A Summer of Anarchy

Reports on the Gatherings


Fifth Estate # 343, Fall-Winter, 1993

Portland, Oregon
by Rob Los Ricos

During a brief stop in Portland, Oregon, then President George Bush said, “That felt like Beirut back there,” after being assailed by scores of angry youths. The summer anarchist gathering in Portland, held July 16 to 19, was billed as the “Holiday in Beirut.” It turned out to be quite a Crusty event. (A Crusty is a seldom washed, much pierced sometimes drunken street punk.)

The gathering was supposed to be an informal festival of fun and frolic, but the focus on keeping it loose and unorganized caused a great deal of stress for Portland’s anarchists, specifically the folks at Rosebud Commons, a cooperative home which wound up acting as a community center and locus for the organizers of the event.

The greatest shortcoming of the weekend was a complete lack of housing. Several squats were attempted, but they were all busted leaving many people scattered around town, sleeping on the streets, under bridges and in cars.

Many nomadic anarchists wound up at Rosebud Commons. The presence of so many young white people in a predominantly black neighborhood called attention to the Commons, and placed it under intense police scrutiny.

There was a greeting party at the Howling, Frog Café of Friday where the plans for the weekend were laid out. People spread out all over town that night, with Rosebud having the dubious honor of being overrun with homeless Crusties.

On Saturday, at a Food Not Bombs feeding, an IWW singing group, General Strike, performed for us as we ate in the park.

Sunday night there was a riot at the X-ray Café during a concert for Anarchopunks featuring 11 bands. The X-ray is a small place, and almost a couple of hundred Crusties were there, most of them standing around outside on the sidewalk.

This went on for quite a while, until eighty or so cops in riot gear showed up without warning. The Crusties responded by putting on their masks and linking arms. There was a stand-off for a couple of hours with the cops giving orders and the Crusties taunting the cops. A crowd of onlookers developed and cheered as the Crusties heaped insults on the cops. Tired of waiting for the police to attack, the punks took down a banner that proclaimed, “No War but Class War” and began marching through downtown. The police followed, and began to arrest the stragglers. Once this started, all hell broke loose.

The Crusties smashed windows and assaulted a posh restaurant, causing the terrified diners to flee. A few luxury vehicles were damaged and a brief street fight ensued. When it was all over, almost thirty punks were arrested.

The day after, the city was abuzz with talk about anarchy and anarchists. Surprisingly, the liberal media blamed the police for starting the trouble by overreacting to a Sunday afternoon concert.

Philadelphia, Pa.
by Liz Highleyman

The Philadelphia Troublemakers and Anarchists (PTA) sponsored a Mid-Atlantic anarchist gathering July 30 to August 2.

Although the gathering had been planned for the region, sizable groups came from as far away as Chicago and New England, demonstrating the desire of anarchists to get together with others from as broad an area as possible (the last continental gathering took place in 1989 in San Francisco). Although the event attracted more people than the PTA had bargained for (several hundred showed up), the organization was excellent.

The Philly anarchists have a cafe called the A-space that was the center for evening activities. Friday and Monday workshops were held at a local Unitarian church, and the weekend workshops at a Friends School which the PTA managed to obtain at the last minute after the local school department yanked the public school that was originally booked.

The school had a rooftop playing field which was the site of two “punk vs. skin” soccer matches (both draws).

The workshops were many and varied, divided into several topics: Organizing/Labor, Queer, Gender, Media, Technology, Hands-on, History/Current Events, Prison/ legal, Sex/Relationships and others. The hands-on, practical focus was much appreciated. There were workshops on home wiring, plumbing, self-help women’s health (a fabulous workshop on self-exam, menstrual extraction and herbal remedies by members of Philly ‘ s Cherry Bomb Women’s self-help group).

Workshops were held on squatting in New York City and Philadelphia. Philly has a strong squatting scene, and the squats provided much of the accommodations for out-of town participants.

There were several workshops on “Technology as a Weapon.” I found this surprising since the anti-tech focus of the wider-circulation anarchist papers had led me to believe such sentiment was more widespread, yet the technology workshops were among the most well-attended. One workshop dealt with phone phreaking (altering public telephones to obtain free service), encryptation, and similar topics. Another focused on pirate radio.

An ad-hoc workshop about using electronic mail acted as a prelude to a Sunday evening meeting which discussed the creation of an anarchist communications network using electronic and postal mail, phones, and faxes. People discussed creating local ‘nodes’ with computer mail access which could distribute information received electronically to local groups, via info shops, phone trees, etc. More info can be obtained from the folks at Windchill Factor, PO Box 81961, Chicago, IL 60681—ask about “the web.”

Several other interesting workshops took place including: Surviving jail—what every anarchist should know, Anarchists parenting, Histories of skinheads and punks (with Donny the punk), Queer direct action, Sexual anarchism, Remembering NYC’s anarchism of the 1930s (with veteran anarchists Sid and Clara Solomon), Anarchist perspectives on magic, Job-free living, Nudism, and workshops on MOVE (with Ramona Africa), and Anarchism and Black Revolution (with former Black Panther Lorenzo Ervin).

The gathering wound up with a picnic in “Judy Garland Park” on Monday afternoon. The organizers did not plan a “Day of Action” and asked others not to either (promising that the asses of anyone who did would be allowed to rot in jail!). Fortunately, given the harm that has befallen local organizers and naive participants when such events have occurred at past gatherings, these wishes were honored.

Many thanks to the Philly people for their warm welcome and their tireless work!

Madison, Wisconsin
by RLR

Another summer anarchist gathering was held in Madison, Wisconsin, August 7 and 8. Attendance was light, around 100 people, with the majority of participants coming from Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago.

Our host, Chuck Munson, was able to find lodging for us in a cooperative dormitory and the meetings were held on the grounds of a former church that is now a community center. Most of the workshops were small group discussions about community building, organizing strategies, herbal medicines and using technology such as e-mail. The strengths of some groups became apparent, such as the Baklava/Wind Chill Factor networking capabilities and the community-building experiences of the Emma Center, an anarcho-community center in Minneapolis.

The Madison gathering was satisfying as an informal gathering with plenty of time to hang-out with other anarchists. Hopefully, there will be even more gatherings next summer where we can break out of the cliched topics that make many conferences seem redundant. I’d like to see more emphasis on actual accomplishments in our communities.

Addendum The Beehive Autonomous Collective, 925 “U” St., NW Washington DC 20001. It will function as a community and performance space, as well as offer books, indie tapes and records, and zines.