Not Your Grandfather’s Revolutionary

LA Weekly Magazine – September 5-11, 2003

John Picone, 37, grew up in Northridge when it was still ranchland. “I used to spend a lot of time lying in the grass, watching the snakes, hawks and bunny rabbits and climbing oak trees.” When he was in fifth grade, his sacred place became slated for tract homes and a revolutionary was spawned. Picone and his outraged friends “pulled surveyor stakes, and once the bulldozers showed up, poured sugar in their gas tanks,” he recalls with a smile.

Today, he is a professional environmental and human rights direct action activist. He has plied his trade for the Ruckus Society, Greenpeace, and the Burma Humanitarian Mission in the US, Canada, Brazil and Burma, where he also trains young activists to resist non-violently. “We spotlight a situation, where greedy corporations negatively impact the environment and erode individual freedoms, to raise awareness, and physically stop it from happening.” He’s helped prevent generals from selecting nuclear weapon prototypes by sealing off the El Toro Marine Base, blocked the construction of harmful incinerators in Native American communities in California, acted as a human shield to stop logging companies from ravaging pristine British Columbia wilderness, and climbed a dozen bridges, tankers and office buildings throughout the nation to hang banners highlighting oil companies’ anti-environmental conduct. A proud proponent of Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience tradition, he’s been arrested 10 times. After five confrontational years on the road, Picone lives in Venice and manages a subsidized activist house where social change advocates gather, live and work together a block from the beach. Asked about upcoming campaigns he says wryly, “Evicting Bush from the White House would be a great start.”