Archive | May, 2003

St. Louis Gestapo… er, Cops, Make Pre-Emptive Raids on St. Louis Indymedia & Other Collective Spaces

Let me just preface this by saying that the incidents that happened in St. Louis this weekend are indefensible acts of repression on the part of the St. Louis cops and city government. These sorts of gestapo tactics will continue to take place until the cops and officials involved are made accountable for their actions and violations of civil rights. Unfortunately, these tactics are ingrained in the culture of policing, and probably more often used against poor, less well-organized people and communities who suffer everyday police harrassment in order to keep the public “safe” from petty crimes and in service of “the war on drugs.”

I am constantly amazed, though unfortunately not surprised, at how cops, the pro-war “partiot act” faction, the Bush administration and their supporters are so eager to run ripshod all over the rights and freedoms which they claim they are fighting to protect and support. Although you can almost never make sense of their illogic — it’s inherently nonsensical — I’m still flabbergasted at how whole legions of people are so adamantly willing to engage in such blatantly paradoxical behavior and inflict it on others. It’s as American as internment camps and smallpox blankets!

And now, the story: On Friday St. Louis, MO police conducted raids on the Community Arts and Media Project, which houses St. Louis IMC amongst other organizations, and Bolozone, a community housing project. These raids were intended to suppress the Biodevastation 7 conference and protests happening in opposition to the World Agricultural Forum.

Fifteen activists were arrested in the Bolozone raid and three were arrested outside the CAMP building. Some of the arrested include members of a bicycle circus who were arrested under the bizzare charge of bicycling without a license. The cops later tried to pass off the incident as a “misunderstanding,” since there had been an antiquated and never-enforced bicycle license law on the books up until a couple of years ago.

According to St. Louis IMC,

St. Louis Police Chief Mokwa tried to justify the police repression of peaceful dissent, by claiming that those arrested were planning violent attacks on the World Agricultural Forum. Mokwa based this accusation mainly on “weapons” found in the raid on the Bolozone housing collective, that is undergoing rehab work: a box of roofing nails, a bag of stones to build a retainer wall and three circus whips. …

Leading up to the raids, police and corporate media had nourished fear and hysteria by claiming that “50,000 Seattle anarchists” were about to descend on St. Louis, whereas Biodev7 organizers estimated that about 300-2,000 would travel to the conference. The Police have been preparing the downtown area for protests. St. Louis police officers were issued new 220V tazer guns specifically for the World Agricultural Forum protests and wrote about looking forward to using them on protesters in an online discussion forum.

Many of these posts from a St. Louis police officer’s on-line forum have now been archived on several IMC sites.

Just hours after the raids I covered this story on the mediageek radioshow, now available for listening on-line. Sascha Meinrath, from the Urbana IMC, had been in touch with St. Louis Indymedia activists on Friday, and had also been to the two spaces that were raided, and was able to give context to this disturbing news.

By Saturday everyone who was arrested had been released or bailed out. But the police made a second visit to CAMP Saturday night, apparently to crack down on a party that had already been cancelled.

The members of CAMP released a statement to their neighbors about the police activity around their building this past weekend:

What happened on Friday — as many of you witnessed, police raided the bulding at the south-east corner of Cherokee and Minnesota streets on Friday, May 16th. They first gained access to the building by threatening to condemn the building if we did not consent to a buliding inspection. The city inspector had to be accompanied by a policeman “for his safety”. Over ten policeman entered the building without a search warrant. No citations were issued or major problems found. …

What will happen now- Well, that’s a real good question! Hopefully the police will return our possessions on Wednesday like they promised, because its hard to do rehab on a building when the police have seized all of your nails and respirators. We hope that we are allowed to protest the World Agricultural Forum peacefully, and we hope the police don’t use tear gas and tazers like they have promised us. We hope that the city inspectors act reasonably with us and are understanding that we have a shoestring budget and that the rehab is being done mostly by volunteers. We hope that we can integrate ourselves into this neighborhoood for the mutual benefit of all of us. We want to see people have an opportunity to use the pottery studio, computer lab and bike workshop that we have been working to create. We don’t want our lives to be confined by the police, exploitive jobs and political repression- we want our lives to be defined by our creations, our dreams our artwork and our strength as a community to love and care for everyone around us.

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Urbana-Champaign Indymedia Center Mostly Open After City Overreacts

After a bit of a scare and quite a bit of wrangling, negotiating and meeting with Urbana city officials the Urbana-Champaign IMC remains mostly open after getting a notice of immediate closure last Thursday. However, the IMC’s all-ages performance venue, known as the “back room,” remains closed, as it was the target of most of the code violations.

On Wednesday night the IMC’s Steering Group drafted a statement that details what happened and what the IMC’s plans are. I’ll post it as soon as the edited and proofread version gets released.

But, in sum, although the IMC has been in constant communication with various Urbana city officials, has had fire inspections, and operated the peformance space in the open for over a year, the City claimed that nobody knew there were public performances going on.

In the aftermath of the fire disasters in Chicago and Rhode Island earlier this year the City of Urbana is understandably skittish about public gathering spaces being up to code. That is why the City decided to do a second inspection of the space after an initial inspection last Monday that yielded only a few violations in need of repair.

But in their apparent rush to deal with a situation they hadn’t been on top of for over a year, city officials overreacted by issuing closure order without even attempting to contact anybody at the IMC. Initial attempts by several IMC volunteers to talk to City officials about the closure last Thursday night and Friday morning met with resistance, and in the case of Urbana’s mayor, outright hositility and violence (he slammed around objects like a tea cup and threw a chair when the IMC’s treasurer came to meet with him Friday morning).

The list of repairs and modification necessary to bring the IMC’s performance space up to code is extensive and largely beyond the means of the IMC. Further complicating things is the fact that several of the violations deal with the whole building, including parts that the IMC doesn’t rent, making them the responsibility of the landlords (who are currently in Australia).

Rather than let this keep us down, however, the IMC is using this as further impetus in our drive to buy a building to permanently house the IMC.

Of course, many folks have wondered over the past week if the City’s action represent some kind of crackdown on the IMC and its independent voice of dissent. Frankly, that’s hard to say. Urbana is a small city — 34,000 people — and a fairly progressive one at that. The IMC has become an active space in an otherwise dying downtown, and there is significant support for the IMC on city council (one member is a founding member of the IMC). Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who dislike or hate the IMC — the mayor certainly falls into this category.

But if the City’s intent was to shut down the IMC, they did a shitty job of it. It appears that folks like the fire and building inspectors really thought they were doing their job, and later they personally expressed some regret that communication hadn’t been better. These City officials have also pledged their cooperation to help the IMC meet all relevant codes in a new space. Beyond the bad publicity of appearing to shut down a non-profit media center, they also risked bad publicity of appearing to suppress having active culture going on in the City’s downtown.

Now, I’m certainly not complacent, and I sure as hell don’t doubt that a pissed of mayor can make our lives difficult, but I also think it’s unproductive to try and find an enemy or fight where there isn’t one. If the IMC were just an all-ages peformance venue, we’d be screwed. But because the IMC also is a multi-faceted media and art center, producing a newspaper, radio program and video, and housing a library and art gallery, I think it has made itself valuable to a diverse bunch of people.

There has been a great deal of community support for our IMC, so we will see if there is enough support to help the IMC buy a permanent space and outfit it to be a real independent community center that will also stand as a permanent automomous zone in the middle of Illinois.

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At the Eleventh Hour We Already Know We’re About To Be Screwed by a Bigger Media Monopoly

Coverage and activism on the FCC’s impending media ownership rules review are reaching a near fever pitch, many months late in the game. I find it both facinating and frustrating that issues like this one have to get down to the wire before arousing any real attention from the press and any kind of critical mass of activists. This rules review has been over eight months in the making and the FCC fired its first salvo back in October.

Regulatory decisions tend to be very anti-climactic. The decisions are made through the long process of proceedings, comments and lobbying, not in the actual vote. Rarely do regulatory decisions result in surprise by the time the vote comes around — the writing is almost always written in neon on the wall. If you’re lobbying the FCC right before it makes a vote, you’re too damn late.

To whit, this week the FCC’s Democratic commissioners begged their peers to delay the June 2 decision deadline so that there could be a public airing of the actual proposals that the Commission will vote on. Predictably, on Thursday they were rebuffed by Mikey Powell, who never intended to involve the public in this process, and sure as hell isn’t going to change his mind now.

Although I’m critically pessimistic about the ability of anyone to change the minds of the Republican FCC majority at this point of the game, I do not dismiss the value of bringing greater public attention to the issue, whether or not it affects the FCC in this vote. Many organizations, like the Center for Digital Democracy and the Media Acess Project, have been on this issue from the start, and it is good to see their efforts to arouse a sleeping public are starting to gain opened eyes.

As I commented two weeks ago, the FCC is only a pawn (or maybe a knight) in a larger game. Congress makes the laws that frame and dictate what the FCC can do. Only Congress can really fight back the media consolidation monster.

So, perhaps it is more promising that a bipartisan group of senators, including anti-consolidation stalwart Fritz Hollings and even Trent Lott, have sponsored a bill to keep the television station ownership cap pegged at the current limit of reaching 35% of US households. It is widely believed that FCC Cahair Powell and fellow FCC republican Kevin Martin have reached a bargain that would raise this limit.

Senate Commerce Committee Chair John McCain has said he will hold a hearing with the FCC Commissioners after they release their decision. So, at the very least, Powell and his buddies stand to weather a good brow-beating from unhappy senators, whatever their end decisions are.

If the intensifying lobbying efforts and public campaigns can be turned on legislators, then perhaps Congress can be moved to undo the media monopoly landslide they all but guaranteed seven years ago.

But I’m not nearly confident enough to take bets on that.

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Urbana Indymedia Center Shut Down by Local Officials Under Dubious Circumstances

Yesterday the performance space at the Urbana-Champaign IMC was shut down by the City of Urbana with no warning or notice, even though the fire inspector gave the IMC and its landlords until May 29 to clear up some small violations. I’m still gathering details, but according to my trusted associates at the IMC, attempts to negotiate with the City of Urbana have been met with “disrespect, hostility, and abuse.”

Here is the press release from the IMC:

On Thursday, May 8, 2003, at approximately 6 PM, the performance space
at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center (UCIMC) at 218
W. Main St. was closed by the City of Urbana under highly irregular

The UCIMC was first inspected three days earlier, on Monday, May 5.
At that time, the UCIMC was given notice of six violations of the
Urbana fire code and informed that a follow-up inspection would be
conducted on May 29, 2003.

On Thursday evening after business hours, the Division Chief of the
Fire Rescue Services Department returned unannounced with a building
official to close the performance space. It is extremely unusual for
an inspection to occur after business hours and with little notice.
Furthermore, the city has thus far given no reason why the space was
suddenly shut down instead of reinspected on May 29, as stated in the
original notice.

The UCIMC has already made significant progress in addressing the
violations listed by the Fire Department, and plans to continue
addressing these concerns. It is unclear why the decision to close the
performance space was made after it was determined at the initial
inspection that the organization would have 24 days to fix the

The performance space at the UCIMC is Champaign-Urbana’s only all
ages, volunteer operated, not-for-profit, non-smoking venue for
regularly scheduled touring and local music performances.


Zach Miller Meghan Krausch

217-367-4678 217-390-6051

217-265-8458 217-244-4682

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A Free Corporate Media… Free To Serve Inverted Totalitarianism

Sheldon Wolin writes convincingly in the Nation that the Republican Bushist regime is effecting an “Inverted Totalitarianism”:

“By inverted I mean that while the current system and its operatives share with Nazism the aspiration toward unlimited power and aggressive expansionism, their methods and actions seem upside down. For example, in Weimar Germany, before the Nazis took power, the ‘streets’ were dominated by totalitarian-oriented gangs of toughs, and whatever there was of democracy was confined to the government. In the United States, however, it is the streets where democracy is most alive–while the real danger lies with an increasingly unbridled government.

Or another example of the inversion: Under Nazi rule there was never any doubt about ‘big business’ being subordinated to the political regime. In the United States, however, it has been apparent for decades that corporate power has become so predominant in the political establishment, particularly in the Republican Party, and so dominant in its influence over policy, as to suggest a role inversion the exact opposite of the Nazis’. At the same time, it is corporate power, as the representative of the dynamic of capitalism and of the ever-expanding power made available by the integration of science and technology with the structure of capitalism, that produces the totalizing drive that, under the Nazis, was supplied by ideological notions such as Lebensraum. “

And the media is their tool to ram it home. From the right-wing demoagogues of FOX News and Clear Channel, to the government-source lapdogs of CNN and ABC, and to the embedded military contractors at GE/NBC, they all do the bidding of those in power, unwilling to ask real questions of power and its expression. Their bread is buttered too thick to even think of flipping over.

The corporate media don’t need to be threatened by government censorship and direct suppression. The sweet honey of profit and favor are far stronger incentive to toe the line, whilst giving the appearance of freedom. Sure, the media may be free to ask questions of power (and occasionally they do), but what good is it if it’s mostly not expressed?

So now Mikey Powell and the FCC are ready to hand them their next mouthful of reward, in the form of ownership deregulation, for their service to the cause of his daddy Colin and his Texas cowboy pals. Hey, Clear Channel, keep throwing those Pro-America Rallies and maybe you’ll get to own 2400 radio stations and a few hundred more TV!

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