No Repression Without Response! (2010)

No Repression Without Response!

Report from Vancouver March in Solidarity with G20 Arrestees

by Annie Elation

July 5, 2010

No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!
No Repression Without Response!

A rally began from Vancouver’s China Creek Park yesterday, July 4th, in solidarity with the over 900 people arrested at the G20 summits earlier this week. Before the rally began four police officers attempted to enter the rally and speak with the organizers. Clearly the treatment of organizers in Toronto could make any organizer shy of speaking with police.

A group of masked people quickly amassed in front of them yelling “No cops in the demo!”, an effective and common phrase at demos here over the last year. The police left and did not attempt to interact again with the demo in a formal way.

Banners in the demo read: “We are all the Black Block!” “Solidarity is our Weapon,” “Solidarity against Police Repression,” “Free the Toronto 900,” “Freedom to Assemble,” and “People Before Profit.”

A main goal of the demonstration was to encourage solidarity with all elements and tactics of protest used at the G20. Black masks were distributed at the beginning of the demonstration and people donned them in solidarity with the black block arrestees. The majority of the demo was masked.

It has been said that masking, rather than just concealing ones identity, reveals who we are. In Vancouver, since the Olympics, it is more generalized amongst activists and radicals to take a position against the condemnation of certain protesters and tactics in order to give support to the ‘good’ protesters. Instead many people are arguing that you cannot separate the militants from the community builders. This is not so much an argument to take up with the legal system, as a valuable understanding to come to within our movements.

The demonstration held an intersection that was blocked for 3 hours in April 2008 in an indigenous led solidarity action. At that time, Mohawks from Tyendenaga re-occupying their land against resource extraction in Desronto were facing the threat of an armed police assault. As part of a nation-wide variety of actions, that solidarity demo blocked truck traffic from the Port of Vancouver all the way to the US Border. Likewise, this G20 solidarity demo aimed to disrupt trucking traffic, tossing a wrench into the economic gears. A 2010 Olympics and a Canadian flag were burnt amidst cheers. A speaker made the point that while

The state is trying to rip out the heart of our resistance by brutalizing and arresting us, we should respond by ripping out the heart of Capitalism “- lifeline of the State. And so solidarity really does become a weapon.

As stated by author Bineshii, “This march was an example of … direct action strategies that community based resistance movements can take.” Soidarity march report by Bineshii at: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/%E2%80%9Cdrop-all-charges-free-all-p… The march then turned back down Clark Dr. pausing again at a few intersections. Some organizers from Toronto spoke about the folks in prison there, police brutality and calls for an inquiry into the police violence. Proceeding over the 1st Ave. viaduct the march made it to Main St. Destination: Cop Shop (police station). Throughout the demo, the banner holders maintained a perimeter, making it difficult for police to come close to people. It is especially important at demonstrations where people are vulnerable to police targeting to stay tight and use back and front banners so the police cannot enter in a group. At the cop shop, another speaker stated,

“I am going to use some harsh words right now, just to warn you. In Toronto, the cops brutalized, intimidated and arrested people. As reported by independent journalists, young women were threatened with gang rape by the police. However, we have to remember that this is not exceptional. This is what the police do everyday: arrests, deportations, beatings, disrupting people’ s entire lives. And this is Democracy. This is what democracy looks like, and this is what we are up against”

The march shouted, “No Justice, No Peace, Fuck the Police!,” “Drop all Charges,” “Police cars up in smoke. Anarchy it ain’t no joke!” and just simply “Fuck the police!” Some people from the neighbourhood joined in the demo and many people grinned and put their fists in the air.

Of course if this was an “objective” article I might also point out that a few people, like one or two, expressed negative sentiments, but we can expect that from a society that brainwashes it’s citizen’s into believing that this is freedom. At one point a man on the sidewalk, unassociated with the demonstration was being agressively hassled by police. The march stopped and surrounded the cops. The man said that police punched him. I found it odd that, at one point, a police officer told me emphatically, almost imploringly that he did not strike the man.

I don’t usually talk to cops, but I gave it a whirl, “Maybe not today, maybe it was yesterday a cop fucked him up. You beat on people in this neighbourhood.” In a surreal twist he agreed with me. Whatever, diplomacy I guess. Seriously, a cop agreed that people in the downtown eastside face frequent beatings by police. What the hey, aren’t they supposed at least lie about shit like that? The demo continued down Hastings to Andy Livingstone park where people worked together to block cameras as the black block changed back into street clothes. While leaving, two people were surrounded by cops just out of sight. As one cop reached for something on his belt he said “You’re not so tough now, huh?”

The two managed to run back to the demo. Everyone then left in larger groups. The demo lasted for 4 hours covering a total of 12 kilometers. The sentiment of those in the streets was, “What’s four hours compared to the 200 and counting for the current G20 prisoners.”

No repression without response! Drop all Charges! Free All Prisoners! Link to “straight talk” article explaining “Why Solidarity with the Black Bloc?”: http://www.straight.com/article-332050/vancouver/vancouver-protest-planned-show-solidarity-g20-detainees-black-bloc-activists

Vancouver Anti-G20/G8 Protest: Cops Stay Liars, Media Remain Complicit (2010)

Vancouver Anti-G20/G8 Protest: Cops Stay Liars, Media Remain Complicit

by Oshipeya
June 27, 2010
Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver

Vancouver demonstration photo by Stephen Hui
Vancouver demonstration photo by Stephen Hui

Video of Vancouver demonstration at The Georgia Straight website:

http://www.straight.com/article-331218/vancouver/video-vancouver-protest…

Photos of Vancouver demonstration at The Georgia Straight website:

http://www.straight.com/article-331215/vancouver/photos-g8-and-g20-prote…

About 75 people attended yesterday’s anti-G20/G8 demonstration in Vancouver, taking the streets in opposition to the extremes of global corporate and government control, and in the case of most demonstrators, the entire capitalist system. The three-hour-long march went along Commercial Drive, Hastings Street and to the Clark Drive overpass leading to the Port of Vancouver along the city’s main trucking route, and then back again.

It was also an explicit show of solidarity with the G20/G8 protests in Toronto, including the rioters there, as the small crowd in Vancouver loudly cheered upon hearing of the rebellion on the streets of Canada’s financial capital.

The Vancouver march circled back on itself after trying to cross the Port of Vancouver overpass at Clark Drive because a line of crowd-control police blocked the way. A banner against the tar sands was hung across the overpass for a while as speeches were made.

Translink said they had to redirect four major bus routes during the march and many of the backed up buses could be seen from the demonstration.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) deployed several vans full of riot police along with cops on bikes and on foot who followed alongside, behind and in front of the march. A police helicopter also hovered overhead throughout.

Contrary to the lies of the VPD, simply parroted as usual by the corporate media, it was the police who initiated the minor shoving matches with the small black bloc present and tried to steal banners and flags. The cops said, “while there were no arrests today, the right to protest doesn’t include the right to commit criminal acts that place the public’s safety at risk.”

Except there were no criminal acts unless you include the unpermitted march itself, or some light shoving in response to the cops shoving, or the attempt to block the trucking route to the port, which the cops didn’t mention. And if there were crimes, why didn’t the cops make any arrests? Maybe because they’re lying about it and trying to imply criminality where there is none or to exaggerate it.

Cops repeatedly closed in on the sides of the march, only to be met with chants of “No pigs in the demo” each time, not just from the black bloc, but from most of the demonstrators. The crowd also joined in chants of “What’s the solution, revolution, what’s the direction, insurrection,” and, “1,2,3,4, this is f#cking class war!”

One of the black bloc’s main activities was attempting to block the cops surveillance camera with their black flags, which was welcomed by other protesters, some joining in with their placards and banner.

In the media, the cops tried to portray the black bloc as taking over and distracting from the “legitimate” protest, despite the fact that the black bloc did not initiate conflict and was supported by the other protesters. The cops also failed to mention that the march as a whole attempted to block access to the port, that it had at least the intention of some form of direct action and that the black bloc was there in support of that.

The cops focused on and exaggerated the black bloc’s activities while concealing the intent of the “legitimate” protesters to do more than just peacefully and lawfully protest.

The police are desperate to divide people and to portray the black bloc tactic as marginal, in part because they know its strength comes as much from its supporters, passive and active, as from those who use the tactic themselves.

Toronto’s police chief was even more desperate, given his situation, in his pleas for the public to support his embarrased and ineffective police force rather than the black bloc many in the city had been supporting. Toronto’s head cop knows that rather than experiencing shock, many in his city and around the world were inspired by the street resistance.

So the cops always have to wage a propaganda war with the help of their corporate media pals to do damage control for their own image while attempting to demonize and mystify what many see as one of the clear and correct ways to respond to the violence and exploitation of capitalism and the State.

At the Vancouver demonstration, a speech on repression of indigenous fisheries in British Columbia and the necessity of a diversity of tactics and direct action received the most cheers and applause, seemingly indicating an increased radicalization, or at least a more obvious radical perspective in Vancouver since the Olympics.

The black bloc clearly does not distract from, but brings more attention to the “cause” of opposition to the G20/G8. More importantly, it also poses the question of the what good a “cause” is if people aren’t willing to fight for it and take the necessary action to make change when the ruling class have contrary interests that they’re more than willing to violently defend with their police.

The black bloc would not be much of a problem for the police if not for the many who support it, or those who would also or already have rioted against the cops, the government and the corporations in more-than-justified retaliation.

Grandview Park party against redevelopment was a smash (2010)

Grandview Park party against redevelopment was a smash

By Oshipeya
Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver
May 16, 2010

Corrections made to the probation office (Photo: schemamag.ca)

Last night’s anti-redevelopment party at Grandview Park in Vancouver went from 8:30 at night until almost 3:00 in the morning, coming to an end not long after the cops pushed people off the street in response to some masked marauders who smashed-up and paint-bombed the front door and windows of the nearby probation office.

Hundreds attended the party in the park, dancing to bands and deejays, listening to short speeches about the redevelopment and eventually flooding into the street. Banners, a dumpster, newspaper boxes and pieces of wood were used to block off Commercial Drive at the front of the park. A thrown paint-bomb caused the cops to back off at one end of the street when they tried to approach the barricade.

At the other end, two plain-clothes cops were yelled at and chased away. A Canadian flag was burned by Native and non-Native party-goers after some patriots tried to grab the flag and were pushed back. Fires were then set at both ends of the street. A masked group dressed in all black who had been defending the barricades then ran out and made some “community corrections” of their own as they attacked the probation office, which of course is an extension of the police and prison system.

The cops then ran in along the sidewalk, chasing the masked-mischief-makers, but were blocked by people from the crowd. After a short while, the cops pushed everybody off the street and stood on the sidewalk with dumb looks on their faces as a few stragglers milled-about in the park.

As part of the redevelopment plan, the city government plans to shut down the entire park for a year starting July 1st, at least in part to appease a group of paranoid and control-freak-type citizens who might piss their pants when they smell marijuana or see scruffy-looking people hanging around.

Some people would like to see parts of the park maintained or fixed-up one way or another without having the entire park shut down for a year. Some people don’t want to push the poor out of the park and might be more worried about hard drugs than weed. And a lot of people like to party with music and a fire, outdoors on a nice night in the park and in the street.

Here’s a link to another person’s story about last night:

http://www.schemamag.ca/archive2/2010/05/grandview_park_commercial_driv.php

And here’s the website of the Defend Grandview Park campaign:

http://defendgrandview.wordpress.com

————————————————————————————————————————

Comments

Sun, 05/16/2010 – 19:40 — Vancouver Anonymous

In Addition…

Also targeted during the street occupation were two surveillance cameras mounted on restaurant facades and giant “circle A’s” were spray-painted in the street alongside the words “Total Freedom!”

The park-house, recently covered in a mural by the local Community Policing Centre, was again, covered in anti-cop graffiti.

Banners blocking the street read: “Deconstruction of the Street,” (to the best of our memory) and “Defend Grandview, The Peoples Park!”

- Commercial Drive Barricade Inception Association (the other BIA)

Comprehensive summary of resistance to the 2010 Olympics

Click here for to view the PDF:

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/sites/mediacoop.ca/files2/mc/Anti-2010%20Report.pdf

“From 2002 to 2010, an anti-Olympic protest and resistance movement emerged in and around Vancouver, British Columbia, developing also into a national network. This time period can be divided into two distinct phases of protest & resistance. “

Anarchists and Social Struggles in Vancouver After the Olympics (2010)

Anarchists and Social Struggles in Vancouver After the Olympics

By Oshipeya
March 15, 2010


“It don’t take a professor to see the oppressor got the whole treasure.”
- One Be Lo, from the song “Axis” from the album “S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.”

I recently attended two public events in Vancouver that got me thinking more about anarchists and their role in social struggles in the wake of the anti-olympic convergence.

The first was a talk by anarchist writers Mark Leier and Robert Graham at the Vancouver Public Library on March 11, 2010. A small room was almost full with an audience of about 50 people of different ages.

Leier, director of Labour Studies at Simon Fraser University and former union organizer, deconstructed recent anarchist thought influenced by post-modernist and post-structuralist philosophy by presenting Bakunin’s arguments against idealism in the mid-1800s. Leier’s presentation was not so academic as one might think. He plainly presented in a humorous and engaging manner the relevance of Bakunin to today, that being an insistence on the truth and reality of exploitation, the basic unchanged nature of capitalism and the division of society into opposing social classes, in contrast to the extreme relativism of post-modern philosophy.

Bakunin said that although our understanding of truth and reality is always partial it is still possible to know or understand, at least partially, some essential things, such as the fact of class exploitation.

This concept of the continued relevance of anarchist anti-capitalist analysis dovetailed nicely with part of Robert Graham’s presentation, in which he described the anarchist idea that a free society is possible at any time in history, regardless of the level of technological development.

Graham’s talk focused on the aftermath of Spanish Civil War and social revolution of 1936-1939, the site of the largest anarchist movement in history and the biggest defeat of the international anarchist movement. The federal structure of the anarchist union the CNT was discussed as well as the difficulties anarchists had in securing weapons in contrast to the Nazi-supplied Spanish fascists and the Stalin-backed Spanish communists.

Graham discussed the evolution of some anarchists’ thoughts on war, organization and sexual repression after the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, in particular referencing Wilhelm Reich, Paul Goodman and the recently deceased Colin Ward.

A question from the audience about the anarchist position on armies brought up a discussion of the difference between the Spanish anarchist militias, their guerrilla warfare tactics and their anarchist form of organization and the structure of a traditional army. The anarchist Nestor Mahkno’s more traditional military formation in the Ukraine after the Russian Revolution of 1917 was also briefly addressed.

Leier was asked about diversity of tactics and the Heart Attack demonstration of February 13, likely because of his previous supportive response to it in the Georgia Straight newspaper, but didn’t get much into it in this particular venue other than to say that it’s difficult to know the impact of such events until 10 years later. This reminded myself  and others of our previous idea that the success, support of and solidarity with the black bloc and the Heart Attack demo was partly the result of the Seattle World Trade Organization (WTO) riots 10 years ago and the efforts of anarchists and black bloc participants since then to build understanding around the tactic and work in harmony with others in social struggles.

The talk was framed around Leier’s last published book, “Bakunin”, and Graham’s volume two of “Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas”.

The second event I attended was called “In Solidarity with Resistance: Challenging Police Brutality”, which took place at the Rhizome Café on March 13.

A Native presenter talked about her experience during the Oka Crisis/Uprising of 1990 and read a statement from another Native person about the low-intensity brutality of fishing regulation and enforcement against Natives on the Fraser River.

Native women from the Power of Women group spoke on police brutality against Natives and other poor people in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), as well as the anti-olympic tent city.

A member of No One Is Illegal spoke on the role of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and their place within the repressive framework of policing in Canada and during the Olympics.

A poet spoke of the riot police response to the Heart Attack demonstration and read out a few of her poems about the Heart Attack demonstration and the tent city.

A student activist spoke on the police reaction after the Heart Attack demo when they arrested and illegally tried to deport him to the United States for observing police harassment in the DTES and riding his bike on the sidewalk.

This event was also packed and support for the black bloc and Heart Attack demo was apparent there too, if not explicit.

These two events further confirmed for me that the black bloc, Heart Attack demo and anarchists in Vancouver in general are not so marginal or “controversial” as a very small number of socialists, social democrat activists and even other anarchists in Vancouver and Toronto have tried to portray them as on the internet or at two previous public events (at the VIVO and W2 art spaces).

The majority of the audience at the previous events vocally and through applause showed support for the black bloc anyway, demolishing attempts by a few socialist and social democrat speakers to present their own negative views on it as being more popular, reasonable or even intelligent.

The fussing of a tiny number of socialists and social democrats over the violent and confrontational tactics used in conjunction with the black bloc tactic and the public’s supposedly mostly horrified reaction, or the exaggeration of a humorous pieing as a significantly “violent” attack, instead show just how out of touch these particular activists are with the “public” they talk about, as well as the majority of the activist community of Vancouver.

Canadian popular culture loves violence, from hockey to television to movies to the internet to video games to music, in far more gratuitous and random forms than was displayed at the Heart Attack demo. During the Stanley Cup riot of 1994 in Vancouver, windows at the Hudson’s Bay Company were also broken, that time by hockey fans.

As Mark Leier pointed out in the Georgia Straight article and his three books on Vancouver’s labour history, the debate around diversity of tactics in social struggles is nothing new in Vancouver. In the early 1900s it was the working class based anarcho-syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the biggest union in British Columbia at the time, pushing the envelope in terms of tactics, much to the chagrin of the middle class dominated socialists.

In the 30s and the depression, ironically it was the communists like Steve Brodie pushing for more confrontational tactics in the occupation of the post office and other buildings, and the unemployed ended up breaking far more windows, at the Woodwards building for instance, in rioting after the police evicted them than were broken at the Heart Attack demo decades later.

All that being said, I believe that anarchists in Vancouver could have and could still better communicate their views to the wider public, particularly off the internet and on the streets and in other public places, using a variety of methods, especially now given the greater public attention generated by the media in reaction to the Heart Attack demonstration.

Links -

Short documentary on the Stanley Cup Riot with footage of broken windows at the Hudson’s Bay Company at 9:00 minutes (thanks for the tip bineshii):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Il3UlV2ars&

Mark Leier’s interview in the media about the black bloc at the Heart Attack demo:

http://no2010.com/node/1353

No action is sufficient in itself, black bloc or otherwise, by Oshipeya:

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/blog/oshipeya/3044

Team Anarchy Wins Three Games Against Team Olympics (on hockey the black bloc and violence in Canada):

http://www.anarchistnews.org/?q=node/10695

Mark Leier’s bio at Simon Fraser University:

http://cgi.sfu.ca/~wwwhist/cgi-bin/viewfaculty.php?view=19

Robert Graham’s anarchism blog:

http://robertgraham.wordpress.com/

One Be Lo’s song “Axis” from the album “S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vffQIUXMZ2I

No action is sufficient in itself, black bloc or otherwise (2010)

No action is sufficient in itself, black bloc or otherwise

By Oshipeya
March 14, 2010

“No act is sufficient in itself, nor is its meaning so obvious that it would require no expression at all.”
- Gilles Dauvé and Karl Nesic, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy

This article is a response to three other articles, “Breaking windows is not a revolutionary act” by Judy Rebick, “The State Is Not a Window” by Heatscore and “Thoughts on the anonymous communiqué from members of the Black Bloc” by Andrew Loewen.

It is true that the State is not a window, but neither is it just an abstract concept. Breaking windows is not a revolutionary act and neither is any other act if taken out of context and presented as an abstraction, ignoring the intentions and strategy of those who break the windows.

The State or Capital or colonialism cannot be attacked as abstractions. They can only be attacked in their material forms, their social relations and their institutions. It is not possible to attack all forms and material components of oppression at once, so they must be attacked in pieces at different times and locations.

Like oppressive systems, a social revolution is more than the sum of its parts, but neither can it exist without its parts working in relation to each other. A social revolution can be seen as an accumulation of diverse activities over a period of time. It is not a switch that can be flipped instantly. It can’t be understood in a purely abstract way or by ignoring the different particular factors and actions that compose it.

It is not always possible to fully understand the long-term impact, effects and interrelation of effects of different actions in regards to social movements and revolutionary struggle, just as it is difficult to understand “public opinion”, which is also an abstraction as well as a contradiction, in as much as the “public” is an abstraction and contradiction, made up of opposing social classes, other oppressive divisions and diverse real individuals.

The idea that breaking windows is a revolutionary act or that the State is a window or made up of windows was never presented by participants in the black bloc at the Heart Attack anti-olympic demonstration in Vancouver on February 13, 2010, or by its supporters. It is not possible to understand or build an analysis or argument around statements that were never made in the first place. The easiest way to not understand something is to take it out of context.

The black bloc at the Heart Attack demo also did not “come into the middle of a demonstration with black face masks and break up whatever takes their fancy when the vast majority of people involved don’t want them to”, as Rebick falsely claims in her article.  The demonstration was publicly called as a “diversity of tactics” and “confrontational” demonstration to block traffic, “to clog the arteries of capital”. A prior spokes-council for the action was publicly announced. Of about 200 participants, about half, or 100 people, were using the black bloc tactic, while the other half mostly supported it or did not oppose it, staying with the march throughout and continuing on after most of the black bloc had dispersed.

The Heart Attack demo was only one of many during the anti-olympic convergence. Participants in the black bloc respected the wishes of others at demos that were called for as non-confrontational. This built support for the way the black bloc tactic was used at the Heart Attack demo. The previous day, the black bloc had taken part in a demo to block the torch route on Commercial Drive and the mass demo at the opening ceremonies and did not break windows. The tactic has also been used at many demos in Vancouver over the past 10 years, mostly without any window breaking. Participants in the black bloc also participate in many other activities. They are not only anonymous. The black bloc cannot exist or survive repression without some level of outside support. This support is built up before and after black bloc actions, over a long period of time.

The tactic is used to evade police surveillance. What it does beyond that is up to the participants. What has been shown in Vancouver for 10 years is that black bloc participants are not random intruders upon demos called by others, that they in fact seek to work with others rather than against them. This is why the black bloc at the Heart Attack demo had so much support from local activists and non-activists. Ironically, this particular black bloc was one of the most publicly and privately supported of all that have taken place in Canada or the United States in the past 10 years, since the Seattle World Trade Organization riots.

Neither did the black bloc try to provoke a “police over-reaction” as Rebick contends. At the Heart Attack demo, the bloc only responded to police or bystander vigilante initiated attacks. The focus of the demo was blocking traffic, which was highly successful, with a dumpster and many newspaper boxes pulled into the streets and the police response of shutting down the Lions Gate Bridge for more than an hour (the bridge being one of only two routes to the north shore and Whistler Olympic venues from Vancouver). At the mass demo of several thousand people on February 12 at the opening ceremonies, the bloc only shoved against and threw projectiles at the police toward the end of the demo, after organizers publicly called for the bloc to move to the front line and warned other demonstrators to move to the back or disperse.

The breaking of corporate windows at the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the Toronto Dominion (TD) bank were complimentary actions to the overall Heart Attack march. They were not the main goal or component, although they were supported within and outside of the bloc. The HBC attack was for obvious reasons particularly supported by indigenous people. But the overall goal of blocking traffic during the first day of the Olympics was highly successful, perhaps more than could have been hoped for, since the direction of the march, heading toward and getting close to the Lions Gate Bridge, caused the police to shut it down for more than an hour. This kind of success is easy to objectively measure compared to the building of long-term wider support and the strengthening of social movements, which is equally important.

The Heart Attack march was one part of the overall movement against the Olympics, with the strategic goal of disrupting the games and their propaganda, so as to lessen their impacts and to create an unwelcome and unstable climate for such events to be proposed in the future. The Olympics are also not a temporary summit of world leaders such as the G8 or G20, but a years long massive infrastructure development project with permanent impacts, which consequently cause greater public opposition to the games and sympathy for protests and actions against them.

The anti-olympic convergence was first called for by members of the indigenous sovereignty movement in Vancouver and British Columbia, and was first publicly announced at a Zapatista gathering in Mexico. Respect for diversity of tactics was a cornerstone from the beginning, and years of confrontational public and anonymous actions followed across the country building up to 2010. So if anything, those opposed to diversity of tactics or the black bloc are the intruders and outsiders to the anti-olympic movement and their numbers are a minority in comparison to those who use it, support it, are neutral or may disagree with it but do not oppose it.

The undercover police officers Rebick brings up, who were exposed at the Montebello protests against the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), were masked but not in black bloc and were exposed by the black bloc and not by a confused trade union leader who apparently could not understand the word “police” said to him in French by black bloc participants, as shown on a youtube video of the incident. Such infiltration is not done only to provoke violent action, which was already taking place at Montebello anyway, but also for surveillance and to target individuals for arrest. It may also be done to discredit the black bloc tactic and to add fuel to the fires of denouncement and bad-jacketing already built-up by activists. While many are quick to accuse black bloc participants of being police agents, without any evidence whatsoever to back up this assertion, the police practice of bad-jacketing, falsely accusing individuals of being police, is never brought up or denounced by the same activists who denounce or chastise the black bloc. Voluntary bad-jacketing done by activists is far more damaging to social movements overall than any actual police infiltration at any particular demonstration.

While any particular black bloc may be infiltrated by police for any number of police purposes, open activist groups are susceptible to long-term infiltration, in which police can attain positions of authority within the organization, as happened a few years ago to an anti-war group in California or for instance to the American Indian Movement, whose head of security was exposed as a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) infiltrator in the 1970s.

While the particular statements of black bloc participants or its supporters around what constitutes violence or the corporate media’s predictable response and impact are open to criticism, as are particular actions of the black bloc (just as everything is open to criticism), such as vandalism against random vehicles or newspaper boxes, such critiques cannot logically be over generalized and made into guilt-by-association arguments against the black bloc itself or its other actions.

Contrary to Loewen’s statement, blocking traffic and breaking windows does directly harm corporations and is not merely symbolic. It’s not the amount of traffic disrupted or the amount of financial damage that makes an attack or action material rather than just symbolic. It is the nature of the action itself and the intentions and the strategy behind it. An action is only purely symbolic if it is intended as such. Corporations are also unlikely to make an insurance claim for broken windows given the deductible and the negative impact it would have on their insurance overall, and at any rate the cost would simply be passed on to an insurance corporation if they did. Nothing is without consequence.

Broken windows also have an impact beyond the window itself, since they must be repaired and their function of advertising displays in this case is disrupted, as is the image of the Hudson’s Bay Company itself. The action also inspires others opposed to the company and draws more attention in general to it and its contentious place in society. An open attack shows open hostility to the company itself, not merely an opposition to particular things it does or a desire to reform its excesses.

The meaning of these kinds of actions are obviously not only the domain of the corporate media but are also ours to define and communicate in whatever ways and places we choose, as this article itself displays, as do the many other statements in support of the black bloc of that day.

To end with I’ve provided a transcription of part of a speech made by indigenous elder Stella August of the Downtown Eastside Power of Women group addressed to the crowd at the February 20 rally for a national housing program in Vancouver where she talks about the black bloc at the Heart Attack demo and received cheers and applause from the crowd:

“Our young people who have broken the windows at these big stores with the Olympic costumes or whatever you want to call it, they’re not bad, they’re angry because of the rich people bringing the Olympics into our country when it wasn’t needed here. Those kids were not bad, they were only angry because of what they bring to our country, big time poverty. And I’m angry,  I’m very angry at these people that organize the Olympics to come to Canada, our beautiful country, our stolen land, our stolen Native land. They had to bring the Olympics here? And we’re still fighting for our land and we’re going to continue to fight until we get some answers. So remember, those kids that broke the windows, that were protesting, they’re not bad, they’re our people, they’re our children. We are the mothers, we are the grandmothers, we are the aunts, we are the sisters, we are the caregivers. Those kids were not bad when they broke that window. They were protesting because of what’s happening to our country and our city. All my relations.”
- Stella August

Links –

Video of Stella August speech:

Corporate news article about Stella August’s speech on the black bloc:

http://no2010.com/node/1362

SFU Labour History Director and anarchist writer Mark Leier’s interview in the media about the black bloc at the Heart Attack demo:

http://no2010.com/node/1353

Response to Derrick O’Keefe about the black bloc and Heart Attack demo,
By Oshipeya:

http://www.mediacoop.ca/blog/oshipeya/3029

Black Bloc vs. Liberal Shlock,
By Bineshii:

http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/10839

Breaking windows is not a revolutionary act,
By Judy Rebick:

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/judes/2010/02/breaking-windows-not-revolutionary-act

The State Is Not a Window,
By Heatscore:

http://linchpin.ca/English/State-Not-Window-Iconoclast

Thoughts on the anonymous communiqué from members of the Black Bloc,
by Andrew Loewen:

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/2790

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Autonomy.
by Gilles Dauvé and Karl Nesic:

http://troploin0.free.fr/ii/index.php/textes/16-a-contribution-to-the-critique-of-political-autonomy

Darren Thurston – Vancouver’s most notorious activist turned police informant since Robert Gosden

Update:

Vancouver lawyer Peter Edelmann (who sometimes works for activists) confirmed in early 2010 that FBI/police informant Darren Thurston has been working for him in his legal office since sometime not long after Thurston’s return to Vancouver in late 2008. This opens the possibility of breaches of lawyer-client confidentiality, given Thurston’s signed and sealed agreement to give information on other activists to the FBI.

For information on Vancouver’s previously most notorious anarchist/activist turned police informant, Robert Gosdsen, see Mark Leier’s informative book “Rebel Life“.

Darren Thurston is a former Vancouver activist turned FBI/police informant who currently (as of January 2010) lives and works in Vancouver.

Ironically, he apparently works in computer security according to his twitter account and website Hard Mac and he was previously a member of the activist security group resist.ca who publicly denounced activists opposed to Thurston’s snitching (although resist.ca neglected to mention Thurston’s signed and sealed agreement with the FBI to provide information about other activists, which Thurston himself has decided to keep sealed, and despite the fact that Thurston himself admits to being an informant, saying it set a bad example) .

=================================================

From wikipedia:

Darren Todd Thurston (born circa 1970) is a Canadian anarchist and animal rights activist.

In July 2006, Thurston pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy and related arson charges that occurred from 1996 through 2001 in Oregon and four other U.S. states, and which were claimed in the name of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The FBI arrested Thurston and 10 other members of a west coast-based animal rights and environmentalist organization that the FBI and media called “The Family.” The arrests were made as part of the FBI’s Operation Backfire.

Thurston was sentenced in May 2007 to 37 months in prison in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation.

Early activism

As a teenager Thurston began work with the Edmonton- based Citizens Organized for Animal Liberation as an organizer and spokesperson against animal exploitation and abuse. Through the years he has worked with a number of organizations including TAO Communications, BearWatch, Anti-Racist Action, Friends of the Elaho and the BC Compassion Club.

Charges and convictions

In 1992, Thurston was convicted for his part in an Animal Liberation Front action at a University of Alberta laboratory and liberating 29 cats slated for medical experimentation. For this act and another earlier action, he served two and a half years in a Canadian prison and was released in 1994.

In 1998, Thurston was charged along with former ALF spokesman David Barbarash relating to a series of threatening letters that were booby-trapped with razor blades and sent to hunting-guide outfitters across British Columbia. In late 2000, charges against Thurston were stayed by the Crown following a refusal by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to give details on informants used in the case.

On December 7, 2005, Thurston was arrested in Portland, Oregon in the company of Chelsea Gerlach. Although he was initially told he would receive a speedy deportation, he was later indicted in a case involving 16 individuals alleged to have been involved in 17 Earth Liberation Front, Animal Liberation Front and other unclaimed actions that took place between 1996 and 2001. These arrests took place as part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Operation Backfire, referred to in the activist community as part of an ongoing trend known as the Green Scare.

Thurston was facing five federal charges including of arson with and incendiary device and conspiracy in addition to two federal charges for the possession of fraudulent identification. The actual accusation of criminal wrongdoing levied against Thurston stems from an allegation that he was involved in an Earth Liberation Front incident at Litchtfield, California in 2001 during which wild horses rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management were freed and a barn burned to the ground.

=================================================

On Darren Thurston’s Statement, “Fired Back”

posted at crimethinc.com
December 22, 2007

It is never acceptable to give information about any other person without his or her express consent. It cannot be emphasized enough that informing to the government is always a serious matter, whether it is a question of a high profile defendant snitching on his comrades or an acquaintance of law-abiding activists answering a seemingly harmless question. The primary goal of the government in any political case is not to put any one defendant in prison but to obtain information with which to map radical communities, with the ultimate goal of repressing and controlling those communities. The most minor piece of trivia may serve to jeopardize a person’s life, whether or not they have ever broken any law.

On December 21, Operation Backfire cooperating defendant Darren Thurston released a lengthy statement presenting the history of Operation Backfire as he sees it and laying out what he apparently considers to be extenuating circumstances connected to his decision to inform. He insists that he does not condone snitching, but claims that he didn’t share any information that was harmful to others; unfortunately, as Thurston has chosen to withhold from the public both his plea agreement and the debrief documents that detail his cooperation with investigators, it’s impossible to verify this claim.

In contrast, non-cooperating Operation Backfire defendants have made their plea agreements public in their entirety. Thurston explains that he has not done the same because in his case the materials “were not completely indicative of my cooperation and would be easily misunderstood by the majority of those who would hear about them,” but as his cooperation is already a matter of intense controversy, it could hardly make matters worse for him to follow their example.

At the conclusion of his statement, Thurston offers “his closest comrades” a limited apology for his decision to inform, admitting it “set a bad example” but placing responsibility for his choice on others’ shoulders: others cooperated first and made the case “unwinnable,” the government divided communities by spreading rumors, activists abandoned and vilified the cooperating defendants before they’d even decided whether or not to cooperate, and so on. He also casts aspersions on non-cooperating defendants without ever specifying which ones he means, and on their legal support groups as well. If this is not a matter of passive-aggressive self-justification but of serious concerns about their conduct, he owes it to the activist community to be more explicit.

Thurston states that Operation Backfire defendants were facing “guaranteed life sentences” until they cooperated. In contrast to those who attribute the considerably shorter sentences the non-cooperating defendants received to the vigorous efforts of their defense teams, he credits his partner and fellow informant Chelsea Dawn Gerlach with helping to arrange merciful plea agreements for the non-cooperating defendants—an account that is sure to be controversial. He also mentions uncritically that by the time he and Gerlach were able to communicate after their arrests, she had already informed to the government not only about his involvement in the actions for which he was charged but also about a great deal of other illegal activity he had participated in.

No doubt Thurston experienced a more frightening period of months following his arrest than most of us can possibly imagine. But this alone cannot justify a decision to inform; the fact that other defendants did not do the same shows that other options were possible. In his statement, he talks about “healing our movements and making them stronger,” but that can only occur on the foundation of a commitment to unconditionally and transparently refusing to inform on each other; any supposed solidarity that does not proceed from this premise is a sham that will crumble beneath the first onslaught of government repression. Addressing the question of what constitutes acceptable conduct is not infighting and backstabbing, but an essential element of healing and strengthening our communities. As Thurston points out, we should not take the state at its word as to who is informing—but now that he has signed a sealed agreement to inform, the burden of proof is on him to show the limits of that informing. Those who read Thurston’s statement should not take his analysis—or any analysis, including this one—at face value, since the perspectives of everyone who comments on Operation Backfire are inevitably colored by their own motives; the question is which motives are most likely to facilitate a useful analysis.

Thurston is in a difficult place, but there is still much he can do to facilitate the healing and strengthening of which he speaks. He can start by disclosing the full texts of his plea agreement and cooperation debriefing, and accepting complete personal accountability for his decision to inform. The state can do anything to us—isolate us, threaten us with life sentences, even, in some extremes, turn our loved ones against us. The only thing it cannot take from us, upon which any anti-authoritarian struggle must be founded, is our determination to abide by our principles come what may, thus retaining our freedom and dignity. Individual heroics cannot win a revolutionary struggle—only supportive communities can do that; but we can only form such communities by personally standing by our commitments, regardless of what other individuals do.

We can commend Thurston for the actions he once took in defense of animals and the environment, but the most important round of struggle takes place not in the streets but in the interrogation chamber—it is there, when the commitments and trust that form its backbone are put to the ultimate test, that a struggle lives or dies. The courage of all who refuse to assist the state demonstrates that such a struggle can live—that, in fact, it does live.


Green Scared by crimthinc