Getting ready to disrupt the Democratic National Convention next week, protest organizers conducted an action camp in Malibu recently.
The Ruckus Society, based in Berkeley, Calif., prepared activists for the planned protests in what they call a “Democracy Training Camp” that took place on a bluff overlooking Los Angeles. The private land is owned by a friend of the movement.
The Ruckus Society, first organized in October 1995, is a nonprofit organization that specializes in training people to practice civil disobedience safely and effectively, according to camp organizers. This last camp, however, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Action Resource Center, Global Exchange and Just Act, was different than others before it. The training was not as tactically focused as the other camps have been. This one tried to build more unity among the races and classes. The teachers focused more on media and strategic campaign.
“Nonviolence is the core of training,” said Han Shan, Ruckus’ program director.
“In mass protest situations, if you sit down, cops will usually back off,” she said. “There are ways of posturing. Art and pageantry. Peaceful, open confrontations. Camp was about imparting skills. It was a forum to build unity.”
Camp began when the sun came up each morning and ended during all hours of the night. Those attending the camp slept few hours every evening.
“It was just such a rare opportunity,” said Shan.
The camp was composed of about one third Los Angeles residents, one third Bay Area residents and one third of people from all over the country. The ages of the campers ranged from 14 to 90 years of age.
“The youth has a lot of insight,” said Shan of the teenagers who were in attendance. “They have a lot to say that adults can really learn from.”
Some of the speakers at the camp included Sen. Tom Hayden, Michael Fronzie and Granny D, a 90-year-old woman from the inner city who has been speaking to activists for many years.
The Ruckus Society offered a wide variety of manuals to its campers, such as a “Media Manual,” a “Climbing Manual,” “Hanging Yourself From a Billboard,” an “Action Planning Manual,” a “Scouting Manual,” “Video Camera Tips,” “Climber’s Knots” and “Longwire’s Communications Manual.”
The people of The Ruckus Society say they are not protesters, just proactive.
They’re seen by many as people expressing anger, which they are, but camps, such as the recent one, teach activists how to express this anger in a constructive manner, rather than a harmful one organizers said. They say they do not want to be painted in a negative way or scare people.