Tag Archive: pacifism

Nonviolence as Compliance


Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order.

From The Atlantic/ By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”


Learning from Ferguson: A World Without Police

love4policeFrom Counterpunch – by Peter Gelderloos

In two previous essay, I discussed the role of the Left in protecting the police through cautious reformism, and the effectiveness of a pacified, falsified—in a word disarmed—history of the Civil Rights movement to prevent us from learning from previous struggles and achieving a meaningful change in society.

The police are a racist, authoritarian institution that exists to protect the powerful in an unequal system. Past and present efforts to reform them have demonstrated that reformism can’t solve the problem, though it does serve to squander popular protests and advance the careers of professional activists. Faced with this situation, in which Left and Right unwittingly collude to prolong the problem, the extralegal path of rioting, seizing space, and fighting back against the police makes perfect sense. In fact, this phenomenon, denounced as “violence” by the media, the police, and many activists in unison, was not only the most significant feature of the Ferguson rebellion and the solidarity protests organized in hundreds of other cities, it was also the vital element that made everything else possible, that distinguished the killing of Michael Brown from a hundred other police murders. What’s more, self-defense against state violence (whether excercized by police or by tolerated paramilitaries like the Klan) is not an exceptional occurrence in a long historical perspective, but a tried and true form of resistance, and one of the only that has brought results, in the Civil Rights movement and earlier.

What remains is to speak about possibilities that are radically external to the self-regulating cycle of tragedy and reform. What remains is to speak loudly and clearly about a world without police.

We don’t want better police. We don’t want to fix the police. On the contrary, we understand that the police work quite well; they simply do not work for us and they never have. We want to get rid of the police entirely, and we want to live in a world where police are not necessary.


What’s Worked in the Past: Learning From Ferguson

ferguson-poster_small-for-webFrom Counter Punch/ by Peter Gelderloos

This is the second part of a three part series. The first part can be read here.

The announcement of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson caught me on the road, traveling to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday. The next day I found myself in a protest, one of over a hundred occurring across the country. There I witnessed a scene that has played out many times before, and was probably being repeated at that exact moment in other cities.

A few protesters had just vandalized a yuppie restaurant on a strip targeted for heavy gentrification in that particular city. The windows were spraypainted with a slogan related to the murder of Michael Brown, and the restaurant’s sandwich board was stolen and pulled into the streets.


The Nature of Police, the Role of the Left


A young black person was killed, many people brave enough to take to the streets in the aftermath were injured and arrested, and the only real consequences the police will face will be changes designed to increase their efficiency at spinning the news or handling the crowds, the next time they kill someone. Because amidst all the inane controversies, that is one fact that no one can dispute: the police will kill again, and again, and again. A disproportionate number of their targets will be young people of color and transgender people, but they have also killed older people, like John T. Williams, Bernard Monroe, and John Adams, and white people too. The Right has seized on a couple cases of white youth being killed by cops, like Dillon Taylor or Joseph Jennings, throwing questions of proportion out the window in a crass attempt to claim the police are not racist.

Essentially, the point being made by right-wing pundits is that the cops are killing everybody, so it’s not a problem. The fact that they can make this argument and still retain credibility with a large sector of the population shows how normalized the role of the police is in our society. The true meaning of the evidence used manipulatively by the Right is that the police are a danger to anyone not wearing a business suit.

In a serious debate, however, it would be hard to deny that the police are a racist institution par excellence. They kill young black, latino, and Native people at a disproportionately higher rate than white youth, and the institution itself descended from the patrols created to capture fugitive slaves in the South and police urban immigrants in the North, as masterfully documented in Kristian Williams‘ landmark book, Our Enemies in Blue. What’s more, the criminal justice system that the police play an integral role in, both feeding and defending the prison-industrial complex, grew directly out of the 13th Amendment’s approval of slavery in the case of imprisonment, illuminating the path by which the United States’ advancing economy could leave plantation slavery behind, first with the pairing of sharecropping and chain gangs, and more recently with the pairing of a precarious labor market on the outside and booming prison industries on the inside. (more…)

In Defense of Looting

lootingFrom The New Inquiry

For most of America’s history, one of the most righteous anti-white supremacist tactics available was looting.

As protests in Ferguson continued unabated one week after the police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., zones of Twitter and the left media predominantly sympathetic to the protesters began angrily criticizing looters. Some claimed that white protesters were the ones doing all of the looting and property destruction, while others worried about the stereotypical and damaging media representation that would emerge. It also seems that there were as many protesters (if not more) in the streets of Ferguson working to prevent looting as there were people going about it. While I disagree with this tactic, I understand that they acted out of care for the struggle, and I want to honor all the brave and inspiring actions they’ve taken over the last weeks.

Some politicians on the ground in Ferguson, like alderman Antonio French and members of the New Black Panther Party, block looting specifically in order to maintain leadership for themselves and dampen resistance, but there are many more who do so out of a commitment to advancing the ethical and politically advantageous position. It is in solidarity with these latter protesters–along with those who loot–and against politicians and de-escalators everywhere that I offer this critique, as a way of invigorating discussion amongst those engaged in anti-oppression struggle, in Ferguson and anywhere else the police violently perpetuate white supremacy and settler colonialism. In other words, anywhere in America. (more…)

From Occupy to Ferguson

1a2From Crimethinc.

In early 2011, in response to austerity measures, protesters occupied the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. It was a localized struggle, but it gained traction on the popular imagination out of all proportion to its size. This clearly indicated that something big was coming, and some of us even brainstormed about how to prepare for it—but all the same, the nationwide wave of Occupy a few months later caught us flat-footed.

In August 2014, after white police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a week and a half of pitched protests shook the town. Once again, these were localized, but they loomed big in the popular imagination. Police kill something like three people a day in the United States; over the past few years, we’ve seen a pattern of increasing outrage against these murders, but until that August it hadn’t gained much leverage on the public consciousness. What was new about the Ferguson protests was not just that people refused to cede the streets to the police for days on end, nor that they openly defied the “community leadership” that usually pacifies such revolts. It was also that all around the country, people were finally paying attention and expressing approval.

Like the occupation of the capitol building in Madison, this may portend things to come. Ferguson is a microcosm of the United States. Could we see an uprising like this spread nationwide? It seems almost possible, right now, as the governor of Missouri has declared a preemptive state of emergency and people all over the US are preparing demonstrations for the day that the grand jury refuses to indict Darren Wilson.


What They Mean when They Say Peace

policestateFrom Crimethinc.

The Forces of Peace and Justice

“I’m committed to making sure the forces of peace and justice prevail,”Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said in Ferguson on Saturday, August 16, after a week of conflicts sparked by the police murder of teenager Michael Brown. “If we’re going to achieve justice, we first must have and maintain peace.”

Is that how it works—first you impose peace, then you achieve justice? And what does that mean, the forces of peace and justice? What kind of peace and justice are we talking about here?

As everyone knows, if it weren’t for the riots in Ferguson, most people would never have heard about the murder of Michael Brown. White police officers kill over a hundred black men every year without most of us hearing anything about it. That silence—the absence of protest and disruption—is the peace which Governor Nixon wants us to believe will produce justice.

This is the same narrative we always hear from the authorities. First, we must submit to their control; then they will address our concerns. All the problems we face, they insist, are caused by our refusal to cooperate. This argument sounds most persuasive when it is dressed up in the rhetoric of democracy: those are “our” laws we should shut up and obey—“our” cops who are shooting and gassing us—“our” politicians and leaders begging us to return to business as usual. But to return to business as usual is to step daintily over the bodies of countless Michael Browns, consigning them to the cemetery and oblivion.

Governor Nixon’s peace is what happens after people have been forcefully pacified. His justice is whatever it takes to hoodwink us into accepting peace on those terms—petitions that go directly into the recycle bin, lawsuits that never produce more than a slap on the wrist for the killers in uniform, campaigns that may advance the career of an activist or politician but will never put an end to the killing of unarmed black men. (more…)

Updates About Jailed MSEF Activists!

marcellusFrom Marcellus Shale Earth First!

All 5 of our brave friends are in goods spirits!  They where arrested Thursday during the lock down to block one of Anadarko’s drill sites on state land,   At this time, they are all content to stay in jail and not be bonded out.  This Weds they have their first court date and will be hoping for a bail reduction of their ridiculously high bails ($57,500 total!) for a non-violent protest.  We will be attempting to visit everyone this week at Lycoming County Prison in Williamsport, PA.  Their first court date is this Weds and we will be able to give more updates on their legal situation then.

In the mean time, please donate to their legal fund at https://fundly.com/marcellus-shale-earth-first.

If you want to send any messages of support to John Nicholson, Zora Gussow, Sierra Moy, or our other 2 friends (who wish to not have their names publicized), please email them to msefmedia@gmail.com and we will get the messages to them.  We will update with more information soon about how to send letters to them in jail.

“The Failure of Nonviolence” Reading Group, April 7th, 14th, & 21st

failureFrom Internationalist Books

Join us for a reading group on Peter Gelderloos’ brilliant new book:

“The Failure of Nonviolence: From Arab Spring to Occupy”

Email ibooks@internationalistbooks.org to reserve your copy of the book, or for more information.

The readings and meetings will be split into three sections:

Monday, April 7th at 7:00pm

Monday, April 14th, at 7:00pm

Monday, April 21st, at 7:00pm

About the book:

“From the Arab Spring to the plaza occupation movement in Spain, the student movement in the UK and Occupy in the US, many new social movements have started peacefully, only to adopt a diversity of tactics as they grew in strength and collective experiences. The last ten years have revealed more clearly than ever the role of nonviolence. Propped up by the media, funded by the government, and managed by NGOs, nonviolent campaigns around the world have helped oppressive regimes change their masks, and have helped police to limit the growth of rebellious social movements. Increasingly losing the debates within the movements themselves, proponents of nonviolence have increasingly turned to the mainstream media and to government and institutional funding to drown out critical voices. (more…)

Three Plowshares Activists 3-5 yrs in US Prison for Nuclear Break-in

plow sharersFrom The Guardian

An 84-year-old nun was handed a 35-month jail term on Tuesday for breaking into a US nuclear weapons plant and daubing it with biblical references and human blood. Sister Megan Rice was sentenced alongside two co-defendants, Greg Boertje-Obed, 58, and Michael Walli, 64, who both received 62-month terms.

At an earlier hearing in January, a judge ordered the three Catholic anti-nuclear protesters to pay $53,000 for what the government estimated was damage done to the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, regarded as one of the most secure in the world. (more…)