Civil Disobedience on the Web

Tracking politics as it's practiced on the Web.
July 29 2000 12:00 AM

Civil Disobedience on the Web

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Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000. 

There's not much happening at Thepartysover.org—at least not yet. But by next week, the Web site set up by activists planning to disrupt the  Republican National Convention in Philadelphia with acts of civil disobedience will be a busy hub spreading word of impending protests and directing them.

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The site includes virtual space to announce protests, solicit volunteers, inform the media, and arrange housing and transportation for activists. It's just one of many such sites that will be used by groups ranging from opponents of globalization and free trade to advocates for the poor and the homeless to proponents of national health care.

Web sites, e-mail lists, and other new economy tools, such as cell phones, have already proved to be key organizing tools in mass demonstrations such as last year's World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle and again this year during the International Monetary Fund's meeting in Washington, D.C.

"We couldn't do it without the Internet," says David Levy, one of the organizers of the R2Kphilly Network, an assemblage of activist groups coordinating protests at the Republican convention at  R2Kphilly.org. They are also joining forces in Los Angeles, planning activities from the Web site at  D2kla.org.

Levy concedes that some of the people his groups want to reach don't have access to the Internet, especially in inner cities. Phone banks and leaflets can be used to carry the message beyond the Web, though at much greater expense.

"It has its downsides, but it's still a tremendous leap forward for people that don't have a lot of money," he says. "Political work is nothing but communicating, constant communicating."

Other Web sites being used to organize protests include  Silentmarch.orgRefuseandresist.org, and  Redirect2000.org.

The Silent March site is publicizing two days of protests against gun violence and in favor of stronger gun-control laws. The group will deposit 40,000 empty shoes at the Liberty Bell on Saturday in memory of the thousands killed each year by guns.

Refuse and Resist opposes the death penalty and plans an all-day series of events in Philadelphia on Aug. 1. The city has a large anti-capital-punishment community because of the death sentence given to former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal.

On the Redirect 2000 site, protesters can download leaflets and fliers in Microsoft Word format suitable for distributing or posting during the convention. An online bulletin board helps match people driving to the protests with people seeking rides.

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