The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Season of Demonstrations

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.

B.B. Sunshine

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.

Child prodigy David Beyer, a student at Hampshire College despite being only fifteen, was among those arrested.

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.


In Solidarity,

BB Sunshine

Of course I will attend this demonstration and give you a full report.

Redeeming UMass

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.

Hamp Decor

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.

Today's Video

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.


Anonymous said...

The panhandling ordinance was stupid, but since that's been defeated, I don't see what all the fuss is about concerning the BID.

During my time in the area, I just used to roll my eyes and sigh. "What are the liberals protesting this week?" I asked myself. It's really hard to take them seriously when they seem to NEED a cause to rally against.

Did you ever see this? It's Glenn Danzig get his assed kicked by a fat guy.


marginalutility said...

Hey, before you conclude there's no big deal re: the BID, please check out and click "More Problems W/The BID". It's a transcript of a speech I gave to a group at Smith College. Not quite as diverting as Glen Danzig getting his ass kicked by a fat guy, but I hope you take a look before coming to your final conclusion.

I'd be pretty happy if I had nothing to protest, personally. I'd devote my time to vice ;) ,indulgent autodidactic academic pursuits, and yeah, probably still do the self-righteous do-gooder thing a bit w/community service, but...

Btw, I and the members of PINAC aren't liberals, we're radicals. Mayor Higgins is a liberal.

--Caty Simon

marginalutility said...

Tommy, thanks so much for posting this! Just two quick corrections.
Beatriz wasn't just a participant, she actually was the co-organizer, along with Ira Mckinley, of that event.
& your flattery is yummy as usual, but I can hardly claim to be PINAC's founding mother. At best, maybe I could get "co-founder", along with a bunch of other people.

Don Schneier said...

The anti-panhandling ordinance may have been defeated, but its language is alive and well in the BID proposal. Well, maybe not so "well'--it is still arguably unconstitutional, except in this case, it would seem to be the entire BID that would be the object of an injunction, and an eventual striking down. If so, terms like 'hubris', 'petard', 'poison pawn', 'poetic justice' come to mind.

marginalutility said...

The thing about all that, not all of the proposal is necc. legally binding or legislation. It represents only the *aims* of the BID, according to Chamber of Commerce head Suzannne Beck.
All the legislation made binding was a) the adoption of the BID w/its fees and its opt-out system, and the marketing plan and b) the Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the BID, spelling out the numerous financial obligations the city has to the BID.
I mean, I hope I'm wrong. I should ask Bill Newman from the ACLU about this. But sadly, I think I'm right.

Don Schneier said...

My point pertains not to the language, but to any attempt to implement its language. In other words, if there is any attempt to enforce whatever solicitation language is contained, then, subject, of course, to Newman's judgment, an injunction, and even a striking-down, would loom. None of which the proponents seem, in their hubris, to be aware of.

marginalutility said...

The point is, then they would make a new panhandling ordinance, which might be tabled again b/c of opposition, or might be voted down by council or struck down by the Supreme court, but all that would have no legal bearing on the BID itself! Follow the directions I gave the gentlement above to see why the panhandling ordinance is far from the only problem with that monster.

Don Schneier said...

Not according to Mary's article.

marginalutility said...

You misinterpreted Mary's article. I wrote to you privately about this.

Anonymous said...

This past weekend read a New York Post article about B.I.D.'s in New York City:

While New York is a far cry from Northampton, it is still an interesting read.

Anonymous said...

This appears to be a better link: