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Letter in support of Sub Rosa

by Johanna Isaacson
This is a letter in defense of Sub Rosa in response to the accusations and threats that have been made to the space.
I wrote this letter of support a year ago and it still holds true. As far as I know no one at Sub Rosa was involved with the property destruction on May Day. All that I or anyone can KNOW about the space is the following

To Whom it May Concern,

This letter is in support of SubRosa Infoshop. I am a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz and I have been in touch with people involved in SubRosa from its inception. I was present as people labored for months gathering materials and support, and constructing the space. I often go there to study or socialize, or for arts-related or political events. SubRosa is a warm welcoming place to everyone; it has a diverse library and is part of a larger effort in the Lower Pacific area, along with the Bike Church, Ped Ex and soon to be created diy computer center, to foster creativity, community and self help, a more and more important project as the economy tightens and community and sociality becomes ever more integral to survival.

SubRosa is an explicitly anarchist space, and perhaps this draws some skepticism from the larger community. I think there is some confusion about what this means, as there is a kind of propaganda campaign that conflates anarchism with terrorism in the media at present. SubRosa seems to me to be part of a prevalent current in anarchism which promotes autonomy, free thought, and teaching as a means to changing society. For the last forty years the predominant current in anarchism has been in education, and trying to create free thinking, free spirited individuals, and SubRosa is central to this kind of project. One thing I’ve always admired about the Santa Cruz anarchist community is their resourcefulness and dedication to providing free classes. We probably have the largest free school in the country. SubRosa provides a space for this as well as an interesting and well chosen library with everything from anarchist classics to poetry, to a variety of zines and self help manuals.

Many of the participants in the SubRosa collective have been long time participants in the local arts scene, and there is an amazing cultural vitality at the space. I have gone to many of the open mic nights and have been really impressed by the diversity and quality of talent. I recently brought a visiting Korean scholar to a show and he was really impressed by the mixture of young and old voices, something he said he has never seen at a Korean event. The diversity extends beyond young and old, it is welcome to homeless people and is racially diverse. Additionally, every month the work of a different artist is featured at the space. The art has been of consistently high quality, some of the most interesting art I have seen in Santa Cruz. I attended one art opening at SubRosa, for the work of Kyle McKinley. Not only was his art original and extraordinary, but he posted an essay explaining the work that was very theoretically rich and provocative, and I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss his work with him. I am certain he and other artists who have shown their work at SubRosa will be well known and influential in the future. Santa Cruz has fostered a lot of amazing art and music scenes that have gone on to do great things, and it is spaces like SubRosa that allow this. As arts funding dwindles, it is places like SubRosa which will keep Santa Cruz a vibrant creative place.

I have introduced the space and the people who participate in creating it to three world renowned scholars, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis and Haejoang Cho. All three were very impressed with the space and enjoyed talking to the volunteers. All three came away from Santa Cruz incredibly impressed with the creativity and ingenuity people here employ in recreating everyday life. At one point after taking an impromptu diy tour of Santa Cruz Professor Cho was contemplating writing a book on Santa Cruz, as a model of utopian living.

I firmly believe that we are entering a moment where people will have much fewer resources than they need to survive, and free, communal spaces will be vital to many people’s physical and emotional well being. SubRosa is a place where people can sit for free. Often there will be food to share or very cheap coffee. All of the events are open to waiving admission fee for those who can’t afford it. Not only does this foster the creativity and well being of young, talented under employed people in Santa Cruz, who are stretched by astronomical rents, but many poor and homeless people utilize the space, as well as the bike church and the generally welcoming communal area in lower Pacific. One thing that I was really impressed with was the number of very talented homeless and poor people, a high proportion of whom were African American, who performed during the open mic events. One can sense the well being and comfort that people get from being in a space where they are not marginalized or treated differently because they are homeless. As more and more of us enter the ranks of the impoverished, these spaces will be vital to providing alternatives to crime and despair. Especially in light of the bans on lingering in public space that are in effect in Santa Cruz, spaces like these are crucial. The lower Pacific Avenue neighborhood is a place where drugs and crime are prevalent. SubRosa and the surrounding institutions provide alternate forms of sociality.

I am a student and I have a demanding job so I cannot always be very involved with community projects such as SubRosa. But I am always really grateful that these exist. I have known many of the people who work with the SubRosa collective for many years, and I have found them to be a selfless, energetic group of people who are very serious about prefigurative politics and building utopia now. Whenever I have any extra cash I always try to send it their way because I know they can accomplish an unbelievable amount of good with almost no resources. This is because they put all their time and energy into free projects for no other reason than sustaining a community of mutual aid and cultural vitality. Many are skilled carpenters, bike mechanics or have other talents which they always share as much as possible. It is true that some of the people involved with the collective hold political beliefs that may not be general to the larger Santa Cruz community. However, everyone can agree with the spirit of mutual aid and self help, especially in the current moment when we literally cannot survive without it.


Johanna Isaacson
PhD Candidate, Literature
University of California, Santa Cruz
Add Your Comments

Comments (Hide Comments)
by @
they were told to leave and said "we'll come back with a subpoena" (they didn't say for whom...)
by nar3
So, what do they look like? Are they driving Dodge vehicles? Are they friendly, neutral, or hostile
by mixed message
Spew all the rhetoric about capitalist imperialist repression you want - that won't change the facts.

1. The cops are not blaming Sub Rosa.

2. Sub Rosa's statement, while denying involvement, expresses more than tacit support for the underlying vandalism, as do many comments on Indybay.

3. The vandalism was the catalyst for the City to approve hiring eight more cops - money which could be used for a myriad of socially beneficial purposes

Windows in the Rittenhouse building were smashed. Whether you like R. or not, he donated space to non-profits including an organization advocating for increased foster care families and the SPCA. One of the people involved in these displays has also dedicated a lot of time and money to a local organization helping battered women and another one giving free legal services to low income folks.

This is who these window smashers hurt.

If SubRosa truly wants to helps its image, it should unequivocally denounce the actions of the rioters.
by deanosor (deanosor [at]
City governments and their supporters will always find ways to justify hiring more cops and cutting back on other services. It is not the fault of protestors, rioters, or those who supposedly support them that this happens. Put the aegis of the blame here it belongs--on the city and the businesses that want more cops.
by Cause and effect Cops
The cops, imo, were absolutely hired because of the riot. Not the only factor certainly, but there's no denying that that was the final straw that broke the camels back. The city isn't going out to spend a million dollars it doesn't have on a lark.; it's in response to that idiotic night and the polarizing effect its had on the greater S.C. community.

Sort of ironic, that anarchists who don't want cops have resulted in more cops being hired. (And don't get your panties in a bunch if you're preparing to reply to me that this wasn't Subrosa; I'm not saying it was. But I AM saying it was anarchists doing the vandalism that night.)
and Sub Rosa could be openly introducing people to the ideas behind insurrectionary anarchism, instead of distancing itself from actions of anarchists. anarchist action can open a time to talk about the ideas of anarchy.

I liked Longhaul Infoshop's response to being raided. They didn't distance themselves from animal rights activism because of the raid. They didn't write an opinion piece on proper activism. They also didn't add blame. They just told us what happened to them.

Sub Rosa hasn't been raided, yet is quick to make public statements distancing themselves from other people's actions that they had nothing to do with. Imagine if something real happened, don't count on Sub Rosa to get your back.
by (a)
SubRosa's statement simply says that they didn't organize the riot. the reason for that is because the first person who was arrested claimed to have found out about the riot from SubRosa, then went on to tell a judge that he 'worked' there for a year. The statement was honest and absolutely needed in order to refute this man's lies (literally, nobody at SubRosa has ever seen him before). Additionally, the statement specifically did not condemn the action. As the most visible anarchist project in a town that is basically going through an anarchist witch-hunt, the statement is still incredibly controversial.
by Contradictory
While "(a) "is posting (in regards to Jimmi Haynes) that "literally, nobody at SubRosa has ever seen him before."...another "@" is posting that ""never did anything at sub rosa except hang out and be drunk. "

Get the stories straight before posting them, especially if they are definitive and contradictory. To do otherwise merely raises suspision and lowers credibility of both posts.
by Ay
Hey Contradictory, @ was talking about the feds referenced in their subject line.
by Contradictory
"jimi hayes=definitely lying
by @
Tuesday May 4th, 2010 8:04 PM
never did anything at sub rosa except hang out and be drunk. "
by sure
Right. We need MORE information about insurrectionary anarchism in Santa Cruz.

Is there another flavor? Is there any other kind of anarchism talked about? Are there any other kinds of tracts in the local infoshop? Is there any more loved symbol than the burning bottle or burning building? Was there another flavor of literature at the occupations or the tree-sit? Beside <i>At Daggers Drawn</i> and <i>Armed Joy</i> and <i>The Coming Insurrection</i>, is there space on the shelves for Anarcho-Syndicalism, social anarchism, and anarchist federalism, just for example? For that matter, is there anything in the Sub Rosa about Anarcha-Feminism?

In Santa Cruz, I thought if you were just talking about Anarchism, you WERE talking about insurrectionary anarchism. But if you were talking about some other kind, you had to add a derisive modifier like weak-kneed liberal psuedo anarchism or wannabe socialist anarchists.

Yeah, let's use this moment to talk more about insurrectionary anarchism. We certainly know the A Team can still break windows. That speaks loud and clear. Or maybe insurrectionists can finally make room for someone else to talk.
I don't see any other kind of anarchists willing to take matters into their own hands.
by yeah right
Yeah, it doesn't look so much like your asses on the line.

More like you did some shit and watched while others got scapegoated.

Where your fucking manifesto?

Or are you comfortable seeing Bike Church, Subrosa and Free School taking all the heat because they don't pickup rocks and aren't anarchist enough?
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