I discovered the contemporary anarchist movement in America while covering the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle in 1999. At the time, I was hit by a blast of culture shock as I watched what appeared to be college-age kids dressed in black and wearing face masks, spray painting anarchist slogans on walls in downtown Seattle while the local PD loaded their non-lethal weapons with tear gas rounds. I asked around and was told there was a strong anarchist movement at the University of Oregon but that most of the people who had come to Seattle to protest were not hardcore anarchists. However, the anarchists with their anarchist ways, I was told, were going to make it impossible for anybody to stage a peaceful protest. That appeared to be true as the cops began strapping on state-of-the-art body armor. The Seattle cops appeared to have the best of everything and it looked as though they were about to use it.
All I could think of was Boris and Natasha and their “fearless leader” from the old “Rocky & Bullwinkle” show. The line “Daahlink, vee must keel moose and squirrel” kept echoing through my head. None of it was making sense.
A few months later, the anarchists popped up again. This time, they were in training in the hills of Calabasas, just above Malibu. As I recall, they were getting ready for the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. I remember going up there to interview Tom Hayden. The reason for the interview escapes me, but he was surely running for something. I remember thinking how peculiar it was for Hayden to believe that an association with the anarchist movement would help his political status. I also remember Hayden’s run for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office in 97. At the time I questioned him about whether he was “business friendly” enough, and whether business people shouldn’t fear his candidacy. “Yes, they should be afraid of me” he answered. He was hammered in the election by Richard Riordan, a friend to big business who promised to build the economy. I remember wondering how Hayden could be so clueless. Why would he say something that would so obviously cost him millions of votes? Doesn’t he know that telling the truth loses elections?
Anyway, here he was again, this time at an anarchist training camp. They had a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean from their tents pitched high in the Santa Monica Mountains. Once an “SDS” member, always an SDS member, I guess. You’d have to ask Tom Hayden. I tried to find out on that clear day high above Malibu but he refused to talk about his past as a national leader of student protests and later as a husband to Jane Fonda.
And now comes the “Anarchist Book Fair” in Los Angeles. Yes, they had their own book fair and it was covered by the LA Times.
“If the several hundred people who attended the Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair on Sunday had been asked to explain their political identity, they would have given several hundred different answers.” -Kate Linthicum in the LAT’s
I am from the 60’s. I understand protest and civil disobedience. I was here for Vietnam, Kent State, the march on Washington and Woodstock. I am simpatico people, but the whole anarchy thing seems so, well…..Victorian and frankly, more than a little confused. I guess different generations express themselves in different ways. I wonder who their fearless leader is? I wonder what Tom Hayden’s up to?