¡Dios mío! What a crazy day! So much has happened and I’m so exhausted that I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll start at the beginning.
When I woke up this morning, I thought everything was fine. I woke up early so that I could borrow Alejandra’s car and drive to campus for some last minute preparations for the Global Conference On Miami, which is the name we eventually settled on for all of the local Miami Meetups and Miami Ally events. So I woke up, took a quick shower, got dressed, ate a quick breakfast, and headed out the door.
When I went outside, I found out that Alejandra’s car had been attacked.
I say attacked because of the amount of damage. The tires were slashed, the windshield was smashed, and the headlights and tail lights were all broken. There were even some dents and scratches in the body. Honestly, I’m surprised we didn’t hear it happen. The parking lot isn’t right by our door, but we can see it from the window. They must have done it while we were listening to music or watching a movie. Maybe they even had someone watching us through the window to see if we would call the police. That’s creepy. I feel like one of the neighbors must have seen it, but either they didn’t call the police or the police didn’t care.
I feel so bad about Alejandra’s car. I doubt her insurance will even cover it all. I know it’s not really my fault, but it feels like it. She tries to avoid being political, and I did too before Florence. We didn’t want any trouble. We just wanted to live our lives, go to our jobs, mind our own business, hope for the best. But when you see your whole city go underwater, it changes you. I like the way Jess puts it. You can’t be neutral on a moving train. Saying nothing, doing nothing, that’s political too. So I have to do something.
Anyway, there I was, staring at a car that had been smashed to pieces. Once the shock wore off, I realized that I was going to be late. I ran inside, told Alejandra, and ran out to the bus stop. I missed the bus, so I had to walk to campus. I got there almost an hour late.
The campus was in a state of chaos. The newly formed Constitutional Militia Coalition of Southern Illinois had deployed hundreds of people to intimidate greens and try to keep them off campus. There are a few entrances to campus, but the main one is a three-way intersection that has two corners on campus and a long parking lot and woods across from campus. About a hundred of the CMC troops were standing on those two corners in camo uniforms, many of them wearing body armor and helmets in spite of the summer heat. They carried no weapons, though, because they were choosing to respect the university’s gun restrictions, at least for today. Instead, they carried these big American flags and printed signs saying that the global warming is a hoax, Green Front should be arrested, shut down the conference, those types of slogans.
Across the street, there were dozens of men and a few women in similar gear who were all carrying assault rifles. They weren’t pointing them at anyone, but something about the way they were carrying them was scary. They weren’t just there for appearances. They were all on edge, keeping an eye on passing cars, the edge of the woods, and so on. They weren’t aggressive, but they were ready to shoot people if they needed to.
And that was just the CMC! There were two foot bridges nearby that go over the main street. Both of those had been taken over by men in black body armor with assault rifles. I didn’t see any badges, but since they had guns on campus, my guess is Homeland Security, or maybe some Bastion men who had been deputized. There were also some military vehicles driving on and off campus slowly, staying mobile but keeping an eye on the situation.
There were a few dozen Green Guard there too. They were all standing on the side with guns, at least the ones that I could see. They were easy to distinguish because of their bright green helmets and a banner that simply said “MIAMI”. The CMC taunted them by shouting insults and threats, but the Green Guard were very disciplined, talking among themselves but not getting drawn into a shouting match. I was surprised, actually, because a lot of Green Front people who aren’t in the Guard seem to take great pleasure in shouting back and making a scene.
The CMC troops were definitely intimidating. They did their job well. I had to walk past them to get on campus. I suppose I could have turned around and found another way, but I was already late, and I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. So I walked past them. They shouted all sorts of things at me about how global warming was a hoax and I was a fascist and a terrorist and a traitor for attending the conference. At one point, someone shouted “That’s her! That’s the one!”, and then everyone got twice as loud and excited with all of the insults. They kept their hands off me, though, so I guess that’s something.
When I made it inside the student center where they were having the first big event, I felt much safer. There were still some unarmed CMC troops there, but it was quieter, and there were hundreds of green people who were there for the conference. It hadn’t officially started yet, but they were all checking in and talking to each other outside of the ballrooms while they waited for it to start.
I was so relieved when I saw Jess behind one of the registration tables. She was having an animate conversation on the phone with one of the other organizers. I hurried over to her and she took a break from her call to give me a big long hug. Then she pointed at a to do list on her tablet and we started working.
Most of the events inside the conference have gone really well so far. The turnout is better than we expected, which has created some problems, but it also means more volunteers. So when the food runs out, we have plenty of people to go make a run into town for more. And the telepresence technology that Ermete and his team set up was absolutely beautiful. I’ll talk more about that next time, but I have to at least mention it now. The global keynote speakers were broadcasting from Miami. They set it up so that every local event felt like they were in the front row seats. But then you could look at the walls to your left, your right, behind you, and see all of the people from all of the events in other cities. It’s amazing what you can do with a few good projectors, some cameras, and some decent bandwith. I was in a big ballroom with just a few hundred people, the same room that the panel discussion happened in. But I felt like I was surrounded by everyone in the world who was attending their local Conference on Miami. It was amazing.
The smaller workshops and discussions were great too. It’s the same basic idea as the ballrooms, but smaller and more interactive. I went to a discussion about green solutions for some of the infrastructure problems Miami is facing. Some of it was specific to Miami but some of it could apply to other cities. There were four cities involved in this meeting and each city had about a dozen participants. The telepresence technology made it feel like we were all in a single oddly-shaped room having this conversation. Some of us even talked informally afterward like you would at an in-person conference. I may have a good lead on a project in Miami that’s looking for new volunteers and staff.
The only down side during the conference itself was that one of the meetings was disrupted by infiltrators. They registered for the conference, attended a few events, and then suddenly just started ranting and screaming and attacking one of the telepresence projectors. I wasn’t there for it, but I’m pretty sure I heard it down the hall. They didn’t have guns, thank God, but they were escorted out of the building by a few of our unarmed security volunteers.
I just want to go on and on, but I need to try to get some sleep. I have to be up again in a few hours so that I can help with a few things in the morning before the next event. A few of us are sleeping on the couch and floor at Gaia House tonight so that we won’t have to walk or drive home between now and then. Ermete is sound asleep in a sleeping bag on the floor right next to me. His tablet is still in his hand and he’s using his bag as a pillow. Jess is sitting by my feet at the other end of the couch. She’s staring at a screen and typing. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s posting somewhere about her experiences today too.
It’s been a crazy day, but so far, so good. I’ll try to post again tomorrow. If I can’t find the time, I’ll let you know how it went when it ends on Sunday. Wish me luck. And if you’re not at local conference already, you still have time to get there. Trust me, it’s worth it.