I sometimes refer to myself as a "failed political activist". I don't feel like I'm a failure in most other areas I'm busy in. That's because I generally concentrate on activities that I have enough control over. Alas, the very core of political activism is trying to have control over problems that one didn't create: racism, genocide, torture, sexual prejudice, war, exploitation, ad nauseum. Hence, e.g., it's hard to not feel like a "failed political activist" when I've been anti-war for 50 years & war is still raging on like there's no tomorrow.
Still, calling myself a "failed political activist" is more of a way of acknowledging that I'm just one person & that significant political change comes about as a result of mass political consciousness. It's NOT meant to signify that 'Resistance is Futile', I'm all in favor of 'Resistance is Fertile'. I've often said that if you think things are bad now imagine how bad they'd be without political activists.
My own particular preferred type of political activism is what I call "IMP ACTIVISM" by which I mean IMPish ACTIVISM, ACTIVISM with a sense of humor that, hopefully, has some IMPACT. This index, if it ever gets beyond the tENTATIVE steps I'm beginning to put into it, is basically a history of my political activism, IMPish or not.
To me, participating in protests as just-another-body is important regardless of whether I've had anything else to contribute to it. I'm not that impressed by artists whose sole or primary contribution to activism seems to be to perform for the mass media to make themselves 'celebrities with a message' since it's all too easy to just become a media whore 1st & a political activist as a sort of hip sprinkling. Being photographed with protest sign art in one's studio doesn't amount to much.
I think I was probably 13 when I was walking across the sidewalk in the courtyard of my Junior High School between classes in 1966 or 1967 & I started talking with some fellow students about some grievance or another. I vaguely remember suggesting that we stay in the courtyard & not go back to class. I was very ill-formed. A teacher was quick to come out & break it up. Was that my 1st attempt at political activism?
My next attempt wasn't much better. When I was 16, in 1969 or 1970, a friend of mine gathered together a very small group of Senior High School students, maybe 3 or 4 of us, to sit & stand on a hill across from the school in solidarity with striking teachers. I don't remember there being any striking teachers at the school, perhaps they were elsewhere. I doubt that we even had any signs or any indications whatsoever of what we were doing.
I didn't really get serious until I was 18 in 1971. The Vietnam War was still on, as was the draft. Bizarrely, the draft had become the "Draft Lottery" - one's likelihood to be called up was based on one's birthday. My number was something like 356 so there was no chance I'd be drafted. I always wondered if this was some form of astrology - Virgos make bad soldiers or some such. Draft Lottery or not, all males turning 18 were required to REGISTER FOR THE DRAFT or face 10 years in Federal Prison.
I refused to register. My logic was that if I was going to kill anyone I was going to do it for my own reasons & not because the government was telling me to do so. No Vietnamese person had every done anything to me. Of course, I was scared of being arrested & jailed. One of my neighbors said he'd seen a wanted poster for me at the Catonsville Draft Office. I figured that he was just trying to scare me but I was still scared otherwise anyway.
The Catonsville Draft Office was where the "Catonsville 9" went & took draft records outside & napalmed them. THAT's an example of political activism at its best. Unfortunately, they got substantial prison sentences as a result. Did any American soldier ever get a prison sentence for horribly burning humans with napalm? Not that I know of - The Catonsville 9 had serious courage & a deep sense of purpose.
Off & on from age 17 to 19 I spent 6 months of 2 years as a hitchiker/drifter. This was partially to avoid being easily found by the Draft Board. That wasn't a particularly good idea given that it's all-too-easy to get arrested while hitchhiking. In fact, maybe shortly after I turned 18, I was arrested for "Occupying space on an interstate highway". I got a ticket that read: "Occupying space". I thought that was hilarious.
The arresting State Trooper asked me if I had a draft card. I told him "No". He asked "Why?' I told him that I was against the Vietnam War. Given that we were already on the way to jail I figured that that was it for me. He never said another word about it. Maybe he appreciated my honesty, maybe even a State Trooper could've been against the war in 1971.
It took a great deal of courage for me to not register for the draft. I was the only person I knew to take the risk. I was living with my mother who was heavily pressing me to register. She was very pro-Vietnam War & anti-Communist without having the slightest idea of what either of those things were about. I never got so much as a threatening post-card from the Draft Office. Maybe the Catonsville 9 had succeeding in eradicating my record there. I'll never know - but I did thank one of the Berrigan Brothers (of the Catonsville 9) decades later.
The list below is very incomplete. I've left many things off of it that I don't quite categorize as political activism &/or I've left things off of it that DO qualify as political activism but not so much as IMPish ACTIVISM. These standards of exclusion & inclusion should probably be clarified. In the long run, I should probably just include all my political activism & let the reader sort it out.
fall 1971 refusal to register for the draft
late 1970s? Candlelight solidarity march against US covert actions in South America, Baltimore
Halloween, 1984 anti-Reagan-reelection, Washington DC - see "Halloween Demonstration Against Reagan" entry in Mere Outline
1986 Haymarket Centennial, Chicago: https://youtu.be/2QIZAxc1K6M?t=1742
1988 Anti-Apartheid protest, Glasgow
1990, spring Anti-racist skinhead rally, Baltimore: https://youtu.be/b08Mlvl-60k
1990 ACT-Up rally, Baltimore
1991 march against Gulf War, Baltimore
1991.01.18 End of the World, Washington Monument, Mt Vernon, BalTimOre - see "End of the World Party" entry in Mere Outline
1991.02? Protestors Against Gods in the Gulf, BalTimOre - see entry 150 in Mere Outline
1991.02? Protestors Against Gods in the Gulf, Washington DC - see entry 151 in Mere Outline
1998 Anarchist gathering march, Toronto
1999 post G8, Pittsburgh
1999.04.24 Millions for Mumia, Philadelphia - witness footage from this as part of "Foiled Again!" on the 'IMP ACTIVISM #1" compilation: https://youtu.be/EVEBDsOPzwI?t=3274
1999.05.01 Anti School of the Americas demonstration, Lafayette Park, Washington DC - witness footage from this as "Close the School of the Americas" on the 'IMP ACTIVISM #1" compilation: https://youtu.be/EVEBDsOPzwI?t=1556
1999.06.18 Carnival Against Capital, Boston Financial District - witness footage from this on the 'IMP ACTIVISM #1" compilation: https://youtu.be/EVEBDsOPzwI?t=2172
1999.06.21 Anti Death Penalty demonstration, Pittsburgh
? Undie-pendence Day, Pittsburgh - https://youtu.be/Fswe3Pcpys4?t=173
1999.11 Anti-WTO protest, Pittsburgh - on the Internet Archive here: https://archive.org/details/IMPACTIVISM2 (starts around 1:01:20)
2000.03.25 Reclaim the Streets, Adelaide, Australia - https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=3678
2000.03 protest encampment against Western Mining, Australian outback - https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=5944
2000.04.14 Slime Detection, Liberal Party Convention, Melbourne, Australia - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/sppHtVbLKvQ
2000 May Day march, Melbourne, Australia - https://youtu.be/5GrlEM3uvMg
2000 protest at US Embassy, Melbourne, Australia - https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=
2000 protest encampment against old growth rainforest logging, Goolengook, Australia - https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=22916
2000.07 RNC, Philadelphia - Rita Rodentia's "Tails from the Uncinvention" is here: https://youtu.be/B-HKzrINS3M
2001.01.20 Presidential Inauguration, Washington DC
2001 May Day parade, Pittsburgh - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel within the context of "IMP ACTIVISM 3": https://youtu.be/Fswe3Pcpys4?t=4876
? Anti-Police-Brutality Day, Pittsburgh
2003? March against invasion of Afghanistan, Pittsburgh
2009 G20, Pittsburgh - the related "TV News Commits Suicide" is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/hU-_aL7kKBI
2010.05.01 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade - on my onnesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/4mKTZjZHWJY
2011.05.01 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade
2012.05.05 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade & speech - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/5N4RFt1NJh4
2013.05.04 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade & speech - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/c9Y2XvJ1WfE
2013 UMPC worker's solidarity protest
2014.05.03 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade - my speech is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: http://youtu.be/FUY9DwiE1Dk
2014 fall - Harrisburg protest in favor of parole for people sentenced to Life Without Parole
2015.05.02 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade - my speech is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: http://youtu.be/jImQyP8g_iQ
2016.04.30 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade & speech - on the Internet Archive here: https://archive.org/details/MayDay2016
2016.07.26 Statement re Health Care costs to regulatory committe in Harrisburg - a document of part of what led up to this is called "HealthCare NightMare" & is on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: http://youtu.be/tjB3QBz4LAc
2017.04.29 May Day speech - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/A_8Vgf97WMg
2017 Anti-ICE protest
2017 post Trump 'election' at Schenley Plaze & march to CMU, Pittsburgh
2017 post Trump 'election' at Schenley Plaze, Pittsburgh
2017.04.29 Polish Hill Annual May Day Parade
2017 post-Charlottesville protest at Tim Murphy's office, Pittsburgh
2018.05.05 May Day Parade & speech - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/YIOaGnBCrZU
2018, fall March in solidarity with victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre
2019.05.04 May Day speech - on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/F6nTCUV0A4I
2020.05.04 "You'll Never See A Billionaire Standing In A Food Line" - on my onesown thoughts YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/I_r8F-oMtYE - on the Internet Archive here: https://archive.org/details/youll-never-see-a-billionaire
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