Yesterday was the second day of the Global Conference On Miami. I tried to post about it last night, but I was so tired and sore and emotional that it just wasn’t coming together. Ermete saw me struggling with it and convinced me to just save my progress as a draft and finish the rest tomorrow.
Ermete is a wise man.
I spent Friday night sleeping on the couch at Gaia House. I tried to just sleep on the floor and offer the couch to other people, but they all insisted I should have the best spot. Jess joked that I was getting special treatment because I was a Miami refugee, but really, that’s just how they are. They seem like the type of people who would give the shirt off their back to someone in need. This town is still strange to me, but they make me feel at home.
The second day also seemed to start smoothly at first. Sometimes I wonder if the anti-greens just like lulling me into a false sense of security. I woke up, ate a quick breakfast, had a good talk with Jess, and headed over to campus. The crosswalk between Gaia House and campus is a block or two away from that big main entrance, so I was able to avoid the worst of the denialist sideshow for a little while. But the Constitutional Militia Coalition obviously knows that Gaia House is involved in the conference, so they had about forty unarmed troops right by the crosswalk. They’re willing to wake up pretty early in the morning to harass some greens, I’ll give them that much.
Once I got past the loudmouth bullies on the corner, everything seemed great. I helped set up the main information table for the morning, ran a few errands on campus, and got everything done in time to check out one of the morning’s first workshops. I was in one of the ballrooms upstairs with maybe 75 other people. We had just gathered into smaller circles with each group discussing some aspect of global warming solutions for large cities.
And then the power went out.
You have to understand that three of the four main ballrooms in the student center don’t have any windows. That’s where most of us were during the morning workshops. So when I say that the power went out, what I mean is that a few hundred people spread out over three or four large rooms suddenly found themselves in near darkness. There was some emergency lighting, thank God, otherwise it would have been total darkness.
There was a moment of panic. And then the workshop leader urged everyone to remain calm and reminded us that this was one of the situations we knew to expect. We just had to remain calm and proceed to the exit in an orderly fashion.
And then came the teargas.
Somebody in the ballroom opened up a can of teargas and threw it into the center of the room. I didn’t see it happen, but they must have been sitting by the door, because that’s where it came from. By the time I turned around, he was already slipping out the door and shoving it shut behind himself.
Everybody started to panic. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, of course. It wasn’t wild panic, just a rush to figure out what to do before the gas got too bad. We all knew something like this might happen, and we all figured out pretty quickly what the guy’s plan was. Open some teargas, lock the door, let us choke for a while.
What really helped save the day was the Green Guard.
I didn’t mention this here, but a few days ago, I got a call from someone in the Green Guard. He was a local, so at first the local number and southern accent made me think it was another bad phone call. But he was very polite and friendly and told me that the Green Guard wanted to help with security for the conference. Half of them would serve as armed guards out on the street in case the CMC flipped out and started shooting people. But the other half would go undercover, attending the conference like anyone else but quietly making sure that each meeting space was protected.
I really wanted to talk about this secret plan on here. Green militias? Undercover security guards? I’ve never been involved in anything like this before. It was all exciting and a little bit scary. But obviously I couldn’t talk about it until after the fact. It would have spoiled the surprise.
The element of surprise came in handy. It sounds like the people who did this weren’t expecting so much resistance. They planned to just throw the teargas, slip out, chain the door, and run outside to blend back into the crowd. One of them managed to get the chain on, but the other three didn’t even get that far. They were tackled by undercover Green Guard and held on citizen’s arrest until the police arrived. The one who was quick with the chain did manage to escape. But we got some video, so hopefully they’ll catch him.
And then there was the power guy. There was one guy whose job it was to shut down power in the building at just the right time. He almost got away because it was dark and Green Guard only had two guys nearby. But then some bystanders saw him running from Green Guard and figured out that he was the guy who had shut off the power. There was a brief fight but nobody was seriously hurt.
That’s the theme for all of this chaos. No one was seriously hurt, thank God. Someone could have been trampled, or someone with asthma could have breathed the gas and died, or who knows what else could have happened. But most of us got out of the room in time to avoid the full effects. The people chained inside that one ballroom had it the worst. A few people did have to get checked out by paramedics for breathing problems or minor injuries they sustained during the chaos. The rest of us just had to wash our eyes and our skin with the help of first aid volunteers. I tripped and fell on someone’s backpack in the dark, but luckily I didn’t break anything. I don’t think I even sprained anything, although my left shoulder is still a little sore. Annoying but no big deal.
That was the biggest disruption of the day on Saturday. Of course, we didn’t let it get to us. A few people decided they were done for the day, but most of us stuck with it. We went outside into the heat, gathered in a field and parking lot nearby, and continued our discussion. The conference ran late for the rest of the day, and we didn’t do as much of the telepresence work as we planned because some of that was supposed to happen in the ballrooms. And we got harassed repeatedly by unarmed CMC troops, random protesters, and even a few of the armed Bastion troops, which was a little scary. But then some Homeland Security people in suits told Bastion to pull back, and they did.
All things considered, we made a good recovery. The conference resumed and we made it through all of the programs we had planned. It was a very stressful day, but also a good day. It was all worth it.
Today was also exciting, but mostly for other reasons. I’ll post about that tomorrow. In the meantime, this seems like a good stopping point. Thank you to everyone around the world who participated in your own local session of the Global Conference On Miami. Some of you had it worse than we did, but as far as I know, all of us in over four hundred cities kept it together in some form for a full day of events. That’s quite an achievement.