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Capitol Hill Flash Mob June 24, 2009

Posted by Morgan in Uncategorized.
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The crowded Longworth Cafeteria on the day of the Flash Mob.
For a video of the event see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yp7_Gn1w-E

A buzz accompanied the lunchtime rush at Longworth Cafeteria on Capitol Hill today as staffers and Reps looked at their watches and talked amongst themselves ready to witness an activist flash mob making a statement about the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Flash mobs are Internet organized convergences of people for a pre-organized purpose.

Over 30 young activists converged on the cafeteria, cleverly wearing the suit-and-tie disguise that is customary there, and doing nothing out of the ordinary until at precisely 12:15 pm they froze like statues. Where groups of ‘mobbers’ stood close together, frozen, reaching for ketchup, adjusting glasses, adjusting a hair clip, paused mid-stride etc, the effect was striking. At the end of two minutes of stillness one member of the ‘mob’ yelled out tick, tick, tick, a catch cry of Tck Tck Tck a global campaign for urgent climate action run by the Global Humanitarian Forum and supported by a broad coalition of climate groups.

Following this signal, the flash mob raised its voice in unison, crying out “The world can’t wait any longer. The ACES bill must be stronger. Solve climate change now.” Instantly the group dispersed distributing playing cards (all aces) throughout the cafeteria with the message “The world needs better. Make ACES stronger. Strengthen and pass HR2454.”

‘Mobbers’ heard about the event through an anonymous craigslist post, twitter messages and email forwards from the original acesflashmob@gmail.com. The up and coming Flash Mob got coverage on Grist.org and rumor spread through staffers and Representatives through a number of listserves and groups giving them the heads up.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I had to be here to find out. It was sent out to all these listserves and wasn’t sure if they were going to get arrested or something.” Said one anonymous staffer.

The initiator of the event is still unclear, althought the Avaaz action factory stepped up and organized over 100 ace cards and had about 15 people there.

Editorializing, this action really got me thinking about public space and what our power is to be disruptive. There’s a lot of assumptions we make about what we can’t do in places like that, and we need to think a lot more creatively about how to get our voice across without big bucks but with savvy organizing and twitter.

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