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+% Who Is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation
+% Croatoan
+% 2012
+## Synopsis
+![The other civil rights movement.](images/oakland/14.jpg)
+This pamphlet – written collaboratively by a group of people of color, women,
+and queers – is offered in deep solidarity and in the spirit of conversation
+with anyone committed to ending oppression and exploitation materially. It is
+a critique of how privilege theory and cultural essentialism have
+incapacitated antiracist, feminist, and queer organizing in this country by
+confusing identity categories with culture, and culture with solidarity. This
+conflation, we go on to argue, minimizes and misrepresents the severity and
+structural character of the violence and material deprivation faced by
+marginalized demographics.
+According to this politics, white supremacy is primarily a psychological
+attitude which individuals can simply choose to discard instead of a material
+infrastructure which reproduces race at key sites across society – from
+racially segmented labor markets to the militarization of the border. Even
+when this material infrastructure is named, more confrontational tactics which
+might involve the risk of arrest are deemed “white” and “privileged,” while
+the focus turns back to reforming the behavior and beliefs of individuals.
+Privilege politics is ultimately rooted in an idealist theory of power which
+maintains that psychological attitudes are the root cause of oppression and
+exploitation, and that vague alterations in consciousness will somehow remake
+oppressive structures.
+This dominant form of anti-oppression politics also assumes that demographic
+categories are coherent, homogeneous “communities” or “cultures.” This
+pamphlet argues that identity categories do not indicate political unity or
+agreement. Identity is not solidarity. The violent domination and
+subordination we face on the basis of our race, gender, and sexuality do not
+immediately create a shared political vision. But the uneven impact of
+oppression across society creates the conditions for the diffuse emergence of
+autonomous groups organizing on the basis of common experiences, analysis, and
+tactics. There is a difference between a politics which places shared cultural
+identity at the center of its analysis of oppression, and autonomous
+organizing against forms of oppression which impact members of marginalized
+groups unevenly.
+This pamphlet argues that demands for increased cultural sensitivity and
+recognition has utterly failed to stop a rising tide of bigotry and violence
+in an age of deep austerity. Anti-oppression, civil rights, and decolonization
+struggles repeatedly demonstrate that if resistance is even slightly
+effective, the people who struggle are in danger. The choice is not between
+danger and safety, but between the uncertain dangers of revolt and the
+certainty of continued violence, deprivation, and death. There is no middle
+## I. The Non-Negotiable Necessity of Autonomous Organizing
+As a group of people of color, women, queers, and poor people coming together
+to attack a complex matrix of oppression and exploitation, we believe in the
+absolute necessity of autonomous organizing. By “autonomous” we mean the
+formation of independent groups of people who face specific forms of
+exploitation and oppression – including but not limited to people of color,
+women, queers, trans\* people, gender nonconforming people, QPOC. We also
+believe in the political value of organizing in ways which try to cross
+racial, gender, and sexual divisions. We are neither spokespersons for Occupy
+Oakland nor do we think a single group can possibly speak to the variety of
+challenges facing different constituencies.
+We hope for the diffuse emergence of widespread autonomous organizing. We
+believe that a future beyond capital’s 500 year emergence through enclosures
+of common land, and the enslavement, colonization, and genocide of
+non-European populations – and beyond the 7000 or more years of violent
+patriarchal structuring of society along hierarchized and increasingly binary
+gender lines – will require revolutions within revolutions. Capitalism’s
+ecocidal destiny, and its relentless global production of poverty, misery,
+abuse, and disposable and enslavable populations, will force catastrophic
+social change within most of our lifetimes – whether the public actively
+pursues it or not.
+No demographic category of people could possibly share an identical set of
+political beliefs, cultural identities, or personal values. Accounts of
+racial, gender, and sexual oppression as “intersectional” continue to treat
+identity categories as coherent communities with shared values and ways of
+knowing the world. No individual or organization can speak for people of
+color, women, the world’s colonized populations, workers, or any demographic
+category as a whole – although activists of color, female and queer activists,
+and labor activists from the Global North routinely and arrogantly claim this
+right. These “representatives” and institutions speak on behalf of social
+categories which are not, in fact, communities of shared opinion. This
+representational politics tends to eradicate any space for political
+disagreement between individuals subsumed under *the same* identity
+We are interested in exploring the question of the relationship between
+identity-based oppression and capitalism, and conscious of the fact that the
+few existing attempts to synthesize these two vastly different political
+discourses leave us with far more questions than answers. More recent attempts
+to come to terms with this split between anti-oppression and anticapitalist
+politics, in insurrectionary anarchism for example, typically rely on
+simplistic forms of race and gender critique which typically begin and end
+with the police. According to this political current, the street is a place
+where deep and entrenched social differences can be momentarily overcome. We
+think this analysis deeply underestimates the qualitative differences between
+specific forms and sites of oppression and the variety of tactics needed to
+address these different situations.
+Finally, we completely reject a vulgar “class first” politics which argues
+that racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are simply “secondary to” or
+“derivative of” economic exploitation. The prevalence of racism in the US is
+not a clever conspiracy hatched by a handful of ruling elites but from the
+start has been a durable racial contract between two unequal parties. The US
+is a white supremacist nation indelibly marked by the legal construction of
+the “white race” in the 1600s through the formation of a cross-class alliance
+between a wealthy planter class and poor white indentured servants. W.E.B. Du
+Bois called the legal privileges accorded to poor whites a “psychological
+wage”: “It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they
+received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and
+psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy
+because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white
+people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police
+were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent upon their votes,
+treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote
+selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic
+situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference
+shown to them.”
+We live in the shadow of this choice and this history. A history which is far
+from over.
+## II. Institutional Struggles Over the Meaning of Anti-Oppression Politics
+### a. On the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC), Again
+Nonprofits exist to maintain society as we know it. Nonprofits often provide
+vital social services in the spaces left by the state’s retreat from postwar
+welfare provisions, services which keep women, queers, and trans people,
+particularly those who are poor and of color, alive. Post-WWII welfare
+provisions themselves were provided primarily to white families – through
+redlining or the racially exclusive postwar GI Bill for example. Social
+justice nonprofits in particular exist to co-opt and quell anger, preempt
+racial conflict, and validate a racist, patriarchal state. These organizations
+are often funded by business monopolies which have profited from and
+campaigned for the privatization of public social services. This has been
+argued extensively by many who have experienced the limits of nonprofit work
+firsthand, most recently by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.
+Indeed, the exponential growth of NGOs and nonprofits could be understood as
+the 21st century public face of counterinsurgency, except this time speaking
+the language of civil, women’s, and gay rights, charged with preempting
+political conflict, and spiritually committed to promoting one-sided
+“dialogue” with armed state bureaucracies. Over the last four decades, a
+massive nonprofit infrastructure has evolved in order to prevent, whether
+through force or persuasion, another outbreak of the urban riots and
+rebellions which spread through northern ghettos in the mid to late 1960s.
+Both liberal and conservative think tanks and service providers have arisen
+primarily in response to previous generations of radical Black, Native
+American, Asian American, and Chican@ Third World Liberation movements. In the
+21st century, social justice activism has become a professional career path.
+Racial justice nonprofits, and an entire institutionally funded activist
+infrastructure, partner with the state to echo the rhetoric of past movements
+for liberation while implicitly or explicitly condemning their militant
+The material infrastructure promoting these ideas is massive, enabling their
+extensive dissemination and adoption. Largely funded by philanthropic
+organizations like the Ford Foundation ($13.7 billion), Rockefeller Foundation
+($3.1 billion), or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($37.1 billion), the US
+nonprofit sector has grown exponentially, often through the direct
+privatization of the remnants of America’s New Deal-era social safety net.
+This funding structure ties liberal organizations charged with representing
+and serving communities of color to businesses interested primarily in
+taxexemptions and charity, and completely hostile to radical social
+transformation despite their rhetoric. In 2009 nonprofits accounted for 9% of
+all wages and salaries paid in the United States, generated $1.41 trillion in
+total revenues, and reported $2.56 trillion in total assets. One need only
+hear the names of these philanthropic organizations to realize that they are
+or were some of the largest business monopolies in the world, whose
+foundations are required to donate 5% of their endowment each year, while 95%
+of the remaining funds remain invested in financial markets. The public is
+asked to thank these organizations for their generosity for solving problems
+which they are literally invested in maintaining.
+> “With increasing frequency,” Filipino prison abolitionist and professor
+> Dylan Rodriguez argues, “we are party (or participant) to a white liberal
+> ‘multicultural’/‘people of color’ liberal imagination which venerates and
+> even fetishizes the iconography and rhetoric of contemporary Black and Third
+> World liberation movements, and then proceeds to incorporate these images
+> and vernaculars into the public presentation of foundation-funded liberal or
+> progressive organizations. …[T]hese organizations, in order to protect their
+> nonprofit status and marketability to liberal foundations, actively
+> self-police against members’ deviations from their essentially reformist
+> agendas, while continuing to appropriate the language and imagery of
+> historical revolutionaries. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area from
+> 1995-2001, which is in many ways the national hub of the progressive ‘wing’
+> of the NPIC, I would name some of the organizations…here, but the list would
+> be too long. Suffice it to say that the nonprofit groups often exhibit(ed) a
+> political practice that is, to appropriate and corrupt a phrase from…Ruth
+> Wilson Gilmore, radical in form, but liberal in content.”
+### b. Politicians and Police Who Are “Just Like Us”
+In California some of the most racist policies and “reforms” in recent history
+have been advanced by politicians of color. We are not interested in
+increasing racial, gender, and sexual diversity within existing hierarchies of
+power – within government, police forces, or in the boardrooms of corporate
+America. When police departments and municipal governments can boast of their
+diversity and multicultural credentials, we know that there needs to be a
+radical alternative to this politics of “inclusion.” Oakland is perhaps one of
+the most glaring examples of how people of color have not just participated in
+but in many instances led – as mayors, police chiefs, and city council members
+– the assault on poor and working class black and brown populations. Oakland
+Mayor Jean Quan speaks the language of social justice activism and civil
+rights but her political career in city government clearly depends upon
+satisfying right-wing downtown business interests, corrupt real estate
+speculators, and a bloated and notoriously brutal police force.
+There is no more depressing cautionary tale of the fate of 1960s-era politics
+of “changing the state from within” than the career of Oakland Mayor Quan.
+Quan fought for the creation of an Ethnic Studies program at UC Berkeley in
+1969, and in 2011 penned a letter to Occupy Oakland listing an array of
+state-approved social justice nonprofits in order to justify mass arrests and
+a police crackdown on protesters attempting to establish a community center
+and free clinic in a long abandoned city owned property.[^1] In response to a
+season of strikes, anti-police brutality marches, and repeated port shutdowns
+in response to police assaults, the state offered two choices: either the
+nonprofits, or the police.
+![Mayor Quan surveys the aftermath of City Hall vandalism on January 28
+Move-In Day.](images/oakland/13.jpg)
+Quan and other municipal politicians are part of a state apparatus that is
+rapidly increasing its reliance upon militarized policing to control an unruly
+population, especially poor people of color in urban areas. Policing is fast
+becoming the paradigm for government in general. A white supremacist
+decades-long “war on drugs” has culminated in a 21st century imperial “war on
+terror.” The equipment and tactics of “urban pacification” are now being
+turned on American cities and on the citizens and non-citizens who are
+targeted by austerity measures which have for decades been applied to the
+Global South.
+This is as much the case in the liberal Bay Area as it is anywhere else.
+Recently “Urban Shield 2011,” a series of urban military training exercises
+for Bay Area police forces, was held on the campus of UC Berkeley in
+anticipation of raids on the Occupy Oakland encampment and other local
+occupied public parks. Israeli Border Police and military police from Bahrain,
+fresh from suppressing an Arab Spring uprising in their own country, took part
+in these exercises beside Alameda County Sheriffs and Oakland Police
+Department officers.
+We see clearly that in an era of deepening budget cuts and America’s global
+decline, the white liberal consensus about racial inclusion is quickly
+becoming economically unaffordable, and in its place we see increasingly
+widespread public support for mainstream, openly white supremacist social
+movements. Armed paramilitary white nationalist organizations like the
+Minutemen patrol the US border, white supremacist media figures spout
+genocidal fantasies on the radio and television, and police killings of young
+black men and women have become so frequent that even the mainstream media has
+begun to report on it. At the same time, policing is fast becoming the
+paradigm for government in general.
+> As Jared Sexton and Steve Martinot argue, “Under conventional definitions of
+> the government, we seem to be restricted to calling upon it for protection
+> from its own agents. But what are we doing when we demonstrate against
+> police brutality, and find ourselves tacitly calling upon the government to
+> help us do so? These notions of the state as the arbiter of justice and the
+> police as the unaccountable arbiters of lethal violence are two sides of the
+> same coin. Narrow understandings of mere racism are proving themselves
+> impoverished because they cannot see this fundamental relationship. What is
+> needed is the development of a radical critique of the structure of the
+> coin.
+> [The police] prowl, categorising and profiling, often turning those profiles
+> into murderous violence without (serious) fear of being called to account,
+> all the while claiming impunity. What jars the imagination is not the fact
+> of impunity itself, but the realisation that they are simply people working
+> a job, a job they secured by making an application at the personnel office.
+> In events such as the shooting of Amadou Diallo, the true excessiveness is
+> not in the massiveness of the shooting, but in the fact that these cops were
+> there on the street looking for this event in the first place, as a matter
+> of routine business. This spectacular evil is encased in a more
+> inarticulable evil of banality, namely, that the state assigns certain
+> individuals to (well-paying) jobs as hunters of human beings, a furtive
+> protocol for which this shooting is simply the effect.”
+### c. Capitalism and the Material Reproduction of “Race” and “Gender”
+Establishing community mutual aid and self-defense against the violence of
+emergent mainstream racist movements, against the systematic rape and
+exploitation of women, and against the systematic murder and/or economic
+ostracization of transgender, transsexual, and gender-nonconforming people;
+attacking ICE and police-enforced austerity policies which have historically
+targeted communities of color, naming and resisting the rollbacks of
+reproductive rights and access to healthcare as the patriarchal, racist
+attacks that they truly are; these are some of the major challenges facing all
+of us who understand that oppression is inextricable from global capitalist
+crisis. We cannot separate what’s happening in Oakland from a global wave of
+anti-austerity and anti-police brutality general strikes, occupations, and
+riots across the globe – from Barcelona to Tottenham, from Tahrir to Mali, and
+from Bhopal to Johannesburg.
+![March 29, 2012 general strike in Spain.](images/oakland/1.jpg)
+We do not believe that autonomous groups will be able to sustain themselves
+without creating non-state based support networks and without recognizing the
+mutual implication of white supremacy with capitalism and patriarchy.
+Undocumented immigrants confront a vicious, coordinated, and entirely
+mainstream ICE, police, and civilian assault which is, to be absolutely clear,
+a nativist anti-Latin@ movement committed to patrolling the borders of a
+nation understood as fundamentally white. Intensifying anti-immigrant racism
+is not unrelated to capitalism, and just a national but an international
+phenomenon, fueled by the success of capitalist globalization, by the profits
+which could be realized through debt and structural adjustment programs, US
+agribusiness subsidies, “free trade” agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA, and
+through multinational industries inevitably searching for lower labor costs
+through the fragmentation of global supply chains. Austerity means women, and
+particularly poor black and brown women, are being forced by the state and
+their husbands, boyfriends, and fathers to make up for the cuts in services
+and wages through additional domestic and reproductive labor they have always
+As a recent W.A.T.C.H. communique from Baltimore puts it, “We know that
+economic crises mean more domestic labor, and more domestic labor means more
+work for women. Dreams of a ‘mancession’ fade quickly when one realizes
+male-dominated sectors are simply the first to feel a crisis – and the first
+to receive bailout funds. The politics of crisis adds to the insult of
+scapegoating the injury of unemployment and unwaged overwork. And the
+nightmare of fertility politics, the ugly justification of welfare and social
+security ‘reforms.’ ‘Saving America’s families,’ the culture war rhetoric that
+clings to heteronormativity, to patriarchy, in the face of economic meltdown.
+Crisis translates politically to putting women in their place, while demanding
+queers and trans people pass or else. And the worse this crisis gets, the more
+the crisis is excused by a fiction of scarcity, the more the family will be
+used to promote white supremacy by assaulting women’s autonomy under the guise
+of population control. The old Malthusian line: it’s not a crisis, there’s
+just not enough – for them.”
+Capitalism can neither be reduced to the “predatory practices of Wall Street
+banks” nor is it something which “intersects” with race, gender, and sexual
+oppression. Capitalism is a system based on a gendered and racialized division
+of labor, resources, and suffering. Violence and deprivation, premature death,
+and rape, are structural aspects of an economic system which requires that
+some work and some do not, some receive care and some do not, some survive,
+and some die. To say that poor people of color, queers, or immigrants are not
+interested or not profoundly impacted by the economy, and instead interested
+only in reaffirming their identities within existing hierarchies of power, is
+to work within a rigged zero-sum game for the liberation of a particular
+oppressed identity at the expense of all the others. In the US in particular,
+the celebration of cultural diversity, the recognition of cultural difference,
+the applauding of women and queers entering the workplace, and the relative
+decline of overtly racist or sexist beliefs among younger generations, has not
+improved but instead masked a dramatic deterioration of the material
+circumstances of racialized populations.
+Massive accumulation through dispossession of native lands; racialized
+enslavement, murder, and incarceration; constant, intimate, and intensive
+exploitation of women’s unpaid labor, both in the home and as indentured
+domestic work, and always violently stratified according to race — all of
+these form the naturalized and invisibilized underbelly of capital’s waged
+exploitation of workers. The cumulative economic impact of centuries of
+enslavement, genocide, colonialism, patriarchy, and racial segregation is not
+simply peripheral but integral and fundamental to the nature of the global
+capitalist economy.
+The US economy reproduces racial, gender, and sexual inequality at every level
+of American society–in housing, healthcare, food sovereignty, education,
+policing, and prison. And also endlessly recreated in these very same sites
+are the categories “man/woman,” “normal/abnormal,” “able/disabled,”
+“legitimate/illegitimate,” “citizen/‘illegal,’” and a series of stigmatized
+populations who always interfere with the smooth functioning of the national
+economy. The natural, “harmonious” relationship between citizens, patriots,
+taxpayers, owners, workers, rich, and poor, are disrupted by “illegals,”
+welfare queens, faggots, freaks, careless promiscuous teens, and so on. The
+category of “race” is materially recreated and endlessly renewed through these
+institutions which organize the lives of the undocumented, the imprisoned, the
+residents of aging ghettos which increasingly function as open-air prisons.
+Speaking of capitalism as though it were somehow separable from racist
+exploitation, gendered violence, and the gamut of complex oppressions facing
+us in this world, confines antiracist and antipatriarchal struggle to the
+sphere of culture, consciousness, and individual privilege. The current
+dominant form of anti-oppression politics in fact diminishes the extent to
+which racialized and gendered inequalities are deepening across society
+despite the generalization of policies promoting linguistic, cultural, gender,
+and sexual inclusivity. Without attacking the material infrastructure which
+agglomerates power in the hands of some (a process whose end result is now
+called “privilege”), the equalization of “privilege” and the abolition of
+these identity-based oppressions in class society is a liberal fantasy.
+![Mohawk warrior Brad “Freddy Krueger” Larocque, a University of Saskatchewan
+economics student, confronts a Canadian soldier during the Oka crisis,
+### d. The Racialization of Rape and the Erasure of Sexual Violence
+Over the last year in California, the racist specter of potential rape has
+been used to both delegitimize spaces of militant action – in parks, streets,
+homes, or college campuses – and to erase the prevalence of sexual violence
+throughout society. The figure of the black rapist is routinely invoked to
+excuse police violence, retroactively justifying the murders of countless
+black men like Kenneth Harding. The need to preempt potential rape has been
+explicitly used to rationalize the widely publicized pepper spraying of UC
+Davis students on November 18, 2011. We are tempted to say this incident is
+more about the need for state bureaucracies to justify their own existence
+than it does about epidemic of sexual violence in America, but the truth is
+that the reality of rape and sexual violence along with rape’s deployment as
+an ideological weapon are fundamental to the everyday functioning of the
+economy and the state.
+In recent interviews, UC Davis Chancellor Katehi and Vice Chancellor Meyer,
+respectively, defend the police response to the Occupy UC Davis encampment by
+invoking Occupy Oakland and the implicit threat of sexual violence from the
+“outside.” Katehi claimed, “We were worried especially about having very young
+girls and other students with older people who come from the outside without
+any knowledge of their record … if anything happens to any student while we’re
+in violation of policy, it’s a very tough thing to overcome.”[^2] Chancellor
+Meyer was much more specific about the hypothetical threats in question: “So
+my fear is a long-term occupation with a number of tents where we have an
+undergraduate student and a non-affiliate and there is an incident. And then
+I’m reporting to a parent that a non-affiliate has done this unthinkable act
+with your daughter, and how could we let that happen.”[^3]
+![Police crack down on the Occupy Davis encampment at UC
+These statements illuminate how gender and race are typically linked in public
+discourse – here, Katehi, a woman in a position of power attempting to justify
+an illegal police action, infantilizes women as permanent victims and posits a
+tacitly racist specter of the criminal rapist, coming from the “outside” to
+the “inside” of the campus community. After the hypothetical rape, the rape
+survivor disappears. The rape is regrettable; this regret is not articulated
+in terms of the trauma of the rape survivor, but through the fact that the
+incident will have to be reported to a parent. To say rape is “unthinkable” is
+only possible from a position of privilege in which sexual violence is not an
+everyday reality.
+Considering the fact that rape occurs within every class and every possible
+racial demographic, usually perpetrated by friends and family, it is utterly
+fantastic to suggest that a large university campus like UC Davis is a place
+where rapes do not occur and where rape culture doesn’t flourish. Rendering
+rape unthinkable is absolutely essential to its structural use as a tool of
+gendered subordination and exploitation, and also as an ideological tool of
+white supremacy. The pepper spray incident reveals how the specter of rape
+appears in state and media narratives when it’s politically useful, and
+functions as a tool of racialization and criminalization (two processes which
+converge on poor black and brown populations) when in fact rape and sexual
+violence affects every sector of society.
+The locations which we are told to fear rape and sexual violence change
+depending upon what is politically expedient, and it’s crucial to notice which
+sites are emphasized and when – rape has occurred in Occupy encampments across
+the country, but far, far more rapes have occurred in American households, and
+yet media reports do not discourage us from heterosexual marriage and
+co-habitation. When is rape ignorable, and when is it unacceptable? Rape
+occurs frequently in dorm rooms, in fraternities and sororities, in cars, on
+dates, amongst persons of like age, ethnicity, and class. When the exclusion
+of police from public spaces is represented by the media as an invitation to
+rape, we are not at the same time informed that police themselves rape,
+sexually assault, and abuse women, trans people, queers, sex workers and
+others with stomach-turning frequency.
+While these administrators mobilize the specter of rape to defend the police
+response to the Occupy encampment at UC Davis, they take part in a nationwide
+campus culture that sanctions sexual violence. A major study on the topic
+found that colleges only expel persons found responsible for sexual assault in
+10-25 % of all reported cases. These students were often suspended for a
+semester or received minor academic penalties. Half of the students
+interviewed said that student judicial services found their alleged assailants
+not responsible for sexual assault.[^4]
+When sexual violence manifests in public organizing spaces, the subject is
+routinely labeled “divisive” or “just personal”. In a disturbing feat of
+capitulation to the state’s attack, ‘radicals’ will frequently suspect that
+allegations of rape and sexual assault are in fact inventions of state forces
+attempting to infiltrate communities of struggle. Many radical communities
+have come to associate a focus on addressing and attacking sexual violence
+with a politics of demobilization or distraction from the “real issues.”
+Again, the result is that the reality of sexual violence, not merely in one
+month encampments, but in personal spaces, amongst persons from every racial
+and ethnic demographic who know and trust one another, is methodically erased.
+The silence around sexual violence sanctions it, just as the spectacular
+outrage at isolated incidents of racial violence (e.g. Trayvon Martin) marks
+the everyday police murder of black and brown individuals as routine. The
+reality of sexual violence is that it is silenced, evaded, and ignored,
+empowering primarily cisgendered men at every level of society, and
+transforming conversations about sexual violence into further justification
+for intensified racist segregation, incarceration, and policing.
+![Young Chilean feminist: “Without god, without law, without husband: free,
+beautiful, and crazy”](images/oakland/4.jpg)
+## III. The Limits of Contemporary Anti-Oppression Theory and Practice
+### a. Identity is not Solidarity
+Privilege theory and cultural essentialism have incapacitated antiracist,
+feminist, and queer organizing in this country by confusing identity
+categories with solidarity and reinforcing stereotypes about the political
+homogeneity and helplessness of “communities of color.” The category of
+“communities of color” is itself a recently invented identity category which
+obscures the central role that antiblack racism plays in maintaining an
+American racial order and conceals emerging forms of nonwhite interracial
+conflict. What living in a “post-racial era” really means is that race is
+increasingly represented in government, media, and education as “culture”
+while the nation as a whole has returned to levels of racial inequality,
+residential and educational segregation, and violence unseen since the last
+“post-racial” moment in American history – the mid-60s legal repeal of the
+apartheid system of Jim Crow.
+Understanding racism as primarily a matter of individual racial privilege, and
+the symbolic affirmation of marginalized cultural identities as the solution
+to this basic lack of privilege, is the dominant and largely unquestioned form
+of anti-oppression politics in the US today. According to this politics,
+whiteness simply becomes one more “culture,” and white supremacy a
+psychological attitude, instead of a structural position of dominance
+reinforced through institutions, civilian and police violence, access to
+resources, and the economy.
+Demographic categories are not coherent, homogeneous “communities” or
+“cultures” which can be represented by individuals. Identity categories do not
+indicate political unity or agreement. Identity is not solidarity. Gender,
+sexual, and economic domination within racial identity categories have
+typically been described through an additive concept, intersectionality, which
+continues to assume that political agreement is automatically generated
+through the proliferation of existing demographic categories. Representing
+significant political differences as differences in privilege or culture
+places politics beyond critique, debate, and discussion.
+For too long individual racial privilege has been taken to be the problem, and
+state, corporate, or nonprofit managed racial and ethnic “cultural diversity”
+within existing hierarchies of power imagined to be the solution. It is a
+well-worn activist formula to point out that “representatives” of different
+identity categories must be placed “front and center” in struggles against
+racism, sexism, and homophobia. But this is meaningless without also
+specifying the content of their politics. The US Army is simultaneously one of
+the most racially integrated and oppressive institutions in American society.
+“Diversity” alone is a meaningless political ideal which reifies culture,
+defines agency as inclusion within oppressive systems, and equates identity
+categories with political beliefs.
+Time and again politicians of color have betrayed the very groups they claim
+to represent while being held up as proof that America is indeed a
+“colorblind” or “post-racial” society. Wealthy queers support initiatives
+which lock up and murder poor queers, trans\* people, and sex workers. Women
+in positions of power continue to defend and sometimes initiate the vicious
+assault on abortion and reproductive rights, and then offload reproductive
+labor onto the shoulders of care workers who are predominantly women of color.
+But more pertinent for our argument is the phenomenon of anti-oppression
+activists – who do advance a structural analysis of oppression and yet
+consistently align themselves with a praxis that reduces the history of
+violent and radically unsafe antislavery, anticolonial, antipatriarchal,
+antihomophobic, and anticiscentric freedom struggles to struggles over
+individual privilege and state recognition of cultural difference. Even when
+these activists invoke a history of militant resistance and sacrifice, they
+consistently fall back upon strategies of petitioning the powerful to renounce
+their privilege or “allow” marginalized populations to lead resistance
+For too long there has been no alternative to this politics of privilege and
+cultural recognition, and so rejecting this liberal political framework has
+become synonymous with a refusal to seriously address racism, sexism, and
+homophobia in general. Even and especially when people of color, women, and
+queers imagine and execute alternatives to this liberal politics of cultural
+inclusion, they are persistently attacked as white, male, and privileged by
+the cohort that maintains and perpetuates the dominant praxis.
+![After marching more than 1000 miles, protesters with disabilities confront
+Bolivian riot police in La Paz, February 2012](images/oakland/5.jpg)
+### b. Protecting Vulnerable Communities of Color and “Our” Women and Children: The Endangered Species Theory of Minority Populations and Patriarchal White Conservationism
+The dominant praxis of contemporary anti-oppression politics relinquishes
+power to political representatives and reinforces stereotypes of individually
+“deserving” and “undeserving” victims of racism, sexism, and homophobia. A
+vast nonprofit industrial complex, and a class of professional “community
+spokespeople,” has arisen over the last several decades to define the
+parameters of acceptable political action and debate. This politics of safety
+must continually project an image of powerlessness and keep communities of
+color, women, and queers “protected” and confined to speeches and mass rallies
+rather than active disruption. For this politics of cultural affirmation,
+suffering is legitimate and recognizable only when it conforms to white
+middle-class codes of behavior, with each gender in its proper place, and only
+if it speaks a language of productivity, patriotism, and self-policing
+And yet the vast majority of us are not “safe” simply going through our daily
+lives in Oakland, or elsewhere. When activists claim that poor black and brown
+communities must not defend themselves against racist attacks or confront the
+state, including using illegal or “violent” means, they typically advocate
+instead the performance of an image of legitimate victimhood for white middle
+class consumption. The activities of marginalized groups are barely recognized
+unless they perform the role of peaceful and quaint ethnics who by nature
+cannot confront power on their own. Contemporary anti-oppression politics
+constantly reproduces stereotypes about the passivity and powerlessness of
+these populations, when in fact it is precisely people from these groups –
+poor women of color defending their right to land and housing, trans\* street
+workers fighting back against murder and violence, black, brown, and Asian
+American militant struggles against white supremacist attacks – who have waged
+the most powerful and successfully militant uprisings in American history. We
+refuse a politics which infantilizes us and people who look like us, and which
+continually paints nonwhite and/or nonmale demographics as helpless,
+vulnerable, and incapable of fighting for our own liberation.
+When activists argue that power “belongs in the hands of the most oppressed,”
+it is clear that their primary audience for these appeals can only be liberal
+white activists, and that they understand power as something which is granted
+or bestowed by the powerful. Appeals to white benevolence to let people of
+color “lead political struggles” assumes that white activists can somehow
+relinquish their privilege and legitimacy to oppressed communities and that
+these communities cannot act and take power for themselves.
+People of color, women, and queers are constantly compared to children in
+contemporary privilege discourse. Even children can have a more savvy and
+sophisticated analysis than privilege theorists often assume! “Communities of
+color” have become in contemporary liberal anti-oppression discourse akin to
+endangered species in need of management by sympathetic whites or “community
+representatives” assigned to contain political conflict at all costs.
+And of course it is extremely advantageous to the powers that be for the
+oppressed to be infantilized and deterred from potentially “unsafe”
+self-defense, resistance, or attack. The absence of active mass resistance to
+racist policies and institutions in Oakland and in the US over the last forty
+years has meant that life conditions have worsened for nearly everyone. The
+prisons, police, state, economy, and borders perpetually reproduce racial
+inequality by categorizing, profiling, and enforcing demographic identities
+and assigning them to positions in a hierarchy of domination where
+marginalized groups can only gain power through the exploitation and
+oppression of others. The budget cuts and healthcare rollbacks are leaving
+poor queer and trans people without access to necessary medical resources like
+Aids medication or hormones, and other austerity measures have dovetailed with
+increasingly misogynist anti-reproductive-rights legislature which will surely
+result in an increasing and invisible number of deaths among women. As
+“diversity” has increased in city and state governments, and in some sectors
+of the corporate world, deepening economic stratification has rendered this
+form of representational “equality” almost entirely symbolic.
+We have been told that because the “Occupy” movement protests something called
+“economic inequality” it is not a movement about or for people of color,
+despite the fact that subprime targeting of Blacks and Latinos within the
+housing market has led to losses between $164 billion and $213 billion, one of
+the greatest transfers of wealth out of these populations in recent history.
+And despite the fact that job losses are affecting women of color more than
+any other group.
+We are told that because the “economy” has always targeted poor people of
+color, that increasing resistance from a multiracial cohort of young people
+and students, and from downwardly mobile members of the white working and
+middle class, has nothing to do with people of color – but that somehow
+reclaiming and recreating an idealized cultural heritage does. We are told
+that we are “tokens” or “informants” if we remain critical of a return to
+essentialist traditional cultural identities which are beyond political
+discussion, and of the conservative political project of rebuilding “the many
+systems of civilization—economics, government, politics, spirituality,
+environmental sustainability, nutrition, medicine and understandings of self,
+identity, gender and sexuality—that existed before colonization.”
+We reject race and gender blind economic struggles and analysis, but we do not
+reject struggles against what is, under capitalism, naturalized as the
+“economy.” While the majority of Occupy general assemblies have adopted a
+neo-populist rhetoric of economic improvement or reform, we see the abolition
+of the system of capital as not peripheral but fundamental to any material
+project of ending oppression.
+Recent statistics give a snapshot of worsening racial inequality in the US
+today: the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black
+households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, the greatest wealth
+disparities in 25 years. Over 1 in 4 Native Americans and Native Alaskans live
+in poverty, with a nearly 40% poverty rate for reservations. From 2005 to
+2009, Latin@s’ household median wealth fell by 66%, black household wealth by
+53%, but only 16% among white households. The average black household in 2009
+possessed $5,677 in wealth; Latin@ households $6,325; and the average white
+household had $113,149.
+![Oakland police preventing the reoccupation of a property in the process of
+foreclosure. 90% of Oakland’s foreclosures are concentrated in 3 largely black
+and brown zip codes, 94621, 94603,
+To address these deteriorating material conditions and imagine solutions in
+terms of privilege is to tacitly support the continual state and economic
+reproduction of racial and gender hierarchies, and renew racist and
+patriarchal violence in the 21st century.
+### c. On Nonprofit Certified “White Allies” and Privilege Theory
+Communities of color are not a single, homogenous bloc with identical
+political opinions. There is no single unified antiracist, feminist, and queer
+political program which white liberals can somehow become “allies” of, despite
+the fact that some individuals or groups of color may claim that they are in
+possession of such a program. This particular brand of white allyship both
+flattens political differences between whites and homogenizes the populations
+they claim to speak on behalf of. We believe that this politics remains
+fundamentally conservative, silencing, and coercive, especially for people of
+color who reject the analysis and field of action offered by privilege theory.
+In one particularly stark example of this problem from a December 4 2011
+Occupy Oakland general assembly, “white allies” from a local social justice
+nonprofit called “The Catalyst Project” arrived with an array of other groups
+and individuals to Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza, order to speak in favor of a
+proposal to rename Occupy Oakland to “Decolonize/Liberate Oakland.” Addressing
+the audience as though it were homogeneously white, each white “ally” who
+addressed the general assembly explained that renouncing their own white
+privilege meant supporting the renaming proposal. And yet in the public
+responses to the proposal it became clear that a substantial number of people
+of color in the audience, including the founding members of one of Occupy
+Oakland’s most active and effective autonomous groups, which is also majority
+people of color, the “Tactical Action Committee,” deeply opposed the measure.
+What was at stake was a political disagreement, one that was not clearly
+divided along racial lines. However, the failure of the renaming proposal was
+subsequently widely misrepresented as a conflict between “white Occupy” and
+the “Decolonize/Liberate Oakland” group. In our experience such
+misrepresentations are not accidental or isolated incidents but a repeated
+feature of a dominant strain of Bay Area anti-oppression politics which –
+instead of mobilizing people of color, women, and queers for independent
+action – has consistently erased the presence of people of color in
+interracial coalitions.
+White supremacy and racist institutions will not be eliminated through
+sympathetic white activists spending several thousand dollars for nonprofit
+diversity trainings which can assist them in recognizing their own racial
+privilege and certifying their decision to do so. The absurdity of privilege
+politics recenters antiracist practice on whites and white behavior, and
+assumes that racism (and often by implicit or explicit association, sexism,
+homophobia, and transphobia) manifest primarily as individual privileges which
+can be “checked,” given up, or absolved through individual resolutions.
+Privilege politics is ultimately completely dependent upon precisely that
+which it condemns: *white benevolence*.
+## IV. Occupy Oakland as Example
+### a. Occupy Oakland, “Outside Agitators,” and “White Occupy”
+When Mayor Quan and District Attorney Nancy O’Malley claim that Occupy Oakland
+is not part of the national Occupy movement, they’re onto something. From the
+start, Occupy Oakland immediately rejected cooperation with city government
+officials, wildly flexible state and media definitions of “violence,” and a
+now largely discredited arguments that the police are part of “the 99%.” After
+the coordinated raids on Occupy encampments across the country, the
+innumerable incidents of police violence, and slowly emerging details about
+the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security and its information
+“fusion” centers, the supporters of collaboration with the police have fallen
+The press releases of the city government, Oakland Police Department, and
+business associations like the Oakland Chamber of Commerce continually repeat
+that the Occupy Oakland encampment, feeding nearly a thousand mostly
+desperately poor people a day, was composed primarily of non-Oakland resident
+“white outsiders” intent on destroying the city. For anyone who spent any
+length of time at the encampment, Occupy Oakland was clearly one of the most
+racially and ethnically diverse Occupy encampments in the country—composed of
+people of color from all walks of life, from local business owners to fired
+Oakland school teachers, from college students to the homeless and seriously
+mentally ill. Unfortunately, social justice activists, clergy, and community
+groups mimicked the city’s erasure of people of color in their analysis of
+Occupy, when they were not negotiating with the mayor’s office behind closed
+doors to dismantle the encampment “peacefully.”
+From the beginning the Occupy Oakland encampment existed in a tightening vise
+between two faces of the state: nonprofits and the police. An array of
+community organizations immediately began negotiating with city bureaucracies
+and pushing for the encampment to adopt nonviolence pledges and move to Snow
+Park (itself later cleared by OPD despite total compliance of individuals who
+settled there). At the same time, police departments across the Bay Area
+readying one of the largest and most expensive paramilitary operations in
+recent history. It became increasingly clear that the city’s reputation for
+progressive activism could not tolerate the massing of Oakland’s homeless, and
+the extent of urban social damage, made visible in one location.
+![Oakland city fficials and local business people stage an Occupy Oakland counterdemonstration on the steps of City Hall.](images/oakland/8.jpg)
+The ongoing history of Occupy Oakland is a case study in how much antiracist
+politics has changed since Bobby Seale and Elaine Brown attempted to run for
+Oakland mayor and city council respectively in 1973 against a sea of white
+incumbents. Oakland’s current city government—including the mayor’s office,
+city council, and Oakland Police Department—is now staffed and led
+predominantly by people of color. State-sanctioned representatives who claim
+to speak for Oakland’s “people of color,” “women,” or “queers” *as a whole*
+are part of a system of patronage and power which ensures that anyone who gets
+a foot up does so on the backs of a hundred others.
+Whatever the rhetoric of these politicians, their job is to make sure the
+downtown property owners and homeowners in the hills are insulated from
+potential crime and rebellion from the flatlands due to increasingly severe
+budget cuts to social services, police impunity, and mass incarceration.
+Increasing numbers of Oaklanders rely upon a massive, unacknowledged
+informal/illegal economy of goods, services, and crime in order to survive. In
+other words their job is to contain this economy, largely through spending
+half (or over $200 million annually, and $58 million in lawsuit settlements
+over the past 10 years) of the city budget on the police department. When city
+politicians argue that protests are the work of “outsiders,” they’re also
+asserting the city government and the Oakland Police Department truly
+represent the city.
+We do not believe that a politics rooted in privilege theory and calling for
+more racial diversity in fundamentally racist and patriarchal institutions
+like the Oakland Police Department, can challenge Oakland’s existing
+hierarchies of power. This form of representational anti-oppression activism
+is no longer even remotely anticapitalist in its analysis and aims.
+By borrowing a charge used against civil rights movement participants and
+60s-era militants of color like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, and even
+Martin Luther King Jr., as “outside agitators,” city residents have been told
+that the interests of all “authentic Oaklanders” are the same. The one month
+Occupy Oakland encampment was blamed by the Oakland Chamber of Commerce and
+its city government partners for everything from deepening city poverty to the
+failure of business led development, from the rats which have always infested
+the city plaza to the mounting cost of police brutality. An encampment which
+fed about a thousand people every day of its month-long existence, and which
+witnessed a 19% decrease in area crime in the last week of October, was
+scapegoated for the very poverty, corruption, and police violence it came into
+existence to engage.
+![Real estate mogul and city power broker Phil Tagami patrolling the Rotunda
+Building with a shotgun on the day of the November 2nd Oakland general
+If you believe the city press releases, “authentic Oaklanders” are truly
+represented by a police force which murders and imprisons its poor black and
+brown residents daily (about 7% of OPD officers actually live in the city) and
+a city government which funnels their taxes into business-friendly
+redevelopment deals like the $91 million dollar renovation of the Fox
+Theater—$58 million over budget—which line the pockets of well-connected real
+estate developers like Phil Tagami. In a complete reversal of 60s-era militant
+antiracist political movements, we are told by these politicians and pundits
+that militant, disruptive, and confrontational political actions which target
+this city bureaucracy and its police forces can only be the work of white,
+middle class, and otherwise privileged youths.
+### b. The Erasure of People of Color From Occupy Oakland
+![Some of Occupy Oakland’s “White Anarchist Outside
+A recent communique critiquing the Occupy movement states, “The participation
+of people of color [in Occupy Oakland] does not change the fact that this
+occupation of public space upholds white supremacy…. Some of our own sisters
+and brothers have silenced our critiques in order to hold on to their
+positions of power as token people of color in the movement.”[^5] The
+communique argues that people of color can suddenly “uphold” white supremacy
+because they do not share the political analysis of the document’s authors.
+People of color who do not agree with the politics advanced by this group are
+labeled white, informants, members of Cointelpro, or tokens. Often many of us
+are simply erased. This is a powerful and deeply manipulative rhetorical
+tactic which simply fails to engage substantively with any of the reasons why
+people of color did participate in Occupy Oakland and equates critical
+participation with support for rape, racism, sexism, homophobia, and
+gentrification. Needless to say, the authors of the above-quoted passage do
+not speak for us.
+People of color who were not only active but central to Occupy Oakland and its
+various committees are routinely erased from municipal and activist accounts
+of the encampment. In subsequent months the camp has been denounced by social
+justice activists, many of whom work directly with the mayor’s office, who
+have criticized it as a space irreparably compromised by racial and gender
+privilege. Racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and transphobia were all clearly on
+display at Occupy Oakland – as they are in every sector of social life in
+Oakland. None of these accounts has even begun to examine how the perpetrators
+and victims of this violence did not belong to a single racial demographic, or
+track the evolving efforts of participants to respond to this violence.
+People of color, women and trans\* people of color, and white women and
+trans\* people who participated heavily in Occupy Oakland have regularly
+become both white and (cis) male if they hold to a politics which favors
+confrontation over consciousness raising. And within white communities,
+similar political disagreements are routinely represented as differences
+between individuals with “white privilege” and those who are “white allies.”
+There is clearly a need to reflect upon how the dynamics of the encampments
+quickly overwhelmed the capacity of participants to provide services and
+spaces free from sexual harassment and violence. To describe the participants
+of Occupy Oakland as primarily white men is not simply politically problematic
+and factually incorrect – it also prevents us from being able to look honestly
+at the social interactions that have actually occurred under its auspices.
+## V. Conclusion: Recuperating Decolonization and National Liberation Struggles; or, Revolution is Radically Unsafe
+![Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose suicide helped spark the
+“Arab Spring.”](images/oakland/11.jpg)
+Nearly fifty years after the dramatic upsurge of wars of national liberation
+fought over the terrain of what used to be called the “Third World,” there are
+few political tools for confronting emerging local and global racisms between
+nonwhite communities, and the persecution of ethnic minorities in former
+colonies by native, nonwhite elites. In the US, this has taken the form of
+increasing antiblack, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant racism within
+“communities of color” and increasing class divisions within nonwhite
+demographic categories.
+National elites in decolonizing countries have frequently appealed to
+idealized ethnic traditions and histories in order to cement social cohesion
+and hierarchies of domination within dictatorial one-party states. Appeals to
+a kind of authoritarian traditionalism often mobilize components of indigenous
+traditions which justify caste or caste-like social divisions. No longer
+requiring the force of occupying armies, formal decolonization in newly
+“independent” countries from Senegal to Vietnam has given way to neocolonial
+austerity, structural adjustment, and debt imposed by the global north and
+administered by those who Frantz Fanon, in The Wretched of the Earth, famously
+called the native “national bourgeoisie.”
+As Maia Ramnath observes about the actually-existing history of formal
+decolonization, “In seeking to replicate the techniques of colonial rule by
+institutionalizing states rather than abolishing them, the nationalist goal
+diverged from that of substantive decolonization. If the colonial regime’s
+structures of oppression were not simply to be reopened for business under new
+local management, yielding a new generation of authoritarian dictatorships and
+cultural chauvinists, a different logic of anticolonial struggle was
+> …[T]he specter of stateness–the pressure to establish your own, or to resist
+> the aggression of someone else’s…calls forth the enforcement of internal
+> conformity, elimination of elements who fail or refuse to conform, and
+> relentless policing of boundaries, including those of hereditary membership,
+> for which task the control of female bodies, sexuality, and reproduction is
+> essential.”
+The belief that communities of color in the US to represent coherent, bounded
+internal colonies or “nations” working for self-determination has been
+stretched to the breaking point by class divisions within these communities.
+To be clear: we believe that wealth can only buy limited protection against
+worsening racism, sexism, and homophobia. We desire radical liberation, from
+what theorists have called the “coloniality of power” and the institutions –
+the borders, the nation-form, the churches, the prisons, the police, and the
+military – which continue to materially reproduce racial, gender, class, and
+sexual hierarchies on a global scale. And yet we believe that the political
+content of contemporary decolonial struggles cannot be assumed in advance.
+21st century decolonization in the US would be unrecognizable to the
+individuals who have fought for liberation under the banner of anticolonial
+struggle in the past—a tradition which includes Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean
+Jacques Dessalines, Lucy Parsons, Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X,
+Angela Davis, Robert F. Williams, Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, the Third World
+Women’s Alliance, CONAIE, the indigenous militants of Bolivia in 1990, the
+militants of Oaxaca in 2006, the Mohawk people in the Municipality of Oka,
+Tupac Katari, Chris Hani, Nelson Mandela (who led the ANC’s armed wing,
+Umkhonto we Sizwe), Emiliano Zapata, Juan “Cheno” Cortina, Jose Rizal, Bhagat
+Singh, Yuri Kochiyama, Kuwasi Balagoon, DRUM, Assata Shakur, and countless
+Anticolonial struggles were violent, disruptive, and radically unsafe for
+individuals who fought and died for self-determination. One cannot be a
+pacifist and believe in decolonization. One cannot be horrified at the burning
+of an American flag and claim to support decolonization. And one cannot
+guarantee the safety of anyone who is committed to the substantive
+decolonization of white supremacist institutions. The fact that decolonial
+struggle has been reduced to state-sanctioned rituals of cultural affirmation,
+and appeals to white radicals to stop putting the “vulnerable” in harm’s way,
+reveals the extent to which contemporary privilege politics has appropriated
+the radical movements of the past and remade them in its own image.
+We are told that the victims of oppression must lead political struggles
+against material structures of domination by those who oppose every means by
+which the “victims” could actually overthrow these structures. We are told
+that resistance lies in “speaking truth to power” rather than attacking power
+materially. We are told by an array of highly trained “white allies” that the
+very things we need to do in order to free ourselves from domination cannot be
+done by us because we’re simply too vulnerable to state repression. At mass
+rallies, we’re replayed endless empty calls for revolution and militancy from
+a bygone era while in practice being forced to fetishize our spiritual
+We are told that the victims of oppression must lead political struggles
+against material structures of domination by those who oppose every means by
+which the “victims” could actually overthrow these structures. We are told
+that resistance lies in “speaking truth to power” rather than attacking power
+materially. We are told that it is “privileged” to attempt to practically
+interfere with budget cuts, foreclosures, teacher firings, disappearing
+schools, hunger, or the loss of healthcare. We are told by an array of highly
+trained “white allies” that the very things we need to do in order to free
+ourselves from domination cannot be done by marginalized communities because
+they’re simply too vulnerable to state repression. At mass rallies, we’re
+replayed endless empty calls for revolution and militancy from a bygone era
+while in practice being forced to fetishize our spiritual powerlessness.
+In a country where the last eruption of widespread political unrest was nearly
+forty years when the police go to war and it is called “force.” When business
+as usual is disrupted in any way, even by shouting, it is labeled “violent.”
+In this upside down world militant protests across the globe are characterized
+as heroic struggles for freedom while in the US SWAT teams are deployed to
+clear reproductive rights rallies. As an October 24th, 2011 letter from
+“Comrades in Cairo” published in The Guardian puts it, “In our ownoccupations
+of Tahrir, we encountered people entering the square every day in tears
+because it was the first time they had walked through those streets and spaces
+without being harassed by police; it is not just the ideas that are important,
+these spaces are fundamental to the possibility of a new world. These are
+public spaces. Spaces for gathering, leisure, meeting and interacting – these
+spaces should be the reason we live in cities. Where the state and the
+interests of owners have made them inaccessible, exclusive or dangerous, it is
+up to us to make sure that they are safe, inclusive and just. We have and must
+continue to open them to anyone that wants to build a better world,
+particularly for the marginalised, the excluded and those groups who have
+suffered the worst.
+Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the
+horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even
+force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative
+occupations and spaces: by the government’s own admission, 99 police stations
+were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed and all of the
+ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected,
+officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas
+and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on 28 January they
+retreated, and we had won our cities.
+It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our
+desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we
+have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we
+used when we shouted ‘peaceful’ with fetishising nonviolence; if the state had
+given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse
+us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight
+back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured and
+martyred to ‘make a point,’ we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be
+prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building,
+because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces
+are so very precious.”[^6]
+[^1]: [](
+[^2]: [](],
+ pages 27–28.
+[^3]: [](
+[^4]: [\_assault/articles/entry/1945/](
+[^5]: [](
+[^6]: [](]

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