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Late Report: June 7 Reclaim the Commons

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The Convergence Center IMC Space

On June 7 I went to SF and had the pleasure of being in the Reclaim the Commons convergence center. Shortly after I arrived Vandanna Shiva dropped in for a radio interview with Enemy Combatant Radio. ( Listen to her San Francisco speech from the previous Saturday). There was a quick succession of interviews with Anuradha Mittal (of the Oakland Institute and formerly of Food First!), Antonia Juhasz of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) who talked about how Iraqi law is being restructured to favor globilization, and Brian Tokar of the Biotechnology Project (at the Institute for Social Ecology). Listen to Brian Tokar at The Reclaim the Commons press conference.
***More links***
biotech indymedia

Center For Genetics and Society

NorthEast Resistance AgainstGenetic Engineering

Indybay Globalization Page

ETC Group

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March To The Mexican Consulate

At 4 PM a permitted march left the convergence center and headed for the Mexican Consulate to protest the arrests and torture of the activists at the ALCUE trade summit in Guadalajara, Mexico. This departure time was odd as the consulate closed at 1 or 2. It was a relatively small group, maybe 100-150 people, and it soon became apparent that a large police 'escort' would clearly outnumber the marchers. The police were jackbooted, helmeted, baton and gun wielding. They lined up and penned the marchers onto the sidewalks. A backup motorcycle contingent was always nearby.

This seemed to be a drill for the police as they ran in lock step to pick up the pace and realign themselves to the marchers, etc. As we passed the Moscone Center, the location of the Bio 2004 Conference, the group stopped to chant angrily at the delegates who smiled nervously in return. (That sign in the picture says: "Entry restricted to Bio 2004. Attendees only. Credentials must be displayed at all times.") The walk took on a surrealistic quality as the police protected neither the uninvolved people who shared the sidewalk nor the businesses that were passed. All others could walk, cross the street or change direction at will but the marchers were herded. Every time an intersection was reached there was a consultation of the group as a whole (police and marchers) as to how we would all proceed. This became at times, comical, absurd...and at the same time disturbing. Many onlookers and passersby along the way were curious and receptive, taking leaflets about the Guadalajara activists. At one intersection an older woman became caught for a few moments in between the marchers and the police line while trying to cross the street. I couldn't tell who she was more frightened by but I remember the confused and anxious expression on her face.


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When we all reached the consulate the group became literally encircled. The consulate was of course closed by now but there were two bewildered people looking out from behind the front door. A row of police lined the sidewalk while the rest of the police surrounded the group which was now in the street next to the parked cars. Things started to intensify and one of the organizers said he hoped they wouldn't arrest everyone for not being on the sidewalk (which was physically blocked). There was constant photographing and filming of the group. This felt mostly like a method of intimidation. Everyone remained in this spot for about ten minutes while the mainstream press did some interviews. The group then condensed to discuss the next move. Tentative plans were made to return the next day while the embassy was open. At one point an organizer consulted some people nearby and expressed concern about getting everyone safely back to the convergence center. This was the first time arrest seemed plausible because the march had breached the boundaries of the permit. When consensus to leave was called for one woman stood and said she wanted one more chant. This became a moment that could not be quantified or measured, but took on a vibrancy that I saw reflected in the faces of everyone including the police. The chanting, in Spanish and English, grew and ended in Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede!

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As we headed back there was more practicing of maneuvers. At one point, because we were walking on the sidewalk (marchers on the sidewalk, police on that small space between the trees, the hydrants and the curb), one policeman walked into a small tree and broke off a branch to make way. A woman who saw this picked the branch up from the ground and ran to him yelling, "Excuse me! Excuse me! Sir! You cannot do this!". She educated him on respect for trees and other life in a thick (South American) accent. One marcher joked that the policeman probably couldn't understand her accent and in fact he never acknowledged her at all. Further ahead the woman in charge of the police, mostly identifiable by the bullhorn she carried, continued to consult with the group everytime an intersection was reached. Two women in the group worked on building a rapport with her, thanking her for cooperating. She smiled easily and engaged them but the other police, including 3 or 4 women, remained robotic and stone faced. I couldn't help feeling that this 'cooperation' was anything but, and as another street crossing was being negotiated I said "This is ridiculous" to a woman beside me. She responded "No it's not. It's the highest form of cooperation". But even though everyone returned safely to the convergence center I saw this collaberation as more of a vulnerability than a strength.

 
 


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