In dozens of countries official government approval for U.S. troops contrasts with public (and even diplomatic) opposition to American wars. In Turkey, public protest and parliamentary votes stopped the American deployments. Movements to oppose U.S. basing in Korea, Okinawa, Yemen, Bahrain and Greece should have gotten our support and pressure on their governments during the severe repression they faced. Direct actions at bases could be coordinated between the United States, Western Europe and these countries. By doing so, we would be gaining allies, building international ties and supporting real democracy. Airlines. One ignored corporate connection to war is the lending of scores of planes by major airlines to the U.S. military to move soldiers into war. With offices in every major city airlines are a highly visible face of the war machine. Weapons. Arms manufacturers remain key sites for protest, especially preemptive protests that put the weapons’ destructive potential in the spotlight before the attack begins. Conscientious objection and counter-deployment. Mass efforts to inform soldiers and sailors of their options to object to the war can slowdown deployment and reduce staffing. With a heavy reliance on reserves, the U.S. military needs many civilians to say yes to war. Through face-to18 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown

face discussions and community meetings that ask “Should our neighbors go to war?” we can use democracy to block the road to war. Additionally, we can expose the forced labor aspects of the military (punishments for non-cooperation, the one-year freeze on marine retirement, etc.). This angle, pursued by too few of us, becomes all the more critical as soldiers experience the reality of occupation in Iraq. If we act soon, we can make it difficult to find replacement soldiers for the ones currently deployed, and make their one-year rotations the last. Shipping. The Oakland docks action was the right place at a very late time: many arms shipments came far earlier, and should have been met by creative resistance. In Italy, a cascading series of blockades, mass protests and eventually the walkout of rail workers interfered with the transport of weapons to Iraq. This six-day-long mass public effort, publicized under the name trainstopping caused many delays, and forced the government to deploy soldiers to run the trains.33 Peace boats, pioneered for years by Greenpeace, could have been powerful and daring symbols. An international peace flotilla near the Suez Canal would have been an indelible symbol of global opposition to the invasion. Reclaiming power. A modest success in the history of international resistance to war was the wave of popular uprisings in North Africa and West Asia in response to the March-April 2002 Israeli invasion of “autonomous” Palestinian territory. While American and European protest were largely at the mass solidarity rally level, Arab protesters called their national governments into question, demanding to know: “If you cannot protect the Palestinians, what good is your alliance with the Americans?” A precedent was set regarding public protest, the possibility of cutting off oil sales to the U.S. was raised, and the American government was forced to diplomatically distance itself from the Israeli invasion. In the final analysis, the American empire is as much a product of the disempowerment of large groups of people as its enforcer. It cannot manage the simultaneous rebellion of large segments of humanity and a long-term military engagement. Recognizing and supporting the people on the frontlines of that rebellion, whose actions make empire weaker, is critical to our common task of dismantling it. Many of these fronts are best supported by mass mobilization strategies. A real challenge for the mega-marches is to move from demands made to the warmongers (i.e., please don’t go to war) to strategies that fracture the coalition of the unwilling, e.g., base closure and airspace bans in France and Germany, return of occupied indigenous land by the military (Kuwait, the Chagos Islands, Okinawa, Greenland), and expulsion of military recruiters from our neighborhoods and schools. It’s time to go from pleading with the Emperor (who openly views us with contempt) to marching with the peasants.

33 Luca Casarini, “En toda Italia: la multitud contra el imperio,” Rebeldía 5.

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire 19

The Role of Revolutionaries
A cluster of beliefs, and those who persistently advocate them, played an important role in the social movement that shook the war machine in San Francisco. Broadly speaking, these belief systems and their advocates see the war as one in a series of disasters generated by larger system, which needs to be overthrown or replaced. We believe in using self-organized direct action as a tool of social change. And we are committed to an extended period of both confrontation and construction to build a fundamentally free social order. There are many with a long-term commitment to ending oppressive social structures, including militarism, racism, patriarchy, human destruction of the Earth, and capitalism (call these people “revolutionaries”).34 And are those who would also create a society without a state, permanent hierarchy or representative democracy (“anarchists”). The Bay Area mobilization was energized and informed by these people and the ideas they brought to a broader common effort against the war. Now that thousands more have become radical critics of the system, it’s critical that we talk openly about the relationship between the rupture we created together, and the revolution many of us want. First, anarchist organizing methods underlay the structure of Direct Action to Stop the War. Affinity groups, networked through spokescouncils based on consensus, and committed to both autonomy and solidarity carried out direct action. This was made more powerful by continuous skill-building efforts that incorporated hundreds of people for whom this style of organizing was new. An ethic of autonomous action within a joint effort was 34 The reality of revolutionaries runs far widely held across the mobilization. beyond the popular image of them. On the Second, revolutionary politics and activist basis of open statements alone, it extends to traditions provided alternatives to despair and such figures as Martin Luther King jr., bell hooks and Howard Zinn, and embraces a defeat as established systems of power range of organizing traditions. Also, despite (Congress, street lobbying, the United the negative definition given here, most revNations, and the dissenting imperial powers of olutionaries view themselves in terms of the Europe) acquiesced in or failed to prevent the type of society they want, not merely the invasion. The strategy and tactic of disruption types of societies they reject. A complete summary of these desires, even if limited to was one of these. So too was the work of long- those involved in the Bay Area mobilization, term change. When we focused on the power would be beyond the scope of this essay. structure pushing for war (rather than the clos- 35 The obvious issues around power and ing doors of official debate), we saw not the agendas raised by the differences between end of opportunity, but the beginning of a those doing the work of organizing and those who opposed the war are real. I would argue struggle for fundamental change. For many, that they are lessened by an open organizing this strategy was voiced with the word revolu- structure, direct democracy, and the possibiltion on our lips: “What do we want? Peace. ities of autonomy within solidarity. Conversely, closed or hierarchical organizing How are we gonna get it? Revolution.” structures tend to amplify these problems. Third, revolutionaries contributed their We revolutionaries who want a democratic own labor. Nearly all of the large coalitions society have a special obligation to check were initiated and substantially staffed by ourselves on seizing power while expressing believers in revolution. Both the direct action ourselves brilliantly in calling for more than
20 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown
minor, temporary changes.

and militant street confrontation efforts were initially pulled together by the work of self-identified anarchists.35 Quite simply, a belief that society needs long term, fundamental change inspires people to stick with the tedious work of calling allies, setting up voicemail, and hosting meetings. Revolutionaries self-organized and expanded their numbers in numerous autonomous efforts which put forth far more radical demands than the stopping of one invasion. Freedom Uprising (which was initiated by Third World Communists, but included anarchists well) called for an anti-imperialist revolution that put people of color at the center. They see an American empire at perpetual war with the Third World, abroad and at home, and call on people to identify with the margins and start fighting back. Anti-War Action put out a radical critique of global and local capitalism while demanding autonomous resistance: “We refuse to wait for enlightened and compassionate leaders. ... We must take the responsibility to organize ourselves and to take control over our own lives.” The Anti-Capitalist/Anti-Imperialist Cluster called for open direct actions and the construction of mutually supportive social movements to win economic and international change.

Between Rupture and Revolution
Revolutionary traditions demand we think at the scale of the problems we confront—and there can be little doubt that American empire and militarism are long-standing components of our society. They offer a strategic narrative of ways to do something more than endlessly confront the system’s wars, atrocities and disasters. They envision a time when we not only challenge the cruelties of state power, but when we unmake, remake, or reclaim that power.36 The urban resistance described here marks an effort to feel and act and the scale of the problems we confront. The lengthening series of ruptures from below are not in and of themselves a revolutionary change. Rather they are brief concrete experiences of self-government, a taste of insurrection, and signs of the increasing sophistication of grassroots power. In particular, leaderless mass actions illustrate the power that we can have by acting instead of following, and the difficulty for centralized power to control spontaneity organized from the bottom up. Tens of thousands learn how to look out for each other outside of the law; to overcome the internalized cop inside their heads by daring, escaping or defying; to practice decisionmaking and planning among groups where no one is authorized to tell others what to do. On the streets, we knew briefly that “This is what insurrection feels like. ” As we keep converging in these resistant multitudes, hundreds of thousands of North Americans are acquiring just these personal experiences. It is this individual knowledge of what waits on the other side that will allow them to open the doors to revolutionary social 36 This paragraph attempts the near-impossible task of remaining neutral on the ques- change.
tion of whether power is to be taken or destroyed, seized or exercised. Bear with me. 37 Ecuador in January 2000, Argentina in December 2001, Bolivia in October 2003. See above for references.

New Urban Resistance to War and Empire 21

Looking Forward
Just as with the 1994 Zapatista insurrection, and the recent ousters of South American leaders by popular revolt37 when the smoke clears after a civic shutdown, we find ourselves in a new position to define our society. Within this space, all must participate in defining the society they want and the means by which they will achieve it. It is the place for all to take concrete steps to make that possible, further widening the rupture in the once obvious permanence of established society. Through growing resistance, we remind ourselves that empire, the state, patriarchy, militarism and white supremacy are ultimately temporary institutions that can be overcome by mobilized human creativity. Now is the time to plan how, with whom, and where.

22 Shattering Consensus and Disrupting Downtown