Sunday, November 14, 2010
Remember that photo from January 16th? Some may recall some months back, around January, when anarchists and others called out local immigrant organizations for collaborating with the police. The movement's leadership had decided that they would play with the Phoenix PD as part of their PR game with Sheriff Joe (they are each other's willing foil). They invited the cops into their planning meetings for what was then the most recent in a seemingly unending series of funeral procession-like marches to Arpaio's jails that stretched, like the domesticated anti-war marches of years before, into infinity towards both horizons with no end in sight. It was political pragmatism at its worst, since the PPD actually deports more people than the Sheriff Department does. Still, at the January 16th mobilization, the movement leaders worked closely with the Phoenix PD as it marched against Sheriff Arpaio.
This dance with the devil ended that day for most anarchists and anti-authoritarians with the police attack on the DO@ Bloc, a truly historic convergence of anarchists and revolutionary anti-authoritarian indigenous folks from around the state, which was an expedient conclusion for a movement leadership that was increasingly having to deal with anarchist and anti-authoritarian criticisms about the tameness, boringness and ineffectiveness of the struggle against the increasingly worrisome rise of the racist Right here in Arizona. Likewise the marginalization of many indigenous people within the movement and the hostility of the leadership to arguments that brought white people into situations that opposed white supremacy and controls on movement stood out to many of us as more than just problematic given the reactionary political circumstances.
We later found out as a result of the investigation following the Arpaio Five arrests that the police/movement collaboration had resulted in the compilation of a snatch/watch list which cops used to pick out particular people for arrest that day. Our understanding is that this list was in police possession ahead of time, placing more than a little doubt on the mainstream dialog about the police attack that says that cops were forced to attack by anarchist provocations. I myself was shadowed by cops while in the park and a comrade reported overhearing the officers talking about me. This was before the march.
At the time, the soft activist middle, eventually including almost every out of state radical who parachuted into town for the summer's glorious and oh-so-activist-hip fight over SB1070, refused to listen to anarchist criticisms of the cozy relationship between cops and the movement leaders, defending them without listening to local criticisms from people who had interacted with them for years. When we pointed out the obvious problems with working with cops tasked with deporting the base of the movement, not to mention the PPD's increasingly obvious corrupt and violent nature, we were treated like we had broken some taboo.
Denouncing us as sectarian, out of town activists and movement heavies combined to attempt to impose the most watered-down bourgeois popular front framework on a movement that by then was justifiably itching for radical action, regardless of whether it alienated the political middle (or forced them to choose a side). The time for moral appeals to the white center was clearly and at long last over for many people who itched for a fight back.
Well, here we are almost a year since January 16th and the latest clash with the National Socialist Movement offers us a perfect lesson that will be hard to ignore. Below you will find photos and video showing without a doubt the level of police collaboration with the NSM. For movement leaders to maintain their relationships with this racist organization in the face of this kind of evidence will be difficult indeed, although we've seen the kinds of political gymnastics they're capable of, so don't rule it out!
In this first picture you can see the NSM getting ready for a fight, surrounded by cops. Note how they are turning their flags upside down and wrapping them up to make clubs. You don't see any cops stopping them, do you? How many is that? I count at least five, maybe six, flags turned into weapons in this picture. This is not to say that we anti-fascists didn't come planning on disrupting their march -- we did. It's just worth noting the police complicity with their supposed "free speech" march. Notice also JT Ready on the far left in the glasses with the goatee marching with them. I'll come back to the significance of this a little later.
In this second photo, below, you can see an officer of the PPD (note his badge on his belt) giving an order for the NSM to stop marching. Indeed, at one point a cop was seen directing the NSM formation to tighten up.
Need more proof? Check out this video that clearly shows the cooperation between the Phoenix cops and the NSM throughout the entire march. Note how the police clear the sidewalk, moved the NSM into the street and then direct them forward.
Speaking of that, now consider this next photo! Clearly visible here are Phoenix cops with riot gear and shields standing side by side on the skirmish line with NSM shield-bearers while they blast pepper spray in the face of a protester (who is just out of the picture).
Finally, review this footage from the news. Local videographer Dennis Gilman is interviewed about his experience on Saturday. He shows the reporter some footage of everybody's favorite huggy bear Nazi, JT Ready, being allowed to pass through the police line to antagonize protesters. Later he did it again but was attacked with spit, bottles and firecrackers. Again, the cops did nothing to stop him. It seems like Nazis can come and go through the police line at will.
As Dennis points out in this interview, the cops actually extended the Nazi's permit so they could still hold their rally. This after we had held the NSM and the cops at bay in the street for well over an hour, past its expiration time. Escorting Nazis, giving them orders, letting them pass through their lines, sharing the front line with them, extending their permit -- at what point can we finally say out loud what so many of the victims of the police already know: the police are the violent arm of the state, determined to defend the existing order, whether through their own routine violence (rarely remarked upon in the dominant discourse) or, if need be, through collaboration with fascists. Either way, it's a war machine on the working class, intent on attacking and disrupting our attempts at wresting from them control of our own lives.
So what is a movement to do in the face of this obvious collusion between the white fascist street and the white fascist state? Will movement leaders just ignore it like they did on January 16th and continue to work with the murderous bastards of the PPD? Or can the movement finally understand that the cops are as much the enemy as the NSM is? It's not like this is a different Phoenix Police Department. It's the same force as in January. And it's not like they're acting differently. If you need a refresher, scroll back up to the photo introducing this article.
In fact there's actually more reason to worry about the cops, really, because as of now the Nazis don't have detention camps or deportation powers. But the police do. If someone is deported or delivered into state custody, they pass first directly through the hands of the police. Arguments that cops are just doing their jobs hold little water in terms of a defense -- after all, don't these ridiculous assertions just reinforce all the arguments anarchists make for the elimination of police entirely? But seeing the willing and natural alliance between police and Nazis has got to raise doubts in even their most stalwart defenders, I would think. No, the police are part of the problem.
If the mainstream movement leaders continue their relationships with these Nazi-lovers, then one can only presume that they find some utility in keeping them around. It can't be because it advances the struggle against the State, however, because here we are many years into this failed strategy and thousands upon thousands have been deported or, out of fear from the police more than Nazis, have self-deported themselves.
So, did we see that usefulness to the movement leadership on January 16th? Are the police convenient not because they advance the movement's larger goals of stopping deportations, but instead because they push forward the movement leadership's desire to police the radical, militant wing of the movement? As Grace, arrested that day and then blackmailed into taking a plea agreement, heads to jail next week, I know I'll be pondering that question with great interest.