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Friday, July 24, 2009

Fiesta de despida

Espero su presencia y que nos representan estaremos presente!!

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

EU Burger

EU Kombo
kauf dir ein Kombi
schmeiss weg den Trabi
Dieses Jahr kalishnokovy
jetzt gehts los
By midnight
Buy One, get One...
You’re free!

Give me three
Freedom fries!
And one EU Burger please mit that
internationalism Sonder-VAT
What dat? globalisierten Kosmopat!

Yesterday I thought something like
I ónt versteh nuddin
Linguistic combination with that
Proletariat callejero-Slang
In Alemanenhaus stack of cards
Goes up with a bang
and down with the wind
a pastoral blend
with verschmitzter chagrin

I grab hold of
loose change this smash we can
pulled out of a bottle
a message from distant shores
all the way to Malta
They abhore slow food

so get a piece of that
EU! get it fast!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let Them Eat Sand!

I moved to the Bay Area in 1998. I lived and worked in San Francisco and Oakland for a number of years, mostly landing temp work and call center jobs. I didn't perform well, as they say, because I always had it out with my bosses and managers. True to anarchist fashion, I could never keep a job for very long. Also true to the trade, I couldn't seem to stay out of the university system either. I took classes off and on at San Francisco State University, between bouts of employment. After I obtained California state residency, I discovered that if I took more than one class a semester, I would qualify for the CalGrant. This led me to enroll full-time at San Francisco State in the Fall of 2002.

At that time, a year after the 911 attacks, the antiwar movement was growing in anticipation of the coming war in Iraq. There was a lot of political activity on campus. I was taking Biology, Physics, Calculus and Spanish courses and finished my first year with a 3.16 grade point average. I held a student assistant position for the Vice President of Associated Students and was involved in several other student organizations. I was active in Students for Peace and Justice and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. After the bombs began falling on Bagdad on March 19, 2003, we were all shocked at the immediacy of the war's residual affects on the homefront. One aspect of the United State's expensive vendetta came home to roost on campus: cutbacks in cultural and educational programs at all California State University campuses, as well as a 40% tuition increase.

On May 1, 2003, I was arrested at a student demonstration on the Malcolm X Plaza at San Francisco State University against the fee hikes. Our student organization thought the tradition of May Day provided a meaningful occasion to advocate the continued accessibility of higher education to working class students. It so happened that on that day, the university decided to hold a suit-and-tie affair for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the university. The university was actually founded in February, not May, of 1903. With the backdrop of the fee hikes, the war, and other administrative misdeeds at the state university level, it seemed to us that moving the anniversary celebration up to May 1 was a strategic move to take over the main plaza and prevent potential student unrest, marking the first year that the plaza was not available for student demonstrations on May Day.

A fellow student, who worked at the Women's Center, was enraged when she found out that the administrators had even hired full caterering, including purchasing a 15-foot-long cake, which encompassed the entire plaza. We had found out that the cake alone had cost $5000. One more reason, we thought, to sabotage the event. And I was always ready to stir things up. So our group decided to hold an impromptu demonstration. Our juicy plan was to take over the sound system and throw sand on the gourmet cake. In this way, we hoped to inspire the other students on the plaza to carry on the old May Day tradition. This time, however, it was to be a cake riot instead of a bread riot.

Only the first part of our plan was carried out. We threw sand on two corners of the monolithic dessert. I went to the sound system and informed the spontaneous audience about the amount of money spent on this soiree in light of the apparent lack of university funds, closing off the statement by yelling into the microphone "Stop the fee hikes! We won't pay for their war or their cake! Long live May Day!" The latter part of our plan, the desired insurrection of the other students, didn't happen. And another thing also didn't happen according to plan. After I left the stage, I quickly headed for the library but was intercepted by campus police. The other demonstrators from our group were no where to be found. The officers asked me for my name and all the required information. They informed me that I was being detained. The only other campus activist I saw on the plaza at that moment was a member of another student group, a Trotskyist organization, talking on her cell phone and looking right at me. She simply continued her phone conversation. She made no effort to approach the officers or to inquire about what was going on.

I was handcuffed and put into a squad car. The police took photos of me. It was making quite a scene, but the students and administrators on the plaza kept their distance. None of the other student activists I knew were to be found. Even the Trotskyist who was talking on her cell phone had disappeared.

I was driven in the squad car to an unassuming white building behind the cafeteria. I had never noticed this building before; it seemed like it had only appeared on the scene now, deus ex machina for the new protagonists of this story, the police.

I was taken out of the squad car and asked if I had any drugs on me. I almost had to laugh-- but I suppose there are those who like to get high before a demonstration, or deal when they get there, I don't know. Those weren't my tactics, but to each their own, I thought. I honestly replied, "No..." but was briefly patted down anyway. No lucky finds for the police today.

They led me into the building where there was a small holding cell. Every surface was white. I felt like I had stepped into that 1970's television series "Dr. Who" minus the constant electronic humming sound. There was no sound at all, just silence...I took this to be San Francisco State University's little taste of Germany's F-Type isolation cells.

The officers took the handcuffs off me and I was put into the cell for a little while. It felt like the brief isolation lasted for about a half-hour--but I am only guessing, because along with the rest of my belongings, my watch had been confiscated. After this time had passed, an officer came and led me out of the cell into a little room. And yes, it had one lightbulb and a table. Two officers were sitting there, the good cop and the bad cop. I thought, wow, the cliche is actually true. One spent the next 15 minutes yelling at me intermittently, saying I could forget going back to school, while the other cop kept reminding me of my rights and politely asking me questions. These questions were: "Who planned this demonstration with you?" "What are their names?" "What campus groups do you know and work with?" "Where do you meet?" I responded to all these questions that since I already knew what my rights were, I would not comment until I have a lawyer present.

After the Hollywood drama of interrogation light, I was handcuffed again and driven to a real jail.

When I arrived at the station, I had a mug shot and fingerprints taken. I was strip-searched twice and a doctor checked my vital signs. Then I had to wait to be booked. I waited all night in a cell full of other fresh arrivals, other women with all sorts of issues. One had probably hidden drugs up her ass and smelled like that and, while I tried to catch a few hours rest, the other that was sitting next to me on the bench began masturbating until an officer came by and told her to stop. Believe it or not, I was glad when I finally got booked. I was told that even though I was a "first-time offender," I was "violent" and would be spending time in jail. I was finally told that the charges against me were poisoning food, conspiracy, resisting arrest, and assault (on a cake? on a sound system? I'm still not sure...)

When I got to the San Francisco county jail, I was strip-searched again, this time, in full view of the other female inmates and new arrivals. This area was referred to as "the fish tank." The deputy officer who conducted the searches and subsequently gave us our orange uniforms seemed to really enjoy the surge of power she was getting from this type of humiliation.

The minimum security block was laid out in a state-of-the-art architectural design. True to San Francisco's style, you give a horse a different name and everybody thinks it's a unicorn. Since the cells did not have bars, the circular block was called a “pod.” The eating area was in the center. The deputy sat at a desk in the middle of this center area, surveillance made easy: Focault's Pantheon with a hip twist in the Bay!

I met a lot of women there. Normally, it would be a lesbian fantasy come true, but at this point, incarcerated women had lost all their erotic appeal. Not only did most of them show the physically unappealing signs of drug abuse, I was too busy wondering what was happening with me and what I was going to tell the other inmates. (Question: "What are you here for?" Answer: "Throwing sand on a cake at a non-permitted demonstration.") The women came from various walks of life, most of which led to the streets. Indeed, a good percentage of them had been streetwalkers. Many had been caught dealing drugs. There were two women that stuck out in my mind the most. One was another white woman who was serving time for homicide. She was allowed to finish out her sentence in minimum security for good behavior. The victim was her abusive boyfriend who had been victimizing her for years. Feeling like we could use the exercise, this inmate and I ran laps around the "pod"until we both got bored. Another woman I met there was an older lady who was serving time for grand larceny. She had planned the burglary with her brother to net $20,000.00 after she had lost her job as a schoolteacher. The money was supposed to be her retirement. She told me she was from Oakland and had been a member of the Black Panthers. I agreed with her when she casually remarked that the system robs us more on a daily basis than she ever would have nabbed in the failed heist. There were other women there who I also won't forget, including a 19-year-old loan shark who was supporting her mother. One of my cellmates was a methadone user who was serving time for her drug-dealing boyfriend. She looked like she could have been a cheerleader in high school and had seen better days. When I got out, she gave me a piece of paper with a number scribbled on it. It was the number of her boy friend. She asked me if I could call him for her. I did this (from a pay phone) only to find that the number, of course, had been disconnected.

The racial makeup of the jail was endemic to the everyday reality of struggle in the US. White women were in the far minority. Aside from my jogging partner and the methadone patient, I was the only other white woman in a total of 40 women (10 cells in the pod, 4 beds each). When I got there, I immediately noticed that I was put in the “white cell.” All my cellmates were white and we were the only white women in the entire pod. The other inmates complained about the obvious segregation until one of the women in my cell was switched out. Inevitably, since whites in general don't seem to get caught up in the system as much as other people who break US laws do, I was bound to be the exotic subject of inquiry. (To review, Question: "Why are you here?" Answer: "Throwing sand on a cake at a non-permitted demonstration.") My response was naturally received with blank or confused looks, with the exception of the former Black Panther whose retirement plan had been foiled. But most of the other inmates couldn't seem to get their minds around the fact that I was actually in there with them for the reason that I gave. My answer was often greeted with supplemental quesions such as "What were you doing at the demonstration besides that? Were you dealing? (No) Flossin'?* (No) Did you shoot someone...?"(No!) The list of supplemental questions went on and my repetitive replies in the negative did nothing to alleviate their confusion bordering on skepticism.

When I asked the other women what they were in for, their responses likened small-talk at an after-work party. "Oh, I was in loans." "Me? I was doin sales." That was when I realized that the underground economy has departments.

The days passed with only one incident. It was a particularly sticky situation. Strangely, once again, a cake was involved. A crumb cake had disappeared one day at lunch from the deputy's tray. She made an announcement and asked, basically, who did it. When no one volunteered the information, she threatened that if she found out who took her cake, the culprit would spend 30 days in "the hole." I gathered this to be a less luxurious version of the aformentioned German F-Type isolation cells. The deputy ordered everyone to get back to their cells. Lunch time was over and there was quite a commotion as everyone was stacking their trays. As I returned to my cell, I noticed a small object next to my pillow. Sure enough, it was an untouched crumb cake wrapped in a napkin. Seeing that there was still a bit of hustle and bustle, I quickly grabbed the cake and skirted to the trash can farthest from my cell to dispose of the planted goods. Whether the deputy would have made good on her threat is not clear, but I didn't want to find out. What I did know was that I could bear the thought of telling friends and family of doing time for political reasons, but I couln't face the thought of recounting tales of spending 30 days in isolation for allegedly stealing a crumb cake from a deputy's tray.

I was released after nearly five days, at the wee hours of Monday morning. Since there was still no public transportation, I started walking until the first bus came at 4 am to take me the rest of the way home. I still had the jail ID still on my wrist and had been previously informed by the officer who returned me my belongings that I could show it to the busdriver in lieu of paying. This turned out to be true, but seemed to make the passengers a little uneasy. When I got back to my flat, the sun had been up for a little while and one of my roommates was awake. After five days of absence, I knew what was coming, so I prefaced his questions about my whereabouts for the last five days, emphasizing my strong desire to table the conversation for a later meeting: "Where was I? Oh, I was in jail. Why? Ask me later...:" Then I went to bed.

When I think back on the days after May 1, 2003, I cannot forget the other women in the SF county jail. Sometimes, they still enter my dreams. I have dreamt, for instance, that I was at an office party and everybody is wearing those orange suits. The strange thing is, everybody is acting normal, just chatting about what the women in the jail really did talk about most of time: work. I often wonder if I would recognize any of those women if I ever saw them on in some dicey neighborhoodd or street corner again.

For me, jail was the least of consequences for my own failed operation. Although my objective in disrupting the university's Founder's Day event was not as financially lucrative as the misaligned plans of the former schoolteacher who is still behind bars, I never expected to have to pay as much as I did for a cake. Our little May Day action resulted in disciplinary sanctions solely directed against me, resulting in my suspension from San Francisco State University and the loss of my job. All the charges have been dropped from my civil record, but a reference to the incident remains on my academic record to this day. This record is accessed and shared by all universities in the California State University system, effectively barring me from reapplication to any university in the state ever again.

After a few years of thought and following a cable installer apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood (sic!) of Electrical Workers of San Francisco, I decided to re-enter academia and finally get my degree the only way I knew how and could afford: emigrate! When I had received the Congress-Bundestag scholarship to spend my junior year of high school in Augsburg, Germany, I had found out from my host family that college in was free in Germany. They have recently introduced student fees in most German states, but college continues to be free in Berlin. After having received a BA in German Studies at Michigan State University in back in 1996, I was still confident that my German was good enough to attend university in Germany.

Now here I am, in Berlin, completing my Master's Degree at the age of 35, after a roundabout turn of events in my life. I am still adjusting to the culture here, but I feel fortunate that I can get a Master's degree without paying anything, and without having to deal with the annoyances of an on-campus police state and Bush's draconian political climate. There is much discussion these days about whether things will get better in the US with Obama in the White House. The question is, once the bar of political freedom has been lowered to the extent that it has, what does “improvement” actually mean? I have a feeling that there is still a lot of work to be done in the global justice and peace movements before we can even begin to think about coming out the other side of Empire at the resistance level we were before, in Seattle 1999, for instance.

I, for one, was shocked at the absurdity of what had happened to me at San Francisco State University, the situation which spurred me to leave the US a few years later. Since the tragic attacks on 9-11, we have taken too much in those victims' names, and let capitalist interests go too far with our resources. They have whittled away at our rights to speak out as we did on May 1, 2003 on SFSU's Malcolm X Plaza, when we demanded an end to perpetual war and systematic social robbery, effectively crashing the administrators' party. After all, we have to not only want our piece of the pie but take the whole cake too, because we made it.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

...that I finally got around to this blog thing. All on the clock of course. I'm already getting in the mood for May Day, anyone else with me? Gotta get back to work... I hope to see MILLIONS on the streets this Friday worldwide!!

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