Imagining Many forms of Community Self-Defense

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This editorial argues for the building up and proliferation of broad networks of community care and self-defense in response to continued social breakdown in society.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, there seems to be a consensus that a “good guy with a gun can’t stop a bad guy with a gun.” I also see a lot of people reacting with outrage and disdain to the idea that arming teachers is an adequate response to school shootings, a feeling I share.

But I’m left wondering, as I watch friends and comrades in radical communities organize to learn how to shoot and operate guns, while pushing for the importance of knowing how to defend ourselves: do we believe that a good antifascist with a gun can stop a bad fascist with a gun?

Are we as deluded about our abilities to protect our communities from harm as Trump himself, who claimed after Parkland that if he was present at a mass shooting, he would “run in there, even if he didn’t have a weapon?”

As a prison abolitionist and someone committed to anti-violence practices, I don’t believe that more prisons, police, or guns will make us safer. This isn’t to say that I support gun control or legislation criminalizing gun owners, because I don’t. I’m not interested in looking to the state for solutions, because I know it doesn’t have them to offer. But I’m concerned that our radical communities across the so-called US aren’t taking this moment to reconsider our perspectives on what real, tangible community defense can look like.

I believe that our hearts are brave and our minds are brilliant. Can those of us in antifascist, radical, and anarchist communities continue the work of envisioning collective self-defense on terms other than those dictated by the state, white supremacy, and masculinity?

I want to see us fight for a safety that uplifts people of color; survivors of sexual violence; sex workers; unhoused people; people with disabilities; and women and transgender/gender non-conforming people.

Here are some ideas for what liberatory collective self-defense projects could look like:

-Supporting sex workers’ rights and self-determination

-Starting a community bail fund for your area (example: https://www.chicagobond.org)

-Supporting organizing efforts led by unhoused people

-Hosting a book club on The Revolution Starts at Home edited by Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; or Stories of Transformative Justice by Ruth Morris; or Angels With Dirty Faces by Walidah Imarisha

-Creating collectives for survivor support and accountability work with people who have caused harm (check out Philly’s Pissed and Philly Stands Up)

-Forming an organization modeled off CAHOOTS in Eugene, OR, which does mobile crisis intervention with folks on the streets and folks experiencing mental health crises

-Building community capacity to do direct actions blocking ICE and deportations

-Challenging sexism, homophobia, and transphobia in our movements and communities

-Getting involved in the work of Survived and Punished, which supports criminalized survivors of domestic and sexual violence

-Mobilizing to support campaigns for safe injection sites in your area

With gratitude for those who have my back, anger toward the world as it exists, and hope for the worlds to come,

-a comrade


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