Reflections from Philly March Against ‘Blue Lives Matter’

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A critical reflection on strategy from anonymous individuals regarding the recent ‘Blue Lives Matter’ march and counter-mobilization.

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On August 25th, actions took place to counter a Blue Lives Matter march on occupied Lenape land, Philadelphia, PA. A robust description of the organizers for the Blue Lives March and their connections to and affinity with white supremacy, transphobia and anti-immigrant politics can be found here. A pretty decent description of how the events unfolded can be found here.

Below are some (very incomplete and rushed) thoughts that feel relevant from one participant:

After the police violence we dealt with, several report backs and press releases framed the events as a situation where police needlessly escalated an otherwise non-violent and non-confrontational situation. While it is accurate that our team was unable to effectively attack either the fascist march or the police, and didn’t really have the opportunity to try at any point, it is decidedly inaccurate to assert that we did not have confrontational intentions. We should not play into narratives of innocence set up by our enemies when faced with State violence that we know is coming. We are in a violent political conflict with both the State and proto-paramilitary formations nationally and ought to recognize this and talk about it as it is.

“That is the capacity we want to be building, and the 25th was another step in the right direction. Further, narratives about us being pure victims of unprovoked police violence erase the courage of those who took risks, arrests and blows in order to defend others from the cops. We had each others’ backs that day, and while it didn’t work out, that still means something. Let’s lift that up to encourage and normalize practices of immediate defense, de-arrests, and risk-taking.”

In this vein, when we do successfully mobilize a confrontational action, we should hype that whether it goes well or not. That is the capacity we want to be building, and the 25th was another step in the right direction. Further, narratives about us being pure victims of unprovoked police violence erase the courage of those who took risks, arrests and blows in order to defend others from the cops. We had each others’ backs that day, and while it didn’t work out, that still means something. Let’s lift that up to encourage and normalize practices of immediate defense, de-arrests, and risk-taking.

Keep moving! We really need to work on both mobility and blockading. At one point, the bloc came out of an alley filled with dumpsters, saw a contingent of bike cops moving toward us, and allowed them to come up and form a line. Rather than use nearby obstacles to create space between us and the cops, we ended up in a futile standoff, dragged on longer than necessary largely by indecision.

Use what is around! At the spot where the initial arrests took place, a very large number of police barricades (left over from the most recent Occupy ICE/Homeless Against Stop and Frisk eviction) were ten feet from us. Using those to create space (as west Arch was undefended) rather than try an uncoordinated dart through bike cop lines could have been fruitful. And again, there are rolling dumpsters literally everywhere in center city.

Be ready to take advantage of opportunity! Early on, before a significant police presence had formed, we darted past the Criminal Justice Center. Aside from a couple bottles being tossed at the windows, nothing happened to the building. This would have been an especially good target considering the nature of the fascist march that day, and done well to emphasize solidarity with the prison strike. The same could be said for at least a couple empty and undefended police vehicles that we passed before the initial confrontation.

A lesson to really internalize here is that the police may escalate at any time. If, say, the above opportunities were seized, or our team escalated in any other ways, it’s likely that repression faced afterwards would be blamed on those actions. It’s important to keep in mind in the future, when we do go harder and actually crime it up better, that such actions are not to blame for repression. We’ve seen repeatedly that toning down our actions does not keep us safe.

And finally, the composition of the march appeared to me to be informed to some extent by its framing as primarily an “anti-fascist” event. Without going too much into the potential pitfalls of prioritizing a sort of narrow antifascism over emphasis on broader structures of domination (here is a very good starting point for that), it seems plausible that placing more focus on the anti-police nature of our mobilization may have drawn more people and projects in the city into this action.

To be clear, these thoughts are all offered in extreme good faith, and I’d like to repeat that my main takeaway from the 25th is that we really had each other’s backs and did our best. Let’s do that more!

Let’s continue to care for one another in dealing with our physical and emotional wounds.

Let’s come back harder soon.

fire to the prisons & the cops,

death to fascism & white supremacy, and let’s be real, fuck democracy too,

– some anarchist living on occupied Lenape land


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