Thursday August 26th: Letter-writing for Sundiata Acoli

from Philly ABC


Black August began in the 1970s to mark the assassination of the imprisoned Black Panther, author, and revolutionary George Jackson during a prison rebellion in California. Each year in August we take time to honor captured freedom fighters of the Black Liberation struggle as we study, train and recommit to the struggle for freedom year-round.

In lieu of our normal Monday night letter-writing, we will be co-hosting a Black August event with Philly Jericho. We will be focusing on sending meaningful letters of solidarity to long-term political prisoner Sundiata Acoli. Sundiata was a prominent member of the Harlem chapter of the Black Panther Party. After targeting by the FBI’s illegal COINTELPRO, Sundiata continued the struggle underground with the Black Liberation Army. In 1973 he, Zayd and Assata Shakur were stopped by New Jersey state troopers. Zayd Shakur was killed, while Assata was wounded and taken into custody. One state trooper was killed during the incident and another injured. Sundiata was later captured and sentenced to life plus 30 years in a politically charged and biased trial. We will also send birthday cards to political prisoners with birthdays in September: Leonard Peltier (the 12th) and Maumin Khabir (the 15th).

Never written a letter to a prisoner before? No Problem! Join us at Clark Park (stone platform near 45th and Chester) and we will go over some of the basics and have all the letter-writing supplies and snacks available.

If you are unable to make the event, please send your solidarity to Sundiata at:

Sundiata Acoli (Squire) #39794-066
FCI Cumberland
P.O. Box 1000
Cumberland, MD 21501

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.

Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson Ordered Released After 51 Years in Prison

from Unicorn Riot

August 11, 2021

Philadelphia, PA – Longtime Pennsylvania prisoner Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson, age 69, was ordered released today after five decades in prison, 37 years of which he spent in solitary confinement. Johnson had been convicted in the 1970 murder of Jerome Wayfield, when he was just 18. The Conviction Integrity Unit of the Philly District Attorney’s Office recently identified evidence that the sole witness against him, 15 years old at the time, was beaten by police for hours until he agreed to incriminate himself and Johnson.

Johnson was represented in court today by Bret Grote, executive director of the Abolitionist Law Center, a public interest law firm that has been working to secure his release. In a statement, Grote said “we are grateful to the Conviction Integrity Unit that Mr. Johnson is finally able to return home to his family. When I first met Mr. Johnson I promised we wouldn’t stop fighting until we brought him home. Today we fulfilled that promise.”

Pennsylvania state prosecutors agreed with the determination of Philly DA Larry Krasner’s office that Johnson’s original conviction should be overturned, citing interviews with Wayfield’s surviving relatives who said they supported his release.

Philadelphia Judge Scott DiClaudio agreed to nullify Johnson’s original conviction in the 1970 murder case, saying he believed the sole witness Gary Brame, known as ‘Ace’, “was coerced when interviewed in such a manner that the circumstances of the information provided to the police and the jurycould cause the court to hesitate as to the veracity of the witness.” DeClaudio described the role of Brame’s coerced testimony as “serious misrepresentation to the jurythat went unchecked.” Johnson was arrested and charged in 1970 by Philadelphia cops working under then-police chief Frank Rizzo, notorious for encouraging corrupt, brutal and racist practices amongst his officers.

After entering a new guilty plea today to the lesser charge of 3rd degree murder, Cetewayo Johnson is set to be released today or tomorrow once cumbersome logistics allow him to be processed out Pennsylvania’s prison system. The 10-20 year sentence imposed by Judge DiClaudio in the new lesser guilty plea is over 30 years shorter than the amount of time Johnson has already spent in prison.

One obstacle holding up Johnson’s release even though Judge DiClaudio ordered him to be “immediately released” is the fact that the text of the out-of-date 1970 murder statute he was charged under was not readily available to court staff filling out the necessary forms.

Passing family, friends and supporters of Johnson mingling in the hallway as he left his courtroom at lunchtime, Judge DeClaudio said that Johnson’s release was delayed because the court couldn’t find the 1970 murder law, and would have to “pull a book off the shelf” in order to complete filings.

It’s not gonna be anytime soonthey can’t even find the section of what the crime was 51 years ago.. when i pled him today there’s a certain section they have to pull up on the computer so they can send the order up…nobody knows where the section was, so we’re trying to call up to Harrisburgto go find a book off the shelf to see what the sub-section was of homicide in 1970.

– Judge Scott DiClaudio, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

Early in his incarceration, Johnson became politicized via friendships with political prisoners like Joseph “Joe-Joe” Bowen, a combatant in the Black Liberation Army (BLA), and Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, a member of the Black Panther Party and the BLA.

Johnson attempted to escape prison three times – in 1979, 1984 and 1987. The 1979 attempt allegedly involved using improvised weapons and restraining a guard he had incapacitated inside a cell. Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections (DOC) cited the escape attempts as recently as five years ago to justify holding him in prolonged solitary confinement.

In 2016, the Abolitionist Law Center represented Johnson in a lawsuit which successfully forced prison officials to stop holding him in solitary confinement after doing so for nearly four decades. Solitary confinement is classified as a form of torture yet is still used as a routine punishment in US prisons.

Saleem Holbrook, Executive Director of the Abolitionist Law Center, was once incarcerated alongside Johnson at SCI Greene. Holbrook told Unicorn Riot that Johnson’s case was “personal” for him because “Cetewayo was one of our mentors and elders.”

He was legendary within the system for his resistance – 38 years in the hole, and he stood tall. When prisoners… went in the hole, Cetewayo used that as a university. They isolated him, they wanted to use him as an example to us, like ‘don’t be like him’… but Cetawayo’s personality and his resistance was just so infectious that a lot of us younger guys looked up to him.

What was really impressive was that influence he had. He pushed us in the right and positive direction. He easily could have, had he been into the prison culture, pushed us into a more negative direction… Cetwayo pushed us into a direction of self-improvement, self-development, self-determination – study our history, study the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, and more importantly, prepare ourselves for freedom.

– Saleem Holbrook, Executive Director, Abolitionist Law Center

Holbrook said that winning Johnson’s release was a “victory, it feels good, but it’s also bittersweet because we didn’t get justice” by exonerating him from all charges, with Johnson settling for the compromise of a guilty plea to lesser charges whose maximum sentence he has already served. “We got freedom for him, but I’ll take that.

Cetewayo Johnson’s cousin, Julie Burnett, told Unicorn Riot that Johnson was “like a brother” to her and that she’s missed him since his arrest in 1970, when she was just 4 years old: “I’ve been writing [him] letters since I knew how to address envelopes at about 5 or 6.” She’s been visiting him in prison for decades (“it’s like a way of life for me“), most recently on her 55th birthday this last July.

Burnett, who lost another brother when he died in prison in 1990, said she “always had hope” that Johnson would someday be released – “I was told never to give up on family.” She said that in spite of the “cruel and excessive punishment” of extended solitary confinement, her cousin “was a mentor to me over the telephone” and supported her through the loss of other family members when she was young. When Judge DiClaudio ordered Johnson released, Burnett described herself as “bursting at the seams with joy and thankfulness to God for allowing this to happenI can tell other people that there is hope, there’s a chancewhere there’s hope, never give up.”

UPDATE – Tuesday evening: After some confusion about the time and place of his release, Arthur “Cetawayo” Johnson was finally freed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) in northeast Philadelphia.

Monday July 26th: Letter-writing for Ronald Reed

from Philly ABC


Join us in Clark Park this coming Monday for the next letter-writing event. Snacks and materials will be provided! We will be writing letters to extend our solidarity to Ron Reed, long-time civil rights activist and Black revolutionary who is fighting his conviction for which he was framed and given a life sentence. His birthday is August 31st, so if you are writing to him from home, please send him birthday greetings as well.

Ron is a former 60s civil rights activist. In 1969, Reed was among the students at St. Paul Central High School who demanded Black history courses and organized actions against racist teachers. He was also instrumental in helping to integrate college campuses in Minnesota. During this period, Reed began to look toward revolutionary theory and engage in political street theater with other young Black revolutionaries in the city of St. Paul.

Reed went on to join the Black United Front. In 1970, he was convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer during a bank expropriation and served 13 years in prison. Twenty-five years later, Reed was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder after having a cold case of another police shooting pinned on him. He is now serving life in prison for the second conviction.

We will also be sending birthday cards to political prisoners with birthdays in August: Eric King (the 2nd), Bill Dunne (the 3rd), Hanif Bey (the 6th), Mutulu Shakur (the 8th), and Russell Maroon Shoatz (the 23rd).

Meditation on Accountability

from Dreaming Freedom Practicing Abolition

Abolition is truly a project that requires balance. It is a negative and positive project. It is presence and absence. Often, we lean one way to the detriment of the other way. Inside, we tend to focus on the dismantling, the negative aspect. We are captive in an oppressive system predicated upon anti-Blackness. We are trapped in a space maintained by racialized and gendered violence. The terror is quotidian. Everyday we are under the boots of people who see us as less than human. No wonder our focus is getting rid of this system.

But then what? What have we done while inside to prepare ourselves for a world without prisons? This is the struggle I am engaged in everyday. Each day, I am fighting against the death this system has prepared for me and my peers. Each day, I am struggling to not drink the PIC kool-aid that says we are unworthy. Each day, I am locked in battle with a system that is determined to isolate and alienate us, not only from you, but from each other. But there is another fight.

Over ninety percent of incarcerated folks have a release date. We are coming home. What are we doing to prepare ourselves for that date? The system is rigged. It is designed for us to fail, to recidivate. No DOC is really going to prepare incarcerated folks for successful reentry. No DOC is going to prepare any of us for a world without prisons. No DOC teaches accountability. Punishment, yes. But not accountability. And we desperately need to learn accountability.

In 2019, I was asked to speak at annual assembly on responsibility. I saw this as an opportunity to speak on accountability. I knew it would be the first time many incarcerated folks engaged in a discussion on this topic. I opened by citing a question from a Vera Institute report that asked crime victims what they wanted more than anything else to happen. Audience members guessed the answer would be long term sentences or corporal punishment for people who perpetrated harm. But that wasn’t the number one answer. What people wanted most: that it never happen again, to them or anyone else.

I chose this question because I wanted the audience to know that the police could not give these people want they wanted. They only become involved after the harm has occurred. Neither could the district attorney or the judge. The DOC and the parole boards definitely are powerless to give people who have been harmed what they want most. The only people who can give them what they want is us. We have the power to make sure the harm doesn’t happen again. And just as some of us had made a decision to harm another person, we could make another decision to not repeat our behavior.

From there, I was able to springboard into a conversation on accountability. On not just being sorry, but “doing” sorry. I focused on what we could do right now to make sure we didn’t continue to harm others. I spoke about the pillars of accountability. I spoke on what it means to really be remorseful and not just regretful. I spoke on making amends. But that was one day.

What we need is sustained study and practice. What we need is community where we can practice accountability. What we need are allies that support and encourage accountability practices. And we need it now. This is one of the things we need to build if we are to create a world we can all thrive in and that doesn’t use cages to remedy harm. It’s tricky. I have to keep everyone’s humanity in the forefront of my mind. No one is disposable. And I have to be firm and require accountability from my circle.

Aishah Simmons’s new book is entitled “Love with Accountability”. That sums up what is required. Love has to be the motivation, the impetus. Accountability has to be the practice. Some days, I can keep all the balls in the air. Other days, I drop all of them. It’s tricky. But with practice, I am getting better. With comrades and allies, I am becoming more adept at loving with accountability.

Join me in this balancing act.

Toward Insurrection: Anarchist Strategy in an Era of Popular Revolt


[Read] [Print]

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.

Monday May 24th: Letter-writing for Ruchell Cinque Magee

from Philly ABC

ruchell-magee.jpgRuchell Magee is one of the longest-held California prisoners who has been dubbed a political prisoner due to his spontaneous participation in the Marin Courthouse rebellion– the famous incident that spawned Black August. He is serving a sentence of 7 years to life for a nonviolent disagreement that landed him the wrongful charge of ‘kidnapping to commit robbery.’ Years later, he happened to be in the courthouse for unrelated reasons when Jonathan Jackson entered to free his brother and Black Liberation icon George Jackson. According to a sworn affidavit from one of the jurors, the jury voted for acquittal on charges from the Courthouse rebellion, however, this acquittal has been obscured and he continues his fight to expose this.

Ruchell is now 82 years old, and has spent more than 58 years in prison. From behind bars, he has been a positive force by helping many people with his tireless work as a jailhouse lawyer. He currently has a pro se motion pending review by the Supreme Court as well as a commutation application to be reviewed by the Governor. He is also parole eligible. Please join us Monday at Clark Park (stone platform near 45th and Chester) as we reach out to Ruchell to connect, offer solidarity, and see what all can be done to free him this year so that he can finally reunite with his family.

Because we are not aware of any political prisoners with a birthday in June, instead of birthday cards we will pass around cards for Palestinian freedom political prisoners: Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Dr. Issam Hijjawi Bassalat, Khalida Jarrar, Layan Kayed, Ahmad Sa’adat, and Khitam Saafin.

Philly Commemorates 36th Anniversary of MOVE Bombing

from Unicorn Riot

Philadelphia, PA – Thirty-six years ago today, the Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb on a home in West Philadelphia that served as the headquarters of the Black liberation organization, MOVE. The bombing killed 6 adults and 5 children, burned down 61 homes, and displaced 250 residents.

Members of MOVE and the Philadelphia radical community are observing the anniversary of the tragedy, gathering at the former MOVE HQ site on Osage Avenue before marching to Malcolm X Park.

[Video Here]

In April, news emerged that the bones of two MOVE families’ childrenDelisha Africa and Tree Africahad been taken from the bombing site and ended up in the custody of the University of Pennsylvania. UPenn staff have been casually storing the murdered children’s remains in a cardboard box on a shelf, and using their remains as teaching props for classes.

[Video Here]

On April 28, MOVE bombing survivors and community members protested at the UPenn campus demanding the firing of university staff involved in disrespecting the children’s remains. MOVE and supporters have also called for the removal of a street sign honoring former Philly Mayor Wilson Goode, who oversaw the 1985 bombing.

Today, Philly Mayor Jim Kenney announced the resignation of Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. Kenney said he learned Farley had identified additional remains from the MOVE bombing and had them cremated and disposed of instead of providing them to family members.

[Video Here]

In the 1970s, MOVE advocated for the rights of animals and the environment, in accordance with the teachings of their founder and leader John Africa. After a series of extreme police brutality incidents against MOVE members by Philly Police, the group found itself increasingly drawn into confrontations with Philly’s notoriously racist law enforcement apparatus under then-Mayor Frank Rizzo.

On August 8, 1978, an earlier confrontation took place at MOVE’s then-headquarters in the Philly neighborhood of Powelton Village. 9 MOVE members were sentenced in a politically-charged trial for the death of an officer who died in the 1978 confrontation; evidence suggests the officer died due to friendly fire from other police.

After years of imprisonment and medical neglect, 7 of the MOVE 9 have been released (two of themMerle Africa and Phil Africadied in prison). Delbert Africa, one of the MOVE 9 who was freed in 2020, died just months after his release, likely due to being denied proper cancer treatment while incarcerated.

[Video Here]

Imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted by a racist judge based on falsified evidence in the 1981 murder of Philly cop Daniel Faulkner, is also associated with MOVE. Abu-Jamal reported closely on police brutality against MOVE and was believed by many to be targeted for a death penalty prosecution in part due to his support for MOVE.

Abu-Jamal has been experiencing extreme medical issues due to neglect in Pennsylvania’s prison system. On April 24, a coalition of groups, including MOVE, demonstrated in Philly, demanding Mumia’s release from prison:

[Video Here]

New zine: 215 Rioters


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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FTP Banner and Communique from Revolutionary Abolitionists in Harrisburg, PA


To our comrades in Philadelphia, Rockford and across the so-called United States,

In the wake of the election and the subsequent putsch on the Capitol, the establishment and media apparatus have set out to douse memory of the multi-racial insurgency that spread across the country last summer and dampen the social contradictions that lead to it with slogans of calm and unity. Harrisburg was not been exempt from this revisionist trend in the slightest. During the summer, grifters and Black counter insurgents tried to funnel the long growing discontent into dead end electoralism and the bureaucratic machinations that grind the ember of revolutionary change in their gears at any given opportunity. In spite of this, the community rose up in defiance of both law enforcement and their neoliberal lapdogs in ways that have not been seen here in recent memory – cop cars smashed, streets shut down and police forced into retreat by a hail of bricks and debris.

As the heat of the summer lowered (relatively) to a tempered simmer and the electoral distraction served its role as sociological vacuum, the city’s leadership set its agenda on almost completely ignoring the events of the past year in order to return to some prelapsarian concept of normal – (a state which if it existed would be an amoral hellpit by any honest summation)- the exception of course, being their ongoing plan of repression against the true revolutionaries who participated in the uprising. At writing, there remains many ongoing struggles in the courts for the freedom of participants charged for their participation in the protests, both in Harrisburg and elsewhere. This is particularly disheartening as the loss of momentum of the movement from the summer means individual cases are harder to rally around, making intercommunal support from committed radicals that much more important.

Congruently, the local prison system has been revealed as the cauldrons of deathrot we have always known them to be. As Covid cases spike, the prison refuses to provide hand sanitizer, soap, masks and other lifesaving supplies to its inmates, resulting in the languishing of dozens of incarcerated people. What’s worse, there have been recent reports of widespread sexual abuse of inmates by guards, as well as many other violations of dignity, aided by an M.O. cultivated by deposed Warden Brian Clark, a well documented sex pest in his own right.
We are not liberals. We are appalled but not shocked by the injustice system acting as it always has no matter what century, context or administration – forever a punitive apparatus to repress the colonized and exploited for the benefit of a racist carceral state. Whether a red or blue chain, the shackle remains the same. Recognition of this basic fact informs our work building a culture of resistance to the inevitable crackdown on abolitionists and revolutionaries by the neoliberal state operating in the name of “fighting extremism”.

We believe that times like this, the seeming lulls between mass protests, uprisings and other sparks of civil unrest are as ,and possibly even more important than those moments of social fissure and are probably not even be so neatly disconnected as they may be initially perceived. It is of the upmost importance that we are expanding our networks, supporting our comrades , and deepening our roots in the communities we live in order to create a movement capable of not only sustaining itself in the calm, but also protecting itself when the pigs come knocking. This means building community defense councils and war chests to support our accomplices kidnapped and harassed by the State through every stage of their struggle. It is equally important to deny space and momentum to obvious opportunists and collaborators who attempt to swallow the flame of radical change through cooptation and subterfuge with the intent to isolate radicals and those members of the community willing to take justice into their own hands. This commitment lives and dies on solidarity with those most affected, and this communique is an representation of that commitment.

We unfurled this banner calling for the end to abuse of prisoners in Dauphin County Prison and mass release of all incarcerated in the death camps of Pennsylvania and across the United Snakes. We also want to uplift the connected struggle of the #FreeAnt movement, in order to echo the many voices calling for dropped charges for all and add to the cacophony of dissent against the police state. Finally, we uplift the demands of the Black Philly Radical Collective to for the immediate release of Mumia Abu Jamal, Major Tillery, Arthur Cetawayo Johnson, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Omar Askia, Joseph “Jo-Jo” Bowen, and all Black Political Prisoners.

We demand that all protestors across the country be granted amnesty. All charges must be dropped. We have unconditional solidarity to all rebels, radicals and revolutionaries facing State repression.

Free Them All.

Fuck DCP, Fuck Warden Clark and Fuck 12 Forever

Say no to the new Cointelpro!

Black Liberation Now.

Fire to the Prisons, Set the Captives Free.

Support the #FreeAnt Movement

from Instagram

Photo by #FreeAnt on February 24, 2021. May be a cartoon of text.

We appreciate y’all’s support so much and we know it’s been a long road already, but we still have a ways to go before we can #dropthecharges and truly #freeant. We’ve added a linktree in the bio so you can more easily find all of our links to support and please save/share/engage with these graphics so that a.) our community can know how and where to best support Ant and b.) we can mass share with y’all that we have new modes of donating (we heard the requests to have more than PayPal), an updated/new PayPal link, and a Twitter that is now live! . Thank you all again for everything you’ve done already and will continue to do. Having Ant with us is the best feeling and we need him here in our community free of all charges so that he can continue to support his people who rely on him and love him, continue to support our youth, and continue to support our movements as an irreplaceable and beloved member of our neighborhoods. And as always, we name that Ant is not an isolated victim of state and carceral oppression and we stand in solidarity with other political prisoners and incarcerated folks, so when we say #FreeEmAll know we mean that. Let’s Gooooooo!

Monday January 25th: Letter-writing for Kamau Sadiki

from Philly ABC

kamau-sadiki.jpgThis month we are asking that folks write letters of support to former Black Panther, Kamau Sadiki. Kamau has been held in the Augusta State Medical Prison for years and suffered medical neglect. Right now, Kamau is in danger of needing his left foot amputated and needs to see a wound specialist. Before you join us next Monday to write a letter, please take a minute to tweet at @GovKemp & call the Augusta State Medical Prison at (706) 855-4700 to demand he be taken to the wound care clinic ASAP. At the letter-writing event, we will have an update about the medical campaign and send words of solidarity directly to Kamau so that he knows, and the prison knows, this situation is getting wider public attention.

At age 17, Kamau dedicated his life to the service of his people working out of the Jamaica office of the Black Panther Party. Kamau worked in the Free Breakfast Program each morning and then went out into the community to sell the BPP newspaper later in the day. At nineteen, Kamau was a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA). Several members of the BLA, including Kamau, left New York City and lived in the Atlanta area for a short period of time. On the night of November 3rd 1971, witnesses observed three black males run from a van where a police officer was murdered at a gas station in downtown Atlanta. The witnesses failed to identify Kamau from a photographic line-up and there was no physical evidence that implicated him. In 1971, the Atlanta police department closed the case as unsolved.

In 1999, the FBI in pursuit of collaboration in their attempts to recapture Assata Shakur (the mother of one of Kamau’s daughters), a political exile in Cuba, threatened him with life in prison if he did not assist them. When he did not comply, the FBI convinced Atlanta police to re-open the case and charge Kamau. He was arrested in 2002 in Brooklyn, New York some thirty-one years later after the murder. In 2003, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and ten years to run consecutively for armed robbery. Much of his sentence has been spent in a medical prison because he suffers from Hepatitis C, Cirrhosis of the Liver, and Sarcoidosis. February 19th will be his 68th birthday so send him some birthday love as well!

This event will be held on Jitsi – we’ll post the meet link on social media the day of. You can also message us to get the link beforehand.

If you can’t join us on Monday, send him a message of hope and healing at:

Freddie Hilton #0001150688
Augusta State Medical Prison
3001 Gordon Highway
Grovetown, GA 30813

We also encourage sending birthday cards to political prisoners with February birthdays: Veronza Bowers (the 4th) and Oso Blanco (the 26th).

Free Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz

from AMW English

Free Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz

Russell Maroon Shoatz is a founding member of the Black Unity Council, a former member of the Black Panther Party, and a soldier in the Black Liberation Army.

“Police brutality is the reason our people are inside,” says Russell Shoatz III, Maroon’s son. Maroon has been in prison since 1972 because he was a leader in the fight against police in the 1960s and ’70s. He’s an elder of the most powerful movement this country has ever seen.

Maroon was held in solitary confinement for nearly 30 years, after two escape attempts he made over 40 years ago in the tradition of the maroon communities that escaped enslaved Africans created throughout the Americas. In his book, Maroon the Implacable, he makes this history come alive for younger generations. During his almost half-century in prison, he has mentored dozens of fellow prisoners, some of whom have joined the movement on the inside and outside.

As COVID-19 surges through the state and tears through its prisons, loved ones of incarcerated people are asking for the immediate release all elderly and medically vulnerable people in prison, and simply for prison staff to wear face masks and be tested for COVID-19.

Amid the horror that is the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections right now, Black liberation movement political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz may be one of the best examples of how that horror is playing out for elderly prisoners and their families. Maroon is 77 years old and has been fighting stage 4 colon cancer for over a year. After testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 11, Maroon was held in a gymnasium with 29 other men—and only one toilet to share between them. His urgent surgery for the cancer is being denied.

According to Theresa Shoatz, his daughter, Pennsylvania prisoners have been unable to make phone calls to let people outside know how bad COVID is inside right now.

Maroon must attain freedom. In an act of solidarity, while suffering in innumerable ways, Maroon himself told his daughter to advocate for the other 29 guys left in the gym.

You can donate to support Maroon’s Global Network here:

Monday November 23rd: Letter-writing for Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin

from Philly ABC


Due to the rainy weather and police killing of #WalterWallace on the day of last month’s letter-writing event, we decided to postpone until this month. We’ll be writing letters to Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (formerly H. Rap Brown) on Monday, November 23rd at 6:30pm! To observe social distancing, we will hold this event on Jitsi and post the meet link on social media the day of. You can also message us to get the link beforehand.

Jamil became known as a Black liberation leader as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Justice Minister of the Black Panther Party. In the early ’70s, he did five years as a political prisoner before being paroled in 1976. Upon his release, he moved to Atlanta, GA and led one of the nation’s largest Muslim groups, Al-Ummah. He is known to have greatly improved social services to the West End community in Atlanta.

From 1992 to 1997, the FBI and Atlanta police investigated Imam Jamil in connection with everything from domestic terrorism to gunrunning to 14 homicides in Atlanta’s West End, according to police investigators’ reports, FBI documents and interviews. On March 16th, 2000, Fulton County Deputy Sheriff Ricky Kinchen is shot and later dies, while another deputy Aldranon English is wounded after being shot by a man outside Imam Jamil’s store. English identified the shooter in the March 16th incident as Imam Jamil, yet testified that he shot the assailant — who “had grey eyes” — in the exchange of gunfire. Imam Al-Amin’s eyes are brown, and he had no gunshot injury when he was captured just four days later.

Now that Fulton County has a Convictions Integrity Unit, there is a good chance that Imam Jamil’s case will be reopened due to the known incongruities. This is doubly important because he has medical challenges — symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome and smoldering myeloma (a form of blood cancer) as well as untreated cataracts. Due to his eyesight, write letters to him in large print if you are participating remotely.

We will also announce political prisoners with birthdays in November and December, and encourage participants to independently send them cards: Ed Poindexter (Nov 1st), Joe Dibee (Nov 10th), Josh Williams (Nov 25th), Reality Winner (Dec 4th), Fred “Muhammad” Burton (Dec 15th), and Casey Brezik (Dec 30th).

Cars, Riots, & Black Liberation: Philadelphia’s Walter Wallace Rebellion

from Mute

Image: ‘Looting rampant’ in Philly

The US saw some of the largest riots and protests in its history this year in response to police murder of black people. Yet there has been scant attention paid to the innovations in struggle specific to these rebellions. Shemon & Arturo take another look at the phenomenon of car-looting and argue that this tactic is inseparable from black liberation 


Glass shatters. Thick plumes of dark black smoke pour out of a burning police car stalled in the middle of 52nd street. Another black man shot dead by the police. Another rebellion in defense of basic human dignity.  ‘Sir, it’s chaos!,’ one of the officers yells into his radio as they retreat under a barrage of rocks, bottles, bricks. ‘Stop throwing shit!,’ an older black man on a bullhorn yells, but the young black militants keep throwing projectiles anyway. The police, outnumbered by the hundreds, can only watch from a distance as people begin to loot stores all along the ave. The cops concentrate on blocking off major intersections.


While sitting in a traffic jam, waiting for the red light to turn green, a car breaks whatever is left of the law and speeds away. Time and speed do not obey red, yellow, or green here. This is no ordinary traffic jam. It is the traffic jam of black liberation, where looting by car is the art form developed in response to the murder of Walter Wallace Jr. by the Philadelphia Police.


All of a sudden a group of black teenagers pop out of a car and walk down the street, to an unknown destination. Cop cars zoom past them in a panic of sirens, red and blue lights flashing through the darkness, probably rushing to another 9-11 call about looters at a pharmacy, Footlocker, grocery store, or liquor store somewhere else. Across the street, a gas station is filled with cars of young black people hopping in and out, discussions taking place, and music blaring. It is part music festival, part pitstop, and part modern day proletarian council where young people discuss what to do next.


What happened in Ferguson as an impromptu practice has developed into an art in Philadelphia: the art of looting by car. In the United States, black proletarians are constantly refining and sharpening forms, tactics, and strategies of struggle.


In the official record, these activities will be recorded as crime. Joe Biden has already left his statement for all of posterity to see. Biden, like all politicians, spews the great lie of our society: black rioters are criminals. Riots have nothing to do with politics. But there could be nothing further from the truth. Black rioters are the creators of new forms of struggle, new visions of liberation, and new types of revolutionary organization. The accomplishments of the revolt in Philadelphia were powerful, liberating and simply beautiful. While pundits want to dismiss the riots as apolitical or criminal, it is the revolutionary activities of the black proletariat which constitute the actual form of politics that put radical change on the horizon.


Ignoring the Uprising


The main people who take the uprising seriously are the rIght and a small layer of the ultra-left. For liberals and moderates the insurrectionary dimension of the uprising barely exists, since 93 percent of the protests have been baptized as peaceful. Using this statistical sleight of hand, liberalism transforms itself into an ally of black people, equating Black Lives Matter with respectable, non-violent, legal protest, while ignoring the remaining 7 percent of violent protests, i.e. the actual riots. Even socialists have stuck their heads in the sand when it comes to the tactical and strategic implications of the uprising. Everyone condemns racism and police brutality, but for all their claims of solidarity with black liberation, most leftists have fallen miserably short when it comes to actually participating in the riots that have swept this country. At best, most abstain from the insurrectionary aspects of the uprising altogether; at worst, they opportunistically leech off of it in order to build up their particular organizations, brands, and careers. Meanwhile, black proletarians are getting arrested and putting their bodies on the line in a battle of life and death.


At this point in the development of the struggle, any group that claims solidarity with black liberation, but has not been fighting the cops and rioting in the streets, or directly providing aid and support to such activities, is irrelevant. There are no excuses.  We have met women, children, parents, elders, undocumented people, people in wheelchairs, on crutches, coming from all genders, abilities, and races imaginable, all throwing down in one way or another during street riots. For those who engage the police in battle, the time for words and social media posts are over. This kind of symbolic anti-racism and solidarity – which has been the bread and butter of liberals and leftists for decades now – has been exposed for the joke that it really is. Solidarity with the movement requires risking your skin. This is not an abstraction; this is exactly what black proletarians are doing.


And it is not only the white, Asian, indigenous, and latinx left that ignores the most dynamic and militant aspects of this uprising, it is also the major black intellectuals and radicals of our time. This should be no surprise, as a similar split occurred among radical intellectuals during World War I in the Second International and again in national liberation struggles during World War II and after.


For all the radical rhetoric of marxism, in terms of its actual deeds and practice, most of the radical left has accommodated itself to the status quo. The law has expanded in response to class conflicts and anti-racist struggles to the point that plenty of harmless forms of activism can be engaged in, but they are simply a new prison for activists and movements. Previous generations have won victories and expanded the law so that we can safely denounce wars, march almost anywhere we wish, and say whatever we want. This range of legality seems like a victory, but has also become a trap that leftist organizations treat as a principle. The fact of the matter is that leftist organizations are simply not prepared to deal with the illegal nature of the revolutionary struggles and politics that are taking place in the present moment. The black proletariat continues to show a practical commitment to fighting the police, setting fire to carceral infrastructure, and looting the commodities of this dying capitalist system. When these are the tactics of the proletariat in motion, what kind of organizational forms make sense?


Organizational, tactical, and strategic clarity is emerging for the first time since the 1960s, but it is not coming from the left – it is coming from the practical initiatives and strategies of the black proletariat. Leftists run their mouths about organizational questions in abstract and antiquated terms, regurgitating a played out formula modeled on Russia or China that has been repeated ad nauseam for many decades now, but which has produced little more than sects and cults. They ignore the concrete forms of revolutionary organization that are already taking place in the uprising.


Revolutionary organizations are not built in the abstract, but are expressions of the real tactical and strategic challenges raised by the proletariat in the class struggle. The fundamental organizational question that revolutionaries face is how to contribute and relate to the uprising, specifically in terms of street fighting, looting, and other riot tactics. Those who are truly committed to revolution will have to push past the stale organizational forms of the past and begin to account for the diverse, illegal, and creative organizational forms that the black proletariat is developing in the present, the use of cars being one of the most innovative and effective tools in this emerging tactical repertoire.


It cannot be completely spontaneous that black proletarians went to Wal-Mart, looted it, and when the cops arrived, evaded them and went on to form caravans that targeted different shopping districts throughout the city. Much of the official prognosis of this moment is that the rioters are unorganized, lack direction, and leadership. In truth, the reality is that there’s a high degree of coordination and organization within the maelstrom of the riot. This should be obvious when caravans of looters swarm specific locations at the same time. To do so, people collectively decide on specific targets, coordinate movement to the target area, and often set up look outs who will warn everyone else when the police are coming.


New Dynamics, New Divisions


Organizations prove themselves in the battle of class conflict, often for specific purposes. In the case of Philadelphia, any organization had to deal with the dynamics of feet and tires. Most people destroyed property and looted stores in one manner or another by marching in the streets, and when the cops came along, they fought and evaded them on foot. But as the state has become more and more prepared for riots, prolonged street confrontations with the police have become more costly, and it has become harder to continue on foot. We first saw this in Chicago after the murder of Latrell Allen, where a caravan of cars looted the Magnificent Mile, and from there dispersed themselves throughout the city. This trend continued in Louisville with the Breonna Taylor protests in late September, where state preparation made an uprising in the city practically impossible. In response, people took to cars and spread the riots geographically by looting businesses throughout the city. This was a brilliant tactical and ultimately strategic innovation when facing the raw power of the state.


Car looting has clear advantages to looting on foot. There’s less peace policing, because there is not as much of an association with a specific geography, and what is often the same thing, a specific race. The most important aspect of car-looting, however, is that it disperses and exhausts the police forces. This strategy also creates a dynamic where those left on foot may find themselves in de facto police free zones, able to revel in freedom for extended periods of time, because the police are too busy trying to counter the looting caravans elsewhere. This is what happened in Philadelphia. The synergy of those on foot and those in cars creates a different geography and dynamic of struggle where police cars are racing from store to store trying to stop the roving bands of car looters, while those on foot find themselves pulling police resources in a different direction. There are simply too many rioters in different places and not enough police.


Looting by car is a strategic advancement, but the car is certainly not a perfect tool. The license plate is a huge security risk. With a few keystrokes police can use your license plate to look up your address and knock on your door. While this presents many dangers, what’s important to note is that many proles are finding ways to loot by car and not get caught regardless. Besides the risks that come with having a license plate, evading the police by car is oftentimes more dangerous and getting caught after a high speed chase is going to result in longer jail time.


Besides the security risks, the second problem is that you need a car in the first place, or at least need to know someone who has a car. While car ownership is widespread in the US, it is determined by race and class. According to a study from the University of California, ‘African Americans have the lowest car ownership of all racial and ethnic groups in the country, the researchers say, with 19 percent living in homes in which no one owns a car. That compares to 4.6 percent of whites in homes with no car, 13.7 percent of latinos, and 9.6 percent of the remaining groups combined.’ While not having your own car is probably not a total barrier, taking note of the unequal ownership of cars is important. At the same time, the fact that car-looting has so far been almost entirely black shows us the determination of black proletarians to use cars in the uprising.


The third concern is that the car simultaneously atomizes the struggle, where each car is a separate unit. While in a way, the car socializes small units of rioters, it does so in a very different manner than looting on foot. Each car is a ship unto itself. It’s not always clear if human beings are directly relating to one another or if it is the car as a commodity which emerges as the subject. This mask is torn off in the rush of doors opening, looters jumping in and out of cars. From the outside, however, car looting can be fairly mysterious. Drivers and passengers can hide behind tinted windows and it becomes difficult to engage them. Joining a random car caravan can invite suspicion, especially if the caravan is made up of friends who already know each other. New faces are correctly suspected. This is all very different from looting on foot, where there is much more of a social and collective atmosphere. Still, looting by car is almost impossible to do as an individual, and thus, entails its own kind of sociality.


If the initial division of the uprising was between legal and illegal protests, non-violent and violent protests, good and bad protesters, it is clear that another division has emerged: shoes versus tires. However, this division is not an obstacle to the struggle. Unlike previous divisions which reflected class and racial differences in the movement, this one emerges directly out of the tactical back and forth between the police and the black proletariat. This organic division arises in response to the maneuvers of the police, and therefore, reflects innovation and creativity, instead of containment and counterinsurgency.


New Geographies of Struggle


To understand car-looting is to catch a glimpse into the changing geography of struggle. The size of cities can give us a baseline reference point. Philadelphia is 134 square miles and Louisville 325 square miles. To put that in perspective, New York City is 302 square miles and Oakland is 78 square miles. This information gives us a sense of the specific size of the container we are dealing with, but if we want to grasp the full geographic dimensions of a city, there are particular infrastructures, densities, and social dynamics that determine why car-looting takes place where it does. In New York City, for example, looting by car was not a mass phenomenon. Why has looting by car happened in Chicago, Louisville and Philadelphia, but not NYC? The low car ownership rate (at about 50 percent), the high concentration of stores and people, coupled with an extensive subway system, all come together to militate against the use of cars in riots. This is not to say that some car looting did not take place, just that it was not the decisive element of the rebellion in NYC. But in cities like Louisville and Philadelphia, cars became major components of the uprising. Furthermore, if the initial phase of the uprising this summer was concentrated on the wealthiest portions of cities, in the fall the proletariat abandoned Market Street in Philly, and abandoned Jefferson Square Park in Louisville, and instead used cars to spread the rebellion throughout the city. Instead of fixating on territory in the way that activists tend to do, those who looted by car used the vastness of urban space to create a new territory of struggle. This is part of a qualitative development in the class struggle that still needs to be made sense of and accounted for.


A century ago it was factories which dotted the terrain of class struggle; today it is the shopping district, the cell phone store, the CVS, and the Apple store that reveals the new geography of struggle. Rioting and looting are a reflection of what capital looks like now: wealth in the form of commodities concentrated in key neighborhoods, often spread geographically throughout cities. While these commodities are not the means of production, they certainly represent a vast collection of wealth just waiting for proletarians to expropriate. The looting of Wal-Mart is an excellent example of this. Here capital has brought together a vast assemblage of commodities which proletarians usually have to pay for. The looting of Wal-Mart on the night of 27 October was the reaction of people who are forced to live and work alongside this hyper concentration of commodities. While precise data is not available of what kind of jobs rioters hold, an educated guess is that if they hold jobs at all, they are most likely in low-wage service sector jobs with little structural power to strike. Instead of critiquing rioters, then, it makes more sense to ask why proletarians in the United States are rioting more than they’re striking.


Weapons and Ethics


We’ve seen right-wingers use cars to attack protestors. The big pick-up truck and the Trump waving sedan has become a weapon to intimidate, injure, and kill BLM protestors.  In response, many activists formed their own car brigades for surrounding protests and blocking right-wingers from ramming protestors with their cars. While this has been an important development, another and much less noticed development has been the growing use of cars for looting. This turn in tactics raises more general questions about the tools we use, how we use them, and how these tools relate to liberation.


Reflecting on the use of guns in his recent text ‘Weapons and Ethics‘, Adrian Wohlleben tells us that the weapons we use and how we use them powerfully impact our struggles. We should be attuned to how specific weapons might increase collective power and mass participation, while others might limit them. Wohlleben throws some cold water on any romanticism about guns, and equally important, pushes us to think about how the use of guns changes the terrain of struggle. Most crucially, Wohlleben demonstrates a commitment to keeping the movement mass based and militant at the same time. Weapons and Ethics asks: ‘How does our use of weapons work behind our backs to define the meaning and limits of our power? How does this choice affect and configure who feels able to join us, and even what we think of as ‘winning’? How can we make this choice explicit to ourselves?’ While there is much to agree with here, we can also critique Wohlleben for not navigating the precise history of how guns have been used for black liberation. While it was not Wohlleben’s purpose to do such an analysis, in the context of the George Floyd uprising, and a potential civil war, it is clearly a task we must turn our attention to. And like guns, there is an ethics around cars, but one that is radically different. How do Wohlleben’s questions square with the use of cars for black liberation?


We usually do not think of cars as weapons, but they have been for some time. The car bomb has been used for decades. Considering how widespread cars are in this country, it is not inconceivable that they will be used in such a manner as struggle escalates. While we’ve seen cops and right-wingers use cars against BLM protesters, there were also several incidents in Philadelphia in which cars were used as weapons against the police during the riots. Police were attacked with cars during the Walter Wallace Rebellion, during the George Floyd Uprising back in May, and also in NYC.


After guns, cars are probably the most American of products. The very origin story of the car is inseparable from the rise of the United States as an industrial and global power. And while many on the left correctly criticize cars as climate destroying machines, there is an alternative history of the car that we must pay attention to.  The car, commonly understood as one of the defining symbols of American capitalism, has been turned on its head, and repurposed as a weapon of black liberation.


From Ferguson to Philly


The use of cars for black liberation is not new. The Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56 is perhaps the most famous example. Civil rights activists, particularly black women who were domestic workers, organized an alternative public transportation system based on cars in order to boycott the segregation of the buses in Montgomery, Alabama. This history provides valuable lessons for our current moment, especially when it comes to the question of social reproduction. This movement was a large-scale challenge to white supremacy. However, cars were not exactly used as weapons of struggle, as they are today. The manner in which cars are currently being used in riots reflects an escalation of the class struggle. If we begin with Ferguson, we see cars being used as getaway vehicles, as barriers to create police free zones, and as shields to fire at cops. But cars in Ferguson were not used for the purposes of looting. The Ferguson uprising did not spread geographically in response to the police. Instead spaces were defended around several sites in Ferguson, most importantly the QT and Canfield and West Florissant. Compared to the 2010s, the riots happening today have escalated in intensity and expanded in geography. The caravan of looters is probably the best example of this.


Dozens of gas guzzling monsters roaring down the streets, tires screeching, tinted windows – this is the caravan of black liberation. This phenomenon is an important aspect of the moving wave of mass struggles. It can be understood through the framework of Rosa Luxemburg’s great text The Mass Strike. While many communists agree with Luxemburg today, it was a controversial argument that she was making at the time. Luxemburg challenged the widely held conception of how socialism would come about in the 2nd International: a peaceful evolution won by the vote. Instead, she demonstrated that the strike waves rolling through Eastern Europe were the key to socialism. While it would be foolish to claim that car-looting alone will get us to communism-anarchism, it is one response of the black proletariat to a variety of tactical, strategic, and political economic developments of our time. How this strategy will connect to communism is not fully clear, but it is communistic in the sense of its mass nature and its attack on the commodity form.


What we see from Ferguson to Philadelphia is the growing use of the car as a weapon of mass struggle. In Ferguson cars were used for defensive purposes, while in Chicago, Louisville, Philadelphia and elsewhere cars were used for offensive purposes: for looting, for attacking police, and for spreading the geography of the uprising. We should expect cars to continue to play an important role as riots continue to unfold and the uprising potentially mutates into other forms of mass struggle: blockades, strikes, and occupations. Undoubtedly, the state will respond with new forms of surveillance and repression, but how it will do that is unclear. In the meantime, black proletarians will probably take advantage of the state’s lack of capacity to deal with widespread car-looting.



Over the summer comrades and Crimethinc published an exciting text, ‘Tools and Tactics in the Portland Protests‘, which showed the creativity and dynamics of the Portland protests. Each move by the Federal Agents forced protestors to develop a counter move, creating a back and forth dynamic that defines the tactical pulse of any mass struggle. While the street tactics of the Portland protests are familiar to many people across the country, making sense of car-looting is much more difficult if you aren’t part of the caravans of looters. But none of the obscurity of car-looting should stop us from recognizing that cars are inseparable from a strategy of black liberation. While it can be difficult to forge bonds with car caravans, this is a developing form of mass struggle where many of the divisions of our society might be broken if non-black proletarians can figure out how to participate.