CHOOSING SIDES
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January 3

Originally posted to It’s Going Down

Happy new year!

Across the world, noise demonstrations took place outside of jails and detention facilities. The mobilizations were also timely, as the US government used terror threats on New Year’s as a pretext to ramp up government presence on American streets.

Noise demonstrations began as a way for rebels on the outside of prison walls to build bonds between themselves and those locked inside. A recent report we published from New York describes for instance, one man who was in jail last year who then came back to this year’s demonstration. And this year saw a large amount of people taking initiative and organizing an event, bringing together crews and groups throughout North America. If you haven’t sent in a report back from that night, we encourage you to write one, however small and brief, and submit it here. In lieu of reports from the following cities, check out these photos and videos:

Chicago:

https://twitter.com/MinkuAzad/status/682729381526126592

Durham:

Seattle:

We want to take a moment to also give a shout out to the fine folks at Crimethinc who recently compiled an in depth report about their trip across the US and Mexico, speaking in front of thousands of people regarding their recently published anarchist outreach project, ‘To Change Everything.’ As always, the insight and analysis that Crimethinc presents is worth reading and thinking about. In short, their trip was organized and made possible by a wide variety of anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups. However, while they found within the public there is a growing interest in anti-capitalist autonomous ideas, as the same time, there are fewer and fewer groups organizing, creating infrastructure, and finding ways to allow people to tap into a concrete, fighting community. These are problems and possibilities to think about in the coming year. They write:

The good news is that plenty of people around the United States are newly interested in anarchism. Most of our events were better attended than anyone anticipated, drawing crowds of more than a hundred in a few cases. In the Midwest, for example, not known for being a hotbed of radicalism, we were surprised how many people wanted to talk revolution, especially in cities within a day’s drive of St. Louis, Missouri. This is the generation radicalized by the Ferguson protests. Even as state repression intensifies and survival gets more difficult, that creates windows of opportunity.

At the same time, it seems that the forms of infrastructure and organization that would enable people to follow through on this interest are largely missing. In Washington, DC, once an epicenter of anarchist activity, after we spoke to a full room, many people asked how they could get involved with local in anarchist groups—and none of the longtime locals in attendance knew what to tell them. Over and over, in perhaps a dozen cities, we heard that our event was perhaps the largest gathering of anarchists their community had seen for years. This is not good news. Rather than waxing nostalgic about the structures of the past, we urge our comrades across the US to experiment with new ways to bring people together.

Having to articulate our experiences and critiques on a nightly basis in dialogue with a wide range of people enabled us to learn from others and to refine and clarify our own views. In addition to introducing the basic tenets of anarchism, our talks focused on the distinction between democracy and autonomy, the pitfalls of organizing around demands, and how nationalism, fascism, and militarization are spreading in response to the same crises that anarchists hope to address.

Worth noting is the observation of one of the tour participants:

There is such a thing as American exceptionalism. Americans are certain that however bad things are in the US, they must be worse elsewhere. This notion of America as the promised land is deeply engrained in the American psyche. Over and over, we heard audiences explain that the resistance movements we were describing in other parts of the world are inspiring, but that people won’t revolt like that in the United States because they have it easy—they’re seduced by material comforts and middle-class apathy.

This was dramatized for us at our first presentation in New York, when a woman stood up to express solidarity with our squatting struggles in Eastern Europe, and to ask how to help. She said that people don’t have it bad enough yet in the US to be ready to fight back. To put that in perspective, she was an unemployed middle-aged HIV-positive African-American woman whose housing project was being evicted. Maybe the problem is not that people don’t have it bad enough here, but the idea that it must be worse elsewhere.

Also inspiring were some of the occupied and squatted buildings and gardens the tour visitied. One person on the tour describes one such building in Chicago:

We spoke in an occupation, one of the few in the United States and the first openly squatted building that we saw on this tour. It’s a big house with a lovely back yard, to which we moved the talk from the basement, which had been prepared with rows of chairs and banners on the walls. The neighborhood is inhabited by immigrants from Guerrero, Mexico, and many people at the talk were from there as well; it was good to feel a bit at home and to practice my Spanish. The day before, there had been an event in Chicago to remember the 43 students disappeared in Mexico a year earlier, and before my presentation I spoke about that and about the massacre in Carandiru prison in São Paulo in 1992, the anniversary of which was the same week.

Within the United States, it is reported by the website killedbypolice.net that in the year of 2015, 1,200 people were killed by law enforcement. Some news media are reporting lower numbers, but regardless the stats are all pretty astounding. Across the US, protests, marches, disruptions of stores, and blockades continued in the wake of further police shootings and the non-indictment of police for the killing of Tamir Rice (a 12 year old playing in a park with a toy gun) and Sandra Bland (pulled over for traffic stop, and died in jail under suspicious circumstances), among others. Here’s some collected tweets for this week:

https://twitter.com/a0an0/status/681960752685645825

https://twitter.com/JamesFTInternet/status/681649190452199428

https://twitter.com/a0an0/status/682888330804072448

In some more uplifting news to kick off the new year, the Bay2LA sideshow took place in Los Angeles, during which a Sheriff’s vehicle was attacked and chased off. While these sort of events are relatively common in the Bay Area, their spread across the country could be potentially explosive.

https://www.instagram.com/p/__pjSUpX-Y/

 

Meanwhile, in Burns, Oregon militia members have occupied a wildlife reserve facility after several hundred militia members marched through the small Oregon town in protest of the looming incarceration of several ranchers for arson. The ranchers have admitted to starting fires on public land which they claim was to keep down brush and destroy invasive plants. Members of the armed occupation gave a statement that was reported in the news media:

The occupation, which began Saturday afternoon, appeared to be led by Ammon Bundy, a rancher whose family became a symbol of anti-government sentiment in 2014, when his father [Cliven Bundy] inspired a standoff between local armed anti-government groups [in Nevada] and federal officials seeking to confiscate cattle grazing illegally on federal land.

In a statement captured on video, Bundy said that his group was “prepared to be out here for as long as need be” and would only leave once the people of Harney County “can use these lands as free men.”

“We’re out here because the people have been abused long enough really,” he continued. “Their lands and their resources have been taken from them to the point where it’s putting them literally in poverty, and this facility has been a tool in doing that. It is the people’s facility, owned by the people.”

The idea of an armed group of people in rural America taking over government buildings in order to open it up again for the people to use freely “in the face of poverty” is exciting. However, the far-Right politics of the militia movement border on White nationalism. Spencer Sunshine recently authored a piece which provides a political overview of the current militia movement:

Despite the talk about supporting the Hammond family in Burns, Oregon, the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters is actually part of a long-standing campaign by radical right-wingers to dismantle federal land ownership in the West. These armed groups are part of the “Patriot movement”—the successor to the 1990s militia movement—which has seen a rebirth since the election of Barack Obama in 2008.

Many of the tactics and talking points being used were popularized in the 1970s by the white supremacist group Posse Comitatus. This group promoted the “Christian Patriot” movement, advocated the formation of “Citizens Militias,” helped forge an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution, said the county sheriff was the highest elected official that should be obeyed, and opposed federal environmental restrictions.

The Oath Keepers, a national group, refused to come to the march, saying the Hammonds had not asked for help. Furthermore, the group said that Oregon members who helped organize the protest would be reprimanded. And, although details are not known, it appears that the vast majority of activists who are taking over Malheur are largely out-of-staters from Nevada and Arizona. While they hope to rally widespread support, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

The Patriot movement’s militant opposition to immigrants, refugees, and Muslim people show its Nativist, xenophobic, and racist politics. It also appears that Jon Ritzheimer, who gained attention when he helped to organize a string of anti-Muslim protests outside of mosques last year, is unsurprisingly, taking a lead role in organizing the #OregonUnderAttack protest and occupation.

https://twitter.com/ThePhoenixSun/status/683666235322544129

While much of the rhetoric of the militias comes across as generically populist, using direct action to “open” land back “to the people” in the face of the federal government,  Steve Russell of Indian County Today, has a much different take. Russel reports that the struggle is based around the “right” of ranchers to use public lands for ranching and open it up for mining interests, in the face of government ownership of public wildland. He writes:

Some of the same armed “militia” involved in the Cliven Bundy affair in Nevada have occupied federal land in Oregon formerly reserved for the Northern Paiute. Ironically, the “legal” basis for starting a fight with the federal government is that sovereignty “really” belongs to Oregon rather than the Paiutes, who have seen their federal trust land shrink from over one and a half million acres to a tiny remnant of 760 acres in Burns, Oregon, where this current armed standoff began.

At the Hammonds’ trial, the government argued that the fires were set to cover up evidence of poaching activities. The Hammonds did not deny setting the fires but claimed their purpose was to destroy invasive species.

Amanda Girard went on to write:

[T]he land the occupiers are claiming as “theirs” is actually land that the federal government previously stole from the Northern Paiute tribe. The Paiutes used to own 1.5 million acres of land, but have now been relegated to a reservation amounting to just 750 acres in Burns, Oregon, where the Bundy militia is currently engaged in an armed standoff.

“President U.S. Grant established the Maiheur Indian Reservation for the Northern Paiute in 1872. It is no coincidence that the historical reservation shares a name with the Maiheur National Wildlife Refuge, site of the current armed standoff.”

The different in application of force that the State has used against armed groups of far-Right militia members and social movements and struggles such as the recent uprisings against white supremacy, is very telling. As one report read regarding the Nevada Bundy ranch stand-off in 2014:

Bundy supporters first blocked a convoy of federal vehicles on April 10 and then engaged in an armed confrontation April 12, at which Bundy addressed a crowd saying he did not recognize the authority of the BLM. He declared, “We’re about ready to take the country over by force!”

When armed right-wingers escalated the confrontation by blocking part of Interstate 15, the BLM rangers and sheriff’s deputies dropped threats to use teargas and withdrew, leaving Bundy’s supporters in control of the disputed land.

threeperunit_original

When poor black neighborhoods rise up against the State, they are met with tear-gas and rubber bullets, while at Bundy Ranch, where militia members aimed assault rifles at federal agents, the government backed down. Spencer Sunshine addresses this in his recent report:

Although there is no written federal rule that is publicly known, those who study the radical right largely believe that the federal government has a policy not to directly confront armed right-wing groups. The disastrous handling of the Waco and Ruby Ridge sieges in the early 1990s apparently convinced the feds to take a softer approach. This seemed to have paid off when the Sovereign Citizens at the “Justus Township” surrendered peacefully in 1996. But after 9/11, even as the feds have cracked down hard on all kinds of radical political activity—for example, many eco-saboteurs who never killed or injured anyone were sentenced under terrorism laws—the radical right has received almost a complete pass.

So, instead of endlessly recycling your indignation on social media, or desperately wailing into the void about the double standards used when applying words like “terrorism,” how about we figure out how to respond to these actions?

https://twitter.com/do_you_vape/status/683815640755486724

In equally terrifying news, a methane leak in Southern California is spilling out massive amounts of methane, bringing serious harm to the environment and has caused nearby people to evacuate. The crisis began when a methane pipe was ruptured and will take months to fix, meanwhile pushing tons of methane gas into the air. One report wrote:

A giant stream of potent climate-warming gas – methane – is blowing hundreds of feet into the air in Los Angeles County for the seventh week. The release cancels out hundreds of smaller efforts over more than a decade to clamp down on escapes of the gas, a priority because in the short term, methane is a far more powerful climate-warming gas than carbon dioxide. Pilots flying low have been told by the FAA to stay clear of the plume for fear of ignition. More than 1,800 families have sought relocation due to the vapors. Southern California Gas Co. officials say it will be months before it can be stopped. The mainly methane gas is pouring out of the ground near a damaged well used to inject gas into an old sandstone oil field for storage.

The impacts of the leak are huge, and already the amount released in several months is equal to about 1/4 of Califonria’s methane emissions for one year. Currently, many are linking global warming with ongoing massive storms and floods which have rocked various areas. In related energy news, across the US and Canada, resistance and protests continue against fracking and pipelines.

In Chiapas, Mexico, the Zapatistas celebrated the 22nd anniversary of their uprising against the Mexican state to establish autonomous communities in indigenous territories. According to one report that marked the anniversary:

Twenty-two years after the armed indigenous uprising, communities of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) may not have cement houses, digital TVs or latest model pickup trucks, but, Subcomandante Moisés declared, “not only are they better than 22 years ago, their standard of living is higher than those who have sold themselves to the political parties of all stripes.”

At the stroke of midnight on the first of January, accompanied by the EZLN General Command, Moisés read a statement signed by Subcomandante Galeano [formerly Marcos] in order to reiterate the Eleven Demands for which they declared war on the government on January 1, 1994: Land, Work, Food, Health, Education, Housing, Independence, Democracy, Freedom, Justice and Peace for all Mexicans.

Read the full statement from the EZLN here. From the speech read to mark the anniversary:

That is why we understood that it was necessary to build our life ourselves, with autonomy.

In the midst of the major threats, military and paramilitary harassment, and the bad government’s constant provocations, we began to form our own system of governing—our autonomy—with our own education system, our own health care, our own communication, our way of caring for and working on mother earth; our own politics as a people and our own ideology about how we want to live as communities, with an other culture.

Where others hope that those above will solve the problems of those below, we Zapatistas began to build our freedom as it is sown, how it is constructed, where it grows, that is to say, from below.

But the bad government tries to destroy and bring an end to our struggle and resistance with a war that changes in intensity as it changes its deceptive politics, with its bad ideas, with its lies, using the media to spread them, and by handing out crumbs in the indigenous communities where Zapatistas live in order to divide and to buy off people’s consciences, thus implementing their counterinsurgency plan.

But the war that comes from above, compañeras, compañeros, brothers and sisters, is always the same: it only brings destruction and death.

The ideas and flags may change with whoever is in office, but the war of above always destroys, always kills, never sows anything other than terror and hopelessness.

We encourage english speakers to check out the amazing site Dorset Chiapas Solidarity, which has daily reports and articles from indigenous communities fighting on the ground as well as a great roundup of Zapatista news in the Chiapas region.

In North America and across the world, just as the ecological situation grows more grim, the economic crisis continues to worsen. Within this context, unless anti-capitalists are prepared to act and push forward, any potential gains that they could make will instead be taken up by those on the far-Right. As one reports read:

The Financial Times’ Gideon Rachman gives expression to this pervasive feeling in his end-of-the-year assessment published on Tuesday. “In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s power centers,” he writes. “All the big players seem uncertain—even fearful.” China “feels much less stable.” In Europe, the mood is “bleak.” In the US, public sentiment is “sour.”

Significantly, Rachman singles out as the “biggest common factor” in the world situation “a bubbling anti-elite sentiment, combining anxiety about inequality and rage about corruption that is visible in countries as different as France, Brazil, China and the US.” This observation reflects a growing recognition within the corporate media that the coming period will be one of immense social upheavals.

In short, the periods between major points of crisis – if there are any to be found, are growing so short that they can no longer be looked to as separate moments, but instead a protracted mode of modern-day life in a crumbling civilization. As 2016 progresses, this reality will continue to play itself out with even more intensity. The report goes on to state:

In defending its rule, the ruling class seeks to cover over the reality of capitalism beneath a mass of lies and hypocrisy. War is cloaked in the language of freedom and democracy; antisocial domestic policy is portrayed as the pursuit of equality and freedom. But—and this is characteristic of a period of crisis—more and more, the essential nature of capitalism—a system of exploitation, inequality, war and repression—comes into alignment with the everyday experiences of broad masses of people. Illusions are dispelled; the essence appears.

In the sphere of world economy, any expectation of an upturn has given way to the reality of permanent crisis. In the United States, six years into the so-called economic “recovery,” real unemployment remains at near-record highs, wages are under attack, and health care and pensions for millions of Americans are being wiped out. Europe is growing at less than 2 percent a year, and large parts of the European economy—including Greece, the target of brutal austerity measures demanded by the European banks—are in deep recession. China, presented as a possible engine of world economic growth, is slowing sharply. Brazil and much of Latin America are in deep slump. Russia is in recession.

Meanwhile, the easy-money policy of the world’s central banks has produced a new wave of speculative investment, centered in junk bonds and other forms of debt, which is beginning to unravel in a process that parallels the crisis in subprime mortgages prior to 2008.

In the face of a looming crisis, the government will respond with greater surveillance, repression, deeper and more sweeping austerity, and beat harder the drums of war in 2016.

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It's Going Down

It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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