Beyond Justice

From Nightfall


By now everyone is familiar with some version of this story. Jamar Clark was shot by the police on the morning of November 15th and died a few days later in the hospital. What occurred leading up the shooting is something else entirely and will not be explored here. Most are likely familiar with what followed: an occupation of the 4th Precinct’s lawn, a night of rioting, a white supremacist shooting, and more. Eventually the cold set in and the occupation was cleared, leaving many waiting to hear whether or not the officers would be indicted for their actions.

Participation in these actions was diverse; a variety of perspectives came together in one place. However, the most dominant voices were those calling for the officers to be prosecuted. Smaller demonstrations centered around this demand took place regularly after the removal of the encampment.

On March 30th it was announced that the officers who had killed Jamar Clark would not be charged. This sparked a day of protests across the city. Remarkably, the tone of these demonstrations had changed very little, as the crowds continued to chant “prosecute the police!” On June 1st, the FBI announced they would not indict the officers either. Protests have taken place since then and have remained faithful to this slogan, demanding what has already been unquestionably denied.

This brings certain tensions to the forefront: we cannot appeal to one part of the system for justice against another part; it is all the same system. Putting the police on trial and even behind bars will never dismantle the entire structure of cops, courts, and prisons—in fact, one might argue it actually supports that structure. Yet protesters continue to demand such a thing.

It is important to remember that from the beginning the call to “prosecute the police” did not speak for everyone. Especially within the first few days following the shooting, the chant was commonly interrupted with “fuck the police.” From this perspective, the demand for prosecution is less about actually prosecuting the officers and more about bringing into the political system those who previously existed outside of it. To say “fuck the police” is to say to the government: ‘there is nothing you can do for us.’ By channeling this sentiment into a political demand (for prosecution, something the government can do) it lowers the possibility of destabilizing unrest, the likes of which was seen on the night of November 18th. If people believe that there is something the government can do for them they can easily be bought off with a small carrot, and ultimately, swept under the rug while self-appointed leaders consolidate their power.

This would explain why there are still protests for prosecution despite its impossibility. People are still angry, as are we, that police officers get away with murder. But this is nothing new. The state has always had a monopoly on violence and the police are the armed guards of the social order. Let us not forgot that in this country the police evolved from slave patrols. In many of these past instances, people have recognized that there is no justice to be found from the same system that deals us injustice—and so they burnt everything down. The fires of Baltimore and Ferguson still burn fresh in our memories, but we can’t forget Los Angeles in 1992 or the countless revolts of the 60’s and 70’s.

In these cities, however, police continue to kill with impunity. So the answer is not simply to burn everything down, although perhaps that is a good start. We must simultaneously destroy the structures that dominate and oppress us (such as the police) as well as build our communities so that we don’t need things like police anymore. It is important in this process that we do not replicate what the police do, but instead reevaluate our understandings of law, crime, justice, and pretty much everything. A small glimpse of this world could be seen during the 4th precinct occupation in November, when everyone was given food and shelter for a short time. It was far from perfect, but it is crucial to know that these are not fantasies in our heads but realities that we create.

For a world without police!

“Even The Weather Is Like ‘Fuck Trump’”

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota

1“If Trump comes out here we’re really gonna ride” – Anonymous, Concordia Ave & Grotto St, July 9th

There are nearly a hundred of us milling around behind the Minneapolis Convention Center. We’re told that this is the only entrance available for a motorcade but I am skeptical. The police advised the Trump campaign to hold their event here rather than their initial choice due to security risks; the Convention Center has many options for entering and exiting the building. It would follow that a motorcade would have multiple options as well.

Across the intersection, there is a man who I was told is a Trump supporter, yelling at the crowd. It’s unclear if he was actually attending the expensive fundraising event, or just wanted to confront the anti-Trump protest. In either case, he never made it inside. He had his phone and hat snatched away, and when he attacked he was beaten on the ground.

Not much later, the crowd is met by a small crew of people in black bloc gear. I am simultaneously excited and uneasy; the past year has not been a kind one to advocates of anti-surveillance practices like wearing masks. On March 30th, during a demonstration in response to the announcement that the officer who murdered Jamar Clark would not be indicted, masked protesters were confronted and physically ejected in a very coordinated act by many amongst the managerial class. The recent protests surrounding the death of Philando Castile, particularly the riot of July 9th, sparked remarkable backlash against supposed anarchists, usually identified by wearing a mask. The tension between those who wish to manage protest and those who wish to disguise their identity likely resonates far and wide, however in the Twin Cities it was the shooting of five protesters during the 4th Precinct occupation by white supremacists that allowed for much more extensive policing on behalf of the managers.

Surprisingly, many enthusiastically welcomed the masked crew, and many more eagerly donned the black bandannas handed out. With any luck, these practices will continue to become familiar and normalized. When engaging in direct action, or supporting those who are, masks are a simple step in countering repression.

***

As the fundraiser came to a close, Secret Service officers suddenly flooded outside of a side entrance and into the parked motorcade waiting. Several dozen rushed towards the cars but were met by the police scrambling to control the crowd. Some fights broke out in this moment and a few bottles flew towards the police line that was forming.

Once the motorcade got away, I returned to the front of the Convention Center where Trump supporters were desperately making their way through the protest. Shredded Trump signs were already covering the ground while their previous owners attempted to escape. A cameraman was surrounded and removed from the crowd and his equipment trashed. Other cameramen were also ejected as graffiti was tagged along the walls and more Trump supporters emerged from the building.

Before police had a chance to move in, the crowd dispersed and avoided any arrests. Rather than stick around for some sort of symbolic display with the cops, we retreated while we were ahead. In the end, Trump was shown that he cannot come to the Twin Cities without serious trouble, and this was supposed to be a private event. His donors were shown that they are not welcome here and will think twice before voicing support next time. And lastly, the Minneapolis Convention Center was shown there will be consequences for hosting far-right events.

In addition to achieving these goals, it appears that the initiative of rebels on the streets has taken a qualitative leap forward. This is promising, however while social peace reimposes itself we must continue to sharpen our antagonism towards oppression in all of its forms, not simply that of the far-right.

– one antagonist of many

On The Slowdown

From Nightfall


Author’s Note: The following, originally published in the first issue of NIGHTFALL, is put in a new light given certain recent events. The murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge by gunmen who were motivated by the high profile killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile has cops everywhere terrified that they might be next. Numerous police departments—including Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Anthony and Maplewood locally—have announced that cops will patrol in pairs rather than alone for the foreseeable future. Rather than engaging in tired moral debates on the justifications or lack thereof to kill cops, we should turn our attention to the fact that the police have had their coverage of the city cut down significantly. Do the math: if every officer who previously patrolled alone now has to travel with a partner, there are now half as many. It is now less likely to encounter officers on patrol, and more likely to have longer response times when crimes are reported. This means less harassment, less brutality, and more breathing room. It’s not clear how long these orders will remain in effect, let’s make the best of it!

A news story made the rounds this spring about rumors of a slowdown in the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th precinct. The story alleged that during the month of April there had been a 51% drop in stops in the precinct, a 45% drop in arrests, and a 32% drop in stop and frisks. We are told that the slowdown is because officers are reluctant to do their jobs if they will be chastised for it, supposedly related to some bad publicity MPD received after officers pulled over a Target executive. However, it is obvious to anyone that the heightened hostility between MPD and the local population sparked by the shooting of Jamar Clark is at least partly responsible.

Some community groups have spoken out against the officers’ unwillingness to “protect and serve.” We will join no such chorus. In fact, we would like to encourage MPD to do their jobs less, or not at all. We consider this slowdown to be a regrettably missed opportunity—just imagine how much more we could have gotten away with while the police took the scenic route to answer 911 calls! Squatters could have cracked a new home while MPD ignored a report of potential trespassing. A suspicious person or two walking down the street would be saved the frisk while out writing anti-police slogans that demoralized the officers even more, extending the slowdown. Unfortunately, not everyone missed the opportunity to capitalize on the strike; shootings have proliferated in the area so far this year. It’s important to emphasize that this occurs not because of the police’s absence, but due to the conditions imposed on these communities (often via police).

In any case, the residents of north Minneapolis were subjected to a few less interactions with the pigs this year. This slowdown simply directs our attention to the importance of conceiving of police not as a mythical entity but instead as a group of individuals who are tasked with controlling populations. We don’t say that to inspire empathy—the opposite, in fact—but to point out that as humans their control is not infinite. They utilize cameras, cars, and snitches to expand their reach but it is still far from total. Minimizing their capacity to function is in our best interest, not as a goal in and of itself but rather as a means to facilitate the transformation of life and the creation of new worlds.

We Lost

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota


We lost.

We refers to not the we of any group, organization, or cluster, but to partisans of revolt, rebels, all who desire to spread anarchy (which is quite divergent from those who call themselves anarchists).

Besides the police departments, the so-called protest leadership, community groups, and non-profit organizations have had months to hone their tactics and maneuvers. We knew this and yet we let our guard down.

On Wednesday the 30th it was announced that no charges would be brought against the officers who murdered Jamar Clark. After months of protest there was no longer any recourse left for justice to be found within the system. However, this did little to halt the demands for prosecution, for reform.

Two demonstrations take the streets, one from the south and the other from the north who meet in downtown, below the empty halls of power. The same boring speeches echo throughout the plaza—the revolutionary rhetoric, the Black Panther references—not enough to hide their ultimately liberal nature.

A single march makes its way back to Plymouth Ave in north Minneapolis. Many participants have donned masks and more have been distributed along with flyers encouraging secure behavior (covering one’s face, not talking to police, de-arresting comrades, etc.). The stale chant of “prosecute the police” has fallen in favor of “fuck the police,” something quite significant in a city so accustomed to the logic of reformism. Bank windows tremble as we pass. And yet we hesitate.

At Plymouth Ave, the march joins the crowd that had congregated around the site of Jamar’s death. Within minutes, various so-called community leaders and others surround everyone who had covered their face, deeming them agitators and pushing them away from the crowd—and away from each other in order to prevent solidarity. Anyone wearing a mask is threatened and in some cases assaulted. Any and every manipulation is employed in order to force people to either remove their masks or face consequences—including snitch-jacketing and accusations of being a white supremacist intent on another shooting.These made convenient excuses to impose control over the crowd, as evidenced by the people of color who were also confronted as ‘white agitators’ for covering their faces.

However not everyone taking part in this pacification campaign necessarily followed the so-called leadership—several people honestly did wish to drive out white supremacists or undercovers. We have respect for these people and we would stand side by side with them in their efforts, and have in the past. On the other hand, it was clear that those leading the charge were only interested in ejecting uncontrollable elements from the space. Successfully maneuvering this difficult and particular terrain will be crucial for antagonists in the future.

More important than the de-masking was the brazen imposition of order upon the space. It only took a matter of minutes to deliver a major blow to the energy of revolt in the streets that night. The police were hardly present throughout the entire evening, knowing their job was being done for them.

The long-term repercussions of this defeat remain to be seen, but it would be best not to underestimate them.

Dispatches From Minneapolis Vol. 2

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota


After the inspiring actions of the 18th, described in the previous volume of dispatches, various organizations doubled down on their efforts to lay claim to the occupation and pacify those holding it down. Politicians, clergy and similar types made regular appearances at the camp. The graffiti was removed, and the police were biding their time, hoping the protest would fizzle out on its own.

November 23rd

After a relatively calm couple of days, things heated up very quickly when a small group of masked men entered the camp, filming it. A few days earlier, armed white supremacists had briefly walked through the camp and made threats online. In this earlier group, someone recognized one of them and exposed his identity all over the internet. Making this clear connection, dozens quickly confronted the group, determined that they were indeed hostile, and forced them out. A few marshals tried to prevent an all out brawl, although the white supremacists were hurrying up the block away from the crowd. When people ran after them, the white supremacists opened fire, wounding five. Thankfully, everyone survived.

20151125_shooting01_53The police arrived soon after and secured the area, at least for their own purposes. They took their time letting an ambulance in and maced those attempting to reach the injured, while taunting the crowd with statements of “this is what you asked for.” Despite the past weeks—not to mention the past centuries—many in the crowd still approached the police for help apprehending the shooter. If we haven’t learned this lesson yet: the police are not an entity for which the goal of protecting and serving is corrupted by a few bad applies or policies. They are the enemies of anyone fighting for liberation. As such, they will not help us nor do we want their help.

November 24th



Despite rumors that the camp was going to be disbanded by the supposed leadership, the previous night’s shooting led to a call for resilience. Over a thousand came to a march in response, moving from the occupation to downtown and causing rush hour gridlock before returning to the precinct for a concert put on by the NAACP. During this concert, an angry young man hopped the police barricade in front of the building’s entrance and was arrested. After no one said anything on the microphone about it, the concert was disrupted until someone on stage was forced to acknowledge that there had been an arrest—but not without placing the blame on the person arrested.

Later in the evening, white supremacists shot at the occupation again, but this time, someone was prepared to return fire. Since that night, white supremacists have not returned, at least not out of uniform.

Since their first appearance, the language of “agitators” has been used to describe them (as opposed to their position as white supremacists), which has lent itself very conveniently to the policing of protest. Instead of being collectively against those hostile to the occupation, a paranoia began to spread , casting aspersions on anyone who looked like they possessed the potential to act of their own accord. Since “agitators” in general were considered the problem, this was considered to be the same level of suspicious as those who shot at us.

November 25th



The next night, police shoot more marker rounds after a few militants throw bricks at the precinct’s windows.

November 26th

Thousands gather for Thanksgiving and share food at the precinct. Things were mostly chill during the day, except for a couple of people booing at a couple of cops attempting to step out for a photo op. The people booing were swiftly denounced by “good” protestors for being “violent.” Even a pathetic chant of “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police” is shouted down. Later that night, after most people have left, Black Lives Matter issues new rules of conduct for the occupation are hammered out in a closed meeting before announcing them on Facebook. People at the occupation are not allowed to engage the police nor in “gang activities,” and any form of violence or property destruction is prohibited. All attempts at policing from the organizations have been crystallized in these rules.

November 27th



In South Minneapolis, several dozen march in a solidarity demonstration with the Northside uprising. A sound truck blasting anti-police hip hop followed the group the length of a major commercial artery during rush hour on Black Friday. The reception on the street was of enthusiastic support. Everyone was excited to take one of the 600 handouts that was written to explain the march, and many joined a long the way. While small, this is the first autonomous demonstration throughout this entire saga. The domination of street actions by non-profits and their ilk lead many to be suspicious of a call-out that does not have the name of an organizing body attached. This demonstration could hopefully be step towards the proliferation of autonomous actions that render the supposed leadership irrelevant.

11990634_180933208924450_7118616624101301562_nUnfortunately, back on the Northside, the organizations fill the days with meetings and workshops. Their constant presence is at least partially to ensure the implementation of their new rules. The next several days are fairly calm.

November 30th

The Mayor, along with city officials and others—including politicians who were close to the leadership—called for the occupation to end. This laid the political groundwork for an impending eviction, rumors of which began cropping up that evening. This night, the police started to make motions of a staging for an eviction, which caused folks to make an emergency call to fill up the space with bodies. Likely a false alarm, or the cops crying wolf to make sure people are exhausted for the real eviction, nothing happened.

December 2nd

It was a somber night at the camp, with most people knowing that the raid would happen soon. Like the days before, there had been rumors swirling the camp for days that the cops were going to evict the camp the night of the 2nd, although as the night went on, they became more and more credible. Some fiery literature was distributed to hopefully raise some of that fighting spirit that had been such a force a couple of weeks earlier. The icy-grip of the “leadership” was total, as the message around the camp was “We stand together, we stand in peace.” Close to 4am, as is typical, the police moved in and quickly destroyed the occupation and made several arrests. Everyone was released shortly after.

23385209192_c66fc6d387_k

 

Conflict in Minneapolis: Terrorism and Civil War

From It’s Going Down

igdcropThe night of the 23rd, white supremacists shot at people who chased them out of the 4th Precinct occupation in Minneapolis. Later that night, on the advice of a friend, I wrote the following:

When they walked up to the precinct, they acted off. Aloof. One was taking video. There’s no way to easily describe their demeanor but it was certainly hostile. I whispered to the people next to me that I thought those were the white supremacists but I didn’t know for sure. I approached behind perhaps a dozen others to confront them. I picked up a stick of firewood, to use as a bat if it came to that. People asked them what they were about. One said they were here for Jamar. I could have sworn he stuttered as he looked at one of the banners hung next to him to make sure he said the right name. The one filming said they were trying to spread the cause. People didn’t buy it. Some folks were being physically restrained by others. One in an SEIU hat held back the crowd. We were not allowed to be the aggressors against this group that had been peaceful. The four had their hands up in surrender and were pressed up against the fence when they decided to leave. People followed. Most people were willing to throw down, but some yelled for calm. One of the four got socked in the face. Most people stopped a quarter of the way up the block, where you could still see the precinct through the parking lot on the corner. I wanted to follow and maybe get their plates. I walked up the block, but others run ahead of me. Then. POP POP POP POP POP. I don’t know what it is at first. But then I see the muzzle flash. Then I hear it whiz by me. Then I duck, lunging behind the closest car for cover. This is the same move I made last week one block away when the cops shot less-lethal rounds at us. But these weren’t. While dodging behind cars, I hear someone scream for help. I call out for folks to help them, then I run back to the camp.

After the shooting, one primary reaction was for it to be labelled terrorism. And that’s understandable, from a certain point of view. Making it clear that what the state does and doesn’t call terror shows that it’s completely political in nature. Terrorism is defined by how it is used, which is as an instrument of the state. That which is terrorism is that which threatens the state’s power. This would explain why white supremacist attacks are not met with the same level of repression, especially compared to anti-police rebellion. Most of the time, however, people remain simply indignant on the double-standards of the word’s use. Some even appear desperate that the state recognize them, with the seemingly endless calls for the government, as well as the media, to use the word terrorism to describe the attack.

The “protest leadership” in Minneapolis—the NAACP, the Black Lives Matter leaders, non-profit NOC with Democratic party ties, with a significant amount of overlap between these groups—has reacted to the shooting the same way the state reacts to terrorism. The calls for unity, the security measures that are supposed to keep us safe but actually do just the opposite. For example, it’s been called for that people are not supposed to wear masks anymore at the 4th Precinct. But wearing masks is a way to hide one’s identity from the police and surveillance apparatus, which is crucial to any serious form of resistance. Of course, we know that the leadership is dedicated to making sure that no resistance ever becomes serious. People are quick to point out potential “agitators” or “troublemakers” for expulsion with little evidence. This is clearly a police operation designed to remove militants under the guise of protecting the camp from white supremacists.

If it’s not terrorism, then what is it? Civil war. There is not a ninety nine percent of us that needs to be enlightened by the proper literature or media coverage, there are people who want to uphold white supremacy and those who want to destroy it. And on the night of the 23rd, those two groups came together to experience conflict, only attenuated by the self-designated marshals restraining people. On the night of the 24th, there was another shooting by suspected white supremacists as well, but this time someone returned fire. As conflict across the world escalates, this will happen more and more. And it’s certainly not glamorous; if there’s one thing I learned from almost getting shot, it’s that I’d prefer not to do it again. But I’m not sure that’s going to be an option.

The Clash of “Communities;” the State of the Occupation at the 4th Precinct

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota


“A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.”  – Frantz Fanon

Ok, let’s take a look at this mess:

• “Together as a community we are going through something no community wants to face together… It is the dignity of neighborliness, the dignity of community, it is the dignity of the city of Minneapolis… It is that strength that will carry us through as a community…My vision is that we catalyze this moment for peace…that we strengthen the bonds of our communities with police and with each other.” (Mayor Hodges)

• “All different types of people from the community are protesting.” (Comment on Twitter)

• “Earlier on Friday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton met with Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, NAACP leaders, the commissioner of the department of public safety and other officials to discuss measures such as community policing.” (From an article in the Guardian)

• “Community has been up all night.” (From the Black Lives Matters Twitter)

• “Tensions between black community, Minneapolis police resurface after fatal shooting.” (Title of an article in the Star Tribune)

• “Augsburg college and its students are a part of the Minneapolis community and have been affected by the homicide of Jamar Clark, lack of police accountability, and structural racism and targeting and harming communities of color.” (Augsburg ADSG)

• “It seems to me, you all don’t want help from the white community.” (Comment on Twitter)

Wait, what? I’m sorry, but communities inside of communities inside of what community? The Minneapolis community, the black community, the north side community, the white community: is community a place, an attribute, or something else? Regardless of our own confusion at the occupation, the city and police certainly know already. On the insidempd website, there is a section titled “Community. ” Under that heading are the sub-headings “Crime Prevention,” “Investigative Crime Mapping,” “City and Precinct Crime Statistics,” “Policies and Procedures Manual,” and “Chaplains and Chiefs Council.” Community, for the city, is first of all an activity, not a static group of people. But what is that activity? Clearly, lawful self-management, or, in other words, self-policing. Community is an operation, laden with moral overtones, to attempt to cause policing as an activity to proliferate. And, as anyone at the 4th precinct on Friday could see, it must be working quite well since two groups nearly came to fists over the idea—a tame one—that someone might burn the American flag. We need to drop the idea that the police are merely here to repress us. They repress us like the shepherd represses sheep: sure, he blocks their potential movement with fences and guard dogs, but he encourages them to move and intermingle within the prescribed area. This injunction to “live! But live the right way!” is reflected in the petitions directed at the police to “see how peaceful we were being” when we were maced, or in the Augsburg ADSG’s recent demand to “provide community oversight of the police with full disciplinary power” and to “require that officers live in the communities in which they serve.” Community, here, is an extra-juridical term, a super-policing term used to transform the abstract Law into a moral category. This is the community of priests, the Priests of Order that creates its blessed ones and its pariahs every time someone tells a 16 year old that he’s “hurting the movement” when he throws a bottle.

A lot of the confusion on the ground is a result of wanting to think “community” as either a place or as the hypostatized version of an attribute. If it’s the first, that means that without anything happening, we could enter or exit “the community” like a building or a park, which would be meaningless. If it’s the second, that means that regardless of what that group is doing, it forms a community, so that, if, for example, all the poor and disenfranchised Irish immigrants in 19th century New York City were put in isolation chambers and kept from interacting, their merely “being Irish” would still make them a community. But there’s really no reason to resort to philosophical abstractions: let’s say they all worked full time in increasingly micro-managed and diversified factories and lived in single family apartment units. Would they still form a “working class Irish community?” Unfortunately, I think the police are ahead of us on this question. They know that “community” has no substance outside of the relations and connections between people. The word itself comes from the Latin “communitatem” meaning “fellowship of relations or feelings.” Relations or feelings, these are what is held in common in a time of action. There is no “Community” that just is and that is finally coming out to demonstrate as if out its cave. There is only community happening or “being built” as Unicorn Riot said on one of their Twitter posts.

In the end, there is no “Community” except as a meaningless abstraction. Let us drop this confusing term. Our tie to it is moral and not strategic. It transforms the dynamic relations between words and bodies into a mass of static bodies and “statements” removed from context. There are only communities (in the plural) flowing in and out of each other, forming conscious and subconscious bonds, exchanging words and telling stories, building fires and barricades, blocking police and policing others, throwing rocks and snitch-jacketing. There are the communities of friends and accomplices that blend in and out of each other seamlessly; and there are the communities of police doing the same. This strategic intelligence already exists outside the 4th precinct, but it exists, paradoxically, side-by-side with the moral language of a church of radicalism that breaks the essential bonds being built in our actions. This logic of sadness is the logic of pictures and theory, or, the logic of death and dead things.

So, yes, communit(ies) continue to be built at the occupied 4th Precinct. The absurdity of the claim that “police from our own communities should police us” becomes more obvious day after day as we see the confusion around “community” come to a head. Let’s be clear: there are no “police” outside of the “policing communities.” We not only don’t need the police- this is obvious—our own “leaders” are the ones responsible for personally reproducing it as a moral necessity at the occupation. Down with the horrible monster, Community! Long live the communities!

“In the World through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” – Frantz Fanon

-A pariah of The Community

Dispatches From Minneapolis Vol. 1

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota


#JamesAndPlymouth, then #Justice4Jamar, have joined the numerous hashtags that spread across the globe in response to yet another police shooting. James & Plymouth references the intersection by which Jamar Clark was shot in the head by the police, which occurred while he was handcuffed according to witnesses.

The shooting took place on Plymouth Ave in North Minneapolis, a predominantly black neighborhood of the city. In 1967, Plymouth Ave was the scene of a so-called race riot, where black insurgents battled police for multiple nights as they looted and burned stores. In 2002, another police shooting set off a riot in North Minneapolis when residents attacked police and burned media vehicles at the scene. Earlier this year it was designated as a federal “promise zone” which is aimed at spurring economic development, one of eleven in the country. Also on this list is St. Louis County.

November 15th

After a press conference from the NAACP, people gathered at the intersection of James & Plymouth for a march. Several activists were speaking in front of the crowd and media. Before long, people held hands and stood blocking the street on both ends of the block. This was declared to be a “no cop zone,” although only symbolically. After some chanting, we started marching west toward the nearby MPD precinct. Once there, again speakers addressed the crowd. At one point, a brick was hurled at the building.

As the sun set, people discussed what to do next. Some were very adamant about marching to some event nearby where the Mayor and Police Chief would be. Others intended to stay at the precinct, supposedly to pressure the officers inside to do something. Both occurred, some marched to the Mayor while the rest set up a makeshift camp in the vestibule of the precinct. Late into the night, a side entrance to the building was also blocked while people threw bottles at police and sabotaged their vehicles.

CT6oXKZU8AA-YRN.jpg_largeThroughout these actions, organizers make fairly constant reference to their actions as being done by “the community.” However, even putting aside the myth of the community, there is an important distinction between the people who live in the neighborhood where these actions have taken place and the people participating in many of the actions. Using the language of “the community” erases this distinction. Many people who ostensibly lived in the area were unhappy with the arrival of the activists groups on their block. On the first day alone, residents interrupted the rally several times, telling off the activists who show up for the cameras. This dynamic continued in the next days.

November 16th

To the surprise of many, those camped in the precinct’s vestibule were not arrested or evicted by the police. In fact, the occupation grew, with tents and a fire pit sprouting up throughout the day. It began to take on a familiar “Occupy” atmosphere.

In the evening, people once again marched, this time to the freeway. 94W was blocked for over an hour, as police facilitated drivers stuck in traffic onto the closest exit. One driver plowed through the crowd, which resulted in a short brawl between angry protesters and the police trying to protect the vehicle. Eventually the police gave a final warning to those blocking the freeway and those not comfortable with offering themselves up for arrest left. A spontaneous march then took place, back to the occupied precinct.

IMG_2427Even given the impromptu and unorganized nature of the late march, Black Lives Matter marshals remained in control. Directing traffic, regulating how many lanes we were allowed to take up; ensuring everyone’s safety, as they might put it. These protest marshals have been a constant feature of actions put on by Black Lives Matter and other affiliated organizations, and most of the time can be recognized by their yellow vests. As the Conflict MN blog has pointed out already, these marshals act as an extension of the police, even if they don’t quite realize it.

So in this way, these activist groups are policing the neighborhood in a way that the uniformed cops were unable to do. By initiating all calls for action, they can also contain the actions. Without them, the police would have to deal with the unpredictable activity of those angered by the shooting, and have nothing but brute force to handle it.

Late into the night, Jamar Clark was taken off of life-support, and announced dead.

November 17th

Anticipating potential anger over the announcement of Jamar’s death, Black Lives Matter called for “healing spaces” at the precinct on Tuesday night

November 18th

Early in the afternoon,a SWAT team raided the occupation of the MPD precinct’s vestibule. For the next several hours, the occupiers and their supporters rallied in front of the station that was now blocked off by police. The scandal, according to many activists, was that this raid took place while the Mayor was meeting with the so-called “leaders” of the protest. The problem here is twofold: we must not negotiate in any way with those in power, and we must not put anyone in a leadership position to do so. There should be no interest in meeting with the Mayor, nor should the absence of select individuals be debilitating to an action.

People began to surround the building and blockade all entrances the precinct. As the night progressed, police attempted to regain ground by making sudden charges only to retreat just as quickly. These maneuvers often included mace and marker rounds, and prompted objects to be thrown from the crowd, although just as many felt obligated to deride their fellow demonstrators with chants of “peaceful protest.” Large tarps were fixed to the fences at the side entrances in order to block the view of the police as well as impede their less lethal weapons.

It’s notable that the building has not always housed the MPD precinct. This would explain it’s vulnerabilities, the relative ease with which the station was occupied and blockaded. One side of the precinct did not even have a single surveillance camera, which was made up for by a mobile camera tower erected earlier during the occupation. This camera was eventually toppled and used to barricade the closest entrance.

This seemed to provoke more marker rounds being fired at the crowd, which was met in turn with more bottles and rocks. Pleas for peace went ignored as bricks were broken up and hurled over the fence at the cops. A dumpster from the alley was dragged out but too wet from the rain to ignite. The street fighting continued over an hour, as people threw bricks while ducking behind cars to dodge the rounds fired by the police. As the crowd thinned out, multiple molotov cocktails were launched at the cops.

Very quickly, many activists laid the blame on “white anarchists” for the violence, something the police picked up on the next day. This denies the fact that many people who fought the police were black, and whose political affiliations could not easily be determined. Most militants appeared to be from the neighborhood, unlike the activists telling them what is or isn’t acceptable forms of resistance.

November 19th

The occupation of the precinct’s lawn continued to grow, with a couple hundred gathering in response to Black Lives Matter’s call for a mass occupation in the evening. People gathered around fire-pits, handed out donated pizzas, as well as warm clothing. As tempting as it would be to call it an autonomous space, the reality was that even with the boys in blue idling behind the barricades, it was still densely policed by activists and the abundance of cameras. Several elected officials were invited and spoke to the crowd, hoping to soothe any rebellious tensions.

They were not entirely successful, as the precinct was decorated by multiple graffiti writers. The police responded by shooting more marker rounds into the occupation. Two men were later arrested, accused of being the vandals (more info to come on legal support.)

CUOpvA7UwAAXKQ2.jpg_largeAs the activist groups struggle to regain control of the movement, it’s clear that their legitimacy has been irreparably damaged in the eyes of those interested in fighting against the systems of oppression. Nothing is over.

On Throwing Rocks, or Thoughts on the Demonstration at the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 11/18

Anonymous Submission to Conflict Minnesota


“[T]he time of passive resistance has ended, that nonviolence was a useless strategy and could never overturn a white majority regime bent on retaining its power at any cost” – Nelson Mandala

“Y’all are some singers. Y’all are just like them, you’re all cops.” – A man at Sunday’s demonstration at the 4th Precinct.

As the cloud of mace lifted, the same calls for “peaceful protest!”—converted later into a chant—were heard above the thronging panicked crowd. Indignant rants of fury against violence would follow. But what does this righteous rage against “undeserved violence” and “unaccountable police work” presuppose? That there is deserved violence and accountable police work. What does this accountable, correct use of violence look like for a police force tasked with protecting the given distribution of power in a country like the United States, a country founded on the violence of dispossession and slavery; a country kept alive by vicious colonial expansion abroad and precise mechanisms of internalized normality at home? We got to see both sides of this power operation last night when the essential violence of the cops was met with the injunction to be peaceful by many of the protesters.

But who defines what “violence” is? And who decided that being “peaceful” was not only the best strategy, but the only possible one? In short, the cops did, but the cops conceived as a mechanism. The police are really nothing other than a mechanism for neutralizing threats to the state’s monopoly on violence, a monopoly that includes the authority to define it. Hence the activists’ repeated claims that they can police their neighborhoods. They’re right, and in this sense, the angry man at Sunday’s demonstration was entirely correct. The consequences of this “community policing” became immediately obvious when they physically excluded his body and voice by forming a circle and singing over him.

Let us not forget COINTELPRO’s expressed aims in the 60’s: “Prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups. This is of primary importance.” And what was their fear concerning a so-called “black messiah?” That he “abandon his ‘obedience’ to ‘white, liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence).” Thus, when protesters, and especially the activists, declare their own righteous peaceful purity, they do so only by excluding the hooded ones near the back who chose to throw water bottles, stones, bricks, and trash cans at the police macing us. Is it really surprising that, after the cops clearly retreated while being pelted with stones, the activists still present the self-congratulatory and yet self-victimizing image of the pacifist protester? When activists make calls to “prosecute the police” and to “have black cops in our neighborhoods,” they are merely expressing rage at the most flamboyant aspects of a fluid power dynamic that systematically colonizes abroad and at home. They just want to pretty it up. As a 16 year old yelled at the black cop who came to replace a white cop: “fuck you too, you can go home as well.”

When activists declare that the stone throwing was merely a reaction to the violence of the police and assure the media that it was quickly quelled, they rob the event of it’s plurality and exclude those “who don’t get it,” who “were raised differently,” or who “strongly reacted.” It doesn’t matter what race the person is saying it is, this is colonial logic that de facto excludes any form of resistance that doesn’t appeal to the police, the state, and the media. It implicitly, through its own violent exclusion of the resistance of others, supports the world as it is. It is reactionary. ”In its simplest form this nonviolence signifies to the intellectual and economic elite of the colonized country that the bourgeoisie has the same interests as they.” (Frantz Fanon) And when they declare that this violence will only provoke the police into attacking us (or even imply that those hit with marking bullets brought it upon themselves) this legitimizes the violence of the police, while delegitimizing the violence of the kids throwing bottles. Thus, again, activists show themselves to be doing the work of the police.

What is forgotten every time a well-meaning activist calls for peace in the face of rock throwing at a demonstration is that they are deciding, again, that they are the ones who get to define what violence is and where it begins. For them, disrupting a highway is not violence, but throwing a bottle is violence; blocking police inside their station (physically stopping bodies’ ability to move) is nonviolent, whereas slashing tires is violent; and, of course, physically and verbally excluding those who have a different idea of what violence is, in the most spectacular reversal yet, not violence, but telling a cop you’ll “beat his ass right now” is violent. Later, the activists play hero because of their own “bravery in the face of arrest or police violence” while again imploring those who also took risks by throwing stones (but perhaps didn’t want to throw their bodies into an ineffective gesture), to “stop their violence.” Again, the enlightened elite –the religious leaders, activists, and intellectuals- both black and white, know what’s best for people who just don’t understand what needs to happen. They don’t get it that their real solution won’t come from self-determined revolt, but from [Insert here: Appeals to the media/Peaceful demonstration/Socialism/Anarchism/Pan-Africanism/martyrdom].

This is not a call for unrestrained and random violence. This is not a call from a hardened militant. This is a call to respect the diversity of tactics, and the self-determinate violence that already exists on the streets, to the shame of the professional activists. This is a call for plurality and coordination in a decisive time.

– Someone standing in the back

What It Means to ‘Hit Them Where it Hurts’

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota

sp4Twice this summer, the Metro Transit Police Department has come under fire (figuratively) for so-called excessive force. The latest incident involves a black teenager with autism being given multiple seizures by cops. On the morning of Sunday the 20th, dozens gathered to protest this act of police brutality by shutting down the light rail. The shut down—timed to interrupt people traveling to the opening game of the Vikings—is the latest in a series of seemingly militant actions to emerge from the Twin Cities-area Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, like the rest, ended up being more media spectacle than substantive action.

Police preparing to escort the march.
sp2
SPPD vehicle with attached speaker (not an LRAD, see below.)

The march route, from Lexington Parkway to the St. Paul Police Western District building and back, had been pre-disclosed to the police in order to ensure, supposedly, people’s safety. This is quite similar to another action earlier this month aimed at disrupting the Minnesota State Fair:

City officials said at a news conference Friday that an “open line” of communication is in place between police and protest organizers and that they shared an expectation that the demonstration would unfold safely, leaving no reason for the public to stay away” (Corporate news)

It certainly begs the question why no one should stay away if the purpose is to disrupt the fair, but we know better than that. The purpose is to draw attention to their issues, and their organizations. Under the veil of militant disruption, often said to be “hitting them where it hurts,” these groups obtain their desired media coverage without any actual hindrance to the system’s functioning. As the corporate media summarizes:

Metro Transit replaced the shut down light rail lines with buses between [the affected] stations. Staff from Metro Transit were on hand to direct customers.
“It is very similar to what would take place during a mechanical failure that might cause a delay, a car stuck on our tracks or some other disruption,” said Metro Transit spokesperson Howie Padilla.

Close-up of the white supremacists. The one on the left is named BC Johnson, the organizer of the Confederate Flag rally at the capital earlier this month.
Close-up of the white supremacists. The one in the middle’s name in Jason Thomas. The one on the right’s name is BC Johnson, who organized a cancelled Confederate Flag rally at the capital earlier this month.

Organizers also attempted to prevent conflict between the crowd and a handful of white supremacists—politely called Three Percenters—that seemed very upset about missing the Vikings game. While one of their flags did end up disappearing, the tactics of the organizers succeeded in disempowering people from being able to concisely handle them. These tactics included the verbal berating of those who moved to confront them, and in some cases using their bodies to physically protect the white supremacists when people got too close. This is likely not because they cared for the well-being of racists, but because an escalating situation means that they lose control of it. The more peaceful and passive people are, the more the organizers maintain control, and by extension, so do the police.

SPPD in an unmarked car trailing the march, while the white supremacists run to catch up.
Metro Transit police in an unmarked car trailing the march, while the white supremacists run to catch up.

This model; a model of demands, media coverage, raising consciousness, and making them listen to us, is presented as our only option. It has practically monopolized the entire local terrain of struggle. The following text is from a flyer distributed along the march (adapted from It’s Going Down) that so succinctly clarifies the flaws in this model of protest:

IF I DIE IN POLICE CUSTODY BURN EVERYTHING DOWN

Since the uprising in Ferguson, everything has both changed and remained the same. While activists praise their efforts to change the conversation and perhaps achieve the implementation of certain reforms—body cameras come to mind—the functioning of white supremacy continues on, unrelenting. Over 1,100 people have been killed by police in the United States since Mike Brown.

After the rebellions that erupted in Ferguson, and then in Baltimore, the non-profits and their bureaucrats have been forced to adapt to the changing climate of militancy in the streets. For them, however, revolt becomes a means of winning the same useless reforms as before. Indict the killer cop, or else. Pass this civil rights law, or else. But we see a world beyond that. There is nothing those in power can offer us that will truly solve our problems, and every demand only reinforces their control.

When people revolt in the streets, they are directly attacking what brings misery to their lives: the police that harass, arrest, and in all likelihood will shoot them, the businesses that force them to work to survive under capitalism. They block highways, trains, and streets; the material systems that facilitate the domination of our lives.

We don’t do this to force the hand of our oppressors, we do this to find an escape from oppression entirely. But we must learn to sustain ourselves without relying on the very systems we attack. Across the world, people have liberated space, such as houses, gardens, squares or entire territories. In the squats of Athens and the fields of the ZAD, in Tahrir Square and the Mi’kmaq Blockade, rebels are finding ways to build a life worth living.

“Wherever the economy functions, it is impossible for us to determine our lives for ourselves.

The value of the blockade isn’t found in the message it sends, but rather in the direct ways it blocks the machinations of capital and makes space for our own activity.”

 

Update: A contributor submitted this photo confirming that the speaker attached to the SPPD vehicle was not an LRAD.

sppd

“Minneapolis Could Easily Burn Like Baltimore”

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota


“Minneapolis could easily burn like Baltimore.”

Or so says a community organizer within the Black Lives Matter movement. And a number of so-called community leaders would agree. But this acknowledgement is followed up by solutions to make sure that it doesn’t. The list of demands, whether body cameras or better jobs, the protest marshals placed between the cops and ourselves, all tools to prevent things from getting out of control. Quite often they don’t even attempt to hide the fact that they are de-escalators. And here is where the community leaders find themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with the police—both working just as adamantly as the other to eliminate unrest.

SPPD officer chats with protesters at Hamline Park.
SPPD officer chats with protesters at Hamline Park.

Indeed, many participants of the recent “Emergency Shutdown” action in St. Paul actually felt keen on shaking an officer’s hand as he walked freely through through the timid crowd. And despite the call to shut down the streets, a number of so-called allies actually took to picking back up construction equipment that had been knocked over to stop traffic. Minor stoppages occurred along the Green Line, but the event remained entirely contained by the organizers and their designated de-escalators. Instead of blockage used to physically interrupt the material functioning of white supremacy, it is used to draw attention to the cause. Not so different from last month’s solidarity march for Sandra Bland, invoking her mother’s call for “war”, but failing to go beyond an empty media spectacle.

Police escort along University Ave.
Police escort along University Ave.
Unmarked police car in front of Target, next to SPPD station.
Unmarked police car in front of Target, next to SPPD station.

The riot, on the other hand, becomes the last-resort threat in order to force concessions. But liberation from the systems that oppress us cannot be found within the realm of politics. There are no laws that can grant us liberation, no politicians that can promise it us, no amount of reforms that could possibly address the basic operation of the forces that control our lives. Instead, they are used to restore peace, by which they mean order. Therefore, every maneuver on the field of politics can be understood as an attempt to delay our liberation.

Minnesota State Patrol prepared at the on-ramp to I-94, which the demonstration never approached.
Minnesota State Patrol prepared at the on-ramp to I-94, which the demonstration never approached.

Instead of attempting to dissect why certain people try to manage dissent, we find it much more fruitful to sketch a way out. As mentioned earlier, blockage has emerged as an instinctual response to police violence. To block the flows of the city is to interrupt the physical processes through which forces of domination manifest. The riot allows for these blockades to multiply: blocking roads and trains with dumpsters and debris instead of leaving our bodies vulnerable, blocking police operations with projectiles, while also providing the opportunity to directly attack the structures of our enemies and temporarily claim territory as autonomous. We must also learn how to expand beyond the riot as well, pushing the limits until there is no going back.

Minneapolis can indeed burn just like Baltimore, and everywhere else too. It takes confidence, effort, and intention. We certainly aren’t devoid of reasons to revolt, two people have been shot by police in the Twin Cities in the past month. Police shootings are the culmination of so many other, more subtle forms of oppression, and it’s unfortunate that at the current moment we seem to be unable to act before tragedy strikes. Yet, it won’t matter when we act if we cannot escape the impotent symbolism that activism has accustomed us to.

National Night Out: Community Policing Coming To Your Local Block Party

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota


This week, citizens across the country will come together once again for National Night Out, an annual event held on the first Tuesday of August, which aims to bring people together with law enforcement in order to strengthen police relations, and boost crime-fighting efforts. According to CBS, Minnesota leads the nation in participation, and Minneapolis was ranked #1 out of the whole country last year. This year, there are over one thousand events in Minneapolis and several hundred in St. Paul.

While getting to know one’s neighbors and organizing together usually garners praise amongst anti-authoritarians as well as the left, this form is being used by law enforcement as a policing operation. Neighborhoods aren’t organizing here for a rent strike or to obstruct police activity, but to augment existing police departments to better preserve law and order. This strategy of “community policing” sounds pleasant, and is even called for by many activists in response to what they see as strained relations between people and the cops, which is where police brutality supposedly stems from. But “community policing” is actually a key component of counter-insurgency. For those of us who see not only police brutality, not only the police, but policing itself as fundamentally oppressive, it’s clear that National Night Out has got to go.

Not only do cops attend various National Night Out events in order to improve relations, but citizens are also encouraged—usually with the help of neighborhood associations—to form their own citizen crime-fighting initiatives. The most popular of these being neighborhood watch groups, like the one George Zimmerman was a part of when he murdered Trayvon Martin in Florida. It’s not so surprising then, that after Zimmerman’s acquittal, people took their rage to the cops. Regardless of whether he wore a badge, he was working on behalf of law and order.

As time passes, as the streets of the United States are lit ablaze again and again with rioting, those who prefer things as they are often find themselves taking an active role in maintaining this. Whether it was waiters in Oakland who stood guard outside their bosses’ businesses during the revolt against Zimmerman’s acquittal, or bar patrons in Baltimore who felt the need to confront marchers in the streets. Those who wish to preserve the social order as it is—white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist—are organizing as a counter-insurgent force that supplements all the shortcomings of state-sponsored law-enforcement.

There is nothing inherent about neighborhood organizing being a project of policing. There is hardly more than a difference of intention between organizing to prevent anarchy as there is organizing to spread anarchy. Neighborhood assemblies have been a classic feature of uprisings all over the world, and this is certainly not a denunciation of the tactic.

Many National Night Out events will happen in every neighborhood. You can find the full lists above for Minneapolis and St. Paul, or search your own city or neighborhood for elsewhere. These events must be disrupted, and policing in general even more so. If anything, use the day, or any day for that matter, as a day to organize with your own neighbors against the police. National Night Out encourages citizens to take the initiative all year round, we must do so as well.

Power Lines: Police Brutality, Public Transit, and Development in the Twin Cities

Anonymous submission to Conflict Minnesota

cst Green LineThe Metro Transit police made the news this weekend in the Twin Cities for their significant size increase over the past few years, almost the same day as a video surfaced showing a police officer slam a handcuffed passenger onto the ground for not paying the light rail fare. The outcry has focused on the unnecessary brutality administered on the black man who they say was not resisting, but the police have the honesty to admit that this was all within protocol and completely legal. Like many conversations around police brutality, it is too easy to get stuck in the quagmire of legality and morality, instead of the fundamentally oppressive nature of policing itself. Those who suggest that the officer’s force was excessive because he was not resisting arrest only serve to legitimize violence against those who do resist arrest.

The report on the Metro Transit Police Department’s growth described the 67% increase of officers on the force. The chief, John Harrington, who was previously the St. Paul police chief as well, also expressed his new philosophy for the department: a shift towards so-called “community policing,” which is the pleasant face of counter-insurgency. With more officers spending more time on trains, police can better project their presence and deter people from not paying the fare, which supposedly costs Metro Transit tens of thousands of dollars a week. A recent audit shows that 9% of Green Line riders don’t pay the fare—likely less now that body slams are on the table. But what is a fare other than a barrier to those who can’t afford to move around the city?

But of course, policing takes many forms beyond those in uniform, it manifests itself through the basic organization of the metropolis. For instance, let’s examine the trains themselves. Public transit aims to organize the movement of the population through the city, whether funneling them to work or to the Mall of America for shopping. It also allows for capital to expand beyond the immediate downtown areas into the surrounding neighborhoods. On the Green Line, just over a year old, billions of dollars of development has already been brought to St. Paul along the light rail. While those with money welcome the long line of developers buying up the neighborhood, the rest of us know what this really means: being pushed out of our homes, away from the cities that are colonized (again) for those wealthier and whiter than us.

Police and gentrification are two expressions of the same logic, but it is not inevitable. Resistance against this logic has sparked uprisings across the globe. A few examples might be Istanbul or Burgos, Ferguson or The Hague. The struggle against development and policing resonates beyond borders, and hopefully these revolts can inspire our struggle locally.