In Support of Baltimore: Or; Smashing Police Cars Is Logical Political Strategy

(by Benji Hart, via Radical Faggot)

Burning Baltimore police van during riots in response to murder of Freddie Gray
A Baltimore Metropolitan Police transport vehicle burns during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to address the violence in Baltimore, his office said on Monday. Several Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday in violent clashes with young people after the funeral of a black man, Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, and local law enforcement warned of a threat by gangs. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton – RTX1AK33

As a nation, we fail to comprehend Black political strategy in much the same way we fail to recognize the value of Black life.

We see ghettos and crime and absent parents where we should see communities actively struggling against mental health crises and premeditated economic exploitation. And when we see police cars being smashed and corporate property being destroyed, we should see reasonable responses to generations of extreme state violence, and logical decisions about what kind of actions yield the desired political results.

I’m overwhelmed by the pervasive slandering of protesters in Baltimore this weekend for not remaining peaceful. The bad-apple rhetoric would have us believe that most Baltimore protesters are demonstrating the right way—as is their constitutional right—and only a few are disrupting the peace, giving the movement a bad name.

This spin should be disregarded, first because of the virtual media blackout of any of the action happening on the ground, particularly over the weekend. Equally, it makes no sense to cite the Constitution in any demonstration for Black civil rights (that document was not written about us, remember?), but certainly not one organized specifically to call attention to the fact that the state breaks its own laws with regard to the oppressed on a nearly constant basis.

But there is an even bigger problem. Referring to Black Lives Matter protests, as well as organic responses to police and state violence as “non-violent” or “peaceful” erases the actual climate in which these movements are acting, the militant strategies that have rendered them effective, and the long history of riots and direct action on which they are built.

I do not advocate non-violence—particularly in a moment like the one we currently face. In the spirit and words of militant Black and Brown feminist movements from around the globe, I believe it is crucial that we see non-violence as a tactic, not a philosophy.

Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege. When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy. It not only fails to meet the needs of the community, but actually puts oppressed people in further danger of violence.

Militance is about direct action which defends our communities from violence. It is about responses which meet the political goals of our communities in the moment, and deal with the repercussions as they come. It is about saying no, firmly drawing and holding boundaries, demanding the return of stolen resources. And from Queer Liberation and Black Power to centuries-old movements for Native sovereignty and anti-colonialism, it is how virtually all of our oppressed movements were sparked, and has arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire.

We need to clarify what we mean by terms like “violence” and “peaceful.” Because, to be clear, violence is beating, harassing, tazing, assaulting and shooting Black, trans, immigrant, women, and queer people, and that is the reality many of us are dealing with daily. Telling someone to be peaceful and shaming their militance not only lacks a nuanced and historical political understanding, it is literally a deadly and irresponsible demand.

The political goals of rioters in Baltimore are not unclear—just as they were not unclear when poor, Black people rioted in Ferguson last fall. When the free market, real estate, the elected government, the legal system have all shown you they are not going to protect you—in fact, that they are the sources of the greatest violence you face—then political action becomes about stopping the machine that is trying to kill you, even if only for a moment, getting the boot off your neck, even if it only allows you a second of air. This is exactly what blocking off streets, disrupting white consumerism, and destroying state property are designed to do.

Black people know this, and have employed these tactics for a very, very long time. Calling them uncivilized, and encouraging them to mind the Constitution is racist, and as an argument fails to ground itself not only in the violent political reality in which Black people find themselves, but also in our centuries-long tradition of resistance, one that has taught effective strategies for militance and direct action to virtually every other current movement for justice.

And while I don’t believe that every protester involved in attacking police cars and corporate storefronts had the same philosophy, or did what they did for the same reasons, it cannot be discounted that when there is a larger national outcry in defense of plate-glass windows and car doors than for Black young people, a point is being made. When there is more concern for white sports fans in the vicinity of a riot than the Black people facing off with police, there is mounting justification for the rage and pain of Black communities in this country.

Acknowledging all of this, I do think events this weekend in Baltimore raise important questions for future direct and militant action in all of our movements. In addition to articulating our goals, crafting our messaging and type of action, we need to think carefully about what the longer term results of militant action might potentially be. Strategies I might suggest, and important questions I think we should try and answer as we plan or find ourselves involved in political actions are these:

  • Are we harming state and private property, or are we harming people, communities and natural resources? Is the result of our action disrupting state and corporate violence, or creating collateral damage that more oppressed people will have to deal with (i.e., Black families and business owners, cleaning staff, etc.)? Are we mimicking state violence by harming people and the environment, or are we harming state property in ways that can stop or slow violence? Are we demonizing systems or people?
  • Who is in the vicinity? Are we doing harm to people around us as we act? Is there a possibility of violence for those who are not the intended targets of our action? Are we forcing people to be involved in an action who many not want to be, or who are not ready?
  • Who is involved in the action? Are people involved in our action consensually, or simply because they are in the vicinity? Have we created ways for people of all abilities who may not want to be present to leave? Are we being strategic about location and placement of bodies? If there are violent repercussions for our actions, who will be facing them?

We should attempt to answer as many of these questions as possible before action occurs, in the planning stages if possible. We also need backup plans and options for changing our actions in the moment if any of the agreed-upon conditions are not the same when it comes time to act.

I rolled my eyes when inquiries in Ferguson “shockingly” revealed racist emails sent throughout local government, including higher-ups in the Police Department. I think many of us knew the inquiry of virtually any police department would yield almost identical findings. The riots in Baltimore have many drawing parallels between policy and conduct in both cities now. What kind of action brought to light for the less affected what Black people have always known? What kinds of actions will it take to make it widely understood that all policing is racist terror, and justice can only come with its permanent abolition?

Black power, Queer power, power to Baltimore, and to all oppressed people who know what time it is.

43 Missing Students, State Crimes & Resistance in Mexico

(by Dawn Paley, via Media Co-op)

Guerrero's state congress burns during the widespread protests that took place in response to the police kidnapping/murders of the students from Ayotzinapa.  Tuesday, October 13. (Photo: El Universal)
Guerrero’s state congress burns during the widespread protests that took place in response to the police kidnapping/murders of the students from Ayotzinapa.
Tuesday, October 13. (Photo: El Universal)

The story of the 43 young men, students at a teacher training college in Ayotzinapa, who were disappeared in Iguala, Mexico on September 26th is one that isn’t going to go away.

Recall that they were kidnapped by police and nothing has been heard from them since. The Mexican government and mainstream media are relying heavily on the narrative that the responsible party in these crimes is a “drug gang” called Guerreros Unidos. That narrative distorts and distracts from despicable state crimes by pointing to organized crime and corrupt cops as being solely responsible.

This is a short update meant to demystify official claims, which are (as usual) finding great echo in the media, as well as to bring folks up to date on ongoing acts of resistance in Mexico.

On the day the students were detained by police before also being disappeared by them, six people were killed by gunshot wounds when cops opened fire on various vehicles. There are now ample survivors who have bravely told media what took place that day, and they’re not talking about attacks by Guerreros Unidos or some other crime group. They describe how police fired directly on groups clearly identified as students. Here’s a snippet from an excellent piece by Vice Mexico:

“When it started, one of us said, ‘Don’t be afraid, friends, they are firing to the sky’,” Mario went on. “The buses stopped, and that’s when I saw the bullets were coming toward us.”

The young men began panicking. Mario and three other friends got off, each also wearing the red jacket of their Ayotzinapa uniforms. They saw that the gunfire was coming from men inside two municipal police cruisers. Trying to defend himself, Mario threw rocks in their direction.

As bullets kept hitting the buses, they ran to the first bus. “But then we saw that they were ten police cars, surrounding us. We had no where to run and no rocks to defend ourselves,” Mario said.

“One of the bullets hit Aldo, who fell right next to me. I saw how a pool of blood formed. I yelled at them that they already hit one of us, and they began firing more,” he went on. “If you moved, they fired, if you yelled or talked, they fired. They fired so much, from in front, and from behind, that us, the ones who got off, we hid in between the first and second bus.”

mass of riot pigs and angry students who hate killer cops
Anti-riot policemen are on guard as students try to get into Government palace, in Chilpancingo (Photo: Jose Luis de la Cruz)

Yesterday it was revealed that the 9-10 mass graves that were found outside of Iguala almost two weeks ago do not contain the bodies of the 43 missing students. We now know that at least 28 more people were killed around that time, they were tortured, cut into pieces, and burned before being buried outside of Iguala. We must now speak of various massacres in Iguala (not to mention mass graves containing nine bodies found in April and another nine in May of this year on the outskirts of the city).

But the government of Mexico’s involvement in these crimes goes beyond police actions and their collaboration with paramilitary groups in the region. It was reported that authorities also impeded the work of an Argentine Forensic team tasked with identifying the remains in the graves.

“There were two days of agnoy and complications, and on the third day things were normalized,” [according to a lawyer on the scene].

Because of the loss of those initial hours, they arrived at the first five graves–out of which they took 28 bodies–once the exhumations were already done. “They didn’t have the opportunity to participate in that.”

The mayor of Iguala, who belongs to the sham leftist PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), is on the run with his wife. Note that governor of Guerrero is also a member of the PRD.

I guess that’s my lead in to update on the resistance and organization taking place in the face of this massive, ongoing tragedy.

There were marches throughout the country a week ago today, as well as in cities around the world, including Vancouver and Montreal. Coming back to my segue-way, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the so called “moral leader” of the sham-left PRD party, was attacked during the October 8th demo by protestors in Mexico City who threw garbage and yelled at him and his entourage. But the marches were big, and there were lots of them, and the attack on Cárdenas was just a bit of a sideshow that demonstrates how pissed people are at all of the political parties in this country. Of the main protest slogans in the marches is: ¡Vivos los llevaron, vivos los queremos! which translates as: They were taken alive, we want them back alive!

Militant highway blockades have been taking place in various locations. There was one this morning on a major highway in the south of Mexico City.

Also today the National University (UNAM) and various other large universities in Mexico City (UAM, IPN and UACM) entered their second day of a two day student strike, with another two day strike proposed for next week.

Lastly, for the moment, on October 13th the State Congress of Guerrero was burned by protesters. The building will not re-open for some time and government activities have been suspended until an alternative seat of government is found. Chilpancingo’s City Hall was also set on fire.

(An unpleasant endnote, but over the weekend a leader who has been active in resisting a dam in Sinaloa state was killed while he broadcasted live during his weekly radio show. More on that soon.)

Zapatistas march for Ayotzinapa in San Cristobal

(via CIP Americas Program / Upside Down World)

Some twenty thousand members of the bases of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation marched briskly through San Cristobal de las Casas on October 8. They gathered on the outskirts of the city, under a blue sky stained with clouds that threatened rain and then walked in long, orderly lines toward the central plaza of the city. The long river of Zapatistas moved fluidly and silently; the only sound was the steps of their shoes and boots. They carried signs that read “Your rage is ours”, “Your pain is our pain” and “You are not alone”.

front of the march with banners (ezln, mexican flag, signs of support for victims)

The message was for the students of  Ayotzinapa, Guerrero and for the families that found out that on on Sept. 26-27 their sons were killed or kidnapped as they traveled by bus, at the hands of municipal police in complicity with the drug trafficking organization Guerreros Unidos. Two weeks from the attacks there are 6 dead and 43 disappeared.

“In Ayotzinapa the state appears as the intersection between official powers and criminal powers that dispute political control, using new forms of social discipline. We have arrived at a point of dehumanization,” said Dolores González Saravia, director of the NGO SerAPaz, during the presentation of the 2013-2014 report of the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights.

masked zapatista mujeres showing solidarity with the disappeared

The bone-chilling story of these youth and the indignation at the corruption of the police and the Mexican institutions spurred many acts of solidaryt. Oct. 8 more than 60 cities in Mexico and throughout the world responded to the call to mobilize. They organized marches, roadblocks, occupations and blockades of government offices.

In Chilpancingo, the capital of the state of Guerrero, thousands of students demonstrated, along with teachers and other citizens, while the community police of the  Unión de Pueblos Organizados de Guerrero (UPOEG) organized an independent search for the 43 students. In Mexico City 15,000 people joined the march. In Barcelona, New York, Montreal and Buenos Aires they showed pictures of the youth, talked about their personal stories, demanded their appearance alive and punishment for the guilty.

“The institutions are not going to do justice, they won’t bring justice, since the whole chain of command is corrupt, but to demand the appearance of the students alive is a form of pressure to present them if they know where they are. However, even this is not complete justice, because presentation of the missing will not repair the incalculable damage suffered by the students and their families,” one Zapatista supporter who preferred to remain anonymous told us.

MARCHAEZ081014OB8

In San Cristobal de las Casas members of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle joined students, teachers, famlies and civic organizations that organized two marches that came together in the plaza.

The EZLN route went through the plaza, a where it has a long history, crossing through without stopping. The Zapatistas marched in silence just as they had on Dec. 21, 2013 and May of 2011, when the indigenous organization answered another call in solidarity with the victims of state violence, launched by the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Then the Zapatistas joined national marches against the war on the cartels started by  ex president Felipe Calderón. The Mexican government’s  anti-drug crusade, instead of decreasing crime, caused some 100,000 deaths and 30,000 disappeared. Today the country is inundated by corrupt institutions, drug cartels and paramilitary groups; the EZLN leader Galeano, assassinated by paramilitary groups May 2, is one of the victims.

Most of the Zapatistas who marched on Oct. 8 were young, like the students of  Ayotzinapa. The tourists that strolled through the streets of the colonial city were amazed at the unexpected procession. The people of San Cristóbal de Las Casas –a historically conservative city–looked out from the stores and restaurants and took pictures of the long march of masked indigenous people. No one spoke, some whispered. One women outside a hotel applauded, shouting, “Long live the people!” and the eyes of some of the Zapatistas smiled behind their masks.

MARCHAEZ081014OB4

The June Uprisings in Brazil: Below and Behind the Huge Mobilizations (Part 1)

Brazil Uprising -- June 2013‘The huge mobilizations in June 2013 in 353 cities and towns in Brazil came as much a surprise to the political system as to analysts and social bodies. Nobody expected so many demonstrations, so numerous, in so many cities and for so long. As happens in these cases, media analyses were quick off the mark. Initially they focused on the immediate problems highlighted by the actions: urban transport, rising fare prices and the poor quality of service for commuters. Slowly the analyses and perspectives expanded to include the day-to-day dissatisfaction felt by a large part of the population. While there was widespread acknowledgement that basic family income had risen during the last decade of economic growth, social commentators began to focus on economic inclusion through consumption as the root of the dissatisfaction, alongside the persistence of social inequality.

In this analysis, I would like to address the new forms of protest, organization, and mobilization from a social movement perspective. These new forms emerged within small activist groups composed mainly of young people that began organizing in 2003, the year Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took government. Unlike political parties, trade unions and other traditional organizations formed in the early eighties, the new social movements are key to the June mobilizations because of their ability to organize beyond their local scene, to involve the broadest sectors of society in the struggle, and to employ forms of action and organization that sets them apart from the groups that went before them.

In most cases, media coverage and analysis have been guilty of overgeneralizing, often giving an almost magical role to “social networks” in mobilizing the millions of people in the street. “With nimble fingers on their cell phones, youth have taken to the streets all around the world to protest, connected by social networks,” said former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (Da Silva, 2013) “Beyond social media, the people are unorganized,” said leading intellectual Luiz Werneck Vianna. (Vianna, 2013 : 9) Others analysts linked the “revolution 2.0” to a new middle class and argued that the June struggles in Brazil form part of the Arab Spring and the Spanish indignados or indignants. (Cocco, 2013:17)

Riot police respond to Brazil uprising - June 2013In this essay I assert — in tune with James C. Scott — that the key to what is happening in the public arena is to be found in the daily practices of the popular sectors and particularly in what Scott calls “hidden spaces” where the subordinated develop discourses antagonistic to power: “The acts of daring and haughtiness that so struck the authorities were perhaps improvised on the public stage, but they had been long and amply prepared in the hidden transcript of folk culture and practice.” (Scott, 2000:264) To focus on the continent behind and below the visible coast of the political, says Scott, is a necessary step to understand a new political culture. The new forms of protesting and organizing in Brazil can better be understood if we look closely at the practices of the small activist groups forged over the span of more than a decade. […]

Autonomous activism requires a greater level of dedication than is usually considered by observers like members of political parties. Furthermore, everything must be done without any institutional support so it relies heavily on collective work and creativity. Strong bonds of trust and solidarity emerge in these collective groups, to the extent that some activist groups could be considered living communities. Activists will often share a house or live within the same neighborhood and frequent the same social spaces, and this level of co-existence is a powerful cohesive factor which blurs the line between friendship and militancy, creating a climate of fraternity that is reaffirmed with the various regional or federal gatherings. Needless to say, this militant lifestyle goes together with a consistent ethic that does not separate words and action, the personal and the collective, or decision-makers and activists. It is a way of doing things that is counter to the hegemonic political culture, including the left parties.’

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Read the full article at: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/brazil-archives-63/4567-the-june-uprisings-in-brazil-below-and-behind-the-huge-mobilizations-part-1

Activist prevents Israeli officer from arresting Palestinian child

via 972Mag:

During Sunday’s Jerusalem Day events, a Palestinian boy, perhaps 10 years old, was chased down an East Jerusalem street by a very angry officer of the Border Police. The boy tripped and fell, then picked himself up just as the Border Police officer reached him and tried to grab him. But a 22 year-old female Israeli activist prevented the boy’s arrest by throwing herself between the two, allowing the Palestinian boy to flee.

Jerusalem Day is meant to be a celebration of the city’s ‘reunification’ following Israel’s victory in the 1967 war. In practice, it is a day for Israeli nationalists, draped in flags, dancing in circles, singing and chanting (including the popular Israeli nationalist chant, ‘death to Arabs’) as they march through the streets of East Jerusalem and the Old City. Many of the Jewish demonstrators are bused in from right-wing yeshivas in Israel and the West Bank. […]

In recent years, a few Israeli left-wing activists have staged small counter-demonstrations outside the old city’s gates, as the celebratory marchers stream past. Generally, the counter-demonstrators hold small signs with slogans like “East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory,” and the like. A few Palestinians hold a vigil, too, usually with Palestinian flags in their hands.

This year, an Orthodox Jewish man grabbed the Palestinian flag from the hands of a 10 year-old boy and refused to return it. The boy, enraged, tried to prise it out of the Jewish man’s hands. A Border Police officer, seeing the struggle between a 10 year-old Palestinian boy and a fully grown Jewish man, chased the Palestinian boy rather than ordering the Jewish man to return the flag. Someone made a montage of the incident and posted it on Facebook, with commentary. Note the expression of rage in the Border Police officer’s eyes, as seen in the second photo.

Israeli man snatches flag from Palestinian youth, and Border Police cop chases boy

Border Police officer chasing Palestinian boy on Jerusalem Day (photo: Activestills)
Israeli Border Police officer chasing Palestinian boy on Jerusalem Day (photo: Activestills)
Israeli activist Sahar Vardi intervenes to stop Border Police officer from arresting Palestinian child
Israeli activist Sahar Vardi intervenes to stop Border Police officer from arresting Palestinian child (photos: Haim Schwarczenberg)