On April 22nd in celebration of Earth Day, local anarchists, Buffalo Red & Black, organized a “clean sweep,” picking up trash and sweeping the sidewalks, along Grant street on Buffalo’s West side. Many passersby approached us to give their sincere thanks. One resident intimated, “we need more of you guys out here.” In addition to the clean sweep, we handed out free snacks, beverages, and political literature: ”Know your Rights” brochures and CrimethInc.’s “To Change Everything” pamphlet. While going about our work, we had the pleasurable opportunity to talk politics with our neighbors. These talking points sparked inspiring conversations about alternatives to capitalism that are based in community building and community power.
Our clean-up initiative ran geographically parallel, yet ideologically counter, to a neighboring clean sweep of the “bourgie,” elitist Elmwood Village. The city organized clean-ups along the shoreline and in Elmwood, instrumentalizing Earth Day as advertising for the area’s businesses, bars, and restaurants that are responsible in part for environmental degradation in the first place. Meanwhile, without flows of capital to compete with Elmwood’s socio-ecological cannibalism, the elites ignored Grant street as always. Distribution of city official’s attention and monetary resources recapitulate class and racial hierarchy within the city at large. Grant street and its surrounding neighborhoods are home to many of Buffalo’s migrant, working class, and POC communities. Wealthy neighborhoods like Elmwood come at our expense, and are indeed built on the backs of the rest of us.
We will continue to clean our streets on a regular, weekly or bi-weekly basis. Through voluntary means and by free association, Buffalo Red & Black does the work that the city will not. City officials and wealthy residents have no legitimate claim to our streets. It is us who own our streets. Whose streets? Our streets!