May Day: A Strike Is a Blow

  • Posted on: 10 May 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="">CrimethInc.</a>; original post <a href="">i... a photoessay</a> from Seattle May Day set to a song by <a href=" Reverie</a>.

<p>As the momentum that originated with Occupy Wall Street tapers off, May Day 2012 saw anarchists on the West Coast consolidate their gains in the street with actions from Los Angeles to Vancouver. In a series of first-person vignettes from the Bay Area, we evoke the atmosphere of May Day 2012 and plumb the questions it poses.</p></td><td><img title="Evoking is not enough. We demand EVERYTHING!" src=""></td></tr></table...
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<h3><em>Saturday, April 28, Oakland</em></h3>

<p>I’m back in the Bay for May Day, loitering outside the top-secret anarchist hideout. The streets of Oakland record sedimentary layers of resistance and defeat: “OCCUPY EVERYTHING” is painted across a canvas of faded tags, the slogan itself obscured beneath syringes and garbage. Deeper beneath that concrete canvas lies the pavement that the Black Panthers once patrolled, and below that the streets blockaded in 1946, during <a href="" target="_blank">the last General Strike</a> in the US. We stand above, upon the syringes and garbage, aspiring protagonists of the next chapter of the story.</p>

<p>Two by two, my friends are showing up from all around the country. We thought we’d finally superseded the <a href="">... model</a> of anarchist action, taking up the <a href="">diffuse model</a> of social unrest already spreading around the rest of the world. But here we are again, converging.</p>

<p>This converging confirms that the window of possibility that opened with last fall’s surge of activity has closed; momentum has plateaued in the small towns, leaving the diehards to flow into the metropolises. Like Vietnam, Oakland is the site of a proxy war, patrolled by <a href="" target="_blank">police who live in other towns</a> and thronged by anarchists who move here from other states. This is where rulers and ruled contend to produce different visions of the future, which will presumably filter out through news stories and youtube videos to the periphery. Yet what happens here is determined elsewhere; Oakland wouldn’t be an anarchist hub without a steady flow of recruits from the Midwestern suburbs, nor could the Oakland Police keep the upper hand without funding and arms from outside. Both sides ignore the hinterlands at their peril.</p>

<p>Across the street, a half dozen rough characters pass lugging massive improvised shields, irregulars in a revolutionary army yet to exist. They look haggard; none of us recognize them. This could be <a href="" target="_blank">Muenster in 1534</a>, vagabonds trickling in from failed peasant wars for another showdown with the powers that be.</p>

<h3><em>Sunday, April 29, Albany</em></h3>

<p>North of Berkeley, hundreds of people have occupied <a href="" target="_blank">a wide tract of prime farmland</a> owned by UC Berkeley. The University is considering selling the land to Whole Foods, among others; why not use it to produce the food locals need, rather than destroying it so a corporation can cash in on their consequent dependence? Back in my hometown, we’re doing the same on a site proposed for an unpopular drugstore, cultivating a guerrilla garden of medicinal herbs. Compared to this vast expanse, the scale of our little plot—a few plants at the foot of a fence—emphasizes the relationship between hinterland and epicenter.</p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

The police circulate freely, filming us. Were it not for public support, they’d clear us out immediately; but the conditional nature of liberal backing ties our hands so we can’t force the cops out, either—and their filming puts us all at risk, amassing evidence for databases and court cases.</p>

<p>While everyone else is juggling, playing with fabric at the art station, and listening to poorly amplified speeches—the rituals of liberal California—I join a Rastafarian my age shoveling soil and breaking ground. It feels good to wield a shovel in the hot sun, to do something with my body. I want to create commons, but I want to do it for keeps, not for show.</p>

<p>On the way out, I meet one of the organizers. We talk about the importance of secrecy in planning this occupation, and about the <a href="" target="_blank">Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra</a>, which does this on a scale in Brazil that makes Berkeley look like my hometown. I never saw brighter stars than the night I stayed on several miles of occupied farmland outside Belo Horizonte. </p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span>I also pass some comrades not yet wearing their black sweatshirts. It’s not just community support and public legitimacy that make the authorities hesitate to evict this place; if that were all, they would go ahead, knowing the consequences would be limited to the field of civil discussion. It’s also the threat posed by people like us.</p>

<h3><em>Monday, April 30, San Francisco</em></h3>

<p>We’ve been in the street for two minutes, hoods up and flags out, when the first police car rolls up. Even the most hardened of us flinch: here we are, caught red-handed. This moment is inscribed on each of us in shame and fear: the siren behind us on the highway, the loss prevention agent blocking our path at the grocery store, the officers evicting us from our encampment or home. The moment when it becomes clear that we are weaker, that we have to give in regardless of our needs or ideals.</p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

A masked figure coolly steps to the car and spray-paints a circle A on the passenger-side window. The officer halts the car and jumps out; his body says, <em>I’m going to assert order.</em> Without breaking stride, the masked figure pitches the empty spray-paint can directly at the officer’s face; it bounces off with an audible smack. The officer gets back in the car. Its windows are bashed in with a garbage can as he retreats.</p>

<p>One more block and the police station looms into view ahead. Normally this would mean we’d made a costly wrong turn, but tonight we march right to it. The police run for cover beneath a hail of paint bombs and projectiles; more masked figures spring forward to drive their flagpoles into its doors and windows. The sound of shattering glass and hissing tires fills the night continuously for fifteen minutes.</p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

Here it is, finally, the power to defend a space beyond their control; inside it, all the rage suppressed beneath the veneer of imposed order erupts to the surface. Activists and poor people humiliated by police exact vengeance; renters gentrified out of their homes wreck a neighborhood they could never afford; service workers taunted all their lives with luxury goods give the rich a taste of fear. The calculations—the <em>debts</em> and <em>payments</em>—of capitalist “justice” give way to the <em>excess</em> of rebellion. It’s chaotic, terrifying, exhilarating.</p>

<p>Walking around the Mission district afterwards, there’s a lot of confusion and anger, and not only from the fabulously wealthy. Indeed, it’s stupid that ordinary cars have been damaged alongside expensive restaurants; the lines should be drawn between the ruling class and everyone else, not each against all. But after so many years of bottling up the consequences of injustice and inequality, things are bound to be messy when the floodgates open. This is the flip side of the docility of career activists, the shadow of the self-congratulatory moralism of non-profit employees: what is shut out returns tenfold. And how many <a href=" target="_blank">riots</a> like this would it take for San Francisco rent to drop within my price range?</p>

<h3><em>Tuesday, <a href=" target="_blank">May 1</a>, Oakland</em></h3>

<p>The sweet scent of distant tear gas greets us as we arrive in downtown Oakland for the noon rally at Oscar Grant Plaza; concussion grenades are already exploding ahead. The bullies in blue are <a href="">making snatch-and-grab arrests</a> to intimidate the crowd. But the crowd doesn’t fall back; everyone rushes forward, yelling and shoving. The police issue a dispersal order through a megaphone. There’s some back and forth—everything is confusing—but then they’ve retreated and we hold not only the plaza but the streets around it.</p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

The crew around the sound system rolls their cart into the middle of the intersection and a raucous dance party ensues. Another hard-won space outside the logic of control and profit: dancing without a cover charge, lunch without a checkout line, politics without politicians. There are hundreds of people here, maybe thousands, and contrary to the allegations that Occupy Oakland is a bunch of outside agitators, many <a href=" target="_blank">are longtime locals of color</a>. It’s a mistake to credit recent arrivals with Oakland’s street militance—if anything, they’ve learned it here.</p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

Originally, the plan for May Day had been to shut down the Golden Gate bridge, but that collapsed in acrimony as the unions that had originally sought social movement participation backed out. This has happened over and over all around the country: formal and longstanding organizations have only coopted and obstructed popular outrage, even when their own existence <a href=" at stake</a>. It has been challenging to find new forms of organization that enable people to coordinate confrontational action. During the <a href="">summit era</a>, groups like the <a href="">RNC Welcoming Committee</a> and the <a href="">Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project</a> offered a provisional solution, although they also gave the state a target for <a href="">conspiracy charges</a>. The general assemblies of the Occupy movement offered another model, often supplemented behind the scenes by informal networks; it remains to be seen how secure these are against state repression—the full force of which will not be felt until this wave of momentum has passed entirely.</p>

<p>After a couple hours circling Oscar Grant plaza, we begin marching to meet the permitted march for immigrants’ rights. The police are still nowhere to be seen. We cross the city, confident in our strength; participants drag the occasional barricade into the street, but for the most part our uncontested presence is enough. Still, when we pass a McDonald’s, somebody can’t resist lobbing a paint bomb at it, and a masked figure smashes one of its windows; when someone chases the vandal, the pursuer is immediately surrounded and neutralized by the crowd, the way white blood cells respond to bacteria.</p>

<p>Rumors are pouring in from other corners of the country: police have raided and arrested comrades in New York City, LAX has been shut down, a state of emergency has been declared in Seattle after anarchists <a href=" target="_blank">wrecked Niketown</a> for the first time since 1999. It’s not clear how seriously we should take these, but it’s easy to believe just about anything in this environment; the fantasy persists that unrest will spread from the epicenter to the periphery, that riots will break out everywhere this coming autumn the way occupations did last fall.</p>

<p><a href="" rel="lightbox[mayday]"><img src="" /></a><span class="invisible">-</span><br />

After dark, when our numbers finally drop, the police swoop in en masse. We see lines of their vans zipping up the side streets to cut us off from the rear, so we fall back, orange columns of flame rising from the trashcans into the colossal night. Explosions echo in the distance behind us, screams and sirens mingle around us, and no one knows what to expect ahead. Maybe this is just the final act of the play, when all but the extremists have withdrawn from the field, leaving the impression of <a href=" target="_blank">escalation</a>; or maybe this really is a harbinger of things to come. It’s probably both.</p>

<h3>Further Reading</h3>

<p>—Unexpectedly supportive coverage of black bloc actions in<br />
<a href=" target="_blank">Los Angeles</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Seattle</a>, and <a href=" target="_blank">the Bay Area</a>; even <a href=" target="_blank">Adbusters</a> announced that the black bloc “stole the show” on May Day</p>

<p>—Extensive analysis of <a href=" target="_blank">the failures of privilege discourse</a> in criticism of Occupy Oakland</p>

<p>—And for those who came in late, please review <a href="">how to dress for a black bloc</a>, <a href="">what a black bloc is</a>, and <a href="">why we don’t endorse the conceptual framework of “nonviolence”</a></p>


CTRL+F bagel

I am disappoint in you CrusthInc.

I've been disappointed in these lifestylists for many years now. Check out my website.

Hmmm... New website - libcom, ok, I'll check it out.

A noticable section catches my eye:

"Organise" ok... *click*

"Workplace organising" ok... *click*

"Sabotage in the workplace" fuck yeah! *click*

"While most severe monkey-wrenching tactics are non-violent, most of them are major social no-nos."


Yeah, it's weird, yet they cover article about riots, and violent labor uprisings and shit. I don't fucking get it.

NIMBY liberals are NIMBY

"Morals are taught & preached not for the sake of heaven, but to assist those people on Earth who have everything they need & more to retain their possessions & to help them to accumulate still more.

Morals is the butter for those who have no bread."

from "The Death Ship" by B. Traven

such a good series of writings coming out of crimethinc recently. thanks friends!

now to try and cajole all the anarcho-liberals and lazy ass half ass "revolutionaries" and occupy protesters to actually READ them.... hmmm...

1. crimethinc writes good
2. cajole occupiers to read them
3. ?????

>many are longtime locals of color

I literally lol'd when I read that.

As opposed to people who only recently became colored.

Tanning booths? Dont think they have those in Oakland...

hey you cisraced manarchist FUCK, way to erase transafro subjectivity. go die in riot gone real.

that's the youtube video. here is the vimeo video:

Don't be cheesy. Here's the real video

love the testosterone soundbyte at the end of the video.


*sound of flagpoles making sweet love to windows*

because people with more estrogen toooootally couldn't relate to that.

"Manarchist" troll is the latest and greatest troll to hit the mean streets of Anarchist News.

I can't wait
I can't wait
Until "the latest"
Becomes "the late"

"Thank you black bloc!"

"Thank you BasedGod!"

We are not ammused.

-The Liberals

"Yet what happens here is determined elsewhere; Oakland wouldn’t be an anarchist hub without a steady flow of recruits from the Midwestern suburbs, nor could the Oakland Police keep the upper hand without funding and arms from outside. Both sides ignore the hinterlands at their peril."

wtf? i am an anarchist from the bayarea that lives in oakland and although we welcome our comrades from all over: midwest, east coast, pnw, mexico, central america, southeast asia etc.... it is false to give the impression that there is not a huge homegrown anarchist presence. maybe as a visitor, you roll with other visitors and transplants.

its not just an anarchists and cops thing. (i wish things were that clear.) oakland is a hub because it is city. it is a city because it has a port, it has a port because it it has a bay, it has a bay because it is where the big rivers meet the ocean. it was hub before so many modern anarchists, but modern anarchists are still subject to culture/subculture and the migratory patterns of society.

oakland has obviously drawn from nearby cities and suburbs (as all cities do). it is central, but more affordable than sf. the same criminal element that makes being a cop here lucrative, is on the same coin as the FTP attitude that predominates here and makes the town more attractive for anarchists to live here. true, we learned it here but some of us were also born in the local struggle. but there is economic based migration within the bay area already. oakland born and raised often move to working class suburbs. my neighbors are mostly immigrants but otherwise from hayward, fremont...

and true a hub is not a hub without the outer parts of the wheel to define it. but many cities are hubs for the same reasons. protected by the natural poverty of concrete, its where the business is at. most my comrades are from northern california, which has four big cities. oakland being the most central. of course we meet here.

"with our friends now, to the city, we're gonna shake the gates of hell.." chumbawumba

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