Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 4 in Big Sky and Bozeman, Montana

Today was a full, productive, energizing (and cold!) day of action here in central Montana. Here's the rundown from early in the morning to obscenely late at night in this first day of struggle:

Opening press conference, 9:30 AM, Yellowstone Convention Center, Big Sky resort.
After an early start from our HQ outside of Big Sky, we headed up to the resort to meet the press -- right on time at 9:30 AM, complete with a sheriff escort on the way up and a welcoming police squad upon arrival telling us where and where not to park our vans. The USTR and other government agents providing security for the negotiators had graciously informed members of our delegation the night before that our actions at the resort would be relegated to a pitiful corner of the hotel parking lot 200 yards from the hotel entrance, 200 yards away from the negotiators' field of vision and demarcated by a couple of straggling orange traffic cones and a little string of yellow "caution" tape. Did that stop us? Pssshhh. We held the majority of the press conference, covered by every major Korean media outlet, directly in front of the conference site/hotel at Yellowstone Convention Center. Following a statement by Oh Jung Ryul, co-chair of Korean Alliance against the KorUS FTA, our delegation marched in a slow, single file procession to the "protest zone," chanting and displaying our banners and placards. We heard from several other members of our delegation and Bozeman allies before we dispersed to prepare for our afternoon action.

Rally and March, 2 PM, Bozeman, MT
We drove down from Big Sky to the Labor Temple in downtown Bozeman, around the corner from Bozeman City Hall, where we began our opening rally for the week at 2 PM. We were joined by members of various social justice groups from Bozeman and surrounding areas -- Bozeman Peaceseekers, Montana Human Rights Network, the Buffalo Field Campaign, Via Campesina, and others -- to march through the streets of Bozeman in a show of solidarity between the South Korean people, Korean American activists, and US-based farmers, workers, and activists. Our numbers were small, but we more than made up for it in fierce, focused, and LOUD declarations and exhibitions of our joint struggle against the neoliberal policies that devastate sustainable local economies of food and labor. The rally, which ended up at the Bozeman Courthouse on Main Street, was brilliantly co-emceed by Joo-Hyun Kang from CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities in New York City, and Chun Sung Do, chojangnim of the Korea Peasants League. I think all the members of our delegation as well as the Bozeman groups joining us in solidarity left the rally feeling energized and heartened by the power we felt out on the streets together. One particularly beautiful moment: Danny Park, representing the LA-based organization KIWA, Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance, led our marching contingent in an impromptu "rest" to regain our energy in the frigid temperatures by lying down in unison on the sidewalk and chanting, screaming, and raising our fists against the secret resort FTA negotiations in the mountains, an hour's drive away.

Between the rally and our next event, the first of our nightly candlelight vigils to be held throughout the week, we were lucky enough to participate in a medic training facilitated by Josh Osher, EMT from the Buffalo Field Campaign, a local Montana group struggling every day to protect the environment against encroaching agro-business powers. He instructed us on how to take care of our bodies in the extreme temperatures and perilously high altitudes of the Montana mountains where the KorUS FTA negotiations are being held; he showed us just how tough our Montana allies are day in, day out. If the Korean and US negotiators truly believed that coming to Montana would allow them to hide out in a remote location free from protesters and progressive forces, the Buffalo Field Campaign and other local groups have defied their expectations a hundred times over. Thanks, BFC!!!

Candlelight Vigil, 5:30 PM, Bozeman City Hall
We finished our day's official events with a candlelight vigil in front of Bozeman City Hall. Again, our Bozeman allies came out in a powerful show against the FTA, witnessing the statements delivered by our dongjis from around the world. The vigil ended with several group songs before we dispersed until the next action, scheduled for Tuesday morning at Big Sky resort.

We ended the evening with a catered dinner provided from the one Korean restaurant in Bozeman and a group evaluation of the day's events. Officially. Unofficially, the day's events are still going strong, with the soju flowing and group songs led in rounds, twenty people crowded into a hotel room celebrating, feeling the love, building relationships across organizations and borders, excited and preparing for our next days in this struggle.


Schedule for the Montana struggle, Tuesday, December 5:
9:30 AM - Press Conference at Big Sky resort
1:00 PM - Meeting between anti-FTA delegates and staff of Montana Senator Max Baucus
2:00 PM - Leafletting and outreach in local communities
4:30 PM - Meeting between anti-FTA delegates and local Montana carpenters union
9:30 PM - Candlelight vigil at Big Sky resort in solidarity with day of mass mobilization in South Korea


and...it's the birthday of Mr. Chun Sung Do, Cheojangnim from Korea Peasants League, Loyda Colon from the Justice Committee in New York, and Choong-Min Lee (turning 3!) of Seattle KAWAN, and in celebration we will struggle even harder tomorrow and throughout this week of action!!!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rawk on, KAWAN! Sending lots of love and solidarity from Seattle. Kudos on the great new relationships with Montana orgs! Keep your voices and spirits strong, and know that we're all behind you. They can run, but they cannot hide. Down, down FTA!