End War Fast Brokers Deal with City; Potter Chimes In

Some satisfactory news on the civil liberties front here in Pittsburgh – the City Police have reached an accord with the Pittsburgh Organizing Group and individuals participating in the “End War Fast” protest outside of the Oakland military recruiting bastion.  These groups had previously filed a lawsuit against the City claiming police officers were violating their First Amendment rights to free speech. 

Today comes word (courtesy of the PG) the two have brokered an accord (fancy term) that identifies two specific areas for the protestors along Forbes Avenue.  So the fast can proceed free of police harassment.

I'm still wondering if the expense of allowing the permit for the fast in the first place would have saved us some tax dollars. 

Apparently, the police were concerned about Port Authority buses mowing down pedestrians b/c pedestrians are just that stupid:

Police Cmdr. Kathy Degler of the Squirrel Hill station said one of the major concerns was that there is a bus lane right next to the sidewalk where the protesters have gathered.

“The buses come flying out that lane,” she said. “We don't want pedestrians to feel the need to avoid the protesters by going out in the street.”

My sources tell me that there has always been plenty of room for pedestrians to pass by the protestors.  Ignoring things they don't want to see is an American speciality – things like poverty, infant mortality, hunger, homelessness, injustice, etc.  What should cause more fear – a young man fasting with some anti-war signs or a well-fed man in camoflague bribing poor young adults to throw themselves into the war machine for a few thousand dollars? 

Maybe Commander Degler could focus some attention on the side-by-side gigunda strollers that block sidewalks throughout Squirrel Hill and Oakland.  If anyone is going to make me throw myself into the bus lane, it would be an oblivious yuppy mama and her trifecta of WASP offspring plowing down Forbes Avenue for a Starbucks fix and some shopping on Craig Street.  Offspring that will nev-ah set foot in public schools or a military training facility (maybe not even a Giant Eagle).

Seriously, Degler's excuse is pathetic and just another attempt to undermine the purposefulness of these men and women by portraying them as unruly, pedestrian hating children who need a good tasering to keep them in line.  What Degler doesn't address is the refusal of her muckety mucks to issue a permit and get things started on the right foot (or the left foot?).  Of course she doesn't. 

The point, however, is that the protestors should be free to proceed with their fast in peace.  And that's a good thing. 

Not so quickly, says the man called Potter. 

It was one thing to lose political battles a few years ago, back when war skeptics were in the minority. It's somehow worse to know that most Americans now agree with us, yet we still can't get anything changed. Before, the political system was against us, but at least we could believe that it worked. Now we no longer have even that illusion.

Years of large-scale marches have changed nothing. Voting seems to have only made things worse: Democrats took control of Congress last year thanks to concerns about the war, and the result was more troops in Iraq.

I got depressed just reading these paragraphs.

You'd almost call the situation intolerable, if it didn't seem so easy to tolerate. Except for those with loved ones in the military, the war asks for nothing but our complacence as we go about our daily lives. “It is one thing to endure abuses and to carry on in spite of them,” writes Garret Keizer in the current Harper's magazine. “It is quite another thing to carry on to the point of abetting the abuse.”

Are we enabling the war?  Do you feel complacent?  I've been reading some novels set in Kabul and Tehran under less than peaceful times and it has given me pause at how easy it can be to just shut your mind down to something you believe you cannot tolerate.  It is easy to delude myself that my day to day existance hasn't changed.  Except it has b/c I know something and that knowledge changes my reality.  It forces me to blog about this stuff that has nothing to do with the LGBTQ community, even when I know I'll be criticized by the protestors for not going far enough and by whacknuts for supporting terrorism. 

Is it enough? Nope.  Do I feel content b/c “hey I blog”?  Nope.  I feel angry and frustrated and disheartened everytime the military recruiters show up at an event I'm attending.  But I can't say my existance hasn't changed.

So while the rest of us prove there's almost nothing we can't stomach, Butler has stopped eating. At this point, there may be simply nothing left to do. Keizer himself proposes that Americans go on a general strike, refusing to come to work on Election Day this November. When the only way to support the war is to go about your daily routine, perhaps withdrawing from that routine is the only way to oppose it.

I have my doubts. But as Butler talks in the late-afternoon sun, he doesn't seem at all dispirited. Maybe it's just the light-headedness that comes from not eating, but he seems less downtrodden than the people who mutter at him as they pass by. He's the one who has gone two weeks without eating. So why is it the rest of us who seem anemic?

I doubt a general strike would work and end up disproportionately hurting those least likely to bear it (and already bearing the greater amount of death and dismemberment to their children) — working poor families. 

Do you think the anti-war movement is going to grow?  We participated in the March in 2005, but then I discovered my foot was broken so my doctor said no more marches for me.   I could still go and be supportive, but I don't.  Why not?  I haven't been down to the fasting site, mostly because everytime I think about it I'm with Ledcat and she can't go with me b/c of her job. 

So what do you do to shake up the complacency? 

(I know this is sort of rambly and disjointed so thanks for bearing with me.  We are out of caffeine and I have given up drinking pop …)

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  • Okay, this is irrational of me, but it is a powerful feeling so here it is.
    These protesters are so passionate and outraged? It means so much to them that they're going on hunger strikes?
    How about this … go down to that military recruiting station, throw cinderblocks through the window, smash the computers, burn the files, try to run away … and if they get caught, THEN hold your hunger strike in prison.
    To quote Michael Jackson, if you wanna be startin somethin, you've got to be startin somethin.
    Protesting on sidewalks and reaching accords with the police seems more calculated to polish and flaunt the liberties we enjoy in this country, rather than do anything effective regarding the other country at all.
    Potter quoted an article from Harpers (or the Atlantic) and there is an older article from Harpers (or the Atlantic) that stayed with me. I wish I could find it, but it was on the subject of the Patriot Act and habeas corpus, and it ended with, “What I want is an accountant that can that can throw a rock.”

  • Heh, Bram obviously doesn't follow POG controversies. POG has been accused of doing just that many many times. That's because there are many anarchists in POG, and some anarchists do just the thing that Bram suggests. I don't think (I prolly disagree with Sue on this) there's anything wrong with that. Of course, that's because I believe in a diversity of tactics, which includes everything from starving yourself in the name of justice to smashing things in the name of justice. Nothing wrong with doing either, or doing both. In this case, I don't think there's anything wrong with doing a strategically media-friendly action that can garner a lot of support from people who might otherwise not ever show their support or even know how to show their support. Isn't that a positive thing?

  • What would I read if I wanted to follow POG (or anarchist) controversies that involve smashing things in the name of justice? The only controversy I know of is Bill Peduto accusing POG of graffito-tagging Shadyside, which POG pretty convincingly denied. Either way, not exactly the Weathermen stuff.
    Although I applaud the protesters for trying stuff and would broadly categorize it as “positive”, I don't think you can possibly call it either “strategically media-friendly” or “garnering a lot of support.” I think that was the whole point of the article.

  • I wasn't saying that POG itself DOES smash things in the name of justice just that it has happened at our events before. I suppose that if you aren't IN POG, it's harder to notice the controversies.
    As for Mr. Potter's article, I think it reflects Mr. Potter's personal despair far more than reality.

  • Why doesn't anyone comment on these stories on our actual site, for chrissake?
    Anyway:
    As for Mr. Potter's article, I think it reflects Mr. Potter's personal despair far more than reality.
    Could be, although I'm not sure what aspect of reality you are talking about. I'm obviously not at all optimistic that this war is going to be wrapped up any time soon. If you are, I'd have to question your own connection to reality. I'm also pessimistic about whether any mass movement is likely to change that fact. Because the war, and the politicians who back it, don't really need much in the way of our support, we don't have much leverage to stop it.
    But I don't blame Mike Butler, or any protester, for that. The problem is much bigger than them. I don't blame them if they don't get media coverage, either, or if their protests aren't deemed “effective.” I think judging a protest in those terms is a pretty easy, and lazy, way to maintain our own complacency. (And I say this as someone who HAS judged protests that way in the past.)
    Like I say in the piece, the “get a job” response — and a lot of snide “I'm gonna go over and wave a burger under his nose” heckling I've heard — isn't about disagreeing with Butler's convictions. It's about making fun of expressing any convictions at all.
    I think fundamentally something is broken in this society. Some connection between the government and the governed has been dissolved … and it's happened in the minds of folks who snicker at the very idea of fasting. And in my darker moments, that DOES instill a sense of despair.
    — chris potter

  • Chris,
    It takes people a while to get into posting somewhere. I know lots of people read the articles there, they just aren't used to thinking about it as a plce to comment. Eventually they probably will, and then you'll probably be dealing with deleting dozens of troll bait comments.
    Personally, I agree with chris and mike. I constantly find myself vacilating between optimism and despair.
    I think all of us are often divorced from “reality” simply because there is no one reality of where things in the country stand. Our personal mindframe makes it difficult to understand where people in a different mindframe are coming from. People actively opposing the war just can't understand the hopelessness or despair of someone who opposes the war but isn't doing anything about it. When you're active it's hard not to resent people who aren't, or not to grasp the ways the system exhausts and depresses people to the point of feeling irrelevant. It's a constant battle to see the light in a sea of darkness.
    Just as pog doing a fast, or chris writing an article likely to spark debate and discussion, the important thing is to do something. Once someone is active they can be approached about how effective their actions are. There's space for discussion and debate when both of you feel you're doing something. It's when people don't realize that by claiming some mantle of “apolitical” or “we're all fucked so what's the point” they are in fact still making political choices, it's just really hard to reach them in that situation

  • Heh, Chris, the thing I've noticed about your site's commenters is that they are predominantly right-wing–at least articles about us.
    And I apologize for not phrasing that the way I should have, Chris. What I was trying to get at was that while we certainly get heckled and there's lots of negative examples, there's also a lot of support being garnered and, ironically, media coverage exploded as your article was coming out (largely because of the lawsuit, though that led to stuff about the protest itself being discussed). I think that positivity can be hard to see sometimes and at times, it's hard for us to see. But it's there and it's bothersome when some (not you, Chris) DO blame us for that. I actually was looking at comments on another newspaper's website where someone said that the reason we didn't have support was that we weren't “clean-cut, white-collar young people” (yuppies, essentially).
    The tough thing about a fast is that it gains support as time goes on, which means that there's going to be long periods where things seem pretty crappy. But I think the support we're receiving is constantly exceeding even OUR expectations.
    So, to sum up, what I prolly meant to say was:
    “As for Mr. Potter's article, I think it reflects Mr. Potter's personal despair for the anti-war movement and the state of complicity in this country far more than reality of support for this action.”
    Mike

  • Alright alright, I just posted a comment. But you make us “register”? You make us hunt through a long list of neighborhoods? You make us choose and remember ANOTHER password? Pain in the ass … and then you don't even have a way for us to link back to our own websites, either.
    Besides which, the print version's easier. Start charging for that and we'll start logging onto the website a lot more often.

  • Start charging for that and we'll start logging onto the website a lot more often.
    Jesus, Bram. Don't give my publisher any ideas. But your point about linking back to your own site is a good one. I'll bring it up with our tech gurus.
    — potter

  • Hey Sue, you go girl for paying attention to the issues (and the City Paper columns) no one is blogging about elsewhere! And providing links! It is as if you want people to read the City Paper AND know a little bit more about the End War Fast AND even, might we add, a bit more about what's happening in the local activist scene.
    And you rock even more b/c your little blog post about something no one else is discussing in the Burghosphere (Luke isn't stalking Mike Butler so what can you expect?) may have generated technological changes at the City Paper!
    Lesbian opinions … redefining media one comment at a time …
    🙂
    Sue
    ps: rather than fix the City Paper website, let's talk about why more bloggers are NOT out talking with Mike and POG …

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