Filed under: Action, Midwest, Police, White Supremacy
Submitted by It’s Going Down
Carbondale is a small city (26,000) just 6 hours south of Chicago, surrounded by vast forests, clear lakes, and all the same oppressive systemic bullshit that plagues every other place in America. Several of us had participated in the magic of Ferguson – just two hours west of Carbondale – but we had never imagined that we’d march a piece of that magic through our small-town streets.
Friday night (July 8th, 2016) the small, but extremely segregated and isolating city, took to the streets in response to the recent police murders of people of color. We once thought that someone would have to be shot by the police in Carbondale for a bunch of strangers to express their exhaustion and rage with the white-supremacist-police-state, but Friday proved us wrong. A few folks from a local infoshop called together a march, we made some banners, we covered our faces, put together a mobile PA system, and began marching through the Northeast side of the Carbondale (the black community that has been segregated from the rest of the city by the train tracks and a highway).
As we marched through the northeast side of town we chanted, “Black Lives Matter,” “No justice, No sleep, Fuck the police,” and we were greeted with applause as folks walked out of their houses to check out where all the noise was coming from. At first, it seemed like no one but our small (predominately white) crew would participate in the march, but within 30 minutes young black children (as young as 5 years old), adults, mothers, fathers, grandparents, wage slaves, church goers, homeless, and students had joined the march. Before we knew it, we were 70 deep, blocking the highways, and experimenting with a political atmosphere that has been sleeping in Carbondale since the 1970s. We watched the march that was originally lead by a few radicals, spontaneously turn into a march facilitated by young and energetic black folks.
As we approached the main highway that runs through Carbondale, we attempted to disrupt the flow of normalcy but the police (following us the entire time) began to parade us. They began to play the role of peacekeeping managers with glow-sticks and bright vests, another way to manipulate us into pacification. It became apparent that we’d have to learn the tactics to win a game of cat-and-mouse. The march ended with a vigil, new friends, and a mob of newscasters (yuck!) but instead of going back to normal, we decided to meet again.
Sunday July 10th we (infoshop folks) walked over to the Town Square Pavilion, and to our surprise, it was crowded with people! It was especially exciting to see a bunch of mothers and children, groups of high school kids, and a good number of people wearing masks and holding up signs. The march was lead by a new friend, R, a young, illuminated black man with a loving presence. It was warming to hear him say, “Y’all seemed like a group of hipsters one night but now I view you all as gangsters.” Those words highlighted our true intentions of being accomplices, not allies.
We began our march Sunday through the Northeast side, chanting, setting off fireworks, and blaring a BLM related soundtrack. Once again, our crowd grew as we marched through the night but this time, something strange came to our attention. The police were nowhere in sight. Suddenly the streets became ours; children with fireworks, others painting and pasting words on any building they desired–Carbondale became a playground for us to shape and mold.
The reverberation of the radical spirit of the 1960’s-70’s riots resurrected itself in our bodies as we made our way to the cop-shop, walking through their parking lot with our middle fingers flung high and direct, throwing smoke-bombs at police vehicles–only to be met with looks of horror from the men in suits as we chanted “Whose streets? Our Streets!” As we made our way to the front of the Carbondale Police Department, we repeated our chants, danced, and someone even spray painted “FTP” on a pillar in front of the building.
Marching the night away, we continued to present a steady flow of fireworks in the sky, painted the city with messages (Death to White Supremacy, R.I.P. Alton, R.I.P. Philando, End Prison Slavery, and F.T.P.), and blocked traffic showing the folks of Southern Illinois that Carbondale knows how to turn the fuck up.
We weren’t being patrolled by the police the second night but there were definitely a few informants in the crowd and their presence became known when the unexpected happened. An SUV rapidly pulled up to our crowd and came to a halt, inches (what seemed like centimeters) away from the faces of young black children. That was when we met him, an angry white man screaming, “Get out of the fucking road! You can’t block traffic! All lives matter!” We greeted him with rage as he got back into his vehicle. Our friend approached the car assuming that this person would not have the audacity to intentionally run someone over; but, my friends, the hate spawned by white supremacy can be deplorable.
The anti-blackness that has diseased this world flooded out of him right into his gas pedal. Barreling through the crowd with our friend clenching for his life on the hood of the car for a couple hundred feet, as this man accelerated without any care for the safety of our friend. Luckily our friend landed on his feet unscathed, although the driver slammed on his breaks after hurling around a corner. When the car initially drove off, the crowd immediately chased him and he got out of his vehicle, ready to fight, yelling “Hit me!”
Much obliged and to our delight, we met his demands. Someone from the crowd clocked him in the face. His white privilege was displayed to its highest degree as he began to play victim and pout as the police rushed over. No one continued to beat him, but instead we shamed that motherfucker, his pathetic disposition was enough. Some threw smoke bombs in his car, others broke parts off, tried to kick in his lights, and some began to spray paint the vehicle. Within minutes cops surrounded the man and his car. The informants tried to de-escalate the situation and white drunk folks from the bar we were in front of screamed “All Lives Matter” and “atoms matter,” wtf? Although no one was hurt, we’re not sure how long that will last, considering Carbondale is surrounded by a dozen old “sun-down towns,” and has a history of police brutality.
They towed the assholes’ car away, took him to the cop-shop, coddled him and sent him on his way. The man was later identified by one of the folks in the crowd who recognized him as an SIUC employee; apparently he lost his job after a complaint was filed. The march died off, as we all returned to the pavilion for refreshments and to catch our breath. We plan to meet in the streets this Wednesday (July 13th) and possibly try and bend our reality and disrupt normalcy forever in this town.
“You talk about hope…we have to hope within the parameters of hopelessness. Hope against hope, is the only kind of hope we have anymore” – Carbondale comrade, co-chair of the Geriatric Anarchist Federation
Life can often be lonely, even in a small town. It can also be despairing and leaving one with a sense of hopelessness. The radical community is very small which means we’re often exhausted and biting off more than we can chew. Suddenly, after the past few nights of unrest, the radical presence has seemed to triple in size. Coming from a big city, where it is harder to build the foundation for strong relationships, and manifestation of long-term radical projects, we’re repeatedly reminded of something our uncle (who has lived here most his life) said once, “Ideas sure do grow legs here.”
Throughout the last 3 years, that statement has rung true as our gardens grow, the infoshop keeps expanding its projects and resources, and we keep making new friends. The possibilities seem endless now that we have taken over the streets together with folks that were strangers just last week. Together the town now feels malleable like clay and it is ours to play around with and to mold into whatever we see fit.
With love, rage, and solidarity,
p.s.- you have wings, use them!