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Brewzerkus: Adventures and Misadventures in St. Louis

by Nathan Hall

On Tuesday, March 4, St. Louis was visited by the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response and Director of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown. Clowns in JailThis long title means nothing to most people, but to the nervous police and politicians of St. Louis, it meant an umbrella of safety provided by the now nationally-coordinated intelligence community. This meeting, conducted behind closed doors and attended by two senators, a congressperson, the Metropolitan Chief of Police of St. Louis, the St. Louis Fire Department Chief, and the mayor of St. Louis, among others, happened just over two months before the World Agricultural Forum (WAF) meeting there, hosted by the leader in bio-engineered foods, Monsanto. As a response to the non-democratic WAF, many activists organized an event as an act of protest and education about the harmful nature of genetically modified organisms. The event was called Biodevistation 7. Just days before the demonstration, St. Louis police began staging ‘pre-emptive strikes’ on the activist community there, arresting bicyclists for failure to have a bike license (a law that was no longer on the books) and raiding two buildings under false claims that weapons were being stored there. While no weapons were found, CD-Rom drives, building supplies, diaries, juggling equipment, and puppets were confiscated. In all, 27 people were arrested, including members of the Flying Rutabagas Bike Circus and Brewzerkus. Brewzerkus alone faced almost $300 dollars in impound fees to get their equipment back. The fees were eventually forgiven once the ACLU stepped in, and the group got most of its equipment back. Many occupants of the buildings also claimed that police who had performed the raid had engaged in unusual and destructive behavior such as urinating on clothing, purposely destroying electronics equipment, and in one case drawing a mustache on a photograph. During the demonstrations, organizers realized the degree of paranoia on the part of the authorities as they looked at boarded up shop windows and intense police presence. At its high point, 300 uniformed police, dozens of under-cover police, and riot cops hidden around street corners were present to quell the violence they expected with the event. Activists saw several plain-clothes officers filming the event and gathering information. Contrary to the apparent hopes of the police and intelligence of St. Louis there was no violence. Loud and boisterous protesting did occur. Angry people, including many small farmers, shouted and waved signs. What did occur was the continued violation of the First Amendment on behalf of the authorities. Targeting a person or group of people for their political beliefs is in violation of this amendment. Our own home-town clown posse, Brewzerkus, was just one more unfortunate victim. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 7 – July 2003
Clowns in Jail