DISCUSSED: Intensive Workshops in Urban Street Tactics, Rental-Car Insurance Fear-Mongering, Permaculture Educators, Time-Sharing with the Pagans, Confused Middlebury Students, Moldy Pumas, Republican Matron Hair, Rumpy Pumpkin Butt


A few days after signing up for a four-day militant anarchist training camp, I received an email from the organizers warning participants about the possibility of infiltration by members of the media. Don’t listen to them, don’t talk to them, report them immediately, the email said. Of course, media infiltration wasn’t just a possibility, it was a damn near certainty, because I was going to do it.

It was one month before the Republican National Convention, and the city of St. Paul was doing its best to prepare, hammering through a series of ordinances restricting protester access, arming the cops with Tasers and wirelessly networked helmet cams, and spot-welding manhole covers. After eight years of Bush, the anarchists were expected to be out in force.

A florescence of activist websites had appeared since the convention venue announcement in 2006, and it didn’t take long to find a link advertising a four-day training camp one and a half hours south of St. Paul. The setting was Harmony Park, a privately owned property on the western shore of Geneva Lake. The curriculum promised intensive workshops in direct action, blockading, and urban street tactics. Conditions were “semi-primitive,” and an email suggested I come prepared with bug spray and a tent.

As the day of departure approached I suffered my first crisis of confidence. What happens when a horde of anarchists discovers that you’re an impostor? Especially if they think you represent the same corporate media that’s forever lampooning them as hooligans and hippies? Surely they’d see at a glance that I wasn’t the havoc-hungry anarchist I was pretending to be.

That said, I could definitely identify with some of what the anarchists were complaining about. Like many Democrats, I did feel a certain disappointment at Obama’s (inevitable, we told ourselves) shift to the right in the key months leading up to the election. As well as a growing dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, the miserable void of governmental leadership on the environment, our increasingly reactionary immigration policy, the shameless federal endorsement of torture, and so on, right up to the catastrophic dysfunction of the electoral system itself.

The training-camp website announced a car pool leaving for Harmony Park from downtown Minneapolis the day of my arrival, and I toyed with the idea of signing on. After all, it might be more convincing to arrive in a group. Then again, if you’re going to infiltrate an anarchist training camp, there’s a lot to be said for having your own wheels. You never know when you might need to split.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Oliver Broudy is a freelance writer living in New York.

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