A Reflection on "the Left" and my Arrest
by Joaquin Cienfuegos
I wanted to write this piece to update people on my arrest for the felony "Unlawful Possession of an Assault Riffle" case and to share with people my position on the entire matter. I wanted to send this out sooner but people would like to use this position paper against me, but I feel like the reflection is necessary regardless. I also want to take some time to reflect on other things that I've been thinking about regarding the movement as a whole.
I am currently completing 200 hours of community service and one year summary probation (if I complete my community service within one year, otherwise I will do two years summary probation). Part of the deal they gave me was that they kept my legally purchased semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle, and destroy it. They also dropped my felony charge to a misdemeanor: possession of a loaded weapon. I took this deal due to the fact that there was a chance if I lost this case I would do 19 months to 3 years in a state penitentiary. Even though my position has always been that we need to organize where we are at, from the street block to the cell block, I have too many responsibilities in my community, including my priority at this point which is my family responsibilities. Therefore I rather not risk being captured by the state and go behind enemy lines in their prisons. I took this deal and I am continuing to organize with the Revolutionary Autonomous Communities and Cop Watch Los Angeles - Guerrilla Chapter.
I should also start by thanking everyone who supported me in this legal battle, those who helped bail me out, and those who helped raise the money to pay the folks back that lent us money to bail me out. We were able to raise 2,000 dollars, thanks to individual donations from people, events at universities (like Cal State Northridge and Cal State Humboldt). We also thought that we would have to raise most of the money a the 1st Annual Los Angeles Anarchist Bookfair, but thankfully the funds were raised before then. The money raised at the bookfair went to the Southern California Library, the Bookfair Collective (for next year's bookfair), Anarchist People Of Color in L.A., and to start a defense fund. Currently I'm still paying off my lawyer, and hoping we can continue to build on a defense strategy and fund, because we understand this is the nature of the state, and until we get rid of it, those with institutional power will continue to repress the movement. The majority of the support I received came from anarchists internationally, and that I am grateful for. Thank you for the world of support comrades. People of color in the U.S. as well gave a great deal of love, during the time of my arrest and legal battle.
I think that my arrest raised a lot of important questions, and it seemed like the dividing line for some activists was the fact that I had a gun. The question was why did I have a loaded semi-automatic weapon on me. A lot of liberals did not support me because of this reason, but personally my life is more precious than the support of liberals and gun-control leftists. The facts were that the police stopped me because they profiled me, it is legal to carry a weapon in the trunk of your vehicle, I just happened to have it loaded. This is probably the only thing I would have changed, I would have kept the ammunition separate from the rifle. The police searched my car illegally, and try to put a felony charge on me (by saying that this rifle is illegal in California, even though it was legally purchased at a Outdoors' store). They couldn't pin this on me so they dropped it to a misdemeanor, "possession of a loaded weapon." During the investigation they brought a weapons expert who had only looked at pictures and claimed it was an assault rifle and they tried to find out if I had links to any gangs in Los Angeles.
This really made me reflect on many things. I don't think it matters if you say you're a leftist, progressive, or whatever, if you intend to side with the state and do the job of the police. When there are people who are coming under attack, not just me, but all the other political prisoners who have done years and decades, and you have these activists siding with the state on whether they might have done something wrong. First of all, this is a settler-colonialist system, and doesn't have the authority to try us because this system is not legitimate in my opinion. When in Los Angeles last year the law enforcement agencies killed over 40 people, we have to begin to realize that they have waged war on indigenous, people of color/colonized people, and this genocidal war has been going on for 500 years really. So when the police have the right to murder any of us and get away with it, how is it wrong for anyone to carry a registered weapon? So it doesn't matter if anyone is from the left or from the right, what matters is who gets in the way of the oppressed when fighting for a better world, and in the way of the people taking their lives and communities back. There are many people who are doing the work of the police, snitching, informing, and straight just being busters by siding with the enemies of the people, who rather commit acts of violence against the people than defend them. That is what is now called horizontal violence, and this is something we have to deal with as well.
People should arm themselves legally, politically, and with an understanding that we are trying not to create a culture of the gun, but this is only one tactic in self-defense of our people and our community. Unfortunately, it is a necessary element in the survival of our communities and peoples at this point. I have to agree with Franz Fanon, "Violence, is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect." Again, to me it self-defense is a necessary tactic in safe guarding our communities and our people from the state. When a community is building anything that poses a real threat to the state and the system, they will try to destroy it. So the communes will need to set up people's militias and other mechanisms to protect itself from the fascists (learning from the Spanish Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and even just from our own experiences with the Counter Intelligence Program and the Patriot Act).
Also to speak to the fact that maybe we do pose a threat, not only to the state but to some organizations who are in bed with the state. This has become clear to me, on several occassions, which includes May Day 2007. Where some of those organizations came out and blamed Cop Watch L.A., the youth and anarchists, for the police repression, similar to the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886 (the first May Day, where eight anarchist organizers were blamed for police murder and repression). These organizations (mainstream non-profits and non-governmental organizations), play the role of house-slaves in the movement today. Their organizing is done in a way that is suitable for the state and poses no threat to the oppressive system as a whole. To keep their position and be in good with their masters, these organizations side with the state in isolating the more radical youth, anarchists, and "problem activists." To keep their status as a large non-profits with good funding, they work with the state in keeping tabs on thes radical youth organizations. They speak of immigration reform that leaves out these same youth who are being targeted by the police, and work with the state as well as developers to further gentrify communities of color.
I personally saw how the system works from inside the Los Angeles County Jail, and it was enough time to realize that we have a lot of work to do internally. This is a bigger challenge to me, than convincing people on why I had a rifle inside the trunk of my car. As a revolutionary I do think I have to be more careful, but to paraphrase Ricardo Flores Magon, "We Revolutionary Anarchists have to be Outlaws," we have fight these injustices at all cause even and that means breaking the laws that are put in place to keep us in control and in check. Their oppressive institutions which have no place in our communities are also legitimate targets in my opinion.
This is a challenge on anyone who wants to create a better world.
Always in Struggle.
Autonomy, Land and Liberty.
All Power Through the People.
*Recently I was stopped by the North East Division of the Los Angeles Police Department for not having a light on the plates of my car, they pulled me out and handcuffed me and asked me if I had any M-16's in the car. They then searched my car, and did not find any "drugs or weapons," but told me they could arrest me. They released me then but impounded my car, even though I had an abstract from court saying I can drive. It seems like they ran my plates and saw my previous arrest, so they profiled me based on that. They did search my back pack, and saw fliers for the organizations I am part of. This happened on Wednesday, April 08, 2009