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“I can only hope that the movement learns from its complete and utter failure in the fall of 2010, but unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath.”

March 15, 2011, 7:15 PM

In watching the various anti-World Bank and anti-IMF events get announced online at imfresistance.org for the weekend of April 15-17 (what do you know – a third A16!), one event stood out among the rest. And here it is:

What: Music to Smash Capitalism
Where: Freedom Plaza – 14th & Pennsylvania Ave NW
When: 7-10pm
Details: Free Outdoor Punk Show!

And then immediately below that:

What: Nocturnal Anti-Capitalist Action
Details: TBA

Sound familiar? This sounds suspiciously like what happened on Saturday night for the World Bank and IMF protests last fall. And we all know what a resounding success that was, heh heh.

However, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. As George W. Bush once said, “You can’t get fooled again.” (I know, I’m quoting Chuckle Nuts – what is this world coming to?) Don’t think you’re going to see me down at this event. I will have nothing to do with a bunch of people going out and having a mischief night with no message, which is what these things have proven to be. 2010 was just the most recent instance. The night march during the G20 meeting in 2008 was also the case of a mischief night.

As I’ve said before, the key component of any demonstration is the message. Without a message for the masses, there is no point in “taking it to the streets”. And if the whole march is about trying to outrun the police and impede the progress of police officers by throwing things out in the street, then you might as well just go home, because you are going to look like fools, especially if you’re doing so while marching around empty buildings in downtown Washington DC at night (there is no foot traffic in that part of DC on a weekend night).

This, however, isn’t to say that black blocs are a bad thing, and that black blocs that occur at night are bad things, either. There is such a thing as good execution for both. I still consider J27 to be a stellar execution of a black bloc within a larger event. Then I consider Night March and Midnight March to be fine examples of a black bloc at night. The common thread on all of these events was a strong message. Tactics took second place to a strong message. After all, without a message, what’s the point?

What also gets me is the attitude about getting participants to come and why the previous demonstration failed. I was told, “We just need a big turnout, and thats what we will get. You just need to promote the hell out of it.” This after I presented my own discussion of the last event. I am not going to “promote the hell out of” something that I don’t think will be worth potential participants’ time and effort.

I’m even less likely to promote an event when I get told this: “The reason it was like that last time was because there was a small amount of people, and so the police took advantage of that, and when police act out of line and the protesters can’t really get anywhere, people get frustrated and thats what happened. But if there were a larger crowd, police will be cautious, and it’s easier for people to get the message across, and plus you will have more people who share your view of getting the message across rather than fighting with police.”

So what I’m getting told is that message only comes out when the group reaches a mysterious critical mass. Anything before that is a waste of time. They might as well just take a headcount before any march takes place in that case, and if it doesn’t reach their magic number, then forget it. Additionally, am I the only one who senses a fear of the police? The thing about the police is that you need to make the police work for you instead of keeping the relationship hostile and adversarial. After all, the police are not your direct enemy, and to spend all your time fighting the cops means you aren’t spending time on your message. Demonstrations worth attending are ones where the message gets out regardless of how large the crowd is or what kind of police escort you get. We were well outnumbered by the police when we counter-protested the Nazis, and we got our message out. Cops be damned. There was a message to be said, and no one was stopping us.

So I suppose that’s why I’m explicitly counter-promoting this particular part of the World Bank and IMF demonstrations. I recommend that anyone truly interested in sending a strong message against the World Bank and the IMF and not in having a mischief night not attend this demonstration.

Now the rest of the weekend, the schedule for which you can find at imfresistance.org, seems pretty sound. You have an anti-Walmart event (TBD on what that will be, though), an early morning march during the opening of the meetings, a noontime rally, a bike ride, a scavenger hunt, and then a meeting at the end to discuss the results of the weekend’s demonstrations. I’ll probably be attending a few of these events, though I don’t know which ones quite yet. The 6 AM march sounds fun, but Metro’s not running yet at that hour, and so it sounds like that might be infeasible. But everything else sounds pretty feasible, so we’ll see.

I’m just worried that the mischief night that’s planned will be the only thing that the public takes from the weekend’s events, thus negating all the good work done during the rest of the weekend. One may recall that the first night of October Rebellion was marred by a woman’s being struck in the head by a projectile. That overshadowed the night’s message, as everyone latched onto that, because someone didn’t look before they threw. I am deliberately making no value judgment on the throwing of the projectile in the first place, but just saying that if someone is going to throw a projectile, that they ensure that it strikes its intended target, and only its intended target, and not non-participant bystanders. But that accidental strike overshadowed our whole message. And that’s a Bad Thing.

So there you go, I suppose. The movement has not learned from its failure in the fall of 2010, and this nighttime march is going to fail again in spring 2011.

Web site: The IMF Resistance Network

Song: Radical cheerleading from A16 in 2005. We need more radical cheerleading in DC, and need to get the old cheer squad back together again...

Quote: So don't even bother going down to the nighttime "IMF" march on April 16. It's a World Bank and IMF march in name only, and really won't be worth your time if you're interested in global justice. I can't justify anyone's putting themselves in harm's way for this demonstration as long as there's going to be no message whatsoever.

Categories: World Bank