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Indybay Feature

On the Anarchist Action Strategy Against the G-8

by lotu5 and onto of o.r.g.a.n.i.c. collective
Anarchist Action San Francisco is building a mass movement of militant action against capitalism. On July 8th, 2005, the Anarchist Action west coast mobilization against the G-8 culminated in a strong, vibrant march against capitalism, the G-8, the war and the border through the Mission district in San Francisco. This action succeeded in mobilizing over 200 people, most of whom identify as anarchists, in a march that targeted numerous banks and major corporations for property destruction.
Many people tend to criticize or laud direct action, protests, and/or demonstrations as 'effective' or 'ineffective' without real reference as to what this in/effectiveness means. In other words, criteria are lacking. With different criteria, there can be many different evaluations of the same action without an overall 'Was it effective or not?" It's possible for the anti-G8 demos in San Francisco to be both effective and ineffective without submitting these different insights and critiques to an overall, bland, lowest common denominator 'lesson.' The event holds more lessons that can be gleamed from a single sentence.

To organize these lessons, we need to discern classes of criteria. Some that come to mind are a) Was it movement-building? b) Did it cause real damage to those who most benefit from capitalism? c) Was it media-savvy? d) Did the message come across clear? e) Was it inspiring to those involved and/or those who watched? f) Did it change the nature of the space involved? g) Did it show solidarity to those in Scotland? h) Did it allow a moment of liberation? i) Did it involve non-hierarchical organizing characteristics that empowered those who participated? j) Was it self-critical before and after? k) Did it educate others about anarchism? These just are few of the types of different criteria that come to my mind as I think about the Anarchist Action march. I don't think putting them together will give a yes or no answer to the question of effect. In fact, I would hope that marches like this call into question our standard, inherited concepts of effectivity.

The march has been criticized for not contributing to movement building, but I would refute this criticism. There is no inherent contradiction between engaging in mass direct action which includes property destruction and building a movement. This was not a small, clandestine action to smash a window. This was a mass action to collectively, publicly and openly cause financial damage to the physical manifestations of the capitalist system which is killing us all.

Further, someone must engage in resistance against the system if we are going to ultimately end capitalism. Many people talk of doing more than marching, and at this march, that is exactly what we did. While many people are engaged in building alternatives to the capitalist system, someone must work to destroy it, and that is what this night was about. If we never succeed in stopping and destroying capitalism, all the
effort spent building alternatives will only go into building subculture.

On my way home, I passed a young Latino man in a grocery store who was slouching as he walked past. He commented to me that he was so tired from working. It made me think that I am so happy to have been able to spend some of the energy of my body, which is limited by my lifetime, on an act as valuable as fighting against the system of capitalism that is holding so many under the boot of wage slavery.

The targets of the property destruction included Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Kentucky Fried Chicken and PG&E. These corporations are actively engaged in investments and actions which are destroying what is left of our fragile ecosystem. Bank of America is engaged in investment which supports the murder of Colombian organizers. PG&E continues to run the Hunter's Point power plant which causes the residents of Hunter's Point numerous health complications, including increased rates of cancer and respiratory disease. These corporations are the instruments of oppression, the foundation of the capitalist system. Banks themselves are the root of the system which allows capitalists to become rich through investment by doing nothing while the people laboring endless hours for them can't provide health care for their children.

I realize that smashing windows is not going to stop these corporations. It may lead to increased spending on security measures. It may lead people to realize how much collective rage is felt toward them. It may show someone who is angry at having money stolen from her by a bank (simply because she is poor and bounced a check) the solidarity she has with many others in her outrage.

Also, property destruction is not the only meaning of the event. It’s not even the most important. The internalization of hypermediatized approaches to violence and/or destruction is what makes the property destruction aspect of the event the most 'memorable.' Property destruction happens everyday, in the financial district, in the mission district, and in the suburbs. We normalize this structural violence: pollution, car accidents, police brutality, drug dealing, decadence due to lack of public funds, evictions. We exceptionalize this spectacle violence: protests, blockades, corporate property destruction, confronting police. Why do we reproduce the very same mechanisms of thought in our analyses that we are trying to eliminate? It is the hypermediatized nature of our own minds that need heavy decolonizing in order to critically formulate a counter-hegemonic strategy.

Another valuable effect of this march was to show that resistance in the US is possible. Anarchists were in attendance from all over California. Some of them were teenagers. How many people last night broke their first window as an act of resistance? Are you going to condemn Palestinian children for the first time they threw a rock at an Israeli tank or are you going to celebrate that? This is potentially the seed of a newer, more vibrant, more direct movement of resistance against war and Empire. If we believe that the system we live under is horribly wrong and causes immense suffering, are we not obligated to act against it in a way that tries as hard as we can to end it?

Criticisms of the march have pointed out that the Mission is a working class neighborhood and that organizers took advantage of the low police presence in the neighborhood. To that I say, low-income neighborhoods have a higher police presence than other neighborhoods. Having lived in Sherman Heights in San Diego I know that you see police every time you leave the house. Many of the organizers of this event live in this neighborhood. The instruments of oppression are entrenched in our lives, right in front of us. Is it wrong to fight them wherever they exist? The Mission's street layout also allowed for very tactical action in the form of numerous autonomous groups to continue to operate for hours while evading the police, allowing the situation to unfold as it did.

People tend to forget who owns the property that is usually damaged in such demonstrations. Comments and critiques tend to focus on the fact that workers are hurt by damaging property, that workers have to clean it up, and that workers are not liberated but such actions. I don't think that essentializing the demeanor of workers toward protests or toward anything at all is productive. The "worker" is a fluid concept that allows for many types of people and politics, views and feelings. And one of those feelings is "Fuck the boss and fuck his window too!" Because the question of property destruction should always be followed by the question of property ownership: Are they the workers windows or the bosses’ windows? How many times have you gone to work hoping your bosses’ tires would be slashed, or their window would be broken? As the labor organizer on Enemy Combatant Radio said that night, the workers he deals with despise their managers and cheer when their property is thrashed.

There is a lot that happened last night and a lot that can be said about it. Some of the actions taken in the street may not have been productive. Some of them were tactical decisions to allow the protest to continue in the face of violent repression by police. When the women suffragists marched through London and smashed every window they passed, were they condemned? Are their actions condemned now? How do the children of Iraq feel about what happened at the Anarchist Action march, or how would they if they knew?

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Comments (Hide Comments)
by thanks for this . . .
I don't think I could've written it better.
by Sam
Most insightful. Please keep up the actions, and the analyses.
by critical
So where is the self critical part? This statement is full of rationalization. You appear to be looking for tiny gems in the landslide of an action that seems to have created more problems than solutions. (from the perspective of someone who is quite anarchish but did not attend this particular action)
So after you call me a fake anarchist and criticize the mediatization of my mind could you please do the part about where you are self critical and point out the problems of that night's actions?
It would be nice to hear it straight from the horses mouth rather than the twisted version from the corporate media.
After all if we are afraid to openly criticize ourselves we repeat the same mistakes over and over and over and over...
by karasone
I agree with the post that said you were looking for gems within a pretty horrible set of events. someone ending up in the hospital (cop or not) and a few kids in jail on $300,000 bail and the mayor offering a $10,000 reward for more info is not a successfull action and it actually may have messes up the lives of those arrested big time.(although i am not blaming the protesters for the actions of the police) Anachism is not about property destruction and riots its about dissent against a system that is more out for their own greed than what is right for its people (in my opinion) This can come in many forms, and actions that do more harm than good just move things back. We must be open to criticism cuase it will only move us further towards our goal. I work as a social worker and a majority of my clients and co-workers are recent immigrants from central and South America. Many of them live in the mission and hearing their take on the action on Friday might provide some insight (although they are only a few voices and not reprersentative of everyone) i hadn't discussed being at the action at all and on Monday one of my co-workers told me she and her family were really scared during the action and didn't understand why they were rioting in her neighboorhood. she had a vague idea of why they were protesting but had no idea why they were smashing stuff and hitting police officers. One of my cleints told me she watched the "riot" and her and her daughter were scared by the police presence as well as the "kids breakig windows" and she had no idea why they were there. A third person who also commented on it said she hoped this would never happen again becuase she was sick of seeing all of the cops in the neighboorhood and thought it had something to do with a gang shooting. This dsen't soung like the kind of movement building and outreach that i would think would be sucessful.
I also wanted to say that i belive that many people are not afraid of direct action or civil disobedience. But i feel these wok best as part of a campaign not just a random action. Although it felt good somethingwas done in solidarity with G8 i again wish more thoughtful planning could have gone into this action.
by consider it flattery
When was the last time an American anarchist had a $10,000 price on his or her head?
by karasone
first off im not sure what action you were at but the one i was at was majority young white stereotrypical anachist/punk kids so i'm not sure where your diversity was from. Its also frustrating to me that you assume those of us who are critical of these actions are 'talking out of our ass" and "white liberals" way to build a movement! The fact that you are so defensive and unable to hear criticism makes me not even want to hear what you are saying. I think many of the peole who are posting here do a lot of orgnizing (myself included 0 and are frustrated at the impact of such a badly planned action (with equally worse than usual press) will have on the work we have been doing in San francisco.We are all working towards the same goals here and much of the criticism has been done pretty constructively. Getting defensive and calling people names does nothing but divide us and it definitely dosen't make me want to get involved in anarchist action.
by deanosor (deanosor [at] comcast.net)
for people they're admitting did not hurt the cop. Let's the DA or the judge have cooler heads and drop the charges.
by @ reader
Um, my first thoughts about this action were, I am glad this is an anti capitalist action not specifically an anarchist one. Anarchism is straddled with this smashy reputation, that forever dooms it to being the ideaology of the dis-affected youth. Is that really what anarchism is? Does property destruction educate people about anarchism?
I support a diversity of tactics, but that means more than just street demonstrations and smashing stuff. It is almost laughable when people talk about smashing windows as a revolutionary act, maybe that is the extent that people can percieve what they can actually do...it is alot easier to smash a window then it is to form common cause with don't look and dress like you.
What will be the gains of this action?
Long term we will probably get a couple more political prisoners/martyrs that will suck resources and energy out of community work and into trying to help 2 people survive what will probably be multi year sentences.
by @ reader
anyone else notice that Mr. Cody Tarlow one of the arrestees managed to post bail at what would that be 30,000. Um, class war yreah!
by deanosor (deanosor [at] comcast.net)
because they can't sfford to post bail. Yes thre is a class war AGAINST THE RICH AND POWERFUL... and not against someone who can afford to get out of jail.

We need to get out the other two out. Checks should be made out to: Midnight Special Legal Collective and delivered (if possible) to the National Lawyers Guild office, 558 Capp St. San Francisco, California. The memo line on the check should say anti-g8 defendants legal fund
.
Thank you.
by Jim
"The Mission's street layout also allowed for very tactical action in the form of numerous autonomous groups to continue to operate for hours while evading the police, allowing the situation to unfold as it did."

--I dont know if I would call that the tactics that caused the evolution of activities on Friday night, rather, the failure of communication protocol through San Francisco Police officers via their tactical and SWAT teams readied with riot gear was the cause. The general planning and movement of splinter anarchists group is hardly ever tactical. Tactical most generally means the organized and careful planning and implementation of an event or to gain some sort of an objective, which these rioters did not do in anyway. There was no formal cohesiveness other than a bunch of people running in any direction without communication. The "layout of streets" in the mission is more patterened and set up in a grid then almost most neighborhoods in San Francisco, which would make it easier for police to cordon off sections, arrest and confront rioters. The only reason why the people were not apprehended sooner was 100% due to the communication failure of the police. Just goes to show that planning was poor for this "protest" especially in terms with the neighborhood that was chosen.
by Red
So, what courageous, divine leaders you have in your revolution. Those who would wear masks, who, lets face it, really just want to party and break things because your cause is fun. That's it. You message gets lost in all of this. I lost count of all of your folks who were wearing clothes and shoes made by those rotten capitalists. What a bunch of phony's. You damaged your status and vision when your pals attacked the officer, who was just doing his job. You website lost credibility when you did not post the photo of the injured officer. Isn't it only fair or is this a dictatorship? Post only propaganda that benefits the cause. No fair and balanced here! This is censorship. And I have to laugh how your pals also destroyed the messenger or your voice. The newspaper racks. I think the violence and anger water's down your message and damages your view. It also makes people think about how you exploit the bill of rights, or rather fashion it to your liking. You are not dangerous. You are pathetic. I am not impressed AND most of all not moved.
by rich
So it is funny that their is so much anger over this action. Sure it should have been more self-critical. and It should have been mentioned in the article but there were workshops/presentations on Wednesday night and then several meetings the following days between organizers from throughout the area/region/state all of which were about long term organizing that people are involved in. It is my understanding that all of the organizers with anarchist action are also deeply involved with other organizing projects such as the anti-minutemen coalition. People from the collective I am involved in in San Diego went up to do the bay (at the request of Anarchist Action) to talk about the anti-border, immigrant rights work that we are ingaged in. I think it is fantastic to maintain a balance between these types of actions against corporations and long-term organizing. No one is saying breaking bank windows is the revolutionand big fucking deal if a cop got a few stiches. By the way there was actually pretty good communication all you control freeks, a text mob was keeping people informed about cop locations and how to meet back up. It seemed to have worked pretty well from what I heard, and groups that split were able evade cops for hours and rejoin. so lighten up folks. viva anarquia!!
by anarquista
>"So, what courageous, divine leaders you have in your revolution.">

Neither the anarchist movement or Anarchist Action has, or wants, authoritarian leaders for our "revolutio".

>"Those who would wear masks, who, lets face it, really just want to party and break things because your cause is fun.">

No, people risk themselves and the little freedom they have not for fun, but to fight for thins they really believe in. Smashing an officer in the face can get someone serious prison time, I wouldn't risk that for "fun". I wouldn't risk getting caught smashing a giant Wells Fargo window (which costs several thousand dollars to replace) and most likely beat by the cops in jail for "fun". "Let's face it"? How about you face that some people are willing to militantly risk themselves for what they believe in.

>". I lost count of all of your folks who were wearing clothes and shoes made by those rotten capitalists.">

This is just pathetic. All anti-capitalists know that, even though we are agaisnt capitalism, that we cannot avoid interacting with it while living under it's rule. I NEED money to buy FOOD.

>". You damaged your status and vision when your pals attacked the officer, who was just doing his job.">

Just doing his job? I don't understand why some people persist denying the fact that the officer was ATTACKING people, and that he was hit in self-defense. Also keep in mind that him "just doing his job" means him protecting and serving the capitalist, ruling class and maintaining internalized and economic colonization over poor communities of color.

>"You website lost credibility when you did not post the photo of the injured officer."

Go to the Anarchist Action website, they haven't posted ANY photos or documentation of the protest yet.

>"Post only propaganda that benefits the cause.">

What are you talking about? Who only posts propaganda where?

>"And I have to laugh how your pals also destroyed the messenger or your voice. The newspaper racks.">

This is humorous. Since when has the corporate media been a messanger for the Anarchist movement?

>"I think the violence and anger water's down your message and damages your view.">

1.) Destroying property to cause economic damage to those who exploit and colonize is not violent.
2.) The cop was injured in self-defense. Do you not believe in self-defense?

>"It also makes people think about how you exploit the bill of rights, or rather fashion it to your liking.">

Hmm. Maybe you're forgeting you're talking to anarchists? The Bill of Rights?


You know what it is, I think you don't actually understand anarchist thought and theory. Perhaps you're a (white?) liberal who thinks all left-wing political theories fit under your traditional, pacifist, symbolic forms of protest. Or, you might just be a random right-winger who also doesn't know anything about anarchism, but just leaves pathetic comments for fun.
by onto
I think these responses are great. What we were hoping to see were more critical responses to the mobilization, responses that were explicit in their criteria for effectiveness, responses that were more than the usual "fucking shit up is bad vs. fucking shit up is good" debate, responses that didn't essentialize the 'worker' or 'protester' or 'cop' or whatever. Our point wasn't to write up criticisms of the event (theres lots of those), but to write up a call to more nuanced criticisms, more constructive ones. I don't believe in the 'real vs. fake anarchist' debate, more or less the 'real vs. fake' anything debate. The comment on police vs. protester tactics is interesting; somewhere between the luck of the people and the stupidity of the police, possibility occurs. The reclaim the streets in san diego last january was the same thing. The luck of the demonstrators (planned, prepared luck) against the stupidity of the police (planned, prepared stupidity) allowed for some changes of route, moments of spontaneity, and more. It also contained the night. How to judge freedom, spontaneity and moments of liberation during marches, I'm still unsure.

I wish we would have written a paragraph about the preceeding two days to the march, when there were forums on local environmental issues, the muni strike, the border and the minutemen, as well as critical social films, food not bombs, general networkin. The day before there was a spokescouncil of more than 50 people about details, proposals, concerns, and questions about the upcoming march. What we (from the o.r.g.a.n.i.c. collective) were doing there was coordinating with the San Francisco Coalition to Fight the Minutemen about the July 15-19 campout, the August 27th-28th (no)Border encuentro, and the Sept 16th action against the minutemen.


by just wondering
And smashing windows is *not* symbolic?
by onto
One critique I have is that the pamphlets that were distributed (http://anarchistaction.org/g8pamphlet.pdf) are too ideological. I think it turns off people and is unnecessary to use such daunting language. I feel like its possible to talk about anarchism in very simple terms, like about bosses and orders, spontaneity and freedom, daily life and meaning. For example, I thought Graeber's book "Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology" is pretty clear and accessible and reasonable for random people on the street to digest anarchism.
by smb
Perhaps a more effective demonstration against the world powers could provide a real example of real change, not only in theory but also in action.
What is revolutionary about violence? and destruction?
Violence will be met with violence. Destruction will be met with protection. People will resist. You will lose the power in numbers your movement needs most as you discourage the voices and threaten the livelihood of those who might otherwise join you. Your demonstrations will be in vain.
Generate a safe space, without fear, where people can speak for themselves. Physically destructive protests are a great example of how our world “leaders” operate. Intimidating with brute force and aggressive means. Thanks, but I think we can see its ineffectiveness in reaching out to the global community. Would there not be the same result at a local level?
Perhaps what your new world vision is calling for would be better met with open arms, welcoming others to join you with something other than a closed fist. Something that gives us hope, and something to work towards in a world we want and are proud to live in.
I realize this might be a stretch for those of you lacking imagination, as the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, or shall I say Bush. But for those of you out there who do want to see change, not more graffiti, trash in our streets, and police in our neighborhoods, I encourage us all to stand-up together and show the world what it lacks most, love. Now that, would be truly revolutionary.
by Nico
Regarding the "validity" and or "effectiveness" of property destruction and violence...

Remember that Malcolm X advocated self defense and an active, militant, and continued resistance to and disassembling of the status quo. Meanwhile Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from the pulpit to "turn the other cheek" and advocated non-violent protests. They were both assassinated, but only one of them is discussed in our public (mal)education systems. Only one of them has a national holiday. Only one of them has a freeway named after him in San Diego. Jee, I wonder which one it could be?

Note: Martin Luther King was an advocate of equality and justice, and an effective one. I am not trying to slander his image or what he stood for, I am merely making a point as to what is actually perceived as more of a threat by the status quo -- a patently non-militant position or a militant one. The answer is clear, and while the status quo is obviously subject to errors of judgment and analysis, in this case I think their greater fear of militancy is justified. They should be afraid. Additionally, all the "honors" and "tributes" paid to MLK by the US government should be perceived as a slap in the face to ALL black brothers and sisters, and ALL people who struggle for equality and justice. The same government that killed the man erected honors and accolades for him once he was gone, effectively, to encapsulate and neutralize the real effects he had in life, and possibly could have had after his death.

In any case, while people like "Red" are throwing around garbage comments around (and obviously isn't the slightest bit of an anarchist), I am glad that there are people in California working on the ground level, working in their communities, working in the streets, building networks, showing solidarity, educating themselves and others, and yes, on occasion being militant and fucking oppressive people and institutions up.

Violence is not "bad" per se when directed in the right direction and executed with precision. We aren't the ones perpetuating eternal wars and eternal dominance throughout the world. As anarchists, the only violence we ever should -- and in fact ever do -- participate in is directed, and serves strictly to chip away at those systems, people, and institutions which are the root of dominance and oppression throughout the globe. We practice violent acts exclusively to strip power away, because as anarchists we all agree that we must eliminate all hierarchies and power structures that are non-egalitarian.

Obviously, as stated in this very well-written article, violence is not the only aspect of our struggles as anarchists. In fact -- again, as stated in the article -- it is not even the most important, or close to it. Still it is a tactic to be utilized at times, and should not be ignored as one of many of the tools which we must utilize in the ongoing social and global revolution.

I'm out. Peace, love, and solidarity to all who are down. Keep struggling and NEVER give up, no matter how bleak things become. Support your fellow anarchists, because generally we're all we have.

FTS -- FUCK THE SYSTEM, and POWER TO THE PEOPLE

-Nico
by oxymoron
There is no such thing. Demonstrations are ineffective. Our rulers don't give a flying rat's ass what our signs say, how rythmic our chants are or how big a puppet we can build. They dont care. They don't have to care.

If demonstrations were going to do the trick, it would have happened already. Switch to plan B.
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