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“build up rebel muscles for the harder and harder fight ahead”

December 12, 2014

BerkeleyWith places like UC Berkeley costing tens of thousands per year, many students now come from sheltered and/or upper-class backgrounds, whether they are white or people of color. They are gaining degrees within an institution that is now structured to manufacture the next generation of wealthy and powerful elites, whether in business or the nonprofit industrial complex. So you might, as a student, not have been exposed to what it means to have your kids be target practice for every cop who walks by, simply because they are black or brown. You might not get how it feels to be evicted from your home, made homeless, made criminal. It might feel scary, challenging, or discomforting to now be exposed to ideas, people, and varied life experiences and upbringings that are far from your own underlying assumptions and lived experienced. That’s OK.

You can walk through and beyond those assumptions; you can choose solidarity not charity, to be on the side of the dispossessed, as accomplices and co-conspirators in shaping an egalitarian and self-organized society. As a student who has already chosen to step into the street, despite the odds of that happening given the reactionary state of “higher” education, you can choose to become a rebel who thinks and acts for themselves, collectively with others — and stay one, even if it takes you a while to work through your prickly feelings.

What’s not OK is what students and others are doing with their prickly feelings on the streets to their purported fellow protesters.

It is not OK to take out your own personal limits on others who are trying, like you, to create a better form of social organization, especially when those others are often people who are the precise targets of policing because of skin color and/or class and gender, politics and/or tactics — or whatever.

So rather than yelling “peaceful protest” and waving fingers at people who are doing things that discomfort you — tactically and politically — see your discomfort as your own growing pains, as a wake-up call, as all of us becoming different and better people through the many beautiful, varied, powerful acts of making social change toward a better world as we discomfort ourselves and society.

For example, several nights ago, right in front of the Berkeley police station and lines of riot police, a black person tossed a bit of garbage in the direction of the cops. A white person who looked visibly shaken by that act quickly screamed at the top of their voice, while gesturing frantically toward the black person, “Provocateur! Stop them!” and so on, whipping many other people up to do the same thing. Fortunately, the black person wasn’t arrested, and two white people stood behind the person who was loudly outing them. Also fortunately, the white person realized just as quickly that they were putting the black person in profound danger. “I was feeling upset,” the white person said. “But I should have walked away for a minute or two instead of yelling. I won’t do that again.”

A lack of solidarity can also be traced to disagreements about strategic symbols, strategic choices, and/or forms of organization, and wanting to see things go a certain way. Perhaps this is not the kindest way to put it, but such an outlook, at heart, relies on notions of control: protesters wanting things to go their own way — a singular way that fits with what they think is the best thing to do. That translates into a sentiment: “we” need to do something [fill in a single tactic or strategy] that “people” can understand.

Yet as should be apparent from all the rainbow of strategies, tactics, protests, and direct actions as well as prefigurative politics flowering across the United States, different direct actions and tactics speak to different people. That’s precisely why this gorgeous (albeit always messy) movement is staying so strong, growing so much. Indeed, it is dynamic because people have been innovating tactics, sharing them across the continent via social medias, and then borrowing them for their cities and towns, to further innovate. Some people are moved by die-ins in malls; others by trains or freeways or bridges being blocked, or kids walking out of their schools in defiance of their teachers; others are touched by seeing a new luxury restaurant’s windows smashed, knowing that such places mean more policing, criminalization, and evictions of people of color and the poor; still others are moved by graffiti on the side of police cars, because it signals that the police aren’t thoroughly in control as an invading army; and on and on. Mostly, many are simply moved by the fact — and therefore are starting to join enthusiastically in the protest, too — that millions of feet are pounding many miles of pavement night after night after night against killer cops and white supremacy.

We haven’t stopped, though the police are working overtime to divert and confound us.

Read More | “Solidarity, as Weapon & Practice, versus Killer Cops & White Supremacy” | Cindy Milstein | Outside the Circle


“Hood by hood, block by block, fight the bosses and fight the cops!”

December 11, 2014

Given these circumstances, students’ recent response, walking out of class and into the streets, is not just notable, but an act of bravery and defiance. It points towards the refusal of the exploitative and oppressive conditions within schools.  On December 1st, one week after the release of the Darren Wilson verdict, hundreds of students from several different high schools marched out from as far as Queens and South Brooklyn to join together at Union Square.  Since then, schools such as John Jay in Park Slope, Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene, Henrick Martin Institute in Manhattan, and various small schools in the Bronx have had marches and rallies outside their own schools in the streets, or to local choke points, such as Brooklyn Tech’s march to Barclay’s Center, a large intersection which has become a flashpoint for street blockades in Brooklyn.  As recently as the day before this text was written (12/9/14), students in an East Village School defied orders by the DOE and led a march to the Brooklyn DA’s office, mostly by themselves with just a few supportive parents.

So far the content of the youth walkouts have primarily focused on human rights and the end to police violence, and conditions at individual schools have not been taken up on a broad scale (to the best of the authors’ knowledge).  However, just by working together against the system, students are already breaking down the hierarchy they face on a daily basis.  On Facebook, students debated for the December 1st walkout whether to leave during class or after; would be more effective to disrupt class, or not?  Students are practicing their own forms of from-below democracy, and are rejecting the top-down discipline they are subjected to daily.

Similarly, in the streets protesters have stopped responding to orders to disperse, instead linking arms and chanting “stay together.”  In a society that currently relies on competition between individuals, the protests in the streets and walkouts from schools are a strong departure from the top-down domination and internal division that we often feel in our day-to-day lives.  By the very act of coming together, at times even despite the threat of state-sponsored violence, we are building a new world to inhabit.  People have shown that their resistance will not die down.  Even if on the surface these protests appear to be or someone else’s life, we are nonetheless creating the conditions to change our own.

Read More | “Reproducing Ourselves for a New Society: Fighting the Police at School and in the Streets” | Florence Johnson Collective


“They didn’t make me an organizer. They made me a convict.”

December 9, 2014


When the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson came through, Frankie told me what he thought: “I’m outraged and the people that I hang around are outraged because they keep getting away with certain things. We not finna let them get away this time…Missouri is the show-me state. We ain’t doing no talking. We’re gonna show them…Muhfuckas ain’t gonna keep taking this bullshit. I know I ain’t gonna keep taking no bullshit. They keep killing our brothers out here. This is our race.”

All Frankie knows is black people are either dying or disappearing. His cousin: in prison with two life sentences. His brother: killed a week before our second interview. Michael Brown, Vonderrit Myers, Tanisha Anderson, Eric Garner, Kajieme Powell, Tamir Rice, and John Crawford III, over the span of a few months. I ask Frankie how he’s doing. “Hurting,” he says, looking down at his hands, his shoulders hunched. “Hurting real bad.”

It’s a feeling shared by a lot of protesters, who refused to suffer in silence. If they had to feel the pain, the rest of the world should feel it, too. Or as someone borrowed from Katniss and tagged on a St. Louis landmark in the Shaw neighborhood, “If we burn, you burn with us.”

The community work Frankie has been doing for the past 10 years includes mentoring, providing people with jobs and child support, setting people up with GED classes, and getting amnesty for people with traffic warrants. He hopes to continue this work with a group called the Mighty 13, made up of 12 other men he met while protesting in August. The group will help people who have run-ins with the law, set people up with job opportunities and other resources, and survey people regarding the issues they’re concerned with in the neighborhood. But in Ferguson, the collective outcry that began in August and has lasted for over 100 days was more than the trauma of a few hours. The ingredients to make St. Louis boil over have been adding up for years.

Read More | “The Protester” | Raven Rakia | Matter


“Anti-Black racism was built into American police work from the very first day.”

December 8, 2014


On both sides of the Atlantic, most arrests were related to victimless crimes, or crimes against the public order. Another Marxist historian Sidney Harring noted: “The criminologist’s definition of ‘public order crimes’ comes perilously close to the historian’s description of ‘working-class leisure-time activity.’”

Outdoor life was — and is — especially important to working-class politics. Established politicians and corporate managers can meet indoors and make decisions that have big consequences because these people are in command of bureaucracies and workforces. But when working people meet and make decisions about how to change things, it usually doesn’t count for much unless they can gather some supporters out on the street, whether it’s for a strike or a demonstration. The street is the proving ground for much of working-class politics, and the ruling class is fully aware of that. That’s why they put the police on the street as a counter-force whenever the working class shows its strength.

Now we can look at the connections between the two major forms of police activity — routine patrols and crowd control. The day-to-day life of patrolling gets police accustomed to using violence and the threat of violence. This gets them ready to pull off the large-scale acts of repression that are necessary when workers and the oppressed rise up in larger groups. It’s not just a question of getting practice with weapons and tactics. Routine patrol work is crucial to creating a mindset among police that their violence is for the greater good.

The day-to-day work also allows commanders to discover which cops are most comfortable inflicting pain — and then to assign them to the front lines when it comes to a crackdown. At the same time, the “good cop” you may meet on the beat provides crucial public-relations cover for the brutal work that needs to be done by the “bad cops.” Routine work can also become useful in periods of political upheaval because the police have already spent time in the neighborhoods trying to identify the leaders and the radicals.

Read More | “Origins of the Police” | David Whitehouse | Works in Theory


“Your idols will look different in their suits and ties — their trophies and plaques will be scars and bullet wounds, stretch marks and missing teeth, the smiles that make you uncomfortable”

December 4, 2014


For freedom may mean that the alienated, the mis-educated, the thugs, the orphans will be your equals. Your sweat, your readings, your struggle proves you are human, but to the white man it will mean less. The education I received surviving outside of whiteness will mean more. The bodies of the dead around me will be remembered and you will love them, not “loved” them in the past tense. We do not know Marx, Black bourgeois theories or savings accounts. But we have survived the gun battles, hiding our children from police and gangsters. Your idols will look different in their suits and ties — their trophies and plaques will be scars and bullet wounds, stretch marks and missing teeth, the smiles that make you uncomfortable. They will all be real. That is the freedom I am looking for.

Read more | “The Lumpen Blacks” | Messiah Rhodes | Youngist