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Jan 14, 16

Bloc Party: Hard Questions

Originally posted to It’s Going Down

This time around the bloc, we have a lot of questions looking forward into the next year of mischief, vandalism, and struggle. All you hooligans out there have shown you can throw down pretty fucking hard when there is a national rupture in the social order. Ferguson. Baltimore. Minneapolis. These are not the cities that come to mind when we think of thousands flooding the streets in both rage and love, ready to burn things down to build them anew.

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Arguably, much of the energy that fed into the battles of the last year can be traced back to the more localized rebellions of the Oscar Grant riots in 2009, or New York’s reaction to the murder of Sean Bell in 2008. In 2010, Portland, OR rose up in response to a string of police murders. In Denver, a militant anti-police movement sprang up in response to the murder of Marvin Booker in 2010 and carried through for several years, intensifying again in response to the murders of Ryan Ronquillo and Jessica Hernandez in 2014 and 2015. There were the rowdy demos against several police murders in the Puget Sound in 2011.  Let’s not forget the Flatbush Rebellion of 2013 in Brooklyn, or the rowdy Chuy Huerta demos the same year in Durham, NC. Looking back now, it seems all too obvious that shit was ready to explode somewhere by the time Mike Brown was shot in Ferguson.

The more conversations with friends and comrades we have, even those in established hot spots like the Bay Area, the more we hear about how difficult it can be to get people to turn up for anything local. How did we get here? How do we get out? Have we finally begun coming down off the crest of the wave? Have our expectations grown so big that we are just no longer satisfied throwing the proverbial newspaper box into the street? We hope not.

However, we do hope that all of us can step back and appreciate that the only reason things could explode the way they did last year was because it was the culmination of countless smaller revolts. Yes, the terrain is different and the paradigm has shifted. Yes, things have changed but that doesn’t mean every whisper, every mischievous glance, every nod between strangers when you both sneer at the cop rolling down the block is less important than it was before. In fact, maybe its more important. Fewer and fewer people have to explain why anyone says “fuck the police” these days. The reason is a given. It has been laid out for all to see. The words have become less necessary. At least, that’s what we hope. That’s the optimist in us.

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On the other hand, perhaps there is a more sinister reason we find ourselves in such a lull. The State and its accomplices have learned to adapt quickly. If you live in a city these days, it can almost be expected that at least a small crowd will gather in public every time a pig takes one of our own. To prevent another Ferguson, or even another Flatbush, the police quickly move to overwhelm a crowd and divert the narrative. The speed at which the police control the narrative has been making it increasingly difficult for the flow of information to continue. There have been demonstrations and actions responding to the murder of Mario Woods, for example. The situation is eerily similar to that of Oscar Grant, with multiple angles of video going viral after the cops claim he was armed and charging officers with a knife. Even though the video contradicts the police narrative, with social media abuzz about those contradictions, little came out of the demonstrations afterwards. At least very little that was visible on a national scale.

Part of this is can easily be explained by exhaustion. As more attention is brought to police murders everywhere, it is begins to feel impossible to keep track and react sufficiently to each individually. The case of Mario Woods piques our curiosity because it happened in a place that radicals often look to for inspiration. If those of us who seek out the latest news of rowdy street actions couldn’t find much, its a good bet that a lot more people didn’t even know that anything happened at all. This isn’t as much an indictment of the rebels that took the streets in response, but of the ways in which media buzz still controls how we perceive our own stories.

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We have to remember what it was like to write our own stories. Before there were Twitter storms about whatever new trauma soaked hashtag was trending, we did a much better job of writing our tales of rebellion. In some ways the very tools that have allowed for moments of insurgency to manifest, like social media, have created space for recuperation to run rampant. This is another piece of the puzzle that we aren’t quite sure what to do with. How can we better use the tools at hand without allowing them to be stolen from us and used against our struggles?

We don’t have clear answers and actually find that each supposed conclusion we land at only begs more questions. As this new year begins it can be expected that the police will continue murdering folks with alarming speed. It can be expected that families, friends, neighbors, accomplices and rebels will take to the streets and fight against it. May these relationships forged grow stronger and the fires burn longer.

Some quick prisoner updates, happy birthday to Jeremy Hammond, buy a t-shirt to help him out. Jay Chase of the NATO 3 has some new urgent updates and a new book wishlist. Eric King has some new poems out and Marius Mason has a new statement about the January 22nd Day of Action in Solidarity with Trans Prisoners. Lastly, one Native rebel in Hawaii will not face charges for participation in protests to block a mega project on a sacred site.

With all kinds of loving solidarity from us to you,

– your friendly career bad kids

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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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