Strategy Rambles: After Convention Organizing?

  • Posted on: 19 May 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>When it comes to arrest potential, publicly organizing against a major summit is not that much different from locking yourself to a bulldozer. It's pretty much understood by now (after the 2008 RNC, Philly, Toronto G20, and now the so-called #NATO3) that if you are heavily involved in organizing a convention protest, you will be prematurely and violently arrested, in your home if possible. You will be charged with terrorism and a dozen other heinous things. You will be infiltrated. Someone you know and maybe trust will turn out to be a cop.

And then, once everyone's forgotten about you (except for the folks on your legal team, if you're lucky) the cops will drop most of the charges, or <a href=>they'll go away or get downsized.</a> (Except for <a href=>the folks serving years for Toronto G20</a> and probably more that I don't know about.)
</td><td><img title="yeah but it's like the bulldozer is on fire and totally fucking extreme!" src=""></td></tr><...
As far as I can tell, being relatively young, this is an evolution of state strategy since the <a href=>Miami model</a>. Just as we learned to use conventions as proving grounds for strategies and tactics, the cops use them as tests for strategies of repression - both physical (kettling, mass arrests, tear gas, <a href=>sound cannons</a>, armored vehicles) and judicial (terror charges, conspiracy charges, grand juries, and in Canada, <a href= clauses on bail agreements</a>).

<strong>Where do we go from here?</strong>

Obviously we'll solve the problems conventions pose by overthrowing the state and capitalism, but in the mean time, how do we deal? Does it make strategic sense to cede the space of "the convention" to the state, and choose not to play their game? With the events that continue to unfold in Oakland, it seems that localized insurgencies rooted in place might be a viable alternative to the model of militant resistance to the symbolic confluences represented by G8 and G20 meetings. Speaking as someone who is not from Oakland and hasn't participated there, a few of the advantages I can see are the following:

<ul><li> Smaller budgets for repression. Conventions bring in millions of dollars of money for tasers, sound cannons, and police weaponry - things that stay in the cops' arsenal for years after the protest ends. Oakland, on the other hand, has cut staffing and officer pay. Your hometown police force probably doesn't have the money or manpower to hold down a generalized insurrection, unless you live in NYC.</li>

<li> Increased possibilities for integration with "the general community"[1]. Oakland is one of a very few examples in recent US history in which anarchists and "the general community" have participated on even footing in militant actions. This, in my eyes, seems to allow for a greater possibility of a contagious ungovernability.</li>

<li> Long-term engagement. Summit hopping has been critiqued since Seattle at least because of the format of temporary, shallow engagement by visiting anarchists and activists, while local anarchist communities bear the brunt of burnout, repression, jail, fines, etc.</li></ul>

On the other hand, it will be difficult to give up on convention organizing, and it's not like we're at the point where we can recreate Oakland in every segregated city center. What's more, people still go to these shitshows, and if we don't organize, the liberals will. To abandon militant convention organizing would mean that we would forgo the regular, predictable spectacles of militant resistance to capital that we have developed for the past dozen years or more - maybe even a return to something like the Bush-era hegemony of the anti-war movement, which rejected militancy entirely. If Oakland winds down and is not reborn elsewhere, it might be a mistake to abandon convention organizing despite the inevitable repression that it entails. After all, there is a compelling argument that the kind of property destruction and highly publicized militant action that happens at conventions <a href=>can be a valuable movement-building tool</a>, especially outside white, middle-class demographics.

<strong>Intermediate Steps</strong>

Abandoning convention organizing is not likely to happen anytime soon. That doesn't mean that we have to keep getting put in jail. Here are some half-formed thoughts about half-assed ways to keep doing what we're doing:

When talking about state repression at conventions, the suggestion invariably arises that we should take militant resistance to the periphery - away from the massive police presence near convention sites - and strike unpredictably while the cops are busy harassing, beating, and arresting harmless liberal marchers. Nonetheless, this never really happens - or, if it does, we don't hear about it. Why might that be? For one thing, this argument assumes that the main point of militant actions and property destruction at summits is to be a physical, rather than symbolic, threat. While a black-bloc that formed up outside the "protest zone" at a summit would likely be able to do more physical damage before dispersing, it would also lose much of its symbolism as resistance to the convention itself, and fail to fit in many people's narrative of what constitutes resistance. At the most basic level, there would be fewer cameras. <a href =>Obviously this is a good thing for at least a few reasons</a>.

Local communities could up and leave, and let visiting anarchist protesters fend for themselves. While I'm not in Chicago now, there were rumors that this is what many chicago anarchists did. This partially removes the possibility of a centralized hub for the cops to raid when repression time rolls around - of course they'll still arrest somebody, but without meetings to infiltrate and grandiose statements about burning the city down by enthusiastic organizers, there's less of a chance of the charges sticking. This may minimize disruption of communities and projects by the convention, but it might also lead to people saying your city "doesn't know how to throw down" on It's up to you if you care about that, though.

As an alternative to leaving, we might also turn to non-public organizing when it comes to actions targeting conventions, and make serious efforts to prevent infiltration and subsequent arrests. This, of course, is a trade-off. In Saint Paul and Philadelphia, open organizing by anarchists preceded efforts by liberal organizers. As a result, diversity of tactics and solidarity with militant actions were enshrined in the <a href=>Saint Paul Principles</a> and <a href=>Pittsburgh Principles</a> - somewhat of a blow to liberal "peace police" types. On the other hand, scuffles with window-protectors are substantially less dangerous than infiltrators, and it may be pragmatic to simply not show up to pre-convention organizing meetings.

In the Twin Cities, there was an eventually successful movement to prevent the 2012 DNC from being held in Minneapolis - protesters (some anarchists and some others) picketed meetings, got press time, made dramatic statements on-air about marching thousands of people to the gates of the convention center, etc. Luckily for Minnesota , the convention didn't come. For anarchist communities already targeted by repression, this is one example of a way to handle conventions, if only as an attempt to avoid disruption of our communities.

Solidarity to all those targeted or imprisoned in relation to summit protests!

- Anon

[1] - There are obvious problems with the paradigm that places anarchists outside of their local communities as "others" - either a vanguard or a troop of weirdo conspiracists - but in the case of most convention organizing, property destruction, etc, it seems to me that the generalization is mostly functional.


Did anyone that isn't a flaming liberal organize anything for NATO?

yes, the flaming liberalism vs. ritualized stagings of street violence against norms and normative society line was totes ruptured:

I'm impressed! Viva la violence!


While I'm impressed with the audacity and ferocity of this attack, I meant to ask was there any of the on the ground organizing that needs to happen to allow for mayhem to fill the streets? Or has the RNC and G8 charges scared off resistence?

you can organize peaceful protest, but if you try to organize and centrally coordinate mayhem, you will be infiltrated and taken out pre-emptively. CPD's intel gathering is augmented considerably by outfits like NRO and NSA - after all, national security is their *job*.

Lol. This was an ARA action - convenient how there's a total lack of context in the msm article. Try this one instead -

every anarchist out there should watch this video.

the state keeps on doing these entrapment cases.

learn what's up yo!

You're better off torrenting it, agreed it's watch worthy:

Even the almightly NYT OP/ED has seen fit to explore/expose this system:

Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the F.B.I.
Published: April 28, 2012

Just a minor but relevant correction: no one arrested for organizing the Toronto G20 protests (as opposed to those arrested for participating in the protests) is serving "years". The longest sentences are shorter than 2 years, and much shorter than the sentences prosecutors were originally seeking.

and no one was arrested for organizing the pittsburgh G20 protests. and the author seems to mix that city up with Philadelphia later in the piece.

For that matter, none of this stuff is new since Miami; there have been raids, preemptive arrests, and stupid charges leveled against organizers that don't stick at these things for almost as long as people have been doing them. The 2000 RNC resulted in at least one organizer getting million-dollar bail, to name just one example, and there are many many more.

the idea isn't to make charges that stick, it's to break up the organization effort and destroy your capacity to resist before you begin to fight. Catch, hold, and release. It works.

no it does not work. tell my anarchist cousin bruce that.

would depend on how easy it is to spook the resistance, don't you think?

They certainly spooked well enough with Chicago

I think the goal is also to tie up our resources in court fights where the cost to us (lawyers, vegan potlucks, wasted time by committed activists) is greater than the cost to them (which is actually minimal, considering that "prosecuter" is a job description for some folks). They can drag stuff out without having the intention of taking a case to trial, and the movement will be tied in knots for up to a year, because the possibility of jail time is such a big scary thing.

Usually for these summits a lot of cops are taken from a lot of small towns on the periphery of the major city. So, right before, during, and right after the convention - fuck these places up.

Also if other cities staged "fuck up your own city in solidarity with rioting elsewhere" that'd probably get a lot of attention if it happened in a lot of places.

I actually thought that was going to kick off globally during the Dec 2008 Greece riot, but was sad to learn that it didn't.

"Someone you know and maybe trust will turn out to be a cop."

The failure of affinity groups-based organizing.

I told you for years that it's not that "outsider" or "individual" who's a cop, but your much-respected and supported rock star in your gang. But you wouldn't listen, for Steve's sake!

Best way to infiltrate groups: long-term, and preferably in a position of prominence/influence. So quit the tribal/herd mentality NOW, and grow up beyond the gang scheme, while it's still time.

Let me guess, we're all supposed to be joining revolutionary cadre federation organizations instead?

Deep Green Resistance, specifically. You can choose an aboveground OR underground cadre!!!

No. I actually meant quite the opposite. To build loose networks of individuals and groups. Just as more and more are doing these days.

To become individuals again by evolving from the family-like dynamic of the affinity group to the greater human, and animal family.

To sit back into your group bubble is just another form of isolation, while there is always some new perspective waiting for you outside.

There is always the danger of infiltration within organized networks. That is a risk that can only be minimized but should never be thought to be completely avoided.

"I told you for years that it's not that "outsider" or "individual" who's a cop, but your much-respected and supported rock star in your gang"

This is a very good point because many of us still use the socially engineered criteria of who we identify with or decide to trust. It would be significant to keep in mind that sometimes it's the socially awkward, shy and quiet person that would make a strong addition to a crew.

One other point is if street cred is derived from committing illegal acts, isn't it so easy for police to commit minor illegal acts to gain street cred since they know they will not face prosecution?

Of course the flip side is that it is important to know that your comrades will not let you down when things get hot and are not just full of hot air. There should be some indication of some form of commitment, but by what criteria?

Maybe the only person you can really trust is yourself....

Maybe you need to spend time organizing low-key stuff that the state can't afford to infiltrate and see who is still around after a few years. This one undercover joined our group a year in advance of the summit, hung out a lot, bought drinks, drove us around, etc.

I liked the guy well enough but every time he tried to do an action with us or get me to put together some other incriminating thing (ie. buy large quantities through me) I'd play coy because I wanted to see if he'd still be around after the summit.

Of course not, he fucked off after the summit and he got nothing on us.
He DID do a lot of grunt work and buy our drinks for a year though!

hey thats a pretty good result of a run-in with an infiltrator! a model for the rest of us :)

It isn't perfect. I've ran into two informants that are known, several that are suspected, heard the good ole' fashioned "popping" on my line when the le wants you to know they are listening...more than that. I've drawn so much attention to myself I realized that is my waste the time of le. Some people blow up shit...perhaps I'm a waste of time. Drop out of the scene and talk hard, if this is your game. Never plan to do anything and if you do, plan on going down hard for it.

Ha... Being a waste of time cops. Funny tactic!

"Can't stop the boredom!"

"One other point is if street cred is derived from committing illegal acts, isn't it so easy for police to commit minor illegal acts to gain street cred since they know they will not face prosecution?"

That's my problem with small attacks like window-smashing. But when you get to have serious attacks like smashing and burning and entire place, my paranoia quickly fades away, For a reason, because it's quite obvious that cops won't get you to cause real damage to the very interests they are protecting, unless they got that weird double-personality complex.

I remember having been pressured by some guy (a black bloc who didn't have his face covered) in a protest not long ago, to throw a rock at a bank window, and it felt strange. So I was like "Just DIY, bro!". And he went away and did nothing, I think. And the piece of rock he had was also really too thin to do any real damage to the window.

That's how important that is to think for yourself.

important to think for yourself, definitely.

but why the fuck would someone's paranoia go away when they've done something that could get them put away for longer? sure, maybe you find out that yr buddy wasn't a cop, but... if you weren't sure already, don't you think it is kind of a risky way to "reassure yourself"? lol

also several people have been snitched out / turned in years later for big shit.

Anarchy: the betrayed betray and are betrayed again. End of story.

this: and consider appealing to the conditions ordinary people experience in their own lives rather than breaking windows and setting fires. The Polish Solidarity movement destroyed the police state there in 1989, and they didn't use violent tactics

"No man can withstand the assault of laughter" - Mark Twain

Solidarnosc did not destroy the state, among other things it helped bring about a regime change ie restoration of the state. i'm not dissing their steez but one of their main organizers did become president.

Before you can think about strategy, you have to think about what your goal is, regardless of how you organize. If in Chicago, it's your intent - and the intent of lots of other people - to shut down the meeting, then standing head to head with riot police and getting beaten up, gassed, shot with rubber bullets and so on is simply a failure.

You lose and they win - the meeting did not get shut down. To shut down the meeting, you have to get a sufficient number of people *through* the police lines to penetrate the further lines of police which will be present, and immobilize the police with their own zip ties and disarm them.

You have to consider what will aid your progress and what will impede it. Setting fires will limit you in that you will not be able to move in the direction of the fire, and breaking windows takes time and physical effort which could be conserved for the effort to reach your intended target.

In this scenario, being arrested is not an option, it's a win/lose situation, one side or the other will prevail, and it had better be you, because the consequences of failure will be life or death.

So far, all of these meetings have proceeded without interruption, meanwhile anarchists and black bloc people have been beaten, arrested and had their resources drained by the system. It's not exactly a strategy that leads to any sort of victory.

You really must think hard whether you want to continue with this goal-less, strategy-less method of "action" or find some other means to achieve your goal, because the current method isn't getting you any good results, it's just more riot porn on TV for the masses to consume.

btw, nonviolent civil disobedience is a similar failure, because it's still people who are getting beaten, arrested and having their resources drained by the system, and the system is unaffected by their "action".

Not true. Seattle was majorly disrupted, that's why it's the famous high-water mark.
As for the dynamics around summits today, the goal is only signs of resistance.

"Propaganda of the deed" in the absence of large cells of hardened fighters that would be necessary to break police lines.
You must be new here. Disgruntled member of the armed services perhaps?

look at how many people there are in the crowd as opposed to the number of police. Sure, batons can and gas and the like can be a force multiplier, but not if you close the distance between their ranks and yours, and use some armor under your clothing - plastic from trash cans to protect abdomen and kidneys and on the sides of the neck, helmets - even cheap construction helmets, that sort of thing, maybe a small handheld shield to protect against flying projectiles. Sitting there and taking it like a punching bag is ridiculous, those cops really have fun taking out their aggressions on people, a lot of those guys join because they enjoy beating people up.

If you're not a "hardened fighter", then what exactly do you think you're doing there in the first place? Seeking martyrdom? Trying to impress girls? What's up with that?

Expressing discontent with the syste.? Im sorry, I fight for the revolution but have to work a j-o-b...and shit, you know, to feed my ass.

Ever actually been to one? Look around your average north american street demo and count the people who have intentionally spilled someone's blood before. Yeah ... actual fighters are a small minority round here.

The more I experience it, the more I think it's worthless and even a pain to bring your portable armory unless you're gonna make a sit-in or something of the likes.

And even in that perspective, there's tons of crazy stuff that can be used, like huge balloons, huge tire tubes, foam mattresses, even these street trash bins can be effective.... especially when put on fire!

Collective training and self-discipline are above that, no matter what. You can easily break up any police line, even make them run away, with proper group tactics and some fireworks. Plus, fireworks are cheap, relatively safe, and can be found anywhere.

But the best is just what BB does most of the time... dodge police violence by redirecting it on the very society they defend.

Posted by le.

how is oakland supposed to be a counter example? #OO is practically a summit protest w/o a summit

exactly..."without the summit"

it still hasn't removed what's problematic about the model. it isn't really community driven, it is activist based.

*not from oakland*

Is it though? Or are the activist/non-activist lines blurring? All the communiques written here seem to think that it is, and things like the port shutdown actions would make me think that as well. I heard a lot of shit about random "citizens" breaking windows and looting post Oscar Grant, which sounds to me like militant attacks are taking place outside of explicitly political communities.

*still not from oakland*

Such is the nature of specialization of labor - we create a special "activist" class to fight for causes while we... live out our lives.

Go fuck yourself pig

Wait... you mean "non-lives"! Got that.

Or perhaps you love so much to wake up at 6 in the morning for your daily routine of slavery... dunno. I heard there are also guys who are happy in jail...

"All the communiques written here seem to think that it is,"

i guess if i was unable to grasp reality, i might find the radical echo chamber to be a passable substitute. 'ordinary people' looted during seattle 99 too, are you going to tell me that was not an activist event?

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