First Anniversary Statement by the Central Committee of the Rainbow People's Party
On May 1st the Rainbow People's Party and the Ann Arbor SUN will be one year old, and we'd like to take this opportunity to briefly run down what has happened since we formed the RPP and what the possibilities are for the future.
First of all, the Rainbow People's Party has roots going back to 1964 when John and Leni Sinclair formed the Artist's Workshop, a small-scale cultural self-determination project in Detroit that worked with the hip community and held regular jazz and poetry sessions. In 1967 the Workshop disbanded when John went to prison for six months on a weed possession charge. By the time John was released the mass rainbow cultural explosion was taking place, thousands and thousands of people were getting high, dropping acid, growing their hair and rockin and rollin to bands that made a whole new kind of music. Trans-Love Energies was formed to help serve the needs of this new rainbow community in Detroit, and at various points in its history Trans-Love helped to run the Grande Ballroom, operated a candle factory and head shop, put on free music in the parks. and managed three rock and roll bands; the UP, the Stooges, and the destroyed MC5. It was at this point that Pun and Genie Plamondon joined Trans-Love, and soon helped to form the White Panther Party in November of 1968. The WPP came about because we were beginning to realize that our culture could not exist unattacked in its pure form until the death culture is destroyed by a political revolution. The WPP worked to forge thousands of Michigan rock and roll addicts into a powerful force for change, based mostly on the power and energy of the MC5. But the WPP made many mistakes, resulting in John's imprisonment in August of 1969, the desertion of the MC5 from the people's cause, and the capture and imprisonment of Pun Plamondon, Skip Taube, and Jack Forest on July 23, 1970. Pun was a federal fugitive and on the FBI's 10-Most Wanted List at the time after going underground, charged with conspiracy to bomb the secret Ann Arbor CIA office by the United States government.
In prison John and Pun in particular, along with the whole WPP began to try and figure out what had happened and gone wrong. They studied the revolutionary science of Marxism-Leninism and the history of past revolutions, and began to realize that much of their past activity was guided by emotional frustration and anguish at the ugliness of America, and not from a clear analysis based on actual conditions. Their studies led to a new analysis and understanding, a whole new strategy, method of thinking and method of work, and a new name. What was needed was positive activity that would unite the people for the fight against the octopus, and running around woofin and screaming Off the Pig, enabling the government to convince the great majority of people that the WPP was their enemy, could not accomplish the task of unity. Almost all of the work we are now involved in as a party was discussed and figured out theoretically during this period of study and re-evaluation preceding the formation of the RPP.
We chose the name Rainbow People's Party after nine months of struggle following Pun, Skip and Jack's capture. The name communicated our vision of the future, when all the people of the earth will live in harmony with each other as one whole. The name Rainbow reflects the culture that defines us as a people, which has combined aspects of different cultures around the planet into a wholly new, rainbow culture. From the cultures of the different colored people's of the earth we have made a whole new thing, made possible by the new post-war electronic technology that gave our generation a TV window on the world and its peoples and allowed us to experience different cultures as none had before us. The name Rainbow communicates the vision we had of the kind of society that will come into being at the end of the storm which will eliminate the octopus imperialism and its death culture once and for all.
So on May 1st we announced the formation of the RPP and published the first issue of this newspaper, issue 30 which you hold in your hands. At first we were extremely ingrown out of necessity; we stopped being a national party and decided to concentrate almost entirely on Ann Arbor and Detroit and on getting ourselves together. We'd decided that our primary activity would be the campaign to free our Chairman, and until John got out the following December we worked mostly on the campaign to FREE JOHN NOW! We also worked hard on getting money and surviving, avoiding eviction from our house, published the SUN, and worked with our rock and roll band, the mighty Up, without whose support we could not have survived and grown to the extent we've been able to. The work that we were able to do in the community at that time centered on developing the Tribal Council, which included working on last summer's Tribal Stomps in the park every Sunday afternoon, and maintaining and expanding the People's Food Co-op, which we started the January before with 9 families, and now services over 400 families every week. But our work in the community, which was clearly what we WANTED to spend most of our time on, was severely limited by everything else and mostly by the state of Michigan's continuing vicious imprisonment of our chairman, supposedly for two joints of weed.
FREE JOHN NOW!
Our work on freeing John took up most of our time. We were following a mostly legalistic approach, thinking that if we continued to go through the courts and petition them reasonably that they would have to eventually uphold the law and the constitution and release him. We went out speaking, raised money, collected signatures for full-page newspaper ads, sent out huge mailings convinced 15,000 people to write the Governor, and put on benefits with the help of many people's musicians to pay for huge court fees and the lawyers who needed money in order to work on the case. We entered motions and quietly went through the legal process. In July of that year the Michigan Court of Appeals surprised us and denied John's appeal and his right to bond, but we went on petitioning the courts believing that we HAD to get justice from the next highest level, the Michigan Supreme Court, because we were clearly in the right, even according to the law.
We decided to go all-out to convince the Supreme Court to at least grant John bond and let him back on the streets while they considered his constitutional challenge to the state's marijuana law and we honestly didn't expect them to deny it. After all, Lt. William Calley, convicted of murdering 109 Vietnamese, was free on appeal bond, murderers and violent criminals of all kinds were routinely granted bond when their appeal raised a substantial question. And John had ALREADY been in prison for two years for two joints, while more people were waking up to the truth about weed all the time. Several cities and towns in Michigan had changed their laws, including Ann Arbor, the federal government had lessened its penalties, politicians all over were urging liberalized weed laws in their efforts to get elected, and even the Detroit Free Press was running editorials urging reforms in the state's marijuana law and John's release on bond. Surely, we thought, the Court had to see the light this time.
But on September 20 they denied the appeal bond in a 5-2 vote, and we realized at last that we were working from the wrong analysis, that the strictly legalistic approach wouldn't work because it wasn't ABOUT the law any way. The government was determined to keep John locked up as long as we'd let them get away with it, understanding better than we ever thought how our culture threatened its continued rule and how John's work in particular was loosening it's grasp of control over America's children. John was clearly a political prisoner- we had said it all along, but the full extent didn't dawn upon us until the Supreme Court denied bond and prepared to deny John's final appeal in Michigan as well.
They weren't going to just let him out, they had to be forced, and it was clear that the level of activity we were maintaining and the nature of it wasn't enough to make then act. We decided at that point, mostly on the basis of increasingly clear and urgent letters from John in Jackson, to freeze all our other activities at their current level and go all out on pressuring the court. We saw that what was needed was to focus as much attention, public opinion and pressure as possible on the Court "Justices" as they decided on John's appeal of the marijuana laws. The time had come being the issue to the people, because the courts weren't doing the job. Let everyone see what was going on, and let the judges know that they wouldn't be able to quietly get away with their repressive designs as they'd hoped. The time had come to stop being reasonable, to express our outrage, and to make it impossible for the Court to ignore the message that people were waking up to their ruse and they'd better FREE JOHN NOW!
Use The Media
We realized that the justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, far from being impartial enforcers of the law, were opportunist, elected, political beings. We needed to make them respond on that level, and see that if they wanted to keep their jobs they'd better FREE JOHN NOW! or face the wrath of the electorate. We also realized that people in positions like that react heavily to the media, and we had to make sure that the judges couldn't go anywhere without being flashed the message on their radios, in their newspapers and their TV's that they'd better FREE JOHN NOW! Only a massive outcry would force them to act and give up their hold on our chairman. So, based on our new analysis of the situation, we set out to force their hand. We changed our whole tone and style and began to scream and shout and carry on. We made sure the issue would hit the media at least every week and staged events designed to do just that. On November 2nd the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case, along with several hundred brothers and sisters who overflowed the Court chambers and sat in the aisles. The headlines rang out the next day "Hippies Invade High Court," along with photos of Leni who we bound and gagged with an American flag outside the courtroom to symbolize John's situation and the fact that he couldn't even speak out at his own hearing. We brought Rennie Davis in to the press conference to let the judges know that not only was Michigan watching for their next move, but that people all over the country were paying attention, too. Next we convinced Senator Basil Brown to read a statement written by John from prison into the Senate record for all his colleagues to hear. John attacked the Senators as the criminals that most of them are for locking people up for smoking weed, and at that time for holding up passage of a more "liberalized" law that would make possession a misdemeanor. The Senators reacted by freaking out and uttering things about how John "should have been slapped in the mouth more when he was a kid," and their insanity was laid bare for everyone to see on the six o'clock news that night. The heat was on, and John Sinclair was in the air.
We took every opportunity to point out the hypocrisy of politicians who were catering to the youth vote by urging reformed weed laws but who refused to do anything to get John out of the penitentiary, including the Governor and the Attorney General of this state. And we made sure they heard us. We didn't want to spare anyone or any agency that was in any way responsible for keeping John locked up from feeling the heat. John filed suit against Jackson prison and the State Department of Corrections for keeping him locked up in segregation for a year and for violating his civil rights in various ways, and we started drawing attention to that action as well. No opportunity was missed to help blast out the message until those responsible would be backed up against the wall and would have no choice but to FREE JOHN NOW!
We wanted to have some kind of massive demonstration of the will of the people, and we also needed to raise a huge sum of money to pay for everything we were trying to do, and so the December 10 JOHN SINCLAIR FREEDOM RALLY was born. We picked early December because at that point the Court would be in the midst of making its final decision, and the legislature would be in the midst of passing some kind of new marijuana legislation. The nature and impact of the rally was transformed when John and Yoko Lennon, who we got in touch with through Jerry Rubin, agreed to get involved and appear at the rally, It was their involvement that finally captured the full attention that we were working to get, and the Freedom Rally took off with the tremendous help of the media who seized upon it just as we'd hoped.
Three days before the rally state legislature finally passed the new weed law to go into effect April 1st, making possession a misdemeanor and providing prison sentences far below the time that John had already served. And then 15,000 people got together and communicated their will, fully amplified by tremendous media coverage of all kinds, and the effect was strong and swift. Three days later, on December 13, 1971, the Michigan Supreme Court, acting on its own motion, released John from prison on appeal bond, reversing their decision of a few months before. Several months later they completely overturned John's conviction and agreed with what we'd been saying all along, that the state marijuana law was unconstitutional and that John had been cruelly and unusually punished by 2 1/2 years in prison. And one month later the court ordered the release of 128 brothers locked up in state pens for smoking the sacrament.
The Court's reversal of its position, from a 5-2 vote in September to deny John even the right to be on the street before they made up their minds, to a 6-1 vote in March to completely overturn the state's weed laws and set him free of all charges, came about because of the organized power of the people. If we had remained quiet, if we had continued to quietly present motions and wait out the legal process, careful not to piss off the court or antagonize them in any way, then most likely John would STILL be in prison along with 128 others. The people forced the governments hand and freed John, and we want to thank and thank again everyone who helped in the long campaign for making it work.
JOHN IS FREE
John came home surprisingly early and after a few days of complete frenzy we all sat down to try and figure out how to proceed. The bulk of our activity was not wiped out, there wasn't anything left we could do to free John and we finally had time to work on the whole range of activities that we had been discussing theoretically for so long. We could finally get to work on helping to organize the Ann Arbor community, as a first step in creating a whole new alternative social system here in the belly of the Amerikan beast. We spent day and days in meetings, toking down, and decided to take the entire month of January to re-evaluate things, re-organize and educate ourselves internally, and start to build an economic base so we could survive and grow.
But it took longer than the month of January; problems of immediate survival, a chronic lack of finances, and all kinds of urgent projects that simply HAD to be taken care of slowed the process down. We were so eager to get to work that we took on several tasks before we could fully handle them, and the problems that arose out of that only served to delay us even more. With all we have to do we're STILL not done setting up for business; we still have to organize our political education classes, a party recruitment program, organize the space in our houses and fix them up, and much much more.
In the midst of all this we were approached by members of the Human Rights Party and informed that the HRP was planning to run candidates from all five wards in the April 3rd City Council election. The HRP would be on the ballot, and with the 18-year old vote and U of M students able to vote in Ann Arbor it was clear that there was a good chance of winning at least two council seats. If it was going to happen we'd have to get to work on it right away, setting back out internal work ever further. But the possible gains made it worthwhile, so we started working with the HRP and at their nominating convention offered Genie Plamondon to run from our ward, the third. Genie got the nomination along with Jerry DeGrieck, Nancy Wechsler, David Black and Nancy Romer Burghardt.
Running Genie for City Council and supporting and working for the entire HRP was just the kind of activity we had decided to get into in the period preceding the formation of the RPP. We wanted to get involved in the electoral process because we saw that with so many freeks around knew we could really WIN elections, gain representation for rainbow people on council and begin to work to expose and change the corrupt and backwards city government. We could start having a voice and forcing changes in all the areas of our life in Ann Arbor that the City Council has to do with, like supervising and funding the police department, planning the growth of the city, and budgeting and directing all city services. All the attention that would be focused on any HRP candidate who captured a seat would be an opportunity to clearly get the message out that things could be done differently, and that we really did have something to say to all people, not just young people and students. All the information we could gather from the positions of city councilman or woman would help us understand exactly what was wrong with the city and how to change it. The need to build a strong local third party was clear, and the Human Rights Party was just the kind we could relate to. It all fit together, and we got deep into the election for a good month and a half.
The first thing that needed to be done was to get as many of the newly eligible voters as possible registered in the short time left before the March 3 deadline for registration. The massive effort included posters, leaflets, rock and roll get-downs, a central registration phone number, radio and newspaper ads, press conferences-- no opportunity was missed to hip people to the fact that registering to vote in this election really meant something. All these efforts succeeded in registering thousands of new voters, but there's still thousands left to register for the upcoming elections.
After the registration drive came the actual campaign. Genie Plamondon for City Council headquarters was set up in our house at 1520 Hill St., and Genie and her campaign staff started getting out in the community, going door to door in an effort to meet each individual voter before the election. The campaign office cranked out tons of fliers, posters, leaflets, brochures and phone calls; Genie went out speaking and doing radio and t.v. appearances, as did all the other candidates. We helped the HRP hold press conferences, produce radio ads (both paid political advertising and "non-partisan" spots urging people to vote in the election), designed and printed materials of all kinds, organized concerts to get-out-the-vote, and worked all-out in every way along with the killer HRP people to WIN.
And it worked! The people joined with us and put Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck on the Ann Arbor City Council, which will never be the same again. And the three other HRP candidates did better than anyone had predicted, including Genie who captured more than 1500 votes, making it clear that the Democrats and Republicans better REALLY look out come next election. They seem to have gotten the message and are currently pushing ward-boundary changes that would pull our house out of the Third Ward. Nancy and Jerry have already gotten to work, meeting with Police Chief Krasny, investigating the police, and working to prepare new legislation, including a new city marijuana law that if passed will make possession a 25 cent fine within the city limits. They've begun checking out exactly what changes will be possible and what we can do to ease people's problems from within the present dinosaur, dying, ineffectual and corrupt Ann Arbor city government. We now have the chance to deal with Ann Arbor and bare the ugly mess that it is. But we realize that "working through the system" cannot possibly accomplish all the changes that are needed. We have to create our own system, one designed to deal with our needs and to function smoothly from the start. We have to create and build alternatives to the madness that surrounds us.
It's now May again and we're finally going to be able to devote a good portion of our energies to what we've seen all along as our most important community work, the Ann Arbor Tribal Council. We had decided during our months of letter writing and re- evaluation before we changed to the name RPP that what is needed is the creation of alternative institutions that provide for people's needs far better than the Amerikan institutions new in operation. We want to help build these alternatives to such an extent that they will confront and eventually replace the old ones and take us on into the future when the ugly capitalist system will be dismantled once and for all. Alternatives are needed to show people that there really is another and better way of doing things by actually making it happen. And we decided that the first step in this process to develop the alternative rainbow social order was to work on build up the A2 Tribal Council.
The Tribal Council was formed theoretically from ideas that came mostly from John while he was in prison, and had really started the summer before when it helped put on the Community Park program. The Tribal Council is the model government of the future; it exists to hook up, develop and coordinate the growth of a whole range of alternative institutions and services that are run on the basis of communalism, sharing, working together, consolidating resources and utilizing them in the interest of all the people, instead of in the interests of individual power and moneyed interests and their profits, which is how American institutions are run nowadays. The Tribal Council is the organized rainbow community working to change this place around and make Ann Arbor a model community of the future, when "the whole world will belong to the people; monsters of all kinds shall be destroyed," as Chairman Mao has said.
The Tribal Council consists at this point of nine People's Committees, some of which have been functioning and others which are just on the verge of really coming together. It's all new right now, and we're just learning how to make it work, but we hope the community will join with us and help set up the People's Committees; Housing, Music and Ballroom, Drugs, Health, Food, Communications, Finance, Education, Defense, and the special projects the Tribal Council is involved in like the park program, the artist's workshop, and the Washington St. Community Center. The rainbow community in Ann Arbor now has a community center, due to the dedication and persevering hard work of the people from Ozone House, Drug Help, and the Free People's Clinic. The Community Center already houses the offices of organizations like Ozone, Drug Help and the clinic, as well as offices for several People's Committees. The People's Ballroom in the center will be functioning soon, bringing high-energy rock and roll music to people at prices they can afford, in an atmosphere most conducive to getting people the highest, serving at the same time as an economic base for all kinds of community center activities. The Ann Arbor SUN will be moving to Washington St. as soon as possible, to be eventually published by the People's Communications Committee of the Tribal Council, and the People's Food Committee continues to operate the weekly food co-op.
Phew! We're really just starting to move, and now that Nancy and Jerry are on the City Council, the Tribal Council should be able to grow all the more quickly with minimum interference and even aid from the city. We can now build the Tribal Council and at the same time confront the established institutions, utilize their resources for the people's cause and turn THEM into alternatives, too.
ROCK AND ROLL FOREVER!
There's all kinds of other activities that we want to get involved in, many more than we possibly can at this time. In the near future we're going to prepare to work on the upcoming Ann Arbor School Board election, the elections for Sheriff, State Representative, and the national elections coming up this fall. We've endorsed George McGovern for president in the May 16 Michigan Presidential primary as the most effective way we can see to end the expanding air-war in Southeast Asia. We're active in forming a new organization, the Michigan Committee for Prisoner's Rights, to struggle for decent conditions for the brothers and sisters in the penitentiaries and jails of Michigan, and to keep in contact with them and look out for their rights. We're investigation at this time the California Marijuana Initiative which is aiming to put the question of legalizing weed on the ballot, giving the voters the opportunity to end prohibition once and for all, and are considering the possibility of working on a similar project back here in Michigan. Keeping in touch with our own prisoners, Pun Plamondon, Skip Taube, and Jack Forrest we will continue to try and work on their cases and get them out of the slam and back out working for the people as soon as possible. And the work we've put into developing the Michigan rock and roll community into a conscious force, and helping to start a People's Ballroom in Detroit will continue. We'll keep re-organizing and educating ourselves in order to most efficiently get on with it. But economics are the basis of everything, and at this point in history in order for the party, the community, and the Tribal Council to grow there has to be money. Right now we don't have enough money to get people clothes when they need them, we can't afford all the telephone lines, cars, and machinery that we have to have to do the job right. But the outlook is bright. As Rainbow people we have a tremendous natural resource that, when properly organized and reclaimed from the greedcreeps who have ripped our music off and used it for their own seedy ends, can provide all the funds for the things we need.
Our bands must be made an integral part of our communities once again, kicking out the music that keeps us moving on towards the world of our visions and bringing in the money we need in order to get there. More and more musicians are beginning to realize this, but it has to go a lot further. The mighty UP have been working completely for the people's cause for several years now, and we will continue to work to further build the UP into the sensation they're bound to become. The UP will soon be moving next door to 1510 Hill St., have just completed their new practice room inside 1510, and will soon get a hold of the equipment they need to smash on through. And we'd like to take this opportunity to announce that we're forming, along with Peter Andrews of Ann Arbor, who was responsible for organizing the show at Crisler arena last December 10, the Rainbow Worp., which will as its initial act take on the full management of Detroit, featuring Mitch Ryder.
The Rainbow People's Party is one year old. It's been a jam-packed year. We've accomplished a great deal and also made uncountable mistakes, doing our best to learn from them. The RPP exists to win self-determination and freedom for our people and, working with other people's and cultures, for all the people on the planet. All 21 of us who live together here on Hill St. are new to all this, and we can't do what we we have to without active energy and criticism from the community. We want to do whatever can best bring us closer to our dreams, and urge people to let us know at any point what you honestly feel about what we're doing. Only as a united community can we succeed at the incredible task of survival and growth ahead of us.
So the next time you light up a joint, think about the fact that you don't have to go to jail for 10 years for doing that ever again, realize that we've come a long way but we've still got a long was to go, and remember, the power of the people is a motherfucker!
RAINBOW POWER TO THE PEOPLE OF THE FUTURE!
-Central Committee, Rainbow People's Party
April 28, 1972 YEAR OF UNITY