Say what you will about Saul Alinsky: the man organized some creative actions. I’ll never forget one example of his (I think he described it in Rules For Radicals) where the community cooked and ate a huge baked-bean dinner, then packed an orchestra hall owned by the “enemy,” and let loose with their own smelly music.
This weekend’s East Bay Solidarity Network action wasn’t quite so dramatic, but I did feel a resonance with Alinsky’s tactical virtuosity. We knew why we were there, who the target was, what we wanted to accomplish, and how it fits in to the larger strategy of the fight. And we even saw encouraging results during the action itself.
My own personal ruminations revolve (unsurprisingly) around whether and where there is room for compassion within direct actions that make a target uncomfortable — or “harm” them (major scare-quotes) economically. Actions that tend (especially in a masculinist context) to dramatize and promote an ‘us versus them’ framework. I’ll be contemplating this question much more over the next couple of months, but for now I’ll just say this. I believe it’s possible to speak and act very forcefully against a perpetrator (I’m experimenting with saying “perpetrator,” rather than “enemy,” to guard against the typically dehumanizing crystallization of enemyism, and to invoke the work of radical anti-sexual-violence communities that seek to transform both behaviors and systems) while still maintaining compassion for them. It’s something I’m experimenting with myself, in this EBSol work.
With that said, I’m just gonna go ‘head and cross-post the whole entry on today’s action from our brand-spankin’-new website. Hope you enjoy!
Making Good On Our Promises
In our demand letter that we delivered to Alpha Omicron Pi sorority two weeks ago, we promised to return in 14 days if our reasonable demands were not met. True to our word, yesterday and today we continued our campaign to win former “house boy” employee and tenant William fair compensation for his shady firing and the outrageous eviction that left him homeless.
For our second action, both yesterday and today, we flyered and door-knocked the surrounding blocks to inform the whole neighborhood of the egregious injustice. We don’t know what was more encouraging: the enthusiasm from neighborhood co-op members (some even offered their contact info and asked to be notified of future actions), or the surprise and horror of the sorority managers when they realized what our posters were airing.
Less than 24 hours after our Sunday flyering session, taped shreds of paper — remnants of our flyers — testified to the sorority managers’ embarrassment. Before we had even left the block, they were already tearing down our work from the street signs and telephone poles. But today we were back for another round! They won’t get rid of us easily.
The bosses are already on the defensive, and this fight is just getting started. If you want to join us as we ramp things up with escalating actions, email or call us to make sure you’re on our contact list!
i’m so glad i was able to participate yesterday! i am sharing the feeling of wanting to reflect on acting against while having compassion for perpetrators (really into using that vs. enemy), especially in light of the conflict that transpired towards the end of yesterday.
thanks for sharing. will gathering my thoughts and hopefully talk soon.
it was so great to work with you there! definitely looking fwd to talking. there was also another really bizarre confrontation with a super-shady stranger when everyone had left except me Ryan and Jamal. he basically threatened us. really weird. i felt a little afraid, and found my compassion tested.
feeling really thankful that we’re roomies and comrades. :)