A year into the latest incarnation of this project, we’ve accomplished a lot—but we could be doing a lot more with a little assistance. We’re hoping trustworthy comrades will step up and help us to continue expanding our efforts, freeing up time and resources with which we can produce more books, articles, posters, speaking tours, and the like.
Here is a list of roles and tasks that you could fulfill. Needless to say, all this is volunteer work: we do these things out of love and desire for social change, and for the pleasure of working on creative projects with other brilliant and virtuous opponents of the existing order.
Help Us with Printing, Art, Design, and Video
Do you have free printing at your school or workplace? Print copies of our zines and posters to distribute in your community! Better yet, if you can, make copies in bulk and ship some to us so we can pass them on to folks who lack the means to produce zines themselves.
If you have access to fancier printing options such as letterpress or silkscreen, we’d love your help making lovely covers for our zines, as well. If you want to help with this, or simply to receive an alert when new designs are available for printing, email Ben.
We would love to work with more artists and videographers to illustrate our literature. We also need more designers to produce zines and posters. If you are an artist, videographer, or designer, contact us and send us examples of your work.
Help with Speaking Events and Tours
If you would like to invite a team of CrimethInc. agents to speak about any of the subjects we’ve published on at your community center, school, book fair, or conference, please contact us and we’ll see what we can do. The same goes if you would like to set up a tour for us or help us with booking. Over the years, we have participated in events from Des Moines and Cincinnati to Chile and the Philippines and if you can help us figure out how to cover the costs of transportation, we will gladly travel anywhere on earth.
Help with Signal Boosting
We’ve grudgingly acknowledged the importance of social media in modern-day outreach, but we could still use your help with it. Because Facebook’s algorithms are designed to disadvantage small projects that don’t pay for advertising, we need assistance with signal boosting. All we need is for people to share our posts from their own profiles. To help signal boost our posts, send us a Facebook message and we’ll make sure to tell you when articles come out.
Help with Editing
Although we spend long hours in group process co-authoring and editing texts, we still need help proofreading articles. At this point, we’re backed up months behind with texts we could publish if only we had assistance polishing them up. If you are an experienced editor and you can volunteer to help, contact us.
Help the CrimethInc. Tech Team
The CrimethInc. website is built by volunteers during their nights, weekends, and clandestine hours stolen away at their jobs when the bosses aren’t looking. While the code collective has accomplished a lot with limited resources, we would love to do more. We need your help. Here’s where you come in:
Are you a Ruby/Rails developer? Or are you curious about Ruby or Rails? There are several issues for the website and the content collective’s CMS ranging from small bugs to large features (such as automated syndication to Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, etc). Check the issue tracker on GitHub.
Are you a CSS developer or designer? There are issues to improve content presentation (like article text size on mobile). There is also an opportunity to refactor the SCSS into a DRYer system.
Are you a visual designer? You could help us design a better reader experience. There are also standalone mini-sites to be designed and built, like the To Change Everything mini-site.
Are you a devops engineer? We need better automation around database backups, static site rendering, developer onboarding scripts, etc.
Send us reports! Write your own 1-2 paragraph reports of exciting acts of resistance or experiments in living without authority. Better yet, record 90-second segments about such acts and send those in to us—it’s easy to do on most smartphones! Or just send us links to exciting news that we wouldn’t already find on It’s Going Down, Dialectical Delinquents, Insurrection News, or the Earth First! Newswire.
Get your local community station to carry us! KEPW 97.3 in Eugene, OR already broadcasts us weekly, and we’re working with two other stations to regularly share The Hotwire. Every episode is radio ready, conforming to FCC regulations. We can prepare precise, 29-minute-long episodes if needed. Get in touch if you need more guidance or assistance with this.
We would love professional software that can securely and irreversibly disguise voices.
We also welcome equipment donations. We can always use better equipment, like…
Also, are you involved in an anarchist group? We like to represent the breadth of the anarchist movement with little plugs for It’s Going Down. Get in touch and we’ll record a jingle for It’s Going Down with your voice, plugging your group as well!
Help the Ex-Worker
In addition to all the same technology required by the Hotwire, the CrimethInc. cells involved with producing the Ex-Worker podcast request:
Help with transcription! We’re committed to providing a full transcript for all of our episodes to make them as accessible as possible. But transcribing can be pretty time-consuming. We could use volunteers to transcribe interviews. It doesn’t take any specialized skills—just the time and patience to go through the audio files from interviews and type them out.
Help with reviews! We also welcome folks who are interested in reading newly released books or periodicals and writing short reviews responding to them. Contact us to strategize together about how to go about this and which titles to start with.
Tell us what you think anarchists need to be discussing. What are the important issues, practical and theoretical debates, and areas for analysis that we should focus on? Let us know what they are, what you think about them, and what texts or groups we should consult.
I’ve never liked the part of the story when the mentor figure dies and the young heroes say they aren’t ready to go it alone, that they still need her. I’ve never liked it because it felt clichéd and because I want to see intergenerational struggle better represented in fiction.
Today I don’t like that part of the story because… I don’t feel ready.
Last week, I lived in the same world as Ursula Le Guin, a grandmaster of science fiction who accepted awards by decrying capitalism and seemed, with every breath, to speak of the better worlds we can create. On Monday, January 22, 2018, she passed away. She was 88 years old and she knew it was coming, and of course my sorrow is for myself and my own loss and not for a woman who, after a lifetime of good work fighting for what she believed, died loved.
It’s also a sorrow, though, to have lost one of the most brilliant anarchists the world has ever known. Especially now, as we start into the hard times she said were coming.
To be clear, Ursula Le Guin didn’t, as I understand it, call herself an anarchist. I asked her about this. She told me that she didn’t call herself an anarchist because she didn’t feel that she deserved to—she didn’t do enough. I asked her if it was OK for us to call her one. She said she’d be honored.
Ursula, I promise you, the honor is ours.
When I think about anarchist fiction, the first story that comes into my head is a simple one, called “Ile Forest,” which appeared in Le Guin’s 1976 collection Orsinian Tales. The narrative is framed by two men discussing the nature of crime and law. One suggests that some crimes are simply unforgivable. The other refutes it. Murder, surely, argues the one, that isn’t for self-defense, is unforgivable.
The chief narrator of the story then goes on to relate a story of a murder—a vile one, a misogynist one—that leaves you with both discomfort and with the awareness that no, in that particular case, there would be no justice in seeking vengeance or legal repercussions against the murderer.
In a few thousand words, without even trying, she undermines the reader’s faith in both codified legal systems and vigilante justice.
It wasn’t that Le Guin carried her politics into her work. It’s that the same spirit animated both her writing and her politics. In her 2015 blog post “Utopiyin, Utopiyang” she writes:
“The kind of thinking we are, at last, beginning to do about how to change the goals of human domination and unlimited growth to those of human adaptability and long-term survival is a shift from yang to yin, and so involves acceptance of impermanence and imperfection, a patience with uncertainty and the makeshift, a friendship with water, darkness, and the earth.”
That’s the anarchist spirit that animated her work. Anarchism, as I see it, is about seeking a better world while accepting impermanence and imperfection.
I spend a lot of my time thinking about, reading about, and learning from others about how fiction can engage with politics. I don’t want to put Le Guin on a pedestal—she herself, in perfect form, refused to let people call her or her work genius—but no one wrote political fiction with the same flair for well-told book-length metaphor as she did.
The easiest book for me to talk about is The Dispossessed, because it’s the most widely-read anarchist utopian novel in the English language. When an anarchist like Le Guin writes her utopia, it’s explicitly “an ambiguous utopia.” It says so, right on the cover. It’s the story of an anarchist scientist at odds with his own anarchist society and the stifling social conventions that can grow up in the place of laws. It’s a story of that anarchist society, far from perfect, favorably compared to both capitalism and state communism. It’s also a story about how beautiful monogamous relationships can be once they’re not compulsory. When the anarcho-curious ask me for a novel to read that explores anarchism, I don’t always suggest it, since the anarchist world represented is so bleak (my go to, more often that not, is Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing). It’s too anarchist of a text to serve as propaganda.
Le Guin was also a pacifist. I’m not one myself, but I respect her position on the matter. I think it was that pacifism that helped her write about violent anti-colonial struggle with as much nuance as she did in The Word for World is Forest. There’s an inherent kindness in the violence in that book, which pits an indigenous alien race (the inspiration for the Ewoks of Star Wars, incidentally, in case you needed more proof that anarchists invent everything) against human invaders. The glory of struggle is muted, rendered realistically. The glory of it is as dangerous as the actual violence, as it should be.
Le Guin and other authors blew open the doors of what science fiction could be, presenting social sciences as equal to hard sciences. Her novel The Left Hand of Darkness is about people who alternate between male and female. As I understand it, it was an unprecedented work when it came out in 1969. I didn’t love it the way that I’ve loved some of her other books, but I’m not sure I can imagine what the world would look like if it had never been written. I can’t point to another work that has done more to seed the idea that gender can and should be fluid. It’s possible that my life as a non-binary trans woman would be completely different had she not written that book.
The Lathe of Heaven is psychedelic fiction at its finest and a parable of the power held by artists and those who imagine other worlds. Presciently, it explores a society destroyed by global warming.
For the luckier kids of my generation, Le Guin’s fantasy series, Earthsea, filled the role that Harry Potter has for people younger than me. I wish I’d read it as a kid, though I don’t regret how often I read The Hobbit. In the world of Earthsea, the villains who threaten the world are aspects of the heroes who have to save it.
The words Le Guin has written that have meant the most to me, though, are her short stories. If you want to understand why so many people cried to hear of her death, read “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas.” It is, simply, and I don’t say this hyperbolically, perfect. It’s short, and beautiful, and it’s exactly the kind of story that can change the world.
I haven’t read all of Le Guin’s books, and I have to admit, I’m glad about that today. I’m glad that there are more of her stories waiting for me.
When I was a baby anarchist, I wanted to know what anarchism had to do with fiction. I get most of my ideas by talking to smart people, so I set out to ask smart people my question. I wrote Ursula Le Guin a letter and sent it to her PO Box. She emailed me back and I interviewed her for what I thought would be a zine.
That zine became my first book, which started what has since become both my career and, presumably, my life’s work. She had literally nothing to gain by helping me, encouraging me, and lending her tremendous social credibility to my project. I like to think she was excited to talk explicitly about anarchism in a way she didn’t often get to, but frankly I might be projecting my hopes onto her.
I think of her kindness to me as an act of solidarity between two people fighting the same fight.
That’s a big part of why I’ve cried so much since her death.
Later into that same book project, I started to ask myself why I cared so much why this or that author identified as an anarchist or worked for anarchist projects. I’ve always been less concerned with the boundaries of our ideology and more interested in words and deeds that encourage freethinking, autonomous individuals who act cooperatively. Whether or not Le Guin calls herself (or lets us call her) an anarchist doesn’t change what she’s written or how she’s impacted the world. Many of the best and most beneficial writers, activists, and friends I know or know of don’t call themselves anarchists, and that doesn’t change the love I have for them. I’ve also never been particularly excited about celebrity culture, idol worship, or really just fame as a concept.
Yet it mattered to me—still matters to me—that Le Guin was an anarchist.
I finally came to terms with why I care so much. I care because it means that those stories that have meant so much to me were written by someone with whom I’m aligned on a lot of very specific hopes and dreams. I care because I can use her own words to eviscerate anyone who attempts to recuperate her into some other camp—say, liberal capitalist or state communist—and use her celebrity to promote causes she did not support or actively opposed. I care because the accomplishments of anarchists have been written out of history time and time again, and Le Guin is famous for some very specific and undeniable achievements that will be very hard to erase. Maybe it’s hero worship. Maybe it’s basking in reflected light. I don’t know. I just know that she makes me proud to be an anarchist.
I don’t have a lot of heroes. Most of my favorite writers, I aspire to be their peers. Ursula Le Guin was a hero. She mentored me without knowing it. She encouraged my writing both directly, by telling me she was excited for what I would write, and indirectly, by telling me why writing is worthwhile and also with her book on writing Steering the Craft.
Right now, I’m thinking about her words on the importance of words. As I step back from most organizing, I think about what she told me a decade ago:
“Activist anarchists always hope I might be an activist, but I think they realize that I would be a lousy one, and let me go back to writing what I write.”
But she knew that words alone weren’t enough. Art is part of social change, but it isn’t anywhere near the whole of it. Le Guin did thankless work, too, attending demonstrations and stuffing envelopes for whatever organization could use her help. It’s that dichotomy that makes her my hero. I want everyone to leave me to my writing and not expect me to organize, but I want to be useful in other ways too.
Last night, three of us exchanged Signal messages about her passing. “It’s up to us now,” we said. “We have to work harder without her now,” we said. Signal messages are like whispers sometimes. In the dead of night, we say the things that scare us.
“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality.”
I don’t feel ready, but no one ever does. The truth is: we are ready. There are writers who remember freedom. Maybe more now than there have ever been. There are stories that need to be told, and we are telling them. Walidah Imarisha will tell them. Adrienne Marie Brown will tell them. Laurie Penny will tell them. Nisi Shawl will tell them. Cory Doctorow, Jules Bentley, Mimi Mondal, Lewis Shiner, Rebecca Campbell, Nick Mamatas, Evan Peterson, Alba Roja, Simon Jacobs, and more people than I can know or count will tell them.1
All of us will tell them, to each other, by whatever means. We’ll remember freedom. Maybe we’ll even get there.
This list is not to imply any specific political affiliation of the authors, only to tell you about writers who, I believe, remember freedom. ↩
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
“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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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-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.
On January 22, 2018, there will be a screening of ANTIFA at Joe’s Garage. Food at 7 followed by the film.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Rigaer 94: Call for Resistance / Release of Manhunt Photos of Berlin Police
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.
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?
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!
Response to the Rigaer 94’s Call for a Police Manhunt / Threatening Letter Received from the Police State
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 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 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. ↩
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. ↩
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. ↩
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. ↩
Soko Black Block is the official name the German police gave to their campaign of repression against G20 participants. ↩
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. ↩
An 18-year-old Italian arrested at the G20 and held in prison for 4 months. ↩
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. ↩
This concept is specific to Germany and means “the politics of coming to terms with the past.” ↩
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. ↩
A social center and event space associated with the housing project Rigaer 94. ↩
In October 2017, police officers in Rostock came under fire for their involvement in a Nazi plot to murder left-wing activists. ↩
The National Socialist Underground [NSU] carried out a series of murders between 2000 and 2006, mostly against people of Turkish background. ↩
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
“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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Back in the US, when Trump announced that trans people would be banned from the military, we immediately responded with twoarticles 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.
In October, we offeredextensive 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 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…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute or offer feedback on how The Hotwire can better serve anarchist efforts near you. Stay rebel.
Appendix II: New Zines and Posters
For your printing convenience, a review of the new zines and posters we produced this year.