When we arrive at the airport, the police have designated a protest area. It’s outdoors, past all the departures entrances, along the side of the access road. They are herding people along the sidewalk, around the protest area, and behind a line of yellow tape.
Lots of people keep arriving, and the protest area is already close to full. A group of women in hijab are chanting boisterously in the front, behind a police car parked sideways to block off the crowd. We walk all the way down the line of tape to the end of the area, the furthest point from the terminal. Police are holding a perimeter on the other side of us so vehicles can pass. Here, at the very back of the crowd, we find some people in darker clothing with anarchist banners.
This is no place to be. We’re not mobile, we can’t keep up with what’s going on elsewhere, and there’s no room to expand. As more people arrive, we’ll just be sandwiched in here, part of an immobilized mass. I’m not interested in being isolated with people who share my opinions—I want to open space in which people can take action to interrupt Trump’s fascistic program. We didn’t come here to see what will happen, but to make things happen.
The main challenge we face here is how to avoid containment so our actions can spread into the rest of society and we can continue connecting with more people and rendering more spaces ungovernable. If we just express disapproval, Trump will win: we have to take effective action to make it impossible for him to implement his agenda.
We leave the protest area, walking all the way back around the yellow tape, inside the perimeter of police securing a lane for vehicles to pass. We go back to the front of the terminal, where people are passing on their way to the protest area or their flights. We stop there, loitering for a moment. A police officer comes and tells us we have to keep moving. We move back about ten feet, and his attention is distracted by other responsibilities.
Others on the way to the protest area are lingering with us; we’re starting to form a knot of people outside the zone of control, but we aren’t identifiable as a cohesive group yet. We begin chanting back and forth with the boisterous women at the front of the protest area. The crowd is swelling to such an extent that they are being pushed forward around the police car. As the police are trying to maintain order around the protest zone, we unfurl two big anarchist banners on the other side of their line. The boisterous women at the front peer over at our banners, and then begin a chant based on one of the inscriptions.
The crowd swells forward again, moving around the police car—and we step into the street, stretching our banners across it, and march forward. Over a thousand people flow in behind us, out of the containment zone. We have the combination of assertiveness, numbers, and surprise that makes any group unstoppable.
We march past all of the entrances to airport departures, stretching the crowd across the entire front of the terminal. The police scramble to block the doorways and the road, but we have accomplished our task: for three hours, the airport is shut down and flights are pushed back. Police officers are harassing the crowd, saying the protest has been canceled and the permit revoked, but there is nothing they can do to stop us. Our courage and assertiveness is our permit. When the police try to push forward, the crowd chants back: “Who keeps us safe? We keep us safe!”
At first, one of the organizers is dismayed; it’s always scary to go beyond what you planned for. The protest he had envisioned was to involve 150 people kettled in a free speech zone. But this is 2017 and the US is escalating into fascism on one side and resistance on the other. You can’t trap 1000 of us in a little protest area obeying the law while families are being ripped apart and people are being deported. We will not permit this to happen—we the targeted, we the anarchists, we the people of good conscience.
Wherever you are, you can do what we are doing. Go to the place where people are being detained or deported or repressed. Find other people who are angry. Figure out what factors are containing you and where the loose edges are. Get on the other side of the limits and take decisive action to expand the space in which people can act.
What did you shut down today?