It was a last minute choice, but after reading the two Rolling Stones articles about rape at UVa, i knew i had to go to the protest. Because of the hasty preparations and the large group going, i grabbed a dozen black gloves from commie clothes.
On the way into the protest, much of the conversation was about the choice to protest at the fraternity. In our minivan there seemed to be agreement that the university’s complicity in these sexual assaults was what really needed action and change. The university’s internal policies tend to punish survivors and set free perpetrators and thus fosters ongoing sexual assault. The first Rolling Stones article points out that 86 schools are being investigated by the Dept. of Education because they are suspected of denying students their equal right to education by inadequately handling sexual-violence complaints. UVa is one of only 12 under the harsher “compliance review”. Which are “… targeted efforts to go after very serious concerns,” says Office of Civil Rights assistant secretary Catherine Lhamon. “We don’t open compliance reviews unless we have something that we think merits it.”
We arrived a bit late for the protest, and it had already broken up into discussion groups. There was a policy group, an alumni group, a women’s group, a group discussing fraternity reform, and some others. Some local activists looking for a more confrontational action complained that we were not going to simply talk the university or the fraternities into changing their ways. There was also a critique of “Facebook activism” in which students thought that by hitting like and posting some protest pictures these well entrenched cultures would shift.
i joined the policy discussion group for a while, but because i was late, what ever groundrules there were about who could talk and who was facilitating eluded me. And there were lots of participants who had quite charged feelings on the topic, including a couple of UVa rape survivors who were speaking powerfully and critically about how the university failed in handling their personal cases. It did not feel like the right place to share my ideas.
i do have lots of thoughts about policy changes the university could make to reduce sexual assault based on many conversations with Abigail who is doing this work at University of Oregon, but this will be the subject of another post.
The fraternity at the center of the controversy, Phi Kappa Psi, has not had an easy time of it since the Rolling Stone article came out. There have been several attacks on the building itself. The members have moved out of the building to a hotel. And the fraternity voluntarily surrendered its “Fraternal Organizing Agreement”, which means for the moment it technically does not exist. UVa has suspended all Fraternity activities until Jan 2015, in response to the allegations.
Having brought in law enforcement to investigate the Rolling Stone gang-rape allegations (more than a year-and-a-half after the university was first made aware of them) the state fumbled its very first task. State Attorney General Mark Herring originally announced Mark Filip would be the University’s independent counsel to address its handling of sexual violence. Turns out Filip was a member of the fraternity at the center of the controversy. The appointment was reversed after this embarrassing mistake was made public.
There have been a handful of protests at UVa over the Rolling Stone article. A couple days before this one, more than 700 people came out to express their concern, frustration, and rage over the long history of sexual assault on campus and the university’s near total failure to reduce it.
UVa does not protest much. It is quite a quiet campus when it comes to activism, especially around gender issues. Rolling Stone characterized it this way:
From reading headlines today, one might think colleges have suddenly become hotbeds of protest by celebrated anti-rape activists. But like most colleges across America, genteel University of Virginia has no radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy. There are no red-tape-wearing protests like at Harvard, no “sex-positive” clubs promoting the female orgasm like at Yale, no mattress-hauling performance artists like at Columbia, and certainly no SlutWalks. UVA isn’t an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch. The pinnacle of its polite activism is its annual Take Back the Night vigil, which on this campus of 21,000 students attracts an audience of less than 500 souls. But the dearth of attention isn’t because rape doesn’t happen in Charlottesville. It’s because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students – who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture – and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal.
So i was unsurprised by some of the debate that was going on at this protest. One of the protest organizers with a bullhorn ended the working groups session and made a short speech on what is often called “diversity of tactics“. She said basically that many people have strong feelings about the issue of sexual assault on campus and there will be lots of different approaches to organizing based on these feelings. Some will want to engage the university in dialog and will stage peaceful protests and avoid confrontation with the police. Others will choose to confront the police and risk arrest. She called on the crowd to respect the different choices that different activist make and keep the focus on the university and frats which need to change most.
She did not talk specifically about property destruction and she certainly did not talk about violence against people [Sadly, there were lots of people in the crowd who thought property destruction was a form of violence.] These are the places where diversity of tactics gets tricky.
During the chanting which took place at the fraternity house after the discussion groups had ended, some protesters were chanting that the building should be burnt down. Several other protesters were quite upset with this chant and said so clearly. It stopped quickly.
There was an especially peculiar moment as people were risking arrest in which another protester upset about the gravity towards the arrest yelled at the protesters “Hello Gandhi, Hello Martin Luther King”. This simultaneously struck me is distressing and funny. How exactly did this person think Gandhi and MLK succeeded? It certainly was not by avoiding arrest (and much worse) at the hands of the authorities.
Four of us got arrested at the very end of the protest for trespassing: myself, Sapphyre, Edmund, and Caroline intern from Acorn. Going to the protest, it had not been any of our intentions to get arrested. And all through the protests the police and campus security had been basically invisible.
The overwhelming response to our arrests were positive. It also got a surprising amount of press, including the International Business Times, a mention in the LA Times, local media and of course campus media.
On Dec 4th we have our trial. Feel encouraged to come and join us at the Cville court on market street.
Sapphyre wrote this compelling piece about why she got arrested. I was happy to be by her side in the holding cell. My piece on the UVA rape protest arrests will be done shortly.
Originally posted on Glimpses of Sapphyre:
If you had asked me at 9 am on 11/22/14 whether or not I would get arrested at the “Protest Phi Kappa Psi” event, my answer would have been a resounding “No!” While the Rolling Stone article about sexual assault at UVA had definitely caught my attention, I was ambivalent about engaging the issue at UVA. I don’t attend the university – I’m a Hokie through and through (VT ’05). I don’t live in Charlottesville, although I’m often in Charlottesville. I don’t have a daughter at UVA and it will be awhile yet before she is university-aged (frankly, I hope she finds better pursuits when she comes of age). On the other hand, I have been directly impacted by rape culture many times in my life. A lot of my own past issues around being raped came up for me while I read “A Rape on Campus” (my rape was…
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by Simeon Becker
I am a syncretic anarchist. What this means is that, if you identify
as an anarchist, and are reasonably intelligent and nonviolent, I will
do my absolute best to not try to tell you that you are not one. This
goes from anarcho-communists/libertarian socialists/anarcho-syndicalists (I like to call them “Chomskyites”) to anarcho-capitalists/voluntaryists/free market anarchists (whose thinkology to which I personally am admittedly more partial*). I even believe there may be a place in Anarchotopia for anarcho-primitivists, as long as they don’t force me at obsidian spear-point to live naked with them in a cave wherein we will communicate by grunting and flailing our arms and shun the individual oppressive enough to dare reinvent the wheel. But we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.
*Whilst touring the egalitarian community Twin Oaks yesterday, I made
myself out to be a bit of a “that guy” by repeatedly asking questions
with dirty words, such as “Can you BUY clothes from the community
closet?” and “Now, when you claim a community bike, how much does it
COST?” And then everyone pointed at me and made a raspy shrieking
noise before devouring my soul like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Okay, no, they chuckled and politely encouraged me to think outside
the mercantilist box for a few hours. I obliged.
I do not imagine that the circumstances under which I first began to
consider that I might be an anarchist are typical to most anarchists
(though, is anything, really?). At the age of 13, I read Alan Moore’s
incredible graphic novel V for Vendetta (and yes, the book is better
than the movie), whereupon I immediately hopped on Wikipedia to learn
more about this “anarchy” of which the flamboyant protagonist extols
the virtues. This naturally led me to explore the plethora of books,
people, and inevitable awkward schisms which make up the history of
anarchism, and at some point in this, the making of a teenage
anarchist, the name Paxus Calta leapt out at me. Hence why it is kind
of an astronomically big deal for me to be guest-contributing to this
esteemed blog. (Let that hopefully serve as my first, last, and only
moment of unabashed fanboyism to be documented for posterity within
the archives of funologist.org.)
I was extraordinarily fortunate enough to have a philosophical
tradition spanning roughly 200 years laid out before me in digital
form, to be perused at my own discretion. And, since I am for whatever
reason fascinated by all forms of conflict and what drives people to
them, I naturally was compelled in particular by the various conflicts
among self-proclaimed anarchists concerning what, exactly, an
anarchist society would necessarily be and not be. It is
etymologically self-evident that “anarchy,” Latin for “no rulers,”
does not mean “no RULES,” but when one attempts to delineate what
rules are legitimate, how they ought to be enforced in the absence of
rulers, and by what means we as individuals can coax society at large
toward such ends, one will likely incur the ire of no small number of
diametrically opposed thinkers all shouting at each other, “NOT REAL
ANARCHISM!” Especially if one makes the horrendous blunder of starting this conversation on Facebook.
(Tangential to that last sentence, if you are an anarcho-anything,
please do your mental state the huge favor of avoiding the Facebook
group Anarcho-Capitalist/Anarcho-Communist Debate like the plague. I
say this as a reluctant administrator of this group who has concluded
many a coffee-fueled morning holding my head in my hands over
something astoundingly rude and/or insanely idiotic posted by someone
on either side of the issue, usually myself.)
A conversation with Paxus yesterday highlighted a perfect example of
such a fundamental split among anarchists, one in which I
uncomfortably find myself slightly to the right of the middle. Allow
me to allegorize:
Mr. X runs A Very Big Smelly Corporate Factory. AVBSCF, Inc., on a
daily basis, dumps roughly 666 gallons of oobleck into the Idyllic
River, which runs past Happytown. The prolonged exposure to oobleck
begins to make the residents of Happytown, well, not so happy. Maybe
even sick, or dead. How shall an anarchist society penalize Mr. X for
his callous irresponsibility? The most common Chomskyite answer in my
experience, which I personally do not find satisfactory, is that there
simply would be no AVBSCF, Inc., to begin with; in its place, there
would be A Harmonious Eco-conscious Worker-Owned Collective (Inc.?),
as society will presumably have somehow evolved past such ridiculous
constructs like “money” and “economics.” Failing that, some kind of
Harmonious Consensus-Democratic EPA will step in to decide what to do
with Mr. X and his henchpeople. The anarcho-capitalist answer, on the
other hand, is not particularly satisfying, either: If people don’t
like the oobleck problem created by AVBSCF, Inc., they should not be
perpetuating it by buying AVBSCF, Inc.’s widgets. Failing that, the
relatives of the deceased Happytownites should sue Mr. X, and in a
just market of laws, would win. And yes, I just used the phrase
“market of laws.” Unless you are an anarcho-capitalist, your mind is
probably irreversibly blown.
It seems to me that, if the general public is too willfully ignorant
to give the logical and ethical superiority of a stateless society
over a statist one a second, or maybe even a first, thought, they
probably shouldn’t be relied upon to collectively resolve, “Let’s put
the Idyllic River before our lovely widgets!” But doesn’t the
Chomskyite solution presuppose, well, a government? Even a supposedly
kinder, gentler government? Mao Tse-tung was unfortunately right on
the money when he pointed out that “political power comes out of the
barrel of a gun.” Whatever their aims, governments necessarily claim
epistemologically unjustifiable monopoly over an essentially arbitrary
section of the planet. That doesn’t sound kind, or gentle. Or
anarchist. Is the question we should be asking ourselves how to
prevent the problem, or how to resolve it after the fact? Is the
problem even preventable? Can any model of society suppress the human
nature to oppress?
Anarchy is a priori. To paraphrase Alan Moore, the most common statist
objection to anarchism, that the biggest gang would take over and
negate the entire concept of anarchism, is literally the exact state
of current affairs. We live in a badly developed anarchist society in
which the biggest gangs have taken over and declared that this or that
area within these or those imaginary lines is not really an anarchist
society, but a capitalist society, or a communist society, or a
democratic socialist society, or a fascist society. As far as I am
concerned, anyone attempting to deny anarchism outright is probably
not worth discussing politics with, or sociology, or economics, or
much of anything except maybe the weather. Maybe not even that,
either. This is the attitude that has restricted my circle of friends
almost entirely to anarcho-capitalists and a very small handful of
very patient anarcho-communists. And even these friends I have a
tendency to horrify/annoy/confuse/weird out, the former by saying
things like “I’m spending a month in a commune! Isn’t that awesome?”,
the latter by saying things like “Don’t you just love the free
market/money/private property laws/the Ludwig von Mises Institute/the
Supreme Court ruling on corporate personhood?”
It is clear to me that SOME kind of anarchist society MUST be the cure
for the majority of society’s ills, but what exactly I mean by
“anarchist society,” I guess I can’t say. I don’t think anyone can.
But if you’re not an anarchist…sure is cold at Acorn Community today.
One of the best parts about the Point A project is the lovely people who are in fairly close orbit to it. The DC Point A group includes Connor who i barely knew before the project but i have grown a deep affection for. This last evenings meeting was at his group house in Death City which he shares with his sister and several other charming housemates.
There was a lovely, chaotically structured pot luck dinner type thing which happened just before the Point A meeting. Part of which was the creation of homemade donuts. They were in a word, epic donuts.
The Akashic Record is a quasi mythical place in which all history of all things is being recorded in real time, using a complex combination of high speed digital technology, ancient hand scribing arts and indecipherable magic. This is not some giant flat bureaucracy. The Akashic record has a number of different divisions to help users figure out which the most important events are and how it is they are best represented.
One of the special forces groups of the Akashic Record is the Sonnets Division. For powerful historical events, when they need something really compelling and rich to capture the importance of an event, they call in the Sonnets Division.
Tonight, for these donuts, the Sonnets Division is working overtime.
If you have never heard the name Greg Palast, you have likely dodged the ugliest tales of institutional voter fraud in the US. Palast is an investigative reporter for Al Jazeera America, who used to work for the UK Guardian and the BBC. In his book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” Palast details how Bush and then-Florida Secretary of State Kathrine Harris successfully stole the 2000 Florida election for Bush.
Well, Palast is back (actually he never went anywhere, he predicted the voter fraud in the US leading up to the most recent elections) with some of his most damning accusations to date. Specifically, that a little-discussed voter fraud prevention system called Interstate Crosscheck gave Republicans control of the US Senate.
Nationally, Interstate Crosscheck blocked 7 million people from voting simply because they had the same first and last name as someone else. Palast points out why this benefits Republicans:
The program’s method of identifying and purging voters especially threaten the registrations of minority voters who are vulnerable because African-American, Asian-American and Hispanics are 67 percent more likely than white voters to share America’s most common names: Jackson, Washington, Lee, Rodriguez and so on.
In North Carolina, 190,000 people were blocked from voting. The Republicans took that Senate seat election by 48,511 votes. In Colorado, more than 300,000 voters were prevented from casting their ballots. Republican Gardner took the Senate seat by only 48,000 votes. These two races alone represent a four-seat swing for the Republicans in controlling their tiny Senate majority.
The especially disturbing truth is that this system which blocked more than 7 million votes did not actually find a single case of multiple voting, which is exactly what it was supposedly designed to do.
Cry America; your fragile democracy has been sold to the highest bidder.
Turns out it was. And it turned out by coincidence we were sitting next to each other at the event. I have spoken with Nader a couple of times before, he is highly approachable. In 2013 he was pitching his book “I Told You So” which is a collection of his more prophetic published articles. He and a couple helpers had broken down their display and were walking away thru Union Station in DC and i stopped him to tell him i had appreciated his concession speech in the 2000 election.
So people write books, others hold various jobs, Nader starts and grows organizations. Wikipedia has an impressive list of them. For me the most important ones are the Critical Mass Energy Project, the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) and Public Citizen. Nader has been fighting for consumer protection and against nuclear power for longer than i have been alive (Nader is now 80).
In person Nader has a slightly paradoxical personality. He is modest, soft spoken, crazy smart and opinionated of course, but there appears a dissonance in his unassuming manner. Then he steps in front of a microphone. Even at 80, Nader’s energy when on public display was palpable. There were 2 dozen speakers over the 4 hour event i attended, and he was easily the best one. He owned the room, not because of his fame, but because of his conviction and sharp analysis.
We are lucky to have Ralph Nader on our side, and even more lucky he has grown so many organizations which are producing so many more organizers and activists to take his place.