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Police gear up for anarchy march

Police gear up for anarchy march


By Dan Stober and Anna Tong

Mercury News

The anarchists are coming! And Palo Alto police, who haven't seen a major protest since the Vietnam War 30 years ago, are calling in horses and helicopters to deal with what the police chief says could be a violent protest by 800 anarchists marching past downtown restaurants on University Avenue on Saturday night.

But the young self-described anarchists who dress in black and hang around downtown's Lytton Plaza held a press conference to say that they won't be the first to disturb the peace.

"I expect a lot of police. I am a little afraid of the horses," said Megan Haigh, a 17-year-old from Palo Alto.

Police are on edge after losing control of a smaller gathering in May by the same groups to protest the Iraq war, capitalism and rampant consumerism. About 200 self-described anarchists ran through the streets and Borders bookstore, where a few books were overturned.

Some protesters jumped on cars, and two were arrested, including an 18-year-old man from Berkeley who allegedly broke a window of an American Express office.

This time, Palo Alto Police Chief Lynne Johnson said, she wants her officers to do a better job of protecting property. They've been surfing anarchist Web sites, comparing experiences with San Francisco police and attempting to infiltrate the anarchists.

Tuesday, police sent an undercover officer in blue jeans to Lytton Plaza to videotape a dozen young local anarchists as they held a press conference. When approached by a Mercury News reporter, the officer identified herself as ``Cindy Smith,'' a freelance journalist. She said she hoped to sell the tape to a television station.

"That was one of our officers," Johnson told the Mercury News later. "She should not have lied to you." The police chief had seen part of the tape herself, apparently to help her prepare for her own press conference, held three hours after the anarchists spoke to reporters.

Johnson said the taping was legal. "We're not going to use it to try to identify people who will be protesting," she said. The police will move only against protesters who break the law, she said.

Police plan to close off some streets to parking Saturday. A few businesses may close; American Express plans to board up its windows to prevent more damage.

Both police and protesters -- from groups called Anarchist Action and Peninsula Anarchist Cooperative -- say they expect a mix of people Saturday night, from homegrown anarchists to more radical militants from other parts of the Bay Area. William O'Connor, the Berkeley man arrested at the last demonstration, told police he was a socialist, not an anarchist.

Some demonstrators will attend the "Reclaim the Streets" event for entertainment.

"People are really bored with their lives, and the rally is fun," said a 16-year-old protest organizer who would not give his name.

Dissatisfaction with the government is said to drive some people toward anarchism. "We don't want other people who may not know what's up around here deciding what's good for us," said Ben Fox, a Palo Alto resident who said he is a "former anarchist" at the age of 18. "Especially if those people have massive business interests and are making their decisions so they can force their products down our throats."

The term "anarchist" does not have a clear meaning today, said Susan Olzak, a Stanford University sociologist who studies protest movements.

In some ways, their views are not far removed from mainstream leftist politics. In conversations Tuesday, the anarchists argued that corporations control America; that corporate news media are driven by profit, not public service; that U.S. soldiers dying in far-off wars are recruited from working class families, while the children of the rich go to college.

Some of the anarchists had studied anarchist theory, and the movement's historical ties to the labor movement. Police remember the 1999 street riots in Seattle in protest of the World Trade Organization meeting.

Anarchists feel like they cannot identify with either political party. "I think it's a growing trend," Haigh said. "A lot of anarchist ideals are becoming mainstream. Voting is so low; people are completely disillusioned. No one voices support for John Kerry or Bush."

Contact Dan Stober at or (650) 688-7536.

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Re: Police gear up for anarchy march

Wow, say the "A" word and people get kinda scared...

Re: Police gear up for anarchy march

Yeah...even when it's just a march, and their politics [b]aren't[/b] really far removed from mainstream leftist politics.


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