March 21, 2003
Post Protest Decompression and Reflection
Decompressed a bit from all day protesting, tired but ready to put some thoughts together.
First off I spent the whole day protesting on a bike. This is the way to do it. The theme of the day was decentralized swarming and it appeared to completely overwhelm the cops. Choice quote from the NY Times: "By late in the day, Assistant Chief Alex Fagan said, the situation in San Francisco deteriorated into 'absolute anarchy.'" And that was with a vast majority of the protesters being on foot.
The mobility and versatility of the bike is incredible. If the goal is to shut down the city then the bike is the tool. While bulk of the protesters were swarming downtown, me and a friend connected with about 100 other bikers and did a long range protest. Whatever street we rolled on was basically shut down. Every couple intersections be circle in for a few minutes cutting off cross town traffic. We did about a 5 mile circle around downtown. With all the cops in the core, we didn't encounter a single po-po. In other words if there were a handful of other crews of 100 bicyclists doing the same thing we were the city would have shut down to a whole other level.
I think 10 or 20 crews of 50-100 bicyclists could completely shut down a city the size of San Francisco, or maybe even NY. Shut down quick and move to the next intersection. If the police try and intervene they just shut things down more. And with enough crews moving randomly traffic will back up chaotically. Cars turning off one blocked street only to encounter traffic from another blockade. And with a bike the risk of getting arrested is way lower as its far easier to make a quick get away. Its a far more decentralized tool for a decentralized protest.
*** warning technical bike tangent ***
Those who know me well know I ride fixed gear and generally look down upon those who ride mountain bikes in urban areas. But I have to say that a mountain bike is probably a better bike for protesting. The fixey treated me right but the mountain bikes curb hopping ability is damn useful when negotiating crowds and trying to escape in an urban area. Being able to coast while riding really slowly all day would be nice too. Come to think of it I should have flipped that flip flop hub. First time ever since switching to fixey that I've seen a benefit to heading back to the other side though.
*** technical bike tangent over ***
All that said, let me note that I'm not 100% sold on the effectiveness of protest as a revolutionary tactic. How exactly does protesting change the world? The answer is unclear and unfocused. I was out there today partly in solidarity with the other protesters and partly just to experience it. I'm still up in the air on whether is an effective use of energy. Its pretty obvious that Bush couldn't give a fuck if SF gets shut down, but that's not the only factor to consider.
After today's experience I'm far more inclined to think protesting is important and helpful, but maybe I'm still high off the days energy. Effective or not, protesting is damn fun. Not always, tear gas, getting arrested and getting abused by the cops are not exactly pleasurable. But hanging in a crowd of like minded energized people is great. As is the feeling you get shutting down an intersection. Or the feeling of riding free in miraculously car free streets.
Not only is protesting fun, but it gives the protesters a great feeling of connection. Not only to the other people protesting around you, but also to all the people protesting around the world. That's a powerful feeling and a prime reason why protest can be good.
To tired to finish this now, going to post and then add more tomorrow, going into some of the reasons I'm on the fence about protesting.Posted by Abe at March 21, 2003 03:55 AM