Seattle May Day 2016 Report

  • Posted on: 3 May 2016
  • By: thecollective

by Sophia Burns

Seattle May Day started with an open-air punk show outside the tourist-trap mall downtown. I found a couple of comrades from RATPAC (Revolutionary Alliance of Trans People Against Capitalism) reading zines behind a Rojava solidarity group’s table. Progressively larger clusters of protesters started to appear. While I made a sign and chatted with my protest buddy about last year, we saw cops gather both on bikes and on horseback, glaring at the growing Black Bloc. Nearly every slogan I saw was explicitly anarchist, as were almost all of the organized groups; in fact, the entire time, only one person attempted to push a socialist newspaper on me. A few of the self-declared “real life superhero” vigilantes associated with Phoenix Jones hung around in spandex and body armor, carrying heavy sticks and stun guns. They’ve shown up for May Day rallies before, roughing up protesters alongside the police.

When the Black Bloc started chanting “A-C-A-B, All Cops Are Bastards,” we moved. Within a block, the cops had already diverted us away from our initial trajectory. Even after the evening’s first violence – an officer pepper-spraying someone without provocation or warning – we stayed mostly calm and mostly peaceful.

Every protest I’ve attended in downtown Seattle has ended the same way. The police use a couple of basic kettling techniques – bike cops blocking sidestreets and plenty of pepper spray. They herd protesters away from downtown, towards the low-traffic warehouses and sports arenas in the district immediately to the south. The only difference in the script last night was the unusual intensity of the police violence. In addition to using enough pepper spray to produce a visible cloud hanging over the sidewalk, they threw flashbang grenades and broke out the wooden cudgels. I got bruised in the leg by some sort of projectile; I later found out they’d been using rubber bullets as well.

The demonstrators got to express a lot of cathartic anger, with plenty of signs and chants calling the police murderers and pigs and such. While most protest crowds in Seattle are disproportionately white, cisgender, and male appearing, this one was more so than most. The Black Bloc accounted for well over half of those present, and those who appeared to be people of color, trans, and/or female seemed to be concentrated in the non-Black Bloc contingent. Alongside “No Rest For Murderous Pigs,” Black Bloc taunts included “fuckin’ pussies!” and “I made your mom scream last night!” Among Seattle leftists, the May Day march has become stigmatized as glorifying confrontation for its own sake and toxic masculinity. Last night left that reputation secure.

Eventually, they corralled us where they wanted. While protester violence and property destruction remained sporadic and low-level compared with the sustained violence of the police, there were a few marchers throwing around small firecrackers and rocks. Someone broke windows at a Starbucks downtown and at a Bank of America branch. According to the mayor’s press conference later, five officers ended up injured (one of them apparently got bitten), and nine protesters got arrested. Of course, the number of injured protesters was uncounted and enormous. After we peeled away from the demonstration, my protest buddy gave homemade liquid antacid wash to a stranger who was screaming in pain in a parking lot after getting pepper-sprayed point-blank. His companion could only open her left eye partially, but had avoided the brunt of the spray. Others we saw leaving had blood, torn clothes, or burns from flashbangs; with a four-inch rubber bullet bruise, I got off easy.

In the end, the police outmaneuvered us with little difficulty. They picked our route and penned us, messed a few of us up, and then let us disperse through attrition (while making arrests and continuing to hurt us). We didn’t have a clear goal or plan – no route or destination worked out beforehand, and no target for disruption except “the system” or maybe “the pigs.” We could never have matched the cops in direct conflict, given their numbers, elaborate weapons, and virtual legal untouchability. Good strategy means setting a particular goal and coordinating with each other to reach it. Good tactics involve concentrating your strength against your enemy’s weakness. We did neither. We should have picked an intersection, a business, or a building to shut down. However, we lacked any intention more specific than wandering around with signs and flags. The only goal that most participants seemed to have was to confront the cops. Well, they got that – on the cops’ terms, leading to the cops’ chosen outcome.

The police used the same tricks they use every couple of months against the same regular demonstration attendees. By not having a strategy, we squandered the knowledge that their tactics are utterly predictable. We ought to have set a goal and planned together to achieve it. But instead, we got cathartic violence for “revolutionaries” with a deep investment in toxic masculinity. Next time, we ought to aim for something more productive than that. Both the traditions International Workers’ Day represents and the acute strain capitalism places on working, disabled, and oppressed communities here in Seattle demand better.

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=12537

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Comments

This is the reason that I left the anarchist movement.... It makes no sense at all... No one can do anything anymore without being bothered or told it is incorrect... Anarchism is a joke

You give up easily. An unfortunate quality in a difficult era.

I just want to say that, living in the midwest, a chant of 'fucking pussies' does not happen. It would cause most of the bloc, whether hetero, homo, queer, white, black, brown, male, female, whatever to split off. I can't really say what's going on cause this is nothing I've ever experienced in a protest, or demo, or black bloc in the past 15 years. Sure there have been times where I'm not sure about some of the people I'm with. Duh. But, I don't don't know, very different context?! The blocs I've been in have USUALLY been slanted towards female! Not paciifist but also not break shit to break shit. Definitely more strategical. I've never been to Seattle so not sure I can really speak about it, just talking about my own experiences.

Sophia Burns, you're not wrong, you're just extremely critical of the people who literally have a boot on their neck. Is "toxic masculinity" on the part of some angry kids as they get physically attacked really the issue here? However, lack of tactics and planning, I completely agree. Anyway, I doubt the writer will read this.

The hilariously overblown specter of "violence" associated with the march brings us a more and more indomitable force of cops each year and this has made it an amazingly bad situation to do any "may day stuff" like break windows or fight police. We need to innovate beyond the model used in the last few years and that probably means working more with affinity groups instead of expecting the march to just turn into a huge smashing party, since the police have made that basically impossible.

they was hella womens and brown folk. don't lie

Not this event particularly, but in general, definitely women and more an more brown and black folk. This is a good thing, Real peace, fuck their wars all.

nobody can do anything anymore without bringing in their thesis. rowdy can't just be rowdy. everyone stay in line. do the established things, be predictable, don't ruffle any feathers. exclude anyone that doesn't have the lingo. you're feeling "unsafe", you're "stressed", you're "traumatized". I really just don't give a shit anymore. Anarchism in the lower 48 has become a bunch of toddlers with no sense of ramification. Nothing attacked is ever a victory. Get in your safe space. Go vegan. Fix your bike. Be upset when your polyamorous relationship goes south. Blame it on abusive tendencies that weren't actually there (they just thought you were shit). Put another pin on your bag, further begging acceptance.

The proles will throw things, hurt people, attack. You will cloister, but expose your weaknesses to garner favor. Molotovs in the air and we're sad about someone getting hurt. You'll never win unless you're prepared for a war. Some of us know the war isn't ever coming. There's a fight anyway, even though our comrades want to avoid it and accept it as their trauma anyways.

Nihilism forever. You people fucking disgust me. More soymilk? More gluten free baked goods? Grow a fucking sack, everyone.Quit being fucking children and accept your losses, instead of putting them up on a pedestal for what a victim you are. If you fight, you're not a victim. You're a combatant. And if you got caught, you failed. Rephrase and reevaluate what that means to you. Quit your fucking crying.

I hope whoever replies to this dies of a painful cancer. I really don't care anymore and I'd rather be drunk than associate with north american anarchists.

You do understand that half the population (females) don't have 'a sack' right? Do you understand how saying, much less yelling, this at someone IS SEXIST? And has nothing to do with actually taking risks and working towards anarchy? If you don't, maybe this is part of why what you're doing isn't very effective. Change it up, cause any 'change' that is only directed/inclusive of males is only gonna be 50% effective.

You do understand that every word is completely specific to the one who uses it, and to the one who interprets it, right? Do you understand how saying, much less yelling "sexist" regarding a specific phrase that might as well just be a figure of speech, prevents change from moving in a less sexist direction? And has nothing to do with actually taking risks and working toward anarchy? There are no signifiers that don't change and holding them rigidly creates policed spaces. If you don't, maybe this is part of why what you're doing isn't very effective. Change it up, cause any 'change' that is only inclusive of people who think word definitions are always the same and actually have significant impact over what one thinks is gonna be way less than 50% effective.

Yeah, I do. That's why I said "grow one."

Eat shit, you professional victim. I don't want to change anything anymore. Go ISIS, Go North Korea, Go Trump. Nuke everything, the human race shouldn't be saved from itself. We are all garbage and I hope everything is incinerated and the world is bequeathed to cats.

YES! i love cats

… You ok bro? Feelings and stuff, huh?

Your comment could have almost just as easily been posted on Stormfront whining about "PC culture"

And you are not an anarchist or a rebel or a combatant but another wannabe priest, a tiresome predictable moralist, a scene cop, an exaggerator and a caricature. Please go self-flagellate while reading a pamphlet on identity politics or pacifism...

I'll keep up with the actions and communiques of insurrectionary anarchists, Crimethinc, Appelistas and others that go out into the streets and try to make their expressions of power matter. You keep up with those bookfair nihilists and justifying the worst things you can do to women and children as an expression of amoral "freedom", you horrible human being.

LoL Wut?

You so much right now

RATPAC are deranged Maoists (literally) who exist more on Facebook than in reality.

That sounds like a group I would make fun of in person.

half parody, half serious, about red bourgeoisie in Copenhagen and their May 1st 2016 in Fælledparken.
youtube is the best for watching, HD 1080p, other sites produce lower quality of video.
youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al5m7zo9p2g
dailymotion: http://dai.ly/x48n0dj
https://vid.me/kNB1

- Scouts maybe? A few folks on bikes riding around the march can spot cop formations and relay info to the march leaders. It's been done before.

- Which brings me to march leaders. I know the idea doesn't seem very anarchist, but a few people in front who know the area well and are in touch with the scouts can make better decisions than an amorphous uninformed crowd.

- Maybe don't tell the cops everything you're planning in advance? Sure, you have to announce something, but have an unannounced component as well. A second march known only to trusted affinity groups can do a lot of damage before the pigs catch up to it.

- If you're going to have banners anyway go ahead and reinforce them. A wooden frame and heavy plastic underlay will stop projectiles and flashbang shrapnel.

Don't give up. People are probably kinda discouraged right now, but many anarchists would love to have the kind of combative militancy in their cities that Seattle displays repeatedly. Learn from your experiences and don't pay too much attention to haters on the internet.

Amen to that. Not that there isn't a lot of room for tactical innovation but it's also generally a good rule that the more bad noise you hear from the peanut gallery and your enemies, the more you should be pushing in that direction. Seattle certainly isn't ignoring the anarchist movement.

Look, if you suck at writing, maybe you just shouldn't.

This reads like a blog post on an angry 17 year old's tumblr, not something that should qualify as news or an article with any sort of relevance worth reading. You're wasting your time as well as our time posting it here.

It's kind of disgusting how the author is so intrenched in identity politics that they even make their own anarchist identity and their participation in the black bloc a trendy item of flair to flash around. Get over your self.

I mean honestly, a TLDR for this article just has to say: omg, like yay anarchy and some junk! Like... I have trans friends and eww gross cis white males. (insert more virtue signaling here) anarchy because cops are bad!

People think they have the right to write, basically if you like writing, shoot yourself in the head. Every anarchists writing, except for a few on here, basically amounts to: Hey look at me! Shoot yourself in the head. Needs to be a council of anarchist writers into stalinism. Demos should be banned if they are serious. irony or nothing at all

Hey at least a cop (allegedly) got injured by a molotov. That's gotta count for something

I’m seriously so fed up with hearing this tired line of “the black bloc is all cis men” or the latest “toxic masculinity” accusation. This is so obviously a bullshit trope pushed by opportunistic enemies of anarchists. But beyond it being blatantly factually false its also quite trans-phobic and generally shitty to decide that a group of people you don’t know the identities of are men because you disagree with them. Are you endowed with the x-ray vision of the Politicians of North Carolina? Please Sophia and anyone else reading this stop making this claim! Feel free to disagree with anarchists but stop assigning them identities based on your own bullshit!
As for your “toxic masculinity” claim I’m pretty surprised by the things you heard in the march and Ive never seen anything like that in a black bloc, may day or elsewhere. But i have seen people not in bloc make patriarchal comments and had them challenged by people in the bloc.
I wonder if at the root of your “toxic masculinity” accusation is actually a conflation between resistance/violence and masculinity. I think that this claim is actually a patriarchal claim itself. Men (despite their best efforts) do not have a monopoly on violence, women and trans people continue to resist. Stonewall was a riot by trans women who society to this day tries to label as men.
Not to mention that to label a diverse group of people as white is to invisibalize the people of color in that group.
Is it possible that you noticed more people of color and fems outside of the blackbloc because you were outside of the blackbloc and people in black block are going to significant effort to hide their identity?
As for your strategic critiques of the march i mostly agree but I would say that it was a march with a uniquely huge and aggressive police presence which you note. Perhaps this is a failure to be learned from for anti capitalists. But you just see it as an opportunity to take pot shots at anarchists based on your decision of their identities. Cool story tho!

I’m seriously so fed up with hearing this tired line of “the black bloc is all cis men” or the latest “toxic masculinity” accusation. This is so obviously a bullshit trope pushed by opportunistic enemies of anarchists. But beyond it being blatantly factually false its also quite trans-phobic and generally shitty to decide that a group of people you don’t know the identities of are men because you disagree with them. Are you endowed with the x-ray vision of the Politicians of North Carolina? Please Sophia and anyone else reading this stop making this claim! Feel free to disagree with anarchists but stop assigning them identities based on your own bullshit!
As for your “toxic masculinity” claim I’m pretty surprised by the things you heard in the march and Ive never seen anything like that in a black bloc, may day or elsewhere. But i have seen people not in bloc make patriarchal comments and had them challenged by people in the bloc.
I wonder if at the root of your “toxic masculinity” accusation is actually a conflation between resistance/violence and masculinity. I think that this claim is actually a patriarchal claim itself. Men (despite their best efforts) do not have a monopoly on violence, women and trans people continue to resist. Stonewall was a riot by trans women who society to this day tries to label as men.
Not to mention that to label a diverse group of people as white is to invisibalize the people of color in that group.
Is it possible that you noticed more people of color and fems outside of the blackbloc because you were outside of the blackbloc and people in black block are going to significant effort to hide their identity?
As for your strategic critiques of the march i mostly agree but I would say that it was a march with a uniquely huge and aggressive police presence which you note. Perhaps this is a failure to be learned from for anti capitalists. But you just see it as an opportunity to take pot shots at anarchists based on your decision of their identities. Cool story tho!

^typical manarchist response

^typical troll response lol

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