Filed under: Critique, Southeast
Report from Fredrick, MD, Washington DC and Baltimore.
Illegally Occupied Piscataway Land in so-called Frederick, MD
We are a local affinity group based out of Frederick, Maryland. Following a long history of reckless and unaccountable organizing from the people and groups referenced below, we are now left with little recourse other than to write this article. Our intentions are not to start shit, name names, or badjacket other activists. Rather, we wish to begin to document local activist community grievances and warn the greater DC / Baltimore Metro area activist community of incompetent and dangerous people and organizations sabotaging local efforts to build a better world for all people. We will not name names of people or orgs out of care and concern for these people, whose lives are inherently valuable regardless of their incompetence and narcissism. We do not wish to escalate or put anyone at risk of retaliation due to their less-than-perfect activism. We appreciate and recognize good intentions, but ultimately community safety has to come first.
We do not even wish for these people and orgs to stop organizing necessarily. Still, we do insist on improvement and course correction of harmful behavior. Our objectives in publishing this information are to ensure the general public is kept safe from irresponsible and reckless organizing. We want newly interested activists in our community to know what behavior they should be looking out for. We hope that rather than become defensive, the organizers and organizations in question have enough respect to acknowledge this feedback and course correct. We want them to honestly consider ways they have perpetuated oppression and an atmosphere of sabotage and mistrust instead of one of openness, respect, and transparency.
Recently, there has been a massive uptick in anti-fascist, pro-working-class organizing and activism in our community in Frederick, MD. That almost always also means growing pains, too. We can make it through, but only if we are willing to hold ourselves accountable as a community wide effort.
Fall & Winter of 2020-21
Many anti-police brutality events have occurred in this time, including in Baltimore and the DC metro area, and Frederick County.
Our group bottom lined the vast majority of the local Frederick County organizing efforts. Yet, clout chasers have repeatedly shown up at our events seeking to center themselves. Activists have given press conferences, speaking directly with the media, and acting as spokespersons and group representatives without our consent. We tried many times to resolve the conflict internally, nonviolently, and without escalating. Despite our best attempts to engage, the clout chasers met us with hostility, vague threats, threats of doxxing, and general toxic machismo, selfish behavior.
Local conservative journalists received invitations to cover black bloc actions without the explicit consent of core organizers from this same person. Members of the press were very aggressive and stuck cameras in masked faces, refusing to adhere to multiple requests to respect our group and protesters in our community. When we asked this journalist to stop filming people’s faces, instead of respecting the wishes of our group, the outside organizer attempting to hijack our event who invited those journalists publicly scolded activists for asking them not to take pictures of faces without consent. This person does not speak for us, and does not define our boundaries or our level of comfort when engaging with press. We choose when and where we engage, and with whom. No one else has the right to impose upon us and violate our privacy rights, exposing us to harm. Even after speaking to this person and attempting to resolve this internally through a mediated process, they have continued to send threatening and harassing messages to people in our affinity group, with an emphasis on targeting women and non-men. We have therefore regrettably been pushed to take action on this matter and issue this public communique.
Spring and Summer of 2021
Similarly, a different organizer and organization with an equally egocentric and problematic history attempted to stage a tent city occupation, supposedly in solidarity with the local houseless population, but ultimately with a very self-serving agenda.
This person unilaterally organized an event that ultimately eroded confidence in our activist community that we have worked hard to build with our local houseless population. By acting selfishly and boxing out other activists and groups, this person put themselves, their ego, and their camera-seeking tendencies ahead of the necessity of organizing inclusive and impactful actions. This self-centered behavior irresponsibly placed houseless people in danger multiple times.
On the first occasion, respected local organizers affiliated with our group were run off by one person, with their front group with only two people in it. Out of respect to the event and avoiding additional drama, this person left voluntarily after nasty words were exchanged by the event organizer, making it clear they were unwelcome. This incident created an atmosphere of discomfort for local houseless activists. The houseless activists wanted all the help they could get. By centering themselves, instead of practicing the integrity needed to work as a community, the event organizer ultimately asked our entire affinity group to leave. This reckless behavior massively weakened the numbers with their self-centered drama, which put houseless activists at risk.
On the second occasion, someone showed up to the camp outside of city hall while under the influence of hard drugs and began to overdose. Thankfully, out of an abundance of caution, our affinity group supplied medics who were more than capable of handling the situation. At the same time, while this was happening, the event organizer went live on social media to center themselves and seek attention, pretending there wasn’t an ongoing medical crisis.
Having downplayed the importance of having our internal medics in our organizing spaces and having berated and smeared our street medics (“why would I have medics? Are you planning to be violent?”), the quick thinking and the actions taken by our medics ultimately saved the person’s life. This incident was the second time their reckless clout chasing actions placed a houseless person at risk and a concrete example as opposed to vague criticism.
The third occasion in which event organizers put houseless people at risk was when a police raid of the encampment at City Hall was imminent. Activists in our intel sharing group chats knew this critically important information well before the event organizer was even aware. With the police raid on the occupation pending, rather than stay in solidarity with the community affected, this person chose to pack up their belongings, including the tents that were bought specifically for the houseless, and bounce. Once again, they prioritized going live and centering themselves instead of ensuring the safety of the houseless population, many engaging in activism tentatively and with reasonable suspicion towards camera chasing parachute activists in Frederick County. This poorly planned action simultaneously damaged trust and completely delegitimized the occupation’s strategic and tactical value, ultimately rendering it an ineffective effort. The event organizer still has the tents that were purchased for use by the homeless to our knowledge.
In the Future
We want the community of Frederick, MD to be aware of people and organizations who engage in problematic and unaccountable organizing. Here are some tips and tricks for local Frederick residents to consider to build a better, stronger, more robust, and diverse activist community.
1. Avoid people and groups who camera chase. Do not tolerate clout chasers. Our success and failure have a tangible impact on the lives of others around us. Activism is not a means to build a brand or seek attention. Real people depend on us.
2. Do not invite the press to events organized by other people and groups. Do not film faces of protesters without consent, and be mindful of those who engage in and encourage this reckless and invasive behavior. Do not allow press you invite to your events to film faces of protesters without consent.
3. Avoid activists who endanger others by threatening to “expose” our names or identities to law enforcement. This behavior is snitching and will not be tolerated. We always strive to resolve conflicts internally, without the violence brought by pigs. Our group has a policy of not naming names of people or groups for a reason. We prioritize the safety of other activists in our community, even when they are bringing harm into our ongoing organizing efforts.
4. Avoid activists who call themselves CEO of some vague org. They aren’t CEO of jack shit. We are tired of saviors. We are tired of front groups with only one or two people acting as mouthpieces, claiming to speak on behalf of our entire community. We do not need any more performative allies. We need accomplices and co-conspirators holding turf in the streets with us. Not more useless “CEOs” and NGOs working to quell the righteous anger of the people.
5. Be mindful of any activist who uses belonging to one or more historically oppressed and marginalized groups as a shield to avoid legitimate criticism. Real activists aren’t scared of self-improvement or self-criticism, nor do they hide behind an oppressed identity to prevent accountability and collaboration with the community at large. Fake CEO activists are fragile, ineffective, and ultimately harm our organizing efforts by dodging responsibility and excusing their bad behavior. We don’t condone criticism of marginalized identities, but we encourage criticism of toxic behavior, no matter who perpetuates it.
6. Avoid activists and groups that condemn the use of confrontational language or tactics. Our movement spaces have enough cops to deal with, and we don’t need more. Activism means conflict, and at times it means informed and consented upon, well-communicated risk. If you’re not down, don’t get in the way of those who are. To hell with respectability nonsense.
7. Always have medics, scouts, security, bucket drummers, and protest marshals at street marches and occupations. Well-organized street marches will be safer marches and will be able to accomplish more and hold turf longer. We’ve seen what happens when clout chasers organize poorly planned actions. We’ve seen the impact of poorly designed events. Effective protests do not seek permits or permission from the people we are protesting.
We issue that the following demands be met
1. Immediately provide housing access and access to a social worker to every member of our local houseless population, without further political or religious conditions attached.
2. The immediate cessation of police interference in the activities of our local houseless population.
3. Redirect $10M from the local police budget (currently $35M) to develop cost effective long term housing solutions for chronically houseless and housing insecure people (Budget currently unknown). Defund our local police to pay for housing for our local houseless population. This is more cost effective for taxpayers than criminalizing homelessness, and it is the humane thing to do.
4. The immediate cessation of infantilizing local houseless population by local activists, NGOs, politicians, direct care workers, and people involved in the medical industrial complex, prison industrial complex, cops, outreach workers, shit-cleaner-uppers, and brand management personnel. Cut it out already.
5. Grant our local houseless population full and unrestricted ethically oriented media access to tell their own stories without gatekeepers and be taken seriously and be treated with empathy by the community. Housing is an unconditional human right.
6. The creation of a publicly funded and fully publicly accountable and diverse legislative body in the form of a local tenant’s union in Frederick County, designed to assist the unhoused and the housing insecure at all times with knowing their rights, and winning legal challenges in court.
With love and solidarity, we leave our grievances for affinity groups within the community to discuss and make decisions internally.
Well over a dozen anonymous activists and organizers from diverse backgrounds, spanning multiple orgs who have had enough of the performative clout chasing bullshit in Frederick County.