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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: How the OC Anarchist Bookfair's Demise Almost Ended Before Judge Joe Brown

Dear Subscribers: 

Five years ago, it didn't take long for the first-ever Orange County Anarchist Bookfair to cause a little bit of trouble. 

El Centro Cultural de Mexico played host to the May 16, 2015 event in Santa Ana. Within hours, downtown businesses of the gentrifying variety blew up the phone of Veterans Hall's property owner with apocryphal tales of anarchists run amok.

But when the property owner hastily visited the venue, he didn't see any effigies of cops hanging inside as had been relayed to him. Instead, he found books--some for free, most for sale. If anything, he seemed most taken aback by an organizer sporting his hottest hot pants!

An all-day program offered workshops on anarchism, a contentious panel on the non-profit industrial complex and a keynote presentation from scott crow, an Austin anarchist who recounted his experience organizing with the Common Ground collective after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. 

The bookfair continued the following year at Fullerton College before ending its consecutive run at the onset of the Trump Administration in 2017 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Anaheim. Each year brought with it a more diverse turnout than the last, gaining respect from vendors and participants alike.

So, what happened to the OC Anarchist Bookfair after that?

Sadly, it's another tale of a circular firing squad, albeit one so contentious that it almost ended up before Judge Joe Brown. Yes, hizzoner! 

The final chapter of the book fair began with accountability meetings, those leftist rituals meant to correct the misgivings of imperfect activists, yet rarely do. After a fascist grifter attempted to infiltrate the collective behind the event, the person most responsible for the security breach largely escaped one such meeting unscathed. 

Going forward, another accountability meeting the following year hampered the collective's efforts to organize a fourth bookfair. This time, a member faced accusations of transphobia--which is something never taken lightly--from a non trans activist woman known to be disruptive in local organizing circles (who'll be referred to as the "disrupter" from now on). After an hours-long process, it emerged that the charge seemed more rooted in a personal dislike of the accused member and a drunken argument at a party between former friends than actual transphobia. 

Now, if that's all there was to this story, folks would be right to unsubscribe from the Slingshot! without ever looking back, especially if this recounting came complete with an onslaught of indecipherable leftist clap trap. 

But wait, there's more!

The two sides bitterly opposed to each other during that last accountability meeting also happened to live across from one another in the same house. Soon, everything devolved into an even more bitter dispute, one where the back house tenants, including the disrupter, resorted to deceiving a landlord into unwittingly extending their lease for six months. 

If only the prolonged misery expired when the lease did (it didn't). Moving day came with a new set of drama. Fists flew and a woman got bit. The disrupter (also the alleged biter) cooperated with police who arrived on scene--a sin in most anarchist circles with few exceptions. 

And then came small claims court filings. Apparently, the producers of Judge Joe Brown and Judge Judy fished those court documents out and asked all involved to be part of their shows. Agreeing to as much meant the shows would cover the costs (and outcomes) of the cases in exchange for everyone humiliating each other for reality television ratings. 

The small claims battle ended up in a court without cameras, but with no less drama. That's where the disrupter began telling any bailiffs who'd listen about known "anarchists" in the courtroom, and called a veterano of the Chicano Movement a "harasser" just for showing up in support. When before a judge, the disrupter also tried submitting an event program from the last bookfair as evidence against the woman who had filed a counter claim against her after the move-out day fracas.

Laughably, the judge tossed it aside. The anarchist outing legal strategy flopped. The judge ruled against the disrupter, a decision that came with a stiff penalty in damages.

But the court victory proved bittersweet. Attorney fees from the restraining order portion of the fight zapped half of the collective's surplus funds. 

And what of the damage done to a bookfair that may never come back? May there be a cautionary tale in its ashes: Those who clamor for accountability the loudest are sometimes the very folks most in need of it.

- Gabriel San Román

Like what you're reading so far? To keep the Tallest Mexican in OC's Slingshot! newsletters going Venmo: @Gabriel-SanRoman-2. Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook! Don't forget to tell your friends to join the San Roman syndicate by subscribing! 

Mouse Muckracker

Another round of executive shakeups now finds Josh D'Amaro as chairman of Disney Parks, a position last filled by current CEO Bob Chapek. 

D'Amaro, a fresh-faced 48-year-old, is no stranger to Anaheim. The Disneyland Resort is where he began his ascent up the corporate ladder in 1998. D'Amaro returned in January 2018 to become its president, a short-lived tenure that saw him thrust into a bitter Disney worker living wage battle launched a month later. 

That same year, contentious city council elections functioned as a de facto referendum on the company's influence over city hall. D'Amaro pulled the plug on Disney subsidies (a trigger for the living wage law), including a planned luxury hotel at the west end of Downtown Disney, just before the final stretch.

The living wage law won at the ballot (and indirectly at the bargaining table) but so did Disney-backed candidates, returning a friendly-majority to the dais amid fierce criticism. 

D'Amaro took that split over to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando where he became president last November. Once in calmer terrain, D'Amaro did something with Orlando Business Journal that he didn't dare do with OC Weekly: he gave them an executive profile. D'Amaro is cast as cast member-orientated leader and even spoke on the issue of wages. 

"We have a responsibility to think beyond the berm so that our cast members are thriving, not just in their positions or costume they are wearing that day, but in general," he told journalist Richard Bilbao. "That's why things like raising wages to $15 by 2021--almost 80% higher than the [current] minimum wage--is a big deal for us." 

Of course, it took a big struggle beyond the berm from resort labor unions in Orlando and Anaheim to win better pay on the job. 

Now, D'Amaro's faced with, perhaps, Disney's greatest challenge yet--the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, he joined Disney chairman Bob Iger on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee. 

It's hard not to observe D'Amaro's corporate ascent and wonder if, in a few years, Disney will become D'Amaro land. But that all depends on how the Mouse House balances its profit motive with the public health realities of the pandemic. 

Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

By the Bylines

No bylines to share this week. But do stay tuned as the Slingshot! preps more stories and a giveaway of Venceremos, a lil' libro I wrote about Victor Jara and the New Chilean Song Movement back in 2014!

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