This is what REVOLUTION looks like!
I don't know when it hit me, when I realized that I was part of a revolutionary movement, part of a revolution. I'm not sure when I noticed that people were organized and willing to do what it takes to shut down the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and, in the long run, the whole damn system.
Maybe it hit me when I walked into the convergence space and was surrounded by flyers for upcoming events and literature with political analysis (all free of course). Or maybe it was the observation that everyone at the space was doing something; no one was sitting around with nothing to do. It was empowering to see and take part in the incredible amount of skills sharing that took place during that week. I think it truly hit me sitting in a room, waiting for a workshop on media to begin. The woman next to me pulled out a multi-tool, took out the knife and began cutting off her dreds of six years; her voice quivered occasionally as she spoke about her motivations: she had been harassed by the police and FBI who now had pictures of her, so she wanted to look different to avoid getting targeted later. She called her boyfriend on a cell phone, saying how much she loved him and wished they could be together for this moment; instead, she sat cutting her hair in a room full of strangers.
Another woman in the same workshop was also scared and doubting her presence at the demonstrations; she was close to getting her work permit and if anything bad happened to her at the protests, she would get deported. But after assessing her priorities, she stayed.
The incredible amount of organization gave way to an incredible amount of police surveillance. Every 15 minutes, police or army helicopters would fly overhead, and police cars were seen far more frequently. Constant warnings to never go anywhere alone, stories of people being stopped and harassed just inches outside the space I was lucky enough to avoid that. Of course, members of the affinity group I was in were followed home and the house we were staying at ended up being under surveillance.
I was lucky enough to get there Thursday morning; I had more time to become acquainted with my surroundings than many other people; I got to see the original convergence space before the cops raided it. On Thursday night, I attended a spokes council meeting; this is a meeting where only certain people are empowered to speak (affinity group or cluster representatives) in the interests of expediency, though anyone is welcomed to watch. It was beautiful to see the energy and excitement in people's eyes as they talked about how we were going to shut down two of the most powerful organizations in the world. It is impossible to express how great it is to be in a room with several hundred people who are 110% confident that together, we're going to stop all oppression dead in its tracks. The incredible power of civil disobedience is forever present in meetings and discussion.
But when April 16 rolled around, I did not make the same trek that many of my comrades did. We all awoke at 3:30 a.m., but as they began their journey downtown, some with every intention of getting arrested by doing a lockdown (though none were arrested), I began walking in the opposite direction with another affinity group member to a house where we would spend the next two days waiting for phone calls. As jail support for our affinity group, we could not be in an arrestable position, as we were the ones that would be called (and have to make calls) if anyone got arrested; therefore, we held onto people's IDs because everyone agreed to practice jail solidarity if arrested. It was great to be able to know that I could (and still can) trust anyone in my affinity group with my life, and they could (and can) expect the same of me.
Two other affinity groups were doing jail support at the same house accompanied us and we tried to watch the news as much as possible. It was absolutely horrid to see the utter nonsense the news reported; it was even harder to think that people were believing what was said were believing that the police were being restrained (despite footage showing the contrary), believing that there existed a relationship of 'love and trust' between the police and the protesters. The vicious lies and overt butt-kissing praise for Police Chief Ramsey (D.C.'s version of Jesus Christ) were enough to make me sick. The fact that they didn't interrupt soap operas or any other regularly scheduled programming to bring updates (even whitewashed updates were better than nothing) made me appreciate independent media so much more. Places like the Civic Media Center here in Gainesville and the Independent Media Center (nationwide) became a lot more precious to me over that weekend, and I hope everyone realizes the full importance of independent media.
At the end of it all, I'd have to say the most important part of this demonstration is to make sure that what happened is not limited to this one demonstration; the revolution will not be won by only fighting large battles. I hope everyone left with the tremendous sense of empowerment to work locally in building community that I left with. If we are not active locally, the big demonstrations are just a show. It's wonderful that so many people went to D.C., but now that we're back, we can't let up. A movement is growing, we are making a difference, but the struggle continues.