Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another Bust in Toronto: Court Support Needed This Morning!

College Park Courthouse
Yonge St. & College St.
Courtroom 507

At 10pm last night, 10 police officers arrested Jaroslava Avila outside Queens Park Subways, a prominent Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity activist from Chile. She will be appearing in court Thursday morning at 10am. Her family has called for supporters to be present in court.

Jaroslave has been arrested on G20 related conspiracy charges.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prisoner being TORTURED at SCI Coal Township: Urgent Solidarity Needed!

The following is an Action Alert from the HRC-FedUp! Emergency Response Network, about prisoner-advocate Andre Jacobs who is being tortured in retaliation for his speaking up in defense of a fellow prisoner who was being deprived food.

Take action for one who has taken action for others!

Please take action immediately

HRC just received a report from Andre Jacobs' grandmother that last Thursday he was taken from his solitary confinement cell and strapped to a restraint chair for 17 straight hours after he spoke up in defense of another man being deprived food by guards.

See the Call-in Guide below and take action today. Forward this message wide and ask people to subscribe to our action alert list. Torture thrives in secrecy and we need numbers. Spread this on Facebook. Please help.

We only know of Andre's situation because his grandmother went to visit him today (Monday).

He has been held without clothing for days and given only a thin garment to cover himself. Andre has been deprived of showers, legal property, hygiene and cleaning items. This is the 2nd time Andre has been stripped of clothing and property in less than two months. He is not supposed to be given property or clothing until Thursday.

Please take action immediately. Andre Jacobs is a leader in the human rights struggle inside the prison walls and has been subjected to systematic, racist dehumanization by prison personnel with the full knowledge and consent of the DOC hierarchy for years. Just last week he was in Luzerne County for a preliminary hearing for "riot" charges stemming from a series of retaliatory assaults, taserings, and pepper-spraings perpetrated against himself and 6 others at SCI Dallas at the end of April. This incident is featured in the HRC report Resistance and Retaliation.

Andre is a 28-year-old jailhouse lawyer being targeted for neutralization because he inspires prisoners to stand up for their human rights, to fight racism via constitutionally-protected means, and to educate themselves and their families about the real function and purpose of these prisons.

HRC will send an update and call for further action later in the week. Thank you all for caring and taking action. It does matter. Please email and/or call 412-654-9070 and inform HRC that you have taken action. It helps us monitor the response and keep updated on the situation.

******* CALL-IN GUIDE **********************************

Please call
  • Supt. Varano 570.644.7890
  • Regional Secretary Klopotoski 717.975.4865
  • DOC Secretary Shirley Moore Smeal 717.975.4918
  • OPR Director Barnacle 717.214.8473

Also Representatives Waters, Vanessa Brown, and Caltigirone (who were at the recent hearing on solitary), local and federal law enforcement, and all other appropriate persons. (click the links for phone numbers)

Spread the word to anybody with the decency to speak out. Tell them you are with the Human Rights Coalition (if you want to be identified as such) and that these actions are criminal.

Inform the prison officials and legislators of the ongoing abuse. Tell them the details above.

Demand the following when speaking to the prison and the DOC officials:

1) Andre is to be given clothes immediately
2) Andre is to be given writing materials immediately
3) Andre is to be given his legal property immediately
4) Andre is to be given all his state issue items and personal property immediately
5) these racist guards are to keep their hands off of him and stop abusing him

Ask the following (specifically of SCI Coal Township, whose Supt. Assistant is Kandis Dascani--she will say confidentiality prevents her from speaking, don't fall for this, don't let her put you off, tie up her phone and do not lay off):
1) when did Varano authorize this?
2) what is the justification for this?
3) Does Andre have clothes yet? does he have his property? does he have writing materials?
4) what policy number and section is this authorized by?

Inform DOC officials: That HRC intends on filing criminal charges and launching an investigation into the systematic torture of prisoners at SCI Coal Township.

Request that legislators investigate the prison system.

Love, Solidarity, and Struggle,

HRC-Fed Up!
Contact Information


Click here to subscribe to the HRC's mailing list

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tell No Lies

Last week's Got Your Back conference included an interesting mix of speakers and workshops - and due to the physical layout of the event, for a change i actually got to listen in to the closing panel's each day, as they were in the area right next to where i was tabling

Just want to mention this real interesting observation by Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, during Saturday's panel discussion on self-determination.

Dean explained that the hunger for funding, grants, subsidies, etc. leads many organizations to engage in dishonest practices, downplaying real defeats or else seizing on some partial symbolic victory and pretending it is a real victory. All in order to "look better" and get more $$$ in the grant-getting-game. He also explained how this can play out in legal-defense-oriented groups, where a choice may be made to concentrate on helping someone with a better chance of winning, because donors like to hear about victories - the corollary being that someone in really dire straits and facing really long odds would appear as a really unattractive "cause" to support.

Anyway, these were just a few observations made in a wide-ranging and interesting discussion, but they struck me as particularly important.

Hopefully the entire panel discussion will be up online soon...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Call for Emergency Demonstrations Monday Against FBI

A call for action at Federal Buildings and FBI Offices.

We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists. The FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis on Friday, September 24, 2010. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The FBI has indicated that the grand jury is investigating the activists for possible material support of terrorism charges.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

We ask people of conscience to join us in fighting this political repression, as we continue working to build the movements against US war and occupation.

Take Action:

Call the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 or write an email to:

  • Stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.
  • Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.
  • End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

Plan and Support national days of protest at FBI offices or Federal Buildings, September 27 and 28th. A demonstration has been called at the Minneapolis FBI Office Monday, 4:30, September 27th(111 Washington Ave. S.).

In Solidarity, the Anti-War Committee

from Twin Cities Indymedia

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Afternoon Update on Today's FBI Raids

From Twin Cities Indymedia:

UPDATE 4pm: The office of the Anti-War Committee was also reportedly raided earlier today. See also: Search warrant for Mick Kelly's residence and subpoena to Chicago grand jury (via
Press Conference: 4pm, 2911 Park Ave., Minneapolis
Community Meeting: 5:30pm, Walker Church, 3100 16th Ave S., Minneapolis
See also Fight Back News: Activists Denounce FBI Raids on Anti-War and Solidarity Activists' Homes
The social justice community in Minneapolis continued to respond Friday afternoon to the raids of several of its members homes, which started before 7am this morning. (See previous TCIMC article--Minneapolis Houses Raided)
Since then, a dozen activists have been served with grand jury subpoenas, including many in Minneapolis, according to Fight Back News.  It is believed the federal grand jury is centered in Chicago, and is investigating alleged ties to "foreign terrorist organizations"--a charge which activists have immediately dismissed as illegitimate and unjustified.
The Star Tribune reported earlier today that according to an FBI spokesperson, a total of six homes were raided in Minneapolis and two in Chicago.  This statement is unconfirmed by activists, who have identified at least four of the homes in Minneapolis--one above Hard Times Cafe in Cedar-Riverside, one north of Powderhorn Park, one on Park Avenue near Lake Street and one in Stevens Square.  Antiwar leaders have said that other members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization were targeted with raids, surveillance and subpoenas in Michigan, North Carolina and potentially California.
Grand juries are a mechanism historically used to repress and gather information on unpopular social movements; no attorney or judge is present in a grand jury interrogation.  Activists who defy grand juries risking imprisonment on civil or criminal contempt.
Outside the raid above Hard Times Cafe, one person at the cafe as the raid began said that he saw about a dozen FBI agents, some with large guns, outside.  Conflicting reports from the other raids indicate that agents attempted to keep their presence low-key, without large marked vehicles or heavily armed SWAT teams--although Jess Sundin told the AP that a SWAT team entered her house first, then left to be replaced by other agents.  But outside Hard Times Cafe, a number of the unmarked vehicles included at least one with an "official business" sign from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) in addition to the FBI.
The mood outside the cafe and apartment was one of defiance, with activists and supporters vowing solidarity in the face of repression.  Early in the afternoon, agents began to remove boxes with unknown contents from the apartment, and eventually departed.  The search warrant for 1823 Riverside called for search and seizure of such a laundry list of items, including electronic equipment, documents, financial records, literature, and more, that "it might have well just said 'everything'," someone remarked after seeing a copy.
The Uptake, in addition to almost every local corporate news outlet, was present at two of the raids in the morning and posted a short video report on their site. (Photo credit above)
No immediate information was available Friday afternoon about the raids in Chicago.  The FBI spokesman, however, said that like in the Minneapolis raids, there were no arrests.  He added to the AP in Chicago that there was no "imminent threat to the community" - raising the question of how anyone could be suspected of terrorist ties without an imminent danger.
The answer, of course, lies in the increasing trend of the state in using "terrorism" charges to justify repression against activists, lately in Minnesota through the Green Scare, the RNC 8, and as many have predicted might happen, now against antiwar activists as well.

Nationwide FBI Raids on Activists Going On - Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan, NC

From Twin Cities Indymedia, about today's raids on Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fightback) activists in the u.s.:

Three houses in Minneapolis raided, other houses in Michigan, NC, Chicago targeted.

Urgent – Community Meeting tonight! 5:30 pm Walker Church 3104 16th Ave S (Minneapolis) regarding the FBI Raids

On Friday morning, three houses in the Minneapolis area are believed to have been raided by SWAT Teams. While we have few details right now, the F.B.I. appears to be targeting people associated with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. Besides the raids in Minneapolis, houses in Michigan, North Carolina and Chicago were also targeted.

Raids occurred at 1823 Riverside, above the Hard Times Cafe, and the 2900 block of Park Ave. One other raid is reported, as well. Outside Hard Times Cafe, three unmarked black SUVs (one with an Illinois license plate) sat in the parking area as of 10am, when a lawyer observed 8 FBI agents sitting in the residence examining materials. Otherwise the scene was calm.

Agents had broken in the door there at 7am Friday morning, breaking an aquarium in the process.

The Federal search warrants appear to be focusing on seizing electronic devices, international travel, and allegeing “co-conspirators.” They do not authorize arrests.

The search warrant for 1823 Riverside, the residence of activist Mick Kelly, sought information “regarding ability to pay for his own travel” to Palestine and Columbia from 2000 to today. The warrant hyped potential documents indicating any contacts/facilitation with FARC, PFLP, and Hezbollah – what it called “FTOs” or “foreign terrorist organizations”. It mentioned seeking information on the alleged “facilitation of other individuals in the US to travel to Colombia, Palestine and any other foreign location ins upport of foreign terrorist organizations including but not limited to FARC, PFLP and Hezbollah”.

The wording of the warrant appears to indicate the government seeks to create divisions among social justice and international soldarity activists by hyping alleged connections to what they call “foreign terrorist organizations.”

The warant also sought information on “Kelly’s travel to and from and presence in MN, and other foreign countries [sic] to which Kelly has taveleled as part of his work in FRSO [Freedom Road Socialist Organization”, as well as materials related to his finances and the finances of FRSO, and all computer and electronic devices.

The federal warrant was signed by Judge Susan Nelson at 3:30pm yesterday, September 23.

FBI Raids on Activists In Progress Now (Friday morning)

This just in from Fire on the Mountain blog:

I just saw a Facebook post from Steff Yorek, whom I have known for many years, in Minneapolis. It reads, in full,

The FBI is executing a search warrant on our house right now. The claim to be looking for evidence of material support for so-called Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The FARC and PFLP are mentioned by name. This is taking place in multiple cities across the country. I have been served with a warrant to appear before a Grand Jury. It's an outrageous fishing expedition.

Steff further reports that they have lawyered up--and clammed up.

I have no way of knowing how broad this attack is and whether it is limited to supporters of the Colombian and Palestinian struggles, or if other groups on the FTO list are included. Please post any further information you have as a comment, and if they knock on your door, warrant or no, remember that YOU ARE NOT LEGALLY REQUIRED TO SAY ANYTHING TO THEM.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fundamentalism, feminism and anti-fascism

The following of interest from the london anarcha feminist koelektiv:

June saw the fascist and undeniably opportunistic English Defence League (EDL) announce plans to march through Whitechapel in apparent protest at a planned United Kingdom – Islamic Conference (UK-IC) at the Troxy Centre, a conference which would see extreme Islamic fundamentalist speakers espousing their hate of Jews, women and homosexuals. Past years have witnessed the growth of Saudi-funded political Islam in Tower Hamlets, oppressing local Muslim communities and destroying Asian cultures, promoting repression of women, and beginning to dominate the local authority.

The rise in religious fundamentalism, whatever the religion may be, poses a serious and very real threat to women, who are seen as crucial in representing and transmitting the supposedly unchanging morals and traditions of the whole community. Women who fail to conform to so-called traditional family values are portrayed as placing the honour, well-being and future of the whole society or community at risk. The control of women’s minds and bodies is, therefore, at the heart of fundamentalist agendas everywhere and is something that must be challenged.

In the run up to that Sunday in Whitechapel, women’s bodies became a battleground on which both sides fought. “They (Muslims) want all women in burqhas” proclaimed the EDL and “we’re not fascist, we’ve got a LGBT division, we just care about the wimmin”. Anti-EDL groups and individuals also used women in their ideological battle; rumours were circulated that local Muslim women had been attacked and raped by the EDL, resulting in a large angry turn-out when the EDL youth division came for a “quiet” drink in Whitechapel.

A group called Women Against Fascism in their call-out on Indymedia for the mobilisation against the EDL, recognised how women are used in this battle without challenging these pervasive paternalistic attitudes to women. “The women who are against fascism are the friends, girlfriends, wives, sisters, aunties, grandmothers and mothers of young men who feel that they are being provoked into violence by the EDL. Boys of school age feel that they have to defend their mothers and sisters etc from the EDL who want to demonstrate in Whitechapel.” Their call-out made no mention of the UK- IC speakers.

Unite Against Fascism also concentrated solely on the EDL in their mobilisations against the far-right, ignoring the woman-hating, homophobic ideology of the right-wing Islamists and calling all those who pointed out the bigotry of the UK-IC speakers, and the need to oppose both sides equally, including anarchists, as islamaphobic and racist.

The UK-IC conference was thankfully cancelled and the EDL called off their planned demonstration in the area. The UAF still marched, unsurprisingly refusing to critique or even acknowledge the fundamentalism of the UK-IC or the right-wing islamist ideology of some of those who marched with them.

The EDL are a serious threat. Fascism must be challenged and stopped, but we cannot do this at the expense of challenging those with fundamentalist agendas. Fundamentalism and fascism both deserve our contempt, and this is the position that anarchists must take.

Class struggle, community cohesion and militant physical opposition are the only effective means to repel fascism and the conditions in which it flourishes and this may mean making political alliances with those who we consider to be religious moderates or even conservative secularists. But how do we as feminists/ anarchists navigate the awkward space between our secular views and those of even moderate religious persuasion? Paternalistic, misogynistic attitudes to women and homophobia are not just confined to realm of religious fundamentalism, it is unfortunately prevalent across all sections of society, including among those who consider themselves moderates, progressives or secular. Can we really, as anarchist women, work with and ally ourselves with those who have anti-woman, anti-queer attitudes, traditions and practices even if it is with the purpose of coming together as working class people to fight fascism?

Perhaps we need to use these times when we do connect with our neighbours over a common enemy despite religious, cultural or political differences, to raise our concerns about and contempt of misogyny, racism and homophobia, as well as pushing an anti-capitalist class-based critique of the state. In this battle against fascism, we must take care that we do not reinforce or accommodate patriarchal attitudes and so must confidently encourage dialogue that confronts and challenges the sometimes anti-women, anti-queer attitudes of even moderate people of faith and secularists.


Now is the time for discussion on fundamentalism and fascism and how we can organise and oppose both in an anti-sexist, inclusive way. Feminists must, while fighting all forms of religious fundamentalism, develop targeted feminist campaigns to take on the growth of political Islam and its misogyny, authoritarianism and distortion of the genuine variety of Muslim cultures. We must provide young people with alternatives–feminist, anarchist, secular and participatory–to the great big reactionary mosques and synagogues and churches. In our fight against fascism, we’ve got to be prepared to take on all forms of religious fundamentalism and manifestations of misogyny in everyday life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Support and Solidarity for Juan, G20 Arrestee

Update: Support and Solidarity for Juan *

Juan Pablo Lepore, 28, was arrested in Montreal on September 2nd for accusations of mischief at the G20 Summit in Toronto this June. The crown has refused his release on bail during his first appearance on Friday, September 3rd. Juan is still detained and his next appearance in court will be Friday, September 17th.

"Juan has passed 15 days in prison and could spend months more, all because he is suspected of having committed a misdeameanor that, lets remember, was political in nature. The bail conditions imposed on G20 detainees are scandalous for a judicial system claiming to be democratic!" exclaims Marie-Ève Blais, member of the Friends of Juan Committee that was created after his arrest. Juan Pablo is an Argentinian documentary film-maker and independent journalist, visiting Canada for several months. He grew curious about this country while collaborating in Argentina on an documentary with the Canadian Nicolas Van Caloen, and came to visit Nicolas here, while returning occasionally to Argentina for professional occasions.

"All these arbitrary detentions aim to justify the colossal security expenses for the G20, they are red herrings. We hope to see Juan and all the other detainees freed as soon as possible" concludes Nicolas Van Caloen, friend and media collaborator of Juan. Juan went to Toronto in June to document the resistance movement to the G20, publishing to the alternative online medias "" and "".

Juan dedicates his work as a videographer and journalist to the documentation of resistance movement converging, like in Toronto in June, to demonstrate against the criminal policys implemented by institutions like the G20, the IMF or the World Bank. He also documents the daily resistance of Argentinian communities facing the consequences of the same policies, notably in his documentary project Semillas (Seeds): "We try to spread these seeds at the right moment to aid resistance groups that are constructing a new society based on social and environmental justice, horizontality, solidarity between peoples and the defence of the Earth." */

-- The Friends of Juan Pablo Lepore/

* *Media contacts: Nicolas Van Caloen *514-621-8149 in Toronto friday
or Marie-Ève Blais: 514 746 019

Monday, September 13, 2010

Montreal Cops Sought Army Advice After 2008 Riots

File this under "not surprising, but important":

On October 30 and 31, 2008, Montreal's Assistance Chief of Police Pierre Brochet met with a Canadian Army commander to discuss working together. Mr. Brochet wanted to take advantage of the Army's experience on the ground in similar situations.

"Events such as those in Montreal-North, they push all emergency services to reexamine how they intervene. When things get out of hand like that, they teach police an enormous number of things, about how to be more effective next time," Sylvain Lemay, in charge of operational planning for the Montreal Police Department, explained to

The "events" referred to, of course, are the night's rioting that followed the police murder of Fredy villanueva, a teenager from a working-class immigrant family in Montreal North. Not only was Villanueva murdered in a case of white police panic ("All these brown children, our lives were in danger!"), but two of his friends were also shot. Their crime? Playing dice in a park, and getting in the face of the cops who came to harass them, and who tried to arrest Fredy's older brother. The riots that evening were significant by Canadian standards, and one cop was shot (non-fatally).

Some bumper sticker i once saw said, "Life Isn't A Dress Rehearsal", and this is certainly true. The meaning being, act for real now, stop putting things off.

Can't argue with that.

But we also need to ponder cop Lemay's words, "how to be effective next time." The enemy and their lackeys know that there will always be a next time, not because they're nefariously evil (tho they are that too), but because they think institutionally, and historically. Every success like every failure provides an opportunity to learn, to draw lessons, to prepare to do better next time. In that sense, today is always a dress rehearsal for tomorrow, so learn your shit.

True for our side as well as theirs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Free Jock Palfreeman

Comrades in europe have asked me to pass this on:

Jock Palfreeman is a 23 year old Australian who had the courage to stand up against 16 Nazis on a night out in Sofia, Bulgaria. He witnessed the fascists chasing and attacking two young Roma boys. Jock ran to the boys' aid, he did his best to keep the Nazis at bay by waving a knife at them but they attacked him. Jock was left with nowhere to run and had no choice but to defend himself. One of the Nazis was stabbed and killed and another was injured. The Roma boys ran away.

Jock has since been tried and sentenced for murder and attempted murder. He has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and has been fined £220,000. [More details of his case can be found at]

Jock has its appeal on 21st of October- it is his only chance to walk free. We need to do everything we can in order to get him out of there. An international Day of Action for Jock on has been called on the 19th. If you can organise an event in your area please contact: .

It is also of vital importance to keep up the pressure with protest messages and smaller actions up till this time. Please distribute this call widely, put it on your blogs, websites, forums, email lists.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Support Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

i strongly encourage visitors to this blog to read the following call to support Kevin Rashid Johnson, put out by comrades Kim and Than.

As somebody who (tries to!) correspond with Rashid - we're working on getting a book of his writings out this Fall - i can personally attest to the fact that his mail is indeed being fucked with. Just the other day i received two letters i had sent him returned to me by the prison with a note saying "no approval" and "unauthorized correspondence". & of course i'm not the only one, this is just one example of the ongoing interference, part of a policy aimed at keeping Rashid and other politically active prisoners isolated.

So please take the time to read the following, and to write a few letters in support of this comrade.

A letter writing campaign is being launched to lend support to Kevin Rashid Johnson. Rashid is incarcerated in Red Onion State Prison which is located in southwest Virginia. He is a member of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter. (To clarify, this group has nothing to do with the racist group, the New Black Panthers). He became political during his time at Red Onion. He is very outspoken and a active organizer. Because of this there has been virtually continual retaliation against him.

Housed at a super max facility which entails being locked in a cell 23/7, more or less continual isolation, all inmates undergo trauma. But because of his revolutionary politics, Rashid is under exceptional pressure. He regularly has his mail withheld. Mail is a lifeline for these folks and to have it confiscated is psychologically damaging. He is denied food and medical attention. On occasions too numerous to recount he has been beaten and tortured by correction officers. He often is put in 5 point restraint. This entails strapping a naked prisoner to a bare steel frame bed with their hands and feet shackled. Prisoners are left for days in this condition.

If inmates have no support on the outside these abuses go unchecked. Rashid has asked that some action be taken on his behalf. If you could please send a letter of support to Rashid and to Warden Tracy Ray informing him that you have heard of Rashid’s situation and you demand he be given his mail. Receiving mail is a major concern for Rashid.

Virginia has a reputation as the worst state prison system in the nation. It is notorious for the abuses that occur. Super max institutions are the absolute worst. In southwest VA we have Wallen’s Ridge and Red Onion. Folks who used to work in the coal fields now have the prisons to work in. The restructuring of the coal industry killed their jobs and their area. Prisons were built on blown up mountains. Tensions between the economically deprived white rural prison employees and the mostly Black urban inmates runs very high. Racism is overt. These places are powder kegs.

Rashid and the other Panthers at these institutions believe it is the capitalist system which oppresses us all. They know the root of gangs was to unite communities to “police” themselves. With this in mind they educate fellow prisoners to come together and end gang related fighting. The system seeks to divide the prisoners so any show of unity is a great threat to them.

We can vouch for Rashid. He is a committed and honest person . You may send one letter of support or end up with a relationship of letter writing. Rashid is a consummate debater. Your support is urgently needed. I will point out that writing to a political prisoner, who is actively monitored by the FBI and assaulted on their behalf, will alert the “authorities” to your identity. You could use an alias or a PO box. We use our names and address, but you have to ascertain your own comfort level.

Solidarity Always, kim and than grove

Write to any or all of the following:

Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Red Onion State Prison
P.O. Box 1900
Pound, VA 24279

Tracy S. Ray, Chief Warden
Red Onion State Prison
P. O. Box 970
Pound, VA 24279

Gene M. Johnson, Director
Virginia Department of Corrections
P.O. Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261-6963

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Reflections on the Demise of Bash Back!

The following article, "Reflections on the Demise of Bash Back!", is from the recently released zine Pink and Black Revolution #6, available for download here.

Bash Back! was started in 2007 as a network of queer anarchists to have a specifically queer presence at the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention protests in the summer of 2008 noticing this absence at past mobilizations. Bash Back! quickly expanded, with chapters across the United States. One of the main themes of the 2010 Bash Back! convergence was the assertion “Bash Back! is dead.” I would like to offer some thoughts on this assertion and its implications.

On the Network
Bash Back! formed as a network with a specific goal in mind: the DNC/RNC convention protests. At the time of BB!’s formation, there were no national organizations/networks specifically for queer anarchists. While long-standing queer anarchist groups have existed in specific cities and regions for years, these groups have a local focus. Bash Back! formed to fill a need for a national network of queer anarchists, which was demonstrated by its rapid growth and popularity. The establishment of a national network was deemed useful at the time for its ability to gather a large number of anarchist queers in the resistance of the previously mentioned conventions/summits. This also demonstrates the desire for a large number people to rally specifically around this identity.

Points of unity were adopted and more chapters popped up across the country. The only requirement for membership was adopting the points of unity, which led to the creation of a decentralized, very informal network of chapters (with some international presence). The structure of the network also facilitated quick expansion, because it did not operate on a traditional, formal principles of organization and instead focused on building a network between autonomous local chapters. Emphasis was placed upon taking action. Ideological and tactical unity was not prioritized beyond the points of unity. Even these points offered only a basic framework of broadly defined anti-oppression, anti-assimilation, liberation, and diversity of tactics. Bash Back!, as a network rather than a formal organization (such as a federation), did not make any formal attempts to define its political analysis.

The local chapters that comprised Bash Back! were far from homogeneous. Chapters were linked only by a name and perhaps some social connections, with each chapter being unique in how they formed, how they operated, and what they did. For this reason, it is difficult to speak of Bash Back! members as a distinct group, since there was no ideological unity implied by membership in Bash Back!, nor was membership controlled or tracked in any way. Some chapters were more active than others, with the Midwest having a high concentration of especially active chapters.

While there was no central organization for Bash Back!, there have still been national convergences after the founding convergence. These are different from conventions or conferences, as participation was not limited to members of the organization, and no decisions about the network itself are made. Rather, the convergences focused on the strengthening of the network in an informal sense.

On Tension and the Death of Bash Back!
“Is our violence one of substance or of image?”
- “Questions to be Addressed Before the Bash Back! Convergence in Denver”

Once BB! began its rapid expansion (after the summer of 2008), questions of political unity began to arise, culminating in conflict at the 2009 convergence. One reason is that, with the growth of Bash Back! across the continent, the personal connections that had been established due to the relative proximity of the first chapters were no longer in place. While there has been no formal political position for the organization, informally it seemed that the first chapters had strong affinity with the others, especially tactically. At the 2009 convergence, strong disagreements (both political and tactical) arose between participants in an action. In the absence of strong personal connections, these conflicts were intensified.

By the time of the 2009 convergence, Bash Back! actions that involved multiple chapters had also become less frequent.

Actions were taken by individual chapters, rather than the multiple chapters that had been involved in the DNC/RNC protests, the Mt. Hope Church action, and the Avenge Duanna campaign. While it is impossible to pinpoint a reason for this decline, it is likely that the decrease in multichapter actions contributed to the declining tactical unity.

The formation of personal connections from taking action together declined as BB! grew. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it could indicate a shift of focus to working locally or to clandestine activity. In any case, it points to a weakening of the inter-chapter bonds that had characterized Bash Back!’s origins.

Political and tactical differences, unable to be resolved by any organizational process within Bash Back!, grew into competing visions of the organization. At the 2010 convergence, this culminated in a discussion regarding the future of BB!. The competing visions of Bash Back! centered on the organizational form of the group. Some people advocated an organizational form more akin to a federation, with formalized relations between chapters and a stronger emphasis on political/theoretical unity. Others claimed that Bash Back! is dead/ought to die as an organization.

Many points would come into question later: the question of organization versus anti-organizationalism, affirming queer identity versus negating identity, the nonviolent versus those calling for a diversity of tactics, autonomy versus revolt, building an autonomous queer liberation that displaces state/heterosexual power versus destroying the existent. It is necessary here to make clear the role of identity in creating these tensions. Those who felt that self-identification was the necessary basis for entering into struggle clashed with those who saw understandability and identification as necessarily the recuperation of struggle.

Bash Back! was declared by some people to be dead immediately before the 2010 convergence in Denver. While the veracity of the statement is still a point of contention, the idea of Bash Back! being dead provides an excellent starting point for a discussion of the role of Bash Back!.

As an informal network, BB! was never focused on the tasks of formal organizations, such as signing up members, conducting political education, or defining campaigns or strategic directions. These tasks, if they were to be done, were left up to each chapter. Thus it is difficult to speak of BB! as a whole, because it did not have explicit organizational positions or policies.

Indeed, the chapters across the country varied in size, activity, and organization. Some chapters openly recruited while others were established from preexisting networks of friends and comrades. The wide differences between chapters makes discussing BB! problematic, because what constituted BB! was never clearly defined beyond an agreement with the points of unity. The ease of joining BB! allowed for tremendous growth in visibility and numbers, with actions across the country being claimed by BB! chapters and members.

On Organization
“If we are ever to have a member-list, count us off of it.”
- “Questions to be Addressed Before the Bash Back! Convergence in Denver”

The extremely decentralized organizational form that Bash Back! adopted at its inception brought with it limits and trade-offs. These limits, coupled with the identity-based nature of BB!, can provide some theoretical insight into the rise and fall of Bash Back!.

Political and theoretical unity was not a priority for Bash Back!, with action and networking as the main impetus and expression. While this position is not inherently problematic, the internal contradictions of queer identity resulted in complications in the attempt to build a network of queer anarchists. Because queer is widely understood to be an explicitly social identity rather than an explicitly political identity, the actual political views of the people who constituted Bash Back! varied tremendously. This occurred despite the anarchist principles of BB!; anarchist was used in a sense of a passive political identity, rather than asserting any specific political unity. The lack of political affinity became problematic when membership was based on a social identity. This limited the options that Bash Back! had for organizational form, as any shift towards formalized structure such as a federation model would be hampered by the lack of ideological unity amongst the loosely-defined members.

Bash Back!’s organizational form also had implications for the longevity of the group. Lacking strongly defined membership, delegated responsibilities, and specified strategy and goals, BB! had no processes by which to sustain itself in any official sense. As stated earlier, the group was founded with an emphasis on networking for a specific set of actions (the DNC/RNC protests), that is, to fulfill a specific need.

Rather than focusing on organizational permanence for its own sake, Bash Back! relied on the minimum amount of structure needed to achieve its goal of building a network of queer anarchists.

Organization in response to a specific need makes organizational permanence unimportant once the need has been satisfied. If organizational permanence becomes a secondary concern, then the demise of an organization is not undesirable. Indeed, dissolution is a preferable alternative to continuing an organization for its own sake. The product of a shift from a highly decentralized network to a more formal organization would irrevocably change the character of the organization. The desire to attempt such a radical restructuring of an existing organization indicates that a premium has been placed on the name and legacy of the organization, instead of the actions that created its reputation. If an organization is not meeting people’s needs because of structural limits, it seems more reasonable to discard it.

The End
“Fuck, Just Fuck”
- writing on a wall during action planning debate BB! convergence May 2010

Bash Back!, at its inception, was an attempt to fill a void—the lack of a queer anarchist network. Bash Back! was constituted by the affinity of its participants, and this affinity was expressed through action, and new chapters emerged as a result of a certain resonance carried by Bash Back! actions. While the origins of Bash Back! as a tendency based on resonance fostered its growth, it also allowed for different chapters to re-envision Bash Back! from their particular political desires and local situations of struggle. Bash Back!’s status as a network imposed certain limits; limits that could not be broken without fundamentally shifting from the model that allowed for its initial success.

To speak of the death of an organization generally connotes a negative event, but this relies on the assumption that organizational permanence is a good thing. Moving past this assumption, the question becomes: have we accomplished our goals with this organization, this means, this tool? If the answer is affirmative, if the organization has been pushed to its limits, perhaps its death is deserved. If Bash Back! is dead, the resurgence in anarchist queer activity and networking remains. Relationships now exist that would not have existed had Bash Back! never formed. When our projects reach the end of their usefulness, letting them go is no cause for concern.