Hello Friends and Followers,
We have emerged from a two weeks in the woods supporting the annual Earth First! Round River Rendezvous. We are now headed to Youngstown, Ohio for a Fracking-oriented action camp. More updates on these and other developments, along with some pictures, will be coming soon!
Two Weeks After NATO Comes to a Close, We Celebrate Our Successes and Strategize for the Work Ahead.
(This entry picks up where the last one ended — on the evening of the 20th.)
By this point in the “Chicago Spring” most of us on Team Kitchen seemed to be experiencing two simultaneous feelings. One of those feelings was sheer exhaustion – to a degree that elicited a sensation of operating on auto-pilot. The other feeling was one of efficiency, practice and execution. The lifting, planning, prepping, cleaning, delivery and serving became easier every day as we settled into our new space and got to know the city. Being on top of our game could not, however, make up for the holes in the logistical framework that were apparent once the weekend started. A hastily organized communications group, a less-than-ideally located convergence center and the difficulty of getting around a sprawling metropolis added layers of difficulty to what could have been an otherwise well attended and well fed mass mobilization.
The first day of the NATO summit, Sunday the 21st, started with a rally at Grant Park and ended with a march to McCormick Place. The event was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War and the CANG8 coalition, two groups that we had been working with throughout the month. Going into the event we were under the impression that we would be serving food for 5000 people. So, for most of the day before and the morning of, we made all the beans, rice and salsa that we could transport. In the end we served between 1500 and 2000, far shy of the number we had planned. That all went with few hitches. That is, until we arrived and discovered that CANG8 had not made any effort to provide water for the roughly 5000 people on the march. So, Seeds of Peace in conjunction with Chicago Action Medical spent 3 hours in traffic picking up and delivering a pallet and a half of bottled water to the marchers while they were en route. It saved the day, to say the least.
Not to complain too much though: the organizers in Chicago did some amazing work given the circumstances. The real wild card were the 1000+ occupiers that were bussed in from all corners of the country, many arriving with no gear or food. Having little experience in mobilizations of this caliber, and lacking a directed message for the heads of NATO, the energy that weekend was overshadowed by out-of-towners and felt scattered, misdirected and generally misused. After the umpteenth march against the police it was apparent by Sunday evening that the effort to SHUT DOWN NATO had been certifiably unsuccessful. Bolstered by months of pre-washing by local media on the dangers of these protests, strong-arming by the city and a massive police mobilization, the message “END THE WAR AND POVERTY AGENDA” fell largely on deaf ears.
For those who attended, however, and those who payed attention from across the country and around the world, it was inspiring and successful in many other ways. There were numerous people that gained critical skills in networking, medical aid, food support and media. The medical infrastructure, organized by Chicago Action Medical, was well staffed and offered an array of free health services throughout the week. The Indymedia center, located just a few blocks from the kitchen, had cameras and eyes on the ground at all times and provided live-streaming and coverage of the events. As always, our pals with the National Lawyers Guild were everywhere, keeping an eye on police actions and helping the 75 or so folks that were arrested.
In the kitchen we worked around the clock to feed the seemingly endless actions and marches over the course of a two week period. When the last dinner bell rang we tallied about 10,000 free meals, from May Day, Spreading the Health Medic Conference, Peoples Summit, #Ochi foreclosure march, Rising Tide tar sands march, National Nurses United rally, Health Care march and rally, IVAW march, the Health and Wellness medic center, convergence center and finally the actions at the Boeing headquarters on Monday, May 21st. We were able to facilitate waves of eager volunteers to assist in feeding the masses, which, at times, seemed to be a double edged sword. During similar mobilizations in the past, Seeds of Peace would generally provide ONE large lunch or dinner for the day’s event. This time around we stretched ourselves a bit thin. There was often a wave of help in the morning, allowing us to prepare the day’s big meal with ease. The hard part was returning to find few to no volunteers, a mountain of dishes and a meal to prepare and deliver in three hours time.
With every mass action there are things that stand out, and that was certainly true in Chicago. One of the more salient aspects of our Chicago experience was the lack of police harassment (towards the kitchen, anyway). There was the usual monitoring, both seen and unseen, and one brief, intimidating attempt by the police to enter a house where many Seeds members were staying. We made it through unscathed, which is unfortunately not the case for three individuals who were targeted through police infiltration before the summit began, and who are now facing trumped up terrorism charges as serious as they are bogus. Another stand-out part of our experience was the difficulty in finding produce donations. The produce docks were less than fruitful, as it were, and we had to spend more money on produce, and food in general, than we would have otherwise.
In the past, Seeds of Peace has been more directly involved in setting up the necessary components of mass mobilizations. For our time in Chicago, however, putting together and maintaining a kitchen for food support was about the limit of our abilities. With some notable exceptions, the mobilizations in general were mediocre at best, counter-productive at worse. Was it worth the effort on our part? Well, if we thought it wasn’t then the “Chicago Spring” would have gone hungry. Providing this critical infrastructure, even if it is not fully recognized or appreciated, demonstrates for everyone involved that we can create support systems and have a direct impact on those who gather for justice, in all it’s forms.
An incomplete list of people and groups who helped make this possible: Layla, Jeffrie, Scott Mechanic, John P., Kelvin, Eric R., Mandy and Occupy Chicago, Ron and the Locked Out Collective, First Trinity Lutheran Church, Nancy the composter, Katie, Subway and Humboldt Park FNB, Peter, Gabe and Rogers Park FNB, Margo M., Katie T., Vermin Supreme!, Keith McHenry, Lisa F., Door to Door Organics, the Plant, Peoples Action Center, Equal Exchange, Once Again Nut Butters, Chicago Action Medical, Movement Resource Group and the fabulous folks at the Grand Manor. Thanks to everyone who made our time in Chicago a memorable one, even if I forgot to mention you!
On Friday May 18th, Seeds of Peace served lunch for over one thousand demonstrators at the National Nurses United Rally Against Austerity at Daley Plaza and dinner later that same day for another thousand occupiers rallying downtown. Today we were able to provide lunch for about 500 health care activists and supporters who marched to the house of chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel to demand funding for public health services. We are currently serving dinner at the convergence center after an earlier attempt to serve downtown for the anti-capitalist march failed due to the impassable presence of riot police, who had kettled most of the protestors and were escorting NATO delegates through downtown.
Tomorrow we will be providing lunch at the the Coalition Against NATO/G8 rally at Petrillo Bandshell(corner of Jackson and Columbus) at 12:00 noon. We’ll be handing out snacks along the march to keep people energized and mobilized.
We will also be providing dinner for the Occupy the South Side action “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” which will consist of a tour of community and state institutions with the intention of highlighting the “schools-to-prisons pipeline” in the South Side and other communities of color in Chicago and around the country. March begins at Parkman School, 255 W. 51st St.
Monday we will be serving lunch on-the-go for the march against Boeing and subsequent direct actions downtown.
Here’s a few more photos from the last couple days.
As Mayor Emmanuel and the Secret Service prepare for the arrival of the NATO delegates, turning downtown Chicago into an extra-constitutional “secutrity” zone, activists from around the country as well as local Chicago community members and organizers have been ramping up the resistance and preparing for the mass mobilizations planned for this coming weekend. The organizations and issue focuses vary, but the general message is crystal clear: capitalism is not working (at least not for the 99% of us), our political system is a sham, and NATO is a war machine driven by the interests of transnational corporations and weapons manufacturers (such as Boeing, whose headquarters just happen to be in downtown chicago). As usual, Seeds of Peace is here to make sure everyone if fed and to assist with other logistical and organizational planning.
Although the NATO summit has yet to commence, we have been extremely busy these past two weeks, providing food for May Day, the Peoples Summit and the Spreading the Health Conference, in addition to securing a kitchen site, attending spokescouncil and other organizational meetings, and procuring massive quantities of bulk food and produce. The blogosphere has been on the back burner, mostly because we are working 16 hours a day on average, but here is a quick recap of the past two weeks:
(We were also featured in the Chicago Tribune. Check it out)
On May 1 Seeds of Peace, in collaboration with two local Food Not Bombs chapters, prepared about 1600 burritos for marchers at the Chicago Mayday mobilization. The rally started at Union Park where we handed out burritos and fruit and served hot tea and coffee. The size of the crowd peaked somewhere around 2500 and marched down to Liberty Plaza. Compared to other Mayday happenings around the country, it was pretty mild here in Chicago. We hauled food equipment around several downtown blocks, in the midst of hundreds of police, but had no issues.
SPREADING THE HEALTH MEDIC CONFERENCE:
Beginning on May 4, the Spreading the Health Summit brought together experienced street medics, herbalists, body workers and healers for a week of skill sharing, trainings and networking. Seeds was there for the entirety of the conference, providing food and sitting in on workshops. The hardest part about the summit was having to move the kitchen three times, which deprived us of sleep on a regular basis, but after resting up for a day, we’re ready to hit the streets.
THE PEOPLE’S SUMMIT:
Billed as a counter summit to the NATO gathering this coming weekend, the People’s Summit offered workshops, speakers and some big name entertainment. In the midst of supporting the Health conference AND moving the kitchen, Seeds was able to feed the 300 or so summit participants three meals a day for two days. It was exhausting, and our involvement beyond food support was next to nothing, but we’re glad to have been able to support this important convergence.
*******WHAT’S NEXT / WHERE and WHEN TO GET FOOD*********
Sign up for the the multi-platform text/web/smart phone mob to receive real-time updates regarding meal times and locations (and more!). Read more here.
From now until Monday we will be serving dinner at the convergence space (located at the United Church of Christ at 615 W. Wellington Ave.) at 5:00 pm for all the folks going to trainings and attending the spokescouncil meetings.
Today (Thursday, May 17), we are providing mobile food support for the critical mass bike ride heading to the Canadian Consulate to demonstrate against the government’s collusion with Big Oil interests and the opening up of un-ceded native territory to the horrendous practice of tar sands oil extraction. We will also be providing snacks and coffee to the hundreds of people arriving on the Nurses United busses that get to town this evening.
Friday, May 18, we will be serving lunch at 12:00 noon for the National Nurses United Rally to Protest the Global 1% at Daley Plaza.
Saturday, May 19: To be determined
Sunday, May 20, We are serving lunch at 12:00 noon for the main day of mass action sponsored by the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda. More information at http://cang8.wordpress.com/
We will also be providing food for the Occupy the South Side action. Details TBA.
Monday, May 21, we are serving food on-the-go for the day of action against Boeing. Details TBA
Sarah installs the in-tank heat exchanger and the hose-in-hose lines on our new one-ton Dodge flatbed [left and right]. Heading east through western Colorado [center]. Our waste vegetable oil processing station at Sundial Gardens in Moab, Utah [below].
Throughout the past several years Seeds of Peace has set up and dismantled dozens of waste vegetable oil processing stations all over the country. Garages, side yards, car ports, and the woods have all served as wonderful locations. Here, in the red rocks of Moab, Utah we’ve perfected a routine in gathering, filtering, and processing hundreds of gallons of waste vegetable oil to get our beloved bus to Chicago and so many other places this summer. We are half-way through the vegetable oil conversion of our new one ton Dodge flatbed, but because we did not receive all of the parts we ordered from Frybrid we had to drive it to Chicago on diesel (cut with 30-40 percent veggie oil). We ordered the parts over four and a half months ago, but only recently received the first shipment which did not include the majority of the essential conversion components. Working with and communicating with Frybrid has been, to say the least, a very frustrating experience, but as soon as they ship us the rest of the conversion kit, we’ll have two fully functioning waste vegetable oil vehicles!
Friends, supporters, and revolutionary riffraff
With just a few short days until Mayday, activists and organizers are preparing for a flurry of events throughout the month. In an effort to build momentum for massive, broad-based demonstrations against the leaders of NATO, groups from the Chicago community and around the country are bringing attention to the power and influence wielded by NATO. From increased militarization of international borders and the denial of basic human rights, to protecting the practitioners of destructive global economic policies: the influence of NATO is undeniable and the people will mass on May 20 and 21st to let them know that the time of unilateral policing, failed economics, and global military hegemony is coming to a close.
The month of action will kick off May 1st, MAYDAY! In Chicago, labor unions of all stripes will team up with immigrant communities, Occupy Chicago, IVAW and a range of other community organizations to reclaim International Workers Day as a critical day for protest and celebration. Events will kick off around 12 noon at Liberty Plaza with a march to Grant Plaza. Seeds of Peace and FNB, working as Food Not NATO, will be providing food at the beginning of and during the march.
As the month proceeds there will be a host of trainings, actions and gatherings. Some highlights include the Spreading the Health Conference, the Peoples Summit, and a week of themed actions leading up to the NATO summit on May 20, 21. More details coming soon.
Visit the “official” NATO protest website for more details and info.
Most of us have been sitting on the edge of seats — some of us longer than others — since last September when Zuccotti Park was occupied by a small, but determined, group of individuals fed up with the corporate control of our lives. The momentum of the Occupy Movement and the ‘American Fall’ gave way to a winter in which strategies were developed, ideologies were re-discovered, and rhetoric was strengthened. The question on everyone’s lips now is “what is going to happen next?”
For the next two months all eyes are on Chicago, where a spat of housing occupations, conferences, actions and community building will culminate in broad-based decentralized opposition to the NATO summit on May 20-21. Dozens of groups are preparing for what will hopefully be the definitive anti-war, anti-corporate, and revolutionary action of the year. Or, rather, the actions that will re-invigorate and propel the developing Occupy Movement, and those involved in ‘the struggle’ into its next phases.
The city of Chicago and its gogo (good government) reformist leader Rahm Emanuel are attempting to implement harsh dissent measures for those planning on taking a stand against NATO in the windy city. Whatever ends up happening, Seeds of Peace and Chicago Food Not Bombs will be there to make sure people are fed and ready to take on NATO, the City of Chicago, and the oppression of the militarized state. Stay tuned for details, things are going to get exciting!
The behind-the-scenes work for the summer caravan is in full swing, and the on-the-ground will work will begin shortly. First, we thought it might be nice to update you on what we have been up to for the past few months.
BLACK MESA FALL CARAVAN
In November of 2011, Seeds of Peace headed to the high desert of North Central Arizona to support the ongoing land struggle of the Dine (Navajo) people. For decades they have been under near constant threat of forced removal and relocation from Peabody Coal, the Phoenix based coal giant that owns the mineral rights to huge portions of the Hopi/Navajo nation. Our grease powered psuedo-kitchen bus made the trip from Missoula, MT to Cayenta, AZ with a crew of 5 and 200 gallons of processed vegetable oil. The trip proceeded with few problems, which is not always the case with SOP adventures.
The annual fall caravan is organized by Black Mesa Indigenous Support and brings hundreds of (mostly young) activists and organizers from around the country to be immersed in the Dine way of life for 1-2 (often more) weeks. Those that make the journey are educated on the complex and dynamic nature of the land dispute between the traditional Dine people, the subsidized Hopi tribal government and Peabody Coal, one of the largest mining companies on the planet. Supporters are assigned to a family on the Mesa and live with them for at least one week to help the family prepare for the winter by repairing hogans, distributing donated food, herding sheep, mending fences, collecting firewood and any other tasks the family can’t get to. Dont forget though: THIS IS SOLIDARITY, NOT CHARITY!
Seeds of Peace volunteers and collective members were active at the base camp, along with 20-40 other supporters, which was hosted by the Black Goat family this year. SOP prepared 3 hearty meals per day for the supporters and the Black Goat family for the week, in addition to a large feast for 200 on the first and last days of the week long caravan. It was a truly humbling experience and Seeds will continue to support the struggle for land rights on the Dine (Navajo) nation for as long as it continues. Contact Seeds of Peace or Black Mesa Indigenous Support for more info or if you are interested in making the journey to AZ this fall to support this inspiring struggle.
RESIST ALEC (Phoenix, AZ)
Immediately following the fall caravan on Black Mesa, the Seeds crew hitched up the bus and traveled four hours south to the polluted metropolis of Phoenix. Despite the obvious downsides to this mega-city in the desert, we met some incredible individuals who are doing awesome things in their community. From November 30-December 3, activists and organizers greeted the American Legislative Exchange Council with an unwelcoming message: Expose ALEC and their racist legislation! The first day roughly 200 demonstrators marched through Tempe and then tried to enter the ALEC convention center. We were met with a sizeable police presence. Several arrests were made, and dozens of demonstrators pepper-sprayed for no apparent reason. Seeds of Peace was on the front lines with a cart full of food and water, keeping everyone hydrated and energized in the blazing winter sun. The first day was largely a bust, but still inspiring and energetic. Later that night we provided food for the seven people jailed and the supporters that came to cheer them on as they left the confines of Maricopa county jail.
The week proceeded with workshops, classes and one very well orchestrated non-violent direct action. Five activists targeted the Salt River Project, and locked down in the entrance of their corporate headquarters in an effort to bring awareness to SRP’s practice of using coal from the Dine (Navajo) reservation for their power generation. Seeds was their to provide food and water, and some documentation, for the roughly 100 activists that showed up.
Friends, supporters, volutneers,
Welcome to the shiny and new Seeds of Peace Collective wordpress blog! This will be the place to keep up with Seeds on a weekly basis and follow the work that we do throughout the summer and beyond. We are gearing up for a summer on the road, with plans to support actions in Chicago, Upstate New York, West Virginia and North Carolina. One of our missions this summer is to document and record our experiences in a way that is accessible to our supporters and collective members. We hope this blog will provide that, so check back regularly, and tell all of your friends.