Tuesday, April 5, 2011

White Dope on Punk: Chapter 10. Dumb Do-Gooders

By Greg Kim

“What’s with all the graffiti in the hallway?” Luke asked, gesturing toward the front door that led out into the common hallway. It was early afternoon and none of us had been outside, so we were confused by the question.

Thinking he was referring to the existing graffiti that littered the walls, Joseph asked, “When was the last time you were over here? Graffiti’s everywhere.”

Luke shot back, “Yeah, I know, but somebody spray-painted “Rip Sneaks Meat” all over the place. It’s everywhere!”

We all hurried to the front door like children rushing to the playground at lunch. Luke was right; we had never seen this graffiti. It was new and covered the walls, top to bottom.

Rip was our upstairs neighbor and obviously somebody must have caught him eating meat or suspected that he was sneaking it. Besides our space, there were four other spaces that shared our warehouse and all of them were vegan like us. Rip was no different. We believed meat was murder and were ready to back up these words with action!

After checking out the new graffiti, we went back inside to talk anarchist business with Luke. Having worked at a printing company for years, he always helped us with our flyers and booklets for shows and our record label. We needed flyers for an action we were planning. Luke listened intently as we described our plan.

A few weeks before a friend told us that a local petting zoo in the park were keeping bunnies in cramped quarters, many bunnies to a cage. Joseph checked it out and it was true. We told him we were going to liberate the bunnies and needed him to mail a letter to the media explaining our actions and asked him to make a handful of flyers that we would leave at the petting zoo. Being a good soldier, Luke agreed. Before he left, we warned him about leaving fingerprints on the letter and flyers.

After Luke left, Joseph, Steve and I met to discuss the details. We decided on a date and loosely planned the details. We had done so many actions—though not to this degree—so we were a little cocky and flip. After hashing out many boring details, we came up with a plan: “Fuck it, we’ll just go up there and get the bunnies.” We never thought about what we would do with the bunnies, how we would get there and how we would break into the cages.

That week Joseph went to the Berkeley library. They had public typewriters, which could be used to type our letter of intent. It seemed like a good idea. We didn’t want to use our typewriter because if we got caught or were under suspicion, they could link us to the crime through a bad or missing key on the typewriter. I had just seen Jagged Edge, where Jeff Daniels was linked to the crime by his typewriter. Even with this handy information, I’m surprised we came up with it, as we weren’t the brightest guys.

The letter attempted to explain our position and justify our actions. Instead of staying on topic, focusing on animal rights issues, we included everything under the political sun, somehow tying in corporations and women’s issues (equating woman to animals through terminology) into this petting zoo. Of course, the grammar was poor and spelling atrocious. It was becoming our trademark.

After finishing the letter, careful not to expose its contents to wandering eyes, Joseph walked over to Luke’s work and gave him the letter and picked up the flyers he made. Both were careful to handle everything by the edge. Joseph asked him to wait until the day after the action to mail the letter, just in case we were caught. If we did get caught, he should destroy the letter. Tara, Joseph’s girlfriend, would act as the go-between, disseminating information about the action.

The next full moon, Joseph, Steve and I grabbed three pillowcases and the flyers, putting the latter in my frayed black satchel, and walked out the door, prepared to liberate some bunnies. We were dressed all in black. Steve was wearing a black beanie.

A few hours earlier, Frank, our other roommate, and I took the license plate off an abandoned car in our parking lot and put it on my Plymouth Champ and removed the lights illuminating the license. The new plate had no registration stickers, drawing more attention to our vehicle than the original plates. But we didn’t care. Putting on new plates added to the excitement of the action.

We parked the car in a residential area and walked into the park. The moon fully illuminated the concrete path. The air was brisk and fresh, slightly burning our lungs when going uphill. Joseph led the way, occasionally stopping to make an arbitrary decision of which way to go. We passed by a parking lot, over a small bridge and into a manicured clearing. “There it is,” Joseph announced, pointing to a cluster of barnlike buildings, slightly up the hill.

Having gotten his bearings straight, he was a man on mission, marching up the hill, knowing exactly where to go.

The bunnies were in three wooden elevated cages. A Master lock and thick chicken wire kept them from getting out. Joseph tugged on one of the locks to see if it was left open.

“Steve, do you have the crowbar?” Joseph asked. The barn obscured the moon, casting a dark shadow over the cages. We could not see or hear the bunnies, but we knew they were in there.

“I don’t have it, we must’ve left it in the care” Steve replied, a shadow of his face shaking side to side. Joseph didn’t ask me, he knew I didn’t have the crowbar.

All three of us silently turned around, walked back across the bridge, through the parking lot and up the tree lined street that led to the car. It was about a mile trek, the last half being up a steep grade.

Out of breath, sweating and cold, I opened the hatchback and rummaged around for the crowbar under the spare tire. Steve grabbed it and off we went down the hill.

As with all bigger actions, I was getting cold feet and hoping that I could somehow get out of it without losing face. It was peer pressure, just in a different light.

“This is stupid, let’s get out of here,” I complained. “Man, I don’t want to walk all the way down there and back again. We don’t even know if they’re bunnies in the cages.” Complaining was a good diversion. I wasn’t admitting that I didn’t want to do it nor was I saying I wasn’t committed, I was just complaining. And hoping they felt the same way.

Joseph tersely responded, “We’re here; let’s do it.” We followed our footsteps back to the bunny cages.

Steve pried the crowbar between the lock and the jam of the cage and gave it a good yank. The wood gave out a loud creak, the crowbar roughly breaking through the weathered wood. Steve tried again, prying the crowbar a little above the last tug, giving it four quick blows.

“Fuck, the crowbar bent.” He extended his hand toward our faces and showed us the crowbar, now in an L-shaped formation. He dropped it and used his hands to open the door of the disabled cage. The door swung open. I was waiting behind him with a pillow case. He moved out of the way and I attacked the cage, pillow first, sweeping the inside for soft fur. I cornered one and awkwardly pulled the pillow case over his head, while using my left hand to push him father down the pillow case. Once in, I quickly pulled up on the case and he tumbled to the bottom of the pillow case, looking like a hobo bag. I jumped back and Joseph gave it a try. As I moved back, two bunnies jumped out of the cage and disappeared into the darkness. They were just darting shadows but by their movements it was obvious they were bunnies.

“Fuck, what was that?” Steve cried while spray-painting “ALF” on the adjoining barn. He saw small shadows moving quickly past him.

“Two of the bunnies got out.” I responded. Joseph was trying to corral the fourth and final bunny.

With no crowbar to break into the remaining two pens and two bunnies loose in the woods, we took the two bunnies in the pillowcases and called it a night. I took out the flyers in my bag and threw them high into the air, littering the grounds of the petting zoo as we quickly left.

When we reached the parking lot, we stopped under a faint parking lamp and looked at the bunnies. They were petrified, making some sort of bunny scream and thrashing about. I had volunteered at the San Francisco Zoo and was a bit afraid of bunnies. They always charged me when I fed them and went out of their way to bite me anytime I tried to pet them. This time was no different. I knew that any act of kindness, a gentle pet, would result in a nasty bite. Fuck these ungrateful bunnies, I thought. This is what we get for liberating you?

We trudged on, dreading the long ascent back to the car.

Maybe it was climbing the hill for a second time, or maybe the damn heavy-ass bunny I was carrying—squirming and squealing—was getting on my nerves, but I had to say something.

“Jesus, what are we going to do with these bunnies?” I was out of breath, cold sweating and the allure of liberating animals was long gone. In our initial meetings to discuss the action, we forgot to talk about what we were going to do with the bunnies. You would have figured that this would have been one of the larger topics of conversation. That, and bringing a real crowbar to break into the cages.

Steve stopped, looking up at the sky, breathing heavily. Joseph walked a few more paces, stopped and put his hands on his knees. He gently placed the pillow case on the road, keeping a tight grip on the opening. The bunny adjusted, happy to be on familiar ground. We grew quiet as all of our energy was focused on getting up the hill and back to the car.

“Maybe we should let them go? What the fuck are we gonna do with them?” I blurted. In any other circumstance, we would have all at least feigned disgust at letting them go and objected; however, it was late, we were tired and, most of all, the bunnies were heavy and we didn’t want to carry them the rest of the way up the hill.

I walked over to where the woods met the road and laid down the pillowcase, the opening extending toward the woods. The bunny didn’t move so I grabbed the pillowcase from the opposite of the opening and gently pulled up. The bunny spilled out and ran off. Joseph did the same with his bunny.

We walked up the hill in silence, the sounds of our labored breath penetrating the cold night. When we reached the car, Steve said, “Better free than in a cage.” We accepted this, but when retelling the story, none of us mentioned what we did with the bunnies.

Every day after the action, we scoured the local newspaper for a mention of the liberation. Three days later, a small blurb appeared on page 6 entitled: “Dumb Do-Gooders Free Rabbits.” The article said that money had been allocated to build new cages, but because of the vandalism, the project was on hold. It also said that two bunnies were found huddled near their destroyed cage. There was no mention of the other two bunnies.

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