Eight police motorcycles, five patrol cars, nine officers on horseback and two police vans-an estimated total of 20 to 30 peace officers-kept their distance Saturday as "Revolution Summer San Diego" kicked off with an "activist fair" in Balboa Park that drew roughly 50 people; in other words, a two-to-one activist-to-officer ratio.
Revolution Summer, organized jointly by Free Radio San Diego 96.9 FM, Che Café, San Diego Earth First! and the San Diego Independent Media Center, among others, is, as organizers put it, "an attempt to promote the revolutionary spirit in San Diego, in order to also promote that spirit nationally and globally." Saturday's event was the first in a series of "teach-ins" and community actions that will take place over the next couple months.
Upcoming events, which ambitiously cover the spectrum of leftist politics and social-justice concerns, include a seminar on immigration issues by the National Lawyers Guild, a teach-in on poverty and homelessness and a march through the Gaslamp District to protest the area's exploitation of women. (Please see the accompanying schedule of events.)
The Balboa Park gathering was slated to launch at noon on a quiet stretch of grass between the World Beat Center and the San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum. Members of the local chapter of Food not Bombs set up a buffet of vegan food and three vendor tables offered informational pamphlets on topics such as Socialism and animal rights. After a series of planned workshops, a march against the "police state" was to begin at 3 p.m. But it was apparent at around 1 p.m., when the first of five planned workshops got going that sticking to a schedule would be the event's first hurdle.
Attracting open-minded individuals will probably be the second. Most of the attendees Saturday were from one of the more than 15 groups that make up the Revolution Summer coalition. While organizer and veteran activist David Agranoff believes the event could have been better publicized, he is also concerned that too many people are apathetic about local and national politics.
"The great majority of college-age people spend what free time they have in the whole party/bar-type scene," he explained. "That's when they are not shopping or going to sporting events. I don't know how many times people in the act of shopping have told me as a demonstrator to "get a life.'"
A majority of attendees Saturday were the sort who gravitate towards progressive political action-something glaringly apparent in both discussion (leftist writer Paolo Freire and the topic of Marxist feminism were mentioned freely) and appearance-second-hand clothes, slogan-emblazoned t-shirts. Agranoff, however, hopes Revolution Summer events will attract more than the usual crowd.
"Diversity is key to this movement," Agranoff said. "Certainly we are very inclusive to anyone whether they are a pissed-off senior citizen or a 13-year-old kid with a mohawk. If this is a struggle or movement that people want to work on, then I would hope they would respect people for who they are and not what they look like.
"The more important issue," Agranoff continued, "is not what we look like but what our world will look like [if] Bush and his neo-cons [conservatives] continue on the current path. Everybody young and old needs to put aside their differences and fight for real change.
"If we reach one new person and can change their mind," he said, "then we are happy."
Agranoff, a well-spoken educator in his late 20s, was one of 20 activists arrested March 18 at an "emergency response demonstration" downtown to protest the invasion of Iraq. The only protestor against whom charges haven't been dropped-a court appearance is pending-Agranoff prevented the protest from escalating by telling the crowd to sit down after one of its members was allegedly taken down by police for crossing a boundary line.
Agranoff kicked off Saturday's planned workshops speaking on the topic of "Pacifism as Pathology"-the title of an essay by Native American activist Ward Churchill.
The workshop prodded the notion of whether or not pacifism is a sufficient tool for effecting change-in other words, Agranoff posed, if President Bush feared significant public outrage, would he have chosen to go to war with Iraq?
At the core of the discussion was the idea that change cannot be initiated by "banging on drums," marching in circles or refusing to move. Violence should never be the first course of action, said Agranoff, but it should not be ruled out. He pointed out that Gandhi-perhaps the model of pacifism-was a successful only because the British military had to return to England to fight in World War II. Martin Luther King, Jr., he noted, was chosen as the bastion of the civil-rights movement over Malcolm X because the mainstream had to herald one of them and Malcolm X's stance was equal rights should be achieved by any means necessary. "How did we end the Vietnam war?" Agranoff asked.
"We didn't," an audience member said, "the Viet Cong did." The same attendee also brought up the early days of the United Auto Workers union. "It hinged on the hinges," he said, "which they threw at the police."
Agranoff attached a strong disclaimer to his talk, patently telling the audience that he wanted to provoke thought and "not... invite window breaking or vandalism of any kind," he urged. Pacifism, he pointed out, is a privilege we have as Americans.
"People in other countries don't have the ability to just sit there," he said. "It's a privileged statement to say those people need to find another way."
Revolution Summer San Diego's schedule of events
(For specifics where none are given, go to www.revolutionsummersd.org)
June 25 Teach-in on the US PATRIOT Act, Grand Juries and the "War on Dissent," given by the National Lawyers Guild and the San Diego Bill of Rights Defense Committee. 7 p.m. at the Che Café, UCSD
June 26 National Lawyers Guild legal observer training- learn how to do legal observing for demonstrations. 6-8 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Moot Court Room, 2121 San Diego Ave
June 28 Guerilla theater against the PATRIOT Act
July 2 Teach-in on sweatshop labor and maquilladoras, 7 p.m. at the Che Café, UCSD
July 4 Funeral for democracy
July 5 Gap sweatshop protest
July 9 Smash Patriarchy 101. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
July 12 Protest the exploitation of women in the Gaslamp District
July 16 National Lawyer's Guild teach-in on immigration issues. 7 p.m. Che Café, UCSD
July 19 Protest the INS/Department of Homeland Security. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
July 23 H.E.A.L. (group focused on alternative and holistic approaches to AIDS treatment) teach-in: "The Other Side of AIDS." 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
July 30 Veganism as a political statement. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
Aug. 2-3 Animal liberation weekend
Aug. 6 Poverty, homelessness, and the war on the poor. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
Aug. 9 Homeless rally
Aug. 13 Earth First! and militant eco-defense teach-in. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
Aug. 16-17 Earth liberation weekend: Critical Mass bike ride, Earth First Action Camp
Aug. 20 San Diego: The world's largest military concentration and military pollution. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
Aug. 23 Resisting the world's largest military concentration
Aug. 27 Teach-in on the militarization of the border. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
Aug. 30 Protest the militarization of the border
Sept. 3 Teach-in on the corporate media conglomerates and what that means for democracy. 7 p.m., Che Café, UCSD
Sept. 6 Protest corporate media, war profiteers and government propaganda
Sept. 10 Protest against globalization, the World Trade Organization and the border