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  • Sunday, August 31, 2008


    Starhawk's RNC post 4: Police Seize Permibus

    by Starhawk (Sun Aug 31 10:10:31 2008)

    Hey friends, we need your help! Our Earth Activist Training Sustainable Skills Bus has been seized without cause by the police. Below is an account from the Wilsons, who have been travelling in the bus for the last seven months doing trainings in permaculture and sustainability, including ways you can help. My own accounts from the action can be found on and I’ll be posting daily as long as I can—or sign on to my own list by emailing If you’re on that list, my own account follows. Please support these folks who have been doing such good work for us all. Thanks!

    Police Seize Permibus

    Please Post Far and Wide including any Media Contacts You May Have

    At approximately 6:25 pm on August 30, 2008 Minneapolis Police, Minnesota State Troopers, Ramsey County Sheriffs, Saint Paul Police, and University of Minnesota Police pulled over the Earth Activist Training Permaculture Demonstration Bus (Permibus) by exit 237 on Interstate 94. Initially the police told the people on the bus to exit. When the people on the bus asked if they were being detained they were told that they were but police were unable to provide justification. When asked why they pulled the bus over they refused to answer. After repeated requests to explain why the bus had been stopped Officer Honican of the Minneapolis Police explained that this was just a routine traffic stop though he did not explain the reason for the traffic stop. The police then told Stan Wilson, the driver and registered owner of the Permibus, that they were going to impound the bus in case they wanted to execute a search warrant later. After more than an hour of being questioned by Stan and Delyla Wilson as to the legalities of their detainment and the impoundment of the Permibus, the police then informed Stan that the bus, which is legally registered as a passenger vehicle in the state of Montana, was being impounded for a commercial vehicle inspection. Shortly afterward Sergeant Paul Davis, a commercial vehicle inspector arrived on scene. Despite the polices insistence that the reason for impoundment was for a commercial vehicle inspection the Permibus crew were not allowed to remove anything from the bus including computers, toiletries, and 17-year-old Megan Wilson's shoes. The police finally allowed the animals to be removed from the Permibus before it was towed, leaving the Permibus family standing beside their chickens and dogs, homeless on the highway.

    The Permibus was relocating from the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis, where they had spent the day teaching Urban Permaculture, to a friend's house in Saint Paul for a well deserved break. The Permibus has been in the Minneapolis area since August 2nd when the crew appeared at the Midtown Farmers Market for a morning of Permaculture education including Permaculture 101, chicken care, seed ball making for kids, and the Permi-puppet show. During the past month the Permibus has parked at several local businesses and, as a neighborly gesture of respect for local police, Mr. Wilson contacted the appropriate precincts just to let them know the Permibus was in the area and had permission from the business owners to be parked on their lot. Through this, as well as other casual discussions with Minneapolis and Saint Paul police officers, the Permibus crew found the local police to be interested and respectful. However on August 30th all that changed when, for no apparent valid reason the police pulled over and seized the Permibus. After the incident Stan Wilson said, "If the combined law enforcement of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Ramsey County, and the State of Minnesota can pull over and impound a vehicle and home used to teach organic gardening and sustainability, one has to wonder what it is our government really fears. After all, we seek to teach people that the real meaning of homeland security is local food, fuel and energy production. For that we have had our lives stolen by government men with guns."

    As of now, after repeated requests to be present at any vehicle inspection, with an list of what they are inspecting for, as well as requests to be served any warrants for searches of the vehicles prior to a search and to be present during the search the Permi-family has been unable to ascertain the current status of the Permibus. On site Mr. Wilson was told that Officer Palmerranky was the inspector in charge of the case and would determine if the Permi-family's rights protecting them from unreasonable search and seizure would be respected. Neither Officer Palmerranky nor his supervisor has yet to return Mr. Wilson's calls. The loss of her home and possessions is particularly difficult on seventeen-year-old Megan Wilson. Megan, a shining example of what this country asks of today's youth, has dedicated herself to making positive changes in the world. She was the youth keynote speaker at the Local to Global conference in Phoenix AZ, has taught conflict resolution at youth shelters and is the outreach coordinator for the Skills for a New Millennium Tour, the family traveling educational project. Megan believes that, "While I understand that the world we live in is not as it should be I strive to live and teach in a way that shows the world how life could be. What I don't understand is why I can't get dressed for an evening out with friends in my own home without armed men stealing my life out from under me." The Permi-family, along with their dogs and Permaculture super-hero chickens are currently being housed by folks in the Twin Cities.

    The Skills for a New Millennium Tour is a family education project that travels around the United States teaching homesteading, citizenship, and life skills at farmers markets, community gardens, churches, intentional communities, schools, and in people's living rooms. The Skills Tour is a donation supported project dedicated to providing tools for sustainable living, including Permaculture, to anyone who is interested, regardless of income. "We believe that any solution that is not accessible to the poor and urban areas is not a real solution for the future," states Delyla Wilson. Permaculture is a design system with ethics and principles that can be applied to food production, home design, and community building in order to increase sustainability in food production, energy production, and social systems. The Permibus is a rolling demonstration of small scale sustainable living with three people, three dogs, three chickens, and a box of worms as permanent residence. The chickens and worms are part of a closed-loop food productions composting system that supports the Permibus's traveling garden. For more information on the seizure of the Permibus, the Skills for the New Millennium Tour, or Permaculture, the Wilson's can be reached at 406-721-8427 or through email at You can also see pictures and read stories about the last six months of their educational adventures at

    To our supporters: First we ask that as many people as possible contact precinct one in Minneapolis, MN at 612-673-5701 and Mayor Rybak at

    Phone: (612) 673-2100 or
    call 311 or call (612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis.
    Also call the Ramsey County Sheriff
    Sheriff - Bob Fletcher 651-266-9300
    and demand the immediate release of the Permibus.

    We are also in desperate need of donations. Though we do not yet know the full cost of getting the permibus returned we know that it will include tow fee, impound fees, and legal fees. To donate contact us directly for a local address or...

    Donate On-line:
    Go to:
    Click on: Donate Now!
    Under "Gift Information" write: Permibus
    Under "Please send acknowledgment of this gift to" write:

    Donate by Mail:
    Make check payable to: A.C.T.
    On the "For" line write: Permibus
    Send check to: A.C.T. 1405 Hillmount St. Austin, TX 78704

    This post has been sent to you from This is an announce-only listserve that allows Starhawk to post her writings occasionally to those who wish to receive them. To subscribe to this list, send an email to

    Below are all of the DemiOrator posts containing Starhawk's reports from the 2008 Republican National Convention:
    Starhawk's RNC post 1: On the Bad Side of Town
    Starhawk's RNC post 2: Raid on the Convergence Center
    Starhawk's RNC post 3: New Moon Ritual
    Starhawk's RNC post 4: Police Seize Permibus
    Starhawk's RNC post 5: A Spiral Dance in the Streets
    Starhawk's RNC post 6: Emergency Calls Requested

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    Starhawk's RNC post 3: New Moon Ritual

    I'm a fan of well-executed non-violent actions such as the ones Starhawk often participates in. Sadly, the police remain woefully ignorant about the difference between violent and non-violent actions. Or perhaps they just don't care: a disruption is a disruption is a disruption, and free speech only belongs in a Free Speech Cage Area, far away from the convention. Preemptive action against all planned protests always seems to be the order of the day by authorities at these conventions. --DemiOrator

    Feel free to forward or repost this—thanks to all who have made calls already—it really helps! We got the convergence space reopened—but the raids continue!

    New Moon Ritual
    By Starhawk
    (Sun Aug 31 10:14:12 2008)

    This is how magic works:

    We are gathered on sacred ground overlooking the Mississippi to celebrate the new moon and to begin this week of demonstrations and actions outside the Republican National Convention. We have an intention for the ritual, an intention the planners have been working with here in the Twin Cities for months: to court an upwelling of earth wisdom.

    Magic, we say, is the art of changing consciousness at will—that’s Dion Fortune’s definition. Implicit in that is ‘art’, imagery, poetry, and we’ve been looking for the imagery that will embody our intention. The most powerful rituals are built around one clear image and one clear intention.

    But we keep getting multiple images: webs, crystals, bedrock, surging water. The hurricane, roaring toward the Gulf, back toward New Orleans where many of us volunteered after Katrina. And dragons.

    “Oh please Goddess not dragons!” I’m saying silently inside my own mind. “With or without dungeons—high wince factor. Overused. Disneyesque.” But dragons it is—protective Chinese dragons, ancient earth serpent powers, water dragons, fierce, fire-breathing guardians.

    Many years ago, I had a friend who lived in a group house in San Francisco. He used to say that every collective needed a dragon who lived in the basement, someone really ill tempered who will emerge from time to time and drive off those people who come to visit for a night and end up staying for a month, eating up all your sweet pickle chips and losing your bicycle.

    And so, when we do ritual in a public place, we always name some people as ‘dragons’, to guard the boundaries of the circle. This ritual coincides with the arrival of a group who has biked from a conference in Madison, Wisconsin all the way to the Twin Cities. Paul has contacted them, and asked them to be our dragons.

    I am having a lot of trouble shifting my own consciousness as the ritual begins. It’s been a hard, tense day. All day we’ve been getting news that the police have been raiding houses, breaking down doors, arresting people, with or without warrants or warnings. We hold the morning meeting in a public park, because our Convergence Space has been raided and closed the night before. Someone says, “We’re a community that includes children—we can’t clear them out of their own living spaces. Remember if the police raid your space it’s important to have someone negotiate with them to get the children out.”

    I am a tough person. I’ve been through a lot of these things and in spite of all my efforts to stay open I’ve grown something of my own protective scales. But those words pierce through them, and I find tears welling up in my eyes. It just hits me, that we’re standing here in the United States of America, in the liberal city of my birth, talking about how to protect children from armed police.

    So this is on my mind as I try to center for the ritual, and then comes the news that our PermiBus has been pulled over and our friends in it are being arrested. My own organization, Earth Activist Trainings, has helped to build and fund this bus, and our dear friends Delyla and Stan Wilson and their daughter Megan have been traveling in it for seven months, offering trainings in Sustainable Skills, and tours of the bus itself as a living example. It has solar panels and graywater systems, a worm bin, hydroponic herb garden, composting toilet and three resident chickens. Megan, a gifted poet at sixteen, says: “We know the world is not as it should be: we want to live in a way that shows people what could be.”

    So I’m trying to wrench my mind away from worrying about them, using all my magical tools to try to get calm and grounded and centered, and not having great success. I’m responsible for a major part of the ritual, and though I’ve been meditating on it and thinking about it for days, my mind is still pretty much a blank and now, as the ritual begins, I still don’t know exactly what I’m going to do.

    And then the dragons ride in. Paul signals to them, and they ride down the hill and around and around the circle on their bikes, while we cheer and laugh with delight. For each of them has made a dragon costume. They have long snouts of painted cardboard and foam spikes in their helmets and wild wings of wire and gauze and webbing. They ride around and around, and just for a moment, the clouds of stress and worry roll away and I’m filled with wonder and delight. Three bald eagles circle above us. Magic.

    As the ritual begins, I know what I am going to say, what images and energies are asking to be expressed. We honor the ancestors, and ask permission to do our work on that sacred land. We cast a circle, call in the elements of earth, air, fire, water. A young woman from the biking group has asked to spin fire, and her dance with twirling balls of fire on chains lights up all our hearts. All the while, the dragons stand guard around us, calm and still in their snouts and wings.

    Susu, who is a poet, calls the Mississippi by having us all chant the letters of the mother river’s name, spelling a spell. We call in the earth spirits, and we call protection, for the circle, for all our friends in the street, and for our friends and all those in the path of the hurricane heading toward the Gulf.

    My turn comes. Right away, I abandon my plans. This circle needs to move, to sing and dance, so I call in the drummers and we sing a chant to Spider Woman and to change.

    “Spiders and webs are positive images for us,” I tell the group when the chant dies down. “The web is a symbol for the web of life, the web of connection. But there are other sorts of webs, too. Sticky webs. Webs of lies. Webs of entrapment. There’s a web of negative energy that has been covering this country, media webs that whisper to you day and night that you’re not good enough, not good looking enough, webs of scorn and judgment. And those webs get inside us.”

    I ask people to turn to each other, to draw out the threads of those webs and let them sink into the ground as pure energy. To open up a space for something new.

    If there’s a core belief in the Goddess religion, it’s this: that each of us is part of the web of life, and precious, bringing our own unique gifts to the world. We don’t ask people to believe in things, not even the Goddess who is simply our term for the great creative mystery that weaves the world. But we do ask people to believe in yourself, in your own deep work, in your sacred purpose. You are here for a reason.

    And then I ask people to sink down into that web of life, to feel it beneath our feet, in the soil, in the web of waters that flow beneath us, in the very bedrock below us which was once living things and which in the fullness of time will return to life as soil and root and growing thing. To listen to that web of life, and to know that all we really need to do to court its upwelling is to open up a space for it, and listen.

    Eagles circle, and then as the sun sets, so do helicopters, circling around us, their thrum making it nearly impossible to hear. But we begin to dance and drum, to weave a spiral and raise a roaring cone of power, and the helicopters finally move away. Energy pours through us, roaring upwards like dragon fire.

    At the end of the ritual, someone calls for anyone who was in the convergence center when it was raided to come forward. A young woman steps into the center of the circle. She was in the building the night before, with her five year old son, who was scared and crying as the police drew their guns on his mother, handcuffed her, patted her down. Now we lay soft hands on her, chant and sing and send her healing. When it is done, she’s glowing; and immediately begins organizing housing for all the people who have been displaced by the raids.

    I sit down, spent. A man and a woman come over to talk. They are thinking of offering housing, but worried. What about the anarchists? Won’t they destroy things, or bring down the police on their home? If they march with us, will they be in danger? They’ve heard that anarchists like to provoke the police to attack peaceful demonstrators, to radicalize them.

    I explain gently that anarchism is many things—a political philosophy with widely varying strands, from nihilists to pacifists. But mostly a way of organizing, a stress on personal responsibility, on taking action oneself and not waiting for the government or someone else to do it for you.

    A young woman from the biker’s group comes over. She’s dressed all in black—if ever someone looked the part of an anarchist, it’s her.

    “We were just talking about you,” says the man, and soon they are deep in discussion. She tells him that yes, she is an anarchist, and so are pretty much all of the group with the bikes. And that for her, it’s about building community, looking out for each other, making decisions together, mutual aid and respect. They have a long discussion, in which magic is happening: consciousness is changing.

    I talk with her and with some of the other dragons as we share food made by Seeds of Peace. A tall young man with golden curls tells me how much it meant to them to be dragons. “We really got into it,” he says. “We spent a whole day making our costumes, and getting into that guardian, protective energy. And now I don’t want to let it go. I’m going to keep my foam spikes in my helmet when I’m doing deliveries. We want to be guardians for the marches, for the city. For the world.”

    This is how magic works.

    The bikers are all hugging each other in a circle, reluctant to leave each other now that the ride is over. They have fulfilled their intention, built their community, spread their message, and brought us a gift of wonder and delight.

    And as we prepare to leave, I get a new message. Our friends with the bus have not been arrested, although the bus itself has been impounded. They are free, although their home and all their possessions, computers, permaculture displays, worms and the contents of their composting toilet are now locked up somewhere in a police yard, with no explanation or reason. The police had no search warrant—indeed, they did not search the bus, but explained that they were impounding it in case they wanted to search it later. They did, however, release the people, the two exuberant Australian shepherd dogs, and the three chickens, with whom we are reunited back at our home.

    Magic. Like so many things, it doesn’t work perfectly. But it works.
    This post has been sent to you from This is an announce-only listserve that allows Starhawk to post her writings occasionally to those who wish to receive them.
    To subscribe to this list, send an email to
    To unsubscribe, send an email to
    Starhawk is a lifelong activist in peace and global justice movements, a leader in the feminist and earth-based spirituality movements, author or coauthor of ten books, including
    The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred Thing, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, and her latest, The Earth Path
    Starhawk's website is, and more of her writings and information on her schedule and activities can be found there.

    Below are all of the DemiOrator posts containing Starhawk's reports from the 2008 Republican National Convention:
    Starhawk's RNC post 1: On the Bad Side of Town
    Starhawk's RNC post 2: Raid on the Convergence Center
    Starhawk's RNC post 3: New Moon Ritual
    Starhawk's RNC post 4: Police Seize Permibus
    Starhawk's RNC post 5: A Spiral Dance in the Streets
    Starhawk's RNC post 6: Emergency Calls Requested

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    Saturday, August 30, 2008


    Cynical Smile: Four Years of Blogging

    I've come full circle: It was over four years ago, during the Democratic National Convention of 2004, that I began this erratic blog called DemiOrator. I've slacked off blogging here during the last year or so, my attention focused elsewhere. Still, I have affection for this tatty and ratty personal expression of mine despite the recent neglect.

    I started this blog with a cynical eye but with hope that things could be improved. This seems less and less likely, despite Obama's nomination. Superficially, Obama seems like a sign of progress, his nomination by a major party to run for president practically unimaginable just a generation ago. Yet I have seen little evidence of substantial change coming if he is elected. Oh, his administration will probably be head and shoulders above the current administration or McCain's but these are exceptionally low bars to clear.

    I've always had little confidence in the US political system above the very local level of participation. Democracy does not thrive well beyond the local representative level where you can actually talk with your rep or attend meetings with them. At a national level, the corruption of power, money and ruling class values dominates discussion and influence. Lobbyists write legislation to benefit their clients/special interests and money talks louder than the voices of constituents.

    This is Labor Day weekend and I suspect large numbers of people under 30 have little clear idea what it originally represented. Today, unions have been losing members for decades and the percentage of unionized US workers is at its lowest ebb. The idea of banding together with other workers even seems bizarre to many because we're now acclimated to the idea that we're competing with everyone else.

    "Collective bargaining? Solidarity? Aren't those commie ideas? Commies are bad, right? We won the Cold war and I don't want no truck with commies."

    So politicians continue to pull our strings to get votes. There are no guarantees that the promises made before the election will be kept after the election. They'll claim new facts and a fuller understanding/briefing on the situation means that there are other factors in the balance.

    I'm willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt but I also expect nothing more from him than I expect from any politician: reversals of positions, inaction on many pre-election promises, and equivications when confronted on this pattern.

    I never believe slogans or promises; I only believe in actions. I recommend you do as well.

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    Starhawk's RNC post 2: Raid on the Convergence Center

    By Starhawk (Sat Aug 30 08:00:09 2008)

    It’s Friday night. Our Pagan Cluster is sitting on the bluff of the Mississippi having our first real meeting, when Lisa gets a call. The cops are raiding the Convergence Center, where we’re organizing meetings and trainings for the protests against the Republican National Convention. It’s not a role play, the caller says. It’s real.

    Instantly, we jump up and hurry back the six or eight blocks to the old theater we are using for meetings, trainings and social gatherings. I've spent the last two days doing magical activism trainings, teaching people how to stay calm and grounded in emergency situations and when things get chaotic. Now it’s time to put the training into practice. Aaron, a tall, red-headed young man who could be one of my nephews strides along beside me. “Are you grounded?” I ask him. He nods, and runs ahead.

    Nobody can keep up with Lisa, who speeds ahead like an arrow, walking, not running, but still covering the ground quickly. Andy and I trail behind. We’re often street buddies, because we’re both big, slow, and supremely calm and stubborn, willing to wade into almost any situation and become the immovable object.

    We’re stopped by a line of cops just before we reach the building. They refuse to let us through, or to move their van which is blocking Scarecrow’s car. There’s an investigation underway, they say, and won’t say more.

    Brush, our dear friend, is inside, having gone to a jail solidarity meeting, ironically enough. So are two very young people who had just joined our cluster that night. I try calling Brush’s cell phone, but get no reply.

    We wait. That’s what you do when the cops have guns trained on kids inside a building. You wait, and witness, and make phone calls, and try to think of useful things to do.

    We call lawyers. We call politicians. We try to call media. We call friends who might know politicians and media.

    Through the kitchen door, we can see young kids sitting on the floor, handcuffed. We walk across the street, back, made more phone calls. An ambulance is parked in front, and the paramedics head into the building, leaving a gurney ready. Susu, from her car around the corner, reports that the cops have been grabbing pedestrians from the street, forcing them down to the ground, handcuffing them.

    Song, one of the local organizers, calls her City Council member. She wants to call the Mayor, Chris Coleman, who has promised that St. Paul will be as welcoming to protesters as to delegates, but no one has his home number.

    What I have forgotten to tell people at the training is how much of an action is just this: tense, boring waiting, with a knot of anxiety in your stomach and your feet starting to hurt. Song talks to a helpful neighbor, who’s come over to find out what’s happening. He knows where the mayor lives, says it’s just a few blocks away, and draws us a map.

    We decide to go and call on the Mayor, who could call off the cops. About five of us troop down there, through the soft night and a neighborhood of comfortable homes and wide lawns on the bluffs above the Mississippi. The Mayor’s house is a comfortable Dutch Colonial, and lights were on inside. We decide that just a few of us will go to the door, so as not to look intimidating. Song is a round, soft-bodied middle-aged woman with a sweet face. Ellen is a tiny brunette with a gap-toothed smile, and Lisa, formidable organizer though she is, looks slight and unthreatening. The rest of us hang back. Someone opens the door. Our friends have a conversation with the mayors’ wife, who is not pleased to be visited by constituents late at night, and who tells us we should call the office. The Mayor, she says, is asleep, and she will not wake him up.

    We think a mayor who was doing his job would get up and go see what’s going on. Nonetheless, we head back to the convergence space.

    A protester has been released from the building. A small crowd has gathered across the street, and Fox News has arrived. They interview Song, who does her first ever Fox media spot. She tells them the truth—that people were in there watching movies—a documentary about Meridel Le Seuer. Meridel would be proud, and I’m glad she is with us in some form.

    One by one, protesters trickle out. Now we get more pieces of the story. The cops burst in, with no warning. They pulled drew their guns on everyone—including a five year old child who was there with his mother, forced everyone down on the floor. It was terrifying.

    They had a warrant, apparently, from the county, not the city, to search for ‘bomb making materials.’ They were searching everyone in the building, then one by one releasing them as they found nothing.

    They continue to find nothing, as we wait through long hours. Meanwhile, more and more media arrives. These cops are not as creative as the DC cops during our first mobilization there against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Those cops confiscated the lunchtime soup—which included onions and chili powder, claiming they were materials for home made pepper spray.

    We wait until the last person gets out. He’s a twenty year old who the cops have accused of stealing his own backpack—but apparently they relented.

    And now it’s morning. I wake up to the news that cops have been raiding houses where activists are staying, bursting in with the same bogus warrant and arresting people, including a four year old child. They’ve arrested people at the Food Not Bombs house—a group dedicated to feeding protesters and the homeless. They’ve arrested others, presumably just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    The Poor Peoples’ Campaign, which had set up camp at Harriet Island, a park in the middle of the Mississippi, has also been harassed, its participants ordered to disperse and its organizers arrested.

    Let me be perfectly clear here—all of us here are planning nonviolent protests against an administration which is responsible for immense violence, bombs that have destroyed whole countries, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    This is the America that eight years of the Bush administration have brought us, a place where dissent is no longer tolerated, where preemptive strikes have become the strategy of choice for those who hold power, where any group can be accused of ‘bombmaking’ or ‘terrorism’ on no evidence whatsoever in order to deter dissent.

    Please stand with us. Because it could be your home they are raiding, next.

    Call the Mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Tell them you are outraged by these attacks on dissent. Urge them to let Poor People encamp and to let dissent be heard.


    St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman

    Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak
    (612) 673-2100
    (612) 673-3000 outside Minneapolis

    This post has been sent to you from This is an announce-only listserve that allows Starhawk to post her writings occasionally to those who wish to receive them. To subscribe to this list, send an email to
    Below are all of the DemiOrator posts containing Starhawk's reports from the 2008 Republican National Convention:
    Starhawk's RNC post 1: On the Bad Side of Town
    Starhawk's RNC post 2: Raid on the Convergence Center
    Starhawk's RNC post 3: New Moon Ritual
    Starhawk's RNC post 4: Police Seize Permibus
    Starhawk's RNC post 5: A Spiral Dance in the Streets
    Starhawk's RNC post 6: Emergency Calls Requested

    Labels: , , ,


    Starhawk's RNC post 1: On the Bad Side of Town

    By Starhawk (Sat Aug 30 06:34:58 2008)

    If they wrote country songs about organizing mobilizations, they might sing something like this:

    “It’s just one more earnest meeting…
    How do we turn this country ‘round?
    In one more dusty warehouse,
    On the bad side of town…”

    I’m here at the preparations for the protests against the RNC, the Republican National Convention, in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It’s a familiar scene: half a dozen of us early arrivals and locals huddled around a giant map of the downtown area. Twenty seven years ago, when I took my first nonviolence training in preparation for my first nonviolent direct action at Diablo Canyon in central Californai. The thing that most impressed me was the maps.

    “They had maps!” I told everyone when I got home. “We never had maps in the ‘sixties! We just showed up—the cops chased us, sometimes we chased the cops, and that was that!”

    The RNC Welcoming Committee has the best maps—larger than life, and laminated—and the least dusty warehouse I’ve seen in a while. Actually, it’s not a warehouse but an old theater, with a fully-equipped commercial kitchen, and such dust as there might have been has been cleaned before I got here, for which I’m devoutly grateful. I’ve cleaned up more than my share of pigeon dung from abandoned warehouses in preparation for one mobilization or another, and instead of coming weeks early to this one, I stayed home with an urgent mission to evict the mice from my desk drawers and clear the wood rat’s nests out of my battery box after a summer away from home.

    I am here at the RNC for reasons both strategic and personal. “Why didn’t you go to the DNC?” some of my friends asked. The two conventions were timed so close together that even I, with my tendency to be obsessive and driven, felt I couldn’t really plan and train and organize for the RNC and do both. Moreover, it was clear to me that the only real drama at the DNC was going to be inside, with Obama. While the Democrats sorely need to be taken to task for many failings—funding the war while railing against it, voting for immunity for wiretapping for AT & T while proclaiming their allegiance to our civil liberties, failing to impeach Bush when they had the chance, just to name a few—if I had to make a choice it seemed to me that the sins of the Republicans were far greater, and the chance of having an impact slightly higher.

    And I’m not immune to Obama’s appeal, and the historic significance of his nomination. When I was born, Obama and I could not have had a sandwich together at a lunch counter in the South, nor sat next to each other on a bus ride. His parents could not have married in many states. I was just a couple of years too young to be part of the civil rights movement—I remember watching it on TV at thirteen in L.A., begging my mother to let me go to the South. But the courage and sacrifices I saw, the struggles and successes of that movement profoundly shaped my own life and changed our country forever.

    That today, Obama can run for President is something progressives should be celebrating. It’s a tribute, not to the Democrats, but to decades of grass-roots organizing and agitating that we can trace back to the days of abolitionists and slave rebellions and the underground railway. It’s the powerful people’s movements that pressured Democrats and Republicans into ending segregation, and the ongoing work of decades of challenges to more subtle forms of racism that have opened this door.

    And we need to own and celebrate our victories. It’s always easy to focus on the lacks, the betrayals, the faults and failures. Our successes will never be perfect—and as progressives, we tend to be perectionists, always demanding more of ooursleves, and the world. This is something I noticed about myself after I downloaded a Solitaire widget to my computer—how easily I can be addicted to frustration. Alcohol, I can take or leave. Drugs were fun in my youth but fortunately none of them stuck, and I was blithely convinced I just did not have an addictive personality until I realized how strongly frustration can hook me. Give me a lost cause, a hopeless endeavor, an impossible task—as Gimli says at some point in Lord of the Rings: “Almost certain death, small chance of success--What are we waiting for?”

    My mother used to tell me how she’d watched me, as a baby, trying to cross a threshold, tripping and falling, getting up, and trying again, over and over. So I guess the predilection is inborn.

    Frustration addiction—where is the twelve step program for that and how do you go cold turkey? I don’t know, but it explains a lot about me and I suspect that progressives as a whole are subject to it. Yet if we don’t acknowledge and honor our victories, we lose heart and burn out.

    And I want to celebrate this one, not protest against it. Obama will certainly not be our savior nor fulfill all our hopes. But let’s just take one moment and recognize that he is an extraordinary human being, and to honor all those who marched and spoke out, who took risks and went to jail, who suffered beatings and who died, to clear a path before him.

    But back to the RNC. Draconian police forces, world class security with infinite resources, FBI, Secret Service, Homeland Security all on full alert; small band of intrepid protesters—What are we waiting for?

    I’m here really just to bring home to the Republicans the truth that wrecking the country might have some negative consequences. The Democrats have failed to hold them accountable. Most of the country is wrapped in a sullen, smoldering anger that does not yet lead to action. But some of us are here, plotting and planning our marches and counter conventions and direct actions. And while it may prove to be a major slip in my ongoing struggle with F.A., I’m glad to be here with a crew of old and new friends, those buddies I’m bonded with in the way you only get to be when you’ve stood shoulder to shoulder as some cop shoots you in the face with pepper spray.

    And, on a personal note, I was drawn to the Twin Cities because this is where I was born—in St. Joseph’s Hospital, a few blocks away from where the Republicans will meet. Although we left here when I was nine months old, my father’s family is from here, and they have roots in the radical community here that go back to the communist movements of the ‘Thirties. My father himself died when I was five—like Obama my life was also marked by a fathers’ absence. But my Uncle Hi and Aunt Ruthie carried on the tradition. They beamed approval at all my political endeavors. My Aunt Ruthie loved to sing the satiric political ditties of the ‘forties and ‘fifties, filling me in on the now almost forgotten events they memorialized. They were friends with people like the great author and activist Meridel Le Seuer. When my Uncle Don-Don was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, we went to visit him, closed the doors, and regaled him with a rousing chorus of the Internationale.

    Aside from their politics, they lived otherwise utterly conventional and blameless lives, dull, really. They had a small tract house in St. Paul, and worked at the V.A., my aunt as a secretary, my uncle as a recreation therapist. Aunt Ruthie said she liked the V.A. because it was the closest thing we had to socialized medicine. My father and his brothers, like virtually all the men of their generation, were veterans of World War Two. My Uncle Hi always said that he joined the navy because it was a clean life, but he never knew who cleaned it until he got in. As he slipped into the fog of Alzheimer’s, he said it over and over again. He was fond of recounting how many situps he had done, and how many miles he had jogged.

    So I’m here, maybe, because they would have wanted me to be here. They’re gone, now, and I miss them. Were they alive, they’d undoubtedly be hosting the entire Pagan Cluster camped out in their back yard, my Aunt Ruthie whipping up little treats of Ritz cracker and peanut butter sandwiches dipped in chocolate.

    And I’m here because I have good friends here, and because this city has a tradition of nonviolent direct action organizing that goes back decades. When we were blockading Livermore Labs in the ‘eighties, protesting nuclear weapons, they were organizing in the same way against Honeywell. There’s a spectrum of events being planned, from legal marches to nonviolent direct action, and a wide range of people planning.

    Okay, more later.
    This post has been sent to you from This is an announce-only listserve that allows Starhawk to post her writings occasionally to those who wish to receive them. To subscribe to this list, send an email to
    Starhawk is a lifelong activist in peace and global justice movements, a leader in the feminist and earth-based spirituality movements, author or coauthor of ten books, including The Spiral Dance, The Fifth Sacred Thing, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, and her latest, The Earth Path. Starhawk's website is, and more of her writings and information on her schedule and activities can be found there.
    Below are all of the DemiOrator posts containing Starhawk's reports from the 2008 Republican National Convention:

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    Monday, August 04, 2008


    John McCain on Women's Issues

    A recent article in In These Times highlights some of the positions McCain has taken over the years on women's issues. With a title like McSexist: McCain’s War on Women you may be able to guess the general tenor of it.

    A selection of McCain's comments over the last year make it clear that he isn't remotely pro-choice. Actually, he doesn't really like any contraception, being firmly in the abstinence-only camp. Better still is his record of opposing accuracy in these programs: "He opposed legislation requiring that abstinence-only programs be medically accurate and based in science. He voted to abolish funding for birth control and gynecological care for low-income women..."
    Planned Parenthood and NARAL have each given him a zero for his record on women’s health issues. (The record dates back to his days in the House of Representatives, between 1983 and 1986, and carries through to his career in the U.S. Senate, which began in 1987.) Of the 130 congressional votes related to reproductive freedom that McCain has cast, 125 have been anti-choice, according to NARAL.
    I have a theory, not specifically about McCain but the general anti-choice movement. While I completely understand and empathize with the moral/ethical underpinnings of the anti-abortion movement, I also find it interesting that the end result is to create more births/people in an underclass with inadequate education and limited employment options, usually in an unhealthy and crime-ridden environment because of those factors.

    Exploitation of the lower class is really the basic building block of "natural" free market capitalism where wealth flows up the pyramid to the few people at the top. The larger the number of people who are desperate and struggling at the bottom, the more the workers/peasants are willing to viciously focus their rage at their peers. This is called "horizontal hostility" and it works in favor of those in power. Quo bono? Who benefits?

    There's a level where I'm very cynical about the so-called "right to life" movement even while respecting individual opinions/morals/ethics in the matter. I think there is an undercurrent, perhaps even completely unacknowledged, of hypocrisy and self-deception in the movement. I note that I very rarely hear of a concerted effort on the part of anti-choice activists/organizations to aggressively adopt the orphaned or unwanted children inevitably resulting from lack of birth control or legal abortion. I'm sure it happens but it certainly doesn't appear to be a co-equal or integrated part of the movement. If these children are truly innocent in the eyes of anti-choice activists, I would expect an outpouring of personal compassion to succor and nurture them.

    I suspect that the so-called "pro-family values" aspect means that the putatively innocent children are partially held to blame for their parents' actions (e.g. sex without intended procreation) and thus deserve misery and hardship. If someone can show me large-scale evidence that I'm wrong, I will gladly recant this opinion.

    Since McCain has said on more than one occasion that he would like to see Roe v Wade overturned and would appoint Supreme Court Justices to that end, his election will undoubtedly result in the increase of deaths of women and more orphans.

    Conservatives are compassionate. Except, sometimes, when it involves inconvenience and concrete application of personal principles in daily life.

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