American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
A Tactical Critique of Philadelphia
The following is excerpted from an analysis of some of what happened in Philadelphia which is currently being distributed on Direct Action Network (DAN) listserves. The complete text can be found at the Student Alliance to Reform Corporations website <www.corpreform.org/STARCives/index.html>
What didn't work?
First, many of the people around me had never been in an action such as this before, and weren't really prepared for this one. Not enough people went through legal trainings, action basics trainings, blockade workshops, anti-oppression trainings, medical/ street first-aid trainings, etc., and it showed on the streets.
A second problem was the mental state of many participants. Many protestors around me acted like we were at a game or a contest. The police certainly weren't playing around, as their numbers and effectiveness clearly showed. Police responded and moved with the precision of trained army battalions. It appeared that they knew virtually all of our moves before we made them, and were able to thwart many plans with this edge. The Convention proceeded like clockwork, with traffic snarls being little more than a minor inconvenience to the delegates.
A final problem, and one which we will see happening more frequently
in the future, is the systematic targeting of key organizers,
especially communications, tactical, as well as street medics
and puppets, as well as a general limitation on all civil rights
during the demonstrations. (The police seem to have some deep-seated
fear of the puppets.) We have now seen in Philly a clearly visible
and well orchestrated arrests of perceived "leaders"
(such as the arrest of Ruckus Society director John Sellers who
was given a million dollar bail). If you had a Nextel or a radio,
you quickly became a target. By the end of the week most of the
communications and tactical team was in jail.
What did work?
What did work well is the infrastructure that continues to emerge within these actions, such as street medical teams, legal observers from the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, a growing Independent Media, and an expanding core of activists who continue to gain tactical experience, field knowledge, and broader organizing networks. The Movement can now count on having experienced medical, legal, communications, and tactical people with actual mass action experience, not just theoretical trainings.
Every mass action of this type, regardless of its success, gives us more training material to study and analyze, more police tactics to respond to, and more skilled organizers on the streets for the next event. Philadelphia was, by and large, a youth organized and led event. Mass actions are new to younger organizers, and as we organize and execute more of them, we continue to add experience to our toolbox. We should keep in mind that Seattle happened a mere nine months ago. In that time the Movement has grown, attracting support from virtually all sectors of society.
--Chris Crews, 8/4/2000