Anarchists, Arise!

The group that may be the most prepared for the 2008 Democratic National Convention is also the least likely to be prepared. It doesn't represent labor unions or mainstream progressives, but anarchists. A loose coalition of anti-authoritarian factions from across the nation have formed an outfit called Unconventional Action, with the express goal of disrupting and shutting down the DNC and RNC. Activists say that anarchists in this country have never planned such a large-scale action so far in advance of a specific event, and certainly not with such openness and strategy.

The stylized website includes mission statements, how-to guides and downloadable posters, maps and zines. "Only direct action will stop the war," reads one flier. "Start organizing to smash the conventions," says another. Resources includes a printable map of downtown Denver, with the Pepsi Center and hotels where delegates will be staying clearly marked, as well as such other potential targets as the offices of Halliburton, Northrop Grumman and Newmont Mining. In Minneapolis/St. Paul, where the RNC will be held, anarchists operating as the RNC Welcoming Committee are compiling maps, photographs of the city and timetables of political events where they may stage such disturbances as blockades, infiltrations and other stunts.

American anarchists regard both Democrats and Republicans as enforcers of the same imperialist system, and their drive this time is fueled by disappointment with the 2004 convention protests. Though tens of thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of New York and Boston, many radicals felt the actions led by large liberal groups like ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice had little impact. So this election cycle, affinity groups such as the Black Bloc and Crimethinc are spurring the radical movement to take the lead.

"There's nothing better than the convention to encapsulate the essence of the Democratic Party and the two-party system," says Clayton Dewey, an organizer for Denver's Unconventional Action. "It is a sham democracy. The candidates have been chosen, the platform has essentially been chosen by the party leaders. They bring in some delegates, and really, all they do is cheerlead for these scripted events. The media fawns over it. It's a multimillion-dollar party at the expense of taxpayers and Denver residents."

Chapters have been formed in San Francisco, New York and at least a dozen other cities. Since August, planning conferences called "consultas" have taken place in St. Paul and Denver. Along with building a "horizontal, inclusive framework for protests," groups have even begun fundraising. Organizers estimate that each city will need $50,000 for convergence centers, legal costs and other expenses.

"We are not going to let the Democrats have a free ride," says Dewey.

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Jared Jacang Maher