Less than a week into the Trump administration we have begun to see the startlingly swift emergence of a prototypical fascist regime. One such indicator has been the quick and brutal repression of the free expression of political activists: at least two hundred J20 demonstrators in DC are facing felony riot charges with up to ten years in prison and $25,000 fines in an abrupt break with precedent.
In a few days, more executive orders have been signed or planned than in the last decade. Hate crime statistics have risen drastically. Many of us have friends and family who have been targeted by right-wing hate groups and disconnected individuals. Anti-fascists are being shot by white supremacists without recourse.
Trump is an international diplomacy time-bomb waiting to happen with executive authority on the use of nuclear weapons. This is a global issue. Trump has specifically targeted Black Lives Matter, Muslims and Latinx people, culminating in an immigration ban against seven countries that will kill people. Trump is acting faster and more decisively than anyone was willing to predict. Militarized police forces have been targeting organizers and activists all over the country, at Standing Rock, acting against people of color and the poor, neuro-diverse and homeless.
In our city, the presence of a well-organized black bloc at J20 seems to have incited an absurd police response which included the use of pepper spray, tear gas, flash-bangs and rubber bullets. By the end of the night, our small affinity group had swelled in numbers with people I had never seen shouting the name we had decided beforehand to use to find each other– for that day, we were the 17s.
The urgency of our political situation manifested directly in the entire bloc’s naturally-emerging cohesion. The 17s’ well-prepared riot shields and medics gave confidence to countless new anarchists that day as members of the march called on us to rush to the front to defend everyone from police violence. Our use of shields was noted on national news. We later read people we had never met who wrote about the power of our group’s presence and we knew we had been successful in our goal.
We wanted anarchists to be known as the ones who will be protecting their communities in the face of fascist violence and this is why we decided to march; however, we believe in sustained and targeted acts of direct resistance. In the days following, a city-wide call for autonomous action was circulated in response to the police repression. This marked a vitally important transition in tactics in the movement, with people of all levels of experience engaging in acts of resistance independently, in small groups in a decentralized manner.
Two groups of fifty or so protesters were in one case stopped before marching with plans to occupy a downtown bridge; in the other case members of the second group were arrested in a downtown park with unnecessary force by riot cops with batons who chased down and tackled to the ground people that were running away. Highly visible organizers were targeted in specific, to equal parts rowdy cheers and angry boos from bystanders. Further, there were two separate reports from police of freeway-blocking attempts by one or few demonstrators.
These acts speak to our desperation and resolve; they speak to the fact that it is anarchists who see the tanker ship of fascism bearing down on us over the horizon. It is anarchists who see this because it is a form that we know as the oppressed know the shape of the whip that subdues us. There will not be one singular event that signals the rise of fascism. But there will be monolithic indicators that mark the extent of its growth in the same way that the volatility of a structure fire can be predicted based on the lay of the flames. And we do not want to be caught sleeping drunkenly in the penthouse of a building whose foundation is aflame, subdued like so many moderates in denial.
If it is what happens the “day after the revolution” that matters, then J20 marks a distinct shift in attitude in the movement. The many widespread and autonomous actions that are taking place show a marked willingness to elevate the methods of resistance and the risks we are willing to take. Groups formerly tied up with the government and the status quo such as Alt National Parks, EPA, NASA and so many others are coming to the surface and normalizing resistance in a way we have never seen before. When this kind of behavior happens en masse, it empowers us all and lowers collective risk, opening a path to sustained and widespread radical change through direct action.
These decentralized acts also speak to the desperation of some of our most vulnerable comrades, who know that the next four or more years will threaten their lives, health and safety. We stand with them and we take risks to empower them. There is a feeling in the air that we are all picking up on with the sharp awareness of a hunted animal. If we use our fear, constrain it in a way that supplements drive and sharpens our senses, we can find each other and hide like guerrillas waiting in ambush.
We can outsmart them. We can learn from the way they use technology, we can co-opt science, and we can use it against them to create a world of boundless possibility out of what looks now like a grave. We may not be able to defeat them with sheer might, but we can defeat them with our cleverness.
This is a call to action that goes out to all anarchists on the planet Earth. For a long time we have been marveling at how close we are to imminent destruction and yet still live: we are teetering so close between the risks of nuclear proliferation and the environmental crisis alone. Let us not stand in the graves we dug while the dirt is piled in on top of us. Now may be the last chance at resistance. As Hitler himself said in a 1933 speech, “Only one danger could have jeopardised this development– if our adversaries had understood its principle, established a clear understanding of our ideas, and… from the first day annihilated with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”
Let us heed these words and do what we have always known we could when the stakes were not yet high enough: let us take up individual action and swear secrecy to ourselves for every action which does not require a group. Let us form affinity groups of the closest friends and co-conspirators for group action because we know they would spend life in prison before snitching on us; let us target the sensitive nodes of society of which anarchists are so inescapably aware, so that the flow of the system is radically redirected toward the society we want to create.
We are calling up our old friends in our old hometowns and sending them this communique with PGP encryption. We are mailing this communique via snail-mail to the press and the publishers from random mail drops. We are telling our friends about it in person while our phones are signal-blocked. We are translating this communique into every language. The future of complex life on the planet is at stake. If we do not resist now, we will pass a point of no return. We are so close to that point already. The time is now. The stakes will never be higher.
In defense of love and liberty,
from your anarchist comrades,