The return of Idle No More ‘flash mobs’… to the shopping malls

INM anniversary rally in Lethbridge, Alberta, Dec 21, 2013.

INM anniversary rally in Lethbridge, Alberta, Dec 21, 2013.

by Warrior Publications, Dec 26, 2013

Over the past week, more Idle No More ‘flashmob round dances’ have occurred in various shopping malls across Canada, including Winnipeg, Toronto, Lethbridge, and Vancouver.  Once again, hundreds of Natives as well as non-Natives have rallied, drummed and sang songs inside malls.  These have been part of the one year anniversary celebrations of Idle No More.

But the question has to be asked: What exactly are they celebrating?  A year after the mobilization of thousands of Natives, Idle No More has floundered with no substantial actions despite the efforts of more experienced organizers allying themselves with the movement (such as Defenders of the Land).

As detailed in an earlier report, the #Sovereignty Summer campaign was largely a bust with very little participation from INM grassroots people.  Even at the height of the Mi’kmaq anti-fracking resistance in New Brunswick, INM was largely idle.  This despite the fact that the Mi’kmaq were protecting their land and water, one of the main goals promoted by INM.  If the INM grassroots had mobilized in solidarity with the Mi’maq, it is quite likely that some of the repressive actions carried out by the RCMP could have been minimized (as occurred during Oka 1990).

INM anniversary rally in Winnipeg, Dec 21, 2013; solidarity rallies with the Mi'kmaq saw a fraction of this number in the streets.

INM anniversary rally in Winnipeg, Dec 21, 2013; solidarity rallies with the Mi’kmaq saw a fraction of this number in the streets.

But now, to mark their one year anniversary, hundreds have again flocked to the shopping malls in a self-congratulatory spectacle to affirm that they’re “still here.”  But what has INM accomplished?  The fact that it succeeded in mobilizing thousands of Natives last year was an important step, but what is the continuing appeal of the ‘flashmob round dances’ considering that this is about all the movement is capable of?

First, I think they’re relatively safe and non-threatening, for both the participants and for the shopping malls.  Last year, the West Edmonton Mall negotiated with INM organizers and opened the mall up to a grand entry procession followed by drumming and singing.  Aside from a few incidents of over-zealous security guards, and in a couple of instances police over-reaction, the round dances have seen virtually no repression.

Ian Campbell (on right) a Squamish chief, leading the singing as part of INM flash mob in Vancouver, 2012; Campbell also sang and danced for the 2010 Winter Olympics which was resisted by grassroots Natives.

Ian Campbell (on right) a Squamish chief, leading the singing as part of INM flash mob in Vancouver, 2012; Campbell also sang and danced for the 2010 Winter Olympics which was resisted by grassroots Natives.

Secondly, many of those orchestrating these shopping mall flash mobs are those already engaged in some kind of public performances, either as cultural performers (such as drum groups) or politicians (such as band councilors).  For them, Idle No More presents a safe stage from which to perform (and in some cases co-opt the movement in passive singing and dancing).

Rhiannon Bennet, from the Musqueam nation, leading the INM rally at Metrotown Mall near Vancouver, Dec 2013. Bennet previously denounced masked warriors at a Mi'kmaq solidarity rally in Vancouver on Dec 2, 2013.

Rhiannon Bennett, from the Musqueam nation, leading the INM rally at Metrotown Mall near Vancouver, Dec 2013. Bennett previously denounced masked warriors at a Mi’kmaq solidarity rally in Vancouver on Dec 2, 2013.

This might come as a surprise to those die-hard INM organizers and participants who portray themselves as an “Indigenous revolution,”  but the fact is they’re not doing anything with these shopping mall excursions other than adding a Native-themed song track to the shopping experience of consumers.  Many of the INM participants themselves go shopping after their “revolutionary” round dances, so of course some businesses don’t mind at all if a mob of Natives comes to the mall, sing and dance, and then add to their daily profits.Idle No More mall of america sign

Not so with the Mall of America, one of the largest shopping malls in the USA and located near Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This year, the mall’s management mailed warning letters to Natives they identified as organizers of a proposed New Year’s Eve ‘flashmob’ at the mall.  The letter states that if a round dance is attempted, the mall will take action to stop it.

The response from at least one INM organizer paints a rather sad picture of what INM and its shopping mall dances are about:

“Idle No More Duluth organizer Reyna Crow was one of several people who received the letter on Christmas Eve. “The characterization of the Round Dance as a protest is not only incorrect, it is insulting”, says Crow, “If the Idle No More flash mob Round Dance that was held there last year is a `protest’, so are the Christmas carols and the other flash mob events that have been held there”.

Flash mob from August 2010 dancing to Elvis Presley's "Jail House Rock."

Flash mob from August 2010 dancing to Elvis Presley’s “Jail House Rock.”

According to Crow, then, INM ‘flashmob round dances’ are no different than Christmas carolers and previous flash mobs at the mall, including one that involved hundreds of people dancing to Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” song.

In addition, the ‘flashmob’ tactic was co-opted by corporate shopping malls several years ago.  There are even professional organizations that conduct ‘flashmobs’ and who partner with shopping malls and other corporations to carry them out, such as Flash Mob America.

In Orlando, Florida, flash mobs in shopping malls were orchestrated and coordinated with the mall and the tourism industry, according one blogger at Adventures with Ben.com blog site:

“I had the chance to speak with the organizer of the event, County Commissioner Linda Stewart before the dancing began. The Orlando Flash Mob was born out of a way to increase tourism to the region in order to increase funding to the arts.”

Image from the Dec 27, 2011, flashmob "riot" at Mall of America.

Image from the Dec 27, 2011, flashmob “riot” at Mall of America.

But why is the Mall of America being such hard-asses about a non-threatening Idle No More ‘flash mob’?  Probably because previous flash mobs at the mall, and across the USA, have erupted into riots and looting.  According to one report from PowerLineblog.com describing a December 27, 2011 flash mob at the Mall of America,

“Several witnesses said the melee had elements of a “smash and grab” flash mob… They said those creating the disturbance numbered in the hundreds and some knocked down shoppers and grabbed items from kiosks and shoppers. …”

The Mall of America incident is just one of many that show the potentially disruptive aspect of flashmobbing.

In August 2011, the city government of Philadelphia imposed curfews in parts of the city to counter small-scale flash mob “riots.”  Youths under 18 were barred from the downtown core on Friday and Saturday nights after 9PM.Idle No More flash mob attack

In March 2013, some 500 youths rampaged through downtown Chicago as part of a flash mob, only the most recent in a series of such incidents over the last few years in that city.

To be clear, I am not promoting the idea that INM flash mobs turn to rioting and looting in the shopping malls.  In fact, I would recommend they get out of the malls altogether, and if they insist on continuing with this tactic at least alter it to some form of direct action that has substance, perhaps a flash mob blockade of some destructive industry, for example.

But this is unlikely to occur since the modus operandi of the INM grassroots has been firmly established: “peaceful” rallies that do little more than sing and dance.  In addition, the way these flash mob round dances are carried out does little to actually organize the grassroots; a few people with Facebook and Twitter accounts call for a rally, people gather and drum, and then disperse.

I will leave the final word on this ‘flash mob’ business to Wikipedia:

“A flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.  Flash mobs are organized via telecommunications, social media, or viral emails.”

Mall Of America Threatens Arrest Of Idle No More

By Reyna Crow, www.idlenomore.ca, December 25th, 2013

Duluth, MN: Various organizers identified by the `Mall of America’ management team as being connected with the `Idle No More’ movement have received letters from the mall indicating the mall “…will utilize additional actions… including trespassing the organizers of the protest” (emphasis added) should a flash mob Round Dance recur there on New Year’s Eve this year.

Idle No More Duluth organizer Reyna Crow was one of several people who received the letter on Christmas Eve. “The characterization of the Round Dance as a protest is not only incorrect, it is insulting”, says Crow, “If the Idle No More flash mob Round Dance that was held there last year is a `protest’, so are the Christmas carols and the other flash mob events that have been held there”.

Crow is inviting a representative of the `Mall of America’ management to join her and Patricia Shepard, who also received the letter, at a news conference at the Mall of America on December 31st at 3:00 pm. Crow plans to use the designated `free speech zone’ there to discuss her concerns that the apparent singling out of organizers associated with Indigenous people and issues for threats of arrest and/or other intimidation over flash mobs events at the mall.

According to Shepard “During the 1837 treaty signing, which include the lands where the MOA is located, the Ojibwe received $24,000 in cash, goods and services, retaining rights to use the land for hunting, fishing and other purposes. Other purposes means to gather at any location, whether that location be private or public. The MOA location is within those treaty territories outlined in the 1837 Treaty. The MOA is in violation of the 1837 Treaty obligations to the Dakota and Ojibwe by threatening to trespass us on our ceded territories. We have a right to gather anywhere within those territories which was agreed upon by the US Government “. (http://treatiesmatter.org/treaties/land/1837-ojibwe-dakota)

Who: Reyna Crow, Patricia Shepard, Mall of American management invited and urged to attend

When: Dec 31, 2013 3:00 pm

Where: Mall of America

What: News Conference and Rally

Why: To respond publicly to Mall of America’s threats to arrest Idle No More organizers, and the unequal treatment of Indigenous organizers in ceded territory.

http://www.popularresistance.org/mall-of-america-threatens-arrest-of-idle-no-more/

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Posted on December 26, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I would love to criticize INM, but you do it so much better.

  2. Seriously, going to a mall to sing, dance & self exploit yourself and your culture for attention & so you can gawked at by braindead settler consumers while they shop is definitely NOT something to be proud of. And then these natives actually disperse by turning around and shopping at the mall! Supporting the same stores that use slave/child labour, destroy natural environments to make useless shit we dont need, operate & steal life in its many forms from our territories, corporations that assassinate union leaders in their third world country sweat shops, or took/take part in the genocide of natives on this continent and represent exactly the apathetic, materialistic, corporate, consumer culture that is raping and pillaging the planet, and OUR TERRITORIES!
    Its sad and pathetic that these people claim to be a movement, grassroots or radical in any way, as they lack community oriented goals, analysis and self/group discipline. They do not come out to local grassroots or community events, rallies, fundraisers, protests, gatherings etc. They just show up to their own dance parties & spend lots of their money in the mall (why would malls have a problem with them?). What good are they to the grassroots struggling on the front lines of their various causes? What good are they to our mother, the earth, if they legitimize, participate & publicly support resource pillaging malls instead of boycotting such places & consumerist behavoir themselves? If there was any actual work, risk or sacrifice involved in INM Events the whole illusion of their movement would have fell apart a long time ago.

  3. all native americans are trying to do is stand up for one another for our culture. .maybe we do round dances at malls to show were still here, were standing up for our rights, rights we were cheated of. if we didnt do it in another public place nobody else would notice or come to the event. yeah we may be trying to get attention but we deserve the right to do so just as much as anyone else. all it is singing and dancing, thats spritual so no threat or harm is going to occur unless someone disrespects us. during these events all native americans know better than to cause any violence or be disrespectful.

  4. I’ve cast several glances at idle no more in the last year, since the idle decided to stop being idle and do something, and I got to admit after reading their words, I haven’t got a clue about what their deal is.

    On June 17th, their post ‘waking our warriors-in support of idle no more’ came with a request that it be read fully to understand what the upcoming, December 31st event was all about. So I read it, several times and beyond finding it to be extremely sexist, vaguely written, grossly lacking empathy or any actual awareness of how the occupation, violence, racism and genocide is permanently damaging and destroying people, the Mother and all life upon her. Glib words like theirs that suggest men are being remiss in their duties to them, and the Mother by not dancing around a shopping centre with them are quite likely to serve to be demoralizing rather than supportive to many of the men they seek to attract. ‘Assimilating and Applying Christian Colonial Sexism into Native Cultures by Admonishing Native Males without any Comprehension or Concern of how life long Systematic Racism, Societal Racism and the never ending stream of Misdirected Pointless Violence, Genocide and repeated unjust Incarceration into colonial Prisons effects people for Self-Serving Shallow Reasons’, would have been a better title.

    Despite reading it several times I still don’t have a clue as to what and why they have written this or have requested men only venture out to various yet undisclosed locations in all Canadian cities at midnight on that night. This I do not recommend doing, kind of comes across as a tad creepy and somewhat sinister, but I doubt their motives are sinister, as to what they are I can only guess. Dance partners needed for the big New Years Cross Canada Idle No More Mixer’s likely modelled after the fund raising one they are planning in Niagra that evening. First you get yourself all pretty and looking good in the sweat shopped produced Mall crap you picked up at the last idle no more, then for the low price of only forty dollars per head they promise that you will experience an unforgettable New Years Eve Celebration. Sounds like they intend to start off the evening with a little bubbly, snacks, live traditional Roma Canadian Funk, Soul, Jazz, R&B Gypsy Music, followed by some trite chatting, light objectification and flirting.

    I wish they would do that, participate in colonial culturally appropriate activities in those Malls rather than singing Warrior Songs. I have seen them singing on you tube in those Malls, both the Men’s and Woman’s Warrior songs are being sung. Huh, what is that? A Women’s Warrior Song! Wow, I wonder if the ‘ladies of IDNM’ ever asked themselves what that is all about, a woman’s warrior song? Could there have been perchance Women Warriors? Could there be anything behind the song that has been composed in honour of Women who were also Warriors? That perhaps they may just consider that the onus is not only on males ‘to care for, protect, do anything to help their people survive, including laying down their own lives!’ But then again these ‘ladies’ have been leading their peaceful revolution, in sterile, lifeless, controlled climate consumer orgy centres which makes you wonder kind of, how is it possible to connect to the Mother and other life if you insist on remaining contained within artificially controlled spaces surrounded by consumer items. Now if they dared to step beyond the air locks of those places onto the Mother, because that is her, even in the cities, the trees, insects, animals, birds, fish are all there too, just surrounded by more crap and poison in those places than others, that would be a small step towards where we need them to truly stop being idle anymore. Of course there is risk involved in going out of your climate controlled consumer pleasure palace, could be raining and that would mess up ones hair, or bird could shit on you, or you might soil your shoes. And then what? After taking that step and shooting off their mouths about being protectors of the land they may have to actually keep walking to where they are needed, on the front lines of their own territories with the rest of us. Outside of the Malls they would have to brave and endure rain, snow, cold weather, bird plop, mud, dirt, pepper spray, rubber bullets and possible arrest and incarceration, plus you may have to endure the accompanying abuse by colonial police terrorists. No resource theft or extraction takes place inside a mall, they already stole what was there, and it is warmest, driest, safest and most convenient location to engage in little less than nothing by singing to the warrior ancestors to inform them that soon shopping will be occurring and they should be on hand just in case you know someone else gets their hands on that special coveted item at which point things could turn ugly.

    What I was taught about warrior songs is that they are to be sung by people of both sexes to both their male and female warrior ancestors to summon their spiritual support and strength when we need it, when we are making ready to stand up for our territories, people, and very existence. Considering the full picture of crimes being perpetuated against us and the Mother we are not suffering from a shortage of reasons to sing them and take a stand, just not many of us actually doing that, most are in the Malls playing at it. War songs are for warriors, they are not shopping songs, not cute little ditties to entertain settlers with and prove we are being good little Indians with, using them like that dishonours the ancestors and the rest of us.

  5. I am so sick of hearing about rights. If INM was a responsibilities based movement then it would have a completely different character to it. If it was community oriented, then maybe it would you know, have something to offer communities. In theory, INM is good for giving marginalized voices, such as poor Indians that are locked out of the band system, a voice. However, the rallies are often organized by university educated middle-class Indians. They often speak as though they are the authentic voice of elders and women. Funny how the voice of Elders and Women fit within their own privileged worldview of how the world should work. Most elders I know do not want or seek the Canadian publics, corporations, or the states approval on conducting their lives. Yet, the INM people always talk about elders as though all Elders want is to get along with the state and the Canadian public at any cost. Bullshit. My elders have been explicit in their desires for us to be powerful people that do not have to live under the government anymore. They have been critical of the police. Of the government. Of greedy corporations. Of towns that make so much money off of stolen land but do not give us anything in return. Of Christianity. Of white people. Yet, INM silences these voices in the name of getting the settlers on the side of Indians. Or as they put it – promoting so-called positive energy over negative energy. Jojamma.

    • I hear you!

      I often say to young people what will it take to make you understand? Do you really need to go out and suffer the horrors we have to comprehend what it is actually all about? Do you really want to be a genocide survivor, or not, most of us did not survive and will not survive, if this illegal occupation and genocide is promoted as a good thing or the only option and allowed to continue. And if something like what has happened to us happens to you, which even if it hasn’t yet, it could and you survive to you want to know how long, ugly and difficult the road back is, or isn’t because no one really fully recovers.

      We speak and we share with them so they will understand and we fight because we do not want anyone else to be put into the positions and suffer the injustices and vile, violent cruelty we have had to endure, that other life has and is suffering as well as the Mother who without we would not exist.

      The fact that so many ran to these shopping events in full support of Canada’s right to illegally occupy and dictate to us on our own lands who we are and how we have to live and accept the fact that we have no governments or any collective voice as a given and acceptable reality. It indicates to me that they are lazy and spoiled people who take the easy route, my race is all I need to be an indigenous person, I’ve heard it before, and call it what it is pure bull shit. Race has nothing to do with anything in traditional culture, racism is a colonial phenomenon and the foundation of Canada, the fact that they and I share similar racial backgrounds and beyond that I have nothing in common with these people. Another fact that has not been shared by these organizations or Canadian media is the growing numbers of settler supporters who have gone to the extent of educating themselves as to the sick reality they were born into, and that do not want this to continue. These people unlike many of our youth, are far more respectful and helpful, they are ashamed, they ask permission, they are supportive and they are willing to take a stand. It is not their fault they were born into the families and situations they were, they want to be decent settlers on our lands, not canadian colonialists, that is a very positive thing.

  6. Im sure the violence and disrespect the earth ,animals and ancestors have endured for centuries appreciate your dance and songs but deserve so much more. Well submit to the violence and disrespect and sing and dance your hearts out . Victims being victims in Mall heaven,what a delight.

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