By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
This will be a shortish post, but short in the way that an astronomer’s note announcing the discovery of a new planet doesn’t need to be long.
As readers know, I’ve been following the various “protest movements” — for want of a better term — for quite some time: Tahrir Square (2011), the state capitol occupations (2011), the indignados (2011), Occupy proper (2011-2012), as well as Quebec’s carré rouge (2012), and, this year in Water Cooler, the Hong Kong Umbrella movement and the widening circle of actions that began with the Ferguson protests over Darren Wilson’s killing of Mike Brown. That’s rather a lot, isn’t it?
I’m sure there are many more movements; and I’m quite conscious that a master theory is lacking: One that would unify, for example, the examples just listed with fractivism, landfill and mountaintop removal opposition, and so on, which are generally placed under the heading of civic engagement rather than “protest.” We often hear comments to the effect that “the culture must change,” but I would direct your attention to these movements to find out how the culture is, in fact, changing, and who is driving the change. (If you want an example of movements from the past that changed the culture, consider ACT-UP, which I’ll assert without any evidence cleared the ground for gay marriage. And of course, there are the civil rights movement and the suffragettes, both of whom changed the culture, sometimes in very unpredictable ways.)
Throughout, I’ve tended to look at reports of specific actions within these movements through the lens of Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Non-Violent Protest and Persuasion, mostly because it helps to have a taxonomy to control the mass of material. So, for me, following these movements is rather like being a birdwatcher, except that instead of shouting “ZOMG! That’s a Red-footed Falcon!” I’ll be reading along, processing the events of the day, and suddenly think to myself: “Hmm. That’s an example of #57, Lysistratic nonaction.” Or whatever. So imagine my delight when I encountered an example of the extremely rare #198, Dual sovereignty and parallel government, in the following video! From The Real News Network:
Here is the key portion of the interview, where Producer Megan Sherman interviews Kevin McCamant, a clinical psycologist who works with the Rose Street Community Center in Baltimore, MD:
SHERMAN: The employees at the Center addressed what some referred to as black-on-black crime by that could lead to violence.
MCCAMANT: The two issues that have been longstanding on the one hand are the police misconduct and brutality and on the other hand what has been called black-on-black crime.
I want to underscore that Rose Street has been for a long time dealing with that issue of, quote, black-on-black, endquote, crime. The homicide rate midyear citywide in Baltimore was the lowest in 30 years.
In the news they were talking about they couldn’t figure out how this had happened. Well, I can tell you how it happened. .
In other words, they took over the policing function from the State; that looks like about as clear a case of “dual sovereignty and parallel government” as I’ve seen. Granted, it’s a small territory; and granted, the Rose Street Center isn’t performing other State functions, first and foremost collecting taxes. Nevertheless, it’s these “volunteers” who handled the possibility of violence themselves; they didn’t call
the occupation forces 911; and this is entirely rational: I subscribe to a newsfeed with the keywords “police shooting,” and all too often, when people call 911, the cops show up and whack somebody; Tamir Rice is just the latest example of many.
Throughout the Ferguson protests, I’ve been amazed by the dazzling tactical ingenuity of the actions: The die-ins and the transport blockages, for example, both of which scaled neatly geographically and across classes. And in Baltimore, we have another example of this ingenuity, although not in the context of the Ferguson protests per se, but in terms of a deeper, longer, and more thoroughly considered resistance. Clearly there is more to this story, and I hope to learn more.
 For example, some say that the Wizard of Oz is a critique of populist theories of money.
 Considered as a taxonomy, Sharp’s 198 Methods is not exhaustive; for example, the Mad as Hell Doctors did road trips in favor of single payer in 2009; but there’s no taxonomy item for “caravan.” And there are a lot of other problems like that. Still, the 198 Methods are a noble effort, and many actions do fit into Sharp’s categories.
 One objection that might be raised is that “This is vigilantism.” But since the object is to defuse violence, not inflict it, I’m not sure the cases are the same. Another might be “But they’re taking the law into their own hands.” And yes, that is what “parallel sovereignty” means.
 Once the movement spread to the coasts from the Midwests, old forms seemed to take over: Sharpton’s marches on the East Coast, and black bloc-style wankery on the West, look like two sides of the same counterfeit coin, to me.