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Mar 11, 20

This Is America #109: Between Quarantine and Rebellion

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Welcome, to This Is America, March 9th, 2020.

In this episode, first we speak to someone involved in the Chicago based group, Good Kids Mad City, about a recent round of demonstrations that were called in the wake of police shooting someone on mass transit.

We then switch to a discussion, were we tackle the coronavirus as well as the ongoing election spectacle.

All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news!

Living and Fighting

Markets continue to plunge and anger continues to grow at the incompetence and mismanagement of the Trump administration towards the handling of the coronavirus. As one report pointed out:

The United States, the richest, the most technologically and scientifically advanced country in the world—home to Silicon Valley and the world’s most prestigious universities—is incapable of carrying out the most minimal testing that would make managing the pandemic possible.

Around the country, patients and doctors are desperately seeking testing but are being denied by federal officials. A recent survey of nurses on the West Coast found that most hospitals did not have a clear plan in place to isolate and treat coronavirus patients. There are reports of workplaces lacking even the most basic hygiene products to combat the outbreak, while transit workers and flight attendants have been prevented from wearing protective equipment at work.

After spending weeks downplaying the potential threat and claiming that it was under control, it has now been revealed that someone carrying the virus attended the CPAC 2020 conference, leading to the quarantining of several GOP officials, including Texas Senator, Ted Cruz. Far-Right GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has a long history of associations with the Alt-Right, and who only days ago wore a gas mask on the House floor in an attempt to make a mockery of the virus, is now also under self-quarantine after learning he came into contact with COV-19 . Tragically only days after photos of Gaetz wearing a gas mask went viral, one of his constituents died after being exposed. Those close to Trump say that he is personally terrified of getting the virus and as Business Insider reported, his fears may be justified. From one article:

Matt Gaetz was with President Donald Trump on Air Force One on Monday after attending a party at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort over the weekend. On the flight back to Washington from Florida, Gaetz learned that he’d come in contact with the infected individual at CPAC, the New York Times reported. He then reportedly sat in a separate section of Air Force One, as a form of self-quarantine.

Business Insider went on to report that a recession in the second quarter of the year is “likely,” as the global economy is rocked by the outbreak and a drop in oil prices and stocks falling “in the worst sell-off since the 2008 financial crisis.” Many companies are also pushing white collar workers to work from home as schools are shutting down or switching to online classes.

In Seattle, city officials have laid out a tiered system of State responses, stating that at certain point, people would be “involuntarily quarantined” in “facilities.” According to the Seattle Times:

Level 3 would involve involuntary isolation of sick people and involuntary quarantines of people who have contacted those who are sick. Health officers could issue emergency detention orders or seek court orders for involuntary detention to involuntarily isolate or quarantine people who are uncooperative, according to the chart.

Further levels would call for a city-wide lockdown.

In New York:

State officials are deploying the National Guard and creating a containment zone around a city in Westchester County as the coronavirus outbreak spreads, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Tuesday. The National Guard will deliver food to homes and help with the cleaning of public spaces in the containment zone, Cuomo said. Schools and other large gathering facilities, such as community centers and houses of worship, within the containment zone will be closed…The one-mile containment zone around New Rochelle [a hub of the outbreak] will last through March 25.

Also in New York, Kim Kelly reported in The Daily Beast:

If New York City has a plague year, there’s a plan for its prisoners—not to protect them from infection in their tight quarters, but to use convicts to make New York State branded hand sanitizers and, if it comes to that, prisoners at Rikers [Island] to bury the dead.

As of now, no U.S. prisons have yet obtained the medical kits to test for COVID-19, and prison administrators across the country (as well as the DHS officials overseeing the immigrant concentration camps on the U.S, border) are bracing for the worst.

Prisoners in Michigan are already reporting a possible outbreak. In an interview with RustBelt Abolition Radio, inmates report that they are under quarantine in several prisons after the spread of an illness that prison officials are simply calling the flu.

There are also reports in Oregon State Penitentiary that prisoners will soon be used to wash laundry from COV-19 quarantined hospital wards.

https://twitter.com/lilialetsch/status/1237375156613296128

Detainees in migrant detention concentration camps are especially at risk. Just this week saw the death of the 8th person incarcerated by ICE in the last 6th months. Meanwhile in Tacoma, Washington, people involved in the campaign to shut down the NorthWest Detention Center, have organized a phone-zap to “demand for adequate health care for folks detained in the NWDC.”

Anger is growing in other sectors as well. With both the economy slowing down and more people getting sick, those working in retail and in the service industry who are living paycheck to paycheck, are living in fear of calling out sick, being laid off, and potentially not being able to afford their rent and monthly expenses. Students depending on schools for food and healthcare are also at risk, as many schools are closing down.

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But there are signs of resistance. In New York, Chipotle workers picketed outside of a store, demanding paid sick days off and say they are being forced to work even when they fall ill. McDonald’s workers with Fight for $15 are pushing for paid sick leave and updated protocols. In San Francisco, people demonstrated against anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism brought on by the spread of the coronavirus.

In Italy where a country wide quarantine is in effect, there has been a wave of prison uprisings across the county as the State has tried to impose an end to prison unions and family visitations. The Daily Beast reports that at least 8 inmates has died, 27 prisons are experiencing rioting, and at least 50 prisoners have currently escaped.

Lastly in China, there has been another spike in protest in Hong Kong. As the Washington Post reported:

A lack of faith in authorities’ response to the epidemic has deepened anti-government sentiment…At the Feb. 8 protest…Slogans of “five demands, not one less” — the refrain of Hong Kong’s democracy movement — mixed with calls for a “revolution against the virus.” [The] protests flared in several districts as residents fearful of coronavirus infection pushed back against officials’ plans to set up quarantine facilities. Tactics demonstrators honed last year — road barricades, molotov cocktails, vandalism — were now employed toward a different goal.

Everything about the response from the State reads as if it were trying to stop not a virus – but some sort of an uprising. An uprising that has the ability to shut down and upend markets and the flow of commodities along supply chains. This is why elites are pushing measures such a shutting down borders and locking down cities – in the hopes of containing the virus as opposed to mobilizing their resources to fight it. This is because they are hoping that the virus will run its course and stay as isolated as possible without disrupting the constant flow of wealth, energy, resources, and commodities.

Towards this end, just as in any disaster, there will be collective bodies of people who will be seen as disposable; such as the homeless, or expendable: such as prisoners. These people will be mobilized to be put directly in front of the virus: burying bodies and washing sheets. These people will be seen as both slave labor and expendable in the eyes of the system, as they already are.

Next will be poor and working class communities and neighborhoods, especially those of color, that the State will push to lock down and quarantine. This will simply be an extension of what is already in place, as a recent article in The New Inquiry wrote:

There is political value in the quarantine for those who implicitly believe biological-racial purity is a condition of health, but there is also financial value in substituting a social approach to health and illness with a selective, nationalist model conducive to the development of patented treatments and private health insurance.

As we’ve seen across the world, increasingly the State’s response beyond “wash your hands” has simply been to lock down entire areas in the hopes that the virus will “run its course” and not disrupt the wider profit system. What we need to start thinking about is just that however, not only in how we can as large groups of people demand everything from paid sick days to testing kits, but how we can go about shutting down this sick society once and for all.

In other resistance news:

  • In Chicago, Black and brown youth took to the subways and streets against the recent police shooting of an unarmed man and to demand police off mass transit and an end to fares. Check out our interview later in the podcast for more information.

  • Blockades and disruptions continue across so-called Canada, check It’s Going Down for actions reports and a roundup of recent actions.

  • In New York and elsewhere, rallies were held commemorating International Women’s Day.

  • In Mexico, tens of thousands took to the streets against femicide, where a large black bloc attacked banks and corporate stores, wrote graffiti, set burning barricades, and clashed with police.

  • Also in New York, antifascists shut down an attempt by the far-Right Vox party to gather in the city. The neo-fascists had their event shut down multiple times before giving up on having an event at a public venue.

  • Finally, the strike across the University of California system continues forward, with student workers at UC Santa Cruz announcing they will continue pickets this week at the center of campus and UC Berkeley announcing that they will launch a full teaching strike on Monday, March 16th. Also on Monday, March 9th, student workers at UC Santa Barbara held ding hall occupation.

Upcoming Events

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  • March 22nd: Anarchist Assembly. Caguas. More info.
  • March 26th – 28th: The Undercommons and Destituent Power Conference. Indiana University. More info.
  • May 29th – 31st: Call to Oppose White Nationalist American Renaissance Conference. Burns, TN. More info.
  • April 9th – 12th: Conference on Jewish Anarchism. Chicago, IL. More info.
  • April 25th: Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair. Oakland, CA. More info.
  • May 16-18th: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair. More info.
  • July 3rd – 5th: Dan and Spit Antifascist Music Festival. Asheville, NC. More info.

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