ps/o4 public trading | value system | anti-imperialism and boombox politics
ultra-red returns from "disturbance in dc"
Yesterday, members of the audio-activist organization, Ultra-red returned to their home in Los Angeles from two days of mass protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC. Recalling the echoes of chants and the shouts of protesters amassed in the driving rain, we file this thoroughly subjective account of the "Disturbance in DC."
mediating public space
Throughout Sunday, April 16 and Monday, April 17, thousands of protesters flooded the streets of the nationās capitol, rallying against the undemocratic and brutal economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. For many of the 1200 demonstrators arrested over the course of the two days, their protests against these institutions transformed into a larger experience of solidarity with peoples around the world who face enormous personal risk for resisting the forces of global neoliberalism. In our small way, Ultra-red paid witness to these protests, torn between the collective desire to shut down the IMF and the World Bank and the very real threat of police terror sustained to protect those very institutions.
Like the anti-WTO protests last November, the demonstrations in Washington DC against the IMF and World Bank helped crack the flood gates of popular attention to these institutions, unleashing a torrent of newspaper articles, radio programs, television reports and internet exchanges both through the corporate-controlled media and in the alternative media. (For an excellent report of the A16 and A17 actions, see the on-line article, "The Meaning of April 16" by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman at http://www.corporatepredators.org.) An invaluable contribution to this profound swell in attention can be attributed in part to the savvy of media activists who repeated their successes in Seattle with a top-notch Independent Media Center in DC.
in a different city, a different strategy
In preparation for Ultra-redās trip to the nationās Capitol, members of our organization compiled a self-produced CDR of tracks composed exclusively from recordings of the Seattle demonstrations on November 30, 1999 (hence the CDRās title, "N30"). Three of the tracks on the limited-edition release were composed in the style of minimal house, fit for the sort of festival in the streets planned for DC. The fourth track on the CDR offered a chilling soundscape of the events from the "Battle in Seattle." Our plan for the CDR was two-fold: to provide any planned guerrilla sound-systems with DJ tools in transforming city-streets into impromptu dance parties. Our second objective was to provide a musical soundtrack for Independent Media Center radio broadcasts. While the later was a success, thanks to the fierce dedication and wily creativity of the radio activists at the IMC, the former objective never materialized.
Furthermore, in terms of urban geography alone, DC is profoundly different from Seattle. Whereas the later offered wide straight avenues with towering buildings perfect for the reverberating din of large numbers of demonstrators, DC resembles the sprawl of many American cities. Building codes restricting the height of towers, guarantees an overall low profile. The numerous massive lawns and fragmented squares simultaneously dwarfs gatherings (like the A16 rally held on the Ellipse) and breaks them up as happened when people moved into the neighborhoods surrounding the IMF and World Bank sites.
demonstrating street acoustics
All this is not to say that innovative strategies were not deployed over the two-days of demonstrations. Quite on the contrary, Ultra-red witnessed remarkable demonstrations of practicing cooperation and solidarity. While banners, puppets and enormous props together with chants and singing carried the messages of the protesters in their opposition to tactics of the IMF and World Bank, numerous tactics were employed to coordinate affinity groups, mobilize large numbers of people and reach consensus around group actions.
In the absence of electronic amplification systems, protesters deployed acoustic strategies that transformed the human assembly itself and the spatial acoustics of the city into an enormous amplification system. But unlike the authoritarian voice of the loudspeaker or megaphone, this form of amplification permitted dissent and dialog.
more world less bank or more world no bank
Without a doubt, the aura of Seattle contributed greatly to inspiring many to come to DC for these actions. Lured by the possibility of shutting down meetings of the IMF and World Bank ö the other two heads of the tri-headed global capitalist order ö close to 20,000 conscientious objectors to global capitalism amassed in Washington DC on April 16 and 17. The protesters reassembled the anti-WTO coalition of labor, environmental, human rights and student activists. And despite repeated claims by the corporate media, the crowds reflected a huge diversity of age groups, backgrounds, geographic locations and racial and ethnic make up. Reports that the protesters were solely white middle-class college students were perpetrated largely by media elites who stood on the side-lines behind the shelter of police-controlled barricades.
In the process of inventing these means of realizing our dissent against global neoliberalism, a crucial task will be that our criticisms evoke new possibilities. Possibilities for living together, working together and learning from one another that find incarnation in the very organizations and networks we institute today. In both Seattle and DC, Ultra-red was thoroughly impressed with the level of cooperation and creativity among the demonstrators. Remarkably, we witnessed over and again groups of individuals who only days before were complete strangers, acting upon their collective desires, negotiating their differences and mobilizing effectively. These experiences will no doubt fuel further discussion and actions when demonstrators return to their homes (and finally secure freedom from jail).