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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.

On the bridge with Mitts Off Medicare message from the Overpass Light Brigade

As soon as the first picture was posted on our Facebook site, trolls pounced:

I'm not sure why. Dozens of them aggressively posting, hundreds of shares within the first thirty minutes... Perhaps it is that our Facebook "reach" is over 330,000 right now, and a lot of people are watching our messages, or perhaps someone shared our night's action with some prominent rightwing blog. Who knows?
It is easy to delete the mean-spirited knuckle-draggers, though it gets a bit more ambiguous regarding those indoctrinated by Fox who claim they want dialogue but choose a medium, a voice, and an attitude that makes it clear they are only out to resist your resistance. Mostly, it is apparent that there is a strong rightwing counter push to the credible claims that "Romney/Ryan will end medicare" with a rabid assertion that "Obama is robbing Medicare of $700 billion," and the Romney and Ryan are Medicare's last great hope. The rightwing has new talking points, trying to redirect the savings in overcharges from pharmaceutical companies and make them sound like Obama has cut benefits. This is clearly their new meme. The vehemence is the most interesting thing about the assertion and indicates a collective adrenaline caused by either excitement, anxiety, or fear.

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.

Earlier today, we had picked up our first OLB T-shirts, designed by the talented badscience. They look great, and our small run of 50 almost sold out in one bridge action. Even at the bridge price of $15, we made enough to put in a larger order, which is really heartening. We were also delighted last week to find that we now have a Wikipedia page - assuming that the Deleters don't have problems with it. It has stuck through a few revisions, so we are hopeful it is there to stay. This feels like a real benchmark for OLB, and is pretty darned cool.
activism, Milwaukee, OLB
We head home tomorrow from Los Angeles. Home to the abundance of a midwestern summer garden - probably enough zucchini squash to hit softballs or have sidewalk jousts with, and enough tomatoes to put up some serious salsa. It has been great to be out here - we swam in the ocean twice, went to a few museums, a few good restaurants… but it will be even better to be back out on the bridges with our wonderful community of activists. OLB brings together some great people, and we will keep fighting as tactical media truth-tellers, engaging this oddly compelling form of The People's Bandwidth.
Mitts Off Medicare in lights, from the Overpass Light Brigade

Originally posted to noise of rain on Tue Aug 14, 2012 at 12:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Hippie.

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