I sit in my in-laws' house in downtown Los Angeles and reflect on the immediacy of social media. Earlier tonight, two-thousand miles away on a bridge just west of Milwaukee, the Overpass Light Brigade displayed the message: MITTS OFF MEDICARE. It was strange to see it live-streamed, to know many of the people who were holding the LED signs, to see the comments from participants in this virtual community, and to hear the honks, greetings, and conversations of the participants on the bridge from such a large physical distance. The wonders of live-streaming: like being there but with pixelated vision and sound through a soda straw.
As soon as the first picture was posted on our Facebook site, trolls pounced:
In the last number of weeks, OLB actions on the bridges have been pretty calm, with few police visits, and noticeably less assertive honking. Tonight, with a return to partisan implication, there was immediate intensity. Our location was posted on Facebook (as it used to be constantly with our Recall Actions) with suggestions that calls of complaint be made to the police. Right at the very end of the evening, when one of our live streamers was coming off the bridge, a police woman arrived. She was very laid back, and asked if we were "throwing anything at cars again." She stated the complaint as if she knew it was baseless, which it was. Indeed, preposterous. One of our coordinators began to give her the usual talk about peaceful protest and first amendment rights, and she said "we've never had any problems with you. You don't need to explain." She was very nice, yet appropriately professional. She did go up on the bridge and check everyone out, and then said goodnight. Rightwing adversaries on Facebook seem to hold a real grudge that we aren't immediately escorted to jail. Oh well, I guess those freedoms they talk about are pretty pesky when they involve messages they don't wish to hear.