Call for Direct Action

There’s a lot of good ideas expressed here by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, founder of Black Liberation Radio (Tennessee). The list of options is expanding, including the possible addition of acts of “Electronic Civil Disobedience.”


There is no more current pressing matter than to deter the FCC and its master, the National Association of Broadcasters, along by various political agencies egged on by them, from harassing existing free radio stations in North America. These raids have included the especially punitive raid on Black Liberation Radio in Decatur, Illinois where the children of the station operators have been seized and the operators charged with bogus criminal charges to make them stop broadcasting. It also includes the recent raids of L. D. Brewer’s “Party Pirate 102 FM” and the criminal indictment and conviction of Lonnie Kobres in Florida. In all, over 162 stations have been harassed and shut down (even if only temporarily) over the last 18 months according to the FCC.
It really goes without saying that the tactics used by the FCC are illegal, unconstitutional, and irresponsible, but the real question is what we are going to do about it? Are we going to sit around and let them come busting in on us one by one, seizing our gear and even throwing us into jail, or are we going to take offensive actions to defend our rights? Clearly if we don’t take offensive actions, we may not be able to do so at all later. If there is freedom of speech in this country, them goddamn it, let’s test it!
Myself and those who met with us in the Black Liberation Radio workshop at the Philadelphia microradio conference in April elected to call for and lead a direct action campaign to make the FCC/NAB accountable, and beat back their illegal raids. We call for demonstrations in the Fall of 1998 at FCC/NAB headquarters (exact date to be determined), and to hold a widely publicized “Tribunal” in Washington, D.C. or series of regional tribunals around the country. We also call for Congressional hearings, phone zaps, filing of lawsuits, and other protest actions. But most importantly, we call for a coordinated campaign, and we must resolve to no longer submit to fear of the FCC. There is no other way than to take them on directly. The lawsuit by Free Radio Berkeley, as important as it is, alone will not solve our problems. Now the FCC has issued a “permanent” injunction against Stephen Dunifer, founder of FRB. The FCC proposes to ignore any of our rights in its repressive enforcement raids, so we must demand a moratorium on all FCC enforcement action until the new regulatory framework for LPFM stations is created or the matter is decided by a final order in court, and if they refuse, we must force them through our protests at their offices to do so.
We cannot be neutral or silent in this matter, they will not let us. They have already ordered uKIND radio to Washington, D.C. for McCarthyite-style hearings, they have recently “warned” Free Radio Gainesville of impending administrative action, and have done the same to several other stations, and if we don’t watch out the same will happen to many of us. Our homes will be seized by the government that we broadcast from as if they are criminal staging areas, we will then be hit with criminal indictments, and we will be jailed and/or fined. Let us make no mistake about this, our refusal to engage in militant protests will only embolden them. We must step up our opposition, or suffer the consequences!
Therefore, I call on this conference to make the first and main order of business here, not just a discussion of constitutional theory for the right to broadcast, but building a direct action protest campaign against the regulations and the police repression of the FCC. FREE SPEECH BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!!!
Here is what I suggest we do to ensure our right to broadcast and beat back the government:
1) Have a series of mass demonstrations in Berkeley and other cities while the hearings are going on in federal court based on based on the government’s lawsuit to close down Free Radio Berkeley. We need to mobilize all those interested in human rights, especially the right to broadcast freely, as well as all those who listen to these stations. We have got to make this into more of a mass, activist issue or we will be stamped out by the state.
2) Create a legal and educational defense fund to raise money to support any harassed broadcaster and the lawsuits by the FCC. This also includes defense against criminal charges brought by the government and police which grow out of their broadcasting.
3) Start a campaign to get human rights organizations in North America and other parts of the world to support the rights of BLRs and other microbroadcasters. The seizure of the children of an activist and police raids are routine states, now we need to expose it to our people when it happens in a “liberal democratic” state like America. If Amnesty International , the UN and other respected organizations object to the repression, which in violation of both U.S. and international law, this would be a powerful weapon to isolate the U.S. government and its FCC.
4) Popularize the issue so that the masses of our people will support the rights of broadcasters. We must get all the segments of our movement to support this issue, but more importantly we must get our individual communities to support this issue. The best way to do that is to start a station in your community or neighborhood – now!
5) Create an actual broadcast network of stations for shared programming, news, local experiences, legal defense, and other functions.
6) A key component of this entire proposal is that we must get the international radio support group AMARC to lead a worldwide campaign on behalf of the BLRs and the microbroadcasters generally. It is also important that we get all organizations interested in protecting the rights of broadcasters to denounce the repression of the Black Liberation Radio stations.
7) We must create Local Organizing Committees in every community served by free radio stations, which will mobilize listeners, advocates of free speech, and others interested in supporting our democratic rights. This means that you must talk to folks in your community about our free speech movement, and enlist them in this campaign. These LOC’s will engage in local, regional, and national planning and organizing activities at regional and field offices of the FCC, as well as at federal office buildings in our various communities. This body will be the backbone of all protest campaigns, and will in turn contact other stations and LOC’s on the regional basis, to plan for a national demonstration to be held in Washington, DC. One objective: try to sponsor at least one bus to the national demonstration at FCC and NAB from your community.
8) We must hold a Tribunal Against the Crimes of the FCC to be held in Washington, DC at the time of the national demonstration. This tribunal, which would be televised, which would expose the illegal campaign to use police force in order to stamp out the Free Radio movement. This Tribunal would allow broadcasters, who had been harassed and shut down, a place to give testimony as to the ruthlessness of the government.
9) We must hold a campaign to pressure the advertisers of the NAB-affiliated stations into dropping their support of the FCC witch hunt. We do this through letters, phone calls, demonstrations and product boycotts and other forms of protest. This is economic warfare, of a sort where the rich media companies, who have lived off illegal concentration of media resources, and the creation of unlawful trusts by the FCC for decades, will finally be challenged by the people themselves.
10) We must get national leaders of unions, churches, and other social institutions to support free radio and the free speech campaign.
11) We must get attorneys from every major civil rights, civil liberties and other democratic rights organizations to support free radio and its free speech campaign.
Lorenzo Komboa Ervin
Black Liberation Radio of Tennessee
88.5 FM
P. O. Box 5604
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37406