Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reportback on Anticut 3: Austerity is Prison

"I have kept this photo in my wallet to keep my hatred sharp."
Last night, 50 - 60 people met at Telegraph and Broadway in downtown Oakland to participate in the third Anticut action. Moving from that intersection, the crowd tried to take the street and was immediately directed back onto the curb by the police. What followed was some Tom and Jerry shit: We would move back into the street, be pushed back to the sidewalk, in a cycle of events verging, at times, on ridiculous.

Once we arrived at the Glenn Dyer detention facility, connected by a skyway to the courthouse, we blocked Clay St. at 7th to chant and make noise for the prisoners awaiting trial in the jail. People on the inside were heard yelling back. A few people read parts of the communique that was being distributed along the march. Statements were made about the hunger strike at Pelican Bay. As we left the jail chanting "we'll be back", a large mortar-type firework exploded a few blocks away. Coincidence, of course.

The crowd  moved back to Broadway much the way we came, in and out of the street. Tensions with the police waxed and waned along the march, but no arrests were made and the crowd did a fair job of staying solid.

Once back on Broadway, people were told over a megaphone to "stick around". The reason behind this became clear as, ten minutes later, a handful of people appeared down 13th St. pushing a sound system towards the crowd. The sound system, always unpopular with the police, bolstered the mood of the crowd.

As the sound system began playing (Mac Dre, Don't Snitch), the police tightened ranks around the sound system and the thirty or so people who remained. Options got a bit scarce when people realized that they weren't being allowed to leave the kettle. After three songs and multiple "illegal assembly" warnings from the OPD, folks decided it was time to go. The police let people go a few at a time, hoping that we would disperse, and, unexpectedly, let the sound system go too.

Without the constant social upheaval present in places like Greece or Chile, social antagonists living in the United States have much to learn about how to roll in the streets. So, after the arrests made at Anticut 2, which were more or less the result of loose formation, a flier was distributed at Anticut 3 with some basic tips about how to hold oneself in the streets.

One implicit goal of the Anticut actions seems to be expanding our capacity as social antagonists. Some, still enamored with "mass movement" politics, see capacity correlated to the number of people on the streets. This is only part of the truth. Our capacity as a group is the result of our capacity as individuals. A strong handful people in the streets might have a capacity equivalent to a large mob, albeit on different terms. By participating in events such as Anticuts, we are able to develop both our capacities as individuals and as a group.  By participating, we are able to practice confidence and confrontation with the police, becoming increasingly able to stand our ground, take risks, and have each other's backs.

As the anticut crew learns and develops their tactical abilities, so do the police. After the arrests at Anticut 2, the police seemed content to manage the march and stay on the sidelines as a threat. Their presence was heavy, but it seemed obvious they had been instructed not to arrest anyone. The police are seeking to neutralize the Anticut actions, allowing them as long as they are purely spectacular. The pitfall of this, as everyone in the Anticut crew probably already knows, is resistance that becomes a ritual. Keeping actions creative and fresh is one way to avoid recuperative tendencies. But it isn't enough to avoid recuperation, we have to also take space for ourselves and precipitate nascent conflicts. As we act in the absence of a social movement, we are not wedded to any form particularly, except the ones that suit us. A revolt against austerity is a revolt that can, even if it hasn't yet, become more generalized (that's sort of the point, isn't it?).

So, as we develop our capacity, how do we direct it? Two modest proposals: good conversation among friends and conflict with our enemies.

No comments:

Post a Comment