Facing A Storm: Mutual Aid In Response to Cold Front in Olympia

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Report from Olympia about how various autonomous groups came together and combined community organizing, infrastructure, and outreach to respond to a large scale fold front.

The Storm: A record breaking storm hit Olympia last weekend. Friday through Monday we received a combined total of a foot of snow, making it the biggest winter storm in 60 years. Unlike the Midwest People in this area of the country are not prepared for large storms like this. Makeshift shelters and tents used for houseless community members collapsed all across the city leaving many shivering in a foot of snow. On Sunday and Monday thousands of people lost power and other utilities, leaving many without any reliable source of heat. The nearly unprecedented nature of this storm makes the connection to climate change unquestionable.

The Context: Climate change and the collapse of capitalist civilization are here. It’s happening now all around us. The time and place which we occupy demands certain responses from us if we want to live lives worth living. This crisis is becoming clearer to everyone. Storms which in the past happened every 60-100 years are happening in regular intervals. Weather patterns have changed so drastically that people all around the world are no longer seeing the same weather patterns they grew up with. In the face of these rapid changes people see politicians, the state and businesses offering short sighted and unrealistic solutions to these massive problems.

As anarchists, antifascists ,autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements we must fill the void of false solutions and broken promises left by the elites and the rich. If we do not fill this gap it will be filled by fascists and other reactionary elements. Most of all, we must do all we can to build power at this moment by engaging in mutual aid with those, like us, who are oppressed and suffering. We can expect that every year forward we will have more devastating climate events than the last. So now is the time to hone our skills and prepare. By offering a helping hand to our comrades and community we can become stronger and more resilient for the dangerous days to come.

Who We Are: We came together to face this particular storm in loose groupings which coalesced into some concrete projects. This coalition includes Mutual Aid Mondays, autonomous anti-capitalists and other anarchists, the IWW , Olympia Solidarity Network, Just Housing , Olympia Assembly and other community members.

What We Did: At the begging of the storm some of us went door to door asking neighbors for warm clothes, blankets , food shoes etc…Some of the neighbors who we spoke to were so excited about the idea that they themselves replicated what we were doing on their street. We gathered about 17 full garbage bags full of clothes in little under 2 hours of work, with 5 people.

This is free and easy way to gather supplies to respond to a crisis. This is a good way to let community members know about the organizing efforts you are doing. After gathering materials from our neighbors many of us brought the supplies to Mutual Aid Mondays, which is an ongoing project to support houseless folks at some of the self organized camps in downtown Olympia. Soon after arriving at Mutual Aid Mondays the weather took a turn for the worse and it was difficult to distribute the supplies without getting everything wet. We arranged with other comrades in the area to move the Mutual Aid Mondays event to the 115 Legion a community event space which was opening up as an emergency warming shelter.

Legion Warming Center: Some of us had previous relationship with the organizers of the 115 Legion space and asked them if we could use the space as a temporary emergency shelter. They agreed and let us and other comrades help operate the space.

This all came together with little to no planning and or preparation, and was an emergent need that we filled at a moments notice. The space offered houseless community members a place to sleep, warm up and get warm clothes, food etc. The emergency warming center housed up to 20 people a night for 4 nights and offered temporary shelter for many others who came and went. Many people who could not commit to overnight shifts at the warming center supported the space through cooking large meals, gathering and dropping off supplies, and helping with clean up in the mornings.

While some of us helped operate the warming center others went around downtown telling people about the space. As we walked around we also delivered coffee and food. Some of the people we spoke with were cautious and did not initially trust us, while others were more receptive because of the previous relationships from mutual aid projects.


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