Watching The Detectives: My Life With The Vegan Potluck Folks. Won’t You Join Us?
Earlier this week Marcy wrote about the Joint Terrorism Task Force’s inept — and possibly illegal — attempt to recruit a paid informer to infiltrate non-violent political organizing meetings ("vegan potlucks") in Minneapolis. The story — which broke two weeks ago on Indymedia — would be hilarious if it weren’t so chilling.
Our people are literally dying from want of healthy food, want of health care, want of education, and want of housing. The well-fed well-housed people who go to work with guns on their belts in Homeland Security, the DOJ, the FBI, and the other alphabet suit agencies who comprise our Brave New Security State seized on the very real tragedy of al Qaeda’s attacks to wrest billions upon billions — money the poorest among us desperately need for their survival — from our Treasury for domestic spying under the cover of "National Security" programs they profess we need to keep alive.
There’s a history of this: the first Red Scare of 1918-1920, federal suppression of union organizers and labor in the 20’s and 30’s, the FBI’s Red Scare of the late 40’s and 50’s, the FBI’s surveillance and attempted blackmail of civil rights leaders and anti-war leaders from the 50’s thorough the 70’s; COINTELPRO up through 1971 (and beyond?), the "Green Scare" (Big Biz’ successful effort to criminalize civil disobedience as "eco-terrorism", punishable by draconian penalties) invented by ALEC‘s dark alliance with f ederal law enforcement over the last two decades. And once again we find federal dollars that could be used to keep the hungry alive are paying for the feds’ spying on adamantly non-violent activists as they share meals and hopes for a better world.
Same as it ever was: federal armed force (sometimes in uniform, sometimes undercover) working with the most regressive sectors of our society; working as forces of social control on behalf of America’s homegrown oligarchs.
Welcome to my world!
So let me give you the inside view.
As of this August, I’ll have been working a dozen years with the peaceful, non-violent forest protection and global justice movements that have done so much over the last decades to preserve our communities and our planet from the megacorps who would sacrifice our health and future for increased quarterly profits.
I started civil disobedience with Earth First! activists challenging the Forest Service’s illegal practice of shutting whole swaths of our public lands to the public — except for private loggers. In August, 1996 a carefully organized protest in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest brought citizens together to celebrate our rights and our forests. After music and speeches we walked together up the USFS road singing "This Land Is Your Land" to meet the USFS — complete with "Public Information Officers" (PR flacks) — at a point miles away and hundreds of feet lower than than the Horse Byars timber sale. We met them at the imaginary line the USFS had drawn to keep the public out of our land with their infamous "closure orders."
Some of us crossed the line and sat down on the dusty road to be arrested to test the law. After a (long) time, the USFS Law Enforcement Officers showed up to arrest us and take us into custody. We were released that evening and returned to play with our forest defender friends at their base camp.
In January 1997 Judge Ochoa dismissed the criminal trespass charges and found the "closure orders" unconstitutional, throwing a monkeywrench into the USFS’s willful complicity with the private companies trashing the forests and watersheds on our federal lands. You see, the more they cut, the bigger the budget for the local USFS: their jobs depended (and depend) on keeping the cut going.
Over that summer I provided medical support to forest defenders on the West Coast, including defenders of the Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County. I knew many of the folks who were tortured in October 1997 when the Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies painted their eyes with chemical weapons while they were peacefully locked together on a congressman’s office floor. And I wrote about that torture for the Earth First! Journal. In November 1999, a few organizers in the Pacific Northwest who’d seen the articles called to see if I could help out with a protest on the off chance chemical weapons were used there.
So I flew north, and was on the streets of Seattle for the WTO protests, where I saw peaceful citizens sitting in the streets (and the neighborhoods around them) doused with tear gas and pepper spray over two days of what became a police riot there. In our Convergence Space on Denny, I was the only physician working with the medical collective as we treated and decontaminated thousands of victims of the largest chemical weapons attack in American history: an attack planned and executed by armed, Kevlar-clad men and women in black.
We Americans — many sitting in their homes, or just out for dinner on Broadway, with no possible connection to the WTO protests — we Americans were attacked en masse on our soil with chemical weapons not by al Qaeda, but by American law enforcement.
In April of 2000 for the IMF/WB protests, the DC fire marshal just happened to need to do an emergency fire inspection: at 7AM on a Saturday morning. And they just happened to bring a whole mess of DC riot squad cops with ’em: enough to surround the whole warehouse we were renting for our Convergence Space.
Back then the "t-word" was spelled "anarchist." The whole building needed to be shut down ’cause of allegations the anarchists were making Molotov cocktails — the DC fire marshal just happened to find them, they said, in the arts and crafts area.
I was the only protester allowed in that dangerous firetrap that day. I had to pick up a protester’s meds (I co-coordinated the med clinic for the 2000 IMF/WB protests). What did I see when I got inside — firemen in hazmat suits?
Nope, not a hazmat suit or firefighter in sight. No hoses, no foam, no fans.
Just a bunch of burly guys with guns on their belts, photographing everything on the walls (a whole lotta posters and paperboards). I recognized several; they’d been there that week "volunteering" to help set up the Convergence Center.
We still joke about the IMF/WB as the protests where the puppets were hostage; the DC police didn’t want to release the dangerous puppets. We went to court to get them out.
Of course, they kept all the med supplies we’d assembled for thousands of dollars, also.
Magically enough, as the protests concluded, the building suddenly became OK to enter again, and no charges about the alleged incendiary devices ever surfaced. Turns out there weren’t any Molotov cocktails.
Pixie dust, I guess.
Fast forward to August 2000: DNC Convention in LA.
Some fit of masochism compelled me to co-coordinate that med effort, also — and serve on the "space committee" that met to set up the five-story building we’d rented for the convergence space.
We spent most of our time figuring out to rewire and water the building, and got a lot more done when we finally chased out the Socialist Worker gits who tried to monopolize every meeting demanding to sell their Stalinist crap in the building.
Dangerous anarchists and terrorists that we were: chasing people who’d been "Communists" for decades out of the planning meetings. Must have given their FBI handlers fits.
This time even a federal judge saw through the ruse. He issued a restraining order preventing the local yokels/Feds from taking over the convergence center (unless we dealt drugs or something like that). That still didn’t stop our friends the Feds.
The very first day we were "open" an infiltrator named John Glass / Turquoise /etc showed up. John Glass had last surfaced a month before — when he poisoned someone and then, while his victim was incapacitated, stole his gear.
I’d first met "John Glass" at the Headwaters base camp in Humboldt County in 1997 . He showed up claiming to be an ex-armed forces "medic". He distinguished himself by attempting to suggest cannabis for every ailment — to the point that even the Humboldt County pot-smoking community thought he was a "plant"!
"John Glass" was noted for having no visible means of support, yet popping up at one non-violent direct action base camp after another, suggesting violent acts, pretending to be a medic, and leaving listening devices and/or stealing comms gear/vehicles.
Folks from a late 1998 camp that ran him out had stayed around and discreetly watched the bonehead get into a very shiny late model car with tinted windows, and equally boneheaded handlers wearing suits.
And we thought our tradecraft sucked!
In any event, my dear departed colleague "John Glass" — who wanted me to call him "Turquoise" — just happened to show up the first day the LA convergence center was open. And he just happened to offer: radios (matching the description/capacity of those missing from his last camp stop)…. and a few pounds of cannabis. He had the radios — but wanted me to drive him to go get the pot.
We needed pot in the building like we needed barbed wire enemas. We didn’t want drugs within a mile of the place.
Of course, the radios were stolen property, but no doubt thoroughly wired by the Feds. And the pot was what the Feds needed to raid the place and shut down the Convergence Center.
Security had seen "John" too — after snapping his pic from several angles, he was escorted out. He hung around for a few days, but we let the participants know to avoid him and his offers (he was also urging violence).
I’m so glad I’m not coordinating anything this year.
But I’m sure the Feds will be dangling more informants and honey traps, like the "medic" Anna who turned out to be a paid FBI provocateur in the Eric McDavid trial.
My side’s gotta get back to affinity groups that bring get their own trained medics, people they’ve known for years. And in the meantime, watch out for wingnuts who show up at "vegan potlucks" and say they wanna "fuck shit up."
Our tax dollars at work.
Welcome to my world.
And — whether you know it or not — to your world.