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George Hurchalla's Going Underground in Scanner Zine

Scanner Zine
June 27th, 2016

If the title of this book sounds a bit familiar (with the exception of it being a song by THE JAM), it’s because this is actually the second edition of the book first published back in 2005 (my review HERE). In this edition, David Ensminger took on the role of editor, producing a narrative that is still gripping and first hand, but is now slightly more pointed and concise with some notable changes between the two editions.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, this is part-autobiography of Hurchalla, part historical documentation of American Punk and part reference guide to American Punk scenes of the 80s. It kicks off in 1980 with Hurchalla in his home state of Florida suddenly being exposed to Punk Rock via his brother with his introduction to the SEX PISTOLS. From there, it looks at the early scene in San Francisco and then progresses, just as Punk morphed into American Hardcore, through all the important US scenes of DC, Texas, LA, NYC, Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia - a city in which Hurchalla lived for a number of years.

Rather than rely on the oral history style of writing that many books of this type do, Hurchalla writes with a full narrative infusing the writing with his own personal experience and opinion. Much of the quoted material is taken from fanzines of the day, giving those quotes a sense of historical placement and first hand documentation rather than any form of eulogizing the past with the added effects of hindsight.

For those who already own the original book, you will notice a few differences. First, the original tome went through to 1992. That doesn’t change a great deal of the actual content, just abbreviates some of the final part of the book without having a negative effect. What is most noticeable to me is the culling of the chapters about Hurchalla’s time in Australia. I appreciate why they were culled, but those chapters in the original were greatly enjoyable and gave an ingenious perspective on what was happening in American Punk when compared with the less-aggressive but equally volatile music going on Down Under at the time. Another chapter that has been cut is the Punks On Film chapter. Again, this hasn’t had any lasting negative effect to the book, but I think the hysteria around the episode of Quincy made valid reading given the era and subject matter.

It’s not all about cuts though; there are several new, riveting chapters, some updates to the original text, additional references and some new pictures that combine to make this not just a reprint of a great book, but a viable and estimable tome in its own right. The photo reproduction in the new volume also seems to be slightly better in terms of tone.

This book is filled out with a fresh preface and, like all good historical and referential books, a full index - something the original book lacked.

As I have said before, anyone who was involved in the 80s Punk scene (in any country) will relate to many of the stories here. The narrative defines the pre-internet era and the hostility and danger of attending shows at the time. Hurchalla also constantly refers to the term Hardcore being too restrictive, too macho. He can clearly see that both X and SSD are Punk bands and the Hardcore tag is alienating and detrimental.

Ultimately, this is a most welcome reprint that is different (not better, nor worse) from the original. It also stands as one of the best books written about its subject. It’s sincere, intelligent and insightful and is not written by some hackneyed music journalist looking back; Hurchalla was there, on the ground living and breathing American Punk Rock and all that came with it. It’s that genuine sensibility that puts Going Underground head and shoulders above most others.


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Jewish Noir in New Pages

New Pages
July 7th, 2016

A short story is the perfect medium for busy people, and Jewish Noir, heralded as the first book of its kind, presents a month’s worth of short stories to delight any reader of the genre. Editor Kenneth Wishnia sums up the lure: “[ . . . ] a majority of the world’s Christians are taught that if you follow the right path, everything will turn out well for you in the end. In Judaism, you can follow the right path and still get screwed (just ask Job). That’s noir.”

One dazzler in the book is “Living Underwater,” by B.K. Stevens. Anyone who’s ever worked for a control freak will recognize this characterization of Helen. She’s the new associate dean who’s changing the rules for college professors, Sam among them. It isn’t enough that she wants all syllabi redone:

“If you can’t document something,” Helen cut in, “how do you know it’s real? You can tell yourself that you’re doing a good job, but why should anyone believe you? Luckily, I’m here now, and I’ll show you how to document what you do.”

Doesn’t sound noir-ish? Just wait ‘til you see what happens to Sam.

Elsewhere, Michele Lang pulled me into “Sucker’s Game” with these opening lines:

“You’re the people killed Christ. Right?” I was already having a rotten time in third grade, and this gigantic, sweaty clown on my bus home from school wasn’t helping. He smelled like onions and coffee, a weird combo for a sixth-grader.

Said bully isn’t the only male posing danger as Lang moves her story along. “I knew he knew I was under the bed. [ . . . ] I was his target.” Talk about scary!

Travis Richardson presents the oddly titled “Quack & Dwight” focusing on a psychologist named Ben and his precocious eight-year-old patient Dwight Adolf Lange. “Nobody names a kid Adolf by accident,” says Ben. I liked this story of obsession, but I’m not sure a seasoned psychologist would be as “breathless” or “speechless” as Ben is when speaking with Dwight or his mom.

Included with new works by Jewish and non-Jewish writers is a story by the late Yente Serdatsky. Her tale, “A Simkhe” or “A Celebration,” originally appeared in 1912, but I had no trouble visualizing the group of friends listening to Semyonov talk about the beautiful Miss B, with this delicious line: “The women who once hated her got married to the men who were once in love with her.” The story gets serious, but ends up having a magical effect on Semyonov’s listeners.

Noir can be approached in so many ways. Pick any story. A lost Romanov treasure figures into Wendy Hornsby’s “The Legacy.” A biologist named Karen who studies eye color inhabits “Blood Diamonds,” by Melissa Yi. Check out this sentence: “Nestled on a bed of ice, four freshly harvested eyeballs stared up at her: two hazel, one green, and one blue. A great mini-mystery is “One of Them” by Alan Orloff whose characters battle against odds while trying to make things right.

All is not dark and edgy in these stories. Rabbi Adam D. Fisher inserts some humor with “Her Daughter’s Bat Mitzvah: A Mother Talks to the Rabbi.” He cleverly voices the mother in a monologue: “Rabbi, you don’t know me. I don’t go to services and I’m not religious but I’m proud to be Jewish. One day at work, this guy started talking about someone who tried to ‘Jew him down.’ Boy, did I give him an earful.”

A couple of the works were a little strong for my taste, but one was so suspenseful I had to turn to the end to see what happens. A man bursts into a synagogue escaping from someone trying to kill him in Charles Ardai’s “Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die.” No one can call the police because phones aren’t to be used on Yom Kippur. The killer breaks into the synagogue and demands to know which of a dozen old men, now all looking quite alike, is his prey.

These stories are just a preview of what’s in store for readers of Jewish Noir. The book’s back cover suggests it as a conversation starter about prejudice and ethnicity, but I read it as a series of masterful crime stories. Either way you choose, this is definitely an anthology to wrap your senses around.


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Playing as if the World Mattered in the Journal of Sports History

by Russell Field
Journal of Sports History
Volume 43, Number 2

It is diffcult to imagine that the link between activism and sport needs to be (re)asserted on a day in November 2015 when varsity football players and other student groups drew attention to institutionalized racism at the University of Missouri and forced the resignation of a senior administrator, and junior hockey players in Flight, Michigan, walked out on their team’s owner to force him to rehire a coaching staff they felt was unjustly red.

Yet this is the position that Gabriel Kuhn takes in a new collection of visual culture that is intended to illustrate activism in sport. He perceives dual pressures: a reluctance among some on the Left (he notes Jean-Marie Brohm and Marc Perlman) to accept sport as a social practice capable of rising above its lot as capitalist escapism—masculinist, nationalist, and racist; and the ways in which moments and movements of protest and resistance in and through sport have been neglected and marginalized in the mainstream media. Kuhn’s aim is to highlight the visual texts of progressive “sports culture for a better understanding of the struggle for both better sports and a better world” (11).

Kuhn divides the book into three sections, which are both thematic and chronological. The rest, emphasizing European workers’ sport (1893–1945), is the most coherent, focusing as it does on a well-defined collection of organizations. Kuhn highlights the growth, achievements, and tensions within socialist and communist sport in years leading up to World War II. He characterizes the second section as “sport and civil rights” (1946–1989) and includes diverse proles of individuals, including Jackie Robinson and Marvin Miller (this section is where most of the content specifc to the U.S. appears), journalistic endeavors (Miroir Sprint in France and Lester Rodney, sports columnist for the Daily Worker), and general movements (anticolonialism and the antiapartheid movement). The book concludes with examples of grassroots sport organizing (1990–present). This discussion of fan supporter groups and community sport organizations (drawn primarily from European football) is Kuhn’s comfort zone and features prominently in his previous foray into sport, Soccer vs. the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics (2011).

Playing as if the World Mattered
offers instances of activism, each well illustrated. There is value in having such moments collected together, but it is worth asking whose resistance counts. The account of “state socialism” does not include, for example, the 1963 Games of the New Emerging Forces in Jakarta. Indeed, virtually all of the examples in the book took place in the First World, and events in the Global South are often framed through northern activism, such as the antiapartheid movement. Nor does Kuhn offer accounts of resistance to ostensibly left-wing initiatives such as state socialism. A prominent exclusion is Czechoslovakian gymnast Vera Caslavska, whose Prague Spring–inspired resistance at the 1968 Olympics is not included in the extended discussion of the events surrounding the Mexico City Games.

The example of Caslavska is also illustrative of the absence of women generally from Kuhn’s discussion. Focusing the rst chapter on workers’ sport, which included women
(more as participants than organizers), precludes any discussion of Alice Milliat, the Fédéra- tion Sportive Féminine Internationale, or the Women’s Olympics/Women’s Games that took place during the interwar years. Instead, the legacy of individuals such as Billie Jean King are connected with the contemporary (re)emergence of sports such as roller derby and the ght for LGBTQ rights in sport.

Given that the book reads as a catalog of moments of activism, it is easy to quibble over exclusions. But rather than adding content, greater coherence over the interconnections between the examples included would be preferable. What constitutes activism? Is there a distinction to be made between activism in sport and through sport, and is such a distinction material? Are the themes that Kuhn identites meant to capture myriad examples or present a coherent whole?

There is an unquestioned beauty in having neglected moments of sport’s history so well illustrated. The volume suffers from its slim dimensions, which Kuhn attributes to the economic pressures of publishing—“producing a full-color book that is reasonably priced demands a limit in size” (11). Despite such realities, our historical understanding of sport would bene t from a greater interrogation of visual culture. Here, the images act to illustrate Kuhn’s text, and he frames his use of the visual around “the simple truth that an image can say more than a thousand words” (11). Aphorisms aside, no, it doesn’t—not if we cannot decode the image. The symbols incorporated by artists in the images marshalled by Kuhn, the fonts used, and the messages included all operated to communicate important elements of resistance to a community galvanized to play sport and resist oppression. We would be well served to consider them as more than colorful accompaniments to the texts we create.


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Xicana Women Claim Their Rightful Place In Punk

by Nina Melissa Bautista
The Establishment
June 30th, 2016


Spitboy, an all-female punk/hardcore band active in the first half of the 1990s, were far more groundbreaking than their short run as a band would seem to indicate. Emerging before the advent of the broader Riot Grrrl movement that swept through the underground punk scene (and broke into the wider culture) in the ’90s, Spitboy were political by their very existence, and their lyrics of female empowerment (and their insistence on distributing those lyrics on print sheets at concerts) further cemented them as feminist punk icons in the underground music scene of their time.

Michelle Cruz Gonzalez, drummer for Spitboy (and a couple other bands–Bitch Fight and Instant Girl), has penned an insightful and entertaining new memoir about her time in Spitboy. The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band (PM Press, 2016) tells of her upbringing in a small town in California, the formation of her first band as a teenager, and of course her time in Spitboy.

As a Mexican American in a predominantly white town, Gonzalez knew from a very early age what it meant to not fit in, to look different from the people around her, to be political by her very presence. This didn’t change as much as one would hope when she entered the punk scene. Even though punk was a movement of outsiders, it was still almost exclusively white and male when Gonzalez and her Spitboy sisters entered the fray around 1990. They had enough to push against as a band of women in a very male scene, but for Gonzalez, the only band member of color, this was doubly felt. While not the sole focus for Gonzalez in this book (or at the time of the events), the subtle racism she experienced, mostly of the sort that sought to erase her racial identity rather than mock or vilify it, is addressed throughout with honesty and insight, as is sexism the band dealt with.

“If not for being raised by a strong woman whose influences on me, negative and positive, were profound, I could have rebelled against subculture movements. But as a Mexican American, a Xicana in a hick town, I was never allowed to forget that I didn’t fit in, that I muddied their waters.

I would show them.”
– page 3

Spitboy is sometimes lumped in with the Riot Grrrl movement, but they preceded and really sat outside that trend at the time. This was partially due to a perceived rift with that scene, though Gonzalez clarifies in The Spitboy Rule this was never about any actual animosity between Spitboy and the bands associated with Riot Grrrl. Gonzalez explains how this started. At a show in Washington, D.C., just as Spitboy’s set was beginning, Gonzalez took the mic and made the announcement that the band didn’t expect men to stand in the back of the room (a common request from Riot Grrrl bands at the time, to allow their female fans the best and safest experience they could have at their shows), and concluded by saying, “We’re not a Riot Grrrl band.” The room went silent, and though Gonzalez and her bandmates had no enmity with the movement led by bands like Bikini Kill, the myth began to spread from that show that they did.

“‘ah, quit your bitching and play some music.’ It was a male voice, of course, and it came from the cowardly back corner of the long, dark, narrow room.
…
I waited, sticks poised in the air, ready to count the song off because sometimes the song alone was enough of an answer. But Karin had thought fast.


‘Hey, you know what you need to do?’ she said into the microphone. ‘You need to go to the library and read a fucking book.'”
– page 43

The Spitboy Rule is a quick read, and carries something of the do-it-yourself feel of the zines that mushroomed in popularity during the female punk heyday of the ’90s and helped to spread news and affection for that scene through an underground network of zinesters. Plenty of pictures are included, and the book’s conversational, hang-out tone makes these stories feel like they’re being told between songs at a show, or in the tour van right after. If you love punk music, or just want to read more about the experiences of a Xicana woman in a historically white male scene, check this book out.

The Spitboy Rule is available now at GPL.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Michelle Cruz Gonzales’s Author Page 




Revolutionary Mothering in Black Girl Dangerous

by Cantrice Janelle Penn
Black Girl Dangerous
July 15th, 2016


I lick my lips, encrusted with bits of sea salt, as I text Alexis Pauline Gumbs—co-editor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines—from the sandy coast of the Carolinas about my forthcoming review of her book. After heading to the water’s edge without sunscreen, I now find myself nursing my first-ever sunburn on both brown shoulders, anointing them with my own kisses and a few drops of aloe vera. When I was little, other kids used to say that asunburn retained heat because the sun itself would literally get into your skin and stay there long after a day at the beach.

Revolutionary Mothering does just that—pulsing with electrifying storytelling, this anthology gets into your skin.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens and Mai’a Williams have carved out a collaborative space in the shape of love, by offering us this broader definition of “motherhood.” They have effortlessly weaved together storythreads from all corners of the globe to produce this urgent, necessary project—one with the potential to serve as a working blueprint for our communities.

Inspired by its radical, feminist-of-color predecessor, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, this latest incarnation—originally entitled, This Bridge Called My Baby—is a loving meditation on multiply marginalized mama figures trying to make it work with what they got within the confines of the anti-Black, white supremacist, capitalist, ableist, cisheteropatriarchal systems that pin the proverbial boot against our chests, attempting to slowly suffocate us all as we struggle to draw a collective breath in the name of liberation.

This anthology centers the voices of Black mothers and mothers of color, queer mothers, poor and working-class mothers, disabled mothers, and immigrant mothers who offer their lived experiences in the form of poetry, essays, manifestos, photo montages and play scripts. But as a “non-parent” with my own complicated relationship with mothering, I didn’t think I’d be able to relate.

Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I cracked open Revolutionary Mothering, finding story after story detailing real shit—the raw, the unpopular, the vulnerable. Stuff we’re not supposed to admit to in “woke” communities. Like the mother with dark skin who secretly hopes that her unborn child won’t inherit her own melanin and seems quite aware of how deep the well of internal oppression can run. Or the mother in the US who attempts to adopt a child from her home country, only to find herself navigating the very western, white systems that she otherwise actively resists. Or the mother who reflects on a heteronormative relationship maintained with her then-husband whom she carried financially through school while suppressing her budding identities.

What Revolutionary Mothering is not is another collection of writings by revolutionary-minded folks using all the right social-justice language and providing all the right answers as to how to mother children the “radical” way. It is also not an attempt to stuff marginalized parents or parenting into some other hegemonic box patterned after the oppressive systems that shape most of our world.

Instead, this anthology explodes with textured, necessary truth-telling, penned by the voices of those pushed to the margins and crushed by the state. Revolutionary Mothering offers tools of hope to help us redefine what “mothering” can mean for each of us. The emotionally charged accounts of motherhood lighting up these pages indeed challenge that tired, “having-it-all” narrative force-fed to all of us by mainstream media outlets, and instead, presents us with mother figures who operate in spiritual abundance through the communities that sustain them, whether a job, partner(s), or children are in the picture or not.

Brimming with rare treats and gems of wisdom—like June Jordan’s powerful essay, “The Creative Spirit: Children’s Literature,” in which she proclaims at the start, “Love is lifeforce” (a mantra that Gumbs affirms repeatedly), and Lisa Factora-Borchers’ line, “Transformation does not have a name or a label, it has a sound,” in the essay, “Birthing a New Feminism”—Revolutionary Mothering provides a loving home for stories on mothering our children, our communities and ourselves. I must also note the anthology’s beautifully illustrated cover—courtesy of Favianna Rodriguez’s artistic brilliance—with colors that pop and crackle against equally searing testimony.

As I return from my sojourn at the ocean, I now look to my blistered shoulders, which have lost a bit of their sun-scorched, violet hue. While the pain has subsided under my skin, its delicate layers are beginning to shed. After turning the last page of Revolutionary Mothering, I notice that my soul feels anew. My own spiritual layers peeled back. My heart open and ready to receive.

In times like these, Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines teaches me that hope, love and change are always possible.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Mai’a Williams Author Page | Back to Alexis Pauline Gumbs's Author Page | Back to China Marten's Author Page




Unmasking the Black Bloc: Who they are, What they do, How they work

By Devon Douglas-Bowers
Occupy.com
December 18th, 2014


“The Black Bloc always defend the demonstrations when the police come here.” - Ariane Santos, 26-year-old Brazilian student

“The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement.” - Chris Hedges

The Black Bloc: some love it, others hate it. Many condemn Black Blockers for engaging in property destruction and lack of central organization, yet others appreciate them and see their divisive actions as a positive, arguing for a diversity of tactics. However, what many are lacking is an understanding of the Black Bloc, it's history, the types of people who are in it, and the problems within.

While this is a brief exploration of the Black Bloc, those who are interested further should read "Who's Afraid of the Black Blocs? Anarchy In Action Around the World," by Francis Dupuis-Déri (translated by Lazer Lederhendler), which not only provided the research for this article, but also explores on a deeper level what the black block is, the tactics and beliefs of black blockers, and criticism of the Black Bloc.

To begin to discuss black blocs, there must first be an understanding of what a black bloc is. Black blocs are “ad hoc assemblages of individuals or affinity groups that last for the duration of a march or rally” in which members retain their anonymity via head-to-toe black clothing. While there may be uses of force, “more often than not they are content to protest peacefully” with the main objective being to “embody within a demonstration a radical critique of the economic and political system.” A black bloc can be one person or thousands. It should be noted the black bloc isn't a group, but rather a tactic to allow for radicals to engage in direct action without fear of arrest; while many black blockers are anarchist, not all of them are.

Origins

Black blocs came out of the autonomous movement in Germany in the 1980s, specifically West Germany where “radical feminists had a profound effect on the Automen, injecting the movement with a more anarchist spirit than was the case elsewhere in Western Europe.” The Automen expressed their politics via “rent strikes and re-appropriating hundreds of buildings which were turned into squats” that doubled as spaces for political activity.

There is no definitive moment when the term black bloc came into usage, although there are different stories. The first major arrival of a black bloc was in 1986 when a massive black bloc was formed to defend the Hafenstrasse squat where 1,500 black blockers and 10,000 other demonstrators confronted the police and saved the squat.

Black bloc ideas and tactics soon spread to North America via fanzines, personal contacts and punk music groups, but there is also a more interesting reason as to how black bloc tactics spread. Sociologists Charles Tilly, Doug McAdam and Dieter Rucht, all of whom specialize in social movements, have shown that “for different periods and places there exist repertoires of collective action deemed effective and legitimate for the defense and promotion of a cause. These repertories are transformed and disseminated over time and across borders from one social movement to another, in accordance with the experiences of militants and the changes in the political sphere.”

Essentially, tactics and ideas spread over time from one social movement to another depending on their effectiveness and how the tactics will work within the context of each movement. Two modern day examples of this could be the physical encampment of spaces from the Occupy movement and the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture from the anti-police brutality movement that has recently sprung up surrounding the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The first time the black bloc made a major move in North America was during a January 1991 rally against the Persian Gulf war where the World Bank building was targeted. Black bloc tactics were also used by the militant anti-racist group Anti-Racist Action, which focuses on directly confronting neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Who They Are, How They are Organized

While the black bloc may be made up of militants, they are consistently categorized as hooligans, thugs and youths who take joy in private property destruction. Thus, there needs to be further exploration of the types of people under the masks.

It should be noted the black blocs, at least in the U.S. and Europe, are generally overwhelmingly white and male. However, there is some diversity. In a communiqué published days after the demonstrations against the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa, Mary Black (a pseudonym for a protester who took part in the protests) noted that most of the people she knew who used black bloc tactics “have days jobs working for nonprofits. Some are schoolteachers, labor organizers, or students. Some don't have full-time jobs, but instead spend most of their time working for change in their communities.[...] These are thinking and caring folks who, if they did not have radical political and social agendas, would be compared with nuns, monks, and others who live their lives in service.”

Dupuis-Déri himself stated that in interviews he has had with black blockers, many had been involved in the social sciences and that “in a number of cases, their research projects dealt with the political significance and consequences of demonstrations and direct actions,” suggesting “that their political involvement was grounded in serious political thinking.”

Thus, those who involve themselves in black bloc tactics are not necessarily people who are at protests solely to break things, although such types of people do come in and cause problems.

Before discussing the issue of property destruction, it would be pertinent to know how black blocs are organized. Black bloc groups attempt to function in a horizontal manner, with each person having equal say in deliberating issues and where the goal is consensus rather than voting. In order to do this, black blockers form affinity groups, which are groups “generally composed of between a half-dozen and several dozen individuals whose affinity results from ties that bind them, such as belonging to the same school, workplace, or political organization.” By having previous ties to one another, members in affinity groups are able to coordinate much easier.

The Issue of Property Destruction

Not all black blockers engage in property destruction. While one may use black bloc tactics, there are different roles one can play. Groups take into account things such as a person's immigration status, health problems, previous arrest record and the like, and at-risk individuals can engage in low-risk tasks such as being “in charge of legal support in the event of arrests, or responsible for transportation, lodging, water and food supplies, media contacts, psychological support” and whatnot.

Black blocs meet to plan and organize before hand, but also during protests as well. One black blocker who took part in the protests against the G8 Summit in 2003 noted in her reflection of the events:

"I found it extraordinary that we could hold delegates' meetings right in the middle of the blocking action. There were barricades, fires had been lit, the police were slinging a lot of tear gas. And still, a meeting was called with someone yelling, 'meeting in ten minutes near the road sign.' The meeting took place barely a few hundred meters from where the police stood, and it allowed us to decide on our course of action. [...] The police officers see you as a crowd and assume you're going to act like a crowd, The affinity group model disrupts that dynamic: you don't act like a crowd anymore but like a rational being."

With regards to property damage, for black blockers, the target is the message. Targets are often chosen for their symbolic value. “On principle, Black Blocs do not strike community centers, public libraries, the offices of women's committees or even small independent businesses.” While this may be true generally, the use of property destruction by some black blockers can cause problems, such as can be seen in the recent Berkeley protests, where people were protesting the death of Eric Garner and individuals came and broke the windows of a number of banks. This is deeply problematic as it took the attention off the death of Eric Garner and the larger issues surrounding police brutality against the black community, and put the attention on banks. Actions such as these can potentially create a space for the police to justify a crackdown on all protesters.

The fetishization of property destruction is a problem with the black bloc, as in some cases “violent direct action becomes a means for a would-be militant to affirm [their] political identity in the eyes of other militants. This makes it very tempting for that person to look down on and exclude those who do not equate radicalism with violence.” Yet, not all black blockers engage in this fetishization and are aware of the dangers, such as with a participant of the Quebec city black blocs who stated: “I have no patience for dogmatic pacifism, but there is also dogmatic violence, which sees violence as the only and only means to wage the struggle.” The protester Sofiane noted that “We don't advocate violence; it's not a program... Because you can easily acquire a taste for violence, you get used to it... But when it comes to doing militant work, not many people show up.”

Diversity of Tactics

However, there are solutions to the problem of those wanting to engage in direct action and others who want to peacefully protest that should be quoted at some length. Around 2000, there were a few mobilizations in which it was proposed that certain areas of a city be identified by colors in order to allow different types of protests simultaneously:

"This was done at the Reclaim the Street rally in London on June 18, 1999; at the first Global Day of Action called by the People's Global Action, an anti-capitalist network founded in Geneva in 1998 and close to the Zapatista rebels.[...] Color coding made it possible to distinguish among three separate marches: blue for the Black Bloc, accompanied by the Infernal Noise Brigade band; yellow for the Tute Bianche [a militant Italian social movement]; pink for the Pink and Silver Bloc."

The organization Convergence of Anti-Capitalist Struggles used a similar tactic at demonstrations in which there were three zones: green, yellow, and red. "The green zone was a sanctuary where demonstrators were, theoretically, in no danger of being arrested. The yellow zone was for those undertaking nonviolent civil disobedience and involved a minor risk of being arrested. The red zone was for protesters who were ready for more aggressive tactics, including skirmishes with the police."

This allowed for the concept of a diversity of tactics to be respected, as well as for protesters to have spaces where more or less militant tactics were accepted, all while maintaining the safety of peaceful protesters.

Though the debate surrounding property violence is the largest and loudest of all, there are other problems within black blocs such as sexism and accusations of alienating the working class.

With regards to sexism, many critics of black blocs argue that militant direct action “partakes of a macho mystique and does not encourage women to join in” and that expressing one's anger through destruction “simply [confirms] and [amplifies] aggressive masculinity.” Furthermore, the sexual division of labor is often reproduced, with a woman who took part in a number of black blocs in the 2012 Quebec student strike saying that it was women who often did the shopping “when fabric was needed to make flags and banners.”

Dupuis-Déri noted that the situation hadn't changed, writing that “more than a decade earlier, during a meeting to prepare a black bloc in Montreal, the men ended up in the backyard of an apartment honing their slingshot skills while the women were in the kitchen making Molotov cocktails.” Thus, masculinity is not only reproduced in many black bloc circles, but also creates a space that rejects the participation of women and devalues their labor and thus their importance to the movement.

Some argue that black blocs alienate the working-class “with their clothing and lifestyle choices, which are associated with the anarchist counterculture.” While some may argue that there are those in the working-class who support and take part in black blocs, it should be noted that these are not fully representative of the working-class; there is a lack of people of color and women and so the black blocs are more representative of the young, white working-class.

Black blocs tactics are divisive and create a large amount of tension, even within far-left circles. Many condemn black blockers as being nothing but hooligans who want to break things. But by unmasking who they are, one can better understand them and their tactics and ideas, even if one disagrees.

NOTE: Occupy.com does not in any shape or form support or encourage property destruction or other violent activities associated with the Black Bloc.

Black Bloc, Automen, Hands Up Don't Shoot, Michael Brown, Ferguson protests, Anti-Racist Action, Francis Dupuis-Déri, affinity groups, property destruction, diversity of tactics, Eric Garner, anti-police brutality protests

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Crashing the Party: A Review in Friends Journal

by J.E. McNeil
Friends Journal
June 1st, 2016

The author, a legal worker (non-lawyer) member of the National Lawyers Guild, stated early on that he proposed “to write about the legal and political events as both a firsthand participant and an objective observer.” From what I knew from various accounts—the press, the National Lawyers Guild’s, and my nephew’s (he had been arrested during the events in the book)—few, if any, of the participants in the horrific events surrounding the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., were “objective” about what happened.

But I was wrong. The book is a detailed, exacting retelling of the events before, during, and after—long after—the convention had left Philadelphia. It is a chilling story, well told. In it are many accounts of solidarity, betrayal, bravery, and brutality.

The basic story is about the groups who sought to protest many issues during and around the Republican gathering in Philadelphia in August 2000. Hermes notes that some of the actions had foreshadowing in the Seattle World Trade Organization protests. In those protests, the activists ably used various educational, street theater, and arrest-and-trial strategies as well as legal observers. And the government effectively used disinformation tactics, initially convincing the general public that the protests were largely led by violent, black-clad anarchists.

The alliances who sought to protest the convention spent more than a year planning and preparing—as did the police. The activists were spied upon, infiltrated, harassed, and eventually—in many cases before the events—arrested. In particular, the proposed peaceful street theater’s puppets, float, and banners were destroyed prior to the event, with everyone in the staging area arrested whether they were connected to it or not. The treatment of the activists by the police during the arrests and while in custody without bail hearings in jail was vicious. The criminal charges were outrageous violations of constitutional rights. People in authority lied and colluded. Eventually, 95 percent of those arrested were not convicted.

Many of the methods and strategies used by the activists will not be new to Friends, such as consensus decision making. Others will be things with which we are not in accord, such as “a pushback against the rigidity of ‘nonviolence.’” Hermes explains coherently the strategies of arrest solidarity, jail solidarity, and court solidarity as well. But he also includes mistakes and failures of the activists. He relates, for example, a story of activists robbed when they handed bail money to a young African American man whom they failed to vet as they normally would have. This event led to a discussion among the activists of the inherent racism in trusting people more because they are members of an oppressed class.

Hermes relates all of this in great detail, using transcripts, interviews, and media reports.
The book ends with his own analysis of the events and strategy and that of many of the other participants, by itself well worth reading. And clearly the events had several important results.

One result, and foremost for me, was the understanding at a new depth by the predominantly young, white, affluent protesters of just how horrible and racist the prison and justice system is in our country. Reading and hearing about something is very different from experiencing and witnessing it. Another result was the strengthening of direct action trends among young activists of color. As Kazembe Balagun, a SLAM (Student Liberation Action Movement) member noted: “direct action, done correctly, can foster solidarity across racial and gender lines, and that’s something we definitely learned.”

But even as some were radicalized, others such as Ryan Harvey, political activist and organizer, realized:

We have a lot of work to do, and most of it is not going to get done in the streets. It’s going to get done on the doorsteps, the libraries, the churches, the labor halls, the schools, the military bases, the parks, the prisons, the abortion clinics, the neighborhood associations, the PTAs.

Even if you do not share all of the beliefs of the activists, Crashing the Party is an important read for those who would like to understand the various anti-globalization actions before and since. Even if some of the political analysis leaves you cringing, Crashing the Party provides useful insights for peace work in our meetings. Even if you do not choose to engage in direct action or even protest, Crashing the Party is a revealing take about the dysfunction of our legal system, prison systems, and society.

We have a lot of work to do.


Buy Crashing the Party now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Kris Herme's page




Battling Convention Kris Hermes in Jacobin Magazine

 Police dogs at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL. Casa del libro

By Kris Hermes
Jacobin Magazine
July 19th, 2016

Inside the police’s playbook for repressing protests at national conventions.

Police dogs at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, IL. Casa del libro

In 1968, outside the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Chicago, police violently cleared the streets of antiwar protesters, smashing heads and clubbing with abandon. Inside, even some Democratic Party officials blanched at the level of brutality. Abraham Ribicoff, a senator from Connecticut, denounced the police’s “Gestapo tactics” from the podium of the convention hall, earning the ire of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and the applause of many delegates.

In the decades since, domestic law enforcement has stepped up its efforts to quell political dissent. While no convention since has devolved into such chaotic brutality, policing today is arguably more planned, militarized, and indiscriminately violent.

The contemporary policing model — one of “strategic incapacitation,” as the sociologist Patrick Gillham terms it — developed as a reaction to the global justice movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

After the “Battle in Seattle,” during which protesters shut down the 1999 World Trade Organization summit, Philadelphia police commissioner John Timoney and other officials traveled to the Pacific Northwest to study protest tactics and the police response, and to prepare for the Republican Convention scheduled in Philadelphia just a few months later.

Lessons well learned, Timoney oversaw the crackdown at the GOP gathering in 2000 and then, as Miami police chief, presided over one of the most brutal responses to political protest in modern history: the repression of demonstrators at the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas summit.

The “Miami model” established the rules of engagement that the host cities of political conventions now habitually employ to quash dissent. Chances are, officials in Cleveland (site of the Republican National Convention) and Philadelphia (site of the Democratic National Convention) will crib from the same playbook.

Advance Repression

The effort to thwart convention protests begins months before any delegate sets foot in the host city. Since 2000, every political convention has been designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE), which allows officials to establish a robust, multi-agency law enforcement apparatus (with the FBI and Secret Service at the top) and to have to access to millions of federal dollars for police equipment, weaponry, and personnel.

As the intelligence community sets up shop and local police stockpile weapons, public officials engage in a calculated effort to frighten residents. They warn of “outside agitators” and “violent anarchists,” seeking to foment divisions between the public and protesters and build support for the inevitable crackdown.

Meanwhile, FBI agents visit the homes and workplaces of known activists to ratchet up the pressure. Law enforcement infiltrate and spy on activist groups, even if there’s no credible threat of terrorist or violent activity.

The information gathered is shared at local or regional fusion centers and then used to disrupt political organizing. (While fusion centers are already set up in Philadelphia and Cleveland, it might be harder for Philadelphia police to carry out this part of the plan: thanks to a historic lawsuit and “mayoral directive” in the 1980s, city police must receive permission from the city’s managing director before infiltrating political groups.)

As the conventions approach, police descend on “convergence centers” or other designated protest spaces used to distribute literature, connect protesters, and provide trainings. The raids are carried out to deliberately disorient political activists, making it harder to build momentum and organize.

In the lead-up to the 2008 RNC in St Paul, law enforcement spied on the activist group The Welcome Committee for months, preemptively raided multiple activists’ homes, and arrested several organizers on conspiracy and terrorism charges. (Some activists sued over the house raids, and the city eventually dropped the terrorism charges.)

In addition, paid FBI informants entrapped two young activists, prodding them to make Molotov cocktails. Because of the FBI’s manufactured plot, the two men spent years in prison for building — but never using — the fire bombs.

Before the 2012 RNC, the Tampa Police Department inserted itself into many protest groups, employing “widespread use of undercover operatives to gather intelligence.” Tampa Police Department major Marc Hamlin later bragged at a security conference that the “organizational structure [of protesters] was extremely weak,” allowing undercover officers to penetrate and “take over” a protest group. When the dust settled, only the dismantled political group faced any consequences.

To justify their actions, police often craft outlandish, unsubstantiated claims about protesters. For example, in 2000, Pennsylvania state troopers spent a week searching a West Philadelphia warehouse full of art and protest materials. Despite finding no legal reason to shut down the building, Timoney falsely claimed that police found explosives and acid-filled balloons.

Before his fabrications were uncovered, police arrested more than seventy people and destroyed all of the First Amendment–protected banners, puppets, and literature they found.

An additional tactic used to stop protests before they start is to deny official sanction to disfavored groups. Both in 2000 and this year, Philadelphia rejected the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign’s application for a march permit. Last time, the PPEHRC took to the street under threat of arrest, but this time the group mounted a successful legal challenge and will march with a permit.

In 2004, ahead of the RNC, New York City refused to issue a permit to antiwar groups looking to protest in Central Park. Although activists eventually won their suit, the city successfully prevented people from gathering in the park.

Just for good measure, host cities also typically impose sweeping “no-protest” or “security” zones in advance, banning everyday items and curtailing free-speech activity. In 2008, in addition to instating tight controls on rally locations and logistics, St Paul drew a parade route that, in certain sections, was completely fenced-in and lined with heavily armed police. And at the 2012 RNC, despite expectations of few protesters, Tampa’s security zone covered the entire downtown area.

On the Ground

Pre-convention repression is just a warm-up for the main event. Once the convention begins, heavily militarized police show massive displays of force, at times outnumbering protesters; use tear gas, pepper spray, rubber and wooden bullets, tasers, and sound cannons to attack protesters; and detain hundreds after unlawful arrests.

Once protesters are in jail, police and city officials often do everything they can to keep them in detention. They slap excessive charges on protesters, impose prohibitively high bail, and refuse to release arrestees or allow them access to legal counsel, preventing them from getting back on the streets until the convention ends. At the 2004 RNC, police arrested nearly two thousand people and held them in conditions so squalid that New York City eventually settled civil litigation for $18 million.

During the 2000 RNC, Philadelphia police locked up some four hundred people, charging more than forty with felonies and the rest with as many as ten misdemeanors each.

The average bail ranged between $15,000 and $20,000, but those who police accused of being “ringleaders” were held on $500,000 and $1 million bails. Most were denied access to legal counsel and detained for several days before arraignment.

It has also become common practice for cities hosting NSSEs to obtain insurance policies.

The trend started in Philadelphia, when it bought insurance for the 2000 RNC to protect the city and its police from liability for rights violations, including assault and battery, false arrest, wrongful detention and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. The city used the policy to pay for settlements from several civil lawsuits and arguably gave police license to act even more violently.

In the years since, St Paul, Tampa, and Charlotte (the site of the 2012 DNC) have all purchased similar policies.

What to Expect

To what extent will Cleveland and Philadelphia follow the same template as other host cities?

Neither city has disclosed what weapons they’ve purchased with the roughly $50 million the federal government has given each of them. But we know that Cleveland has bought riot gear and batons, and Philadelphia considered buying an armored vehicle.

We can assume that police will act like an occupying force. Cleveland police are likely already infiltrating activist groups — in April, they held a training to build “cohesion” between undercover operatives and uniformed police during periods of “civil unrest.”

If history repeats itself, law enforcement in Philadelphia will infiltrate political groups, statutes against it notwithstanding. Advances in communication technology like stingray devices will allow police to eavesdrop on cell phone communication without a warrant.

Challenges in the courts have moderately loosened the hold officials have over protest activity. Philadelphia’s refusal to issue certain protest permits and its ban on rush-hour demonstrations was successfully challenged and resulted in a court-ordered settlement. Cleveland announced a three-and-a-half-square-mile security zone and time-and-place restrictions on marches and rallies, only to see them struck down.

However, the court-ordered settlement in Cleveland still bans marches for most of the afternoon and all of the evening, an unrealistic and arguably unconstitutional policy that will certainly invite mass arrests.

Even in the best-case scenario, protesters in Cleveland and Philadelphia will take to the streets in a decidedly inhospitable environment. Activists and organizers will have to adopt innovative and creative strategies to try to circumvent state repression. Establishing a base of support with host city residents and solidarity with workers — especially those integral to the convention infrastructure — would be a good place to start.

Activists will also have to counter the prevailing media narratives, reminding residents that their cities are throwing expensive and often publicly funded private parties at the same time they shutter public schools, lay off public workers, and slash social services.

Regardless of what happens inside the convention halls, it’s outrageous that millions of dollars are being spent to suppress political speech — especially at time when both parties tell us that addressing our education, health care, and housing needs is just too costly.

Buy Crashing the Party now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Kris Herme's page




PM Press Feature in Sapling Newsletter

Originally published in the Sapling Newsletter
May 30th, 2016
This week Sapling talks with the editors at PM Press.

 
*** 
Sapling: What should people know who may not be familiar with PM Press?
 
PM Press: In less than 10 years, PM Press has managed to release nearly 400 books that have slowly and steadily sold over a million copies (combined) without any mainstream or corporate support. Our staff has gone from fully volunteer to full-time paid employees with very few changes. Unlike traditional publishers, our sales rely heavily on grassroots events (hand to hand bookselling) from coast to coast, word of mouth and small press reviews, and the support of the DIY and global political activist communities. We’d like to think that at our best we’ve been an example for folks interested in starting their own independent publishing ventures, and as an amplifier for writers, artists, and activists working on social/political justice issues ignored by the celebrity-driven mainstream media; and at our worst, proof that the world does not really need any more fantasy novels or tenure-driven Marxist analysis of the world (regardless of how well-intentioned, of course).
 
Sapling: How did your name come about?
 
PM Press: We needed a name quickly; a list was drawn up with options ranging from large motorcycle engine sizes (1200cc) to book related terms (Crooked Spine) to initialed phrases (FTW). PM was a friendly set of initials that could be used for any purpose that the occasion required (print matters, pogue mahone, piano man etc.). It didn’t hurt that most of the productive work in the early days was taking place late at night, in the PM!
 
Sapling: What do you pay close attention to when reading submissions? Any deal breakers?
 
PM Press: Am I excited to read the topic or story? Is the writer able to communicate an idea or am I left puzzled? Sometimes I'm excited to read a manuscript based on the synopsis and the writer hasn't been able to follow through beyond that initial spark.
 
The deal breakers are sort of boring. Nothing racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Otherwise we're open to publishing an eclectic range of nonfiction, fiction, and comics as long as it's something a few of us find interesting.
 
 Where do you imagine PM Press to be headed over the next couple years? What’s on the horizon?
 
PM Press: We'll keep trucking along releasing lots more books by authors old and new while covering a diverse range of ideas both in fiction and nonfiction. Hopefully some graphic novels and comic collections. Occasionally a book that left me puzzled but through a lot of hard work has come together at last.
 
Sapling: As an editor, what is the hardest part of your job? The best part?
 
PM Press: The hardest thing for me as an editor is to give everything the care and vigilance it deserves, moving it all the way from the submitted manuscript to its polished final form, the main reason being a burdensome workload. It’s a lot of ground to cover. There’s so much worthy stuff that we want to publish yet we’re only a tiny crew.
The best part is any time a reader finds one of our books inspiring or engaging. If something we publish sheds light on a neglected issue, voice, or history, or serves as a tool to think about how to make the world better, then whatever it took to get it out there was worth it.
 
Sapling:  If you were stranded on a desert island for a week with only three books, what books would you want to have with you?
 
PM Press: Walden and Resistance to Civil Government (Norton Critical Edition), Henry David Thoreau: A favorite book for most of my life. I could spend months (years?) on an island reading this without exhausting its store of valuable things.
Kindred, Octavia Butler: The most recent novel I bought, last week. While stuck on a desert island I’d want something that could transport me to another place and time, and Kindred relates to the protagonist’s struggle to survive in a frightening and unfamiliar world, that of American slavery.
 
Garner’s Modern English Usage, Bryan A. Garner: Assuming I’d have brought my laptop, I’d probably want to get caught up on some editing as long as my battery held out, and Garner’s book is an indispensable reference book I wouldn’t want to be without.
 
Sapling: Just for fun (because we like fun and the number three), if PM Press was a person, what three things would it be thinking about obsessively?
 
PM Press: If PM Press was a person (and what a strange person that would be), the three things we would be thinking about obsessively would be:
 
1) How to make Google previews work more easily for our titles,
2) Finding new ways to get books into people's hands that focus on social/cultural and political justice and inspire change,
and
3) Smashing Capital and the State.
 
 
*** 
 
PM Press was founded at the end of 2007 by a small collection of folks with decades of publishing, media, and organizing experience. PM Press co-conspirators have published and distributed hundreds of books, pamphlets, CDs, and DVDs. Members of PM have founded enduring book fairs, spearheaded victorious tenant organizing campaigns, and worked closely with bookstores, academic conferences, and even rock bands to deliver political and challenging ideas to all walks of life. We’re old enough to know what we’re doing and young enough to know what’s at stake. We seek to create radical and stimulating fiction and nonfiction books, pamphlets, T-shirts, visual and audio materials to entertain, educate, and inspire you.
*** 
 For more info: 



Urusla K. Le Guin’s Late in the Day In Rain Taxi

Klausner's Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review
February 2012

Ursula K. Le Guin’s newest book includes poems, an essay on poetic cra , and a postscript on the state of literature. The poems are well cra ed, each with a poignant message about humanity or nature.
 Le Guin says in her forward: “by demonstrating and performing aesthetic order or beauty, poetry can move minds to the sense of fellowship that prevents careless usage and exploitation of our fellow beings, waste and cruelty.” In both cra and theme, this new collec- tion meets her ideal.

Le Guin is better known as a novelist, the author of The Le Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, Earthsea, and so many others. Throughout her career, however, she has also been a poet. Her new collection is a worthy addition to her lifework, in which she has continually looked at the relationship of humans to the natural world and sought solutions to con ict and violence.

In “The Old Music” she uses the form of Goethe’s “Nachtgesang”:

The tunes of my own choosing
all sounded false and wrong

I sought a newer music,

I found an older song.

In returning to an older song, Le Guin uses traditional forms, free verse, and “free form.” She says: “By free form I mean a discernible pattern—involving a regularity, repetition of stanzas, line lengths, metric beat . . . that is unique to a certain poem.” “The Canada Lynx,” here in its entirety, is free form:

We know how to know and how to think
how to exhibit what is known

to heaven’s bright ignorant eye

how to be busy and to multiply.

He knows how to walk

into the trees alone not looking back,
so light on his so feet he does not sink
into the snow. How to leave no track,
no sound, no shadow. How to be gone.

Here Le Guin shows her trademark respect for the environment; with irony and humility, she acknowledges that the lynx may know more than we imagine. But she also exempli es the kind of freedom she es- pouses. “We can use rhyme, meter, repetition, however and whenever we choose—in conventional forms, or semi-conventional forms, or in once-only patterns we discover or invent. This, I think, is true freedom of verse.” In “Artemisia Tridentata,” she uses end rhyme and a single quatrain:

Some ruthlessness be ts old age.

Tender young herbs are generous and pliant,
but in dry solitudes the grey-leaved sage
stands unforthcoming and de ant.

She may be de ant—she’s an unapologetic anarchist and feminist, and certainly a literary sage—however Le Guin is anything but unforthcom- ing and ruthless. Goethe, in “Nachtgesang,” wrote: “Those eternal feelings / li me sublimely high, / away from the earthly crowd.” As she observes the world, Le Guin is as sublime as Goethe and yet more grounded in solid form, imaginative imagery, and empathy.

In the book’s postscript, Le Guin says, “Resistance and change o en begin in art . . . I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publish- ing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t pro t. Its name is freedom.” With such a view, Late in the Day is a tting capstone to Ursula K. Le Guin’s long career. The poems, with their diverse topics and varied forms, show versatility and compassion.

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