Decentralized protest actions have a rich conceptual foundation (in brief: anti-hierarchical social resistance that models the desired social relations; picnic, lightning). Just as crucially for today, they’re tactically more useful. Single destination direct actions have a lousy record in this city, in this millennium—from the peace march shortly before the bombing of Afghanistan to March 20th of last year, convergences on a lone location tend to achieve a quick standoff and a slow, depressing dissipation.
The main advantages that protestors tend to have over police officers are flexibility and sheer numbers. A single destination protest abandons the first virtue and obviates the second by making things real efficient for the boys in blue: fewer paths to block, fewer logistical niceties. Even a complex topography like Times Square needs an easily calculable number of barricades, a certain number of peace officers at each one, and a couple mobile forces inside the perimeter for the exigencies of the occasion. The same might be said for any number of hockey arena/train stations.
Tactical guidelines for your basic evening of non-violent direct action (not that we would ever advocate such a thing at the Village Voice, any more than we would advocate the non-violent smashing of Starbuck’s windows. We stand for staying well-hydrated and calling your mom to let her know you’re fine), must start with the axiom, never put yourself in a position where the choice is to leap a barricade or go home. There’s too much to do.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 31, 2004