San Francisco San Francisco’s guerrilla protest at Google buses swells into revolt

From: The Guardian

Campaign against tech giant pricing ordinary citizens out of the housing market becomes increasingly disruptive and forces city to act

Google’s corporate mantra may be to do no evil, but to a determined band of activists in San Francisco the company could just be the devil incarnate.

Corporate buses that Google and other tech companies lay on to ferry their workers from the city to Silicon Valley, 30 or 40 miles to the south, are being targeted by an increasingly assertive guerrilla campaign of disruption. Over the last two months, a groundswell of discontent over the privatisation of the Bay Area’s transport system has erupted into open revolt. Continue reading

Activists plot how to block new pipelines in B.C.

From the Georgia Straight

At night, around campfires under a New Brunswick sky, Ambrose Williams thought about imminent battles back home.

Last November, the young Vancouver man and nine others travelled more than 5,000 kilometres east to the town of Rexton. Their mission was to reinforce the Mi’kmaq of the Elsipogtog First Nation who had clashed the month before with the RCMP. The confrontation happened on October 17, 2013, when heavily armed police dismantled a highway blockade by Natives opposing a gas-exploration project.

“I saw it as a staging ground,” Williams told the Georgia Straight about his journey during a December 27 interview—the day he returned—near Vancouver’s downtown waterfront.

According to the 25-year-old former president of the Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement Society, it was “good training to see how police tactics are used against aboriginal people and protesters”.

That knowledge may become valuable later.

Williams’s Gitxsan and Dene ancestors are from northern B.C., where lies the path of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline proposed by Enbridge Inc. This is also where planned gas pipelines to the west coast will pass. These will cross pristine forests and waters as well as traditional Native territories.

“It was a good starting point because I saw Enbridge coming…like, four or five years ago,” Williams said about his involvement in New Brunswick. “I was talking about it with people, and people were, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s not going to go through; that’s not going to go through.’ But now they’ve got the green light.…It’s only a matter of time.”

About a week before he returned to Vancouver, a federal joint review panel endorsed for cabinet approval the 1,177-kilometre pipeline that will carry diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to the port in Kitimat, B.C., for shipment to foreign markets.

Williams echoed the vow by Native and nonaboriginal activists that Northern Gateway “will not be built”.

He expects “protection” and “decolonization” camps rising, blockades going up, and occupations. He cited as an example the 1990 crisis in Oka, Quebec, where Mohawks, some of whom were armed, came face to face with police and the military.

“We’ll hit them on all fronts and just keep on hammering,” Williams pledged.

He stressed that he neither encourages nor condones sabotage and other acts of destruction. But the soft-spoken Williams also said that “anything like that is acceptable if the cause is just. And stopping the pipeline is a just cause.”

“Everyone has their line, and once they cross it, then they’re accountable for themselves and the actions that they’ve caused,” Williams added. “We can’t go around telling people what to do, what to say. But everyone needs to realize they will come up to this line at some point, and they have to be willing to cross it or not.”

Acts of sabotage in the name of the environment are rare in B.C., according to Zoe Blunt (her activist name; legal name Tracie Park), a veteran of antilogging protests. Not only rare, but most people are also reluctant to talk about them, the Victoria-based activist noted.

“It’s difficult for anyone who is speaking out publicly in favour of sabotage, or even in, like, a neutral way…because they’re facing not only condemnation and denunciation from the corporations, the police, [and] the government but also the mainstream environmental groups,” Blunt told the Straight in a phone interview.

But she maintained that actions like tree-spiking and monkey wrenching—the destruction of property and machinery—helped stop the clear-cut logging of ancient forests in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island and in the Elaho Valley near Squamish during the 1990s and 2000s.

Although acts of civil disobedience during the Clayoquot Sound conflict are celebrated, Blunt said, there’s hardly ever a mention that 20,000 trees are believed to have been spiked to ward off chainsaws.

That’s one reason why she’s working on her first book—a slim one, she said—with the tentative title The Pros and Cons of Tree-Spiking: The Secret History of Eco-Sabotage in British Columbia.

“Radicals assert that our society is founded on violence and coercion, much of it invisible,” Blunt writes in a draft she forwarded to the Straight. “Social critics note the accepted order of things is for the strong to abuse the weak. But when those lower on the hierarchy push back, the reaction is fear and horror.”

Her research material includes writings by former Vancouverite Paul Watson, world-renowned founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct-action group operating on the high seas to protect whales and other marine wildlife.

In one 1990 manuscript titled “In Defense of Tree-Spiking”, Watson recalled organizing a “small cadre of concerned eco-activists” in 1982 when the Grouse Mountain Ski Resort announced that it was selling timber rights on a part of the mountain overlooking Vancouver.

Armed with hammers and metal spikes, they spiked 2,000 trees. They also posted warnings in the area. Watson and his companions then drove across the bridge to Vancouver and delivered news releases about their action, which generated front-page stories.

They followed up with TV interviews. Wearing masks, they all identified themselves as Wally Cedarleaf.

“Within a day, the sawmills stated flatly that they would not buy logs from the spiked lot,” Watson wrote. “The deal was off. Grouse Mountain Resort people were furious. We were denounced as terrorists and criminals by those we thought were our allies—the North Vancouver City Council, Greenpeace, and assorted other eco-bureaucrats.

“We didn’t give a damn—the trees were saved,” Watson continued. “Grouse Mountain would remain intact. The tactic worked.”

In the same document, Watson commented on civil disobedience, a symbolic and peaceful violation of the law, like sit-ins.

According to Watson, civil disobedience is “costly to its participants both financially and physically”.

The “establishment loves” civil disobedience, he stated. “The authorities are trained to deal with it. There are no surprises.”

Oil and gas pipelines are part of the energy-and-utilities sector, one of 10 sectors identified by the federal government in its 2009 National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure.

It defines critical infrastructure as “processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government”.

The strategy sets out a collaborative approach by the national government, provinces, territories, and private infrastructure owners and operators to protect these assets against “natural, intentional and accidental hazards”.

Critical infrastructure is also mentioned in a major security document released in 2012 and updated in 2013 by the federal government titled Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

The government identifies “domestic, issue-based extremism” as one of three sources of terrorism threats in the country.

Noting that “domestic issue-based groups remain a reality in Canada”, the document states that these revolve around issues that include “environmentalism”.

“As part of this Strategy,” the paper notes, “the Government works closely with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure to identify risks and to understand what in practice can and should be done to reduce security vulnerabilities.”

It also states that under new legislation related to terrorism, the definition of “harm to Canadian interests” includes “interference with critical infrastructure”.

The document further notes that the RCMP “operates a Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Team examining physical and cyber threats to critical infrastructure”. This effort includes a “Suspicious Incident Reporting system to gather information from private industry and local law enforcement about suspicious incidents”.

In 2000, Wiebo Ludwig, a Dutch immigrant and leader of a Christian community in Alberta, was convicted on five charges related to bombings and vandalism of oil and gas wells in that province; he received a 28-month sentence.

Ludwig was also suspected by the RCMP of bombing six gas pipelines in B.C. in 2008 and 2009. He died in 2012.

The RCMP, Enbridge, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers refused Straight requests for interviews. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association did not respond to an interview request by the Straight before deadline.

Joe Alaimoana is the general manager of All Peace Protection, an Alberta-based security-guard company with clients in the oil industry. A Samoan from New Zealand, he is also the company’s First Nations economic-development officer, working to provide security jobs to aboriginal people in B.C. and Alberta.

According to Alaimoana, remote sites are a big challenge.

“It’s very easy for people to hide in there and start stealing and tampering with equipment,” Alaimoana told the Straight in a phone interview.

Safety for oil-and-gas employees and contractors working in isolated areas is also a concern, he added.

Services offered by Alaimoana’s company include pipeline security. He said that increased oil-and-gas activity will mean more employment for security guards, especially for pipeline patrols.

From East Vancouver, Gord Hill followed events in New Brunswick as the Mi’kmaq battled the police and employed various tactics against SWN Resources Canada, the company exploring for shale gas that will be extracted by means of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method also known as fracking.

The Kwakwaka’wakw man noted that in court filings for an injunction against protesters, SWN stated that several company vehicles had been damaged and more than 1,000 geophones sabotaged. Geophones are devices for mapping gas deposits.

The Mi’kmaq also set fire to RCMP cruisers during the October 17 clash. A few days later, the RCMP abandoned its detachment in the Elsipogtog First Nation community following an arson attempt. The Canadian flag at the Mountie outpost was replaced with a Native warrior flag.

“With the Mi’kmaq struggle, you saw a lot of sabotage occur,” Hill told the Straight in a coffeehouse interview.

Turning to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway in B.C., Hill said he expects legal challenges and a massive mobilization of public opinion against the project.

“But then beyond that…what I think is really important is…a grassroots Native movement,” he said. “It’s the only one that really has the capability of engaging in more radical tactics or the willingness to engage in more radical tactics. Something like what happened in New Brunswick with the antifracking struggle from the Mi’kmaq. I mean, that’s an example for Native communities to look at as to how grassroots Native people can resist these kinds of projects.”

He sees one grassroots movement emerging with the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in northern B.C.

The Unis’tot’en have set up camp in the way of the planned Pacific Trails gas pipeline. The project was granted an environmental-assessment certificate by the B.C. government in 2008. It is expected to be operational in 2015.

In a 2012 interview in Vancouver, Unis’tot’en spokesperson Freda Huson told the Straight that Pacific Trails will clear the route for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway oil pipeline and other gas pipelines.

When asked how her people will deal with a potential violent confrontation, Huson replied: “We’ll do what we need to do.”

Hill has visited the Unis’tot’en camp in the path of Pacific Trails. “It’s going to be the first pipeline that’s going to be really challenged,” Hill said. “That’s going to be a critical part of the Enbridge struggle.”

While growing up, Ambrose Williams spent many summers with his Gitxsan and Dene relatives in northern B.C., where they live next to the Unis’tot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

When Williams returned to Vancouver on a bus from Calgary in the early morning of December 27, he didn’t bother with a rest. He went straight to meetings with people opposing oil and gas developments.

One of these was Shannon Hecker, a UBC anthropology student. They got acquainted through social media when Williams was in New Brunswick and Hecker was organizing rallies in Vancouver in solidarity with the Mi’kmaq.

Williams and Hecker met personally for the first time on that day he came home, and he invited her to join the interview with the Straight.

According to Hecker, resistance to oil and gas pipelines in B.C. and antifracking protests in New Brunswick are “all related…a case of people standing up to defend Mother Nature from desecration as a result of unsustainable resource extraction. The pipelines is just like another sort of front on that same war.”

As to how far people should go, Hecker said: “That depends on your willingness to commit. I don’t want to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do. But we all need to be aware that this is a war.”

Google Bus Blocked @ MacArthur BART, Oakland!!!!

from indybay

At 7:45am, over 50 protesters swarmed a Google bus picking up highly-paid tech workers at MacArthur BART station in Oakland. They successfully blocked it for over half an hour before OPD arrived and cleared the street, allowing the bus to continue on to the Google HQ in Mountainview as it does every day. An Apple bus was also temporarily blocked during the action and hundreds of flyers were passed out to those on the street who were overwhelmingly supportive. The action was planned to coincide with other Google Bus blockades across the Bay this morning as an escalation in the fight against gentrification and the rapid transformation of our cities into playgrounds for the super rich. Photos and the flyer handed out at the action are below:

Dismantle the Infrastructure of Gentrification:
BLOCK THE BUS! (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, etc)
MAKE TECH PAY!

• Rents across the Bay Area are increasing astronomically. This is being driven in large part by the invasion of highly-paid tech workers, who can easily pay the absurd asking prices of landlords, displacing people with modest and low incomes. But few of us benefit from these jobs; instead we work in low-paying service jobs that support these wealthy workers, if we can find any work at all. As this process accelerates and San Francisco becomes inhospitable to all but the super-rich, the competition for housing increasingly spreads to Oakland.

• Highly-profitable corporations like Google, Yahoo and Facebook make it easy for their employees to gentrify places like Oakland by creating a private, express transit system for their employees — buses that travel directly from Macarthur and West Oakland to Silicon Valley. All of his happens while the public transit system we ride to work becomes less reliable and more expensive.

• We’re blockading these buses today as a small step toward stopping these companies from transforming our cities into playgrounds for the elite. We encourage you to do the same.

Things I Hate About San Francisco’s Gentrification: A Love Poem By, Cindy Milstein

reposted from Vancouver Media Coop

Prologue

For three weeks in August-September 2013, I returned to San Francisco for what was supposed to be an eight-week respite from caretaking my mom, whose rare form of cancer seemed to be relatively under control. My dad had died about three months earlier, on May 16, after nine months on “life” support, the ghastly outcome of a tiny mosquito bite that gave him a rare illness as well: severe West Nile, a by-product in large part of capitalist-generated climate catastrophe. The acceleration and proliferation of cancers and viruses is, in no small measure, another by-product of contemporary capitalism. We should then add in all the ways in which the medical-pharmaceutical complex, a phenomenally profitable growth industry today, manufactures all sorts of extra health woes once one is sick — so-called side effects. It also “extends life” by producing near-lifeless bodies to warehouse in prison-like institutions even as it pays low, precarious wages to “care worker” bodies to deal, quite literally, with shit.

I’d been caretaking both my parents since late August 2012, mostly in mid-Michigan, their longtime home, where second-generation downward mobility seems to have ground people into quiet acquiesce concerning their own social suffering. San Francisco was meant to be a break, with a stay in my beloved collective home at 16th and Mission streets. In March 2013 when I briefly visited San Francisco over the anarchist bookfair weekend, I’d felt such unexpected relief from the crushing weight of being responsible for my parents’ lives and deaths that I assumed spending more time in the Bay Area in late summer would offer the same sense of temporary lightness.

I hadn’t counted on state and capital to be quite so fierce, though.

On my first day back in August, I walked the length of Mission Street from 16th and 24th, and could hardly comprehend the transformations that had taken place since my last stroll just shy of six months earlier. I swung back on Valencia, then through SOMA and alongside Mission Creek into China Basin, past the AT&T stadium and along the bay-front walkways, over to the Ferry Building, and then along Market Street, winding my way back to 16th and Mission streets, all the while experiencing vertigo from the amount of changes. Giant metal cranes had settled into menacing perches all around the city, aiding and abetting so-called developers to rip the remaining heart from San Francisco. Shiny, anonymous, lavishly expensive new buildings — a mix of “work place live” structures — had mushroomed up everywhere, including around the blocks that house (for now) the scrappy 16th Street BART plaza.

My mind could not take in the ability of wealth and power to distort a city so quickly, so completely, in such a short period. This structural adjustment had been taking place in bits and pieces over time, for sure, but capitalist destruction/construction backed up by policy and police was now operating at a speed matching the source of its underwriter: the social media machinery. Within a short span this year, for instance, the financial hurricane called evictions — hard and soft, legal and illegal — was able to swiftly uproot most of San Francisco’s inhabitants, especially the “tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breath free” who had long called this city their home, and just as swiftly replaced them with an Autonomatronics-like, ultra-hip-rich populace — trendy pop-up humans to match the trend toward pop-up stores.

The next day after my arrival and long walk, I went to a meeting of Eviction-Free Summer, composed of San Franciscans valiantly embracing a solidarity model to openly contest their displacement. While I’m partial to Don Quixote efforts to fight the windmills of commodification, it was obvious that using direct action tactics to try to mutually aid two or three households at a time from being evicted in the face of the mass de/repopulation of this city was plainly too little, too late. But how could resistance have been “earlier,” given the warp speed of what gets called gentrification these days? And what would the strategic targets have been — targets that would be immediately recognizable to and garner sympathy from large numbers of impacted people, and potentially then coalesce them into a social movement? Sitting down at the front of the Google bus? Throwing a wrench in, say, the new bike lanes and glitter-sprinkled sidewalks, or the decorative kale outside offices and indigenous-vegetation-filled green spaces, that civic and corporate elites systemically used, among other pretty tools, to rearrange the urban landscape as a clubhouse for themselves? Occupations of social media spaces such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Gluten-free, vegan, locally sourced, organic bread riots?

After one too many poignant stories at the Eviction-Free Summer meeting, from people I knew would soon be without their homes, without their city — people who needed their homes because of AIDS or permanently paralyzed bodies, for example — I cried my way back to the one place that’s ever really felt like home to me, with the nagging knowledge that it, too, will likely soon be only a memory. A couple days later, I went to Eviction-Free Summer’s hastily called demonstration, which felt more like a wake, at the corner of Mission and 17th streets after the eviction of one of San Francisco’s last autonomous collective spaces, and felt angry (even though I knew they weren’t to blame) at all those anarchists who gave up without a fight and moved, a bit too gladly, to Oakland, the newest cutting-edge/edgy city for antiauthoritarians. The might of perhaps the greatest wealth consolidation in history is cornering us all into a series of bad, worse, and far worse “choices.” I waved my powerless fist in the air with others, listened to multiple tales from English-as-a-second-language voices of their impending evictions from the Mission, and then couldn’t take it anymore, walking away from this act of witnessing with, yet again, tears in my eyes.

My “break” quickly became the source of revealing my own brokenness, of adding further sorrow and loss to all the losses I was being battered by in mid-Michigan. Here, so clearly, was this new loss of a city I loved — a city that represented, for me and so many others, a place of radical experimentation, countercultures and subcultures, refuge, and queerness, but also a place that was home to misfits and immigrants, the poor and working class, the undocumented and outlaw, because it was affordable and “progressive.” It was able to be shaped by the social fabrics of strong Latino, black, Chinese, and Japanese communities, among others; it was able to be shaped by strong communities of anarchist and feminist spaces, to name two, and a long tradition of resistance and social movements to fight against all the ways in which poverty, displacement, and various forms of oppression also shaped this city. The land below San Francisco had certainly been stolen from peoples before — first inhabitants and first nations, followed by waves of those who weren’t wanted elsewhere, who were exploited as laborers, and/or were seen as undesirable and dangerous. Gentrification isn’t new; it’s gone by other names, like colonialism, and has erased other histories, harming, breaking, and killing a too-long list of other people. But it’s usually been a slower process, over years or decades, able to be battled (even if lost) and grieved (even if never replaceable).

Now, it seemed, capitalism had won out before people even knew what hit them, with far-too-much self-satisfaction on the now far-too-homogeneous face of this flattened, upscaled landscape — as if there had never been another San Francisco, and never will be. And San Francisco, in turn, now looked like too many other global cities, also abruptly expropriated and refashioned. If it weren’t for the hills in the distance, one could just as easily walk through parts of Manhattan, for instance, and be confused about which hyper-privatized metropolis one was viewing (for surely, most of us cannot partake in any substantive way in the fruits of these places, even their “public” amenities, so we become more voyeurs than participants or inhabitants, assuming we can afford to return after being pushed out).

Yes, what’s happening (or rather, has happened) to San Francisco isn’t so different from the sorrow of what’s happening to big cities on this continent, like Vancouver and Seattle, Montreal and Brooklyn, and even “livable” smaller cities like Madison, Wisconsin, not to mention metropoles around the globe. But there’s also a way in which we fail to see the particularities of how state and capital impacts different places and different people in different, often vastly disproportionate ways, and how we fail to spotlight the structural forces that determine and implement what comes to be known as gentrification. Those particularities are crucial to highlight, even if they seem like minor details against the gargantuan homogeneity that destroys them. They are holders of the differentiation in each of these and other places — their histories, struggles, memories, lives, accomplishments, pleasures and pains, festivals, foods, inventions and traditions, arts, and so on. They are markers of those things that make us recognize these cities and their inhabitants as distinct, unique, and loved — as ours, but also as others from whom this same land was stolen in the past. And thus, they hold the key to how to both make this centuries-long theft visible and fight its systemic logic now, in ways — I hope — that are honest to the dilemmas embedded in any solidarity and resistance aimed at developing communities of care instead.

Several years ago, a variety of organizers — indigenous, immigrant, anarchist, queer, feminist, people without homes, people with a variety of access needs, and others — came together under the banner “No Olympics on Stolen Native Lands” in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories (so-called Vancouver) to contest the historical and current thief of these specific lands — along with lives and cultures, bodies and minds — under the subterfuge of the winter Olympic games. Besides forging social bonds and trust, however fragile, among peoples divided by decades and centuries of loss, the week of demonstrations and direct actions was an effort to begin to understand what it might mean to move toward a future that recognized all the ways in which urban spaces have been stolen, from nationalist colonialism and industrial capitalism to settler colonialism and hipster capitalism. The convergence attempted to find a different route — dignified, ecological, holistic — and forge different social relations among people/groups often pitted against each other by the murderous hierarchies and exploitation foisted on them. It was also structured around the particular history/present of the Unceded Coast Salish Territories, and illuminated it via the targets and symbols chosen that week, precisely because the Olympics was again stealing lands and spaces from indigenous peoples in particular, all the while engaging in cultural appropriation/co-optation of various indigenous bands to try to hide the economic appropriation that was handing the city over to the rich — and nonindigenous — through the building frenzy to showcase the Olympics.

Many tales could be told here for each of the cities and spaces being lost at this historical moment, but let me share just one more. It comes from Brooklyn, the new “New York” (or is it the new “Oakland,” or is Oakland the new “Brooklyn”?), and Bed-Stuy in particular. A sixty-year-oldish black woman passed along this story during a panel on dreams/schemes to take land and housing in New York out of market relations, returning them to use value. The panel took place in a new anarchist(ic) social center in Bushwick, on lands stolen long ago from the Lenape peoples, across from the borough called Manhattan that, when first stolen by the Dutch from the Lenape, included upward of one-quarter African slaves among its initial “New World” population. Those slaves, once some of their stolen bodies were permitted some “freedom,” were given land for farming and burial, but that too was eventually stolen, as described so movingly in the recently created museum at the recently “discovered” African burial grounds  — “lost to history due to landfill and development,” as the official Web site notes — near Wall Street. But back to my retelling, likely poorly, of this Bed-Stuy woman’s story.

When she was a young girl, she used to walk through beautiful Bed-Stuy with her grandmother. They knew everyone, and everyone knew them, and the neighborhood was safe and clean. And mostly black. One day during their stroll, she tried to toss some garbage into one of the city-supplied trash containers on every corner, and realized they were suddenly all gone. The city has taken them all away, overnight. Neighbors soon organized to place their own garbage cans on each corner and then collect the trash weekly to mix in with their own trash at home for municipal pickup there. Soon, the city stopped emptying out the neighborly corner garbage bins. So neighbors organized again, this time to collect anyone’s trash right front of their own houses and again mix it in with their weekly city garbage pickup. The city then stopped collecting garbage from the neighborhood altogether, turning the neighborhood, for all intents and purposes, into a dumping ground. The message, of course, was: we see you as garbage. That incident, to paraphrase this woman’s tale, is how institutionalized racism mixes with structural transformation to first destroy communities — treating black people and their neighborhoods as dirty and worthless — and then later (as in now) sets about cleaning it up (public trash cans reappear and are emptied regularly, sidewalks and roads suddenly get fixed, bike paths and new street lighting are added, etc.), expropriating it, and reselling it to the highest bidder.

Most people, increasingly the majority of people, lose out in this process. Knowing the context and histories of these losses, though, not only honors them and perhaps permits us to learn from them but also might offer us better road maps to sharing, using, and enjoying land and housing, communities and cities, in ways that don’t replicate the same colonialist and capitalist logics that are “socialized” into our minds and bodies from birth.

Ah, but I stray from my own route, so let’s return to the streets of San Francisco.

To soothe the pain of this devastation, political and personal, I decided to play a perverse game with myself during my short and alas foreshortened August-September 2013 visit (I had to rush back to Michigan unexpectedly for what became the last three weeks of my mom’s life; she died well and in her room, thanks to the care and dignity of hospice, on October 3). One has to walk toward and through grief; it doesn’t merely go away on its own accord. So I continued to wander far and wide at random through San Francisco, but tried to pinpoint some of the specificity of the changes wrought (and for that matter, bought) by capitalism. Whenever I chanced on something that seemed to capture the high-tech-funded landgrab of San Francisco, I boiled it down to the 140 words or less of a tweet.

I rarely make use of Twitter, but in my sluggish depression, those 140 words or less were about all I could muster, and at first it felt like the equivalent of an angry outburst — nearly pointless and likely unconvincing, but damned cathartic. I started off by numbering the tweets, with the notion of creating a top-ten list, then top-twenty or two-dozen list, then. . . . And then it struck me: Twitter the form was perfect as a means to mourn the loss of this city to Twitter the corporation and its now-billionaire compatriots, the new ruling class that’s shaping and benefiting from the compulsion of contemporary capitalism. Twitter encapsulates the specific neo-enclosure taking place in San Francisco: at once seemingly opening up space for all and yet thoroughly closing off possibilities for most of humanity — materially, politically, ecologically, and even linguistically.

What better poetic form to use, ironically of course (because irony, too, became almost a structural component in this new stage of displacement), for attempting to grasp all that I hate about San Francisco’s gentrification, and make my little game ever more perverse? If I was going to bury my dead, killed off by this system, why not use the master’s tools as one last painful stab into my own already-bludgeoned heart?

Tweets, after all, are the new poetry for our age — an age in which the superpowerful global few are reducing the whole of the world and thus selling off the future, to the point where everyone and everything is threatened with mass destruction. They appear to do the poetic work of offering up emotional responses to the range of experiences, from joy and love to tragedy and suffering, that make us human. Yet by ultimately reducing our communication and dialogue to near-meaninglessness in that always-constrained 140 words or less, tweets reduce us and our humanity too. The tradition of rebellious poetry — on paper and the streets — that tagged San Francisco as a place of experimentation with communal and qualitative social relations is now being buffed over by “revolutionary” app developers and “creative” capitalists drunk on kimbucha and their own power to “change the world,” with near-meaninglessness attached to their aspiration.

By imposing the 140×140 cage of this form on myself, at best I was attempting to see if I could be precise about this thing called gentrification and what we’re up against; at worst, I was acknowledging and maybe exposing the damage done to us all, myself included, simply due to the mere fact of “living” in this social-media-mediated society. What words do we have left for all that’s been take away from us, ranging from our ability to remember how to speak with each other in meaning-filled words all the way down the line to our very future? Or is there a way to make each and every word count, and for us to really reflect on, listen to, hear, comprehend, dialogue about, and then collectively contest the twenty-first-century’s terrain of pleasure for a miniscule elite and pain for everyone else, and strive instead for ubiquitous, egalitarian social goodness?

So my new goal was to “pen” a Tweeter poem, with broad brushstrokes of irony:

* 140 lines of 140 words or less

* the lines were actually posts, with each one typed on my smartphone with one finger during my various dérives through San Francisco

* none of the lines were created in any coherent order, or with any coherent order in mind; they are chronological, following the order in which I stumbled across something that seemed tweet worthy — or tweet possible

* all of the lines were the result of letting myself be drawn, willingly or not, into the shiny-nouveau-riche landscape of San Francisco or city news of the day, fleetingly here now and gone tomorrow from our memory banks and Tweeter feeds

* once written, each line was instantaneously whisked into the public cybersphere as a post to instantaneously appear on my Twitter and Facebook pages, all the while knowing that Instagram is where it’s now “at” (or was, when I was creating my 140×140 poem), but I’m not good — yet — at thinking in squares

* I did, however, use my smartphone’s camera, and so have sprinkled various photos throughout my 140×140 poem below, partially to add to the fractured, disorienting, ADD quality of navigating the world today, electronic and “real,” thereby making it almost impossible for us to find solid ground from which to act

Grieving what’s lost is part and parcel of the practice of loving. If death and dying, grief, and grieving, have been taken from us, hidden from view as commodity forms, it is not only because they are now immensely profitable. It is also because they are the stuff of life, illuminating the meaning within life for its own sake, lives and communities worth living in, including and especially the meaning of forms of love that haven’t been privatized, commodified, and enclosed. Love and loving as commons. And that entails the bold, rebellious practice of stealing back and making visible not only life and love but also, concurrently and as part of our everyday lives, death and grief.

So here is the gift of my love poem — straight from a heart that isn’t sure it can weather much more loss, but knows it likely will have to — for all that’s been lost in San Francisco, “thanks” to forces that I hate.

Note: Like any good anarchist, I broke the rules when those rules didn’t make sense. In this case, while I tweeted 140 characters or less for each of these 140 reasons why I hate San Francisco’s gentrification, that meant leaving the period off the end of about a half-dozen reflections. In the interest of consistency and good grammar, I’ve added periods to all the sentences in my poem, thereby making some of them 141 characters. So I figured I could also squeeze in a rule-breaking reason #141 — parenthetically, though, for those who want to ignore it in favor of the “purity” of the 140×140 poetic form. Continue reading

Lynn Valley density dustup continues Town centre and residential developments moving forward, opponents vow to continue the fight

Reposted from CBC

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Density is coming to the North Vancouver neighbourhood of Lynn Valley in the form of a new town centre and residential towers. But some locals vow to continue their opposition to the coming changes, even after their protests successfully influenced the North Vancouver District Council to limit the height of buildings in future neighbourhood developments.

Glenn MacKenzie has lived in Lynn Valley for more than 20 years. He was instrumental in organizing a movement against the Lynn Valley development proposals. MacKenzie, who collected more than 2,500 signatures on an anti-development petition, said he will continue to fight against density.

“It’s not over until it’s over, there’s still public hearings to come and we’ll continue to protest them,” he said. Continue reading

Do We Look Dense?

Some notes on space in Lynn Valley

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Why Density?

When I was a child living in the centre of Lynn Valley (from the late eighties to the early nineties), it had a slightly different feel.

Like any child I hated going to bed early, and I have distinct memories of being really bored in my bed staring up out the window at the red blinking lights of the antennas on Mount Seymour.

Either by myself or with my brother, I would often hop the wooden fence from our complex to the next, on the way to school or to play with the kids on the other side. I remember the small slide attached to a four foot high stump we had fun taking turns on. I remember when my mom had the money, sprinting barefoot to catch the ice cream truck at Whiteley Court in the summer.

While certainly a suburban area it also had a semi-urban quality in that you could walk to do just about anything you needed to do. Most people in my area lived in townhouses and apartments, and it confused me as a child that most of my school friends often lived in single family houses with yards.

Fast forward to today, and there is no way that a child would be able to see out that window past the next building as the old building which was rental and housed many working poor and immigrant families, has been torn down (including the slide) and replaced with middle class condos, one or two stories taller. The children presently living in the complex do not ever cross the fence to play with the condo kids, as there really doesn’t seem to be many places over there that they could possibly play, even if they wanted to, not to mention that you don’t really see children over there anyway!

Central to the discourse around the towers proposed to be built at the mall, and the “Official Community Plan” put forward by the developers and the politicians, is the word density.

What is density? What does it look like? Who does it benefit? Why the morality about it, as if whoever came up against it were either childish or compromising some kind of long established community value? Hasn’t it already been dense for a while? What is going to need to go, in order for it to be “more dense”? Continue reading