Filed under: Action, Northeast
Report back on May Day actions in so-called Frederick, Maryland.
On International Workers Day, on May 1st, 2020, a coalition of grassroots activist groups and individual organizers gathered for two separate May Day actions that each required a high level of planning, coordination, execution, operational security, and collaboration across diverse coalitions of both individual activists and our groups. Hatching our plans only a week before May Day, but rapidly engaging in community outreach efforts, we began to plan for what may have been one of the most daring and successful May Day actions in our small town’s organizing history.
Before we begin with our 2020 reportback, let’s briefly recap and address what we did last year, on May 1st, 2019. Last year, we held a community potluck with free vegan authentically prepared Mexican food, a free immigrant worker’s rights clinic, and a free community health fair and literature distribution event. It was so successful, it was even attended by local fascist white nationalist doofus, James Grose, aka Mr. Boomstick. Hoping to infiltrate us and find something interesting worth snitching to law enforcement about, being the nosy little bootlicker he is, he instead left bored with his friend after only a half hour, after we pretended to not know who he was, and allowed him to continue to snoop around undisturbed, looking at our literature. Sniffing out cops and informants from a mile away, both professionally paid and amateurs, is a shared skill set of many of ours, so it’s no surprise that we got to utilize it again a year later, on May 1st, 2020. Hi James, we are sad you didn’t join us again this year!
Practicing a high level of internal and external transparency, with an emphasis on accountability, safety, and revolutionary discipline, our activist organizing coalition began to trickle into the parking lot at Target in Frederick, MD. Our plan was to stage a brief demonstration in solidarity with striking Target workers on sick-out, and with healthcare workers on the frontlines, and other essential fast food and grocery store workers. It was wildly successful due to our adherence to the principles mentioned earlier, and due to our commitment to social distancing and protesting safely, and for leaning on our existing connections and solidarity networks within our communities, which allowed us to do outreach rapidly. Thus, our protest began. The time came, and we moved to the designated location to begin. Upon arriving at Target, we immediately noticed a lone police vehicle sent to monitor our protest, and the message came in over our Comms channel on the Signal app, our preferred method of digital communication, allowing us to communicate while protected by military grade encryption.
May Day in 2019 was absolutely wild. The free vegan tacos were amazing.
May Day 2020
“One cop car visible. Scatter and park in separate locations. Don’t draw attention to yourselves.” We fastened signs to our cars, adjusted our masks and hoodies, readied our megaphones, and then we began our event, allowing the police officer the 10 minutes he needed to leave his post, bored, denied the action he sought, and seeking an opportunity to enforce state sanctioned violence and intimidation tactics against the working class elsewhere in the city. “We’re gonna fasten signs to our vehicles. We have eyes on the police location. We should be okay here for a few. Be ready to go soon.”
“Alright, we’re gonna roll out and get started.” Having established a rotating lead / follow car designation, we then pulled out of our parking spaces, one by one, and formed a mobile, socially distancing, rolling vehicle protest and took over the Target parking lot. “All pow-er to we the peop-le! All pow-er to we the people! Workers of the world unite! Healthcare is a human right” were the chants that broke out, as our rolling blockade snaked through the parking lot, making circles, chanting,honking our horns in solidarity, blasting music, and live streaming from our coalition social media pages, which was something we’d discussed and agreed to internally, beforehand. Masks were not out of the ordinary due to Covid-19, so many of us chose to mask up for the event, even though we weren’t leaving our vehicles and exposing ourselves to the virus. We made a few laps, stayed long enough to make some noise, and left as we noticed that the police car from earlier had returned to observe us, and was in the process of calling in backup to our location.
“Okay, phase one, we are good. Head to Bed Bath and Beyond, park separately and stage there for a minute or two. We are getting ready to move to phase two.” We parked our vehicles and scattered about, blending in with the other vehicles parked in the vicinity, and leaving the newly arriving police officers very confused. “Now’s the time, we are heading to phase two. Everyone roll out, meet up at the Regal Cinemas, back parking lot. Try not to draw attention to yourselves.” Our protest quietly filed out of the Target parking lot, and we noticed more police cars headed to the scene as we were leaving. Phase two was about to begin.
One of our lead vehicles arrived a few minutes earlier than the rest of the group, and drove a lap around Westview Plaza to scout the location for police activity, or other potential hazards. Nothing. We were golden. We looped back around to join our newly arriving comrades in the back parking lot, linking up and forming a mini caravan of cars, linking up with other mini caravans of moving cars. We settled on a location to stage as a group, and more and more vehicles continued to join us. The megaphone was brought out once again. “Thank you everyone!” yelled a masked protester in the passenger seat of one of the lead vehicles. “Please continue to give people time to arrive. Y’all are doing great!” Cheers erupted from our crowd of parked vehicles, out of sight of the police, staging for phase 3. “Okay, it’s 6:38. Time for the two minute warning. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, fire up those engines! We are rolling out!”
We begin to depart from Regal Cinemas, approximately 2 miles away from Target and approximately 1 mile away from the jail. Having changed lead vehicles once again to lead us from phase 2 to phase 3, and without having a clearly designated person in charge, the police were at a total loss. The confusion and paranoia we were able to sow within the hearts and minds of the police was a key part of our group maintaining the advantage from start to finish, throughout the entire action, along with the element of surprise. “5 miles an hour. Slow to a crawl. Give people time to stack up. Eat the light. Eat the light. Eat the light. Don’t turn yet. Let it go red. Good. Let’s get grouped up.”
May Day car rally
Posted by RISE Coalition of Western Maryland on Friday, May 1, 2020
We are now arriving at Marcie’s Choice Lane, home of the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. Teaming up with us are our comrades and friends and co-organizers with the RISE Coalition of Western MD (Resources for Immigrant Support/Empowerment) and we begin to execute phase 3 of our action. “No more prisons! No more borders! No more racists giving orders!” We began to chant as our procession arrived, rapidly swarming the parking lot and overwhelming the lone police officer on duty, parked in an undercover vehicle, on his radio, clearly panicking. Absolutely delicious. “Incarcerated lives matter! Black lives matter! Incarcerated lives matter! Immigrant lives matter!” We continued to circle the parking lot as a group of about 15-20 vehicles at this point, quite the impressive display for our sleepy little quaint and humble small town of gentrifiers, racist science denialist far right bootlickers, and milquetoast pearl clutching do-nothing wealthy liberals and centrists. My, oh my, how the times… they are a-changing. We continued to circle the parking lot outside the prison, blasting out chants, blasting out music, and honking our horns in solidarity with those still inside.
Eventually, after about 20 minutes, our protest dispersed. Action successful. We did what we set out to do.
We fully intend without apology to turn this town from purple to red, we do not hide this fact. We are proud to call ourselves leftists, we are proud to adopt the label of anti-racists and working class socialists. We recognize the struggles that Frederick’s diverse working class faces, and we call on those who have stolen from us through taxation and through wage slavery to immediately begin taking steps to remedy the harm they have perpetuated against the entire united working class of Frederick, MD…and against the world at large.
Our identification is local, and our struggle is global. We are proud to support immigrants, the indigenous, proud to support black lives matter, proud to support the workers of our city, whether they work for a mechanic or a bank, or at Target, or a fast food restaurant, or a hotel, or a bar downtown. Whether they code at a cubicle, or toil under the sun, we are proud to claim them as comrades in class struggle.
We say without apology that women hold up half the sky, including the revolutionary women who organized to make today’s action possible, while holding down jobs, families, and households. We recognize our homeless comrades sleeping on the streets of a town that prefers to pretend they don’t exist. We hold solidarity with those who struggle, those who find themselves caught within the crosshairs of the criminalization of poverty, mental illness, addiction. Those whose backs have been broken by working for bosses that never gave a shit about them, we hold empathy in our hearts. Those who have turned to drugs to cope with the physical and emotional traumas inflicted upon them by capitalism, we love you and we recognize your humanity and your right to a life of dignity, worth, and well being, even if it inconveniences healthcare executives and politicians. Our lives are inherently valuable. Our worth is inherently deserving of acknowledgment. We must fight for the lives we deserve, not settle for the lives we have.
Your lives should always come before their profits. Free our families. Free our loved ones. Free them all. To hell with capitalism. To hell with this broken system. To hell with the ongoing destruction of our planet, the pillaging of our rainforests, the melting of our ice caps, the theft of the value our labor produces, the slow and ongoing murdering of our lives. To hell with the disregard and the disposability we are shown while we are demanded to serve the rich and powerful during a pandemic, who deny us the fair wages, housing, and healthcare we are owed. Who collaborate and scheme to rig elections and deny us agency and autonomy. Who surveil us with extreme paranoia, and turn a blind eye to the daily structural violence they greenlight and participate in, while openly mocking us and infiltrating leftist and progressive groups. We are proud to call ourselves “Frederick Socialists” and we are not going away. We reject the intimidation and coercion tactics of the state, and we are still angry about the ongoing illegitimate arrests in our communities.
Free them all. Prisons are illegitimate remnants of the antebellum chattel slavery and Jim Crow eras. We reject the authority of the system that claims allegiance from so many, despite nearly daily protests for the past ten years, in some location or another. Something’s got to give. Free our comrades. Fire to the prisons, to hell with our bosses. Long live the revolution.
We express our love, solidarity, and gratitude to those who attended our event today, whether alone or as part of an organization. Special thanks to RISE Coalition of Western Maryland, Spire City Medics, Rootsistance Community Garden, and Occupy Frederick. To hell with fascism, long live the resistance.
You heard what the fuck we said.
Note: For those who are interested, we organized this action according to the revolutionary organizing theories and principles associated with the Zapatistas movement in Chiapas, Mexico, as well as with the Kurdish Feminist indigenous lead war of resistance against the genocide of ISIS in the Middle East, the YPJ/YPG-PKK. We hold solidarity in our hearts with our comrades in Italy, in NYC, in Wuhan, China, and we dream together for a better world someday. We have included random links throughout the article, some are links to organizing theory; in order to help new organizers in the Frederick area get started, and some are links to supporting sources and documents to reinforce our analysis.