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Dec 7, 17

Bloc Party: Going in Style

On a blustery late November morning we rolled out of bed, threw on a pair of boots and our balaclavas. One never leaves the house without a balaclava! We made our disheveled way to the corner store to pick up a copy of the New York Times. Thumbing through the front pages to hurriedly make it to the Friday crossword we stumbled upon the Style section. Little did we know that morning when we donned our all black everything that we would be so on trend!

Welcome to 2017 everyone! The year that never stops giving. Anarchists and anti-fascists have graced the cover of the New York Times and had multiple prominent headlines in the LA Times. Newsweek, CNN, NBC, and other mainstream media outlets cannot get enough of black blocs and the more militant tactics seen this year. One minute we’re media darlings and the next we’re cast as the villain they’re trying to unmask à la some bizarre Scooby Doo episode.

We take style seriously here on the Bloc and for that reason we want to clarify a few of the stylistic inaccuracies presented by the New York Times in “What to Wear to Smash the State.” We don’t want anyone to be mistaken in their future fashion choices. Could you imagine the ridicule if one showed up at the bloc in the wrong brand of rain jacket? The pearl clutching gasps from the others around you? We want to save you, dear friends, the embarrassment of a possible fashion faux pas.

“By now, you know the look. Black work or military boots, pants, balaclavas or ski masks, gloves and jackets, North Face brand or otherwise. Gas masks, goggles and shields may be added as accessories, but the basics have stayed the same since the look’s inception.”

We’re going to say what everyone is thinking, but is afraid to say. North Face? It’s over. Leave that shit in 2008 where it belongs. The look is Marmot in 2017. For stylistic reasons and practical! The cuts of Marmot jackets are far more flattering than North Face. The price point is certainly higher, but we believe the results are fucking worth the investment. Or find yourself a fiscal sponsor for your next black bloc! Daddy Soros, give us that moneeeeeeey. Did we mention that all seams on Marmot jackets are 100% seal taped? Even “extremely wild,” OC spray (to quote MPD Officer Howden who testified at the J20 trial this week) isn’t making it past a Marmot.

Speaking of money…

“Both the ease of uniform procurement — the barrier to entry is just getting black clothes, with only your own ethical purchasing guidelines to steer you — and the aesthetic’s effectiveness allowed black blocs to spread.”

Ethical purchasing guidelines a barrier to pulling together your freshest and most organic look? Don’t worry! Patagonia offers a wide range of black items made from recycled materials! Because whether we’re smashing the state or nazis, we need to be certain that whatever items will be later discarded in the street have the lowest damn carbon footprint we can find. So feel free to just treat yourself and the earth while you’re at!

“One Antifa “fashion don’t” is carrying cellphones. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that 72 agencies in 24 states and Washington, D.C., have “simulators” that mimic cellphone towers in order to track people.”

We couldn’t agree more. If you wouldn’t bring a cop to the bloc, then leave the phone at home because it might as well be a cop. Also, we know we look good. Take a picture with your eyes only and hold the memory dearly. We do not recommend posting outfit of the day shots on your Instagram. We also don’t need to tell our friends on their Facebook wall what babes they were and how on point their gloves were. We all know it. Savor it on the inside.

All sassy comments aside, we want to stress that as silly as it is to be the subject of Style section articles, there is something that leaves us feeling uneasy about the continued media spotlight on this one tactic. There is an unease because of the serious precarity of many people facing decades in prison as a result of the protests on J20. There is an unease because we’re all being cast as one-dimensional characters in a script we are not writing. There is an unease because those who are writing the script have shifted the characters to solely “anti-fascists” and rarely talk about “anarchists,” leaving us wondering about the substance of our politics being left behind.

“Anti-fascist activists believe in dressing for the job they want. Right now, many think, that job is punching Nazis.”

The job we’re dressing for isn’t just about punching nazis, goddamnit. We’re dressing every single day for so many different jobs it honestly is making some of our heads spin. Where is the Style guide for what to wear when you’re emotionally supporting your friend or lover through harsh state repression? What kind of outfit should we wear for going to our friends house to take care of their children so they can head to yet another meeting? What brand of clothing is best suited for the many hours spent hauling water in the desert, bringing aid to those who risk life and freedom to cross borders? We’d personally love style tips on the footwear that will make our outfits pop while we spend endless hours researching prison rebellion and attempting to make contact with those on the inside who are struggling for basic humanity.

Speaking of supporting our comrades in prison. Here’s all that news from the Bloc:

Last week on Bloc Party we focused on the grand jury subpoenas received by anti-racists activists and victims from the car attack on August 12th. For more information on grand juries, including interviews with comrades who survived them, check out the new episode of the Ex-Worker.

Those committed to keeping human beings locked in cages in Bartholomew County, Indiana are having to spend additional funds to do so. In September, two prisoners in the county jail kicked out a mesh section of their cell doors and used them to attack guards while other prisoners flooded the cell block. These combined efforts caused an estimated total of $8,000 in damages to prison infrastructure. The Bartholomew County Commissioners recently decided to spend $2,255 to reinforce the doors in their jail. Never underestimate the power of small damages adding up, y’all. Can prisons actually maintain economic feasibility if these kinds of actions generalized?

Workers at the Bartholomew County Jail in Indiana discuss how best to cage human life (Photo: Fox 59)

On November 1, the Kansas Department of Corrections released a report providing some additional information on the organized protests and uprising that occurred at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in June. According to the report, the uprising began on June 24 when prisoners unexpectedly found the doors to their unit unlocked. The review states:

“A review of camera footage indicated the unit staff in L cell house had not properly secured the doors between pods and multiple pod doors that open on to the hallway…The main exit door from the building is a swing door and was not secured.”

The prisoners left their unit and refused orders to return. Eventually, prisoners returned to their cells, but placed objects in the way of the doors, preventing them from securing. They made weapons from broom and mop handles, set fires, attacked surveillance cameras and broke into an office.

According to the initial reports on the incident, prisoners gained control of the gym, kitchen and prison yard.

When prisoners were released from lockdown later in the week, they immediately began a protest of prison conditions. Around 120 prisoners occupied the prison yard and refused orders to return to their cells. They broke into an office and distributed “security and office equipment” amongst themselves.

As is so often the case, the prison guard union has said that at the time of the riot the prison was severely understaffed and overcrowded.

If you are in contact with prisoners at El Dorado or have more information about the uprising, please let us know.

Sean Swain has a ton of new writings up on his site, from (as always) complex analyses of the psychological impairments of the administrators at the “Ohio Department of Retribution and Corruption” to a lengthy history of last hundred years or so of U.S. economic policy. Also a call out for a lawyer willing to take on the ODRC on their treatment of so-called “security threat groups.” Check them out and drop Sean a line.

Walter Bond, Supreme Vegan Power (Photo: Support Walter)

Animal liberation prisoner Walter Bond went on hunger strike in November to protest the lack of access to quality vegan meals, disruptions with his mail and failure of the prison to honor his requests for a transfer to be closer to friends and supporters.

Walter wrote:

So in the tradition of A.L.F. activists before me, such as Barry Horne, I am going on hunger strike. I will not eat anything and will starve until these issues are remedied.”

I’m asking everybody in the Animal Rights and Anarchist communities to stand with me with your protests and actions of solidarity.

Check out Walter’s full audio statement via RUF Rebel Radio.

Walter’s hunger strike lasted 6 days before he was promised that the mail and food issues would be resolved. Unfortunately, Walter has also learned that he will likely be transferred back to the Communications Management Unit (CMU).

Please take a moment to write some words of encouragement to Walter:

Walter Bond #37096-013
FCI Greenville
PO Box 5000
Greenville IL 62246

His supporters also encourage people to send Walter a paperback book or magazine via Amazon, another book dealer or a publisher. Also the North American Animal Liberation Press Office has retained legal counsel for Walter. They encourage people to help cover these costs.

Eric King has written a new poem, calling attention to the beating of political prisoner Herman Bell in September by prison guards. Despite the awful reality of this attack, we are inspired by Herman’s brave and hopeful words. Remember that Bell has a parole hearing coming up and needs letters of support by December 15th. More info here. His capacity to maintain a level-headed fortitude despite years of incarceration should be a lesson to those of us already escaping into a lazy cynicism:

“I sustained multiple kicks, punches to the face and eyes, repeated head slams into concrete, and 2 cracked ribs. They tried to bury me with raining blows, not knowing that I am a seed. But the burning pepper spray sprayed into my eyes and mouth is what did me in – and yet, here I am.”

“The social injustice, jackboot repression, racist attacks, discrimination, wealth disparities, unemployment, lack of affordable housing (the list doesn’t just end there), creates waves of fierce discontent which ls gaining steady momentum, becoming a full-blown cleansing tsunami, the force of which is irresistible.”

Eric also has a new essay entitled “What it Looks Like to be Antifascist in Prison” in which he takes a very frank look at the painful realities of race behind prison walls. A must-read for anyone seeking to intervene in these dynamics:

If you put yourself out there verbally, be prepared to stand on it (fight) because you will be challenged and if you’re lucky it’ll be one on one. Small things that happen instinctively can get you in a jam, so it’s smart to always be mindful. I’ve been in jams for laughing at sunken Navy ships, for watching soccer with the Mexicans, for letting a Gay-Black cat in my yoga class… the things that you do by nature may ruffle a lot of feathers, so we need to be prepared to get called into the cell and defend your actions.

In case you missed it, in September the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement agencies must get a warrant to use Stingray devices to determine the location of a cell phone. According to the Washington Post:

The case against Prince Jones in 2013 involved D.C. police use of a “StingRay” cell-site simulator, which enables law enforcement to pinpoint the location of a cellphone more precisely than a phone company can when triangulating a signal between cell towers or using a phone’s GPS function. Civil liberties advocates say the StingRay, by providing someone’s location to police without court approval, is a violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment right not to be unreasonably searched. The D.C. Court of Appeals agreed in a 2 to 1 ruling, echoing similar rulings in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and federal district courts in New York City and San Francisco.

We know not everyone is in the habit of following what dastardly stuff Ruth Bader-Ginsberg and her co-conspirators at the Supreme Court are up to. But, the Fourth Amendment case they heard oral arguments on last week could have some tangible impact on criminal cases involving cell phone data. Carpenter vs. United States is the biggest Fourth Amendment case heard by the Supreme Court in a number of years. The Fourth Amendment is the one that speaks to searches and seizures.

According to the New York Times:

In 2013, Timothy Carpenter was convicted of being the ringleader behind a series of armed robberies of cellphone stores in and around Detroit, and was sentenced to almost 116 years in prison. His conviction was secured in part based on 127 days of location data that his cellphone service provider turned over to the police, showing that his phone had been in the vicinity of several of the robberies.

The bad news is that right now law enforcement does not need a warrant to gather that kind of electronic information on someone during the course of a criminal investigation. That is because of some 1970’s Supreme Court ruling that resulted in what’s called “third party doctrine.” Not to bog everyone down in the constitutional law hellscape we’re in (because we clearly like a little well-placed, self-inflicted punishment here and there), but this is a case that could have lasting implications for many of us.

The good news is that the buzz around legal nerds is that the Supreme Court is likely to rule in favor of Carpenter and establish limits on the government’s currently unfettered access to all of the data, from the mundane to the significant, that reflect the modern age of smart phones. Fingers crossed the nerds are right, but it is hard to imagine a world in which the state limits itself to the all-you-can-eat buffet of our data.

A ruling in this case isn’t expected until early Summer. In the meantime, remember your phone is a fucking cop and treat it as such.

Don’t forget to check out the J20 trial updates podcast featured here on IGD! Also, please consider throwing a fundraiser to support the efforts around this trial and future trials, which will be continuing throughout all of next year. This case matters for each one of us, whether you were in D.C. last January or not. It isn’t just anarchists and anti-fascists who are on trial, but whole movements of people who stand in resistance to all different manifestations of the state and capital. We all need this win. So throw a party, pass a hat, hustle some shit so you can throw Defend J20 Resistance all your moneeeeeeey.

We have a lot of content that we’re excited to share with all of you throughout December. Keep an eye out for more prisoner interviews, looks into prison rebellions across borders and more.

While you’re here, we need your support. To continue running the website, we need support from community members like you. Will you support It’s Going Down, and help build independent media? donate?

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Bloc Party is an ongoing column that looks at State repression, counter-insurgency, prisons, political prisoners, as well as what people are doing to resist them.

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