Right now, as these words are being typed, someone is spray painting an H&M store somewhere. Or at least that feels like a safe assumption to make.
Recently, H&M got into some hot water (yet again) for filming an ad in front of street art painted by REVOK, who then insisted they didn’t get permission to do so, which H&M replied was unnecessary because it was illegal…blah blah blah. We don’t care about REVOK’s (or anyone’s) intellectual property rights. The interesting part is when this story broke in graffiti writer circles all over the U.S, and the calls on social media to “Boycott H&M” quickly gave way to multiple vandalism attacks on stores. Including San Francisco:
San Francisco again (although that’s just our best guess):
And surely other locations as well.
Pay attention: capital’s affront to an individual artist resonated across the country and, with crews that have already formed through daily practice, they self-organized to counter-attack. The swift response scared H&M into backing down, though it remains to be seen if the backlash will stop along with it. It’s important to note that those who vandalized H&M locations aren’t even writers who would ever paint something as marketable as REVOK, which suggests to us this goes beyond the issue of “respecting artists’ rights” or paying them, despite how it might seem on the surface.
Finding ways to expand these episodes of conflict is something we think is key—hell, it’s practically why we write this column. So we hurry to publish this in the case that, the assault on H&M is not over, and you, dear reader, have an idea.
Now we can get on with our usual array of content…
YEABOI making their second appearance in the column with a fresh throw declaring “No 5-0.” Graffiti naturally comes into conflict with the police because it is their job to enforce law and order, and graffiti is against the law and exposes disorder. Every tag is a neon sign that the state is not omnipotent, the police don’t have total control, and that crime is possible. In previous columns we’ve quoted from A.G. Schwarz’s “Signals Of Disorder” which is possibly the most precise analysis of this concept. We want to elaborate this further, borrowing from the work of Tom Nomad, particularly his book The Master’s Tools:
“For example, if we look at any large police force, break it down by shift, subtract those with desk jobs, and compare the resulting number to the space that is policed within the department’s jurisdiction, it is easy to see how spatially limited police actually are. This spatial limitation is then supplemented by surveillance cameras, patrol routes, citizen snitch organizations (Neighborhood Watch, auxiliary police, etc), and informants, to structure a general sense of deterrence. But for all the money that police departments are given every year, and for all the fancy equipment that they buy with this money, for all the tacit and coerced support that they may have, their ability to project is still incredibly limited.”
Later, he adds:
“What this means is that, regardless of the fear that cops strike into the hearts of many, there are always gaps, there is always crisis.”
What this means for us, is that every act of graffiti highlights these gaps in projection. Sometimes, even the cop’s own clubhouse can get tagged without them noticing!
— WLOS (@WLOS_13) March 12, 2018
This isn’t an end in itself, however. Tom Nomad writes that we need to
“…amplify this crisis rather than accepting it as static, something outside of our engagement, that only opens the way for isolated actions.”
Which means not just exposing these gaps, but expanding them. Which brings us back to something we said last time:
“It’s not about counting the two hundred and fifty three anti-fascist stickers you’ve put up in your town… but about the way that these little reminders of disorder interact with the world.”
Lol SKY HIGH FOREVER, FOREVER FTP 💯💯💯 #FuckSAPD #FuckSAPOA #FuckCommunityPolicing The cops and city closed Sky High in late January 2018. They covered every door and window with these steel sheets. "Sky High has been the focus of numerous police actions since May 2015 when Santa Ana officers were caught on hidden video forcing customers to the floor, making demeaning remarks about a volunteer at the collective who uses a wheelchair and munching on snacks. In the aftermath of the video’s release by Sky High’s former attorney, Matthew Pappas, three police officers were fired but have since been reinstated." "The illegally operating medical-marijuana dispensary has gained national attention after Santa Ana police officers were caught on video eating snacks there during a 2015 raid."
And so it seems clear that vandalism is quite frankly a limited medium when it comes to expanding these gaps in truly liberatory ways. However, we’d like to speculate a bit on how it can be used as a component in undermining police projection on a larger scale.
Refer to the video posted above from sub.Media with anti-police graffiti being painted around Montreal in the lead up to the annual March 15th demonstration against the police. We don’t think it’s a complicated line to draw between small graffiti actions that explicitly encourage anti-police sentiment while exposing the cops’ inability to impose total control, and the following anti-police demonstration being rowdy (though it often is anyway). Taking into account that March 15th often sees a decentralized attack or two separate from the demo, we might say that the SPVM’s (Montreal’s police force) ability to project through space takes a serious beating this time of year.
Sometimes little things happen in #Charlottesville that make us feel a little better about being here.
For context, this is the bus station by the Omni Hotel, which was built on top of the razed Vinegar Hill neighborhood. "I can't breathe" has MANY layers at this location. pic.twitter.com/QV2v88l294
— Solidarity Cville (@SolidCville) March 2, 2018
— Filler PGH (@PghAutonomy) February 28, 2018
We’d like to shift our focus here to the anti-fascist angle, although keeping in mind how the concepts of police projection still apply here too (and to some extent, vice-versa). How we’ve explained it before is this:
“If a fascist can put up a sticker and that sticker can stay up, it means that they’ve found a space where they don’t face any immediate enemies and can feel relatively safe. Making sure fascist propaganda is taken down as soon as possible mitigates this, and replacing it with anti-fascist propaganda has the opposite effect: it reminds them they aren’t safe.”
Such stickers are often hyperbole or wishful thinking, or one tool for aspiring to carve out autonomous spaces in which fascists and/as cops aren’t welcome. Yet here in so-called Michigan this past couple weeks, it feels closer to the truth than any of us dared to hope — at least for the moment. A victory, even in a long battle, is still a win! And the more we win, the more we can remember to dream big, including about neighborhoods that are not only “anti-“ but also filled with experiments and social relations pointing ahead to #AWorldWithoutFascism! (#ArtOfResistance courtesy of @lokimon, contributed to the walls of a 24-hour-a-day diner in so-called Ann Arbor that are filled with years of stickers.) #HateFascismLoveYourFriends #WeAreMany #TryAnarchismForLife
Elsewhere in that same column, we wrote:
“A “Fuck Cops” scribbled on a street pole still signals to someone that resistance is possible. Ten “Fuck Cops” tags across a few city blocks signals that at least some folks in that area aren’t too fond of police, and might make someone think twice about calling them. […] This isn’t about a linear escalation of vandalism that will single-handedly “make racists afraid again”, but an intervention in the visual space as one part of a multifaceted struggle.”
Likewise, a density of “Antifa” and/or similar tags signals to fascists (and racists, misogynists, etc.) that they ought to keep a low profile if they can’t avoid the area altogether. Those lovers of law and order can see that not only are there gaps in police coverage, those gaps are being exploited by people committed to ruining their lives.
Whether it’s on college campuses or deep into a remote trail hike.. people are thinking about punching Richard Spencer pic.twitter.com/ybeZc17vkj
— Anna Merlan (@annamerlan) March 13, 2018
anti-Semitism ain't happening in Benson pic.twitter.com/8cSxqeIuJ7
— nebraska antifa (@antifa_ne) March 15, 2018
#Renton #Washington community warned about neo-Nazis organizing in their town! Matthew James Carroll is a member of Atomwaffen Division and his wife, Rosie Carroll, is a neo-Nazi. Read about them here: https://t.co/IxinFrgzDj pic.twitter.com/v1tDcg0Lk8
— Eugene Antifa (@eugeneantifa) March 11, 2018
We all know what went down in East Lansing this month (hint: some nazis got w r e c k e d) but we also appreciate the way the visual space was transformed around Michigan in preparation for the convergence. If there’s anywhere Richard Spencer was able to go while in East Lansing without getting yelled at and chased away, at the very least he probably couldn’t avoid seeing his face photoshopped onto a hydra or under a boot.
It looks like a bunch of elves who f’ing hate fascism came out last night, wheat pasting a queerly colored wall of posters and spreading other #ArtOfResistance around so-called Ann Arbor. Lovely elves, you know this is a relentless battle for carving out liberatory space as a spirited step #TowardAWorldWithoutFascism! Of course, some nasty monsters seem to have tried to undo your mischief, yet with only partial success. Likely there are many other elves, busily making posters, flyers, stickers, banners, and other creative arts and crafts against white supremacy for other nights and days. #WeAreMany #HateFascismLoveYourFriends #BraveSpaces #NoWallsExceptWheatPastedOnes #SolidarityIsOurBestWeapon
"Defend-J20 – Fuck Trump!" Lots of these new, hand-made #defendj20 stickers just went up at #dupontcircle. #resist #Trump #protest #sticker #theresistance #signsofresistance #dcsignsofresistance #dc @defendj20 https://t.co/DQ91wlwJRE pic.twitter.com/bh5RLJzh2U
— Patrick C. Irelan (@Patrick_Irelan) February 27, 2018
"Hope is in the streets" crimethinc. poster text reads: It’s not surprising that the very worst people have gained control of the insti- tutions of our society. Who else wants to hold power, to rule? As long as our society is based on coercion and com- petition, the worst will always rise to the top. The problem is the institutions themselves. It’s naïve to hope that CNN, the FBI, or the Democratic Party will thwart Trump’s authoritarian ambitions. They are just as essential to the power struc- ture as Trump himself is, just as com- plicit in its functioning. Grassroots resistance has been the only thing that has succeeded in putting the brakes on Trump’s advance. Every victory against him has begun with people taking action on their own initiative. If we hadn’t blockaded the airports, would any judge have had the guts to block the Muslim ban? If we hadn’t flooded the streets, would White House employees have taken the risk of leaking information? Together, we have the power to take back our lives and disable the insti- tutions through which our rulers seek to dominate us. No party, pol- itician, or organization can do this for us. Let’s become ungovernable and free.
Patriarchy in graffiti culture (like all subcultures) is a serious issue and we haven’t talked really talked about it in these columns—but always support efforts to fight against it in whatever space you’re in.
— Melissa Gira Grant (@melissagira) March 12, 2018
To close this column with a bang: check out this collection of anti-Amazon graffiti in Atlanta. Last time we only had some quick amateur tags, this time we have clean handstyles and a beautiful piece!
— Atlanta Against Amazon (@NoNewHQ) February 28, 2018
Until next time. Stay up, stay safe!
Talk about gaps in police projection! 😂