On June 8th, cities nationwide saw coordinated rallies under the banner Stand Up for Religious Freedom. The anti-choice organizers and participants, predominantly Christian-Fascists, took aim at the recent “HHS mandate” which requires that reproductive health and contraceptive services be included in health plans. More on their national mobilization can be seen at http://www.standupforreligiousfreedom.com.
Arizona, continuing its’ pattern of being a lab for increasingly oppressive legislation (think 1070, 2281) is escalating attacks on reproductive rights with laws such as HB 2036. So, a group of Tucson feminists, anarchists and others decided to confront those that support these attacks.
With coat hangers, black flags and banners reading “You Cut Off Our Reproductive Rights, We’ll Cut Off Yours” and “I <3 to Fuck – Yr Dumm”, the group assembled across the street from the “pro-lifers”, occasionally heading to their side to disrupt and block their demo. Chants included, “You don’t want us pregnant anyway – Our babies will be hella gay!” and “Open up the clinic door! We’re Not Afraid of Civil War!”
While we’re no friends of the federal government or any of their “mandates”, those opposing legal protections for contraceptive and abortion access are as much the enemy as the government forces that attempt to regulate and control our bodies in the first place.
We oppose any control over our bodies, be that through regulation of reproductive health services, borders controls, prisons or wage labor. We intend to escalate our defense against all their attacks in the coming weeks and months.
Some Arizona resources:
Abortion Access Network of Arizona
Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault
Pro-choice. Pro-gun. We are not afraid of civil war.
Some @’s in the fascist laboratory,
Occupied Tohono O’odham Land,
The most recent demonstration of resistance in the struggle to defend ethnic studies came on Tuesday, April 10th, at the TUSD board meeting. Over 100 people filled the room in opposition to the impending vote against renewing the contract of Sean Arce, former director of the Mexican American Studies program. Student protesters and supporters chanted “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist TUSD!”, and shouted down board members. Some zip-tied themselves together, a smoke bomb was set off in the meeting room and scuffles with security and police ensued. At least one de-arrest took place as the crowd demonstrated an inspiring level of solidarity, preventing the police from making any successful arrests.
That the TUSD board would vote against Arce was a forgone conclusion. By now, many of us, both in the center and periphery of this movement, recognize the dead-end of appealing to the rationale of supposed representatives. Perhaps the more a strategy of moderation fails, the more the movement will continue and expand efforts to create and maintain autonomous, liberatory education models in active opposition to white supremacy and the state.
The following essay was written last January as an elaboration on why Tucson anarchists are in full solidarity with the fight for ethnic studies and youth leading it.
Recently on January 10, 2012 the board of the Tucson Unified School District voted to destroy Ethnic Studies, specifically, Mexican American Studies. This decision came after years of resistance. On April 26th, 2011 high school students from various schools throughout Tucson chained themselves to the chairs of the board members desks while they fumbled around outside with the racist riot pigs. Inside a mariachi band played and the lifeless room erupted with people dancing on tables and crowds joyously occupying the building. The next week, on May 3, determined to go forth with the vote, the state brought pigs to line the area and put people through metal detectors to get inside. Many community members continued to speak up in the meeting and defy the arbitrary power that the racist board tried to silence them with. As the pigs began arresting them and taking them out back, word got out to those outside and they quickly blockaded the roads where the police vans needed to exit. The barricades the pigs brought were knocked down, a banner was dropped on a building across the street which read ‘We’ve got youths backs” and many created softblocks (or ‘human chains’) across both roads the police needed to access. All of this happened spontaneously and, though such tactics of resistance are only a start, they demonstrated one thing clearly: The state’s attempts to de-radicalize and dis-empower those who challenge their white supremacist agenda are backfiring! It should also be noted that the actions mentioned here are only a surface look at the daily resistance led by radical youth in Tucson.
Why is ethnic studies being attacked?
It’s pretty simple. Ethnic Studies can be subversive. They are right. Learning histories of the land, of Chican@s, of indigenous peoples (such as the Tohono O’odham- whose land is being occupied by a colonial government in Tucson), of those who have resisted colonialism and borders, all of this calls into question and denaturalizes white supremacy and government/corporate control. I remember taking Ethnic Studies courses and getting rocked by the stories of Tijerina taking up arms and reclaiming land in New Mexico, kicking out forest rangers, and leading an armed raid on a county courthouse. I also never thought about borders the same after learning about the Mexican Revolution, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and the Gadsden Purchase. These histories helped me break down systems of power today and inspire further resistance to them. Here in Tucson they are specifically targeting Mexican American Studies as a crucial component in the current multi-faceted tidal-wave of white supremacist attack on latin@s. Whether it’s border walls pushing people to death in the desert on the border, nazis marching down our streets side by side with the police, SB1070, Secure Communities and police discretion caging and deporting people of color, or HB 2281 banning classes and books, we see one thing: white supremacy flaring it’s ugly head. Mexican American Studies being attacked is related to the ways in which Black peoples and Indigenous peoples are increasingly being attacked by borders, cages, capitalism and colonialism as well and these connections are being articulated by Indigenous elders and Black community members who are standing side by side with the youth and with latin@ communities (this has happened both outside the school board office and in the community center where students have come together to create their own school). Tucson’s community response illustrates that the ‘divide and conquer’ tactics aren’t working. HB 2281 explicitly opposes ‘ethnic solidarity’ and Tucson is coming together to show such solidarity amongst and between many identities and to make visible ways in which white supremacy is affecting all of our communities.
The youth do light up when they hear what they already feel rumbling beneath the spectacle. White supremacy isn’t natural and thus is not guaranteed to continue. The attack on Ethnic Studies is a reflection of a shifting paradigm. It is an expression of fear. Fear of revolt, fear of riots, fear of fires. It is an attempt to prevent the next generation of radicals from blossoming. But they’re too late.
Why is resistance to the attack on Ethnic Studies important for anarchists in Tucson?
If we want totality we have to be honest about the many fields where battles are fought against oppressive paradigms, such as white supremacy. Smashing state and capital doesn’t necessarily mean smashing white supremacy and, as anarchists that oppose all forms of oppression and hierarchy, we stand with those who are coming together to defend Ethnic Studies and Mexican American Studies as part of the fight against racial hierarchies and oppression. We see inspiring resistance that moves beyond myopic goals for reform. We also stand with the youth in Tucson who are experimenting in true forms of solidarity and autonomy. The fact that the youth are creating their own schools as a part of their walk-outs, posting signs that read ‘class in session’, and keeping the media out clearly demonstrates that they take autonomy seriously. I felt blown away at how amazing their autonomous classes were and couldn’t help the easy comparison to the many free schools I have been a part of, which, as awesome as they have been, have never reached so many people.
As anti-austerity battles flare up and education battles over tuition are waged, it is important for anarchists and anti-authoritarians to be critical of what goals are merely statist/reformist and what goals seek full liberation. One of the reasons that the Ethnic Studies battle in Tucson shows such possibilities is that the youth are staring totality in the face and explicitly connecting their struggle to other revolts. Quite frankly, the youth in Tucson have shown that they have more teeth than their university counter-parts. This battle is also germane to public high school students from all class backgrounds, which is something that much of university politics has lacked.
I was depressed and confused for much of my high school experience and, sadly, the years following were the most tame and domesticated years of my life because of the false answers that I was sold, promising me stability and success. The youth in Tucson are taking advantage of this moment to call into question the whole system that is trying to shape them. Of course, not everything inside of Ethnic Studies is radical and the classes in of themselves do not actually mold insurrectionary revolutionaries out of each student. They do, however, open up spaces for questioning state apparatuses, and for many of us such spaces have saved our lives (for some quite literally).
Ethnic Studies has become a symbol here in Tucson. The chant, “When Ethnic Studies is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!” means that when they try to cut off channels for the youth to learn about their roots and connect with others, they will only study harder, act fiercer, and come together in greater numbers. This extends to all of us, every age and background.
I do not wish to speak for any of the youth in Tucson. Honestly, their words are much more powerful than any of these. I am not a student here, but I do find joy in the subversive tendencies that I see amongst the youth. Recently the racist school district banned many books (including Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Chicano, and the Tempest), coming into classrooms and confiscating them. The youth have refused to let this stop them from reading such texts and they are stealing back the ideas that are being banned. Their continual mass walk-outs and their efforts to come together in a community center to make a school of their own is something that anarchists in Tucson are thrilled about this. We strive to build meaningful relationships with our neighbors, the youth, the Tohono O’odham people whose land we are on, and with one another, with goals no meeker than total revolt. Indeed there are reformist vultures seeking to recuperate this battle, but there are many more who are committed to coming together to demand the impossible. Anarchists seek complete destruction of any state sanctioned anything (including schools). Anarchists should also support the fight for Ethnic Studies as a real part of the fight against white supremacy. This does present a real tension, a tension that will be present in almost any struggle if we take an honest look at intersections of oppression. Demanding the impossible means demanding an education that provides bolt-cutters for our chains.
Solidarity. Autonomy. Joy.
Here’s a flier for the next anti-police march here in Tucson. Spread the word, and bring banners and noise and all that!
For a World Without Cops or Jails
Saturday, March 24th
2nd St. & 4th Ave.
A good friend of local movement is facing some serious shit after an anti-nazi action in 2010. Support, financial and otherwise, is urgently needed. Let’s keep him out of prison, hey?
Check Arizona Antifa Defense, or email AZAntifa@gmail.com, and do what you can.
Bash the Fash, right?
When it comes to the scale of resistance, Tucson is not Oakland, CA nor is it Muskegon, MI. We live in a mid-size city that does not pull thousands for demonstrations and where active conflicts with the police are extremely rare. We also do not live in a small town which means that our resistance cannot always take place on a super personal level (though often it does). We live in a city with close to a million people and we have a fairly typical set of social variables that exists in most mid-size US cities. Tucson is average for the US in many ways, and in others it is unique, possible singular in terms of the dynamics that exist due to the border, militarized law enforcement of many stripes, and collaborative paramilitary/white supremacist activity. Any anti-police activity has to take all such factors into account; scale, demographics, idiosyncrasies, and of course, our capacity.
Anti-police activity in Tucson is nothing new. The police are the frontline enforcers of colonial rule and state power. They are our daily oppressors and their threats loom over us with every step that we take towards freedom. The struggles against the state’s violent apparatuses have existed as long as those very apparatuses. To speak honestly of the history of anti-police activity in Tucson and the border region of Arizona, one must look to centuries of Tohono O’odham anti-colonial resistance. Some of these histories are written down (such as the 1751 uprising) and others are alive in stories and traditions. Of the long legacy of anti-police and anti-state struggles that have taken place in this region, we admittedly know very little. This is not because we do not care. Many of us are young but we are studying the histories and hearing more of the lived experiences of those around us. Many of these histories are bloody and murderous, and others may never be given the credit they deserve because they are more about behind-the-scenes neighborhood protection methods that rarely get attention. We simply cannot know all of the pieces of the legacy we carry on, but we draw inspiration from all those that we have (written and oral). One source of inspiration that we recently heard more about is the battles with the police in West Tucson as community members marched on the rich El Rio Country Club in 1969, demanding that land back. Of course, the police fought brutally to protect the elite. Indeed, this is their singular function. It was their singular function in the 1960’s as it was of those who physically enforced colonial rule in the 17th and 18th Centuries, as it is the singular function today of every bastard in blue, green, and every other stripe of law enforcement that roam our streets.
While anti-police activity is not new here in Tohono O’odham occupied territory, there has been a recent increase in visibility and in some specific efforts. This is a struggle amidst a proud, liberal city whose white inhabitants tend to incessantly pat themselves on the back for their compost, their Obama stickers, and the fact that, “Hey, at least we aren’t Phoenix.” The attention put on Sheriff Arpaio in Phoenix allows for Tucson Police Chief VillaSenor and Sheriff Dupnik to appear ‘progressive’ as they make empty statements against SB1070 or sign documents that speak against Secure Communities use of traffic violations to run people for immigration status. For those whose communities are being destroyed by deportation, this means nothing. For the homeless that are being harassed daily, this means nothing. For those who fight to study their roots and defend Ethnic Studies, only to be brutally beaten by the police in the streets, this means nothing. To those behind bars on 29th street, this means nothing. To Jose Guerena who was killed by the Tucson police in his home, this means nothing. BUT, to many who are too dense, or too protected to feel such realities, this means Tucson is still a happy, liberal town that is, at least, ‘better than Phoenix.’ Yet in Tucson, informal racist policies such as ‘police discretion’ allow for Border Patrol to act freely, responding to any call from officers, regardless of 287g, SCOMM, or SB1070 laws of policies, but simply because we are within 100 miles of the border. This is grim situation, unique to border regions, that law officials love to conceal, while all the while winning over the white pawns. Another Tucson trick was Prop 100 last year, which had almost unanimous support due to a focus on ‘saving schools’, when in all actuality much of the money was shoveled into the police department.
We watch appalled as the 99%ers shake hands with the police, thank them, and extend their disgusting message that ‘the police are also part of the 99%.’ Those who have refocused our activity against the police are being unmistakably clear that the police are not part of any category that we want anything to do with. We do not seek their allyship, we leave that to the nazis and stand firmly as the enemies of both. We do not seek a nicer master. We seek total liberation. But what does that mean on the ground? It means as much direct and visible resistance as possible and as many viable alternatives as we may need to take care of ourselves without depending on police and prisons. Again, what do those phrases actually mean on the ground? Well… we do not know entirely. We are, however, identifying places where we can be effective, people we can connect with, and where we can act. All the while we are not waiting to figure it all out before taking action.
In the last couple of years we have learned a lot from Migrapatrol Copwatch, who have actively intervened in police activity (specifically regarding deportation), and from protection networks that we’ve seen growing, which are networks of families who create support structures for one another to build more autonomy and to be prepared when law enforcement attacks. We are inspired by such activity and want such models to grow and expand. Yet there are other contributions in the past month that are adding some exciting new pieces to the struggle.
In the past month there have been at least 2 rounds of anti-police graffiti that have gone up around the city. We saw many “Fuck the Police” pieces pop up overnight. When many of these were buffed, others popped up which read “Oakland, Tucson, Greece. Fuck the Police!” and “ACAB”. Additionally, there have been several rounds of wheat-pasting of anti-police flyers and posters. The first week of February there was an Anti-police outreach night and a group of people walked down the sidewalks of the two busiest downtown streets with a banner which read, “The Police Are Not Your Friends” handing out flyers titled the same thing. The flyer included information about police murders in Tucson and Arizona, state prison statistics, and visions of a world without police and prisons. About 400 flyers were handed out, including some flyers for an upcoming anti-police demonstration that would be happening two weeks from then. The overwhelming majority of people encountered were ecstatic to take the flyers and joyous yells of “Fuck the Police!” were a testament that the liberal, cop-loving crap is not true of all of Tucson.
Then, on Friday, February 17th a March For a World Without Police took place down the same two busy downtown streets on a friday night. The small crowd of about 35 people took 4th Ave with giant banners reading, “For a World Without Police or Prisons” “Prisoners of the State, You Are Not Forgotten” and a banner held backwards for those behind to see which read “Fuck the Police.” In the past few years the small act of taking the streets on any march in Tucson has led to a quick police response, yet this small group of people successfully took the two busiest downtown roads for a long chuck of time, while hundreds of flyers were distributed, a boombox blasted anti-police jams, and chants of “All Cops Are Bastards, ACAB!” and “Out of the bars, into the streets. Fuck the Police” filled the air. All of the literature distributed was in english and spanish and one of the flyers was a resource sheet of groups to call, instead of the police, with a description of the services they offer. People emptied out of the shops and bars to take photos and almost everyone seemed supportive (except one person who crumpled the flyer up then threw it back at the group). The demonstration was a spectacle, a photo-op, and ultimately it was strangely anti-climactic.
We came away from the night with many questions. The first questions were about that specific demo and why it felt so awesome, yet so eerie?
- Would it have felt better if there had been some sort of skirmish with the police?
- Are such conflicts desirable with such small numbers?
- Was the person trailing behind the crowd on a bike who was taking photos a cop?
- Was the only police response the helicopter that flew over us at the end and was that response a result of someone finally calling them (meaning that all that those we came in contact with previously were overwhelmingly supportive and no one called until the end)?
- Were they absolutely terrified of the small group and even smaller numbers dressed all in black and did their non-response signify a dismantling police department? (that one’s a joke)
Other questions are ones we have been addressing for a long time now.
- How do we build connections with neighbors and other community members so that they don’t resort to calling upon state violence when problems arise?
- As we build relationships with our neighbors and alternative models, are we sufficiently taking into account diverse needs and daily risks that exist across lines of age, race, gender, ideology and life-experience?
- How do we connect with other rebels in Tucson who aren’t already ‘plugged in’?
- How do we change a discourse dominated by the elite of Tucson (we include many of the 99%’ers in the list of elite) to one that matches the cop-hating`fury that we feel around us daily among the multitudes?
- How do we build alternative models that are viable and take into account real issues of abuse, assault, and crisis in our communities?
- How do we identify what types of social infractions actually hurt one another and others that only hurt power structures (ie, how do we define violence)?
- How do we change the ‘crime narrative’ in our Tucson?
- How do we address the risks that exist if we seek justice in ways not sanctioned by the state (for example, responding to assault and then facing legal consequences)?
- How do we defend ourselves from people who know that we don’t call the cops and then try to take advantage of that in our community spaces?
- How do we build momentum in less reactive ways (ie, not only gaining support when the cops kill someone or beat us up in the streets)?
- How do we effectively connect anti-police efforts to larger anti-prison, anti-state, anti-racist, feminist and queer struggles so as to not get stuck in a myopic gaze with ‘our enemies in blue’?
We want large escalation both in terms of destruction and creation. We want to fan all the flames we see around us against the cops. We also want to be honest about where we are at and what we are accomplishing. There are many inspiring, yet small, successes that have already seen in the last month. Propaganda efforts have been solid, alternatives have been studied and disseminated, and a spectacle of a demonstration has taken place. There have also been failures and we are not satisfied. Much better outreach could have been done for the demo and larger crowds could have created a rowdier show that night. Also, more autonomous actions could be taking place daily.
Finally, we do not wish to posture, nor inversely do we wish to shy away from our dreams. Our reality today is that our rage continues to boil and our dreams are still way up high in the sky. Solidarity with every brave soul crossing borders without permission. Solidarity with everyone the state has put in a cage. Solidarity with rebels in Oakland. Solidarity with rebels in Greece. We seek to give these words meaning and not let ourselves be satisfied with mere rhetoric.
ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS
Next Anti-Police Demo in Tucson will take place March 24th, exact time and place TBA.