The sun beat down on a scruffy, slight guy pedaling a hydrant-yellow bike up a hill. In the pocket of his ragged button-down shirt, a walkie-talkie crackled. Sweat fogged his glasses as small trucks trundled past him up the busy four-lane street. He spotted about ten cops standing off under some trees and radioed back the officers' number and location to his friends.
A small crowd had collected in Lawrence's Centennial Park to rally before a march up McDonald Drive. The protesters anticipated conflicts with the national security officials who would likely be protecting the Holiday Inn's Holidome, where guests like National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice would be joining former Kansas Senator Bob Dole and his wife, Elizabeth (now a senator from North Carolina), for a $500-a-plate dinner. There, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani would receive the Dole Spirit of Leadership Award for his post-September 11 efforts. The dinner was the first event of the four-day dedication of the $11 million Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics on the University of Kansas campus. The rabble in the park was enraged by the institute's existence.
Upset that only seventy people had showed up to protest, Dave Strano stalked off to fill up his military canteen. "It's really sweet when people don't give a shit 'cause they're all white folks who live in a First World country," he mumbled to a friend. Then he climbed onto a bench to address the group.
The expensive dinner and the millions spent on building the Dole center both smacked of elitism, he told the small crowd. And both glorified tyrants. "Bob Dole was Nixon's hatchet man during Vietnam!" he ranted. The protesters hissed whenever he mentioned the name of a dinner attendee, and a twentysomething with Manic Panic-black hair pulled a gas mask over his face.
Far from all the speechmaking, the carefree-looking guy on the bike continued to scout the area where the protesters would end up. As he pedaled past the entrance to the Holidome, he spotted a man in a brown suit holding a video camera. The man stared.
"Timothy Byron Hecht!" the man with the camera yelled, sounding half drill sergeant and half scolding mom. That startled the biker -- known to almost everyone as Cricket.
How did that man who looked like a Secret Service agent know his legal name?
I am sixteen years old. I don't attend school. I don't work. I don't live at home. I don't know where I'll be one month from now. I don't worry. I have $82, a sleeping bag and a journal to my name. And I love life like never before. -- from the 'zine Dropping Out (for Students)
Timothy Byron Hecht (which isn't his given name any more than Cricket is; the federal government knows who he is, but he wanted to keep his identity secret from Pitch readers) dropped out of society when he was sixteen.
It was no surprise. He'd always been an outcast. He would spend hours alone playing on the computer in his family's basement. He often skipped school by himself. The only two or three kids who would talk to him were the super-rejects -- kids who'd been picked on so much themselves that they slunk around in a pack and called other kids fags.
Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, had been strange. There, upper-middle-class neighborhoods abutted federal housing projects, so Hecht saw a lot of poverty from his vantage point in a posh house financed by his mother's salary as a banker and his father's hefty IBM paycheck. Administrators at Hecht's school banned backpacks and lockers, and police conducted random drug searches. Hecht was smart and had a passion for botany, but his advanced-placement science classes failed to challenge him.
At the end of his junior year in 1999, one of the other outcasts from school took Hecht to an Oi Polloi show. The punk group from Scotland sang about oppression and the rape of their homeland. (Sample lyrics: Glued to the screen you sit and vegetate/A model citizen in a police state/Pumped so full of rubbish that you don't see/You're getting a cathode-ray lobotomy.) At the show, Hecht met a group of kids who looked different from anyone he'd seen -- they were filthy and wore old clothes stitched together with odd, homemade patches. They called themselves travelers.
They said they were making a statement with their lives: Fuck society, fuck patriarchy, fuck everything. Fuck capitalism by living on the fringes of society and contributing as little as possible to the government and to corporations -- by not working, by using money as little as possible, by squatting, hitchhiking or train hopping and getting free food out of Dumpsters and shoplifting from big retailers.
Like those kids, most travelers share the philosophy of the do-it-yourself movement, which grew out of the punk-rock scene. Rejecting the idea that corporations or experts should be paid for anything, DIYers have set up Web sites with detailed instructions on everything from knitting a Chihuahua sweater to performing your own abortion with herbs. But repudiating consumerism means no more TV and video games, so rambling around the country on little or no money has become the entertainment of choice for a certain subset within the DIY scene.
It's impossible to say how many travelers are out there, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the phenomenon has taken off in the past few years, as more and more punk and anarchist kids have read idealistic accounts of traveler life online or in 'zines and low-budget books. The Internet has allowed travelers to communicate by e-mail, trading train-hopping tips and arranging meet-ups at punk concerts, anarchist book fairs and protests.
And since the mid-'90s, a loose collective called CrimethInc., whose only real home is the Internet, has helped popularize a romantic notion of the traveling lifestyle, publishing the travelers' bible Days of War, Nights of Love, a book of manifestos that glorify "urban piracy." More productive than working as a "wage slave," CrimethInc. writers profess, are projects like silk-screening shirts, gardening, making patches for your clothes, pasting up radical fliers, making herbal remedies and stenciling messages on buildings.
Hecht decided to travel.
There just isn't any other feeling in the world that can compare with the sensation of complete freedom and self-determination. I wake up in the morning, when I want to, and make plans to do things that day -- to do what I want to. Nobody can buy a beautiful sunny day away from me at $7 an hour.-- from "How I Spent My Permanent Vacation," an essay on the CrimethInc. Web site
In January 2000, Hecht hopped his first train.
He'd met a friend on the Internet, a woman who owned a vegan chocolate company and promised to introduce him to some travelers, so he took a Greyhound to Sacramento, California. There, he met Josh, Swashbuckler, Tim and Jayna, and the group drove Swashbuckler's old van to Eugene, Oregon, for an Against Patriarchy conference. Like many travelers, their destinations were generally radical or anarchist gatherings and punk shows across the country. After the anti-patriarchy conference, Tim showed Hecht how to run up to a moving train and jump on.
For the next few hours, the two sat in the empty boxcar, taking in the scenery -- bare trees and evergreens gliding past in the fading light. Feeling high, Hecht sat back and watched, feeling the bumps and jolts and listening to the eerie creaking, popping and screeching of the train.
When they arrived in Portland, Oregon, hours later, they camped out on a golf course. Portland is a hub for travelers and a kind of retirement pasture for old punks and anarchists, and while he was there Hecht met a bunch of pierced and tattooed traveler kids who looked like they hadn't showered for months. Covered by a layer of grime, they stunk.
They spent a week hanging out and taking advantage of Portland's excellent trash bins -- especially one outside a hummus factory where employees would throw away perfectly edible containers of the stuff. Many travelers call themselves "freegans" -- on the rare occasions they buy food, it's always vegan, to avoid contributing to animal exploitation. But they'll eat just about anything out of a trash container if they're hungry enough and there's no tofu to be found.
Homelessness. Unemployment. Poverty. If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right. -- from the book jacket of Evasion
In August 2001, Hecht met a clean-cut guy who called himself "Mac." He had just written a book called Evasion. The book had started out as a 'zine, a kind of memoir of Mac's years living the life of a "suburban parasite." Mac, a middle-class white guy in his twenties, chronicled his life as a homeless-by-choice adventurer. Every morning, he got free coffee by salvaging Styrofoam cups and asking for refills. He got his thrills left-handing Odwalla juice from Whole Foods supermarkets, scavenging videos from a Blockbuster Dumpster and selling them at yard sales, and squatting in a university library's broom closet.
"They had taken our communities, paved them over, put up nicely trimmed hedges, threw up huge stores, played nice soothing jazz music in the background," Mac writes in Evasion. "Clearly the only option was to laugh at the absurdity of such a mess -- capitalist monuments to slavery and unregulated homogenization -- view it as an amusement park, and play! So when I drank coffee and wrote for hours in the Whole Foods café, it was an act of defiance. Each bagel a pastry for the revolution."
Mac and his friends wanted to go on tour to promote Evasion, and Hecht decided to tag along. The ragtag bunch was driven around the country in a minivan by Liz Seymour, a freelance writer who contributes to Better Homes & Gardens and the New York Times' home section.
At the time, Seymour, now 54, was collecting information for a book she wanted to write on the DIY culture. But, she tells the Pitch, she ended up "going native." She became the foster mother of a fifteen-year-old runaway, separated from her husband, and turned her North Carolina home into a "collective run by consensus." Now, to help put food on the table, she scavenges in trash bins for tomatoes, squash, onions and corn.
"I just suddenly realized that I could no longer stand around drinking white wine with my friends and talking about how horrible the world is," she says of her old life as a responsible mom who cared about things like paint chips and wall sconces.
Her time was better spent, she thought, chauffeuring for a cause. The book tour started out in Louisville, then went on to Chicago where the travelers stayed in a suburban home belonging to the mother of one of the kids on the tour. "That was strange," Seymour says. "I was suddenly aware of how smelly we all were."
The group arrived in Pittsburgh, but the tour was cut short by the terrorist attacks on September 11. "We decided we didn't want to be driving around in a big, white van with a bunch of anarchist literature," Hecht recalls. "So we ditched all our stuff in Pittsburgh. And we got out of town without getting stopped."
For a while, Hecht supported himself by becoming a medical-test subject. Once, he made $700 participating in a study in which researchers gave him gonorrhea, then cured him.
In an online journal he keeps under the handle "tofuequalslove," Hecht's March 15, 2002, entry reads: "So, we get there and the first thing they do is shove a catheter down my wee wee and inject this translucent fluid into my cock which has gonorrhea in it. Man, that was the most UNCOMFORTABLE feeling EVER!!! So, now I just gotta stay in the hospital every night for a week but I get free rooming and 3 free full course meals!!! Can't beat it."
After that, he acted as a guinea pig in another medical study; researchers simulated asthma by blowing dust mites into his lungs. The study culminated with doctors sedating him and scraping the insides of his lungs -- which hurt a lot. For that, he got $550. But for the next few months, he was constantly sick with colds and flu.
On October 2, 2002, he went to Washington, D.C., to protest a meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He was one of 600 people arrested, handcuffed hand-to-foot and held for hours in a gymnasium. There, the FBI set up a table, and Hecht was photographed and fingerprinted along with all of his cohorts. Maybe that was how the federal agent at the Dole protest knew who he was.
Do you agonize constantly over your future, as if there was some kind of track laid out ahead of you -- and the world would end if you turned off of it? If the answer ... is yes, it sounds like you're in the clutches of the bourgeoisie, the last barbarians on earth. -- from "Bourgeoisie (or, Tyranny of the Hair Dryer)," an essay on the CrimethInc. Web site adapted from George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia
Hecht calls Lawrence Fairytale Town.
It's full of white liberals. The cops don't bother him for being dirty. People throw away half-eaten veggie burritos. And Lawrence lacks the seediness that makes other places seem real. "It's so yuppie," Hecht says. "You never see a crackhead just rolling down the street singin' a song to himself."
Maybe that's one reason anarchism -- generally a young, white, middle-class phenomenon -- thrives in Lawrence. Anarchism, an ideology that seeks to abolish government and its inherent social, political and economic hierarchy, holds a special appeal for young people who don't like the idea of anyone having authority over them.
Dozens of anarchists call Lawrence home. Despite its reputation as a liberal mecca, though, Lawrence continues to sprawl, commerce thrives on Massachusetts Street, and professors at the university on the hill still teach the canon of great white thinkers. Most of the city's residents enjoy comfort and privilege. But there's a sizable community of kids who miss no opportunity to rebel against the establishment, and they think they're making a change.
The town became a destination for young radicals and malcontents last summer when local anarchists hosted the North American Anarchist Gathering at Clinton Lake.
The event was on Hecht's itinerary that summer. In Portland, he and his friends had been staying with a college student named Corinna, who was originally from Lawrence. She didn't want to travel halfway across the country as a train stowaway, but she offered lodging when Hecht and his comrades got to town. She became Hecht's sometime girlfriend.
In early June 2002, more than 500 anarchists from across the country -- including many travelers -- converged at Clinton Lake. In open fields, the organizers had pitched circus tents where they held workshops (called "skillshares") on topics such as radical songwriting, guerrilla gardening, bicycle repair (using bikes recovered from trash bins) and cervical self-exams (each participant got a free plastic speculum). Between sessions, people went swimming in the lake and jumped on a giant trampoline that organizers had brought to the site.
The Lawrence Journal-World reported that the gathering had been listed on State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council alerts as a "date to watch." But the NAAG's biggest disruptions came when a right-wing Christian teen sneaked into an anti-patriarchy discussion for men and, witnesses say, announced that if his girlfriend got pregnant and sought an abortion, he'd "want to kill her," and when some attendees, despite a controversial ban on alcohol, got drunk and had to be kicked out. One online summary of the event said that the anarchists "should have dealt with the drunken troublemakers in a more inclusive manner -- in other words, they should have been part of the decision-making process which resulted in their eviction from the site."
When people ask me about my politics, I tell them the best reason to be a revolutionary is that it is simply a better way to live. -- from Fighting for Our Lives, a CrimethInc. pamphlet
At the NAAG gathering, Hecht met Dave Strano, a bagel-shop employee who took his politics seriously.
Strano, the son of a career military man, might have been reacting against an authoritarian upbringing when, as a Leavenworth High School student in 1999, he started questioning U.S. involvement in the bombing campaign in Kosovo. "I started actively organizing on the U.S. military base against the war in Kosovo," he tells the Pitch. Soon, Strano moved to Lawrence -- but not to attend college.
He lived in a few different punk houses, ending up at the Pirate House on 14th Street, a residence and concert venue named for the Jolly Roger flying out front. When the Pirate House hosted shows, it usually got trashed. An online account of a benefit to raise money for the NAAG describes a scene involving a local band called Dick Cheney's Dick, a triceratops piñata filled with fake blood, and a thirtysomething woman who came in off the street and started screaming along with the performing vocalist. "Touring bands like xbxrx, the Locust, and the Faint all packed the house's three public rooms and left the too-young-to-know-better-and-too-hip-to-care residents hours of cleanup and repair work," the reviewer wrote.
Such chaotic revelry didn't interfere with Strano's passion for politics. In August 2001, Strano had helped organize a "Reclaim the Streets" protest party in which hundreds of people took over one block of Massachusetts Street, blockading it with sofas and writing "No Slave Labor" and "Destroy Your Capitalist Mother" in sidewalk chalk in front of the Gap. Strano, riding on the shoulders of a friend, waving a flag and playing a kazoo, appeared in a Journal-World photo.
As much as he did not want to be considered a leader, he had an authoritative manner that seemed to attract reporters whenever they deemed a radical event worthy of coverage. (He reluctantly agreed to an interview with the Pitch, saying, "I am not the spokesperson for all anarchism.")
Though their personalities were strikingly different, Strano and Hecht became friends. "Dave's super, super active. He has no free time in his life," Hecht says. "But me, I kind of just do what I do and wander around and explore things. It's kind of like revolution by everyday life. Just doing what you do as separate from the Man."
Strano, 21, is involved in the Anarchist Black Cross Network, a worldwide organization with a chapter in Lawrence, which argues that "all prisoners are political prisoners" and that prisons should be abolished. Strano also works with Tyranny Ends Now -- the group that claimed responsibility for organizing the Dole protest. The group was protesting the amount of money spent on the center and its opening celebration -- what it called the "glorification" of war. But for some of the travelers who showed up, it was just something to do.
To live without the petty squabbles of pecking order and power structure inside any more than around -- that is the anarchist dream of selfhood. -- from Fighting for Our Lives
Anarchists' dreams don't always come true.
In the months following NAAG, Strano and Nate Hoffmann were organizing the Black Cat Collective in a rented house on Tennessee Street. There, anarchists would live and make decisions communally -- giving equal time (sometimes hours) to issues ranging from political theory to dish soap. The space would serve as a clearinghouse and library, where people from the outside could visit and learn about anarchism.
"We wanted to debunk some of the myths that anarchists believe in chaos and disorder and show that it's a system of people working together by mutual aid," Hoffmann tells the Pitch.
Last August, Hoffmann and Strano were the first to move into the rambling, wood-frame house. Strano went about finding seven others to join them.
They set up evening hours when the Black Cat Collective would be open to the public. They also opened a bike repair shop (to support the use of nonmotorized transportation). "We got a lot of Lawrence people stopping in just to see what the anarchists were up to," Hoffmann says.
Hecht wanted to stay in Lawrence and spend some time with Corinna, so the two rented one of the rooms.
Throughout that year, the buildup to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March gave the Black Cat's residents plenty to occupy their time. But it didn't distract them from in-house battles of their own. Strano was developing a reputation for acting like an angry father, yelling at residents who didn't follow his rules or did something that displeased him.
Tension between Strano and Hoffmann -- who had been friends for six years before moving into the collective -- was escalating. Anarchists feel that problems should be worked out face-to-face. But some residents were now talking behind Strano's back, complaining about his authoritarian tendencies. No one could stack their dirty dishes in the sink, for example, or leave their personal belongings in the living room, without fear of angering Strano.
Rather than deal with the household tension, Hecht and Corinna decided to move out. Hecht set up a squat in an abandoned building -- he won't say where -- and Corinna moved into a house with some friends.
When people moved out of the Black Cat, though, others rented their rooms.
Why has attendance at your anarcho-communist theory discussion group meetings fallen to an all-time low? Why has the oppressed proletariat not come to its senses and joined you in the fight for world liberation? -- from "Your Politics are Boring as Fuck," Days of War, Nights of Love
"I go to Lawrence when I want to rest," Hecht says. "I mostly like to have fun when I'm in Lawrence."
This summer, Hecht stayed with a friend in an air-conditioned apartment paid for by his friend's mom and dad. He survived by eating buffet throwaways, by Dumpster diving -- and by living off the system he claims to abhor, accepting food stamps from the state of Kansas.
Hecht had planned to help organize the Dole protest, but an impromptu trip out West meant that he was out of town for much of the work. While he was gone, Strano and others from Tyranny Ends Now had been busy sending bulletins to radical, anarchist and anti-war groups as well as designing fliers and creating a massive display to be carried down the street by protesters -- painted cardboard boxes held together with PVC pipe and adorned with pictures of Giuliani, Elizabeth Dole, President Bush and others with "TYRANT" (or "TYRANT'S TOADIE") scrawled across their faces in black marker.
Thousand of visitors swarmed the KU campus for the dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics. Hundreds of veterans -- along with many more famous guests, including former President Jimmy Carter, NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw and senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback -- came to pay tribute to Dole, a World War II vet. Reporters and television crews from local and national media hovered, but amid all the activity, it seemed the anarchists would hardly be noticed.
On the Saturday before the Monday protest, though, Hecht and Corinna joined a half-dozen people in the Black Cat's cavelike living room to listen to an interview Strano had taped with KU's radio station, KJHK 90.7. The dank room smelled like funky boots and spoiled tofu. Bikes lay tangled in heaps, and stacks of paper, books and tote bags covered a table. Only a sliver of sunlight came through a window blind someone hadn't closed all the way.
Sitting on a sagging couch, Strano leaned forward and squinted at the small radio on the floor, listening to his own voice. "It's a giant joke. This whole dedication is a giant joke," he said in a tone that indicated it was anything but. "It's sponsored by Coca-Cola." Then, the radio station cut to upbeat music.
At that, Hecht stopped picking at his cuticles and started air drumming.
"Did they just interrupt me?" Strano asked, pointing an accusing finger at the radio. "Don't ever interrupt me again," he said, only half-joking.
Oblivious, Hecht continued to drum. "That's all I do. I just come here and listen to funk all day," he said.
The radio station returned to the interview. A KU representative said the university wasn't taking the protesters too seriously. Strano's friends hooted. Then, in the interview, Strano asserted that the people who were really angry about the Dole Institute were just moving out of Lawrence. "It's really sad," he said.
After the interview, Strano and a few others left to run off more copies of their "communiqué," a half-sheet of paper with the headline "While they party, we suffer" that they intended to post all over town.
"The town of Lawrence has been invaded," it began. "The rich will be converging here by the hundreds. The four- day affair has been billed as a celebration of freedom and American liberty. But what is there to celebrate in these times? ... We live in a world that has spiraled out of control. While poverty, want, hunger and misery torment many of us daily, the rich prosper off our agony. For the next four days, those same people that prosper off our agony will be celebrating."
While Strano spent the day handing out fliers, Hecht and Corinna rode their bikes around Lawrence. They stopped at a thrift store where the proprietors were selling local art out of an old cigarette machine for $5 -- Corinna wanted to buy some. She tried on a pair of cowboy boots, spinning in her flowered dress; Hecht sifted through the Dumpster out back. "I prefer to do my shopping here," he said. He found nothing he liked, but on his way out he grabbed a few cans of spinach and a can of peaches sitting under a "Food Is Always Free" sign and stuck them in a wire basket tied to his bike. Then they rode down to the levy to look out over the train tracks before heading to a city park to run through sprinklers.
They met a group of friends at the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutritional Kitchen to score free pasta with vegetables and salad from volunteers in the basement of St. John's Catholic Church. Hecht and Corinna spotted a table of their friends, some Black Cat residents and a few visitors who had come to town for the protest.
The conversation turned to travelers and people like Hecht. A guy named Brian, from Ohio, said he thought they were hypocrites because they were usually privileged white kids. But buying anything is bad, he said -- in fact, he argued, buying tempeh from a local health-food store is just as bad as buying a hamburger from McDonald's. "I'm against green consumerism," he said.
Kids at the other end of the table started talking about the Dole protest. A big guy with unruly red hair and a nose ring, who had come in from Omaha, frowned. "I don't know that much about this," he said, his mouth full of iceberg lettuce. "But it just seems ridiculous to spend that much money on it."
Monday, July 21, was sweltering.
By the time Strano had finished addressing the crowd at Centennial Park at a little after 3 p.m., no one looked particularly excited about walking a mile to the Holidome.
The preparations for the march seemed a little overblown given the usually mellow attitude of Lawrence cops, who had recently allowed anti-war protesters to spontaneously take over a street and even escorted them for their safety.
A few women tied on white armbands with "MEDIC" written on them in black marker. A short, wide woman who wore a red bandana and a "smush bush push pussy" button yelled to get protesters' attention. "If tear gas happens, go to a medic. We do have vinegar soap rags for people who don't have masks."
A small group of people from the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, who weren't part of the protest but had agreed to act as legal observers in case their testimony was needed in court, wore orange armbands labeled "LEGAL."
Strano signaled and nodded to a few friends, and they picked up the elaborate cardboard-box display and attached it to orange construction barrels cut in half for easy carrying. The barrels could also be used as shields from rubber bullets or other projectiles. Another group hoisted a giant banner with "Tyranny Ends Now" spray-painted in red and black. Despite the heat, one man pulled a black ski mask over his face. Most of the others tied bandanas over their faces, Che Guevara-style. Strano mumbled into his walkie-talkie, and the group set off.
A guy in fatigues led a chant: "Resist! Resist! Raise up your fist!" and the crowd halfheartedly joined in. As they started off up McDonald Drive, they walked off to the side of the street, in the grass. A few people trickled into the street, in front of traffic. "Get in the road!" one protester yelled. "Get in the road!"
A few police cars rolled by. The cops barely glanced at the protesters.
The group spread out enough to block the whole street and marched slowly. A line of annoyed motorists backed up for several blocks behind them. Off to the side, the row of cops Hecht had spotted earlier eyed the group warily, arms crossed. As the group neared the Holidome -- and the waiting federal agents -- the Lawrence cops moved. About five officers came down to address the protesters, who refused to get out of the street.
"Whose streets? Our streets! This is what a police state looks like!" the protesters chanted. A man with crazy hair pulled into a ponytail ran next to the marchers, pumping his fists in the air and encouraging them. "I'm the radical cheerleader!" he screamed. A few of the cops trudging alongside the group hid smiles.
Suddenly, police were scrapping with a handful of protesters. "Legal! We need legal!" several people shrieked as cops handcuffed and escorted protesters to vans in the Holidome parking lot. Other cops waved the rest of the marchers to the side of the road and hauled away the cardboard-box display.
A solid-looking blond policeman leaned toward a colleague. "See that guy with the dreads?" he whispered. "He might have gas."
The protesters stood sullenly, trying to regroup. "Eat my shit for $500 a plate," one girl said. Then they started chanting again. "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Bob Dole over."
Hecht sat on his bike talking to a few friends, still nervous from his encounter with the man in the brown suit.
Then someone threw something, and a puff of smoke rose in the street. Officers grabbed a woman they thought had thrown a smoke bomb.
Strano was in the middle of the crowd. He fell down and felt a kick to his groin and a few blows to his back. He wasn't sure who had hit him. His forehead hit the ground and started to bleed. Others yelled as people shoved them or they felt tugs on their hair. Police cuffed and led away about ten more people.
Strano and a group of his friends decided to run across the street so that people entering the Holidome parking lot could see their banner. "This is bullshit!" Strano yelled as he ran. By that time, Police Chief Ron Olin was on the scene. Olin grabbed Strano, turned him around and handcuffed him. He and eighteen other arrested protesters rode to jail in vans.
Afterward, a small, dejected group gathered at Centennial Park for a "Peace Prom." What was supposed to be a party ended with protesters eating soggy chips and salsa under a park pavilion.
Most of the protesters didn't even get a night's free lodging in jail.
The anarchists who had escaped arrest took up a collection, asking friends to help bail out their comrades. That evening, they marched to the municipal jail, shouting slogans and banging on pickle barrels outside their friends' cells. Finally only four remained in jail, charged with offenses ranging from battery on a law enforcement officer to obstruction and criminal use of a weapon.
It was a dramatic end to life at the Black Cat Collective.
Within a week, residents were packing up their few belongings and leaving the house.
Ultimately, power plays and conflicts between housemates had caused the demise of the collective. In the spring, residents had decided not to renew their lease when it ended in August. Instead, they would rent a nonresidential space to house the radical library, bike-repair shop and anarchist gathering spot. They would call it Solidarity. The Black Cat would be closing for good. Strano tells the Pitch he has no plans to start another collective anytime soon.
One day before he left town, Hecht took Corinna to check out the new Solidarity space. No one was around who had a key, so Hecht broke in. "It really pisses me off that there are only, like, three people who have a key to this thing," he mumbled, mentioning Strano as one of the key holders.
They sat and perused stacks of books -- The Mother's Guide to Sex, The Vegetable Passion, The Birth Partner -- before finding a weird title in Spanish. Figures on the front cover looked like dummies -- it was a Cuban guide for guerrilla resistance to U.S. occupation. "I read a lot of military survival guides when I first started traveling," Hecht said. "Like how to be quiet in water or what attracts light, how to build a 'hot bed' to sleep on -- that's some cool fucking stuff, man."
It's stuff that might come in handy if he encounters the man in the brown suit again.
On a Friday at the end of July, Hecht and some friends hitched a ride to Kansas City. They went to the railroad yard at Independence Avenue and Chouteau Trafficway and hopped a train for Denver.