Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Climate Change, Northwest
Report back and analysis from the recent #ClimateStrike rally in Seattle, Washington.
I’m sitting on the light rail listening to some teens talk about the protests in Hong Kong. They’re excitedly going on about their clever street tactics and decentralized methods of organizing. There’s several people in this car carrying signs with ecologically minded messaging, some more urgent sounding than others. There’s a sort of unspoken understanding that most of us are going to the climate strike. When we get off the car some excited teens wave us over to the Cal Anderson Park exit. When we surface we see a gathering of what looks like hundreds. Different NGOs set up tents. A smattering of state-socialist organizations are tabling and handing out newspapers in on the paths at the edges of the park. The most striking thing, honestly is the amount of people repping e-girl and e-boy looks many with signs directly referencing Tik Tok an app popular among “generation z” where such fashions are propagated.
I brought with me a few last-minute fliers encouraging things like direct action, building autonomous power, and support for indigenous struggles. I let myself make one edgy anarchist flier and it became evident that I should have leaned in even more on those seeing how popular rowdy and radical sentiment was among those I encountered.
After wading thru a sea of rogue bands of chanting marching children, teens cracking jokes, and Democratic Party shills, I was alerted to the presence of some capitalist ultra-nationallist trolls. There was two somewhat distinct groups one was trying to interview people and make them look bad, failing to do so.
Today, Seattle Proud Boy Zac Staggs attempted to infiltrate the #ClimateStrike march in black bloc gear, but was reportedly identified immediately under his mask and got beat up… at an event organized by high schoolers. pic.twitter.com/Ly6edQ1Goz
— Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club (@PugetSoundJBGC) September 20, 2019
I had yet to encountered the Youth Liberation Front’s Seattle Division who I was excited to meet but saw a few lone black clad youth who may have been also looking for them. Eventually I after milling around and handing out fliers to anyone who seemed interested I took notice of an affinity group sized black bloc with a banner. ‘That has to be them,’ and sure enough it was.
— Youth Liberation Front Seattle Division (@seattleYLF) September 9, 2019
As I approached the group I noticed Proud Boy reject Zac Staggs attempting to infiltrate the bloc, failing from the get-go. I won’t say much about what happened next. The reactionaries were effectively discouraged from starting more shit largely thanks to the youth who confronted them. No thanks to the events’ neon vested event managers who could have actually gotten between people and de-escalated in a good way for once yet gave up immediately.
While this was going on I kept one eye on it and decided to pass out fliers while trying to maintain situational awareness of what was going on in the park. I ran into Demand Utopia in their iconic Neon Green masks and though I have critiques of Bookchinist Libertarian Municipalism they were doing good work engaging with folks and having real conversations with the youth. After the conflict with the Proud Boy adjacent capitalist ultra=nationalists died down the YLF started doing some solid outreach as well. The YLF engage with folks passing by talk about the limits of corporate and legislative solutions to climate change and so on.
Quick reminder that the Sean-Michael David Scott referenced above is another member of Zac's chapter of the Proud Boys, who is reported to be a known neo-nazi and was defended by Zac Staggs after this article came out with evidence. https://t.co/RnDWjm25Tn
— Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club (@PugetSoundJBGC) September 21, 2019
I start handing out more fliers and getting into similar conversations. It’s interesting to see how much the electoral left has recuperated anti-capitalism. The Green New Deal seems very popular, but also slogans like Eat the Rich and sometimes it seems that people support a more raw class war mentality while also championing reforms. The most popular flier I handed out read “the wrong ICE is melting the wrong Amazon is burning.” I see a potential here. Even in the descriptive analysis things like the Green New Deal is built on. It seems like for most climate change is a given, capitalism being bad is a given, and not trying to reproduce racist bullshit in our answers to these things are a given.
One group of black youth ask a YLF person why they’re wearing masks. People explain that they want to hide their identity from fascists. One of the youth gets to heart of the matter promptly with, “Fuck 12 tho? yeah” and I respond “everyday.” Everyone involved in this interaction then begins to jubilantly fire off anti-police slogans. This interaction was another indication that we should lean in and say only what anarchists should say. Of course we should try to meet a lot of people where they are, with some lines in the sand, but some people are also really already on that shit.
The YLF’s black bloc and circle-A symbols do a good job of drawing attention. Whispers of “antifa” permeate around them as they have earnest conversations with the youth who pass by. There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but in this situation this seems like an effective one. I have thought a lot about the need for an anarchist movement. I have thought about whether or not it is helpful to be anarchists and do anarchy with people without the visual or nominal trappings that may push people away and I think there’s room for both a tactical openness towards others that allows for us to ethically act when we do try new ways of engaging with the world and I also think there is a strength in leaning into our mythic public image. Likewise I think there is a strength in being out there and being anarchists.
I think in Seattle older anarchists have been wary of new crews trying to do shit that seems to be not thought out well because of past experiences. Though there is some cohabitation and intermingling happening people seemed generally sketched out, which may be for good reason, but I fear they are clobbering current struggles with lessons from the past. The people I interacted with were open to discussions about acting more intentionally and safer and were open to being critical of members of their group or rhetoric their group puts out there. I purpose we show up and support these folks and try and work with them more. I purpose we don’t let shit slide and make voice our concerns if there’s some unsafe activity. Of course I don’t think we should support anyone unconditionally, but again the kids are alright.
Generally those I spoke to, who were the ones willing to speak to me so not a reflection of some imagined “average participant”, agreed that the state cannot act fast enough and corporations will only give us false solutions or half measures that reinforce their economic oligarchy. Though the main messaging of the event and in general was orienting towards getting those in power to do something, there seemed to be a glimmer of another possible trajectory where it’s up to us to break up the ecocidal infrastructure and build a better way of life.
The march begins. The YLF rush to the front. I suddenly start having Occupy Seattle flashbacks. Earlier I was talking to a friend about how I think I should have planned on tabling and she reminds me that that’s how the anarchist projectualities really galvanized during Occupy Seattle. It was people showing up and tabling and having conversations coupled with having each others backs in the street and a general ‘doing things together’ that were really the best methods of finding each other and building affinity in that moment. I think about getting people who are looking for a way to plug-in into our networks. I think about strategically planning actions so that we can pass out fliers for them at bigger-tent events like the Climate Strike. I think about getting more analysis online and putting stickers up linking to that analysis and trying to get things going again on that front. I think of making chapbooks of very succinct analysis, graphics, and slogans that are more ripe for this era than standard zines. I start to get excited.
I think about what those kids were talking about on the light rail. I think about the roving marches in Hong Kong that shut down one infrastructural hub after another out-maneuvering the police and moving like water. People really seem down for blockading Amazon buildings, ICE offices, and banks so it’s not a stretch. I think of the airport blockades during the start of the Muslim Ban. It doesn’t seem so impossible.
I think about the massive rallies I saw in the anti-war movement and how I feel like they did nothing. Then I think about stories I’ve heard about Port Militarization Resistance in Olympia back in the day which actually blocked military logistics. I think why don’t we do that with climate change stuff then I realize they did do that with the blockades in Olympia. I get excited again. Even if it’s just us. I get excited.
We arrive at City Hall. They announce the size of the march as 10,000 people. There’s songs and chants. Some inspiring poetry. Cheers to explicit condemnations of capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. Cheers to recognizing we are on stolen Duwamish land. Cheers to explicitly calls for serious decolonization. Cheers for acknowledging this struggle is 500+ years old and the indigenous people of the world have been on the front line from the beginning and we need to join them in their fight, sentiments I wrote in one of the fliers I was handing out. Cheers for condemnations of the police budget. Cheers for naming the system responsible for climate change responsible for border violence, racist policing, and poverty. Cheers for condemnations of the US Military. Whether because they are unable to avoid the harm caused by industrial capitalism and the state or because their heart aches seeing this harm befall others and looking into a future that promises doom, there are strong resonances that align with my own values and desires. Potential comrades abound. After all what makes a comrade. Perhaps gestures like identifying in a coalitional way, but more than that it is a lived experience of doing intense and critical and potentially beautiful work together which is beyond self-proclaiming oneself this or that.
— sav (@saviongb) September 20, 2019
I head to the light rail. I leave some fliers around the station and get on the train. There’s a band playing and kids chanting. It’s a festive atmosphere. A gay couple who look like they just got off a flight are snuggled together offering each assorted treats and drinks. I check Twitter and Signal.
YLF comrades in Portland were harassed and side-lined by neon vested boomer movement managers we refer to as “peace-police” for their typical heavy handed enforcement of pacifist aesthetic. After this they were attacked by feds and local cops. It seems they were also cornered in a park as trigger-happy cops attacked anyone in sight with pepper balls and rubber bullets. Some comrades have been arrested. An unrelated video PDX cops can be seen forcing their way into a group of youths to attack and arrest one of the only black youths there.
When the youth stepped out-side the ore-ordained astro-turf Democratic Party feeder group and electoral liberals narratives these boomers pushed them to the curve and let cops brutalize them. What happens after a traumatizing event like this can be crucial for whether it can be a source of revelation or a source of pacification. Repression always sucks, but facing repression can allow one to see how power actually operates. Just like in the case of Occupy Wallstreet when white activists were exposed to police violence in a way non-white and poor communities have felt for awhile there was a a sort of galvanizing of radical momentum. Something similar could be said for when an indigenous wood carver was murdered by Seattle Police about ten years ago. The grievous violence of the system was made viscerally evident.
Many of us know shit is fucked up. It is a matter of inspiration to act rather than being informed that makes the difference. For those outside the brutal working-conditions, outside the brutal policing, outside the brutal pollution, outside the brutal climate disasters, and so on it may take a little skin in the game to really get one motivated. Of course there is the ennui of watching the world burn but still feeling nothing that may also drive one to taste radical confrontations with the ruling order, but I digress.
Today some people walked out of class knowing it wasn’t allowed by their schools. An act of disobedience that was in part beyond the pale of what is considered acceptable protest. They may have gathered surrounded by liberal and socialist orgs hoping to funnel their energy into their own ossified dead-end operations that only serve as the shock-absorbers of capital. But they also began something like anti-authoritarian self-activity. It is recuperation yes, but it is also a temperature check of radical sentiments generalizing. Even tho people have for some reason started trusting a party that caters to corporate interests that only last year blocked Bernie Sanders from candidacy in an electoral system that’s rigged on countless. There will be more renegades and breakaways. There are already people out there fighting and building towards autonomy from the State and capital.
find each other