June 10, 2004 – In the heavily policed and militarized coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia, some anti-G8 activists are turning their resistance into constructive action. While President George Bush meets with other world leaders on an island just miles from this small, economically struggling town, some self-identified anarchists are defying popular misconceptions by building instead of tearing down.
But as thousands of law enforcement and military personnel swarm Brunswick to "provide security" for the Summit, even this type of positive activism has fallen victim of police interference.
"[The world leaders] are sitting over there on Sea Island having their little party only talking about how to fix things, but we are over here actually doing something to make things better," said Laurel Paget-Seekins, a spokesperson for the group, which calls itself Resistance Through Constructive Action. "I donâ€™t need a law to tell me to help another person."
The group, which is made up of about 75 activists from the Southeastern United States, was organized to "fix stuff up" in Brunswick. This activity, they say, is in recognition of the impact that policies shaped by corporate globalization and elite groups like the G8 have on local communities.
This week Resistance Through Constructive Action cleaned and refurbished four abandoned houses in severe disrepair, each of which will house young mothers and their children. They settled on this particular project after meeting with members of the Brunswick community. The group offered its assistance to affect a "peaceful and constructive" demonstration that would "make the neighborhood better," said Paget-Seekins, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia.
"[The world leaders] are sitting over there on Sea Island having their little party only talking about how to fix things, but we are over here actually doing something to make things better" -- Laurel Paget-Seekins
Local pastor Zach Lyde and his brother Harry own the properties that have been the focus of the groupâ€™s hard work this week.
Pagen-Seekins said the construction work was meant to draw attention to the "poverty, disrepair, and ignored state of the Brunswick neighborhood" which she described as "overrun by police." Georgia Department of Labor statistics show the city of Brunswick had a 7.4 percent unemployment rate in April, as compared to the stateâ€™s average of 4.6 percent.
According to Paget-Seekins, the military and police presence has been quite intimidating to the activists. The group started their first fix-up project on Martin Luther King Avenue several days ago. Members say first the police decided to enforce a city code requiring a permit for cleaning and repairing the properties, although they were not doing anything resembling construction or making additions to the properties.
Paget-Seekins and Childs both said FBI agents arrived on Sunday and took a backpack from a group member, left with it, then returned it to the owner a few hours later. Childs said the agents did not show a warrant; nor did they call in a bomb squad, drug detecting dogs, environmental experts, or take any extra precautions. They also did not indicate that they suspected the backpack was dangerous or contained anything illegal. According to Paget-Seekins, "The Brunswick Police Department was pretty helpful in recovering the backpack from the Federal guys who took it."
The local FBI denied any knowledge of the backpack incident, which group members called an example of "illegal search and seizure."
Local police donâ€™t seem to know they helped recover the disappearing backpack. Asked about the incident, Brunswick Sergeant Kevin Jones said, "There are so many police and military units in town I couldnâ€™t even guess who it might be that took their backpack."
But the harassment did not stop there. According to Paget-Seekins, the local police and FBI constantly drove past the houses they were working on, taking pictures of group members. "The National Guard," she said, "is riding in Humvees with machine guns mounted on them."
When asked to comment on why law enforcement personnel were interfering with and intimidating the group, Special Agent Tony Alig of the FBI said the activists were not working on houses but were instead hanging protest signs all over the house on Martin Luther King Avenue.
In response to the allegations of sign-hanging, Childs readily confessed. "Yes, we are hanging protest signs," she said, "particularly after the treatment we have received from law enforcement."
"I am an activist. I am used to this," Childs said.