Submitted to It’s Going Down
We slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot Thursday night and rode the metro into DC to attend the bloc. My partner had changed his mind about donning all black and would attend as a spectator. As the sole breadwinner and at risk of losing his job in the case of arrest, it was understandable. However, when we got closer to Logan Circle, he got emboldened and wanted to do the bloc. Who was I to dissuade him? I just happen to have enough layers of black on that we were able to piece together a get up for him and we geared up in a back alley. I didn’t want to arrive at the bloc early (to avoid social awkwardness, in all honesty) so we walked around until ten on the dot.
There was probably 150-200 of us right then: burning signs and flags, milling around, smoking, drinking coffee and yelling a few short-lived chants. There was an excitable tension vibrating in the air –all of us with our own expectations– which intensified and hastened as more black-clad folks kept showing up. Banners were ready. We were amped to get this shit show on the road but a few suggested we wait until 10:30 for more to arrive. That didn’t happen. When some of us started to move we just all felt compelled, said fuck it, and started going. The banners weren’t lined up in the most strategic manner but shit was going down regardless.
My partner and I positioned ourselves behind the “V” shaped banner as a good marker to return to in case we got separated. Also, since neither of us had ever participated in a bloc before, we wanted to be at the front of this motherfucker! As a loose mass, we took off in a seemingly random direction. We were organized in more of a march formation as we headed out of the circle and into the streets.
“WHOSE STREETS?!” “OUR STREETS!”
Almost immediately, the first CRACK! of metal on plastic rang out: someone went after the first ATM we came across. Good, this was an anti-capitalist bloc after all! Actions became constant and escalated. Newspaper dispensers were brought into the streets. Trash cans were to be tipped and rolled. I grabbed a newspaper dispenser someone had already put into the streets and dragged it a little further. Yes, it was acompletely pointless act but I had to escalate my internal struggle of acting or not acting to see what I was capable of doing. Looking behind me for the first time, it was hard to believe how long our march stretched. The front “V” barricade was moving fast (maybe too fast as some of us expressed) but those holding it were brave enough to be the tip of the spear, so who’s to say?
On a tactical note: it wasn’t a detriment for us to be more scattered at this moment, as opposed to a true “bloc.” Being more spread out allowed each of us our own space to maneuver and made us more fluid and faster.
“WHOSE STREETS?!” “OUR STREETS!”
“WHOSE STREETS?! “TIGHTEN UP!” Some of us answered back. Ha!
The smashy-smash was on full throttle. I darted back and forth from behind the “V” banner to keep checking on my partner, alternating between marching and random acts of mischief. I felt the need to look out for my partner who is smaller in stature and more vulnerable to police punishment. In this moment, I had never felt more free. I was completely lucid. My mouth full of acid. Acute internal rage manifested from years of living under a repressive system (I had no say in creating) and now I felt like it was mine to destroy. Two things had never resonated as clearly with me than in that moment: that destruction can be a creative force and if we want to live in a world that is worth living in then we will have to physically dismantle the structures that casually imprison us moment to moment. The sound of breaking glass had never rang so sonorous. Physically taking up the street brick by brick and hurling them into capitalist infrastructure gives us meaning.
Some of us had pick hammers that were not only good for breaking windows but –as a more inspiring fellow showed us– could be used to pluck up pavers which were then slammed on the ground to make throwable-sized pieces for the rest of us. Thanks, buddy! The Starbuck’s windows that had just been smashed was opened even wider when I chucked a slab of debris into it from the edge of the sidewalk. I want one of those hammers for next time, if there is a next time; I could almost die happy having experienced this. And it wasn’t over yet!
We traversed an ugly-muddy park where a comrade needed help dragging a big metal trash can. It was made easier when he just tipped it over and let it roll where it wanted to. Make no mistake, there was a tentative fear lurching in the back of our consciousness. Well, mine anyway!
“No fear! Don’t be scared! Don’t be afraid!” Such platitudes and slogans are stripped of their cliché when you’re being flanked and followed by siren-sounding cops. It was comforting to hear these encouragements. Looking backwards a second time, it was as if our numbers had been lopped in half. What the fuck happened to all of us?! And now sadistic cops were trying to run us over with their motorbikes. “Fuck the police!” spewed from gut. I pointed directly at cops, locked eyes with each as I hailed “Fuck you!” Goddamn, they looked way more scared than I felt! Some dumbass cop then managed to drive his motorbike into a patio dining set just as a fellow black-clad warrior had been toppled by a cop. We tried to drag her away a little to safety but safety didn’t exist and no one was saying anything. I should have inquired immediately and clearly as to what the problem was and how best to ameliorate it but sirens were closing in, piercing ears. In an act of cowardice and self-preservation, I moved on.
The older business men who were taking pictures and video of us from the doorway of a bougie hotel retreated in fright when someone chucked a hard object their way, spider-webbing the glass of the front door. Yes everyone, this is not a performance! This is really happening!
A bicycle u-lock made its way under my feet then into my hand. When the McDonald’s windows didn’t look broken enough, I broke them more. Then slamming the u-lock into the glass door it just ricocheted off; that safety glass is harder to break than it looks! Eat shit Ronald McDonald! That’s what you serve to people after all! With full intent I found the right time to hurl it at the cops flanking us, causing them to duck.
The police resistance stepped up their game –the smell of pepper spray in the air– as we traversed the same ugly-muddy park again! A flash grenade went off beside me as I ran. Sure, it startled the fuck out of me but was this the time to call it quits? The thought was entering my mind. Someone was grabbing their leg in pain. I was feeling how out of shape I was and my orthopedic, Velcro-strap shoes were not the best choice. I had lost my partner a while ago.
We came into a narrow street and by now there were cops impeding our path and closing in behind us:
“There’s a side street!” Someone yelled. “No! Don’t go!” Another pleaded, but it was too late. A big, black chunk broke off and went down it. Taking stock of our numbers, holy shit, there’s only about forty of us together now, or so it felt.
“We’re being kettled.” A comrade correctly pointed out. “We can’t stay here, there’s more coming, they’re going to trap us, we have to break through. Tighten up and lock arms.” A couple of us echoed his sentiment louder and we came together and locked arms. Before anyone could think about what the fuck would happen, someone started the countdown: “Three!” More joined in: “TWO!” Then almost all of us: “ONE!” We charged the storm troopers swinging their clubs, bodies rolled, and I cowardly jumped over them and ran in retreat. I didn’t look back, turned a corner and altered my appearance.
The first scene I came across was the woman who I meekly tried to drag to safety earlier, only now she had changed her appearance and was suffering immensely from a blast a pepper spray. Two others were pouring milk in her eyes but her suffering was persistent. “These medics suck. Where the hell are they?!” She declared. We were all catching our breath and taking in a moment of respite.
“This is private property.” a resident warned us for our sin of sitting on her curb.
“Fuck private property.” a passerby retorted.
“I can’t believe it gotten broken up so quickly.” I said.
The pepper-sprayed woman replied “Really? It was better than I thought it was going to be.” Ha!
Moving on, I strolled the sidewalks past small cliques who were trying to relieve the pain of their pepper-sprayed allies and miraculously found my partner right away and hugged him hard. We headed off in a random direction and came across the scene on K street where a sizable group had been completely cornered. It wasn’t until days later when watching a video on submedia.tv that I realized that those who were trapped were those who didn’t make it when we charged the cops. I felt like a piece of shit for leaving them behind but, simultaneously, also realized just how goddamn lucky I was. A fiery lad was giving the police a good tongue-lashing: “This shit’s coming to a fuckin’ end! The people are fuckin’ rising against YOU! The terrorists of this nation! Not ISIS! ISIS isn’t terrorizing us! ISIS isn’t out here throwing bombs at us! We just got bombed over there by REAL TERRORISTS! Fuck all ya’ll!” He was right. It’s a wonder if the police even know what they stand for.
“You don’t like me do you?! Well I don’t give a shit! I can see y’alls dicks shrinking in your pants right now!” That shit was funny. I was a coward for not expressing myself as loudly and honest as he was in that moment. The rock at my feet was begging to be picked up and whipped towards the cop line but it hadn’t reached that pitch. The potential for escalation waxing and waning.
Those who were kettled broke into an a capella version of “Bohemenian Rhapsody”. This struck me as goofy and the whole scene was distinctly depressing to me. I wanted to rescue them right then and there. As onlookers, we were almost completely surrounded by the cops ourselves. Shortly afterward, someone informed me of another autonomous march at McPherson Square at three o’clock and moved on.
Things were in an awkward limbo when my partner and I made the worst decision of the day: to leave. Exhausted and aimless, with our adrenaline zapped, we made our way north. In retrospect, we both heavily regret this decision. From the moment we left to until now, the experience we went through has overwhelmed our conversations and thoughts. My partner has a different gleam in his eyes, as if tempered by fire. So we give a shout out to all the revolutionaries, radicals, and anarchists who backed up their mouths with their asses that day!
As a side note: The next day we attended the Women’s March. As predicted it was completely governable. We weren’t “allowed” to march because there was so many people. Apparently you have to have permission from the state to take to the streets! After a few hours of zombie-shuffling through a sea of middle-class whites who walked in circles, jerking off and complimenting each other on the wit of their homemade signage, we left that shit mad early. It was frustratingly sad: all those people and all that potential power just squandered, completely untapped. Did this empower anybody? Did this accomplish anything? Were we exercising our “rights?” All we did was pump massive amounts of capital into the DC economy. Yesterday we smashed a Starbuck’s and now there were queues literally pouring out the doors of them. Thanks a lot, liberals!
Chants of “Yes We Can!” were accompanied by even more chants of “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!”Gag me with a spoon! But the liberals are right, you know? That is exactly what democracy looks like: a mass of citizens who have no say in the systems that control their lives constantly begging at the feet of authority for even the tiniest consideration. Fuck that shit!
Here’s to all things wild and free! SMASH THE BANKS! SMASH THE STATE! CIRCLED “A” ALL DAY!