Unforgiving and Inconsolable: New Collection of Writings on Durham's Recent Struggle Against the Police
We’re happy to announce that a new zine, Unforgiving and Inconsolable: Durham Against the Police, is now available for download and printing. The zine compiles writings released in the heat of battle over the last few months, as three separate marches protesting the police detention and murder of Chuy Huerta brought the town’s distrust and anger with its police to the fore. New relationships were made while new ground was broken, which will hopefully continue as people continue to assemble and reflect upon the past few months. The following is from the zine’s introduction:
I was at work when I got the text from a friend. It was the fourth time this fall and I was in the same place I had been for the other three, trying to process the information while keeping up appearances on the job. I didn’t know Chuy; all I knew was that the cops had killed another kid and they were going to get away with it again, but that this time it wasn’t going to be as easy.
S. told me that she knew Chuy from the skate park. I had started hanging out there this fall when I decided to start skating again.“You’re not getting any younger,”she reminds me everytime I fall. I don’t really know why I decided to pick it up again knowing that I’ll never have the same delusions of invincibility I had as a teenager. Sometimes I think it’s because it’s the only bearable way to be outside in a sprawl, but when I’m at the park I realize it’s mostly because of the kids. Sometimes when the park is too crowded I just watch them fall and get back up until they can’t see straight. I hear the same fed up conversations my friends had ten years ago: school is worthless, mom is too strict, dad wants you to get a job, the pigs are always on your back, no one wants to date you cause you skate all day, everything sucks.
They don’t give a fuck about us unless they’re scared of us, and that’s when they shoot. (1)
Chuy’s friends may be fearless teenagers, but they know they’re not invincible. “Don’t shoot me”stories circulate around the park; being followed home by the cops alone at night, or running to get away from teargas. Often there is an eruption of laughter by the storytellers at the end, the kind of laughter that signifies the pride of getting away but comes out like giggles at a funeral when the pain is too heavy to bear without an opening. Laughter becomes an oxygen tank—it’s a life-line and an explosive device. Mothers and friends echo one another: when a black or brown family member or friend never shows up at night to crash, we’re not imagining them held up at gunpoint by a stranger, we imagine them lying in front of a cop car bleeding out before ambulances arrive.
The police articulate the way they value young lives: “We don’t have time for this” declares the officer in between tasing and shooting 18 year old Keith Vidal in his home in Eastern North Carolina this winter, while his parents watched helplessly. The families ask, “Why?” They want answers—something to hold onto to make sense of the impossible reality facing them. A mourning family reminds us that a life is invaluable, and irreplaceable, while the police calculate the value of a life through the logic of society ruled by capital: assimilate or die, function or starve, work or go to prison.
The police are wedged in the tension between precarity and legitimacy. They exist to police surplus populations but they also produce those populations through the legitimacy of their violence. They choose whose lives are literally disposable.
A window is made of sand and can be replicated exactly. A rectangle window, of the dimensions I am being charged with breaking, doesn’t need to be replicated because the manufacturer keeps spare windows around for replacement. The United States justice system considers this a serious crime warranting felony charges. Trayvon Martin was a human being. There will only ever be one of him and we have lost him and the joy he brought to this world forever. A human life is priceless because it can never be replaced. (2)
Why do you keep asking about rocks and windows? Windows can be fixed. Can they fix my brother? (3)
Those who want to dwell on the “violent turn” of the character of the marches have fulfilled the desires of the police. They turn our attention away from the reality that is glaring at us all: there can be no justice because our lives are not scales to balance. Chuy will not be brought back to life by holding the police accountable, nor will he by the destruction of police property. But if we accept reconciliation, we accept the lie that Chuy’s life was expendable. When we destroy their property, we remind them that we will never forget. Justice is not what is at stake.
The only writer of history with the gift of setting alight the sparks of hope in the past, is the one who is convinced of this: that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious. (4)
The marches this winter reminded us that our rage expressed in these moments is not lost to futility. We refused justice and reconciliation and demands and in that refusal we witnessed diffuse acts of rage carry the spirits of those murdered and locked up into the present. We fought back when attacked, we cheered while the names of our friends were sprayed onto the walls of the city, we were strengthened by solidarity actions across the country, and we forged trust and friendships in the streets.
This zine is a quickly compiled collection of writings released in the midst of these events. These pieces were written with different voices by participants who had overlapping but different understandings of what was going on, with little time and space for deeper reflection. Perhaps this collection can help to counter the dizzying array of media, liberals, and leftists who have, by ignoring the voices of actual participants, either condemned or downplayed the combative aspects of this struggle. Above all, it is our hope that by putting all these writings in one place this text might facillitate a deeper debate and anaylsis about how we can seize the moments of tension and rupture in which we increasingly find ourselves. We look forward with anticipation to reading and hearing the thoughts of new and old comrades alike with regards to the last few months of struggle that we have shared together.
While the street marches have died down for now, the air of a combative Durham remains, and grows. The conversations, assemblies, groups, bonfires, dance parties, skate competitions, and personal networks that gave rise to this phenomenon continue. The next time the police kill, or some new crisis of authority, white supremacy, wealth, or political power comes to the fore, we will be more ready than ever.
(1) A Friend of Chuy
(2) From the statement of Hannibul Shakur while in jail held on felony vandalism, after the riots in Oakland post-Zimmerman verdict
(3) Evelin Huerta in a press release after the December 19th march
(4) Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History, writing before he took his own life when he was unable to escape fascists in Europe