The CrimethInc conference this year was in the sleepy college town of Winona, Minnesota. It was an interesting time, that featured:
- a street theater bit outside the Shakespeare festival...
The doors of the theater daintily open to release the first patrons, the drum corps breaks into deafening rhythm, and mayhem erupts. From behind a nearby building, to the wonderment of all, the much-anticipated but as-yet-unseen king appears, thirty feet high, dragged by ten bent-backed attendants like a catapult or battering ram. The mob heaves forward, then opens to reveal a costumed squire and queen, the latter held aloft by four bearers and wielding a scepter inscribed “I RULE.” The theater audience gathers at the edge of the throng, all ears and eyes.
- a Critical Mass bikeride and a Really Really Free Market
The Locals, the Media, and the Authorities
Two events—Friday’s Critical Mass bicycle ride and Sunday’s Really Really Free Market—provide excellent examples of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to connecting convergences like this one with local communities. In the former case, the vast influx of out-of-towners swelled the numbers of an existing local project, making for the most successful Critical Mass in Winona history. This was possible thanks to the efforts of the local Down’n’Dirty bike collective, which had fixed up several dozen bicycles in advance for visitors to ride. The ’Free Market, on the other hand, was the first of its kind in Winona. Although it was fliered heavily and a few locals did turn out, the bulk of the attendees were subculturally identified visitors, which if anything made for an environment that discouraged more local participation.
- Advance media work with the local paper
In the course of the weekend, three different front page articles about the convergence appeared in the local newspaper; all provided fairly positive, if vacuous, coverage. It helped a great deal that the local organizers had thought about media relations in advance and were already in touch with sympathetic reporters. This coverage must have made it less tempting for the police tangle with us; demonizing us in the media is usually an essential part of their strategy when they plan to disrupt an event.
(It's been a busy day, so there's not too much more for tonight. Gotta beat that Tuesday timestamp!)