Protesters Spotlight Corporate Influence in State Politics at ALEC Annual Meeting

As they sometimes say in the South, it's all about taking care of bid'ness.

Protesters carried signs explaining ALEC's role in state governmentBut don't tell that to the group of 100 or so protesters, who on Friday afternoon marched on the Marriott hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA), where corporate lobbyists were voting with state lawmakers on "model" legislation at the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) 38th Annual Meeting.

The protest, organized in part by Louisiana State University's Student Labor Action Project, the Defend Ohio Campaign, and activists from across the country, began at the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown NOLA. That same day, members of the local community also gathered to celebrate the conviction of five police officers on charges stemming from the notorious Danziger Bridge case. A federal jury found the officers guilty of civil rights violations in the shootings of unarmed citizens.

Leon Clark, a 39-year-old engineer from New Orleans, came for the Denziger verdict, which he said disproved the rumor that citizens had ever shot at citizens in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also had sharp words for politicians he believed had been corrupted by "corporate greed."

"Why aren't major politicians here today? Because they've been bought by the elitists. When corporations control the dollars, they also control the government."

At the Marriott, nearly 2,000 state legislators, the majority of whom are Republicans, met behind closed doors with corporate representatives to discuss the design and implementation of ALEC model legislation, and vote side by side on these bills. The event also featured speeches from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, two well known GOP figures whose luncheon presentations were sponsored, respectively, by PhRMA and Visa.

Nathan Anderson, a member of the Student Labor Action Project, or "SLAP," and one of the main organizers of Friday's protest, described ALEC's role in perpetuating corporate influence in state and local governments.

"We want a society that is actually democratic and doesn't put the interests of the top one percent above the interests of the working class majority," he said.

"People need to stop ignoring the reality of ALEC's organizational structure -- They're writing our laws and putting them in the pockets of our legislators."

Anderson was proud to have the protests reflect the increasing national awareness of ALEC. Activists from Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana joined him for Friday's demonstration.

Mark Haller, a General Electric inspector from Erie, Pennsylvania, who also flew to Cincinnati for the April protest at ALEC's spring summit, joined the movement in New Orleans to "kick ALEC out of the corporatocracy" that he says they have created in state governments across the country.

Despite strict instructions from protest organizers to remain peaceful and respect public property, a group of self-proclaimed anarchists purportedly from "NOLA Anarcha" spray-painted an anarchist symbol on the front of the Marriott, creating a deep rift between themselves and the rest of the protesters.

Adam Stant, one of the organizers of the protest against ALEC that took place in Cincinnati, expressed his extreme disappointment over the unauthorized disruption by the anarchists, whose actions he said distorted the working-class message of the protest.

"The Protest ALEC organization did not want people to do this. We made very clear the guidelines. I'm very disappointed that individuals have chosen to denigrate all the work we put into this because of their own selfishness," he said.

ALEC staffers and plain-clothes policemen immediately took pictures of the graffiti. Stant, visibly dismayed by the sudden turn of events, worried that it was this image that would be played endlessly on TV, not the images of the non-violent solidarity of the organized protestors. He also had warned members of NOLA Anarcha and their unknown affiliates prior to Friday not to do anything crazy at the event.

Prior to the march, activists, labor organizers, and long-time ALEC investigators spoke about their experiences with the largely secretive organization, and the effects of model legislation introduced in their state.

Daily Kos Blogger Bob SloanBob Sloan, a blogger at DailyKos, spoke of ALEC legislation giving prisoners jobs that once belonged to the public sector.

"It all started with ALEC. Their Prison Industries Act, their Privatization of Facilities Act. A lot of people don't know that inmates are being used all over the country to turn profits for corporations like Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America that have belonged to ALEC."

Local musician David Rovicks performed, infusing his music with references to the extremes in the distribution of wealth in America and the efforts of activists and liberals to protect people's rights in the face of powerful organizations and institutions.

Protesters discussed the need for a national effort to dismantle the ALEC-forged "partnership" between elected officials and corporations. The lack of national media coverage also upset Sally Stevens, a local resident who has spent her entire life fighting poverty.

"Its definitely disappointing," she said. "Their weapon of choice is manufacturing poverty. The only power I have is to call them out and do my best to prove them wrong."


you are really slimy, sir. your unethical, un-fact checked reporting should be an embarrassment to a group supposedly concerned with media and democracy. The young man arrested, having allegedly spraypainted on the Mariott, no doubt acted out in frustration at the complete lack of spine anyone else has shown in actually confronting the likes of ALEC and their corporate members. Your protest would not have accomplished a damn thing even if there were no anarchists there, and you know it. The unethical part comes in when you say: #1) that it was a group of people who spraypainted. Did you see more than one person do it? There were plenty of cameras there, is there any photos? #2) that the person spraypainting was with NOLA Anarcha. We don't know who painted that wall, but it was no one from the collective that runs the NOLA Anarcha blog. Where is any evidence? Did you even ask us if we were responsible? no. (Not that we disagree with it, that response to ALEC was the only one that comes close to being appropriate for the things they've done in pursuit of profit). And, #3, that singer you praise, guess what? He is an anarchist too! Oh My! We are everywhere! Hide under your sheets! Blame us for the progressive ineffectiveness in the face of the greatest increase in corporate power since the time before the Great Depression. That should work. You probably still belive in Obama, too, don't ya? You are delusional. Wake up, maybe read some Chris Hedges. I hear The Death of the Liberal Class is pretty decent.

Your rhetoric here is as disingenuous as your attendance on Friday at the Protest Alec event was. Local thugs who have a history of acting in a typical juvenile manner in the past. You came not to protest who and what ALEC is, you saw it as an opportunity to gain some more "street cred" among the other thugs and uneducated folks that for some reason relate to your ideology and behavior. We protested against ALEC for hiding in the shadows, their lack of transparency and secrecy. For keeping the identities hidden and secret because they know what they are doing is/was wrong, and they worry about being punished for their actions... ...You - if you were even there - and those with the Anarchist group were no better than ALEC, many hiding your identities by wearing masks across your faces and hoods hoods pulled low over the brow...yet you accuse the peaceful protesters of lacking spines...those who marched with heads held high there in New Orleans as they did in Cincy, proud to represent all the people against an insidious organization working to steal democracy. They came to your town from across this country, spending hard earned money to help your city protest the presence of that organization. None of us had the need or desire to hide our identities or faces in fear of retribution as many of you did. We protested against ALEC for their open breaking of our laws, stealing the essence and heart of democracy and oppressing others, calling upon all authorities to stop those acts against the people...seeking others to see our actions and take up the call in a legal manner. You - if you were even there - and the "Anarchists" proceeded to tag along on the efforts of others to yourself break the laws of New Orleans, by defacing a building facade. One of those involved in these illegal acts was arrested - as he should have been. How can you or anyone else complain of the acts of others, when you are guilty of that which you accuse them of? Childishness and egotistical behavior on the backs of others who have been building a national movement to help others...those who spent time, effort and sweat in this endeavor and all you had to do was dress up in your funky attire, don $1.00 flags with crudely drawn symbols and a can of spray paint to act as your voice. We name NOLA Anarcha as being responsible or involved in your presence and actions, and you add lying to your already long resume of deceit. This from NOLA Anarcha..."In that spirit, anarchists should come out to the locally-organized ALEC protests in New Orleans (August 5th, 2pm, 500 Poydras St.). Come out not to demand stricter adherence to lobbying laws, more transparency, or less corruption"..."Anarchists should come with flags, in black, or with banners and signs to show our united stance, to show that we are not in favor of a return to the democratic political farce, but organizing for an end to capitalist control," from: on July 18th. The article shows anarchist dressed in black with hoods over their heads...same attire as that worn by your group. When the protest organizers passed out the guidelines for the protest, a NOLA Anarcha member responded "The People of New Orleans will not be told where to walk - we walk in the streets" and that is exactly what you did as soon as the march was underway, chanting "Who's street? Our Street" as you walked along. You and many of the rest of your "Amarchists" were no better than ALEC and their corporate masters, breaking laws of the people, hiding your identities from the sight of your communities and the people you victimize with your activities and behaviors. You aren't anarchists, as you point out David Roviks is considered an anarchist - you on the other hand acted as a gang of thieves hiding behind a label you think gives you the right to act like thugs. ALEC was there in New Orleans for several days yet you made no effort of your own to protest their presence or you waited on a mass of genuine protesters to show up as planned as advertised so you could hide yourselves among them and use them as a shield against detection and possible arrest if you acted alone. You give anarchy a bad name in the same manner ALEC gives democracy a bad name...and you have the nerve to call others "slimy" and accuse us of having no spine. Look behind you and you'll probably find your spine slid south and accompanies you as a forked tail...

The fact that you believe in "democracy" and the police/prisons (citing how the person who allegedly spray painted on some disgusting hotel chain's wall deserved to be arrested) is the fundamental problem. Covering one's face is to protect the safety of anyone who feels the need to break a law they find oppressive and arbitrary -- safety from the oppressive iron fist of law enforcement. This is something which, in your world of collegiate activism, you can never understand. Blame the anarchists all you want: the truth is, your obedient protest rubric and liberal dogma is ineffective and stale. The fact that you would discourage anyone from attacking the institutions that you are there ostensibly to protest illustrates that you have some stake and faith in the system that is exploiting you. Anarchists do not. Besides, haven't you ever heard of a "diversity of tactics"? Didn't they teach you about that in Liberal Nonprofit Activism 101?! I guess not. Basically, you guys can still drive in from your respective cities to display some pathetic gesture of symbolic opposition (while making sure to follow every rule that would enable you to actually provoke any sort of dignified display of resistance) and anarchists will fight the way we see fit. I'd say "slimy" is applicable. For demonizing anarchists as being as bad as ALEC, a group who perpetuate and uphold systematic poverty and oppression the world over, is indeed pretty slimy.

I have to partially agree that sometimes a STRONGER protest demonstration is needed. I have not seen "peaceful" protests that have any real impact for changes we need in the way politics is going in this country. I really believe we need nothing short of outright COUNTER-REVOLUTION IN RESPONSE to the revolution that is taking place from above, in the chambers of our legislatures across the country. You are either with the American people who are being persecuted and deceived, or you are a "peaceful" person who "gets along" with the revolutionaries, like our compromising President. We all need to follow the example set by that great revolutionary Che Guevarra, et al and be true to our convictions that all people in this country deserve the right to vote, the right to justice, the right to the pursuit of happiness - not the majority subjected to the rights of a minority.

Dear Sir or Madam: I think you go too far when you assert that the reporter is unethical. The reports at the scene were that individuals connected to NOLA Anarcha were involved in the vandalism. You can easily request a correction if you are part of NOLA Anarcha and the collective believes this reportng to be in error. If the individual who spraypainted the hotel was not connected in any way with the collective, I am sure that can be easily addressed with a correction, rather than name-calling. Also, I don't read the report as being critical of your political beliefs or those of the singer; rather the report quotes other people who worked to organize a peaceful, non-violent, non-destructive protest as expressing disappointment over the disruption and vandalism, which the organizers did indeed object to. You also assume the reporter has not read Chris Hedges and offer other assorted ad hominem attacks. Talk about assuming facts not in evidence....

You seem to be doing more "protesting" HERE than you did at the ALEC meeting! Are YOU, perhaps, a Corporate plant? All these Corporations, and Right-Wing-Zealots seem to want anarchy, too (You know, "Every Corporation for themself."), just like you ("Every anarchist for himself"). I think your posts are ad hominem and childish, and should be deleted. viva la (European Socialism) revolucion! It's certainly better than "American" fascism!

I'm sure you've considered the possibility that the NOLA Anarcha people were planted there by one of the Koch brothers' hit squads.

NolaAnarcha is a blog. It doesn't have any members, dumdum. Also, the boy arrested is from Biloxi. No affiliation, hun.

Nola Anarcha New Orleans, Louisiana A collective of anarchists running a website to spread the resistance to all forms of oppression. We are anarchists, and that means we will unashamedly advocate anarchist solutions to the problems we face. We support movements but we don't wait for them. We are in the thick of it.