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Street Signs:

Square Dancing for Chaos

By Curtis Cartier

WITH hundreds of establishment-fighters in town over the weekend for the first annual Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence, event organizers needed some exciting activities to set the mood. So besides the obligatory punk show and bike tour, the convergence leaders at Free Skool Santa Cruz decided that an Anarchy Square Dance would be the perfect way to kick off a weekend full of system-bucking and rebellion-spreading. After all, nothing says anarchy like a traditional Western dance controlled by a single omnipotent caller and made up of established rules and gender roles.

Putting the irony aside, I donned my finest grubby T-shirt and headed over to the Pacific Cultural Center on Friday to check out the festivities. Inside, the air was rife with radical ideas and pungent with patchouli. About 40 participants, mostly 20- to 30-year-olds, were watching a be-dreaded and barefoot instructor attempt to teach the details of this most geometrically flawless of dances.

"Gents to the center!" he cried out, pausing to offering the disclaimer, "whether you consider yourself a gent or a lady."

No sooner had I dropped my backpack to the ground to root around in it for my camera than a cheery young chaos-seeker skipped over and demanded that I dance. Not one to argue with a determined woman, I joined the boogie and was soon promenading and do-si-do-ing with the best of 'em. Over the bluegrass stylings of the Wilder Creek String Band, the gymnasium was rocking with the sound of flapping feet and giddy laughter. It was then, however, when I went to retrieve my previously abandoned camera, that the anarchist party elders took notice of my doings and demanded I leave.

"We've decided that we don't want mainstream media covering our events, so we're going to have to ask you to leave," said a burly and frowning woman who refused to give her name. "We're not interested in having a conversation with you."

At first I was both flattered and offended by being called "mainstream media," and I took a moment to let the notion sink in. Afterward, however, as I was being ushered off the property, the thought occurred to ask why a grassroots movement committed to spreading a message of radical change wouldn't want its ideas aired in a local newspaper, but would rather throw a reporter out and leave him with nothing to write about besides the unpleasant experience of being 86'd by a bunch of social malcontents. Unfortunately, all I managed to say was, "You know, I'm still going to write about this, right?"

To which one member of my escort replied, "Wait--he can do that?"

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