European police are attempting to halt the spread of a guerrilla shoplifting network,
seizing computer equipment connected to the cause.
Yomango calls on anti-consumerism activists
to "liberate" goods from stores in an effort to spread the ideals
of brand-free living.
The movement started in 2002 in Spain, where thrifty followers staged choreographed
shopping-mall stunts like looting
clothes from one store and returning them to another or wearing them back
for flash fashion shows.
carried out in the name of Yomango -- Spanish slang for "I steal"
-- are coordinated and celebrated online. Thanks to a website
that publishes accounts and videos of looting pranks, "franchises"
of the movement have recently sprung up in countries including Argentina, Chile,
Mexico and Germany,
prompting a new wave of show-thefts.
"Yomango is a brand name whose principal objective ... is not
the selling of things," according to the movement's manifesto,
"but the ... promoting of shoplifting as a form of disobedience
and direct action against multinational corporations. Buying is an action based
on obedience; (we are) taking to the extreme the free circulation of goods."
"Yomangtistas" also rage against consumer culture by
supermarket food for park picnics or riding
on public transport without paying.
Although some deride their
lofty philosophy as bourgeois (Yomango denounces brands but its own slogans
-- "your style: risky, innovative" -- carry the whiff of a perfume
ad), the wily social shoplifters have so far evaded close attention.
But law enforcers cracked down hard recently when German police targeted
a site they claim was being used by Yomango supporters to provoke mass looting.
In an Aug. 11 morning raid, officers searched a house occupied by the
owner of the website for Precarity
Camp, a weeklong, anti-capitalist rally at Luechow, near Hamburg.
According to a statement
later published on the site, police presented a court order for the search stating
"that, on the website, the term 'Yomango' ... is used and, in a preliminary
program for the camp presented
on this website, a Yomango action was mentioned."
The statement continued: "Some 30 cops were involved, searching
and filming the entire house for several hours. They consider the use of this
term criminal, which seems to be enough to seize the computer equipment of the
Manfred Warnecke, the public prosecutor involved with the case, said the equipment
was awaiting analysis but did not say whether arrests had yet been made.
"Among other things, two computers, one laptop, one data media device
and written documents were secured that will now have to be evaluated,"
he told Wired News. "I cannot say any more at this time (except that) forms
of Yomango action had not so far been known by law enforcement here."
Yomango's arrival in Germany may open a new front for what is largely a Latin
American movement -- the phenomenon has roots in Argentina, where some angered
by the 2001 collapse of the national economy began claiming goods without paying
after witnessing the apparent implosion of capitalist doctrines.
But the web could push the pilfering further afield, according to counterculture
commentator R.U. Sirius, author of Counterculture
Through the Ages.
"I think it's great, spirited, irreverent fun -- instead of rejecting
fashion, they are turning it into something rebellious and spontaneous,"
"Can I take it seriously as a strategy for changing the world? Not on
its own and not as a form of political organizing. But as an embodied expression
of the general spirit of open-source, file-sharing culture that could ultimately
overwhelm systems of ownership in the increasingly digitized economy, it works."
Representatives of Yomango franchises did not respond to requests for comment.