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Smashing Success in SF: Anticapitalist Mayday Attack –Tactical Lessons Communique–
by One Crew Among Many
Monday May 4th, 2009 5:01 PM
This is one communique to help us draw lessons from the successful surprise action in the evening of May 1 that targeted 3 blocks of San Francisco's luxury shopping mecca and central hub of commerce and wealth. Other communiques have already been released or will be released shortly and together we can try to piece together what happened and what we can learn from it.
This is one communique to help us draw lessons from the successful surprise action in the evening of May 1 that targeted 3 blocks of San Francisco's luxury shopping mecca and central hub of commerce and wealth. Other communiques have already been released or will be released shortly and together we can try to piece together what happened and what we can learn from it.

There is no use detailing here the specifics of what occurred during those eight or nine minutes. Corporate news coverage of the attacks has been relatively accurate and it is recommended that interested folks watch the following videos:

This action carried no demands. Its choice of geography and timing speak for themselves. It is safe to say that it inflicted the most property destruction San Francisco has seen in a very long time in an area usually deemed to be off limits to street actions and demonstrations. There were no arrests and upwards of $50,000 worth of damage was unleashed in a controlled and methodical manner that required intense cooperation among participants. However, this monetary figure is not what is important.

We draw three main lessons from this action that must be shared with all our comrades. The police and security forces are most definitely trying to learn from the blow they just received and we need to draw our own lessons in order to make this a true success.

The action was based on three hypothesis which all proved correct:

1. We can set a time and a place of our choosing even if that place is in the heart of 'enemy territory'. We do not need to act as parasites on other marches or demonstrations. This must be evaluated on a case by case basis but in general it seems that the risks to ourselves and others outweigh any advantages that 'breaking away' from another group's event gives us. This action had a large buffer of time and space from any other May Day demonstrations and was able to mobilize the necessary numbers to quickly complete the tasks before once again disappearing.

2. For actions such as this, there is no reason that any aspect of the organizing should be done online or through any electronic medium such as the phone. A mass call to action posted on all of our favorite websites months in advance is not necessary. Spreading word of a serous planned action through face to face communication helps build vital personal connections, lets people know that participants are serious about what they want to do and avoids the easiest and most common form of state surveillance. In this case the police were completely caught by surprise even though they had mobilized large tactical riot teams hours earlier and blocks away in standard preparation for the annual immigrant rights mobilization.

3. We have the crews with the experience, dedication and, most importantly, trust to pull this kind of thing off. This was not done by one small crew acting alone. It was a collective effort that drew in many groups of friends and comrades and this was necessary for its success. We need to trust our networks and communities and foster the kind of relationships we can rely on when an action like this is necessary.

Some of this is specific to those of us in the Bay Area but there are lessons here for everyone in the struggle. The similar and simultaneous action in Milwaukee illustrates that these are lessons that reveal the general state of liberatory anti capitalist activity in the United States during this particular historical moment.

Like fishermen turned pirates off the horn of Africa who have hijacked a primary artery of global capital as they defend their lives and communities, mass coordinated anti capitalist attacks across Greece that illustrate how an anarchist initiated insurrection can bring a state to its knees, or crews of friends taking over the streets of downtown Oakland in resistance to police violence, the May Day mutiny in San Francisco has revealed weak points for us to take note of and exploit. The illusion of an invincible corporate state able to crush or undermine all its enemies has been shattered. The forces of repression have no real defense against our evolving rebellions.

Now is the time to reflect and be safe. Celebrate this victory but keep your lips sealed and reaffirm your connections with those around you.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by @
Monday May 4th, 2009 7:33 PM
I liked the reportback, but i would like to add some thoughts/critiques which might prove valuable to consider as well.

1. As more actions like this occur, without any arrests, the cost to security rises. More repressive institutions, such as the FBI, etc, are more likely to become involved. Police will likely increase patrols in affluent areas like the part of town which was attacked. Above ground groups are likely to experience more violence at the hands of the police as retribution against the previous clandestine actions. And when someone does get caught at an action like this, they will likely face a legal battle weighted against them by the publicity of previous actions.

2. This action showed that the anarchist scene has strength in it's informal networks, but how will a strategy like this grow over time? People are likely to get more secretive about actions like this as more state repression becomes likely (see point #1), so how is the network going to incorporate new people into actions?

3. How can the participants in the action voice their analysis outside of anonymous postings online? We saw a lot of misinformation spread over the last few days about who did this (young black males, a breakaway from the immigration march, a group from the silent vigil, national anarchists rioting against immigrants, etc). Is there a way to speak more clearly beyond the sound of breaking glass and online communiques?

These are just thoughts that I had at the moment. Congratulations on the action - stay strong and keep quite. See you in the streets!
by Greta
Monday May 4th, 2009 10:28 PM
Yes. Is it even known for certain that the vandals weren't from the Sri Lanka group?

I agree on the point that doing this category of thing outside of major political marches makes a lot of sense. It's a lot more secure and it doesn't antagonize progressive allies.
Some other things to consider are the real possibility that within a group planning something, some new person will tell other friends who they believe are also safe, or a street witness will get involved or even try to stop you. Also, there is discretion of police/courts in setting charges and allocation of resources to various crimes. For example, there are empty houses all over California getting their windows broken, there is paint graffiti and social problems in many neighborhoods of SF. Yet, if they choose to, police can value the windows of these businesses more than these other incidents and put more time into solving it. In Santa Cruz, a couple of years ago there was a story of a dozen people on bikes who scratched the paint and slashed tires of trucks and SUVs along one block. It was expensive, but this also randomly happens all the time, including to my car. In this case, the news reported that an FBI officer had come to investigate the issue.
If you have ever called regarding stolen items, including auto or bicycle theft, often the police will take hours or tell you to file your own report. At the same time, there are cases where an officer is right there, a block away. It can't be guaranteed that an area is empty. On the other hand, it's sometimes impressive what people have gotten away with when 200 police are guarding a march.
by Frisk
Monday May 4th, 2009 10:52 PM
Just like trying to repeat Seattle has gotten a lot of kids locked up, so will trying to pull this off again. It worked because it was fresh and because the cops didn't see it coming. Don't forget to change it up.
by a
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 12:06 AM
Frisk has good point.

The power of these actions is that surprise is a key element, not that this particular tactic is the new black bloc. The point is that new tactics require new responses, which the cops take time to think up.

Now shut the fuck up. We all learned our lessons. Every bit of info given out is one more bit for them.
by ###
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 7:56 AM
Congratulations on organizing a small pseudo-riot!

Now, when can we see this great new organizing style (ie. gangs or crews) focused on something tangible? It's one thing to organize a 20 minute window breaking spree or to have the structure to carry out actions in Oakland, but don't think that this gets us any closer to a revolutionary movement in the Bay Area. I would like to hear what people think about the first comment on this page as they are valid criticisms.

Once again, congrats! This action was awesome.
by (a)
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 9:34 AM
This is fucking awesome! Fucking awesome! Such a good action! Such a good communique! I want more!
by douceb@g
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 9:53 AM
loved the constructive criticism! great action, now seriously can not be stressed enough, the media and cops look pissed, loops lips sink, well you know what i mean.
by Pointless
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 9:54 AM
You all are talking about creating space and building stuff up, but all I ever see from you is destruction. Why not try to do something that will help people instead of just breaking glass and setting things on fire? Do you think smashing a window really did anything to make society less oppressive?

You’re just as bad as the religious nuts who are so positive that they’re right about EVERYTHING that they never even listen to anyone else or try to look at situations with an open mind.

And could you be any more smug and self-satisfied about pulling off this pointless “action.” Maybe you should replace the circle A with an circle N for Narcissists. For the 99.9999% of the population that isn’t in your little club, this looks like nothing more than petty vandalism.

And if you’re trying to build this up to a more intense confrontation with everything you’re “against,” you might want to consider that it’s the other side that has all the guns, so you might want to think about putting away your little slingshots away before someone gets hurt.
by A True Revolutionary
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 3:59 PM
Maybe we should all just go back to holding signs while singing cambia. Yeah, that method was so effective at ending the Iraq War. It really did a lot to put a dent in their pocket and disrupt everything.

I'm sure if 10,000,000 all over the country decided to do what 30-50 people did in union square it wouldn't change anything, jk!

How effective has protesting been? The system is still here to stay. The state still exists. Capitalisms control over people, labor, and the environment has not ended yet.

"Are we kidding" is what you say, while you're the one who's telling the jokes. You're joking your self. Lying to your self.

In every revolution people have gotten hurt and have lost their lives but it was worth it and always will be until all power is gone.

As long as government exists there will be people trying to remove people from their position in power by force and there's nothing we could do to change that fact of life because violence is the only thing they listen to.

You think it's not worth risking your life now but just wait till you've lost everything then you'll be out of your little comfort zone REAL QUICK!

Sorry to sound like a jerk but I'm sick and tired of all the pacifism infecting our revolutionary spirit. If you disagree then don't participate. Do your own thing. Keep hoping your attendance in permitted marches is going to change the world as each administration passes you by and you're in your late 70's all wrinkled and worn out just ready to die.

Sabotage is the only thing that get's in their way and that will stop them for good.

Capitalism is taking sides with materialism over human need.

Who's side are you on? Life or wealth?

What matters to you the most? Ending the suffering of those being exploited to death by American corporations or worrying about the insurance rates going up for those corporations due to repetitive smashing and bashing?

Capitalism can be smashed and bashed out of existance if there all millions of people all doing it at once. You should know that.



by Mario
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 4:39 PM
A few questions for the ''Black bloc'' (or whatever you'll care to call yourselves ) 1.. In a period of housing foreclosures, rental evictions. layoffs, reduced hrs. , reduced salaries , ongoing imperialist wars,increased Police repression , etc. Do you'll really think the main target is ''consumerism '' ?
2. Radical activists are needed more than ever . But actions like that which occurred on May Day evening could easily lead to serious jail time for activists that are sorely needed ? My question is would some broken glass at the Gap be worth that price tag ?
3. You seem assured that none of your ranks will give others up . Really? That's not the lesson that should be drawn from the so called '' Eco Terrorists ''; trials .
Was it worth these risks ?
by anon
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 5:25 PM
yes obviously mario, taking risks is a terrible idea. what are you talking about?
by center post
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 7:15 PM
please make a center column post about friday night's action
by anonymous are everywhere
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 7:36 PM
Mario is pointing to some pretty valid points -- especially his first point. He is not saying risks should not be taken.

To those who think that anti-war activism in the bay area was just holding signs should actually ask folks that were around during the time or check out past indybay coverage. There were plenty of smashed windows (INS, multiple Gap locations, KTVU camera, the downtown courthouse, multiple cop cars, etc. etc.) Breaking windows and affinity group organizing (you are calling them crews) is nothing new. The one thing that came out of those actions was a fragmented anarchist scene that could no longer get their shit together when the heat came down. The same thing happened when anarchist action held the G8 demonstrations.

I think this action had a lot of positives, but you shouldn't shout down people who have already been there and done that shit. They have the wisdom to point out mistakes that they have learned.
by ...
Tuesday May 5th, 2009 7:51 PM
by dudewheresmyc@r
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 8:45 AM
by not the same
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 11:09 AM
Days of Rage can be used in a comparison, but this action was very different.
by this was more like
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 1:07 PM
10 minutes of rage. so much more efficient. eat your heart out, weathermans!
by roberta kranzler
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 1:33 PM
After a few days I been sitting here thinking that while this is a notable action, those of you who keep posting about whatever have not really done a good job in explaining the relevance of this action to other people, defending the integrity of this action, or pointing out how more actions like this can be useful to the larger movement later on. Militance is not only a broken window. Militance is solid determination, day to day defiance of the things that hold us back. I want to know how this recent demonstration speaks to what's actually going on for people down here suffering through the real world. I understand the need for secrecy, but what do you people want to represent other than bullshit one liners from the media and general destruction? I get the so-called targets, I agree that consumerism is a righteous one, but what else? Is this communique as deep as your thought process goes? If so, I find it really shallow and disappointing. If this is it, then its not hard to imagine this as the petulant action of a bunch of testosterone laden men who've been watching too much riot porn. I'm excited to hear more thoughtful reportbacks, to see more inspiring and new ideas, to see how this fits into the agenda for the movement.
by The New Weather Underground :)
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 2:19 PM

I love the Weathermen for what they do, or what they did I should say and their all old and retired from the underground now, lol. Kind of sux how time passes you by which should send a chilling message to all who work for a better world not to go from comfortably laidback to apathetic if and once jobs are created. WORKING HARDER FOR A BETTER WORLD COUNTS MORE! If the job market improves I'd like to say that just because there's new employment doesn't mean that we're all free, only the "illusion of freedom" exists when the economy is booming. You only have the freedom to work, consume, and STFU whether the economy is in the boom or bust stage. Don't sell out like the hippies of the 60's is all I'm saying. Be truthful to your self and others. Ask your self, is this really what I believe in or would I rather give up and conform like everybody else FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

The Day's of Rage and bombings of government buildings actually did bring people to believe that a revolution was right around the corner. Only problem is the war ended and not enough people were hurting enough to jump on the "revolution bandwagon" in order to successfully crack the system which just goes to show that it is going to take very sophisticated strategic planning of some simultaneous action on a national level so big that it would cause an already crippled economy to completely collapse rendering it useless.

Out of the ashes we build a new world; a new world free from all types of oppression such as hierarchy, sexism, homophobia, fascism, state militarism, capitalism, nationalism, nation-wars, any type of hegemony once so ever will be viewed as being oppressive and should be wiped out. The alternative is purely obvious and common-sense. What ever is the opposite of what exits today is what the alternative will be.

All rank should be destroyed!

No Borders that means No Nations which means freedom
by yeah right.
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 3:20 PM
"The Day's of Rage and bombings of government buildings actually did bring people to believe that a revolution was right around the corner."

I don't know what Days of Rage you're talking about. The real Days of Rage was a complete and abject failure and showed how completely disconnected the small minority of the weathermen were within the SDS. Even the Panthers distanced themselves from the action. As for the Weather Underground, sure, they were pretty fucking revolutionary. But so what? You aint gonna make a revolution with only a handful of people smashing windows and blowing shit up.
“You aint gonna make a revolution with only a handful of people smashing windows and blowing shit up.”

If you read on, you’ll be enlightened with knowledge; knowing that in the rest of the guys sentence in his or her paragraph their statement is actually in agreement with you that it would have to be much larger than just a handful of people.

Try reading this quote from previous reply:

Only problem is the vietnam war ended and not enough people were hurting enough to jump on the "revolution bandwagon" in order to successfully crack the system which just goes to show that it is going to take very sophisticated strategic planning of some simultaneous action on a national level so big that it would cause an already crippled economy to completely collapse rendering it useless.

Double quote from last sentence in paragraph:

“Simultaneous action on a national level so big that it would cause an already crippled economy to completely collapse rendering it useless.”

Now where in this sentence does the person imply that it would take only a hand full of people smashing windows and blowing shit up?

What about big simultaneous actions taking place on a national level did you not understand?

If you would have read the rest of the paragraph rather than rush to judgment to serve your own agenda, I wouldn’t be embarrassing the hell out of you right now.


by no no no no
Wednesday May 6th, 2009 7:05 PM
no, roberta, the people who did this can't tell you who they are, and if they have good security culture, they won't take your bait. so you can't and won't know if they are in those trenches, because you aren't in the trenches with them.

now, a few fuck yous (to noone in particular):

1) fuck you to people who complain that white anarchists don't sublimate their insurrectionary desires in order to mollify the self-appointed gatekeepers of "legitimate" community organizing of [insert underprivileged community-du-jour here]. if your self-absorbed guilt-ridden superhero complex allowed for honest self-criticism you might notice how badly you fail to connect with the "real people" whose causes you, as an outsider, have taken upon yourself to champion. they despise you, because your existence is an insult to their intelligence.

2) fuck you to the white anarchists who challenged white supremacy by showing up only once in the struggle for justice oscar grant. the injustice perpetrated in the case is so obvious, but you needed a personal invitation from a person of color to do something about it. and so the one time you showed up is when the black bourgeoise (CAPE) puts a call out to pen in, restrict, and suppress the lumpenproletariat youth (also of color). way to be there for the cause. now that CAPE squandered all that momentum (with your help), you are back to putting on formulaic workshops for white people and reprogramming/inactivating radicals who might otherwise take the initiative to step shit up.

3) fuck you to the all-grown-ups, the todd gitlins of the bay area. you dont even know how patheticly coopted you are. now that its been years since you started doing safe, for-profit organizing with a union or ngo or non proift, or whatever thing it is that you "do", now that you are fat off of burma superstar and hours at a computer/desk job instead of your youthful days of dumpsters, fnb and biking and frolicking (remember how fun that used t be?)... now you feel a tinge of regret. because you got radicalized same as everyone else, through action. militant action. then you settled into a safe routine and for years you sat there still thinking of yourself as a radical badass while practicing exactly ZERO radical badassery. and now as it progressively dawns on you that YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO, NOT WHAT YOU THINK, then an action like this pops up and it challenges you, it jolts your memory, its forces you to have an opinion so you come forth with a convenient criticism that allows you to answer the obvious question: "why am i not doing this shit anymore?". your answer is "because its stupid". which allows you to take that regret for what you have become and bury it deeper. well fuck you. your critique is your answer to a question that you directed at yourself. you would better spend your time answering the question "what really differentiates me from a liberal yuppie?"

i could go on but it is too much already. the people that need to read this arent going to be able to admit it to themselves anyway. so stay strong, young anarchists! definitely be as critical as you can, but keep in mind who the critiques are coming from, and a solid factual sense of the history of revolution/insurrection/social movements.

i'll leave you with this bit from sylvia pankhurst to read and enjoy :)
by careful
Thursday May 7th, 2009 2:02 AM
The more you post, the more info and clues you give to the police and the more likely it is to get caught. Come on, it was a good action and some good points were made in the communique, but your taking a BIG risk in posting this. In the end of the communique you said: ' lose lips sink ships'. Well maybe you should take some of your own advice.