R.I.P. Matt Cicero: Anarchist Militant, Journalist, Organizer

from Enough 14

Ottawa. Canada. On March 16, 2021, our comrade Matt departed for the spirit world. We have lost one of the most committed anarchists in our part of the world, and the loss is felt intensely due to the tragic circumstances of his death.

Originally published by Montreal Counter Information and Upping the Anti Facebook page (facebook.com/permalink.php?id=171811939515993&story_fbid=4056151467748668)

Many people who did not know Matt well will probably remember him as the guy that bombed the bank back in 2010. At this time, there was a major mobilization of anarchists preparing for the G20 summit in Toronto. Several months prior to the summit, a group calling itself FFF (Fighting For Freedom) released footage of the firebombing of an RBC branch in Ottawa. The footage was dramatic – a black-clad figure runs out of the bank minutes before it explodes in flame.

Although he never confessed to the action, I think that Matt would have wanted to be remembered for this action. He was arrested for it, jailed, and put on trial, but charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Six years after the bombing, he posted an article entitled “6 reasons I support arson (as a tool of social change)” on his blog. “I think it’s an example… of direct action, and I think that social movements in Canada are far too pacified, they are way too comfortable with the ideology, with non-violence as an ideology, not as a tactic, but as the only possible way forward,” he said. “I think social movements need to become more militant and I wanted to highlight that, which I think the action does.”

The communique released by FFF explained the reasons why RBC had been targeted. They had been a major sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, which had involved a massive crack-down on the street population of that city, and RBC was also a major financier of the Alberta Tar Sands.

It’s important to note here that Matt was one of the anarchists who was at the forefront of indigenous solidarity organizing. 2010 really was the year that anti-colonial politics came to the forefront of anarchist analysis in so-called Canada. It was through the relationships that anarchists formed with indigenous people around that time that began to significantly shift anarchist discourse. Matt was one of the pioneers of this, and he remained active with IPSMO (the Indigenous People’s Solidarity Movement – Ottawa) for the better part of a decade.

Matt was a committed activist. Serious, principled, and intense, he knew what he believed and had the courage of his convictions. His stubbornness often led to him butting heads with other activists, as for myself, I usually found myself agreeing with him and supporting his stance. He thought that radical politics should be about action. When it was time to throw down, you knew Matt was game.

It is difficult to grieve Matt, partly due to the tragic conditions of his death. I have not spoken to anyone who had really spoken to him in the past two years. Not only was he estranged from his family, it seems that he was also estranged from his friends. It would seem that his mental health deteriorated, and he was living in a tent by the Ottawa river, close to the War Museum, and not far from Asinabka, the Algonquin sacred site currently be desecrated by a huge condo development.

The circumstances of his death were mysterious. Apparently, the police told his mother that he had fallen out of a tree. I was a part of a group that visited the tree, and we all agreed that it just wasn’t possible that that had happened. Not only was the tree not very tall, it was a spruce tree, and it would have been impossible to climb without breaking branches, and no branches were broken. What is known is that he died of blunt force trauma and the police didn’t rule it a suicide.

We are still trying to put the pieces together, so if you do have information that would help us understand what happened in the last two years of his life, we would encourage you to write us. Even though we can’t change what happened, understanding what happened can be an important part of the grieving process.

We also have some soul-searching as a movement to do. There have been a significant numbers of deaths of despair amongst activist men in the past few years. To name a few: Derek, Dave, Hugo, Jean, and Charles. What is leading our comrades to such depths of emotional pain? Is it the state of the world, or it is something about the way that activists treat each other?

The reality is that, despite our best efforts to change the world for the world, things are not improving on planet Earth, and in fact, many of the gains made by previous generations of activists are now being undone. This can be deeply disheartening, especially for people who have based their whole lives around struggling to make the world a better place.

There is another question that is more disturbing, and that is whether it is something in the activist scene is killing us. Has the anarchist culture become deeply toxic? Both Dave and Matt were being excluded by their respective activist communities at the times of their deaths. In both cases, it seems likely that this was a factor in the deterioration of their mental health. Is a toxic activist culture partly to blame?

In any case, Matt’s body is gone, but his spirit has moved on. Perhaps the freedom that he desired so passionately was not possible in this world, but I hope that where he is now, his spirit will know true freedom.

Rest in peace, Matt, you were a good anarchist, and I will honour your memory. More importantly, I will honour your spirit by continuing the fight that you dedicated your life to – the fight for freedom, for autonomy, for Mother Earth, and in solidarity with the oppressed against the state.

It seems right to end by quoting the FFFC communique released after the bank bombing:

We pass the torch to all those who would resist the trampling of native rights, of the rights of us all, and resist the ongoing destruction of our planet.

A memorial is being organized by Matt’s friend Albert Dumont, an Algonquin spiritual leader. It will be held on May 16. By pure coincidence, a massive global day of action happens to be planned for that exact day. So, wherever you are, if you do want to honour Matt’s memory, consider torching or smashing something in his honour, or at least lighting off some fireworks.

For details regarding the memorial service, please write vertetnoire@riseup.net. If you have photos or videos of Matt, please share them with us. We would also encourage people to reach out to share their memories of Matt, which could be shared at his memorial.

A song-in-progress is being written by Matt’s friend. If you have memories of actions that Matt participated in, and want them to be part of a song that will be sung at his memorial, please check out this video:


Get in touch.

Upping the Anti

Sad to hear of the recent passing of comrade Mathiew Reginald Morgan Brown or Matt Cicero, as he was known to many. He was a close friend with people in our editorial collective. He was an activist and anarchist in the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement and did workshop facilitation on settler-Indigenous solidarity work.

He was also a movement writer and wrote for Briarpatch Magazine, Ricochet and wrote an amazing, in-depth article on surveillance with Mariful Alam for our journal Upping the Anti (https://uppingtheanti.org/journal/article/20-political-policing-and-the-...).

Our love and support go out to his family and comrades who are grieving right now.


Upping the Anti, March 30, 2021

There are 16 Comments

This deserves at least one comment before it leaves the front page. I don't think I'm the best person to write it. I only met Matt a few times. We were not friends. Maybe we could have been, if I had ever lived in Ottawa, but I didn't and we weren't. I don't know very much about him at all; in fact, I learned a great deal from reading this obituary, and then from talking to people who knew him better, who could speak as well to at least some of the reasons he might have been alienated from others in the anarchist scene.

It is clear enough that his death is a fucking tragedy and should have us all enraged. He deserved better. He was also dedicated to his ideas and to a movement that was larger than he was, and while that doesn't excuse anything shitty he may have done (I am sure there is a lot to discuss there, as there would be with literally just about any white man in North America), it is something I respect a lot. I am glad people are thinking about him these days, and I hope they will continue to do so.

RIP and fuck the police, in Ottawa particularly.

You don’t think this obit sheds a bit of light on a correlation between those politics and a pattern of “activist men” becoming homeless and/or dying deaths of despair? Part of it is the state of the world, sure. Part of it is the scene, big time. And part of it is people like Matt getting older and realizing that they have basically built their entire lives on a foundation made of bullshit.

Solid, down-ass dude shifted off the mortal coil literally living in a tent down by the river like a derelict all alone, jfc.

If I were him I would’ve become suicidally depressed too, like, no shit.

Yes, I am sure it is the usage of the words "white man", not everything else that is shit about this world.

You suck, dude. But it's true, you suck without being a white man.

It is hard to read the section he quoted above as implying anything other than "He's a white man, so there must be bad things about his character and behavior." That is fashionable, Left-progressive, Woke neoracism. It's dehumanizing, anti-intellectual bigotry that has no place in anarchism. People need to stop making excuses for this shit to the effect of "Yeah, but settler colonialism..." - yes, the history of empires is ugly and we can unpack it with weeks of discussion. That does not entail inventing new, avant-garde forms of bigotry that become weird shibboleths for moving through anarchist subcultures.

"fashionable, Left-progressive, Woke neoracism"

"dehumanizing, anti-intellectual bigotry"

That's a lot of $10-dollar words, but I'd just say... it's a throwaway comment, and acknowledging something which I think is worth saying, namely that the experience of being a white person - of having that identity foisted upon you - is dehumanizing to some degree. Though I actually think the word "man" is more important, since this is even more accurate of how masculinity works.

Aragorn! once said that we are bad things, therefore we are against ourselves. I'm a white man. I suppose I should have realized all of you - hm, let's see if I can get some $10 words of my own into this rant - poseur "anarch" reactionaries, talking a slightly more Novatorean dialect of the same language that disaffected chanboard chuds are speaking, would freak the fuck out over pointing out that people aren't perfect.

So there you go. I said "people" this time, not "white man".

Have you got any proof that cops killed him. Its a bit reactionary to accuse people of a crime just from heresay and gossip?

I don't know if cops killed him. I don't think it's super likely. The Ottawa police did not do anything to make this guy's life easier when he was alive, though, and even though I personally don't know if I would want them to "investigate", it sounds like the story they sold the family is dubious. Fuck them.

As far back as the 1960's coointelpro era, undercover cops have spread false.allegations of anything they think would be destructive: accepting support from foreign regimes (e.g the former Soviet Union), rape, pedophila, whatever they think will stick.

Things to watch for when its sex/abuse/interpersonal allegations are complaints about someone's behavior with nobody claiming to be a victim and nobody either naming victims or specifying act X with unnamed victim Y.

Also not unheard of (e.g at the 1969 SDS convention that split the original SDS) is an undercover speaking in behalf of a group and making the most imcendiary racist/homophobic/transphoboc/misogynist statements they can shout without blowing their credilbity.

There was Assange also who had rape allegations made against him. And can I steep low and mention Trump also?!

This comment is asinine. Trump has 20 plus credible allegations against him. Assange one accuser as well but generally yeah its bad form to believe vague accusations posted online or whispered about. Really dealing with these issues means getting actual information and anyone who tells you otherwise has an agenda.

Technically assange had multiple accusers but yes... this

There exists a law of probability that when a certain number of events are said to have happened it can be assumed with a probability increasing linearly that it actually did occur. Even empirical data is subject to this logic. One can see for instance the veracity of this process by noting the multiple accusations made against Trump, who as we know from recorded conversations, and from the common mean average of observing wealthy white males, that this is most probably true. "Probable", one of the most underused word in common discussions within democracies, which rely on mob rule, or dogma and gossip.

RIP Matt.
I truly believe that groups and projects like “upping the anti” are precisely the kinds that create alienating milieus with their outdated vocabularies - revolutionaries, militants, the radical Left, etc., and calls to sacrifice, discipline, etc. A sea of disciplined, militant, humourless berets will never lead to a new world, to regeneration, to helping shed settler colonial outlooks and practices. Also groups like upping the anti itself have been highlighting the same three goals for decades - anti-oppression, anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism - but rarely mention anti-statism and certainly don’t centre it. Yet anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism will only be solved by abolishing the nation state. So how deep really is that commitment? And oppression by eliminating politics/hierarchy, so why not include an anti-authoritarian goal as well?

If we want a new world, to create space for ourselves, we need to fight, but fighting doesn’t mean Leftism/activism, anarcho-Maoism, etc. It doesn’t have to mean smug humourlessness, self-sacrifice, causes, etc.

Also, perhaps the author of this biography wasn’t around prior to 2010, but it seems bizarre to make the claim that that is the specific year that “anti-colonial politics came to the forefront of anarchist analysis in so called Canada.” Geez, skimming through a variety of Canadian anarchist newspapers from the 1980s, nearly 30 years before 2010 - No Picnic, Open Road, Kick it Over, etc- and a large part of the content is about indigenous struggles, decolonizing, etc.

Activism relies on a (joyless?) sacrifice of ones life for a greater cause. How can we make our lives and our fight intertwine? A milieu is not a community - don’t expect mutual aid, solidarity, empathy, emotional support, deep friendships, etc to come out of them.

This isn’t to say that groups like upping the anti are heartless or authoritarians. It’s just that the tragedy of Matt’s death, to me at least, is located in the mistaken ideas that a milieu is a community and that Left activism is resistance.

^^^I appreciate this thoughtful analysis

that period around 2010 was when I first started to wake up and I used to make that same uhm ... solipsistic error? that a much more real historical analysis began when I became aware of it? but of course that's silly and the truth is that real history is deliberately buried and forgotten.

it's an easy mistake to make because of the need for splashy moments of resistance in the mainstream media to introduce better ideas to new people, as was the case with me.

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