Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 14, 2024

The Birth of Dry River, and Homage to Frank Zappa

Dry River, Tucson, Arizona 2004 -- 2012

Things I’ve Seen Hate-Filled Far Left Deranged Lunatics Do

By Lang Gore, Censored News, June 14, 2024

In the spring of 2004 my partner and I went to an anti-war demonstration near the campus of the University of Arizona.  It was perfectly legal, “permitted,” so long as we stayed crowded onto the sidewalks by the cops, who seemed to outnumber us.  We were not permitted to step into the streets.  One of the speakers screamed at the cops for a very long time in a very shrill voice.  It was a demonstration, all right--a demonstration of impotence.

Someone gave us a flyer announcing a May Day march sponsored by anarchists.  We showed up on May Day at the specified park; after a few minutes everyone went into the streets, whereupon for the next few hours we walked through downtown Tucson with our banners and chants. "Whose streets? Our streets!"

Someone sang Tom Petty's tune "American Girl" so it sounded like, "She was . . . Un-American Girl."  This was not a crowd with any love for America!

A couple of cops tagged along and were pretty much completely ignored.

From this moment (and a number of important actions that preceded it), Dry River was born.  We operated from 2004 until 2012, and I set down these notes to record my outrage at the calculated, abusive incomprehension directed now towards anti-Zionist protestors, given certain parallels with Dry River that will become obvious.

Since I was twenty years older than my next youngest comrade, thirty years older than most, perhaps these remarks can help my peers (dare I call them fossils?) understand what may seem strange in these protests, since my cohort seems particularly witless, wilful or otherwise.  

"Consensus-based decision-making"  sounded dreadful to me.  It couldn't possibly work, I thought.  But it did.  It’s rather easy, actually, to find agreement about what

to do, just as it’s easy to find disagreement if you want to talk about things endlessly.

Our project was a space for music shows and many other projects, events, discussion groups, film showings, lectures, and skill shares.  Many of our members were also part of No More Deaths, the project of putting water in the desert to save migrant lives.  It was that direct action that appealed to anarchists.

The corporate media, however, seems completely incapable of understanding that UA students could move easily from the queer anarchist punks of Dry River to the serious liberal Christians of the South Presbyterian Church.  But many did.  All the time.

We certainly weren't interested in "agitating" on campus, and I don't think the Presbyterians (rooted in the Sanctuary Movement of the Eighties) needed to recruit there.  The best students and faculty were well-known to us!  Both our projects never lacked for student involvement.  They somehow found us. 

In those years our comrades at Taala Hooghan in so-called Flagstaff were focused on protecting the sacred San Francisco Peaks, agitating for unhoused relatives, and articulating a vision of indigenous anarchism.  Noteworthy in this respect is their insistence that "the Revolution will not be non-profit," since many witless nullities think otherwise.  Also, Taala Hooghan was not a "safe space," nor was Dry River.  (Is there any such thing?)  These were spaces unsafe to oppressive practices, as Klee Benally put it.

Many parents will not have forgotten that over the years we provided a venue which strictly prohibited alcohol, sexism, racism, homophobia, while giving teens an opportunity to hear music they wanted to hear and play themselves.

Our comrades in Phoenix did not have a space, like we did in Tucson, Flagstaff and Prescott.  They did a lot of Copwatch work and since a number of them were midwives, they were seriously involved in making abortion safe and accessible even while it was still legal.

The project of our comrades in Prescott was simple:  if you wanted a garden installed in your yard, anarchists would come do it.  A lot of people took them up on their offer; I think between 30 and 40, if memory serves.

At a certain point we decided to meet each solstice at one of the four infoshops (or somewhere else in PHX).  So we regularly saw what each of us was doing.  

In Prescott we saw the garden at the Assembly of God church the anarchists had put in.  The pastor was quite happy people could bring their compost to church on Sunday and it would get used.  He mentioned that older people especially appreciated a project that made it easy not to waste valuable garden nutrients.

In many cases the comrades there helped maintain the gardens after they were set up.  Sadly, some people only had outside contacts thanks to these regular visits.  Shall we call the people who helped maintain these gardens Outside Agitators?

The Situationist International said sooner or later it must define itself as a social therapeutic.  We never defined ourselves as that, but at our best we may have served as it.

An older Latina woman came to one of our Wednesday night meetings.  She had prepared a denunciation and asked us for a chance to read it.  We put it on the agenda.

She had been stopped by cops while driving to someone she cared for who expected her to arrive at a certain time.  The cops were gratuitously insulting, deliberately prolonging the stop when she told them she was expected by someone who needed her, the delay causing serious anxiety on the part of the person expecting her.  That meant a whole new set of problems, which she spelled out in detail.

She came to us to tell what had happened to her.  Where else would she find such a place?

It looks to me as if any one of these current encampments would listen respectfully to her now the way we did then.  Is that why they are being crushed, because already they come closer to community than anything we've seen in a very long time, maybe ever?

But the depth of denial around us is breathtaking.  Dry River revealed that most clearly to me in another incident.

At a certain point we were asked if the space could be used for an event organized by people who were friends and family of kids who had committed suicide by jumping in front of trains.  The group that approached us also included members of the local railroad workers union.

Apparently certain teens had formed a club that was all about killing themselves in this way.  Their friends and family were dismayed, to say the least, as were the railroad workers who witnessed these deaths.  They wanted to make people aware this was happening so they could begin to address the enormity of what was happening.  

They had the event and it went well.  That's hardly surprising, given how many events went well then.  

What struck me as newsworthy then and now is that they came to us only because no one else wanted to hear what they had to say.  Apparently venues such as churches and schools thought this was really depressing and grim and so it must be dealt with by . . . never acknowledging it.  

The way they never acknowledged the fascists among us, even when the comrades gave them riot porn by fighting in the streets for hours against the cops protecting the handful of National Socialist Movement speakers we wanted to beat the sh-- out of.  Oh, right, it was in the AZ Republic, at the very end of the paper, just before the Classifieds, all of two paragraphs I think.

Speaking of events going well, that wasn't accidental.  We had lengthy sessions discussing the consensus practice so our meetings would be painless.  Mostly they were.  

So yes, we were as organized as we needed to be, like the protestors now.  This seems amazing to certain commenters, sinister to others.  

So I know this final revelation as to Who Funds All This? will be anticlimactic.  We maintained an anarchist space where rent was $700 a month for many years by . . . hosting punk concerts.  

Mostly, that is.  We had help from celebrities, certainly.  Kimya Dawson played at DR and raised thousands for us.  Built to Spill played at DR and raised thousands for us.  

They seem to think it hurts to call us Far Left, as though we have not left the Left far behind long ago.  No, “we are forces of chaos and anarchy, whatever they say we are, we are.”  Oh, wrong decade, sorry.

Even Presidential candidates these days are learning from MC5's "American Ruse," "If you complain they're gonna get vicious, kick in your teeth and charge you with assault.  I can see the chickens coming home to roost, people everywhere are gonna cook their goose, lots of people looking to get rid of these blues 'cause everybody's sick of the American ruse."

Megyn Kelly has never heard of Frank Zappa, I'm sure.  But he wrote a song for her even before she was born!  "What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?  I Think It's Your Mind!" perfectly sums up someone who complains the protestors are homely and unattractive when so many of us find them altogether beautiful.  

But I could be wrong.  I get my news from the music, as you see.  For some reason, these days all I want to listen to is Santana’s cover of Stormy.

Lang Gore

Response to Tucson Weekly

Thanks for the mention in the Best of Tucson. We're looking forward to beating the pants off the other anarchist collectives in this year's nationals!

Seriously, though, it was nice of you to let folks know we exist. We haven't really had much press since the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Daily Wildcat and Pima Community College's Aztec Press did articles on us. The Star's was really in depth; you should check it out. It's got a lot of information since their reporter came to a couple of the free classes and did interviews with a number of our collective members. Then you might not find us so mysterious (although we kind of like being mysterious; that's why we wear masks in public).

Besides facilitating a book and zine library, a computer lab, a free store, free classes, a monthly event on consensual sex, weekly discussion groups, about 10 music shows per month and staffing "open hours" four days per week, we have shown films, hosted speakers and shared information on numerous justice movements, raising funds and consciousness for groups here in Arizona and as far away as Israel/Palestine, Southern Mexico and New Zealand. We also have jobs, go to school, play music, make art, write, skate, have lovers and families, travel and work on other projects here in Tucson (check out the new radio station at Hopefully this gives you a clearer picture of "what we do."

Also, we were wondering what the reference to Joe Strummer meant. He had political and class consciousness, but we never knew him to be an anarchist. Besides that, anarchist collectives have been growing all over the world, especially since 1999's big blowout in Seattle, the official start of the never-ending "War on Terror" and increasing global capitalism and militarization of borders.

Eric Richards and the Dry River Collective

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