Looking Critically at the Brooklyn Center Riot: An Interview from Anathema

from It’s Going Down

Originally published in Anathema, an anarchist publication from Philadelphia, the following interview talks about the realities of the Brooklyn Center riot that kicked off in the wake of the police murder of Daunte Wright in the spring of 2021. 

This interview was conducted two months ago, which was already two months after the events this spring in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. The riot in Brooklyn Center took place in the context of the Derek Chauvin trial, almost a year after he murdered George Floyd. This interview was an attempt to reflect on one participant’s experience of the events in Brooklyn Center and consider what they tell us about how things might unfold in the future. For many of us, the George Floyd uprising has weighed heavily on our minds as we try to imagine next steps to take. What became clear to me in this interview was that between the George Floyd uprising and the Brooklyn Center riot — despite the direct influence and geographic proximity — was an expanse.

Although the Brooklyn Center riot was an outgrowth of the George Floyd uprising, it was also a reminder that the previous summer’s events would not be repeated. Now, after a relatively quiet summer, it seems all the more important to be looking toward the future rather than fixating our gaze on last summer’s uprising. In this interview, we explore some of the developments and unique characteristics of uprisings in the aftermath of the George Floyd uprising.

You were in Brooklyn Center in April. Can you describe what happened?

Yes, there was a police murder: Daunte Wright, 20 years old. He was basically trying to flee the scene where he got stopped. There was two nights of rioting — I am going to say rioting. Some people want to say “it’s not a riot, it’s a rebellion.” I am just going to say it was a riot.

People were throwing stuff at the cops. There was looting by car in the Brooklyn Center area, also in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. The first night the neighboring police station got shot up; someone shot the front doors of it. Someone else shot at a cop — maybe 3 days after it started.

All throughout people were calling for the burning down of the police precinct (that was the focal point of the riot). They never succeeded. People tried. The police set up a gate. It was similar to what happened in Portland at the courthouse. But they didn’t actually breach the gate.

After the first two days of looting, arson, street fighting, and property destruction, there was basically a week of confrontational protests in front of the police precinct.

From what you witnessed, what have been the most significant changes since last year?

What’s been happening since the fall of last year, the police have been really ready for riots. So, when people engage in riot tactics, they need to outmaneuver the police. It can’t be this kind of frontal assault the way it happened in Minneapolis at the 3rd precinct.

That started with the Breonna Taylor revolt of late September. There isn’t 1000s of people in the street fighting the cops. That’s not happening.

Also, in Brooklyn Center, you would see people in black bloc or this “frontliner” aesthetic trying to stop young, mostly Black kids from setting things on fire and building barricades.

Wait — what would motivate people to dress up in black bloc attire in order to stop riots?

I don’t know. I just think it’s become a popular aesthetic and people have adopted it that have never experienced revolts before. It’s weird, this group called Minnesota Freedom Fighters — it’s basically like a nonprofit. Their goal is to deescalate riots, but they all dress in black bloc and wear gas masks and have umbrellas. It’s a strange thing that’s been imported from Portland, and originally from Hong Kong and Chile. It made sense in Portland and Seattle, but then once it makes it to places like Philly and Brooklyn it gets isolated from the insurgent activities happening. It’s very bizarre.

In Brooklyn Center, it’s almost exclusively young, Black, poor and working class still out there willing to engage in insurgent tactics. And they are becoming isolated.

Brooklyn Center is 20 minutes outside of Minneapolis and it’s very suburban. That’s what made the terrain really hard for rioting to happen. It’s pretty much a residential neighborhood with apartment buildings. There were two gas stations and a strip mall — that all got fucked up.

You say it was difficult terrain. What was the rioting like in the suburbs?

It made it harder to have a sustained riot that would breach the gates since there weren’t 1000s of people there. There were isolated forms of struggle: shooting at cops, the national guard. Winston Smith is an example of this. It’s not something everyone can participate in — it’s dangerous. But it’s also what’s happening in the absence of mass uprising.

A dollar store got set on fire. That whole strip mall got fucked up and looted. There was a really interesting moment: the owner of a pizza shop was like: I will make you guys some pizza. He started making pizzas for the crowd of potential looters. And that’s how he avoided his store getting fucked up.

There were a couple of militia people with assault rifles trying to protect the dollar general and they quickly got surrounded by young people who were like: you are not going to stop us. And they just walked around them. That was a very intense moment.

There were other people who didn’t have guns who tried to protect property and they just got beat up. The people who were rioting on the first two nights were still in the minority but they were able to do things.

What changed on the third night? Were the militias and peace police more successful at stopping rioters?

I think it was that in combination with police repression: the National Guard was out there; the FBI was out there. We got stopped by people who said they were working with the FBI.

We were just leaving an area where all the stuff was happening and got stopped by like 5 different squad cars. They took pictures of us, our tattoos, our injuries. We had all this stuff in our car (gas masks, body armor), but we didn’t have anything illegal on us. So, they couldn’t actually do anything. They were gathering intelligence. They interrogated us.

Each of us got separated; there was 4 of us. We got put in a different car. They tried to scare the shit out of us saying “you are all getting booked, you are getting processed and fingerprinted, we are impounding the car.” They asked us questions about how we knew each other and how we were connected. Then they just let us go.

People like got away with so much shit last summer that people got comfortable. The terrain has changed and people can’t get away with the same kind of stuff. People weren’t as aware as they should have been

Last year, especially with the pandemic, the State was not ready. That changes what people can do. There will continue to be smaller localized uprisings with short duration, and there’s a limit they will reach very fast.

Beginning with the Breonna Taylor protests in September and confirmed by the Walter Wallace riots in October, the cops got a lot more violent. One result of it is the multi-racial dimension has diminished. Because of the repression. The first time I noticed that was when I was in Louisville in September and it was mainly young Black people out there.

Were there anarchists in the riot?

Out of any political tendency, the anarchists went the hardest, but they were still a small minority. And they weren’t relevant “as anarchists.” The starting point should be what the people in the street that are fucking shit up want to do. It hasn’t been anarchist politics that has pushed people to be confrontational with the State.

What needs to happen next is burning down every police precinct in the United States. So that’s what we push for. We don’t push for people to become anarchists.

Brooklyn Center riot was localized and several months ago. Is it relevant to people in Philly now?

There’s things to learn from it. Things are becoming more atomized, more dangerous and falling into a more general outlaw culture. The impasse experienced in Brooklyn Center is happening in Philly too. There is not a full-blown uprising; instead, you see these more diffuse forms of struggle. When the Chauvin trial concluded, in Philly there was groups of young people on dirt bikes throughout the whole city, with cops chasing after them. It was clearly a form of resistance.

Final thoughts?

People don’t care what you say you are about. It’s whether you are perceived to be part of the riot. It’s those who are loyal to the spirit of revolt and everyone else. That’s the divide. If you are just being a spectator, you might not be so welcome. More than anything, it’s what you communicate by your actions.

Anathema Volume 7 Issue 5

from Anathema

Volume 7 Issue 5 (PDF for reading 8.5×11)

Volume 7 Issue 5 (PDF for printing 11×17)

In the issue:

  • What Went Down
  • Hunger Strikes
  • Chilean Models
  • On Noise Demos
  • Brooklyn Center Riot Interview
  • Ecodefense Roundup
  • Everything Will Go
  • Progressives Refund Police
  • Fires At Ford For Floyd Uprising

Toward Insurrection: Anarchist Strategy in an Era of Popular Revolt

Submission

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What role can anarchists in the United States play in popular uprisings like the ones of 2020? While many of us made solid contributions to the riots, the events of last year also highlighted some of our significant deficiencies. Anarchists’ attempts to show up to riots in the ways in which we’re accustomed, at least here in Philly, often felt ineffective and at best out of touch with those around us. I still believe that anarchists have the potential to contribute in crucial ways to destroying this system and making another end of the world possible. At this point, though, a willingness to reflect on and question our views is needed in order to really move in that direction.

This question of anarchist participation is fundamentally intertwined with issues around race and whiteness, and the past year’s discourse on the topic has felt typically inadequate in addressing these questions. Leaving the bad-faith nature of many of the critiques aside, many white anarchists have found it easier to dismiss criticisms by automatically conflating them with liberalism or political opportunism. While this is often accurate, it shouldn’t allow us to not take questions about our relationship to whiteness seriously. Whiteness isn’t just a skin color that non-white people happen to be skeptical of. It’s also a particular kind of colonized (and colonizing) mentality that restricts our imagination and can affect everything from how we interact in the streets to what we as individuals personally envision as our insurrectionary future (or lack thereof).

Aside from the anarchists who were radicalized over this past year, most anarchists today came into radical politics through resistance to Trump’s presidency (which centered on an “antifa”that was majority white in the public imaginary, and often in reality), an Occupy movement dominated by white progressives, or what are now called the anti-globalization struggles of the early 2000’s. Throughout these movements, anarchists of color have also appeared alongside white anarchists in the streets, though not necessarily identifying with them, and have tried to carve out space for the primacy of anti-racist struggles. But this past year has been a visceral and unavoidable reminder that Black (as well as Indigenous) radical struggles against the state have always been and continue to be far more powerful than most anarchists’ occasional vandalisms, or even our more targeted (but isolated) acts of property destruction.

This article tries to take seriously the claim that white people, including white anarchists, will not be the protagonists of liberatory struggle in the United States —not in order to marginalize anarchists’ uncompromised visions of freedom from the state, capital, and white supremacy, but instead to reveal some under explored strategies for how we might actually get there. Today we face an unprecedented crisis of capital and the state, and despite our best efforts none of us can predict how any of it will shake out. Despite the Biden administration’s best efforts to restore order and recuperate rebellion, it feels like the chaos that boiled over last year is fated to return, especially as ecological and economic collapse creep closer and the everyday executions of Black people continue with no particular changes that we can observe. In this context, we look around and take our inspiration from the resistance we see actually happening, even if it counteracts some of our inherited assumptions and desires. Right now, all possibilities are on the table.

This essay begins with some brief reflections on anarchist activity in the context of uprisings in several cities in the U.S. over this past year. In cities like Portland and Seattle, anarchist activity has shown both the potential and the limits of some tried-and-true tactics of the insurrectionary anarchist approach that’s been established in the U.S. over the past couple decades. The rest of the essay explores other traditions that might expand our sense of how insurrections occur and how we might personally participate in moving things in that direction. We also include [not in the online version]a Philly-specific map that we hope will provide a useful resource for readers in Philly. Maybe it’ll also inspire others elsewhere in how they approach future moments of potential insurrection and State collapse.

United We Stood: Writings and Analysis from the Vaughn 17

from It’s Going Down

Announcing a collection of new writings and analysis from the Vaughn 17, a group of prisoners who faced charges following an uprising at the James T. Correctional Center in Delaware. Most of the Vaughn 17 are still being held indefinitely in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania. The following text is from the preface of the new publication.

PDF For Reading
PDF For Printing

On February 1, 2017, prisoners in Cbuilding at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware took control of the building and held guards hostage in an uprising that lasted over 18 hours. That morning, several prisoners had put on masks and rushed the guards who were letting them back into the building from yard, while another prisoner ensured that the counselor on duty was kept safe and held off a CERT team that sought to retake the building.

The prisoners leading the uprising called the media and released a list of demands; the prison eventually retook the building by breaching one of its walls with a backhoe. One prison guard, Steven Floyd, was killed by prisoners during the uprising.

The Vaughn 17 are seventeen of the eighteen prisoners who were subsequently indicted on charges including multiple counts of murder, kidnapping, assaulting an officer, and conspiracy, by the state of Delaware. The eighteenth person charged, Royal “Diamond” Downs, a notorious Black Guerrilla Family leader, turned state’s witness and provided much of the State’s case against the prisoners.

Despite that, the indicted prisoners, most of whom did not know or deal with each other prior to the uprising, organized their own defense and almost completely beat the State’s case at trial. Dwayne Staats and Jarreau “Ruk” Ayers represented themselves at court and took responsibility for their part in planning the uprising and with assisting with keeping everyone safe during the takeover itself, respectively. Both were already serving life sentences.

The other prisoners in the first two trials Deric Forney, Kevin Berry, Abednego Baynes, John Bramble, and Obadiah Miller were acquitted in court of all charges (the last two had a hung jury on charges of assaulting an officer, which were later dropped). Roman Shankaras, who had helped organize nonviolent protests prior to the uprising and whom the State hoped to frame as the “mastermind” behind the prison takeover, was tried separately and acquitted on all charges. The State was forced to drop the remaining charges against the rest of the defendants.

The shared mission of the Vaughn 17 is to disrupt, dismantle and destroy the prison industrial complex. Many of the V17 are revolutionaries or insurrectionaries taking up the incendiary and bloodsoaked tradition of figures like Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, and George Jackson. The rest stuck together when indicted and made enormous sacrifices in the process.

Prisoners were physically tortured following the uprising and experienced extreme pressure from the state to cooperate. After Delaware failed to beat the collective in court, most of the Vaughn 17 were shipped to Pennsylvania, where the state could continue to keep them in solitary indefinitely with no way out. They have now all been in solitary for at least four consecutive years (most for much longer).

We support the Vaughn 17 because as aspiring insurrectionaries, we are inspired by their physical struggle against prison and systemic oppression and by their unflinching refusal to cooperate with the State. The writings in this zine come from captive revolutionaries whose analysis, experience, and abilities extend far beyond what most radicals on the outside have dared to explore. Struggles out here against authority have a lot to learn from prisoners’ experiences on the inside. Bringing these two very different insurrectionary currents together has the potential to enrich us all in unimaginable ways, open up our vision, threaten the State, and bring us closer to collective liberation.

Neo-Nazi Meetup Attendees Identified

from Twitter

So far, we’ve identified two of the individuals who attended a 2020 neo-Nazi meetup at Ringing Rocks Park in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Photo’d below are neo-Nazis Matthew Robert Guse & Gregory Anthony Cristiano (who is also a pedophile & sex offender). A ????… /1

Scranton resident Matthew Guse was exposed by @discord__panic in 2019 as a member of white nationalist organization Identity Evropa (then rebranded as “The American Identity Movement”). Below is a summary of Panic’s article from @IGD_News column TWIF. /2 panicinthediscord.noblogs.or…

Despite his Nazi affiliations, Guse was allowed to graduate from Lackawanna College in May 2020. Unfortunately, the photos here prove that (despite scrubbing the internet of accounts using his real name or Identity Evropa username) Guse is still involved in Nazi organizing. /3

Next is Upper Black Eddy, PA resident Gregory Anthony Cristiano. Cristiano is not only a neo-Nazi. He is also a pedophile and sex offender, according to public records which you can access here: /4 offenderradar.com/offender-d…

Ringing Rocks Park is located in the town of neo-Nazi Gregory Cristano’s residence — Upper Black Eddy — so it is likely that he was the one to suggest this meetup with his fellow neo-Nazis. FYI Cristiano also has connections to the NY town of Massapequa. /5

All attendees proudly display roman salutes in 2 separate photos. Photo’d also, a medallion featuring a Nazi Eagle, with the swastica replaced by an Edelweiss flower. See ???? below for more info about the fascist imagery displayed by these neo-Nazis. /6
[Thread Link]
We’re still looking into the identities of these three neo-Nazis. Their meetup was in Bucks County, Pennsylvania so it is likely that they live somewhere in eastern PA or western/central NJ. Feel free to send tips via DM or ProtonMail. /7
We don’t tolerate Nazi organizing in our region. If you get together with your Nazi friends in public, we will let the world know who you are. Cut ties with all supremacist contacts and begin your journey toward deradicalization, or we WILL expose you. #WeKeepUsSafe /8

Anathema Volume 7 Issue 4

from Anathema

Volume 7 Issue 4 (PDF for reading 8.5×11)

Volume 7 Issue 4 (PDF for printing 11×17)

In this issue:

  • Rebellion & Repression In Columbia & Palestine
  • What Went Down
  • Response to “Some Questions To Consider In The Housing Struggles”
  • Expanding Possibility Through Attack
  • Anarchist Horoscopes
  • Internet Censorship
  • Excerpt: Acrid Black Smoke
  • Chilean Communique
  • June 11, 2021
  • Everybody Dies

How a neo-Nazi Musician Became a Philly Cop: The Brian P. Haughton Story

from Idavox

The many faces of Brian P. Haughton: left, as a Philly police officer, center as a law enforcement coordinator, right as a member of Arresting Officers (red circle).

Imagine if you will, you being a person of color that learns you were arrested or assaulted by a cop who for a good chunk of his life before he became one was a neo-Nazi musician who playing in a band called Arresting Officers! You just might feel a way about that. So should your attorney who should question how fair your arrest was.

While his name was not mentioned, an article in the current edition of Rolling Stone about White supremacy in American policing makes reference to a former Philadelphia police officer and trainer who used to be in a well-known band associated with the neo-Nazi scene in the city.

“A Philadelphia cop played drums in a racist skinhead band through the mid- to late-Nineties before joining the police force, serving until his retirement a few years ago,” the article read, noting further that he  did not respond to interview requests. While this was a vague reference in the article it is well known that  Brian P. Haughton was the drummer for the ironically named band Arresting Officers before becoming a police officer for 21 years, later retiring and becoming a police trainer, a role that he is prominently in today.

The first Arresting Officers album.

Formed in 1987, Arresting Officers was a Philadelphia-based Oi!/RAC (Rock Against Communism) band that put out two albums for the German label Rock-O-Rama Records, as well as a 7-inch for Street Rock N Roll, a sub-label for Rock-O-Rama. Both labels were known for releasing albums by neo-Nazi bands such as Skrewdriver before Rock-O-Rama was reportedly shut down in a 1994 police raid. Haughton also contributed to the band Break the Sword, which released an album on Resistance Records. This project included not only Joe Rowan, the lead singer of Nordic Thunder who was killed on his birthday in 1994, but also Scott Stedeford, a member of the Aryan Republican Army who was alleged to have conspired with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh before he bombed the federal building there, and who committed a series of bank robberies in the Midwest from 1992 to 1994. Stedeford is reportedly due to be released from federal prison this summer after serving over twenty years for his role in those robberies.

Haughton graduated from the police academy in 1995 and embarked on a 21-year career as a Philadelphia police officer which included working on SWAT teams. When he retired from the force he became an instructor and now works with the Middle Atlantic-Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN), which is part of a communication and information sharing network in law enforcement. Ironically, while a police officer he was tasked to work the Democratic National Convention in 2016, which saw some controversy when Officer Ian Hans Lichterman was observed during a Black Resistance March sporting a tattoo of a German eagle beneath the word “Fatherland” on his left arm. Lichterman, who was cleared of any wrongdoing by Internal Affairs but is no longer a Philadelphia police officer, saw earlier controversy when his name showed up in data from several neo-Nazi and Klan websites that were hacked and leaked.

The investigation Rolling Stone conducted revealed that police chiefs and unions frequently fail to address racism and White supremacy within in the ranks, thereby creating a climate where White supremacists have been free to infiltrate police forces and grow their numbers and influence.

New Zine: Acrid Black Smoke

Submission

Acrid Black Smoke: Revisiting Blessed is the Flame in Insurrection and Anti-Politics
From the introduction:
“The purpose of this zine is to revisit a particularly influential piece
of contemporary anarchist and nihilist writing in Blessed is the Flame by Serafinski, with heavy focus on history, and apply some of the concepts explored to the uprisings of 2020.”

[Reading PDF]

[Booklet PDF]

Why We Fight: Author Shane Burley with Kim Kelly & George Ciccariello-Maher

from Facebook

The essays in Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse (AK Press, 2021), many published here for the first time, cover the shifts in rhetoric and tactics of the Alt Right since their disastrous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, and the explosion of antifascist, antiracist, and revolutionary organizing that has risen to fight it. Burley unpacks the moment we live in, confronting the apocalyptic feelings brought on by nationalism, climate collapse, and the crisis of capitalism, but also delivering the clear message that a new world is possible through the struggles communities are leveraging today. Burley reminds us what we’re fighting for not simply what we’re fighting against.

This free online event will be in conversation with Kim Kelly and George Ciccariello-Maher. Zoom link will be shared soon.

[Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EDT]

New zine: 215 Rioters

Submission

We’re happy to announce the publication of a new zine 215 Rioters: Heroes Forever. This zine is a compilation of analyses and reports from the 2020 Walter Wallace uprising. The authors have revised their pieces and written an introduction to give context to their thoughts. Two anonymous action reports are also included to bring to light some less publicized aspects of the rebellion. As the police make it clear that they will continue to kill Black people it is our intention that these kinds of reflections and histories help us sharpen our struggle to free ourselves from the forces of anti-Blackness and social control.

Here & Now Zines

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Anathema Volume 7 Issue 3

from Anathema

Volume 7 Issue 3 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)

Volume 7 Issue 3 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)

In this issue:

  • Advances In State Repression
  • What Went Down
  • Local Repression Updates
  • Housing Struggle Questions
  • Dark Clothes Attract Heat
  • More Than A Three-Way Fight
  • Philthadelphia
  • To Attack Is Among My Instincts
  • 325 Communique
  • Crow Song

Eviction Defense

Submission

On Wednesday March 31 individuals showed up to a call to eviction defense at the 13/15th & Locust PATCO Station, where some Philadelphians have created an encampment for themselves.

People started offering their support as early as 7:30AM (Food Not Bombs). Followed by other autonomous individuals who spent the day in the terminal to combat and resist the city’s planned “service day.” “Service days” are long known to be the misleading term the city uses for sweeps. This is widely understood amongst people plugged into housing issues and people living outside or on public property.

Defenders spent the day in the terminal monitoring the police presence, getting to know the people in the encampment, arguing with city workers to maintain possession of unaccounted for items, and guarding people’s tents and belongings to prevent them from being deemed trash or getting ruined while workers power-washed the terminal. Workers unsurprisingly had a host of disrespectful things to say about the Philadelphians living in the terminal and their belongings.

Housing services showed up to suggest that residents leave the terminal for other housing options. Supporters remained present and directly over-heard city services proclaiming that we were there to use the residents for publicity. An interesting interpretation considering no one was photographing, recording or otherwise taking it upon themselves to tell residents what to do. Some supporters checked in with residents after their conversations with city workers. Heard were sentiments such as “they’re trying to get us to go into rapid rehousing but I’ve been through this before and it’s a bunch of bullshit, we’ll be out of there and back on the street by next week.”

At the end of the day, several occupied areas were successfully defended and were untouched by city workers, who originally told residents they would have to at least remove all of their belongings. Unhoused people often lose their belongings in sweeps because they are unable to watch their things all day, unable to move all their belongings themselves, or unsuccessful at resisting city workers who are intent on proclaiming that any personal items that aren’t on private property or on ‘your person’ are trash.

While the defense on the ground happened in solidarity, the discussion online surrounding it beforehand raised relevant issues, especially as moratoriums end and eviction defense becomes an increasingly pressing issue and way to show up against capitalism and for each other.

On March 29th and 30th a flyer started to circulate on anarchist, housing-support and eviction-defense networks (such as Signal and Telegram), as well as on social media. The simple B&W flyer stated “Block the eviction” / “Stop the city from clearing the encampment at 12/13th & Locust PATCO station” / “Meet at 10am — Defend at 11am” / and “Share widely.”

The “action words” included “Block,” “Stop,” “Meet,” and “Share.” The flyer did not mention black bloc, nor did it suggest defenders “throw down,” or “fight the police.” A discrepancy that makes the critical comments following the flyer’s appearance important to question, analyze and address.

Visually it referenced the accidental blockade of the Suez Canal by the Evergreen ship — which is popularly known to have been a temporary (and celebrated amongst anti-capitalists) disaster for commerce. It was relevant (albeit somewhat tangentially) in that eviction defense/illegal occupation of city-owned property is inherently threatening to capitalism and often involves literally blocking government workers from carrying out sweeps.

When the flyer was shared on the popular social media platform Instagram (IG), Individuals and activists added commentary by way of clarifying “re-posts” and comments about the flyer. For example:

“Hey it isn’t an eviction, it is a sanitation event. Please don’t show up to fight the police. The department of Housing Services have promised that people’s belongings won’t be thrown away as long as their owner is with them.”
“Honestly delete this post (re: flyer/call to eviction defense). We’re worried about people showing up in black bloc to fight the police for an eviction that isn’t happening”
“Clarity: it seems that folks are *not* being evicted tomorrow. However encampment residents are asking that people are there ONLY to make sure they are not displaced. They have been told they will not be during tomorrow’s routine cleaning.

DO NOT ANTAGONIZE ANY POLICE. Showing up and being SUPPORT is fine, but anything else goes against the graces for brutality from the police. So show up, be kind to the encampment workers, protect them and their things if you HAVE to, and that’s it.

Do not put people’s lives in danger with your own agenda.”

“So so important that folks not antagonize or escalate on their own impetus with houseless  comrades in the crossfire.”

These statements, while not necessarily wrong or made in bad faith, are representative of misunderstandings, as well as misrepresentations of direct action and those who carry it out.

The intentions of the private networks who participate in direct action are frequently critiqued, often in bad faith, because the government, mainstream media and liberal agenda encourages a disdain towards them. This is tactical on the governments part, as these individuals often make a life-style out of resisting and combatting government oppression. The goal here is not to point fingers and declare which statements were from whom, but to discuss why the commentary was premature, misguided and harmful.

People claiming that the city does not mean to harm individuals living in encampments and squats —on any occasion — is, first of all, mislead. Secondly they are directly supporting the city government in being free to terrorize the housing-insecure population uninhibited. Even if an eviction is not happening at all, people showing up en masse to demonstrate their support and willingness to fight evictions in general deters the city from dishing out eviction notices.
When it comes to encampments or people living on public property, the best eviction defense is building relationships, sharing resources, and offering aid on a regular basis. This lets the government know who is in solidarity with them. This may include community aid, street art, combative action towards oppressive government programs/officials and much more.
However none of those things can stop evictions if we do not make a practice of showing up on the day and time that they’re rumored to happen AND demonstrate our willingness to not take the city government’s orders. Showing up to “support” only goes so far. At some point what matters most is who is prepared to keep standing and keep guarding belongings when city workers demand we back down. This is why we take issue with the cautionary language contained in the comments.

Eviction defense is anti-gov, anti-cap and anti-property. It ultimately involves combative/non-compliant action verses cooperative/lawful support. Participating in & defending encampments, squats, and even non-gov-approved mutual aid is conflictual, disobedient, and risky. It predicates a power struggle with the government and city services. Showing up to an eviction defense requires a willingness to not cooperate with the government and to possibly accrue legal penalties. It also potentially creates grounds for police to justify targeting, taking note of, and repressing you.

You are supporting people in resisting laws, zoning and city operations. For some, this warrants “bloc-ing up” and for others it might not. This can depend on countless factors, some of which might be if individuals are involved in other illegal activities and anti-state efforts, if they are already on the police’s radar or facing police repression, or if they are inherently targeted by police.

Eviction defense is about more than preventing people from losing their possessions and having to find alternate shelter. It’s a relevant fighting ground for undermining capitalism, state power and its entities – most notably, private and government-owned property, both being extensions of colonization.

Encampments are already illegal because they overwhelmingly exist on public property owned by city government. Encampments exist in the first place because the city hoards property, fuels gentrification and refuses to allow anyone to make shelter out of the countless vacant homes capable of providing it. The reason the city doesn’t allow these homes to be used is because all government systems are invested in capitalism.

Capitalism works by placing monetary value on the things people need to survive — like housing, food, and healthcare — making them unavailable to those without adequate capital. Capitalism is maintained by creating consequences like homelessness, hunger, loss of autonomy or death for those who do not acquire and maintain the level of capital needed to acquire those things.

As such, the city government, including the OHS has an obligation to make sure people are unable to “live for free” by occupying public spaces instead of paying for private property or surrendering their autonomy to be granted a spot in a shelter.
People made many anticipatory and presumptuous claims about those behind the flyer and the call for eviction defense. Critical responses to the flyer were based on a fear of black bloc, escalation, conflictuality, as well as the private networks that organize and plan direct actions. Publicly encouraging a narrow and uninformed understanding of black bloc is a fantastic way to bolster police repression. It alienates willing and active individuals who may already be on the police’s radar and need to obscure their identities to keep themselves safe in settings monitored by police.
A clear misunderstanding of what conflictual and combative tactics are for was also evident. The people in our networks seek to destroy systems of oppressive. Sometimes this does involve literal destruction of property but that’s just one of many tactics in the arsenal. Eviction defense is a defensive action that may or may not involve direct confrontation with the police. The goal (which was clearly communicated in the flyer) was to prevent eviction and protect the people in danger of being evicted. It is with a lack of understanding and solidarity that what occurred in response was an expectation for people to throw down, start a “street fight” with cops, and harm individuals in need of defense.
Lastly, a common thread in the critiques was for individuals to not show up “with their own agenda,” or act “on their own impetus.” Believing that people should not show up to eviction defense as part of their own struggle is disempowering. People commonly show up to actions because they are personally interested in seeing something through. This is usually because it is a part of their personal agenda for resistance against larger systems.

It is short sighted to think eviction defense and housing justice only concern those who are currently unhoused in a specific situation. Property is violence because the state owns and controls land and punishes people for trying to survive by making the things they need inaccessible through capital. Anyone with an interest in resisting or combating capitalism’s grip on our lives has a personal interest and agenda when it comes to eviction defense. Defending someone’s home, when their residency is illegal is joining them in their resistance. Defense isn’t a passive action. It is patronizing to not recognize that people living in encampments, squats and on public property are already involved in resistance, regardless of if it is only for themselves or part of a larger agenda against oppressive systems.

Student Group Draws Attention to Bigoted Social Media Posts Made By Kutztown University Police Officer Alan Swartz

from Community Research Opposing HatePictures of Swartz.Alan Swartz, a Bigot in Kutztown University’s Police Department

On February 3rd 2021, a student group called Kutztown University Activists (KUA) released a trove of racist, Islamophobic, transphobic, and conspiracy-driven public Facebook posts by Kutztown University Police Officer Alan Swartz. The content was shared to KUA’s Instagram account along with a petition and call for accountability in response to Swartz’s clear prejudice and bias. The student demands included not only the removal of Officer Swartz from KU’s Police Department, but also the creation of an accountability board comprised of students, faculty, and staff; a board with the power to discipline university police who engage in wrongdoing or display overt bias. Swartz has been with the department since 2012.

On February 3rd, Swartz’s Facebook page was public for anyone to see. The posted content included images supporting Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who crossed state lines with an illegally acquired rifle, murdered two racial justice activists, and critically injured a third at a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, WI. This post referred to Black Lives Matter activists with racially charged language. A second post featured a Confederate flag, with derogatory language painting those who understand the white supremacist roots of the flag as ignorant of history. This line of neo-confederate thinking is rampant among far-right bigots. It stems from the racist historical revisionism of “lost cause” ideology perpetuated by the Daughters of the Confederacy and other neo-confederate groups after the Civil War. Another post is riddled with content demeaning transgender individuals, immigrants, and abortion rights.

Screenshots of QAnon, Confederate, and far right militia propaganda shared by Swartz
Screenshot of KUA’s Instagram page.

Alan Swartz also posted Islamophobic content to his Facebook page, including memes claiming Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — Muslim women of color and democratically elected members of Congress — are ISIS sleeper agents. Conspiracy theories falsely defaming progressive Muslim women such as Omar and Tlaib are common refrains among the xenophobic far-right in the so-called United States.

Screenshots of Islamophobic memes shared by Swartz
Screenshot of KUA’s Instagram page.

Additionally, Swartz’s posts displayed his belief in a false conspiracy peddled by the fascist MAGA and Patriot movements; namely, that the coup attempt these groups carried out at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021 was a false flag operation. Any analysis of the individuals charged for their role in the coup attempt reveals that nearly every person who breached the Capitol were supporters of the former President who believed they were acting on his explicit orders. And reporting by major publications and independent journalists alike has proven that the attacks on the building were planned and orchestrated by far-right individuals and organizations such as The Proud Boys.

Swartz's shares and posts in support of the January 6th coup.
Disclaimer: The above is a screenshot of KUA’s Instagram post. CROH recommends against the use of anti-terror rhetoric in reporting of the January 6th event. We have previously referred to the event as a riot and an attempted coup, with the latter being more accurate given the involvement of many law enforcement and military personnel, both active and retired.

Anathema Volume 7 Issue 2

From Anathema

Volume 7 Issue 2 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)

Volume 7 Issue 2 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)

In this issue:

  • Polluted Currents & Relations To Water
  • What Went Down
  • Cop Blotter
  • Two Prisoners
  • Let Us Bury Our Fangs In The Skin Of The Heteropatriarchy
  • Return Of The Welfare State?
  • Nuclear Costs
  • Infrastructure
  • Series Of Attacks On cars In The PNW
  • Call For Submissions
  • A Letter From A Jail Cell
  • Questions For Poets

Philly Proud Boys president Zach Rehl marched alongside leaders charged in Capitol riot

from Mainstream Media

Images from the day show Zach Rehl, the Philly Proud Boys president, at the forefront of a crowd that marched on the Capitol and eventually breached the security perimeter. He hasn’t been charged.

Proud Boys leaders Zach Rehl, of Philadelphia (camouflage hat, left), Ethan Nordean, of Seattle, and Joe Biggs, of Florida, (grey plaid flannel with neck gaiter) lead marchers to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Nordean and Biggs have both been charged with playing a role in the storming of the Capitol.
Proud Boys leaders Zach Rehl, of Philadelphia (camouflage hat, left), Ethan Nordean, of Seattle, and Joe Biggs, of Florida, (grey plaid flannel with neck gaiter) lead marchers to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Nordean and Biggs have both been charged with playing a role in the storming of the Capitol.

With top leaders of the Proud Boys now facing charges for their alleged roles in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack, scrutiny has increasingly turned toward one Philadelphia member of the group who stood by their side, helping to guide the organization’s march through Washington that day.

Photos and videos shared widely on social media show Zach Rehl, the self-described president of the Proud Boys’ Philadelphia chapter, assisting two other leaders of the far-right nationalist group — Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs.

Wearing a camouflage “Make America Great Again” hat and a Temple Owls backpack, he and the other two men led roughly 100 followers toward the halls of Congress, and ultimately beyond the building’s security perimeters, the footage shows.

Another photo, published in New Yorker magazine, appears to show Rehl checking his cell phone and smoking a cigarette, amid a crowd of rioters in the office of a U.S. senator.

But while Nordean, of Seattle, and Biggs, of Florida, have been charged in connection with the attack, Rehl had not been arrested as of this week.

He immediately hung up the phone when contacted by an Inquirer reporter and has ignored subsequent text message requests to discuss the photos of him at the Capitol.

Amateur online sleuths who first identified him from the photos have submitted tips to the FBI. But a bureau spokesperson declined to confirm or deny whether it has opened an investigation of Rehl’s activities that day. Since Jan. 6, agents have been flooded with thousands of leads about possible participants in the riot and continue to bring charges against newly identified defendants on an almost daily basis.

Investigators have described the Proud Boys, a militant nationwide organization whose members are among Donald Trump’s most vocal and violent supporters, as one of the primary instigating forces behind the Capitol attack. More than a dozen members have been charged in connection with the insurrection so far — more than any other organized group.

And Rehl, 35, of Port Richmond, has emerged as one of the group’s most visible representatives on the East Coast. A former Marine and son and grandson of Philadelphia police officers, he has led the Proud Boys in the city since at least 2018 — a role that has put him at the fore of many of their most controversial moments.

When Proud Boys were spotted mingling with officers at a “Back the Blue” rally outside the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Northeast Philadelphia this summer, Rehl was there, drinking beer and chatting with others in the parking lot who were openly carrying a Proud Boys flag.

He was one of the organizers behind the 2018 pro-Trump “We the People” rally outside Independence Hall, which drew a minuscule crowd of supporters but led to heated clashes with a much larger group of counterprotesters.

“It’s not a rally for the Proud Boys,” Rehl told The Inquirer at the time, denying affiliation with the group. “We’re not interested in having any racist groups there.”

And when Donald Trump called his supporters to Washington for a Jan. 6 rally to protest Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, Rehl took steps to attend.

He opened a crowdfunding account on the Christian website GiveSendGo, popular among far-right extremist organizations, that raised more than $5,500 to fund his travel. He urged his followers on the social media site Parler not to be scared off by increased security around Washington.

“Just FYI, WE’RE HERE with you in DC now!,” he posted the night before the Capitol attack.

A screen shot from an archive of Zach Rehl's account on the social media site Parler, which is favored by conservatives.
A screen shot from an archive of Zach Rehl’s account on the social media site Parler, which is favored by conservatives.Screenshot

In the days that followed the Capitol attack, Rehl defended the insurrection as “historical.”

He shared photos on Parler of rioters walking off with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern and, in another post, co-opted the language of the Black Lives Matter movement to memorialize Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran fatally shot by Capitol police, with the hashtag #sayhername.

“Some dumba — thinks that today wasn’t a historical day,” he wrote. “Shut up child. Maybe you will learn to take a history class.”

But unlike many of the insurrectionists now facing criminal charges, Rehl did not post photos and videos of himself from Jan. 6.

The FBI has cited social media posts from Nordean, the self-described Proud Boys sergeant-at-arms from Seattle, and Biggs, a Proud Boys organizer in Florida, in building cases against the men whom Rehl marched alongside that day.

In court filings this week, agents described Nordean, who goes by the alias Rufio Panman, as the de facto leader of the group’s activities in Washington and said he had been granted “war powers” by the group’s membership to take “ultimate leadership” of the Proud Boys after the Jan. 4 arrest of the organization’s national leader, Enrique Tarrio.

Prosecutors contend that Nordean led the Proud Boy cohort in tactical planning that day to avoid detection — a strategy that allegedly involved voiding clothing with the group’s distinctive black-and-gold laurel insignia, splitting into groups to approach the building from different vantage points, and looking to recruit so-called “normies,” or non-Proud Boys, in the crowds to join in the Capitol siege. Nordean has denied these allegations.

An Inquirer review of dozens of social media photos and videos of Nordean’s activities that day showed that Rehl was often at his side.

Members of the Proud Boys including Joseph Biggs (grey plaid flannel shirt) and Zach Rehl (camouflage cap) march near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Members of the Proud Boys including Joseph Biggs (grey plaid flannel shirt) and Zach Rehl (camouflage cap) march near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

One nearly two-hour Livestream — filmed by fellow Proud Boy Eddie Block of California — depicts Nordean, Biggs, and Rehl leading a group of more than 100 Proud Boys and followers on a meandering march around the Capitol.

They gathered as Trump’s rally was still ongoing at the Ellipse, near the White House, and began their procession a full half hour before the president had taken the stage. Visible among the crowd were several other Proud Boys and associates who have since been charged with assaulting police or property damage at the Capitol later that afternoon.

Nordean directed the marchers via bullhorn, leading chants of “Whose Streets? Our Streets” and “F — Antifa!” while Rehl and Biggs at various points used raised fists to signal to the Proud Boys behind them to stop or start their progress.

“Who is leading because Enrique isn’t here?” Block asked rhetorically at one point, before answering: “Biggs and Rufio Panman.” He does not mention Rehl by name.

Still, Rehl appears throughout Block’s footage at the fore of the group — dressed in the camouflage hat, a bulky black hooded coat, and Temple backpack, with a radio clipped to its shoulder strap — at times, smoking cigarettes or quietly checking his phone.

Warning: The video below contains offensive language.

Other videos show the same group of Proud Boy marchers joining a mob gathered at a barricade outside the Capitol just before 1 p.m.

In one, Biggs appears to briefly huddle with a man in a red “Make America Great Again” hat who then charges the police barriers, toppling them, injuring officers, and making way for the crowd to storm into restricted grounds. Authorities identified that man as Ryan Samsel, 37, of Bristol, and arrested him last month.

Rehl, Biggs, and Nordean again appear together in footage taken later that day on the front lines near the Capitol steps.

But while Biggs and Nordean were caught on camera entering the building — a fact that prosecutors have cited in the cases against both men — no similar footage of Rehl appears to have surfaced.

Still, a photograph published Jan. 25 in New Yorker magazine of a crowd of rioters carousing in the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley (D. Ore.) shows a man wearing Rehl’s same bulky black coat, camouflage hat, and striped neck gaiter smoking a cigarette while checking his cell phone.

Sent that photo by a reporter this week and asked to comment, Rehl did not respond.

Nordean and Biggs face charges including obstruction of Congress, illegally entering a restricted area, and disorderly conduct. Both have been released while awaiting trial.