a weblog by Schuyler D. Erle

Wed, 16 Jul 2003

[22:28] Fear and Loathing in Sacto

Well, my attempts at mophoblogging in Sacramento didn't really work out, granted. Apparently the script I wrote to handle the phone's images didn't handle the parentheses in the image file names all that well. Which is okay, because writing meaningful descriptions on a cell phone keypad while trying to keep up with a moving engagement between police and demonstrators turns out to be darned near impossible. For those of you interested in the concept, you can check out Matt Westervelt's 16photos site, and if you email him and ask real nice, maybe he'll send you the script he uses to pipe mail from. Better still, maybe Collord will remind me the name of the PHP package that'll allow you to upload pics directly without having to much about with this mail attachment crap.

Anyway, Sacramento was fun, wild, crazy, a little disheartening. The police made themselves look absurd by outnumbering us consistently by over two to one and carrying ridiculously overpowered weaponry for the task at hand. The press made themselves look ridiculous by fanning fear of another Seattle across the town, and then when protests failed to turn confrontational to the point of violence, they were forced to actually back down and tell our story for once. Starhawk said afterwards that she thought it was as much of a turning point in the resistance against the WTO, and the subjugation of the rights of the world's people to its multinational corporations, as Seattle itself had been -- a remarkable feat considering that we only numbered a few thousand at best.

The most creative action of the entire mobilization, in my opinion, was the occupation of the former Ron Mandella Community Garden by a dozen activists, most of them friends of mine from Sonoma County. The garden, about a half a block in size, near 15th and Q, had been a mainstay of that neighborhood for over a generation -- until the Capital Area Development Association deemed it a purpose unworthy of that patch of land, locked up the garden, and slated it to be demolished and replaced with pricey condos, under the smokescreen of supposed toxic contamination. Needless to say, the residents of the neighborhood were less than thrilled by this turn of events, and were contrawise delighted when my friends showed up, and with the assistance of certain burlier members of the Black Bloc, opened the gates and brought the community back into their garden for a re-planting party and permaculture workshop. Later that night, when everything had calmed down, the police raided in force, and arrested everyone inside, which by this point was just the dozen still locked down. It took about 100 of Sacramento's finest plus emergency crews to boot to extricate them from the lockboxes -- while we watched on, fearing that law enforcement might resort to pain compliance holds, chanting and singing in solidarity, and smiling when the designer of the lockboxes made pithy competitive engineering style comments like "Oh, they're trying the angle grinders now. Those'll never work." As Patrick from the SmartMeme project commented to the press, the issues surrounding the garden were "a microcosm of the very issues that are going on inside this (conference)." I have photos of the arrests. Everyone inside was out of jail within 48 hours, after some rather brutal treatment by the police, and the court date's on Monday, which is coincidentally the birthday of my friend Cole, who was one of those arrested. "Vegan birthday cake party at the courthouse!" she's promised everyone.

I'd to my chagrin just managed to avoid getting arrested with them because Melissa from Eugene and I had spent all day doing comms dispatch for the affinity groups on the ground, a terrifying disorganized affair that nearly collapsed when it turned out that the radios were using were woefully underpowered for downtown Sacramento's level of urban buildup, but was saved at the last moment by Luke's suggestion that we fall back to using the cell phones. Unfortunately, we only had phone numbers for the cluster medics in many cases, but we and they suffered along. It was grueling work. I sat indoors for five hours and talked on the phone and left feeling like I'd been in the streets all day. I have done a thorough writeup of the comms situation in Sacto, which I may one of these days e-mail around to folks. Before I got back, there were already emails in my inbox wanting to know if I'd be working on Cancun.

Meanwhile, I've just spent a week in Portland, OR at my company's Open Source Convention, but that's a whole nother story I hope to get to soon. Meanwhile, check out the photo gallery I've started to put online, which includes more pictures from Sacramento, some older pics of Remedy before she was de-treed, and some photos from OSCon. Hopefully most of the photographs I've taken over the last two or three years -- not a lot -- will end up here soonish. Thanks for your patience, if you've read along this far. :-)

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