Thursday, November 16, 2000

Changing times

Protesters get ready for CEOs

        There's a handsome Web page these days for protesters. Very sophisticated and easy to use. Slick, you might say.

        Just click on a world map and choose your agitation site. Or you can select by issue, such as “Fascism and the Right Wing” or “Globalization and Imperialism.”

        This month, Cincinnati is featured: “Confront CEO trade summit.” Links from lead to invitations to an anarchist soccer game today at 3 p.m. at Mirror Lake in Eden Park and the opportunity to join in the Mount Olive pickle boycott.

        While protesting the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, of course.

Sister Alice
Sister Alice
        This is a group of CEOs from top European and American companies here until Saturday to confer on international trade.

        While the Maisonette laid in extra foie gras and the brass fittings of the Delta Queen were burnished for the visiting executives, organizers set up workshops, car pools and housing for demonstrators.

The bad old days
        Protesting was a lot simpler in the good old days. Or, actually, in the bad old days. A little paint, some poster board, a VW bus painted with a peace symbol and you were in business.

        A picketer at last April's World Bank-International Monetary Fund summit in Washington, D.C., carried a sign emblazoned with “No to Structural Adjustment Programs.” Which just doesn't have the same pizazz as “Make Love Not War.”

        Protesters at the World Trade Organization gathering in Seattle aired grievances against police including chafing from plastic handcuffs and vegetarians forced to confront bologna sandwiches at the jail.

Ruckus Society
        I am wondering if boot camps for protesters, such as the Berkeley, Calif.-based Ruckus Society, merely provide information to young people about how to hang banners, block traffic and chain themselves to bulldozers. But not why they might choose to do such things.

        Sister Alice Gerdeman knows how. And why. She is, in my opinion, Cincinnati's best defense against some know-nothing thug who might surf the Internet for a protest du jour.

        Director of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine, she calls the conference “a teachable moment.”

        Working with the Coalition for a Humane Economy, she is hoping to get environmental laws written into trade agreements. A march. Speeches on Fountain Square and at the University of Cincinnati. Very nonviolent, she says. Educational.

        Some officials worry that any protest might give the city a black eye. “It might be inconvenient,” Sister Alice says, “but I hope sincerely that in the long run it will be good for Cincinnati. If we can help make this a better environment, it will be a better place for us all.”

        She tells a story about a friend in West Berlin. Before the wall came down, the woman told Sister Alice she went to East Berlin once a month for tea with another woman. “It was about sharing ideas and loosening the bricks, weakening the system by strengthening the bonds between people. There's not immediate success, but we're called to shake the bricks and loosen the mortar to make the world better.”

        This does not fit conveniently on a sign. But it is not very complicated after all.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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