Anarchist of Love: The conviction of Andrew Holden

Imagine this: A self-proclaimed anarchist chains himself to an Omni Hotel elevator to protest the corporation's failure to pay its employees a "living wage." Police arrest him. A few months later, the same activist violates his suspended sentence by entering the Marriott, demanding to discuss workers' pay with the management. Sentenced to 60 days, he goes to prison, head held high.

Got the image? The guy's loud, right? In your face? Nothing like doe-eyed, soft-spoken Andrew Holden, who, in fact, did all of the above in his quiet determination to create a better world.

"We didn't yell, because we didn't want to scare anybody," Holden recalls of his 25 minutes chained at the Omni on July 13, 2002. "Actually, we rode up and down the elevators with people in these deluxe gowns and tuxes and chatted with them."

Holden, 24, grew up in Earlysville. His parents (Sue, an Albemarle High School special education teacher, and John, owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Sports) opened their children's eyes to political and environmental awareness. As children, Holden and his sister, Maggie, canoed Canadian wildernesses and witnessed the fate of the Cree Indians.

"I have always felt, at that impressionable age, they saw our life in Virginia was not what everyone else had," John says of his children.

"Andrew has always been unique. Though he used to be like any typical kid on the surface," Maggie remembers, "when he would wrestle me to the ground, he would ask questions about philosophers before he'd release me from a headlock."

Although Holden laughs about trying to start a labor union at Kroger during his first job at 16, he says his activism really began three years ago following a trip to Turkish and Moroccan sweatshops.

"When I got back, I was very angry. I went to [the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles] and protested," he says, "It was quite a way to enter it– it was basically four days of rioting."

Two years ago, Holden founded C.A.G.E.– Citizens Against Global Exploitation– and began pushing for people's rights to adequate pay. Of his recent stint behind bars, he says, "People make prisoners out to be violent raving lunatics, but what was surprising was I was meeting people I knew from Charlottesville, people I knew from growing up in Earlysville."

During his confinement (he was released after 14 days), he received support from his family and fellow inmates at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail.

"I mean, poor people go to jail, you know," he says, "and I was doing something to change that."

Convinced world strife originates in the abuse of power, Holden is currently organizing a peace rally for the day the U.S. invades Iraq (which at presstime appears to be the day this issue of The Hook hits the stands).

"I believe that authority prevents love," says Holden, calmly quoting Ralph Nader: "If you don't turn on to politics, politics will turn on you."