Saying no to elections

When John Kerry arrives in Boston to accept the Democraticnomination the last week of July he’ll be greeted by more thanmandatory bag searches on public transportation and 50 miles ofpublic road closures. A host of activists will turn out to protesthis appearance as well.

The Democratic National Convention will take place in BostonJuly 26-29 and has drawn the anger of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition(Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the black tea society.

The groups have both planned protests, on different days,reflecting their similar disdain for the DNC, yet ideologically thetwo groups hold contradicting views.

“It (the presidential election) comes down to the whole’anybody-but-Bush’ mentality, where people think the figurehead isthe problem … There’s more that goes into it,” a black teasociety activist going under the alias of Andrew Little said.

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, primarily a progressive anti-warprotest group, is bringing its anti-war perspective and using it tocriticize both the Republicans and the Democrats.

The “twin parties of the war machine,” as A.N.S.W.E.R. describesthem, will both be protested by the group, the Democrats July 25and the Republicans August 29, in New York. The group points toboth parties’ support for the war in congress, specifically Bushand Kerry’s voting records.

A.N.S.W.E.R. criticizes Kerry for voting for the controversial”No Child Left Behind Act,” which removes funds from schools ifthey do not meet certain federal standards.

The coalition uses other Bush administration legislation, ofwhich Kerry voted in support, to draw attention to politicalsimilarities between the two presidential hopefuls. Examples aretheir individual support of the PATRIOT Act and, historically, thewar in Iraq.

The Coalition states on its Web site,, that”both parties and both conventions represent the concentration ofpower in the hands of corporate and banking elites, the extensionof militarism and war, and the assault carried out by the corporateestablishment against workers’ rights, civil rights and civilliberties.”

Representing an older contingent of the anti-war andanti-globalization protesters, A.N.S.W.E.R. intentionally plannedits demonstration on a Sunday so “more working people can come toit as well as people from out of town,” Peter from the coalitionsaid.

The black tea society has events planned during the week of July26. These activists are generally younger and come from the”anti-authoritarian” wing of the anti-war and anti-globalizationmovements, and they expect anti-DNC protestors to have an entireweek for protesting.

Little estimated that the average age of the black tea societyactivists is 22. The group has been meeting for over a year inpreparation for the arrival of the DNC.

The group, using a consensus-based decision making modeland shunning leaders, has a three-pronged plan of action for thelast week of July. The first aspect of their plan will be anopen-air bazaar, taking place on August 27.

“It’s not about spectating, its about participating,” Littlesaid.

The bazaar will feature skill shares, teach-ins, free food andtwo music stages. Anarchist folk singers David Rovics and EthanMiller are booked to play during the bazaar. Additionally, aconvergence center will host computers for independent mediaactivists, medical care for protesters, legal information from theNational Lawyers Guild, film screenings and meetings for groupswanting to coordinate their protests against the DNC. Littledescribed the convergence center as “a place where people can plugin and figure out what’s going on.”

On the last day of the DNC, protestors and news media willgather at the Fleet Center, where the convention will be takingplace on August 29 and where John Kerry will receive the Democraticnomination.

“There is a historical precedence to do the action on the lastday of the convention when the candidate receives the nomination,”Little said, referring to the DNC protests in Chicago in 1968.

This “massive decentralized day of direct action” is perhaps themost controversial protest planned for this year’s DNC.

Reminiscent of the massive anti-World Trade Organizationprotests in Seattle in 1999, the black tea society has a differenttactic than what was used at previous mass protests. Littledescribed the “Day of Action” as the black tea society askingaffinity groups, which are small groups of people prepared tocommit direct action, to carry out direct actions throughout thecity of Boston. The tactic of “decentralized” actions by affinitygroups is breaking with the tradition of direct confrontations bythe “black blocs” of past protests, according to Little.

The protests planned by the black tea society hope to carry ananti-electoral message, according to Little. “We don’t needpolitical parties, leaders or hierarchy to create things that arebeautiful, necessary, proactive and vibrant,” Little said.

Andy Frank, the president of the Harvard College Democrats, hasa positive outlook on the protests. There have historically beenprotests at national conventions of the Democrats and Republicans,Frank said. “Everyone is entitled to their own point of view and Ithink they should be heard,” he said.