Anarchists: Government Shutdown Doesn’t Go Far Enough–Make the Shutdown Comprehensive and Permanent

Once again, the threat of a government shutdown looms over the capital. Politicians exchange barbs, pundits wag their fingers and wring their hands, and the rest of us get up and go to work like we do every day. The news anchors demand to know: whose fault is it? What labyrinthine eleventh-hour compromise will they devise to avoid it? The rest of the nation yawns with indifference.

But we want answers! What if the government does shut down? Who will funnel our taxable income to military contractors? Who will tap our phones and read our email? Who will raid 7-Elevens and deport people? Who will indoctrinate our children? Who will stop people from driving while black? Who will build the wall?

It doesn’t sound all that bad, actually. Unfortunately, the “shutdown” they’re talking about won’t interrupt any of those things. Compared to what this country needs, it’s just a bit of theatrics.

So here’s a different proposal for how to respond to the imminent shutdown of the US government. Let’s make it comprehensive and permanent.

What better way to cut through “partisan gridlock” than by abolishing both parties outright? Seriously, what have they ever done for us? Two gangs of thieves and swindlers competing to boss us around and bleed us dry. It’s hard to imagine a single problem that any of them can resolve better than we could on our own. They themselves are responsible for most of the issues they claim to address.

In recent years, societies around the world have discovered that the absence of a functioning government has produced remarkably little change in their daily lives. Since its prime minister quit a year ago, Northern Ireland has functioned without its elected assembly doing a thing. In Belgium, in 2010 and 2011, 589 days passed without the establishment of a government with no noticeable change in everyday life for most Belgians. Similar interludes went by in Spain and Germany with similarly insignificant consequences.

This goes to show how much of a joke democracy is in postmodern capitalism. Cybernetic bureaucracies keep capital and goods flowing while states do little more than skim off the top and perpetuate violence against us. For the time being, it would be too controversial to entrust all that violence to private security, so they make us pay for it and call it a public service. But hardly anyone is still pretending that governments exist to care for human beings.

In this context, the dazzling and infuriating spectacle of partisan politics is basically a shiny distraction, while the corporations and functionaries who make most of the choices that shape our lives with no oversight from us continue redesigning the world to facilitate their profits. Voting is little more than an anachronistic ritual reinforcing this illusion. It’s not good news that the average citizen of a Western democracy is so alienated from practical self-determination that he barely notices how irrelevant the only avenue for “participation” has become.

Elsewhere across the planet, however, we can find much more inspiring examples of society without government. In the autonomous cantons of Rojava, using a system of popular councils organized from the bottom up in neighborhoods and workplaces, Kurdish and other peoples are taking control of their lives and making decisions collectively on the most local level possible, with federated structures coordinating to address matters of collective concern. In stark contrast to the everyday indifference that is so prevalent in US democracy, these and other scattered instances of life without a centralized state offer far more robust and authentic model for self-determination than anything you can find on an American ballot.

But what about the impact a government shutdown will have on our lives? Won’t we suffer the loss of critical services? Sure, we all gripe about Washington and hate politicians, but when it comes down to it, don’t we need them?

Government shutdown? A good start.

According to most summaries of the shutdown scenario, most of the actually useful services we get from state bureaucracies or federal programs—Social Security, food stamps, the US Postal Service, free school lunches—will still continue. If we look at the history of these programs, this isn’t surprising. Many of them were modeled on autonomous initiatives started by powerful social movements; the government needs these programs to keep us from getting used to relying on ourselves. FBI chief super-villain J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panthers’ breakfast program “the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for”; the US Department of Agriculture was forced to start the School Breakfast Program in response, which now feeds 13 million students every day. Early anarchist Lysander Spooner created an independent postal system; in response, the government passed a law granting the US Postal System a monopoly, although Spooner forced the USPS to lower its prices to levels that ordinary people could afford. Advocates of “the people’s pension” deserve the credit for social security. If the government weren’t hogging all the resources, we might discover that we could maintain these programs better through grassroots organizing.

Now let’s look at the government functions that will actually be impacted under a shutdown.

We might not be able to get new passports. But believe it or not, for the vast majority of human history, people traveled freely without them. The problem here is simply that the shutdown doesn’t go far enough: if we could shut down government agencies and governments completely, we wouldn’t need passports in the first place. Tens of millions who lack citizenship status or proper visas could visit their families without fear of losing their homes. Dissidents could leave North Korea and Iran. People with arrest records could travel to Canada from the US without some arrogant fuckhead in a uniform talking down to them. You could go anywhere on earth without having to fill out a form or apply for a visa.

The shutdown could delay tax refunds. But the IRS will still continue collecting taxes—they just won’t give us back the pittance beyond what they claim we “owe.” Here’s a simple solution: they should stop stealing from us in the first place! It would be better if we could devote our resources to addressing problems directly, not sending checks to Washington so that nepotists and their cronies can buy more pork barrels and cruise missiles. Not only will this save us money—once the Pentagon budget runs out, it’ll make nuclear war a lot less likely. If you’ve been paying taxes in hopes of providing support to the retired senior citizen down the street, you could just give her the money directly instead of giving it to a bunch of bureaucrats taking up a collection in her name.

The fancy dining hall at the House of Representatives during the 2013 shutdown. If the shutdown went further, we could open it up to some of the 41 million people who struggle with hunger in the United States while politicians fatten themselves at our expense.

Federal courts might close if the shutdown lasts longer than ten days. That’s a good start, but it would be better if they shut down for good! Two and a half million people are in prison already—as many as were in the gulags under Joseph Stalin. Mass incarceration is one of the most serious problems in the US today and one of the key linchpins of white supremacy and class domination. Judges and prosecutors should stay home for good; they can count themselves lucky no one gave them a taste of their own medicine. With the foot of the criminal legal system off our necks, we could focus on rebuilding our communities and resolving our problems ourselves without police or prisons. For people who grew up with no models for conflict resolution except for running to the biggest gang in town, this is hard to imagine, but there are plenty of alternatives.

National parks might be shut down. Wait a minute—why would we need politicians and bureaucrats to enjoy the wilderness? It would take about an hour to crowdsource the basic maintenance functions of cleaning and upkeep for facilities. Then we could enjoy all of these supposedly public resources, free of charge.

Last time there was a shutdown, in 2013, one enterprising individual took over mowing the lawn around the Lincoln Memorial. This worked out fine—until the US Park Police interceded and forced him to stop. Obviously, the shutdown didn’t go far enough if there were still police on the job to keeping people from learning to take care of problems themselves!

Direct action gets the goods! A volunteer mowing the lawn around the Lincoln Memorial during the last shutdown.

Let’s be clear: the ones who are most worried about a government shutdown are the politicians themselves. Not for the reasons they claim—that one gang will lose votes to the other gang, or that the paychecks of federal workers will be delayed. No, they’re worried because a real shutdown could just show how pointless and parasitic their entire protection racket is. They’re worried that if we get a taste of what it’s like to organize collectively to solve our problems, we’ll never want to stop. Then they would be permanently out of a job.

As anarchists, we’ve got a hunch that people can get along just fine without a government. We’re convinced that everything the government does is either harmful and should be abolished outright (borders, prisons, armies, surveillance) or can be done better by groups of people working together freely (social welfare, preserving wilderness, coordinating production and distribution, collective self-defense).

Don’t confuse us with the so-called libertarians who laud the shutdown because they want the capitalist market to reign supreme over everything else. There’s no way that the prevailing regime of inequality and private property could exist without the coercive force of the state to enforce it. As anarchists, we’re in this for freedom—not the freedom to accumulate profit and property at everyone else’s expense of others, but the freedom to flourish in tandem with everyone, to pursue the concert of our interests without coercion.

Are you with us? Regardless of what the politicians do in the coming days or years, let’s work together to shut down the US government once and for all. Then we can get on with our lives.

J20, 2018: A Week of Solidarity and Outreach–Resources, Listings, and More

A year ago, January 20 saw massive mobilizations and clashes around the United States, from Washington, DC to Seattle, Washington. This year, in conjunction with our call to action “Build the Base, Take the Initiative,” organizers in more than 50 cities are hosting outreach and solidarity events. This is an excellent opportunity to support J20 defendants from Trump’s inauguration, Water Protecters from Standing Rock, and the grassroots projects that offer a foundation for our movements.

Here, we present some materials you can use for outreach and education, resources about previous counter-inaugural struggles, and a full listing of the events taking place this coming week.

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Show Educational Videos!

Antifa, a new documentary about anti-fascist struggle in the US that is appearing to observe J20.

Black Snake Killaz, a feature-length documentary film about the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Trouble, a monthly show from our friends at sub.Media exploring a variety of forms of grassroots resistance.

Print out Fliers and Zines to Share!

Here are some materials you can print to share with people this week, at J20 solidarity events or elsewhere:

General Purpose Flier about the J20 Charges

Three Posters about the J20 Charges

A Comic Zine about the J20 Case

Whoever They Vote For, We Are Ungovernable: A history of anarchist counter-inaugural protest

How Anti-Fascists Won the Battles of Berkeley: A Play-by-Play Analysis—An overview of one of the most significant flashpoints of anti-fascist conflict throughout 2017

You can find a lot more material at the Defend J20 site. For general introductory material about anarchism, you can order or print out copies of To Change Everything, which is now available in over 30 languages.

Learn about Previous Counter-Inaugural Struggles

Whoever They Vote For, We Are Ungovernable: A history of anarchist counter-inaugural protest across the decades.

Five Principles of Direct Action: What we can learn from the 2001 inauguration protests.

No More Presidents: A narrative from the 2005 inauguration.

Yes, We Also Protested Against Obama: Video footage from anarchist demonstrations against the 2013 Inauguration.

Making the Best of Mass Arrests: 12 Lessons from the Kettle During the J20 Protests, an instructive reflection on how to respond to mass arrests like the one that swept up over 200 demonstrators on January 20, 2017.


J20 Events on Three Continents: An Overview

Check out itsgoingdown.org and Defend J20 for more listings. If you want us to add your listing here at the last minute, send a frantic email to rollingthunder@crimethinc.com.

On the East Coast

Baltimore, Maryland: Prisoner Letter Writing and J20 Solidarity, Fundraiser

Friday, January 19 at 6 pm, there will be a fundraiser party supporting the legal defense of over 200 people mass-arrested for participating in a march last year at Trump’s inauguration. There will be homemade food, music, and drinks available, with all money raised going towards the legal defense of our arrested comrades.

The same night, January 19, at Spiders House, Reservoir Hill, from 7 to 10 pm, you can also join comrades to write letters to prisoners.

Washington D.C.: Benefit Art and Music Shows

On Friday, January 19, the 411 Collective is presenting DC Rises: A Year of Resistance, an art show to benefit and support J20 defendants and the J20 Legal Defense Donations fundraiser.

On January 20, the Messthetics, Gauche, Bacchae, and Weird Babies will play a J20 benefit show. Doors 6 pm. The show is downstairs at St Stephen; all ages, cohosted by Positive Force DC.

Philadelphia, Pensylvania: J20 Vegan Brunch and Film Screening

North Philly Food Not Bombs is hosting a J20 Vegan Brunch from 10 to 3 pm.

“That’s right, it’s time! Us North Philly Food Not Bombardiers wish to honor the one year anniversary of a day that shook this planet: January 20th of 2017, the day trump seized the mantle of control of this (lol) ‘democracy.’ To oppose trump and his zombies, there were some brave and marvelous souls that took to the streets, galvanized into fierce action, and kicked off a wave of rebellion that has not ceased yet (we hope it never does!). Essentially they put their lives on the line, as hundreds are facing what amounts life sentences for their public defiance.

“We want to offer up another all vegan brunch fundraiser as a means for people to get together, forge bonds and to hold space for this important day. Everything will be completely vegan and delicious. We will invite some other wonderful radical groups into the mix too, there will surely be some fantastic books and art.”

Afterwards, at 7 pm, the Wooden Shoe will host a screening of “Street Politics 101” and “Continuing the Beginning,” a documentary about Nuit Debout and related movements in France.

Worcester, Massachusetts: J20 Workday and Benefit Potluck

On January 20, at Stone Soup, 4 King St, Worcester, we’ll host a workday at the local radical library followed by a J20 benefit potluck. The workday starts at 5 pm; the potluck at 7 pm.

Join us as we gather to put some work into one of our spaces and to reconnect with one another in the face of repression. We will be reorganizing, cataloging and decorating the HX Library. After there’ll be a potluck where funds will be raised for those arrested last year on J20. Please bring some donations if you can for the J20 arrestees. We ask that you label any food for allergens.

New York City, New York: Screening of the Global Uprisings documentary, ANTIFA

On January 26, at 7 pm, there will be a film screening and gathering in support of J20 defendants at Deep Dish TV, 168 Canal St., 6th Fl, New York. The screening is free; donations will go to the J20 defense fund. This is Episode 1 of “We Interrupt This Program,” a new video series produced by Deep Dish TV & Paper Tiger TV.

Ithaca, New York: Community Meal and Tabling

309 N. Cayuga St. Ithaca, NY 14850. On January 20, at noon, Food Not Bombs Ithaca is serving free vegan food and hosting their really, really free store. Ithaca InfoShop will be tabling at the event to raise awareness and support for the J20 defendants. Also, at midnight on January 20, 2018, the newly formed voluntary collective Ithaca InfoShop will launch its website.

Albany, New York: J20 Benefit Show

On January 20, Albany will host “an epic concert with a ton of bands and entertainment and a raffle for great prizes to raise some much-needed funds for the almost 200 brave defendants still facing felony charges and potentially up to 60 years in prison.” Further details to come.

Rochester, New York: Screening of ANTIFA

On January 20, at 5 pm, there will be a screening of the ANTIFA documentary followed by a discussion at the Flying Squirrel Community Space.

Newburgh, New York: Anarchism 101

On January 23, there will be an introduction to anarchism at The Moon Infoshop and Community Space, 188 Liberty Street, Newburgh, New York. Speakers will include folks from The Moon!: Infoshop and Community Space, Hudson Valley Earth First! and Hudson Valley Anarchist Network. Vegan food, tea, and coffee will be available.

At 6 pm at Local Sprouts on 649 Congress Street, various speakers, distributors, and musicians will host a fundraiser including a film showing.

Brattleboro, Vermont: Benefit Concert to Defend J20 Resistance

On January 20, 2018, defendants and supporters have organized a benefit concert to defend J20 resistance here in Wantastiquet, so-called Brattleboro, Vermont. More information here.

Washington, DC: Art Show and Punk Rock Benefit for J20

On January 19, a J20 benefit art show entitled “DC Rises: A Year in Resistance” will take place from 4 to 11 pm at the Uptown Arthouse.

On January 20, a benefit show starts at 6 pm at St. Stephen & the Incarnation Episcopal Church.


Richmond, Virginia: Benefit Dance Party

At 8 pm on January 20, at the Crystal Palace, there will be a benefit dance party featuring sets from DJ Cell Saga, DJ Pawn Shop Shawty, DJ Raggamuffin & DJ Marvo, and DJ Double Earth Sign. A suggested donation of $5 will go to J20 legal defense.

Asheville, North Carolina: A Block Party and a Week of Events

In Asheville, we’re kicking off a week of rebellious activities with a block party on January 20 on Haywood Road to share food, fun, and knowledge. This is a free event open to everyone, so bring your friends and let’s talk about where we want to go from here!

From 3-6 pm, the block party will feature workshops at Firestorm Books, including “Uprooting White Supremacy in Appalachia,” an interactive presentation by Holler Network. At 6 pm, there will be a community vegetarian potluck at Firestorm. Workshops will resume at 7 pm, including a presentation by The Callisto Collective. Afterwards, at the Local 604 Bottle Shop, there will be a DJ dance party starting at 9 pm.

The following day, on Sunday, January 21, there will be a Documentary Film Night at Static Age Records. On Tuesday, January 23, there will be a Karaoke Fundraiser at The Lazy Diamond. Finally, on Friday, January 26, the subMedia show “Trouble” will be screened at Firestorm.

Carrboro, North Carolina: Benefit Screening of ANTIFA

There will be a screening of the documentary Antifa at 7 pm at the Recyclery on 108 South Graham Street. All donations will go towards J20 defense.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Punk Benefit Show

On February 2, at the Nightlight in Chapel Hill, there will be a punk show benefitting J20 defendants.

Atlanta, Georgia: Trump Inauguration Protesters Speak out about Repression

A panel discussion at Little Five Points Community Center—L5P Community Center Café—on January 20 from 7-9 pm. Come here from one of the defendants, watch a screening, and join a discussion. Refreshments provided.

Tampa, Florida: A Weekend of Workshops

A full weekend of workshops at 5107 North Central Avenue, Tampa in solidarity with J20 defendants:

January 19

5:00 – 6:00 OpSec

6:00 – 7:00 Against Electoral Strategies

7:00 – 8:00 Marxism

January 20

11:00 – 12:00 Mutual Aid

12:00 – 1:00 History of Anarchism

1:00 – 2:00 Consent and Accountability

2:00 – 3:00 Proletarian Feminism & Practice

3:00 – 4:00 Nonviolent Direct Action Training

4:00 – 5:00 Indigenous Struggles Against Colonization

5:00 – 6:00 The History of the American Indian Movement

6:00 – 7:00 History of Labor

7:00 – Complete; Screening of the documentary Antifa

January 21

3:00 – TBD Radical Kickball Game @ Henry and Ola Park baseball field

Tampa Anarchist Black Cross will have a table for writing letters to prisoners. All donations will go to the fund that helps get defendants housed and reimbursed for their travel to and from court dates in DC.


In the Midwest and the Heartland

Lansing, Michigan: To Live and Love We Must Fight—Solidarity & Defense Winter Conference

On January 19-21, 2018, Solidarity & Defense will host a conference focused on building skills for community self-defense.

Solidarity & Defense is a network of people committed to providing solidarity and defense to communities under attack, organized along directly democratic and participatory lines and independent of all political parties and affiliated groups. The conference will consist of a weekend of workshops and political discussions. On Friday evening there will be a dinner and public panel discussion featuring some of the most dynamic community self-defense projects from around the Midwest. Saturday will be packed with workshops and political discussions, followed by an all-ages hip hop show.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: J20 Benefit Potluck, Karaoke, and Film Screening

On Wednesday, January 16, Steel City Autonomous Movement will host a J20 Defense Benefit Potluck from 6 to 9 pm at the Big idea Bookshop.

On Friday January 19, there will be a Karaoke Benefit for J20 defendants at The Glitter Box Theater, 460 Melwood Avenue.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the National Lawyers Guild has announced a benefit screening of America is Waiting, a documentary about the inauguration protests in Washington DC last January. The event will take place in Pitt Law School’s Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Avenue, in room 107 at 5 pm on January 20. Organizers are asking for a $5 to $15 suggested donation, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. All proceeds will go to the legal defense of protesters arrested at the inauguration.

Cleveland, Ohio: Wandering Aesthetics to host Electric Pressure Cooker Cabaret

Inauguration Protest Station,” January 20, 7:30 pm, Aqueduct Brewing, 529 Grant Street.

Columbus, Ohio: J20 Benefit Show

On January 20 at 9 pm, there will be a benefit show to raise money for J20 defendants.

Denver, Colorado: Punk Against Trump

J20 supporters will operate a literature table at Punk Against Trump at Summit Music Hall. Two dollars of every ticket does to the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

Kansas City, Missouri: A Discussion, Film Showing, and Meal

At the Lucile H. Bluford Branch Library at 3050 Prospect Avenue, Saturday January 20, from 2:30 to 5 pm, we will host a recap of the events of January 20, 2017 and the ongoing legal battle, a free hot meal courtesy of Kansas City Food Not Bombs, a screening of episodes of Trouble (the Submedia documentary series) on state repression and surveillance, and a discussion on the connection to the repression faced in Black liberation movements.

Chicago, Illinois: Bloodfruit Radical Library Grand Opening, Coordinated Banner Drops, Benefit Show

On January 19, we will celebrate the grand opening of Bloodfruit Radical Library and Coffee at 3084 South Lock Street.

Announcing a brand new radical library, coffee shop, and community space at Blood Fruit Printworks in Bridgeport. We will continue to operate the print shop for DIY publishing while adding a library and community space for events. We aim to have a curated collection of around 2,000 books including many self-published and underground titles you won’t find at the city library.

We will be collecting book donations all day. These donations can come in two forms. If you have books that you don’t wish to get back, just drop them by and we’ll do the rest. In addition, we are also inviting people to bring their own personal collection of books into a common space for others to use. We hope to collectivize the care of the space by having a plethora of people add their own books that they love to the collection. They will be archived under your name and if you wish to get them back at any time you can simply take them out.

On January 20, there is a plan for coordinated banner drops to be followed by a punk show benefit for J20 defendants. Meet at 6:30 at BRKWY, banner blitz at 7 pm, group reflections at 8:30, show at BRKWY at 9:30.

Carbondale, Illinois: Build the Bloc—A Week of Events in Solidarity with J20 Defendants

Carbondale will host a week of presentations, music, poetry, and a comedy show to benefit J20 defendants and the wider movement. Events, collective work projects, and shared meals will take place at the Flyover social center, in collaboration with other projects on “the block,” a short block in Carbondale that capitalism left for dead, which comrades and fellow travelers have been working on for years. The week will end with an anti-Trump rally, with a contest for best sign, banner, or puppet depiction of the president.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Anti-facists Unite—Food Not Bombs Meal & Info Picket

A meal, discussion, and table at
6th & National.

Des Moines, IA: J20 Fundraiser/ Solidarity

Wednesday, January 16: WPW presents an evening of J20 solidarity and action. Dress warm. Meeting place TBA.

Saturday, January 20: fundraiser/ outreach booth at the Capital. Iowa Autonomy will be taking up space during the Women’s March IA in solidarity with the J20 defendants to raise awareness, hand out literature, and collect donations for the defendants. Come to the booth / rally in solidarity. Bring your banner and wear all black.


Bloomington, Indiana: Two J20 Benefit Shows in One Week

On Tuesday, January 16, at 8 pm, at the Blockhouse Bar at 205 S College Avenue in Bloomington, Punks Give Back will host a night of music and poetry benefitting J20 defendants based in Indiana.

On January 20, there will be a House Show Extravaganza to benefit the general J20 Defense Fund, featuring hardcore, thrash, and DJ sets!

Fort Collins, Colorado: A Full Week of Events

A week of outreach and solidarity events including a free showing of Unicorn Riot’s “Black Snake Killaz,” a noise demonstration, and many other activities, described in detail on this flier:


Austin, Texas: Pop, Lock, and #DropJ20! A Solidarity Dance Party & Fundraiser

On January 16, at 7 pm, at Casa de Resistencia Books, 4926 East Cesar Chavez Street, C1, Austin, there will be a free screening of two episodes of the subMedia show Trouble. Donations will go to benefit J20 defendants.

On January 20, starting at 6:30 pm and running late into the night, there will be a full night of education and entertainment at Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River Street, Austin.

Join us for a lively fundraiser supporting J20 defendants on the anniversary of the Inauguration Day protests in DC that led to the mass arrest of protestors.

Alexei Wood, a journalist from San Antonio will speak to his experience live-streaming his arrest and subsequent tribulations posed by the prosecution.

There will be music on both stages! With visuals provided by Hyperreal Film Cub, bands will start the night playing on the outdoor stage at 7pm and then we’ll move indoors for DJ performances and dance party to end the night.

Suggested donations will be $5 entry, sliding scale – no one will be turned down for lack of funds.

Collaborators: Hyperreal Film Club, Austin Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), DJ Dada of Chulita Vinyl Club, bands & additional performances TBA.

We will be tabling J20, prisoner support, and anti-repression literature. We’re happy to talk with folks who are new to these ideas & movements!

On January 21, at 6 pm, at Treasure City Thrift at East 7th Street 2142, join a coalition of community and student organizations for a potluck and celebration fundraiser for the J20 defendants. The recently acquitted J20 defendant Alexei Wood will speak; there will also be kid-friendly games and organization tables.

Dallas, Texas: J20 Benefit Show

A night of music, poetry, and literature hosted by the Emma Goldman Book Club.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: “Fuck Trump and His World”

January 20, 4:30 PM, at Boneshaker Books,
2002 23rd Avenue South, a workshop covering the J20 court cases, the history of repression preceding them, and proper security practices, followed by a benefit dinner at another location.

Knoxville, Tennessee: Support the Radical Library and J20 Defendants!

$5-10 donation (sliding scale, no one turned away). Bring books and zines to share and partake in the following activities:

  • Prisoner letter writing

  • Screening of ANTIFA by Global Uprisings

  • Book and zine fair by Knoxville Radical Library

  • Zines, buttons, stickers for sale!

  • Music by Maspeth, Bunny, Erin Laine, Dalton Manning and more

Detroit, Michigan: J20 Rally and March

At Campus Martius Park, 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan—part of a week of action demanding that the J20 charges be dropped.

Salt Lake City, Utah: Demonstration and Letter-Writing Night

On January 20, there will be a demonstration at noon at the Wallace Bennett Federal Building at 125 South State Street in Salt Lake City, observing a year of resistance to Trump. Afterwards, there will be a political prisoner letter writing event at the library in between 700 East and 900 East on 3300 South.

New Orleans, Louisiana

At 6 pm on January 20, there will be a show in a parking lot at a place called Hank’s, expressing support for J20 defendants.


On the West Coast

Seattle, Washington: We Don’t Forget—Rally and Noise Demo in Remembrance and Solidarity

On January 20 at 1 pm, on Red Square at the University of Washington, there will be a noise demo and rally in remembrance of the shooting of a member of the IWW GDC by a right-winger on the UW campus on January 20, 2017, in solidarity with the J20 defendants elsewhere in the so-called United States, and in solidarity with victims of state repression everywhere. A Facebook event can be found here.

Portland, Oregon: Winter Autonomous Convergence

There are apparently plans to take the streets in downtown Portland on January 20 in solidarity with the J20 defendants.

That night, Cider Riot at 807 NE Couch St will host Rock Against Fascism, a benefit concert to raise money for the International Anti-fascist Defense Fund. Performers include Mic Crenshaw (Hip-hop), Chartbusters Portland (Oi!), Glenn Waco (Hip-hop), All Worked Up (Oi!), and Empire Justice (Hardcore/Oi!); DJs from the Bay Area’s Left of the Dial will play the finest of Boss Reggae, antifascist Oi, soul, and punk.

Monday, January 23 from 4–7:30 pm at North Portland Library, 512 N Killingsworth, there will be an assembly to serve as a forum for strategizing and an entry point to get plugged into radical organizing. You can find a facebook page for this here.

San Francisco, California: J20 Get Money – A Benefit for Inauguration Defendants

A benefit at El Rio, 3158 Mission Street, San Francisco, at 7:30 pm on January 20. The evening will begin with a special screening of the documentary ANTIFA, followed at 9 pm by DJs, a photo booth, and merchandise. The DJs include Ambr33zyBA! (FELA KUTCHii), Abrilita (B-Side Brujas), TR4VI3ZA, Lonely Girl, Marvelouz, and Eastside Xicana (Noche Romántica).

Oakland, California: RIOTcon

In Oakland on January 20, RIOTcon (Radical Interactive Open Technology Conference) will take place at the East Bay Community Space. RIOTcon is a new conference seeking to highlight the intersections between radicalism, art, and technology and how to better utilize resources. They are looking for talks from Bay Area-based individuals who want to explore the intersections between artists, radicals, and technologists. To submit a talk, please fill out the form at riotcon.io or send an email to riotcon@riseup.net.

Chico, California: Two Weekends of Events for J20 Defendant Solidarity

On Saturday, January 20, there will be as-yet undisclosed solidarity actions and outreach efforts. On Saturday January 27, at 1 pm, there will be a film screening and fundraiser presenting the new documentary ANTIFA at The Pageant Theater (351 E. 6th St., Chico CA) featuring speakers, discussion, and an AK Press bargain book sale table. $5 – 10 suggested donation (no one
turned away for lack of funds).

At 7 pm on Saturday January 27, there will be a live music fundraiser at Blackbird Bookstore Cafe (1431 Park Ave., Chico, CA) featuring Black Magnet, Bran Crown and Cat Depot. $5 – 10 suggested
donation (no one turned away for lack of funds).

Los Angeles, California: Solidarity Demonstration

A call for a demonstration and banner drop against the J20 charges, LAPD and ICE, Trump, and capitalism on Friday, January 26, at 6 pm, on the Wilshire overpass over I-110, downtown Los Angeles (2 blocks west of Wilshire and Figueroa).

Riverside, California: Tabling

Anti-fascists will be tabling to raise awareness in solidarity with J20 defendants on Mission Inn Avenue on January 20 after the Women’s march.

San Luis Obispo, California: J20 Week of Action

Starting on January 15, there will be a week of action at Cal Poly.

Monterey, California: Letter Writing Night

On January 21, at 7 pm, there will be a letter writing night at Old Capitol Books at 559 Tyler Street to support J20 defendants.

Merced, California: “What Is Fascism” Workshop

Free event and zine, January 20, 1666 North Street, 4:30 to 5:30 pm.

Elsewhere around the US

Even if you can’t organize a massive conference or benefit show, you can still drop a banner, paint graffiti or put together a gathering, however small, to mark the day and create new points of departure for 2018.


Outside the US

Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa-based anti-fascist group No Pasaran will be holding a screening and discussion of the movie ANTIFA at the Garden Spot (329 Bell St. South) January 20 at 6 pm. Vegan food will be provided! The suggested donation is $5.

Stockholm, Sweden: A Week of Events

In Stockholm, Sweden, INFo-44 will host a week with different activities every day, starting on Sunday January 14 and ending on Sunday January 21. There will be self-defense classes, a storytelling session, a film screening, a demonstration, and more. More information here.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

On January 22, 2018, there will be a screening of ANTIFA at Joe’s Garage. Food at 7 followed by the film.

South Korea

Around the last week of January, events will take place in Korea
inspired by the “Build the Base, Take the Initiative” call and the
resistance of our comrades expressed on J20 and many other occasions
last year in the so-called USA. To get in contact with the events and
anarchists in Korea, email 3.1manse@riseup.net.

Confronting Escalating Repression in Germany: In the Aftermath of the G20, a Call for Resistance from the Rigaer 94

Following the popular rebellion in Hamburg during the 2017 G20 summit, the German state has sought to crack down violently on dissent. In August, the police shut down the most widely used German-language platform for radical politics. In September, the neo-fascist party Alternative für Deutschland secured seats in the German parliament. On December 5, police carried out 24 raids on leftist and autonomous infrastructure across Germany, seizing laptops, cell phones, and other means of communication. On December 18, the police published photos of people they accuse of participating in the G20 protests. Four days later, an anonymous threatening letter arrived at various autonomous centers around Berlin. Together, these events indicate a rapid descent towards tyranny. Yet German anarchists are resisting every step of the way. The Rigaer 94, a social center in Berlin, is emblematic of their courageous defiance. Here, we present some background on the Rigaer 94 and share translations of two statements on the conflict unfolding in Germany.

Background: The Rigaer 94

The Rigaer 94 is an autonomous housing project and social center in the Berlin neighborhood of Friedrichshain. The house has been at the center of many conflicts with the police, especially over the past two years. In 2016, the police declared the area immediately surrounding the Rigaer Strasse to be a “danger zone.” This designates a zone in which the police do not have to obey the law, where they may act according to the supposed imperatives of “security.” Berlin police regularly carry out illegal searches and set up control checkpoints in the neighborhood to harass inhabitants of the Rigaer Strasse.

In summer 2016, a 500-officer SWAT team raided the Rigaer Strasse and occupied the building’s social center, The Kadterschmiede. Police held the social center for three weeks. In response to this siege, hundreds and hundreds of luxury cars were burnt in night actions all over Germany. A 5000-person demonstration mobilized people from all over Europe to defend the autonomous center. The demonstration clashed with the police, receiving support from the neighborhood and from autonomous centers across Europe.

The fate of the Rigaer was to be decided in a court battle. Yet on the night before the verdict was to be announced, a car belonging to the state’s prosecutor caught fire. As a result, the prosecutor failed to appear in court the next day. The prosecution thus forfeited the case and the Rigaer Strasse won by default. Since then, the police have tried numerous times to provoke the autonomous center into conflicts.

This statement by the Rigaer gives a more in-depth look at the challenges it currently faces.

5000 people gathered in front of the Rigaer 94 on July 9, 2016 to defend it. The banner on the left reads “Government doesn’t create order—only subordination.”

Rigaer 94: Call for Resistance / Release of Manhunt Photos of Berlin Police

This text appeared in German on December 17, 2017.

The police state has set its forces loose: on Monday, December 18, the police published photographs of the faces of one hundred people who took part in the resistance to the G20 summit in Hamburg. The state has discarded the pretext of criminal prosecution entirely. Instead, it has made a major provocation against our movement by launching a new campaign of repression. This campaign is intended to strike fear into the hearts of those who participated in the G20 summit in order to crush all resistance. We will not be silent about this attack. The task of dragging this society of police collaborators, murderers, and fascists onto the funeral pyre remains before us.

It is clear to every reasonable person that the resistance in Hamburg was necessary. The forces of repression and the right-wing media have failed to reframe the narrative of the outpouring of defiance against the G20 summit. In a country that proclaims itself to be among the most democratic in the world, a country that presents itself as invincible, a country equipped with a sophisticated apparatus of violence, and in the face of enormous risks and serious consequences, tens of thousands of people dared to rise up. A mix of protests and offensive actions turned the summit of the ruling class into a disaster. A disaster for the city of Hamburg and a disaster for the powerful 20 leaders themselves, whose most important meeting now faces an uncertain future.

The summit was also a disaster for the police. In the Kaiser’s Germany, in fascist Germany, and today in democratic Germany, the police have never limited themselves to a merely executive function. They have always served as the front line for this nation of murderers. We all know how deeply anchored the ideology of the police is in our society. A society that threw Rosa Luxemburg’s corpse into the canal; that hunted Anne Frank behind her bookcase, to throw her into the extermination camps alongside millions of other “subhumans”; a society that ends up crowning the German-national military as the resistance1—this is a fascist society. The security apparatus of Germany, which was established during those slaughters and is now used to relentlessly hunt rebels and anti-fascists in the name of the German people, is also fascist. Just a few years after its “liberation,”2 this society and its executives were able to unite in the hunt against communists.

The German security apparatus was refined to perfection when it was used against guerrilla groups like the Red Army Faction, which carried out the long-overdue execution of Hanns Schleyer,3 a member of the Nazi Party. The faces of rebels were posted on every corner on manhunt posters; at every intersection, heavily-armed police maintained checkpoints. The death penalty was re-introduced and the nature of police work shifted. A new social discourse devised by a coalition of media, politicians, and police paved the way for state assassinations, psychological torture, and new special laws to be used against a large part of the population. The police state, still in its infancy when it murdered Benno Ohnesorg4, had to reckon with the permanent threat of insurrection.

Over the years, the German police have developed into a state within the state. Following the end of the urban guerilla groups and the new social movements of the 1980s and 90s, we are confronted with a society that can no longer generate any relevant opposition to the system. Not even when people are tortured and murdered in the bunkers of police stations, like Oury Jalloh from Dessau, who was burned alive by the fascist pigs. At the moment, the only factor inhibiting the completion of this totalitarian police state is its hesitance to scandalize civil rights activists too much. These civil rights activists, who like us are continually deprived of resources and support from civil society, have made their decision—whatever the state does cannot be wrong, whatever the press says is true: resistance is futile.

The time of comfortable protests is long gone. Today, German society has arrived at an extreme it hasn’t reached in over 80 years. Those who resist face the following challenges:

-Mere presence at a demonstration can mean receiving a prison sentence of many years.

-The police can designate zones in which their own laws are valid.

-The police can designate anyone as dangerous in order to lock them up and surveil them completely without approval from a judge.

Already in the lead-up to the G20 summit, sanctions were made against rebels. People who were designated by the police as “dangerous” received notice that they were forbidden to travel to Hamburg. These people were required to sign in every day at the police station while the summit was taking place, and were threatened with fines and jail time if they failed to obey. In a bid to intimidate rebels, police made their surveillance of certain people extremely obvious, not to mention the extensive secret surveillance that surely took place.

During the G20 summit, people undermined police control throughout the entire city of Hamburg, leading to the “adjustment” of citizens’ rights and massive amounts of violence by heavily armed troops of police.

portrait The mass demonstration on the final day of the G20 summit. Such scenes were significant because the image of the Kurdish leader Öcalan is banned in Germany. To see so many people bearing banners and flags with his face was an inspiring confirmation that the state had lost control.

The police activities before and during the summit were not qualitatively new. For many years now, the security apparatus has utilized every major event as an opportunity to mount new attacks on social conventions. What was exceptional this time was the number of attacks and how shamelessly they carried out these attacks against protesters.

What began after the summit was a qualitative leap. Some people invented conspiracy theories, claiming that the riots were carried out by the state in order to draw radical infrastructure into a final repression campaign in which it could be defeated once and for all. This kind of thinking is idiotic. We know precisely that the political disaster we created in Hamburg was desirable for us. In order to end this conspiracy theory, we claim full responsibility for everything that happened in Hamburg: from the first citizens’ protests to the very last stone that flew at the police.

As a part of that radical infrastructure, shortly after the summit we organized a demonstration in solidarity with all of those who were targeted by repression. In the future, we will not shirk our responsibility to take revolt further. Those who can only see state conspiracy behind every act of struggle deprive resistance of all its characteristics; they have no legitimacy to speak in the name of revolt.

It is clear that the state is fighting to ensure that its narrative of the events is the definitive one. It must conquer the narrative as it conquers everything else: our lives and our social structures, the environment and technology. In this battle for capitalist and nationalist ends, the state will always end up demanding fascism. With the same tactics, they try time and time again to delegitimize resistance by branding it criminal, antisocial, and apolitical. For this purpose, the German state can rely on its police, its media, and the German people, as well as its representatives.

It’s difficult to say who is the sleaziest of all participants in this process is. The boss of Soko schwarzer block,5 who would hunt everything he could get his hands on with the same fervor; or the nauseating Scholz,6 who represents the rotten bourgeoisie of Hamburg and their fancy cars; or the representatives of the press who serve to carry out PR work for the police; or the craven police collaborators, who deliver people up to brutal repression with the pictures they took with their cell phones, who would rather march behind every Hitler figure than take their lives in their own hands.

Some laughed at the latest wave of raids, which we saw coming far in advance. Others laughed because they knew that Fabio,7 a nice young man from Italy, would be a problem for the state’s strategy of repression. However, we should not underestimate the police strategy. An essential part of this strategy is to use PR to achieve long-term sovereignty of interpretation over the events in Hamburg.

All the same, who would have thought that so many months later, thanks to their regular appointments with the press, the G20 would still be a top theme on the daily news? And who would have thought that despite having almost unlimited resources at their disposal, their professional press work would fail without our doing anything?

Shoppers experiment with post-capitalist economics during the G20 summit in Hamburg.

For these reasons, and on the occasion of the manhunt for participants in the Hamburg riots against the G20, we want to emphasize anew the importance of our struggle against the state—against fascist organizations like the police, the secret services, and the right-wing structures—and also against the collaborators and informants within the population and the press. Fabio and everyone else who remains defiant in front of the judge are role models demonstrating a dignified approach to dealing with repression. The same goes for everyone who sends messages of solidarity to those targeted by repression, despite the intimidation of the state.

On the occasion of the police manhunt and the state’s call for a new wave of denunciations against 100 people, we have decided to release photographs of 54 police officers who took part in the eviction of the Rigaer Strasse last year. We would be glad to receive any tips, including where these police officers live and where we can meet them in private. Aside from taking part in the eviction, they should also be held responsible for all the violence they unscrupulously perpetrated during the three-week-long siege of our neighborhood in Freidrichshain.

It is important that we stop hesitating and put our strength into mobilizing solidarity and structures that are capable of action. The demonstrations8 after the raids were a beginning. After the next raids, we must become even more numerous. It is important that when all else fails, we take the streets to show our solidarity with all the comrades who are hunted by the henchmen of the ruling class.

So—out into the streets! Determined and angry, despite the repression, we will fight against the ruling order!

Burning barricades erected by demonstrators filled the skyline of Hamburg with smoke during the G20 summit.

Response to the Rigaer 94’s Call for a Police Manhunt / Threatening Letter Received from the Police State

This text appeared in German on December 30, 2017.

On December 22, an anonymous letter was delivered to various locations that the authorities have designated as “left-extremist meeting points.” The nine-page letter, double-sided with three photos on each side, contains threats against 42 people whose full names are listed. For 18 of those people, their photos were taken from the Berlin police department’s records or from people’s ID cards and are accompanied by partly relevant, mostly slanderous commentaries. This information can be directly traced to the data records from the state security departments. In addition, 24 people were named without their photos.

The letter, reproduced below for the sake of documentation, is signed by a fake organization called “The Center for Political Correctness.” The letter claims to be a reaction to the behavior of the radical autonomous house project Rigaer 94: “Your presence annoys an entire neighborhood.” The letter proves that the people who sent it were directly affected by the publication of the Rigaer 94’s call for a manhunt against the police. In the call, photographs of 54 police officers who took part in the summer 2016 eviction of Rigaer 94 were publicly released.

The letter threatens to publish more information about the individuals it targets. It is highly likely that the information and data records listed in this letter were passed on to Nazis. Many Nazi organizations are named in the letter, including “Autonomous Nationalists” and the “Identitarian Movement.” For the time being, we do not know to what extent this personal data has already been sent to Nazis. The letter makes nebulous threats—for example, against people’s cars or families, or that lawyers or investigation committees will become involved. The letter also threatens to send the data records to the police. This particular threat is an alibi that proves the letter’s authorship. An initial evaluation by a number of those targeted by the letter has confirmed that the information can only have been made available to the “scene-aware” state security officers (LKA 5) that work within the Berlin police department. The data records are pulled from approximately the last ten years. We are certain that the letter was created and sent by the Berlin police, since no one else would have access to these photos or the biometric information and investigation files.

The fake moniker reveals more about the authors. “Center for political correctness” is a play on “Center for Political Beauty.” The Center for Political Beauty is a leftist organization that uses publicity campaigns to fight against racism and fascism. Their last action was directed at the Alternative For Germany (AfD, the far-right German party) politician Björn Höcke. Höcke made a name for himself with his pro-fascist remarks about the Holocaust memorial in downtown Berlin: “We Germans, our people [Volk], are the only people in the world that has planted a monument to shame in the heart of our capital.” In addition, he complained about the “stupid” coping policy (Bewältigungspolitik)9 and demanded that the “memorial policy shift 180 degrees.” In order to stigmatize him and the AfD, the Center for Political Beauty secretly rented the empty lot adjacent to Höcke’s home and set up concrete slabs or “stelae” that looked exactly like those of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. They also publicly threatened to publish the results of their 10-month-long observation of Höcke from near his house. From this much, we can conclude that the letter that was sent to us was sympathetically received by the ranks of the Berlin police with their fascist activities and sympathies—to say the very least.

The official Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

Observing the house of the anti-Semitic politician Björn Höcke from the Holocaust memorial set up beside it by the Center for Political Beauty.

The threat to forward the data to extra-parliamentary Nazi organizations such as the Autonomous Nationalists shows that the authors of this letter are actively involved in far-right organizing. Furthermore, sending such a letter demonstrates that the authors have a great deal of confidence in and support from the police department. This is shown not only by the downright fascist ideology that the letter expresses, but also by the means itself. Slander and the sending of anonymous threats are known in all parts the world where political tension is high and regimes entrust their stability to security organizations. These techniques were developed in the 1960s in the US, where the FBI used similar methods to target the Black Panther Party. Named COINTELPRO, this program was exported to all dictatorships. The East German secret service, utilizing their strategy of “decomposition,” employed similar measures.

Cooperation between organized Nazi groups and the police is nothing new. During the siege and eviction of the Rigaer 94 in the summer of 2016, the personal information of people recognized by the police at the demonstrations was leaked to a Nazi blog in the “Halle-Leaks.” In addition, fliers illustrated with SS symbols were distributed in the area expressing support for the police. We also recall the right-wing activist Marcel Göbel,10 whose false testimony about the Rigaer 94 and the Kadterschmiede 11 was enough for the secret service to classify these places as “Autonomous strongholds.”

Lastly, the threatening letter confirms the claim made by the Rigaer 94 in their call for a manhunt against the police: fascist ideology lives inside the police departments, especially the secret services and state security. This is cause enough for us to renew our struggles.

We are not shocked that the police are carrying out this kind of repression. We are talking about the same police that murdered Oury Jalloh. The same police that made headlines throughout Germany because of its contacts with neo-Nazi groups and its escapades with individual Nazis.12 The same police force that let one of their officers be killed in order to prevent the full investigation of NSU activities.13

To everyone involved in our movements: we must prepare for further acts of disinformation, slander, false reporting, psychological and physical attacks, and “inexplicable” fires like the one that occurred in October 2015 at the entrance of the Liebig 34.14 The ones responsible for these acts are members of the Berlin Police department. The police figured out a long time ago that anarchy cannot be fought with legal means; they have decided on a strategy of direct escalation in the conflict with the Rigaer 94.

One final detail: the letter was sent from the post office in Tempelhof-Schoenenberg, the same district as the police precinct. We could never imagine that the police would make such an amateur mistake, even though they tried to conceal traces that would reveal who sent the letter. As can be seen in the photos posted with this statement, we were able to make the fingerprints on the letters visible. To do so, we made a solution composed of ninhydrin, ethanol, and acetic acid. We used a spray bottle to mist the letter and hung it up on a shelf to dry at 80 degrees Celsius. After about 10 minutes, the results were developed, as seen in the photos.

–Some of those targeted by the letter.

The threatening letter delivered on December 22 with the fingerprints on it revealed.








  1. The German military is so unpopular that it has to portray joining the military as an act of “resistance,” as nobody wants to join. The military released a new youtube series which is an example of this. 

  2. The end of World War II and subsequent occupation of Germany by Western powers and the Soviet Union is usually referred to as Germany’s “liberation,” implying that Germany was successfully cleansed of fascism. 

  3. Hanns Martin Schleyer served in the SS during World War II. After the war, he became an important industrial leader in West Germany. The fact that prominent Nazi figures could still hold power after WWII confirms that de-Nazification never took place in Germany. This helps to explain why the RAF kidnapped and murdered Schleyer in 1977. 

  4. The university student Benno Ohnesorg was murdered by German police during a demonstration in 1967. His death was an important moment in the German student movement; the June 2 movement was named after the date of his death. 

  5. Soko Black Block is the official name the German police gave to their campaign of repression against G20 participants. 

  6. Scholz is the Mayor of Hamburg, famous for suggesting that the police give people poison to make them vomit in order to prove that they took drugs. 

  7. An 18-year-old Italian arrested at the G20 and held in prison for 4 months. 

  8. On December 5, police raided several homes belonging to people accused of participating in a black bloc that the police brutally attacked during the G20 summit. Demonstrations took place all over Germany in response to the raids. 

  9. This concept is specific to Germany and means “the politics of coming to terms with the past.” 

  10. Marcel Göbel was a right-wing activist who infiltrated leftist movements. During the summer of 2016, when the Rigaer Strasse was being evicted by the police, luxury cars caught fire every night for months on end to protest the eviction. The police only caught one person committing arson—and that person happened to be right-wing activist Marcel Göbel. Göbel tried to light a poor person’s car on fire to make it appear that leftist activists were indiscriminately burning cars. In fact, left activists only burn luxury cars. After Göbel was arrested, it was revealed that he had worked extensively with the police. 

  11. A social center and event space associated with the housing project Rigaer 94. 

  12. In October 2017, police officers in Rostock came under fire for their involvement in a Nazi plot to murder left-wing activists. 

  13. The National Socialist Underground [NSU] carried out a series of murders between 2000 and 2006, mostly against people of Turkish background. 

  14. – Another leftist housing project in Berlin. 

How Anti-Fascists Won the Battles of Berkeley–2017 in the Bay and Beyond: A Play-by-Play Analysis

The perilous politics of militant anti-fascism defined 2017 for the anarchist movement in the United States. The story in the Bay Area mirrors that of the country at large. It’s a narrative full of tragedies, setbacks, and repression, ultimately concluding with a fragile victory. Yet there was no guarantee it would turn out this way: only a few months ago, it seemed likely we would be starting 2018 amid the nightmare of a rapidly metastasizing fascist street movement. What can anti-fascists around the world learn from what happened in Berkeley? To answer this question, we have to back up and tell the story in full.

Fascists chose Berkeley, California as the center stage for their attempt to get a movement off the ground. The advantage shifted back and forth between fascists and anti-fascists as both sides maneuvered to draw more allies into the fight. Riding on the coattails of Trump’s campaign and exploiting the blind spots of liberal “free speech” politics, fascists gained momentum until anti-fascists were able to use these victories against them, drawing together an unprecedented mobilization. As we begin a new year, anti-fascist networks in the Bay Area are stronger than ever. Participants in anti-fascist struggle enjoy a hard-earned legitimacy in the eyes of many activists and communities targeted by the far right. By contrast, the far-right movement that gained strength throughout 2016 and the first half of 2017 has imploded. For the time being, the popular mobilization they sought to manifest has been thwarted. The events in the Bay Area offer an instructive example of the threat posed by contemporary far-right coalition building—and how we can defend our communities against it.

2016: A New Era Begins

Clashes escalate outside a Trump Rally in San Jose on June 2, 2016.

The clashes between far-right forces and anti-fascists that gripped Berkeley for much of 2017 were the climax of a sequence of events that began a year earlier. On February 27, 2016, Klansmen in the Southern California city of Anaheim stabbed three anti-racists who were protesting a Ku Klux Klan rally against “illegal immigration and Muslims.” The rhetoric of the Klan echoed the same vulgar nationalism that the Trump campaign was broadcasting. Under the banner of the alt-right, many white supremacist and fascist groups began to use the campaign as an umbrella under which to mobilize and recruit. They aimed to build an ideologically diverse social movement that could unite various far-right tendencies within the millions mobilized by Trump. A reactionary wave had steadily grown across the country in the last years of the Obama era. The combination of continued economic stagnation, proliferating anti-police uprisings of Black and Brown people, and rapidly changing norms related to gender identity and sexuality had spawned a violent backlash. This was the wave that Trump rode upon and his campaign had broken open the floodgates.

Trump rallies became increasingly contentious in cities such as Chicago (March 11) and Pittsburgh (April 13) as protesters held counterdemonstrations to confront these open displays of bigotry. On April 28, 2016, small-scale rioting erupted outside a Trump rally in the southern California city of Costa Mesa. The next day, in the city of Burlingame near San Francisco, large crowds disrupted Trump’s appearance at the convention of the California Republican Party, leading to scuffles with police.

Days later, on May 6, a newly-formed fascist youth organization, Identity Evropa (IE) held their first demonstration on the other side of the Bay—an ominous portent of things to come. This initial experiment was organized by IE as a “safe space” on the UC Berkeley campus to promote “white nationalist” ideas and their particular style of business-casual far-right activism. Inspired by European identitarian movements, IE worked to coopt the rhetoric of liberal identity politics and use the contradictions inherent in those politics to build a new white power movement. Their strategy was part of a larger effort across the alt-right to recruit young people and legitimize white supremacist organizing as an acceptable form of public activism. The rally brought together Nathan Damigo, the founder of IE, with members of the Berkeley College Republicans and the alt-right ideologist Richard Spencer, who flew in from out of town to attend. Although the event was barely noticed, the participants declared it a success and a first step towards building a new nationalist street movement.

The most violent clashes outside a Trump campaign rally unfolded in San Jose on June 2. A handful of experienced activists attended the counterdemonstration, but the vast majority of protesters were angry young people of color from the South Bay unaffiliated with any organization. The police response was slow and confused; clashes between the crowds raged into the evening. Photos of people punching and chasing Trump supporters spread online, leading to calls from many on the far right for revenge.

On June 26, over 400 anti-racists and anti-fascists converged on the state capitol in Sacramento to shut down a rally called for by the Traditionalist Workers Party, an Ohio-based neo-Nazi organization. The rally was initially billed as an “anti-antifa” rally organized in response to the protests at recent Trump events. It was also an attempt to build bridges across various far-right tendencies. The majority of the anti-fascists wore black masks; other crews represented various leftist cliques. Together, they successfully prevented the rally from ever starting. Comrades held the capitol steps, chasing off scattered groups of Nazis and alt-right activists.

About three hours after the counterdemonstration began, two dozen members of the Golden State Skins, geared up in bandanas and shields decorated with white power symbols and the Traditionalist Workers Party emblem, suddenly appeared on the far side of the capitol and attacked the crowd from behind. Nine comrades were stabbed, some repeatedly in the neck and torso, while riot police watched impassively. Nearly all those targeted in the attack were either Black or transgendered. Miraculously, all of them survived.

Members of the Golden State Skins attempt to kill anti-fascists in Sacramento on June 26, 2016.

After the bloody clash, many people urgently felt the need for a new politics of militant antifascism. Over the preceding decades, one rarely heard the term antifa among anarchist and anti-capitalist movements in the Bay Area. Previous generations of anti-fascist and Anti-Racist Action (ARA) organizing in Northern California were largely situated within subcultural contexts. Much of the work these activists accomplished in the 1980s and ’90s focused on kicking Nazis out of punk and hardcore scenes.

The events in Sacramento helped usher in rapid transformations of the local anarchist movement. A network of comrades formed Northern California Anti-Racist Action (NOCARA) to research and document increasing fascist activity across the region. Other crews linked up to practice self-defense and hone their analysis in the rapidly shifting political terrain. Antifa symbols—the two flags and the three arrows—quickly became as ubiquitous as the circle A in the Bay Area anarchist milieu. Some lamented this as a retreat from struggles against capitalism and the police into a purely defensive strategy singularly focused on combatting fringe elements of the far right. But the majority understood it as a logical step necessitated by the rising tide of fascist activity around the country and world. They aimed to situate an anti-fascist position as a single component of the larger struggles against capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy that comrades had been engaged in for years. Most participants had cut their teeth in various rebellions and movements in the Bay area over the preceding decade, including Occupy Oakland and Black Lives Matter. They saw antifa as a form of community self defense against the violent reaction to those struggles for collective liberation. Many were also eager to use anti-fascism as a means to open a new front against white supremacy and the state.

On November 9, the night after Trump’s electoral victory shook the world, a march of thousands followed by the most intense night of rioting in recent memory took place in downtown Oakland. Fires broke out in the Chamber of Commerce, the Federal Building, and the construction site of the new Uber building. Angry crowds of thousands fought police with bottles, fireworks, and even Molotov cocktails as banks were smashed, barricades blocked major streets, and tear gas filled the air. Other cities across the country also saw significant unrest; rowdy protests in Portland, Oregon lasted for days.

This made 2016 the eighth year in a row that serious rioting took place in Oakland. 2017 would end that pattern. The locus of street conflict in the Bay was about to shift up the road to the neighboring college town of Berkeley.

Starting the Year off with a Bang

Thousands swarm San Francisco International Airport to protest Trump’s “Muslim Ban” on January 28, 2017.

The tone for 2017 was set on the cold morning of January 20 in Washington DC. As mainstream media pundits nervously reiterated the importance of a peaceful transition of power, a black bloc of hundreds chanting “Black Lives Matter!” took the streets to disrupt Trump’s inauguration. In the course of the day, hundreds were arrested, a person in a black mask punched Richard Spencer as he tried to explain alt-right meme Pepe the Frog, and video of the incident went viral.

That same evening in Seattle, Milo Yiannopolous spoke on the University of Washington campus as part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour. Milo had made a name for himself over the previous year peddling misogyny and Islamophobia in his role as tech editor for Breitbart News under the mentorship of Steve Bannon. He had become a leading spokesperson for the alt-right auxiliary known as the alt-lite. The logic behind his tour was similar to IE’s strategy of targeting liberal university enclaves using a provocative model of far-right activism rebranded for a millennial audience.

[Hundreds turned out(https://www.thestranger.com/open-city/2017/01/23/24818869/what-really-happened-at-the-milo-yiannopoulos-protest-at-uw-on-friday-night) to oppose Milo’s talk in Seattle. As scuffles unfolded outside the building, a Trump supporter drew a concealed handgun and shot Joshua Dukes, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, in the stomach. Milo continued his talk unconcernedly as the critically injured Dukes was rushed to emergency care. Fortunately, he survived, though he spent weeks in the hospital.

Despite the unprecedented degree of tension in the air, Oakland was quiet on J20. A few small marches, mostly departing from high school walkouts, crossed downtown. But by nightfall, the rainy streets were empty; hundreds of riot police deployed for the anticipated unrest packed up their gear to go home. This new year was not going to play out along familiar lines.

The next day, millions across the country marched against Trump in the Women’s Marches, many of them wearing pink “pussy hats.” Oakland was the location of the main Bay Area march and tens of thousands walked through downtown in a staid and orderly display of disapproval. Later that week, Trump signed executive order 13769 suspending US refugee resettlement programs and banning entry for all citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including people with valid visas. By the following afternoon, a spontaneous and unorganized national mobilization was underway as tens of thousands swarmed the international terminals of every major airport in the country to oppose the “Muslim ban.” Loud marches and blockades continued for two days inside San Francisco International Airport.

In many ways, the airport protests marked the high point of the year in terms of mass action that undermined the regime’s ability to carry out its agenda. The mobilization immediately disrupted the implementation of the executive order and provided momentum to challenge it in the courts, where legal maneuvers continued throughout the rest of the year. Nevertheless, the protests did not coalesce into a more sustained sequence.

The Real Dangerous Faggots

Sproul Plaza outside Milo’s cancelled event on February 2.

On February 2, Milo arrived in Berkeley for the final talk of his tour, hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans. Days earlier, his talk in nearby UC Davis had been successfully disrupted by student protesters; all eyes were now on UC Berkeley campus.

Berkeley is an upper-middle-class city of 120,000 bordering Oakland, defined by the prestigious flagship campus of the University of California system that sits adjacent to downtown. The city’s history as a national hub of countercultural movements and far-left political activism stretches back to the early 1960s. In 1964, student radicals returning from the Freedom Summer campaign in Mississippi set up tables on campus to distribute literature about the growing Civil Rights movement. The administration cracked down on their activities, sparking a wave of civil disobedience that came to be known as the Free Speech Movement (FSM). In many ways, it was the beginning of the student activism against racism and imperialism that proliferated across the country throughout the 1960s. Yet by the turn of the new millennium, Berkeley could be more accurately described as a hotbed of liberalism, not radicalism. The legacy of the FSM had been successfully coopted and rewritten by the university administration for their prospective student marketing materials. Students can now sip cappuccinos as they study for exams in the Free Speech Movement Café on campus.

On the south edge of campus sits Sproul Plaza, site of some of the most important demonstrations of the FSM and subsequent waves of activism. As the sun set on Sproul that Thursday evening, between two and three thousand students, faculty, and community members filled the plaza in a rally against Milo, the alt-right, and Trump. Layers of fencing surrounded the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union as platoons of riot police watched the chanting crowd from the balconies of the building and the steps leading down to the plaza.

Milo’s talk was about to start. Despite the large protest, it appeared that the massive police presence would enable it to proceed without a hitch. Then a commotion on neighboring Bancroft Way drew the attention of the crowd. A black bloc of roughly 150, some carrying the anarchist black flag and others carrying the queer anarchist pink and black flag, had just appeared out of the neighborhood and was busy building a barricade across the main entrance to the student union’s parking garage. As the barricade caught fire, the bloc surged forward to join the thousands in Sproul.

The sound of explosions filled the air as fireworks screamed across the plaza at the riot cops, who hunkered down and retreated from their positions. Under cover of this barrage, masked crews attacked the fencing and quickly tore it apart. Thousands cheered. Police on the balconies unloaded rubber bullets and marker rounds into the crowd, but ultimately took cover as fireworks exploded around their heads. With the fencing gone, the crowd laid siege to the building and began smashing out its windows.

Antifascists rip down fences on UC Berkeley campus on February 2.

“The event is cancelled! Please go home!” screamed a desperate police captain over a megaphone as the crowd roared in celebration. A mobile light tower affixed to a generator was knocked over, bursting into flames two stories high. YG’s song “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump) blasted from a mobile sound system as thousands danced around the burning pyre. Berkeley College Republicans emerging from the cancelled event were nailed with red paint bombs and members of the Proud Boys, the “Western Chauvinist” fraternal organization of the alt-lite, were beaten and chased away. Milo was escorted out a back door by his security detail and fled the city. A victory march spilled into the streets of downtown Berkeley, smashing every bank in its path. Milo’s tour bus was vandalized later that night in the parking lot of a Courtyard Marriot in nearby Fremont.

The cover of the next day’s New York Times read “Anarchists Vow to Halt Far Right’s Rise, With Violence if Needed” below an eerie photo of a hooded, stick-wielding street fighter in Berkeley. “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted that morning before threatening to withdraw federal funds from UC Berkeley if the university could not guarantee “free speech.” Milo had been stopped and militant anti-fascism was now a topic of national conversation.

But a confused controversy over free speech was just beginning. Liberals quickly fell into the trap set by the alt-right. UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich, who had been Secretary of Labor under Clinton, went so far as to embarrass himself by groundlessly claiming that “Yiannopoulos and Brietbart were in cahoots with the agitators, in order to lay the groundwork for a Trump crackdown.”

From organizing “white safe spaces” to pretending to represent a new free speech movement, the ascendant fascists understood that the hollow rhetoric of liberalism utilized by hacks like Reich could be weaponized against anyone opposed to white supremacy and patriarchy. Liberal enclaves were especially vulnerable to this strategy. They had become the chosen terrain on which 21st-century American fascism sought to step out of the internet to build a social movement in the streets.

Meanwhile, Milo’s days were numbered. Despite liberal commentators’ assertions that paying attention to Milo would only make him more powerful, Milo’s career imploded two weeks later. Under the intense scrutiny that followed his spectacular failure in Berkeley, a conservative social media account circulated footage of Milo condoning consensual sex between underage boys and older men. His invitation to speak at the American Conservative Union’s annual conference was quickly rescinded, as was his book deal with a major publisher. The next day, Milo was forced to resign from Breitbart. While emblematic of the rampant homophobia of the right, none of this had anything to do with his views on sex. After Berkeley, Milo appeared to be an increasingly controversial liability that conservatives could no longer risk associating with.

A Repulsive Rainbow of Reaction

Based Stickman (left) leads the goons on March 4.

While many celebrated Milo’s downfall as a blow to the alt-right, various far-right and fascist cliques hastened to take advantage of liberal confusion around the emerging free speech narrative.

On March 4, modest rallies in support of Trump occurred across the country. In the Bay Area, vague fliers appeared calling for a Trump Rally in downtown Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. There was considerable confusion among local anti-racists and anti-fascists over who had called for the rally. Many assumed it was just right-wing trolling that would never materialize in public. Nevertheless, various small crews of anarchists, members of the leftist clique By Any Means Necessary, anti-racist skinheads, and an assortment of unaffiliated young people converged on the park to oppose any attempt to hold the Saturday afternoon rally. They found a bizarre scene that few could have previously imagined.

A grotesque array of far-right forces had assembled from across the region to celebrate Trump and defend their ability to propagate various forms of nationalism, xenophobia, and misogyny. One man in fatigues and wraparound sunglasses carried a III% militia flag. Another man with a motorcycle helmet, tactical leg guards, and a kilt sported a pro-Pinochet shirt depicting leftists being thrown from helicopters to their deaths. Still another right-wing activist happily zipped around on his hoverboard while taking massive vape hits and live-streaming the event via his phone.

Many in the right-wing crowd were not white. The alliances being formed through public activism had brought together a range of fascist tendencies, some more interested in defending violent misogyny or building an ultra-libertarian capitalist future than promoting white power. MAGA hats and American flags were everywhere as the crowd of nearly 200 attempted to march into downtown Berkeley. Fistfights broke out, flags were used as weapons, and pepper spray filled the air as anti-fascists and others intervened to stop the march. A masked crew of queer anti-fascists dressed in pastels, calling themselves the Degenderettes, used bedazzled shields to defend people from the reactionary street fighters of this strange new right-wing social movement. Chaotic scuffles and brawls continued off and on for three hours.

Riot police located around the perimeter of the park made some targeted arrests; yet as in Sacramento, they largely avoided wading into the melee. Ten people were arrested altogether, from both sides of the fight. One of these was alt-right sympathizer and closet white supremacist Kyle Chapman. Chapman had helped form the vanguard of the right-wing brawlers throughout the day. He wore a helmet, goggles, and a respirator while carrying an American flag shield in one hand and a long stick as his weapon in the other. News of his arrest combined with footage of his assaults immediately elevated him to celebrity hero status within the online world of the alt-right and alt-lite. Memes of Chapman went viral under his new nickname, “Based Stick Man.”

Tactically speaking, there were no clear winners in Berkeley on March 4. But the nascent fascist street movement was energized and ready for more. Anti-fascists had underestimated the momentum of this new far-right alliance and were quickly trying to figure out how to play catch up.

On March 8, a group of revolutionary women and queer people in the Bay Area organized a “Gender Strike” action in San Francisco as part of the national “Women’s Strike” planned for International Women’s Day. The strike was called for as a means of moving beyond the liberal feminism of January’s massive Women’s Marches against Trump. From Gamergate trolling to Trump’s gloating over his sexual assaults, from the Proud Boy’s valorization of traditional family values to the bizarre right-wing alliance manifesting in the streets of Berkeley, the rise of neo-fascism was being fueled by misogynists intent on preserving and expanding patriarchal power relationships as much as it was being fueled by white supremacists. The organizers of the strike aimed to connect radical tendencies within the growing feminist movement with various anti-racist and anti-fascist struggles. Nearly a thousand protestors marched on the downtown Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in a demonstration of support for San Francisco’s sanctuary city status and solidarity with those targeted by surging xenophobia. An even larger crowd of Women’s Strike demonstrators marched in the streets of downtown Oakland that evening.

The Alt-Right Strikes Back

DIY Division (left) and other fascist thugs on April 15.

Two weeks later, on Saturday, March 25, over two thousand Trump supporters held a “Make America Great Again March” in the southern California city of Huntington Beach. Marching with the large crowd was an imposing squad of athletic white men clearly looking for a fight. These were members of the openly neo-Nazi group known as the DIY Division or the Rise Above Movement. When a handful of anti-fascists attempted to disrupt the march, this squad assaulted them and beat them into the beach sand. The fight was broken up and the anti-fascists fled as the crowd joined the DIY Division fighters in chanting “Pinochet!” and “You can’t run, you can’t hide, you’re gonna get a ’copter ride!”

To the horror of many in the Bay Area, another alt-right demonstration in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park was announced for April 15. Billed as a “Patriots’ Day Free Speech Rally,” it featured a lineup of speakers flying in from out of town. As the date grew closer, it became clear that every crypto-fascist wingnut, weekend militia member, millennial alt-right internet troll, alt-lite hipster, civic nationalist, and proud neo-Nazi from up and down the West Coast wanted to attend. The growing movement got a critical boost when the Oath Keepers militia announced two weeks ahead of time that they would be mobilizing from across the country under the name “Operation 1st Defenders” to protect the so-called “Free Speech Rally.” The Oath Keepers are a right-wing militia composed of active duty and veteran military and police officers that claims to have 35,000 members. The “operation” was to be led by Missouri chapter leader John Karriman, who oversaw the armed Oath Keeper operation to protect private property during the Ferguson uprising of 2014. Oath Keepers’ founder Stewart Rhodes would also be on the ground.

Bay Area anarchists met regularly during the weeks leading up to April 15 in hopes of developing some kind of strategic response to what was shaping up to be the most important showing yet of this far-right popular movement. Many comrades believed it was necessary to find a new approach in order to avoid spiraling into a violent conflict with an enemy that was better trained and better equipped than anti-fascists and anti-racists could ever be. A general plan was hashed out through meetings and assemblies that prioritized reaching out to the broader left and other activist circles in hopes of mobilizing large numbers of radicals who could drown out the alt-right rally while avoiding the kind of conflict that would strike the general public as a symmetrical clash between two extremist gangs. There was no specific call for a black bloc, which by this time had largely become synonymous with militant antifa tactics. Instead, fliers and posters began to circulate promoting a block party and cookout that could occupy the park at 10 am with large crowds listening to music and speakers before the “Free Speech Rally” started at noon.

Early in the morning of April 15, these plans collapsed disastrously. Dozens of Oath Keepers in tactical helmets and flak jackets established a defensive perimeter before sunrise alongside riot police who sectioned off various zones of the park with fencing and checkpoints. The organizer of the rally, the Oath Keepers, and the police had coordinated for weeks ahead of time.

Riot police surrounded comrades arriving in the park for the counter-demonstration; they confiscated trays of food for the cookout, musical instruments, flags, and signs. Police intervened to stop small scuffles as members of the DIY Division, in town for the rally from southern California, began to exchange taunts with anti-fascists. As noon approached, the 200 or 300 anarchists and anti-fascists who mobilized that day realized with terror that their attempts to reach out to other activists had fallen on deaf ears. They were alone, badly prepared for a fight, and were quickly becoming outnumbered by hundreds and hundreds of right-wing activists led by a street-fighting fascist vanguard and protected by a disciplined patriot militia.

Chaos erupted as the first speakers at the rally began to address the MAGA hat-wearing crowd inside the Oath Keeper perimeter. In a desperate attempt to give momentum to the demoralized and scattered anti-fascists, a crew with a mobile sound system in a street next to the park began blasting “FDT” to the cheers of many counterdemonstrators. People coalesced around the sound system and began moving around the edge of the rally. Some threw M80s into the park; others tried to breach the fencing. Most simply tried to stay together.

Chaos erupts outside the Free Speech Rally in Civic Center Park on April 15.

The police withdrew from the streets as fascist squads of young men emerged from within the rally to go on the offensive. Bloody fights broke out. Kyle Chapman, flanked by similarly geared-up brawlers including one man wearing a Spartan helmet, led a series of forays that split the crowd and left comrades bleeding on the ground. In one such attack, an anti-fascist was beaten by masked white men and dragged behind enemy lines to be stomped out. It was only through the intervention of the Oath Keepers and others functioning as “peace police” for the alt-right rally that the beating was interrupted; the comrade was shoved back across the skirmish line into the hands of friendly street medics. During the short pauses between clashes, fascists chugged milk and screamed as they pumped themselves up for the next assault.

Though outnumbered, anarchists and anti-fascists fought as best they could. Many Nazis and their sympathizers left that day bruised and bloodied. But the counterdemonstrators could barely hold their own against the fascist street fighters, let alone the Oath Keeper presence maintaining the interior perimeter. The rally of hundreds continued uninterrupted. As fatigue set in, the fascists made their move led by Chapman, members of DIY Division wearing their signature skull bandanas, and members of IE including Nathan Damigo. They blitzed the remaining counterdemonstrators and pushed them away from the park through a cloud of smoke bombs and into the side streets of downtown. A cautious retreat became a hasty run as the remaining anti-racists and anti-fascists were chased off the streets by Nazis. The fascists had won the third Battle of Berkeley.

Kyle Chapman, DIY Division (right), and Identity Evropa (far right) prepare for their final offensive of the day on April 15.

The fallout began immediately. Emboldened by the victory on the ground, an army of alt-right internet trolls on 4chan’s /pol thread and elsewhere began a doxxing witch hunt to identify all those who had opposed their shock troops in Berkeley. Within hours, they had used footage to identify a woman who had been brutally beaten by Damigo and others during the final assault of the day. Louise Rosealma had previously worked in porn; a misogynistic campaign of harassment against her began immediately. Oversized posters showing her naked next to Damigo’s smiling face with the words “I’d hit that” soon appeared on the streets of Berkeley.

Eric Clanton, a Diablo Valley College professor, became another doxxing target. Trolls claimed to have identified him as the masked anti-fascist caught on camera hitting a man in the head with a bike lock. The man on the receiving end of this blow wore a “Feminist Tears” button and had been seen attacking people alongside members of DIY Division throughout the battle. Eric received a slew of death threats; his online accounts were hacked and angry calls poured in to his employer that would eventually cost him his job.

On April 23, Kyle Chapman formalized his new role as leader of the militant vanguard of the alt-lite. He announced the formation of the “Fraternal Order of Alt Knights,” which was to function as the “tactical defensive arm of the Proud Boys.” Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys and co-founder of Vice Magazine, had helped promote the “Free Speech Rally” and had welcomed Chapman to his show multiple times.

On April 27, McInnes joined another far-right rally in Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. The rally had been organized to coincide with Ann Coulter’s visit to UC Berkeley, which she cancelled at the last minute. Nonetheless, a large crowd of Trump supporters, fascists, and reactionary goons of various stripes flocked to Berkeley that day to get their piece of the action. They found themselves unopposed. Anarchists and anti-fascists were still licking their wounds; they had collectively decided to avoid a confrontation that could lead to another painful defeat like the fiasco of April 15. Later that night, the windows of the Black-owned Alchemy Collective Café were shot out. The café is located just blocks from Civic Center Park and its windows had been displaying posters in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and indigenous struggles.

A bullet hole in the window of the Alchemy Café on April 28, the day after another far-right rally in Berkeley.

Soon after, Eric Clanton was arrested by Berkeley Police in a house raid and charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon. During his interview at the police station, the detective expressed appreciation for 4chan’s /pol forum and informed Eric that “the internet did the work for us.” Eric’s case is pending and he faces years in prison.

The Turning Point

Solidarity demonstration with Charlottesville, August 12.

In chess, a player is said to “gain a tempo” when a successful move leaves their units in a more advantageous position while forcing their opponent to take a defensive move that wastes time and derails their strategy. The growing far-right social movement had gained a tempo at the expense of anti-fascists during spring 2017. The February victory against Milo and the alt-right in the first days of the Trump presidency had played an important role in disrupting attempts to normalize a dangerous new form of far-right public activity. Each attempt that fascists made to materialize in public risked extreme conflict. But anti-fascists’ success had helped to spawn an ugly reaction, which anarchists and other militant anti-fascists were unable to handle on their own.

There was nothing normalized or “respectable” about the armored and belligerent fascists who were determined to mobilize in Berkeley. Yet on a tactical level, they had proven they could leverage the necessary resources and foot soldiers to hold the streets in enemy territory. Anti-fascists had been forced into a downward spiral of responding to each new move without a strategy of their own. Paranoia, anxiety, and self-criticism characterized the local anarchist movement during late spring and early summer.

Yet important changes were underway. April 15 had caught the attention of many Bay Area activists who had remained outside the fray thus far. They were not convinced by the “free speech” rhetoric that had confused so many liberals. Militant anti-fascists had no interest in giving the state additional repressive powers to criminalize or censor speech. That was never what this struggle was about. Confronting fascist activity in the streets to stop its normalization and proliferation is a form of community self-defense. Increasing numbers of anti-racists understood this. Bay Area movement organizations such as the prison abolitionist organization Critical Resistance, the Arab Resource Organizing Committee, white ally anti-racist groups such as the Catalyst Project and the local chapter of Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), and the Anti-Police Terror Project, who had played a leadership role in the local Black Lives Matter Movement, began to work with those who had been in the streets throughout the first half of the year to build a coordinated response.

Many of these groups had previously been at odds with anarchists. Some of the most bitter disputes revolved around issues of identity and representation within the various social movements of the preceding decade. Many anarchists rejected most forms of identity politics after seeing them used time and again by reformist leaders from marginalized groups to manage and pacify antagonistic movements. Liberal city officials, organizers of non-profits, and some social justice groups had regularly dismissed local anti-police and anti-capitalist rebellions in Oakland and elsewhere as the work of white anarchist “outside agitators” corrupting otherwise respectable movements led by people of color. This paternalistic and counter-insurrectionary narrative intentionally obscured the diversity of participants in these uprisings and erased their agency.

Things had begun to change in 2014 as anti-police rebellions spread across the country and the forces of racist reaction mobilized in response. Despite unresolved tensions, the anarchist movement played an important role in helping sustain struggles against white supremacy and other movements of oppressed people. Increasing numbers of activists and movement organizations supported the uprisings and understood the necessity of working together as part of a united anti-racist front. This convergence helped lay the groundwork for the unprecedented alliances that arose out of anti-fascist organizing.

The urgency of building these coalitions was tragically underscored on May 26, when a white supremacist cut the throats of three people who had intervened to stop him from harassing a young Muslim woman and her friend on a commuter train in Portland, Oregon. Two of the men died. The attacker, Jeremy Christian, had attended Free Speech Rallies organized by the Portland-based alt-lite group Patriot Prayer. At his arraignment, Christian yelled “Get out if you don’t like free speech… Leave this country if you hate our freedom—death to Antifa!”

A few weeks later, on June 10, thousands of anti-racists and anti-fascists in Seattle, Austin, New York, and elsewhere successfully mobilized against a day of anti-Muslim rallies attended by various groupings of neo-Nazis, militia members, alt-lite activists, and alt-right activists. During the Houston rally, scuffles between patriot militia members and an alt-right activist attempting to display openly fascist placards exposed growing cracks within the far-right alliance that had been built up through the spring.

On July 9, the growing anti-fascist network in the Bay Area held a packed forum in the Berkeley Senior Center, blocks from the site of the spring’s clashes. A range of speakers from the coalition helped educate the hundreds in attendance about the rising tide of white supremacist and fascist activity as well as the necessity of organizing for community self-defense. The crowd left the forum energized and eager to mobilize.

Another round of alt-right rallies was on the horizon. Many hoped that this time the response would be different. Patriot Prayer was calling for a rally in San Francisco on August 26 and a “Rally Against Marxism” was planned for the familiar battleground of Berkeley’s Civic Center Park on the following day. As the end of summer approached, fascists across the country made it clear they aimed to double down on their offensive. When a reporter for the New York Times asked Nathan Damigo about IE’s goals for UC Berkeley during the new school year, he laughed and responded, “We’ve got some plans.”

Before any of this could unfold, events on the other side of the country changed the course of history.

The first step of this renewed fascistic offensive was a mobilization in Charlottesville, Virginia promoted throughout the summer as a rally to “Unite the Right.” Building on their successes in targeting liberal enclaves over the previous months, alt-right leaders including Richard Spencer and Nathan Damigo aimed to take their movement-building to the next level by forging an alliance with Southern white supremacists under the banner of their rebranded far-right activism. Charlottesville is a liberal college town that, along with other cities throughout the South, had been planning to remove monuments celebrating the Confederacy. Spencer had previously led a small torch-lit rally in Charlottesville on May 13 to protest the proposed removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. The August 12 rally was supposed to be the turning point that could transform the young movement into an unstoppable reactionary force under the cover of the Trump regime.

On the evening of August 11, a surprise torch-lit demonstration on the University of Virginia campus attended by hundreds of white supremacists gave the impression that this turning point had arrived. Footage of fascists surrounding and attacking outnumbered anti-racist demonstrators at the foot of the statue of Robert E. Lee spread around the country, provoking terror and urgency in equal measure.

Yet the following day turned out to be a historic disaster for the fascists. Anarchists and anti-fascists managed to interrupt the fascist rally, ultimately forcing police to declare it an unlawful assembly. The white supremacists retreating from the streets of Charlottesville knew that they had lost: their rally had been cancelled and the media was turning on them. They had failed to create a situation in which the volatile white resentment they drew on could be gratified by a successful show of force. That is why James Alex Fields, a member of the fascist organization Vanguard America, plowed his car into a crowd of ant-fascists that afternoon, killing Heather Heyer and grievously injuring 19 others.

Fascists had sought to obtain the upper hand in the media narrative by presenting their opponents as enemies of free speech. But after “Unite the Right,” the alt-right was inextricably linked with images of armed Klansmen and Nazis carrying swastika flags. The connection between far-right activism and fascist murder had become too obvious for anyone to deny. Charlottesville immediately became a rallying cry for an emerging broad-based anti-fascist movement that mirrored the microcosm of cross-tendency networking unfolding that summer in the Bay Area.

The heroes of this story are the anarchists and other militant anti-fascists who put their bodies on the line to throw the “Unite the Right” rally into chaos. Grotesque images from the streets of Charlottesville on August 12 showed armored fascist street fighters engaged in combat with outnumbered anti-fascists. These delivered a fatal blow to the alt-right’s stated goal of using the rally to legitimize the popular movement they hoped to build. Anti-fascists had forced the alt-right to show its true face; the results were catastrophic for the movement’s future. If the brutality of April 15 forced the Bay Area to reconsider far-right propaganda about “free speech,” August 12 in Charlottesville did the same thing for the whole country.

Resistance movements in the Bay Area are always strongest when they are not alone. When rebellions in Oakland, Berkeley, or San Francisco are simply militant outliers or exceptions that prove the rule, they are ultimately isolated and neutralized. Comrades in the Bay are most effective when their actions are a reflection of what is happening elsewhere around the country. The events in Charlottesville kicked local anti-fascist coalition-building into high gear. Within hours of Heather’s murder, nearly a thousand anti-racists and anti-fascists gathered in downtown Oakland and marched to the 580 freeway, where they blocked all traffic and set off fireworks in a display of solidarity with comrades in Charlottesville. Many drivers waved and raised fists in support.

Solidarity with Charlottesville demonstration shuts blocks the 580 freeway in Oakland on August 12

Over a hundred solidarity demonstrations took place around the world over the following days. Many targeted Confederate monuments in the South. On August 14, demonstrators in Durham, North Carolina pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier. Meanwhile, the Three Percenters Militia, which had deployed fully-armed platoons as part of the Unite the Right rally, issued a national stand-down order stating, “We will not align ourselves with any type of racist group.” Infighting between various far-right tendencies blaming each other for the disaster reached a fever pitch.

The national discourse around militant anti-fascism that had begun in response to the events in DC on January 20 and Berkeley on February 2 shifted dramatically. After Charlottesville, anti-fascists were suddenly riding a tidal wave of support from the left and many liberals. Cornel West, who had attended the counterdemonstration with a contingent of clergy, pointedly stated on the August 14 episode of Democracy Now, “We would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the anti-fascists.” Traditional conservative leaders such as Republican senators John McCain and Orin Hatch even lent tacit support to anti-fascists as they went on the offensive against Trump. Mitt Romney weighed in on August 15, tweeting, “One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.” By August 18, Steve Bannon, the most powerful and visible face of neo-fascism within the Trump regime, was forced out of the administration in an apparent act of damage control responding to the growing crisis. Anti-fascists were once again in control of the tempo.

The Final Battle of Berkeley

Black Bloc helps settle the score in Berkeley, August 27.

Far-right activists from the Bay Area who had attended the Unite the Right rally returned home to find they had lost their jobs. Fascist podcast personality Johnny Monoxide was fired from his union electrician job in San Francisco after posters appeared at his workplace outing him as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi sympathizer. Cole White, who had assaulted people in Berkeley alongside Kyle Chapman and others throughout the year, was fired from a Berkeley hot dog stand after being outed by the @YesYoureRacist twitter account for attending the torch march.

By mid-August, a complex network of spokescouncils, coalition meetings, assemblies, and trainings were bringing together a diverse range of activist, left, and anarchist tendencies in the Bay on a nearly daily basis to prepare for the alt-right rallies of August 26 and 27. Honest conversations about how to allow for a diversity of tactics while respecting different risk levels and different vulnerabilities forged an unprecedented level of trust and solidarity. On August 19, in Boston, Massachusetts, over 40,000 counterdemonstrators confronted a few dozen alt-right activists and Trump supporters, including visiting alt-lite celebrity Kyle Chapman, who were attempting to host another “Free Speech Rally.” This was the largest demonstration against fascism and the alt-right in the US throughout 2017. It was another sign of the turning tides. In Laguna Beach, just down the coast from where 2000 Trump Supporters had marched with DIY Division in March, a small “America First” rally against immigration was vastly outnumbered by 2500 anti-fascists and anti-racists.

Morale was high among Bay Area anti-fascists and anti-racists as the weekend rallies approached. Local graffiti crews lent support, spreading a campaign of writing anti-Nazi and anti-Trump messages in cities around the region. Various local businesses announced that they would not serve alt-right rally attendees while opening their doors to offer spaces of refuge for anti-fascists. Calls to action emerged from almost every single Bay Area activist and movement organization. A common thread in many of these calls was a respect for different approaches to confronting fascism and a commitment to “not criminalize or denounce other protesters.”

Saturday’s alt-right demonstration was planned for San Francisco’s Crissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. On the eve of the rally, Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson announced the event was cancelled due to safety concerns. Instead, Patriot Prayer planned to hold a press conference across the city in Alamo Square Park.

Despite the apparent change of plans, over a thousand anti-racists and anti-fascists converged on Alamo Square the next day. Among them were members of the ILWU and the IBEW, Johnny Monoxide’s former union. This labor contingent had mobilized to support the counterdemonstration and to make it clear that fascists would not be tolerated in their ranks.

They found the park completely fenced off and occupied by hundreds of riot police, but no sign of Patriot Prayer or other far-right activists. Gibson and others including Kyle Chapman had retreated to an apartment down the coast in the city of Pacifica, from which they issued a statement over Facebook blaming city leaders and antifa for their own failure to hold a rally. It was becoming clear that their movement was imploding and the real obstacle to their rally was the potential of an embarrassingly low turnout. A colorful and celebratory victory march took the streets of San Francisco, making its way towards the Mission district. Throughout the rest of the day, anywhere far-right activists were sighted, counterdemonstrators swarmed the location and chased them off. Late in the day, Gibson and a handful of others made a surprise photo-op appearance in Crissy Field. A large crowd of counterdemonstrators chased them to their cars and they fled.

The “No to Marxism in America” rally planned for Berkeley on Sunday at 1 pm was also cancelled by organizer Amber Cummings. Nevertheless, the anti-racist and anti-fascist mobilization showed no signs of slowing down and Berkeley police were preparing for the worst. Berkeley City Council had passed a series of emergency ordinances giving the police special powers to set up multiple security perimeters around Civic Center Park and to ban items ranging from picket signs to masks. Over 400 police officers stood ready in and around the park on that sunny morning.

Two major rallies against the alt-right and against white supremacy were planned for the day in Berkeley. The first was organized by a coalition including local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), campus student groups, and a range of unions. It began across downtown on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus at 10:30. By 11, thousands were in attendance.

Other smaller groups went straight to Civic Center Park, where numbers had been growing since early in the day. As noon approached, nearly a thousand anti-racists and anti-fascists milled about between concrete barriers and various layers of fencing as hundreds of riot police monitored the scene under an increasingly hot sun. Screaming and shoving erupted multiple times as scattered Trump supporters and alt-right adherents attempted to enter the park. Some punches were thrown; this time, in contrast to March 4 and April 15, squads of riot police responded immediately to break up the fights and make arrests. The few antifascists who arrived with their faces concealed were tackled by police and arrested for violating the emergency ordinances.

Riot police face off against thousands of anti-fascists in Civic Center Park on August 27.

A few blocks away, in Ohlone Park, the second rally, organized by the local chapter of SURJ along with other anti-racist groups, was just beginning. Thousands were preparing to march. The call to action for this mobilization explicitly asserted the necessity of confronting fascists with a diversity of tactics and asked all attendees to respect those utilizing more confrontational forms of resistance. As a sound truck began leading the crowd towards Civic Center Park, a black bloc of nearly 100, many wearing helmets and protective gear, emerged from a side street ahead lighting off flares and chanting “¡Todos Somos Antifascistas!” The bloc parted for the sound truck and joined the front of the march to the cheers of the crowd. There were now nearly 10,000 antifascists of all stripes on the streets of Berkeley.

The black bloc doubled in size as it marched. Riot police standing guard around the Berkeley Police station on the corner of Civic Center Park looked on in dismay as the bloc led the crowd right up to the edge of the outer security perimeter. Tensions quickly escalated as riot police formed a skirmish line along the perimeter facing off against the bloc. One cop attempted to grab a masked comrade’s shield; others forced him back. Another cop fired a rubber bullet into the bloc as masked comrades with shields moved to the front line. A speaker on the sound truck announced that those wanting to help form a defensive line could move forward with the black bloc and all others could step back across the street to the steps of the old City Hall to hold space. Dozens of large shields were distributed from others in the crowd to those on the “defensive line.” Riot police began strapping on gas masks and aiming their various projectile weapons at the crowd. A major clash between two well-prepared sides was about to break out.

Anarchists hold the defensive line with shields on August 27.

Suddenly, the cops pulled back. All riot police in Civic Center Park had been ordered to withdraw to side streets in order to avoid instigating a riot. The crowd surged forward over the concrete barriers with the black bloc at the front chanting “Black Lives Matter!” Thousands flooded into the park, openly disobeying the emergency ordinances. Many chanted “Whose Park? Our Park!”

When Joey Gibson and his crew of patriots arrived minutes later, the crowd cheered on militant anti-fascists as they chased the pathetic showing of alt-lite reactionaries down a side street, where police fired smoke grenades to end the confrontation. Back in the park, the mood was jubilant and calm. Many applauded the black bloc and thanked them for keeping the crowd safe from neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who had been spotted leaving the area after seeing the size of the anti-fascist crowd.

A second march from the morning rally arrived in the park and members of the DSA, carrying red flags, gave high fives to members of the black bloc carrying black flags. Clergy members made speeches and sang from the sound truck as people dismantled more of the police barriers. After an hour and a half of holding the park, the decision was made to leave together. The clashes had been minimal, the police had been forced to back down, and no one had sustained serious injuries: this was undeniably a massive victory.

A diverse yet united front of 10,000 anti-fascists had finally settled the score in Berkeley. As the black bloc joined the march out of Civic Center Park, they chanted “This is for Charlottesville!”

The top story of next morning’s San Francisco Chronicle began,

“An army of anarchists in black clothing and masks routed a small group of right-wing demonstrators who had gathered in a Berkeley park Sunday to rail against the city’s famed progressive politics, driving them out—sometimes violently—while overwhelming a huge contingent of police officers.”

What this description left out was the coordination and solidarity with thousands of other demonstrators that had allowed this “army of anarchists” to take back Civic Center Park without any significant clashes. That was the important story of the day. But the narrative emerging from the anti-fascist victory in Berkeley looked very different to those who were not there. Corporate media described anarchists and militant anti-fascists as hijacking an otherwise peaceful movement. These media outlets focused on a few scuffles that broke out with Gibson’s crew and some other reactionaries, including a father-son duo, wearing a Trump shirt and Pinochet shirt respectively, who had entered the park and pepper sprayed the crowd at random.

A father-son duo, wearing a Trump shirt and a Pinochet shirt, are pushed out of the park after pepper spraying the crowd on August 27.

August 27 was a relatively relaxed and celebratory day in the streets of Berkeley. Yet from the outside, national media outlets that had ignored the much uglier violence of April 15 painted it as a disturbing street battle between extremist gangs. The short-lived window of mainstream support for militant anti-fascism that had opened after the tragedy in Charlottesville was now closing. As long as anti-fascists were understood only as victims of white supremacist violence, liberals could support them. Yet as soon as those wearing black gained the upper hand, they were described as a threat to the status quo—potentially as dangerous as the Nazis themselves.

“The violent actions of people calling themselves antifa in Berkeley this weekend deserve unequivocal condemnation, and the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted,” read a quickly-issued statement from Democrat house minority leader Nancy Pelosi. “I think we should classify them as a gang,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. “They come dressed in uniforms. They have weapons, almost like a militia and I think we need to think about that in terms of our law enforcement approach.”

However, the diverse coalition that had been forged over the summer stood its ground. “We have no regrets for how they left our city. We do not want white supremacists in our city,” said Pastor Michael McBride in a press conference on the steps of the old City Hall the following day. “We don’t apologize for any of it,” said Tur-Ha Ak of the Anti-Police Terror Project. “We have a right and an obligation to self-defense, period.” A declaration of victory published by the Catalyst Project stated that it was “hard to convey how meaningful it was, after Charlottesville, for a very disciplined group of antifa activists to offer protection to the crowd from both police and white supremacists.”

Within activist, left, and anarchist circles in the Bay Area, there was no infighting after August 27. The unprecedented levels of trust and coordination that had developed between various groups held firm. Compared with the intense sectarian conflict that followed the spectacular demonstrations of the Occupy movement and the various waves of anti-police rebellions in the Bay, the revolutionary solidarity of 2017 was unheard of. This was the real victory of the Battles of Berkeley.

Make Total Decomposition

Milo exits the stage escorted by his $800,000 police security detail on September 25

The emergent fascist social movement that had grown throughout the first half of 2017 was now in ruins. Anti-fascist victories in Charlottesville, Boston, and Berkeley had shattered reactionary dreams of a far-right popular movement coalescing in Trump’s first year. The various tendencies that had converged under the banner of the alt-right were running for cover and turning on each other.

In a desperate attempt to give a new lift to his falling star, Milo had been hyping his triumphant return to Berkeley for a so-called “Free Speech Week” from September 25-28 in collaboration with an offshoot of the College Republicans calling itself the Berkeley Patriot. Together, they promised days of provocative events on and around campus featuring far-right speakers including Ann Coulter, Blackwater founder Eric Prince, and even Steve Bannon. The anti-fascist coalition in the Bay braced for another wave of reactionary posturing and violence. On the eve of Free Speech Week, hundreds took to the streets of Berkeley as part of the No Hate in the Bay march. As the march ended without serious incident in a rally at Sproul Plaza, Chelsea Manning made a surprise speech in a show of support for anti-fascists.

Over the preceding days, signs of infighting among the organizers of Free Speech Week had become increasingly apparent as venues changed, plans were cancelled without explanation, and the media received contradictory messages from Milo’s PR team, student Republican leaders, and campus administrators. In the end, Free Speech Week fizzled completely, reinforcing the increasing irrelevance of Milo and the alt-lite. On Sunday, September 25, about 60 far-right activists and Milo fans stood in an empty Sproul Plaza listening to Milo talk for 20 minutes while waiting in line to get his autograph. They were surrounded by a massive militarized police presence that cost the university $800,000.

BAMN and the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) turned out about 100 counter demonstrators who made some noise outside the police perimeter. But most anti-fascists stayed away. Milo had already been beaten back in February and the fascist reaction to that victory had now also been overcome.

Within less than hour, it was all over and Milo fled the city once again. Small groups of alt-right activists who had flown in for Free Speech Week tried their best to build momentum throughout the rest of the week. One group stood outside the RCP’s Berkeley bookstore and banged on its windows. Another rallied outside the Black Student Union on campus. Joey Gibson and Patriot Prayer even held a small demonstration in People’s Park. Students organized a rally that Monday to protest the fascists’ presence on their campus; militant anti-fascists were on edge all week as they monitored each of these events. Yet none of this activity enabled the insurgent far right to reach critical mass again. Evaluated as publicity stunts, recruitment tools, and tactical advances, all the events surrounding Free Speech Week were pathetic failures. They were barely noticed and did nothing to change the balance of forces.

On October 12, alt-right and white supremacist sympathizers within the Berkeley College Republicans were deposed in an internal coup that gave more traditional conservatives more control of the student organization. Bitter infighting within the group continued throughout the rest of the semester, reflecting similar splits on the state level within College Republicans. Identity Evropa also faced unstable leadership following the collapse of the strategy of targeting liberal university enclaves, which they had pioneered on Berkeley campus in May 2016. Nathan Damigo resigned as IE’s leader on August 27 following his disastrous participation in the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. He was replaced by Elliott Kline, who was then replaced at the end of November by Patrick Casey. In an interview in which he announced his plans to move away from the damaged brand of the alt-right and to stop attempting to hold any kind of large public demonstrations, Casey stated, “We can’t go into these liberal areas and essentially repeat what happened with Unite the Right.” Reflecting on his movement’s shortcomings, the Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin admitted that “large rallies on public property, where we know there is going to be confrontation with antifa, are not a good idea.”

Meanwhile, in southern California, on October 21, former member of Kyle Chapman’s Fraternal Order of Alt Knights and fellow alt-lite leader Johnny Benitez accused Chapman of not being racist enough and personally profiting off of his “activism,” leading to a fist fight between the two men at the California Republican Party’s 2017 convention in the Anaheim Marriott. The next day, Chapman led a squad of Proud Boys to disrupt a Laguna Beach Benghazi rally organized by Benitez. Both men accused each other of being Federal informants and infiltrators. Fully 150 riot police were deployed to keep the quarreling factions apart. Later that week, Chapman found himself in yet another messy public split with Florida fascist August Invictus who had previously been FOAK’s second in command. The alt-right meltdown was in full swing.

The core leadership of the fascistic far right continued desperately attempting to regain all they had lost. Patriot Prayer returned to Berkeley yet again for another tiny and insignificant rally in People’s Park in November. In December, Kyle Chapman and a few others marched through San Francisco in an attempt to use the acquittal of the man charged with Kate Steinle’s death to protest the city’s “sanctuary city” status. Other far-right activists in Portland, Oregon, Austin, Texas, and elsewhere across the country attempted to use this same issue to mobilize the crowds that had stood beside them earlier in the year. Yet by December, their numbers were minuscule; in most cases, they found themselves overwhelmed by anti-fascist counterdemonstrations.

Nowhere was this clearer than in DC on December 3, when Richard Spencer, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party, former IE leader Elliott Kline, and other fascist leaders attempted to hold a rally. They were forced to cancel their march when less than 20 people showed up. They had failed to reignite the momentum that neo-Nazis and white supremacists rode on in 2016 and early 2017. By the end of the year, their movement was in total decomposition.

Solidarity Is Our Most Powerful Weapon

The August 27 black bloc marches in front of a sign printed and distributed by the city of Berkeley

The alt-right has been defeated. The convergence of fascist and white supremacist tendencies under this rebranded far-right umbrella has been successfully disrupted, cutting off the core leadership from the base of Trump supporters from which they sought to draw power. Militant anti-fascists who took action in Berkeley, Charlottesville, and dozens of other cities across the country should be proud of the role they played in achieving this victory.

It is important to emphasize that this was not accomplished through a militaristic application of force. During the darkest days of the spring, when the alt-right mobilizations in Berkeley were at their strongest, it was not certain that even the largest of contemporary black blocs could have defeated the array of fascistic forces prepared to do battle. What tipped the scales, ultimately leading to the Nazis’ downfall, was the strength of solidarity between various anarchist, left, and activist groups committed to combatting white supremacy, patriarchy, and fascism with a wide range of tactics. As anti-fascist networks expanded and grew increasingly resilient, the ideologically heterogeneous networks of the far right imploded. The alt-lite turned on the alt-right, the civic nationalists turned on the ethno-nationalists, the patriot militias turned on the neo-Nazis, and the average Trump supporter who had dabbled in this growing movement was left confused and demoralized.

Yet the struggle against fascist and reactionary forces in the United States during the Trump era is just beginning.

There is no going back to a time before the stabbings, doxxing, Pinochet shirts, Pepe memes, torch-lit marches, and murder. Movements struggling for collective liberation must remain hardened and ready to face down whatever future fascist mutations rear their ugly heads from the cesspool of the far right. This is especially true for the anarchist movement in the United States, as anarchists have stuck our necks out further than almost anyone else to combat the rise of the alt-right. We cannot lower our guard; comrades will have to continue prioritizing individual and community self-defense for the foreseeable future. Many of these radicalized fascists will seek to exploit future crises to jumpstart their movement-building in new and unexpected ways. Other far-right activists will likely attempt to gain positions of power within law enforcement and other security agencies. Lone wolf attacks and other manifestations of far-right violence will almost certainly continue.

So we must remain on high alert. But if the threat of an imminent far-right popular movement with a fascist vanguard continues to recede, the politics of militant antifascism can evolve. This is what happens when we win.

Anarchist projects and initiatives can once again set their sights on the foundations of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. Some comrades can work to develop a revolutionary anti-fascist tendency that builds on the momentum of recent years. Others can take what they have learned from this sequence and refocus on advancing the struggles they have always been a part of.

Either way, anarchists and other militant antifascists are starting 2018 in a much more advantageous position than we held a year ago. The diverse networks of affinity and solidarity that turned the tide in 2017 will remain vital to the safety and resilience of everyone engaged in these dangerous activities.

At the same time, it must not be forgotten that fascists took advantage of the contradictions inherent in liberalism and the elitism of liberal enclaves to gain strength in 2016 and 2017. We must not water down anti-fascism via “popular front” politics until it becomes nothing more than a defense of liberal capitalism. We have to defend ourselves against co-optation as well as fascist agitation. The victories of 2017 have afforded us a brief opening to catch our breath and reaffirm the profoundly radical nature of our struggle for collective liberation. Imaginative revolutionaries must now lead new offensives on their own terms that bring us all closer to the world we wish to build.

Some Bay Area Antagonists
January 2018

Taking the Park on August 27.

2017: The Year in Review–A Few Highlights from Our Coverage

2017 has been a banner year for both tyranny and resistance. All around the world, autocrats like Donald Trump are attempting to escalate to even more repressive strategies of state governance. In response, people have mobilized to confront police and fascists—to blockade railroads, highways, and airports—and to support migrants, defendants, and others targeted by the state. Although popular movements have been forced to react to one assault after another, there has also ben a significant influx of new participants into anarchist organizing. If we spend 2018 putting down roots and spreading systemic critiques of capitalism, democracy, and the state—so those who currently oppose Trump will not withdraw into merely electoral reformism—we will consolidate a much stronger position.

What We’ve Been Doing

Our collective has also expanded our activities, eager to contribute our small part. Since we overhauled our site at the beginning of 2017, we’ve published several articles a week. We’ve released two new books, along with new posters and stickers. We launched the Hotwire, a weekly show on the Ex-Worker Podcast. We updated our downloads library, bringing the total to 68 zines and 71 posters. Skip to the appendix below to print out zines to distribute and posters to wheatpaste!

We accomplished all this by 100% volunteer labor with practically no funding: we sell our books and posters at roughly the cost of production and offer everything else for free. Besides the kickstarter campaign to print the books, we haven’t even solicited donations. We do this because our hearts are in it—because we want to do our part to create a better world—because the adventure of living in defiance of tyranny is its own reward.

Below, we review a few of the highlights of our coverage from an inspiring year of resistance. As 2018 gets underway, it is more important than ever to support the J20 defendants arrested a year ago. To this purpose, a week of solidarity actions in coming up.

In August, we published No Wall They Can Build and *From Democracy to Freedom.

Becoming Ungovernable: A Few Highlights

In January, the year opened with a massive showdown at Trump’s inauguration, pitting thousands of demonstrators against over 28,000 security personnel on what came to be known as J20. We reported live throughout the day, providing some of the first news about the blockades, the anti-fascist/anti-capitalist march, the punching of Richard Spencer, police repression, and above all why anarchists and other rebels were risking their freedom to confront

The iconic burning limousine at the protests to Trump’s Inauguration.

Students participating in the demonstrations of J20.

The prevalence of rhetoric about being “ungovernable” at the opening of 2017 was a sign of how anarchist analysis was filtering out to the general public.

Two weeks later, Trump signed legislation banning people from seven countries; in response, thousands mobilized to shut down airports around the country. Once again, we reported live on the blockades around the country. In retrospect, this was the high point of mobilization against the Trump regime to date.

Shutting down SFO airport.

Meanwhile, as fascists attempted to use Trump’s victory to create a grassroots fascist movement, we debunked the “free speech” rhetoric that they were using to secure space in which to organize.

In February, we reported on why anarchists shut down far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley, ultimately helping to bring an end to his career.

We also began a series of introductions to anarchist practices with a guide to organizing in affinity groups.

The fiasco resulting from Berkeley offering a platform to pro-fascist Milo Yiannopoulos.

Becoming ungovernable in Berkeley the night Milo was supposed to speak.

Graffiti in Berkeley.

In March, we continued this series with an introduction to direct action. We also refuted the false promise of police reform represented by body cams and the analyzed the implications of right-wing narratives about “fake news.”

In April, in addition to celebrating our annual holiday Steal Something from Work Day, we presented an exhaustive account of two years of upheaval in France as the French elections loomed. We also published a rare interview with anarchist guerrillas in Rojava, exploring the issues of armed struggle in critical depth.

French police attempting to break up a demonstration in Paris, as detailed in our report on the struggle against the Loi Travail.

In May, we offered a detailed history of May Day covering a century and a half of labor struggle. We also reported immediately from the streets to show readers how they, too, might construct giant papier mâché spiders like those seen in Portland, Oregon.

The spiders of mutual aid, solidarity, and direction action in Portland on May Day.

Make your own spider!

In June, we traced the history of June 11 as a day of solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners. We published an exhaustive analysis of three years of struggle in Brazil, tracing social movements from the protest movements of 2013 through the World Cup and the reactionary crackdowns that followed. As fascists stepped up their organizing efforts in the US, we reported on a showdown at a rally in Portland and offered a poster identifying how police and fascists work in tandem.

A bus burns during a general strike in Rio de Janeiro on April 28, 2017, as detailed in our exhaustive analysis of three years of struggle in Brazil.

In July, the G20 summit took place in Hamburg, Germany. For context, we published retrospectives on previous summits in 2005 and 2007, then offered a week of continuous reporting throughout the G20 and its aftermath.

Police in front of Hamburg’s occupied social center Rote Flora ahead of the G20.

Without provocation or warning, police attack a march at the opening of the G20 summit. The participants at the front courageously held their lines until those behind them could escape.

Hamburg defends itself against the police.

Back in the US, when Trump announced that trans people would be banned from the military, we immediately responded with two articles from trans authors presenting the case against reformist assimilation politics and the military itself.

In August, we published our full narrative of the G20 and the battle of Hamburg.

On August 12, fascists mobilized in Charlottesville, Virginia for the “Unite the Right” rally, the apex of their efforts to normalize murderous white supremacy as an acceptable part of the political landscape. We responded immediately with a series of articles published while the clashes were still unfolding. After fascists murdered Heather Heyer, we helped publicize over 100 solidarity actions that took place in response.

Clashes between anarchists and fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12.

One of the countless solidarity demonstrations that took place around the world after Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville.

In episode #56 of the Ex-Worker podcast, “Triumph & Tragedy in the Struggle Against Fascism,” we published interviews with participants in the clashes in Charlottesville, recorded just a few hours afterwards. Over the following weeks, we offered more reflection on the confrontations and on anti-fascist strategy in general.

At the close of the month, we also offered examples to students hoping to organize anarchist groups at their schools.

In September, while tabling at book fairs on all three coasts of the US, we offered more context for student movements around the world with an article focusing on Chilean student resistance from the dictatorship through democracy.

Students winning against militarized riot police in Chile.

In October, we offered extensive reporting and commentary from anarchists on the conflict between Catalan separatists and the Spanish state.

We published two controversial texts in October, “The Femme’s Guide to Riot Fashion,” a cheerful primer on how to dress safely for public order situations that is not aimed at the masculine audience presumed by most such guides, and “Restless Specters of the Anarchist Dead,” selections from the voices of anarchists who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the course of the Russian Revolution so Lenin and Stalin could reestablish an authoritarian state.

In November, on the actual anniversary of the October Revolution, we followed this up with another article detailing all the steps that the Bolsheviks took to destroy social movements and clamp down on those who had helped to make the revolution in Russia. We also published articles about anarchism in Korean cinema, grassroots resistance in Algeria, and anti-fascism in Russia, illustrating our international focus and ties.

In December, we were pleased to close the year with good news from the first round of the J20 trials. Yet the innocent verdicts just underscore that the police, the prosecutor, the judge, and the state are all guilty of using these baseless blanket charges to terrorize protesters. We are more determined than ever to make it impossible for them to threaten or harm anyone, ever again.



Appendix I: Report from the Hotwire

Soon after returning from its long hiatus in August, The Ex-Worker spawned its first spin-off show, The Hotwire, offering news, interviews, and a review of upcoming actions and events. In our first sixteen-episode season, we…

Honored and Remembered Our Dead

-including Scout Schultz, Nathan Hose, Heather Heyer, and Santiago Maldonado.

Offered Anarchist Perspectives on Mainstream News

-the #TakeAKnee NFL protests,

-the independence referendum in Catalunya,

-the ongoing turmoil in Syria, Iraq, and Kurdistan,

-and the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Covered Little-Reported Stories

-the victory of wildcat strikes from rural Virginia to New York City;

-the Juggalo March on Washington, DC,

-round-ups of actions against confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville, and actions against settler monuments on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving;

-student walkouts in middle schools and high schools;

animal sabotage of the capitalist system;

-the ongoing anarchist struggle to abolish standardized time;

-and plenty of prison uprisings, anti-extraction camps, and anti-fascist actions.

Interviews

-anarchists organizing mutual aid recovery efforts after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria;

-an anarchist DACA recipient about undocumented immigrant resistance under Trump;

-anti-police rebels in St. Louis about the weeks-long
resistance after the Stockley Verdict;

-anti-fascists on the ground in Berkeley, Gainesville, and Murfreesboro;

Defend J20 Resistance as the first J20 defendants were on trial;

-anarchists in Catalunya, Brazil, and Poland about responses to electoralism, repression, and reaction abroad;

-and student rebels in North Carolina, squatters in Chicago, and anti-fracking communards in Olympia about opening up occupied spaces for resistance and liberatory relations.

We are looking forward to bringing The Hotwire back for its second season in February 2018. Every episode is radio-ready, and we already had three radio stations carrying our show weekly in 2017. Feel free to simply download the episodes and put them on your local airwaves. Also, we’re always looking for contributions, correspondents, and people to interview from ongoing struggles. Our goal is to bring rebels across North America relevant and timely news so that our movements can be better informed and cut through any static that holds us back from acting. Get in touch with us at podcast@crimethinc.com to contribute or offer feedback on how The Hotwire can better serve anarchist efforts near you. Stay rebel.

A burning police car, pictured in our coverage of this year’s arson trials in France.

Appendix II: New Zines and Posters

For your printing convenience, a review of the new zines and posters we produced this year.

Zines


Surviving a Grand Jury


We Endlings


Fighting for Our Lives


Don’t Try to Break Us: The G20 and the Battle of Hamburg

We also published the G20 zine in German.


Not Your Grandfather’s Anti-Fascism: Anti-Fascism Has Arrived—Here’s Where It Needs to Go


June 18, 1999: The Storming of the City

classs:portrait

Fighting in Brazil, 2013-2015


“The Struggle Is Not for Martyrdom, but for Life”: A Critical Discussion about Armed Struggle with Anarchist Guerrillas in Rojava


Slave Patrols and Civil Servants: A History of Policing in Two Modes


The Syrian Underground Railroad


How to Form an Affinity Group


This is Not a Dialogue: Notes on Anti-Fascism and Free Speech


Whoever They Vote For, We Are Ungovernable: A History of Anarchist Counter-Inaugural Protest

Posters


Anti-Fascism Is Self-Defense


Everyone Dreams of a Better World—Our Crime Is Making It a Reality


When the Police Knock on Your Door


Immigrants Welcome


Inmigrantes Bienvenidxs


Police Officer vs. Wheatpaste


The Two Faces of Fascism


Hope Is in the Streets


Support the J20 Defendants


We beat ‘em before—We’ll beat ‘em again

Surviving a Grand Jury: Three Narratives from Grand Jury Resisters

We’ve prepared a zine version of our guide to grand jury resistance, which originally appeared as episode #59 of the Ex-Worker podcast. This zine presents the voices of three people who successfully stood up to grand jury indictments: one who served jail time for resisting, one who went on the run rather than testify, and one who supported a grand jury resister from the beginning to the end of the process. You can also read their narratives below.

Please print out copies of this zine and share them with anyone who is curious about what it looks like to confront the full force of the so-called justice system and win. For a wide array of resources on resisting grand juries, consult this list. You can also watch this live video presentation.

Click the image for a zine version of this text.

A Few Words about Grand Juries

Grand juries serve the state as a sort of auxiliary legal proceeding to force people to inform on each other. A grand jury isn’t a criminal trial; there’s no judge present. It takes place entirely in secret. As a witness, you can’t even obtain transcripts of your testimony.

Only the prosecutor and the jurists are allowed in the room with the witness. The jurists are chosen according to the prosecutor’s agenda and not screened for bias. The grand jury doesn’t have to inform you about the details of what they are investigating; you have no way to know what information might be incriminating for you or another person.

Grand juries suspend Fifth Amendment rights. They can subpoena you and give you “immunity” in order to force you to testify; if you refuse, they can jail you for up to eighteen months. This immunity does not protect you from prosecution; it only stipulates that the information you personally provide cannot be used against you, although the same information provided by someone else can be.

All this explains why people who do not want to be complicit in enabling the state to persecute communities refuse to give any information to a grand jury whatsoever. You never know what detail might be used against someone else. Even if no one is guilty of any crime, providing information to a grand jury can result in ongoing legal harassment that can ripple out and affect many people.

Grand juries serve to gather information on dissidents far beyond what police and prosecutors could gather on their own; they have been used to isolate, divide, and destroy social movements since the 1960s. Grand juries are currently being used to target anarchists, anti-fascists, and indigenous water protectors who struggled at Standing Rock.

If you’re subpoenaed by a grand jury and you decide to resist, you have two options: show up in court and refuse to testify, then serve time in prison for contempt, or go on the run before your first court date.

Click the image for a pdf of this poster.

Three Who Fought the Law and Won

The following stories are from three comrades: Esme, who served jail time for resisting; Devlin, who went on the run rather than cooperate; and Cora, who was the partner of a grand jury resister and supported them before, during, and after imprisonment.

We’re deeply inspired by the choices these people made in resisting the state. We hope that if you ever have to face a grand jury, criminal charges, or police harassment, their words will give you strength and faith in yourself. It can help to learn from the experiences of those who walked in your shoes before you—to know that you are not alone.


A Knock on the Door

Esme: I remember when those douchebags first came to my door. I particularly remember the tall man with sharp features and creepy blue eyes. He knocked on my door at 6 am. When I answered, still half-asleep, he said, “Oh, hi, sorry to wake you. I saw through your window that you were sleeping. You know this is my least favorite part of the job.” He was there to subpoena a friend of mine. I slammed the door in his face. Over the following months, my friends got served their subpoenas and had to go to court dates. I helped to organize support for them. At the time it felt like an agent was lurking behind every corner—and the tough part was sometimes they were.

Cora: I was awoken that morning by my partner, who was in shock. Federal agents had come looking for a friend and former housemate of ours. They wanted to serve him a subpoena to testify before a grand jury. The days that followed were a flurry of hushed conversation, larger displays of solidarity, crying, and panic.

Our house was awkwardly built with four doors to the outside and many windows. It wasn’t the greatest layout for feeling protected when paranoia struck. I was home alone one evening when I heard car doors slam outside our house. This wasn’t strange for our neighborhood, but my fear of the feds turned every sound into impending arrest or another subpoena. This time, it was federal agents. A group of five medium-to-large men with flashlights, in black clothing, began assessing our home from the outside, starting near my partner’s bedroom door, around to our backyard, around the side yard and completing the circle up front. I stayed hidden. I was afraid they would enter the house, thinking it to be empty, and corner me there alone—but they only seemed interested in our yard and our home’s exterior.

It was after this that all of us—my partner, and housemates, and I—decided it was absolutely necessary to move. They had already subpoenaed the people they had originally been searching for. Why were they still coming around? What did they want with our house? We weren’t under the illusion that a new house would provide more safety, but the anxiety mounting in that space was beginning to feel overwhelming and we needed a change of environment. We found a new home quickly and eagerly moved in. We had just begun to settle in when the FBI visited us again.

Esme: One day two men were lurking outside my house. I pushed away what I thought was an irrational paranoia. I let myself believe they were Mormon missionaries. I walked outside to my car and they addressed me by my name. I shut the car door and ran into my backyard. I couldn’t think fast enough. I fumbled with the latch on the gate and they yelled after me that they had positively identified me, so the subpoena had been officially served. I turned around and grabbed it out of their hands. They offered to take me into the grand jury right then. I didn’t answer them, but walked into my house and burst into tears. I remember crying and repeating the words “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this” over and over again as my friends read the subpoena. I knew what it meant by that point, as several of my friends were already in jail over this shit. It never occurred to me to do anything other than resist, but I was terrified.

Cora: When my partner was issued a subpoena it felt like a nightmare. It was the same grand jury that had already subpoenaed our friends, who were now serving jail time for resisting. None of us felt we had the tools to navigate what was ahead of us. I treated it like a job, because there was so much we didn’t know.

Esme: I called a public defender and explained the situation. I told him that I intended to not cooperate. He said in a condescending tone, “Oh you can’t just NOT cooperate with a grand jury subpoena.” I explained that I knew exactly the consequences: eighteen months max in jail for civil contempt, and that I was prepared to do it. I told him that if he was going to represent me he would have to respect that. After that he never questioned my resolve once. Ultimately, I would have to educate him about how grand jury resistance works.

Cora: It surprised me how little the defense lawyer understood about grand juries. Maybe that was just me giving too much credit to lawyers, cause I was like, you go to school for eight years for this, you should know what’s going on. It boggled my mind. Luckily, we were able to talk to other, radical lawyers. There wasn’t a lot of information online, and a lot of it was contradictory. So we talked to lawyers who had explicit experience in political cases. It’s not that our lawyer was incompetent, it’s just that grand juries are so outside the scope of regular court cases—to the point that the lawyers can’t even be in the room.

Esme: Just like my lawyer, my parents initially encouraged me to “consider my options.” I told them flatly that I knew I was going to go to jail over this and that if they wanted to visit me while I was in jail they were going to need to respect my decision. In this one conversation, our relationships changed from a parent/child dynamic to one of adults. Being clear and upfront with both my parents and lawyer about how this was going to go it made it much easier for all of them to support me in the ways I needed. This meant they never pressured me to cooperate even if they didn’t understand my ethical reasons for non-cooperation.


Cora: No one knew how long punitive detention for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury subpoena would actually be. One isn’t sentenced to a particular length of time, but attorneys told us that eighteen months was the maximum. We were told to expect the maximum because of my partner’s public refusal to cooperate and the overt political nature of the investigation. We went from meetings amongst friends, to meetings amongst family, to meetings with attorneys, to phone calls with comrades trying to gather as much information as possible in the short time before inevitable incarceration. We stayed busy.

The wait was agonizing. No matter what we did amongst friends, amongst our political milieu or in our romantic relationship, I never felt prepared to have my partner’s physical and emotional presence stripped from my life. I never felt prepared to watch them experience detention and isolation. We talked with people who had experienced similar repression, made plans for communication, strengthened our relationship while supporting one another through the trauma of uncertainty and constant harassment from the State. We made big banners for demonstrations and, after, hung them in our house as encouragement. We even got married in order to grant ourselves some luxuries and legal rights regarding prison visits and attorney-client privileges.

Esme: We’d had some time to talk out scenarios before this happened, and we decided to get married—not out of love, but practical necessity. We knew that was the only way Cora would be able to visit me. They would continue to be an unwavering support person to me through the hard months to follow. Thankfully, they were not the only person to rise to the occasion. Many friends and loved ones showed up to hold me up and support me. Friends would come by our house and drop off food and treats and gifts on the regular. This isn’t to say everything was rosy—the stress of the time definitely reverberated throughout our friendships. Many stepped up to mediate conflicts—it really did take an extended community to support us.

Cora: In those days leading up to Esme’s incarceration, we were hardly ever alone. It would have been easy to be isolated as a couple, to feel trapped in this intense experience that was effecting the two of us most intensely, but luckily that didn’t happen. I think that’s part of why our relationship has stayed as strong as it is through all of this—even when friends couldn’t always show up in the ways I wished they would, we were really held by a large community.


Threats and Pressure

Esme: After the subpoena, the prosecutor hurled all kinds of threats at me. I was told I would be charged with criminal as well as civil contempt and other crimes if I refused to cooperate. The paranoia that had been a dull roar in my mind increased to full-blown panic. I blamed myself for lack of vigilance for letting myself get subpoenaed. I had been anxious before, but now I started to experience more intense panic. It was getting more difficult to determine which fears were worth paying attention to.

We knew from affidavits in the case that some of us had been followed, so it would make sense to believe I was being followed. Sometimes I would see an SUV with government plates parked outside my house—but that blue-eyed man who came to my door the first time had been driving a beat up old Pontiac. So there was really no way of knowing how deep the surveillance went.

Sometimes clearly absurd fears would enter my brain and I couldn’t push them away. Once I was driving and heard a series of ticks and beeps. I began to fear a bomb had been planted under my seat. I sat stopped at a red light and considered my options. I was almost certain this wasn’t real, but the Feds had bombed Judi Bari’s car this way in 1990. But surely I was not as high a priority as she had been. Waiting for the light to turn, I couldn’t reason my way out of this. I pulled over into a Burger King parking lot and got out of my car. I walked a safe distance away I waited a few minutes before cautiously approaching the vehicle again. I checked under the seat, then under the car itself: nothing. I felt the seat for anything inside it: nothing. I got back into my car, took a deep breath, and got to work just a couple minutes late.


Experiences like this helped me develop a framework for how to handle these kind of fears. I created a set of four questions, and for each one I’d either ask a friend’s advice or imagine what advice they might give. The questions were:

  1. How likely is it that what I fear right now is real? What evidence do I have for it? Has this happened to others?

  2. If what I fear is real, how serious of a threat is it to me in this situation?

  3. Can this situation be addressed? Is there anything that I can do to make myself safe from this?

  4. How costly or inconvenient is this precaution? Is this response illegal? Could I get hurt or get in more trouble?

Using this framework, it made sense to get out of the car to check for a bomb. Though the likelihood of the threat being real was remote, the precaution I took was low cost and only made me slightly late to work. Having this structure helped me feel like I was doing all I could to keep myself safe.

Often, in scary repressive situations people oscillate between feeling strong fear and then pushing it out of their mind—without taking basic precautions to handle what they’re afraid of. Dealing with repression is about risk management. We can’t be completely safe from the state or from the far right, but there are steps we can take to mitigate some of the potential harm. Since then, I’ve used this framework with households and other groups to assess risk from both feds and neo-Nazis.

Cora: As Esme’s court date approached, we rented a hotel room with friends and talked all night. It was moments like this that kept us going, and something worth doing if you’re facing any kind of repression, because everything will feel like shit. In hindsight, I realize there are a few things I would have done differently, especially around asking for support. I mean we got amazing support, especially all the fundraising and one friend who gave us a few hundred dollars to cover Esme’s rent and car insurance and stuff. At the time I didn’t want to ask for support just for me because it felt like a finite resource. Thinking about asking close friends for more than just basic friendship felt like taking something away from others. I didn’t really realize how the experience was affecting me. I also don’t know how receptive I would have been to someone saying “this is just time for you.” On a certain level, I wasn’t able to do all the intense support I was doing and also check in with all my emotional needs. Esme was the same way, and we brought that out in each other. We both stayed really task-focused.

Esme: That night in the hotel I could feel my freedom slipping out from under me. I hadn’t seriously considered going on the run, but in that hotel room it suddenly seemed so appealing. How was I going to walk into the hands of my enemies the next day, when I could just as easily breath the free air for another day? I thought about trying to live underground in the States or leave the country and start a new life under a different identity—but both would have to be indefinite if not lifelong exile, which seemed hard to imagine. Jail time at least had a max of eighteen months, and it seemed like most people usually did more like six. And I could get letters from my loved ones, something much harder to pull off from underground. So, going on the run seemed like the harder option, although it perhaps represented an even larger middle finger to the law. I reconciled myself to my choice.

I spent the night embracing my friends and watching Mean Girls 1 and 2 (spoiler: the second one is terrible, don’t bother). I appeared at the courthouse the next day delirious from lack of sleep but ready to face my incarceration.

Devlin: I didn’t decide to become a grand jury resister on the day the federal agents emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, forcing their subpoena into my unwelcoming hands. Decisions like this are rarely made in the moment. For me, it would be more reasonable to say I started to make this decision five years before I was subpoenaed, when I first learned of Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar. At the time, he had just been sentenced to eleven years and three months for resisting grand juries in New York and Chicago. A fighter for Palestinian liberation, Dr. Ashqar was jailed several times between 1998 and 2007 on civil contempt charges. These were intended to coerce his testimony to a perennial grand jury investigating Palestinian nationals on racketeering charges. As exhausting as the protracted struggle must have been, Ashqar was unyielding in his defiance, refusing to implicate anyone, saying in court that he refused “to live as a traitor or as a collaborator.”

In 2007, the case came to a head. As they admitted defeat in turning Ashqar into a state agent, the law played their final trump card: a punitive prison sentence, meant to strike fear into all of us watching from the sidelines. For me, as I’m sure for many others, it didn’t have that effect.

I was in awe of Ashqar, of his contempt, in the choices he made to reject his status as innocent witness and take on the complicity of solidarity. Resistance felt alive and real to me in that moment. I decided then that if ever I was called upon to resist a grand jury, a thought that seemed impossibly far away to a young anarchist who had yet to see the inside of a jail cell, I would try to breathe as much fire into the legacy of grand jury resistance as I was capable of.

I wanted my resistance to be as defiant as it could be. I didn’t want it to be based on the fact that I was “innocent,” but rather to be a clear and outright refusal of everything they wanted from me. I hoped that this complete defiance would inspire others as Dr. Ashqar had inspired me.

I also thought about it from a security standpoint: my brain was like a hard drive that stored valuable information, and I had no way of knowing what stray detail I remembered could be used to incriminate comrades of mine. So my perspective was that the best way to prevent the state from having access to that information was not only to encrypt the information (stay silent) but also to never give them physical access to the hardware (in this case my body). Thus, I went on the run.

Esme: On the morning of my court date, my parents, my partner, my lawyer and I got coffee across the street from the courthouse. My lawyer noticed a stocky man with a military haircut holding a newspaper in front of his face and staring at us. My lawyer said we should talk outside. For my parents, this one fairly minor act of surveillance seemed to shatter their cherished view of a benevolent government.

A number of people had shown up to the courthouse to support me, including some older folks who had done support for grand jury resisters in the 70s. I met two who had been part of an urban guerrilla group back then and wished me their support. One of them told me about an oath that they used to say to each other back in the day:

If ever I should break my stride, or falter at my comrade’s side

This oath shall kill me.

If ever my word should prove untrue, should I betray the many or the few

This oath shall kill me.


If ever I withhold my hand, or show fear before the hangman

This oath shall surely kill me.

It was powerful to feel like included in a tradition of resistance, even if some of our political inclinations were different.

I walked in to the courthouse with my lawyer. We were led to the third floor where two men introduced themselves as prosecutors. One of them was the man with the creepy blue eyes and sharp features I had seen months earlier on my doorstep. When my lawyer introduced himself, the blue-eyed man identified himself as the lead agent on the case.


I remained silent while my lawyer schmoozed with the prosecutors, and then I entered the grand jury room with them. My lawyer, of course, had to stay behind.

The room resembled a community college classroom. It had an overhead projector and the dozen or so jurists sat in chair/desk combos arrayed in rows facing me. I was at the front of the room as though I was a guest lecturer. The prosecutor asked me my name and date of birth. I told him. Then he asked me where I worked and I figured it was as good a time as any to start resisting. I stammered out a refusal. He then asked me a slew of questions: peoples names, where I was on certain dates, where others were on specific dates. With growing confidence, I refused to answer each question. As I wasn’t allowed to have my lawyer present or record any of the questions, I would ask for a break after every three questions and go into the other room and write them down so I wouldn’t forget them. This way I could share what they were asking about with everyone else, and make this secret process more transparent. Leaving the room frequently was also a way of demonstrating to my lawyer and others that I wasn’t answering their questions, so there would be no doubt.

After a dozen or so questions and refusals, the prosecutor said he had heard enough. As I got up to leave the room, a jurist in the front row smiled and raised his fist in salute to me. I still wonder to this day what that guy’s deal was. Maybe he had something to do with the outcome of things? But I may never know—that’s the thing about repression, there are so many bizarre unknowns that you just have to accept. 


After that I was taken in front of a judge, granted immunity, questioned by the grand jury again and refused again. By the time all this was over the workday was over and I was given another court date a few weeks away. It felt a bit anti-climactic. I had prepared myself to go to jail. I had packed up all my stuff, found someone to rent my room, and now I had to go back to my house where I no longer really had a room and kill time until I went to jail.

As I waited, I searched for ways to prepare for what really can’t be prepared for. I talked to more former political prisoners who offered incredible advice and emotional support. I made plans with my partner, parents and friends about my support.

After another court date I was given a self-report date and at 9 am on a grey morning, after all that waiting, I gathered with a small group of comrades and my parents to say goodbye. As the time approached for me to go in I started to hug people goodbye I started crying and an older comrade grabbed me by my shoulders and looked into my tear-filled eyes and said “Hey, you’ve got this! Seriously, don’t doubt it for a second, you’ve got this!”

That phrase would come back to me often in the following months.



Jail Time

Cora: I wasn’t prepared for what it would feel like to have my partner be so physically absent from my life. While Esme was in jail, I focused all my emotional energy on supporting them. This involved writing long letters every day, micro managing their support, talking with friends about our visits, meticulously planning my trips to visitation and really trying not to plan for life after they got out. I tried not to think about the future. They could be in for over a year, and at the end of that could end up indicted as part of the ongoing investigation. There was also the fear that I would be indicted as a result of the grand jury’s findings. The future was so unclear that the present was all I could grasp.

I buried myself in work every other day of the week. Shortly after my partner’s subpoena, I took on a second full-time job. I used my 60- to 70-hour work week as a way to exhaust myself and dissociate from the trauma I was incurring. It gave me purpose while I felt aimless and heartbroken. I withdrew from many friendships and stayed firmly in high-functional crisis mode. If you had asked me at the time what kind of support I needed, I wouldn’t have been able to say. I felt like any care someone gave me was taken away from Esme. In retrospect, I’d do a few things differently. But I do think it was important for both of us to focus on practical details and things we could control. It wasn’t until much later that we both realized how not okay we had been.

Esme: When I walked through the front door of that jail, I was shuttled between various booking rooms for hours. Around 11 am, I was given a ham sandwich and some pudding in a brown bag. I decided that if the state wanted to lock me in a cage and attempt to ruin my life, I would resist by making my time in jail the best thing that had ever happened to me. I looked at that ham sandwich on white bread and decided that I was going to eat as healthily as I could for this meal and all the ones to follow. So I left the white bread and pudding in the bag. It sounds weird but this helped me feel like I was regaining some amount of agency.

They took me in front of a guard sitting at a desk who called himself a counselor. He asked me a slew of questions to figure out if I was eligible for placement in General Population. I tried to answer every question so that I would qualify. I remember him smirking and rolling his eyes when I told him I was straight. But at the end he said I looked like I was eligible for GP. He sent me back to a holding cell, then came back a while later and inexplicably took me into the solitary confinement unit and put me on cell alone status. The guards told me, “Since you haven’t committed a crime, and you’re being held here coercively not punitively, we can’t house you in GP with criminals.” I responded that my co-defendants were in GP, but they didn’t offer any other explanation. I found out later that at that same time my co-defendants were being transferred to other solitary confinement units as well. It’s clear to me that the prosecutor was trying to apply extra pressure to us to get us to break.

I woke up the next morning at 6 am to a tray of warm food being slid through the trapdoor inside my door. I again picked through for the less processed seeming parts and ate them, even though I wasn’t hungry and wanted to keep sleeping. I figured I would take what I could get.

After breakfast, they asked me if I wanted to go to the rec yard. I had assumed I would be in this one cell all day and jumped at the opportunity to get out. They put me in what passed for a rec yard in solitary, which turned out to be a triangular cell with chain link fence on all sides and a vent through which cold air blew but you could see the sky if you stood in the right place. It was barely larger than my cell and it was so cold I couldn’t really do anything other than shiver. After that, I stayed in my cell during rec time.

I started journaling: planning out workouts and other self-improvement activities. In the evening a cart came by my cell and I was told I could pick two books from it. I picked out the longest one I could see. Then scanned the titles for anything familiar, to my surprise I found an Octavia Butler book I had been meaning to read. The familiar author brought warmth and joy to me when I was confused and alone. Her writing, bleak but yet so honest and nuanced, felt like just the emotional tone I needed set going into the next few months of my life.

I asked about phone calls and was told that I could make one 15-minute phone call each month. It seemed unbelievable, but it was true. I would have to be sustained by letters. On the third day, when I started receiving them, everything got so much better. The guards seemed resentful of having to read all my mail but their resentment just made me feel better and better. The first book I received was Vida by Marge Piercy, which follows a woman in a fictionalized Weather Underground type group as she tries to survive living on the run. I knew some of my comrades who had also faced repression had gone on the run, but I had tried to avoid any contact with them or knowledge of what they were going through so as not to lead the authorities to them. Vida made me feel connected to what they might be going through. The story doesn’t glorify life on the run—it left me feeling like I was the lucky one to be safe in a cell rather than precariously waiting for the cops to come busting my door down like my comrades surely were.

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Life on the Run

Devlin: At the beginning of my time on the run, my comrades and I had to leave the area quickly and figure out a more concrete plan along the way. Much of the work hinged on having a network of solidarity and computer skills. It’s actually quite a bit of work to protect yourself digitally. I won’t go into specifics, but the skills we needed were not those we could have learned on a whim. We were able to do it because we had years of experience to draw from.

At one point, a security breach meant that we had to relocate for fear of being tracked. We relied on the quick thinking and very generous solidarity of comrades from all over who helped tremendously with our transition. This type of anarchist solidarity was invaluable and without it we would never have been able to do what we did.

Getting needs met like health care and money were major obstacles. Over time, living in a situation not of our own choosing was physically and emotionally detrimental. We had organized our lives around fighting the state. Suddenly, when we didn’t have any fight to do or decisions to make, our camaraderie eroded. Bonds between close comrades started to break down and I felt trapped and without an outlet or shared fight to channel my energy into.

Those stresses caused health problems which became harder and harder to address because I was on the run. These compounding effects became major obstacles.

At home, I had lived through highs and lows of struggle and repression but they were shared highs and lows. All of a sudden, no one around me understood the constant crisis I was going through or even why I had moved to that place at all. People didn’t even know my real name, yet I was trying to build authentic bonds of camaraderie with them.

I remember once a cop showed up at my house and they waited at my door and wouldn’t leave. My mind raced. I remembered that I had mapped out a way to escape by jumping between rooftops, but I hadn’t tested it and didn’t know if it would work. I had this internal freakout but I quieted my fears because I would have to deal with the implications later. Right now, I just needed to get out. My body became weirdly calm as I went through the house burning everything that could be used to identify me. I also ate a package of cookies cause I didn’t know the next time I would be able to eat. I sent word to let friends know what was going on, got a backpack together for my rooftop journey, and looked out the window one last time—and the cop was gone.

Friends later found out through social engineering that the cops were involved in something entirely unrelated, and we were able to return to that spot. Even so, it was incidents like that that shook my nerves so much. The simple act of interacting with a cop—something many people would consider routine—would have completely changed my life at that time. I lived in constant fear of having to interact with law enforcement.

I see how I needed every moment of that build up, all of the reinforcement of self that I put into the previous ten years to get me through the experience intact. When the focus of the radical left had moved on to the next crisis, when I hadn’t seen my dearest friends in years, when I was puking blood from a mysterious illness with no way to see a doctor, when I didn’t even have my own name to give coherence to my words, what I did have to hold onto was the promise I had made to myself—and implicitly to all others engaged in struggle—that I would put everything I had into the fight. Prolonged psychological dissonance can really disorient, subjecting what seems like our strongest foundations to deterioration. Anarchy became the one place to which I could recede that remained intact; resistance struggles the thread that connected my past to a possible future.


Maintaining Mental Health

Esme: As the days became weeks, I got some basic stuff on commissary and had a routine planned in half-hour increments so I would always be busy. I was teaching myself to eat and write with my left hand, practicing Spanish in the evening, reading Foucault in the morning, writing three long letters after dinner, and starting to meditate.

My cell looked west out over a park, but the tiny window was opaque and foggy. There was one corner, though, where the clear epoxy that sealed the window hadn’t been fogged over. Through that tiny gap I could make out two trees in the distance on a hill, silhouetted against the sky. I would watch them for hours as the light changed. I still feel a happy sense of nostalgia when I think of how beautiful those two trees were. Since my release I’ve gone back and tried to find them, but none of the trees really seem right. Maybe they have been cut down, or maybe I imagined them.

Every now and then the guards would transfer me to another cell. None of the others had a view like the first one. One cell was so cold my bones ached from the pain of it, and I couldn’t sleep. I asked for a second blanket but they never gave me one. This was the hardest time: I felt so alone and sad, and not being able to sleep much made everything harder. If I slept during the day when it was warmer, I’d be up awake at night with no light, unable to read or distract myself from my thoughts, which were often dark. When the dark thoughts came, I would do ten burpees and then sit for a minute and scan how I felt, and do it again, as necessary. As bad as that was, I could hear other inmates having harder times—once I heard one pounding the walls and screaming about being suicidal. A unit of cops in riot gear beat them until they were quiet. Incidents like this were impossible to ignore, because they stood out so starkly from the monotony of my days, but each time they happened I was plunged into much darker thoughts.

After the cold cell I was transferred to one with a window that faced a wall, and no mirror. This detail may seem insignificant, but my ability to see my reflection had previously allowed me a sense of identity that was suddenly lost. Without an image of myself or a companion, my mind became a stranger and stranger place. I looked inwards and saw nothing. So instead I turned to my letters. It was these correspondences that gave me a sense of self. I was not an island but an amalgam of my relationships, conversations, and collective passions. Whether I was working out, meditating, eating, reading, or writing letters, I was doing it to strengthen my interactions with the outside world. I lived off of the letters, zines and books I received.

Right when I’d learned how to handle the cold isolation and identity crisis of solitary confinement, when I felt ready to endure this for the next sixteen months, I was transferred to General Population.

It was nothing like what you see on television.

People were initially suspicious of me, as I didn’t have the normal paperwork that other inmates had. My story didn’t quite make sense to some. Most people had never heard of civil contempt. Once I was able to show them a newspaper clipping about my case people started to trust me. Then I met an older bank robber, John who said he had been in prison in the ’70s, the same prison, in fact, as the ex-urban guerrilla folks who had come to my court date and shared their oath with me. I asked John if he knew those people and he did a double take. He said, “Holy shit, you’re into that stuff?” I said “No, no, no, they are just friends of mine—but we believe in a similar cause.”


After that John, dedicated himself to looking out for me. He said that he missed the old days of principled convicts who didn’t betray each other and he saw me as staying true to that legacy, I was flattered.

I made other friends in general population, kept up with my workouts, started to fall behind on my correspondence, played cards, tried to explain anarchism to people and generally had an OK time. One thing that I found difficult to navigate ethically was racial politics. I am white and thus I had to sit with white people at lunch, watch the white TV, etc. I tried my best to buck these rules and build friendships with people of color, since I’m ideologically opposed to white separatism—moreover, some of the other white inmates were affiliated with white supremacist gangs. One way I managed to do this, oddly enough, was by hanging out with evangelical Christians. The Christians were organized on a multiracial basis. Though I didn’t go to their Bible study I would work out with them, and play cards and chess with them. 


In some ways time went by fast as I started to build real friendships with other inmates based on emotional support and vulnerability. I was also able now to have hour-long contact visits with my partner and my family.

Cora: The waiting room, the same room where I last saw my partner before they were taken into custody, was grey. The walls were large, painted brick interrupted by the occasional bulleted list of rules and expectations. I always arrived right when visitation hours began. We waited there until the guards called visitors up in groups to go through security.

I and handful of others, often families with children, were led through a long series of heavy doors to the visitor area. As we entered the room, I watched as people recognized one another, briefly hugged and sat to talk with their incarcerated loved ones. I didn’t see my partner, but thought maybe they would be one of the few inmates trickling in. Over the following few minutes, my mind went directly to the worst-case scenarios. I knew they were in solitary confinement. Were they hurt? Were their visitation privileges rescinded? Did I misunderstand the visitation guidelines?

A guard came from behind and asked me to follow him. I was led into a small room off the main visitation room. This room had two small television screens with telephones attached. The visitation wouldn’t be in-person but over the screen. My heart sank as I waited for a familiar face to appear on the screen. Their body was small on the screen, the camera was an awkward distance from where they sat. This made our communication feel less personal. I remember moving closer and closer to the screen instinctively, trying to hear their words more clearly and see their face more clearly. The visit was brief. It was hard to know what to talk about with one another. I can’t quite remember how long visitations were, but I do remember that video visitation was shorter than in-person ones. Our time together was via video for the majority of their incarceration. Two visits in a row, the video wasn’t working, so we could only communicate over the audio.

Release

Esme: At a certain point, my co-defendants had all been released after refusing to cooperate. I was the last of us left inside. After a few more months the judge finally determined what my comrades and I had known: that my incarceration had become punitive since there was no way I was going to cooperate. Much earlier than I’d expected, I was released back into the world.

Cora: I had almost no warning that Esme would be released. It was so surreal. It might have been the day before, or the day of—I ended up getting a call for our friend letting me know. I was preparing for eighteen months; we’d gotten married, I had my schedule down for visitation. We had a system, and we’d been getting good at it, and then it was suddenly over. I hadn’t planned for what would happen after. I felt like if I started to think ahead, I’d get caught up in longing for that. So when they were released, I didn’t even know what to do. It was hard to even feel relief, since the grand jury was still convened and the possibility of future subpoenas and indictments still hung over us. It seemed impossible that three or four people would be incarcerated over this for months and no indictments would follow. Esme was home for now, but would it even last? Or would I be the next one taken in? A lot of us had experienced being detained or mass arrested, things that were a direct result of certain conflicts with the police and state, but this felt like a different category. It’s not like there was a sentence to be served and then it was over. We had no timeframe for how long we had to wait. One lawyer identified the date they thought the grand jury convened, but because they could always reconvene and subpoena more people, it never felt like there was an end. It just hung over us until it eventually dissolved into our past. But I put it in the back of my mind because there wasn’t a lot I could do except keep functioning.

Esme: The shock of release was intense. Riding in a car felt so bizarre. I had lost so much weight none of my clothes fit. I had picked up strange mannerisms and new anxieties. But I was overjoyed to be with my comrades in the flesh again. The collective trauma we all experienced brought us much closer and forged powerful bonds that continue today. Some of my friends would stay on the run for years after, but that’s another story. There were some who betrayed their comrades and capitulated to the state’s demands. I won’t waste my breath on them, except to say that their mistake was tremendous. They lost all their friends and endured just as much trauma as any of us, but they cut themselves off from any support because they chose to throw others under the bus. Not only was their decision unethical, but in the end it wasn’t even self-serving. My experience was painful and lifechanging. Many years have passed and I’m still healing from it, but I do not regret my decisions for an instant.


Afterwards

Cora: Now that this is as behind me as it will ever be, I can see the ways it has shaped me. I moved out of town and onto a farm, in part because of my fear of the police. I had so many traumatic experiences about having them in my home. On the other hand, I feel much stronger and more capable than I did before—specifically, I know exactly how to do this and I could do it again. I know how to navigate the prison system, and I have much more empathy for incarcerated people. When I write them letters now, it feels more personal. I’m also proud of how I was able to build relationships that held a foundation for us all to hold each other through this experience. It helped us get out of the theoretical realm and solidify what we really think and believe. Being able to watch someone I love so much make those decisions based on their personal beliefs was inspiring. We can also say of course we would never crack, but it’s interesting to see someone actually rise to that challenge. It made it seem possible for me, because I was terrified I was going to through the same thing.

Esme: When I first got out, I thought I was fine. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how not okay I had been. Thanks to therapy, hallucinogens, learning about trauma, writing and the loving patience of friends I’ve healed a lot. I’m forever changed but in many ways I am stronger and I’m able to come to anarchist struggles with a focus and intention that I learned from my experience.

Devlin: After several years had passed we assumed that the grand jury had ended, since usually they have expiration dates. But even so lawyers I had talked to suggested that if I ever interacted with police again in my life I would certainly go to jail—so the question of coming out of hiding could not be taken lightly. But the life I was living on the run felt so difficult and I didn’t feel like I could keep living it. I had repressed my feelings during this time so much that I had in a sense lost my ability to feel, I started taking more and more dangerous risks because I didn’t see the point in anything.

But some part of me was aware of the self-destructive path I was on and I discussed it with my comrades. We made the decision that the cost of staying underground was no longer viable.

None of this is to say that it was all bad. It’s easy to emphasize the negative, but there were so many incredible high points I may not have experienced otherwise. Like when I drove for hours in a car full of friends and swam with dolphins in the ocean I remember thinking, “I’m supposed to be in jail right now!” It made the joy feel that much more intense.

Returning to my life felt like exiting one dream world for another. My first run-in with the police felt like the real test of whether or not things could settle down for me for awhile. I had no idea if I would be in jail just for a few hours or if I would be in there for way longer. I wondered to myself, “What do the cops know? How much info did they share between agencies?” But in the end I was released.

Coming back to my life and seeing people was hard, seeing how their lives had moved on. Distance had grown between us. I had to immediately find a job and a place to live. I got a bizarrely normal job in an office and just went through the motions of a functioning person. Over time, it’s grown to feel more and more like my life again.

I still feel rootless and disconnected in big ways at times, but I’m starting to feel comfortable with that. I have been able to make deep friendships with people all over, engaged in disparate but consistently inspiring work. I feel appreciative of the people and struggle around me even if I don’t entirely know where I belong. I embrace emotionality and a more communicative process of dealing with the difficulties of lifelong anarchist struggle. I expect to face harder things in the future than my experience on the run and I think now I’m more prepared to deal with what may come. I feel really strong now and as committed to my politics as I ever was. In some ways I feel less isolated that I did before I went on the run.

Being on the run brought contradictions between many of us, between who we wanted to be and who we are on the surface. So many people set aside their own needs and did support to make resistance to repression possible. At the same time, there were people who I feel let us down and that added to the pain of the whole experience.

If I had to offer anything resembling advice to someone who was thinking about grand juries or repression more generally, from the comfort of a home or stable life, it would be to decide right now who you are going to be. Know what your struggle looks like and spend every fucking day building that context in one way or another. If you are serious, you will be tested. In those moments, you can lean on the continuity of your resistance, and on the rest of us and our experiences. You, too, will be fanning the flames of someone else’s defiance.



Our thanks to all of these comrades for sharing their stories with us. State repression affects everyone, even those who aren’t directly in the line of fire, but there are ways to survive. Years after the ordeal, Devlin has reassumed every aspect of their old identity, as far as the state is concerned, and has a decent paying tech career, despite their stint on the run. Esme is directing amateur theater companies, and Cora is tending to animals on a farm while studying to be a nurse practitioner. Esme and Cora’s relationship with each other and with most of the friends who supported them through this time is still incredibly strong.

As Devlin said, if you’re serious, you will be tested. We may not all face the same kinds of repression, but it’s easy to live in fear when we see what happens to our comrades. We hope these stories have given you some tools and perspectives to use if you or your friends are ever in this situation. As a side note, Dr. Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who was such an inspiration to Devlin, was released this June!

Part of how the grand jury holds its power is through secrecy. The people in charge of these proceedings want us to be mystified and terrified. They want us to live in fear, knowing that fear can keep us docile and contained. The more we learn about how grand juries work and how we can keep ourselves whole and sane as we navigate them, the less power they can hold over us.


“The state demeans everything that we hold dear when they threaten us in this way. The most free and wild thing we have in this world is our love for each other, and we know that our health, our safety, and our liberation can only exist in a world without their cops, their courts, and their cages. Our strength lies in knowing that we can provide that for each other, and that nothing they offer or threaten is worth betraying our commitment to our communities.

“As state repression escalates, I know that all of us are struggling with the trauma and the grief that comes from the forces we fight against, and the vulnerability that we feel to the state in its despicable efforts to attack us. What I also know, what I believe with all my heart and everything I have, is that we have the strength we need to take care of each other and to fight back until we win.”

-Katie Yow, grand jury resister

Justice for All the J20 Defendants: Why the Police, Prosecutor, Judge, and State Are Guilty

Today, after nearly a year of suspense, the first six J20 defendants to go to trial were declared innocent of all charges. They are only six of over 200 people mass-arrested at Donald Trump’s Inauguration, nearly 200 of whom still face the same identical charges of six felonies and two misdemeanors—a combined threat of decades in prison. The fight is far from over. Indeed, in response to the verdict, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced that “they look forward to the same rigorous review for each defendant.” We must redouble our support for all the other defendants and show that it is the state itself that is guilty.

The fact that the defendants have stuck together up to this point represents a tremendous feat of courage, solidarity, and mutual aid. To be subjected to the whims of the criminal justice system is already to be punished. In this case, that system was used in ways that are unusually egregious: mass-arresting so many people and blanket-charging them with felonies is practically unprecedented, and for months the defendants faced charges that do not even legally exist. This victory shows that Trump and his supporters throughout the legal system have not yet been able to consolidate their progress towards making that system even more oppressive than it was. But we should not conclude that any part of the legal system is ever capable of delivering justice.

The criminal justice system exists chiefly for the sake of intimidating and persecuting dissidents and targeted communities. It could go on doing that effectively even if no judge or jury ever reached a verdict of “guilty” again. Think of the over 1000 people murdered every year by police without standing trial; the tens of thousands who languish in jail for years before they go to trial; the millions who are forced to accept unjust plea deals because they cannot obtain proper legal representation; the tens of millions who are routinely harassed by police and other state institutions.

As far as we are concerned, those who stand up to this system are always innocent, whatever means they employ, and those who maintain it are guilty of perpetuating one of the greatest atrocities on the face of the earth. Permit us to make our case.

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Let’s review some of the ways that the J20 defendants have already been punished by this groundless prosecution, long before they went to trial.

First, some of the felony charges that the J20 defendants faced did not even exist. On Wednesday, November 1, Judge Leibovitz reduced two of the felony charges that everyone faced to misdemeanors, acknowledging that felony versions of those charges do not even exist on the books. What legitimacy can the criminal justice system hold when defendants are threatened by nonexistent charges for half a year?

Likewise, on Wednesday, December 13, the judge dismissed the charge of inciting a riot for each of the six on trial. Again, the defendants were terrorized for months by charges that the judge knew were not valid.

Since the beginning, the prosecutors and the state have flagrantly lied to advance their strategy of judicial persecution. On December 13, attorneys for two defendants filed a motion to dismiss the charges against them based on false testimony that the lead detective on the case presented to the grand jury that indicted the defendants. According to the grand jury testimony obtained by the attorneys, the detective told the grand jury that everyone who was kettled and arrested “participated in the entire march,” which the detective, after reviewing hundreds of hours of video footage, clearly knew was false: the two defendants whose attorneys filed this motion only participated in the last three blocks of the march, not the sixteen blocks the detective claimed.

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Over the ten months since their arrest, J20 defendants have been forced to lose their jobs as a result of these groundless charges. Some defendants have not been able to renew their professional licenses. Renewing and applying for licensure includes a review of pending charges—and you risk the possibility that whatever you say in that review will be used against you in trial later on. Most of the defendants have had to put their lives on hold entirely.

One of the defendants who was just declared innocent, an oncology nurse, had to quit her job in order to go to trial. Her boss came to testify as a character witness, but not everyone has such a supportive and understanding boss—bosses tend to identify with the police and the state. What about the patients who should have been receiving care from this nurse, were it not for this groundless prosecution?

The defendants have had to spend thousands of dollars each traveling to DC, often for cancelled hearings. They have had to miss work while incurring additional costs securing housing and other resources in Washington, DC.

Altogether, this adds up to well over the already inflated $100,000 that the government claims was caused in property damage on J20, almost all of which was covered by insurance. Just as the US military inflicted ten times as many civilian casualties on Afghanistan in the war that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US government shows no compunction about making random people pay tenfold for any supposed interruption of imposed law and order.

On the day they were arrested, even before they were taken to jail, J20 defendants were made to wait in the cold for eight hours with no access to food, water, or toilets. The area around them filled up with bottles of urine and even feces. Later, at least one arrestee was unlawfully rectally probed by police. As one reported:

“I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment,” Horse said. “They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.” He added: “It felt like they were trying to break me and the others—break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”

During trial, it came out that one arrestee went to the hospital because a police stinger grenade blew up beside her leg. In a situation like this, arrestees cannot even speak freely to doctors about their injuries without fear that what they say will be used to convict them, even fraudulently.

Police violence during the J20 arrests.

DC police released information about the defendants to far-right trolls who published it, “doxxing” them,” resulting in a flood of online threats to defendants. Although it is not known whether any right-wing attacks have successfully been carried out against J20 defendants yet as a result of this doxxing, the state is responsible for creating conditions in which the defendants have had to live in fear.

Facing decades in prison for ten months—with those who hold the highest political offices in the land calling for the worst possible consequences against you—is stressful to say the least. Such stress and anxiety have had a serious impact on the defendants; some of them have wrestled with suicidal thoughts. While not a DC J20 defendant, Nathan Hose, one of the J20 defendants in New Orleans, took his life in August. The groundless charges that Nathan faced have just been dropped for the surviving defendants in his case.

In this regard, those who press groundless charges are murderers with blood on their hands. They would doubtless welcome more suicides from those who face these charges; it speaks to the deep care that J20 defendants and supporters have shown each other that no one else has committed suicide yet.

All this stress has rippled out to affect countless communities that care about the J20 defendants and about freedom of assembly. Indeed, the chief goal of the J20 prosecution has never been to achieve specific guilty verdicts; it has been to set an ugly new precedent for judicial persecution of all who participate in protest activity. If there are convictions in the J20 trial—or even if there are no more convictions, but there are no serious consequences for the mass arrest and blanket charging—we can be sure that the police will continue to use the same strategy to terrorize other protesters in the future. Imagine if they had used this approach to crack down on Occupy or Black Lives Matter demonstrations!

Some defendants have been prevented from traveling to other countries, trapping them in territory governed by Trump. Long before they came to trial, the charges served to separate people from their families and loved ones and to prevent them from building international ties of solidarity.

The conditions of defendants’ pre-trial non-incarceration include not being arrested in DC again; any additional legal trouble they incur can be used against them in court, even if it also turns out to be groundless. This is another way that the J20 charges have been aimed at sidelining and disabling social movements. Think of all the effort that has gone into support videos, podcast episodes, and fundraising to support the J20 defendants this past year, effort which would otherwise have been focused on anti-fascist activities and proactive attempts to create a better world by providing resources to those in need.


If the defendants in the J20 case—more than 200 people—had not been incapacitated, many more of them would surely have been on the front lines in Charlottesville and elsewhere, preventing the far right from mobilizing to intimidate and murder people of color, Jewish people, undocumented people, and other targeted groups. In this regard, the police, the judge, and the prosecutors have Heather Heyer’s blood on their hands, and the blood of others who have been killed by fascists recently—and many more people who will soon be killed, if the state does not stop targeting anti-fascists. The state always functions to enable fascists to go about their murderous business.

Throughout this entire ordeal, the defendants have had to endure opprobrium from those who are still so ignorant as to misunderstand the state as a beneficial force—who do not realize that to be charged with resisting the ever-increasing encroachments of the state on our freedom is, if anything, an honor.

What would constitute real justice, in this situation? If we understand justice as retribution—poetic justice—the police, prosecutors, the judge, and all the other state officials who are implicated in the past ten months of intimidation would be subjected to the same treatment they have inflicted. The police officers would be rounded up and imprisoned; the detective who lied to the grand jury would have his own life ruined by calumny he was powerless to counteract; the prosecutors would be publicly humiliated and forced to face the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison. Donald Trump would walk across the desert on a broken ankle, pursued by helicopters and armed men with dogs, before dying of dehydration, terrified and alone, within miles of hospital facilities—as he has forced others to do in the Sonoran desert simply in hopes of rejoining their families.

Our oppressors should be grateful that we do not believe in retribution. We aspire to transform society from the bottom up, not to mete out supposed justice. If ever we are the ones to determine their fates, we will aspire to forgiveness.

But the first priority has to be to interrupt the harm that they are perpetuating. Support the J20 defendants.


Gearing up for January 20, 2018: A Week of Outreach and Solidarity Events

On January 20, 2018, people around the US will host solidarity and outreach events to support defendants from Trump’s inauguration, Standing Rock, and other ongoing struggles and to create new connections for the road ahead. Here, you can read about a few examples of these events and some resources you can use to organize your own! Read the original call here: “Build the Base, Take the Initiative.”

Events are in the works from Bloomington, Indiana to as far away as South Korea. We’ll post them here on an ongoing basis until our next announcement. To include an event of your own, email us at rollingthunder@crimethinc.com. To learn more about how to support the J20 defendants, read “Seven Things You Can Do to Support the J20 Defendants”; you can donate to support them here.


Screen a Documentary on Anti-Fascist Resistance

Still trying to figure out what you want to do to organize a solidarity and outreach event in your community for the week of January 20, 2018? Here’s one possibility: you could screen a brand new documentary about anti-fascist resistance that is being released just for the occasion, courtesy of our comrades from globaluprisings.org!

The film will be available online by midnight Central European time at the end of January 19, so anyone can organize a screening and download it to show on January 20. If you need to communicate with someone in advance about showing the film, email info@weinterruptthisprogram.org.

Here’s a trailer for the film:


Since the election of Donald Trump, acts of racist violence have proliferated across the United States. Racists and misogynists feel emboldened to express and act on their views. White nationalist groups and resurgent traditional white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have used Trumps victory to gain new recruits. All that stands in their way are the groups of anarchists and anti-state communists who have taken it upon themselves to prevent fascism from becoming a powerful political force in the United States. This film tells the story of what “Antifa” is and why people are using these tactics to confront racism and fascism in the US today.

Who are the anti-fascists? What motivates them to risk their lives to fight the far right? What is the history of militant anti-fascism and why is it relevant again today? How is anti-fascism connected to a larger political vision that can stop the rise of fascism and offer us visions of a future worth fighting for? Through interviews with anti-fascist organizers, historians, and political theorists in the US and Germany, we explore the broader meaning of this political moment while taking the viewer to the scene of street battles from Washington to Berkeley and Charlottesville.

You can also show a variety of episodes from Trouble, the subMedia documentary series.

Lansing, Michigan: To Live and Love We Must Fight—Solidarity & Defense Winter Conference

On January 19-21, 2018, Solidarity & Defense will host a conference focused on building skills for community self-defense.

Solidarity & Defense is a network of people committed to providing solidarity and defense to communities under attack, organized along directly democratic and participatory lines and independent of all political parties and affiliated groups. The conference will consist of a weekend of workshops and political discussions. On Friday evening there will be a dinner and public panel discussion featuring some of the most dynamic community self-defense projects from around the Midwest. Saturday will be packed with workshops and political discussions, followed by an all-ages hip hop show.

Carbondale, Illinois: Build the Bloc—A Week of Events in Solidarity with J20 Defendants

Carbondale will host a week of presentations, music, poetry, and a comedy show to benefit J20 defendants and the wider movement. Events, collective work projects, and shared meals will take place at the Flyover social center, in collaboration with other projects on “the block,” a short block in Carbondale that capitalism left for dead, which comrades and fellow travelers have been working on for years. The week will end with an anti-Trump rally, with a contest for best sign, banner, or puppet depiction of the president.

Oakland, California: J20 benefit and RIOTcon

Oakland will host a benefit for J20 defendants including a screening of the aforementioned documentary on anti-fascism.

Also in Oakland on January 20, RIOTcon (Radical Interactive Open Technology Conference) will take place at the East Bay Community Space. RIOTcon is a new conference seeking to highlight the intersections between radicalism, art, and technology and how to better utilize resources. They are looking for talks from Bay Area-based individuals who want to explore the intersections between artists, radicals, and technologists. To submit a talk, please fill out the form at riotcon.io or send an email to riotcon@riseup.net.

Philadelphia, Pensylvania: J20 Vegan Brunch and Film Screening

North Philly Food Not Bombs is hosting a J20 Vegan Brunch from 10 to 3 pm.

“That’s right, it’s time! Us North Philly Food Not Bombardiers wish to honor the one year anniversary of a day that shook this planet: January 20th of 2017, the day trump seized the mantle of control of this (lol) ‘democracy.’ To oppose trump and his zombies, there were some brave and marvelous souls that took to the streets, galvanized into fierce action, and kicked off a wave of rebellion that has not ceased yet (we hope it never does!). Essentially they put their lives on the line, as hundreds are facing what amounts life sentences for their public defiance.

“We want to offer up another all vegan brunch fundraiser as a means for people to get together, forge bonds and to hold space for this important day. Everything will be completely vegan and delicious. We will invite some other wonderful radical groups into the mix too, there will surely be some fantastic books and art.”

Afterwards, at 7 pm, the Wooden Shoe will host a screening of “Street Politics 101” and “Continuing the Beginning,” a documentary about Nuit Debout and related movements in France..

Washington, DC: Punk Rock Benefit for J20

A benefit show starting at 6 pm, at St. Stephen & the Incarnation Episcopal Church.

Salt Lake City, Utah—and Elsewhere around the US

On January 20, Salt Lake City will host a political prisoner letter writing event at the library in between 700 East and 900 East on 3300 South.

Even if you can’t organize a massive conference or benefit show, you can still put together an event, however small, to mark the day and create new points of departure for 2018.

Anarchist Perspectives on Net Neutrality: The Digital Enclosure of the Commons

Yesterday, the FCC voted to repeal Net Neutrality. Without those protections, private corporations—and the class that controls them—can shape what information is available to people according to their own interests. Imagine a future in which the content widely available on the internet is comparable to what you could watch on network television in the 1980s! Today, the flows of information on the internet are almost identical with our collective thought processes: they determine what we can discuss, what we can imagine. But the fundamental problem is that the internet has always been controlled by the government and corporations.

It says a lot about the private sector that military development produced a comparatively horizontal framework that corporate control has rendered progressively less participatory and egalitarian. Unfortunately, there’s no anarchist alternative, no people’s internet to build up instead; this is the only one. State socialists have taken advantage of this opportunity to promote nationalizing the internet, arguing that this is an opportunity to formulate a vision of a better future. But if we don’t want the capitalist class to control our communication, state control of the internet doesn’t solve the problem: it is, after all, the state that is making the move to put corporations in control here, and the existing models for state control (think: China) are just as oppressive. We should take pragmatic steps to defend our rights in the current context, but a rights-based framework that takes the state for granted as the arbiter of social issues will never secure our freedom. If we want a truly liberating vision of a better future, we have to think bigger.

An anarchist approach must begin by rejecting the false dichotomy between corporate and state power. From there, we must dare to dream about decentralized forms of infrastructure that are resilient against top-down control. The internet, in its current form, is indeed indispensable for participating in society; but that doesn’t mean we should take the current form of the internet—or of society—for granted as the best or only possible model. It was our resources, extracted from us in form of taxes and labor and innovation, that helped create both in the first place. What could we create if our efforts were not shaped by the constraints of the state and the imperatives of the market?

Technology is never neutral. It’s always political: it always expresses and reinforces the power dynamics and aspirations that gave rise to it. If engineers and programmers don’t build from a political framework with the explicit intention of creating egalitarian relations, their work will always be used to concentrate power and oppress people.

For more on the limitations that capitalism coded into the digital from the outset, read Deserting the Digital Utopia. For details on the end of Net Neutrality and the radical alternatives to corporate control, read the following text by William Budington.

If you want an image of the future, imagine an internet service provider stamping on a human brain—forever.

Net Neutrality and the Feeding Frenzy

The last bulwark has fallen that stood between broadband providers and a profit-driven feeding frenzy the likes of which we’ve never seen before. On Thursday morning, the FCC, led by Republican Trump appointee Ajit Pai, voted in a 3-2 split to repeal 2015 regulations enforcing strong consumer protections on the provision of Internet services, popularly known as Net Neutrality. The repeal will allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to bundle Internet plans in much the same way as they do cable plans, allowing access to certain websites only when you pay up. In addition, it also allows ISPs to create tiered levels of Internet access, forcing websites and content providers that have enjoyed the benefit of an equal playing field over the past years to pay more money in order to compete with properties owned by the cable companies themselves.

Want to buy bandwidth from your favorite Telecommunications company, like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast? How about Telco Lite, with access to Wikipedia? That’ll be $59.99/mo. Oh, you want Telco Super, with YouTube bundled in? $79.99. You dare to ask for Netflix, a competitor to Comcast’s own Hulu service? Sure, Telco Ultra can give you that—for the price of $99.99.

Let us be clear: this repeal only benefits the ISPs. It allows ISPs to use their privileged position as the proprietor of the physical infrastructure for home Internet access to to squeeze out profit from both sides of the pipe they control—to gouge both content creators and regular users alike. Everyone else, like [74% of Americans(https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/public-relations/pr-pulse-74-americans-support-net-neutrality-legislation/) who favor Net Neutrality, or the overwhelming majority of people who submitted unique comments to the FCC opposing the repeal in the public feedback phase, be damned.

In 2015, under the then-comissioner of the FCC Tom Wheeler, provision of Internet access was reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act. This meant that ISPs were regulated similarly to a utility, and that preferential treatment could not be provided to some websites over others. This is often referred to as an even on-ramp: when you open your browser, you’d see the same Internet everyone else sees. You’d have the same access to information as every other Internet user. Your ISP could still charge you for faster access in general, just not for faster access to particular parts of the net. Even with these regulations in place, ISPs have been found violating them over and over again. As recently as July, Verizon was caught throttling (read: slowing down) Netflix videos, in violation of FCC rules. But don’t worry, Chairman Pai says—we don’t need Net Neutrality because the ISPs will self-regulate. Yeah, right.

Dirty tricks abounded in the lead-up to Thursday’s vote. In the aforementioned public feedback phase, millions of fake anti-Net Neutrality comments were submitted to the FCC website. These used variations of phrases—slightly modified to have the same meaning but using different words—in order to give the appearance of a unique comment being submitted. Especially disturbing was the fact that the comments were given under assumed names, often those of the deceased, or of those who are alive but never themselves submitted anything. So concerning was the practice that it prompted the NY Attorney General to open an investigation into the identity theft of New Yorkers whose names were used in fake comments, leading him to eventually publish an open letter to the FCC after failing to receive any response to repeated inquiries.

What’s important for anarchists to take note of here is that a lot of the debate around Net Neutrality makes it seem like it pits one set of profit-hungry companies against another. Why should we care if ISPs or streaming services win? Let them fight each other, it doesn’t affect us. But the reality is much more dire. Since the major broadband providers effectively run what amounts to oligopoly control over our access to information, they have much more direct ability to filter, throttle, and ban outright content which they deem unacceptable or unprofitable. So, yeah, it’s about Netflix and Youtube. But it’s also about access to radical or anarchist content from CrimethInc. or IGD. In addition to shaping traffic, the repeal enables your provider to actually block content altogether. This puts our ability to create our own radical subjectivities under an even greater threat than before.

Radical Alternatives

Regulatory control by the centralized federal agencies backed by state force is certainly no ideal to strive for, but (as is so often the case) the state has set itself up to play the role of savior. In that role it was holding back the forces of unmitigated private extraction of the information landscape. But could things have been different? As anarchists, could we have helped to shape the landscape itself in a more decentralized, autonomous manner? Can we still? Instead of corporations held back by state force, what would a non-corporate alternative to Internet provision look like?

There are some radical alternatives that challenge corporate hegemonic control over Internet provision at a very basic level. Exciting examples of community-based approaches are taking shape in hacker spaces from Oakland to New York in the form of mesh networks. The idea is simple: instead of relying on the existing physical infrastructure built out by the large telecommunications companies, we can build our own infrastructure. We can take our home wifi routers, and program them to talk to each other, to provide access to one another. This horizontal communication stands in stark contrast to the usual usage of these devices, which is mainly to facilitate access vertically, directly to the ISP uplink. In this way, we can build an net that is created and controlled by us. Pirate packets, jumping through the air.

The benefit for us is clear, and this is a fundamental, structural challenge to the current state and corporate control flows. So our challenge is twofold, both short-term and long-term. First, we must stop the immediate, existential threat that we face with the repeal of the most basic Net Neutrality protections, which threaten to silence our voices. Second, we must build a structural alternative to the current Internet, an other network, one where our voices can not be silenced by a mere regulatory shift because no one else controls it but the communities that comprise it themselves. A small example of this is the mesh networks that exist today, which are fledgling but precious examples of the prefiguration of power we wish to see.

A six-gill, blunt nose shark (Hexanchus griseus) takes a bite out of an undersea internet cable.

Fuck Abuse, Kill Power: Addressing the Root Causes of Sexual Harassment and Assault

The past year has seen a wave of revelations about powerful people—nearly all men—perpetrating sexual violence against those beneath them. The #MeToo moment has provided a platform for countless courageous survivors. Yet although some men have been made to face consequences for the harm they have done, we are far from being able to solve the problem of male sexual violence. Focusing on the wrongdoings of specific men tends to exceptionalize them, as if their actions took place in a vacuum. This is consistent with the mechanisms of a criminal justice system focused on individual guilt and a reformist politics premised on the idea that the existing government and market economy would serve us perfectly if only the right people were in power. But with the bad behavior of so many men coming to light, we have to consider the possibility that these are not exceptions at all—that these attacks are the inevitable, systemic result of this social order. Is there a way to treat the cause as well as the symptoms?

Trigger warning for descriptions of sexual violence.

Virtually all recent mainstream coverage has treated sexual harassment and assault as an issue distinct from capitalism and hierarchy. When writers admit that capitalism and hierarchy play some role, they imply that what is harmful about these systems can be fixed through reform. They exhort us to appeal to power to solve the problems power causes: we are to pressure corporations to fire their executives, to use the media to shame media moguls, to use democracy to punish politicians. In short, we are supposed to use the very structures through which our abusers hold power to take it away from them.

On the contrary, we can’t be effective against rampant sexual assault without confronting its root causes.

A tattoo by Charline Bataille inspired by Jenny Holzer.

A Very Brief History of Sexual Assault in the United States

Sexual assault and rape are woven into the very origins of the United States. The original colonists did not consider the indigenous inhabitants worthy of the same moral considerations as white Europeans. Sexual assault and rape were systematically employed as colonial tools. Michele de Cuneo, a nobleman and a shipmate of Columbus, described the following scene in a letter, apparently without shame or remorse:

While I was in the boat I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me, and with whom, having taken her to my cabin, she being naked according to their custom, I conceived desire to take pleasure. I wanted to put my desire into execution but she did not want it and treated me with her finger nails in such a manner that I wished I had never begun. But seeing that (to tell you the end of it all), I took a rope and thrashed her well, for which she raised such unheard of screams that you would not have believed your ears. Finally we came to an agreement in such a manner that I can tell you that she seemed to have been brought up in a school of harlots.

Slaves, too, were routinely sexually assaulted. This was an essential aspect of the system of slavery: in addition to domestic labor, enslaved women were forced to engage in sex and reproduction that served to add more slaves to their captor’s holdings.

Workers have also experienced egregious sexual harassment and assault for as long as there has been a workforce.

Throughout all this, women were never passive victims. Women have always fought against their abusers with ferocity, creativity, and diversity of tactics. For example, in the mid-1800s, a slave named Harriet Jacobs fought fiercely against her captor; after resisting his sexual advances, she hid in a crawlspace for seven years to avoid him. She eventually escaped to New York and obtained legal freedom. An early forerunner of the #MeToo movement, she wrote letters to the New York Tribune detailing her experiences and in 1860 published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, one of the first books to detail enslaved women’s experiences of sexual assault.

Starting in the early 1900s, women formed labor unions that fought for the rights of female workers, including the right not to be sexually harassed and assaulted. Black women’s struggles against workplace harassment led to the creation of the first laws against sexual discrimination and harassment. In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt cut off her abusive husband’s penis and threw it in a field after he raped her. A jury acquitted her. These are all legitimate forms of resistance.

“They passed round the bleeding stump, as if they had finally exterminated a wild animal that had been preying on each and every one of them, and saw it there inert and in their power. They bared their teeth, and spat on it.”

-A passage from Emile Zola’s 1885 novel Germinal in which a mob of starving women workers castrate the corpse of a shopkeeper who has been extorting them for sex in exchange for food.


Corporations Won’t Solve This

It was no secret that many of these men were abusers. Nothing is different now except that corporations have taken a bit more notice. Corporate media outlets have published women’s accounts; some corporations have fired rapists if what they have done is deemed egregious enough. Should we be grateful to corporations for firing serial sexual predators once enough accusations pile up that it becomes a problem for their brand?

These corporations are just plugging the oil leak that finally made the news. But who creates and maintains this pipeline? They do. Let’s not pat them on the back for solving a problem that they caused.

Most of these companies have known about these accusations for years without doing anything. Worse, they’ve allowed these men to rise up the ranks of power to the point that their serial abuse warrants national news attention. In other words, these corporations have facilitated these men’s behavior by giving them additional opportunities with which to harass, assault, and rape women. For every Harvey Weinstein whose actions are finally brought to light, there is another Harvey Weinstein who gets away with serial assault thanks to the assistance of the institution that gives him power.

Why do corporations have a vested interest in helping rapists succeed in business? While misogyny is partly to blame, we have to look at the bigger picture. Corporate success is determined by how much profit a business produces, not by whether it protects women from sexual assault. In capitalism, whether to oust an assaulter becomes a simple economic equation: how is his presence affecting the bottom line?

Take the case of Bill O’Reilly. Since 2002, Fox News and O’Reilly have paid out many millions of dollars to settle sexual harassment claims. During this time, O’Reilly continued to be a rising star at Fox, negotiating a $25 million a year contract as recently as January 2017. While media coverage and exposés finally forced Fox to fire O’Reilly, Fox knew he was an abuser for more than a decade and shelled out millions to silence women he abused. Fox’s behavior is not so mysterious when one learns that in 2015, O’Reilly’s show earned Fox more than $180 million in advertising.

This is not an anomaly; this is a standard utilitarian calculation that businesses make all the time. Imagine you’re O’Reilly’s conscientious supervisor. Having just discovered O’Reilly’s long history of harassing women, you go to your bosses and demand that they fire O’Reilly. Even if your bosses agree with your demand from a moral standpoint, how could they explain the loss of O’Reilly, the golden goose, to their shareholders? Capitalism is designed to maximize profit over everything else, including ethics and safety.

This system also makes it difficult to fight back against abusers. In a hyper-competitive market, a single setback can mean the end of your career, your healthcare, your ability to pay rent. The stakes are higher for women and trans people, especially those of color, who are far more likely to experience poverty than men. Those who have gained a footing in the economy may be understandably hesitant to risk losing it, and it’s no secret that those who resist abuse or call out their abusers often face adverse consequences for doing so.

Targets of sexual harassment face impossible choices: do I allow this abuse to continue or risk losing income I desperately need? Do I report this abuse and risk deportation? Do I leave this job without reporting this abuse? If I do, does that mean that others will be preyed upon after me?

Capitalism, the state, and other forms of hierarchy offer sexual predators many ways of doing harm to those who resist them. O’Reilly, Weinstein, Ailes, Farenthold (the list goes on and on and on) all routinely harmed or ended the careers of those who opposed them.

Fears about job security also affect those who are asked to witness or even abet abusers. Weinstein used his employees to make his victims feel a false sense of security before he assaulted them, often asking staffers to come to the beginning of nighttime meetings and then dismissing them so he could be alone with his victims. One former employee described a scene in a nighttime meeting in which Weinstein demanded she tell a model that Weinstein was a good boyfriend, and became enraged when she said she no longer wished to attend these “meetings.” It is easy to feel self-righteous anger at staffers who abetted Weinstein, but it is undeniable that Weinstein’s position of power enabled him to ruin people’s lives. While we deserve for others to be brave in standing up for us even against the most powerful foes, it is unrealistic to think we could put an end to sexual harassment and assault in a system in which people have to martyr themselves in order to protect each other.

Abolishing capitalism and all other systems that concentrate wealth and power into the hands of a few would not put a stop to sexual assault, but it would greatly reduce the coercive economic power that the rich and powerful wield over the rest of us. Without those structural imbalances in power, assaulters would not have the means to manipulate anyone into complicity and silence. This may sound utopian, but it is the only realistic solution if we’re serious about combatting sexual assault. No system that centralizes wealth and power can prevent that power from being used to coerce or harm people.

No, we really don’t.

The Criminal Justice System Won’t Solve This

The law is no friend to victims of sexual harassment and assault. Police officers across the United States have brought charges of false reporting against sexual assault survivors who went to them for help, only to later see these victim’s stories confirmed when their assaulters were identified and convicted. Sexual assault survivors who manage to convince the police not to arrest them for false reporting can find themselves jailed in order to compel their testimony in court.

ICE uses courts as a trap for undocumented people. Undocumented people cannot even enter a courthouse without risking arrest and deportation. In this way, the state systematically facilitates the sexual assault of those whose papers are not in order.

Even if the police don’t throw you in jail, only three to six percent of workplace harassment claims ever make it to trial. Some of these cases are settled, but many are dismissed due to the law’s high bar for what constitutes harassment (the harassment must qualify as “severe” or “pervasive”). In one typical example, a construction worker brought a case against a supervisor who talked about raping him multiple times. The worker’s case was dropped because the supervisor’s actions occurred over a ten-day period and therefore did not meet the standard of being “pervasive.”

The court system not only punishes those who attempt to utilize it—it also targets those who try to defend themselves. In the New Jersey 4 case, a group of black women defended themselves against a catcaller who threatened and attacked them. They were prosecuted and four were sentenced to between 3.5 and 11 years in Rikers.

The criminal justice system exacerbates all the problems we have already seen in the corporate sector. While corporations implicitly hold people hostage in the context of the capitalist economy, the criminal justice system explicitly holds people hostage via the coercive apparatus of the law and the state. It is the epitome of power being distributed to the few and entirely denied to the many, and as such it is a site of terrifying abuses of power. People in prison are routinely sexually assaulted, often by their jailers. When we appeal to the violent authority of the state to punish our abusers, we are complicit in perpetuating the power dynamics that we claim to oppose.

We need to explore systems of justice that hold people accountable to each other, rather than to a higher power. Wherever we concentrate power, we will see abuse.


Viewing Sexual Harassment through an Intersectional Lens

Although we are framing this primarily in gendered terms, the identities “male” and “female” are just proxies with which to discuss different degrees of power and privilege. Whose voices we hear and how we respond to those voices is determined by a myriad of other factors including race, sexual orientation, economic status, ability status, and first language. In seeking to disentangle ourselves from patriarchy, we need to internalize the way our privileges protect us from harm that others face. We need to listen to the stories of those most likely to be harmed under patriarchy and capitalism: black women’s stories, trans people’s stories, undocumented workers’ stories, poor people’s stories.

We need to take note of whose voices those in power seek to discredit. For example, the only sexual assault charges Harvey Weinstein has specifically disputed came from the only black woman, Lupita Nyong’o, who has accused him of harassment or assault.


This Is about Power, not Sex

Although women also perpetrate sexual assault, we are statistically far less likely to do so than men. Is this because women are inherently better, more moral, or less violent than men? If we are, it is in part because we, as non-men, are not taught that we must embody the norms of toxic masculinity that are symptomatic of patriarchy, i.e., that women are objects, or that our self-worth is based on the number of women we fuck. Men’s internalized toxic masculinity accounts for many of the reasons they sexually assault women.

Some have suggested that the solution to rampant sexual harassment and assault is that women should replace men in all positions of power. But the problem is not the condition of maleness; the problem is patriarchy, an unequal distribution of power. As long as some hold power over others, the powerful will prey on the less powerful, regardless of who occupies these roles.

Patriarchy is not the bad behavior of a few specific men, but the framework of relations that fosters it.

So What Do We Do?

To call out sexual predators without seeking to dismantle the system of power that created them is like bailing water out of a sinking ship. The fundamental problem isn’t a shortfall of publicity, law, policy, or education; the fundamental problem is that the systems that purport to keep us safe make us vulnerable.

We have to weave together the ways that we respond to specific instances of sexual harassment and violence with a determination to confront and undermine the social order that gives rise to them. In every case of male violence, we should be clear that we are not dealing with an exception, but with a problem that is a structural feature of our society. At the same time, we need to create models of transformative justice that can replace the criminal justice system without replicating any feature of it, and to foster new ways of relating in which patriarchy, white supremacy, and other forms of authority do not determine the possibilities of our lives. Every person of every gender stands to gain from this.

Let us join hands, teeth bared.

“I’m not your prey, I still have teeth” by kAt Philbin.

Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex.

SCUM will not picket, demonstrate, march or strike to attempt to achieve its ends. Such tactics are for nice, genteel ladies who scrupulously take only such action as is guaranteed to be ineffective… If SCUM ever marches, it will be over the President’s stupid, sickening face; if SCUM ever strikes, it will be in the dark with a six-inch blade.

–Valerie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto

Further Reading

The history of sexual assault in the United States:

Slavery and the Roots of Sexual Harassment by Adrienne D. Davis

Feminism and the Labor Movement: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict by Eileen Boris and Annelise Orleck writing for CUNY’s New Labor Forum

Sexual Harassment Law Was Shaped by the Battles of Black Women by Raina Lipsitz writing for The Nation

Alternatives to criminal justice:

Sexual Assault Resources from North East Anarchist Network (particularly the Accountability Processes section)

Revolution and Restorative Justice: An Anarchist Perspective by Peter Kletsan writing for Abolition Journal

Accounting for Ourselves: Breaking the Impasse Around Assault and Abuse in Anarchist Scenes from CrimethInc.

Sexual assault and neoliberalism:

Profiting from Rape: Sexual Violence and the Capitalist State by Kelly Rose Pflug-Back writing for The Feminist Wire

The Consent of the Ungoverned by Laurie Penny writing for LongReads

Sexual assault on the margins:

Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment by Grace Meng published in Human Rights Watch

Sexual Assault When You’re on the Margins: Can We All Say #MeToo? by Collier Meyerson writing for The Nation