Archive for actions


Lots of great things are happening right now in the Ruckus-sphere as a result of lots of hard work and prep, so I wanted to take a minute to update friends and family, as well as just acknowledge positive results, progress, and fruits of our labor! So exciting.

Before heading to my parents’ place in Wisconsin last week, I was up on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound for a week, training folks in direct action climbing as part of Ruckus’s Localize This! Action Camp.

[Check out our news coverage on Seattle’s King 5 news!  That’s me in the black demonstrating a controlled rappel;)]

It was an excellent camp, and one of the greatest things about it was the direct connection to action. The camp was formatted to help the local Vashon community prepare to stop a multinational corporation from developing a gravel mine. The trainings felt all the more impactful with the majority of participants thinking about how they were going to incorporate their new skills into upcoming action campaigns.

And then this morning some of our folks did a kickass action up in Toronto against the Royal Bank of Canada, protesting their bankrolling of the Alberta Tar Sands (through Rainforest Action Network‘s divestment campaign).

I got a text message at 5am this morning saying that the banner-action was happening, and it made my day to watch as the photos rolled in of two of the amazing women in Ruckus’s IP3 (Indigenous Peoples’ Power Project) network (one who is also a Ruckus board member) who I’d just gotten to hang out with on Vashon two weeks ago – climbing RBC headquarters’ flagpoles and unfurling the banner. (Luckily it went much better than it did in the crazy dreams I had when I drifted back off to sleep after reading the text message!)

It’s great to see results. Training in Action!

Something else I’ve been up to at Ruckus is managing the launch of our new website and blog which have both been in major need of rehaul for years now. While we had amazing folks at Tumis and Radical Designs do the design and implementation, I get to deal with the content management – I basically spent months [virtually] filing, and adding new content. We’ve still got some quirks to work out (if you find one, let me know!), but I’m super stoked to have our new site and blog up and running!

So, check out the new site, and my posts from today about the camp and action!:

my blog post: “putting training into ACTION”

more on today’s toronto action


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on films on border-crossing, water rights, and dams

i don’t write film reviews, but jess and i have been watching lots of really great documentaries lately, and there are a few that i decided i want to share here, because i think everyone should see them.  if you haven’t seen these yet, please watch them! they’re all available on good ol’ netflix…


the first i’ll mention is called Mojados: Through The Night.  written, produced and directed by tommy davis, the film is shot on tommy’s handheld camera, and documents the border-crossing of four mexican men (guapo, oso, tigre and viejo) on their journey from michoacan, mexico, into the U.S.  this film is an amazing first-hand chronicle of “illegal” immigration – showing the gut-determination alone that gets them past unbelievable obstacles in their pursuit of hard work to be able to send money back to their families.

the film skips past any and all political contextualization about “illegal” immigration, and instead focuses solely on the border-crossing trip itself – the part that no one ever sees but those who make the trip (or die trying).  the sheer intensity of the obstacles they face on this trip leaves me amazed at how many people actually make it through successfully, and horrified about those who aren’t as lucky (click here to find border maps showing migrant deaths, from humane borders, a group that provides water stations, and maps of border fences, etc.).  i knew that the trip must be tough, but nothing prepared me for seeing just exactly what crossing the border entails.  as if the physical hardships aren’t enough – swimming across the rio grande, walking hundreds of miles, the extreme heat and cold, the lack of clean water and food, the barbed wire fences – they’ve got to deal with the danger of the border patrol, of being seen by cars on the 4 highways they have to run across, and whether or not they can trust coyote “guides”, or “safe house” hosts.


i wondered a lot while i was watching the film, what the role of the filmmaker was on the trip… and how he gained the men’s trust to make the film in the first place.  the website tells a little of this background, and ends:

“Because Davis ate the same moldy tortillas, climbed the same fences, and drank the same mud as the four migrants, he earned the title “El Gringo Mojado” and the trust of the group.  The men realized that Davis’ work was a chance to give the world an insight into their own lives and the lives of their brethren.  The result is a stunning, honest portrait of an often traveled but rarely seen journey.”

[while i’m on the topic of immigration, here’s a link to josh kahn russell’s blog post about the amazing protest last halloween where bay area immigrant and indigenous youth successfully shut down the san francisco I.C.E. (immigration and customs enforcement) headquarters for the day with a blockade (with ruckus support), in response to a recent rash of ICE raids.  josh’s post includes the text of an incredible letter from some of the youth blockaders to the city of san francisco, that is well worth the read.]


the next film i wanted to talk about is Flow, a documentary about the state of water on earth: water levels, water access, water rights, water privatization, and the ways that people all over the world are trying to deal with our global water crisis.

it’s being said (and has been for quite some time now), that the next world war will be about water, and this film certainly makes that seem more likely than ever.  water is one of the only things that none of us can truly live without, and millions of people are denied access to water every day, basically because of greed:  the greed of corporations and the international governmental organizations who are run by said corporations; as well as the greed of over-consumption.

flow discusses everything from how impure our tap water is, to what a racket bottled water is, to how giant corporations are swooping in and stealing water from the people and trying to sell it back to them at outrageous prices – from michigan (nestle) to india (coke) to bolivia (bechtel).

the film’s primary focus is on privatization – how a handful of corporations have stolen all our water out from underneath us; but – on the brighter side – it also shows some of the ways people are resisting: including employing age-old cultural wisdom about water collection and irrigation (and how governments are declaring some of these practices illegal); the infamous cochabamba victory that kicked bechtel out of bolivia; and some genius guy in india who devised an awesome solutionary water distribution system that is cheap, local, and provides local jobs (unfortunately i can’t remember his name or what the system was called, and couldn’t find a link to this, so you’ll have to watch the film to learn more about this!) – truly something that we should be implementing all over the place immediately!

here’s the trailer:

clean running water is definitely something i take for granted, like so many of us. and when i stop to think about it, it is absurd how much water we waste on a daily basis.  you know there’s something wrong with our system when you stop to realize that we use gallons upon gallons of fresh clean water to flush the toilet.  seriously?!?! what is our problem?  we are just so used to the habits that big corporations have made us think are the appropriate, normal, “civilized” ways to live… when really those habits are just making profits for water companies.  jess has taken a couple greywater workshops, and we can’t wait to have our own house to be able to set up greywater systems.  unfortunately, that won’t be for awhile.  in the mean time, however, we’ve discussed the possibility of at least disconnecting the bathroom sink pipe and running it to a bucket that we can then use to flush the toilet.  check out the awesome “greywater guerrilas” for more info.

water rights groups are trying to get water added to the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rightssign the petition here to get article 31 added: “Everyone has the right to clean accessible water, adequate for the health and well-being of the individual and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic circumstance.”


the last film i’ll mention briefly is Up the Yangtze, which is about China’s Three Gorges Dam project, which, according to International Rivers, “is the world’s largest hydropower project and most notorious dam. The massive project sets records for number of people displaced (more than 1.2 million), number of cities and towns flooded (13 cities, 140 towns, 1,350 villages), and length of reservoir (more than 600 kilometers). The project has been plagued by corruption, spiraling costs, technological problems, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties.”

The film focuses primarily on the dam’s human impact, by focusing on a poor family from a rural village on the yangtze river – one of the many communities that were displaced due to the rising water levels caused by the dam project.  this family is poor, living in a hut down on the riverbank with no electricity or running water.  they live on what little food they can grow along the riverside, and at the beginning of the film they are presented with a dilemma:  the 15-year old daughter of the family has just graduated middle school and wants to go to high school but the family can’t afford it.  in a heart-wrenching scene the parents explain through tears that they have to send her off to work and exploit her for the money.

the rest of the film focuses on the job she takes – which appears to be the only money-making option – on a cruise ship, which gives foreign tourists “farewell tours” of the ancient china that the three gorges dam is flooding.  now, the idea of cruise tourism has never left a good taste in my mouth (what with the excessive waste, decadence, and environmental havoc they wreak, not to mention the socio-economic impact of the tourists on the destination stops along the way), but this “farewell tour” cruise seems in particularly bad taste.  first off, each chinese cruise-ship worker starts off their first day by getting a new english name (yuck), and participating in a group workshop on how to talk to tourists, including what never to talk about – namely, politics (“never call them pale or fat, the proper word is ‘plump'” was my favorite bit of advice).

meanwhile, while “cindy” is trying to adjust to working on the cruise ship, her family’s hut is slowly sinking and they have to move their few possessions (lugging them on their backs while barefoot) to a new house, up the new steep concrete embankment (which the father helped create – BY HAND – and never got paid for).  their new house looks like a cement cave to me, and they’re now forced to pay for electricity and food – with what money?

at one point, the parents go to meet their daughter at the site of the dam project where the cruise has stopped to sight-see, and one of the ship’s tour-guides has the audacity to berate “cindy”‘s father for his illiteracy, ignorance about the dam, and his mistrust in the government – in english to the camera, right in front of him.

all in all, this was probably the most depressing of the three films i talked about here (i guess maybe because it seems like there’s nothing anyone can do about it?), but is still totally worth watching.

[tangentially, on the issue of tourism, i would also highly recommend Life and Debt, which is about tourism’s impact on Jamaica, but can pretty much be equated with most tourism everywhere].

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call for unity in oakland protests

this is a great post from “bay area crimethinc workers collective” on indybay, calling for unity among oscar grant/police brutality protesters in oakland with different tactics.  i went to the rally and march tonight and am waiting and wondering what will happen later tonight.

“Justice for Oscar Grant: The Future is Being Written
Bay Area CrimethInc Workers Collective and Anarchists for Justice for Oscar Grant

Today, people in the Bay Area will continue building the uprising sparked by yet another police killing of a young Black man, Oscar Grant, murdered just hours into 2009. All week, people have come together to flood the streets with anger, grief and defiance.

The march today for justice for Oscar Grant, to end police brutality, and to work for genuine community safety through social justice on our streets, is going to bring together a broad cross-section of working class people in Oakland. It will be majority African American, inter-generational with elders and young children; it will include union rank and file, students from Oakland’s public schools, people from neighborhoods most targeted by the police, and many others. It will also be a major risk for many people to participate in the march, as the police are making it clear that “they’ll be ready to go off with any excuse.” Even with police using intimidation tactics and the media drumming up fear on about “violent protesters” and “violent anarchists”, people from Oakland will march in a demonstration of grassroots power for justice and an end to police terror.

There are thousands of anarchists around the Bay Area, involved in hundreds of important community organizations, projects, cultural work, and collectives working to build economic, racial, environmental, gender, and social justice in our communities, and around the country. Anarchists are all ages, all races, of many genders, and have a long history of dynamic, creative, and strategic action. A small number of anarchists, as well as other non-anarchists activists, sometimes utilize the black bloc as a tactic to raise the social and economic costs of injustice and oppression through corporate property destruction/re-design.

Today in Oakland, there is a need for people of many different political traditions to bring their creativity, energy, and vision to the march and work together to build working class community power through this march. We can all stay together, not be divided by state and media tactics of “good protester/bad protester,” and support one another and the overall goals of the march. There may be anarchists of many kinds – parents, elders, union members, non-violent direct action activists, black blocers, health care workers, grandparents, community organizers, and children – contributing to a dignified, united, and powerful march. There are other times and places for graffiti, for raising the social costs through civil disobedience, property re-design, and facing off with the police. Let’s respect the self-determination of those who have called for this march, many of whom are already taking risks in taking to the streets, and who have set out guidelines for what kind of space they want to create at this demonstration. Let’s coming together to make this a powerful show of unity.

The police want a fight tonight to demonstrate their power. Today, the march can demonstrate a different kind of power – what it looks like when communities come together to assert their vision of an end to police violence backed by a system of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, heterosexism and the state. Together, we can do it. But we need to work together and be united. Let us bring forward the new world that exists in our hearts.”

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oscar grant protest aftermath

well, i wasn’t there.  i was here, just a few blocks away from much of the action, but i wasn’t there, so i’ve been gathering media and blogs and personal conversations, and wanted to make space here to at least acknowledge the events that shaped oakland’s new year, 2009.

the main question out there right now seems to be whether the actions taken by folks on wednesday night were “right” or “wrong”, but i think many of us know it’s much more nuanced than that.

because i wasn’t there, i’m feeling pretty hesitant to even post about this issue.  however, i’m going to take the risk of putting my thoughts out there, and “publicly” try to figure out where i stand in the aftermath of the oscar grant protest/riots.

first things first: a [transit] white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in the back, while he was lying on his stomach with his hands behind his back, in the early morning of jan 1, 2009, at the fruitvale BART station.

on wednesday, jan 7, after oscar grant’s funeral, an organized protest began at the fruitvale BART station where grant was killed, starting at 3pm to demand:

1) All officers involved be taken off duty without pay, and fully prosecuted;
2) That the U.S. Justice Department investigate the incident as a violation of civil rights;
3) That BART establish an independent citizens’ review board for its officers; and
4) That the BART police officers be disarmed!

artwork by melanie cervantes and jesus barraza

artwork by melanie cervantes and jesus barraza

at some point (around 5 or 6pm?), folks decided to march to city hall, and along the way, some folks decided to branch off to 8th and madison near the lake merritt BART station, where the BART administration building used to be (a big building that still remains vacant).

next, only those who were truly there will ever know who did what, and in what sequence: a dumpster was lit on fire, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, a police car was jumped on and rocked.  this event seemed to be what ignited everything else that happened that evening, which was quickly dubbed a “riot“.

in the aftermath, many folks around me are questioning who exactly “started it all”, and whether or not those folks had the right to do so.  if they were “white, masked anarchists”, then the implication is that they did not have the right to start it; but if they were young black men born and raised in oakland (presumably grant’s “community”, although he was a resident of hayward at the time of his death, he worked in oakland – i don’t know where he grew up), then the implication is that perhaps they did have the right to start things.

the argument goes that when “white masked anarchists” start shit [“violent” property destruction/riotous behavior], it is the communities of color who take the fall, in the short and long term – facing increased police targeting.

another argument goes that “riotous behavior” is what wakes people up and brings the issue to center stage.  communities rising up and rebelling threaten authorities and demand change in a way that the oft-mocked “candle light vigils” never will.

and there are the politics of privilege – where young white citizens with privilege CAN and potentially SHOULD play the role of taking direct action and/or “starting shit”, BECAUSE they can risk what others cannot.  this scenario, of course, presumes that the results are desirable at large, and the privileged folks are serving a purpose.

these questions take center stage for me, much more than whether smashing windows is “right” or “wrong”.  generally speaking, i think a more targeted approach to these types of actions are more relevant, strategic, and gain more support and understanding from the rest of the community.  it was heartbreaking to hear about an asian man on crutches pleading with rioters to leave his car alone, but get smashed anyway.

however, i witnessed just how fast all those windows downtown were replaced (though i’m not sure who paid for the repairs…), and perhaps even some of the business or car-owners gained an acute understanding of just how angry people are, and realize that the injustices people were rebelling against CANNOT stand any longer?  that community members are fed up with the injustice and murder, and they see no other outlet and it appears that no other actions are working [quickly enough] to right the wrongs?

so the question of who started it and did they have the right, is foremost on my mind.  for one thing, do only young black men born and raised in oakland (or hayward?) have the right to be angry and take action when murderous injustices take place against young black men in oakland?  and what does it mean to be part of the “oakland community”?  if you weren’t born here, are you never part of the community?

one thing that is very clear to me, but i think gets lost in the media, is that this is not just about oscar grant.  the fact that grant was murdered by the police is sad indeed and he and his family deserve due respect and honor for the tragedy they unfortunately experienced.  however, this is part of a larger systemic injustice — a system that values profit and authority over all life — and THAT is why people took to the streets.

i absolutely believe that leadership in movements for change should come from those most impacted by the injustices at issue.  however, at some point things cease to be an isolated issue.  where is the line?  perhaps there is validity for some people to play the role of “instigator”, escalating things to wake the authorities up and gaining power and leverage for the community’s demands.  or perhaps the long-term negative impacts on the most impacted communities negate the “purpose” of actions like this.

it’s definitely a foggy area, and i won’t presume to know exactly where the line is.  however, i will say this.  when it comes down to it, i know this for myself:  i certainly am no one to condemn as wrong the actions that any of the “rioters” took on wednesday night – those who started it and those who continued throughout the night.  but i am definitely committed to continuing to collectively learn just what types of community responses really are the most effective toward bringing about positive systemic changes in our communities.

for me, what happened this week just highlighted to me once again how important it is to have a diversity of tactics in order to enact real change.  we all play a different role, and we all need each other.  let’s remember we’re all on the same side.

here are some of the resources i’ve compiled about these events:

The Oakland Tribune:  “Unrest in Oakland has deep roots in city’s history of race relations”: “But for Mitchell and others, either those protesting in the streets or supporters cheering them on from their living rooms, the true import of this moment transcends a tragic incident on a train-station platform.”

SF Gate: “Bart Directors apologize to slain man’s family” : a report on the hearing Thursday morning 1/8. “We must learn from our mistakes and we must make sure this never happens again,” Director Carole Ward Allen told the crowd.

IT’S SIMPLE: DISARM BART POLICE!  THAT’S HOW YOU CAN ENSURE THIS WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN!!! blog: “reportback from the oscar grant protests/riots” : “i can smell something burning, and Broadway is obscured with smoke that could be the source of the smell, or tear gas. A metal hulk slowly rolls out of a backlit cloud of smoke. it is a paramilitary tank with a mounted water cannon. Is this my neighborhood?”

Justin Warren’s photo blog “Oscar Grant Protest” “Rally and Rage over BART Police Murder of Oscar Grant”

Adrienne Maree Brown on “Update on Fruitvale BART Protest”: “if police hope to gain our respect and trust in their process, they need to commit to disarming themselves of lethal weapons immediately, and learn the skills of negotiation and community engagement.”

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repeal prop 8 action

in an ironic twist of fate after my last post, i ended up on an action team to protest the passage of prop 8 last night in san francisco.  there was a mass march planned from civic center to dolores park starting at 5:30pm, and after the march stepped off at 7th and market, 10 of us (after quickly forming an affinity group in 24 hrs), followed the march to 9th and market where we then stopped, linked hands, and formed a human chain across market street, displaying a banner that said, “We Will Not Be Silent: REPEAL PROP 8″.


our street blockade effectively stopped traffic for several hours, and the energy of the group and the crowd that surrounded us was amazing.  there weren’t more than 30 seconds pause between the endless chants, some tried and true, and some innovated on the spot.  then, just when we were considering an escalation of tactics, the main march came back to join us, and our group led the crowd past the cops, throughout the city, taking over the streets and ending with an occupation of the castro well into the night.  you can read my report of the night’s events on the ruckus society website.

although there were no arrests (the cops behaved in typical SFPD “another day, another protest” fashion, making no arrests as long as things remained nonviolent, which they did), the spirit of the night was empowering for all who participated, and perhaps introduced many to the world beyond permitted marches and rallies, even if just slightly.

below is a really grainy video from my phone during the castro occupation of one of the individuals from our group, yelling “how many people held 9th and market?!” and the group standing up to cheers from the crowd:

when i was asked to support the action and participate in the blockade, i didn’t hesitate.  and while some may find that ironic or confusing, given my stance on marriage, to me this was a grassroots endeavor worth participating in:  an entire section of society (which includes myself) just had some of their rights stripped from them on tuesday, when prop 8 eeked past 50% support in the state-wide election.  although the state (and federal) constitutions may not have ever originally intended to permit marriage rights to same-sex couples, the constitution also never meant to include blacks and women, when it said “all men are created equal”.  they meant white men who owned property.  don’t tell me the word “men” is a shorthand, inclusive term!

so despite the fact that i hope one day state-sanctioned marriage becomes irrelevant, prop 8 has stripped people of their rights through pure discrimination and blatant bigotry, which to me is more important to fight than marriage itself.  our rights are being eroded regularly, and we can’t let one slide, lest we find ourselves under martial law (oh wait…).

adrienne maree brown wrote a heartfelt piece about the hate experienced through the prop 8 campaign.

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Un-Dam the Klamath! IP3 Action in Portland

congratulations to everyone from the klamath river tribes and the klamath justice coalition for their action at the PacifiCorp headquarters in Portland on Thursday, protesting Warren Buffet’s PacifiCorp-owned dams on the Klamath River that are killing off salmon and native ways of life.  ruckus’s IP3 (indigenous peoples’ power project) has been actively training and supporting native klamath activists in strategic nonviolent direct action tactics in their campaign against PacifiCorp/Warren Buffett’s dams. big ups to marty and IP3!

update from marty:  “crowd of about 30 of 100 crossed the line into pacificorp property and staged a die in. Once resurrected 4 gallons of green algae were escorted by the crowd but were locked out of the building in a standoff that lasted about 20 min. The reclaimed space then became a stage for street theater where a 20 foot dam was broken down by a fish puppet.  Riot cops were about to kick in to high gear when the crowd regrouped to hear testimony from community members, tribal officials, elders, and commercial fishermen.  Community members and local supporters felt great about reclaiming space and disupting business as usual on the anniversary of the 2002 fishkill in which 68,000 salmon were killed by the Pacificorp dams…”

read more about today’s action at the pacificorp headquarters here on portland indybay, and here on the ruckus site.

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