The Brennan’s Beatdown – A Cast Of Characters

Let’s talk about the protest a little.

As we said below, what’s on video and the photos on the internet show a relatively peaceful gaggle of folks in front of the Hilton Riverside early Friday evening, and then we have some sketchy reports that the protest moved to Brennan’s Restaurant where the fundraiser was. But we have yet to see any kind of documentation of what it looked like at Brennan’s, outside of a report we had mentioned in our original article which claimed that:

The march then headed to Brennan’s Restaurant, where a $10,000 a plate SRLC dinner was in progress. Brennan’s is notorious as the largest donor to the LA Restaurant Association, which sued to block a $1 minimum wage raise that was approved by voters in New Orleans in 2002.

Protesters marched against traffic and lost the police on the way, and attempted to storm the restaurants doors after chants echoed off the walls in the narrow French Quarter streets. The police arrived just as people started to stream through the doors and they pushed everyone back outside. SRLC delegates were forced to walk a gauntlet of protesters chanting “they say cut backs, we say fight back!” as they exited the restaurant.

Eventually the march headed back to the Hilton and chanted “Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay, Right Wing Bigots Go Away” to the delegates entering and exiting the hotel before dispersing.

We have yet to confirm that this report is accurate.

What we’ve been able to piece together today, however, is a modicum of information on who some of the protestors on Friday actually were. Turns out there’s a Facebook page for the “Second Line For Louisiana Healthcare & Education!” confab and as of this evening it had 209 confirmed guests to the event. Its organizers put up a website for it, and at that site they posted links to a trio of flyers.

When you hit those links to download the PDF’s, though, you’ll find that they are all hosted at IronRail.org, and on the Facebook page for the event there is, in fact, an “Iron Rail” as both a confirmed guest and a frequent poster on the event’s Wall. IronRail.org is the web site of the Iron Rail Book Collective, located at 511 Marigny Street.

A perusal of the Iron Rail Book Collective’s web site will produce several interesting nuggets of information. If you head to the “About” page, you’ll find this:

Founded in December 2003, the Iron Rail is committed to anarchist, anti-authoritarian, feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive and class-conscious politics, and to providing alternative literature and information to the people of New Orleans.

We are a collectively owned and operated, all-volunteer, non-profit reading room, lending library, bookshop, and community space with over 7,000 titles for free borrowing. This collection was assembled over the course of 10 years; much of it was inherited from the Crescent Wrench Infoshop, which operated in New Orleans during the 1990s. Our collection includes volumes on anarchist action, anarchist theory, and the histories of overlooked groups, struggles, and individuals. We’ve got lots of books about feminism, gender, race, class, sexuality, sex work, how-to books about crafts and DIY– bike fixing, cooking, monkeywrenching, gardening– and a hell of an impressive fiction section to boot. There’s plays and poetry and stuff too, and a smattering of DVDs & vhs cassettes

Our lending library is one of the largest collectively-run radical libraries in the country. The Iron Rail was the first library in metro New Orleans to re-open after the disastrous failure of the government levees in 2005, and for several months were the only functioning library in the city. In 2009, we were invited to be the official bookseller for the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s 5th annual National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence. We were super-duper stoked about this opportunity and we did a great job, because we’re awesome.

We also sell textbooks. If you’re a college teacher and are interested in saving your kiddles some money (by not forcing ’em to buy at the overpriced campus bookstore), drop us a line and we’ll get the books and come sell them to your students on-campus. References available!

The Iron Rail is organized in a way that puts theory into practice. We believe in a world without domination and oppression and in working to undermine authoritarian structures of power. As an anarchist collective, the Iron Rail has no bosses or managers. Group decisions are made collectively in weekly meetings, and members are encouraged to be creative in initiating individual projects. The bookstore is operated by volunteers who believe in the importance of establishing alternatives to capitalism, while creating new public spaces and supporting community projects.

The word “communist” isn’t used, but “anarchist collective” seems pretty close. And as an “anarchist collective,” since there are no employees this veritable Animal Farm asks for volunteers:

The Iron Rail is operated by an all volunteer collective. We operate under the belief that projects can and should be run in a non-authoritarian manner. The store has no owner and no bosses. Decisions are made at weekly meetings of the collective with input from all people present.

There are many ways to be involved with the Iron Rail such as becoming a collective member and doing shifts, stopping by to help shelve books, maintaining the computers, cleaning the space or hosting an event.

We are more then welcome to provide space for people wanting to host things like, books readings, movie nights, meetings, lectures, workshops and the whatever you can think of. Just come to a meeting and propose your event and arrange to have a collective member staff during the event. Sorry, we cannot host concerts.

What does one do during a shift? Open the store from 1-7PM, reshelf returned books after checking them in, keep the place clean, answer questions, check out books, sell stuff, help maintain a library-like environment, etc. Collective members must be willing and able to come to meetings and keep up on the changes and be a part of the decision making process of the space.

There’s also a blog. You won’t find anything of particular interest – the last item posted was Thursday, announcing this hootenanny planned for the next day. But on the right side of the blog you’ll find a contributors list, and one of the contributors is someone who goes by “D-Bloc.” If you’ve been following this story, you’ll recall this little tid-bit by someone calling himself D-Bloc as a comment to an entry on Gambit’s Best Of New Orleans Blog about the protest:

D-Bloc on April 9th, 2010 at 11:16 pm #
The second line was great. Tons of direct confrontation. New Orleans bared its teeth and snarled, and the rich plutocrats shat themselves in fear.

This same individual is also the author of a post on the Iron Rail blog boasting about vandalizing three banks in the French Quarter. Don’t hit the link if profanity bothers you; what you need to know about it is this:

We also did this for New Orleans, in the initial phase of our project to expel capital from our beautiful home.
This ain’t no fall trend. Increasingly, righteously bad behavior becomes a part of our everyday routine. Thinking, talking, making – these things are insufficient in a society that co-opts any and everything except that which attacks directly.
There is no reason to be scared. You, too, can fight.

This guy D-Bloc could well be considered a person of interest in the investigation of what happened to Allee Bautsch and Joe Brown.

The list of admins of the facebook page for the Second Line event also has an individual named Gina Pea listed; she cross-references with a “Gina P” on the Iron Rail contributors list.

And she has a blog. And a Twitter feed. Don’t go to either one if F-bombs bug you. If they don’t, you’ll find that she had an abortion in December of 2008 and wants her readers to know about it.

“Gina P” also has a blog update on the Iron Rail site from back in January letting the collective in on an exciting event – “Ladies’ Night,” at which there would be a book discussion of The Coming Insurrection. In case you haven’t heard about this one, it’s been on Glenn Beck’s TV show to less-than-favorable reviews; Beck is of the opinion that it’s the most evil book ever written. While you can agree or disagree with Beck, the Wikipedia entry on it says the following:

The latter part of the book begins to offer a prescription for revolutionary struggle based on the formation of communes, or affinity group-style units, in an underground network that will build its forces outside of mainstream politics, and attack in moments of crisis – political, social, environmental – to push towards anti-capitalist revolution.

Yeah, me too.

Another organizer of the event, whose name and phone number is on the flyers as well as an admin on the Facebook page, is a guy named Sean Walsh. Not much information can be had on him as yet, other than that he supposedly graduated from William & Mary.

The event flyers also had a name and phone number for Derrick Morrison. A Google search for that name and “New Orleans” turns up an article for a web site of a group called “Solidarity” on post-Katrina New Orleans. The piece is standard left-wing boilerplate; it howls about the replacement of the Orleans Parish public school system with a large-scale charter school experiment (which incidentally has been a wild success) and it demands that the Charity Hospital system, Louisiana’s antiquated system of state-run hospitals which are in the process of being dismantled, be reconstituted with special emphasis on rebuilding the “Big Charity” hospital in New Orleans.

In other words, health and education – the two main gripes leading to Friday’s protest. Morrison apparently has been organizing to save Big Charity for some time.

“Solidarity,” by the way, describes itself like this:

Solidarity is an independent socialist organization dedicated to forming a broad regrouping of the U.S. left. We include activists from many long-standing socialist traditions, as well as younger members from newer movements. We do not attempt to put forward a monolithic platform which we all have adapted to; rather, we rely on the richness of our traditions and the creativity and newer experiences of our younger members to foster and develop a forward-looking socialist thought.

Solidarity was founded in 1986 by revolutionary socialists who stand for “socialism from below,” the self-organization of the working class and oppressed peoples. We are feminist, anti-racist, and democratic. Within our group, we are trying to foster cultural diversity, flexible practice, and straight-forward socialist politics.

We are activists in many grassroots movements. We are members of unions, where we oppose corporations as well as bureaucratic “business unionism.” We are involved in solidarity with the people of Central and South America, Indonesia, Iraq, the Balkans, Palestine, and many other countries, where we fight against U.S. aggression and imperialism. We work for reproductive rights and other feminist demands. We fight for an ecologically balanced society. We support the struggles of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists. We include activists of color and we work in solidarity with people of color organized independently fighting for dignity and power and self determination.

Another individual who participated in the protest and appears to have helped organize it is Joanna Dubinsky, a physician’s assistant and “Standardized Patient Teaching Associate” at Tulane Med School. Dubinsky’s facebook page has as a theme message “healthcare for all,” and she’s a Facebook friend and a frequent correspondent with “Iron Rail” on her Facebook Wall. And among the Facebook pages she’s a fan of are Karl Marx, Cynthia McKinney and Radicals at Work. The latter has a web site, at which it describes itself as:

Radicals at Work is a network of young activists and radicals involved in workers’ movements. We have come together to connect our radical ideas to our jobs and to work together to build a stronger labor movement.

We come from many jobs and communities – we are young rank and file workers, office workers, union and non-profit staff, activists working with workers centers, students, and teachers. We have a shared commitment to grassroots democracy and a workers movement that takes on racism, sexism, homophobia and isn’t afraid to go head-to-head with the boss.

Among the items on the site is a post discussing whether stealing from work is a viable form of “resistance.”

There are others involved in the protest whose blogs and associations freely available through Facebook, Twitter and Google searches point to a picture of some rather unsavory characters. What seems clear after doing some research on these people, though, is there is a boiling hatred of Republicans and capitalism to be found among the people who say they were among the protestors. There is also a specific grudge against Brennan’s Restaurant for their stance against the minimum wage increase in Orleans Parish. There is a major vendetta against Gov. Jindal for his stances on healthcare and education, the two economic sectors regarding which the hard Left is most committed to keeping in the hands of the government and driving out the private sector. And there is a connection with a Marxist revolutionary book which seeks to destroy the capitalist system and promotes as a step in that destruction the establishment of communes which undertake revolutionary action – a blueprint it sure looks like the Iron Rail Book Collective is following.

You might read the above and come to a different conclusion. Me? If I’m a cop in New Orleans I’m bringing these people in for a lineup.