August is shaping up to be a busy month in the United States, with a convergence of struggles against fascist organizing, the prison-industrial complex, and the violence of the border as exemplified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). With our comrades at Submedia and It’s Going Down, we’ve prepared a short video addressing the situation. Below, we follow it with a few remarks about the situation.
Shut Down Fascism
We’re seeing a new wave of activity from the fascist movement that was so soundly beaten in the streets a year ago. On July 28, the Nazis of Patriot Front carried out a cowardly surprise attack on Occupy ICE in San Antonio. This August, the same fascist groups that terrorized and murdered people last year are preparing to rally around the US again—everywhere from Providence and Washington, DC to Portland and Berkeley.
Fascists are the street wing of the Trump agenda. We have to shut them down wherever they organize. But above all, we can’t let them stop us from standing up to the state, the chief source of authoritarian violence.
“These goons are of great use to the authorities. They can carry out attacks that the state is not yet able to, intimidating those who might otherwise rebel. They distract from the institutionalized violence of the state, which is still the cause of most of the oppression that takes place in our society. Above all, they enable the authorities to portray themselves as neutral keepers of the peace.”
For years, people concerned about the violence of the border sought a point of intervention to take action against it. At the beginning of the Trump era, we proposed that people build on the example of the airport blockades by shutting down ICE offices. This summer, the Occupy ICE model finally took off, with occupations all around the United States.
The movement has managed to accomplish a lot with a relatively small amount of people. Unlike astroturf movements like the March for Our Lives that rapidly became promotional events for the Democratic Party, Occupy ICE has offered agency to the exploited and excluded and achieved a direct impact. This has included direct aid and solidarity for the struggles of immigrants, halting specific deportations, and delaying deportations on a larger scale. Occupy ICE has blocked the Trump administration’s policy of breaking up families and forced Trump to try to distance himself from his own policy.
In short, direct action gets the goods: we don’t need political parties to make change, we can take action ourselves to force the state to stop what it is doing.
Unlike the top-down decision involving the FBI and DHS to clear the Occupy encampments in coordinated attacks, the Trump administration has thus far permitted cities to handle the encampments on their own, presumably for fear that centralized repression would backfire. In response, fascists and others on the far right have taken on the task attacking the encampments themselves, following in the footsteps of DHS agents. The fascists aspire to act as an auxiliary force of repression to do what the forces of the state cannot currently do.
However, this strategy can backfire for reactionaries who hold state power. The failure of the “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville a year ago cost the Trump regime dearly. Likewise, the decision to rely on evidence provided by far-right surveillance vigilantes Project Veritas cost prosecutor Jennifer Kerkhoff the entire J20 case. When fascists and other grassroots reactionaries overextend themselves, their failures can undermine the legitimacy of the reigning party they hope to support. We have to see fascist attacks as an opportunity to seize the initiative in our struggle against the state.
Above all, fascists would like us to narrow the scope of our efforts to countering their organizing; they aim to trap us in a private grudge match while the state continues to mass-incarcerate and deport people. We beat them by organizing movements that can take on the chief source of oppression, the state itself.
The organizers of a looming nationwide prison strike have expressed solidarity with Occupy ICE, linking the fight against prison slavery to the call to abolish ICE. This has come in the form of statements from prison strike leaders in support of Occupy ICE and also recent hunger strikes in solidarity with hunger-striking migrant detainees. When prisoners unite across racial lines against prison slavery, it’s up to us to do the same on the outside.
So in solidarity with #AllOutAugust, we encourage people to continue to organize blockades against ICE facilities; to continue to defend Occupy ICE camps and reenergize them with events, music, films, and discussions; and to mobilize solidarity around the prison strike, as well. It is easy to draw links between resistance to prison slavery and the fight to abolish ICE and the borders it violently enforces. Continuing to support the Occupy ICE camps and anti-ICE blockades is one of many ways to act in solidarity with the prison strike.
Entering into open conflict with fascists is often terrifying. Yet we hope that the movement for a world without oppression can come out of the trying events of August stronger—and that as the summer comes to a close, the struggles against borders, fascists, and police violence will converge in new ways and gain new momentum.
We’ve received the following report from participants in the occupation around the Portland facilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While our collective has no official position on issues internal to the occupation, we consider it important to promote constructive conversations about power dynamics within our movements and the ways that they can impose limits on what we can accomplish together. For more material on this subject, consult our earlier report, “The ICE Age Is Over: Reflections from the ICE Blockades.” Shortly, for the sake of amplifying multiple perspectives, we will add one more text from Portland.
“Criticize the comrade, take a criticism from the comrade.” -Bambu
“We do NOT touch the police tape. We do NOT block the street,” a “leader” of the Portland occupation screamed through a megaphone at a crowd of newly arrived demonstrators near the reopened ICE facility. Organic anger from a group of mostly liberals led to a brief confrontation with Federal Protective Services (FPS/DHS), which was quickly quashed by an internal security team. People were ushered onto the sidewalk and scolded for not following supposedly “collective” agreements. The building remained untouched as protesters who were eager to agitate were made to feel guilty and illegitimate.
In the last three weeks of Portland’s occupation at the ICE building, we’ve found ourselves caught between a desire to build with folks and a need to critique the ways that violence is sustained by our work. We’ve failed to address interpersonal violence and have left people isolated from the movement. We’ve prioritized the security of our “leaders” because of their contributions and their assumed necessity to our commune rather than making space for conversation about sexual violence and the strategies we must implement to make sure folks are held accountable rather than simply “vouched for.” And we’ve lost sight of the initial goal of abolishing ICE.
Our occupation is said to be leading the movement against deportations across the country. We’re currently cohabitating with the ICE facility; as their work continues, we continue to sit back with our La Croix in hand and practice “self-care.” In many ways, this commune has been helpless since its inception, demonstrating the need to build conversation and criticism into our work.
When it comes down to it, the vast majority of us here have no idea how to coexist in a commune; we are improvising. We offer up this criticism knowing that it’s much easier to critique than to build. We write this in hopes of making space for continual analysis, collective reflection, and commitment to future organizing.
More than anything, we must practice humility and be conscious of our role in this organizing work. Shutting down an ICE building for over two weeks is a huge feat, and we do not want to diminish this accomplishment. But we cannot forget the people who our commune is said to be built on behalf of: undocumented folks, and specifically undocumented children, who are suffering in detention centers around the country. We remind ourselves first and foremost that these people do not need our saving. Amazing organizing efforts have been led by undocumented folks in and out of detention centers, often largely by undocumented women. They’ll be doing that whether or not we sleep out here tonight. Still, solidarity efforts are crucial to dismantling these walls and to abolishing ICE.
The commune is exciting because it’s an opportunity to experiment with different organizing strategies and visions for another world. We have an amazing kitchen staff, an incredible kids area, and overall an impressive space. But we also have a pseudo-policing unit, extremely flawed approaches to navigating accusations of sexual violence, and potential security threats. At this point, preserving the commune has become a more central project than actually disrupting ICE. We’ve failed to build a space to assess and change our strategies as they inevitably fail or are co-opted. Consequently, our commune has done little to interrogate the ways it reproduces and legitimizes policing, surveillance, and heteropatriarchal violence.
Ultimately, much of our work has been whitewashed, neutralized, and made non-threatening to the state—that’s how we’ve been able to be legitimized as an action that will not be touched by the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). We supposedly decided that the commune will now only engage in “passive resistance,” a concept as oxymoronic as “good policing” or “public property.” The commune’s internal police force, known as the “Care Team,” has worked to ensure that protesters “keep in line.” Our commitment to the commune’s continued existence has become a commitment to establishing a framework in which insurgent and revolutionary politics become unimaginable.
“All Cops” Means the Pretend Ones Too
Seizing the lack of structure as an opportunity for a power grab, a group of people created a self-appointed security team within the first few days. Sporting pink bandannas as an emblem of this new committee, the group established a visible manifestation of their higher status.
From the beginning, the team consisted primarily of individuals with a pattern of taking control and policing others at past demonstrations. Masquerading as anarchists and radicals, these people implement authoritarian practices and recreate the state structures we have set out to abolish. The ideology of many of those on the security team is indecipherable; sometimes it appears that their primary motive is power.
The security phenomenon is a recurring issue in Portland. At almost every rally or march, one finds the same dozen people role-playing as cops, following around “suspicious” people. They hold themselves above the participants, who they are there to “protect.” The people who assume this role never appear on the front lines fighting riot police; they can’t be found when there is a real security threat. They pounce on the lone agitator, getting enough action to bolster their ego
and flex their power. The anarchist symbols covering the camp are purely aesthetic, since we
continue to let security govern us.
The security team created a monopoly on information, keeping important reports about threats to themselves. Using this lack of transparency to their advantage, security members were able to justify their existence through distorted threats and the instilling of fear—a tactic habitually used by the state. Calling a “code red” one night, security commanded people to retreat into tents while refusing to offer information as to what the situation was. Terrified newcomers and children scrambled back with no grasp on how severe the threat actually was.
Their authority allows them to determine the political legitimacy of people’s thoughts and actions, as well as deciding which actions are “too risky” for the commune to engage in. We’ve seen women enter the space with questions about the work, only to be told, “Do you really want to know or are you just being facetious?” We’ve seen folks heckling Homeland Security Officers told that they’re “kids” and therefore should get back in line and listen to the commune authority. We’ve seen comrades lambasted and told to leave for attempting civil disobedience.
All of this is done under the guise of “protecting” people of color and trans folks. We are open to discussing tactics, but we will not stand for a security team that grounds its work in the patriarchal protection of black, brown, and trans people and that insists on policing all forms of political action, analysis, and engagement.
The members of the security team are able to absolve themselves of responsibility for their policing efforts by leaning on “consensus-based decisions.” In confronting someone who is “out of line,” they argue that they’re simply carrying out orders. Whose orders these are is entirely unclear. Consensus by itself can be employed as a tactic for repressing autonomous action. But the commune takes it one step further by neglecting to actually engage in true consensus decision-making. The general assemblies here occur sporadically and happen at inaccessible times. The result is that an invisible, unknown, exclusive committee of people reach a decision which is then stamped as group consensus and forced on everyone else. There is a hidden rigid hierarchy disguised in careful leftist language to isolate critics. Blatantly false statements are thrown around, such as “EVERYONE living at camp agrees that…” or “the overwhelming CONSENSUS is…” This destroys any space for critique and gives those new to the camp the impression that everyone is in unanimous agreement.
We understand the need to disrupt the “ally industrial complex” in which white people, those new to the movement, and other “privileged” folks sit on the side and cheer on our POC comrades. At this point, more and more people want to get involved, and that’s crucial. People who show up must be understood as potential comrades and legitimate political actors. The liberal who decides to scream at the cops is engaging in an activity that might further radicalize them—and yet we choose to police that work, tell them it’s out of line, and demand that the ways we disrupt ICE be narrow and pre-approved. How do we expect to expand this movement if we teach our potential comrades that their political analysis is irrelevant? Why should they return to this work if they are told that their ideas, opinions, and forms of action are incorrect? If our goal is to build a new world, we have to start by not replicating the old. Ultimately, we’re isolating potential comrades and disciplining our collective political imagination.
Security Team 2.0: Your Misogyny is Showing
After initial criticism of the internal police force, the security team rebranded themselves as “the Care Team.” This attempt to rebrand leans on understandings of the importance of care—the feminized labor that sustains the social and emotional well-being of the commune. When we think of care, we think of our kitchen staff, the folks who hold down the childcare tent, and those partaking in other forms of feminized work. Excluding those folks from “the” Care Team is not only a tactic the internal police uses to to avoid accountability, but is also a disrespectful manipulation of feminist understandings of care.
We hear more and more in leftist circles about the need to build a new world based on a politics of care. We understand care as feminized work of listening, working to understand people’s emotional needs, and validating and supporting all who enter our spaces. It’s a call to collectivize our traumas and strategies for healing, which should not be conflated with neoliberal notions of “self-care.” We see much of the work of care tied to Black Feminist analysis, the work of the Movement for Black Lives, and in prison abolitionist circles. We want to expand that work in order to build a movement for each other.
Contrary to many beliefs, “care” is not about a practice of patriarchal protection, nor a politics based on policing potential threats. The current campaign of Critical Resistance, “Care Not Cops,” does the necessary work of disrupting notions of “good policing,” making it clear that policing and care are incompatible. Care is an acknowledgement of our vulnerability to others and a recognition of the need to collaborate for our collective survival.
Men Ruin Movements: Addressing Gendered Violence within Our Communities
Within minutes of entering the commune we learn that one of the core organizers is a person with serious accusations against them. Of course, it’s not our job to snoop around and try to determine whether or not this specific person is “guilty,” nor necessarily to call for their immediate removal. But we do want to know whether there is a process by which accusations are heard, people’s experiences are validated, and action is taken to hold people accountable and to ensure that those making these accusations feel welcomed in. We want to see a commitment to addressing and disrupting gendered violence and other forms of harm. And we want to know that these conversations are at the forefront of the community we seek to build.
When men are in charge, apparently, this becomes too much to ask for. When we ask why someone is still on the core “Care Team,” we are told that despite accusations, this person has been “vouched for.” His leadership position and the amount he’s contributed become grounds for delegitimizing and failing to address accusations. We hear excuses about organizational capacity used to put accusations of sexual violence on the back burner until we can give them the attention they need.
Our shared critiques of criminal justice procedures and commitments to abolishing the prison industrial complex are being used to justify not addressing the sexual violence accusations against people. The counterargument that people of color are more likely to face incarceration is not wrong; however, to use this as a justification not to hold people accountable is disappointing. To manipulate these realities in order to avoid even having conversations about feminist praxis only further embeds our work in the same patriarchal structures that we claim to oppose.
The work of transformative justice is tricky and we’ve seen few attempts at it done well. But that should not cause us to conclude it is not necessary in our work. If we learned anything from zines like Why Misogynists Make Great Informants, essays like Betrayal: A Critical Analysis of Rape Culture in Anarchist Subcultures, and the book The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, it is that this sort of misogyny in our circles is nothing new. We know that these forms of violence and harm take place within our communities. We build with our shared commitment to holding ourselves and each other accountable.
What’s the Point: Passive Resistance and Smashing the State
If you’ve spent any time at the camp, you are probably familiar with the obsession with “passive resistance.” It’s hard to miss. The phrase is posted on the entrance to the camp, mindlessly thrown around by “leaders,” and praised by the liberals who come and go. As much as it is used, nobody seems to know what it means or how we came to embrace it. This section will not be focused on the failures of nonviolence. That story has been written countless times and we’ve all sat through arguments over it. Instead, we focus on how self-appointed leaders twist the idea to shut down virtually any resistance to ICE.
Passive resistance is not about passivity, it is about resistance. It is peaceful, but it is not compliance. At the camp, the term is being pulled further and further from its definition. When a few daring comrades tried to lock arms on the side entrance, blocking in the federal agents, they were attacked for not practicing proper resistance. Other people tried linking themselves together in the driveway, but were criticized by leaders for poking the bear. Even yelling at police is a bit too provocative. Passive resistance has lost its meaning and value, and it seems that the leaders don’t care about resisting, just about passivity.
The assumption at the camp seems to be that by engaging in their version of passive resistance, we will swing the media coverage and stall a police attack. It sounds great in theory, but it appears to ignore history altogether. Those who embrace this framework are operating under the illusion that if we are peaceful and compliant with police orders, we can exist in harmony with the state. This ignores every peaceful protest that has been ambushed by riot police, every “passive” mobilization that has been squashed by the state, every instance of police brutality. It buys into the notion that our behavior dictates how the police will treat us, the same idea recited by Fox News pundits after police murders. In reality, the state cares little about how we behave. The authorities make their own excuses with the assistance of the media and attack on their own initiative. The goal of abolishing ICE and the practice of physically shutting it down puts us in conflict with the state. Since the camp is diametrically opposed to the state and its wishes, a police attack is inevitable. Peacefulness and compliance will not seduce the state into inaction, it will just take away our power. In conceding our power, we let our safety lie in the hands of the police.
On June 28, while most of the camp slept, federal police cleared the entrances and arrested multiple people. Our barricades were ripped down, and the veteran camp in the driveway was torn to pieces—despite their peacefulness. The police proved that they didn’t need an excuse to move on the camp. Yet leaders are still calling for “passive resistance” and employing vulnerability politics to suppress militancy.
The Care Team frequently falls back on the claim that any escalation would “put __ group at risk,” using the most convenient marginalized identity at hand to make this argument. The “risk” that they claim to be defending people from is the potential for arrests or police brutality directed towards people of color and trans people. This analysis is not incorrect; less privileged people will be further targeted by police, face harsher sentences, and gain less sympathy from white civil society. However, the weaponizing of identity in order to police certain actions not only means speaking on behalf of a population “in need of protection,” it also attempts to make any discussion about risk, tactics, and actions impossible and to shut down political conversation.
If we believe that we can remove risk and danger from this work, then we ultimately must commit to reproducing the existing social order. There will be risk in disrupting ICE and danger in threatening white civil society. People should analyze the risks, the dangers they face personally, and determine whether or not they want to take an action or be in a specific space. We need to build in support so we do not reserve specific actions for more privileged people—but winning with “passive resistance” is a fantasy.
To assume that we must resist passively in order to accommodate more vulnerable commune members falsely ties militance to whiteness. We think of Jackie Wang’s essay, “Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the Politics of Safety,” in which she takes on this question of risk. Wang writes,
“When an analysis of privilege is turned into a political program that asserts that the most vulnerable should not take risks, the only politically correct politics becomes a politics of reformism and retreat, a politics that necessarily capitulates to the status quo while erasing the legacy of Black Power groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army.”
We think about people who have been resisting in deportation centers since before ICE’s inception,about militant direct action taken by undocumented students across the country and the need for further militancy to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy, and the settler-colonial state.
A feeling of complacency has spread throughout the camp as it has transitioned from a militant attempt to shut down ICE operations to a sort of Burning Man commune peacefully coexisting with DHS. With an assortment of sparkling water, open yoga sessions, and nightly concerts contrasted by armored snipers on the roof and makeshift barricades covered in circle-As, the camp has the look of a leftist music festival—Anarchoachella, if you will. Camaraderie is important and nothing is inherently wrong with creating a comfortable space. But our focus has been abandoned and our inclination towards action has dissipated.
When attempting to initiate an urgently-needed discussion on possible actions the night before ICE resumed work in the building, organizers were met with hostility for interrupting a music show and berated by a crowd of mostly newcomers about the necessity of “self-care” and “taking a break.” After a night of dancing and consuming kale salads, they put up no resistance as ICE agents poured into the building the next morning. While this is unintentional, we are capitalizing on the suffering of children and wasting resources to live out our collective ideological fantasies. If holding space is prioritized over disrupting deportations and separations, the commune is nothing more than a bourgeois liberal playground.
Stop Embarrassing the Movement
In our struggle to smash the borders and end the deadly policing of them, we have replicated the same institutions we oppose. Our camp is encircled in barriers separating ourselves from the capitalist hellworld and the flow of people is strictly controlled. Our own security cameras monitor the movements of occupiers and the entrances and exits are restricted to a few gates. We have created categories of those who belong and those who don’t. A list has been compiled of commune exiles that includes critics, utopians, and anti-authoritarians. ACAB adorns the wall but the “Care Team” is a border patrol of its own. Rampant anti-houseless rhetoric prompts exclusion of those perceived as houseless while simultaneously labeling ourselves a tent city. If nothing changes, our commune will collapse before the police even attempt to raid it.
The occupation has been remarkable in garnering support and sparking grand aspirations. The amount of effort and organization put into sustaining the commune is commendable. But right now, we are doing nothing to hinder deportations or support detainee organizing. Occupiers are living comfortably while ICE continues its reign of terror next door. With all its flaws, the commune has taught us and transformed us. Still, it’s time to abandon our notions of space and romanticized community and consider what it would mean to build a movement based on unconditional hospitality, real care, and actual militancy.
If it stays as it is, the commune will continue to drain resources and police insurrectionary potential while amounting to nothing more than a mild inconvenience to ICE employees. With the widespread popularity of increasingly radical abolitionist politics, we have the opportunity to bring people into our analysis and agitate against state control and hierarchy in general. We must back up our utopian visions by showing the revolutionary possibility of a world free of borders and authority. This is not a call to abandon the occupation altogether or to allow ICE to resume as normal. This is a reminder of the need for constant critique and a space to have these conversations. We ask our comrades to consider our goals and examine our tactics. Opportunities for meaningful action exist within the commune but only if we overhaul our current commitment to passivity and let go of our desire to be palatable to the state.
Furthermore, we call for a decentralized approach. ICE isn’t just a building, so don’t let your actions be limited to it. Seek out all of the appendages that keep the machine running and strike while we have the power. The information is out there. Find your comrades, form an affinity group, and get to work. Redecorate your local GEO Group building, throw a block party in front of an ICE agent’s house, and always hold yourself and your comrades accountable. ICE is starting to melt, but we’re just warming up.
Your local mindless anarchists hell-bent on nothing but destruction
We’ve received the following open letter from Chile expressing support for the occupations of ICE offices and detention centers around the United States. It offers a useful perspective from outside the boundaries of the US.
Charting Transit despite the State
We stand in solidarity with comrades across the world who are bravely barricading and occupying ICE detention centers in the so-called United States, in cities like Tacoma, Portland, Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York. The politicians in their offices shuffle papers while the liberals hold signs nicely asking the government to stop ripping families apart and traumatizing children. By contrast, these partisans understand that the gravity of the issue at hand—human life and dignity—is not a matter of politics.
For example, photos and videos from Atlanta spread across the world showed the #icebreakers blasting music while both the occupiers and those behind bars danced. Protesters taunted the police with donuts and repeatedly held their ground against police eviction. Rather than merely making visible that the voting public is unhappy with their elected officials’ decisions, they took direct action against the state bureaucracies and their functionaries to create moments of life and joy that cut across the divide between citizen and non-citizen.
These occupations are occurring while politicians are preparing for election campaigns; many will undoubtedly promise a more humane yet still “sensible” immigration policy in order to get votes. We wish to share one thing that is clear throughout the West: Electoral politics is not a path to survival. As long as the United States has existed, its borders have cleaved families apart. As long as states have existed, their bounded territories have served to exclude and kill.
When the liberals tell us that only solution is to vote in a progressive candidate, we say two things:
While your international and immigration policies dictate whether we live or die, we are dying.
While our friendships and families are being ripped apart, we can never vote.
Instead of living precariously at the whims of politicians and ebbs and flows of their legislation, we need to build the means to ensure our survival regardless of politics and law.
On September 11, 1973, the Chilean Military, backed by the CIA and US government, bombed El Palacio de la Moneda as General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the Unidad Popular government. Many UP party members and leftists managed to escape to the US or Europe where they lived in exile. However, those without the economic or social means to immigrate to the “First World” found themselves in jails, torture chambers, or mass graves. While US policies overseas drive migration, US border policy serves to impede it, trapping people in war zones and dictatorships. The liberals around the world who expressed horror and demanded a return to democracy in Chile were blind to the array of non-democratic immigration policies that impacted the lives of Chileans before, during, and after the coup.
“Perhaps the Chilean exile that left the country with only what was necessary had privileges according to the political or cultural status they possessed when some of them could choose the embassy and destination that matched their dreams of picturesque European landscapes. Meanwhile, anonymous shoeless others landed where they were thrown: Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, or the distant Scandinavia, where they were coal cockroaches in the albino sky of the Vikings.”
-Pedro Lemebel. El exilio fru-frú (o “había una fonda en Montparnasse”) [The Fru-Fru Exile (or “There Was an Inn in Montparnasse)]
Now that we are in democracy “within what is possible” according to the former Chilean president Patricio Alywin, the politicians and liberals exclaim: “To make a change, you should go out and vote!” How can we vote out the asshole working the visa desk at the local US Embassy? Did anyone actually vote in the jerk at the consulate who interviews foreigners for five minutes to decide if they are likely to overstay their visa for economic or familial reasons? The same official who has the power to deny your visa application, with no knowledge of your lives and dreams, for being a “would-be illegal”? For a government that claims to be “just, democratic, and transparent,” our treatment at the US embassy matches the treatment we receive at the most arbitrary of bureaucracies in the “Third World.” Forgive us if we have trouble reconciling this fact with government calls for “Law and Order.”
In a global frame, what can democracy mean when we have no influence on the US government policies that affect us? Even as we write this, the Chilean militarized police are armed with drones, amphibian tanks, and tear gas supplied through US foreign aid to be use by commandos trained in Colombia, “El Comando Jungla,” to repress Mapuche land struggles. Mapuche immigrants in the US, like those from other parts of the world, were forced to leave their indigenous territories to escape poverty, starvation, and state repression. When deciding to flee to the US is a matter of life or death regardless of legality, the call for electing progressive candidates as a means to change immigration policy is a patronizing and exclusionary way to tell the rest of the world to put our lives in the hands of politicians.
As a result, while the call to simply #AbolishICE may seem like a radical move from within the state, if it goes no further, it is just a liberal invitation for US citizens to ignore to the rest of the US state’s impact on the lives of those around the world.
To merely #AbolishICE is to shuffle around their roles and responsibilities to other agencies within the array of bureaucratic assemblages—embassies, armies, CIA agents—that exert the state’s force against those who lack US citizenship. These assemblages will continue to existed even if you elect a socialist to your local city council. They will continue to exist if your progressive mayor orders the police to refuse to detain new immigrants when a hundred detainees are still in their city’s jail. ICE has existed for less than 20 years, but the US government has worked much longer to intensify global human suffering through wars, coups, and trade policies. The US government has always detained and deported those who dare to immigrate on their own terms to a country where they believe they have a chance for survival. An #AbolishIce movement built on asking the state to abolish ICE serves to exclude non-citizens from building power.
A movement built on turning the direct action of non-US citizens and their friends—those who are barricading ICE facilities and taking direct action—into a spectacle to elect officials will only enable the politicians win a game we could never play and will never win. We will lose the power we have to survive despite the state, while liberals and politicians buttress the power of the US government.
The only way to ensure our survival is to secure the conditions to meet our needs autonomously. That may mean crossing a border without a government’s permission. This is not a neoliberal call for transnational flows against the power of the state. Currently capitalism is only sustained by the political barriers that divide us. This is a war cry from our precaritized bodies.
The only actions that can insure our survival are those that break the division between citizen and non-citizen, the barrier of paternalism and exclusion. These actions acknowledge that our shared survival is predicated on building autonomy outside of the state and capital. This could mean barricading the entrance to an ICE facility, blocking a deportation bus, or hiding undocumented immigrants from the police instead of pretending that the state will protect them. This may also mean that, instead of hoping an humanitarian organization will care for undocumented immigrants, you go to the prison or detention center to build autonomous and powerful friendships with those incarcerated. Above all, this means building the infrastructure for our shared survival, knowing that state institutions and electoral politics have never ensured and will never ensure that we all live. All attempts at inclusion in electoral politics is built on the exclusion of others.
On either side of a border, whoever they vote for, we are all illegal.
Cartografías de tránsito a pesar del Estado
Un análisis en solidaridad con los #icebreakers desde Santiago de Chile
-De aquellxs cuya entrada a EE.UU. ha sido negada y sus amigxs
Solidarizamos con lxs camaradas al otro lado del mundo, quienes están valientemente levantando barricadas y ocupando los centros de detención de ICE en los llamados Estados Unidos en ciudades como Tacoma, Portland, Atlanta, San Francisco y Nueva York. Lxs políticxs en sus oficinas
barajan sus papeles, mientras que lxs liberales exhiben pancartas amables con el gobierno para que dejen de destrozar a las familias y traumatizar a lxs niñxs. Lxs partisanxs entienden que la gravedad del problema, la vida humana y la dignidad, no es una cuestión de política, sino de vida o muerte. Por ejemplo, las fotos y videos de Atlanta que circulan por el mundo muestran a aquellxs quienes mediante la acción directa irrumpen el normal funcionamiento de ICE, #icebreakers, tocando música mientras lxs que ocupan las calles y lxs que están detrás de las rejas bailan. Manifestantes burlándose de la policia con donas y manteniendo su posición mientras tratan de evacuarlxs. En lugar de solo hacer visible que los votantes están infelices con las decisiones que toman sus oficiales electxs, emplean la acción directa contra las burocracias del Estado y sus funcionarixs para generar momentos de vida y goce que anulen la división entre ciudadanx y no ciudadanx.
Estas ocupaciones se producen al mismo tiempo que lxs políticxs se preparan para las campañas electorales, prometiendo, sin duda, una política de inmigración más humana y, a la vez, más “sensible”. Queremos compartir con ustedes algo que es claro en todo Occidente: la política electoral no es un camino hacia la supervivencia. Las fronteras de Estados Unidos siempre han dividido a las familias. Los Estados siempre han trazado límites que sirven para excluir y matar.
Cuando lxs liberales nos digan que la única solución es votar por unx candidatx progresista, nosotrxs decimos dos cosas. Primero: Mientras nuestras familias y amistades estén siendo descuartizadas nunca podremos votar. Segundo: Mientras que su política internacional y de inmigración determina si vivimos o no, nosotrxs estamos muriendo. Sus elecciones nunca podrían representar a lxs no ciudadanxs. En lugar de vivir precarizadxs por los caprichos de lxs politicxs y el flujo de sus leyes, necesitamos construir medios que sean indiferentes frente a las políticas gubernamentales para asegurar nuestra supervivencia .
El 11 de Septiembre de 1973 las Fuerzas Armadas de Chile, respaldadas por la CIA y el gobierno estadounidense, bombardearon el Palacio de la Moneda, derrocando al gobierno de la Unidad Popular. Muchxs partidarixs lograron escapar a los Estados Unidos o Europa donde vivieron exiliadxs. Sin embargo, aquellxs sin el poder económico o los medios para emigrar al “Primer Mundo” fueron puestxs en cárceles, cámaras de tortura o fosas comunes. Mientras las políticas exteriores de EEUU impulsan la migración, su política fronteriza sirve para impedirla, atrapando a las personas en zonas de guerra y dictaduras. Lxs liberales alrededor del mundo, quienes expresaron su horror y demandaron el retorno a la democracia en Chile, estaban ciegxs ante la variedad de políticas de migración no-democráticas que impactaban las vidas de lxs chilenxs antes, durante y después del Golpe.
“Quizás el exilio chileno que salió del país con lo puesto una amarga mañana, tuvo privilegiados de acuerdo al status político o cultural que poseían entonces, cuando algunos pudieron elegir embajada y destino según el paisaje europeo que rondaba sus sueños. A diferencia de otros anónimos patipelados que los tiraron donde cayeran; México, Argentina, Cuba o la lejana Escandinavia, donde eran cucarachas de carbón en el cielo albino de los vikingos.”
-Pedro Lemembel. El exilio fru-frú (o “había una fonda en Montparnasse”)
Ahora que estamos en democracia “en la medida de lo posible”—de acuerdo al ex presidente chileno Patricio Aylwin-, lxs políticxs y liberales exclaman: “¡Si quieren hacer un cambio, deberían salir y votar!”. ¿Cómo podemos votar para expulsar a lxs sacowea que trabajan en el mostrador de visados de la embajada local de EE. UU.? ¿Alguien realmente votó por lxs oficiales del consulado que después de una entrevista de cinco minutos, sin conocimiento de nuestras vidas y sueños, decidirán si podemos sobrepasar el tiempo de nuestras visas por razones económicas o familiares? ¿Votamos por lxs mismxs oficiales que tiene el poder de negar la solicitud de visa sin saber nada? Para un gobierno que dice ser “justo, democrático y transparente”, el tratamiento que recibimos en sus embajadas es igual al tratamiento que recibimos en las burocracias más arbitrarias del “Tercer Mundo”. Perdónennos si tenemos problemas reconciliando estos hechos con el llamado que hace el gobierno estadounidense a “la Ley y el Orden”.
En un marco global, ¿qué puede significar la democracia cuando no tenemos influencia sobre las políticas de gobierno que nos afectan? Mientras escribimos esto, la policía militarizada está armadx con drones, tanques anfibios y gas lacrimógeno suministrados por los EE.UU. para ser utilizados por lxs comandxs entrenadxs en Colombia; “El comando jungla”, para reprimir las luchas territoriales mapuche. Lxs inmigrantes mapuche, como lxs de otras partes del mundo, fueron forzadxs a dejar sus territorios para escapar de la pobreza, hambruna, y represión estatal. Cuando la decisión de huir a los EE.UU. es una cuestión de vida o muerte, independiente de la legalidad, el llamado a elegir candidatxs progresistas como medio de cambiar las políticas de inmigración es un movimiento paternalista y excluyente que le dice al resto del mundo que pongan sus vidas en manos de lxs políticxs.
Como resultado, mientras el simple llamado a #abolirICE se puede ver como un movimiento radical desde el Estado, en realidad es un llamado liberal a que lxs ciudadanxs estadounidenses ignoren el impacto que tiene Estados Unidos en las vidas alrededor del mundo.
“#AbolirICE” delega sus funciones y responsabilidades al despliegue de agenciamientos burocráticos—embajadas, ejércitos, agentes de la CIA—que ejercen la fuerza del Estado contra ciudadanxs no estadounidenses en todo el mundo. Estos agenciamientos continuarán existiendo independiente de si eliges a lxs concejalxs socialistxs de tu comuna; continuarán existiendo incluso si tus alcaldxs progresistas se rehúsan a detener nuevxs inmigrantes cuando cientos siguen detenidxs en las cárceles de la ciudad. ICE existe hace menos de 20 años, pero el gobierno de EE.UU. ha trabajado por mucho más tiempo para magnificar el sufrimiento humano global a través de guerras, golpes de Estado y políticas comerciales. Si se aboliera ICE, otra agencia gubernamental surgiría para tomar su lugar. El gobierno de EE.UU. siempre ha detenido y deportado a aquellxs que se atreven a emigrar de manera autónoma a un país donde creen que tienen una oportunidad para sobrevivir. Un movimiento como #AbolirICE, basado en apelar al Estado, sirve para excluir a lxs no ciudadanxs de empoderarse. Un movimiento que convierte la acción directa de lxs no ciudadanxs estadounidenses y sus amigxs—aquellxs que están haciendo barricadas en las instalaciones de ICE y realizando acciones directas—en espectáculo para elegir oficiales solo permitirá que lxs políticxs ganen un juego que nunca pudimos jugar y nunca podremos ganar. Perderemos el poder que tenemos de sobrevivir a pesar del Estado, mientras lxs liberales y políticxs se respaldan en el poder del gobierno de EE.UU.
El único camino para sobrevivir es asegurarnos de una vida autónoma en la que nuestras necesidades sean cumplidas. Eso significa cruzar las fronteras sin permiso del gobierno. Este no es un grito neoliberal para que las transnacionales arremetan contra el poder del Estado. Actualmente, el capitalismo está siendo sostenido solamente por las fronteras políticas que nos dividen. Este es un grito de guerra desde nuestrxs cuerpxs precarizadxs.
Las únicas acciones que pueden asegurar nuestra supervivencia son aquellas que rompen la división entre ciudadanx y no ciudadanx, esa barrera del paternalismo y la exclusión. Estas acciones significan reconocer que la supervivencia compartida está basada en la lógica de elaborar autonomías fuera del Estado y el Capital.
Eso quizás signifique hacer una barricada en la entrada de una instalación de ICE, bloquear un bus de deportación o esconder inmigrantes indocumentadxs de la policía, en vez de pretender que el Estado lxs va a proteger. En vez de esperar que organizaciones humanitarias se preocupen de lxs inmigrantes indocumentadxs, vayamos al centro de detención y construyamos amistades poderosas y autónomas con aquellxs que están detenidxs. Sobre todo, esto significa construir la infraestructura para nuestra supervivencia en común, a sabiendas de que las instituciones del Estado y las políticas electorales nunca han asegurado—y nunca asegurarán—que vivamos. Todos los intentos de inclusión en las políticas electorales están construidos sobre la exclusión de lxs otrxs.
Indistintamente del lado de la frontera, por quién sea que se vote, todxs somos ilegales.
Starting in mid-June, occupations sprang up around the United States in protest against ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on account of how US border policy breaks up families, incarcerates and forcibly drugs children, and deports millions—in some cases, to war zones in which they have no homes or resources. In the following accounts from the ICE occupations in Portland, Tacoma, and Atlanta, participants reflect on some of the internal challenges facing movements against the border regime.
We urge everyone to support the arrestees in the struggle against ICE in Portland and elsewhere around the United States. For more on how and why borders tear apart families, ruin lives, and create the conditions for exploitative capitalism, read our book, No Wall They Can Build.
Portland: Cracking the ICE
After itching to do something, anything, about the violence being enacted by ICE, I was pleased to hear that some folks participating in the march held on June 17 and ending at the ICE facility at 4310 SW Macadam Avenue in Portland had decided that they weren’t leaving. My first visit to the space that would become the commune was on June 19 in the early afternoon. If my memory serves, there were only a handful of tents, one or two canopies with kitchen and first aid supplies, and perhaps one portajohn. After observing for an hour or two, I approached folks to ask if there was anything I could bring and was asked to supply the encampment with ice and another cooler if possible.
In the hour it took me to run that errand, the small scattering of three or four tents became nine or ten, and the 40 or so people became, by my approximation, over 100.
While ICE agents were still trapped in the building, a pizza delivery person showed up (from Bellagios, I think) to deliver food to the ICE agents. After walking around the building multiple times and not finding a way in, he gave up and left the huge stack of pizzas with the protestors.
When I showed up after work the next day, the camp was bigger still. That day, there was some alarm when DHS (Department of Homeland Security) showed up. People rallied and ran to the front entrance on the Macadam side of the building and were quickly forced aside by DHS. While I chose to stay behind in the driveway, in the event that that was the next target, by all accounts DHS escorted ICE agents who had been trapped inside the building into
their vehicles, with many of the ICE agents covering their faces.
Over the next few days, the camp expanded to include between 80 and 100 tents on either side of the bike path, in front of the main driveway, and spilling over into a field adjacent to the facility—as well as a large kitchen, a childcare area, a communications team, an engineering team, a medical tent, a front entrance check in, and other amenities. The engineering team, with the help of fellow occupiers and community members who delivered loads of pallets and furniture, fortified the encampment with barricades. We also worked on creating a boardwalk of sorts down the trolley tracks to provide a wheelchair-accessible way to reach all the tents providing services and in hopes of potentially creating more space for tents.
On Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 am, DHS tore down the barricade from the door on the Macadam side of the building to the far side of the driveway in order to enable officers and transport vehicles to come and go again. After many days of being shuttered, the building was open again.
I wasn’t able to make it until that afternoon, but the difference was striking. There was still an air of lightheartedness, but the seriousness of the situation was unmistakeable. We had known it was
coming and here it was. I opted to park far away and walk into the camp. DHS vehicles were absolutely infesting the surrounding area. I walked into the camp and immediately spotted snipers on the roof. Small children were yelling at them: “Quit your job!” and “You should feel bad!” There was a line of DHS officers in full riot gear lining the edge of the driveway, facing off with protestors. The engineering team was furiously assembling more barricades. Press was assembled outside the near entrance; I nearly walked face-first into a camera as I was trying to access the sidewalk. Security was tighter. I overheard multiple people who were standing around asked what they
Overall, for me personally, it was a tremendously heartening experience. I worked with teams of people who were organized and dedicated. The atmosphere was refreshingly lively and upbeat, with
children running around and people of all stripes showing up to support the occupation with their labor, their bodies, and their time, or just to get a hot meal. I saw anarchists working alongside DSA, and lots of awesome solidarity. I witnessed vital, important work being done toward the goal of dismantling ICE.
That said, the occupation was not without its problems. I heard that comrades were thrown out for tagging the Tesla building and I wanted to find out what had gone down. When I first approached someone from the security team, they seemed as outraged as I was; they took me to folks who might know more.
I found myself speaking to two people. One seemed concerned if not exhausted; the other seemed annoyed if not hostile and eventually walked away from me. I didn’t have a lot of information at that moment, so I accepted that the person I was talking to didn’t either and left it at that. The day of the crackdown (June 28), I approached the person who had walked away from me, introduced myself, and stated that I hadn’t been there to cause problems, that I was genuinely concerned, and that I had more information if they wanted to talk about it. From my end, this was an earnest attempt to make peace with this person. They proceeded to berate me for defending the people who had done the tagging, telling me that it was inappropriate and put marginalized people at risk, that the account I heard from one of the people who were expelled was false. The person I was speaking with kept referring to some sort of nebulous “leadership,” and insinuated that the only reason I was there was
to get the expelled person’s stuff back. When I tried to express that actually I was making an attempt to offer an olive branch, despite our difference of opinions, they told me they were done with me and walked away.
This inability to have a conversation is a big problem. And that conversation is not just about property destruction—we have that one all the damn time. But I had legitimate questions: Was “no property destruction” decided to be a ground rule at a General Assembly? How were new people invited into the space? Were they made aware of the ground rules? (Who has the right to determine the proper form of resistance to an institution that is incarcerating people, drugging children, and separating families?) Was there a protocol established for how to handle violations? Was there
any accountability for people on the security team or in any other position abusing power? I think these are major recurring problems in spaces like this that need to be addressed before we can start
organizing across tendencies in any meaningful way.
Portland and Tacoma: You Can’t Build a Movement Based on Shame
I spent time at both the blockade in Portland, Oregon and the Northwest Detention Center Occupation in Tacoma, Washington. I think it is so inspiring and exciting that these occupations and blockades are happening all over the country. I wish they were happening in every city, at every ICE facility.
At both of these occupations, there were many anarchists with whom I felt affinity; but there were also aspects of these occupations that reminded me of the worst parts of the 2011 Occupy movement—including an intense form of privilege politics that I had hoped we had learned from and moved on from in the past seven years.
One of the most exciting aspects of resistance during times of intense repression and authoritarianism such as those we are experiencing now is the number of people who are radicalized and join anarchist struggles. It is a huge turning point for us—a time to spread anarchist ideas. Newly radicalized people are looking for direction. Often, however, they will follow the loudest voices—and the loudest voices are often the liberals or self-appointed “leadership” of a movement. I have seen both new people and seasoned revolutionaries being controlled by authoritarian privilege politics, accepting them out of fear of being seen as racist—even though most privilege politics are themselves racist, involving self-appointed white leaders claiming to speak for all people of color and claiming that people of color are always peaceful.
This is not to say that racism is not a huge problem in anarchist scenes. But adhering to reactionary privilege politics is often as bad as not addressing it at all.
At the occupation at the Northwest Detention Center, there were moments when the General Assembly was filled with anarchists; at these times, the assembly made consensus decisions to never talk to the police and to not have a police liaison or any sort of security force, and agreed that snitching and sexual assault were the only acceptable reasons to kick someone out of camp without discussion. There were other times when the General Assembly was full of liberals, self-appointed all-white leadership, and even a person who threatened to snitch if someone did anything illegal. These were the moments the camp felt the most stifling. We were told by that all-white “leadership” that the only acceptable action was to build the camp, for example, by cooking and organizing supplies. They maintained that any other actions would harm the people inside the detention center—all of whom, apparently, did not want tactics to escalate beyond cooking and taking out the trash.
To be clear: the NWDC is one of the biggest immigration prisons in the country. How they asked all 1500 people trapped inside it what tactics they do and don’t support was never explained to us. In fact, they could not and did not.
At the Portland occupation, I saw some people aggressively shamed for tagging the Tesla showroom. They were screamed at and kicked out of the entire occupation at 3 am. I also saw those same people later being described as white, although half of them were people of color, because it didn’t fit into their privilege politics narrative to admit that many people of color are invested in confrontational politics and escalation. As they were verbally assaulted and kicked out of camp, they were told that because they had tagged the Tesla showroom, it would be their fault if the police came to the blockade and took children away from their parents.
At the Tacoma blockade, one afternoon, a nonviolent direct action training took place. It began with two white people and one person of color aggressively shaming everyone in the space for the actions of the police. According to them, it was our fault that the ICE agents were torturing and raping people inside because demonstrators had been standing in the street the night before. It was our fault the ICE agents were torturing and raping people inside because a couple demonstrators had been drinking beer.
We must remember that the violence of the police is never our fault. The violence inflicted upon the migrants detained within the Northwest Detention Center, despite being escalated during the protest outside, is still entirely the fault of the police inflicting it.
Many of the people in the nonviolent direct action training were white folks who had never been to a protest before and were heavily influenced by being shamed and told how racist they were. This type of privilege politics, built on shaming people into inaction, is not how you build a movement. It doesn’t build momentum, it shuts it down. It doesn’t inspire people, it shuts them down. Shame is a feeling that does nothing but disempower people, which is the exact opposite of our goal—building power, together.
As I watched the people being kicked out of the Portland blockade that night, the “security team” evicting them repeatedly expressed the belief that if there was graffiti, the police would immediately come and shut down the camp. As if the police wouldn’t come to an illegal blockade if the building hadn’t been tagged! As if the police were allowing the camp to exist because of some morality that the police and the protestors shared, and the only reason the police would come would be if that morality were no longer shared. It was as if they believed that the protestors and the police had come to an agreement, in which as long as the police could trust the protestors to police each other, then the protestors could trust the police not to evict the camp.
But the police can never be trusted, and they will never share our ethics. We know, both from the logic of the state’s position as well as from our experience in past actions, that the police will always come—just as soon as they have the force to do so. However, the amount of force they need to evict a camp or shut down a demonstration often depends on how confrontational the demonstration is. The more confrontational the occupation, the more force the police will need to evict it and the longer it will take for them to amass that force.
One recent example of this is the Olympia blockade, which barricaded an active railroad for 12 days. The entire neighborhood was covered in anti-police graffiti. Cement was poured on the tracks. Security cameras were taken down. Parking meters in the area were broken. At any given time, the most people you might find at the blockade were 50-100 people. At night, it was down to 5-20 people. By contrast, if we count from the first day of the overnight occupation in Portland to the day the ICE building was reopened, the Portland blockade lasted 10 days—and the number of people at that blockade was often up to 1000 or more.
As we can see, the graffiti—and the smashed parking meters, broken security cameras, and so forth—at the Olympia blockade did not cause the police to come sooner. It actually took them longer to come, despite the blockade being only a fraction of the size of the Portland blockade. At the Portland blockade, people were busy policing each other. The actual cops didn’t even need to come. The protestors themselves were protecting the property of the government and the showrooms of capitalism. (Never mind that both the Tesla showroom and the ICE facility are owned by a man who openly admitted to running his Mercedes into demonstrators.)
We are in a time of crisis, in which the overt white nationalist terror of the state is clearer than ever. In this moment, we should build autonomous spaces in which people can take action outside of the control of political politicians and peace police. We believe this because of our political ethics of autonomy, but it is strategic as well. Confrontational tactics are a threat to the state, whereas any protest tactics that do not actually threaten the power of white supremacy can only reinforce it. The stronger we make the barricades, the longer we can hold off the police. The less we police each other, the less power we give to them.
As anarchists, how do we counter the politics of leadership, inaction and shame? How do we build our power even as the liberals and peace police are actively trying to strip it from us?
Atlanta: The ICE Age Is Over
In Atlanta thousands of people gathered early Saturday morning for a “Keep Families Together” march organized by NGO’s and members of the Democratic Party. Currently, several dozen participants in this march are still occupying a plaza outside the City Jail, which doubles as an ICE detention facility. While the group seems set to stay the night, the occupation still has a long way to go to connect with the thousands who took the street earlier in the day.
Strangely, the coalition that called for this march chose to start at the ICE facility, before marching away to go listen to speeches outside of the closed federal building. Surrounding the physical building where hundreds of immigrants are detained seemed like a good start, but the politicians in charge of the rally moved away from the site of real power to a symbolic site. Some participants who had their families in tow were overheard lamenting that the march was a little too tame for them, even with their kids in tow.
Autonomous groups and leftist groups that utilize non-electoral strategies had organized before the large demonstration to continue the march and return to the jail. After the rally was dismissed, a large banner reading “ICE BREAKERS: Chinga La Migra” was stretched across the street along with chanting and drums. Several hundred joined, despite liberal protest marshals attempting to discourage them from doing so. Together, they marched back to the jail, holding the streets the whole way.
Peachtree Street was blocked outside the jail as hundreds chanted and waved to those locked up inside. Cops drove motorcycles through the crowd, but the crowd did not back down; soon, a couch appeared in the streets and people began to set up tents. The atmosphere was festive, with many dancing to music or playing soccer. As the day wore on, the cops slowly began to encroach on the occupation, forcing people to clear the street, confiscating the couch and tents, and violently arresting one person. Numbers fluctuated throughout the day but remained over 50.
As of this writing, the occupation is ongoing, having resisted the initial attempts to push it out. There still remains a lot to do. The terrain of the occupation is favorable to autonomous groups and anarchists because we were the ones to push for it and to make it logistically possible, but unfortunately these circles comprise the bulk of the camp. Democrats were the first to call for an action and they sucked up the spontaneous energy of thousands with their march in the morning, though it is likely that whoever had been the first to call for a march would have drawn a large number of demonstrators.
We were enraged by the concentration camps and sought to catalyze a real movement against them. This energy was enough to enable us to push for an occupation no matter what the circumstance. Now we need to figure out how to bridge the distance between those who carry signs declaring #abolishice and those who want to shut down the ICE facilities themselves. How can the occupations grow, spread, and mutate?
On June 30, on a day of nationwide demonstrations against the brutality of ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and borders in general, fascists mobilized around the United States to march through downtown Portland protected by a massive phalanx of riot police. The ensuing clashes were reminiscent of the fascist mobilizations of 2017—especially April 15 in Berkeley and June 4 in Portland—but even more egregiously violent. Portland police already wrote the playbook on coordinating with fascists, but this time they opened their lines to let the fascists charge demonstrators, then attacked those the fascists had just attacked. From now on, every movement that attempts to come to grips with the violence of the state—such as the recent wave of protests against ICE—will likely have to deal with the violence of grassroots fascists protected by police as well. Let’s organize to make sure we’re prepared for the trouble ahead.
Here follows a full account from our comrades in Portland.
In Portland, OR, on June 30, Joey Gibson, Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, Nazis, and the usualassortment of alt-right nationalists showed up to hold a “Freedom & Courage Rally” at Terry Schrunk Plaza at 4 pm. The event description was bizarre. It was almost Pentacostal in tone, speaking of “cleansing the streets of Portland” and finishing with a declaration: “WE WILL MARCH NO EXCEPTIONS.” They advertised that they’d confirmed participants from Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Texas, Massachusetts, and Florida, all the while pleading with the Portland Police Bureau for “fairness.” They had been run out of town earlier in June, apparently denied the police protection from anti-fascist demonstrators to which they’d grown accustomed. The irony of an overwhelmingly white ultra-nationalist group whining about “unfair” treatment from the police is hilarious, especially since the Portland Police riot line always faces the anti-fascists and police always attack and arrest anti-fascists—they never attack or arrest the fash. Cops and Klan go hand-in-hand, right?
The demonstration started off as usual. In Portland, the fascists rally on federal property (for their own protection, obviously) in the middle of downtown: Terry Schrunk Plaza. Anti-fascists assemble in the park adjacent to Terry Schrunk—it’s called Chapman Square. Since the police are quite aware of the dynamics involved with the demonstrators, they lined Madison Street, facing the anti-fascists in Chapman Square. As Portland has been on high alert because of the #OccupyICE protests for the past three weeks (and Terry Schrunk is federal), DHS (Department of Homeland Security) officers made their reappearance. They arrived wearing the federal government’s finest repression gear—caged helmets, masked faces, three-foot batons, pepper ball guns, and so on. A notable difference was that this time, the DHS police were organized into different teams, indicated by a stripe on the back of their helmets. The fascists also had their Halloween costumes on, ranging from a full-blown Pepe/Kek worshiper who looked like a wrestler to 3%ers (remember them helping police with arrests last summer?) wearing what looked like real combat gear. And they call anti-fascists LARPers?! Even Based Spartan made a re-emergence.
Anti-fascists taunted them with megaphones and chants, and the Unpresidented Brass Band provided a situationally-appropriate soundtrack, complete with “sad trombone” effects and a sousaphone every time one of the braver fash decided to “come talk” to the anti-fascists. Signs and banners were everywhere, and the bloc was a sprawling front line of roving fighters. The air was electric and numbers were clearly on our side, which always leads to one thing—state repression. One small group of anti-fascists were attacked by the fash, so the police responded by emptying what appeared to be pepper ball guns at the anti-fascists. This set the tone for the subsequent actions of the police.
Twenty minutes later, police announced an official state action and the code under which it fell, and described the potential consequences if anyone chose to violate them. Essentially, they were warning anti-fascist demonstrators what to expect. This is certainly uncommon. It must have taken place because of the presence of major news outlets, and perhaps because the local police were working so openly with DHS. This action was to set up a police line and clear the street adjacent to the fascist demonstrators.
The fascists formed a self-described phalanx, which took about twenty minutes to assemble. Then they immediately began marching towards Chapman Square at full speed. The initial clashes were mitigated by police presence and the speed of the marchers, but there were visible amounts of trash and sticks flying through the air. The fascists turned towards the river, then turned back towards their original direction. It initially looked like they were establishing a serpentine reach, but instead they stopped after several blocks. Anti-fascist demonstrators had kept up with them the entire time, but kept a city block between both parallel marches. Anti-fascists grabbed street signs, barricades, construction barriers, and large sheets of wood to create barricades every time the fash attempted a charge. Then, as the fascists stopped and turned several blocks later, both groups began marching towards each other. A small group of anti-fascists broke off and there was a scuffle, followed by the anti-fascist charge.
It’s important to note that the fascists charged through police lines with the express intention of attacking anti-fascist demonstrators. And the police allowed them to. Remember all that equipment? Nothing was deployed against the attackers.
Today was not a typical day in Portland. This is a good indicator of what anti-fascists are up against. The level of physical and psychological intimidation from groups of goons who train together was overwhelming. This phenomenon should be familiar to us from history. During the previous rise of fascism, state power was transferred to what were essentially street gangs (think of the SS). June 30 was an example of that phenomenon recurring—perhaps the most visible I have personally seen in Portland. The scene was reminiscent of the fascist demonstrations in Berkeley in 2017; but with no police or physical objects to stop the rivers of demonstrators, the initial clash was brutal.
Fireworks and mortars, bear mace, bludgeons, and weighted gloves were among the most visible weapons. The “Berkeley Charge” was repelled by the sheer numbers of the anti-fascist demonstrators and their advantageous positioning, but to be sure—the fascists were there to attack them at all costs. The sheer amount of blood spilled by both sides was unsurprising due to the fascists’ consistent state-backed escalation of violence. There were multiple beatdowns from both sides during this initial charge, and both sides peeled back momentarily. The fash left their front line entirely too far into the anti-fascist line, and they realized it and turned back. The police immediately used flash-bang grenades. Five minutes later, it was a declared a riot.
Both groups continued on the same trajectories as before and met up again several blocks later. The skirmishes continued for the next hour all throughout downtown. Finally, when the crowds arrived back at the original location (Terry Schrunk and Chapman Square), the state was able to repress most of the ant-fascist defense, while allowing the fascists to continue attacking intermittently. Since the demonstration had been declared a riot, state forces effectively cancelled the Patriot Prayer event by forcing both groups to march on the sidewalks. In the final scene, the remaining anti-fascists chanted “BYE BYE NAZIS” as the fascists mounted the singular vehicle they’d arrived in.
Yes, that’s right—the fash brought a big yellow school bus. What version of reality are we in right now? The situation is bizarre, comrades. This is fascism.
It is worth noting the degree of collaboration between the fascists, the police, and the state. All three groups were visibly interfacing, coordinating, and collaborating. The transfer of power and state enforcement has already begun. Everyone should remember that Joey Gibson is a real estate agent and a wanna-be politician, and assuredly there were other politicians and would-be politicians within the Schrunk Plaza alongside him today.
Still, Portland had the numbers and the spirit on its side today against fascism. Anti-fascists gave no platform and no space, and even the state couldn’t protect the fash—although they tried as hard as they could.
The police tried to repress anti-fascists from the start. They attacked, they threatened arrest and violence, they allowed the fascists to stream through their lines to attack us. There was no holding back from either side today. And Portland held it down.