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Notes from the Un-Convention

July 2004

The Democratic National Convention is coming to Boston. Plans are in place to dramatically restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the center city. Just yesterday, a judge said that the space being prepared to keep protestors “under wraps” resembled an internment camp, but he refused to order the police to re-think this radical restriction of the right to assembly. Life is good in the Cradle of Liberty. The jury is still out on whether or not any of this could prevent the feared terrorist attack, but turning Boston into a police state will surely keep thousands of people from exercising their democratic rights…such as they are.

Luckily, the DNC will not be the only political gathering in Boston during July’s final days. Beginning today (July 23), thousands of activists from around the world will gather at the University of Massachusetts/Boston for the Boston Social Forum.  Part teach-in, part cultural festival, part roundtable on social alternatives, part creative chaos, we dare call the BSF a “Festival of Alternatives.” The organizers have planned the BSF to showcase social change organizing in New England and to connect that organizing to similar efforts taking place the world over. It is surely a homegrown show, but it takes as its inspiration the World Social Forum process initiated in Brazil in early 2001.

If the unifying slogan of the DNC is “There is No Real Alternative,” then that of the BSF will be, “The Alternative is Within Us, and All Around Us.” Doesn’t the BSF deserve to be called “The Un-Convention?”

We at Grassroots are excited about the BSF and have invited two of our international partners–Ruba Eid of Palestine’s Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center and Paolo de Marck of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement–to join us for the forum.  Over the next few days, we will be sharing our reflections on the BSF and what it has to say to that other convention.

If you are anywhere near Boston, join us at the Forum and share your own thoughts.


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