I returned to Taos on April 30th from a tour supporting the occupations. Just minutes after I sat down at my favorite table at the Taos Inn a local actives came over to tell me about all the great things Occupy Taos was doing this week. His first comment was to ask if I would be coming to the gun safety workshop. Now why in the world would Occupy Taos need to sponsor a gun safety class?
I shared news of the gun safety workshop with a local activist that was active with Occupy Taos. He emailed the man that invited me to the workshop. “what’s this i hear about gun safety at occupy? ” The guy that invited me to the workshop replied “former federal marshall army ranger ex cop, its all good. no discharging of weapons. Clay Farrow” Was that really intended to make people feel better about associating the occupation movement with being prepared to use guns?
Anyone that has been an anarchist for the past 40 years can see the pattern loud and clear. News surrounding the May Day 2012 occupation events gave the impression that we were engaged in a wave of violence. Some reports did suggest that the state had a hand in the violence but the over all image was one that portrayed the occupiers as destructive terrorists. This campaign of violence is a sign that the strategy of occupying public space and our dedication to nonviolence is so threatening that the state believes it must use every trick in the book to inject violence into our movement. These are the very tricks used in 1886 when an agent provocateur tossed a bomb at a protest in Chicago setting off the Haymarket Square Riot that killed seven police and four protesters and launched a smear campaign against anarchism that continues to this day. In my 40 years of activism I have never seen such a well coordinated and massive campaign concentrated around one day of action. It shows that our strategy of occupying public space is effective at challenging corporate power.
The events around May Day could be the end of that success. Do we really think “our” diversity of tactics will inspire millions of people to support the occupations when Americans woke up to headlines like these on May 2, 2012:
Envelopes With White Powder Sent to Mayor and 6 Banks
5 anarchists nabbed in plot to blow up Ohio bridge
Seven arrested in dawn raids on suspicion of funding terrorism
May Day protest in NYC brings confrontations
Violence mars protests in downtown Seattle
It is interesting that the FBI and Homeland Security planed their campaign to start with news about the anniversary of the assassination of bin Laden. Add the white powder mailed most likely by the FBI to bankers and Mayor Bloomberg and a bomb plot hatched by the FBI soon after occupations sprang up all over the country to the black bloc breaking windows and we have the perfect storm designed to end the movement. Any attempt to re-occupy public space and reinvigorate this springs successful strategy that made Occupy and capitalist greed robbing the 99% household discussions has been made nearly impossible. That is just what the government and their corporate sponsors wanted.
No wonder there are news reports that Chicago may need to be evacuated during the NATO protests and will be so violent that the city has been “forced” to bring in hundreds of state police and military personal. It looks like the FBI has something really spectacular to throw at us in Chicago. Maybe a black bloc with a dirty bomb?
Anyone that has talked with me at the occupations has heard me say that the FBI is profiling the occupiers to figure out who they can encourage to participate in one of their plots of violence. They apparently thought Douglas Wright, Brandon Baxter, Anthony Hayne, Connor Stevens, and Joshua S. Stafford would be easy targets. Who is being cultivated for the NATO protests and the demonstrations at the two national political demonstrations.
NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reported that “The five were ‘controlled by an undercover FBI employee,’ and agents had them under extensive surveillance for a long period of time. The explosives they allegedly purchased were inoperable.”
As soon as Occupy Cleveland started the FBI “became aware of the men.” That was what MSNBC reported. “Court documents say the FBI became aware of the men in October. A confidential source told the FBI that they were acting suspiciously at a protest event, wearing masks, talking on radios, and saying they didn’t believe in peaceful protest. They carried flags associated with anarchist groups.” Of course their “confidential source” told the FBI these details. The confidential source was one of the people “acting suspiciously” and “saying they didn’t believe in peaceful protest.”
The FBI affidavit about their bomb plot included the tell tail use of the word “f-ck” a word often attributed to me in criminal complaints. I have a court order against being near any San Francisco city official or city building based on a false claim I yelled “F-ck you” at Mayor Jordan. Never happened. If you know me very well you know I almost never use swear words. Its use it helpful is portraying activists as undignified crass terrorists. It is possible that the young man in the affidavit never made such a comment.
“During a briefing between the protestors and organizers, the organizers explained who would be arrested emphasizing that they wanted everyone to conduct peaceful civil disobedience. One of the original four men turned away and said “f-ck that” before the group of men walked away.”
NBC also reported that “On what appeared to be the Facebook pages of Hayne, Stafford and Baxter, there were claims that they were affiliated with Occupy Cleveland, which moved swiftly Tuesday to distance itself from the bridge plot.”
The FBI’s charging document describes two of the people the hired to frame the five “anarchists.” Yes this is really an exact quote.
“The (CHS) Confidential Human Source (hereinafter has been working as a source for the FBI since July 20, 2011. The CHS has a criminal record including one conviction for possession of cocaine in 1990, one conviction for robbery in 1991, and four convictions for passing bad checks between 1991 and 2011. The CHS is currently on probation in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties for passing bad checks. Since July 20, 2011, the CHS has been paid approximately $5,750 for services and $550 for expenses, the CHS has not been paid since beginning her/his probation. During the reporting period, the CHS has made audio and video recordings and provided information and intelligence that have led to the opening of several additional investigations. Your Affiant has been able to corroborate information provided by the CHS and the information has proven to be reliable.”
“The (UCE) Undercover Employee has been employed by the FBI for over 15 years and has been working in an undercover capacity for 10 years. The UCE has received ongoing training in conducting undercover investigations and has participated in dozens of investigations in an undercover capacity.”
I know many of the people that participate in black blocs. Most aren’t FBI informants or people that would participate in a bombing plot. They have been some of my closest allies. Even so I have expressed my concern about the government and their corporate sponsors using the block bloc to discredit our movement, frighten supporters from any possibility of mass mobilization and justify an increase in repression.
I’m not some naive sissy. I’ve participated in many protests in Europe and the Americas that have turned very violent, gas bombs and all. I spent the evening in the African American community of Philadelphia the night it erupted into flames after the assassination of Martin Luther Ling Jr. Tanks, dogs, flames, smoke, screams and all. I was permanently injured by the police during the Rodney King uprising on April 29, 1992. I’ve been kid napped by drug dealers at gun point and survived several shoot outs during my junior year at high school, one that involved over 70 students that shot at each other for nearly an hour. I survived the stress position cage for days at a time on three occasions. Was beaten with clubs, flashlights, fists and boots at least a dozen times by police trying to stop me from protesting. Spent over 2 years in jail. Seen lots of death. I also had a 95 on each of my National Rifle Association tests. So I know about violence.
Violence is not a strategy that will work to make the future I want to live in. I can understand how dire events are today. The violence of the corporations and government leaders is sickening. What could be more heartless then murdering people by remote control. The latest drone attacks being against civilians in the Philippines. From the stark future we face from climate change to the suspension of civil liberties and the daily fear of becoming homeless or never escaping homelessness it is easy to be convinced that we need to take extreme measures to save the planet for future generations. The FBI knows we are in pain so they use that to encourage our friends to listen to their suggestions to use violence.
I can honor the fact that the black bloc has not injured any bystanders. That none of the arson or other acts attributed to the anarchist community have killed or maimed anyone while the government has murdered millions just during the last half century. But that is not the point. I want to transform society. Live in a world where violence is not a solution. And I want to succeed.
I am not against vandalism of property if done publicly with pride and as part of a open and transparent process. Jose Bove and his comrades dismantled a MacDonalds in Millau France on August 12, 1999 to protest the companies assault on agriculture. It was hard to make them out to be villains. Their boldness of opening taking such extreme action with pride won over many in the main stream. Had they hidden their faces and tried to sneak away their action would have seemed cowardly and provided MacDonalds with undeserved sympathy.
If we have any hope of saving the occupation movement we need to address the fact that the government is waging a successful campaign by connection us to violence. This must be the end of the black bloc’s association with the Occupation. Diversity of tactics is great for the state and their corporate masters. We really don’t know everyone that joins the black bloc so it makes it possible for one or more agent provocateurs to take advantage of being masked to start breaking things at a strategic point in a protest to make sure that is the only thing the public hears about the action. While the black bloc may seem harmless enough even if some windows are broken it is easy for the corporate media to connect that to one phony bomb plot here, another phony anthrax attack here and a bomb plot there painting everyone in the occupation movement as violent terrorists bent on destroying what little safety is left.
I encourage an end to the black bloc at least until we regain our credibility. The black bloc has taken away the ability of our movement to organize in a non hierarchical way where everyone has equal access to decision-making. By announcing the suspension of the black bloc it would make it a bit more difficult for the police to organize their own black blocs like they did during the Democratic National Convention in Denver where everyone was a member of the local police. Removing the black bloc as a tactic could really frustrate the FBI and Homeland Security.
Anyone that hears any talk of violence should make it clear we are not interested. Informants “joked” about taking violent action during Food Not Bombs meetings before the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis and their statements became the “evidence” needed to raid the Food Not Bombs houses and frame the RNC 8. FBI informant Brandon Darby tried to talk David McKay and Bradley Crowder into making molotov cocktails to use against the police in Minneapolis and St Paul during the Republican National Convention. The FBI will try that again this year. Broken windows in Chicago and another bomb plot and it could be the end of any possibility for protest in Tampa and Charlotte. Eric McDavid was framed by the informant “Anna” in a non existent bombing plot a couple of months after he helped organize a Food Not Bombs gathering in Philadelphia. He is doing 19 years in prison mostly because he wasn’t vocal and insistent in his refusal to use violence.
The FBI created an atmosphere where it “wasn’t cool” to vocally support the study and practice of nonviolent direct action. How many times did we hear that nonviolence was racists because people of color have to take up the gun while claiming that black and brown supporters of nonviolence like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi were “working for the state.” Many of my young friends felt uncomfortable speaking forcibly against violence because the voices for “diversity of tactics” were so loud. Think about it, are you really prepared to kill someone?
The state was also clever this time by highjacking our nonviolence training during the 99% Spring where there was little in the preparation for taking nonviolent direct action on May Day and too much talk of supporting Obama for reelection. This contributed to the lack of participation in the General Strike, diverted efforts away from re-occupying public space and opened the door for the state to implement their plan to portray May Day as violent.
I am sure I am not alone in my fear that the state has made a major blow against Occupy. Many of us will experience the tragic consequences of having let our movement embrace the states strategy. Not only the sadness of witnessing decades of sacrifice evaporate behind an unrealistic and romantic dream of a vanguard leading the American mainstream towards violent revolution but because we will be the ones targeted in this new wave of repression.
But after four decades of seeking to advance the principles of anarchy and working to create a post capitalist future I am not about to give up now. I encourage everyone to organizing into affinity groups and create a tight community dedicated to taking nonviolent direct action. Determine who can risk arrest and who will be the support people in your affinity group. Consider organize a defense fund. Maybe organize a strategy to live outside capitalism so your affinity group is less vulnerable to economic coercion.
I heard two interesting ideas on my “Cooking For The Occupations Tour.” One person asked if the state ever paid an informant to organize a campaign of nonviolent direct action. You sure don’t hear much about efforts by government infiltrates discourage acts of violence for a strategy of nonviolence. A second suggestion was to encourage the formations of study groups called Occupy Gene Sharp where we study the history and principles of nonviolent direct action. Sure the U.S. State Department used Gene Sharp’s ideas to help undermine governments that were not friendly to corporate power but the ideas in Mr. Sharp’s books are politically neutral. They are well researched case studies that we can learn from. The state’s effort to both exploit Sharp’s research when it serves their interests while smearing him when his ideas could be used against their interests.
I can confirm the position of the letter “Zunes, Chomsky & Howard Zinn defend Gene Sharp; say Meyssan wrong about CIA link” when they write that “The office of the Albert Einstein Institution which supposedly plays such a ‘central role’ in American imperialism is actually a tiny, cluttered space in the downstairs of Gene Sharp’s home, located in a small row house in a working class neighborhood in East Boston. The staff consists of just two employees, Sharp and a young administrator.” I had the honor to spend time talking with Mr Sharp at his East Boston office two years ago. He was down to one assistant. I can also attest to the effectiveness of the lessons one can learn by studying his work. And so can the U.S. State Department. That is way they adopted it themselves. The important lesson for those who used them in the service of U.S. corporate interests is turn around and use it against the forces of exploitation, war and ecological destruction. Sharps book describes a number of campaigns against capitalism.
If we organize into affinity groups, study the history of nonviolent direct action, suspend the black bloc and call for a theatrical re-occupation of public space with all it’s many spin off acts of nonviolent disruption, interference and noncooperation with the state and its corporate sponsors we just might be able to take the states May Day violence and turn it into the foundation of on going change towards a post capitalist future of love, peace and freedom from corporate and political domination. Principles core to the values of anarchy.
cofounder of the Food Not Bombs Movement
OCCUPY GENE SHARP STUDY GROUPS
There Are Realistic Alternatives by Gene Sharp
There Are Realistic Alternatives is a short, serious introduction to nonviolent struggle, its applications, and strategic thinking. Based on pragmatic arguments, this piece presents nonviolent struggle as a realistic alternative to war and other violence in acute conflicts. It also contains a glossary of important terms and recommendations for further reading.
You can print out 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action and Correcting Common Misconceptions About Nonviolent Struggle from this page.
Please feel free to forward or re-post. Thanks