An analysis of this years May Day demo in Olympia, Washington.
Originally published by Puget Sound Anarchists
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe so they are able to read what is going on and for documentation only.
In downtown Olympia around 6:30pm a relatively diverse group of around 75 people, mostly in black bloc,*1 began to assemble at 4th and Capitol. Police had been prowling around the area for a few hours before this, most likely keeping an eye out since they were aware of the call out for May Day action most likely via the variety of posters that were put up around town. There seemed to be some folks mulling around before a large enough mass of people were assembled at 4th and Capitol, but when enough people started to gather more and more showed up.*2 As people gathered there were snacks, shields, and masks being handed out. There was music blasting from a portable sound system, keeping morale up. There were a variety of well made banners decrying the port and the capitalist system as well as evoking anarchy (that is to say the rejection of ruling bodies or, to put it another way, the rejection of bosses). Spirits were high. There was a great deal of potential given the size and the seemingly organized nature of this group and the participants seemed to know it. The police were keeping an eye on this group with two officers directly across the street who were buddying up with an alleged white supremacist who was taking pictures of people and dressed in a posh coat and button up and rocking a Thor’s hammer who eventually crossed the street and was met with jeers.
After some of the group informally agreed that there were “enough people” part of the group moved to start marching and the rest joined them.*3 As the march hit the street people held smoke bombs aloft and raucous anticapitalist, antifascist, and anticolonial chants including, “A-Anti-Anticapitalista”, “Alerta! Alerta! Antifascista!”, and “Whose streets?” met with “Squaxin Land!”*4 echoed through the streets. The march continued from 4th and Capitol down 4th to the train tracks passing by the artesian well where people greeted their friends and some members of the “street community” cheered on the march. Here it is important to note that some members of the “street community” had already joined the march some of whom were given gear to bloc up in. It was however obvious that reactionaries*5 were also present some of whom have been pointed out as regulars at the well, including reactionary white men who attacked the anti-trump post-election march. There was also a capitalist media crew including cop-loving Kevin McCarty from KIRO7, his camera person, and their security person who were most likely there to spin their own yarn both sensationalizing and propagandistically decrying the march all the while collecting footage that could be used as evidence against people by the police. Also, a gaggle of less than sympathetic onlookers were using the cameras on their phones to record the events as they unfolded.
When the march reached the intersection where 4th intersects the train tracks from the port, people stopped to hold the intersection and people started setting off fireworks and according to the police twitter shooting stones at them with a sling shot. This is about the time the police declared this march a “riot.” It was also around this point where the formal capitalist media was discouraged from filming by being splashed with carbonated water and having hot dogs thrown at them which should be noted didn’t garner escalation from the police. Creative and less escalatory methods of driving people off and embarrassing them like this and others like silly string used at past May Days in Seattle can be effective tactics. At this point only the informal spectators remained with their jaws slacked and their cameras on. The atmosphere began to shift a little as people in the bloc started openly wondering what was happening. Although it may be obvious to some that the intent was to block the tracks it wasn’t as clear to everyone. Part of the group started moving back so as to have a smaller number of exposed flanks to defend, though this was also not clear to all participants. In recent memory, many marches with blocs in Olympia out-maneuver the police and have more of an element of surprise and strike targets quickly, then disperse and contain less people. It was clear at this moment that the intent was to hold territory and was perhaps more in line with the tactics used during the earlier blockade of the tracks that was targeting fracking proppants*6. It’s also the case that many in the bloc were relatively inexperienced in the tactic and the actions the tactic is usually used in. During this period the Olympia police gave a dispersal order though most in the bloc could not hear what was being said over the loudspeaker some inferred through context what it meant. The police also did not enforce the order immediately.
People used pallets and banners to make makeshift defenses and the shields stayed mostly on the perimeter. Eventually the reactionaries parroting normative morality began to complain about litter*7 left by the rebel group when they repositioned and eventually these reactionaries put on gear like American flag bandannas, started posturing in threatening ways, and pelting various slurs. It was at this point a person emerged from the bloc and decided by themselves to act quickly and without discussion or warning to attack*8 this rival group with a cloud of bear-mace which is a highly potent form of pepper spray. This was perhaps the gravest mistake made during the whole day. The bear spray is a 2% capsaicin substance like a stronger version typical pepper spray, but unlike typical pepper spray it comes out in a 20 foot cloud of pepper fog. This fog needs to be aimed very carefully with wind direction and ally/bystander locations in mind. Due to a lack of solid situational awareness or perhaps adrenaline overriding said awareness a cloud of bear spray not only hit the reactionaries, but some of the edges of the cloud is alleged to have hit bystanders though many of the possible people hit by the spray that could have been bystanders were gathered behind the reactionaries and it is unclear if they were supporting them or not. What is clear is that one of these people near the possible spray area had dog with them. This attack was very very unwise and immediately after the spray it was probably clear to everyone involved that this was the case. Some use the fact that some of the bigots were people who allegedly hang out on the street as a way of saying they should never be attacked. This type of rhetoric is fallacious and patronizing. Firstly, these kids could be houseys that hang out on the street due to the fact that Olympia is boring. Of course these are people we should be reaching out to and groups like EGYHOP and informal patrols have been doing this sometimes every night. Also, being houseless doesn’t excuse one’s defense of the ruling order: anyone who has been bashed or raped by a self described “scum fuck” (a violent group of largely bigoted houseless travelers) should be able to defend themselves. If poor racists attack people or are organizing reactionary mobs, to say they shouldn’t be defended against is ridiculous. In Seattle street youth were whipped into a racist lynch mob by the police who sent them after a black radical when he was defenseless and arguments that paint street folks with a sort of magical “oppressed person” shield ignore the complexities of realities especially in the racist USA. Of course it provide the enemy a way to frame things that makes people look awful, but logistics are far more important and being able to defend the march is far better for morale and gaining support than giving allegedly poor people a free pass to be violent bigots. It seems the past half dozen anarchist leaning marches in Olympia have been attacked by bigoted men, many of whom just happened to be downtown, this seems to be something we have to take into account. Of course there are other steps that may be taken to deal with such problems, or sometimes it would be better just to ignore the petulant jeers of small-fry know-nothing bigots, but sometimes self defense is required both for our immediate safety, also, to prevent a norm of attacking protests to be established which could happen when people are unable to defend themselves as has taken place before in Olympia. This being said, this bear spray incident was definitely a crucial mistake that may have undone years of difficult work.
Advice: Know your weapon. If you do not know your weapon you can cause undesirable harm which can ruin a project with great potential in a single blow and makes you exactly what you despise in this world. Know your environment. Know how to use the environment to your advantage and know how to most desirably operate in it. Be aware of environmental factors like wind or rain or hills that may effect how you operate. Know yourself if you get too worked up to think clearly it might be a good idea to take deep breaths and to hold back, but if you know you have a relatively cool head acting quickly can make a huge difference. Know your enemy. If you do not know your enemy, the advantage will be theirs, and you have opened up a thousand avenues for failure and closed a thousand avenues for victory.
After the bear spray created a bit of chaos and confusion the police chose this moment to deploy tear gas, by the time the bloc and others heard the first bang of the blast balls the gas was already in the air. It had a very distinct taste that is different than pepper spray etc and video evidence of the march seems to confirm this. The banners were held up to protect the crowd from the continuing volley of projectiles being shot by the police, but it was clear since people couldn’t breathe, people couldn’t stay, they chose people chose to pull back further down the tracks away from the police. The police used pepperballs, shot people with blast balls that seem to be laced with some sort of irritant, and a variety what seemed like rubber bullet type rounds, but they were not prepared for a close quarters engagement. Now it may seem ridiculous to charge the police, but it has long been labor wisdom that one runs from a knife yet charges a gun. Now this phrase is more accurate for the specific weapons it’s talking about, but it could also apply to different ways of engaging when someone who wishes you harm with either long range or close range weapons. The police were also not wearing gas-masks so it’s doubtful they would want to get all the nasty chemicals they were deploying in the space where they have to breathe and see. The bloc outnumbered the police and the police, like most with an understanding of tactics, hate even a fair fight. There is the matter of the lack of flags, but there were shields and banners and as radicals have proved in Italy even shield and baton wielding riot cops can be repelled by literally pushing and bouncing them back. Of course engaging the police in melee combat this would be a risky and dangerous. While it would be a boon for moral and social rupture if the police were defeated in such a way, if the police aren’t blocking resources or the only way out there are plenty of reasons to take the path of least resistance–so long as it doesn’t lead to getting kettled,*9 arrested, or other undesirable things–if it’s the path the police want you to take.
The bear spray incident gave the police an opportunity to route*10the bloc and their allies. Now the events leading up to this routing are very contentious. Like all conflictual situations there are a great deal of people who have many different perspectives based on where they physically were, based on their emotional/psychological state, and based on the narratives about life and world-view that they have already constructed. The author(s) of this text have listened to dozens of reliable eye-witness accounts, watched the events on recorded video, and witnessed the event themselves.
The bloc and their allies could have communicated better before this. Communication is often key in collective action. If the police didn’t move in so quickly the bloc and friends could have had more time to do so. If the police didn’t move in so quickly there could have also been more time to fortify the position and to build actual barricades as countless revolutionaries have done before them. Of course the bear spray incident is what prompted the police to move in, but we cannot read their minds. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that police could have moved in using the fireworks, the marbles, or even just being in the street as an excuse and the results could have been very similar.
After the bloc and others were routed the tactics shifted to maneuvering. The bloc and others also were being attacked by small-fry reactionaries and perhaps others who had heard a exaggerated version of events related to the bear spray incident that painted everyone in the march as people worthy of attack and part of a unified group.*11 People may have also been acting in “dirty kid solidarity” wherein you come to the defense of your fellow street folks even when you know they messed up. The bloc decided not to really engage with the reactionaries at this point due to the fact that the police were a more deserving target both in terms of who they are, what would be the result of attacking them, and in terms of who actually makes sense to focus attack on in the moment. The bloc managed to chuck rocks at the cops and attack particularly deserving capitalist property.
Throughout this maneuvering phase people began to disperse until the police forcefully split the group and went after a smaller more isolated group and arrested 9 mostly queer and trans non-white people. There have been claims that this group was left behind or ditched in someway, but it’s hard to imagine how the arrests could have been prevented after the group was split. Also the critique seems to be coming from some people who are able to take to the streets with lower risk than other differently-abled or marginalized comrades and it could be argued that they left people behind by not taking to the streets or engaging in critical support, but it is not the opinion of the author(s) of this text that this is a entirely fair accusation rather not turning out to the streets if you are willing and able does tend to make street actions have less desirable results. We would also like to add a reminder that the people to blame for the arrests are the police, not the fellow participants who were unable to prevent the arrests.
It is also speculated that these people were arrested for breaking windows, but we should recall the origins of May Day*12 in which anarchists were charged for a crime they probably didn’t commit yet, as admitted by the judge, they were really on trial as an attack on anarchy. The police need to seem like they are holding people accountable, so they try to down play the fact that this amount of damage to capitalist property is actually a regular occurrence in Olympia and they have failed to catch the majority of the anarchists who have done such things and when something like May Day*13 happens, and it is clearly beyond typical 1st Amendment protected action, they have to make arrests even if they don’t stick and even if they don’t nab the people who really did attack the police and smash up windows. This also raises the problem of innocence. Clinging to not-guilty as a position beyond a maneuver in court is foolish if one is really intent on overthrowing the ruling order, or even opposing it. When one claims innocence as a means of discrediting repression, one justifies the repression against those the state deems guilty or who would carry out the actions that people are being accused of. A person may stand accused of breaking windows they did not break, but someone did brake those windows and both people should be supported.
The capitalist property damaged was the OlyFed building, US Bank, Starbucks, and Goodwill’s BLUE boutique. The police described these businesses as “local” in attempts to make them seem more innocent or worth defending, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Local is not equivalent to desirable. OlyFed, on top of being typically exploitative, recently called upon the police to forcefully evict a houseless person who was sleeping behind their building and have come in on the side of gentrification. US Bank engages in predatory lending, funding ecocidal and ethnocidal fossil fuel resource extraction projects, and exploiting their customers daily. Starbucks has tried to clean up it’s image, but they still place profit above all else like capitalists do. Starbucks exploits their workers by making a ridiculous amount of money off their work while paying them very little and suppressing workers who attempt to better their working conditions. Starbucks traffics in coffee which is one of the most exploitative colonial crops. The people who pick the coffee work in near slave-like conditions and often die of poverty related conditions. Starbucks does minimal optics oriented charity,and so on, to try and obfuscate this fact, but it’s all fundamentally smoke and mirrors. Starbucks also participates in ecocidal levels of pollution, but attempts to greenwash*14 itself. As for BLUE, Goodwill exploits workers with disabilities by paying them well below minimum wage, exploits poor folks by offering them low or no pay job training that doesn’t even remotely guarantee a job, and is a multi-billion dollar profit making industry disguised as a charity. Most of what BLUE does is earn their bosses money while mainly creating an illusion that they’re helping anyone else. Claiming to help people is part of their capitalist branding. Goodwill often drives other charity second-hand stores out of business. As anarchists we prefer solidarity to charity anyway. Charity creates a hierarchy whereas solidarity can build from compassion, not empathy,*15 but it also doesn’t create a hierarchy between those who need aid and those with the ability to aid.
There were reports of other windows breaking such as random people’s cars hit by stray rocks and this is unfortunate, but revolt against the ruling order can be messy. Think of the so-called “Rodney King” riots where people were murdered for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but it is understood as a revolt against the ruling order. This is not to make excuses, but rather to understand sometimes the metaphoric fire doesn’t burn clean and rebels must be able to acknowledge these things and learn how to avoid them in the future, while not totally dismissing and factionalizing whole groups of people in revolt. At times like this dismissals can fuel repression or perhaps act as a more harmful wet blanket*16 of sorts and force a return to the everyday social war in which the social terrain favors the ruling class and harm is greater for the underclass than in periods of open revolt.*17
“What does attacking these businesses do? What does attacking the police do?” some would ask. There are many reasons one may want to attack capitalist property. In 1999 at the Seattle WTO protests it was theorized that attacking capitalist property was a form of breaking the spell those in power put on people. It showed these institutions that were exploiting people and contributing to the oppression and exploitation could be attacked and that they were not invincible. It also showed that there were others that wanted to revolt, but these attacks were not in a vacuum. They were along side movements who were putting out theory and putting on cultural events. A social insurrection is primarily a social project rather than a military one. This is not to say logistics should be ignored, but that insurrectionary moments happen when willful people come together and use whatever means possible to better their networks, creatively wage asymmetric conflict, and shape social terrain, not when rebels have the best weapons or win socially insignificant armed conflicts. This insurrection is about lived revolt against the ruling order, and attacking capitalist property is a way to spread social rupture and draw out potential comrades. An attack on a window is important in that it is clear many others could also perform such attacks without special training, resources, etc. The Weather Underground or other cadre based groups, who whether intentionally or not, place themselves ahead or above the people. The strategy used by these groups stops their projects from inspiring a critical quality or quantity of others to revolt in a way that would bring about a more desirable insurrection, but dressing in black bloc and attacking the enemies of our liberation such as the police, the neo-nazis, and the capitalists is something that is easily reproducible. Attacking the police is self defense in the streets and can keep them from being able to do further harm to a march or action. Normalizing attacking the police makes them think twice before committing brutal acts outside of protest spaces as well: if police know that if they brutalize someone there will be riots they may hold back. During the height of Black Lives Matter protests in Seattle there were two protests called within a day of each other. One was a a non-violent oriented action that did not have a black bloc and the other was a more vicious action with an implied call for black bloc. The non-violent oriented action was routed and attacked by the police and people were arrested. However, the more vicious action had a sizable black bloc and made space for black folks to get up in the faces of cops and tell them what they really think of them knowing the cops couldn’t do anything for fear of the wrath of the bloc. Also the bloc allowed for people who would be targeted by Neo-Nazis or cops to make it very difficult for those that wish them harm to identify. If some of these folks were identified at a radical action they could be fired, deported, or even hunted down and killed and it is masking up that in part allows them to take to the streets to prevent these things. This particular bloc-friendly action also managed to do thousands of dollars worth of property damage and unlike at the earlier more non-violent action no one was arrested and many bystanders actually cheered the group on. This is not to say that the non-violent oriented action was undesirable, rather to point out how a black bloc could make people safer and render desirable results. To properly flesh out this part of the text it would require a separate article and this text must continue to other matters. It should be stressed that being in the streets themselves is not something everyone can do and black bloc alone is not going to bring about a thriving insurrection. There are ways people can support street actions without being there and there are also other actions aside from street actions that can be taken by people with a variety of different abilities.
If people who can’t make it out into the streets are more included in anarchist movements some of them may step up to defend anarchists in online discussions or in the aftermath of actions (using good security of course) rather than denouncing anarchist actions at times when anarchist solidarity is crucial. This cannot be said enough. Without support networks and other projects that aren’t directly street action oriented, like bookfairs or really really free markets or unique creative projects that haven’t even been dreamed up yet, the anarchist movement will fail to realize its potential perhaps just as much as it would without street actions.
It should be noted that the seemingly reinvigorated Olympia chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World held an event around Noon on May Day that was basically a radical picnic in the park where people could have fun together, talk about how to better meet each others needs, and discuss radical theory. Mutual Aid is an important part of anarchist ethics. Mutual Aid and solidarity are not only what anarchists strive to establish, but they are part of the logistics of insurrection itself. If you are not fed you cannot revolt. If you cannot find shelter it can be hard to thrive let alone challenge those exploiting and oppressing you. Some have tried to compare the IWW picnic to the evening march with arguments of “good protester” vs “bad protester,” but this dichotomy is absolutely false.
The world is a complex place. Reality is a complex thing. There are no doubt a diversity of valid theorizations of how things are and what should be done. A diversity of tactics makes a movement more pernicious and increases it’s potentiality. A family friendly day at the park and low intensity urban warfare are not things that have to work against each other. There are of course beliefs and actions that actually come into conflict with each other like establishment liberalism and autonomist communism or Fascism and anarchism, but not all different ideas of what is to be done need to come into conflict with each other and not all rebels need to step on each others’ toes just because they have different actions they think are desirable. Some push a line of diversity of tactics that ignores fundamental differences, but a diversity of tactics can actually be established based on fundamental affinity and can reinforce each other. Sometimes people doing seemingly different kinds of actions are actually the same people. Sometimes forceful attack on the oppressors can be seen as part of the same project as getting food to the hungry or opening community spaces.*18
After May Day this year the typical arguments have arisen from “good citizens” and dogmatic pacifists alike, but these arguments are easily countered and hold little social power. The more potent respectability and identity politics based haters,who in the past have been either defeated in debate, fell by the wayside, or come to an understanding with anarchists have now had a new fire breathed into them by the very unfortunate bear spray incident and the narrative of the arrested having been left behind. In this emotionally intense time some in the community critique as a means of mental stability, crafting narratives that empower them and erase the more complex nature of reality. This practice of crafting stabilizing narratives coupled with critiques raised by other concerned individuals are also being used by more manipulative movement managers in waiting. It’s no wonder critique comes down harder on anarchists and others than on the police for it there are less repercussions when one critiques anarchists than when one openly lambastes the police or whitewashed capitalists. There are those who would shift the blame for repression from the state onto other radicals. Sometimes people feel powerless to stop the state and the main forces of oppression, so they lash out against people they can have a greater effect on. To counter act this we can show people that they really are powerful in their own way, but this isn’t always easy. In fact this is some of the most difficult work cut out for us. If you get arrested by a cops or beaten by a Nazi it is undesirable in many ways and possibly fatal, but in this context it doesn’t put out the spirit of revolt in the same way as leftists intentionally misgendering you to make a point or using anti-oppression theory to get pacify people and get them out of the streets does. It is more important now than ever to not let a wet blanket be thrown on anarchist and fundamentally liberatory activity. While repression can be harmful, one who has the spirit of revolt burning inside them can always continue the struggle even in death and so long as the repression isn’t total.*19 then revolt can continue, but there is a more pernicious form of neutralization that involves being bogged down and pacified by more social elements such as liberals, authoritarian academics, or movement managers who are not trying to better our shared movements, but are trying to destroy the anarchist projects including those made by comrades of color and so on. While the struggle can continue in jail or after a beating or even after a death of a comrade it cannot continue in the same way where the social conditions become wholly unfavorable. There is always the path of the lone wolf or wolves and, as this bear spray incident has shown, a desperate act of an individual can still send shock waves through the infuriated networks where it seemed only infrastructure and swarms had influence. Before, it seemed, to get peoples attention you had to play with memes or, like in the case of the capitalists, control the very form of the media they produce and consume. Yet now it seems that propaganda of the deed, that is a single action with the right resonance, can generate a lot of activity. However, the social insurrection has potential to accomplish different and more desirable things such as the liberation of territory, greater blows dealt to enemies, greater aid to people, and the fundamental bettering of the world or at least powerful network of people with which to cooperate within the actualization of our desires.
At the end of the action there were nine arrests which were mostly made when the cops managed to split the group and targeted a smaller crowd who were mostly queer, trans, and not white.*20 The charges were initially malicioius mischief but the charges have since been returned to the police department in search of more evidence. There was a legal aid network set up ahead of time and a legal number was passed out at the start of the march. After the arrests people figured out where folks were being held, had a noise demo, further activated their networks, and further pooling their resources. Eventually the arrestees were released and they were met with a cheering crowd. At this moment there are no charges being filed, but we have till the end of the statute of limitations for other charges to be filled.
The media has put out a perspective of events that is horribly skewed. Reading the paper or watching the news would have one coming away with an odd understanding of what went down. A viewer/reader could come away thinking this march was set up to be the same old same old smashy-smashy, usual characters, and light attack on cops kind of action when in reality the intentions of the march were different more socially diverse and blockade oriented in nature. One op-ed from the Olympia said it was random violence with no message even though in the article they quote banners that carried numerous messages. Some report the rival mob as Trump Supporters who attacked the march and showed footage that didn’t show the violent police presence; some reports say the rival mob attacked the march after windows were broken and paints them as sort of vigilante heroes defending their towns capitalist projects; and the police have spun their own yarn that tries to describe the places hit as “mom and pop shops” and describes themselves as defenders of the city, all the while trying to erase the memory of what they’ve done and continue to do to marginalized members of this community, like Andre and Bryson, who they shot, essentially for looking like shop lifting suspects and who they continue to brutalize in the courts even today. Just like the “Safe Space” stickers the cops put up everywhere, these are counter insurgency tactics they whitewash as “community policing.” Every queer who has been bashed by cops and anyone who understands the actual function of the police understands these “Safe Space” stickers as an insult and the lowest form of propaganda. The “mom and pop shop” narrative couldn’t be further from the truth, but it also hides the fact that some “mom and pop shops” have it coming, like the racist white folks who open up latin@ themed restaurants or the culturally appropriative hippie stores like Radiance that are owned by professional rape apologists like Andrea Seabert Olsen. Andrea owns both Radiance and is the Assistant to the VP for Student Conduct, she regularly defends Nazis and rapists, sometimes leading them to continue their pattern of violent assaults. Andrea was also at May Day, perhaps working with the police to point out Evergreen students and snitch on them.
Throughout the event there were only a slightly above average amount of Oly cops in town, meaning there were slightly more than 20ish cops in town. It wasn’t even toward the end that the police called for “mutual aid,” which is ironically what they call calling in support from other departments. It is unlikely this will be the case for May Day in Olympia next year. Like the FBI, Oly cops have continually underestimated anarchists and others, but when they overestimate folks they have also ended up looking like fools. At previous Olympia May Days, the authorities called in hundreds of cops from a dozen departments and spent tens of thousands of dollars of resources all to police a picnic and a stroll through the streets.
There was a lot of prep that went into May Day this year, including the beautiful and useful banners, as well as the snacks and shields and spare bloc clothes, not to mention the social activity that put such a diverse group of affinities into play in such a way, and it may feel extremely awful that this was almost all for not, but there are lessons here that will be learned and if we bounce back it’ll never be this awful in terms of wet blankets again. The pacifist has lost the argument and all that’s left is for anti-anarchist leftists to argue about the particularities of the use of force. The critique of masks has fallen on its face. The “social anarchists” who tend to be the most sectarian are forced to argue that a bigger social base needs to be formed before such actions make sense. And as for the reactionaries, they are left to scream out a misunderstanding of Freedom Of Speech, scraping up residue from a struggle that anarchists in the industrial revolution and ultra leftists in the 60s established, and the reactionaries use it to hide behind due to the impotence of all their other arguments
The type of damage that was done on May Day 2017 in Olympia seems to happen quite frequently and if interviews with business owners and reports from eavesdroppers can be believed, these forceful strolls of black clad rebels has made the gentry take second thoughts about staying in Olympia at all let alone furthering development and the war on the poor. Actions like this make cities like Olympia less desirable places for the developers to do business and make it harder for the bourgeois to bourgeoisie in this town, which in and of itself is a victory. It wasn’t until continued direct action was carried out that the Downtown Ambassadors rolled back their snitching program and fired a particularly contentious liberal who was making it his duty to hunt down anarchist vandals. It was in part anarchist agitation that forced the city to make the artesian well extremely street community friendly and not just easier to police. Although the developers and the city still call their projects “commons,” when they fail to see that their projects are the opposite of the commons, which was and is a land held in common by the people and not owned by the state or capitalists; they cannot just do whatever they want in the name of the owning class without a fight. The events of the later march also put pressure on the police to treat houseless people better considering more windows will be broken if they don’t, they now see an opportunity to do some PR with them and get the street community to accept the cops as legitimate, and to see the radicals–even in their own communities–as not. Not to mention the fact that houseless people cannot more easily loiter at Starbucks and elsewhere since they are harder to see through plywood and are less of a nuisance compared to the smashed up windows.
The creeping passive reformism, and dare I say authoritarian-socialism, is a real threat to the longevity and health of the spirit of revolt and anarchists need to make effort to get out of their echo chambers and pop the echo chambers of others. While the authoritarian socialists may not be our enemies now, even though some were against the May Day march from the get go, if we do not engage with them, think of what will happen when they actually get into some sort of position of power. Think of what would happen if the respectability politicians, rookie activists, and bitter grudge holders continue to get together in their echo-chambers and have a monopoly on activity. It will be increasingly difficult to find accomplices if we do not put in the effort now to build the desirable bridges and get people to burn the undesirable ones. If anarchists are painted as the primary force against the ruling order and anarchists begin to look like the cartoonish image the right paints of black clad Antifa who hate freedom, we will be hit hard by extreme repression as soon as it is socially viable to do so. We are not content with a small group of dedicated anarchists, nows a time where we can actualize our desires more easily. Olympia is also a small town, so it has a smaller amount of people to look through when trying to repress radicals and since everyone knows each other loose lips can also do a lot more damage. In the face of this we must spread the use of a security culture, resilient communities through mutual aid, and strategic thinking.
If we want to have social conditions that lend themselves to anarchy we need to set aside arbitrary divisions and push the fundamental divisions that enforce the ruling order to their breaking point. Let’s come into situations with an intent to actually listen compassionately and come to understandings with people without compromising critical engagement and our anarchist ethics.
We must be aware of our contexts, the terrain we operate on, and whether or not we are actually coming into fundamental conflict with the ruling order or not. We must understand the failures of other contexts as well. If we are not connected to lived anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles of the oppressed, we will fail to come into fundamental conflict with the ruling order and loose out on powerful opportunities for coalitions. If we fail to out maneuver the managerial left they will stab us in the back and try to take power out of the hands of, for lack of a better word, the people.
Some may say the failure of Olympia May Day 2017 was the result of embracing a tradition like May Day and abandoning the surprise factor or the strike swiftly and vanish models, but this is not the case. May Day can continue to be an entry node for folks who know every year these are events where you can tap into radical anti-capitalist activity and maybe work on your street fighting chops. But we should not wait for May Day. More social occupation based events that draw a more diverse crowd with an affinity for lower intensity stuff that blocks the flows of capital can happen again with some work and time to heal and these have potential to morph into a larger anti-authoritarian anti-capitalist struggle. Also a diversity of tactics should be embraced that allow for the participation of people with a large variety of abilities. If there is only one entry node once a year this may be a problem that no amount of May Days and blocs can solve. However, if we can bring together a force with strong networks and critical understandings we’ll have a May Day, my oh my, we’ll have a May Day then.
Insurgent greetings to the Black Autonomy Action Faction!
A hearty welcome to the Oly IWW and their GDC!
“We are the birds of the coming storm.”
- Black Bloc is a tactic in which people dress in black and mask up in the streets to make it difficult for people who wish them harm (fascists and police) to identify them. The police want to identify anarchists not only because they may have committed crimes, but also because the state needs to suppress counter-power generally, and in order to repress movements it helps to know who the active members of these movements are. This practice of dressing in black is derived from the practices of the German “autonomist” movement who started this practice a few decades ago by wearing jeans, leather jackets, balaclavas(masks that cover the face), motorbike helmets and so on. The tactic was first used in the United States at an anti-columbus day rally in the 80s, but a similar style of dress was practiced by the US anarchist group BLACK MASK who later became UP AGAINST THE WALL MOTHERFUCKERS and were responsible for such actions as cutting the fences at Woodstock making it a free festival. It’s fair to say the popular understanding of black bloc arose out of the anti-WTO actions in Seattle in 1999 which came out of the larger movement against capitalist globalization. Though of course this tactic has consistently been in use in anti-capitalist and anti-fascist struggles it seemed to trend in popular media again in Seattle during anti-police protests of 2010/2011 and during the Occupy Wall Street era where in Seattle a sizeable black bloc took to the streets and caught the police by surprise wrecking a great deal of capitalist property, and attacking a federal courthouse which years ago was also wrecked by revolutionary supporters of the George Jackson Brigade including the man the Big Lebowski’s main character “the Dude” is based off of.
- It is important that everyone shows up together so that people don’t arrive earlier and get attacked with too few numbers for a proper defense like what happened at a counter Spirit of America rally in Olympia earlier.
- It may have been a better idea to wait here and discuss plans and plots with more people and wait for more people and resources to show up.
- Olympia is occupied Squaxin and Nisqually territory.
- Reactionary is the name given to those who oppose revolutionary projects. They come out and form new alliances or insurgent movements in reaction to organizing workers, revolt against racism, or other liberatory projects. Reactionaries include right wingers, but it can stem beyond politics into more deeply seated bigotries. The reaction is the last defense of the moral pillars of the ruling order and can even turn against the ruling order itself like in the case of fascist or Nazi attacks on governments. The alt-right and their allies in the patriot and more conventional Neo-Nazi or contemporary KKK movements are the new face of the reaction to black liberation movements or antifascist impulses where the Nazis were the reaction in historical Europe to the rise of communist, anarchist, and progressive movements.
- Fracking is the process in which toxic material is shot into the ground to release natural gas. This process causes earthquakes, poisons the local water, and pollutes the air. While The owners of such companies have been able to keep it away from where they live Native and poor peoples are not so influential when it comes to the actions of corporations and often are the ones who end up being poisoned by such processes. We’re all being hurt by such processes and by the pollution such energy sources produce.
- The term litterbug and anti-litter campaigns were designed by capitalists to shift the blame off of them and onto individuals. Not littering will never stop this ecocidal system. A fundamental shift to a thriving environment will require nothing short of an insurrection against industrial capitalism coupled with reforestation, wetland remediation, and so on which are the only proven things to actually stop and reverse the negative environmental impacts of capitalist industrial civilization. Recycling, the Prius, and alternative capitalist energy are all band aids that do nothing to stop the fundamental problems that create such environmentally devastating projects. It is the very system of capitalist industry that has accelerated this environmentally devastating process that was normalized with early state formation.
- This strike fast and hard strategy can be very very very effective especially in a bloc situation, but every tactic and strategy and action is contextual. While the rival group was immediately dispersed and dealt a significant blow this lead to undesirable results. Some would claim military strategy can be boiled down to striking hard and fast and this may be the case, but insurgent strategy needs more.
- Being kettled essentially means being closed in and trapped by the police with no way out other than clashing with the police. Police usually kettle people so they can brutalize them or preform a mass-arrest.
- To route, in this context, basically means to force into retreat or to force to move in a determined direction.
- Here lies the danger of unitary thinking that assigns ideas and fault to whole groups of people. While the police as a formal institution have fundamental functions and desires so on a group like “people who like America” or people who happen to be crowding around a few bigots might not. Though anarchists can be lumped together based on their shared ideas a black bloc should not be lumped together and denounced for the actions of one of its members especially an action which all in question seem to disagree with.
- May Day is a rather ancient holiday celebrating spring and life, but it is also come to be known as International Workers day after the Haymarket Affair. 131 years ago, revolutionaries, anarchists, communists, socialists, workers, people who would now be called liberals, and others started organizing around worker’s rights in Chicago particularly the 8 hour work day. The revolutionaries saw this workers movement for reform as an excellent jumping off point for a movement that would aim to fundamentally change society for the better even if their initial goals were smaller. Even the mayor of Chicago seemed to be interested, but when workers took to the streets the police, serving in a role they were designed to do, put down a gathering of striking workers by force and killed many of them. After this attack by the police an emergency rally was called and word went out all over the city and the country and on May 4th thousands of radicals and workers(not that these are mutually exclusive) were gathered in Haymarket Square. During this gathering an unknown person emerged from the crowd and chucked a bomb at the police killing many of them. It’s possible others were injured in the explosion, but the record is murky. After this bombing the authorities began arresting known anarchists and put them on trial and convicted them of a crime they in all likelihood and according to the contemporary court system they did not commit. Charging them in part because they need to look capable, but also in order to attack anarchy while they have the opportunity. This however is not intended to condemn whomever did throw that bomb or to invoke a sort of innocence, rather it is to point out the utter failure of the state and to highlight it’s similarity to events that just transpired in Olympia.
- In the contemporary May Day has been a co-opted “state socialist” holiday, a day for pagans to go into the wild and enjoy the “pleasures of the flesh”, and a day for anarchists and autonomous communists to take to the street and fight the ruling order. May Day has also become a day for marches and actions in solidarity with migrants workers or otherwise particularly focusing latin@ migrant workers these rallies and marches have been able to draw thousands and in the PNW the May Day march in Seattle for years had meant El Comité’s immigrant’s rights march which is an event coordinated with the city government and usually consists of Aztec dancers, migrant communities, and a variety of reformist leftists groups. Typically this march is relatively non-confrontational and no-one engages in property destruction or fighting with the police(this should not be read as a dismissal, but rather as noting a difference in tactics). But after May Day 2012 in Seattle the combative spirit of May Day has returned.
- Greenwashing is the process by which an institution makes itself look like they care about the environment with propaganda while they really don’t actually fundamentally make themselves more environmentally friendly or when an institution advertises itself as environmentally friendly to distract from it’s other behavior some might find detestable.
- Where empathy assumes one can understand and feel the suffering of another compassion understands our oppressions and experiences as different, but still allows us to act in solidarity and in mutual aid. Compassion allows us to seemingly do the impossible incorporate the abject or non-included oppressed in our frameworks.
- A wet blanket is a metaphor for something that stifles revolt and relies on an implied comparison of revolt to the fire. A wet blanket puts out a fire. A wet blanket is a person or group that tries to pacify revolt. Instead of using force to pacify revolt a wet blanket uses social means to pacify. A wet blanket could use anti-oppression rhetoric against revolt saying a certain revolt is racist or sexist. A wet blanket could say that revolt hurts the community or that when people are attacking the police and capitalist property they are attacking there own community. A wet blanket can use a variety of propagandistic tactics to suppress revolt, but ultimately they want to take away popular support for revolt, make revolt have to deal with a more unfriendly rhetorical terrain, and suppress the spirit or dampen the overall spirit of revolt. Where repression can breed resistance a wet blanket is more powerful than the regime of the censors and jack booted thugs. Wet blankets can offer an alternative easier less risky path to resistance that is ultimately passive and ineffectively, but can be very appealing. A wet blanket can use guilt to control people, particularly privileged people using narratives that make oppressed people monolithic groups that just so happen to support the wet blankets position. Making people want the leash is a more powerful method of control than forcing the leash on them.
- Everyday people die because they are poor. Everyday the police brutalize marginalized people to get their rocks off and to enforce the ruling order. Everyday stocked shelves, empty houses, and critical medicine are guarded by the police to ensure those in need do not get them unless they are capable of selling themselves to capitalists (assuming they find a job with good wages) or are capitalists themselves. In the space of a riot or whatever the police are too busy to harass the poor and their implicit rule under the threat of force is broken. In the riot or whatever people can, based on ethics that can be summarized as, “From each according to ability and to each based on need.”
- In northern Europe there was a youth space in a squat that was known as an artistic center and appreciated by a large part of society, but the place was slated to be torn down and everywhere people were chastising the black clad radicals who showed up in the streets to fight the police. Squatters then released a video on New Years that depicted a glammed out femme who said something along the lines of, “You think there is a great creative youth culture in the upper floors of this place and a brood mass of angry black clad communists in the basement. I have come to inform you that we are on in the same.” The femme then proceeded to pull a black balaclava over their face wedding the two supposed poles of engagement and putting an end to the “good squatters versus bad squatters” argument used to divide their struggle.
- Here by saying “so long as repression isn’t total” we are making it clear that in some contexts repression can be effective in completely destroying movements etc by utilizing a total elimination strategy in a social context that makes these strategies viable. That is to say the authorities can eliminate movements with force without making those movements stronger in the process under certain social conditions.
- This is reminiscent of a totally peaceful Student Debt march in Seattle that was attacked by police in 2011 where there was no bloc, but people managed to de-arrest one comrade, but another comrade who got separated was arrested who was a women of color. Usually the bloc make people safer, but if people are allowed to be separated they will be targeted and it may happen that the people who are targeted are people whose racialization and gender will make them targets for abuse at the hands of the state and while we should not blame protesters for arrests we should make preventing arrests, particularly of marginalized comrades, a top priority.