Evan Rowe is an adjunct professor of history at Broward College.
See Update at end of text. There were two arrests.
It just so happens that Christmas 2014 is coinciding with social tensions over both police brutality and treatment of the homeless population.
That should make for an interesting scene as protestors from various groups are planning actions to coincide with tonight's Winterfest boat parade in Fort Lauderdale.
In response to the city's so-called "homeless hate laws," Food Not Bombs will be celebrating its holiday tradition of Shoe Day where they will bring posters of Mayor Seiler and Darren Wilson and encourage spectators at the boat parade to participate in acts of defiance. The group two weeks ago disrupted Christmas on Las Olas and has been promoting its actions with the hashtag #christmasiscancelled.
Meanwhile, the group Dream Defenders, a group whose mission is "to develop the next generation of radical leaders to realize and exercise our independent collective power", will be carrying out its own action that could include a march and acts of civil disobedience. Their action is part of nationwide protests that have shut down highways in response to police killings of unarmed black men in New York, Ferguson Missouri and elsewhere. They have been publicizing their actions with the hashtag #shutitdown.
As Food Not Bombs posted on a Facebook page for Shoe Day:
The recent wave of unrest as a consequence of the lack of justice for Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford has created an unusual confluence here in Fort Lauderdale.
We will be performing our holiday tradition of Shoe Day, getting the spectators at the Boat Parade to participate in act of defiance against Homeless Hate Lawmakers and unaccountable killer cops. We'll be bringing posters of the Mayor and other downtown policymakers as well as killer cops like Darren Wilson.
We will also be telling the crowds there what is going on with the other action:
A 2nd group led by the Dream Defenders will be marching out of Fort Lauderdale Beach Park to downtown to engage in acts of civil disobedience for the ongoing injustice of black lives lost to America's police state.
#christmasiscancelled meets #shutitdown, for the rights of those discriminated against and violently oppressed for their race AND class by our society.
For all other information about resisting homeless hate laws in Fort Lauderdale see http://homelesshatelaws.blogspot.com
The Dream Defenders posted on a Facebook page:
On Saturday at the Winterfest Boat Show we will be showing our unity as a South Florida community and expressing our discontent with the current justice system and inspiring ways that we can change and improve this situation with the people of Fort Lauderdale.
We want to ensure that we protect the people of our community and stand in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones and members of their own community to state violence.
#BlackLivesMatter #Justice4All #Ferguson2SFL #WinterFest
They have said they will meet at Stranahan Park at 6 p.m. An organizer, Jesse Cosme, did not respond to a request for comment from New Times.
There has been some backlash to the protests as they have angered commuters. A Sun-Sentinel writer, Gary Stein, today dismissed the protestors for "being cute on social media" as he totally missed the bigger point of police aggression and injustice. He also condescendingly advised "don't be total slobs."
Lately, there does seem to be an improvement in the shot selection amongst activists, who are better able to zero in on the problem sectors of money and power, instead of the more traditional symbolic actions of demonstrations which for all intents and purposes hold less value in an age where the message isn't as important as the megaphone.
We should all be reminded that occupations of public and private space, as well as effigy actions, are time honored traditions in the U.S. and by and large it was private sector occupations that built the proverbial middle class during the 1930s, and it was private and public sector occupations and defiance in the civil rights movement that led to full citizenship for the black population in the segregationist south. To be clear: Defiance and disobedience were the root that created the middle class, and it was obedience to private sector power starting with the new right that accelerated the destruction of the middle class.
At its core, the central problem behind aggressive policing (the increase in inequality has been partially dealt with by increasing police and security power in order to defend the powerful from the growing class of poor and super poor that their policies have created), the homeless hate laws, rampant income inequality, and falling wages, is that there is too much power in too few hands and only increased pressure and actions will be capable of delivering popular power to the base of the American population.
Actions that might disrupt the boat parade are viable defensive moves that can potentially send a symbolic message but use improved tactical actions. And while they are not yet at the level of daily or weekly workplace occupations or strikes against key capital targets, they do show an improvement in the defensive ability.
Of course some people will ask "what does this accomplish"? And the answer should always be the same: You show us results using other methods and then you may ask questions about the tactics employed. You show is another way to get results.
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If there was an institutional method to level power and reduce the power where it is concentrated, then maybe this would have merit. But there is no formal channel to deal with the derivative problems being focused on here, let alone the central one of concentrated power, and as a result, innovating new methods of popular defiance will be, as they have always been, the only way forward.
Update: 2 arrested (Casey Cooper, and one other), as protestors are contained by police and fail to take key bridge locations in time to disrupt the parade. The combination of relatively small numbers combined with a sizable police presence, along other factors (some of the Dream Defenders decided to concentrate their forces in the larger demonstrations around the country), led to contained and controlled demonstration that moved around downtown Fort Lauderdale. Unlike the larger demonstrations in the major cities around the U.S., popular power is extremely limited in South Florida, which is a haven for the monied classes who rest upon the population at large. To complicate matters further, much of the potential political base for these movements is spread out further west, making concentration of people much more difficult. This is on top of a massive ideological gap rooted in decades of suppression of popular thought in the U.S. combined with significant ideological cohesion amongst far right forces in both of the major business backed political parties.
Despite the loss, it was a well intentioned effort, and the overall national climate will most likely continue in this direction, even if the focus on police murders shifts to whatever the next national outrage may be. As noted below, these movements are in their incipient stages, and lack focus. The target selection of bridges was an improvement on previous actions, as was the highway shut down in miami but the ability to put up enough points to overwhelm police forces long enough to take, hold, and control private spaces for long enough time periods of time is the one of the next major tactical hurdles.
On the other hand, the next major strategic hurdle will be to double back and develop greater offensive capacities so that activists are not reacting to the news cycle, but instead can develop a broad narrative that includes lots of people and provides a coherent ideological framework from which to build an offense. I am all for a strong and reactive defense, that can mobilize quickly in the face of injustice, but realistically speaking, there is injustice each day, and if nobody is attacking at the root of it, the derivative problems will continue. Building offensive capacities allows more arbitrary control over targets and don't end up with protesters directly lining up with the police (which, even when they are the focus, are almost never going to be a net winner as a political target for popular forces, something I will have to address later), and greater control over the pace of activist waves. More offense will make the defense play much more efficiently because it will force establishment power to reevaluate various positions, and it will also allow greater base building because the targets are being selected without needing to wait for targets to appear vis-a-vis the next injustice to make its way through the news cycle.]