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Oct 13, 20

Colonial Statues Fall as Indigenous People’s Day of Rage Takes to the Streets

This report was written in collaboration with Indigenous Action, please follow their work for more anti-colonial action, resources, and analysis.

Answering a call for an Indigenous People’s Day of Rage Against Colonialism, people across so-called North America responded with a variety of actions, ranging from banner drops, the posting of anti-colonial posters and stickers, militant street marches, and in some cities, the pulling down of colonial statues.

From the original action call:

As the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately ravages Indigenous communities, we cannot ignore the reality that the plague of colonialism has made our peoples more susceptible to this virus. From the fracking and poisoning of our water, mining and burning of coal, oil pipeline spills, abandoned uranium mines, garbage incinerators, building of apartheid walls, the damming of rivers, and continuing ecological devastation, our health is intrinsically tied to the health of our sacred lands. Colonizers are coming to terms with global warming, yet we have been on the front lines of this war against Mother Earth since the first colonial invasions of our lands.

We have grown frustrated with the uninspired assimilationist politics of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indigenous non-profit corporations and organizations attempt to pacify and assimilate our Peoples further into settler colonial politics. They attempt to police our rage and stifle movements of liberation (as they did at Standing Rock). They are content with hollow land acknowledgments and empty gestures that do nothing to challenge and change the actual conditions of suffering our people face. We do not believe that we can vote our way out of this crisis. We will not beg politicians to reform the very system that is predicated on our genocide and destruction of our Earth Mother. We urge for something more effective towards the undoing of colonialism in our lands. Please read the ‘zine Uprooting Colonialism: The Limitations of Indigenous Peoples’ Day for more insight.

We have celebrated and supported the rage of spontaneous and powerful Black Lives Matters uprisings that have brought down monuments to colonizers, and brought racist institutions like the the racist Washington NFL team to their knees. In this spirit and in the spirit of our militant ancestors who attacked colonial ideas and institutions, we call on all those who share our frustrations and our rage to join us. For missing or murdered Womxn, Girls, Trans and Two-Spirit relatives. Against resource colonialism. Against colonial borders. Against the settler colonial police-state. For total liberation.

Over 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance

The day of action took place against the backdrop of not only the ongoing uprising that began in late May following the police murder of George Floyd, but also the growth and continuation of a variety of Native struggles happening across what is widely known as Turtle Island.

In the so-called US, this includes the ongoing resistance in O’odham lands along the so-called US border to wall construction and militarization which is destroying sacred sites and burial grounds and is led by the O’odham Anti-Borders Collective. Actions against the border wall continue despite heavily police violence and continued arrests. There has also been an explosion of Indigenous mutual aid networks which have been organized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In so-called Canada, the struggle on Wet’suwet’en territory against the RCMP and the Coastal GasLink pipeline is once again heating up, while the Tiny House Warriors on Secwepemc territory continue to fight the TransMountain Pipeline, and members of the Six Nations have launched an ongoing land reclamation struggle known as #1492LandBackLane. The EZLN has also issued a new communique, fleshing out their plans for the future.

Meanwhile, the Trump White House issued a statement celebrating KKKolumbus Day and attacking “radicals” tearing down colonial and Confederate statues, attempting yet again to vilify the tens of millions of people who have taken to the streets against white supremacy since May.

As The Hill wrote:

President Trump on Monday bemoaned “radical activists” for their criticisms of Christopher Columbus in his holiday proclamation for Columbus Day.

The president issued the proclamation on Friday but tweeted it out on Columbus Day. In the statement, Trump praises the Italian explorer for opening “a new chapter in world history” more than 500 years ago and representing a “legendary figure” for the country’s 17 million Italian Americans.

Later in the proclamation, Trump condemns the “radical activists” who “have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy.”

“These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions,” he said. “Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.”

In Portland, Oregon, Trump and neoliberals alike seized on the continued protests, where on Saturday, anti-colonial demonstrators broke windows and tore down statues of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, leaving behind slogans such as “Stolen Land” and “Dakota 38,” a reference to 38 Dakota that Lincoln approved to have hanged in the largest mass execution ever in the so-called United States. Roosevelt once stated, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are …”

Ironically, only hours before, around 50 far-Right protesters rallied in Downtown Portland for a “Back the Blue” rally, and after harassing houseless people at an encampment, then attacked people on the street with projectile weapons while the police looked on and threatened to arrest counter-protesters.

This far-Right rally didn’t even make the news outside of social media posts, yet local and national media was quick to play up the “violent” protest which brought down non-living statues in a “Day of Rage.” Ted Wheeler denounced the “anarchic behavior” of the “obscene” acts, while Trump called on the FBI to crack-down, which was directly followed by the FBI and DHS making several arrests. The media also attempted to tie a seemingly unrelated shooting which happened away from the protest, to the demonstration itself. Ironically, this fear mongering comes only days after a new report has been released about systematic police brutality against demonstrators at the hands of local law enforcement.

Despite the media obsession with the powerful mobilizations in Portland, the range of actions that took place shows the growing resonance of anti-colonial ideas and actions outside of just large coastal cities. In so-called Santa Fe, a three day occupation ended with a colonial statue being torn down. In Kinłání, so-called Flagstaff, around 100 took to the streets in a militant anti-colonial and anti-capitalist march. In so-called Utica, New York, a rally was held connecting the genocide enacted by Columbus and the 2013 death of a local Native teen at the hands of local police. Other events ranged from cleaning up a river area and making outside art, to holding outside public gatherings, and carrying out banner drops.

Part of a History of Anti-Colonial Direct Action

Across the so-called Americas, there is vast opposition to Columbus Day, a celebration which has it’s roots following the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in the 1890s. In an effort to put a wet blanket on the outrage surrounding the killings, avoid a war with Italy, bring Italian immigrants into whiteness, and also solidify the myth of Columbus as a central pillar in the construction of the United States – celebrations of Columbus day began to be observed. By 1968, Columbus Day was recognized as a federal holiday, the same year that the American Indian Movement (AIM) was formed.

Since becoming a federal holiday, there has been increasing opposition and direct resistance to Columbus Day. This resistance has taken many forms, from mass marches and direct actions to disrupt Columbus Day celebrations and parades, the targeting of Columbus statues with graffiti and paint, and in recent years, the tearing down of entire monuments. This continued wave of anti-colonial action has been coupled with a growing understanding by the wider population of the brutality, genocide, and enslavement of the Taíno people and others at the hands of Columbus and his men.

In the wake of the George Floyd uprising, dozens of cities rushed to take down their remaining Columbus statues, while other cities moved to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. But while Democratic Party leaders hoped to placate the growing resistance in the streets, many on the Right, especially Trump, have simply doubled-down on their support for the holiday while calling for the jailing of “ANTIFA,” “BLM,” and “rioters.”

But the recent comments from neoliberal Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and fascists like Trump mirror each other and show that whether the settler-colonial State embraces an attempt at “reconciliation” with colonialism or seeks to march forward in its image: the system of global capitalism continues a trajectory of ecocide and land theft. With Indigenous struggles continuing across Turtle Island in the face of escalating colonial violence, this is a critical time to build growing networks and associations of solidarity, mutual aid, infrastructure, and capacity for sustained action for the long haul.

Reported Actions on Indigenous People’s Day of Rage Against Colonialism

Portland, OR: Statues of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln torn down. Militant march of several hundred takes to the streets.

San Rafael, CA: Junipero Serra statue torn down and graffitied with paint and slogans.

San Jose, CA: Banner drops.

San Mateo, CA: Junipero Serra statue vandalized with red paint, slogans; anti-colonial anarchists release communique which reads:

From so-called “San Mateo, California,” unceeded Ramaytush and Ohlone land, we strive as settlers to act in solidarity with the ongoing Indigenous resistance that has taken place on this land in the past 500 years.

Junipero Serra, an 18th century roman catholic missionary, was a notable perpetrator of these atrocities. Under his leadership, tens of thousands of Indigenous people were forcibly subjugated and brutalized, using the several missions that Serra established as the predominant tool through which to enact this coercion and extreme violence. This act of vandalism intends to condemn the catholic church as an entity as well, which is wholly responsible for these heinous acts.

The genocide of the Indigenous people of Turtle Island is ongoing. We have seen just a small sample of the eventualities of this colonial, white supremactist, patricarchial violence play out in concrete ways in so-called California, with the consequences of environmental degredation and climate disaster manifesting in devastating fires over the last few months.

SOURCE: indybay.org

84 racist/colonial monuments have come down and stayed down over this Hot Summer. The destruction of these mostly confederate and colonial monuments have been viewed as a major threat to the illusion of order in this land, as witnessed in the repressive executive order that promises 10 years in prison for anyone who attacks the “legitimacy of our institutions” through the vandalism of monuments. Statues and monuments are symbols that reinforce a particular relationship to historical memory. When they are torn down, they signify the relationship between governed and government, the very idea of nationhood, being toppled.

The state has always acted in the interest of colonizers like Serra and against Indigenous, Black, Brown, and other oppressed people. We see this familiar dynamic play out in the state’s response to the COVID pandemic, where working people are left with no resources and incarcerated people are left to die in prison; in the lack of response to the climate crisis as fires rage across the West Coast; and in the State’s attempts to brutally repress the Black Liberation Movement and uprising that have erupted in the last 5 months.

We are in an unprecedented moment as trust erodes against the state. Now is the time for a decentralized insurgency to emerge and attack the infrastructure and culture of white supremacy. We do not consent to be governed.

Love & Rage,
-some anarchists

Reno, NV: Banners drop on Washoe County GOP and DNC headquarters. A community celebration also featured a “river cleanup, the artistic reclamation of the Believe plaza, and a march on UNR’s John Mackay statue later in the afternoon.”

Santa Fe, NM: After an occupation of Santa Fe Plaza by a coalition of Tewa, Indigenous peoples and their allies which lasted several days demanded that the Mayor tear down a racist colonial monument at the center of town, people took matters into their own hands and tore the obelisk which celebrated the murder of ‘Savage Indians.’ Police responded by putting demonstrators in choke-holds and shooting off tear-gas. Alan Webber, the town’s Mayor, ironically responded to people opposed to a monument of mass murder by condemning “people taking the law into their own hands.”

Kinłání, So-Called Flagstaff: Militant anti-colonial, anti-fascist march through the streets. Read full report here.

Occupied O’odham Lands: Riot police and border patrol attack indigenous mobilization against border wall construction. Donate to the bail-fund here.

Pueblo, CO: Columbus statue vandalized.

Tampa, FL: Crowd gathers, covers Columbus statue in bloody hand prints; paint. Holds rally.

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Today was the Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage against Colonialism. As tomorrow is colonial settler holiday that praises a genocidal maniac, remember whos land you're on whos land was stolen from them whos lives were lost because of him. We from the bottom of our hearts thank each and everyone of you for coming out and standing in solidarity with us. We have asked the city of Tampa to remove this statue, so now we wait. What side of History do you want to be on Jane Castor? . . . #FIREE #indigenouspeople #indigenouslivesmatter #indigenouspeopleforblacklives #indigenoussolidarity #indigenoussovereignty #indigenousrights #dreamdefenders #tampabay #tampaprotest #dumpdugan #defundtpd #indigenousactivism #fuckcolonialism #fuckcolumbus #fuckcolumbusday #indigenouspeoplesday

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Minneapolis, MN: Banner placed up outside of squatted garden that has now been fenced off.

Chicago, IL: Chicago Blackhawks Monument vandalized.

Brooklyn, NY: “About 70 protesters gathered at McCarren Park for an Indigenous Day of Rage demonstration. Protesters are burning fake money and logs that represent the Amazon rain forest, which lost more than 4.6 million acres from devastating fires last year.”

Utica, NY: “On Saturday afternoon, a protester climbed the Christopher Columbus statue at the intersection of Memorial Parkway and Mohawk Street in Utica and affixed it with a white sheet and a pointed hood. Other protesters chanted “Columbus is a murderer!”, “Black Lives Matter” and “Native Lives Matter.” In the week before the protest, the Columbus statue had been vandalized twice.

SOURCE: Observer-Dispatch, Alex Cooper

Troy, NY: Columbus statue vandalized.

Providence, RI: Freeway blocked with U-Haul.

According to action report:

Several people were arrested in Providence on Monday night after blocking Route 95 near the Providence Place Mall. Protesters parked a U-Haul truck and a car, blocking all lanes on the northbound highway for over 7 minutes. In all, there were around a dozen people on the highway, chanting and unfurling a banner that read, “A Genocide Happened Here, Rhode Island is Guilty,” an apparent reference to the celebration of Columbus.

Protesters launched two fireworks on the highway, then left of their own accord. The U-Haul was quickly located by Rhode Island State Police officers near Exit 23. Around 20 police vehicles surrounded the U-Haul van and 7 arrests were made in relation to the action.

This protest was the third part of a 12 hour day of action organized by Indigenous peoples and local abolitionists in Rhode Island to demand that the State recognize Indigenous Peoples Day and make Columbus Day obsolete.

SOURCE: @UpriseRI

Algonquin Traditional Territory: March and rally.

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Indigenous Day of Rage against Colonialsm. #insolidarity #moosemoratorium #alleyesonwetsuweten #alleyesonmikmaki #1492landbacklane #arcticrefuge #justiceforjoyce #landback #Indigenousyouth #Indigenousrights

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Mexico City: Indigenous Otomis living in Mexico City took over the facilities of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI) today. INPI “doesn’t respect or recognize indigenous autonomy, their self-determination, nor their forms of organization.”

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