Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Starhawk on the bridge

Pagan activist Starhawk's last day report (excerpt, read the whole thing on her site.)

The march heads up the street alongside the Capitol lawn, and then tries to turn across one of the bridges leading into downtown. The police move in, and block us.

There's a tense crowd of people on the bridge and filling the intersection. Around us are police in full riot gear and gas masks. There's also a group of bike cops, looking slightly underdressed in shorts and gas masks. They've brought in the Minnesota specials-a line of snowplows across the bridge. On them are perched black-masked cops in heavy leathers holding thick-muzzled rifles that shoot rubber bullets.

The energy is unfocused. Nobody knows quit what to do. It could all fall apart, in a moment, with the cops attacking the crowd, or it could remain a standoff for a long time. I am softly drumming, not quite sure what to do, when a young, African American woman with long
urls and a ring in her lip comes up and says, "Do you know how to sing, 'Aint' Gonna Study War No More?"

I shift the beat, we begin singing, and soon gather a small chorus that forms around us. A tiny, round, young black woman in spectacles
steps in front. She has a large voice, and she takes over as lead singer. The chorus grows and a space opens up in the center of the intersection, that is soon filled with riders on bikes, circling around and around, counterclockwise. A young man turns a cartwheel. A clown on stilts appears, out of nowhere, and joins the ride. Suddenly, it's a circus in the street. The mood shifts and becomes almost festive.

My own mood has shifted, too. I've been practicing a more Buddhist-style meditation lately, just watching my breath in odd moments and being present to what's happening. I'm doing that now, breathing and drumming with the bikes and the song and the riot cops, and for no rational reason whatsoever I feel a surge of pure joy.

Two of the cyclists are punk kids covered with patches and graphics that I've seen at spokescouncil. One of them is named Maggot, and I've seen him sitting with his head down, mumbling his comments which always make sense. Now he's on a bike, his head up, smiling.

The young woman in front of me turns and taps my elbow. "Let's sing, 'We Shall Overcome'", she says.

I drum and the others join hands and sing.

"We shall overcome, we shall overcome, We shall over come, someday…"

There's some piece of magic at work here. The circling bikes remind me of our dragon-clad cyclists from the ritual that began this week. Now, after all the pain and the ugliness, the tension and the snatch squads and the media lies, after all the arguments and conversations about violence and nonviolence and tactics and accountability, after the splits between Obama and Hillary and the fruitless arguments about which is more crucial, gender or race, it seems deeply and oddly wonderful to be asked by two young black women to sing the old Civil Rights songs of the sixties here in the face of the riot cops. As if something is truly welling up from the earth, some spirit that knows and values rage but persists in remembering the power in acting out of love.

It's a spell. For just one moment, in one place, we sing in spite of our fear, and the violence abates.

And now, the spell of fear and hatred. And the courage of the woman who faced it.

1 comment:

White Trash Academic said...

Thank you for this vid! At least someone in the MSM covered this. I am going to show this to my students in my class tomorrow.