Well the first plants are coming up, the birds are returning from the south and protesters are taking it to the streets. It must be spring in the Pioneer Valley! Here's a couple of big rallies scheduled for this week that you might want to attend:
There's been a lot of fuss in Northampton lately about a proposed (now passed) Business Improvement District. It sounds like a boring issue, I mean who really cares if businesses get together, pool some money and fix up downtown? Better than making the taxpayer's pay for the improvements, right?
Opponents claim it's more complicated than that, arguing that the BID is really a backdoor way of implementing repressive measures like the virtual ban on panhandling that died in the City Council earlier this year. They also accuse BID leaders of trying to privatize downtown areas that should be regarded as public space.
Things came to head a few weeks ago when an anti-BID rally got a little raucus and two arrests were made. Police claimed that the protesters were disrupting traffic and creating a public disturbance. Protesters claim the police over-reacted. The Valley Advocate gave a wonderfully sarcastic account of the incident that you can read here.
Unfortunately I wasn't there, so I can't be sure what went down, but Caty Simon, founding mother of the radical group Poverty is Not a Crime, sent me this eyewitness account by participant Beatriz Bianco (alias B.B. Sunshine) and while obviously her account is biased, it includes details that have not been made public previously.
Many of you heard about/attended the rally I spearheaded that took place on Friday, March 13th. The objective of the protest was to raise awareness about the Business Improvement District, which passed both its votes in City Council 8 to 1. The second deciding vote took place on March 19th, over spring break.
We intended to showcase the joyful beauty of the diverse street folk of Northampton. We gave out free food, we played music, we sang, we danced, and as we began to march, some of us took the streets. Three police officers followed us, yelling at us and threatening us for peacefully protesting. One activist, Arturo, was arrested inches from me. While he gave no provocation and no resistance, three officers violently tackled him to the ground, repeatedly shoving his face into the asphalt. Our cry of, "Food shelter freedom, No new station, No more cops!" became, "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?"
We continued down Main Street, pausing on the corner and crossing to the raised sidewalk under the bridge. The raised sidewalk is only accessible in one spot,and so my friend and fellow protestor David who was pushing my wheelchair, continued to march in the street as close to the side as possible (completely out of traffic). The police parked their cars in the middle of the road under the bridge, and tried to corner us against the wall, all the while yelling at us to get onto the sidewalk and ignoring me when I addressed them. The officers wrenched David off of the back of my wheelchair, arresting him as coldly as if they were separating him from a shopping cart.
And even after this arrest we kept fighting, marching up Pleasant Street and dancing and chanting, "Poverty is not a crime, Stop the BID!" in front of Hotel Northampton and A-Z Science and Learning, both businesses on the BID Steering Committee. By the time we marched back to City Hall, fifteen cops had surrounded us. They had called for reinforcement from Easthampton as well as the state police. The cops called in multiple vans for mass arrest, and were heard saying "park it where they can't see it, it's crowd control." These kinds of violations of human rights are indicative of a systemic sickness and cannot be tolerated in our community.
A component of the BID allots 17-19 million dollars, plus millions of dollars in interest payments, to creating another police station downtown. More cops? More arrests? As a solution to poverty and homelessness? I don't think so. They want to make the city cleaner, more profitable, more beautiful? We are not garbage. We want that money invested in accessible food, job training, low-income housing, a community center, the arts! On April 2nd, the next City Council meeting, we are mobilizing once again. However this will be a silent protest. Come dressed in all costumery and regalia, face paint, body paint, bring flowers, signs stating your opposition. Carry your hearts and souls with fervor and pride.
PLEASE SHOW. THURSDAY, APRIL 2ND, 6 PM CITY HALL, NOHO.
Of course I will attend this demonstration and give you a full report.
The day before the big Northampton demonstration there will hopefully be an even larger one at UMass in favor of free speech. Earlier this month, conservative writer Don Feder was unable to give a speech on campus when hecklers made it impossible for him to speak. The incident resulted in terrible publicity for UMass, especially in the blogoshere, where even a former radical condemned the incident and Michelle Malken, author of a huge conservative website, called for a parent boycott of UMass.
The UMass Republican Club, which sponsored the Feder fiasco, has united with their arch rivals the University Democrats, as well as the Student Alliance for Israel and a group that calls itself "The Silent Majority" to put on a non-ideological event embracing all political perspectives united in a celebration of the First Amendment.
UMass desperately needs good publicity to counteract some of the negative press it has received recently around free speech issues, so this rally really needs to be a big success. Let's show the world that UMass truly is a place where ideas are freely exchanged and the First Amendment is honored. Non-students and the general public are invited.
The skull imagery of The Grateful Dead is beloved for its positive vibes, but the skull symbolizing the band The Misfits is coming from a different place. According to the Wikipedia:
The Misfits are an American rock band often recognized as the progenitors of the horror punk subgenre, blending punk rock and other musical influences with horror film themes and imagery. Founded in 1977 in Lodi, New Jersey by singer and songwriter Glenn Danzig, the group had a fluctuating lineup during its first six years with Danzig and bassist Jerry Only as the only consistent members. During this time they released several EPs and singles and, with Only's brother Doyle as guitarist, the albums Walk Among Us (1982) and Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood (1983), both considered touchstones of the early-1980s hardcore punk movement. The Misfits disbanded in 1983 and Danzig went on to form Samhain and then Danzig. Several albums of reissued and previously unreleased material were issued after the group's dissolution, and their music became influential to punk rock, heavy metal, and alternative rock music of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Anyway, there's a house on State Street in Northampton where somebody is really, really into them.
Dig the checkered mailbox.
I think the Girl Scout's cookie selling campaign might skip that house.
Our ol' friend Jay Brannan is having huge success in Europe where they don't have such hang-ups over whether the person singing a love song is gay. As always, Jay sounds like an angel in this fan video from Paris.