Radicalizing Netroots, Part 2
This is the second in a two-part review of Ian Awesome’s adventures at Netroots Nation. Click here to read part 1.
The next day started off with chuckles. Daniel introduced me to the most ridic spoof of Jem (remember? From the 80s?) on YouTube that could ever be made.
Warning: extremely offensive. Do not play around children. Do not play around elderly people. Do not play in the workplace. In fact, you probably just shouldn’t click play.
This, in fact, turned out to be the highlight of my day. After spending all day going to panels and trying to find fellow revolutionaries (and Tweeting an insane amount of Tweets about the Radicals’ Caucus the next day) I headed out to a couple receptions (one of which was about marriage equality. I, while welcome, definitely drew some curious looks. Why was I there again? Oh yeah. Free booze) and then joined Joe Jervis and co. for the Providence JoeMyGod meetup. Hilarity and more drunkenness ensued.
The next day was definitely far more action-packed. We started off with the LGBT caucus, which invited a politician (no, I don’t remember who, politicians kind of bore me) to speak. Note: “He has a 100% equality rating with the HRC!!!” isn’t exactly a shining endorsement. We also received official White House copies of Barack Obama’s pride proclamation.
Zach Wahls and myself. Photo taken by Jamie McGonnigal.
Also, Zach Wahls, famed for his impassioned speech to the Iowa legislature on behalf of his two moms (and the most Tweeted about, swooned-over member of the LGBT caucus) called me a cutie pie.
We had our unofficial, unsponsored Radicals’ Caucus, and I’m happy to report it went well. We started by identifying our key issues (police oppression, decolonization, anti-capitalist organizing) and then brainstormed how we would support each other in our blogging efforts. We agreed that we would push for more politically challenging content at the next Netroots conference, shook hands, exchanged information, and promised to keep in touch.
The highlight: I was not, surprisingly, the only out-and-proud anarchist at the conference. Neat.
After the Caucus I stepped out for a smoke and a chat with FarmerChuck of the Daily Kos. This was cut short, as a member of Occupy Providence ran up to me, breathless. Her comrades, she explained, had been marching through the nearby mall. Arrests were happening. I was needed. I took off at a run, ducking into the hotel and sprinting through the skyway bridge connecting the mall to the Westin.
As I hurtled through the doors, sweating, panting Occupiers were running the other way. “Don’t go in!” they warned me. “Is shit going down?” I responded. “Yeah. They’re arresting everyone.”
So of course I went in.
The arrests, it appeared, had been completed, and all I had left to do was take pictures as Occupiers were being dragged into the mall security office. This wasn’t appreciated by Providence Police Department. One large cop, who probably thought he was intimidating, immediately started shouting.
“Leave the area immediately.”
“No sir, I don’t think I will be.”
“Leave the premises at once or you will be arrested.”
“I have as much right to be here as you.”
“You have been given two warnings. If you don’t leave immediately, you will be spending the night in jail.”
I left. It galled, but I had no intention of missing my evening’s plans. Grrr.
Evidently taking this picture is a crime in Providence. I hate cops.
Turns out that the arrestees weren’t actually arrested; they were merely banned from the mall for the year and then released. It pissed me off that the cop had succeeded in running me off.
I relaxed after my near-miss with the Providence Police Department and took a walk to blow off some steam. Note: Waterfire is a great little festival that happens in Providence in which they put a bunch of bonfires in the middle of the river and eat a bunch of fried food. Neat.
I went to the Daily Kos party that took place, danced my ass off, then retired to the hotel. The conference was done.
The next day I packed, swore over the debit card that I had drunkenly misplaced the night before, and scrambled down to wait out front for my ride to the airport. I looked across the front of the hotel, and who do I see?
I stared at him for a moment, and thought, should I?
“Jesse. JESSE! Anarchists rock! Stop talking shit!”
“Uh… well, you see… they…”
“THEY NOTHING. I rock! Stop talking shit!”
I got to the airport, got on my plane, and flew away. Goodbye, Providence.
Looking back over the week and the events that took place, I am for the most part, satisfied. Did I meet a lot of fellow revolutionaries? Hmmm. No. Did I reach out to my less radical friends? Did I get them talking about the issues I cared about? For sure.
Over the next year, it will be interesting to see if the foundations laid by myself and my fellow radicals will give rise to something new. Will Netroots remain a primarily mainstream Democratic conference? Most likely. Will I and others continue to try and push a more radical agenda? Most likely, and I hope that our work impacts the blogosphere and the conference itself in more concrete ways. I’m not giving up on it anytime soon, and I know others who agree.
So, thank you Netroots. I’ll see you next year in San Jose. Brace yourself.