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Berkeley Organization Teaches Members How to Demonstrate Effectively

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  • Clore Daniel C
    Berkeley organization teaches members how to demonstrate effectively Updated 12:00 PM ET July 14, 2000 By Sasha Talcott Daily Californian U.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 16 4:56 PM
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      Berkeley organization teaches members how to demonstrate effectively

      Updated 12:00 PM ET July 14, 2000

      By Sasha Talcott
      Daily Californian
      U. California-Berkeley

      (U-WIRE) BERKELEY, Calif. -- Berkeley resident Sarah Seeds
      has been arrested more times than she can count and once was
      shot at while trying to prevent loggers from clear-cutting
      an old growth forest.

      In an effort to stop a fishing boat from going out to sea,
      28-year-old Katy Flynn-Jambeck and six other demonstrators
      linked arms and spent two days hanging from the side of a
      bridge.

      Dan Rudie, another activist, hung himself five years ago
      from the sign of a San Francisco Shell station to highlight
      the plight of a Nigerian dissident.

      These protesters and other members of the Berkeley-based
      Ruckus Society kicked off their fourth annual Democracy
      Action Camp Thursday, training more than 150 participants
      to repel off buildings, climb a 60-foot tower and stage a
      sit-in in a tree.

      Participants hope to use their newly acquired "direct action"
      skills to protest at the Democratic National Convention,
      which will be held Aug. 14-17 in Los Angeles.

      Activists say members of different left-wing movements can
      use the camp and the upcoming convention to unite and,
      hopefully, prevent the "hostile corporate takeover of
      our democracy."

      Ruckus program director Han Shan accuses both the Democrats
      and Republicans of subverting their ideals to the allure of
      soft money and corporate greed.

      "These aren't conventions -- they're coronations," he says.
      "It's already known that Bush will be elected for the
      Republicans and Gore for the Democrats. It's a tiny group of
      rich elites in business who are deciding how things are run."

      In the hills above Los Angeles, the camp participants will
      spend the next week honing their skills for the upcoming
      convention protests, when hundreds of thousands of progressive
      protesters are expected to flood the city.

      Shan says liberal activists have become increasingly
      disenchanted with the Democratic Party's wholesale embrace
      of typical Republican issues, including free trade and the
      death penalty.

      At the November meeting of the World Trade Organization in
      Seattle, this disaffection exploded into conflict, as
      thousands of protesters took to the streets to rail against
      the international governing body.

      "The grandest tactic we used in Seattle was numbers," Shan
      says. "(The World Trade Organization) doesn't represent 99
      percent of the human population and 100 percent of the Earth."

      Ruckus members, who heavily participated in the Seattle
      protests, say they hope to shine the spotlight not on the
      Democratic convention, but the drama in the street outside.

      Rudie says his decision to hang from a gas station sign
      created a strong visual image and focused attention on Shell
      Oil's actions overseas.

      "In a case like this, the most important thing was to get
      people to see what was about to happen," he says. "We drew a
      line in the sand and said, 'Enough is enough.' We can't take
      any more. We're making a stand."

      Flynn-Jambeck, who teaches camp participants how to climb
      scaffolding, says the group's direct action tactics are
      designed precisely to attract media coverage. She says
      activists know they can only temporarily put a halt to events
      but their dramatic stunts often thrust the problem into the
      limelight.

      "You only stop something for a little while, but it makes
      people bear witness to what's going on," she says. "When you
      put your body on the line, people start paying attention."

      Flynn-Jambeck says she chose to suspend herself from a bridge
      in 1997 to stop fishermen from "strip mining the ocean" and
      to push for less destructive fishing methods.

      Although she was arrested in the action, Flynn-Jambeck was
      acquitted after an eight-day trial. Berkeley activists formed
      the Ruckus Society in 1995, after federal legislation
      increased the number of circumstances under which timber
      companies can log on public lands.

      "Suddenly, we saw the need for a lot more activists on a lot
      more fronts to prevent the wholesale destruction of our forest,"
      Shan says. "We needed to give someone the tools to create a
      ruckus. We have to enlist a whole generation of young people
      if we're going to win this battle."

      Although the Ruckus Society started as an environmental group,
      it soon blossomed into an umbrella organization for left-wing
      causes.

      Seeds says her own long history of protest demonstrates that
      nonviolent tactics can cause genuine change. A Ruckus
      volunteer trainer, Seeds spends her summers in the Idaho
      forests blockading half-finished roads.

      In one memorable instance, she and other protesters barricaded
      a road by using "lock boxes" to fasten their arms and legs
      together. Environmentalists had already sued to prevent
      construction, Seeds says, but the legal challenge had dragged
      out unresolved for years.

      While preventing construction, the activists also set up a
      table with coffee and doughnuts to serve to workers who were
      blocked from building the road. During that protest, a local
      man shot at the demonstrators, but the bullet whizzed by
      harmlessly over their heads.

      Seeds says the event was memorable not for the gunshot but
      because the protesters followed their training and remained
      calm under fire.

      "All the things we were trained to do -- all the things we
      believed we could do -- worked," she says. "We saw ourselves
      put to the test and we passed that test. We knew what to do
      and it went well."

      In Los Angeles, Seeds says she will serve as a liaison between
      demonstrators and law enforcement.

      "If it makes sense to risk (arrest), you risk," she says. "Use
      all the tools in the toolbox, but use the ones that will get us
      closer to the revolutions we want."

      --
      ---------------------------------------------------
      Dan Clore

      The Website of Lord We├┐rdgliffe:
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      "Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
      zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
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      &c., &c.,"
      -- The Book of Dzyan.
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