New market really, really free
Vic Anderson could have sold a washer and dryer he didn't need and made $100.
Instead of holding a garage sale, though, Anderson hauled it from his home in the north Athens Orange Twin community to a small park at the corner of Reese and Pope streets west of downtown and let someone take it for free.
"We could have sold it on Craigslist or someplace, but we decided just to give it away," he said.
For Anderson and dozens of others who participate in the monthly Really Really Free Market, building a community that doesn't revolve around soul-sucking financial transactions or top-down institutions is far more important than the pocket cash they might make selling too-small jeans and paperbacks they've already read.
"It keeps stuff out of landfills," said Ben Webster, a member of the group Autonomous Athens, which started the market. "It encourages different kinds of people to share. And it also encourages people to kind of challenge the dominant logic."
The Really Really Free Market is like a much bigger version of those "take a penny, leave a penny" cups at gas station cash registers. Participants haul goods they don't want to the park and lay them out on the grass for anyone to take. Food Not Bombs volunteers bring free vegetarian meals. Others play music, provide a service like cutting hair or washing bicycles, or give workshops on topics like freelance writing and edible indigenous plants.
What makes it different from a flea market or yard sale is that no money changes hands. There's not even any bartering. Anyone can take whatever they want, and give away anything they don't need.
"It's kind of a radical idea," Webster said. "No questions asked, just sharing."
Anti-globalization activists who protested the 2004 G8 summit at Sea Island, where leaders from eight nations negotiated free-trade pacts, organized the first "really really free markets" in Miami and Raleigh, N.C.
"Free markets have very little that's free about them," Webster said. "It was a play on that - let's take this free market and make it really, really free."
The year-old collective of about a half-dozen core members, described by one founder, Justin Manglitz, as "anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist," started the Athens Really Really Free Market in late April, after visiting one in North Carolina.
The date coincided with May Day, an international anarchist, communist and socialist holiday commemorating the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago. Eleven people were killed when thousands of workers agitated for an eight-hour workday and clashed with authorities. Eight anarchists were convicted of throwing a bomb at police, and four were hanged, though most historians believe they were innocent.
Since April, Autonomous Athens has put on the Really Really Free Market every fourth Sunday of the month, except in August, when it was canceled because of a heat wave. Members of the group put up fliers and send out e-mails to publicize it, and store leftover items in between markets, but otherwise don't control it, and are trying to turn it into a regular event that's not dependent on leaders.
"We're really hoping people will pick it up and start doing it without our having to facilitate it," Manglitz said.
The market isn't all about left-wing politics, though. Sunday, the park was filled with everyone from Hispanic families to teenagers wearing Ramones T-shirts to a group of black men who hang out at the park regularly.
Leanne Finnigan, a University of Georgia librarian who helped start the market, picked up some strings of lights and a food dehydrator. Neighborhood resident Reginald Sims stumbled onto the market on his way downtown and stopped to grab some clothes.
"They need more stuff like this for people, to help people out," Sims said. "I was glad to see it."