25 April, 2006


The Mayday general strike seems to be taking root around the Bay Area. I know that the unions and many immigrant workers plan to take the day on -- on the streets -- rather than going to work. Maybe I'm too quick to giggle, but I find it funny that a movement with this mission statement
The increasing militarization along the US-Mexico border -- by now a veritable war zone -- serves as a brutal reminder that all borders operate as integral and deliberate parts of exploitative economic systems, inseparable from capitalism and neoliberal globalization. The US-Mexico border, and all other borders between nation-states and governments, are reproduced in our minds and throughout society, serving to enforce and legitimize the boundaries, disparities, and exploitative relationships between people. The demand for full amnesty and free movement of people, therefore, aims at justice for immigrants at the same time as it aspires to a world free from all such destructive divisions. More information on our analysis is available here
would also call for people to bring pots and spoons to raise a ruckus in a cacerolazo. Articulate vs. deafening?

Someone after my tiny heart created this flyer (front, back). See you there? What are you seeing in your community?


I wonder if something like this might do better in the suburbs. How likely is a bike bloc at the Ygnacio onramp of the 680 24 interchange in Walnut Creek? What about in Silicon Valley, where I'm sure plenty of tech companies employ dubiously documented labor, and which is not that far removed from its agricultural roots? SF seems like its preaching to the relatively converted.  

Posted by Saheli

In New York the 501-c-3s and unions decided that they would have a "moment" where they create chains of workers. It's kind of like a general strike. But with permission. And minimal demands.

You can imagine what I think of this. 

Posted by someone else

In the suburbs, the bike bloc, if it did anything like what it did on March 20 2003, would be quickly arrested and sent to Santa Rita for way too long. In San Francisco, it can help shut down an intersection or even a freeway, then disband and reform elsewhere for more fun. Every time the cops were closing in, we whispered to one another where we were going to regroup and we'd split into a hundred little pieces. An hour later, we were back together.

Also, onramps are all but useless. If you want to tie up traffic, as I learned that day, you do better to shut down an offramp.

About preaching -- for me, at least, this event is not about preaching. It is an action, not a spectacle. As such, it's best to go after specific targets -- in this case, the federal building, home to the deportation proceedings for many attempted refugees and others who seek to immigrate.  

Posted by hedgehog

More information on the 03/20/03 suburban bike bloc? I'd be interested in knowing more about that.

The onramp itself, maybe not so much. I meant the crucificx that leads up to the onramp---California being the short part and Ygnacio Valley being the long part. There are a very few key roads--Rudgear, Ygnacio, Treat, California, that, when tied up by traffic or accidents or floodwater, bring business in that area to a screeching halt. Yet they are surrounded by paths, trails, cul de sacs and other routes.

Spectacle is a continuum to action, no? What's the point of disrupting the local career officers in the federal bureaucracy who have no particular say in how legislation is formed? What about the voters and business people who take the labor for granted and profit off the political dividend of torturing it? I had action in mind too with those Silicon Valley and Diablo valley targets. That interchange, and the roads around it, are how a lot of rich Danville residents get to their fancy jobs in SF--often by BART, bypassing your bike bloc altogether. They go home to fancy houses often cleaned by undocumented labor to play with children often watched by undocumented labor and eat dinner often grown by undocumented labor. (Let's just say it was interesting to see who actually rode the buses in Danville.) Then they vote for Pombo and give him money, and he votes for nasty legislation.

I'm just saying that that ecosystem is strongly disconnected from flyers and fun and whispering in SF, yet strongly connected to the nervous system that actually decides these things and the economic system that profits it. It would be interesting to see organized action there. I don't want anyone to go to jail for it, but I wonder if there's some way to do it. 

Posted by Saheli

What's the point of disrupting the local career officers in the federal bureaucracy who have no particular say in how legislation is formed? 

Piven and Cloward, in Poor People's Movements, answer an anologous situation (why flood welfare assistance centers instead of the centers of power?) by saying that it's the targets that people in their daily lives that they're going to go after. Also, you raise the costs and draw attention to the locus of where these things happen--particularly the criminalization regime and the backlogs--and, ideally, create a crisis that the federal government woudl have to respond to.

That said, I don't think your ideas are bad or mutually exclusive from the hedgehog ones. They'd probably be more likely to endanger the business-pro-immigration (but not pro-immigrant) coalition that's pushing legislation by focusing on the economics and the class issue rather than simply stepping up pressure on the government to do something, anything. Personally, i think that nothing would be better than whatever they're considering now.

In any case, let a thousand flowers bloom :) 

Posted by someone else

correction--that should say "Personally, i think that passing  nothing would be better than whatever they're considering now." 

Posted by someone else

Phew, thank God this is happening on May 1st, not May 2nd. Otherwise, I'd have trouble making my way over to immigration court, to um, seek change the other way. 

Posted by judevac

judevac - i am terribly curious what immig. court will look like May 1. If you want to camp out there and file reports, I'm sure it will be fascinating.

Saheli - Sorry I was so snippy earlier. May 20, 2003, San Francisco was largely shut down by a general strike against the Iraq war. It may not have been heard about outside the center of the Bay, but it was a very important and amazing day. As people on foot and on their butts blockaded dozens of intersections, cyclists lent support by slowing vehicles (including police buses) and spreading the message outside the central business district.

I don't think anything happened in the 'burbs and you're totally right in your analysis -- there are nodes that make suburbs every bit as fragile as cities, maybe even more so. There are Silicon Valley and East Bay bicycle groups. It will be interesting to see if they can do something like what you suggest. I'll pass along the message. My guess is that they won't want to do this, as the most fun part of demonstrations is seeing your friends and so coming to a central location like SF or Union Square NY or downtown LA can be more of a rush than functionally blocking a suburban location. But we'll see -- sometimes strategy matters more than socializing. 

Posted by hedgehog

Yes, I know all about what happened in SF on 3/20/03, but I suspected that not a whole lot happened in Silicon Valley/Diablo Valley et al. I mean, not that much happened in Berkeley, where I was.Since we are admittedly both working off of conjecture about an event that has never been tried, here's my guess---you are probalby more likely to get arrested by the SFPD than you are by the Contra Costa Sherriff's office or the Sunnyvale "safety department."

I don't think East Bay or SV bike coalitions randomly blocking traffic by themselves on Monday would be either functional or much of a statement, and there probably isn't time to connect with local immigration groups. But as I was telling Judevac, I do think city-centric political culture overplays the extent to which the suburbs are filled with isolationist and rich carenothings. If the high density of experienced political thinkers and activists in SanFrancisco actively tried to spill out and connect with suburban communities--especially youth--on weekends, instead of always trying to passively draw them in, it would be interesting to see what happened. For one thing it would be more of a conversation rather than a performance. When we all spill into San Francisco for an event, we are by definition not the natives, not authoritative, not experts. We are more passive participants. If San Franciscans made more of an effort to engage with the suburban communities around them, they might interject the necessary energy to help suburban communities actually change things like sprawl and conservation and voting patterns.Just sayin'. . .  

Posted by Saheli

=v= Suburbs are lacking in public spaces and/or central gathering points. It's almost as if the idea is to disperse like-minded people. =^o

Chevron HQ in San Francisco was, understandably, a magnet for protests of a kinds, so they moved out to the 'burbs to try to get away from us. But check out the 14-Apr-2003 entry here to see a bike bloc that came a-visitin':


Posted by Jym

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