On July 31, the Stone Soup Collective closed its doors.
Hammered in June by Orlando's code enforcers, the collective was no longer allowed to host the music shows that paid its bills. Quickly, members came by to collect the 2,000 books in the collective's leftist library.
Just after Sept. 11, the gathering place seemed destined to anchor the region's growing activist community. Groups such as the Green Party and anti-war activists held weekly meetings, and the Stone Soup's South Orange Avenue digs were the springboard for downtown peace demonstrations.
By spring, however, the collective was dying. Stone Soup's financial problems led them to bring in more music to pay the bills. But the punk and hardcore shows also brought in a younger, more raucous crowd than the politically minded collective was used to. Some activists stopped coming. One longtime member, Ben Markeson, was booted in April.
"They took an info-shop and turned it into a show space," Markeson complains. And in doing so, he says, Stone Soup brought in a breed of "white, middle-class kids" whose notions of anarchy were more destructive than Stone Soup had in mind. "That's one of the lessons to be learned," says Markeson. "`Local` activism is now in the doldrums."
And so, armed with the 14 boxes of books he's stored at his mother's house, Markeson is trying to find a new venue where activists can gather. "When we start another community space, we won't have to start from square one."