Social Power and Political Freedom

Lately, I’ve been reading Gene Sharp’s “Social Power and Political Freedom.” It’s an excellent overview of the politics of violence and non-violence reaching some surprising conclusions. For example, Sharp points out an obvious and important aspect of maintaining true democracies that often goes unremarked: the necessity of what he calls “loci of power,” that is, societal institutions that organize to obtain and exercise power beyond that of disparate democratically empowered individuals. Examples include unions, neighborhood organizations, even the media and police forces. When a society has many democratically-oriented loci of power, that society becomes democratically sustainable, resistent to the rise of dictators from within or from outside that society.

Sharp then introduces the concept of “civilian-based defense,” in contrast to “military-based defense.” He points out many surprising examples where populations have resisted partially or completely the rise of dictatorial forces through the use of nonviolent civilian-based defense, usually without advance planning or training of the populace. He points out that a well-trained populace with a well-reasoned civilian-based defense plan could effectively resist virtually any despotic incursion.

Sharp reports that, as of 1979, five European governments were discussing civilian-based defense with some government-financed research taking place. I’d like to know the outcomes of that research. He mentioned Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark.

I find Sharp’s work extremely compelling at a time when we are witnesses to U.S. and British atrocities against civilian populations in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, against anti-war protestors such as those whom the police shot with rubber and wooden bullets and concussion grenades even as the non-violent protestors fled from advancing lines of police shooting the weaponry from their rifles.

What should be the response of the populace in the U.S. to consistent and continuous intrusions on our basic rights as guaranteed in the U.S. constitution?

Will’s Speech to San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Here’s the speech I tried to give in person to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors today. Perhaps Kevin succeeded in giving it as my proxy after I had to leave to the volunteer meeting at work.
Will’s Speech to San Francisco Board of Supervisors

I’ve been out on the streets of San Francisco protesting against the aggressive and illegal war of the U.S. against Iraq over the last two weeks. Last Thursday, I spent the night in the Bryant Street jail after my arrest for nonviolent civil disobedience in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I joined other nonviolent protesters in what as far as I can tell, with 2300 arrests and counting, is collectively the largest civil disobedience action ever to have taken place in the history of San Francisco. In addition, it may be the largest number of people arrested in opposition to the war in any city around the globe.

On the streets and in the jails, I witnessed abusive behavior both by protesters and by police. Massive police presence led to unnecessary confrontations between police and protesters as citizens watched the clear abridgment of our constitutional right to peaceful assembly.

I urge the Board of Supervisors to take measures to rein in dangerous police abuse, such as illegal and intimidating street sweeps, sidewalk blocking, closures of public parks and squares, and the beatings, pain holds, and detention of nonviolent protestors without due cause.

However, the root cause of this problem is not so much in the San Francisco community but from the federal government of the U.S. Indeed, last October this Board passed by a vast majority a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to refrain from any injust war in Iraq which I believe accurately reflects the views of the vast majority of people here in San Francisco, including many of the police. I believe the Board should seek federal funding, whether by appeal to the administration or through the judicial system, to compensate the City and County for the costs of maintaining the peace in San Francisco due to the U.S. government’s aggressive foreign policy.

In addition, and perhaps more controversially, the Board of Supervisors should adopt a resolution freeing the City and County of San Francisco from the State of California and the United States of America, so that we the citizens of San Francisco can organize ourselves into a truly democratic, participatory free state that will more properly implement the will of the people of this fine city with its long tradition of diversity and respect for human rights for all.

Protesting for Peace

You can see pictures from the San Francisco peace protest I was at today at

Yesterday, I bared my breasts along with forty or so “Boobies for Ashcroft” who marched from Van Ness Ave. to the Federal Building as employees left the building for the day around 5:00pm. The crowd bared their breasts as they chanted “Boobs Not Bombs” or “More Boobs in Public, Less Boobs in Office” and carried signs condemning U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft’s policies including the war against drugs and against sexuality, noting particularly his decision to cover a barebreasted Lady Justice statue with curtains during news conferences at the U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington, DC. Following the march, the group entered a local pub and fraternized with federal employees while discussing the issues of the day. See

Pagan Peace Surprise

Update: About 60 pagans and friends gathered in San Francisco’s Union Square today to wage peace and amplify love. Participants cast a circle, invoked the directions, and spoke from the heart about why the war in Iraq cannot be alllowed to happen. They handed out flyers and leaflets to passersby, some of whom joined the circle, and chalked a large circle and peace, spiral, and yin-yang symbols on the pavement, then filled them in with colored sand. Some local students who had walked out from their high school joined the circle. After channeling energy to wage peace and prevent war, they opened the circle and sang while sweeping up the sand to bring it to the ocean. “Ish ka la ma bood le la. La la e la. The ocean refuses no river, no river. The ocean refuses no river, no river.”

See pics on Indymedia at:
Today we’re doing a Pagan Peace Surprise as part of the March 5 Moratorium activities to wage page against a war in Iraq.

Monday evening I went to Black Cat house for the first time to help organize the Pagan Peace Surprise. It was about seven women, a faerie named Cougar who came because of a notice I forwarded to the local faerie email list, and myself.
We decided the action will include casting a circle and perhaps a spiral dance and that we will mark the directions using chalk symbols that we will fill in with colored sand.

One of the women organizers was Starhawk, who lives in that house. I admire Starhawk immensely for her politics and her writing integrating politics and spirituality, so it felt really good to have time to get to know her better.

I told her about the ballot propositions for participatory budget and for secession of San Francisco and she seemed interested, providing a suggestion about how to locate an attorney who might be familiar with the ballot process in San Francisco.

Everyone is marvelling about the fact that 11 million people protested against the war on Feb 15-16. It may be the largest protest ever from the human race. And yet the senseless bombing of Iraqi civilians may happen nonetheless. Let’s hope not. Perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg with a major shift in global politics and economy about to take place. Let’s hope so. May that shift be toward empowerment of those who are disempowered and about dimishing inequalities of wealth and poverty while respecting the dignity and human rights of everyone. Peace now!

Queers Against War

Yesterday, I went to a protest of queer people against the war in Iraq. I biked over to Castro and Market Sts. where there was a brief rally followed by a march to the LGBT Community Center. My housemate Jack was there, as well as faerie Roux, activists Tommi A. Mecca, Liz Highleyman, and David Solnit, and many others.

I talked with a bunch of folks about the San Francisco ballot propositions for secession and participatory budgeting.

Since I missed the February 16 protest in San Francisco while at the Breitenbush gathering, it was good to feel some of the march-in-the-street energy again!

Also, it was a relief to have a die-in in front of the LGBT Community Center without inappropriate police action like apparently happened when Gay Shame protested mayoral candidate Gavin Newsom’s appearance there last week.

Here are pictures: