Skip to content

Celebrate the Ten-Year Anniversary of the Carrboro Really Really Free Market!

July 7, 2014


freemarketbetterCelebrate the Ten-Year Anniversary of the Carrboro Really Really Free Market!

Save the date: 2 pm, Saturday, October 4, 2014

Carrboro Town Commons in Carrboro, North Carolina

A wild party! The Carrboro Really Really Free Market is celebrating its ten-year anniversary with a massive festival! You’re invited for a whole weekend of really really free activities. We’re hoping comrades from around the world will join us in making this something to remember!

A clash of utopias! Come demonstrate the life you would prefer to capitalism. Set up a booth, offer a workshop, put on a performance, screen a film, carry out some dramatic action, obtain and distribute some resource no one could imagine being free. We want to see a wide range of utopian visions and ungovernable desires manifested. Rather than simply opposing what exists, reactively, we dare you to demonstrate that your alternative to competition and obedience is more nourishing, more exciting, and more fulfilling than anything the market can offer.

What Is the Really Really Free Market?

The Carrboro Really Really Free Market is one of the only truly diverse and inclusive spaces in the Triangle area. It offers a venue in which people interact without any of the artificial barriers imposed by class. Every month, hundreds of people from all walks of life come together to share things, meet their needs, and experience a taste of what our lives might be like outside capitalism.

Over the past decade, the Carrboro Really Really Free Market has collaborated with the Recyclery to distribute bicycles to children, worked with Paper Hand Puppet Intervention to hold a massive regional puppetry convergence, and hosted hundreds in a night-long convergence and film screening during the immigration reform protests of May Day 2006. The Sacrificial Poets, the Mysterious Rabbit Puppet Army, and countless other performers have graced the Really Really Free Market with their creativity.

Families freshly arrived from places as distant as Nepal have furnished their homes with goods from the Really Really Free Market. Young attendees have regularly smashed piñatas representing ballot boxes, prisons, and other symbols of state power. One participant distributed thousands of seeds smuggled out of an expensive organic seed distribution company. This past spring, participants catered a sit-down restaurant setting complete with waiters and a menu. All this, plus a cornucopia of groceries, sweets, clothing, jewelry, toys, furniture, books, zines, and more.

A Combative Tradition

The Really Really Free Market model has its roots in the movement against neoliberal “free trade” at the turn of the century. The first Really Really Free Market took place in Miami at the demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial in November 2003. That summit is chiefly remembered for the violence thousands of militarized riot police indiscriminately inflicted on everyone who was on the streets, resulting in hundreds of arrests and permanent injuries to some protesters.

On June 10, 2004, on the final day of the G8 summit in Georgia, anonymous activists in North Carolina blockaded Research Triangle Park with steel cables, smoke bombs, and banners decrying the G8 and capitalism. This interrupted business for Lockheed Martin, Syngenta, Dyncorp, Dupont, GlaxoSmithKline, and many other corporations, causing a massive traffic jam in the center of the state. Two days later, on June 12, the world’s second Really Really Free Market took place in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fearing further protest activity, the panicked police shut down downtown Raleigh ahead of the event. That night, the news showed hundreds of people joyously dancing, eating, and exchanging gifts while police helicopters circled overhead and a hundred riot police sweated miserably in their Robocop costumes.

The Carrboro Really Really Free Market began a few months later, in October 2004. Since then, they’ve spread around the state, the country, and the world. There have been regular Really Really Free Markets in Durham, Raleigh, Greenville, Greensboro, Charlotte, Wilmington, and Asheville, not to mention dozens of other cities around the US. The model has been replicated as far away as South Africa, Bulgaria, Malaysia, New Zealand, and at least fifteen cities in Russia.

The Carrboro Really Really Free Markets developed a controversial reputation early on, when word spread during a local election that people were painting over politicians’ yard signs with announcements of the upcoming Really Really Free Markets. A struggle with the Recreation and Parks Department ensued. At the time, community use of the ironically-named “Town Commons” was prohibited unless one paid a hefty fee to reserve the space; Really Really Free Market organizers refused to do this. After a showdown with the local government in which police unsuccessfully endeavored to intimidate participants, the ordinance was changed to make the space free for nonprofit events, to the benefit of the community at large.

Next, the local government attempted to crack down around the issue of insurance, announcing that people were prohibited from sharing food on the Town Commons unless organizers bought hundreds of dollars of insurance. Once again, hundreds of people continued to gather and share food, despite the mayor, several aldermen, and half the Carrboro Police Department showing up to one Really Really Free Market to personally threaten some participants. In the end, an “anonymous donor” appeared, paying the insurance to avoid a confrontation that would likely have been humiliating for the liberal authorities.

All of these conflicts were over by 2008, and the Really Really Free Market came to be widely accepted as a regular aspect of life in Carrboro. Despite this, it has always been true to its combative origins. In December 2011, it served as the departure point for an unpermitted march of a hundred people in support of the Human Rights Center, a local organization supporting immigrants which was being forced out of its space by racist property managers. In February 2012, another march departed from the Really Really Free Market to occupy a nearby building slated to be replaced with an unsightly and unnecessary CVS outlet. The development was subsequently canceled; the building remains empty, a testament to the strength of local grassroots opposition to capitalist development.

In short, Carrboro’s Really Really Free Market has been that rare thing, a project that combines both confrontation and infrastructure, that serves the needs of both struggle and survival. It involves self-identified anarchists without being dominated by their subculture, and draws participants of countless other persuasions without losing its edge. It has been a space in which to maintain local ties, and a foundation from which to launch further assaults on the powers that be. Through several successive political eras, it has enabled new generations of dissidents to coalesce locally, while serving as a beacon inspiring others worldwide.

This is what we are inviting you to join us in celebrating and pushing forward. See you in October!
Because there is enough for everyone

Because sharing is more fulfilling than owning

Because capitalists would rather see landfills overflow than anyone get anything for free

Because scarcity is a myth constructed to keep us at the mercy of the economy

Because a sunny day outside is better than anything money can buy

Because free trade is a contradiction of terms

Because no one should have to do without food, shelter, and togetherness

Because life should be a picnic, but it only will be if we ABOLISH CAPITALISM


Send ideas, treasure maps, etc. to:


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: