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Eddie Becker has never tried to peel off his career as a videographer from his radical left-wing politics. The longtime D.C. gadfly, who last year turned out Hillbillies Hate Nazis, a documentary about last year’s abortive neo-Nazi rally in Washington, initially hoisted a bulky first-generation Sony video-cam to shoot anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. To Becker, those early porta-cams were nothing less than tools of liberation. “You didn’t have to depend on the mainstream media anymore,” he recalls. “We were able to get out there for ourselves and find out what people were really saying.”
So when Becker recently hosted, in his living room, a crash course in guerrilla street-shooting—the idea was to organize an “independent media center” for last weekend’s World Bank protests, where independent video crews could upload their work directly to the Internet—it wasn’t surprising that the tech stuff soon gave way to more pressing practical concerns: Like, how do you shoot a bunch of anarchists getting hauled into police buses without getting busted yourself?
Certainly, the now-silver-haired Becker had inhaled more tear gas than anybody else in the room. American University film student Chris von Spiegelfeld confessed, “I really don’t know that much about the World Bank—just what they tell me at school.” Basically, he allowed, “I just want to get out and shoot some video.” Lucinda Vetti acknowledged a focus on career rather than social concerns: “I just passed the bar,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard my whole life.” But, she added, “I recently decided I would figure out what I really wanted to do. Actually, I’m really starting to believe in the idea of putting people over profits.”
A video hound’s main problem, Becker emphasized, isn’t getting arrested; it’s getting to the action in the first place. Sitting on the floor, he pulled from his worn camera bag a couple of plastic bags used to hold couplings and fire wire. He rolled them up and laid them on the carpet. “When the cops are getting ready to make arrests, they’ll usually try to isolate those people,” he said. “They’ll form a phalanx,” he said, running a finger along a bag, “and start telling people they can’t go past. But remember,” he added, “the cop who tells you you have to leave isn’t the cop who’s going to arrest you.” Becker said he usually eschews even wearing a press pass, because he thinks he gets better footage without one. And in 30 years of filming, he’s never been arrested.
On Monday, Vetti reported that Becker’s advice had been prescient. Her crew was on hand last Saturday at K and 20th Streets NW as police moved in and arrested hundreds. “And really quickly, they just closed the press out,” she said. “I thought, Why? I started shouting things that I was surprised to hear myself saying.” But how had her first shoot gone? “It was incredibly exciting,” she replied instantly. “It was wonderful.”—John DeVault