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Sep 4, 18

Philadelphia, PA: Labor Day Noise Demonstration Report

Report back from recent noise demo in solidarity with the prison strike.

Last night’s noise demonstration was fun and exciting! It went pretty well for most of its duration, though there were some moments of confusion and miscommunication that I think could be avoided in the future. I want to go over how things went and then address some successes, and problems I’d like to see us overcome as we continue to take to the streets together.

I met with some companions at a nearby location and around 8PM we marched together to the Federal Detention Center at 6th and Arch. Most of us were dressed in black with our faces covered. As we walked over, graffiti was painted and fliers about the strike were thrown into the air, the quiet streets were ours. Once we arrived at the prison people began shouting, shooting fireworks, throwing firecrackers, and making a bunch of noise together. Over the next fifteen minutes more people arrived and joined in, sharing water, whistles, and adding chants to the ruckus with a megaphone. Some people stood in the street blocking all traffic going past the prison, others gave fliers to this captive audience. People locked inside the prison shone lights and waved at us through the windows.

The police arrived after some time, but initially could do very little. There were only a couple cops and they protested that people were lighting fireworks and blocking the street but couldn’t so much about it. They were able to open one lane of traffic as more police arrived to back them up. By this time it was clear that the prisoners had seen us and that the police pretense was growing, some police on bikes appeared. A decent time to make a dignified exit; we had broken the isolation of the prison walls, made clear our solidarity, and expressed a disgust for the police and their prisons.

We took to the street and went south to Market street with police moving alongside and behind us. We went around the block, against traffic, and circled back past the prison going west on Arch street. Here some of the march slowed down to make some more noise, while many of the masked comrades began to leave. It seemed to me that the feeling of the march then was a general leaning toward dispersal, though I cannot be sure. The cowardly police took advantage of the fact that many of the masked marchers were further away to attack those who had not yet left. They used their bikes and metal clubs to beat demonstrators and made two arrests, including a thirteen year old. After this it seemed like the demonstration was pretty much over. People went home or kept track of the arrested (both of whom are out – one with a citation, one with charges – at the time of this writing).

In many ways this demonstration was a success. The isolation of the prison was broken temporarily, news of the strike was communicated, the police were not able to control the rowdy energy of the crowd, and rebellion and freedom were celebrated with a festive enthusiasm. We were able to gather and move together under the police’s radar, it’s clear they were not prepared for a demonstration. A practice of sharing was present within the demonstration to a degree. In the longer term; tactics and ideas that during the 2016 strike seemed unusual and limited to a small amount of people have spread! The use of masks, fireworks, moving against the direction of traffic, and the creation of temporary barricades to slow police advances have become more common. Though these never spread as fast or wide as we would like, we can take a moment to appreciate the contrast between this strike and the 2016 one.

The arrests from last night might not have been preventable, we can’t know such things. What we do know is we can always strive to learn and to improve. We can open channels of communication before an action, especially one that hasn’t caught the police’s attention yet. Imagine if we had all met up in a quiet place to have a quick discussion on dispersal, legal support, and sharing supplies, before walking to the prison together. We could have some idea of what to expect of each other and the security of all masking off camera and arriving together. It might not have prevented the police from doing their job, some people would have shown up late and missed it, but it certainly wouldn’t have set us back by much. The same can be said to a lesser degree for communication once a demonstration has started moving, more easily within the bloc and probably with more difficulty beyond the bloc. To me these kinds of communications feel like they can increase our capacity, make more things possible, and keep us safer from the police. I know there are reasons we’re shy and secretive, that there is a lot of distrust, and that speaking to each other can be difficult, but let’s challenge ourselves!

How can we better communicate and look out for each other without compromising our security? How can we intensify our struggle? How can we spread it? What do we imagine is im/possible and how can we make it our reality?

Solidarity with the comrades beaten and arrested!
Fuck the police!
Strength and solidarity to the striking prisoners!
Fire to the prisons!

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