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1984 War Chest Tours

Historical Essay

by Jeff Goldthorpe

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1984 "War Chest Tour" in downtown San Francisco.

Photo: Keith Holmes

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Wartoys: 1984 War Chest Tour

Photo: Keith Holmes

Political isolation and marginality was an operating assumption of the War Chest Tours (WCT). They made no organized attempts to carry on dialogue with the peace movement on the periphery of the Democratic Party. The WCT's major piece of literature, its handbook, was run off on a corporate copying machine by a janitor. It was symptomatic of WCT's marginality that San Francisco's Bay Guardian, the major free "alternative" newsweekly, didn't even list the WCT activities on its political calendar of events; undoubtedly there was no one even working systematically on media publicity. No matter: another well distributed free newspaper, the Music Calendar (which covered punk music ignored by the Bay Guardian) carried a lengthy article by a WCT organizer about the Convention which called on people to vote with their feet from July 16-19, and followed the article with a calendar of political events including WCT activities.

One attempt to overcome this marginality was a "Stop the Sweeps" demonstration on the steps of S.F.'s City Hall on June 19th. The focus of the small rally was against the intimidation campaign being carried out by the San Francisco Police to "clean up" the town to Feinstein's specifications. Reports were circulating of homeless street people and prostitutes being driven to the edge of town by police and being told to get out by Convention time. Punks and street people in the Haight-Ashbury were being harassed and sometimes arrested on trumped up charges. Accordingly, this led to an enormous amount of tension in and around the WCT. Moving forward in this situation required an unambiguous anti-electoralism and some courage, perhaps foolhardy courage at times, but courage nonetheless.

From its beginning on Monday, July 16, the WCT was ambushed, outmaneuvered and brutalized by the S.F. Police. The starting point for the first action was the plaza beneath the foreboding Bank of America World Headquarters. A large number of the hundred or so assembled, unlike the organizing committee, were punks. The activity began with the Tour Guides enumerating a catalog of B of A's corporate crimes. After a tense standoff at the entrance to Bank of America building, most of the crowd went across Kearny Street to hear another rap about the Diamond Shamrock Corporation. 70 people were promptly surrounded by police and charged with "conspiracy to trespass," a flimsy but intimidating felony charge. A few demonstrators that escaped did a retaliatory die-in in a nearby intersection and were quickly tackled or dragged off by plainclothes police. It was all over very quickly, but was enough to get a headline in the next day's Chronicle, "Punk Rocker Protest--84 Arrests." The logic of marginalization was such that punk rocker was all the explanation needed by most media observers to explain the actions or the police response. Very little ever appeared in the press about anarchism or the linkages between the Democratic Party and the corporate-military complex.



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