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Apr 1, 21

Minneapolis, MN: Community Gathers for Anti-Repression Panel at George Floyd Square

photo: @GeorgeFloydSQ

Report-back on anti-repression panel and gathering held at George Floyd Square in so-called Minneapolis.

Two days before our Anti-Repression 101 workshop was held, we hopped on a Jitsi call to discuss what we envisioned the workshop will look like. As we go around introducing ourselves with names and pronouns we are all hesitant to say whether or not we’ve previously engaged in anti-repression work. Some of us have fought warrants and felony charges, some of have been arrested and/or imprisoned, some of us actually work with legal defense teams. But none of us have “formal experience.” After the meeting ended, it became clear that anyone who has been threatened with incarceration, been arrested, or spent time in prison all have anti-repression experience, because our experiences function as our “formal” training.

The Anti-Repression Workshop was held at George Floyd Square on March 28th, exactly 10 months after the Minneapolis 3rd precinct was burned. A crowd of roughly 100 people flipped through three tables of zines and sat on makeshift benches or on the ground under the co-opted and renamed gas station, People’s Way. A large yellow banner reading “DROP THE CHARGES” hangs behind where five panelists are seated and share a mic. Audio recordings of statements and intimate experiences were provided by comrades asked to join the panel but ultimately felt uncomfortable being in one of the most heavily surveilled areas of Minneapolis. Which is an indictment of state repression in and of itself. Panelists with a wide range of experience inside and outside prison (if not both) shared vulnerable stories to a crowd of black bloc-ed, funky overall, and glitter wearing people. Who is to say the aesthetics of the Left must always be bloc? However, hats were pulled down and umbrellas were opened as a fixed wing spy plane began circling overhead. This was not only a strategic move on the State’s end- using millions of state funding to re-traumatize folks – but a stunning case in point. The need for anti-repression conversations and workshops is increasingly necessary in an immediate way.

State repression is a very stark reality to come to terms with for all of those involved in the struggle for liberation in the belly of this imperial beast. Though many of us who organized this event have read about revolutionaries like Fred Hampton, George Jackson, Assata Shakur, and Mumia Abu-Jamal, it is an entirely different feeling to recognize the tactics we’ve read about before being carried out in full force today against ourselves, comrades and families. This was specifically brought up when it was noted an attendee was wearing a beautiful t-shirt that read “Assata Taught Me.” Perhaps that’s a sign that we must be doing something right.

The State’s ability to enact both physical and psychological warfare on us takes on many forms. They want us to give up and that is clear. Every conversation that took place under the People’s Way, every shared zine, and every shared story was an act of defiance in the face of our common enemy. Those moments are transformative. Despite the surveillance and risk, comrades talked through assessing arrest-ability, filling out jail support forms (and who to trust them with), and how to support current long-term incarcerated folks through letter-writing and commissary funds. We also brought up the importance of cop watch as community defense against both oppression and repression and talked about de-arrest and possible de-arrest strategies (a topic that could frankly be its own discussion). An ongoing abolition group, who will meet twice a month at GFS, was boosted and people were encouraged to participate there continuously, as well as additional ways to get involved in long-term prison support through a regular letter-writing group.

The clear takeaway, from panelists who are newly facing repression, panelists who have confronted it for many years, and comments made by audience members, is that isolation, fear, paranoia, and fatigue are brutally wielded against us daily. The State understands that a united front is the biggest threat they could face. Our oppressors have set very clear terms of war against us, and in the face of that, we must support, listen, laugh, share food, and fortify our emotional and tactical muscles together. Every conversation, every moment of fear, and every moment of joy are necessary to rebellion. A reoccurring theme is the State’s desire to freeze and isolate us into complicity and complacency in order to keep us off the street. This is why an anti-repression workshop and continued workshops are integral. Liberation is the goal and to continue to fight means trusting and being vulnerable with each other.

As panelists spoke about the pain they have faced in jail, in the streets, in prison, and in GFS itself it is imperative to note how much more damaging and scary it is to confront repression alone. But the folks standing in the sun, holding each other or their dogs, listening with reverence as we urged a call to action, are the beginning. Many of us have witnessed and/or experienced State-sanctioned violence and we know we have to do something about it. The dirty rotten forces-that-be train us to be apathetic and dismissive. But this past Sunday, it was demanded that we push aside apathy and fear to form a space for dialogue about what it really takes to fight the long fight and to remember our objective: to win. We know that the way we are forced to live is not right, is not natural, is not ordained. We need to trust in each other and talk deliberately about our experiences with repression to truly liberate ourselves. The exercise of truly envisioning and enacting a better world – a world we have never experienced materially –  is what will embolden us, deepen our own humanity, and ultimately give us the tools to fight. Our Anti-Repression Workshop 101 was the beginning of collectivizing knowledge and shared experiences; what new horizons will we see now that we are not looking alone?

As we type, a panelist who had recorded his experiences to share rather than discuss in person due to state repression surveillance, is sitting in jail. This is obviously a targeted effort between the MPD and ATF division. It is hard to feel that the timing is a coincidence. While heartbreaking it is an urgent reminder that we need to be building support networks to fight repression NOW. It is an urgent reminder that while we scorch and burn the prison industrial complex, we must be growing new seeds in its place. And we do that when valuing and working together.

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