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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/26/10

US Social Forum at the Cobo: A People's "Green Zone"

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For days, as part of the US Social Forum, thousands of progressive activists have entered and enjoyed the premise that is the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit. It has been an appropriate and malleable convergence space for all cultural, social, and political activity that thousands have engaged in. But, shortly, the reality will hit those who attended as they realize the Center is a proverbial "Green Zone."

The "Green Zone" in Iraq is the area in Iraq controlled by Coalition troops (the US occupation). It's the site where officials and military members can come and go and enjoy a level of safety that cannot be found in many of the areas of Iraq. The U.S. has a permanent embassy in the Green Zone and private military contractors often can be found there.

The Hotel Al-Rasheed is a favorite place of journalists and media within the "Green Zone." It has an Internet cafà , shops as well as a regular cafà . Within the Zone, it plays host to economic development meetings and various other meetings.

And, on a smaller scale, the Cobo Center has to a certain extent been activists' "Green Zone" all week. It has allowed many to engage in activities and meetings on a grand scale that usually would be hard to organize in local communities because of lack of space or because of police interference. It has allowed us to produce media and engage in journalism on behalf of struggles and in the service of addressing key issues in this country. And, there has been food, Internet, and vendors in a room peddling their activist gear (stickers, buttons, shirts, newspapers, books, etc).

A differentiation deserves to be made, that's for sure. The activists wish to engage with the people outside the Cobo on a much higher level than those inside the "Green Zone." Those in the "Green Zone" in Iraq do not see their security and protection as an inhibitor to their ability to understand the need to liberate the people of Iraq from their occupation. Activists are not really occupying the city (although the mayor of Detroit might think so since we have provided reinforcements for political struggles in Detroit). However, USSF organizers did enlist security to protect them throughout the first part of the Forum.

Yet, when all is said and done, everyone will leave the fortress that is Cobo, the "Mecca" of activism that Cobo has become. They will be forced to interact with people who do not possess the language or knowledge of movement building that those who have come together this week have. In fact, they may hear movement building and think you are suggesting they learn dance or purchase a drug to help them digest their food.

A great many will respond to renewed efforts as they reignite in communities across the nation. All who attended will have to be aware of the frames and stories they are telling about what they do, the way they aim to compel others to act.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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