Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Cops Break up NSA Spying Press Conference

June 14, 2013 By: Mel Category: Change

I interrupt my regularly scheduled post to share what happened today at a tiny press conference and rally about the NSA spying.

Capital police decided that we did not have the proper permit to be there. The speakers kept speaking. The cops warned us that we would be arrested. They then started harassing media. Cameras started shutting down. Speakers started cutting their speeches short. After the second warning, as I don’t think anybody was prepared for arrest threats at a press conference, everyone split up so that no group was more than 25 people.

The last protest that I went to was in Guatemala. You know that Central American country that people refer to as “third world” or “developing.” The place many people only know about because of civil war and genocide. That place. Well, I imagine we had a permit for being in the central plaza. But I seriously doubt we had a permit to block the road and door in front of the presidential palace and then drum annoyingly.

Amazingly, nobody was threatened with arrest.

Aren’t you estadouidenses glad that you live in a country that is a beacon of freedom for the world?

I’m tempted to go into a long diatribe about the protest, prisons, criminalization, social control, and our shrinking spaces. But I’m going to have to save it for a day when I have more time. I will just say this.

There are risks involved with doing the right things, the necessary things. The system has been increasing those risks. I think that means we are all going to need to so some serious thinking about what risks we can take and then be willing to take them. Because their plan can backfire. They are counting on us to not make sacrifices. But if we all take the risks, thoughtful and strategic risks, then we can crash the justice system and all the other systems too.

If nothing else, we should all probably prepare to be arrested for pretty much anything that we do from now on – press conferences, walking downtown, doodling on a school desk,  wearing a thong bathing suit, asking to see a warrant, being too poor to pay a debt, your kid skipping school

I mean if we are going to get arrested for that kind of bullshit anyway, shouldn’t we at least make it worthwhile?

Protest: What’s the Point?

April 06, 2012 By: Mel Category: Seeking

Last month there was a silent march in protest of multiple acts of violence against GLBTQI people in DC. Not everyone was happy that it was a silent march. As one friend put it, hate crimes are an effort to silence. A silent march seemed to be the opposite of what should be done. I think the organizers lost quite a few people by making it a silent march.

Not everyone who objected to silence decided not to come to the march. Quite a few people, many of them with Occupy DC, decided to go. They also decided to ignore the organizers’ (and many of the participants’) desire for a silent march. They got loud. It so happened that I was at the back of the silent marchers and directly in front of the occupy people. I guess I didn’t look scruffy enough to be an occupier, so one of the organizers asked me to move up with the marchers and help them separate themselves from the occupiers.


Honestly, I have mixed emotions about the silent march. They lost people because it was silent. But I also know at least one person who did not go because he heard that people were planning on doing their own thing, regardless of what anybody else thought. So loud and confrontational lost people too.

If people thought that a silent march was bullshit, why not organize something different at another time? Why try to hijack another event? Or at least, if you are going to be more confrontational, do it in a clever way. Some of the protesters set up candlelit memorials in the intersections after the marchers went by. Still silent, but also more confrontational.

More importantly, the route of this march went through Columbia Heights and Shaw, some of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in this city. Many of those marchers were the very middle class white people who are part of that gentrification. The whole time we were walking I was wondering how those longtime residents were feeling about this march of gentrifiers. And I was wondering how many of those marchers had made real efforts to build relationships with the people who had been in that community their whole lives.

I am ambivalent about protests and marches. Too often they seem to be about nothing more than venting or warm fuzzies, rather than actually building the relationships that any real movement for change needs to be based on. Too often they seem to burn bridges rather than build them. There is a great list of questions over on Waging Nonviolence that people should ask themselves after actions. I can’t remember ever sitting in a room with people who actually asked them.

If you want real change, you have to have a significant number of people on your side. At the very least, you need most people not to want the cops to bash your head in. You don’t get that by completely disrespecting people. Is it really a great surprise that hardly anyone shows up when cops come to demolish occupy camps? People are only going to show up when they know you, when they like you (or at least respect you), when they know you have their back too.

I’d love for some of the people who showed up for that march to answer the questions I linked to above. I suspect the results would be sad – on all sides.


Protest Tomorrow!!!

January 23, 2012 By: Mel Category: Change

Sorry I’ve been missing in action for a bit. Lots going on. I’ll fill you in soon. But if you are in the DC area, come out to Tivoli Square tomorrow for an anti-prison protest. I’ll be there.

More info here


Occupy DC Targets Wells Fargo and the Prison Industrial Complex

December 03, 2011 By: Mel Category: Criminalization, Seeking

Yesterday, the criminal justice committee of Occupy DC organized on action targeting Wells Fargo’s involvement in private prisons through their investments in the GEO Group. Pics of the march and pre-march are below.

I loved this action for a whole lot of reasons:

  • The injustice system is one of the most hideous manifestations of the racist, exploitative, militarized state. It needs to be central.
  • Focusing on Wells Fargo’s participation highlighted how the prison system is central to economic exploitation.
  • The action focused on the local effect of a national problem. They highlighted GEOs involvement in Rivers Correctional Institution, a place that locks up thousands of DC residents for mostly parole violations.  In a city where 3 out of 4 black men will end up in prison this is an issue the local community has a real personal stake in.
  • Related to the above, the march was not focused on congress or the Whitehouse.
  • Most of the slogans were radical. There was a bit of “money for education not incarceration” and some stuff about private prisons (as though state prisons are great). But most of the chants and comments were along the lines of
Wells Fargo, Tear it Down. The Whole Damn System, Tear it Down.
This is not a protest. This is a boycott.
Get your money out of Wells Fargo. Stop Funding your own incarceration.
We don’t want to reform Wells Fargo. We want to shut it down.
They get bailed out. We get locked up.
Incarceration is the new Jim Crow.

P.S. I also attended the general assembly. Since I criticized them a bit the other day for the lack of women speaking at the GA, I have to give some props for that not being the case at all last night.

Wells Fargo Action – Images by Pinorrow Photography

The Occupation of Franklin

November 19, 2011 By: Mel Category: Seeking, Stratification

The Franklin School building in DC was occupied today.

The building was being used as a homeless shelter until 2008, when the city closed it down just before winter. The plan was to sell it to a developer who would turn it into a boutique hotel. Homeless advocates, including Eric Sheptock, fought like hell to stop the closure. You can read his story here.

It took about three hours for the police to pull the occupiers out of the building and haul them off. Until then, supporters did what they could to rally the crowd, document what was going down, and block the exits to make it a little more difficult for the police to get them out – at least not without witnesses.

It makes no sense, in a city with one of the highest populations of homeless people in the country, to have a building sitting vacant while people are sleeping on the streets.

A passerby, who asked us to explain what was going on, agreed. He was “one of the lucky ones” who was able to get a home voucher before they cut the local rent supplement program. He commented that, in other cities, people said occupiers were violent, inferring that was not the case tonight. I said, “They always make it look like that.” Let’s see if that will be the case tonight.

Below are some pics I took.

* Update: Read the statement from Free Frankin DC

Occupying the Narrative

November 10, 2011 By: Mel Category: Conflict, Seeking

Kids Protesting on Bank Transfer DayDemonization of the occupy protests is in full swing now. The violence in Oakland was just what some people needed to start the narrative change that we are beginning to see. The Washington Post is running stories about occupy violence. Fox news accused occupy protestors of knocking over an old lady. (Complete bullshit, of course.) There are stories about evil drug users and sexual violence galore. Or you could just read The Heritage Foundation’s little wrap up.

I was going to write about how frustrating it is when things are going well and some buttheads come along and get into unwise confrontations, losing us immeasurable good will.  I was going to ask how we can keep clueless people or sabateurs from doing things that media will use to demonize everyone. Basically, I was going to write about how to deal with bad actors.

But that is a trap. Those things need to be discussed. We need to keep people safe, preferably without involving police. We need to block people who are out to sabatage us. But we are never going to be able to control everyone’s actions or prevent people from doing dumb things near us or in our name. We will never be able to control the national media narrative. It isn’t in their interest. Chris Hedges is right.

It is vital that the occupation movements direct attention away from their encampments and tent cities, beset with the usual problems of hastily formed open societies where no one is turned away. Attention must be directed through street protests, civil disobedience and occupations toward the institutions that are carrying out the assaults against the 99 percent. Banks, insurance companies, courts where families are being foreclosed from their homes, city offices that put these homes up for auction, schools, libraries and firehouses that are being closed, and corporations such as General Electric that funnel taxpayer dollars into useless weapons systems and do not pay taxes, as well as propaganda outlets such as the New York Post and its evil twin, Fox News, which have unleashed a vicious propaganda war against us, all need to be targeted, shut down and occupied. Goldman Sachs is the poster child of all that is wrong with global capitalism, but there are many other companies whose degradation and destruction of human life are no less egregious.

So instead I would like to focus on some of the things we are doing right, the things we need more of.

The picture above comes from what might be the cutest protest ever. A bunch of parents took their kids out for bank transfer day. Adorable children holding handmade signs telling banks to share is total win. And bank transfer day itself was a resounding success.  650,000 people joined credit unions last month, more than all of last year. Even some rich people are dumping BOA.

How many people in this country are paying rent to slumlords for unsafe buildings without heat and water? This Harlem resident marched down to Occupy Wall Street and got a cadre of protesters to help her stand up to her landlord. That is some real shit that people can get behind.

Far too many people don’t have homes at all. Many of them are staying in the same parks with occupy protesters – like this guy who seems to have found a new mission in life. As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out, living on the street has made homelessness a little more real for many of the participants. But some are taking it to the next level and actually trying to help protect the homeless encampments that are always under attack.

There are whispers of debt strikes beginning. Bloods and Crips are now best friends. Man’s best friend is running things in Denver.

But I think my favorites have the be the direct actions in response to foreclosures. This woman re-entered her foreclosed home, with the help of some activists. Occupy Atlanta moved their encampment to a police officer’s home that is about to be foreclosed upon. And the occupy foreclosures movement looks poised to keep growing.

The media is unlikely to pick up on these things with as much relish as they do violence. So we are going to have to publicize the shit out of them ourselves. But when you have gorgeous visuals like those kids marching, or heartstrings-tugging personal stories about elderly people without heat, it isn’t very hard to get people interested in the story.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to talk about how to deal with violence and sabatoge. It is especially important for us anarchists, who have to deal with much of the bullshit being done in our names (or at least blamed on us). It wouldn’t hurt for us to post videos of clean-up crews going in and fixing what was broken or shots of us blocking people from doing dumb shit. But we can’t let that become the predominant narrative.

So lets take the focus off of the encampments and the minor skirmishes between protesters and police (by which I do not mean ignore police brutality). Let’s get the focus back on the real conflict – everyday people banning together to fight powerful forces that they can’t stand up to on their own.

The Big Show

April 08, 2011 By: Mel Category: Politics, Seeking

Why do anarchists spend months organizing protests around events like the G20 or the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings?

I’ve heard some reasons over the years, but none of them are very convincing to me. Some people say that we need to publicly protest those institutions of power. Some say it is about not letting them take over our cities and streets. Some see it as an opportunity to build solidarity with like-minded people. Some people just get a rush from confrontation and smashing things up.

But aren’t there better ways to do all those things?

Maybe the question isn’t so much what we are doing there. Maybe the question is, what are they doing there?What are those meetings for anyways? Decisions are made long before those meetings happen, as anyone who has to lobby the key players weeks or months in advance can tell you. Very little of import actually occurs there. It is mostly a media opportunity for glorified PR people/presidents/head hoohas.

Honestly, I am beginning to think that these events are planned just for us. Clearly, a media event is for public consumption. But I mean that these events have the added benefit of keeping activists occupied with shit that won’t make a difference. It makes us predictable.

If we are spending months organizing protests at the G20, we are taking that time away from organizing in our communities. If we are spending our money on international flights, we can’t use it for other things. If we focus all our energies on the World Bank and IMF only twice a year, then we leave them to perform business as usual every other day. It is a game. We are playing by their rules. Why are we letting them set the schedule?

And don’t even get me started on the grand excuse these meetings are to give shit tons of money to the “security” apparatus.

These events attract media. If we think we can get productive media attention, that media attention might do something, then maybe it is worth a little energy. But otherwise, shouldn’t we use our time more wisely? Shouldn’t we at least be surprising?

Liberalism and Disempowerment

May 24, 2010 By: Mel Category: Politics, Seeking, Stratification

By now you have surely heard about Rand Paul’s interview with Rachel Maddow.  Paul slimed around for twenty minutes trying not to admit that he does not support the provisions in the 1964 Civil Rights Act that made it illegal for a private business to discriminate.

On Rachel’s next show, she had a segment on why Rand Paul’s views were so important to get out in the open.  You can watch it here.

Around minute 6, Rachel made the claim that the civil rights act “ended, for example, Woolworths lunch counter practice of only serving white people.”

Actually, no it didn’t.  Four college students – Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond –  took it upon themselves to take that lunch counter.  And a whole lot of other people sat at that counter day after day until Woolworths changed their policy.

You can watch a segment about the Woolworth protest here (excuse the hokey, travel channelish soundtrack).

It wasn’t government action that integrated Woolworth’s, it was direct action.

One of the most frustrating things about the liberal narrative is that it gives presidents, congress, and the supreme court credit for things that they have no business getting credit for.  Elites did not lead the way.  They did things kicking and screaming, if they did them at all, after massive mobilization by everyday people.

And the worst thing is not even that people like Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond don’t get credit for what they do.  The worst thing is that the liberal narrative makes it appear that our only option is to vote every four years and spend the rest of the time screaming at our television screens.

It makes you feel powerless.

But we aren’t any less powerful than Ezell A. Blair, Jr., Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond.  They didn’t wait for the government to ride in on a white horse and save the day.  They didn’t sit at home watching Tweedledee Democrat and Tweetledum Republican play political ping pong.  They made it happen.

Want jobs?  Take over a factory.  Neighborhood school an underfunded prison that isn’t teaching you shit?  Start your own damn school.  Pissed that banks are raking in millions while they foreclose on people’s houses?  Put your body between those houses and the sheriffs trying to evict those people.

And the next time someone tries to tell you that those benevolent politicians swooped in and saved black people, remind them who the real heroes are.