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Jun 29, 18

Til The Wheelers Fall Off: #OccupyICE and “Progressive” Repression

Yesterday morning, heavily armed Department of Homeland Security agents, aided by local Portland Police officers, began a partial raid of the #OccupyICEPDX encampment. At the time of this writing, the State has not succeeded in evicting the vast majority of those in tents surrounding the building, however they have gained access in and out of the facility, while removing those who had been blockading the various exits. Currently, a standoff in the streets continues, as Abolish ICE PDX is calling on supporters to head down to the encampment, while DHS officers begin the process of tearing down signs adorned on the building and putting the American flag back up.

Since the raid began however, many within the encampment and those on the outside supporting, have felt “betrayed” by local politicians, such as Mayor Wheeler, who at the start of the occupation expressed sympathy, and claimed that no Portland police officer would assist in a raid of the encampment. As the movement against ICE grows, and as social movements and struggles learn from their surroundings, we must come to realize that not only are those within the political State not to be trusted, but that fundamentally our struggle is against the State itself.

No One Lies Harder Than a “Progressive” Politician

The raids by the DHS and Portland police should shock no one; law enforcement and their friends in the media and national politics have been building towards this moment since the occupations first kicked off less than two weeks ago.

But as the attacks on the camps began, many took to social media to condemn specifically Portland’s Mayor Wheeler, for the role that Portland police played in the morning raid, despite the fact that the Mayor claimed that such collaboration in a sanctuary city was akin to “baby killing.” For many, this is perhaps the wake up call many so desperately needed. Politicians lie.

Throughout the years, there have been similar situations in which local “progressive” politicians have, at least on the surface, sided with protesters on social media and in the press, only to gleefully turn their backs when the police come marching in. During the start of the Occupy Movement for instance, some local Mayors attempted to make nice and form alliances with the growing movement, hoping to divert the revolutionary potential of many angry people and workers back into the dead end of electoral politics.

In Oakland, the former Stalinist, Mayor Jean Quan attempted to court Occupy Oakland, only to be told she wasn’t wanted or needed. A few weeks later while Quan was out of the city, police in Oakland and across the country carried out coordinated raids against the Occupy encampments. The resulting clashes, which left many injured and almost led to the death of former solider Scott Olsen, set off a general strike and series of West Coast port shutdowns. Throughout it all, Occupy Oakland stood firm in the position that politicians, of whatever stripe be they in the Green or Republican Party, were not to be trusted or worked with, and for good reason.

In nearby Olympia, local leaders also attempted to placate Olympia Stand demonstrators, who set up a blockade on train tacks to stop shipments of fracking proppants, by claiming that they were “on their side,” only to stab them in the back repeatedly. Local politicians even went so far as to schedule meetings with activists that coincided with scheduled police raids, much like how Lenin had once attempted to lure Ukrainian anarchists to their impending assassinations, under the guise of comradely meetings.

Liberal and “progressive” politicians such as Mayor Wheeler have a lot to gain by paying lip service to social movements and struggles, such as when he congratulated the Burgerville Worker Union of the IWW in their recent historic win. Ironically, only months before Wheeler had been justifying a harsh May Day crackdown on crowds of demonstrators, including many Burgerville workers. A month later, Wheeler did nothing when DHS and local police ran cover for Patriot Prayer only a week after two barbaric Alt-Right murders on a Portland train. The event ended with police preemptively firing projectile weapons into a crowd of anarchists and antifascists and even going so far as to work with militia members to make arrests, as police shut down protest marches to force demonstrators to show their IDs in order to escape a police kettle.

At the end of the day, despite empty gestures of appearing “woke,” such politicians are still going to work hand in glove with the police and agencies within the security State such as the DHS to put down threats to the established order, whether its on May Day, during antifascist clashes, or when hundreds of people take over a government building. To think that anyone within the State would do anything different is simply misplaced wishful thinking that has no grounding in either history or reality.

In the end, the spectacle of “progressive” support from elected officials towards social struggles is as much a part of a counter-insurgency campaign as is every gun carried by every DHS officer. In some ways, more so, for it attempts to make combatants think they have a friend inside an institution that is designed to repress them.

Media Always Helps to Create Pretext for Police Crackdowns

Ever since the #OccupyICE movement erupted, with Portland at its center, both the forces within the media, the Trump administration, as well as the police, have pushed to normalize and prepare the public for eventual raids, as well as to manufacture the justification of such actions.

Again, here there are also parallels between #OccupyICE and both the Occupy movement and the Olympia Stand anti-fracking occupation. In all instances, through the media the police cited public complaints, vandalism, and supposed threats to public safety as a reason to engage in a full on military operation. In the lead up to the raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment, the local news media buzzed with reports of the infestation of “rats” and rising crime due to the presence of the encampment. Ironically however later, the police were forced to admit that crime actually went down while the Occupy Oakland encampment existed, largely because it was feeding, housing, and creating a community for people. In the current context, the media has brought out many of the same tropes, playing up the few calls that police have gotten in regards to the Portland encampment, and thus greasing the wheels for what lay ahead.

Most insulting of all though, is the way in which Centrists and those on the Right have played up the idea of “civility” within the mainstream media in the wake of the growth of #OccupyICE. As stories came out about ICE literally drugging children without their consent and separating them from their parents, reports of facilities where abuse and assault were rampant, and bureaucracies marked by fundamental mismanagement and disorder, pundits and talking heads have the audacity to call for calm and respect for the likes of people like Steve Miller and Kristjen Neilsen, who are in fact responsible for this nightmare.

This mass gaslighting is of course supposed to not only keep the lid on a potentially explosive situation, but also crush the growing anger and action of the exploited and the excluded from the conservation. But moreover, to reserve all of the discussion on the current crisis to the terrain of specialists and pundits, who of course blame the outbursts on “incivility” on social movements and struggles themselves, and not the institutions and structures of exploitation and domination which gives rise to everyday people attempting to assert their humanity through collective and individual revolt.

Where Do We Go From Here?

This is a call for for organizing to interrupt the operations of the deportation machine. Appealing to legislators and politicians for reform is a dead end that traps us in the game of fighting for an inclusion in society that requires the exclusion of others…By shifting our focus from policy to infrastructure – the child holding facilities, the parking lots where ICE houses its vehicles, the ICE training facilities, the businesses that contract with ICE, the detention centers, the airports – we can actually interrupt the machine. The way that these logistics have been organized is meant to hide these massive operations in plain sight. These are not only far-away detention centers, they are also a circuitry that is embedded in the fabric of our city.

Blockade the Deportation Machine

If the radical energy and spirit of #OccupyICE is allowed to fade, ground down by the police, or smothered under a blanket of liberal and socialist appeals to “wait for the midterms,” then in many ways, we will be back where we started. Trump will be allowed to appear to have “listened to the protesters,” Democrats will look like saviors for doing nothing, a few DSA backed candidates will slide into office, and tens of thousands will rot away in detention centers and jails, making money for the State and private corporations, while on the outside migrants will continue to toil as a disposable pool of slave labor, afraid to organize or speak up, for fear of being deported or having their families ripped apart.

As we speak, only occupations in Portland, LA, and New York remain. Now is the time for people to hold both meetings between crews, affinities, and organizations, and organize themselves. It is also time to take action, with mass marches and protests happening this weekend, we have an opportunity to tap into a vast amount of people. If the liberals have their way, these events will be empty spectacles devoid of action – the opposite of what millions of people want to be doing. Now is the time to get organized, make plans, and put them in motion. Carrying militant banners and handing out flyers and sharing this article isn’t enough, we have to push to keep direct action on the table.

Remember: what is giving the #OccupyICE encampments power is that they speak to a very real intelligence of shutting down the logistical infrastructure of our enemies and in the process, not only creating a political crisis around the issue, but also physically stopping ICE from functioning. Moreover, the camps create a place for people to come together and get organized, while helping to build something resembling a dignified form of life.

Moreover, we must understand that the struggle we are engaged in is firmly an anti-statist one: we are pushing for the end of an occupation by force by this government and all of its tentacles of control, and the formation of a new and autonomous form of life.

Let us lose our illusions that we have friends inside the State apparatus. Instead, let us busy ourselves organizing and planning with everyone outside of it that is ready to do the damn thing.

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It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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