Apply Heat, Melt ICE: Reflections on the Anti-ICE Movement in Atlanta

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A report from Atlanta on the past few days of #OccupyICE activity, as well as an analysis on where we can expect things to go in the coming terrain.

It has become an urgent necessity, as the storms of revolt and refusal are once again sweeping up the angry and desperate everywhere, to catalogue reflections, lessons, and insights. The movements are continuously racing forward. In most movements, it is the radically inexperienced who constitute the super majority. They are alone or with their friends and family, they do not come with a plan or an ideology, they represent no organization or institution, and they have only their intuition and passions to direct their gestures and interventions. Revolutionaries should dedicate time and focus to connecting to and learning from these forces because they are without ideological or factionalist loyalties. Alternately, those of us who have learned a thing or two from the time when we were inexperienced or directionless would do well to share the lessons we learned in the preceding periods.

BUILDING THE BLOCKADE (Day 1)

On Saturday, the 30th of June, large demonstrations took play all over the country under the innocuous banner “Keep Families Together,” in reference to the draconian practice of seperating families at the border in instances of illegal crossings and following raids and round ups of undocumented immigrants more broadly. Following the demonstration in Atlanta, autonomous and informally organized crews and groups initiated a march to the detention center in south downtown. As CrimethInc. reported:

“After the rally was dismissed, a large banner reading “ICE BREAKERS: Chinga La Migra” was stretched across the street accompanied by chanting and drums. Several hundred joined, despite liberal protest marshals attempting to discourage them from doing so. Together, they marched back to the jail, holding the streets the whole way.

Peachtree Street was blocked outside the jail as hundreds chanted and waved to those locked up inside. Cops drove motorcycles through the crowd, but the crowd did not back down; soon, a couch appeared in the streets and people began to set up tents. The atmosphere was festive, with many dancing to music or playing soccer. As the day wore on, the cops slowly began to encroach on the occupation, forcing people to clear the street, confiscating the couch and tents, and violently arresting one person.”

Following this arrest, the occupation was still determined to maintain a protracted presence outside of the facility, and a few dozen people slept on sleeping bags and mats.

We made it through the first day.

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE (Day 2)

The second day of the short-lived occupation was rich with collaborations, experiments, and refusals. Across the city and country, images and stories circulated about what was taking place in Atlanta.

In the morning assembly, it was determined that taking decisive actions was necessary, even if the encampment was crushed as a result. Throughout the day, the autonomous group All Out Atlanta initiated a call from inside of the occupation to converge on the detention center at night and to have a noise demonstration for inmates and detainees.

Roughly 100 demonstrators gathered with drums and signs outside of the jail and mingled while preparations were made for the march. The crowd was diverse in many ways, but was predominatly comprised of young people. Without a speech, the crowd walked directly into the streets chanting anti-border and anti-nationalist slogans as well as slogans against ICE and fascism. “No Borders, No Nations, Stop Deportations” and “Somos Todas Antifascistas” bounced off the walls of the Greyhound Station, while someone on a megaphone announced to the crowd that Greyhound has become infamous for facilitating ICE detentions on their routes and allowing police to search their buses.

In a short time, the crowd arrived at the ICE Field Office. Demonstrators marched around the building and began yelling at an officer standing behind a wrought-iron fence. Someone in a mask began shooting a roman candle at him, forcing him to retreat from the gate, while many others cheered. Demonstrators blocked a police car until a large black smoke bomb was ignited, sending thick plumes of smoke into the street and allowing the crowd to safely continue without a police tail. Once back to the occupation, tents and tarps were immediately erected. In less than five minutes, Atlanta Police were already walking over to dismantle them. Storm clouds hovered in the sky as the sun set behind the train station across the street.

The police were unable to seize the tents because the crowd refused to make concessions, collectively held onto the structure, screaming “Cops go home,” and protecting one another from arrest. The atmosphere became electric with many chanting “that was fun, that was fun.” More police arrived and the crowd became tense. From behind a large banner, everyone linked arms, forming cordons and chanting for the police to leave. For 30 minutes, shoving matches and clashes between protestors and police took place in full view of hundreds of inmates who were banging on their windows and flickering their lights. Police groped and attacked women and femmes, and did their best to break the morale of the crowd with infantile hazing and joking. All in all, the police failed after three total attempts to clear the encampment, which was quickly rebuilt with tarps and couches. Only one person was arrested, despite countless foiled attempts by the police.

As we have seen countless times in the past, only creative refusal can create the possibility of safety , while compliance tends to empower the police to take further liberties against us.

SEND IN THE DOGS (Day 3)

On the morning of the 2nd, the third day of the occupation, the city council was scheduled to discuss ICE and the situation with the protests. Some activists went to the meeting and signed up to speak. Meanwhile, a hundred police officers in riot gear and on bicycles marched down Peachtree Street and methodically destroyed the encampment. Those present did not feel capable of responding proportionally. After they made a mess, the jail forced inmates to clean up the remains while officers established a chain-link perimeter. 

This gratuitous force has not ended after the occupation was cleared, ostensibly because no one has imposed a political cost for it. Neither the press nor the movement have organized to illustrate the scandal of these abuses, although some have begun to connect the struggle against ICE and deportations to the upcoming August 21st prison strike. If we are not able to respond in some way to these attacks on autonomous movements, the mass deployment of crushing authority will become normalized – something that the new chief of police has seemed committed to for at least a year.

THE FOURTH OF JULY

On the fourth of July, two events were planned in the context of the movement. In a parking lot outside of the detention center, some activists and other locals gathered for a barbeque. The barbeque was rumored to be organized in hopes of limiting participation by people with “anti-police intentions.” It is more likely the case that organizers, autonomists in their own rite, wanted a non-combative and non-conflictual event in hopes of facilitating an event unlikely to be repressed by police. Luckily for them, the police chose to allow this event to occur without incident, and simply to surveil it from afar, even going so far as to follow anarchists and others as they left the event.

After the barbeque, All Out Atlanta and other autonomous groups organized a small protest to begin at Woodruff Park. The crowd began marching, many in masks, through the rain chanting anti-border slogans. Energy was high in the march for around 15 minutes as protesters outmaneuvered police in the narrow streets of the Fairlie-Poplar district. Once on Edgewood Avenue, however, the police took advantage of a gap in the banners to encircle the crowd and begin to attack it from the side.

The police arrested 6 protesters, who screamed in fear and panic as the democratic police forces smashed people with their hands and batons. One person was dragged across the road by her feet.

NEW HISTORIC COMPROMISES, PREPARING FOR A NEW PERIOD OF REFLUX

Across the country, autonomous crews, anarchists, and anti-border groups and individuals have organized blockades and occupations of various means outside of ICE field offices and immigrant detention centers. In some places, protesters have taken to targeting Greyhound buses, who facilitate ICE harassment, and have targeted the home of Stephen Miller, architect of the current border policy. In Atlanta, in Philadelphia, in Portland, and elsewhere, liberal mayors have deployed force to crush the resistance, despite their trite words of condemnation to Trump’s plans.

In Los Angeles, New York, Wichita, Charlotte and elsewhere, the police are seemingly dedicated to surveilling everything while hoping the protests wear themselves out. In this strategy, sending in disruptors and facilitating pointless splits cannot be ruled out. In San Francisco, the city has not seemed to develop a plan for crushing the blockade, which is utilizing physical barricades and barbed wire fencing.

But where are the crowds? The Democrats, who have orchestrated and executed mass round ups and deportations for 8 years, attempted to astro turf a movement against Trump’s new policies into existence. Straight out of the gate, autonomous groups outpaced the authoritarians by initiating occupations in Portland, and then all over the place. The Democratic Party, and ostensibly sections of the social democratic organizers to their left, are preparing to mobilize their base for electoral strategies in advance of the midterm elections this November. This will leave autonomists alone in the streets to face down fascists, democratic mandates by Trump, and ecological disasters likely to take place during hurricane season. This moment is not without parallels in the past.

Anarchists, autonomists, and all determined and self-organized crews and individuals should strategize with these mid-term elections in mind. The left will attempt to make huge gains in the elections so as to form a coalitional government with Trumpism. By entering into the government, the social democratic groups, the activist cliques, the left wing demagogues, and the Democratic Party will help to further legitimize the Trump administration by reinvesting faith in democracy, it’s methods of organization, and ultimately the society it creates.

Trump will no longer seem to be a dictator, but simply a politician acting within the alleged realities of “checks and balances,” so casually dismissed by presidents for over 200 years. It is up to revolutionaries to reveal, in gestures and with words, the collaborationist and opportunist strategies of the reformers. In the coming period, we may find ourselves alone with only the most desperate and angry elements of the working class and we should prepare to be presented as unrealistic, psychopathic, and utopian. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, because the border regime will not fall without being attacked, because only a self-managed struggle will permanently engage in conflict with authoritarians, and because the total expropriation of goods, land, and skills is the only way we can secure a dignified life.

Let’s go all out against the borders, racism, and authority!

for more:
follow @AllOutAtlanta on Twitter
support arrestees at www.atlsolidarity.org


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