Global Street Party, 16 May 1998 - report

Road Fighters Redeemed at Logging Road after Flopping on Saturday

by Jan Lundberg

Reclaim the Streets actions around the world on May 16th did not transpire as hoped in Arcata - Carcata - the greenest town in America according to the big media hype. Yet a precious few made their feelings known on the Plaza, even though we are under 24-hour video surveillance for the worldwide web. Arcata and its central town square, the Plaza, is the home of the Auto-Free Times, one of the few international sources over the years making street parties and roadfighting known to the world. We have critical mass bike rides, and some ecotage does get national attention sometimes, but thinking people's energies are more directed at the destruction of ancient redwood trees than at car overpopulation.

With only 15,000 people, there is a (false) sense of innocent splendor by bumper-sticker environmentalists who feel blessed that they are not traffic-gridlocked in one of California's overpaved megalopolises to the south. Per capita, our pavement problem is as bad as almost anywhere in these United (Paved) States of America. After the previously scheduled farmers' market and the Dell' Arte Theatre School performance on the Plaza, the rally to Liberate the Plaza was underattended and basically fizzled. The main purpose of the rally was to protest restrictive laws regarding smoking, playing drums, using skateboards, etc. There was a bit of this rebellious activity along with grafitti in chalk ("Cars Kill", etc.). As to a real asphalt-ripping ("depaving") party or at least a takeover of the car-dominated Plaza—some of us had passed the word to the likeliest of activists who are known for direct action, but, Alas, we could not get up our resolve to make it happen—this time—for Arcatans. This is not to say we will let down the Earth and our comrades around the world indefinitely. And we will continue to run stories and photos on street parties—please send your articles and photos!

Two days later, however, 14 of us invaded Headwaters Forest, property of Pacific Lumber Corporation, to witness the felling of ancient redwoods and to support efforts to hinder same. We are in the north-western corner of California, where there is no large city or big highway in or near our bioregion. Activists use cars with reluctance or with pride to get to wilderness in need of protection. Setting out in two large cars from the departure point in town, we entered the natural wonderland leading to an ancient grove along Bell Creek just upstream from ongoing tree sits, where activists are perched over one hundred feet in two redwoods to prevent their cutting and that of the felling of any tree too near. One part of the mission was for a designated hiker to bring needed water and food to the tree-sitters. In this area of the watershed we saw and photographed machine-caused erosion, and we mourned and hugged ancient trees marked with dye for extinction.

Having gotten within greeting range of the tree-sit and the timber-cutting, we decided to backtrack and go across a huge new steel bridge built to extract timber, in order to come upon the loggers and the tree-sit.

When we did, we were met by a bulldozer driver pushing a massive redwood log toward us down the road. This road-block detered us briefly, but 10 of us got through on our way to the tree-sit and to hug trees being cut. We had several brave elders with us, described in the newspaper today as Grandmothers for Headwaters. The loggers got busy forgetting their work and decided to really please their bosses and vent their frustrations by attempting to citizen-arrest us. Much roadbuilding had just been going on with heavy equipment and truckloads of rock, all of which was terminated by our presence. The loggers/roadbuilders tried to demoralize us with claims that we stopped "only the roadbuilding." Such a statement would indicate they do not know that over 90% of soil erosion in a deforested area is the result of purely the logging roads themselves as opposed to just the clearcut trees. Pro-corporate-timber citizens often obfuscate issues, such as professing not to know that this watershed had already had 75% of the shade canopy extracted years ago—and now, the remaining 25% is enduring another 75% of the old-growth trees removed! However, the loggers were right in pointing out that it is fossil fuels destroying the planet more than deforestation. This is because, whether people know it yet or not, climate change will probably fry the forests, "protected" or not.

The timber company workers told us they called the police and were told to detain us, which they physically did—despite the need of some elders to get out of the hot sun. One logger-boss claimed he had formally told us to leave, but he had only told us to turn around when he had met us previously below the destruction site. Not wishing to risk violence by resisting, we made the most of the occasion. Conversations with the (mostly) anti-environmentalists and fundamentalist Christians were lively, as were our eco-tunes on an old guitar to pass the hours (of non-logging and non-roadbuilding) until the county sheriff's deputies arrived. We did not know what to expect when they would arrive, because they have frequently employed brutal methods and condone occasional loggers' violence. Pepper spraying of locked-down nonviolent teenage girls, at the hands of our county law enforcers, have been seen around the world on television. But the officers were reasonable and friendly, issuing charges to be settled next month in court, and hauled only two of us away. The loggers meanwhile went home, and we began to hike out of there back to "civilization" before the sheriffs departed too. One of our number surreptitiously split off to successfully resupply the tree-sitters.

It was clear to us that more concerned citizens will be required to visit these sites of corporate lawlessness, and to sit in more trees to save these biotic elders so necessary to the pristine watersheds that are getting rare the world over.

For more information on these issues of road building in forests, etc., look at these web pages:

And remember, as our bikesticker says, "It's Hard To Destroy Wilderness WITHOUT ROADS". And as our in-house eco-rock band The Depavers sings, "Tearin' up the roads is a celebration"...

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