Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Solidarity, as Weapon and Practice, versus Killer Cops and White Supremacy (Revised Version)

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This piece by Cindy Milstein is a greatly revised version of an earlier post on this blog, written during the height of nightly street demos and freeway shutdowns in the Bay Area in solidarity with Ferguson. Along with pieces by twelve other contributors, it now appears in the book Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism (AK Press, 2015, edited by Cindy Milstein). To order copies of the book, head to http://www.akpress.org/takingsides.html.

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On December 10, 2014, after a four-hour march from downtown Berkeley to downtown Oakland, the FTP (“fuck the police”) demo was winding down. Then, suddenly, some protesters outed two undercover cops, one of whom got spooked. He whipped out his gun and aimed it at the demonstrators. His dramatic pose was captured in a journalist’s photo, speedily shared on social media.

This incident is surprising and not surprising.

The cops seemed tired; they admitted it themselves in a December 9, 2014, news story. They’d been pushed to their limits by our large protests, which by that time had cost the Oakland Police Department $1.36 million extra in overtime.

The dynamic movement across the continent sparked by the Ferguson revolt is raising the social and economic costs of police assassinating black and brown people on a daily basis without any cause beyond white supremacy. Millions are stepping up their engagement—from walkouts at schools and shipyards, to blockades and property destruction targeting “the whole damn system,” to new Copwatch and disarm-the-police initiatives.

It’s also widely revealing the emotional and personal costs for people who’ve lost loved ones to murderous police. (As my scholar-activist friend Lilian Radovac notes, this includes a “funeral poverty” cost, since many of these same people are poor and can’t afford whatever rituals of mourning feel best.) For them, these costs are nothing new. They’ve known long and intimately that “it’s not one bad apple; it’s the whole damn tree.” Within the space pried open by a movement, their words and grief are now made exceedingly public. What’s been painfully self-evident to them and their ancestors for the whole of colonial and US history has fueled vigils and riots, die-ins and uprisings. And it often puts rage and sorrow within inches of (killer) cops’ faces, as many of these families and friends are front and center at demonstrations.

This movement isn’t stopping; it’s spreading.

It is not surprising, then, that according to media, exhausted cops are “freaking out” and making such “mistakes” as drawing guns on protesters. Nor is it surprising that uniformed cops are shooting “nonlethal” bullets at demonstrators—bullets that injure, and have been known to permanently maim and kill. For the moment, police forces are on the defensive. The only way for them to regain control is to bring their hidden violence (hidden, at least, from those who don’t face it daily) into the light of protests.

That is why, unsurprisingly, the police are getting more serious about using every weapon in their toolbox, from ammo to lies, to crush this social movement.

Their violence is not surprising. Cops are increasingly using guns as “shoot-first” protocol, daily executing black and brown people—not to mention other nonwhite and indigenous peoples, queer and trans people, the poor and those in mental and/or physical health crises. This is why people are placing their bodies in the streets as a massive exclamation mark: “Enough is enough! It has to stop!”

Nor is it surprising that the police are none too happy in the spotlight we are shining on them. They are, in fact, enraged at a movement that’s questioning their social control, their very existence, by asserting and occasionally experimenting with strong communities that make policing obsolete. The institution of policing itself is the precise target of this movement.

And they know it.

So when exhausted and cornered, they’re going to get even more freaked out. They’re going to be sloppier, which often makes them more violent. And they won’t care, based on their correct belief—backed by courts, states, the nonprofit-industrial complex, and other top-down power brokers—that they are immune to criticism, much less responsibility, much less suffering consequences when they kill people.

The thing that was surprising that night when people faced down a cop brandishing his gun was the response of some of the protesters themselves. Too many of them didn’t, and still don’t, get it. Before the dust had even settled, they broke the ranks of solidarity and took the side of the police against a certain group of protesters.

As opposed to talking and tweeting about the courage that it took to confront plainclothes cops, these self-appointed authorities—“peace police” as they’re known in radical circles— circulated myths about outside agitators. The undercover cops were there, they said, to instigate looting and other forms of “violence” that would discredit the supposedly law-abiding protesters. They ignored the actual facts: several protesters, at grave personal risk, had exposed undercover cops; the cops, in turn, had instantly exposed their inherent violence by pulling out a lethal weapon; those who revealed them were acting out of solidarity to protect their antipolice accomplices. Instead, the peace police used the incident to turn on protesters with whom they had political disagreements. They used the police as a weapon, whether unthinkingly, out of habituation, or to advance their own agenda.

How can this incident not firmly underscore the very reason we’re already on the streets? How can the overwhelming, everyday evidence supplied by killer cops caught on YouTube videos and phone cameras not convince people that police systemically neither serve communities nor protect rights? How can anyone believe we are provoking cops with unpermitted marches, overturned dumpsters, or FTP banners when they initiate violence repeatedly, routinely? And how can such lived experiences not be binding us closer and deepening our distrust of cops?

But the “peaceful” protesters ally themselves with cops, apparently unable to see the relationship between the institutional patterns of cops as killers, cops as violent enforcers of everything from white supremacy and heteropatriarchy to capitalism and colonialism. Paradoxically, these demonstrators don’t appear to see what likely most inspired them about Ferguson and Baltimore: the fierce contestation of power—a contestation that was not asking the brutal powers-that-be to try to act nicer but, conversely, was resolutely taking back occupied neighborhoods and struggling to dismantle the brutal system of policing within them.

So without question, the police dogging our protests are going to bare their teeth. That should be an unremarkable given, not even worth a chant of “shame, shame, shame.”

They are also going to smile and use another, sharper weapon in their toolbox: divide and conquer. That, alas, is one of the best tools: getting us to police each other so we’ll unravel our own movement for them.

This tried-and-true means of neutralizing social movements takes many forms. Its premier one, though, is leveraging our own socialization within a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal society—whatever our “identities”—against us. Police can nudge this along, explicitly and in the shadows. Or they can sit back and let all that we’re taught not to see—the myriad of hegemonic assumptions deeply socialized into us from birth—coupled with generations of painful wounds, work their magic to disappear rebels and rebellions alike.

At a minimum, then, we need to continually remember why we are on the streets to begin with: cops kill, every single day in this United States, with near-complete absolution. They do it to uphold the current systems of social organization. Such structures have, from the start, stolen lands and stolen lives in the name of colonialism and slavery, social control and social domination, wealth and power for some, and misery and impoverishment for the many. Recalling this is crucial to all of us seeing more perceptively, through the lens of those written off as disposable by a relatively small gang of elites and their armies.

This may sound obvious. Yet as the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has illuminated, there’s much that everyone can’t see. And so the healthy debates around, for one, whether #BlackLivesMatter refers only to black male lives, or also black female lives, or also black queer and trans people’s lives, and so on. A thoroughgoing critique of police as institution would have both every life lost to cops and specific patterns of violence matter simultaneously. The beauty of a social movement is that it opens up reflexive space for us to undo ourselves, becoming the new people better capable of inhabiting the new society we’re struggling to create.

If we are to make radical change (as in “relating to or growing from the root”)—whether we’re striving toward a future liberatory society or fighting to end murder by cops today—we’ll need to frustrate the logic of the state and its police apparatus. We’ll need to draw from other memories, whether cultures of resistance or examples of actually existing autonomous, caring communities. And we’ll need our own divide-and-conquer strategies, with the vast majority of humanity on our side.

Our toolbox is far more humble. It’s a makeshift kit, pieced together by lost-and-found wisdom and experimentation, and filled with seemingly haphazard, broken tools. As social movements have nonetheless proved, those fighting for their lives and land are ingenious; they’re good at making do with little because they’ve been forced to. A little can become a lot. Stones and feathers and hands have stood strong against heavily armed invaders, whether in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Mi’kmaq and Elsipogtog nations, or Saint Louis suburb occupied by the National Guard.

For us many, solidarity is an especially strong weapon. It is probably our best one.

Even if the state doesn’t have a full monopoly on violence, as anarchists of old contended, it has a vast arsenal of violence, ranging from chemical weapons and tanks to torture and drones, from endless numbers of guns to endless numbers of prison cells and psychological warfare techniques. Such stones, feathers, and hands are impactful because they are backed by relational solidarities, where trust has been built over time. By wielding this weapon of ours—not merely in name, but unfailingly and substantively in egalitarian practice—we increase our odds of “survival pending revolution,” as the Black Panthers called their social programs.

Solidarity is what initiated Ferguson protests across this continent and beyond; it’s what is keeping our fires of resistance burning, fueling our dreams of a new world. Solidarity has built a movement against killer cops and white supremacy, and that’s no small feat given the legacy of genocidal racism in the formation and maintenance of the United States. If we can craft smarter, stronger, more empathetic barricades of solidarity to sustain us, we might just succeed in walling out the world of hierarchical social forces intent on breaking us down and ripping us apart.

So how can our varied organizing efforts—strategies and tactics arising from manifold political perspectives and aspirations—better encompass a generous attitude toward each other? How can a full sense of solidarity, or a unity in our diversity, be practiced in the form of organizing itself—the process of getting from “here” to “there”? How can our organizing avoid blurring into a liberal universalism, remain focused on whose bodies are most affected systemically, and yet not reinscribe the very hierarchies we oppose through various identity politics, allyship, and patronage models, or ideological and organizational insularity?

In short, how do we practice a solidarity that’s compassionate and revolutionary: walking side by side and tangibly undermining white supremacy with each step?

During the “distant” era of the global anticapitalist movement in the 1990s to early 2000s, people tried to bring Zapatismo into their understandings of how to work together—how to walk, while asking—in what became known as “horizontalism.” Folks around the world, in directly democratic and confederated assemblies, eagerly hashed out the Peoples’ Global Action Hallmarks, looking to allow for heterogeneous social movements and lifeways against the homogenization that “globalization” signaled. Various continental, regional, and city-based consultas, spokescouncils, and convergences picked up these hallmarks, which offered a humanistic frame without ignoring the disproportionate weight of social suffering.

One formation from that period, Montreal’s Anticapitalist Convergence (CLAC), still actively exists today, despite political highs and lows, in part because it took seriously the connective solidarity of such hallmarks. Its “Basis of Unity,” developed for mass mobilizations such as Quebec City in 2001, against the fortress-like Summit of the Americas, is not completely applicable to the Ferguson-inspired movement. The anticapitalist organizers—CLAC and its Quebec-based accomplice, the Welcoming Committee—had plenty of advance notice. Still, they choose to spend months before what they publicly called a Carnival against Capitalism helping to ensure that people with different organizing styles and tactical approaches could work together, and with grassroots neighborhood associations and Quebec City residents, toward a common goal: shutting down or disrupting the summit.

The solidarity afforded by the “Basis of Unity,” hammered out and agreed to collectively in assemblies, is far more expansive then the present-day “protocols” written and released by small, self-appointed “leadership” groups of “white allies” and nonprofit-industrial complex nonwhite organizers. It holds out open arms of trust and promise, in contrast to the judgmental dos and don’ts of ally protocols. It is not self-congratulatory. It welcomes all, and encourages bold imagination and varied participation versus prescribing, for instance, what slogans or types of people are permitted at a direct action. And perhaps key, it makes transparent a radical social critique and social vision that serves as both organizing umbrella and leap of faith. It directly asks, “Which side are you on?” and then lets you answer by walking, perhaps with missteps, but always shoulder to shoulder.

The “Basis of Unity” is committed to an inclusive, radical solidarity: “Respecting a diversity of tactics, the CLAC supports the use of a variety of creative initiatives, ranging from popular education to direct action and civil disobedience.” The diversity clause, in essence, recognizes that an opposition to systemic domination, such as white supremacy and a police state, should take many forms if any sort of large-scale social revolution is to be forged. By embracing “education” and “action” equally—and thereby also breaking down the supposed theory/practice divide—the conflation of “militancy” with “radicalism” is shattered. One isn’t a revolutionary because one is a militant. At any given moment, not all revolutionaries can take the same risks—but this is something that individuals must determine for themselves, without self-appointed leaders deciding in advance which “identities” can take what risks.

What this diversity of tactics translated into at that time was a diversity of people, not to mention growing an enormous and vibrant movement. It was not an assertion of difference for difference’s sake—potentially implying a diverse movement emptied of content. The diversity of tactics notion instead supplied a guide to nurturing participation and unity in a way that was at once qualitative and sincere. It allowed the particular (then, the ways that free trade agreements hurt the human and nonhuman world; now, black lives matter) and universal (then, anticapitalism; now, abolishing white supremacy) to complement not crush each other—and struggle together for social transformation while concentrating squarely on whose lives do not matter, historically and presently.

This isn’t mere wordplay. It was tangibly facilitated during the anticapitalist convergences of that day. To cite just one example, during the Quebec protests, there were three tiers of color-coded zones—yellow, green, and red—to indicate varying possibilities of arrest risk and militancy. That system was widely explained beforehand in assemblies, on flyers, and during the marches. All three “colors” were routed on the same street at first, walking together in a festive march. When the march got closer to the many-deep lines of riot cops guarding the world elites, the three tiers branched out, with “red” heading straight for the militarized fence. Many people who’d originally chosen a potentially “safer” contingent decided to stick with the red bloc, emboldened by the joy and strength of the numbers along the way, and even tossed teargas canisters back at the cops. And when the police failed to abide by the organizer-designated zones, red bloc folks came to the aid of those in “yellow” or “green” areas.

One could argue that the solidaristic ties cultivated in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada through the lived practices of the “Basis of Unity” allowed for later mobilizations to see and name more—for instance, to practice both anticapitalism and anticolonialism in a single action—and thus to agitate better. Solidarity can make hard and at times divisive conversations possible, or as indigenous anarchist Klee Benally observed at a talk I attended, allow for an “anti-retreat” from the conflicts that emerge in our spaces and organizing. And so, with “respect & tolerance for a diversity of tactics as a basic principle,” according to Zig Zag of Warrior Publications, indigenous and nonindigenous people organized the No Olympics on Stolen Native Lands convergence in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories (“Vancouver”) in 2010. The “stolen” staked out an antagonism to capitalist and colonialist theft. The convergence featured themed days with varying levels of potential risk, during which quite literally, indigenous and nonindigenous folks stood by each other in numerous planned and, movingly, spontaneous ways against the huge police presence. It made for the most qualitatively diverse week of actions in recent memory, such as the Take Back Our City march that saw an indigenous bloc flanked by both a black bloc and No One Is Illegal bloc.

Similar promises of solidarity have carried through to many other convergences around the world. It is worth quoting the “Pittsburgh Principles,” drafted for the G-20 protests in 2009, in full for the breadth of its revolutionary solidarity and as a reminder of what’s been lost today:

  • Our solidarity will be based on respect for a political diversity within the struggle for social justice. As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of action, but are committed to treating each other with respect.
  • We realize that debates and honest criticisms are necessary for political clarification and growth in our movements. But we also realize that our detractors will work to divide by inflaming and magnifying our tactical, strategic, personal, and political disagreements. For the purposes of political clarity and mutual respect, we will speak to our own political motivations and tactical choices, and allow other groups and individuals to speak on their own behalf. We reject all forms of red-baiting, violence-baiting, and fear-mongering, and efforts to foster unnecessary divisions among our movements.
  • As we plan our actions and tactics, we will take care to maintain appropriate separations of time and space between divergent tactics. We will commit to respecting each other’s organizing space, and the tone and tactics they wish to utilize in that space.
  • We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption, and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others. We oppose proposals designed to cage protests into highly restricted “free speech zones.”
  • We will work to promote a sense of respect for our shared community, our neighbors, and particularly poor and working-class people in our community and their personal property.

This is not to claim that Pittsburgh and many other spaces of resistance have been able to fully follow through on their lofty principles. But they aspire to try, seeing such solidarity as part and parcel of any revolution worth fighting for, and as critical weapon in our arsenal to “serve and protect” each other as we strive to grow movements capable of fulfilling lofty aims, such as the abolition of police, prisons, and white supremacy, such as collective liberation.

Compare the “Pittsburgh Principles” from 2009 to how a well-known Bay Area activist chastised a 2014 “FTP Speakout & March against CHP” in Oakland. CHP stands for California Highway Patrol, which as it was soon discovered, was who the undercover cops outed on December 10 were. This FTP event was scheduled on December 13—the same day as the already-planned Millions March. The shared date made logical sense, given that it was a Saturday and thus more doable for many, and more important, given that both events agreed, “Oakland is Ferguson. Ferguson is Oakland,” as the Millions March Oakland promo put it.

The FTP speak-out was respectfully scheduled to start about an hour or so after the stated end time of the Millions March. The speak-out portion was meant as a way to leisurely gather folks before the second march so as to give people a break to eat or rest if needed. It also allowed time for those who didn’t want to be in the vicinity of what might be a rowdier demo to steer clear, even though the Millions March was planned to end many blocks away. Both kicked off from Oscar Grant Plaza, renamed in his honor during Occupy Oakland, and now the go-to spot for most Oakland protests.

In spite of the sensitivity that went into this FTP action—quickly organized, it should be added, due to the rapid-fire developments—the seasoned activist told me that it was a clear case of not having respect for “a diversity of spaces.” He added that the Millions March was going to be “peaceful” and the FTP one was going to be “smashy.” (The Millions March turned out to be one of the more lackluster demos, even by “nonviolent” protest standards, and the FTP, thanks to a mobile sound system, became a huge and much-needed “reclaim the streets” celebration of our new movement’s strength.) This activist also happens to have been one of the key organizers of the 1999 protests in Seattle, where civil disobedience in many concurrent forms, from lockdowns in the streets to shattering Starbucks’ windows, disturbed the peace all right, but of the World Trade Organization meeting and police state defending it. The power of Seattle, like other pivotal moments, was that a diversity of humanity, with or without written principles, acted as if in revolutionary solidarity, smashing through the fine line that turns disparate protests into a global social movement.

Some of this activist’s white ally friends chimed in: How dare the FTP, which they assumed (wrongly) was organized by whites, do anything at all on the same day as the “black leadership’s” Millions March? As someone named Jon Jackson responded on the FTP’s social media page, “[I] cannot believe people are getting upset over MORE demonstrations against police violence because THEY didn’t call them. Come on, folks.”

The black leadership that initiated the Millions March—two black women in New York—was either far distant and/or hadn’t especially been part of the nightly Ferguson solidarity protests, which isn’t a criticism so much as a statement of fact. Those nightly, illegal marches of thousands—which went for many hours and miles—were responsible for catalyzing the movement here and hence creating space for a diversity of events. Images of the militant engagement in the Bay Area flew around the world—freeways brought to a halt, bonfires in the streets, and graffiti on walls. Black Oakland youths were a big part of the evening demos, and likely found it odd that the Millions March promised “a safe space for the Black Community,” almost as if it hadn’t been listening: there’s no safe space for them in a white supremacist world.

Or as Oakland accomplice Ben Trovato remarked,

“Everyone wants to chant ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but it seems like no one really wants to follow the lead of black and brown youths in the streets—those kids who have the most likelihood of being the next Mike Brown or Eric Garner or Alex Nieto.

“How do we act in solidarity and confluence with what’s already being played out in the streets? What would it mean to put aside our particular ideological and theoretical hang-ups, and just be out there, with and for these kids? How do we extend the logic and intelligence of what the movement has already developed, and really explore present dynamics rather than smugly judge?”

Which is another way of saying that solidarity, to have any meaning in practice, demands active empathy as its foundation. As Leslie Jamison argues in The Empathy Exams,

“Empathy isn’t just remembering to say That must really be hard, it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.”

As predictably tedious as clockwork, after each uprising and riot, false dichotomies like “peaceful” and “smashy” protesters get tossed out by those who, whether they admit it to themselves or not, want to maintain the status quo with some progressive tweaks. The bottom line, for those who think and act from such binaries, is that it’s not the tree; it’s only the apples—the “bad” ones, whether they’re in police forces or protest circles. There may be many reasons for this political stance—ultimately about only seeing and caring for oneself and one’s own—but it is unquestionably antithetical to solidarity. Pointing out “our” bad apples not only does the work of state and police to destroy social movements; it quite literally is state and police work. As Shareef Ali of Oakland remarked back in late 2014,

“If you are at a protest and you choose to take pictures or record video of people doing illegal things, you may end up putting that person in jail. That is, because you disapproved of someone’s behavior, because you thought it was “violent” toward inanimate objects, or because you thought it might hurt the movement, you are choosing to assist the state in sending that living, breathing person to one of the most violent places in the world, for the *express purpose* of destroying the movement. Even if you’re right about the ethics or efficacy of property destruction—and I don’t think you are—that is totally, utterly unconscionable, and it is far more violent and counter to the cause of justice than smashing a window ever could be.”

Empathy is the bulwark against this, for by taking the time to ask “questions whose answers need to be listened to,” we begin to truly see why people protesting alongside us choose a particular tactic on a particular night in a particular place. We see a widening “horizon of context,” complexity, and humanity. Empathy is “a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves,” says Jamison. “[It] means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations [because] empathy means realizing no trauma has discrete edges. Trauma bleeds. Out of wounds and across boundaries. … Empathy demands another kind of porousness in response.” Solidarity.

A twenty-two-year-old black man, who’d grown up in what he calls the “hard” part of Oakland and had never left, decided to travel to Ferguson when the uprising started. On return, he marveled, “We got it good here. They’ve got almost nothing.” Despite that, he explained, they look out for each other. To paraphrase one of his many stories:

“Looting happened, sure. People feel abandoned. They were angry about Mike Brown’s murder and lots more. But folks know which businesses are with the people and which aren’t, even if outsiders don’t get it. So they looted the businesses that exploit and overcharge them for things like food, because the owners know there’s almost nowhere else to go and no way to get out of Ferguson. No public transit or anything.

“Here’s the thing: whole families looted together. All ages. People helped each other. They’d throw a blanket over a broken window to make sure people didn’t cut themselves going in and out. They brought stuff to a central place and redistributed it according to need in their community.”

One evening, at the peak of the Ferguson solidarity demos in the Bay Area, thousands marched to the Berkeley Police Department, chanting “Kayla Moore, Michael Brown, Shut It Down, Shut It Down.” Kayla, a black, transgender woman with a history of mental illness, died—was likely murdered—in Berkeley police custody, so this stop at BPD was in remembrance and honor of her. There were many cops in riot gear blocking us from the building. It was one of those standoffs mainly about the catharsis of publicly expressing anger, which is after all part of the range of human emotions arising from loss and grief.

A young black man tossed a relatively harmless object at the police station and turned to run. A young white female stretched her arm above the crowd, pointing, and screamed loudly, “There he is. Get him! He threw something. Peaceful protest!” Hundreds of people and the cops started looking around for the guy to grab him. But two people put their bodies in front of the woman, blocking her view. “We’re protesting against these police likely killing someone after an arrest, and you’re turning a young black man over to them?” they asked her calmly. She stopped in her tracks: “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I won’t do that again.” The young man got away.

At another night demo, a large army of militarized cops tried kettling some thousand marchers. The police had blocked off all four sides of a street, save for a small gap—a gap created by about a dozen anarchists, who had quickly placed themselves between the cops and protesters. As two demonstrators were scurrying out, one complained about how the anarchists were provoking the police and endangering the crowd. No, her friend corrected, they’re making sure that no one gets arrested and also showing that people can stand up to police without fear.

Yet another evening, cold and miserably damp, a particularly small number of folks showed up for an antipolice bike ride through Oakland. The organizer circled everyone up first, asking if all had bike lights, because cops were ticketing-as-harassment, and if not, handing out loaners. Throughout the ride, he made sure we weren’t getting separated and thus made vulnerable on our own. The bike demo went on for what seemed hours, constantly followed by far more riot police than cyclists. A helicopter, as always, followed overhead. Everyone felt dispirited. What the hell was the point? Just then the organizer circled us up again and enthusiastically noted, “We may not be shutting down the police station, freeways, or BART stations. We may not be many. But every night that we keep most of Oakland police out of neighborhoods where they assault and kill is a victory. It’s what we should be doing all the time.”

Solidarity, as our best weapon, is also a provocation that we can indeed begin to make police and white supremacy obsolete by experimenting in self-organization, whether in the many micro-moments we’re handed by history, too frequently by police, to those grander approximations, such as when gangs called a truce in Baltimore against killer cops and for their neighbors. But it takes, to again cite Jamison, “exertion,” “labor,” “waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.” Solidarity, as weapon, is a verb. It is also a form of love.

We are tired too, like those freaked-out cops, but not of the streets. We’re not tired of fighting for what we know is just. We’re weary beyond slogans of the violence of state, capital, and white supremacy. Solidarity should not look like us chanting “This is what democracy looks like,” given that US-style democracy is murdering people at home and beyond, nor “Whose streets? Our streets!” given that the police state, colonialist and/or capitalist, has repeatedly stolen land. We need new models of self-governance and self-determination.

I want to walk in the streets nightly, exhausted and exhilarated, forging trust, becoming new people in a new culture that we’re already prefiguring and holding strong against those forces that would destroy all that is life affirming.

I want to love and rage, mourn and struggle, with millions of others, against this killing machine, until we shut it down for good—replacing it with social goodness that we can barely yet envision, and armed with do-it-ourselves, steel-hard solidarity as shield, aid, humanity, ethic.

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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, art of resistance on walls of Athens, Greece, in “anarchist neighborhood” of Exarchia, October 2015).

 

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This entry was posted on October 21, 2015 by in Dispatches from Gentrifying San Francisco, Dispatches from Rebellious Spaces.
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