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Adventure in NY harbor 7-15-01

Subject: Naval Strike Launched by Pacifica Resistance
Date: Sunday, July 15, 2001 10:24 PM

CONTACT: Mark Sanborne. 212-803-8231
Sound archived at: http://www.flashpoints.net/



Homebuilders "Booze Cruise" Gets That Sinking Feeling

New York: Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "pirate radio," on Friday, July 13, an ad-hoc maritime unit of the Pacifica/WBAI resistance movement launched a twilight seaborne protest action against Ken Ford, vice chair of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) and senior officer of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The activists took to the waters of New York Harbor to race alongside a party boat chartered by local NAHB affiliates and loudly announce their demand that Ford resign from the PNB and cease his efforts to destroy the country's only listener-supported, corporate-free national broadcast network, Pacific Radio, and its New York station, WBAI/99.5 FM.

Acting on intelligence that a "booze cruise" organized by the Builders Association of New Jersey and the Community Builders Association (both NAHB affiliates) would be departing from Weehawken, N.J., Friday evening on an excursion around lower Manhattan, a Pacifica resistance activist - call him "Ishmael" - organized a last-minute, "water-borne action."

Interested parties gathered on Pier 63 at West 23rd Street to enlist, but not all could fit in the craft that had been volunteered for the mission. In the end, 10 hardy activists crowded aboard the 26-foot boat along with its crew of three (who shall remain nameless - and who, in keeping with their radical bent, refused any payment for the job).

The nondescript vessel gave every appearance of being a putt-putt working boat, but as soon as it got out on the open water, its unsuspected 200-horse power engines kicked in, and its passengers had to crouch down below the gunwales to prevent being tossed overboard as the boat accelerated and commenced bouncing across the waves like a Greenpeace Zodiac racing toward a rendezvous with an illegal whaling ship.

Though the party boat had a major head start, the speedy pursuit craft caught up with the revelers as they reached the bottom of Manhattan. At approximately 7:53 p.m., as the activists pulled alongside their quarry, they unfurled banners, raised signs, and began chanting "Get Ken Ford Off Pacifica's Board!" amid the steady beat of a drum and the shaking of noisemakers.

Booming through a loudspeaker, "Ishmael" explained to the befuddled homebuilders why the protesters were demanding that Ford resign from the PNB and cease sabotaging Pacifica Radio's historic, progressive mission as the "voice of the voiceless." Ishmael pointed out the irony that even as he spoke, they were approaching 120 Wall Street, the location of besieged WBAI.

Some of the bemused partygoers on the two-story cruise ship responded with rude gestures, while others actually applauded this entertaining interruption of their alcohol-fueled, three-hour tour. Meanwhile, in response to a radioed request from the homebuilder ship's captain, another double-decker party boat traveling in the opposite direction veered dangerously close to the protesters, blowing its horn and attempting to "squeeze" and scare off the activists.

It was to no avail. The raucous protest continued for nearly 25 minutes as the pursuit craft shadowed its prey past the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Starting at 8:00 p.m., the action was broadcast live via cell phone for 13 minutes over KPFA, Pacifica's flagship Berkeley, Calif., station, with Ishmael at one point passing the phone to another senior member of the ad-hoc maritime unit, who gave her on-air analysis of the background behind the action.

That was followed by a hook-up to WBIX (WBAI in Exile), an Internet-based "global gathering of audio refugees" working to keep the spirit of the "old" WBAI alive. After the successful action, and amid a glorious sunset, the unit returned to a hero's welcome at Pier 63, which it turns out is definitely sympathetic territory for those fighting for genuine, free-speech community radio.

BACKROUND: Ken Ford, vice chair of the Pacifica National Board, has overstayed his legal term on the PNB and is named in four separate lawsuits, including one backed by the California attorney general. During his tenure, he has overseen union-busting, censorship, lockouts, large-scale firings and bannings, and race-baiting.

When listeners complained, he threatened to turn them over to the FBI. As a senior member of the National Association of Home Builders, he represents one of the largest political action/lobbying groups in the country.

The NAHB works to oppose enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act, to roll back environmental regulations like the Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts, and to crush popular initiatives against unrestrained sprawl, as in Arizona and Colorado - all positions that are diametrically opposed to Pacifica Radio's historic, progressive mission. As part of its effort to reclaim that mission, the Pacifica resistance movement is demanding that Ford and the remaining pro-corporate members of the PNB resign immediately.

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