Saturday, October 31, 2009
LAPD officers won't be charged in MacArthur Park melee
Prosecutors say there is insufficient evidence to prove that any of the 30 officers who were investigated violated the law when using force during the 2007 May Day immigration rally.By Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
October 31, 2009
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office will not file criminal charges against any of the LAPD officers who discharged rubberized bullets and wielded batons during the 2007 May Day melee at MacArthur Park, officials announced Friday.
After a lengthy review, prosecutors said there is insufficient evidence to prove that any of the 30 officers who were investigated violated the law when using force, although some might have used "questionable tactics."
The melee, which occurred at the conclusion of a pro- immigration rally and received national attention, resulted from poor police training, leadership and communication, prosecutors said. Their finding echoed the Los Angeles Police Department's own scathing report on the officers' actions.
Officers were videotaped wielding batons and shooting less-than-lethal rubberized bullets in an attempt to disperse the mostly peaceful crowd after a small group of agitators confronted police. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured as officers cleared the park.
The department's "planning, tactical and command failures" were the backdrop for the officers' actions against "both violent protesters and nonviolent protesters and media personnel," prosecutors said in their report. "The media had innocently and unwittingly positioned themselves in an area directly in the path of officers attempting to clear the park."
In the immediate aftermath, Police Chief William J. Bratton removed a deputy chief and commander from their posts. Deputy Chief Caylor "Lee" Carter retired shortly thereafter.
Bratton also said he planned to discipline several officers and called for the termination of others for their roles in the melee.
But internal disciplinary panels gave no officer more than a 20-day suspension. A small group of officers, however, were demoted, according to their attorney.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to pay nearly $13 million to people injured or mistreated in the May Day melee.
Carol Sobel, a lawyer for some of the plaintiffs, said that although the LAPD admitted errors in the incident that the "the whole approach toward disciplining officers . . . has been a total whitewash. They could have filed charges against the officers that were seen repeatedly beating people."
But in their report, prosecutors concluded that "not every push or shove amounts to excessive force. We cannot establish that any particular officer's actions were unreasonable or without lawful necessity in light of the tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving circumstances."
They said that tactical gear worn by police made it difficult or impossible to identify specific officers, which is key to any prosecution.
Prosecutors noted that 20 officers and supervisors were subject to department punishment.
Los Angeles Police Protective League President Paul Weber praised the district attorney's review, saying that it "sought only truth and justice, and was not influenced by any political agenda."
Monday, October 26, 2009
Hey all this is the statement on Oso Blanco Call-In action, circulate it to
anyone who may be interested.
Yesterday I received word from Yona Unaga (Oso Blanco) in usual fashion,
several letters with lots of info, love, and an undying spirit for the
self-determination of indigenous people. It brings me great joy to write
this overview regarding the Oso Blanco National Call-In and Letter Writing
Campaign that was carried out on October 5th, 2009.
Most of you reading this may already know about Oso Blanco aka Byron
Chubbuck, but for those of you who do not, he is a member of the Cherokee
Nation (Wolf Clan) who was sentenced to 80 years for expropriating funds to
send to the
Zapatistas in Chiapas, with the intent of
funding their actions
and especially, feeding Mayan children. Oso has been transferred, harassed,
denied religious items, beaten, gassed, subjected to other types of
psychological and physical abuse, and still to this day, his Indian
ethnicity absent from the prison database.
The campaign was initially started by Citizens In Action, and made public on
*www.osoblanco.org*. The ABCF (U.S./Canada) , Jericho Movement, and
), and many Autonomous ABC’s in the
US and immediately got involved and a joint action was coordinated
for October 5th 2009.
The October 5th action was planned by those of us on the outside as a
nation-wide day of calling in to the warden of USP Lewisberg, which as Oso
Blanco describes is “another Marion” with its 23 hours lockdowns,
conditions, and so forth. The call-in time was to be between
7-9am although anytime on October 5th would be fine
In the days leading up to October 5th Oso Blanco released a statement and
encouraged everyone to get involved, and soon after Oso Blanco's support
group and ourselves here at the ABCF reported getting wind of the event
through other groups and people we had no ties with. Joaquin from CWLA
informed me that a compañero of his had called in to the prison and was
redirected to the out of town manager of “Z” unit instead of the warden,
throwing many of us off.
On October 5th I called in at approximately 9:04 am, and was greeted by a
staff member who cut me off when I mentioned Byron Chubbuck's name, angrily
asking me “Did you just call!?” I replied that I had not and continued
speaking to her as she muttered several comments under her breath before
hanging up on
me. I got in
contact with my comrade Lane and a few others
immediately after who noted similar experiences of having staff mention
previous calls, transferring them to other unrelated phone lines or to the
manager of Z Unit who was on vacation on the 5th and would be returning the
What this did however was create a buckshot of support through the prison
phone lines where one caller was being transferred 3-4 times and leaving 3-4
messages to 3-4 different people. While there is no way for us to find out
an accurate estimate of how many callers there were, our suspicions were
confirmed when Lane called the manager of Z Unit the next day (October 6th)
to continue the support for Oso Blanco. He reported that the Z unit manager
had just returned from vacation that day and that there was a “flood of
calls, letters, and other correspondence regarding Mr. Chubbuck” on the 5th.
After this, I sent Oso
letters letting asking him how his
conditions were. I let him know that if we did not hear back from him we
would assume that he was being punished for the 5th and would be organizing
another action. I received word from Oso Blanco yesterday, here wrote a
statement in which he references two cases of beatings, one in response to a
false accusation that he “threw feces at guards”:
Sumner Gray who has been doing support for Oso Blanco for years has reported
receiving 3 letters from him in the days following the action. While no
correspondence has been received from Oso Blanco by the support group since
the 5th it would appear that his mail is flowing again.
I also received a letter from a Native brother who will remain unnamed who
sent his thanks for the Oso Blanco action as well as detailing some of the
torture he and other indigenous prisoners have undergone, I will see if I
can get permission
type some of this up and relay it out. This is beyond
prisoner abuse and clearly racial as the Native brothers are struggling for
spiritual reasons and being denied religious items, instead being shackled
and beaten (72 hours for this brother).
*First*: This action and the end results are clear indicators that our
Native American brothers in the struggle are being singled out and there
needs to be more work done to support Indigenous political prisoners, and
Indigenous prisoners in the belly of the beast.
*Second:* Oso Blanco needs support, and lots of it. Write him and more
importantly he requests that we send him any zines or publications that can
be used to pass around to the brothers inside. Contact me if you are
interested in helping.(*MapachinABC@ gmail.com*)
*Third:* At the moment
Oso is pleased and has
received no abuse, which is
all good news. But we cannot be naive enough to assume that we have “won.”
While we cannot expect the prison system to give Oso a hug and an apology,
we also cannot let the support for ANY political prisoners dwindle. We did
not think up the politics of these movements we consider ourselves a part
of, the older generations paved the way so we could carry out their ideals.
They are in there FOR us, we are out here FOR them.
Let us never forget that!
Statement from Oso Blanco:
“Everything seems to be the same- No harassment yet. Its what they did June
23 and June 24 that ticks me off. IF I did that to them- I'd get 15 years
for assault. But they can do that crap to us and it's no big deal- they hide
our complaint- they lie- what ever, and return our complaint so it will be
considered late and rejected.
I think the captain and housing unit
manager are acting odd-
they ran like
two crazy people to my door today to stop me from getting a newspaper under
my door. Like he and the captain just made a military action...”
Good Work People!
I ain't been hurt.
But time will tell.
Stay Strong Everyone,
Support Yona Unaga!
BYRON SHANE CHUBBUCK
P.O. Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Thursday, October 22, 2009
LA Weekly - Anarchists Unite: How Does that Work? (Article on the L.A. Anarchist Bookfair Collective)
How Does That Work?
Published on October 21, 2009 at 5:03pm
How many anarchists did it take to organize the recent Southern California Anarchist Conference? No one is really sure. Not even the organizers. Yes, the idea of a conference for anarchists sounds like a punch line waiting to happen. Anarchists find that troubling. “The mainstream recognition of anarchism is chaos and breaking stuff,” says Sara Galindo, sounding exasperated. “We have to redefine it time and time again.”
Galindo and others involved in planning the conference sit in front of the Library for Social Studies and Research in South Central Los Angeles. Technically, the conference is taking place inside the library, but the important discussions occur outside, on the sidewalk.
A handsome 20-something man elaborates on Galindo’s thoughts. “Blowing stuff up is what people think of when they think of anarchy,” says the man, who introduces himself as D’Angelo but declines to give his last name. “Busting a window, I don’t consider it violence. Bombing a baby — that’s violence. The Anarchist Cookbook is not a book anarchists live by. Yes, there’s bomb-making equipment in that book. But this government makes bombs. They make bombs for profit.”
Proponents of anarchy believe that no human being should dominate another. The ideal society is decentralized, with no coercive rulers, no hierarchies, and everybody equal. Anarchy is a great refusal to follow authority.
“We don’t plan to overthrow the U.S. government in 10 years,” Galindo says. “The core of it is changing relationships. With the people we meet on the street. The people we ride the bus with.”
As D’Angelo says, “We don’t want to overthrow the state only to become the state. Not just the U.S. government, but all governments are the problem. It’s not some monster living on the hillside. It’s people.”
A conundrum about anarchy is finding a way to gain momentum as a movement, despite the belief of its members that no single, dominant belief should prevail.
Nevertheless, anarchism is a workable system, D’Angelo says. “Take street tribes, or what the mainstream calls gangs. Some of the ways they organize is anarchistic. We’ve been conditioned to follow authority. Schools are run by bells. They have fences. There’s environmental racism. These institutions are built like society is built. We need to build parallel systems and institutions.”
“If you ask 10 different people, you’ll get 10 different approaches to anarchy,” says Colleen Flynn, a lawyer who discovered anarchy in law school.
The collective that organized the anarchist conference has no president, no vice president, no secretary, no treasurer and no name. Asked how big the collective is, one of its members, Ralf Camacho, thinks for a moment and says, “There’s no set number.”
Members met at Camacho’s house to hash out details for the conference: issues they wanted to discuss; who contacted whom; which speakers were invited; who photocopied the programs. Disagreements were not settled by voting, because anarchists believe that voting divides a group into a majority and minority, which is contrary to the anarchist spirit. Instead, organizers talked stuff out until everybody was on the same page.
Camacho believes that man’s true nature is to be cooperative rather than competitive or selfish. “If it hadn’t been for early man operating on principles of cooperation and mutuality, we wouldn’t be here at all,” he says.
In the collective, no single person is in charge. Each contributes according to his or her abilities. Duties are not set in stone. For instance, the people who drew the fliers would not be expected to draw them next time unless they felt like it.
“I was in charge of providing security, but we don’t call it that,” Camacho explains. “We call it harmony battalions.”
In his day job, Camacho manages security for bars and clubs. “Where I work, there’s hierarchy, and it’s messed up. There is a lot of resentment and animosity. In collectives, where everyone is equal, things run smoother. Especially if there’s not a profit motive, where you’ll do anything or everything to make money. Wouldn’t you guys agree?”
“The activist Ashanti Omowali said anarchy is like playing jazz,” says D’Angelo, shifting in his wheelchair. “It’s about improvising.”
D’Angelo goes inside to play chess and Galindo returns with a plate of vegan soy tacos balanced on a clipboard. “With this event, it may look sloppy — ”
“It’s not sloppy!” Flynn interrupts. She swats Galindo with a pamphlet detailing the day’s itinerary.
By now it is late afternoon. The “Resist the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh” session is running late. A few people who thought they were attending an Anarcha-Feminism workshop are actually in the media/cop-watch seminar. A Native American woman gives an enthusiastic, digressive and impromptu speech about her struggles, and proclaims, “We’re going go back to life before Columbus,” to thundering applause.
Then the Black Riders Liberation Party marches in, arms folded, with the black berets, black combat boots, and the stern expressions of their Black Panther predecessors. A young lady named Comrade Laa-Laa reads a prepared statement about the “United Snakes of America” and the “wicked FBI.”
“We have stopped more gang-army violence with our survival programs than the racist U.S. government’s mass incarceration ‘solution’ but have been rewarded with updated Ges ... Ges ... I don’t know that word,” she says.
“Gestapo,” whispers her friend.
A guy raises his hand.
“As far as resistance, do you see the violent or aggressive side as self-defense or as a tactic?” he asks.
“No,” Comrade Laa-Laa says. Her hoop earrings smack her cheeks as she talks. “We believe in pure self-defense. You feel me? We’re not going to brutalize on our own community. You feel me? That goes to the point I was making to the other brother about confrontational politics. It works very well.”
“Can anybody become a Panther?” someone asks.
Comrade Laa-Laa says, “To answer your question, all in all, yes.”
In the corner, one man’s hand shoots up. “Do you have a question,” Comrade Laa-Laa asks.
“No. It’s a salute.”
At this point, the schedule pretty much comes off the rails, but somehow everything the anarchists needed to get done is done by the end. When it comes time for the organizing collective for closing remarks, some people cannot be found. They’ve decided to go home.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Repression and Indigenous Strategies to Hood Liberation
Presentation by Simon Sedillo
Film Screening and Discussion
Friday October 23rd 6:30pm
Southern California Library for Social Research "The People's Library"
(off the 110 Freeway, exit or Gage).
Simón Sedillo is a community rights defense organizer and film maker whose work has centered on learning from communities in resistance. Sedillo has spent the last 6 years learning, documenting, producing and teaching community based video documentation with communities in resistance across the US and Mexico. Through lectures, workshops, and screenings Sedillo helps open a powerful space for dialogue on the effects of neoliberalism on indigenous communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color in the US and Mexico. Through collaborative media projects, Sedillo’s work has contributed to a growing network of community based media production whose primary objective is to share, teach, and learn from one another, about the construction of horizontal networks of community rights defense.
October 22nd 8pm at the KIWA Cultural Center
Screening of "Fruits of War", a feature length documentary set in El Salvador and Los Angeles.
Presentation by Oscar Sanchez, on the fight to free his brother Alex Sanchez followed by screening and discussion.
Fruits of war follows four former gang members- Bullet, Rebel, Weazel, and Duke, who escaped El Salvador's civil war.
They settled in Los Angeles, eventually becoming involved in street gangs. When they are deported back to El Salvador, they discover a country ravaged by war, and face a new wave of violence as the LA street gangs take root in their homeland.
KIWA Cultural Center. 3465 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, CA, 90005
Sponsored by the Los Angeles Anarchist Bookfair Collective
We also are asking people to come out to :
Alex Sanchex Bail hearing Oct. 19
Justice = bail for Alex Sanchez... a fair trial for Alex starts with bail. Let's show the media and court that the community is behind Alex at his next hearing.
Our presence matters!
and please sign the petition for a fair trail @ wearealex.org.
Monday, October 19, 2009
12p - Fletcher Brown Squ
corner of main and temple
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Un conjunto de idénticas acciones contra sucursales bancarias, tiendas de ropa y concesionarias se realizaron a lo largo de este mes y fueron reivindicadas por grupos anarquistas desconocidos hasta ahora. Si en realidad son lo que dicen ser, pues todavía falta información concluyente, se trataría de un fenómeno cuya comprensión demanda romper con una mirada exclusivamente mexicana, que no cuenta con antecedentes inmediatos y que expresa razones distintas de las organizaciones clandestinas marxistas.
Acciones de similares características se vienen desarrollando desde hace tiempo ya en otros países, con particular asiduidad en Chile. Reunidos en torno a colectivos, se activan en pequeñas células. Su organización interna es una red interconectada con algún nivel de autonomía, lo que no vuelve necesaria una vinculación profunda entre uno y otros grupos, aunque entre ellos existen similitudes evidentes que en parte ponen en entredicho sus pronunciamientos referidos a esa autonomía. La utilización de un mismo modus operandi, los elementos usados en los sabotajes, la proximidad de una y otra acción y los blancos elegidos no pueden ser explicados exclusivamente por la casualidad, lo que hace referencia a la actividad de un único mismo grupo o bien se trata de grupos distintos, pero con un nivel de conexión muy pronunciado. En este sentido, es altamente probable que provengan de un mismo espacio o espacios político-sociales, organizaciones, colectivos, etc.; y, básicamente, en sus textos también existe un mismo lenguaje.
Como señalaron en diferentes ocasiones a través de sus textos (que pueden consultarse en liberaciontotal.entodaspartes.net) sus sabotajes hablan por sí mismos como expresiones de “ira” y “rabia”. No van más allá sino que en la acción está alojado su contenido: es la propaganda por los hechos. Pero sus acciones también demuestran otra cuestión, que refiere a romper el marco de la invisibilidad, produciendo el salto desde internet –espacio vital para estos grupos– hacia la actividad real. Estos son los tiempos donde, sin abandonar esa presencia virtual con la denuncia y la protesta, han decidido comenzar a poblar el espacio del hecho político concreto. La propaganda (el sabotaje) es entonces el punto culminante de estos cambios, el paso de lo virtual a lo real, de la denuncia a la acción, del anonimato a la identidad.
Según el colectivo chileno ‘Claudia López’, la estructura orgánica “horizontal” y su “radicalidad” le otorgan identidad y a la vez una diferenciación con las formas tradicionales de las organizaciones políticas de izquierda, aún cuando los sectores radicales revolucionarios han obtenido mejores resultados cuando alcanzan puntos de actuación conjunta. Aún así, “la nueva juventud radical ya no quiere jefes ni comandantes, sino ser protagonista y sujeto. El colectivo ha sido una vuelta hacia adentro, una mirada hacia la base social en la población…”. (“Nuevas formas de radicalidad juvenil en los noventa: los encapuchados”, en lahaine.org, agosto 2003.)
Quizá sea posible encontrar alguna instancia anterior de actividad política en aquellos sectores que se desprendían de las manifestaciones masivas en las cuales participaron (10 de junio, 2 de octubre, etc.) para realizar pintas, arrojar piedras contra cristales de comercios y producir pequeños enfrentamientos con las corporaciones de seguridad. Si así fuere, las manifestaciones de protesta en Guadalajara, mayo-junio de 2004, y el desenlace represivo que tuvo resultarían el parteaguas para los anarquistas mexicanos.
A renglón seguido, las acciones contra la tienda Max Mara, coordinada internacionalmente, como así también Renault y Bancomer demuestra la invalidez de condicionar el análisis a la coyuntura local y el papel fundamental que juega la red para el desarrollo de las actividades de estos grupos. Hasta las propias denominaciones adoptadas por los grupos (liberación global, liberación animal, revolución inmediata, etc.) están lo suficientemente alejadas de cualquier ámbito con referencia nacional; ésta es, antes, territorial y sin fronteras.
El efecto demostrativo de los cristalazos –que no alcanza a explicar por sí mismos el carácter revolucionario que se le pretende imprimir– sumado a lo poco o nada que se sabe en torno al origen de estos grupos, abonaron el terreno para hipótesis, conjeturas y comparaciones desproporcionadas e insostenibles a simple vista. Desde una pretendida reivindicación por parte de un grupo derechista español se le han querido comparar con ETA, como así también establecer una línea de continuidad con los responsables de los hechos ocurridos en Michoacán hace un año y hasta equipararlos con el secuestrador del avión y el tirador del metro. Como así tampoco existe alguna razón o dato duro que pueda establecer algún punto de contacto con las guerrillas marxistas.
Tampoco debe descartarse el carácter político que se pronuncian con estas explosiones. El objetivo es incendiar los cajeros bancarios, casetas telefónicas, tiendas de ropa y comida, etc. No se produce robos en ellas y cada una de ellas se acompaña con pintas. Y aunque la reivindicación es a veces confusa y en muchos casos escasa, ésta existe y es una línea de análisis e investigación que no puede descartarse. Alcanzan con ellas alguna repercusión mediática, aunque ha generado más opinión contraria que divulgación de sus objetivos a través de los medios masivos. Con ello se vuelven vulnerables a la estigmatización y su rotulación como “terroristas”.
La capital mexicana es el escenario elegido para el desarrollo de esta “guerra social”, que se presenta a sí misma como prólogo del 2010. Esta vertiente insurreccional del anarquismo todavía debe demostrar su carácter revolucionario que con la exclusiva producción de nuevos sabotajes no alcanzará.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Body: September was a pretty explosive month in Mexico, literally, aside from the drug war and the 199th anniversary of Independence, a wave of anarchist bombings hit Mexico City and other areas of the country. Mexican security and intelligence forces are on high alert as the 100th anniversary of the 1910 Mexican Revolution arrives next year and armed groups ranging from anarchists to Marxists are reportedly planning to foment a new uprising. If the anarchists can unite with the socialists and form a real political project to offer the Mexican masses, which are suffering terribly, the potential for real revolution is there. Here John Ross reports on the bombings, the wave of discontent in the country and the deep roots of anarchism in Mexican history going back to the Revolution and the Spanish Civil War.
"Our Fires Illuminate the Night"
Wave of Anarchist Bombings Strikes Mexico
By JOHN ROSS
An unprecedented wave of anarchist bombings here and in provincial capitals has Mexican security forces on red alert. Beginning September 1st, bombs have gone off once or twice a week regularly as clockwork, taking out windows and ATMs at five banks, torching two auto showrooms and several U.S. fast-food franchises plus an upscale boutique in the chic Polanco district of this conflictive capital. In each case, the Anarchist "A" has been spray-painted on nearby walls along with slogans supporting animal liberation demands to stop prison construction, and calls for the demise of capitalism.
The serial bombings are the first to strike Mexico City since November 2006 when radicals took out a chunk of the nation's highest electoral tribunal, blew a foreign-owned bank, and scorched an auditorium in the scrupulously-..guarded compound of the once and future ruling PRI party. The 2006 attacks came in the wake of a fraud-marred presidential election and federal police suppression of a popular uprising in the southern state of Oaxaca and were claimed by five armed groups, most prominently the Democratic Revolutionary Tendency, a split-off from the Marxist-..Leninist Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) which itself bombed a Sears outlet in Oaxaca City in 2006 and PEMEX pipelines in central Mexico in 2007.
Anarchist cells that claim to have perpetrated the recent explosions take pains to distance themselves from the Marxist bombers.
In vindicating a September 25th blast at a Banamex branch in the rural Milpa Alta delegation (borough) of Mexico City during which the rebels claim a half million pesos were immolated, "The Subversive Alliance For The Liberation Of The Earth, The Animals, & The Humans" (in that order) charged that the U.S.-owned bank promoted "torture, destruction, and slavery. "Our motives are to stop these bastards and let them know that we are not playing games."
Bank video cameras captured the images of three hooded and black-clad young bombers. On October 1st, 22 year-old Ramses Villareal, a student activist, was arrested by federal police and charged with "terrorism" in connection with bombings at several of the banks. He was released the next day after violent protests by young anarchists in Mexico City.
The September 25th Banamex blast was not the first time the bank has been targeted by "terrorist" bombs. In August 2001, heavy duty fireworks broke out windows in a "cristalazo" at three southern Mexico City branches to protest the sale of Banamex, Mexico's oldest bank, to Citigroup, the New York-based banking group that has been so devastated by the financial melt-down that it recently put Banamex back up for sale.
The 2001 bombing was attributed to the little-known Armed Revolutionary Front of the People (FARP.) Three brothers, students at the UNAM, and the sons of EPR founder Francisco Cerezo (not his real name) were subsequently imprisoned on "terrorism" charges - the attacks took place just days before the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington purportedly carried out by Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda group. The Cerezo brothers were imprisoned for eight years and have only recently been released from federal lockup.
The September bombings and associated property damage also singled out Mexico City and Guadalajara offices of the European bio-tech titan Novartis that, along with Monsanto, bears responsibility for spreading genetically modified seed throughout Mexico's corn-growing belt and contaminating native species of maiz. Auto showrooms in the two cities were also on the business end of Molotov cocktails September 18th and 26th - seven luxury automobiles including a Hummer were torched at Auto Nova in Guadalajara.
An Internet page documenting the Guadalajara bombing included communiqués from Jeffrey Luers AKA "Free", who is serving ten years in Oregon for burning up 21 SUVs on a Portland lot. "Free" is accused by the FBI of being an associate of the Earth Liberation Front, eco-.."terrorists" that the U.S. Justice Department has elevated to the top of the Terrorist Hit Parade, alongside Bin Laden. The initials "ELF" were reportedly spray-painted on the burnt-out showroom walls.
Messages from the bombers were posted to the Total Liberation website (www...liberaciontotal.....entodaspartes...net) that is dedicated to "the dissolution of civilization" and serves as an international bulletin board for notices of similar sabotage by anarchist cells around the world such as the U.S. "Burn Down The Jails!", Latin American autonomous cells of the Animal Liberation Front - an ELF offshoot, and the Greek anarchist movement that ravaged Athens this summer.
"Our fire illuminates the night!" waxed poetic one anonymous Mexican anarchist interviewed on the Total Liberation site. "We have lost all fear of spending the rest of our days in prison", perhaps a reference to the Cerezo brothers and Ramsis Villareal. Groups claiming bombings and other successful acts of sabotage take fanciful names infused with poetry, bravado, and black humor: "Luddites Against the Domestication of Wildlife", "Espana Signus Francescos" (thought to be a reference to San Francisco of Assisi, the patron saint of animals), and "Autonomous Cells of the Immediate Revolution - Praxides G. Guerrero."
The historically obscure Guerrero was the first anarchist to fall in the landmark 1910-1919 Mexican revolution whose centennial will be marked in 2010. Praxides G. Guerrero was felled by a "bala ciega" (literally "blind bullet") during a guerrilla raid on Janus Chihuahua in May 1910, six months before Francisco Madero officially called for the overthrow of dictator Porfirio Diaz in November of that year to launch the Mexican revolution.
Only 28 years old on the day of his death, Guerrero was a young partisan of anarchist superstars Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magon. "Praxides translated the theory of anarchism into practical action," writes anarchist historian Dave Poole. In a recent e-mail, John Mason Hart, author of the definitive study "Anarchism & The Mexican Working Class", concluded that if Guerrero had survived, the Mexican revolution would have looked more like the contemporary neo-Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas than the fratricidal bucket of blood it became.
As a writer, Praxides G. Guerrero's prose has all the impact of an anarchist bomb. In "Blow!", the revolutionary imagines himself as the wind: "I steal into palaces and factories, I blow through prisons and caress the infancy prostituted by Justice, I force my way into army barracks and see in them an academy of assassination, I am the breath of the revolution…"
It hardly seems a coincidence that modern-day anarchists struck in September, "the patriotic month" when Mexicans celebrate the declaration of their independence from Spain in 1810, the bicentennial of which, along with the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, is on deck in 2010. President Felipe Calderon has budgeted billions of pesos to mark the twin centennials even as Mexico is mired in a bottomless recession that has driven millions of workers into the streets. Ironically, the Calderon government has reportedly contracted a Hollywood production outfit with the very anarchist brand-name "Autonomy" for $60,000,000 USD to mount centennial "spectaculars" - in 2008, "Autonomy" staged the spectacular pageant that opened the Beijing Olympics.
In invoking Praxides G. Guerrero's hallowed name, anarchist bombers appear to be celebrating the vital role their ideological forbearers played in the Mexican revolution, the first great uprising of the landless in the Americas and an immediate precursor of the Russian revolution.
Anarchism in Mexico dates back to the first days of the republic when in 1824, North American followers of the Welsh utopian socialist Robert Owen unsuccessfully sought to establish colonies along the border in Chihuahua. In the 1860s, anarchism doing business as "mutualism" (i.e. working class solidarity) took root in the burgeoning Mexican labor movement - mutualism's most significant representation was the House of The World Worker (Casa de Obrero Mundial") that flourished during the early days of the revolution.
As the Mexican revolution crested at the turn into the 20th century, anarchism gained an early foothold. Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magon's newspaper "Regeneracion" (.."..Regeneration") was passed from hand to hand and widely read by those who sought the dictator's overthrow. Repeatedly imprisoned by Porfirio Diaz, Ricardo and Enrique fled to the U.S. where they clandestinely continued to publish "..Regeneracion." The anarchist duo was pursued by both Diaz's agents and U.S. immigration authorities and forced to flee from city to city (San Antonio, Los Angeles, S. Louis.) Imprisoned for violating the 1917 version of the Patriot Act, Ricardo Flores Magon died in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in 1922 under mysterious circumstances that suggest he was strangled by prison guards for flying a Mexican flag in his cell. A century after the Mexican revolution, a handful of campesino organizations in the Flores Magones' native state of Oaxaca continue to incorporate the brothers' names in their struggles.
During their ill-fated sojourn north of the border, the Magones forged links to U.S. anarchists. The IWW - the Industrial Workers of the World or Wobblies - which preached anarchism on the street corners of the American west, are said to have been the organizing force behind the miners' strike in the great Cananea copper pit in Sonora during which a score of workers were massacred by the Arizona Rangers - Cananea is considered the seedbed of the Mexican labor movement. The celebrated Chicago anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre contributed to Regeneracion and raised bail money for the Flores Magones. In 1911, Joe Hill, the renowned Wobbly organizer and bard, rode with the Magonistas in a failed expedition to liberate Baja California.
Despite their margination from the revolutionary mainstream, Magonistas fought in the armies of Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa, and Venustiano Carranza although they were often singled out as troublemakers and executed by revolutionary firing squads.
The anarchist flame in Mexico would never have survived without the solidarity of Spanish exiles. Spanish anarchists played a critical role in the formation of the House of the World Worker and after the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) anarchist fighters and thinkers were offered sanctuary from Franco's fascist hordes in Mexico. Spanish anarchists founded the Social Reconstruction Library in downtown Mexico City, an invaluable repository of anarchist archives.
The Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas in 1994 signaled the second coming of Mexican anarchism. The EZLN's rejection of dependence on the "mal gobierno" (bad government) and its insistence on collective action and the creation of autonomous zones in the southeast of that highly-..indigenous state inspired collectives of young anarchists, often clustered around the National Autonomous University or UNAM. Anarchist activists spurred the 1999-2000 strike against a tuition hike at the National University. Ski-masked, so-called "ultras" with tags like "El Mosh", "El Gato", and "The Devil" drove the student struggle to sectarian excess and a clampdown by the federal police that resulted in 700 arrests.
The uproar at the 1999 Seattle conclave of the World Trade Organization was the first explosion of the anti-..globalization movement in which anarchists would play a pivotal role. Black clad youth basked in the media spotlight in Seattle but property damage against franchise chains like Niketown by the self-named "Black Bloc" purportedly animated by the writings of U.S. anarchist guru John Zerzan, offended mainstream anti-..globalization groups like Global Exchange whose founder, Medea Benjamin called for their arrest. The Seattle uprising was first plotted at a 1996 anti-..globalization forum staged by the Zapatistas on the fringes of the Lacandon jungle.
The death of Black Blocker Carlo Giuliani under the guns of the police at the 2001 Genoa Italy G-8 summit had deep scratch in the Zapatista zone where a clinic has been named for the anarchist martyr at Oventic, the rebels' most public outpost - the Giuliani family has contributed an ambulance.
Mexican black blockers went into action at the 2003 WTO fiasco in the luxury port of Cancun. Armed with Molotov cocktails, shopping carts filled with rocks, and home-made battering rams, the anarchos threatened to storm police barricades but spontaneous peace-making by indigenous women protestors helped avoid bloodshed and the black-clad militants decided to burn down a local pizza parlor instead.
Bloodshed was on the agenda at a 2004 Ibero-American summit in Guadalajara when then Governor Francisco Ramirez Acuna (now president of the lower house of the Mexican congress) unleashed his robocops on an anti-..globalization rally. Young anarchists were beaten into the sidewalk like so many baby harp seals and dragged off to gaol where police torture continued for weeks. Several block blockers were held for nearly a year despite the outcry from the international human rights community.
Anarchist collectives in Mexico City are not universally unruly. La Karakola, a collective that swears allegiance to Zapatismo and non-violence, would just as soon dance as toss rocks at the cops. Anarcho "squats" take over abandoned buildings - the "okupas" modeled on those run by Barcelona activists pop up in unlikely neighborhoods such as the squat house under the towering Torre Mayor, an 88-story skyscraper on swanky Reforma boulevard.
Punky anarchist fashion - black clothes, studded leather jackets, piercings, exotic hairstyles, and a written language in which "k's" replace "c's", is popular with dissident big city youth and on display Saturday mornings at the Chopo Bazaar and evenings at the Alicia Forum where punk meets anarchism. But most anarcho "fashionistas" are not bombers - it's a struggle to slip a ski mask over a Mohawk.
2006 seems to be the year that anarcho fury at the destruction of the planet took wings - the earliest postings on the Total Liberation page date from then. The first actions were little publicized and dismissed by police and the media as vandalism - destruction of pay phones installed by Telmex, owned by tycoon Carlos Slim, the richest man in Latin America, is a popular sport. Sabotage peaked in 2008 when 129 actions were recorded, most of them non-violent such as the liberation of slaughter house-bound chickens and the reconfiguration.. of bull ring signage transforming the Toluca Plaza de Torros into a "Plaza of Torturers."
One exception was the torching of a leather expo in Leon Guanajuato, the shoe and boot capital of Mexico. On October 2nd, the 40th anniversary of the 1968 student massacre, fast food franchises were Molotov-ed in the capital's old quarter and 13 anarchists arrested. Fake bombs were subsequently planted at MacDonald's, KTC, and Burger King in ten provincial cities.
The September wave of bombings was a defiant step upwards but not by much - the "bombs" were primitively fashioned from butane tanks used by plumbers to solder pipes and detonated by bottle rockets. All bombings occurred during early morning hours to avoid human casualties although some stray dogs and cats may have been singed.
Despite the lack of lethal intent, the bombings have riveted the attentions of numerous security forces, particularly the CISEN, Mexico's lead intelligence agency which is reportedly spread thin trying to keep tabs on plans by clandestine guerrilla bands ranging from the Zapatistas to the EPR to foment armed uprising during the 100th birthday party of the Mexican revolution to which all Mexicans, regardless of ideological persuasion, have been invited.
John Ross' monstrous "El Monstruo - Dread & Redemption In Mexico City" will hit the streets in November (to read raving reviews from the likes of Mike Davis and Jeremy Scahill go to www...nationbooks.org.) Ross will be traveling Gringolandia much of 2009-2010 with "El Monstruo" and his new Haymarket title "Iraqigirl", the diary of a teenager growing up under U.S. occupation. If you have a venue for presentations he would like to talk to you at johnross@..igc.org
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Let's try! Buy your tickets now to this 1st screening and let's gets a 2nd screening of MACHETERO scheduled! Let's show and prove NYC that self-financed, independent, artistic, politically minded films about the de-colonization of a Latin American nation has an audience in NYC...
Monday, October 5, 2009
Activists turn up heat over slayings by police
By OLU ALEMORU, Staff Writer
Story Published: Oct 1, 2009 at 2:28 AM PDT
Story Updated: Oct 1, 2009 at 2:28 AM PDT
INGLEWOOD — Decrying what it calls an “epidemic” of law enforcement killings of unarmed suspects, an umbrella group of anti-police misconduct organizations staged a Monday press conference in this embattled city to announce a massive rally for their cause later this month.
The announcement by the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, which puts on a yearly demonstration on the date from which it takes its name, comes as activists in Inglewood are expressing mounting outrage over city officials’ refusal to make public a recently-completed report on a string of heavily-criticized fatal shootings by its police department.
In recent weeks, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has also come under fire for its own practices, now under official review, following the shooting of an unarmed Black man in Athens.
These incidents are all but certain to be on the minds of demonstrators who plan to meet at noon on Oct. 22 at Crenshaw Boulevard and Florence Avenue, before marching north for a rally in Leimert Park.
“These are not isolated cases, said coalition spokesman Aidge Patterson. “There is a nationwide epidemic of police brutality and murder. There was Sean Bell in New York, the killing of Oscar Grant in Oakland. His brutal murder was captured on tape by dozens of people.”
He added: “It’s almost certain, if that hadn’t have happened that officer would have been let off. As it is, they are trying to move it out of the Alameda County to an area where people will maybe more forgiving for what happened and don’t really have a full understanding of the police repression that people in Oakland are facing.”
Patterson noted an increasing community suspicion and mistrust over a growing number of incidents in which officers have wrongly claimed that suspects were armed.
“It’s become the catchphrase of the last two years,” he said. “They thought there was a gun, when it was actually a wallet or cell phone like in the case of Amadou Diallo in New York, who was shot more than 40 times.”
Kim McGill, of the Youth Justice Coalition, called for the state attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate all police involved shootings.
The suggestion was part of a six-point plan that also included a call for the U.S. Attorney General to “immediately” investigate the use of deadly force by police departments throughout Los Angeles County and one percent of all law enforcement dollars to be transferred to a fund for youth development.
“It’s time L.A. County catches up with the rest of the country and the world,” McGill said, “in giving young people a future beyond a lifetime of prison or the grave.”
Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, a senior minister at the KRST Unity Center, summed up the Monday’s mood. “We speak for those who have no voice,” he said.
“Those that have been murdered by police misconduct that never gets brought to the fore. Murdered in the prime of their lives without their voices having an opportunity to be heard.”
Breaking News from the Pittsburgh G20 Protests
Disclaimer: This was written the night of September 24, immediately following the events described, without time to verify all the reports summarized or assemble additional information. There may be errors; if so, we will correct them shortly.
This is on-the-spot reporting just in from the first day of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, which has seen a great deal of spirited resistance and confrontation—perhaps as much as has occurred at any anarchist mobilization in North America in half a decade. This gushy, hastily composed account presents the context, attempts to convey the spirit of the day, and raises a few preliminary questions.
The basic narrative of the day runs thus: The protesters attempt to reach the summit site, but are brutally forced back by police. They eventually turn around and march through Pittsburgh neighborhoods and shopping districts, where the police pursue and attack them. Property destruction intensifies in response to these attacks, and the conflict culminates in a standoff between police and students during which a black bloc destroys a business district.
One might interpret all this as legitimate acts of revenge for the police murder in London at last spring’s G20 summit; but it also signifies the survival of militant street resistance in the Obama era.
Never Felt More Alive
In the monotony of capitalist daily life, it’s easy to forget that we have a negotiable relationship to reality. Streets are for faceless traffic; crowds are impersonal assemblies of strangers studiously ignoring each other; windows are for displaying merchandise, or staring out of as we wait for shifts or classes to conclude; decorative stones outside banks or fast food franchises are inert objects devoid of interest or possibility.
When all this is interrupted and the unknown opens before us in every instant, the world becomes a magical place. In these moments, we discover new organs within ourselves—or if not new, then atrophied or atavistic—adapted for an entirely different way of life than we are used to. It turns out we are creatures made for another world—and made well for it!—who are barely getting by in this one. Changing worlds, we shift from malaise and misery to incredible joy and pleasure: finally, we are at home in our own skin, in our own environment. Charging down the street together rather than driving down it separately, fighting or outrunning police rather than submissively accepting their authority, we come to life.
No words can do justice to this experience, but it is real—one day of it is realer than a decade of rental contracts, traffic tickets, service work, and nights at the bar.
The Tension Mounts
The first out-of-town anarchists arrived in Pittsburgh apprehensively. The protests at the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions had been almost the only national anarchist mass mobilizations in half a decade, and they had hardly been unqualified successes. Many around the country seemed skeptical of mass mobilizations, even including those who stated they were going to Pittsburgh.
In the anti-war era that concluded with the 2008 DNC and RNC, it had been standard for police to allege that about 5% of expected protesters would be “bad apples,” and to craft their arrest estimates appropriately. But this time, while the police said they anticipated 3000 protesters, they announced that they expected to make up to 1000 arrests, ratcheting up the proportion of bad apples to 33%. Police arrest estimates in advance of the 2008 RNC had proved accurate—did that mean that practically every anarchist who attended the G20 protests could expect to be arrested?
On top of all this, the story circulated that 100-200 “nonviolent” inmates were to be released from Pittsburgh jails to make additional space for protesters. This itself counts as a victory of the mobilization, but at the time it sounded ominous.
The city announced that there would be something like 4000 police on duty, augmented by National Guard. Downtown Pittsburgh was practically a military occupation zone, with assault-rifle-wielding soldiers staffing road blocks and helicopters overhead.
The weekend before the summit, police harassment increased, with police paying visits in force to local collective houses thought to be occupied by anarchists. Several aggressive raids and preemptive arrests had preceded the 2008 RNC; these visits were tamer by comparison, but still brought back bad memories. Police also detained the Seeds of Peace bus that was to help provide food to protesters.
Tuesday afternoon, there was a picnic for protesters at Friendship Park, a mile east of Arsenal Park. Numbers seemed low, though some locals insisted there would be many more by Thursday. It seemed that some planned buildup actions weren’t coming together; indymedia reporters grumbled about having nothing to do. The Climate Convergence scheduled to coincide with the International Coal Conference September 21-23 appeared disorganized. No one knew what to expect next.
The Eve of the Storm
Click here for a map of the relevant area of Pittsburgh.
On Wednesday, September 23, while some bloggers complained of boredom, anarchists and other protesters were scrambling to prepare for the following day. How many people would come to the unpermitted mass march scheduled to leave Arsenal Park at 2:30 p.m.? Would the police block the march in the park, or attack it as it proceeded southwest towards the site of the summit at the tip of the peninsula of downtown Pittsburgh?
Some people were concerned that the presumed march route was a disaster waiting to happen; the two-mile corridor between Arsenal Park and the convention center passed between a river and a cliff, offering only a couple parallel roads and long stretches without exits that seemed perfect for blocking in crowds. The neighborhood was sparsely populated, marked by empty lots surrounded by barbed wire; it was a full twenty blocks to the shopping district outside the convention center. Surely thousands of police would be able to contain and mass arrest a march that made it far enough southwest towards the summit. On the other hand, other protesters argued strenuously against marching east away from the summit, on the grounds that this would lack clear messaging and could create tension with working class residents of the neighborhoods any other route would have to pass through.
The geography of Pittsburgh is challenging—cliffs, steep hills, and gullies break up the city in such a way that there are few routes between many neighborhoods. The northern part of central Pittsburgh, where the march was to begin, is sharply divided from the southern part, where many of the major universities and shopping districts can be found. Any route for the march, whether towards the summit or away from it, would involve a variety of risks. Some anarchists were only expecting a few hundred participants, a number which would be comparatively easy for the police to control.
Adding yet more suspense, the spokescouncil Wednesday night barely concluded in the midst of police intimidation; participants had to scatter as riot police and undercover agents surrounded the space. All night helicopters and police cars roamed the city.
September 24, 2009
A student march arrived at Arsenal Park around 2 p.m.; by 2:30, the park had over a thousand people in it. This was a considerably different scenario than some out-of-town participants had anticipated.
Once you have a certain critical mass of participants, everything changes. A crowd that extends further than a city block is much more difficult to pen in; even if police can pen that many people in, they may lack enough vehicles or maneuvering space to arrest and transport them all. A broader diversity of participants, such as generally exists in larger crowds, can also discourage police violence. And while both police and protesters can lay concrete plans for an unpermitted march of up to a few hundred participants, past a certain threshold no plans can take into account all the unpredictable factors that result from so many people acting autonomously at once.
One might even extend this metaphor further to describe movements as a whole. So long as they remain small, they can be predictable and limited; but past a certain point of expansion, their energy and diversity give rise to a feedback loop that produces more energy, diversity, and expansion. Anarchists in the US are not used to organizing events in which more than 1000 people participate; sometimes it even seems we hesitate to try, whether for fear of being immediately quarantined by the police or out of lack of imagination. This can contribute to our own self-marginalization. The experience of being together in such numbers at Arsenal Park and in Pittsburgh throughout the remainder of the day was unfamiliar and exciting.
A tremendous amount of credit is due to the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project for doing such an impressive job involving participants in the Thursday action. The successes that occurred in the streets today would have been difficult or impossible without such numbers. Some anarchists had initially feared that it was a mistake that the unpermitted march was not scheduled to take place contemporaneously with other events; days of direct action at the 2000 and 2004 RNCs that were scheduled not to coincide with other actions had been unsuccessful, whereas the Seattle WTO protests and the 2008 RNC protests both succeeded because a wide range of protests occurred simultaneously. But, as Pittsburgh locals had insisted it would, it proved advantageous that no other actions were scheduled for the first day of the summit: it meant that the unpermitted march drew together everyone who wanted to oppose the G20, legitimizing direct action and involving participants from a wide variety of backgrounds. One comrade reports discovering early on that Cindy Sheehan was marching next to him in the middle of the black bloc.
As large as the crowd was, leaving the park still looked dicey—riot police were blocking it to the east on 40th Street, and it appeared they could move in to block 39th at any point. Shortly after 2:30, a small segment left the park, moving up 39th towards Penn and Liberty, the two parallel avenues leading toward the summit to the southwest and into the Bloomfield neighborhood to the east. The rest of the crowd slowly filled the street behind them.
As soon as the crowd reached the top of the hill, the divisions over march route emerged. A small but spirited black bloc headed east toward the neighborhoods and shopping districts away from the summit, while others behind them shouted that they were going the wrong way and directed everyone southwest. Some of the latter reputedly shouted “Don’t take the bait!”—perhaps alleging that the attempt to go east was a infiltrator provocation. In any event, the black bloc returned to the crowd moving towards the summit.
The march only proceeded a couple more blocks before running into a serious line of police resistance. A prerecorded dispersal order could be heard playing over a loudspeaker, punctuated by the crack of tear gas canisters being shot; this eerie refrain was to repeat over and over throughout the day in various situations, lending an Orwellian atmosphere to all confrontations with police. In such a large crowd, it was difficult for those towards the back to tell what was going on ahead; the sight and scent of tear gas in the distance was enough to send many moving down a side alley. Some anarchists emerged from the alley with trash cans and a mobile dumpster. At the foot of the hill ahead of them was another line of riot police and military vehicles, shooting tear gas and attempting to force them back with military audio weaponry that sounded something like a car alarm.
Imagine, if you will, gentle reader, the animist version of this story in which dumpsters, long accused of complicity in anarchist “lifestylism,” step out of their social role to join the social war. Free food, even when distributed via programs like Food Not Bombs, is not enough—we want freedom itself, and the dumpster does too, and it gains momentum down the hill as it rolls, alone and magnificent, directly into a pair of oblivious policemen.
There followed a period of chaos, as various contingents of the march attempted to make their way forward without being penned in by police. This was made more challenging still by the chaotic atmosphere, the fact that many groups had already lost track of each other, and the unfamiliarity of many protesters with the terrain.
In such a high-pressure situation, decisions take place anarchically, and not necessarily in the best sense of the term. Neither voting—noxious as many of us hold it to be—nor consensus process are possible. Instead, it is as if the hundreds of people involved are collectively operating a Ouija board, in which all their individual movements—conscious or unconscious—strain against or flow into each other, becoming something different and unfamiliar, even supernatural. A person or group can occasionally have agency, for example when one person’s shouting voice happens to be heard above the uproar: “GO LEFT!!!” That person may know exactly what he is talking about, or he may be a police officer; usually, one hears so many conflicting instructions that it is impossible to choose rationally between them. The crowd surges to one side, then to another. One may have personal goals of one’s own, but as the context is constantly shifting according to what others are doing and where they are going, one often cannot simply carry out one’s own program. This may explain the sensation of “losing oneself” described by rioters and psychology professors alike; it is simply a fast-paced microcosm of the way individuals struggle to make their own history as infinitesimal components of a much larger society.
The role of the stressful discussions that often take place before these events, then, cannot be to plan out exactly how they will go, but simply to familiarize the participants with some of the questions and possibilities.
Some protesters remained in the neighborhood for over an hour, never making it more than a couple blocks further southwest, harried by police at every turn. Another body of marchers, numbering approximately 200, slowly began to move out of the area, returning east along smaller streets and soon ceasing to encounter police. Many of the neighborhood residents, especially the poorer ones, came out to watch and shout support from their doorsteps. The marchers emerged from the neighborhood onto Main Street, and shortly found themselves on Liberty Avenue where it turns to move southeast into the Bloomfield neighborhood. One way to view the events of Thursday afternoon is as a process in which the idea of going east rather than west slowly gained legitimacy. At first, participants had rejected it outright as a violation of the goals of the march; now, this retreating group reluctantly accepted it as inevitable, though not particularly desirable.
As Liberty Avenue makes its way southeast through Bloomfield, it passes through a shopping district full of small restaurants, bars, and banks. The march was remarkably timid in this environment, considering that there were no police around whatsoever. Perhaps it really is true that property destruction largely occurs as a reaction to police violence; it may even be that self-professed insurrectionists find it psychologically easier to smash things in the comparative danger of a police confrontation than in the absence of any authorities. In any event, there was practically no property destruction until finally a bank on one side of the street was attacked.
Police cars eventually appeared at the back of the march; they did not act until an the sirens of an ambulance approaching from the front were mistaken for police reinforcements, causing the crowd to panic and begin to disperse or move onto the sidewalk. The police took the initiative, and the march was dispelled.
Meanwhile, the comms office was being raided by police. One person arrested there is being held on $30,000 bail as of this writing, and another on $5000 bail. The comms system kept working, however.
At this point, it was almost 4 p.m. Friendship Park had been hinted at as a potential reconvergence point, and now the announcement went out over the Twitter system to regroup there. The participants in the march east down Liberty were already in the neighborhood, and moved north and west to meet their comrades at the park, who were filtering in from the deadlock to the west.
Soon the crowd was a few hundred strong. Some of those present had not expected the day’s events to go as far as they already had. Now they were inspired by the experience of taking the streets together, but not yet satisfied.
In contrast to earlier in the day, the general consensus now seemed to be that there was no sense in attempting to go west to the convention center, and that instead people should head southeast towards the plush shopping districts of the Shadyside and North Oakland neighborhoods. This was still a risky proposition, as those neighborhoods were separated from the Bloomfield neighborhood—in which Friendship Park was located—by geographical barriers.
And the police were no longer concentrated to the west, either. Now they too were gathering at the park and in the surrounding area. Before they could get control of the situation, a new march started out heading due south towards the intersection of Millvale and Liberty. Millvale crosses Liberty and spans a long bridge south into North Oakland; but such a bridge would offer an easy opportunity for police to surround a march, and there was a line of police already at the intersection. A great part of the march continued east down Liberty, picking up where the march an hour prior had left off. A bank in the area suffered broken windows.
Another group managed to cross the Millvale bridge into North Oakland, where the windows of a BMW dealership were smashed and strenuous games of cat and mouse ensued with police forces. Video footage from this area also shows fatigue-clad thugs kidnapping a protester from the area.
Meanwhile, the rest of the march continued down Liberty, at first outdistancing the police. Speed was of the essence at this point. Had the march moved any slower, dire consequences would surely have ensued for the participants; had it moved faster, things might have turned out better. Despite this, there were still some participants who insisted on shouting “Walk!” when others, aware of imminent danger, were calling out “MOVE!” or, more responsibly, “Slow jog! Slow jog!”
The march turned onto Baum, heading southwest towards North Oakland; lines of riot police appeared, attempting to secure the area and attacking marchers. The front of the march had rushed ahead to get around police lines, but some doubled back to defend their comrades by pinning the police down under a rain of projectiles. The police responded by shooting beanbag rounds, causing injuries. Meanwhile, a little further down Baum, protesters dragged a large section of chain-link fencing into the road to obstruct pursuit.
A few seconds later the march took off again down Baum, now at a run. A Boston Market franchise happened to be on this corner; protesters were enraged from the police attack, and it lost ten windows to a hail of rocks. Regrettably, there were people inside the franchise, who could be seen fleeing the windows; however, there is no indication that anyone was injured.
Now the bridge into North Oakland appeared, and the march crossed it at full speed. On the other side, a bank and KFC franchise suffered broken windows, and the marchers, aware that police were swooping in from all directions, began to break into smaller groups, ultimately dispersing and disappearing.
For the following several hours, North Oakland was filled with armored vehicles and riot police, roving the streets and blocking off areas to seemingly no purpose. When a person has an allergic reaction, it is often not the poison that causes the negative effects so much as his body’s reaction to it. Likewise, the relatively small actions of anarchists provoked a disproportionately disruptive police response. Everywhere an unpermitted march passed, a line of police cars and military vehicles followed; everywhere a window had been broken, traffic was halted by police blockades. All evening Pittsburgh locals could be heard on street corners and city buses decrying the police presence, the hassle of the summit, and the hypocrisy of their rulers.
Click here for a map of the setting of these events.
On the other side of town, at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland, people gathered at the Public Health Auditorium at 5th and De Soto, where a radical cultural event was taking place. The news came in during the performance of a particularly inspiring speaker that the police were raiding the Wellness Center at which injured and traumatized protesters were being treated. It was later announced that the police had not actually raided the space, but only threatened it; regardless, at this point no one present would have been surprised by any outrage on the part of the police.
Nearby, students had gathered close to the bridge to Schenley Park, where Obama had visited Phipps conservatory. Heavy-handed police repression ensued, including the usual electronic dispersal order and tear gas, but this only attracted more and more protesters and onlookers, and soon the crowd numbered up to 1000. Reports described students with t-shirts wrapped around their faces chanting “beer pong!” and “LET’S GO PITT!”; video footage shows them chanting more explicitly political slogans.
Shortly after 10 p.m., a Bash Back!-themed black bloc a hundred or more strong appeared on Forbes Street between Atwood Street and Oakland Avenue. The march was pushing half a dozen or more dumpsters, which were upended in the intersections while seemingly all the corporate businesses on the block lost their windows. Another dumpster was rolled further down the street and set alight before being upended as the bloc fled north.
We can imagine the atmosphere of the street at that instant: the running figures, the explosions of breaking glass reverberating off the buildings, the dim streetlights on masked faces, the sound of nearby sirens reminding everyone that militarized riot police in full force were on the way from only a couple blocks’ distance.
Pamela’s Diner, Panera Bread, McDonald’s, Bruegger’s Bagels, Subway, Rite Aid, FedEx Kinko’s, American Apparel, the Pitt Shop, and other businesses suffered damage. An H&R Block nearby on Atwood also reported vandalism. The bloc moved north, encountering a police substation on which a particularly bitter revenge was exacted. Police vehicles were already in pursuit and presumably speeding ahead to surround the march; however, the terrain of the college district was too open, and too populated by civilians, for the police to easily entrap their prey. Some participants broke off from the march at this point; others continued together as far as Craig Street, where Quizno’s Subs, PNC Bank, Irish Design Center, BNY Mellon, and Citizens Bank were damaged before the bloc finally dispersed.
Immediately thereafter, the police issued another prerecorded dispersal order to the students gathered in Schenley Plaza and around the so-called “Cathedral of Learning,” then fired several dozen tear gas canisters at the crowd. The following hours saw massive police occupation of the university area and ongoing clashes with students extending into their dormitories. As in St. Paul after the first day of the 2008 RNC, comparatively modest anarchist direct action provoked such a powerful police overreaction that the police ended up precipitating conflict with the public at large.
As of early morning September 25, corporate media reports cite 66 arrests, the majority of which happened during the evening and may include students caught up in random police attacks. Some of these arrestees have already been released; others are facing serious felony charges. Some charges may yet be filed, based on police and FBI intelligence.
The question remains—why didn’t the police succeed in controlling the demonstrators? Were there simply too many protesters, active in too many parts of the city, too mobile and often too savvy to keep up with?
Certainly, the rank and file of the police force in Pittsburgh are inexperienced—much less experienced than many of the protesters who have been in situations like this before. Video footage shows them forming sloppy lines, struggling helplessly with their equipment, dragging each other back from confrontations, and generally behaving like incompetent buffoons. It’s also possible that the city of Pittsburgh didn’t succeed in assembling their hoped-for 4000 officers; police officers are reported to have been brought in from as far away as Florida and Arizona.
Bearing all that in mind, though, the police were clearly ordered not to make mass arrests—that must have been an executive decision from above. There were several situations in which they could have tried to, but they never did. This is a change in approach from the 2004 and 2008 RNCs and the 2008 DNC. It’s possible that it is simply a local difference, but that seems unlikely. They promised up to 1000 arrests and carried out well under 100, even after repeatedly losing control of demonstrators all day long.
Is this the Obama administration finally coming through for anarchists? (Stay calm—it’s a joke, people.) Seriously, though, could someone high up have something to gain from letting anarchists destroy Pittsburgh? Or were their hands tied by factors we can’t know, like pressure to avoid seeming heavy-handed… or the financial constraints of the recession era?
At midnight at the end of the day, an announcement went out that police were having trouble getting fuel and were trying to get a tanker truck to come refill their Humvees. Another report claimed “police not responding to other calls: ‘all units are in Oakland.’” Perhaps this is just more of the misinformation common to the Twitter era; but it also sounds like the first signs of the capitalist empire suffering from overextension as its resources run out.
We can’t know how much this was a victory until the dust settles and the charges are filed. The 2008 RNC was exciting on September 1, but by the following week so many felony cases were pending that it was impossible to see it as an unqualified success. We’ll expand on this report as more information comes in.
But it’s important to convey the feelings we have at the end of a day like today, a day when we get to live the real lives we deserve, that we should be able to live every day. The exultation and joy we feel in moments like this is real, too—as real as our felony charges and the grim realities of long-term struggle.