Sorry for the lack of updates recently. March has been a month of movement for us here at PCWC. Collectively, we put out our newspaper (email us for a copy at firesneverextinguished[at]gmail.com for a copy) and distributed the shirts we printed. Aside from that, much of the month was taken up with travels and scheming.
Phoenix Insurgent was in Europe again, drinking and touring, and meeting up with anarchos there. France and Spain were mostly occupied with forgetting politics and integrating into the much more laid back French and Spanish lifestyle. A return visit to the great bookstore Alternative Libertaire produced a copy of an biography of Durutti in Spanish, French and English. Ample opportunities to practice French, especially at the bars, led to some great conversations about French politics and, especially, the role of minorities from Brittany to Algeria (you can email PCWC in French, English or Spanish, by the way).
Moving on to London via train, PI met up with some folks from the great journal Occupied London, threw back some beers and Turkish pizzas, and got some great conversation and a better picture of politics in that neck of the woods -- especially the revolutionary green sense of the word. That part of town is slotted for that combination of building boom/demolition/expulsion/colonization that accompanies the Olympics wherever it goes (London 2012), and work is already steadily underway with all the usual characteristics (new sports stadiums, extension of subway lines and the clearing out of old -- or even not so old -- buildings for new ones dedicated to the new capitalist enterprises).
On the other end of town, PI met up with some folks at Freedom Books and then got a great political/historical tour of Whitechapel and the Whitechapel Anarchist Group space. Apparently a political history pub crawl had just taken place recently, sparking all sorts of ideas for similar projects here in Phoenix, especially downtown. PCWC has been reading Bradford Luckingham's very interesting histories of Phoenix lately, revealing just how much we have to learn about our own town and how Capital and politics has shaped it.
As for the WAG space, the Valley would be doing great if it had a space like that here. In what they call the London Anarchist Resource Center, they boast what is probably the biggest anarchist library publically available and have room for meetings, movie showings and an area for the construction of the various accoutrements of protest and struggle, such as signs, banners and the rest. Also, for those that don't know, WAG puts out a great broadsheet in the Class War style (i.e., snotty, uncompromising and graphically appealing). Apparently it gets quite decent distribution, which is a hell of an accomplishment given that the neighborhood they're in is undoubtedly the most conservative Muslim neighborhood in London.
While in London, and searching for pubs that didn't close at eleven (!), PI had some time for seeing the sights, including a trek to Marx's grave. Most notable about the grave are three things. First, and obviously, the head.
Apparently, the sheer and quite ridiculous size of it was even controversial amongst Marxists when it was built. Secondly, it was so big it was impossible to get a decent photo next to it without looking silly. Thirdly, even though communists the world over have declared their opposition to private property (but is it really not private property if the new landlord is the State?), some of them obviously knew vaulable real estate when they saw it, because surrounding Marx's grave are the final resting places of at least a dozen notable communists.
Also, while in London, that trademark British sense of humor was evident in the weirdest of places:
Irony outlasts empire every time.
A walking tour of Notting Hill, following the directions from a Class War pamphlet, revealed George Orwell's house while a meandering tour through the financial district and the surveillance geography of the "ring of steel" put an exclamation point on it. Cameras there cover all entries and exits, and one certainly gets the feeling not only that one doesn't fit in, but that one is at least potentially tracked at all times while in the vicinity.
In terms of tactics and issues that anarchists are having in London, I came away with a warning on "kettling" and police Forward Intelligence Teams. Kettling, not an unknown phenomenon here in the US (PCWC members encountered it as early as 2000 in LA during the Democratic Convention), has become widely known now thanks to the recent G20 protests in London. Kettling basically involves the police attempting to hem in anarchists -- to follow them with massive force and to pen them up, preventing any action to take place. This often leads to violence and detention.
FIT, however, may be less known. FIT teams gather information of event organizers, leaders and other important information, for the purpose of disrupting actions. Apparently, they can be quite intrusive as well, not being satisfied to gather data passively from a distance. As a result, something calling itself FIT Watch has emerged to counter the increasingly intrusive presence of the police at protests. According the London FIT Watch's blog,
Fit Watch are a fluid group of people who have come together to resist and oppose the tactics of the Forward Intelligence Teams (cops who harass protesters).Such tactics, by both the police and anarchists, have made various appearances in Phoenix in the past, especially during the height of the May Day protests in the early 2000's. Nothing particularly matching FIT Watch in terms of aggressiveness and specific aim emerged, however, to counter the cops. Copwatch, of course, routinely documents protests and police activity at them, and so, occasionally, do the ACLU. But neither of these seeks to actively disrupt the activities of the police. As things heat up here in town, we'll surely see the return of the "red squad" to anarchist events, and when that happens, we may look to our comrades in London for some ideas about how to deal with them.
We aim to act in solidarity with each other, supporting campaigns by being at meetings and protests, making it harder for the police to film and gather intelligence.
We hope to encourage a culture where their presence is not acceptable and to act when we see people being followed and harassed.
We aim to make it harder for them to photograph and intimidate us by getting in the way of their cameras, taking photos and publishing as much information as we can about them on our blog.
As for kettling in Phoenix, there were attempts during the May Day protests to surround anarchists, but they were often thwarted by going the wrong way down one-way streets, which prevented the po-po from following us with their cars and wagons. In Tempe (which doesn't have one way streets downtown), however, the police brought in bike cops and were more successful in keeping us in place, at least the second time May Day was organized there (after they had received training from the Eugene police department). At the most recent immigration protest in Phoenix, cops did attempt what looked like a proto-kettling operation, but it was foiled by staying in the streets, the sheer numbers and the medians in the streets.
The rest of the European vacation eventually moved to Spain and was aimed primarily at accomplishing two main tasks: (1), relaxing in the sun, and (2), successfully driving a car through southern Spain. Both were accomplished, to varying degrees, with driving coming in a distant second given the insane driving conditions in Spanish cities. Fortunately, driving in Mexico provides preparation to a limited degree for the "devil may care" attitude of Spanish motorists (although it made Mexican drivers look quite sane by comparison).
One thing that is always apparent when traveling in Europe is the total lack of working class Americans. International travel in the US is almost exclusively the domain of five groups of people: the rich and upper middle classes; students (mostly coming from those classes); traveler kids and musicians; retirees; and the military. Almost nowhere does one find folks in their thirties and forties from working class backgrounds that aren't in the military. This is a great tragedy. While recognizing the destructive nature of air travel, it would surely be worth everyone's while to find a way to correct this deficiency. Certainly first class would make a great spot for an open bar, if we could prevent the business class from flying.
Collin Sick's been busy as well, traveling across the state, as well as venturing into the Bay Area, and making a trip down to Quitovac, Mexico. March began with the benefit show for the Unity Run that our O'odham friends organized, and Collin was able to help out with. The show raised hundreds of dollars for the run, and collected a sizable amount of flour, coffee, and rice for the runners. Highlights included the spray can artists going to work on massive panels outside, Dumperfoo doing live art, and DJentrification, Optimal, Shining Soul, and The Insects killing it during their sets.
The next weekend saw some frequent flier miles thrown down for the annual excursion to the Bay Area for the 14th annual San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair and the 9th annual BASTARD Conference. This is the fourth yearly trip from Phoenix to the Bay, and sadly the first without PI attending, although to be fair he was in Europe having a wonderful time of his own.
The trip was split between political fun and vacationing with friends, as many old comrades had come down from Portland just for some good ol' fashioned drinking and trouble making. Social highlights included the free admission to the last half hour of the Simian Mobile Disco show, being taken out by the greatest radical queer ladies for a stop at the worker owned Lusty Lady peepshow, and a night out with our homeboy Crudo that saw us hitting up a warehouse party in Oakland and finishing the night at Zeitgeist in the City.
Politically, the trip was full of highs, the annual anarchist cafe was seemingly full of familiar faces. Lots of good discussions that began that night carried over into the next two days, with Saturday's Bookfair, and the BASTARD on Sunday. Although the bookfair has extended to a two day affair in recent years, the trip to Berekely for the BASTARD conference is worth skipping the second day.
The day at the bookfair was great, more reunions with old friends; chatting about politics; buying a grip of new books, pamphlets, and magazines; and sharing laughter and gossip on the scandal of the bookfair, the dumping of water on the literature/propaganda of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). The RCP had shown up to the bookfair in a typically sectarian manner, they had not reserved a table space, they demanded to be given a space on the property, and when refused by the bookfair organizers, they continued to protest while their propaganda and materials were moved by attendees to a spot outside of the San Francisco County Fair Building (the space where the bookfair is held). Sometime after this a comrade had heard enough of their complaining that their authoritarian Maoist communist group was barred from tabling, so the person did the sensible act, or maybe just did something that should have been done long before, and took a gallon of water to their propaganda.
Folks gathered outside the bookfair to continue the discussion from Doug's "Importance of Intentions in Anarchist Actions."
Unfortunately the chat ended abruptly when a few "comrades" from the RCP came back to confront the person who allegedly dumped water on their propaganda. Most folks seated leaped to the alleged water dumper's defense and told the RCP off, the RCP responded by retreating, but were later seen wandering around asking bookfair attendees to sign a petition denouncing the water attack. Sadly, a few anarchists actually went ahead and signed their petition, a truly pathetic show of solidarity with one of the worst authoritarian commies groups. PCWC wants to make it clear, we stand behind the person(s) who took action against these Maoist jerks, and share the sympathies of other comrades who have voiced their support for the action.
The BASTARD was a great time as well, Jason McQuinn, the former publisher of Anarchy Magazine did two fantastic sessions, one on Post-Leftism, the other on Max Stirner. Both were really engaging, a note to the organizers of the SF Bookfair: Give this guy a session next year, he's a great speaker.
It was back to Arizona for Collin, with the next weekend paying a short visit to the Dry River in Tucson for a discussion on networking and future statewide meetings with other Arizona anarchists.
The next weekend saw a 4AM wake up call for the drive down to Quitovac, a Tohono O'odham village in Sonora, Mexico. For the second time in two years, the O'odham of Quitovac are resisting plans for a toxic waste dump on the ceremonial lands near the village, they have again been joined by other O'odham and allies from across Mexico and the United States. The O'odham Solidarity Project, in cooperation with O'odham people on both sides, worked to get the word out that last year's victory in shutting down the dump was a temporary win, and that the traditional ceremonial land is in peril once again.
PCWC members have worked in solidarity with local O'odham youth for a few years now (before the PCWC was even kicking), and fully support the O'odham people and their fight to preserve their Himdag, their way of life, both in the Phoenix area as well as in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. O'odham people are struggling not just against the environmental racism and destruction that indigenous people across the Americas are fighting, but also the racism that comes with being a people whose land is divided by the U.S/Mexico border.
This most recent meeting in Mexico produced a resolution calling for support for the O'odham, and demanding the state of Sonora and the government of Mexico respect environmental laws and put a permanent end to this toxic dump. The Phoenix contingent had also brought down clothes, blankets, and school and medical supplies for the village school. The time spent with the kids was a fantastic experience, and PCWC looks forward to continuing to support this community in resistance.
Below are some of the snap shots of this trip, with a few notes.
Blockading the highway outside of Quitovac for traditional O'odham song.
Walking back to the village from the highway, an elder and children from Quitovac joined with those from the other side of the border.
The youth! These kids were great, at one point there was even some beat boxing and a freestyle session. The kids love hip hop!
Saying goodbye. The kids line up at the gate to say good bye.
Back on the other side of that goddamn reinforced line.
"That's one tall cactus on that hill..."(AKA) Camoflaged border patrol spy vehicle.
*Be on the look out for a PCWC sponsored anarchist pub night! Taking a cue from New York's turn of the century German anarchist movement, we will be hosting a regular social outing for anarchists & anti-authoritarians at a local bar. Official announcement and more details to follow.
*A new flier and essay are in the works, there's more t-shirts on the way, and a ton of new stuff for tabling. On the way, a new order of books from AK Press and crimethinc.
*Catch us at the Marquee Theatre on Sunday, May 24. We'll be tabling at the Propagandhi show, make sure to come out and support one our favorites acts, and stop by the table and say hi and grab a pamphlet or shirt.
*Look for a return to regular blogging as well.
And, as always, if you want to contact us, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.