Anti-authority movement gathers on eve of Democratic National Convention

LOS ANGELES - Anarchists, accused by city officials of planning violent protests during the Democratic National Convention, began their own conference Friday, offering seminars on everything from radical art to ''Pacifism as a Pathology.''

Fear of police and arguments over a bewildering array of factional issues marked the North American Anarchist Conference, expected to draw up to 1,000 people over three days.

Organizers, hoping to distance the movement from potential unrest, urged people to avoid discussing protest plans. Drugs, alcohol and weapons also were barred.

''We don't want any possible excuse for shutting us down,'' activist Brendan Crill told conferencegoers. ''There probably are police infiltrators around, so be careful what you talk about.''

Reporters were banned from using recording equipment, and some people arrived with bandanas covering their faces in case police were videotaping them. Organizers said they had an evacuation plan in case of a police raid.

A police spokesperson could not immediately be reached to discuss those allegations.

Police and city officials, including Mayor Richard Riordan, have used the term ''anarchists'' to refer to protesters who may seek attention by smashing storefronts or provoking police. Local merchants have been told to watch out for people dressed in black or wearing the anarchist symbol of a circled A.

A 19-year-old Seattle man who identified himself only as Scott had the number of a protest legal team written in marker on one arm. He was tear gassed by police during Seattle protests, and expected Los Angeles police would attack even legal demonstrators here.

''We're gonna get gassed,'' he said, shaking his blond Jamaican braids. ''They'll find a pretext. I've gotta get some goggles.''

One youth arrived with a gas mask.

Scott and others said they believed in peaceful demonstrations, but were unwilling to condemn those who may use property damage as a tactic.

''I wouldn't get too upset about a few broken corporate windows'' if such violence didn't hurt poor nearby residents, said James, a 26-year-old man who took an 18-hour bus trip from Kansas to attend the conference.

''A lot of these corporations are committing major violence against ... people,'' he said.

On Friday, about 100 people filled the conference room, a rented industrial space overlooking the scum green, cement-channeled Los Angeles River. The conference was not far from the Los Angeles Police Academy - pure coincidence, according to Crill.

The crowd was overwhelmingly young and white. Most of them wore T-shirts, ratty shorts or fatigue pants. Many sported tattoos and face jewelry. Lunch, doled out of buckets, was a bean-and-tofu stew.

The conference was held on a shoestring, although attendees were asked to pay a $25 donation. At least one would-be delegate was heard to argue: ''We don't believe in money.''

Sleeping bags and backpacks were stacked around the room while people sat on the floor or trooped up to a rickety loft. Seminar topics ranged from welfare reform and sweatshops to first aid training and bike repair.

Anarchists refer to themselves as anti-authoritarians, but their views ran the gamut from socialism to Libertarianism.

The core belief is ''I'm not the boss of you and you're not the boss of me,'' explained Christ (rhymes with ''list'') Damitio, 28, of Seattle.

Most conferencegoers seemed to agree, in general, that corporate capitalism was oppressive and the current political system corrupt.

But beyond that, the anarchist crowd found little to agree on. A comment wall featured jibes at rival factions.

The arcane political differences even showed up in a seminar on ''green'' anarchy, which stresses environmental issues. Some proponents hold New Age mystical beliefs and strong anti-technology views. At one point, discussion turned to whether it was right for people to have appendix operations as opposed to a natural death.

One speaker said he had been asked whether ''green anarchy is inherently non-anarchistic because it's submitting ourselves to the authority of nature.''


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