Mastodon Twitter Instagram Youtube
Jan 22, 17

Reportback and Reflections on #J20 & #J21 from Chicago

Submitted to It’s Going Down

View this post on Instagram

#J20 in #Chicago

A post shared by Chicago Anarchist Black Cross (@chicagoabc) on

The morning got going with a pre-dawn banner drop on the Westside, which read “Chinga la migra #j20,” and stayed up for much of the morning before being taken down.

A 10am high school walkout was called for by Twitter handle @every_20th, which also called for a rally/march in Wicker Park at 1pm. Though it’s impossible to know for sure how many dipped-out at different schools, the walkout rally in Douglas Park only had ten or so folks. Still, it’s hoped that the hundreds of colorful fliers circulated throughout the north and westside may have contributed to people getting amped for the day in general, and sent a sign to high school students that their revolt is important. The 1pm demo in Wicker Park was attended by some 25 or so folks. After some cat and mouse efforts to evade the police, a banner was hung and people dispersed without arrests. Though it was low intensity, spirits were high, and folks did their best to act and think on their feet.

Several callouts were made for different demos in the later afternoon. There was one at 3pm, which most of us skipped, but we heard it was fairly boring. The big evening demo at Trump Tower was called for by unaffiliated folks on the internet (from what we heard), which was cool because it meant that no formal Leftist groups tried to manage it. It was set to begin at 5pm, and there had been an invitation for a more raucous “Bloc party” at 6pm.

Downtown for sure had over 5000 people roaming around.  When we showed up, a portion of the crowd was gathered opposite Trump Tower. Some barely-audible speeches were being made by people we couldn’t see, and folks mostly looked pretty bored. At some point a crew showed up masked-up with a sound system and immersed themselves in a cluster of other masked folks, some of whom had brought an antifa banner. The crew with the sound system began blasting hip hop, another banner was unfurled reading “NO MORE UNITED STATES”, flares were lit up, and the whole mood changed dramatically, with a huge crowd following the sound system down State Street and around the Loop for hours. Firecrackers and smoke bombs were set off, a few trash cans were set on fire and bus stations tagged, etc.

The initial large mass had split off into several smaller blocks roaming throughout the city, occasionally dovetailing then splitting up again. This meant that the police had a hard time blocking the flow of any one group. Several times bicycle cops would speed by, completely ignoring one group in order to focus attention on another.

Rather than forming a tight cohesive bloc, masked antagonists dispersed themselves in clusters throughout the larger crowd. This element was not limited to traditional black blocers, as lots of people in everyday clothes chose to mask up to conceal their identity. This also contributed to the black bloc feeling less specialized, isolating, and intimidating.

The mood was festive and brave. As the crowd made its way north up Michigan avenue several windows of a PNC bank were hammered-out. Reacting quickly, other masked individuals quickly created a diversion by dragging trash cans into the street. Another window was smashed. On seeing the PNC bank fall, one onlooker screamed “YEAH, SMASH IT,” while another ran up screaming in disapproval. The march continued on to the music and the flares and the fireworks. From the safety of a crowd, another window shattered from the subtle aim of a slingshot. The festivities of resistance continue. While Vic Mensa’s sixteen shots pounded out, the crowd unanimously screamed into the face of the cops before them, “ONE TWO THREE FOUR FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT NINE TEN ELEVEN FUCK 12.”

A teenager pulled a laptop out of their backpack and began DJ’ing trap on the sound system and fielding requests from others in the crowd, something that may have been unlikely had there been a tighter black bloc formationThe march continued throughout the night, with individuals spray-painting various buildings and bus stops with slogans such as “die fascist scum”. The crowd eventually took the busy street of lake shore drive, marching late into the night, blockading traffic and avoiding police attempts to shut down the raucous assembly. When the police attempted to coral them, people simply jumped the median and took to another street. Another PNC Bank, a Pay Day Loan, and an AmeriCash were redecorated with paint. We also heard reports from friends who stayed later that crowds of kids (perhaps emboldened by the events earlier in the evening?) later charged and broke through police lines, while others threw rocks at the cops.

Somewhere between 11-16 people were arrested. Since masked-up folks had dispersed themselves throughout the crowd, this made it more difficult to de-arrest comrades. Small numbers also didn’t help, nor was there a large flag to help masked-up folks regroup.

Still, the dispersed nature of the bloc succeeded in creating an inviting atmosphere, with dancing and a general combative revelry. Flares and paint were freely given to those who seemed keen on participating – the gifts were greeted with mutual smiles and a new sense of initiative. We see this as a positive practice to break down the barriers between antagonists in the bloc and the rest of the folks in the crowd, and was reflected in the crowd’s spontaneous willingness later on to protect the sound system. Making and distributing masks to individuals would also be cool next time.

One big takeaway for us, is peeps need to try and do better at ensuring each other’s’ safety, but without closing in on ourselves and sacrificing the welcoming atmosphere. This tension will surely animate our strategic reflections in the months to come.

In short, Chicago’s #j20 demonstration was a good example of how folks acting with a spirit of invitation, possibility, combativity and joy-in-struggle can help turn shit up.


The next day’s participation in the 250,000 person crowd from the Chicago Women’s march aimed to continue the usage of these methods. A group of women formed their own bloc, not for protection but for illustration. The sound system was out again, and militant chants like “FUCK THE POLICE” were again interspersed and carried through the crowd – a crowd tired from the stultifying chants of “This is What Democracy Looks Like” and who recognized that the failure of democracy was precisely what had brought them to these streets. The facemasks were received with thumbs up rather than dismissal, and mothers brought their daughters closer to the speaker as songs like “Formation” and “Work” played. Armed with nothing more than sick beats and an urge to assert their force, the small contingent were able to successfully block an intersection for a dance party.


Anarchists are already adept at creating moments of excitement and atmospheres of seduction, which break from the staid rhythms of our ordinary protest tactics, and the counter-insurrectional strategies of the police. Some of this practice works on a visual level: the allure of fire and broken glass; the smoke of the flares and the sparkle of the explosion. These tactics help us break away from the repressive presence of fear that surrounds uniformed and armed police on the streets. Other practices change the tactile sense of the environment and the feeling of the city robbed from its inhabitants. It’s always inspiring to see individuals from the crowd not dressed for the bloc (unfortunately!) who had jumped on turned over bins and destroyed police cars or freely climbed news vehicles and the poles of the city to wave their chants and announce their rebellion. Auditorily, we tried to escalate the tenor of the struggle with chants like “Fuck your border/fuck your wall/we will make your system fall,” which easily carried throughout the crowd. Alongside chants, the mobile sound-system aided in producing an atmosphere of revelry. Clearly these situations enable individuals to overcome their fear from the surveillance state and police repression and to engage in moments of autonomous play, expropriating the city and using it for joyous struggle.

It is true that our numbers remain small and our forces are comparatively weak. However, many of us felt happy with the events that did unfold given our situation. We offer these thoughts as reflections on escalating resistance in the era of war to come. In the meantime, we continue to grow and build a material force in-between the spectacles of protest. Hopefully next time we can escalate the social conflict to a higher pitch. January 20th marks our beginning. We will be back every 20th.

While you’re here, we need your support. To continue running the website, we need support from community members like you. Will you support It’s Going Down, and help build independent media? donate?

Share This:

This submission came to It's Going Down anonymously through IGD is not the author nor are we responsible for the post content.

More Like This