Strategy and Soul: Summary Highlights from A Campaigner’s Tale by Daniel Hunter (trainer of organizers, activists)

January 20, 2017

The veteran activist, campaigner and trainer, Daniel Hunter, who drafted the organizing guide for The New Jim Crow and has advised nonviolent movements around the world teaches core principles in the gripping story of casinos coming to Philadelphia and creating a “done deal” with government.  People organized and the casinos outspent their effort 200:1.  The people still won.  They had people and soul, but strategy was essential.  Here it is…  The reference numbers are to the kindle edition of Strategy & Soul:  A Campaigner’s Tale.

Our movement was outspent by hundreds of millions of dollars. Every local official resisted us. Newspapers chastised us. The governor derided us. Private investigators were hired against us. Thugs threatened and even attacked us. And the state supreme court suspiciously and consistently sided against us. On a good day, we had confidence we could win—even with the odds against us. This conviction tells you something about our movement 82

We believed in people power. We had faith in folks’ ability to organize and overcome long-shot odds. That we were able to make huge wins shows our correctness in thinking David can beat Goliath, even when Goliath has deep pockets and overwhelming political support.  What that conviction doesn’t show is the strategy. The uncertainty. The skills. The mistakes. The heart. The soul. It doesn’t show you how we organized or used direct action to feed our success (which, though substantial, was not complete). 87   “Casino-Free Philadelphia is basically a shell organization with no plans or clear leadership, but we’re all open to whatever good ideas emerge. So what advice can you give us?” 329

First off… you’re stuck on their timeline. It’s gripping you, as if you’re going to win or lose on the day of licensing. As long as you’re on their timeline, you are going to lose.” 332

“You don’t have a plan, and that’s a problem. Your opposition clearly does. Though direct action can help, it’s not a cure-all without a strategy. 337

Right now, a good 80% of Philadelphians want casinos—of course, all they’ve (the opposition has) heard is jobs and revenues, no debate on neighborhood development.” I paused. “To win, you need more people on your side—and that means you need to find a value bigger than one that’s just about casinos. You need to tap core values. Unfortunately, your actions have all been routine and don’t do that. Rather than rallying or marching, could we organize bold, courageous actions, like a big anti-casino carnival or something?” 338

  • Breaking out of defeatism
  • rulers cannot govern without consent
  • cutting unwinnable issues into a campaign
  • heads we win, tails you lose
  • making each one-on-one meeting fruitful
  • being bold attracts attention
  • the first rule of online organizing • no more marches or rallies347

“That’s not a strategy,” the organizer half-shouted. “You can lobby the state house all you want, but they’re not going to change their minds. They cashed their checks long ago.” 368

It was like he was passing his trauma onto us. Stay small! Be cautious! It grated on my skin, 381  The casinos had too much sway with the PGCB and politicos. Our Goliaths could easily withstand those strategies—just as they could ignore actions that merely protested against them or expressed our outrage, like marches or rallies. We needed a slingshot. And we needed it fast. 396

“You can’t win if you’re stuck reacting,” said middle-aged Philippe, waving his hands energetically. “That’s the first lesson of campaigning. 405  They needed a way to get on the offensive and not just talk about individual plant closings, but the government’s large-scale plan to dismantle the union and privatize the industry.” 407

“They needed a campaign to seize the initiative by appealing to an unassailable value, one that all but the most hostile person could agree with. I thought to myself, ‘What’s a widely shared value here that’s being violated?’ And then it hit me: transparency. 411

Operation Transparency. Its goal was straightforward: force the government to release all strategic planning documents related to the plant closings. “The campaign uses the value of transparency like a fulcrum, to pull people to our side of the debate. Instead of defensively responding to plant closings, we’re on the offensive.” 416  “You can’t win a debate framed as casinos or no casinos,” I said. “With the city’s current sentiments, we’d lose right away. We need to speak to a higher value to tilt people to our side… 422

Campaign timeline. It started with a public ultimatum asking for the release of all documents and continued with cute, media-friendly actions, like an Easter Egg Hunt, during which union members searched the plant for planning documents to emphasize the point. One local had a member dress up in a white bunny rabbit suit armed with a magnifying glass. “For three months we used actions to build a media presence and our base, all the while giving our opponents time to do the right thing,” Philippe said.

“Since any worthy goal needs a way to carry it out, our tactics escalated to a culminating action I’ve used before: the nonviolent search and seizure, where we go to their offices and liberate the plans.” 425

Jethro chuckled and grinned, “Your action was your message.”   Philippe clapped, “Exactly! We weren’t going to wait for Canada Post to sit on its hands, ignoring our requests or rallies. We were creating a dilemma demonstration, where no matter the outcome, we win. 432  Top of Form

I knew that for Philippe and me, the document search wasn’t a stunt. It was the direct action approach—what I had learned ever since I was eight. 438

Nobody can make you do anything. There might be consequences, but my choices are my own, and nobody can force me do something against my will. That changed my relationship to every boss, teacher, and police officer ever since. 444

Philippe and I saw the world through a lens that showed us power resides in the bottom, in the workers and the governed. Most people picture power as residing up at the top and flowing downward. But we saw those at the bottom as having great power via their consent or refusal to do what those at the top ask. That’s the heart of a direct action philosophy. 448

People provide these services to the ruler through a variety of organizations and institutions. If the people stop providing these skills, the ruler cannot rule.” 455 at was the heart of the document search—ending citizen passivity by challenging an abusive organization. 457  We model transparency by laying out our complete timeline, to help get people off the PGCB’s timeline and put citizens back in the driver’s seat. That gives the media time to cover us and time for your neighbors and others to digest our bold dilemma demonstration. Because we can’t win if this is just about casinos. We need to use a dramatic action to carry our framing.”459

The mechanics, the framing, and the use of a public timeline. 464  After short pleasantries, he whipped out a pen and began a barrage of razor-sharp questions. “Exactly which documents do you want?” 481

“All the casino-related planning documents, like site plans,” I said. “The casinos published their original site plans long ago. But most of them have radically shifted their plans and we have not been able to see them. For example, I heard TrumpStreet’s casino proposal added twelve more acres to its site. It’s the updated documents you’re seeking?” 484  “Yes,” I said. “We’re trying to make an ask that makes sense to anyone. Shouldn’t people get to see updated plans of a massive casino building across from their house?” Ed looked at us with great intensity. “Why stop at updated site planning documents? Why not revenue planning projections?” “We did not know about those,” I said. “Those would be good, too,” Jethro said.   Ed skimmed the flyer. “If you get the documents released, what then?” 490

“So you go to Harrisburg, do the action. If you get arrested, what will you do then?” “Create headlines,” I said. “Delegitimize the PGCB and the licensing process. Build momentum against whichever casinos get selected or, in the best case, make enough obstacles so the PGCB can’t go through with the licensing.” “These other little actions on the timeline? What do they do?” “They give us time to organize,” I said. “Our campaign needs an arc, time to raise the issue in the public’s eye and get into people’s consciousness. Plus, we need time to build pressure on the PGCB.” His questions continued on and on. Under the scrutiny of Ed’s mind, the campaign lost its glamour. “The ultimatum page is excellent,” he concluded. “The rest”—the tactics and direct action, apparently—“seems sketchy.” 503

Jethro’s savvy organizing experience made him see it differently. He knew organizing is about starting wherever people are, using their core values to move into action for social change. “Ed gave us a lot of important information. We know more about what parts we have to tighten up, especially explaining the point of the direct action. It’s not a failure, it’s just more information on how to bring Ed a step closer. If Ed won’t get arrested with us or even endorse us, I bet he’ll tighten up our document demands.” 517

Hone our vague demands into eight core requests: case files for each of the casinos; social, environmental, and crime impact studies; hearing presentations; revenue projections; updated site plans; updated traffic plans; architectural drawings; and a complete history of casinos’ past commitment to communities—all kept secret by the PGCB.    It was the first time—but far from the last—that I saw Jethro’s brilliance at making even “unsuccessful” meetings count, by giving everyone a chance to help the campaign, no matter where they were. 522

Philippe wrote back quickly, “Yes, you are out of you mind. And that’s why I love you. Remember to breathe, and laugh at the whole mess!” It felt silly to take a deep breath in front of my computer, but I tried. I had been so caught up in creating something new, I forgot that most new campaigns suffer this moment: testing whether the campaign’s vision and organization is strong enough to weather forces outside of the womb.   It felt crazy. Our capacity was so tiny that to carry out the campaign we absolutely had to grow. Yet that’s exactly what a campaign should do. The goal should be inspiring and bold enough that its capacity needs to grow and expand. Our wildly ambitious timeline and zany actions were part of what made the campaign interesting; when people saw them, they’d want to join—or so I hoped. 540

Convinced that the campaign was ready, Jethro and I emailed our listserv and five media contacts. 550  I was of two minds. One was proud our press calls had convinced skeptical reporters that we were serious and would offer a dramatic storyline. Most reporters couldn’t help but ask, “If they don’t give you the documents, are you seriously going to walk into their offices and just take the documents?” I would grin widely and silently point to our document, which laid out everything.  But I hadn’t been this nervous before an action for years. It wasn’t only my anxiety about leading a confrontational action. What weighed most heavily was that we were promising everyone an escalating, two-month campaign—but we didn’t have the organizational resources to back it up. Consciously, I chose to act from a place of confidence. I had been a trainer for years, which had taught me that I had a choice on how to present. 562

To the crowd, Jethro read from the ultimatum, “People have a right to see plans of what is being built in this city. If these documents are not made public by December 1 at high noon, we will be forced to search for the documents ourselves. We are prepared to go the full lengths of nonviolent civil disobedience to assert our right as citizens for this information, including carrying out a Document Search on the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s offices in Harrisburg, where we will liberate the texts that have not been given to us.” 573 “Now, we’re going to head in and up to the mayor’s office to try faxing a copy of the ultimatum to Tad Decker, head of the PA Gaming Control Board. We’ll also send it to Governor Rendell.” I led the contingent up to the mayor’s office. Halfway through, I discretely pulled Jethro to help lead the way—I didn’t even know where the mayor’s office was! I chided myself, 578  The gentleman made no eye contact with me as he read our ultimatum. “So you want to use our fax machine?”   Well, it was our fax machine—our taxpayer dollars had paid for it, a point made to us earlier by Ed Goppelt.   The stiff official glanced at the video cameras, then reluctantly ushered us into the mayor’s communications office. “They’re going to just use the fax for a minute,” he told the wide-eyed staff.  Dazed, I stood at the fax machine awkwardly entering first Decker’s, then Rendell’s fax numbers. Minutes later, the fax machine printed a confirmation that the letter had been sent. Success! Our ultimatum was delivered and the campaign officially launched.   I turned to Jethro, “With five reporters covering us, I think its safe to say this is the most highly covered fax transmission in Philly history!” We passed out “trick-or-treat bags” to the mayor’s communications staffers—and later to councilmembers two floors lower. Unlike the casino industry, we did not have any money to buy off politicians, so we offered them what we could afford: chocolate coins. I had added magnifying glasses, so they could help us search for the documents, and some Tastykakes, because it was rumored that Tasty Baking Company might close its doors if Trump’s casino were built, costing the city hundreds of jobs. 590

The action was cute, funny, and fairly well-executed—but not earth-shattering, with PGCB merely a non-participative fax recipient. Still, with an action each week until the December 1 ultimatum, we would get them engaged. 605  The media referred to us as “residents from throughout the city.” Not activists—that’s good, I thought to myself. Even though I am an activist, the “activist” framing has been contaminated with images of undirected outrage or random violence, not the high-ground action by citizens that we were modeling. 616  But the debate was poorly framed. Rather than transparency versus government secrecy, the article’s framing was about confidentiality and proper procedure. 620  Spokesperson Doug Harbach dismissed our accusations, saying, “We’re not running away from releasing information that the public can obtain—we’re doing this by the book, and the book is Act 71.”  It was barely a rebuttal, sidestepping entirely the accusation that his organization was operating behind a veil of secrecy. That the reporter had let that slide meant we had not increased the pressure enough. But it was a start. 622  “If we are arrested doing the document search, police can hold us in jail for up to seventy-two hours. It’s an early morning action on a weekday, not a high-volume time for arrests. So we’re unlikely to have a queue of people in front of us being booked. Unless they decide to play hardball with us, I bet we could be out by later that afternoon.” “Can they stop us from going into the building?” “Yes, they could set up some barricade. Then we just do the action there. We go as far as we can to legitimately carry out a document search.” “Could they arrest us before we do the action?” 638

How many people do we need at minimum?” “Maybe double-digits. Too few and we look completely marginal.”  He stared at his empty cup. I waited. His head snapped up, some internal decision made. “Then let’s get ten.” It was certainty in his voice, borne from years of organizing people. The act of setting goals set him in motion. Definite numbers freed his energy. He ran upstairs. “Grab your coat!” 663

Teamsters union had a history of using direct action to win rights. Words flashed in my mind from Dr. Martin Luther King about unearned suffering being redemptive to society. But it was too early in our relationship to push it. 694

Jethro leaned in. “It’s not right to put gigantic casinos with giant parking garages and 24/7 neon lights across from our houses. It’s not right to stomp on our say, to hide documents from us. When they’ve left us no options, taking actions into our hands is the right thing to do.” 697  Top of Form

Jethro cut him off. “I hope you’ll come to the action, even if you decide not to risk arrest. But please consider it before saying no, because it would be fun to be arrested with you. Don’t decide now.” 704 “So,” said Jethro, “will you at least come to the action next week?”  “You bet,” said Ed. “It sounds like fun!” 708

Instead, we made an ally out of time. We transparently announced our direct action far in advance. That gave time for our opponents to worry about what was coming, and it gave us time to publicly escalate pressure on our opponent—with a clear escape route for them: Release the documents. “Of course, if that’s the case, maybe the PGCB will give us the documents.” Jethro looked at me expectantly, then added, “Or it could all just be a bluff, hoping we’ll call it off. Or they’ll release a portion. Either way, we have to be ready.” I nodded and asked, “Any more people sign up for the document search?”  We were now in well-traversed terrain. We’d called every person on our small listserve—several times now.   “Only six people,” he said. “You have any?” “I’m not having success getting any statewide groups.” 790

“The first rule of online organizing: Stop being online. Stop emailing her, and give her a call. You’ll only make up stories about each other that are probably not true.”  I sighed. He was right. As much as I tried to tell myself that maybe she just missed my email or it got lost in a spam filter, my nagging fear returned that she was sticking it to us for a reason. There was already so much statewide tension set up in the divide-and-conquer strategy of how Pennsylvania brought in casinos. 818   “And that call with Doug… You did great, really great.” I exhaled and beamed.   A week later, I jumped off the bus with my boombox blaring Mission Impossible’s theme song. A half-dozen supporters followed me to the State Museum auditorium in Harrisburg. The first-ever mock document search was on. 827 Top of Form

“This mock search is a practice session for our nonviolent document search. It is playful, but we are serious. The future of our city is at stake. What are they hiding? Let’s see if we can find out!” The PGCB’s penchant for secrecy had been confirmed days earlier. Their advertisements for “public” hearings reminded us there would be no chance for public testimony—and avoided saying where they would be held. After a flurry of fruitless emails with equally puzzled reporters, I finally called Doug Harbach to obtain the location. It was as if they didn’t want us there. 834  despite our small numbers, we’re getting noticed by doing something unusual, something to report on. Press don’t cover issues. They cover news stories, so, to earn press we must be new and a story, not just a litany of problems… Plus, it helps to show up where media were already coming!” 947  We couldn’t slay Goliath with conventional weapons. We had found our slingshot: direct action. 962

Empathizing with media’s needs • the second rule of online organizing • teasing the story to reporters • dealing with civil affairs • the threat terrifies more than the act • rejections can radicalize • choreographing actions to relieve tension and reveal secrecy • showing, not telling966

Building press momentum takes effort and time. I had conscientiously sent press releases two days before the action and again the day before, and then followed up with calls to each reporter. On a good week, I’d even call after actions or to chat up reporters with campaign updates. But 970 neither utlet covered us. I learned my lesson: reporters are so busy they needed to be handed the story—including making the event easy for them to attend. 1035 and independent media gave generous coverage of the window-washing action. The Philadelphia Student Union, environmentalists in Columbus, and dozens of other groups later used the tactic themselves. The window-washing action was simple, repeatable, and carried a clear message. 1051 “We’re giving people something meaningful to do,” I said with pride. “We’re not just waiting for experts in law or political officials to save us—that’s a recipe for despair. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” 1379  never stopped to consider that the PGCB’s overreaction might be because of us. This is what legendary community organizer Saul Alinsky meant when he said, “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” 1382

Negotiating was the white flag of surrender, picking your terms of defeat. Jethro hated politicians for offering it as their first and last option for his community. 1421  It was the night before the document search. We had just finished the training session. Trainer Michael Gagné, who had worked with Philippe during the first nonviolent search and seizure in Ottawa, spent the bulk of the training on logistics, “what if” scenarios, and our codes of behavior. It was a fine training, peaking when Michael charismatically told his story of attempting to “liberate” documents called the Free Trade Area of the Americas. It was a high-level trade negotiation between all countries in the Americas except Cuba, with NAFTA-like provisions, expanding “free” trade but restricting environmental and labor laws. Even worse, the texts were secret to everyone except heads of state and 500 business representatives. So a few weeks before the trade meetings in Québec, Michael attempted to liberate the texts, going over police barricades dressed as Robin Hood, along with ninety-eight others. The resulting public pressure coerced the Canadian government to break ranks and make them public. Exposed to public scrutiny, the plans were quickly shredded. 1448

glasses. Rather than rush the doors and create chaos, which the police could use as a pretext to take control, the action was designed to maintain control with internal discipline. Meredith and Jethro read in unison from our citizen’s search warrant, “On behalf of citizens across the state, we are here to demand the casino planning documents from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.” 1542 “We have consistently said transparency rests on two rights: the right for public information and the right to give meaningful input. The Gaming Control Board has denied our right to public information. Without relevant and updated information, the PGCB has therefore denied our right to give meaningful input, too.” 1545  in the silence, surging into the finale: “The right to know is fundamental to democracy. We have a right to debate casinos coming into our neighborhoods before it is too late. We know the documents are in this building, here in the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s offices. We are asking you, police officers and security officials, to do your duty to join with us and help retrieve the Gaming Control Board’s plans for our neighborhoods.” 1548

Then Meredith took a step. “My name is Meredith Warner. I am here to exercise my right as a citizen.” Together, they walked forward as they executed the final words of the citizen search warrant. “Please let us through.” They took six paces toward the door, as the crowd quietly inhaled. This was it.   Supporters broke into a cacophony of cheers of encouragement, whoops, and a few jeers toward the police. Adrenaline and excitement kicked in as I raised my voice above the others. I wanted people on message. “Let them through! Let them through!” Others joined, until the whole crowd was thundering, their words echoing into every corner and spilling into the lobby. 1556

Pair after pair—magnifying glasses held aloft—walked calmly toward the now clogged doorway. I walked alongside Michelle McCandless and Karin DiNardi, both in wheelchairs, bringing up the rear of the seventh and final pair. 1580

Veterans of the direct action group Disabled In Action, 1621

For several hours, the PGCB shut down its offices rather than allow us to get access to some documents. Our message was embedded in our action so we didn’t need our signs or press releases to explain our action. We were showing, not telling.  The PGCB was exposed for violating the widely shared value of transparency, with our action unmarred by needless confrontation with police or sideshows. The PGCB would pay for it in terribly bad press coverage and political fallout. As we got back on the buses, I felt nothing but love for the radiant faces of my fellow arrestees: 1649

These people would never again believe this was a “done deal.” They had wielded what Dr. King called “the sword that heals.” We had faced our fear and, through our boldness, revealed injustice. Now, as all eyes swiveled back to the PGCB’s licensing, we just needed to persuade others of the power of direct action. 1656

The right story gets people outside their comfort zone • setting some boundaries • don’t ritualize losing • thinking ahead and preparing counter-responses • soaking up the political terrain • communal cider and soup combat the taste of defeat 1661

“Most importantly,” I said excitedly, “they didn’t merely cover the arrests, but reported on the PGCB’s lack of transparency and the hidden documents. All the reports clearly covered our goal. Rather than a rally that just talked about the PGCB’s opaqueness, we showed it: our message was embedded in our action.” 1673

“Fourteen anti-casino protesters were arrested today at the Gaming Control Board offices in Harrisburg when they demanded to see documents about proposed casinos that they say are being withheld from the public.” The article went on to explain the documents and the history of denied requests.               It was what it means to design an action to show, not tell. In the muddy waters of political theater, we told a simple story where we were the goodies, and the PGCB were the baddies—a story that would help us at our meeting today. 1679  n other words, he organized me. It was a textbook ask: clear, succinct, specific, and a next step rooted in my own interest and passion for teaching people direct action. 1693

I scanned the splendidly framed story. We wanted information. The PGCB was secretive. Instead of giving us documents, they arrested us. 1704  Jethro showed no hesitation, though I sensed him caught off guard. “I have fought ‘done deals’ before and won,” he said while returning to his seat. “Years ago, I worked as a community organizer with the Fenway community in Boston. We stopped a Fenway Park Stadium Complex that was a done deal—signed by the mayor, the governor, and all of the state representatives. But through community organizing, we were able to win.” He sounded like a friend thinking out loud about what he wanted to eat tonight. His words were slow-paced, tumbling out, like he realized what he was saying only after it came out. He flashed today’s Metro. “Actions get results. We were just fourteen people with a few supporters. Imagine what a group like you can do that has way more power than us. The community already supports you on this. You need to figure out how to get ahead of this issue, so that others can follow your lead. What can you do?” 1768

Where other organizers would start giving prescriptions, he was using strategic questions to organize them and elicit their wisdom. The tension in the room melted a little. People searched in earnest for options. A lawsuit? A public declaration? Maybe we could get PennPraxis to oppose casinos? The planning director quickly waved his hands. “We are going to stay neutral on the issue of casinos.” Jethro muttered angrily, “How can a planning process remain neutral on big-box development that impacts every aspect of it? Casinos break every rule of a civic vision with waterfront access.” Looking at Boise, he apologized. “Sorry, it’s your meeting. But we don’t have to accept the prescription of traditional institutions: the courts, legislative bodies, or formal planning processes. If those mechanisms prove themselves unable to help, you may also consider direct action, like the action we just did. What would that look like for you all?” 1778

“Direct action can win when other options are closed to you,” I concluded. “You can sit in at meetings, picket to shut down the PGCB’s meeting, or strike until the PGCB negotiates with you.” At the last remark, the bosses shifted uncomfortably. Catching myself, I stuttered, “Of course, I’m not proposing strikes. There are lots of options, like our document search, or interrupting the December 20 proceedings. You just cannot afford this meeting going forward without trying to stop it.” 1813 I sighed with relief. The conversation turned away from politicians and toward a steady flow of ideas. None were as bold as Jethro or I proposed, but that wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to encourage people to take one step outside their comfort zone. We didn’t know how they worked, what they knew, or what they could do. They were their own experts. 1821

“City and state politicians use each other to avoid taking bold and winning steps. You are a state representative. Take steps at the state. We’ll worry about city leaders.” Bill grimaced. With feeling, he said, “Jethro, you’re just going to have to teach us how to win this.” 1857 Instead, Councilman DiCicco was doing the politician’s disavowal dance: Don’t ask me, I have no power – go ask someone else. 1878 Politicians’ default stance is to avoid blame, and the best way to do that is to claim powerlessness when bad things happen. 1881 “What about a sit-in?” “For what purpose? To demonstrate we’re angry? They know that. No, it needs to make sense to the outside observer and show us as powerful.” “We’ll come up with something,” he said. We lapsed into silence. If we do something poorly, it’ll undermine our credibility for leading crisp, sharp, well-crafted actions. 1979 “I got it!” I spun on the spot where I stood. “Let’s do nothing at all.” “What?” I smiled, excited to have surprised Jethro. “Let’s not wave signs and waste energy going to their stupid hearing just so they can ignore us. Let’s ignore them. If we can’t get the ILA or large numbers of people to do something meaningful, let’s not go.” 1986

“December 20 isn’t the endpoint. It’s a beginning. So don’t show up at the point of losing.” I emphasized each word. “We want to be associated with winning, not bringing people on a two-hour trip to Harrisburg only to watch us lose.” Confident now, I remembered my coaching to well-meaning activists who scheduled their protests at the point of loss: anti-death-penalty activists holding vigils on the day of executions, anti-globalization protestors showing up outside international trade meetings, or gun-control activists marching only when someone got shot. In each case, they marked—even ritualized—the points of their loss. “As a movement, I want us to mark our victories and minimize our losses. We won’t let our opponents tell us when and where we go,” I said. Jethro caught it. “So we stay off their timeline and say, ‘This was not the end.’ But what do we tell people? They’re going to be shocked.” “Give an alternative action,” I said, grasping. “We hold a strategy retreat as soon as the licensing is over. They hit us, we have a counter-response—one that helps prepare people for future organizing.” I paused, forming my words. “We tell them we’re not going, because the PGCB has no credibility. Going to their anti-democratic, anti-transparent theatrics only adds to their credibility.” 1994

calls to delay the licensing.   But I didn’t want to fall into the trap of many activist groups and avoid talking about our losses—like groups who talk about getting thousands of signatures but don’t admit those signatures had zero political impact. I wanted to be honest that, as near as I could tell, the PGCB wasn’t going to respond and would go ahead and select two Philadelphia casino licenses.   I wrote as if coaching myself. “This moment—waiting and watching the licensing—can be a stressful one. We’ll hear rumors, feel frustration, disappointment, so on. You know what stress does to yourself. So here’s a word of advice: Take care of yourself. Be with the people you love—and go gentle on yourself.” “This is not the end…” I searched for a metaphor. Something to acknowledge the loss—and the chance to come back. Boxing. “It’s just round one of a long struggle. But if we get back up again, it’s not a knock-out.”  “Whatever happens tomorrow, we’ll be ready with a response. So join us on January 6 for our post-licensing strategy meeting to help prepare for round two.” 2014

The day before the PGCB’s licensing, over a hundred burly ILA members clustered around City Hall, sporting ILA jackets and heavy work clothes. They had asked us—the “action experts”—to set up their press conference and write and send their press release. We had done so, but once the action was underway, they had it. Facing a sizable press audience, ILA’s national vice president Jim Paylor spoke. His voice was steady and forceful, sounding like a working-class Captain Picard. “The PGCB licensing is being done without any comprehensive study of the impact on port jobs. I’ve had the benefit of working on the waterfront. It’s not just longshoremen, we’re a small part of loading and unloading cargo. There’s Teamsters who store it, there are Teamsters who move it from the pier facilities to all those who use it. There are a lot of jobs related to the waterfront that most people don’t understand or equate to the longshore industry, even accountants who work at shipping agencies. It’s a lot of jobs along the waterfront that are being threatened.” Others from the ILA and management spoke on behalf of the $17-to-$35-per-hour jobs with union benefits. All jeopardized by current casino plans.  It was short. But now, in every major newspaper, the ILA would be on record as standing, in Boise Butler’s words, “prepared to take the necessary steps to protect our livelihood”—whatever necessary steps meant. 2030 “We need to build a movement based on who we are. We need a different relationship to our politicians, not someone else to be our savior. That’s the old way of working. The new way is we have a truly participatory democracy where our voices matter.” Ed nodded, letting the idea go. 2097 “This is not where I wanted to be tonight. But I couldn’t be anywhere else!” Like a convex mirror, he reflected our feelings writ large. “Our elected officials should be here standing beside us in the cold. They believe this is over, that it’s a done deal. It is not. This is not a time of mourning, it is a time for commitment to a greater struggle.” Jethro was projecting confidence into our fear and anxiety. It was the skill Stokely Carmichael most admired about Dr. King: not his oratory or strategy, but his fearlessness, and his ability to draw it out from others. 2208

  • groups need safety to make tough decisions
  • empty chairs drain energy
  • standing in solidarity makes a good introduction
  • acknowledging small wins halts self-defeating strategies
  • use small groups to build a container
  • organizers understand others’ self-interest
  • goals, targets, tactics
  • group “storming” to develop mission and ownership2221

“Keep your eyes out for ideas that excite you,” I said encouragingly, “since soon we’ll create working groups to bring them to life.” Whatever my feelings about each proposal, my job was to float above and be an encourager and motivator whenever people were bringing their best thinking. 2585 since we had been in a large group for the past hour, I knew some people needed to exhale in small groups. Too much small groups, no group cohesion. Too much large groups, group exhaustion!

I put them into small groups to identify what approaches attracted them and to suggest working groups to explore that. 2607

“If you want to be a part of it, Casino-Free Philadelphia, then you are. We empower you. This is a movement organization, and if you want to be part of it, then you are.” 2636

“What’s right in this moment?” Suddenly I found myself falling away from the conflict and relaxed into my body. My fingers unclenched and I smiled widely. I whispered to Jethro, “Just be quiet. Let this be. This is healthy.” He went quiet, but stared at me like I may have lost my mind.  I stopped weighing in as the group escalated, only encouraging people to speak directly to each other. It seemed an eternal couple of minutes as the group battled back and forth, mostly over no casinos versus not Foxwoods versus no casinos in neighborhoods, with only occasional forays back into Are we Casino-Free Philadelphia or just a group of people, should we be a new organization…

The group hadn’t yet made a leap forward, and I noticed a few faces beginning to look worried, perhaps wondering what this hands-off facilitator was doing. I refused to weigh in on the content, only framing the process. “Right now, the group is raising the questions: What’s our goal? and Who are we? These are important questions.” The safety would help the group to find its own answers. Or so I hoped and prayed. 2650 Slowly, cautiously, I stood up and framed what had just happened. “It seems as though this group has made a meaningful decision. Casino-Free Philadelphia will stand behind the mission of no casinos in neighborhoods, ultimately seeing that means no casinos anywhere in this city. That is our goal. That is our mission. Is that right?” Nods from all over the room. We had just made it through a storm with its characteristics of thunder, lightning, rain, and the quiet and calm after—what those in group development call moving through a stage of chaos. I thought about explaining the concept, of how groups occasionally throw themselves into questions of mission and goals to develop more closeness. In that stage, wise facilitators let the group work itself out, beaming love and support but not weighing in on the content of the fight. But I decided there was no point. The conflicts had always been present: Am I signing up to help stop SugarHouse, too, or just Foxwoods? Do I have to believe that casinos are evil, or can I just oppose them in neighborhoods? With enough safety, the group could have an honest conflict, finding that one could even be pro-casino in this organization, if you were willing to back the shared mission.  “No casinos in neighborhoods, none in Philly. Is that right?” I echoed again, teasing them to repeat it back. “That’s right!” they shouted back. We were past the storm, and suddenly, with great ease, the group sailed into the last chunk of the day. 2685

“A good movement organization is one in which it’s easy to step into leadership, and harder to get out.” 2717

Even veterans like Meredith Warner were moved. She was sensitive to the tension of organizers determining strategy versus facilitating it. She had cautioned Jethro and me of not again “importing” strategies like Operation Transparency into an unprepared group, instead of skilling up members with self-education. The latter was, she felt, a step toward bottom-up strategizing. Gathering people back from report-backs felt like soaring off a cliff. There was little to do but enjoy the scenery as people offered brilliant strategizing, stepped into leadership, and supported each other to move powerfully.

Far from that anti-war meeting where we only emerged with a rally, we had options—but more importantly, we had a more committed base, with trust and longer-term commitment. I closed with a few final words and released people on time to the warm weather. In a hopeful sign, a large contingent stayed for more than an hour to continue socializing and planning. When I finally shut 2729

I respected her vision. But she wasn’t helping me see how it would be done. I backed up. “It’s great you’re taking on leadership, and you’ve got more petition-gathering experience than any of us, and I know Jethro totally trusts you. I’m just trying to figure out the plan.”  “We’ve got it covered. We’re meeting with civic groups to get access to their legions of block captains. We’re talking to press. I think Philadelphia Weekly is gonna do a cover story on us. And mayoral candidate Tom Knox is gonna donate $2,500 to us. People are fired up!” “I love the energy, I really do… I guess…” I paused. The result from the strategy retreat’s working groups had been uneven. The research group was spinning with questions, the direct action group meandering from idea to idea, and the political engagement working group was turning itself into a real North-South alliance. “Your efforts are the most direct, ready-to-roll strategy to stand in the way of casino development, but to plug people in I need to know the plan.” “We’re getting it all together right now, don’t worry. Our last meeting was great! 2770 Trained to argue and compete, lawyers rarely back down. In the last campaign I had run, lawyers had spent an hour trying to micromanage my organizing of a rally with word-smithing signs and a speakers list, until I all but ordered them to butt out. I loved Paul’s style of throwing the kitchen sink at the casinos but feared we’d spend hours bogged down, arguing over each idea.   “Too complex—got it,” said Paul. “I withdraw the motion.” A brief, relieved silence ensued. “I have a few more ideas,” Paul said. I grinned. “We should include language that voids any previous laws, in case the city sneaks through a contrary law before ours is passed.” “Absolutely,” Irv said, as the lawyers drifted through word-selection minutiae. I allowed myself to zone out. 2823  Amazingly, they were keeping to their field of law, not trying to control messaging, implementation, or organizing. I knew Irv was that rare breed of lawyers willing to defer to grassroots organizers. Paul might be that, too. As the call continued, I jotted a quick email to Paul, wondering if he could fit our gaping hole left by Irv’s imminent departure to run for City Council. “You’ve got a great organizing spirit.  Jet and I would love to sit down with you and just talk more about what that would mean.  Interested?  When can we do that?” For the next half-hour, the lawyers ripped out extraneous language and argued technicalities. Does the buffer apply to Institutional Development Districts—or just residentially zoned districts? By the end, the language was tightened to everyone’s satisfaction. The charter change would place a ballot question on the May 15 election. Voters could create a buffer zone to exclude casinos within 1,000 feet of homes, places of worship, parks, schools, or playgrounds. It would stop Foxwoods and SugarHouse but leave places in the city for a casino, away from neighborhoods. Still, far before it would get onto a ballot, we needed signatures. A lot of them. 2834

“Marc is right that it’s a huge problem that nobody has been told about this,” I said. “We need to get the word out.” Jethro stayed silent. “Look, Jethro. You’re not being clear at all. First you say you need to spend more time supporting Casino-Free Philadelphia, then you go silent to help out at NABR. Maybe it’s true you’ve been telling allies you think the No Way Without Our Say campaign isn’t the best idea. Are you behind it or not?” “I’m just not sure if it’s a good idea.” Jethro sighed loudly. “Maybe we bit off more than we can chew, between our trial on Monday for Operation Transparency, a Fishtown neighborhood meeting tonight, and a CFP meeting later this week. We need to take a deep breath and get the decision-making structure and leadership in place. I never was certain if this were the right strategy, but you seemed so certain.” “Wait. What?” I almost spat the words. “You were the one giving Anne the green light to go ahead.” “Me?” His voice soured. “I thought you were in touch with Anne. You seemed to know what’s going on!” “I only know because Shirley is talking to me. You and Anne founded CFP together, and I figured she was giving you the details.” “Anne’s a strong, visionary leader,” he said. “But she hasn’t pulled me in to take on leadership. CFP has no clear structure…” He drifted off. “It’s not fair to ask you or me to staff up something without a better structure and some funds to support us. Let’s not be martyrs.” “Then build that team. Let’s create an executive team of CFP leadership. But I need to know if you really support the charter change, because…” A thousand ways to complete the sentence fought for attention—because you got me wrapped up in this mess, so you can’t abandon me; because we are the faces of Casino-Free Philly, for better or worse; because I respect your opinion on if this is feasible. “Because if we do this, we have to clear our plates and focus. But we haven’t committed to it yet. We can still say 2860  impossible to bounce back after that. Yet, any good campaign carries risk. Fear often holds people back from setting goals that require growth and increased capacity. Or they never set goals, and just organize another one-time event, refusing to step into the boldness of campaigning. We needed boldness to win, because unless we grew, we would be swept away by the tide of political inevitability. 2890 I bit my tongue. I wanted to stand up and show him the tape of people walking past us. But courtrooms aren’t about getting to truth. They’re oppositional, with the goal of beating down the other side with a more coherent story. The question wasn’t what was true, it was what would convince the stony-faced judge. The prosecution reasserted that we had needlessly blocked the entrance, creating a fire hazard. They asked the judge for the full penalty for our deliberate, planned action. Next to me, Marj bristled. It was our lawyer’s turn. Pro bono attorney Sam Stretton called Rev. Jesse Brown to the stand. Wearing his collar, Jesse recounted how he requested to speak with PGCB officials and the heart of our story: the desire to get documents released. He never once called us protestors. We were citizens looking for documents. 2943 I couldn’t resist exploiting the teachable moment for others watching, too. “Jethro, this is what happens when we design actions based on doing what’s right. You don’t have to explain it to others or need signs or visuals—people can see for themselves the injustice. That’s the power of direct action when you design it so the action is the message.” 2982

It was textbook organizing: spending most of the time listening, finding out people’s values to understand what people most desired. In Paul’s case, he carried a vision of a city driven by citizen input, where government decisions were made at ground level next to where people lived and worked. Only then did Jethro begin talking. “We’re not going to win this by fighting as isolated neighborhoods, but together.” 3074

In minutes, Jethro had modeled classic pacing/leading. He had warmly paced with the crowd, only then leading them to the energy he wanted them to embody. Raucous crowd? Start there, with big body gestures. But for this reserved crowd, Jethro started small and expanded to the expressive boldness we desired. 3136

Petitions.  She noted right away the split along gender. Men did well at transportation spots, whereas women had more success at grocery stores and schools. 3283 Brian and I gauged which avenues were working: civic associations, block captains, volunteers hitting the streets, neighborhood-based groups. And what avenues were not. Like, aside from organizers with Project H.O.M.E. getting a thousand-plus signatures, most nonprofits were too flat-footed to make it worth our time reaching out to them. And we adjusted our strategy accordingly, devoting Brian’s time to hitting the streets and training others to gather petitions. “Too many people think petitioning is scary,” he said. “But once they go out and do it, they see how easy it is. I’ll help them get started, give them tips, and show them it’s easier than they think.” 3299

I wondered if I needed approval from someone else in CFP. But we had no face-to-face meetings, no CFP-leadership calls, not even a clear sense of who was on our steering committee. Each of us did our thing. Anne, Jesse Brown, and Paul were off recruiting volunteers and who-knows-what. Jethro was jumping back in, challenging people to join the “500 Club”—his made-up name to encourage people to set personal goals for number of signatures. Shirley was wading through stacks and spreadsheets. 3305 We handed out more awards, including to Shirley for her detailed counting. “But we don’t know all the stories and successes here,” I said. “Hundreds more people have been involved, including you. So take a blank award. Fill in your name. Add an amazing accomplishment you did during this effort. To make it official, you have to get a signature from someone else on behalf of Casino-Free Philadelphia—so that means a signature from anyone in this room.” People laughed and took their awards. I had taken the idea from Serbian movement organization Otpor. When dictator Milosevic gave himself a public award, Otpor made fun of him by handing out blank certificates, encouraging people to give themselves their own awards.  For us, it was a fun way to honor the multitude of stories: The over 400 volunteers who had participated, the eleven civics and four unions that signed onto the campaign. In all, 3,000 petition pages had been distributed at community meetings, talks, church services, five-year-old’s birthday parties, and even a funeral for a neighborhood activist. Babies in strollers had the petition strapped to them; a ninety-three-year-old grandmother won the award for the oldest participant. All the signatures strewn out, Ken noted, would stretch 3.6 miles long.  It had taken lots of energy and less than $5,000 total, leaving under $300 in our bank account.  At the end of the night, just as reporters were switching to the storyline that “Activists Still Face Steep Climb” with council, I shouted, “Finally, the news you’ve been waiting for! By our current estimate, we have achieved 26,943 signatures! Sleep well—we deliver tomorrow!” 3387

  • knowing what convinces politicians
  • being in your opponents’ shoes
  • getting politicians to touch your issue
  • not being subservient petitioners
  • rebounding attacks onto the opponent
  • power flows upward
  • turning our backs to stop testimony
  • bracing for opposition research
  • checking off agenda items
  • making media sensationalism work for you
  • designing two actions ahead of time
  • move toward the fear
  • play the underdog 3430

As if reading my nervousness, he coached, “Look directly above the camera. Avoid licking your lips or scratching your face. Instead of seeing the interviewers, you’ll look at a gray screen and hear the questions through this earpiece. If you look up slightly, you can see the live feed.” I nodded mindlessly, 3440

Councilmembers often pass unpopular bills when most voters—or even a powerful, organized voting bloc—disapprove, because they fear more than just losing re-elections. Politicians can bounce back from a lost election if they carry the currency most valued in politics: their political reputation. Reputations help politicians make deals, raise money, and mobilize their sycophants.  On reputation, we could hit councilmembers where it hurts: threatening to tarnish them as acting to disempower the city of Philadelphia. That was the bind we were placing them in by hitching our wagon to the widely shared value of voting. Either they opposed democracy and opposed giving people their say on casinos, or they stood with the people and therefore sided with us.   To make it stick, we had to show we could damage their political capital, without actually doing it before they voted against us. We had to be a credible threat, which meant avoiding appearing like a small, irrelevant margin. Whatever we did, it had to appear larger than life—or at least larger than our few hundred active supporters. 3509  “We need to take the time to teach people that lobbying isn’t just about letters or meetings. It’s speaking our minds when we see politicians at hearings, walking on the street, in the grocery store, when we see their husbands and wives, their legislative aids, anywhere.” 3537

Maybe we should put on our website faces of every councilmember, where they stand, and info for people to contact them.” “I’m on it.” I grabbed a piece of paper and scribbled down the note. “So why did you call, Jet?” 3543  Like a surfer on the edge of a wave, to stay afloat, we had to keep moving forward. “We have to figure out the casinos’ response to all this. What’s in their heads? 3552

“First thing, he’ll move the fight to his turf: law,” I said. “He’s vindictive. He won’t want to win, he’ll want to grind us into the ground. That means personal, below-the-belt attacks.” “I agree,” said Jethro. “But his media consultants are going to hold him back. They’ll want distance from anything really nasty, because SugarHouse needs the support of the city, even if they won’t admit it. Imagine if the mayor or DiCicco refused to show up to their red-ribbon cutting? It’d be a signal to all city departments to slow down or deny them all their permits. If the mayor had any backbone, he could effectively stop them.” My mind flooded with possibilities. Could they start rumors about us without their fingerprints on it? Sue us constantly? Physical attacks? Even as I thought of each idea, I coolly played it out, calculating responses for each scenario. It wasn’t the scenarios that scared me, it was not seeing them coming. “Whatever they do, it’ll be with a lot of ferocity,” I said flatly. “They’ve hired nearly every media consultant in the city, and almost every law firm is now connected to them.” Jethro laughed out loud. “And yet, are we scared? Another movement would be intimidated about being outspent by millions. But not us! Just another day in the park.” “Because we believe we win if people refuse to go away… but it means we have to look big enough that they believe we can protect ourselves.” 3571

None of her emails have helped me move forward. I know the problems—I need the time to find out the solutions.” “Her hounding means she wants to take on leadership. We just need to find the right position for her.” Of course. Jethro was the consummate organizer. Whereas I saw a reminder of work for me to do, he saw leadership potential. “So, what shall we do next?” “We have to prepare people for whatever is coming our way, to tell them to expect the casinos to use rumors and threats as they feel desperate. This is just the start of a long, drawn-out struggle. Five years or more.” 3593 The rumors meant people were scared, disoriented, uncertain. When we directed their energy to calling councilmembers, they all gave the same story: staffers would take their name and address, admit all calls they received were opposed to casinos, and then refuse to disclose how the councilmember would vote. 3613

“We’ll learn where council is based on how they vote on this. It’s like a test run.” Kathy shook her head and gave me a fierce stare. “No, you need to understand that we have to win it. If not, the press will repeat all over again that’s it over for us.” I wondered how Jethro would turn this into a chance to bring Kathy closer to CFP. When nothing came, I said what came naturally. “Press don’t determine or even reflect reality. We can’t rely on them for our analysis. If we don’t go away, then it’s not over. There are lawsuits, the referendum, and other options to fight. The press can’t tell us if we’re going to go away or not, even if they think they can.” She nodded slowly, methodically. “Spread that to others in CFP,” I added, hoping Jethro might be proud of that intervention. “Not everyone sees things the way you do,” Kathy said. “You need to understand that any victory helps us.” “Of course,” I said with energy. “But if council votes against us, people can’t lose their heads.” 3622 I dismissed my inclination to argue with her. This was the wrong moment to point out that politicians don’t need education, they need pressure. We’d get there. Instead, I surprised Kathy and myself with my sudden loudness. “That’s right! This is the first time the public speaks before elected officials on casinos—it’s already a win!” She nodded 3639 It wasn’t just our 600-email announcement listserv, or successful outreach to civics, or follow-up calls to key supporters and networks. It was that after frostbitten hands, people were clamoring to testify before council. After people fight for things, they often learn they deserve it. 3651

Even our message became tiresome to me as forty-plus residents, religious leaders, longshoremen, and business leaders trooped up to deliver our talking points: Not in our neighborhoods, we don’t want them, they were never invited. Glazed councilmembers walked out. Absent from the hearings were the passion, conflict, emotion, or political subtext that make debates interesting. It was all political theater at its climax of dullness. In other words, it was a classic council hearing. 3664

Only two events stood out from the doldrum. One was civic leaders announcing the emergence of the newly formed Delaware Riverfront Neighborhood Alliance. With roots in the negotiations committee from our strategy retreat, the DRNA was a wholly unique amalgam of politically conflicted civic leaders, many who had fought each other in neighborhood turf fights. With gentle prodding, Jethro and I had coached several of their leaders; I even sent out their first press release at the request of their de facto facilitator, Chris Meck. Now it was a full coalition of a dozen civic associations, claiming to represent over 200,000 Philadelphia residents. The second was the testimony of Jeff Benedict. Having testified many times on the dangers of casino expansion, he easily recited how, after originally embracing casino gambling with promises of $400 million a year, his state of Connecticut halted the expansion of Foxwoods, even though Foxwoods promised upwards of $800 million a year. “The promise of new tax revenues had turned out to be a mirage. The infrastructure needed to support the casinos put unforeseen strains and costs on the state and its municipalities, costs ultimately passed on to the taxpayers. And social costs generated by a new wave of gambling addicts brought bankruptcies, property foreclosures, crime, divorce, and suicides, all of which had hidden price tags for the state.” These were many of the same statements we’d heard repeated again and again: casinos would compete with local restaurants and have a vast array of hidden costs, and the promises would turn out to be mythical. But it was when he veered off his script that was most telling. “I did however hear two things today that surprised me. One was the casinos would generate ‘spin-off jobs,’ and the other one was the quote, ‘The arrival of new businesses and thousands of jobs.’ I’ve heard that statement lots of times—that’s not new. What surprised me was who made it. The ‘spin-off’ comment came from the city’s lawyer. The ‘arrival of new businesses’ came from the city planner. I have never heard a city official, attorney, or planner make that argument. It’s always been made by the lobbyists and the lawyers for the casinos.” He openly wondered what was happening that our officials had bought arguments that were “proven to be not true in almost every location casinos have gone in—except for Las Vegas. To argue that you’re going to see spin-off jobs is mythical, unless these two casinos are able to do something that no other casino has done.” 3670

“I agree they don’t want to touch this.” I rose from my seat. “But they did. Today they didn’t vote against us, and that’s something. Plus, they’ve felt our crowd’s staying power. Whether or not they want to admit it, today they touched the issue of casinos for the first time.” 3710  Fenway Civic Association. They taught me that we’re not subservient petitioners to politicians—they’re our representatives. I once watched the Boston mayor literally beg on his knees for support. They’ve earned that kind of respect by carrying an attitude of ultimatums and demands instead of kowtowing and requesting. So we’re not going to ask for meetings with them, which they may deign to accept—or deny.” Anne and I quickly agreed to Jethro’s lobbying strategy: Show up at offices. Meet whomever is there. Make our presence known. “If we’re not powerful enough that people want to meet with us,” Jethro said, “then we’re not powerful enough to influence the meeting’s outcome.” 3718 Each meeting had a similar tenor. Jethro, myself, and three other Casino-Free supporters would walk into a councilmember’s bright offices. “Good morning. Is the councilwoman here?” The receptionist looked tired but friendly. “Who may I say is asking?” “We’re with Casino-Free Philadelphia.” 3729

“People are looking to you,” said Jethro, his face impassive. “It’s disempowering if you just tell us it’s hopeless. It’s empowering if you show us how this can be won. Who are the councilmembers that need extra pressure? Where are they vulnerable? You know this stuff and aren’t sharing it. You can lead on this issue, or others will.” 3763

“This can rebound on them,” I told Anne. “We need a little political jujitsu, to help people see what this is: a bullying tactic.” “We could ask investors to divest themselves.” “Sure,” I clapped, “an open letter.” “Distancing themselves from a company that tries to stop people from voting.” “It’s a start. It’s high-ground and not from fear but from a sense of power. The point here is to show people the casinos are scared of us. Us, the little guy. That means we have power.” I paused. “So what now?” “We talk to press.” 3803 The casinos had found a new talking point, one they could attack with for months. Our reputation could go down the drain. 3823 Top of Form

Calm down. Take a breath.  Everything needs to be seen from multiple views. He’s just making an interesting, dramatic story. It’s not bias against us, it’s his journal’s bias toward sensationalism, for better and worse. I tiptoed through the rest of his article. Anne said, “Challenging petitions is what Philly does, it’s a kind of sport. But being accused of fraud is far over the top.” And, “Hunter said it was good that the casino owners can voice their challenge. ‘It’s great that they have input,’ Hunter said. ‘That’s what we’re fighting for.’” It was at the end that I noticed: None of the casino spokespeople had comments in any newspaper. Their accusations were solely written in the gravitas of hard numbers. It was another sign their message was targeting the public and politicians. Even if we win the expected weeks-long, drawn-out, signature-by-signature challenge, it’s not over. If the accusation sticks even halfway, it provides more than abundant cover for politicians to hide. 3839  Casino-Free Philadelphia organizers said the lawsuit illustrates real concern by the casino that the two state-awarded licenses may be revoked. “Some people have said this [referendum] won’t stand up in court or that the state will merely come in and take over,” Casino-Free organizer Daniel Hunter said. “The ferocity with which they’re attacking us is a sign that this is a real threat to them.” 3855

using the attacker’s force against them. The harder they hit us with expensive lawyers and aggressive public relations firms, the harder they fall, if we successfully redirect their attacking energy. I stared at the words: they were true. We know their game, and it means they’re desperate. But it’s not just an existential threat to them. It is to us, too. 3861 The next morning: they’re saying Massive fraud, huh? Pretty ridiculous.” “It’s overkill,” I shouted. “It’s the pot calling the kettle black. I know projection when I see it.” I sat down and folded my legs onto the chair, clutching them.  He carefully perched on his chair, joining me at eye level. “That’s gotta get to you, though. Public attacks are the worst, when lies are printed openly. How are you dealing with it?” 3872 “We need to weather this immediate hit. We’ve got an open letter telling investors to withdraw the challenge or pull out from a firm actively undermining the democratic process.” 3900  Years ago, we had spent hours co-writing training materials for Training for Change, from articles on activist pedagogy to a whole book on training for nonviolent intervention. The familiarity helped me slow down and take time to think about how to communicate with our supporters. I started writing: “Urgent action alert: casinos challenge petition drive…” I hit “delete.” We needed to move people out of urgency. Hype emails can get people to sign a petition or show up to a single rally, but they will burn people out in the long-term. Reacting from fear would never build a flexible, resilient movement. We needed a high-ground place. “Yesterday, 3906 Like a flash, a quote from Mohandas Gandhi struck me. I typed it out quickly: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.” “We’ve now fully entered step three in Gandhi’s campaigning,” I wrote. The rest of the email flowed quickly. Upbeat. Positive. Acknowledging the danger, but without pleading, desperation, or frothy urgency. “So with that, please join us tomorrow for City Council hearings as the referendum is introduced.” I pressed “send” and sat back, pleased. We were refusing to allow their attack to be a weapon of fear or desperation for us. We were going to build a grounded movement, where people could take a hit and keep standing, without shrieking in desperation or miring ourselves in defeatism. We were going to model integrity, high-ground framing… An email from Jethro interrupted me: “Don’t you mean ‘we win’? Oh, wonderful typos. Thanks for getting this out.” I cursed my despairing Freudian slip. I had written, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then they win.” I rushed to cancel the send, resending a correction. 3921  “Your quote in the paper was perfect,” I said. “That kind of high-ground framing makes it hard for council to believe their claims. We’re showing what’s true: the casinos are bullying the city and its citizens.” “It’s not valid,” said Mary with a steely gaze. “I was out there.” I nodded. “Otherwise, you doing okay?” Even without a smile on her face, her animated gestures were filled with life and grace. “I’m very nervous. All my neighborhood is scared. The papers keep saying we don’t have much chance 3949  We’re building a movement on a belief that, on their own, powerholders can do nothing—they need our cooperation, our submission. They wanted us to be quiet as they screwed us from having any meaningful say in the PGCB. Now they want us to be silent and believe in their invincibility. And the media and pundits play right into that.” My voice rose. “If we lose today, they’ll say it proves our efforts were a waste of time and energy. They’ll retell the story of the casinos’ invincibility. But if we win today, I’ll guarantee you this…” I paused, allowing everyone to lean in closely. I whispered, “… they’ll tell the story that it was a fluke, a mistake, or internal political machinations that have nothing to do with us. They’ll never give us the credit we deserve, because they don’t believe in people power. But whether we win or lose today, we will still have power, whether we use it or not.” 3968

vote? His hypocrisy means he respects us enough to cater to us. A social-change philosopher once wrote, ‘Wherever there is hypocrisy, there is hope.’” 3980 “The bigger concern is whether the accusation of fraud has stuck in their minds—or if we’ve done enough to avoid that. Whatever happens,” I said, “we will fight on.” 3981 Top of Form

councilmembers, “That outrage is the result of disrespect. Heckling is nothing compared to preventing a democratic vote.” Paul slammed the pro-casino city solicitor’s one-sided treatment of the casinos. “He’s violating his ethical responsibility as a lawyer to be candid.” Chuck told the story of his freezing fingers outside of his local grocery store gathering signatures, only to conclude in his street-savvy style through clenched teeth, “I’m angry that so many Philadelphians had to work so hard just to have the right to participate in the process. What a disgrace for the birthplace of our country’s great democracy.” Council listened passively as up trooped another dozen testifiers, despite the chairman’s pleas to shorten our testimony. We wouldn’t let them tell us what to do. Instead, everything we did was going to be writ large—even in our success. ILA’s president Jim Paylor spoke, then Karin DiNardi in her wheelchair, and on and on.. I sat with a big smile on my face. For the first time that week, I believed we might really vote on the buffer zone. 4026But we needed something—anything—to make a dent against the casinos’ constant refrain of calling us frauds. 4041

She had accepted the role of facilitator mostly by default. My early attempts at rotating leadership had gone flat, with most everyone turning me down, either saying they didn’t want to do it or that I was “too good—it’s a waste to not use your talents.” “What kind of tea do you want?” asked Shirley. Despite the chaos, she looked as bright and cheery as ever. Her years of Buddhist 4158

We made a big checkmark on our agenda and elicited a cheer from our group. Years of meeting facilitation had taught me that the key to a good meeting was creating a sense of momentum. The physical check, cheer, and the look of relief on our faces as we moved through the agenda was just that. 4188

I unveiled a newsprint with colored circles representing active committees: Lobbying, Legal, Media, Outreach, Admin, Fundraising, and Research. Each had a chair, represented at the table, who together made up the executive team. “Some, of course, are more active than others right now. But we’re going to work on it,” I said. 4195  Today’s We-Are-Not-Scared-of-Stunts action was scheduled for this exact reason: to keep momentum going. It was a key lesson from Operation Transparency: design at least two actions ahead of time to keep on the offense. When the first action is over—e.g., the petition challenge—you have something else to carry you forward, even if your emotional state isn’t ready. “Then don’t do it for you,” she said. “Do it for those leaning on you. For today, be their fearless leader.” I melted. Responsibility was my parents’ mantra. It had coalesced in me as an inner voice. Finish what you started. The world needs people like you. No matter what, follow through on your word. I couldn’t rise for me. But I would for others. 4456

Facing down physical hostilities, numerous legal challenges, and a deeply ingrained sense that change was out of reach. To crush the movement, the segregationist mayor dusted off anti-boycott laws and announced public warrants to arrest the leaders of the bus boycott. As predicted, that move demoralized leaders who were frightened to be labeled as criminals. Leaders shied away from public meetings, several even fleeing and going into hiding. The fragile morale of the movement was threatened.  A fierce direct action activist, Bayard Rustin, suggested to Dr. King’s advisors to move toward the fear—go to the police station and demand they arrest you. Turn the fear into a strength. Unable to reach Dr. King or convince those closest to them, Bayard was able to convince E.D. Nixon, who, with a small entourage, filed into the police station. There he announced, “Are you looking for me? Well, here I am.” He was fingerprinted, photographed, and released on bond. Word spread in the black community, and within hours, dozens of leaders emerged from the woodwork to follow suit, demanding that they too be arrested. A supportive crowd swelled outside the police station, cheering the “criminals,” who held up their citations proudly. A few disappointed leaders not on the list argued with police that they were important leaders and they should have the honor of being arrested, too. The fear had melted. In our action, we hoped for something of that rebounding and melting of fear. My rainbow scarf dangled awkwardly to one side as I hopped off the trolley and ran to the park. I met up with four dozen warmly dressed members, underneath frozen trees and a downpour of flurries. Anne shouted chants into a bullhorn: “We are not going to be silenced! We are not scared!” Supporter Dorothy pulled me aside. “I couldn’t believe all of this. But now that it’s happening, we can’t give up! I grabbed a bunch of folks from my office and told them to grab their coats. We need to be here and show everyone that we’re not scared of Sprague’s money.” Dorothy’s husband, Jay, patted me on the back. “Get up and speak, we need you.” He gave me a gentle shove. I was still out of breath as Anne handed me the bullhorn. “I have some questions for you. Are you a real person? (Laughing, the crowd shouted yes.) Do you care about this city? (Yes!) Do you want your say, even if the casino industry doesn’t believe you matter? (Yes!) Then let’s go tell ’em!” I whipped out my driver’s license and lifted it high in the air. Others followed suit, pulling their ID from their wallets and back pockets, as we turned to head to Sprague’s offices. One supporter came over and shyly asked, “I couldn’t find my driver’s license. This is a student ID card—will it count?” I laughed. “That’ll work fine.” TV camera crews raced to get to the front of the march. I slowed the crowd to a shuffle. After watching marches for years, I noted that crowds walk more slowly than individuals, and a stretched-out crowd leaves empty spaces—bad for the visual message of strength and unity. And today’s message was targeted to the public—especially via TV stations that only occasionally covered us. We shuffled three blocks to large, glass doors with Sprague and Sprague’s names lettered in gold. A large security guard closed the doors. “I cannot let you in.” TV cameras angled to see if a physical drama would ensue. But we had no intention of physically pressing the point. “We have documents for Mr. Sprague, a poll we are releasing showing 79% of Philadelphians support the 1,500-foot buffer.” The security guard looked on with… 4488

The art of direct action isn’t based on never losing a fight, it’s about always staying on the high-ground—and  we had done that. 4559

We wanted to keep the momentum going, to feed the story of us as—because we were—the righteous underdog. So we told reporters to show up for a press announcement on whether we would appeal the court’s throwing out of our signatures. As we expected, a dozen press crowded us to find out. We took our time. Standing before TV cameras and reporters’ notebooks, Larry Otter blasted the judge’s precedent of ruling without looking at a single page of the petitions (something the Green Party later clarified they had faced before, too). Jethro noted movement at the state level, with Philadelphia state representatives attending the first state public hearing organized by anti-casino stalwart State Representative Paul Clymer. Anne Dicker announced two new councilmembers in our favor. And I gave press copies of our professional polling data showing a majority of Philadelphians in all neighborhoods supported the referendum: 79%! Press mostly treated all that news as fluff. Few believed the state apparatus would lift a finger to help us. None would cover our poll results because, they flimsily claimed, they came from “an interested party.” And if council voted with us, they pivoted to the new contrary narrative, the referendum would be shot down by the Supreme Court. They shrugged off Paul countering that he’d read hundreds of cases on this and, “I have no doubt the court will side with us.” Whether we liked it or not, press had a focus, a driving narrative. 4565

T-shirts on CafePress, mocking their logo. “We could win a court case as a social parody, no question,” I said. “But we took it down—we can’t afford to have too many irons in the fire. 4580  At every moment, we were building a frame based on who we truly were: tenacious, powerful, and vastly under-resourced underdogs. 4595

All our letters and continued unannounced lobby visits with councilmembers had either done their job—or not. We had done our best to update their ignorant staff members on the financial and social costs of casinos. 4600

When the lead planner insisted PennPraxis assume the arrival of riverfront casinos, the ILA hijacked the entire process, shouting down the leader with “This is a sham!” They threatened mass walk-outs if PennPraxis didn’t create a plan without casinos. Grapevine rumors credited our direct action coaching—and while our role may have been slightly overblown, it was true that we were urging all our allies to use their power. 4646 But the fast-paced medium of press doesn’t trade in truth-telling as much as spin. The next day, Dan Fee’s spin would be the lead headline of the Daily News: “Council Unanimous on ‘Puppy Dogs & Rainbows’ Slots Bill” and the Inquirer’s headline: “Referendum Still in Doubt.” The mayor might veto. City Council might still cave. Even if they didn’t, they’d lose in the courts. Or the state would pass new laws to trump them. None of it mattered to me as I skipped away. We had done one more impossible thing. I danced down the steps and joined the clustered celebration just outside of City Hall. Jethro ran to me, with a stunned face and open arms. “We did it!” For the next hour, we celebrated, clasped, thanked, and encouraged each other. I ducked into a quiet corner to write supporters. They deserved to know as soon as possible—and from us. The positive tone was not hard to find, as I described the “raucous and intense City Council session packed with concerned citizens.” It was going to happen. On May 15, with a unanimous City Council vote, the referendum would be placed on the ballot—“a landmark day.” The tone that was hardest was acknowledging the massive challenges ahead of us:   Tad Decker of the PA Gaming Control Board has already promised to sue the city to try to stop this referendum from moving forward; and the mayor might also try such tactics. On Monday we’ll be sending out an email about next steps. For now we want you to do two things: 1) Celebrate the success—tell others the story of people power trumping insider politics and backdoor “done deals”; 2) Please donate to Casino-Free Philadelphia—we will be facing either a major legal or a major media campaign against us. Now more than ever we need your financial contribution to continue this work. Thanks for all your help and work in making today’s victory! They have the money. But we have the people. Warmly, – Daniel, Jethro, Anne CHAPTER 8 Vote Yes on #1 MARCH 16, 2007—APRIL 12, 2007   spectrum of allies • a reporter’s trap • learning word choices from feedback • defend against false narratives • protecting the precious high ground • having an opponent strengthens you • inoculating yourself from rumors • the three-touch rule • building structure with limited resources • not getting caught in transition • playing the “newspaper-framing game” • get hit—hit back quickly 4675

“So what do we have?” I asked the group. Without a pause, Mary shouted, “The people!” Others echoed that, adding: “Democracy!” “Truth!” “Our neighborhoods!” My heart smiled—it was just like us to talk in values. I moved to the blank newsprint and drew a horizontal line across along the bottom. “Yes, we have the people. But not everyone. And not to the same degree. Tonight we’re going to get nuanced about thinking about our allies and opponents. On the issue of actively supporting the referendum, we have some people who completely agree with us.” I pointed toward the left side of the line. “Who are those people?” 4724

Passive allies are on the left—they’re not activated on the issue or doing anything, but may agree with us. And on the other side of the fence are the passive opponents—people who disagree with us but aren’t trying to stop us. 4760  This spectrum isn’t about what people say—it’s about behavior, their actions. Based on behavior, where is he on this issue of getting the referendum on the ballot? What slice would you put him in?” 4775 “The point of this tool isn’t agreement,” I said. “You can see, this tool can elicit useful debate and help clarify where people stand. It’s useful because we make different requests to different slices. For example, with DiCicco as a passive ally, our ask is for him to be more active. That means we need to give him specific asks that make him more daring and invested. That’s different from, say, a neutral group. Who is one of those?” 4791 Activists make the mistake of talking about educating ‘the public.’ We don’t do that. We educate specific groups, or specific readers of newspapers, or specific networks. Who are some groups that are neutral that might move one slice over to become passive allies? Think specific.” “Project H.O.M.E.,” offered Kathy, referring to the homeless advocacy agency. “Some people inside the organization helped with the petition drive, but as an institution they haven’t put any weight into the issue.” “Okay, and what could we ask them to do?” “They could write a letter saying they oppose casinos, since so many people will become bankrupt and then homeless.” “Perfect,” I said. “And the request isn’t too big—it’s measured toward who they are, but that step would help bring them from being neutral on the issue to moderately in our corner. That’s different from, say, a passive opponent. We want those people to stop what they’re doing. Who is an example of that?” 4797

Common sense and persuasiveness would not move people so entrenched. “Instead of pounding away expecting to move Rendell or the casinos, we try to move people one step over. In fact, I should share with you the good news: social movements don’t win by moving everyone all the way to the left. Most win by moving each group one step toward them. 4816  The crowd’s determination was as set as ever. Soon, people were in small groups fleshing out the chart and identifying which groups they had relationships with and wanted to reach out to, to woo and move a step closer to us. 4820

He always sounded irritated, or at least rushed. Like most city reporters, with staff cuts at his office, he was asked to cover more and more topics, including all local politics for the Daily News. That would turn most people sour. 4823  about casino money in referendums. In Louisiana, the gambling industry outspent its opposition by $200 for each dollar spent by citizen’s groups. In Ohio, the industry twice failed at persuading the populace to bring in 31,500 slots parlors, even after pouring in $27 million, compared to the anti-casinos’ meager $1 million. But the industry could afford to throw good money after bad—it was already organizing another campaign in Ohio. 4832 Jethro emphasized that we build citywide relationships, nonchalantly noting that without deep, grassroots support we’d lose, especially if the casinos bought off Philly’s bribable ward leaders, 4837

facilitated the group to stay on the same page with a big picture of the tasks needed: recruitment, writing outreach materials, contacting citywide grassroots groups, and tightening our organizational structure. Our meeting had ended with bold goals: 500 organizational endorsements, 1,000 volunteers, and growing from an email listserve of 800 to 15,000 people. 4840

Chris seemed in no rush to get to his point, content with swapping tips and information—the journalist’s version of small talk. “Neither, Chris. I think the real question is what’s best for the city, embracing an industry whose sole goal is to take money from Philadelphians and move it to their own pockets, or siding with the people. Councilmembers might be doing what’s right for a lot of reasons.” 4858

But I wasn’t going to raise objections to Chris’s sensationalist articles. That was his job. Instead, I tried to turn him on to better stories. “Have you asked mayoral candidates how they’re going to vote on the referendum?” “Not at this point.” “You know, it’s important for your readers to know where the candidates stand on this issue,” I said. 4870 keeping the high ground—that’s why we’re compelling. We’ve never lied, never gone to dirty politics, and never will. It’s just not my style.” “I think we’re in complete agreement then,” she said. “And I appreciate the feedback about my word choices,” I said, “because I want to get better at consistently saying what I mean and projecting myself in a way that’s consistent with what I believe.” 4968

“Newspapers have invested ink in this story, they needed follow-ups. But there’s really nothing worthy to report. ‘Ballot Question Still on Ballot’? ‘Anti-Casino Folks Still Anti-Casino’? And since reporters refuse to do their own polling or report ours… and since they don’t have time to dig into allegations of corruption… yes, that means they’re going to generate their own pundit-based narrative. They’re going to latch onto the question of legality. It could linger for months.” My voice carried my certainty. “It’s a hot story now. We need to combat this.” “What should we do?” asked Paul. “I don’t know. I don’t really have any energy for this. Maybe…” I paused, hoping an idea would emerge from my head. I looked back at the chess board and moved a piece. “Your move,” I whispered to my chess partner. “Reporters could be the public executioners of the legality. My instinct is creative actions would do little to convince them. They respect ‘expert’ opinions. I’m not sure.” 5039

Jethro’s teeth clenched tightly. “It’s over for Chris. This is just a fishing expedition. Ignore all his questions and repeat our basic message: “We are a grassroots organization that has spent very little while the casinos have spent millions to destroy our riverfront and city.” I looked around as everyone nodded. My own hesitancy wasn’t just about values. It was fear that our underdog status and precious high ground would be undermined. This hit job could take us under. “Fine.” I took a breath. “I’ll play my role as media spokesperson. Nobody accept calls from Chris until this article blows over. I’ll tell him we’ve given him all he’s going to get.” We spent the next hour on our “real” work: preparing a referendum campaign. 5154

Mohandas Gandhi always said that the advantage of having an opponent is that they strengthen you. He believed his people were not ready to be free until they insisted on their own freedom—freedom handed to you isn’t truly yours. One must earn it. 5174

Our movement comes from our opponents at the state level offering us a lesson on how to stand up for ourselves. If we take it and win, we can graciously thank our opponents for being the dickwads they were to teach us that valuable lesson. 5177

Instead of immediately answering, I paused. I had learned from Chris. We are not in debt to reporters, as if they’re doing us a favor. We are doing a favor for them, giving them stories that are meaningful and important. They ought not mistreat us. If we don’t want to answer their questions, nothing says we have to do so. As Jethro had said, “Grassroots groups especially get abused by acting as though media can just walk all over them. Set some boundaries and stick with them. If they don’t respect integrity, well, tough for them.” 5255

But Jeff’s questions were fair, and I answered them, adding, “It makes sense that folks are interested in us, but really we want to stay on the issues. 5260

In electoral campaigns, we talk about the three-touch rule of organizing.  First touch: knock on your neighbor’s door or meet them on the street. Get them to put up a window sign and sign the pledge. It’s super important you get their contact information, so you can have the second touch: call them a few days before the election to remind them to vote. Finally, the third touch on the day of the elections: make certain they voted. Offer a ride if necessary.” 5305

reminding people of the long road still ahead of us. “As a movement we are learning that we do not win by going along with the political landscape, but using social pressure and the power of people to shift the political landscape. Today candidates are forced to confront the issue. 5554 Let’s pace ourselves, because this is a bigger issue than just casinos. We’re in this mess because of larger politics—the insider politics and corrosive power of money on government. These are larger issues we are challenging, too. We not only have a chance to protect our neighborhoods, we’re doing so with a lot of style and in a way that’s teaching people in this city about what it means to be engaged citizens. We are all modeling positive leadership for the city, and that’s something to be very, very proud of.”

Very strategic opponent, and we may finally have a worthy opponent, does not fight you when you’re on the high ground—classic Sun Tzu Art of War. Our high ground is public opinion. Theirs is the courts. I suspect they’re going to accept losing the referendum, not wasting resources on a doomed ballot fight. Instead they will pour resources into a court battle. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t organize to win the referendum—we have to win it. It still seems likely the casinos might mount a Vote “No” campaign. Running this campaign expands our structure, increases momentum for anti-casino candidates, and keeps pressure on the state to not trump city zoning. But the referendum is one line of attack. As a chess player, I’ve often made the mistake of opening one line of vigorous attack only to suddenly see my defenses are left wide open, and I’m unable to switch gears. We can’t afford to get caught in transition. If the May 15 election happens and we win, they will immediately take us to the courts. If we win in the court, let’s just celebrate for a long time! But if we lose in the courts a series of articles will come out to trash us again. ‘Waste of time, thoughtless but idealistic activists, Mayor Street was right, etc.’ Internally some people will be pissed. Another set of people will be resentful that we’ve brought them so far along only to lose at the last moment. We will likely get accused of not thinking ahead (an accusation we’ve weathered before). We need to prepare a game plan for after May 15. Legal and political avenues need to be pursued. In terms of direct action, if the courts deny people’s votes, we have a chance to get people on the high ground. We need a response. I propose: June 1—We have four days of a “practice occupation” outside of the SugarHouse and Foxwoods sites; it is legal and on the sidewalk, we train people in how to do an occupation and let them know we are “coming” for them. It is media-friendly. June 15—We begin a three-month site occupation, literally taking over the two SugarHouse and Foxwoods sites. We use the election results as saying we’re simply implementing the only standard that has been set. Having walked the sites, I believe if momentum were sustained we could legitimately do that, implementing the will of the people. 5569 I’m learning so much from you about how to frame even bad news and keep the high ground. Press are tough. And you’ve even gotten them to start nailing down mayoral candidates. We’re moving a lot of people who didn’t want to touch this.” 5614

“It’s a great example of how smart and effective organizing leads to winning new allies, without us having to do all the work,” he said. I grinned. “Well, shall we start practicing?” 5619

New Jersey has half the number of homicides as us, largely by passing basic handgun laws outlawing buying more than one handgun a month. But Philly keeps suffering because the state trumps the city, bypassing all city hopes for gun control. If someone wants to pass that legislation, they need to strengthen the city—and one clear way to do that is to join Casino-Free Philadelphia in our fight against the state. We’d love them to work with us.” 5628

We played our newspaper-framing game for almost an hour, connecting our campaign to every news article. It was great practice for us to talk with anyone in the city about every major issue. 5646  Top of Form

We’ll get a string of public attacks. We’ve got to reframe this away from legality and into rightness and wrongness. Jethro and I have been noticing that corruption is a theme across a range of current city issues. And on that, the PGCB is still highly vulnerable.” 5658  My media support team—Bill Kosman, Jay Grossman, and Kathy DeAngelis—had suggested it was time to turn the attention back to the PGCB’s chairman, Tad Decker, and his connections back to SugarHouse. “It’s the perfect time to ask for Decker’s removal. With his insistence that the vote was a ‘waste of time and taxpayer dollars,’ he is a clear target. His dirty dealings with the casinos need investigation. Without anybody yelling ‘Fire!’ nobody is sufficiently motivated to dig deep into the story. So we send out the letter today.” 5662 Bill Clinton used to say that in politics, when you get hit, you have to hit back quickly.” 5676   “Aren’t you a pacifist, Daniel?” “Yes. It just means when we get hit, we have to speak some truth to power. It only looks like hitting because it stings.” 5678

a “sticky” organization—one that made it easy to become part of it and get connected to the movement. Between that and our fieldwork, our database tripled to 2,534 in that last month and gathered a whopping $2,000 in online donations. 5719

The more you try to tell people that they don’t count, I think the more resistance you get.” Six days later—far later than I wanted—Paul hand-delivered our seven-page letter to Governor Rendell, asking for Decker’s removal due to “unfitness for office” and his refusal to “disqualify himself from any proceeding in which the member’s objectivity, impartiality, integrity or independence of judgment may be reasonably questioned.” Press ate up the story of Decker’s perceived conflicted interests. His former law firm, Cozen O’Connor, seemed to be on both sides: hired by SugarHouse and, through him, involved in the PGCB’s selection of SugarHouse. And rumor held that Decker would return to Cozen O’Connor at a cushy job. It reeked of corruption.   I was even more pleased that it signaled to supporters we would defend ourselves. As people knocked on doors, passed out flyers, and recruited new signatories for our campaign, CFP leadership showed our organizational mettle. Every time the PGCB and the casinos knocked us down, we brushed ourselves off and came up with another response. It was an important lesson, as seismic changes were afoot to alter everything we had been doing, resulting in the most uncertain, anxious week we had ever faced. CHAPTER 9 A Failed Pledge for Democracy APRIL 13, 2007—APRIL 17, 2007

  • anything to move out of paralysis
  • radicalizing from a loss
  • where there’s anger, there’s hope
  • halting sweet, misdirected revenge
  • “if this, then that”
  • the Movement Action Plan
  • collective action as a healing balm
  • history tightens an action design
  • picking vision, selecting a name 5728

Faced the organizer’s monumental task of changing consciousness through sheer force of will.  I shook my head fiercely, trying to loosen my tight, scowling glare, then settled down to start a draft to CFP supporters.  They would be in better shape if they heard the bad news from me, rather than from the glee of our opponents printed in black ink tomorrow. Through the early evening, I traded drafts of a letter with Jay Grossman. Realizing that we needed to offer some action step, we hastily assembled a condemnatory response petition.  Like me, Jay was uncertain whether it should be sent to the PGCB, the supreme court, state legislators, or Governor Rendell. “It doesn’t matter,” I told him.  “Folks just need to do something to move out of paralysis.”  We settled on the PGCB. Despite the late hour, Jay’s voice stayed cool. “We also need to express anger at the courts that did this to us.” “Let’s do something at the supreme court on Monday, during people’s lunch breaks,” I said. What we would do was unclear.  But I knew we needed to express our collective outrage. As Jay and I finished final 5789

redesigning on a dime • good organizers know how to learn things • Team Types • designing a rolled-out media strategy • honest relationships with reporters over easy ones • walking away from meetings without work • noting our power in opponents’ moves • politicians are like a balloon tied to a rock • ignoring a threat • jangled nerves but no snafus 6298

Long ago, I had left behind the notion that good organizers know how to do things. They know how to learn things. 6391  Sure, we were all nervous about this massive operation. But when we get stressed, we act out our personality traits even more. I thought of “Team Types” leadership styles.  Different directions represented different styles: East were visionaries who generated lots of ideas, constantly integrating them in the big picture with large sweeps. Karim, Jethro, and I all trended toward the East, completely opposite from the West’s style of crafting a plan through carefully sorted, concrete data. Kathy and Shirley were fulfilling that West role. Yet Jethro could also be South, focused on the maintenance of relationships, responsive to others’ needs—just as I could also play North, the implementers, or sometimes known as the “shoot first, aim later” crowd. 6528

It was the organizer’s version of the third law of motion: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Our push for truth from others meant we’d end up facing that, too. 6774   It’s why Gandhi said his third opponent was the British, his second the Indian people, and the first himself. We earned high ground by imbibing it. 6776

Aaron Kreider that was the expert designer. He studied online election systems—like how last year an “ultra-secure” system meant to be used in US elections had been hacked in mere minutes. To combat hacking, he explained his plan to implement security protocols by randomizing keys, flagging IP spam, and tracking any discrepancies consistent with indirect or brute force attacks. Consistent with our values, it would be open-source, he said, “but after the election, you know… just to be safe.” 6800

For months, I had consciously built our culture to emphasize our power in everything. Too many movements I had worked with had emphasized their opponents’ influence and power. They’d spend hours and reams of articles studying their opponents’ strategy, holding it up as a model of effective organizing and never devoting that kind of positive attention to their movement histories. Rather than seeing how power rises up from the people, they’d lean back on the moral self-congratulations of speaking “truth to power.” I wanted us to speak truth and power to power. That meant showing how the “powerholders” are actually in a constant dance with us. “I’ll write a draft of the press release,” I said. “This will definitely make it into the blogs and cement us as one of the most talked-about issues during this election. I’ll let our members know our opposition takes this seriously—so they should, too!” 6838  Top of Form

“We shouldn’t validate them by giving them more attention. The best strategy for a small organization to grow itself is to pick a fight with a larger organization. That’s what they’re doing with us. But we’re a citywide group—they’re local. It’s best for us to publicly ignore them.” 6885 All this confirmed my view of power. Politicians are like a balloon tied to a rock. If we swat at them, they may sway to the left or the right. But, tied down, they can only go so far. Instead of batting at them, we should move the rock: people’s activated social values. When we move the rock, it automatically pulls all the politicians toward us—without having to pressure each one separately. Candidates now began raising our issue at debates to prove their pro-democracy stripes. While very much secondary to issues of poverty and violence in the city, our issue was now part of the discourse. The mayoral candidates were feeling the heat and moving toward us. They were not alone. 6972

Far from just treating it like a poll, they were making it real. They were doing what I’d often urged others to do, to take a metaphor and genuinely play it out, like not just doing a citizen’s arrest as a piece of street theater, but taking it seriously, complete with a citizen’s judicial panel, arrest warrants, and full efforts to carry out a citizen’s arrest. 7061

In Jethro’s upper-class upbringing, one spent money to get money; in my mixed working-class and middle-class household, we stored money for a rainy day, assuming our income was relatively fixed. 7075

“Right, right,” I continued. “But it’s more important to protect our people from fear. If people are scared by his intimidation, we’ll have less numbers to recruit, and we just have too much going on to get into a press war with IBEW now. He’s just fear-mongering us to back Knox. That only works if we react in fear.” I looked at everyone, catching Paul’s eye for an extra minute. “So we ignore it, okay?” Heads nodded. 7167

We left the anger, fear, and whatever other emotions we had and hurried to the next task. It was just one more thing piled onto our increasingly full plates. 7174 chance to be heard at last.” It felt like a major achievement to see the turn-around in the Inquirer. Volunteer George Kelly had seen that it was a big deal and insisted we distribute copies. When I hedged because of money, he offered to pay for them so we could put them in poll-worker bags. 7200 our Peace Brigades International–trained volunteer George Lakey, who had done election monitoring in South Africa, 7222

Using media’s lulls for high visibility • setting the stage, writing politicians’ scripts • actions are fun • the downside of integrity • political jujitsu on TV • organizers need to ask, and ask, and ask • not legally binding but politically binding 7244

We had events timed during the natural lulls of election day: before polls opened when media would have little to talk about; the afternoon quiet periods; and that awkward time when polls have closed but results aren’t yet coming in. We would try to avoid direct head-to-head competition over media attention with the “other election.” 7261 So there we stood, two hours before the other election’s polls opened, having invited all the candidates to get some free press as they cast the first ballots in Philly’s Ballot Box, live on television. A crowd of progressive candidates nervously wrung their hands and straightened their suits, as lanky mayoral candidate Tom Knox strode up, literally head and shoulders above his handlers. As Karim had predicted, a half-dozen TV cameras captured the event. I swept my eyes toward the streets, hoping front-runner Michael Nutter would unexpectedly show up. We had pulled strings to get him—even offering to set up a ballot box outside of his house—but were turned down. Anne explained the mechanisms and handed Tom Knox the first ballot. The TV cameramen shifted to get into position, flipping on the live feeds as Tom Knox clumsily filled out the form. Cameras zoomed in as Knox dropped the first vote in Philly’s Ballot Box. My heart quickened at the powerful symbol of politicos vying in our election. Instead of voting for politicians, politicians were voting for us. It felt so right. 7264 city, where young and old volunteers of all stripes were holding down ballot boxes—from members of the Oregon Club Mummers in full regalia to anarchist punks in West Philadelphia who explained, “It’s socializing the cost and privatizing the profit for a few. The majority of people will be taxed for this and will get nothing out of 7290  By eleven o’clock, the next action for the media lull was about to begin. 7293  “No, you can’t,” the policewoman said, stepping to get in my way. Her command barely registered, bouncing off my adrenaline-rich excitement and positive energy of the day. “Of course I can,” I said. “It’s a sidewalk. We’re allowed freedom of assembly. We won’t block passageway.” “No,” she said, raising her voice threateningly, “you’re not allowed to block the sidewalk.” I looked at her, as if seeing her anew. The law was clearly on my side: the sidewalk could accommodate us and a whole crowd of people. “Our action is protected free speech. There’s plenty of space here. We’ve already contacted the ACLU about setting up our ballot boxes around the city.” “You cannot be here.” She glared and stepped toward me, motioning to grab my arm. Her colleague stepped forward. “You can go there, or over there,” he said, pointing across the intersection. We didn’t want to be there. We wanted to be where the politicians would be entering and leaving. “No,” I spoke slowly, cautiously pulling my arm away to be nonthreatening, “we’re going to set up right outside the entrance.” “We will arrest you if you do,” he said. “Go for it,” I said brightly. They stepped back as if slapped. “If you do, press will have a field day about you stopping our election and preventing our freedom of speech.” They eyed each other. “Look,” the policewoman said, “you just have to go.” She waved me on hopefully. I didn’t move. They didn’t move. We glowered at each other awkwardly. “I’m calling my lawyer,” I announced, walking back across the street. I called Paul and told him to hurry, as the police and I exchanged uneasy glances. Minutes later, Paul arrived breathlessly, wearing the unofficial garb of lawyers: a dull tie and shined briefcase. It took only a minute of negotiation before he returned. “It’s settled. We’ll be where we want, and the police will watch from across the street.” Catching my eye, “And it would help if you would apologize, they didn’t like your tone.” 7305  Immediately, I wished I had stood my ground with Paul. Even that non-apology was dishonest to my experience: police shouldn’t abuse their authority. And nobody should ever apologize to abusive authority for standing their ground. 7347

We were living out the belief that we don’t endorse candidates, they endorse us. Even though I knew it was political calculations for them, it felt like a balm to watch them take part in our creating a new channel, when all the formal ones had failed. Rather than playing a minor role in their play, we had set the stage and written the script. 7366 explained, “I’m doing this because 7408 Bottom of Form

In the end, we had ballot boxes in every state representative and councilmanic district. We were in every neighborhood, on the phone, and on the web, to truly allow every voter a chance to have their say.   At eight o’clock, polls in both elections closed. Around the city, volunteers sealed the ballot boxes with one-foot-long security tape, adding their signatures to ensure no tampering. 7412  We’ll be sending delegations to election parties, too. For today is a momentous day. Today we have shown that the citizens of Philadelphia can still have a say in their neighborhoods.” Riffing off the crowd’s energy, I declared with staccato emphasis, “Philadelphians deserve better than the supreme court. We deserve better than Governor Rendell. Better than our so-called state leaders. Better than casinos in neighborhoods.” Escalating to a pitch, “Today we have showed we had a say. All of you are part of something special. It is a movement not of great leaders or powerful interests, but a movement of the grassroots. A movement of people. This is where our power comes from—and today we made it known!” The crowd cheered, celebrating for hours, far later than most other campaign parties. 7441

SugarHouse’s spokespeople couldn’t attack our numerical results, since they didn’t have them either. They had to destroy our credibility. 7488  My stomach clenched in cold anger at the dismissive and patronizing tone. I bet he had a full night’s sleep, I thought idly, remembering to keep a relaxed, beaming face. Miller continued attacking the election, arguing it was time to “put this charade—this little PR stunt—behind us” and move forward with what the voters wanted: gambling. 7502

I’d found my stride: upbeat, optimistic, a positive vision for the city. “It was fun, it was exciting—people were very excited to participate, because the casino industry stopped people from voting on this question. The reason they stopped people from voting on the question is because they know the majority of Philadelphians do not believe that casinos should be built right next to residential neighborhoods. That’s what every poll says.” 7515

O wanted to jump and correct him, to protect our reputation. But it was more important to win the high ground than to be right. I waited as John continued attacking. “They told everybody who donated to them it was a tax-deductible organization by sending it to an out-of-state nonprofit organization. The fact that we are going to believe more lies is ridiculous.”I had practiced saying the line about a dozen or so times, until Karim and I agreed that I had it down solid. John Miller paused, and I unhurriedly inserted, “John, you really have no credibility on this issue.” My tone was sharp, with finality. As expected, he immediately yelped, defensively, “As opposed to you?” I pivoted back to my positive tone. “We gave Philadelphians an opportunity that you took off the ballot.” John blustered. “Not me!” I continued, ignoring him. “It’s really been an amazing response from Philadelphians. And, you know, if I were in your shoes, I would be wanting to discredit what happened yesterday. It was a phenomenal response from Philadelphians.” For the rest of the interview John squirmed, barely able to contain himself, interrupting me nearly every chance he got. He looked like what he was—a bully. The Fox interviewer gave me the last word. “We are going to see the results,” I said. “It will be a political mandate about whether casinos should be within 1,500 feet of people’s homes when they increase crime. That will be the political mandate of the people.” 7522 I allowed myself to feel some pride. We couldn’t win the argument over numbers, not without any numbers to show. But we could win the argument over which player was more respectful, high-ground, and speaking for Philadelphians. 7544 It was another example of political jujitsu. My playing on those themes, and John’s expected childishness in response to being challenged, earned us the high ground once more. It was the tone for the rest of the week: positive, pro-Philadelphia control over its destiny, and the hopeful day of Philly’s Ballot Box. 7548

My mind flashed to Jethro’s recent advice to me: “Your biggest problem is you’re good at doing a lot of things. You end up carrying everything on your own shoulders, and that’s a horrible skill for an organizer. Build relationships by asking people for help.” 7597 I made a mental note to tell Jethro he was right: organizers need to ask, and ask, and ask. Though sometimes we get lucky. 7609 Top of Form

We recognize killing casinos outright won’t happen at the state level—at least right now. But we do believe that if we can make them move, than all the deals are off and we can open up a real debate about casinos in our city.” It was a bold assumption and a grand strategy that I had eventually persuaded our executive team to adopt. If we could win that the siting was bad and force the casinos to find new spots, whole new neighborhoods would get radicalized and involved—and the casinos would have to jettison all their plans and come up with new ones. That meant new political sweetenings and new backdoor deal-making. All of which we would now have the energy to disturb. Whether that would work or not, none of us knew. But as Mike shook my hand, I remembered my own quote, now becoming true: Philly’s Ballot Box is not legally binding, but we’re politically binding. 7634

Dishonestly dangling a break as a carrot • getting stuck in crisis mode • creating a culture that doesn’t internalize the stress • dampening rumors is an organizer’s job • a good loss can be the best teacher • declaring victory—nobody else will do it for you • high-ground culture trumps walking on eggshells 7711

For a while I kicked myself, turning my anger inward, forming it as guilt. I should have pitched the numbers harder. I should have thought ahead how the casinos would discredit us and prepared reporters better. I reminded myself that’s how media goes some days. It’s just a set of second-rate articles, which do nothing to take away the tide of Philly’s Ballot Box. We had permanently seared in Philadelphia’s consciousness that this fight was the people versus powerful casinos—and that we had a chance to win. 7736

Yet we had every politician touching the issue—and things felt ready for a major political breakthrough. Maybe City Council would openly flaunt the supreme court and pass the buffer referendum. Maybe this commission would surprise us. Or maybe the House of Representatives would pass our buffer zone, recently introduced by State Representative Babette Josephs, out of committee. I didn’t know and felt frustrated to be at this hearing instead of out talking to members. I wanted to return to street-level organization. But this hearing had been called last-minute—just one more slight to add to my list of grievances. 7769

“You know what you call a group of ducks?” In response, I just eyed him.  “It’s a paddling.” I looked at him. “What are you talking about?” “The lame-ducks Mayor Street and Ramos. We should give his paddling of lame ducks the paddle. Or if council caves, there will just be a larger paddling in four years. I even created a blog called Paddle of Ducks.” I rolled my eyes. “Come back to us, Jethro! We need to figure out a serious plan to respond!” Instead, I watched in a mix of horror and amazement as Jethro continued to ramble about his blog. Watching him rapidly move from fist-pounding to wild arm-waving, I touched base with my own internal lurching. The waves of negative emotions had weighed me down. But it hadn’t been only bad news since Philly’s Ballot Box. There had been the post-election celebration, generating 105,000 emails to state representatives for the state buffer bill, and the news article days earlier from Philadelphia magazine, which still thrilled my heart. 7810  Your blog is fine and good if you’re just releasing your anger and getting your creative juices flowing. It’s fine as self-expression, but it’s a dead-end for building our power. Don’t do what other activists do and get those two confused. 7857

“Okay, let’s think it through.” For the next half-hour, we sorted through the divergent forces at play. 7863 We’re building organizations to fight and love. Our culture isn’t going to internalize the external stress. We’re still good to each other. Jethro told me to take a week-long vacation as my birthday gift. The external circumstances needn’t taint our relationships. 7883 Despite my renewed post-vacation energy, when I returned to Philly I sensed something simmering underneath, buried deep. It was dark and brooding, like a threatening shadow. It showed itself with my constant refrain to Jethro, “We need a new campaign,” and my worry that we weren’t advancing anything and would get stuck permanently in a defensive posture. 7887

I knew the feeling most as the troubling lack of strategic direction. Philly’s Ballot Box had given us all something to do. Now it was easy for the movement to fracture into merely responding to our opponents’ moves. 7905  Though still miraculously holding civics back from negotiating with the casinos, the group was spiraling toward mistrust and split directions, frustrated by the many possible directions to invest time and energy. 7916

As if looking for targets, some members began attacking CFP for our “subversive anti-casino agenda”—worried that CFP’s goal was too radical in the face of their more modest goal to protect their neighborhoods. Gossip leaked out of DRNA meetings and emails, in which CFP was accused of “controlling the media” or lobbying for the state bill merely for our own glory. I tried to dampen rumors. No, CFP is not trying to control DRNA—in fact, we’re going to stop attending meetings to keep the separation more clear. And No, the DRNA is not controlled by Fumo—or DiCicco—or Dougherty. And DiCicco is allowed to meet with his constituents, it doesn’t mean he sold out—but we have to stay on him. And If DRNA wants media, we won’t fight them for it, but they can’t send a three-day-old press release and expect deadline-tormented reporters to cover it. I joked that 75% of my job had become squashing rumors. 7919

The shadows grew, telling me we weren’t advancing anything. There was no campaign, no graceful transition to the state level to push the buffer bill there. That energetic falling off is so common after massive direct actions that I felt I should have seen it coming. But whether I had or not, I didn’t have a plan. Unlike our normal way of operating, we hadn’t planned two actions ahead. Just this one.   I pressed forward, continuing to dangle taking a longer break like a carrot before my own eyes. For now, I work to stop SugarHouse from getting permits. Then I’ll take a break.   I was stuck in defense. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t see how to get out of it. 7931  Because council had something stolen from them by the supreme court. They lost their rights and authority when the supreme court squashed on them. And nothing can motivate people like a good loss—so I’m actually hopeful. They’re pissed!” I flashed a smile. They knew what I was talking about. We were unhooked from the political “realism” of the media aristocracy and didn’t have to write foundation reports requiring us to frame everything as a victory. We had shown how a good loss can be the best teacher.   “That doesn’t mean I believe we will win today,” I said. “I honestly don’t know. But we’re trying to reframe this argument yet again, bringing in the social costs of casinos.” 7962

And it’s enabled us to use that with other reporters, because like a lot of industries, reporters actually trust each other more than their sources, activists, or even economists. So that’s why the Inquirer and the Daily News covered it—even when we’ve been saying this stuff for months.” “Plus, I’m sure we nudged them,” said Mary.  “Karim worked hard on that,” I said, smiling. “But now we have, on the desk of every councilmember, copies of Philly’s Ballot Box in their districts, plus articles concluding that the net cost of a casino is at least ninety-seven dollars per resident per year. CFP is going to live up to its name as an anti-casino campaign.” Yet even as I thought that, like a punch in the gut, I berated myself: We need a real campaign. 7975

This is American democracy, I thought, elected officials playing power games while the people watch on. 8024 But in movement after movement, I’d learned that pundits, politicians, and press will almost never give credit to a social movement for anything. If we don’t declare success, nobody will do it for us. They’ll only note every movement failing. I immediately reframed what we had just achieved: a whole summer without any casinos—with no chance until October for SugarHouse to get its city permits. After the council meeting, I wrote an email to our supporters, “Accept this huge success up against a Goliath of an industry! We now have three-and-a-half months to continue our organizing.” 8040 We had stalled SugarHouse’s zoning legislation, miraculously held onto DiCicco, and commenced the battle of the economic argument against casinos. Our members poured out a torrent of congratulatory emails. As if a dam had broken since Philly’s Ballot Box, there was a palpable sense of relief. Chuck Valentine wrote of “eyes welling up with tears of joy… Our tiring work is paying off because it is genuine and the purpose and intent is well rooted in what is right.” He was followed closely with congratulations from over two-dozen supporters. The luxury of time, I told myself, meant we finally had the chance to allow ourselves to regroup, refocus, and return on the offensive. We were now on the upswing and we’d get both a break and time to build a new campaign. 8048

High-ground organizing invites a high-ground culture. When he arrived, Nico found CFP one of the easiest spaces for him to work. People were open about questions, relaxed when they made pronoun mistakes, and clear about our shared goals. 8102 I looked at Paul’s boyish grin and wondered if he was addicted to the rush of campaign adrenaline. It’s literally addictive, and, like skydivers or bungee-jumpers, activists can become consumed by seeking the next high. I wondered if Paul needed to take more walks or run to release the adrenaline pent up in his system. 8111  Paul blurted, “I fear he’s two steps ahead of us and is trying to own the legislation. If it’s his bill, he can hold it, table it, all without consulting us. Then he can pull the rug out from underneath us.” “It could be a trick,” said Jethro cautiously. “But it’s also true we just organized 7,000-some voters in his district—” “7,911 8146 Our list of targets had grown exponentially. On top of all our past targets, we had an even more hostile mayor, crumbling civic associations, the planning commission, and—Jethro kept reminding us—Ramos, too! 8163 targeting Fumo will only raise the ire of the DRNA, which is second-guessing our motivations. They’ll think we’re trying to outplay them—and besides, Fumo needs the space to walk back his previously completely pro-casino position. He’s too vindictive. Targeting him might make him harden his current stance.” I shook my head. “No, the person to target is who we’ve tried to position so he wouldn’t have to openly oppose us, hoping he’d play the hero. But he keeps maneuvering against us and making it impossible to win at the state level, no matter how effectively we lobby. It’s time to use the summer to engage him as a public opponent.” Heads nodded emphatically, knowing where I was going. “It’s time to get Governor Rendell,” I said. We just needed to figure out how. 8185

going up the political ladder, picking bigger targets • when in doubt, do something • open sharing to set free buried anger • using times of creativity to inspire good planning • sometimes you’re lucky • negotiating with wheeler-dealers • letting some fires burn on their own • fear is a natural reaction to trauma, but fighting the injustice is healthier • surfing the wave of people’s emotions • getting an engaged opponent • letting people do their (crazy) best thinking 8196

We had worked our way up the political ladder. Exposing the PGCB made it possible to win over City Council. That made it possible to move Fumo. We believed we had finally grown powerful enough to take on the governor. Yet at our June executive meeting, even Jethro sounded unusually uncertain. “With Rendell and the Senate entering their annual fight over budget priorities, can we somehow connect us to the budget negotiations?” Karim sighed. “It’s way too late to insert ourselves. And he’s been at such arm’s length on this, he’s been able to dupe people so they don’t see how pro-casino he’s been. To pull him out of the woodwork, we have to make this personal.” I kept quiet as people threw out considerations. I noted vaguely that we weren’t really getting into Rendell’s head—but stuck in our own. It’s okay, I guess, since this is just an opening sally. We don’t know that much about him. We really need to do an action to stay in the mix, since we haven’t proactively planned any action since Philly’s Ballot Box, almost two months ago—that’s an eternity for a direct action group! Yet as quickly as I thought of ideas, I threw them out. Take over his office? Media see that all that time—and so does he. It’s so cliche it would likely just get ignored. Bird-dog him, following him at every public event and harassing him? Takes more energy then we have. Letter-write? Too minimal. A citizen’s arrest? Too risky and too likely to isolate us. Surprised at myself for getting stuck at finding a tactic, I slowed myself down. If I can’t think of the right tactic, then maybe I just need to think about what our people already want to do. Those who are ready to challenge Rendell are dead serious about it—wanting us to expose him as a gambling addict—and are ready for anything wild. But others? Well, others want to do community-building activities, like some folks wanted a picnic, and others thought of a big party to celebrate our earned summer lull. That opened me up. The tactic hit me. “Members have been urging us to have a community picnic,” I told the team. “So let’s do it—but at Governor Rendell’s house. We’ll station ourselves on the sidewalk outside of his house. It’s nonthreatening, because we’ll be armed with picnic baskets and napkins. But there’s a clear undertone that we’re making this personal and willing to escalate further.” Jethro clapped his hands. “We’ll ask him if he wants a casino near his home.” “I like that—it’ll be community-building,” said Kathy, nodding. “And it’s not too confrontative for our first shot at him directly,” I said, dimly aware that some members would still discredit the tactic as “risky,” “unnecessarily accosting,” and “just plain stalking.” Nico immediately stepped into logistics—first finding Rendell’s house and then finding nearby places to hold a picnic. We set a date almost a month away.  It wasn’t a complete strategy, and we knew it. But we also knew: When in doubt, stay active. If people stopped participating in actions, it would be too easy for them to accept the prescriptions of despair offered by pundits or slide into useless negotiations as per councilmembers’ recommendations. We needed to stay in the mix to not lose momentum. But we had absolutely no idea how big next month’s action would become. 8206

executive team knew we needed to plan what to do next, so after regular meetings netted us no clear longer-term strategy, we decided to hold a focused weekend strategy retreat in early July. 8250 By the afternoon of the second day, the room was littered with newsprint. As if to decompress our brains, we had downloaded our analyses onto paper. The morning’s pages of SWOT analysis—a listing of organizational strengths and weaknesses alongside external opportunities and threats—were hung delicately around the sheer curtains in the bright front room. There were so many facets to track: Senator Fumo’s new moves, foundations continuing to reject us as “too controversial,” presumptive-mayor Nutter’s eventual inauguration, the 1,500-foot buffer stalling in committee in the state house. What stood out to me was the scrawled five pages of opportunities, which showed how much our environment had changed. For example, last month the Delaware River community planning process, PennPraxis, had agreed to abandon its solidly pro-casino plan and design two plans: one with and one without casinos. It marked the first signal of mainstream planners joining our side. “We’ve always had so many ways to lose,” I commented. “For the first time, we have so many ways to win!” With the catharsis of seeing our analyses on paper—and seeing why we felt so crazy busy—we turned our focus squarely to the next steps of CFP. “I think it’s great we ran these past campaigns on transparency or creating a buffer zone,” said Paul. “But I want CFP to be clear that we don’t just want to move these casinos—we oppose their predatory nature and the government’s role in backing them.” “So what do you suggest?” asked Kathy. “We need to completely rescind Act 71.” “A political impossibility,” I said without thinking about it, causing Jethro to gasp. “No, I’m serious,” said Paul. “Just like the tobacco industry was exposed for its millions in health care costs for smokers, we need to show the harm to gambling addicts is a hidden social cost. Then politicians will flee the issue when they see it’s really an economic drain.” 8255

Think we can build a strategy that can stop them by costing them too much. Every day they’re not open, nearby casinos are concreting their customer bases. The longer this goes on, the more the casinos turn on each other.” Like a splash of cold water, Jethro spoke in his deep voice. “What happens if all our strategies fail, and the law doesn’t change, and we can’t make them unprofitable? SugarHouse gets built? What will we do then?” He glared around the room. 8285

But Nico’s words sparked a new mission statement: Stop casinos from coming to Philadelphia, and close any that open. It matched our gnawing fear that Casino-Free Philadelphia might fail, while freeing us up to focus on stopping casinos as if we would win. We took the evening off, following Shirley’s urging that we stop overworking ourselves. After dinner, we prepared to head to the beach—until Paul yelled from the living room. 8294 I opened up on the Sunday morning of our retreat. “Today we’ll start with Open Sharing. Yesterday reminded me that in addition to all our strategic work, there’s a lot of stress and strain for each of us. Unless we address the emotional toxicity, we’ll have trouble moving forward on strategy. So for now, each person will get a chance to share whatever is in their hearts.” 8318

Rather than talking him out of his feelings, this time I’d get him to air them out. “And?” I said quietly, urging him on. “I don’t get why we’re allowing a corporation to buy a neighborhood. We’re getting constant direct mails and even calls from SugarHouse executives. SugarHouse has even stolen information on how to write a letter to the editor from our website and used it on theirs. It’s a full press and I’m feeling isolated. Councilmembers keep calling us stuck and intransigent, and it’s wearing all of us down. But, look around this room—I’m the only one here living in the North. And… and I just need more support.” “And you rarely express your anger,” I prodded. “No! I don’t!” He whirled up again. “SugarHouse is outflanking us! DRNA is missing an opportunity to re-site, and FNA is getting co-opted and not being strategic. We could have stopped negotiations, but the tide has turned up there. All of us could use some real help, but all I can come up with is getting mad and breaking things.” He took a breath. “I have too much on my plate! 8335

“I am sick of getting nasty emails from allies attacking us for not doing everything—oh, and I hate unsubscribe emails, that drains me more than anything else. And I’m working way too much, and I need you all to step up more. More than anything, I’m dreading every time my phone rings, worried that it’ll be press. They’re wearing me down, and I can’t take it.” The group held the anger and pain of their two co-directors. We made easy fixes, like Nico taking over handling unsubscribe requests and organizing some events up North to help Jethro. But mostly it was a huge relief that the team had our backs. “We can’t work on problems unless you say them, guys. So thanks for your honesty,” said Shirley brightly. We slid smoothly into future campaign ideas. Over the night, we had apparently coalesced with clarity that Paul was wrong about eliminating Act 71 as the goal, but right about opening up the economic argument. “Whenever they say revenue,” said Jethro, “we should be talking about the local businesses that are going to get hit hardest: restaurants, movie theaters, as well as businesses that lose customers to problem gambling: car companies, furniture stores.” “We need to openly attack the chamber of commerce,” said Shirley. “They should represent us. I’m a member, but they never asked me what I thought. They’re even less democratic than our civic associations.” With increasing speed, we had growing clarity and energy for organizing small businesses. I stood up. “Time for a break.” The team looked confused—why quit when we were energetic? “Take thirty minutes and, since we’re all excited use that energy to assemble pieces into coherent actions, one storyline. Do whatever gets you in a spirit of creativity, and see you in thirty minutes. We each think differently. Rather than a group process to talk it through, I suggest we each let the gush of energy flow into new ideas and see where it takes us.” As others took walks or journaled, I went upstairs and paced… small businesses… hitting the casino’s bottom line… changing the tenor of the conversation… When we returned, Paul argued that businesses could move recalcitrant elected officials. Jethro suggested organizing businesses and customers for a boycott on anything SugarHouse- or Foxwoods-related. But Kathy vociferously shot it down, saying, “We need a strategy to stop these things, not admit they’re coming.” “Kathy’s right we need to give people something to do that’s meaningful now,” I said. “We can’t build campaign momentum off people not doing anything. So we do a pro-cott!” Jethro snickered. “No, I’m serious. I heard of it near where I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Instead of boycotting bad companies, they buy from good ones—a positive boycott or procott. We get people to commit to not going to a casino and instead promise to support local anti-casino businesses. We’d inherently be the pro-business people. Our action would speak that message, and we challenge the storyline of casinos being pro-business.” 8352  Now we can ask for something.” Juggling my phone, I gathered opinions from the executive team. Eventually, we developed a winning option: ask for a meeting with the governor—with two caveats urged by Jethro. First, the meeting must be public. Years ago in Boston, he watched a community leader jump when the mayor asked in the middle of a crisis for an emergency meeting. There, the leader made a host of agreements, only to return to a hostile community. They hadn’t agreed to any compromises and resented the leader for allowing the mayor to decide who represented their democratic group—and manipulate his position at that. Second, we get a commitment for a meeting in writing, by fax or email, so that we can hold the governor to such an agreement. Jethro insisted on both, knowing that a nonpublic meeting would isolate our members from the process and, while it may be “fruitful,” would not strengthen our collective hands. “You should call him back,” said Anne, “and make the deal.” “No way,” I said. “This is some sick, insider ball game. You have the political instincts and know what’s going on.” “Doc called you, not me,” she said. “It’s yours to do.” I breathed heavily and called back Dougherty’s cell phone. It rang only once. “Uh, hi, it’s Daniel Hunter.” The words toppled out. Not a strong start. His voice was quick and alert. “Will you call it off?” “No, we can’t call it off just because.” How is this done? I searched for my own style, instead of trying to match his. “It hurts our reputation to arbitrarily call off actions and is not consistent with how we operate. But…” I forced my voice to go slowly. “If the governor agreed to a meeting with us, we could call it off.” Dougherty listened carefully as I added the two caveats. “Give me five minutes,” he said. “Don’t do anything.” Anne 8443  “Yeah,” I said, “people love attacking me, and that’s fine. But I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to get caught in this. For one, it’s DRNA’s internal mess. Christopher wants this to be about us to split us up. We can remind Joel and others that I’ve said nothing that isn’t true. But past that, it’s up to the DRNA to stiffen its resolve. Me running in to protect myself only feeds the flames. DRNA needs to figure out how to handle this fire.” 8552

fistfight.” I ignored his joke. “The DRNA is neutering itself, on this belief that having a politician mad at you is a bad thing. Politicians don’t respect pushovers. Fumo is running for office—and if those corruption charges stick, possibly as a convicted felon! He needs them and their political cover!” “Like you have said,” said Jethro, “DRNA is a values-based organization. If it does not stand up for the 1,500-foot buffer, it will crumble. When nobody challenges Jeff Rush saying moving one casino—i.e., Foxwoods—would be enough, it makes me less inclined to trust DRNA. If the tables were turned, the Southern leaders would be in a tizzy, whereas the Northern leaders have been thoughtful and respectful in their response.” His voice rose. “They’re so stuck in fear. It’s a natural reaction to being traumatized all these years by dominating politicians. Except instead of being in recovery, they’re stuck in shock and always believe they are victims of circumstance.” “Instead of bringing key players together to move forward on re-siting,” I said, “they may have shown Fumo that he can steamroll them. It shows a lot of weakness right before our meeting with the governor. It’s gonna kill them internally. They’re gonna get stuck in tighter and tighter circles, nursing conspiracy theories about each other. It’s not open conflict, it’s tossing grenades at each other behind emails.” “Just before you came to CFP, Fumo tried the same thing with us,” Jethro said. “Fumo tried to take away city zoning, so we raised holy hell. Christopher Craig yelled at us then, even dropping the f-bomb in front of little kids. But when we didn’t back down, Fumo blinked. Unfortunately, people have learned the wrong lessons. Instead of taking the path of more resistance and preparing to fight, they’re closing their eyes and doing a little trust fall with the same guy who screwed them.” 8596

“We need to tell Paul to leave the DRNA,” I said. “The two-hat thing isn’t healthy, especially since the DRNA is slipping away from its core value of standing against casinos in neighborhoods. The psychological strain is showing, and people are going to get burned out at those traumatic meetings. Plus, the whole situation invites suspicion about whether Paul’s really acting as a DRNA delegate or a CFP double agent. He needs one hat, and ideally the same would go for Caryn, Debbie, and everyone.” “Yeah,” said Jethro. “You’re right. I know lots of activists take it as a badge of honor to hold lots of hats. But the most powerful are those who do one thing and are able to connect their one hat to other issues. Have a single place to stand and stand there. So I’ll talk to Paul.” 8616

“Tonight I watched a clip from the civil rights movie Eyes on the Prize. The DRNA’s fight reminds me of fights within Dr. King’s circle. Maybe King’s most amazing skill was facilitating the massive ego of his Baptist minister colleagues—yet even his meetings occasionally had fistfights! 8625  I urged for us to redouble our training efforts, adding, “We have to surf the wave of people’s emotions, and we need to take responsibility for not doing it. The anger means we’re not giving people actions that give them full expression.” 8739 Top of Form

We had immediate targets to worry about—it was hard to see how Philly’s ProCott would get us on the offensive. 8785

joined my laughter. It was relaxing and good, but self-care and a positive organizational culture isn’t a strategy. We were still blowing in the winds of others’ moves. As we pulled out calendars to select possible dates for a return picnic at Rendell’s house, we learned of a startling twist: Rendell was going to meet with the Delaware Riverfront Neighborhood Alliance. 8794

being at the negotiation table without being in the room • ignoring when politicians shift responsibility • playing high-stakes media games to bait your target • being stuck in defensiveness is equivalent to disempowerment • stopping a riot • direct action discipline to strengthen messaging • negotiating quickly with police • dilemma demonstrations • coaching with questions 8801

“It’s rare for direct action groups to be at negotiation tables. So we influence the meeting by building context around it.” “What do you mean?” In response, I asked, “What was the big issue in the news about casinos today?” “You mean the news that PGCB chairman Tad Decker is stepping down?” “Yes, and what we helped guide reporters to focus on is the fact that Decker—Governor Rendell’s appointment—is returning to a big, fat $150,000 per year position at Cozen O’Connor after delivering casino licenses to two of their clients. As if to complete the circle, that law firm is now overseeing Senator Fumo’s re-election campaign. We’re encouraging reporters to dig deep into this story, because we believe there is real corruption going on. And while I believe reporters are generally bad at covering issues of economic injustice, they love sleaze. And this is nothing but sleaze. There’s a scandal here, and you’ll make front page for weeks if you uncover it.” 8814 “Rendell’s quote is a classic politician move, trying to appear sensible by shifting responsibility, as though you have no control. And I agree with you—why didn’t he just say it’s over?” 8886 “Reporters don’t have the time to really dive into this story and expose corruption. Already, we’ve burned out a bunch of reporters with issue fatigue. 8892 Engage Rendell. I propose we play a high-stakes media game with him. And I think Decker is the right way to get to him—because there’s the off-chance a reporter will uncover real stuff, and, if not, I think he has to defend his choice. But because it’s the topic of corruption, we can almost guarantee positive coverage in the media. They want to look like they’re on the side of the people, even though they detest regular people.” “How shall we do it?” Karim grinned. “Put together a full report of Decker’s tenure: Show how Pittsburgh papers exposed misspent PGCB funds, unearthed the current PGCB’s executive director’s past indictment for stealing money from Louisiana’s gaming board, two staff lawyers and a licensing investigator arrested for separate barroom brawls, another licensing investigator charged with five counts of falsifying credentials on his job application, a press aide charged with third-degree murder—plus an investigation into alleged mob ties to Mount Airy Casino Resort, which was represented by Cozen O’Connor—the same law firm involved in Fumo’s re-election campaign. Where Decker was returning. Who represented SugarHouse. We need to feed new angles to them on this story.” 8929 By the time we were ready to announce our formal complaint with the supreme court’s disciplinary counsel, press were hyped, and our announcement immediately exploded onto every major news outlet. 8968

“We need a campaign,” I said. “Gandhi had a word for staying on the defensive: powerlessness. Even if it doesn’t speak to the urgency, we can’t be urgent all the time. This allows us to graduate from wasting our time on DiCicco’s re-siting suggestions and get our eyes on a bigger, real anti-casino position. Whatever faults the ProCott has, it’s better than nothing.” Jethro shrugged again. “I just think it’s missing the oomph factor.” 9019

While I knew we were losing strategic direction, we had been effective at using every moment to advance our cause. Each piece of news we leveraged. Each move our opponents made we used for our own ends. We had modeled something most movements only dream of: improvisational dancing with the news cycle and events to steadily gain an advantage. We just hadn’t made news—and that meant we were at the mercy of what was happening outside of us. Paul tried again. “Why don’t we get a thousand people to descend on the state capitol to lobby for Bill 1477? We’ve only done one or two lobbying trips. Or a big rally?” I started to rebut that doing actions isn’t that same as being on the offensive, that we needed to settle down, pick a target, and develop a narrative around them to put on constant and increasing political pressure. I would have said all of that, but Anne interrupted. “I’m sorry to have to do this, but I need to share bad news with the team.” She took a deep breath. “In two weeks, I’m officially announcing my candidacy against Senator Fumo. I have to leave CFP to do it.” I’m sure we groaned, but I can’t remember.   “It’s hard to fault you,” said Jethro quickly. We all knew that Fumo was vulnerable—what with 137 charges against him in what would no doubt be a wildly publicized trial. “But—well—we just can’t replace your insider information and connections.” Shirley shrugged, as if unconcerned. “CFP has taken an eight-week hiatus to re-energize. We need to maintain momentum and continue to ponder what the best path to victory is and how to achieve it. Right now, we need to get back out into the community and show we continue to be a force in the city.” I wondered if she was really feeling that solid. But she was a practical person—if Anne was leaving, that was just information to compute. As if to prove the point, she turned to me and stared. “And did we find a new fiscal sponsor?” I dropped my head and shook it. “Nobody wants to touch us. ‘Too political.’ ‘Too risky.’ ‘Too likely to be sued.’ All that jazz.” “But we’re still moving forward,” she 9075

I wanted to scream “No!”—that this wasn’t a campaign and it wasn’t organizing. We had gotten stuck mobilizing actions, where we turn people out but aren’t building new recruits with face-to-face interactions. We were a darling of other movements, jealous of our media coverage and amazed at our ability to turn each loss into a win—but I was worried. Karim and I may have spent more time reading press reports then out in the field talking with people. It was an organizer’s sin. 9113  Yet there were good reasons. It felt tough enough to juggle the balls we already had, without building new relationships on top of that. I didn’t feel I had the time to go door-knocking. Worried about losing completely, I refused to back down from each opportunity presented to us. But Shirley was right that we were staying in motion—and that was something. 9120

Leep the high moral ground and not return politically motivated violence with more violence.” Privately, I offered nonviolence training to FACT members, trying to bridge the divide and send a clear signal: we don’t want violence. They declined, but it did open up a cordial email channel of communication. Unfortunately for us, the press 9187 press reaffirmed their narrative that the SugarHouse split was between old-timers versus new, working class versus middle class, and old people versus young people. It was one narrative that we completely lost. Maybe if we had done more ground organizing, we wouldn’t have lost it. 9202

tossed up my hands. “It’s a democracy. They have a right to express themselves, too.” We had never sought a permit for a CFP action, on the belief that it was a right, not a request. I turned back to the cop. “We’ve had one of our members attacked recently, possibly by one of those folks. Will you help keep the groups separate, so nobody gets hurt?” The policeman nodded. 9232

With awe, I watched as Chuck created a sphere of dialogue around him, turning the taunts, epithets, and boastful swagger into serious arguments about casinos. But elsewhere, chants were dying down and turning to taunts: elitist, sell-outs, carpet-baggers, ignorant brute. 9267

what I know about crowd control. For one, dense crowds are more prone to act irrationally or even riot. Spread-out crowds breathe and feel less pressure. Moving quickly, hands to the side, I walked through the crowd, adjusting people with my presence to leave a wake of space wherever I went. I tried to project a calm spirit. I wasn’t sure if it was making a difference. But unable to protect Ed before, I 9270

There’s a dangerous energy that happens when people stop to watch others yelling at each other. Bystanders feed the fight, because they’re either immobilized or actively shouting from the sidelines—like a high-school fight, with people shouting, “Fight! Fight!” All the roles feed the conflict. I realized I might not be able to engage the taunters, but I could help those whose immobilization made them feel powerless. Frozen people need to be loosened up, so they can make de-escalatory moves, like Chuck’s respectful, passionate banterHolding Ed’s shaking hand, I projected my voice so everyone directly around me could hear. “It’s all good. People are just arguing passionately—that’s what happens in a democracy. This is the first real debate this city has seen.” I yelled over to Jethro, “Remind everyone this is the first public debate.” He passed the word along, as did organizers and others with cool heads. Slowly, the word spread, calming the crowds—or at least stopping the taunting. 9281

Even that evening, I tossed right back into work after news that Michael Nutter, our presumptive mayor, was holding a $500-a-plate fundraiser at a private golf club. The headliner: disgraced ex-PGCB chairman Tad Decker. It just never stops. We have to teach Nutter a lesson, too. But not before teaching the PGCB a lesson. 9302 I reviewed the scenarios and possibilities for the day. What if we’re all immediately kicked out? What if they threaten all of us with arrest? What if the crowd grows hostile and boos us down? What if, what if, what if … ? I held my tongue on my own biggest worry: a physical altercation. I didn’t know if I was being irrational or—by not talking about it—overly protective of making them more fearful. But I couldn’t shake the fear of a repeat attack, even when I reminded myself pro-casino folks weren’t planning to be there. “Tell me if I’m wrong, but the point here is to get our voices heard,” said Chuck Valentine. “We’re not challenging anyone’s authority, just testifying.” “Yes,” I said, “unless she tells us we cannot speak. Then she’s just wrong. But we’ll still be respectful. This action only works if we show clearly we’re on the side of angels.” 9317

To press, we called it a public filibuster, built loosely on the principle of the Senate’s procedural filibuster. Only it was with citizens. And without a law backing it up. We even made a handout for them to help support its framing. 9328 “Exactly,” I said. “To avoid becoming a howling mass, we each will speak individually and in an order. Who goes first?” Ed Goppelt pointed at me, then himself. We quickly created an order. “I know it’s scarier for each person to do it alone, but our discipline avoids chaotic yelling. Plus,” I grinned widely, “it takes more time for each person to be thrown out individually. We ready?” 9333I led us the long way to the building entrance, hoping the walk would relax the knots in our stomachs. While walking, I said, “Relaxed direct actionists are the best. Unlike normal, highly scripted hearings, our actions introduce spontaneity. Everyone in the room suddenly becomes unwitting actors in our improvisational theater. Nobody’s script is written. We, at least, know to prepare for it and have lead parts. But our opponents aren’t prepared, so we have to stay relaxed and gracious as they figure out their new role.” 9339

“Sure,” I replied, taken aback slightly at the request. “The point here is to speak our minds.” Andrea stood up, shoulders back. Her voice echoed like a gong. “Excuse me, sir. Is the solution to the increased gambling problem to build new casinos?” Heads turned. “I’m sorry,” Chairwoman Mary Collins quickly cut her off. “We’re not taking comments or questions from the audience.” Andrea sat back down. With horror, I suddenly realized I was supposed to go next. The words were out of my mouth before I could think. “My name’s Daniel Hunter.” I noted I was on my feet. “I’d like the opportunity to speak as allowed by the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Sir, please have a seat, sir.) We haven’t had a chance to speak. (I’ve addressed this issue. Have a seat, please, thank you.) It’s been fifteen months since the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board had an opportunity for us to speak.” I sat down just as Ed Goppelt popped up. “Madam Chairwoman (Sir, I spoke to you already) please excuse this interruption, but I and others have asked (Sir, sir, we are going to take a recess) you in writing for a chance to address this panel (We will take a recess) pursuant to Article 1, Section 20 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” The chairwoman pounded her gavel. A police officer wrenched at Ed’s arm. Off-balance, Ed continued, “I ask for this opportunity to address this panel.” A second policewoman sidled up, speaking nonsense. “You’ll have a chance to speak, just not now.” With admiration, I watched Ed—while being forcibly removed by the uniformed officers—yell out, “Article 1, Section 20 of the Pennsylvania Constitution!” The crowd crawled toward recess. Karim shot up and began talking. “Madam, the process of casino slot parlors has been broken—”A civil affairs officer materialized in front of me. “You all need to leave.” “What?” “You all need to leave, now,” she said, gesturing to our entire row. “Nobody’s asked us to leave.” “I’m asking you to leave.” “On what grounds?” I looked at her defiantly. “I can tell you when to leave,” she said. “Not in a public hearing, you can’t,” I said. She pulled another uniformed officer over to support her. “We will arrest you if you don’t go,” she insisted. I hesitated, trying to calculate the situation in my head. Is she bluffing? Does she have any what the law is in this situation? Will my arrest be better for us than another round of interrupting? Will she try arresting just me—or everyone? These were classic direct action questions, because police officers do not have to be legally right when they arrest you. They are often wrong. The law gives them incredible leeway to enforce “public order,” even at the cost of your civil liberties. I decided to try a compromise. “You can ask me and those of us who spoke to leave, but you can’t tell people who did not do anything to leave. That’s patently illegal.” She looked at me, then her partner, then back at me. She waved her hand dismissively in agreement. As soon as she did, I wondered if I had given away too much by agreeing to leave. But the moment of self-reproach lifted immediately as I was thrust by the officers out of the room and into a line of microphones, along with Karim, Andrea, and Ed. Chuck and Ramona watched through the glass windows but wisely chose not to leave the room, not certain they… 9361For the next hour we basked, retelling details. Afterward, I laid out in a nearby field for a few minutes, relaxing and releasing the tension of an unscripted morning.   That night, my body still rippled with excitement. All day, I had talked with CFP members, using it as a moment to teach about the strategy of direct action. With Andrea, I explained, “We put the PGCB in a classic double-bind—where they’re damned if they do allow us to speak and damned if they don’t. In direct action parlance, we call this a dilemma demonstration—where we put our opponents in a dilemma where either way, they lose. We did it by modeling the behavior we wanted, rather than wait for someone else to do it for us.” 9442

To Chuck, I said, “Society has all sorts of myths, like that a public hearing means the public’s voice matters. Through our personal risk, we exposed the injustice and that a widely shared value—public input—was being violated. People could then see the injustice with their own eyes, something a dozen rallies or a hundred meetings with newspapers’ editorial boards would fail to have done.” To Jethro, I wrote, “Media need drama, and we gave them drama—but drama with our message. Our respectful shut-down of the PGCB has none of the blowback from that earlier planning commission hearing. Instead, the chairwoman was telling people, ‘They’re not violent people, they have sincere concerns. I don’t think it would be appropriate to have the police remove them, absent any display of violence.’ She may not know it, but that’s an invitation to return.” Unable to sleep that night from a mix of adrenaline and excitement, I tip-toed to my computer. News was phenomenal. KYW calling us “soft-spoken, polite, and very determined” and the Associated Press and Metro reporting we “forced an early adjournment, signaling that the bitter grass roots battle against two city slots parlors is far from over.” Even the unsympathetic Daily News—which gave us exclusively passive language in “our failure… to speak”—had to acknowledge our upbeat, positive tone. It struck me to put clippings of the days’ news into a single document. 9449

Not only had we achieved dense media coverage—this was just a sampling from the past three days—we were connecting to other movements. Our trainings brought out environmentalist, labor, and economic-justice activists, many of whom wanted to learn from our media, strategy, and direct action workshops how we did what we did. 9477

Members. It was better than a threat. It was evidence we knew how to create damaging press for those who stood against us. We were about to teach Mayor Nutter the same lesson.   Presumptive-mayor Michael Nutter had gotten little attention from us in recent months. His inauguration, to come in January, felt a year away. Though 9481 None felt right to me. All a little too hokey. There’s a big gap in my mind between street theater and direct action. One is play-acting. The other is acting out the society you want. Both may be staged, but only one operates on a principle of “Be the change you want to see.” Too many groups spent time designing actions that were just “Tell people the change you want to see.” I didn’t want to be that. 9491

Jethro didn’t have ideas, but he grinned and said, “Just remember what my mom always said. ‘There’s a million ways to say fuck you.’” We kept searching for the high-ground action. A surprise call from Dot Yablin changed the equation. I didn’t know Dot as well as I wished. She’d never called me before. She was a regular attendee and seemed like one of those wise, retired women who never quite got the hang of staying silent. Hesitantly, as if selecting her words delicately, she explained that Nutter’s campaign office had just called her and told her that Michael Nutter wanted to speak with her. My voice matched her shock. “He wants to talk to you? Why?” “I think because of my letter to the editor that the Inquirer printed yesterday,” she said. “He’s calling me in an hour to talk. What should I say? I don’t want to mess this up.” I went into coaching mode, using elicitive questions to help her steady herself. I had long ago left behind the idea that coaching meant telling people what to do. If they didn’t see it for themselves, it would never stick as deeply. I asked: “What’s his political interest in calling you?” “What do you want him to do after he hangs up?” “Why do you want him to not accept Decker’s money?” Then, when she answered, I said, “Perfectly clear to me—sounds like you have it.” Together, we realized Dot’s pithy letter to the editor was the first public attack on the likely new mayor. It was a gentle challenge over Decker’s role in the fundraiser (“It’s an understatement to say I am shocked and disappointed”). But angling for a broad mandate, Nutter wanted to avoid any public criticism—and most movements and groups, strangely, gave him the benefit of the doubt. “I’m just anxious,” she admitted shyly. “I don’t want to come across as too assertive.” “I’d be nervous, too. But remember, he’s asking to talk to you. What do you have to lose?” “I just don’t want to embarrass myself, or us…” I laughed. “If it helps, I’m not worried one bit. You get to speak your mind, exactly as you see it. Nutter hasn’t earned our trust simply with words. It’s in his actions.” I paused. “What generally helps you get less nervous?” “Send me a copy of the fundraising letter with Decker’s name on it, so I know I’m standing on solid ground,” she said. She chewed on the question. “And I’ll talk with my husband a little. Maybe take a walk.” “Excellent,” I said. We got off the phone. Like her, I took a short walk. Two hours later, Dot called back. I could hear relief mixed with adrenaline. “He was respectful, but he said he didn’t know about Tad Decker’s involvement. When I explained it had been printed in the Inquirer, he insisted it was a media misrepresentation. Then, I told him I had a copy of the invitation. I insisted he must know what happens in his office. After that, Michael Nutter did most of the talking.” “Sounds like you made your point clearly,” I said.   “I realize now, he didn’t agree to do anything, though.” Her voice started to deflate. “Maybe I should follow up with a letter, to make my point clear.” “That’s a great idea,” I said. “But don’t beat yourself up. Politicians are masters at avoiding promises and commitments. You already got under Nutter’s skin—in a good way. That’s a big step forward. And it shows that Nutter clearly doesn’t want to be pinned as a bad guy right now. That’s something we can use to nudge him to do the right thing.”… 9495

giving your opponents space to become allies • responsibility is a dangerous addiction • don’t target those who haven’t done you wrong • negotiating a win • direct action is a healing balm • about injunctions • the rare online poll that makes a difference • upside-down triangle • fighting the belief that ultimate power rests in lawsuits and politicians 9583

I returned to Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan to read his description of the stages. I instantly recognized we had weathered Stage 4: Take-off (Philly’s Ballot Box) and our own version of Stage 5: Perception of failure. Moyer’s words were right on for the next stage: “Stage 6: Majority public opinion is often a difficult time for activists. The excitement, high hopes, big demonstrations, nonviolent actions, and media coverage of the take-off stage have subsided. The vibrant rebellion and the protest efforts have been replaced by a larger number of isolated organizations and events that many believe are not getting anywhere. Consequently, this can be a discouraging time, despite the beehive of activity and full calendar of events.” I wrote back to Mary, “I believe we are in Stage 6. We’ve proven the failure of powerholders to solve the problem, and moved a sizable set of the population—polling numbers now show a slight majority of Philadelphians oppose casinos outright. But that needs to expand. We need to build a critical mass of public opinion. As we do that, our next challenge is Stage 7: Success, where we have to respond to powerholders’ attempts to advance minimal reforms, and groups fracture over different end goals.” 9597

At the next executive meeting, we’d learn that powerholders were starting to look for real solutions, a signal we were moving toward Stage 7. History rarely remembers that this is a long stage—and one in which, often, some things are won and some things are lost. 9610

“But—get this—he then said he’s not happy with any of the siting. Then, he said he had offered Foxwoods $30 million to move. Then upped it to $50 million! And that he offered SugarHouse…” Shirley looked at her notes. “Something like $15 to 20 million to move.” “It’s a long con,” said Paul quickly. He would have said more, but Jethro interrupted angrily. “Fumo’s going to waste taxpayer money to fix a problem he created!” Jethro grimaced and bit down on his lip. “This is what’s going to land him in jail!” News reports had surfaced of Fumo coining a term, OPM, for “other people’s money”—his favorite kind of money to spend. Jethro didn’t just want to win on casinos—he wanted to help change the political culture. I stared at Jethro with surprise. “This is how you take this news? Go ahead and be mad, but it’s worth noting that Fumo might really be changing positions. Recall, Fumo opposed DiCicco’s efforts forever. Fumo opposed the 1,500-foot-buffer. Fumo switched only enough to introduce a weak version, stating it could not work. Now he’s offering money to get these casinos to move. That’s a real change—he may really be playing ball.” “This is just another ploy,” said Paul. His faced contorted into a lawyer’s scowl. “Think about it. We all know Fumo is mucking about in the DRNA, where he’s probably behind some delegates urging members to cut ties with CFP. It has Fumo’s fingerprints all over it. This is another way to divide us up. If he wanted them to move, he’d make them move. He just wants to get re-elected and will screw us when the time is right.” “Maybe.” But as I heard Paul, it made me even more confident in my first instinct. “But days ago, when DiCicco was saying the governor’s meeting was fruitless, it was Fumo telling the press it was a start. If it was just for votes, he’d have televised this offer of money like crazy so everyone could see it. It’s not erratic behavior. He’s a politically conscious man. I think he has an ulterior motive—” “You may be right,” said Jethro, coolly. His ability to switch emotions rapidly never ceased to amaze me. “Maybe things are falling apart behind the scenes between Fumo and his lawyer and SugarHouse investor Richard Sprague. That would explain why Fumo is asking the judge in his corruption trial to let him remove Sprague from his case—it’s not just a ploy. It’s a real falling out.”               “Exactly,” I said. “Can Richard Sprague be happy that his ex-client, the Honorable Senator Fumo, is even talking about re-siting his casino? They’re going to war with each other, and I think this is just going to accelerate. It just proves the point that elites aren’t all buddy-buddy. They’re quite competitive with each other—and when direct action groups apply pressure, we can split them off from each other.”               Nico inserted himself. “Sounds like we need to test Fumo somehow, to see where he’s really coming from.”               Heads nodded. Politicians can say anything; testing them comes from the crucible of action. We brainstormed actions to pull Fumo’s real position out of the woodwork: Petition him to testify on our side in the upcoming council vote? Offer him chocolates in exchange for his support? Organize a hunger fast by his constituents? Ask the DRNA to host a public forum with him? Sit-in at DiCicco’s office to flush out Fumo’s real position? None hit the mark.  We just couldn’t decide whether to use the carrot or the stick. But we wanted options, in case something needed to be pulled together in hours if something did pop off. Because it always did. As exciting as that news was, it felt ephemeral. After the meeting, as I… 9618

Most unnerving was a DiCicco staffer with whom I had frequently spoken abruptly saying he didn’t want to talk with CFP anymore, telling me that “communication from CFP has been lacking, non-existent, or dishonest while we have done our best to be open and transparent.” My gut said this smacked of Senator Fumo. He hated us, since we were out of his control, and must have urged DiCicco’s office to distance themselves from us. In response, I had let my irritation show. “If you’re going to implode this relationship, I can’t stop you from doing it—but it won’t be our fault.” I got the staffer to back down enough to admit we’d always been honest and transparent. But like all councilmembers now, DiCicco’s staff kept their cards closer than usual. They told us nothing.  It was exactly what they would do if they were going to screw us. Returning home, I sat on the carpet, my back up against my couch. I pulled out my cell phone and called an older political mentor, Antje Mattheus.  I knew Antje well enough that soon after our hello’s, I exploded. “We’re up against the wall! Months of effort could be wiped away as soon as council does something! We need to prepare civil disobedience against them.” The taste of the PGCB shut-down was still in my mouth. Distant from the campaign, Antje reflected none of the movement anxiety. Her voice felt slow, smooth. “Wouldn’t the governor’s talk of re-siting make council less likely to cave?” Despite myself, I laughed out loud. There are so many levels to campaigns. Those of us on the inside knew that not a single politician trusted the governor’s public word on this matter. Yet those further out took it at face value. It was a dynamic that stretched my patience, forcing me to re-explain our situation again and again. And yet, not doing it with patience would have quickly made us an insular campaign. I filled her in on the political assumption that Rendell was just biding his time to announce that the search was over. “Maybe right before the council vote, to seal the deal,” I fretted.   Antje put feeling behind her words, beneath a heavy, German accent. “You’re more worried than usual.”  “Yes.” I took a breath. “What ideas can you give me about how we can shut down council’s meeting with a few dozen people? We just did it with the PGCB and only a handful of people. But they weren’t prepared, and council sees protests a lot. Could we use bullhorns? Whistles? Songs?” 9675

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But instead of flowing with ideas, her voice was short. “Has City Council screwed you yet?” “No.” “Then if you target them now, before they do something, you lose all your high ground.” “But—”“I know. They might screw you. But direct action is not a stick to use because you have it. If you start targeting people who haven’t done you wrong, people will see you as the problem. They’ll say that you’ve wildly escalated, and who are these wide-eyed, crazy protestors? You lose the high ground, and that’ll make any future organizing much harder.” “So what do I get us to do?” “Maybe you’ll have to lose the vote. But there’s got to be other ways to get to them without trying to shut down a hearing from a body that’s done you no wrong… or at least not grievous enough to make sense to those outside your movement.” I sat sulkily, knowing she was right. Her appeal was both moral and strategic. That alignment had never done me wrong. But it didn’t help me see my way out. She let the silence grow until adding, “Daniel, you sound like you’re taking everything onto your shoulders right now. I know something about that. I was raised by the generation of Holocaust survivors who told me, ‘Never again.’ I took it personally, as if I had to stop every genocide. Every time I read a newspaper article, I felt like I had to personally do something. It’s disabling—it kills us inside.” “And you think I’m doing that?” I asked. “Are you?” I leaned back on the couch, holding my legs close. “A little. But there’s so much… I mean, yeah, I am taking a lot of pressure on.” “Share the load,” she advised. “It’ll make your planning easier.” “It’s not getting easier. Karim, our communications director, is leaving to work for Anne Dicker’s campaign.” I sighed heavily. “But I guess we just have to fundraise to replace him… I need to just let go of more things—and stay true to the high-ground principles that have gotten us to this point.” I could hear Antje nod sagely. Yet even as I said it, I worried I wouldn’t be able to let go and find others. I wanted the work to be high quality, and we needed everything done quickly. But at least she had talked me out of orchestrating a massive direct action against City Council. And days before the council meeting, her strategy was proven right. Instead of voting for the SugarHouse permits, council canceled the hearing. It turned out that SugarHouse was just as scared as we were. Worried it would get voted down without an agreement with local civic associations, the company asked for an indefinite postponement of its zoning permits. Our press release blasted the good news: “SugarHouse Cries Uncle and Unwittingly Re-Asserts the Need for Community Support”—though, as a press release, it didn’t matter. Issue fatigue meant almost no press would carry a non-story (“Council Doesn’t Vote”).   SugarHouse was officially mired. It gave us a few more months’ reprieve—just as we were gearing up to return to the PGCB.   Cognizant of Antje’s reminder to keep the high ground, we sent letters to those who hadn’t been able to speak at the last PGCB meeting due to our shutting it down: “Our intention never was to shut down the meeting, merely to advocate for our right to speak, too…. We request you write to the PGCB to settle this matter by allowing the public some time to speak at every hearing.” We also wrote to PGCB chairwoman Mary Collins, asking her to do the right thing… 9708

“Give us some time to discuss,” Jethro announced, pulling us away for a group huddle. George was ecstatic. “This is amazing! They’re giving us what we wanted. We have to accept.” Jethro was mellow. “We aren’t the only public group who has something to say. What about the poor groups in Pittsburgh who already lost their battle against a casino? Or folk from smaller towns in PA. Will they let others speak?” “We can always return and teach others how to shut down a hearing,” said Andrea. I grinned at her “You don’t want to lose this chance,” said George, hurriedly. It was another civil disobedience quick-decision moment. But Jethro kept the conversation slow. He encouraged us to take our time, before eventually agreeing on some preconditions. 9778

Today’s PGCB session included both Philadelphia casinos petitioning the board to give them an extension on their $50 million license payments to the state of Pennsylvania. Foxwoods said the interest alone would cost $400,000 per month. It was unwieldy, they claimed, given the unexpected delays caused by council and “anti-casino zealots.” SugarHouse claimed it had spent nearly $12 million on these unanticipated disturbances. All I could think of was our new fundraising pitch: we’d been outspent $200 to $1 by SugarHouse alone! The PGCB ruled against them. They had to pay the state immediately. I leaned over to Andrea to make sure she caught the significance. “We’ve carried this struggle long enough that, for the first time, the PGCB’s interests and the casinos’ are not perfectly aligned. The PGCB’s interest of getting money for the state from casinos is no longer totally overlapping with the casinos’ interests.” Andrea cocked her head. “But you know, ultimately, they’re all in cahoots. They both want the casinos built.” “Yes and no.” I whispered slightly above the din of the testimony in the front of the room. What did I care if everyone could hear us? “We ought not to lump the elites together as if they’re all in it with the same interests. It’s not strategic, and it isn’t what we just saw. The longer we delay these things, the more that competition will show up. I believe SugarHouse and Foxwoods can be split from each other—each hopes the other doesn’t get to build. Even other casinos in the area will get into the fight, trying to stave off their two Philadelphia competitors. This is a big step.”               A boring hour later, and the press’s video cameras flicked back on when the chairwoman told us it was time for us to talk. George Kelly introduced us and, absent notes, Jethro and I talked through the campaign. I focused on falsehoods SugarHouse and Foxwoods had propagated before the board, crummy social-impact studies, and the disenfranchising process the PGCB had set up. Jethro spoke personally, describing SugarHouse calling his neighborhood a buffer zone: “The people in my neighborhood just could not believe that you would not even look at a map or learn the history of the place where you were siting the casino.” He closed powerfully. “We believe strongly that we can lead a protracted delay forever in the construction of these casinos. We believe that if they are built, we can simply shut them down with no more than twenty-five people by blocking roads, because they are in such close proximity to our homes.” When we finished, the PGCB thanked us and abruptly left. After almost two years of being ignored, it was something. We celebrated two wins over Indian food: being able to speak directly to them, and SugarHouse and Foxwoods now being financially hit by any additional delays. Fork filled with rice in mid-air, George Kelly expressed his excitement. “This is a turning point! They could not have expected you to be so clear. I bet they thought you were some crazies, not so sharp, laser-focused.” Major coverage followed: the Boston Globe, the New York Times, and even an article in the UK. George Kelly persuaded the Society Hill Reporter to republish the testimony, adding to the substantial amount of ink from that paper on anti-casino reporting. Because the PGCB did initiate the change, it was our first policy win—two years into our campaign. And our members rode the excitement, pouring out congratulations. I couldn’t stop talking about how direct action was a balm to heal the wounds of public abuse. “This abuse of the public leads to deep cynicism and distrust. Nonvoters rightly ask: why vote if it’s one corrupt… 9809  from a quote from Dr. King, who wrote of the need for “creative maladjustment” since, he wrote, “there are some things in our society, some things in our world to which we should never be adjusted.” I urged everyone to teach the city the attitude and tactics needed to eliminate corruption and prevent public abuse—by standing up when it happens. “If you want to speak at a public meeting, do it whether they’ve said you can or not. If you want to ask a question at City Council, do it even if it interrupts the flow. It’s not to be disruptive, but to implement the vision of a transparent, open city. If we don’t take responsibility for corruption, it will continue to abuse us.” The article took on a life of its own and spurred a host of labor unions, groups fighting for historic preservation, and others to call and ask us to help them plan strategy. We set up a range of training events to keep up with the requests: How to Not Rally, Effective Media Strategies, Organizing 101, and Strategic Planning. 9854

What is so efficient about the injunction process is that one can get an ex parte, immediate, temporary restraining order—meaning we don’t even have to be in the hearing. Then SugarHouse could stop an action, which is just one step toward getting a permanent injunction. As your lawyer, I need you to promise me you won’t speak like that again. Plus, with this talk of delay, you’re opening us to being accused of abusing the litigation process to delay—vexatious litigation is what it’s called. SugarHouse could sue for attorney fees. That’s a tactic the ACLU says is being used more and more by developers.” 9880 cut him off. “I’ve always assumed the casinos are eyeing an injunction and the possibility of suing us. But the bar is fairly high: they generally need a pattern of behavior that reflects us doing illegal actions, preferably in secret. We have never acted illegally—check our record—and never acted secretly. Two, even if they win in the courts, it martyrs us and publicly validates the strength of our resistance. And three, they cannot get an injunction for every day of the week. Eventually it would happen.” 9895

RICO was shorthand for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Originally written to target the mafia and organized crime networks, judges’ rulings expanded it into a wide net, including activist groups. Its expansion became codified, from merely criminal enterprises to political protests, like a case convicting PETA for infiltrating an animal-testing lab. But we had no such “pattern” of racketeering—things like gambling, murder, theft, extortion, money laundering, fraud, obstruction of justice, or the like. 9901

before pausing. Why am I treating this like an argument—a point to be won? 9906 Bottom of Form

“Injunctions are not typically used against informal organizations like us. Besides, we have no history of prior ‘damage’—a pretty important bar. And it’s not purely a legal question—it’s also political. We keep the equation so they don’t win enough by threatening us with frivolous garbage. But let’s spend time getting our act together anyways.” 9914

“You’re the best,” he said, seemingly out of nowhere. “Always upbeat. Always high-ground. Always thinking and analyzing.” 9924

We staggered our talking, so we were thrown out once every ten minutes. But, man, we missed you.” 10081 “Any advice on what we could have done differently?” I halted for a second. “Well… maybe using buddies for support. Or you could have refused to leave when escorted out. Or just sit down when the director gavels you down, so you can pop up later.” The scenario seemed unwieldy. Hundreds of people yelling against us. “Or just leave when you’re that outnumbered.” For a few minutes, all we heard was street noise and the sound of our feet continuing to pad along. Jethro seemed proud of his action, though the filibuster didn’t stop the hearing and made only a blip on news stories. Instead, the director had simply announced she’d rule “in the near future”—code for ruling in SugarHouse’s favor before Mayor Street’s term was up. 10084  Jethro sighed. “I’m getting tired of people in this city not appreciating our skill. People keep thinking that the ultimate power is still lawsuits and politicians. They don’t get that laws aren’t written on behalf of the little guy—the law is a tool of the wealthy. They don’t understand that power resides in our willingness to comply—and to believe in the system as it is.” 10105

turned the corner and headed east. “They still have a belief in the old pyramid of power,” I said, “that a few people at the top have the real power, a few more in the middle have some 10109 power, and those at the bottom have none—” “But that’s not it, is it?” interrupted Jethro excitedly. “It’s the upside-down triangle.” I smiled and almost chuckled to myself. Jethro was learning through this campaign, too, getting more into the direct action model. He had become exposed to the upside-down triangle, a model that took the pyramid and flipped it on its head. When a pyramid is on its head, it’s unstable. It requires pillars of support on each side to keep it from falling. A CEO’s power is dependent on their managers, stockholders, secretaries, tech workers, and janitors all doing what they say. The lesson being that power is unstable. And rather than feeding that stability—believing more in courts that are corrupt or a political system that’s unprincipled—we wanted to starve it. To withdraw support away from it and reduce  “It’s tough sometimes, being on the cutting edge!” Jethro sighed heavily, again looking preoccupied. He pulled at his chin. “So what’s eating you about it now?” I felt seen by Jethro, as though he could always tell how I was really doing. “She’s somehow raised the money to hire a lawyer, and she’s pulled together four civic associations, despite all the back-biting and in-fighting. But they’re not ready to play hardball with Richard Sprague. And… I guess I’m just pissed! She’s going to put a ton of money into this effort. Maybe it will work, but it’s doubtful. But when she wants press, she asks me for our press lists and help sending out the release. I just sent out their announcement that they just filed.” “Maybe you shouldn’t have done it,” he said. It was as much a question as a statement. Jethro suddenly stopped walking. “I need to tell you something.” His stubbled face looked serious. “My wife and I are having a baby. Don’t tell anyone yet. We’ll announce once we’re through the first trimester.” “Congratulations!” I shouted. “That’s great!” He smiled, a little weakly. That explains his stepping back, his working hard to save up a little money… and then my heart sank. Are we going to lose Jethro, too? 10112

Angry as I was, I wasn’t going to fight over email. I wrote back: “I hear your frustration and I’m sorry that you’ve lost some trust in me.  It was a very stressful situation for me and I’d appreciate you getting to hear from me about it before rushing to judge me.  I want to sit down and talk with you soon; but in the meantime, maybe you and I can talk on the phone sometime today.” It was a tough disagreement, because we both felt a sense of violation from our allies in a stressful moment. Violation from opponents is one thing, but the most tender hurts come from allies.  We made up enough to move forward, but, as she said, “something has diminished there for me” in our otherwise bright relationship. Like many ally relationships during the course of tough campaigns, we continued working together, battling it out, licking our wounds, and moving on. Because, despite our tension, it was a drop in the bucket compared to 10165

True to their upper- and professional-class backgrounds, they refused to support our grassroots, winning strategy and chose to hire a national public-relations firm. No serious PR came from it. Jethro and I railed against the classist assumptions behind their money strings. Casino-Free Philadelphia was based on actions, not words, and was more effective than any PR firm. We were swifter—and cheaper, too. But organizing is not valued in mainstream society. Skills we had shown for months were not seen as worthy enough to give serious financial support: crafting innovative media-capturing and public-sympathy-framing actions, aligning political leadership with a grassroots strategy, and all the elements of pulling disparate segments of society into a shared enterprise. Instead of money going to support successful organizing, it went to those the professional class trusted most: lawyers and public-relations firms. 10194

organizing down instead of upward • breaking the law isn’t just for activists • feeling both defeated and powerful • positioning politicians in your storyline • following your conscience • a threat that’s never fulfilled • enforcing action guidelines • handling fear is an organizer’s job • when up against a huge force, go small • training builds confidence • educating reporters on social movements • thanking allies with direct action 10233

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Strategically, none were viable. The federal courts were slow, expensive, and largely uninterested in taking on these kinds of cases. The attorney general was a joke. And a direct action to arrest the judges would do little to change the material outcome. 10325

“So we need to plan events on days when nothing else is happening and we’re not competing with our press. It’s a lesson many groups could take to heart, since they often plan actions on the day of trade meetings or corporate conferences. Then they’re in competition, instead of what we need to do, which is design our own action to dramatize our ask to government workers. Maybe Thursday—long enough to get our act together and for this current news cycle to slow down, but soon enough to be on the heels of the court’s judgment. Lily wrote it down, noting which things she would need to do to make it happen. “But our people also need to do something together,” I said. Then, recalling a tactic we had talked about for months, I added, “I’m not excited about the prospect of starting a long-term occupation during the winter, certainly not before building trucks arrive. So let’s call it a practice site occupation.” 10362

With our actions, we’d flush out where politicos really stood. With DiCicco and Nutter, we asked that they come out strongly and get their respective bodies—City Council and the city administration—to openly flout the supreme court ruling. With Fumo, whom we trusted even less, we asked that he do direct action with us. We would pull off two out of three—though neither in the way we had imagined. 10376

Inside, I cheered. This felt like a perfect teachable moment for the whole city and state. I sprang to my computer, excited for a public debate about civil disobedience. I grabbed Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he talked about the difference between just laws and unjust laws “out of harmony with the moral law.” My fingers blazed across the keyboard, writing to the executive team. “This is what it means that direct action polarizes and clarifies, focusing on action over people’s positions. Notice that Rendell is at an unrelated news conference. It means we’re under his skin. And he’s trying to embarrass us, like SugarHouse when they repeated claims that we would lie in front of bulldozers. But times have changed. Rendell is out of step. Our bold action is just showing how wrong he is—something a thousand press releases or rallies would not have achieved. He’s defending an unjust court.” Within hours, he would hear our members’ scorching replies in phone calls, emails, quotations in every newspaper, and letters to the editor: “Could we imagine a worse image for Philly than as home to rebels willing to risk for freedom? First the Liberty Bell, now this!” 10403

Behind the scenes, I launched attacks. I leaked to the Evening Bulletin that one of Nutter’s key advisors was Tad Decker’s friend Stephen Cozen, founder and chairman of Cozen O’Connor. I made sure dozens of press outlets covered a confrontation with Debbie and Hilary, in which Cozen unwisely suggested his close relationship with Nutter meant they saw eye-to-eye on casinos. The Bulletin’s exposure forced Nutter to—for the second time—publicly distance himself from Cozen O’Connor, urged on by letters from the PNA. Publicly, I positioned Nutter with a simple storyline: “To get rid of the stench of corruption, the city has to stop going along with corrupt decisions,” I wrote in a column in the Metro. “Nutter should disregard the supreme court ruling and fight every step of the way.” 10438

The action started at the underground entrance to the Municipal Services Building, where a handful of CFPers handed out 500 flyers to passing city officials. The flyers read, “Mayor Street wants you to expedite the processing of casino plans, but you don’t have to do that. You can take your time, or you can turn to other business. You can do everything possible to make sure that permits do not get issued until February, March, or even April. You have the power.” (Later, Morgan Jones and I would email the same flyer to 20,000 workers.) 10471

When the flyers were gone, the group trooped up to City Hall’s fourth floor, their backs facing the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s chambers. Our message was delivered quickly. Marj Rosenblum reminded press we wanted a 1,500-foot buffer. Jethro soft-balled a demand that Nutter create “an open, transparent” site re-selection committee. And Paul crafted a brilliant lawyerly phrase for the whole event. “We are not asking people to break the law. In this matter, we are asking people to follow their consciences.” 10475

Paul’s pointing out that SugarHouse still needed to abide by the Clean Water Act and obtain federal regulatory and historical permits, and it still needed major earth-moving permits—“so they cannot legally begin building by Christmas.” To continue engaging Nutter, Lily suggested a hefty letter sent by email, with a request for him to create a blue-ribbon committee with four core values: a transparent process, full economic cost/benefit analysis, re-siting only with community support, and community expertise. Caught up in our feisty mood from the morning, I urged that we slide in our demand in my favorite “if-then” ultimatum style: “If you choose not to announce the formation of a committee meeting by December 13, we intend to try to pull together the committee ourselves, politely using your campaign office as a base.” 10494

As we told folks of the interchange, hoping to prod them to action, many held their mouths in horror. “Nutter is our ally, our friend,” repeated one supporter over and over again. We had outpaced our supporters and—veering unsteadily, driven by exhaustion and concern—we had put forward the first threat that we would never fulfill.   By Friday, our call to conscience had kicked a debate on direct action into high gear, with players across the board joining the media fray. Rendell doubled down on his assertions that we were out of line. Letters to the editor from anti-casino activists defended our actions: “What does attracting casinos that are clearly ready to fight and bankrupt families say about the image of Philadelphia? It says our governor and mayor sold out the city, sold out historic neighborhoods, and now our neighbors might be sold down the river. And, Governor, if you want to improve the city’s image, start by letting us make our own decisions.” Editorials took shots at us, as did some community groups and civics, while others argued that sometimes civil disobedience is the right choice. The stakes were raised innumerably over our practice site occupation. I tracked all the worry in our movement: stress over our image, fears of getting beaten up, wild concerns over arrests. It wasn’t just the normal worries—it was a litany of worst-case scenarios. 10516 “Because we’re not just proposing direct action for us. We’re asking other people to do it, too. And direct action violates society’s rules,” I said, looking between him and Lily. “Naturally, people wonder how far will you go outside those rules. 10550  Civil disobedience action, protestors had earned a high ground and found the police initially restrained to initiate violence. The tide turned quickly when several people committed a few acts of property destruction and violence. Whether from protestors or paid government agents provocateurs, the few incidents of cars being smashed, property defaced, and alleged incidents of violence against police were lifted as the dominant media narrative. 10556 I had already resent copies of our nonviolent action guidelines with press releases:   In our actions, we will… * use humor and visuals to make our point; * adopt a dignified, open and friendly attitude towards anybody we encounter; * demonstrate our creativity in the use of new slogans, songs, and props; * keep our calm, and our eyes on the prize.   In our actions, we will not… * bring weapons; * use verbal or physical violence; * use drugs or alcohol; * hide our identity behind hoods or masks; * run, as it contributes to heightening tensions for everybody. 10565 Then, finally, she spoke. “A big part of your job right now is helping members deal with their fear.  That’s hard work and frustrating, especially when their fear is getting in the way of all the other things you need to do and is not helping your own morale.  It sucks. But you have the experience. You have to calm people down.” It struck a chord. 10603

We’ve carried ourselves with real grace for the past many months. As I was calling people today, so many understand why we are doing what we’re doing and respect and appreciate us for doing it. Why? Because we’re not telling people to stop being corrupt. We’re trying to make it happen. We’re not telling someone else to go protect our riverfront—we’re enacting the world we want to see. That’s inspiring and an optimistic vision of citizens’ engagement. We are part of a long legacy of actors engaged in civil disobedience to protect their neighborhoods—from those who are well-known to those who are not. With our actions come risk and fear, too. Yesterday I was very in touch with my own fear—wondering what would happen Saturday and what would we be giving up to be part of it. But I remembered a quote from a friend who says, “Wherever there is fear, there is power.” If it wasn’t scary to stand up to corrupt authority, people would do it all the time. We show our courage by doing what scares us—not by being unafraid. More than anything else, to me, it’s our integrity and courage that we’re modeling to the city. I’m proud of all of us for what we’ve accomplished simply to be here in this struggle. The fight is long from over and it’s been a joy working with all of you. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow and modeling that spirit of optimism, personal integrity, and courage. 10612 We looked at each other uneasily. None of these ideas would work. Our people weren’t experienced direct action technicians. It was already such a stretch for many of them to even consider such an action. Trying some advanced flanking formation was only going to add to their worries and make the action dangerous. 10642

“lying down is actually a bad idea. Sit up, stand up, but make sure to be seen.” 10708

We ran through other lessons: making eye contact, trying to not appear threatening, having people communicating with media, and planning ahead with different support roles. 10712

The debrief centered on one protestor going “limp,” lying like a dead heap instead of walking with the arresting officers. “Media love the shot,” I said, “but it can be more risky for protestors—and police. Police suffer from back injuries more than any other injury, and none of them look forward to having to pick up people.” Several police nodded affirmatively. “It’s risky for protestors, since sometimes police will manhandle folks unnecessarily. Let’s talk more about techniques that can help reduce those risks…” After the training, Nico leaned over to me, amazed. “This was a real chance to personalize ourselves to the police officers and explain clearly why we were doing what we were doing, showing the police who we really are: long-time residents, retired school teachers, parents, students, and professionals who care about protecting their community—not the mob of crazies that others in the city are trying to make us out to be.” 10718

“Do you know how many people were in the US abolitionist movement to abolish slavery?” “I dunno, maybe half the population?” “It’s hard to know for sure,” I said, “but if you add up every petition signed, every meeting, every public action—you won’t get close to 1% of the population. Your view of what makes a social movement is confused. The amount of displacement people have suffered to fight these casinos is huge. People are taking time off of work, setting aside home life—for months, even years. If we win, we’ll win because we’re convincing and indeed speaking for a majority. In fact, if you cared to look at any polling data, you’d see most people no longer want casinos in this city. Seventy-nine percent support the buffer zone.” 10749

In our case, it signaled our intention that we would not back down and that we were teaching Philadelphians a new relationship with council—not one that was based on subservience, but the opposite. Council meetings were the people’s meetings and we would treat it as such. 10808

surviving stage seven • creating goals with spice and subtlety • move politicians like chess pieces • doing what feeds you • finding your power in opponents’ insults • in a war of attrition, small measures add up to victory • steering politicians via the media • the challenges of a numbers campaign • letting go of old boogeymen • facing greatest fears in an action 10816

“We don’t know that,” I said sharply. Within our movement there were two camps: either Nutter was hero or enemy. I was disappointed Jethro seemed stuck in a camp, rather than being more nuanced. “He’s not signaled where he really stands yet. We can’t assume he’s not with us.” 10838

Stage 7 tends to be prolonged. Opposing powerholders offer false solutions and cheap concessions, while energy among movement activists splits and dissipates in response to the varied options. None of our current examples of this were more apparent than PNA’s willingness to accept relocated casinos versus our more firm stance against any casinos in the city. he ways to win had increased: SugarHouse’s 10865

The problem was, with the different options, CFP had no idea where to put our energy. Movement energy branched between those and many other possible solutions. These were the classic challenges of Stage 7. 10871

building another campaign. We all believed if we could move the governor, everyone else would move. But we felt stuck on how to do that. “What’s our campaign ask, our goal?” I asked, waiting for Paul to be the first to jump in. He did not disappoint. “We need him to oppose all casinos, not just re-site them.” 10898

“A good campaign goal doesn’t just say what we want,” I said, “it helps rally new people toward us and makes it easier when we do organizing in the streets. It should speak to people—not just those agreeing with us. Just asking him to get rid of casinos is too much—too much of a complete turnaround.” 10907

“why not get him to sign a pledge to eliminate the casinos if a cost/benefit study shows they’d cost the city? They still haven’t done a single study on these two casinos, right?” I nodded slowly. “Everything you’re suggesting is really just restating the same goal in different ways. Good campaign goals have spice, subtlety, and often unusual demands. Asking for documents. A 1,500-foot buffer. Or Gandhi saying that he’d liberate his people by making salt. What’s another angle on this?” 10912

“Our goal doesn’t have to be a statement of what we want to reach. What stands in our way of Rendell doing what we want? Let’s not just think politically, but broadly speaking. What are the pillars of support?” “It’s all economics,” said Paul. “If media talked about the true costs of casinos, we wouldn’t have these things,” said Kathy. “These things are going to take money from the poor and hand it to rich investors.” “If the public had the facts,” said Shirley, “we wouldn’t even consider them. We need a real debate in this city.” I clapped. “Yes! A debate!” Shirley cocked her head. “Many of the best campaigns get built around taking a metaphor seriously,” I said. “Acting it out to its completion. So we ask Governor Rendell for a public debate. If he declines us, then we hold a debate at his office.” “We get a public debate based on the facts,” said Kathy. “A debate-in,” I cried out. 10922

“It’s just a shame that we have to make the case that professionals should be making. Even when we get economists to testify, it always falls on deaf ears. The media just don’t do their jobs.” I beamed at Shirley, “Exactly. That’s why we’re activists. To expose the lies and myths of society.” 10941

a bit surprised by my cool demeanor. “He’s basically doing exactly what you asked him to do, saying that a ‘legitimate review will ask, what are the real costs? What are the real benefits?’ It’s as if you wrote the text for him.” “We did,” I said, brightening a little bit. “At least, we built the doorway for him to step through.”  Good activists don’t merely attack politicians—they move them, like chess pieces. In some cases they use sheer force of political will, in Nutter’s case by finding what the politician cherishes most and showing how their movement aligns with it. We had made our movement attractive to anyone wanting to prove they were against corruption, for transparency, and pro-neighborhoods. 10971

Lily explained the “if this, then that” component of the campaign. If the government did not create an analysis, we would “be forced” to create our own report. Then, if the governor did not hold that debate, we would just have to lead Philadelphia’s first-ever debate-in at his offices. 11170

anti-casino Valentine’s Day cards complete with doilies and messages: “Governor Rendell: Have a heart,” “Eddie, you broke my heart!” and “Love us, not the greedy.” It was a frolicking good time for all, with upbeat front-page coverage in the Metro. 11177

I was trying to live up to what a Greenpeace activist once told me, “In a messy war of attrition, a host of small measures can add up to victory.” 11238

Lily and I had discussed the challenge of CFP’s first campaign based on numbers. Numbers are faceless and boring. Reporters hate wading through numbers, because each side has their own. Lily pointed out that CFP had let the casinos make claims unchallenged for months—making it all the harder now to fight the “jobs and revenue” argument. With a sense of regret, I acknowledged we had made a mistake in not leading with the victims of casinos, having them be spokespeople and out front. It was always a challenge given we were fighting something before it had caused damage, where the victims were in the future. But that made her idea for the Meet-and-Greet action even better. At first, we were going to do some media action at Rendell’s house, maybe dressing up as the costs and parading around Rendell’s house. But, in my absence, she picked a wiser, less confrontational, easier to do, and more educational event. 11268

As smooth as she was, I felt bad that I was still noticing what she wasn’t doing well. Maybe it was the teacher in me. Or the perfectionist. But she wasn’t relieving people’s nervousness about what was going to happen today—several having been part of sour stand-offs at the governor’s office and worried about the plan of action. 11485

campaigns need time • tasting liberation in the midst of overworking • action logic • uncertainty of too many avenues pervade stage seven • creating a crisis atmosphere to break deals • aligning opponents’ interests with yours • expect politicians to act right; plan for if they don’t • snatching defeat from the jaws of victory 11572

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I can’t be a full-time volunteer when I can’t get out of things I don’t want to do. But there’s so much pressure to just keep going and keep going. 11623

“Your suffering has a kind of nobility, and I imagine a lot of people are feeding you encouragement to go ahead and keep suffering and overworking. There’s plenty of rewards to your addiction to responsibility. But I hear that quiet voice inside you that says you also deserve the taste of liberation even during the struggle. Back in the day, we used to say that a movement should also live the revolution now.” 11628  the organizer’s job is to give work away—and that I had taken on so much that it was unhealthy not just for me but for CFP to rely on me in this way. 11633

Our direct actions were designed so that the logic was clear and obvious, because the action itself was the message. “Don’t do a militant action for its own sake,” I had urged them. “Do actions where your message is embedded in the behavior you do, so the public debates your message, not your tactics.” 11652

My heart leapt. New political players in the casino mix was only good for us—if only because it gave us fresh targets. It meant growing controversy, which suggested that past inside deals were breaking apart, causing new rifts. I had long believed that we could only win if we could break those deals, giving us the space to reopen discussions on the value of bringing casinos into our state. 11749

“Realize they are just the tip of a larger iceberg. This is a real opening to swing these representatives to become allies, if only because their interests align with us on at least one point: they, too, want the casino fiasco to end. We must convince them the answer is to force re-siting and reopen all the deals.” 11765 “For now, let’s play nice. Don’t isolate them. We treat them like potential allies, knowing they’re going to be stressed with the budget cycle coming up. We just explain to them with letters and personal phone calls that solving the casino problem means they have to get them unentrenched from their locations.” 11771 The movement that was now casually challenging politicians who had previously been protected by Philly’s political despair from something much worse than being told they were bad. We now expected politicians to do the right things and do good. 11792

George Lakey and I showed people how to create a blockade with linked arms—sit close, link at the elbows, keep hands close to you. We role-played scenarios, with lengthy discussions over how to interact with workers on the site, with the group’s eventual conclusion to be polite but that acts of offering food or gifts to hostile workers were too likely to be misunderstood or deemed insulting. The group—made up largely of older residents from the neighborhood—then walked three blocks to the sidewalk near Foxwoods’ site to practice a “picnic-in.” Our people carried beach balls and umbrellas, trailed by a dozen civil affairs officers carrying highly conspicuous video cameras, obtusely taking notes and snapping photos of the crowd.    Our action was smooth and bright. “In the very Casino-Free and democratic spirit of what this land should be used for,” said George, “we will use Foxwoods’ proposed site as an open green space where people can play by the riverside.” He set up roles and led us through a role-play on the sidewalk. 11832

Frozen moment of trauma and humanity • cracking open deals renews options • humiliating a billionaire • retraining to slow oneself down • unlearning paranoia • movements of values don’t experience clean wins • owning your wins when you are scrubbed from history 11995

Within Philadelphia.” His promise had become a heartbreaking lie, because while it’s hard to get a politician to so brazenly lie, it’s even harder to make them change their lie again. 12068

“Movement activists never have a completely clean win,” I said. “Even in the rare cases when we win all our demands, we weren’t running on a single policy or goal in the first place. We are running on a value, like transparency or environmental sanity—we do not see our values completely accepted into society. There’s still a gap. And through the fight, we know even more how deep that gap goes. But we have to declare victory when we get it. Nobody else will do it for us.” 12239

Yet this is what they do. Reporters hand the power back to politicians, the PGCB, or the forces of the economy. Mainstream media don’t tell the story of people power. 12262  The power started with us. We know it and we will model what we’ve always done: when the politicians and elites won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves. Foxwoods says you can’t have their plans? Go take them. Supreme Court says you can’t vote? Vote anyway. PGCB says you can’t speak at their hearings? Speak anyway. Governor Rendell says you can’t have a public debate on casinos? Have one anyway. And now: Philadelphia Inquirer says you aren’t part of the history? Make yourself part of history anyway. Here’s how: hold and treasure the victory. Did you sign a petition, participate in Philly’s Ballot Box, get kicked out of a meeting, or write a letter or email to your representative? Then you are a casino slayer, too. Don’t say it was Casino-Free Philadelphia’s win. Or the anti-casino movement’s win. Or the PGCB’s “handing” us a victory. And don’t follow DiCicco who’s now idiotically saying it was “luck.” No, no. Say it is your victory. Your win. Tell your friends. Write a note of congratulations to yourself. (Seriously.) Most importantly: own the title. Today you are officially a Casino Slayer. 12270  It was casino investors who gave $4.4 million to the governor, legislators, and state supreme court justices between 2001 and 2008. It was the supreme court, which blithely interpreted law to give more authority to the casinos than city officials, city process, or the voters of Philadelphia. It was politicians who held onto despair and refused to fight against the industry. It was also the planners, civic leaders, reporters, and editors whenever they sided with the elites, whether out of malaise, callousness, or simply going with the flow.  The result made our government dependent on a new source of revenue, with its own interests. As businessman Warren Buffett opined, “It’s a terrible way to raise money. It’s a tax on ignorance… I don’t like the idea of the government depending, for certain portions of its revenue, on hoodwinking citizens.” Yet the government now had an investment in supporting the industry. It, too, was very much addicted to casinos. 12364

It was a marvel of working together—so many diverse people with different opinions.” When I asked about how CFP strategy had managed to stop a casino from being built in her neighborhood, she lit up. “We always planned ahead. We would talk about, ‘If the supreme court does this, what are our options? What are we going to do if they say yes? What if they say no?’ Often, those meetings were frustrating, because we weren’t deciding anything. But, without realizing it, we were accomplishing something. It gave time for our plan to gel and for things to run around in our heads before it happened to us.” Those skills of planning and strategy continue to get passed on, with numerous movements citing Casino-Free Philadelphia as a model for them of good organizing, creative actions, and a spirited refusal to accept defeat. It wasn’t just that we implemented effective organizing, creative tactics, or flexibility—we were showing a new model of democratic participation. When I asked Karim what he’d learned, he turned to me with a serious face. “Something you need to take credit for: you always demanded that our elected officials and representatives should act right, that they should fulfill their roles to their constituents regardless of the evidence of corruption. You helped force them to do the right thing, always holding them to a high standard.” Even then, he acknowledged it was a hard pill to see how deeply corrupt our politics were. “On the other hand, I’ve been involved with a few different nonprofits and I would say that it was a joy to work on one that functioned so well.”   Or Shirley’s reflection, “I learned so much about this new industry called activism. The process is slower because you are moving people’s beliefs and perceptions. In business, you don’t have to believe in it, you just have to go do it. At the end, it was much easier to look at our success. I walk away with a deep appreciation of that work. I spread my wings out of a few comfort zones for a lot of things. I realized I could stand up. I could do it for what was important for my community.” Of all the lessons she learned, she says the spectrum of allies and the upside-down triangle struck her the most. It moved her to see that groups win by drawing allies towards them—not winning over everyone at once, but by steadily winning over allies. And it was a brand new way of thinking to see that power doesn’t flow downward but upward—that people are only governed by consent, and by withdrawing their consent the people have power. As part of a panel of urban planning experts at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Jethro Heiko recounted the CFP story and spoke of its impact. “The results of our organizing approach are clear. Organized citizens, vastly outspent with little to no support from elected officials, have delayed and derailed highly juiced done-deal projects. We began to understand that we’re all connected in the city, and our expectations have been raised when it comes to public process, public access to the river, and results. Casino-Free Philadelphia continues as an action-oriented force that engages citizens across a wide spectrum in nonviolent strategic means to shut down the wealth-extracting casinos. Meanwhile, the riverfront trail and new transit line along the riverfront are gaining traction. Millions of dollars of public and private money have been leveraged due to citizen push for riverfront planning. Many challenges remain. But it is clear that the more that citizens continue to put their ideas into action, the more likely you’ll see great things happen and prevent bad things from getting in the way. I am excited to see how this approach will lead to real, smart, sustainable improvements in our city. It is the only realistic alternative to the tired, corrupt, and disempowering approach that has gotten us the riverfront we have now.”… 12395