Category Archives: Disaster Relief

Rhiannon Firth on Disaster, Mutual Aid and Anarchism

Rhiannon Firth on Disaster, Mutual Aid and Anarchism

"TFSR 1-16-2023" and the cover of Rhiannon Firth's "Disaster Anarchy" book
Download This Episode

We’re happy to share Scott’s interview with Rhiannon Firth about her recent book, Disaster Anarchy: Mutual Aid and Radical Action. You can get the book at a discount using the code “firth30”, on the Pluto Books website or you can get a digital read for free, linked in the shownotes.

Rhiannon’s: facebook; twitter; email.

Next Week…

Next week, we’ll likely share our recent chat with Tom Wetzel on his anarcho-syndicalist / libertarian socialist tome Overcoming Capitailsm (AK Press, 2022). Patreon followers will get early access to this chat as they very occasionally do to author interviews, alongside other gifts and the satisfaction of supporting our transcription efforts. Want in but don’t want to have a Patreon? Check out tfsr.wtf/Support for merch and other methods to donate and help keep our transcription and operating costs afloat. Thanks!

Announcements

Sanctuary Park Defendants Statement

A Statement from the Aston Park Defendants in Response to APD’s January 11th Press Release -January 14th, 2023:

“On Wednesday, January 11th, 2023, Asheville Police Department (APD) issued a widely circulated press release stating that 120,000 lbs of “trash” were removed from two “vacant” homeless encampments in West Asheville.

We believe that this press release is part of an ongoing misinformation campaign by the City of Asheville to justify evicting encampments, fracturing communities of care, and broadly criminalizing unsheltered homelessness without creating real solutions.

APD claims that the two camps were vacant, but admits that over the course of two weeks, they forced the people living there to leave. “Services” were offered to the people displaced, but were limited to rides, sharing information about local shelters, and helping people register for a housing list with a months-to-years long wait for placement. We question the utility of these services to people who are chronically homeless and unsheltered.

According to the city of Asheville’s 2022 Point in Time count, 232 (36%) of people without housing were unsheltered, defined as “sleeping outside or in other locations not suitable for human habitation.” These people are criminalized with trespassing laws and ordinances restricting camping. Yet, limited capacity and other barriers to shelter access often leave people with no other choices.

When people camp together in larger groups, they are able to share resources and build community. Providing these camps with basic waste disposal and sanitation services would eliminate the health risks used to justify their removal. Instead, people camping are blamed for these conditions, then forced to relocate with only what they can carry. Tents, shelters, and other necessities must be left behind, and are relabeled “trash.”

APD, city government and anti–homeless businesses use this, coupled with overblown and misleading claims about violent crime in camps, as justification for displacing unsheltered people again and again.

Since the 11th, APD evicted two more camps in East Asheville, just ahead of a cold front bringing ice and snow. Camp evictions in February and December of 2021 under similar conditions sparked widespread public outrage. Despite this, conditions for people living unsheltered have mostly remained unchanged. Misinformation about “litter” and crime, alongside unfulfilled promises of long-term solutions, have redirected public attention from ongoing violence.

Not only are camp sweeps violent, they are an ineffective and expensive strategy for managing unsheltered homelessness. There are more humane, longer-term and lower-cost alternatives. More on this, along with other updates, coming soon. In the meantime, check out our website, avlsolidarity.noblogs.org, for more information including links to sources cited for this statement. Please share and spread the word!

Solidarity & Love,

The Aston Park Defendants”

Asheville Mutual Aid Market

If you’re in the Asheville area, on Saturday, January 28th there’ll be a Mutual Aid Market at the Odd bar on Haywood Ave in west Asheville from 12-4pm including free brake light clinic by the Asheville Socialist Rifle Association chapter. Bring gently used clothing, kitchenware, fitness gear, tools, books and other stuff to share and take what you’d like. Oye Collective is hosting BIPOC artists and musicians who’ll have stuff on offer for donation, and donations will be collected for Asheville For Justice. Check the AFJ instagram for more info, the announcement in English and Spanish and info on accessibility.

Phone Zap, Tuesday for SeaTac detainees

There’s going to be a prisoner organized phone zap around conditions at SeaTac federal detention center on Tuesday. Inmates at SeaTac Detention Center are facing cruel and illegal conditions, without adequate access to medical care, food, and communication. You’re invited to join a phone zap on Tuesday Jan 17, from 8am-2pm, calling once or as many times as you can, asking that the Associate Warden’s Office take immediate steps to correct the situation. Script and details in our show notes

Here is a script you can use:

“I’m calling on behalf of inmates at SeaTac Federal Detention Center, asking for the leadership to address the cruel and *illegal* conditions at the facility.

Without a long-term warden and the presence of leadership at the lunch line, it’s been difficult for inmates to directly address concerns themselves. Because you’ve silenced them, I’m calling on their behalf to let you know that many people across the nation are watching SeaTac right now. Please take immediate steps to improve conditions for every inmate at SeaTec by providing:

  • A minimum of 2,000 calories/day

  • A doctor on-site at the facility

  • Immediate access to prescription medications

  • Immediate access to dental care

  • Increased email access

  • A warden assigned to the facility”

. … . ..

Featured Tracks:

  • Cavern by Liquid Liquid from Liquid Liquid Discography (1981-1984)

. … . ..

Transcription

TFSR: I’m really excited to be talking to Rhiannon Firth today, the author of Disaster Anarchy, which came out through Pluto Press this year. Can you introduce yourself with any pronouns and whatever affiliations that you’d like to mention?

Rhiannon Firth: Yeah. Hello, I’m Rhiannon Firth, my pronouns are she/her. I live in London at the moment. I’m a lecturer in sociology at the Institute of Education. That’s me.

TFSR: Awesome. I’m really excited to get into the book because I think it’s a really important contribution to thinking about mutual aid and disaster and anarchism. So to open up, your book is making an anarchist contribution to something that’s called disaster studies. You propose this idea of disaster anarchy, I wonder if you could give a little background on what disaster studies is, and the different fields within it: a state-based one and a critical one, too.

R: Okay. It might be worth giving a bit of personal history into how I ended up writing this book in the first place. So I’ve been interested in anarchy and anarchism since well before I went to university. So my studies and interests aren’t– I’m totally an academic geek. I’ve mostly been at university either studying or working in some form since I started doing my undergrad. But the book itself started when I was working on a research project. I was working as part of a research team. I was on a precarious contract. And I’ve always been on precarious academic contracts until very recently. But my boss at the time had a bit of money left over at the end of a project and asked me if there was some way I could use it. It was a project about disasters, and I didn’t know anything about disasters at the time. And he said, “Well, you’re into anarchy and social movements, why don’t you go and study Occupy Sandy? And obviously, I knew about Occupy Sandy, this was about three years afterward. So it was in 2015, and the hurricane itself and the relief movement were in 2012.

So, I had this money and this offer to go to New York and interview some people involved in this cool movement that I was already really inspired by so I said “I’ll definitely take you up on that!” I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, because it was this money at the end of a project that needed to be used quite quickly. Otherwise, you have to give it back to the funder, I think. So I went with very little preparation and interviewed people and met some really wonderful, inspiring people through the Occupy Sandy mailing list. Obviously, that movement grew out of Occupy Wall Street. I’ve managed to get in touch with some people and interviewed about seven people. And it was actually the third anniversary of the hurricane when I visited.

That was all really awesome and inspiring. But I came back with all this data, and I had no idea what to do with it. I was supposed to write an article or something. And I couldn’t figure out how to theorize what I was interested in, because the main thing that I found that I was interested in was the fact that the movement had initially been quite radical. Occupy Wall Street was an anti-austerity, anti-capitalist movement with large anarchist strands, and then Occupy Sandy also had many of the same people involved. But the Department of Homeland Security in the US commissioned this report that very much praised the movement and talked about how fantastic they were, and how we incorporate this youthful energy into our official disaster response, and so on. It’s quite a patronizing document. And it’s very hard to find online anymore, actually. Because when Trump got rid of loads of documents online, that was one of the things that went, so. There are some anarchist archives that it’s still on, but it’s no longer on the government web pages like it used to be.

I was fascinated by this document and why it was commending Occupy Sandy so much. It also caused splits in the movement. There are a lot of splits in the movement between those who wanted to not be radical or to accept funding or also who were quite pleased, they saw it as a recognition from the state and the government that their actions were more effective than the official relief effort, which was very much the case at the time. So I needed to figure this out and I felt I needed to know stuff about disasters and how disasters are defined and I went down this huge rabbit hole. Instead of writing an article, which was what I was supposed to do, I actually found it impossible to write that article because I needed an anarchist theorization of disasters and so on, and it didn’t exist. So, to me, that was a huge gap.

Also, what was even more difficult was a lot of the mainstream literature says things that sound quite anarchist. Like this government report that praises Occupy Sandy, there’s this huge valorization of autonomous responses and community response and so on in a lot of the mainstream disaster studies literature. Sometimes you read it, and it’s hard to find anything to criticize. So it took me a long time. And then finally, I got this theorization together and started to write the book. And it took me five years. I was writing this book, and then COVID happened in the UK, well, globally. But I’d never expected to live through a major disaster in my lifetime. And suddenly, this disaster happened all around me. And then also, the discourse that our government here was using and then the splits that were in the movement completely echoed and even magnified what I already started to theorize and I was writing about with Occupy Sandy. So I was like, “Well, I’m really onto something here. My theory is playing out all around me”. I ended up taking an extra two years to incorporate interviews and work on this COVID response here as well. That’s how the book came into being. And I think that partly answers your question about disaster studies as a field. I could go into more detail about that. But I feel we’ve been talking for a while.

TFSR: No, I think that would be interesting. I want to get into the two movements that you looked at. But I would love to hear you talk a little bit more about specifically what your theorization of an anarchist disaster response is, but also how that differs from the ways that the state or other academics talk about it, because those differences seem really important and interesting, even when, as you mentioned, there are places where it sounds similar. But ultimately, you’re saying there’s something very different at play with the anarchist response.

R: Yeah. I suppose the anarchist response to me is very much based on Kropotkin’s idea of a social principle and the idea that in the absence of a state or a hierarchical coordinating authority, people can cooperate and solve problems and organize themselves without an overarching authority. And in fact, that’s a much better way for people to respond even in disaster situations. A lot of people might accept that people can cooperate in normal times. But maybe a disaster is an exceptional circumstance where people need a coordinating authority, even if temporarily. What we see instead usually is when there’s a disaster, it takes a while for bureaucracies to figure out what they’re doing because they’re quite rigid structures. But what happens immediately is people start cooperating and helping in the recovery effort. And people have been writing about this for a long time. Rebecca Solnit is very well-known for writing in A Paradise Built in Hell about the way people step in and roll up their sleeves to help in the recovery effort. Interestingly, the mainstream disaster studies approach very much accepts that. They accept that people, grassroots movements, and people in community groups are much better in the immediate aftermath of a disaster than states who take a lot longer. Naomi Klein, who wrote Disaster Capitalism, talks about how there’s this assumption that there’s a need for specialized bureaucracy to then step in and coordinate this effort. And that’s very much the mainstream disaster studies approach. It says autonomous groups are great, but they need someone to come in, and then, as Naomi Klein shows, that’s often a power and resource grab that happens. It’s often people that come in and vampire of the energies of movements.

An anarchist approach to me is something that’s consciously anarchist and tries to fend that off, in a sense. It’s first accepting that non-hierarchical movements are better at organizing disaster relief and better at organizing almost everything I’d say. But then also, it needs to be a denial of the idea that there is a need for someone to then step in and coordinate them. And then that means having to fend that off because people will try and do that.

TFSR: It’s really interesting because both of these beliefs are widely held that we know from experience and reports that when disasters happen, people come together and work together. And, as you said, that goes back to Kropotkin, in terms of talking about it as an anarchist principle, and then the state also recognizes this in its official documents. But then there’s also this widely held belief that we need the centralized authority to take care of us. I guess a lot of it’s about security. There’s the fear of that Mad Max thing. There is a disaster, and then you have complete lawlessness, and people are killing each other over scarce resources. Why do you think those things both stand in our general understanding of these things of how we respond to disaster? Do you have any thoughts on that?

R: Yeah, it’s really confusing. And I think it’s very much about what people think human nature is. And I think anarchists have quite a coherent view of what human nature is, or at least what it’s capable of, which is that humans are probably malleable. And if you set them up to fail and compete, then they might do, but they’re perfectly capable, at least, of cooperating. I think I stated this role of contradictory view of people, it sort of sees them as these Hobbesian brutes that compete and battle each other to the death for scarce resources. But then it also sees them as these kinds of easily manipulatable people with so-called rational choices that can be nudged through technocratic control. So, it’s a manipulative view of human nature. But maybe, the state also views human nature as malleable, but that they ought to have the right to mold it themselves for their own purposes, whereas anarchists prefer people to make a more ethical choice.

TFSR: Yeah, the way you talk about the neoliberal responses to disasters, to use that as an opportunity rather – to force people to fend for themselves. So that has the sound of autonomy or decentralization, but at the same time, the neoliberal state will increase its order and control through police functions. So that’s the response to the brutish understanding of human nature. They’re doing both things. You refer to the response to Katrina, which, scott crow writes about: mutual aid and self-defense are going on from the community perspective, too. They are dealing with people coming together and people trying to hurt each other. So, there’s a different way that anarchists respond to that, the fact that both of those things can coexist. That wasn’t really a question. I’m thinking about that.

This gets to this other point that you make, which is that anarchists define disaster differently than the state, specifically in relation to how a capitalist state creates disasters. Can you talk a little bit about those differing definitions of disaster that you encounter?

R: The mainstream disaster studies, as well as mainstream consciousness or public consciousness, as well as the state and state policy, always see disaster as a temporary rupture that needs to be fixed. So, in a way, they like anarchist groups or any groups coming in to help. They like Occupy Sandy coming in to help so long as they help get back to normal or, as we had during COVID, this even more terrifying “new normal.” So if anyone wants to help get the wheels of capitalism moving again, then they’re welcome. It’s only when things become non-state or anti-state that the state sees them as a threat. As long as mutual aid is helping people do their shopping or keeping people alive while the neoliberal state withdraws its welfare functions, but continues to profit off people and communities then it seems to be fine with it.

The difference in the anarchist response is that they see capitalism as an ongoing disaster. And then the injurious effects of a disaster are not injurious if the state would see it. For the state, they’re not problems of order, and order needs to be restored. They are problems of humans, and capitalism is already inhumane. And the people that are hurt most by the disaster are the people that are already barely surviving the everyday disasters of capitalism. So, the effects of disasters are always racialized and gendered, with people who are more marginalized and more precarious or the people that are more likely to die or lose their livelihoods in a so-called natural disaster or a pandemic or whatever. It’s the people that are already struggling that are going to suffer the effects most. Anarchists tend to see these disasters as constitutive of capitalism. Rather than a rupture in capitalism that needs to be plastered over to get back to normal, they’re actually revealing the very nature of capitalism, in a sense.

TFSR: One of the benefits that an anarchist response to disaster brings is that it has this long view both of capitalism and the state as ongoing disasters, but also specifically in relation to the climate catastrophe that we’re facing, that’s getting worse and worse.

Sorry, I am pivoting. One of the things that I think about a lot with anarchists’ response to mutual aid is it seems often, we’re in the reactive position. Like when fascists come to town, and we want to drive them out. But this long view that you mentioned is maybe really helpful to think about how anarchists can understand that disasters aren’t continuous within this current social order. Do you have thoughts on that? What that long view offers us in relation to the future disasters that we know are coming?

R: It’s not only anarchists, I think it is Walter Benjamin who had this idea of the “Angel of History”, where history is this pile of ruins that accumulates and things are getting worse and worse. And it offers this reverse perspective on the idea of progress. And the idea that things are continually progressing and getting better. A long view is more about reversal of perspective and seeing the– I suppose mutual aid rather than simply being “let’s fix things”, it’s prefiguring a different way of being that also, hopefully, in a sense, addresses the climate crisis. Anarchists disagree with people who think that we need a strong state, people like David Harvey and George Monbiot– He’s writes in The Guardian. He puts forward these arguments that anarchists are playing games with climate change because they’re messing around and causing disruption. After all, we really need a strong state to address capitalism. It is this state versus capitalism view where the state is the only thing that can save us from capitalism. As an anarchist, I see the state as absolutely essential to capitalism. It’s the state that provides the security and the monopoly on violence that keeps everyone in this capitalist system. Anarchism offers radical alternatives to that, which is about people and communities and ecosystems working more cooperatively, at a more down-scaled level. And mutual aid is something that hopefully prefigures that because the state is this alienating impulse that alienates people from each other by turning them into these nodes of this capitalist machine.

There are very individualizing discourses. One that we had in the UK was at the height of the crisis community, this idea of community was deemed desirable. And we even had conservative politicians advocating mutual aid, and there was a call for NHS volunteers, the National Health Service. It’s in pieces after decades of austerity and the idea that people should volunteer for it, and work for it… People were banging pots and pans for the care workers, but they don’t get fair wages and things like that. But there was this idea of community and helping us being desirable at the height of the crisis and then the discourse became more and more individualized as they started to encourage people to go out. There was this ridiculous poster we had: “Stay alert, control the virus”. The idea is that you go out into the world and on an individual level, you have to be alert, you have to make sure that you keep your distance and have your mask and wash your hands and do all these very individualized aspects. And this is a commandment from the state. Also, the idea that everybody has to do the same thing – the stay-home-stay-safe thing, for so many people home is not a safe place. This is generic advice.

And I talk about that a lot in the book actually, about how this neoliberal approach to disasters treats disasters as generic and it treats people as generic. And the idea is that the same policies can apply in every disaster. So things like staying home and lockdown, people see as specific to COVID. But they’re not at all, they’ve been used in all sorts of disasters from the Grenfell Tower where people were told to stay put and burned to death, and several other things were “stay put, stay home” – it’s been advice in planning for nuclear war. It’s about maintaining social order, but it doesn’t consider differences between people and people’s different needs. So, home might not be safe for some people. People might be experiencing domestic violence, or they might not have a safe home to go to. This generic instruction is very alienating. The anarchist alternative is that people and communities on a much less alienated level have to come to an agreement between themselves about how to keep themselves safe. And the idea is that they can cooperate to do that.

TFSR: That’s interesting, also thinking how capitalism is based on universal exchange. The state looks at all of us as exchangeable items that they plug into their systems of efficiency.

On the other hand, the experience that you talk about in the case studies, but also it’s widely recognized. I think you called this term “disaster utopia”. People acknowledge that this is a feeling that people have, when you are faced with a disaster and you come together with the people around you, you feel like you’re doing something important for the first time in your life. This is something I think about a lot: similar to the experience of being in an action with people, there’s a thing that happens that feels real and present and important in a different way than most of our alienated lives. The demand to return to normal after you’ve been working together with people is really depressing.

Is there hope in introducing an idea of disaster anarchy that we could somehow normalize anarchism – that experience beyond the disaster?

R: I’m less optimistic than some other people. And, in fact, I’m really pessimistic. And people think that I’m going to be really optimistic, because I’m interested in utopianism and utopian studies, and I’m interested in anarchism and so on.

But actually, when the pandemic hit, there were a lot of people that seem to somehow think that it was going to be the basis for some new anti- or postcapitalist order. The fact that people weren’t able to go to work as usual, people thought this was some radical thing. But I saw the lockdown as pretty draconian from the start, and then you get typecast as some libertarian, who wants everyone to catch the virus, like you don’t care. And you are like “No, no, it’s not that. I think there are alternatives to this very securitized lockdown thing, how about people cooperating? And I didn’t see that happening at all. People were doing mutual aid, but a lot of it was WhatsApp groups, and people weren’t seeing each other in person. And a lot of it was helping people do shopping. And it felt incredibly alienating from the start. But there’s this huge mutual aid movement. And I think it was incredibly inspiring. Sections of it certainly, I heard some really inspiring stories. Unfortunately, I wasn’t involved in one of the more inspiring movements. I think there were sections and movements and people that I interviewed, and certainly, in my book, there were people that were involved in really radical, interesting anarchistic groups. I wasn’t at the time, I did a bit of delivering meals on a bicycle around my area, which I really enjoyed because I love riding around on my bike, but I didn’t feel like I was part of a radical movement. I felt I was doing social services for free, basically.

TFSR: I was asking about whether there’s an opportunity to normalize – not return to normal – the experience of collectivity that can happen in disasters. ‘m thinking about that also, because in the book, you caution against making the argument or defensive anarchists responses as being better or efficient than the state because that fits into the state’s logic, makes it co-optable by them. How are we talking about anarchist responses that get outside of that logic?

R: I guess it’s about people relating at a human level and seeing how the disaster is affecting different people differently at a human level and helping people at a human level and forming a community in a desalinated way. And there definitely was some of that. I had several interviewees I spoke to, people in anarchist circles who say that they met people they wouldn’t have met in their local community, that they probably walked past every day, but they’ve never spoken to. Some people even had conversations about anarchism with these people and were received quite sympathetically. And then there were other things, and they sound quite dark. And it’s easy to be pessimistic about them. Some people wanted to call the police on a group of racialized youth who were hanging around on the street corner because they should have been at home. This was obviously some less radical, more middle-class people that wanted to be involved in mutual aid as an altruistic do-goodie-type thing or something. But, they were tucked out of that by the anarchists in the group who persuaded them that these young people might live in overcrowded housing, or they might not have a safe home to go to, and they are less at risk from the virus than some other people, and they’re not really doing anyone any harm, they are just hanging around together, and calling the police on these black young people, when the police historically are awful to black people is probably not the best idea. And they did talk them out of it.

So I think useful things, that can even be seen as an intervention, that’s a form of community self-defense. It’s about forming communities and defending communities from the police and the state and so on. So even though it’s a little thing, and there was someone else that wanted to call the police on a window cleaner, apparently, because he was out cleaning windows, they got talked out of it, too. So there were these little micro-interventions that are about defending communities from being used as the crowd-sourcing of policing during the pandemic.

TFSR: I initially had this response. Like people are gonna see the contradictions that we’re forced to live under, where we can’t work, but we have to pay rent. And so something big is gonna happen. And something big did happen in terms of George Floyd’s uprisings in the US and how that reverberated around the world, too. But it wasn’t the direct response to COVID that brought that out.

It’s not hopeful, because we live in a disaster world that’s falling apart, and people are really suffering, but you talk about how people are increasingly seeing the state as irrelevant to them. I guess this gets us into another huge thread in your book – the idea of recuperation. Because if the states were irrelevant, we, therefore, need to do mutual aid to survive. But then the state can use that as a stopgap measure or increase its austerity because we’re doing that. We don’t make it revolutionary. That’s a problem. So I wonder if you could talk about recuperation and how you think about it in terms of disaster response, and how that can be resisted?

R: That is the major thread that is running through my whole book is I do think the state is increasingly irrelevant to more and more people. I think mutual aid is necessary for more and more people to survive as the welfare state retreats, and the oil economy is collapsing. And then, also, the state has this survival instinct of its own that it seeks to recuperate anything, it seeks to capitalize on all social relations. To me, the state is another capitalist enterprise, but it has a monopoly on violence, rather than having a monopoly on a particular product, rather than being Amazon, and having this monopoly on logistics. It’s got a monopoly on violence and territory. So everything within it, it sees as its territory, and it seeks to capitalize on social relations. So mutual aid helps the state because it keeps people going and keeps people alive. But then at some point, the state and mutual aid are going to come into conflict, because the state will seek to dispossess people and exploit them.

And there’s this idea of social capital, that a lot of people see as this fluffy, maybe even left-wing term to encourage social capital, but with the word capital in it, it’s about how the state seeks to capitalize on the social. So social action is only useful in terms of the state if the state can mobilize it in its own interests. And if it can’t, then it becomes a threat, and it seeks to repress it. So, in a sense, the reason the Department of Homeland Security was so happy with Occupy Sandy was that it was doing the state’s job for it and saving it money. It was doing a relief effort that FEMA and the Red Cross were quite managing to do. But when Occupy Wall Street occupied Wall Street, that’s not the social action that the state wants to see, because it’s disrupting profits for capitalists that are within the state. That’s why it was violently dispossessed, and then also this whole thing’s racialized. And we saw Katrina was heavily militarized and securitized. In the book, I look at the fact that if social action is only valuable in the terms of the state, that can change on a whim, if you see what I mean, whatever the state’s interests are can change on a whim, and it can separate people and split movements unless people decide that their action has a meaning and value beyond what the state labels it, and then they’re willing to defend that, I suppose.

TFSR: There’s been a lot of critique about the mutual aid projects that have happened since COVID. And you mentioned this in terms of the interviews with people in the UK, that there’s a feeling like “Are we doing anything that’s actually different than charity?” Or is it really breaking down the hierarchies? Or is it a threat at all to the state? There’s a way that when we have these programs that have us have bare survival without mounting that threat, then we have to question those actions.

One of the things that you bring up in the book as an important location of possible resistance to that recuperation is the use of space. In the examples in London, there are different people squatting spaces. Can you talk about that, and how having space functions in terms of making that extra possibility of resistance?

R: Yeah, it’s something that I noticed. Actually, when I look back at all the work I’ve done, my Ph.D. was on intentional communities as radical spaces. When people live together every day and talk about stuff every day, they do form bonds that go beyond the thing that you form from seeing your neighbor every so often. But also, I found that various mutual aid groups in London were associated with squats and with social centers, and they were the ones that seem to ward off state power. There was this thing called the local councilor issue that I talk about in my book, which was the elected representative for certain wards and stuff.

For some reason, the mutual aid movement in the UK, and I identify this in the book as being really problematic, organized itself according to the electoral districts, which are territorial categories of the state. So the elected representatives of those districts would be, “Oh, well, that’s my ward. So that’s my mutual aid group.” They’d go in, and in some instances, they’d be quite nice people who take a backseat. And a lot of these things were WhatsApp groups, so they joined the WhatsApp group, and then they try and take control of this whole initiative, and there were some incidences of people giving out fluorescent hi-vis jackets and saying, if you’re doing mutual aid, you have to wear the hi-vis jacket. One of them tried to get people to do DBS checks, which are security checks to make sure you don’t have a criminal record, which obviously goes against the anarchist ethos. It shows how recuperating the mutual aid movement became in some ways in the UK, but some places managed to stay radical, and they were the places that themselves had a squat or something like that. And I think this idea of territory and space is interesting. So you can have someone trying to rule over this abstract space of their elected ward. But then the way to resist that seem to be people that had a space or hub that was alternative space or scale, that could be a hub, and it had a physical presence in the neighborhood, and it had people that interacted with each other and lived together. That seems to be a really powerful presence that helps to ward off this recuperation.

TFSR: The vision of expanding that contesting space would be a way to ramp up mutual aid towards something more confrontational and less bare survival.

In the so-called US, we have to think about also occupying space as part of the settler state, as another layer to that, which was a big critique of Occupy Wall Street that it didn’t have that framework. Wall Street is already occupying territory, right? And so occupying occupied territory without the liberationist perspective for indigenous people was a problem. It’s another complication that we think about here often how we take space and what that means.

But in the New York example, what do you think the relationship was between having Occupy Wall Street as a private predecessor and what Occupy Sandy was able to do? Because that’s different than the COVID mutual aid example in the UK, which just sprung from COVID?

R: I’ve got a chapter on my interviews, I always find it very difficult talking with Americans about an American movement, because I know that, with my cultural differences from my background, I don’t understand a lot of stuff. I definitely feel an anthropologist going in. I didn’t have enough time to be a proper anthropologist, if you see what I mean, whereas, in the UK, I feel more like a sociologist who’s looking at things.

I felt Occupy Sandy as a whole, as a movement, wasn’t completely radical. A lot of people I spoke to bemoaned the fact that there was this split between people that were becoming a bit NGOish and people who were quite staunch. And then they’re anti-capitalist and anarchist critique. I spoke to people from both of those sides, really, and they did seem to be a split in the movement, which was echoed in the COVID movement here, I think. But the COVID movement here was mostly non-radical. And I spoke to the radical people but it was mostly non-radical. From what I can gather, in Occupy Sandy, there was definitely still a very radical element to it. And I don’t know if that has to do with the time and when it was, as well but it was obvious that it grew out of Occupy Wall Street, and people were still talking about anti-capitalism and Wall Street and things like that. And from what I can gather, it grew out of their social networks and social infrastructure that was still going. There was still this vibe of people who had been involved. And there is still this coolness to the idea of occupying that people were willing to mobilize under, I suppose.

TFSR: I was interested in thinking about reading their case study, because on the other hand, thinking about space and movement, there was a space that started with Occupy Wall Street, but that created infrastructure that could be mobilized during Occupy Sandy and go elsewhere. And that’s what I saw in my region during COVID. We had networks and connections that were in place because of hurricanes and the hurricane response. And people who would go around and do work were – I lived in the mountains, and we didn’t get a lot of hurricanes – but we’d be nearby communities that were wrecked by it. And so people were doing that. And from that network, we started doing mutual aid in our town when COVID hit. I’m thinking about the mobility of those networks also. We also ran into the problem that it seems in those responses, often it’s not radicalized, even if it’s all anarchists doing the work. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s taken that way.

But that’s also something you write about in the book that one of the benefits of mutual aid seems to be the ability for people to plug in. And people use that word specifically, which I think is interesting cuz I always hear it. One of the issues with anarchism is how we get people to understand and engage with it. So I wonder if you had any thoughts about mutual aid as an entry point, rather than some of the other ones, like subcultural, punk, or whatever.

R: Something that is really good and really cool and really useful about mutual aid is the fact that you can turn up as yourself, and like you say, plug in, rather than, with more rigid organizations where there’s a role, and you have to fit the role, you have to be the spreadsheet person or you have to have the qualifications for that role, you have to like it like a job. That’s how more traditional relief agencies work, which are professionalized. You can’t turn up as you, you have to turn up as the role and persuade that you are the role. And then, sometimes in a disaster situation, things arise that are unexpected. So, a rigid role might not be able to do that thing. And also, that means that there’s not a lot of redundancy.

The idea of having a system with lots of people that maybe aren’t doing a lot, but they’re there, allows for more flexibility if there’s another shock, and having the idea that you can turn up as you are and plug in. Having infrastructure for that is really useful and important. That is the strength of anarchism and mutual aid.

TFSR: Definitely. It felt like a generational shift during COVID, where all these new younger people came in doing all the work in the area where I was living, all these new anarchists. And when we were faced with the murder of George Floyd, there were these networks already in place that can do other things, like jail support or go show up on the streets. The great resignation or people refusing to work in various ways. I wonder, to what extent these kinds of things echo one to the other, even if we’re not still doing the same COVID response. That experience and the entry point for people seem to have led to other things.

One of the lines that you say, and maybe this is part of it. I love this: “The state needs the grassroots to survive. The opposite is not the case.” I think that’s so important to hammer home. First of all, that first part is really interesting to think about – the state needs the grassroots. Because I don’t think we always think that when we’re doing grassroots stuff, but it’s also really important to keep in mind that we don’t need the state to do what we’re doing.

One thing that might be interesting to hear your thoughts about is the way technology and social media played a role in that. That was part of Occupy Wall Street, but it became essential during COVID, because of the need to distance or whatever. Technology is obviously an ambiguous tool. Could you talk about that?

R: When I interviewed the Occupy Sandy people, this idea of social media and stuff was really central. And they saw it as pretty much a fundamental part of their movement. And certainly, when in terms of the publicity that Occupy Sandy received, what it was known for was mobilizing social media and managing to mobilize this movement via social media and managing to mobilize resources and donations on a massive scale, getting torches [flash lights] and blankets and things to communities using the Amazon gift list that’s usually used for people’s weddings. Where they put all the presents they wanted for the wedding, they’d have a list of things, and people from all over the world could donate a torch to them or a blanket or a dehumidifier or whatever. And they saw that as fundamental to that movement. But then they were also quite critical because they realized they were using Amazon and making profits for [Jeff] Bezos.

Obviously, we need our own systems and infrastructures and things in place. But these were useful in the interim. And there was a lot of optimism about creating open-source alternatives, and that being seen as this thing that had momentum that was going to happen. When I spoke to people, that was still the case, there was still this idea that open-source software is going to develop. I don’t feel that’s happened in a way which– There are open-source alternatives, but they don’t seem to be being used as much as the mainstream things. And the people in the COVID movement in London at least, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about technology at all. It was taken for granted or seen as a normal backdrop thing. Everyone was using WhatsApp for their groups to communicate. Some of the more radical groups had alternative Signal groups and things that. But the community-based things had to be WhatsApp, because there were a lot of non-anarchist people and it’s a thing that everyone had. People had meetings, and it was always on Zoom. And some people tried to use Jitsi, which is a more ethical alternative, but they found it was a bit buggy, and it crashed and it didn’t work. And some people didn’t have it, and they didn’t know how to use it. So everyone reverted to Zoom in the end. But there wasn’t a lot of technological optimism anymore like I saw in Occupy Sandy. And there weren’t a lot of critiques, either. It was seen as a thing that was there and taken for granted.

TFSR: Yeah, I’ve definitely experienced this time, too, being forcibly integrated more into my technology. It’s been accelerated over the last number of years, because it became a tool for the work that I had to do, for the organizing that I was doing it now. And now it feels too pervasive in my life.

R: You forget about it until you lose your phone and realize that you’re literally disabled, you can’t do anything.

TFSR: It’s interesting because people always try to retain some hope in it. This whole Twitter debacle is going down where Elon Musk bought Twitter, and everyone’s like “This is gonna be garbage, because nazis will have a platform”, which has happened, but then people are doing this weird disruptive thing on Twitter that I don’t think anyone anticipated that has potentially had real consequences in terms of stocks for certain major corporations, or impersonating politicians and saying weird stuff, which I think that’s cool. I don’t know if it’s revolutionary, but it’s cool, at least. I’m confused to see that it’s a tool that gets used in interesting ways, but then seems to end up tying us back into the corporations.

I want to get back to another strand. Your book also functions as an overview and introduction to anarchism, which I really appreciate, because you give a lot of really interesting and important background to piece all these things together. But you also have a really unique take on it that I’d love to hear a little bit more about You say that anarchism is an epistemology and ontology and ethics. And I wonder if you could explain what you mean by those different things because I thought that was really a nice contribution.

R: Okay. Something that gets to me a little bit and also this came out through this study, was that a lot of people who are anarchists are anarchists because they see as effective or efficient some organizational panacea that if we are organized this, we can solve problems, we can organize disaster relief more effectively and we can solve climate change, which I agree, I think that organizationally, it is a better way to solve climate change. And I completely agree, but I think there’s more to it than that, as well. That’s almost saying “if that could be disproven, and then if we found that a different way, if we found that fascism was a better way to organize disaster relief and solve climate change, then because we’re only interested in organization, then we should go with that.”

So I think it goes beyond that. There’s an ethical imperative to care for each other on a dis-alienated level, and not in a utilitarian sense. It’s an ontology in the sense that it’s a reversal of perspective. So instead of seeing things, people, or social action from the perspective of the state as useful, it’s about seeing things from a human and ecosystems approach is what is meaningful here right now, in the relationship I’m involved in right now, rather than from a top-down perspective. So it’s a different way of seeing and understanding the world.

TFSR: Another really inspiring moment in the book for me is when you say, from an epistemological anarchist – or using anarchist epistemology, I think it’s how you say it – we can see insurrection in daily life. I love that, and I wonder if you could say a little bit more about it. It goes unseen so often. Can you talk a little bit about how we can look at the world through an insurrectionary lens?

R: What you were talking about with the people on Twitter, you could see them as naughty little school children playing up against daddy Elon, or you could see it as a mini insurrection. If you see human cooperation and caring and the ability to relate beyond an instrumental sense, as always there, then you see actions like that as insurrectionary. As you were saying, it seems like a radical moment. And I think it is, it’s people seeing this illegitimate authority that’s trying to break up the communities that they formed on Twitter and break up their relationships, and they’re resisting that. It is insurrectionary in a sense. It’s probably not going to be the basis of a huge revolution. That happens all the time. If you see anarchism as an ethical relationship between people that’s more real, more authentic, and more caring, and resists the urge of the state to slot us into these cybernetic nodes and roles and things like that, then it’s all around us. Then you see, when when it’s being suppressed more as well, rather than seeing this urge to be ordered as natural.

TFSR: Right. Maybe this is my last question. But the other arc through your book is thinking about utopia, which is also something you’ve worked on before. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how you understand that term. Another thing that comes up is desire. How that fits into your theory of disaster anarchy, and whether we need disasters to try to create alternative worlds?

R: Disasters, do we need them? We’re in one, and the things that capitalism calls disasters are revealing the nature of what’s already there or magnifying it.

But to me, utopia is– The term means the good place that is no place. It’s a pun on three Greek words: eu – good, ou – no, and topos – place. So it often seems like people make utopian novels where they imagine a different society in a lot of detail. But to me, it’s about the human impulse to imagine and desire socio-political arrangements, and people can either do that in fiction or sometimes they do it in these social experiments or utopian communities. And you can get totalitarian utopias, for sure. So, I’m not for totalitarian utopias. I’m for grassroots utopias and anarchist utopias where people come together and try and imagine a different world without hierarchy and without the state. And it’s an expression of that desire, but then a conscious bringing into being of it through either someone can write a novel, like Ursula Le Guin’s novels are absolutely fantastic anarchist, utopias, or people can come together and try and make Utopia through their practice. And it is about saying, “We desire something different. And we’re going to consciously try and put it into place.” And I think that utopian impulse of imagining how things could be different and trying to put it into place is a step that’s needed beyond the insurrection I was talking about on Twitter, for example, where you can see an anarchist insurrection in a sense, but it’s maybe lacking that utopian elements of articulating an alternative society. To me, an anarchist utopia is tied almost completely with the idea of prefiguration.

TFSR: Which is the disaster utopia experience when you are in the moment, you can see that there’s another world possible, and you’re living it, even though you’re still in the context of the horror world that we live in. There’s a glimpse of it, it’s there for that period of time, at least.

R: I guess the connection to disasters is to really desire a utopian society, you have to see how really bad the one that we’re in is. Some people naturally feel the world is shit. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been fighting against authority in the world and what’s given, but some people aren’t like that. Some people may be quite comfortable and accept it, or they may be completely downtrodden, but also see that as their fate somehow, not feel like there’s a beyond or something. But often, disasters will either reveal the shitness of things to people who perhaps didn’t realize it, or they might also show that something else is possible in this coming together of people in recovery, it might be an ontological break that reveals that something else is possible. And so it gives people an experience of an outside that allows them to be more utopian.

TFSR: In that line, one of the things that you say, I don’t know, if you see this as what should happen or what can happen or does happen, but you write that in disaster times, norms ought to be loosened and there should be a higher tolerance for deviance or deviation. I loved the way that you put that: that’s another space where the conformity that we are expected to live in can be torn apart a little bit. Although it depends on other people also not punishing you for that.

R: That was a thing I found during COVID that a lot of the social response was heavily moralized, and if you didn’t agree with everything to the letter, then you were some COVID denier. You have to understand that people react differently in these situations, and people’s normal coping mechanisms aren’t available, and people were being treated like these generic subjects that all ought to be ordered and stay in order. But people’s actual conditions vary significantly. There has to be some allowance for the fact that people are really suffering mentally. You can acknowledge these things without being a COVID denier, or you can have empathy without being a COVID denier.

TFSR: That’s been a really hard line and really confusing, especially now where it’s ongoing, and there’s no general agreement on doing precautions. I’m a chronically ill person. I navigate the world from that perspective, which is exasperating because there’s nowhere I can be. But also, we have to keep in mind that the mental health aspect that you were mentioning, we were all traumatized by this in a way that there’s been no space to recover. It’s too hard to even understand the mass death and disabling, and then our lives have utterly changed and they’re not going back.

R: And that’s the thing because there’s no communication or agreement, and that’s not the anarchist thing. That’s because of the state. People expect to be told what to do by the state. And then once the state stops being interested in COVID, people seem to lack the capacity to say, “Is there someone chronically ill who’s going to be here, who has different needs? We need to discuss who’s going to be in the space and what their needs are.” Because the state had a very strong response and then it just withdrew that…

TFSR: There’s that anti-authoritarian response when the state tells you to do something, too, which vibes with certain kinds of anarchist responses: to be like “I’m not going to do what the state tells me.” But there’s a weird overlap of there was important information, a lot of it was actually contradicted and confusing. And now we’re in this place where there’s no clear line or information at all.

R: I think health was securitized rather than treated as a community and resourcing issue that we need to educate communities about how to protect each other and themselves. And there need to be resources for all these things. It’s more like “These are the rules that you have to follow. And let’s not question. And now they’ve changed.”

TFSR: That’s maybe a whole other discussion. I loved our conversation. I wonder, is there anything else that you would want to say or that we didn’t cover that you want to bring into this space?

R: I’m really interested in thinking through– I start on this in my conclusion. It’s something that was underdeveloped in my book. Thinking about how anarchists deal with climate change, rather than the disasters of climate change, the whole scale infrastructural change that’s going to be needed. How do we degrow? How do we occupy spaces that are smaller and build infrastructure? That’s what I’m interested in doing more. So if any of your listeners or you want to get in touch with me and continue those kinds of conversations?

TFSR: That seems so important because, again, it’s this issue of so many people by default thinking that there needs to be a centralized authoritarian response. You do talk about this in the book, too, that that re-ups the state’s power, or re-ups capitalists’ process of extraction and resource wasting. But it’s very hard to see see the other, there’s not a lot of room given in most of the conversations to the possibility that it would be something else than that, except for some anarchist spaces. And then there’s also the pessimism that a lot of people have, like “There’s not really much we can do.” So it’s going to be in pockets of places of resistance.

Do you want to say how people can find you or find your work?

R: Find me on Facebook and Twitter and all the usual capitalist platforms that we were criticizing earlier. I’m either Rhiannon Firth or RhiFirth, I use those interchangeably. And then the book, you can buy from the Pluto website. And I think you can get 30% off with the discount code “Firth30”. And there’s an open-access version available as well, which you can see if you search for Disaster Anarchy open access, you should be able to find it or get in touch with me and I’ll send it. People are welcome to follow me or befriend me on any of these things on the internet. Or email me at rhiannonfirth@gmail.com.

TFSR: Cool. Anyway, I will put all that information, too, in the notes that go with the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk.

R: Thank you. I really enjoyed it. And hopefully, we’ll be doing an event together in London at some point.

Doing For Selves: Open Source Supplies and Tenant Organizing

Doing For Selves: Open Source Supplies and Tenant Organizing

3d printed n95-quality face mask
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Welcome to a podcast special from The Final Straw. While William is was busy producing an episode featuring voices of medical professionals and activists inside and out of prison to talk about the impacts of covid-19 on incarcerated people for broadcast, I had a couple of conversations about work folks are doing on the outside that I’d like to share.

Sean Swain [00:08:06-00:15:12]

Hacking To Fight Covid-19

[00:15:12-00:33:01]

First, I spoke with Bill Slavin of Indie Lab, space in Virginia that is in the process of shifting it’s purpose since the epidemic became apparent from an broader scientific and educational maker space to work on the manufacturing and distribution of covid-19 related items in need such as testing kits, medical grade oxygen, ventilators and 3d printed n95 quality masks for medical professionals to fill public health needs. Bill talks generally about the ways that community and scientists can come together through mutual aid to deal with this crisis left by the inaction of the government on so many levels. They are also crowd-sourcing fundraising for scaling up their production and facilities and there’s a link in our show notes on that. The platform that Bill talks about in the chat is known as Just One Giant Lab, or JOGL. Consider this an invitation for makers to get involved.

Organizing With Your Neighbors For Homes and Dignity

[00:35:08-01:45:44]

Then, I talked to Julian of Tenants United of Hyde Park and Woodlawn in Chicago. What with all of the talk about rent strikes in the face of such huge leaps in unemployment during the spread of covid-19 and accompanying economic collapse, I thought it’d be helpful to have this chat to help spur on these conversations of how we seize power back into our hands while we’re being strangled by quarantine and hopefully afterwards. You can learn more about the group Julian works with at TenantsUnitedHPWL.Org. Philadelphia Tenants Union and Los Angeles Tenants Union were both mentioned and will be linked in the show notes, alongside a reminder that the national Autonomous Tenants Union Network (ATUN) is being organized and folks can reach out to Philly TU or LA TU via email to get onto their organizing zoom calls. Finally, if you’re in the Chicago area and need a lawyer for housing, check out Lawyers Committee For Better Housing online at lcbh.org. Julian also mentioned squatting of homes in southern CA owned by the state, here’s a link to an article.

Announcements

WNC Mutual Aid Projects

Linked in our show notes is also a googledoc that Cindy Milstein and others are helping to keep updated that lists many mutual aid projects that have sprung up all over concerning the exacerbation of capitalism by the covid-19 crisis, as well as a similar page up from ItsGoingDown.Org

If you’re in so-called Western NC and want to get involved, the project Asheville Survival Project has a presence on fedbook and is soliciting donations of food and sanitary goods for distribution to indigent, bipoc, elder and immune compromised folks in the community. We’ll link some social media posts on the subject that list our donation sites around Asheville in the show notes and you can venmo donations to @AVLsurvival.

If you care to contribute to efforts in Boone, NC, you can follow the instagram presence for @boonecommunityrelief or join the fedbook group by the same name, reach them via email at boonecommunityrelief@protonmail.com find donation sites and venmo donations can happen up at via venmo at @Bkeeves.

NC Prisons Covid-19 Phone Zap

Flyer about call-in to NC prisonsAnd check our show notes for an invitation to call the NC Department of Public Safety and Governor’s offices to demand the release of NC prisoners susceptible to infection and possible death of Corona Virus in the NC system due to improper care. Wherever you are listening, consider getting together with others and calling jails, prison agencies and the executive branches to demand similarly the release of AT THE VERY LEAST the aged, infirm, folks in pre-trial detention, upcoming release or who are held because they can’t pay bail.

North Carolina Corrections Department-Prison Division

(919) 838-4000

North Carolina Governors Office

919-814-2000

https://governor.nc.gov/contact/contact-governor-cooper

sample script:

My name is ________, and I am a North Carolina resident  deeply concerned about the safety of the states’s incarcerated people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Incarcerated people have a unique vulnerability to disease due to their crowded, unsanitary living conditions and lack of access to adequate medical care. For humanitarian reasons as well as reasons of public health, we call for the immediate release of all people in the North Carolina prison system. We also urge that you stop the intake of new prisoners during the pandemic. The cost of failing to take these steps will be paid for in human lives, and we refuse to abandon our neighbors and loved ones to die in lockup.

CALL AS MANY TIMES AS YOU CAN

stay tuned to the twitter accounts for @NCResists and @EmptyCagesColl for updates

10th Anniversary

Even while the world burns, our 10th anniversary still approaches and we’re still soliciting messages from you, our listenership. Not sure what to say, likely you have a LOT of time on your hands, so go back through our archives and dive in. If you want a deep dive, visit our website where you can find hundreds of hours of interviews and music. If you want to drop us a line, check out the link in the show notes, or you can leave a voicemail or signal voice memo at +18285710161, you can share an audio file with the google drive associated with the email thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net or send a link to a cloud stored audio filed to that email address. Tell us and listeners what you’ve appreciated and or where you’d like us to go with this project.

Spreading TFS

If you appreciate the work that we do here at TFS, you can also help us out by making a donation if you have extra cash rustling around. The link on our site called Donate/Merch will show you tons of ways. If, like most of us, money is super tight at the moment, no prob, we struggle together. You can share our show with other folks to get these voices out there and more folks in the conversation. And if you REALLY like us and have a community radio station nearby who you’d be excited to have us air on for free, get in touch with us and we’ll help. The page on our site entitled Radio Broadcasting has lots of info for radio stations and how to let them know you want us on the airwaves. Thanks!

. … . ..

Featured music:

  • From Monument To Masses – Sharpshooter – The Impossible Leap In One Hundred Simple Steps
  • Filastine – Quémalo Ya (instrumental) – Quémalo Ya
  • Etta James – I Don’t Stand A Ghost of a Chance (With You) – Mystery Lady: The Songs of Billie Holiday

Digital Security / Tenant Organizing / #MeToo and Updates from Hong Kong

Digital Security / Tenant Organizing / #MeToo Hong Kong

This week, we feature three portions.

Lauren Regan of CLDC

art by Ar To
poster by Ar To
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First up, we share a chat with Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, or CLDC, to chat about safer practices around technology for activists, as well as the “reverse search” warrant used by the NYPD with Google to capture info on antifascists and the Proud Boy attackers last year. More at https://cldc.org. An article about tech security and phones that Bursts references is called “Never Turn Off The Phone” [starts 10m 08s]

Palm Beach Tenants Union

Following this, Withers (a new collective member at The Final Straw) shares a chat with Adam and Amy, two organizers with the Palm Beach Tenants Union out of Florida about their work and the sorts of mutual aid disaster work they’ve done with Hurricane Irma and advocating for and organizing with renters in their communities for dignity in housing. More on the Union at https://pbctu.org and more on how you can get involved in mutual aid up at https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org. There are a number of donation sites around the region to prepare for this Hurricane season, as well as distribute support to Bahamas that you can find by searching social media for DRASL (Dorian Response Autonomous Supply Line), as mentioned on itsgoingdown.org. [starts at 54m 06s]

#MeToo and Updates from Hong Kong

Finally, you’ll hear a conversation with Enid and Rebecca, who feminist activists in Hong Kong about the current state of protests there. Content warning, that segment deals in part with organizing around sexualized assault by police and by protestors. To hear our prior interview with Ahkok on protests in HK, check our website and see the great articles up at crimethinc. Also, the guests talk about the term 自由閪, or “Freedom Cunt” as a re-appropriation of a misogynist insult by police from the protests. [starts at 1hr 15m 51s]

*Correction to the HK conversation: The full name of the IPCC mentioned in regards to the establishment of an independent police inquiry is called the Independent Police Complaints Council. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam appointed two new committee members to the already existing committee, not independent investigators. However, the IPCC has hired five foreign investigators to participate in examinations, though it must be clarified that the role of the IPCC is observational rather than investigative. The IPCC has no jurisdiction to either call witness nor collect evidence for the independent inquiry called for by citizens.

If you’re listening to the radio version, as usual, we suggest that you check out the podcast version for longer versions of all three chats in this episode as well as Sean Swain’s audio this week. You can hear that at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org or via various streaming platforms we publish to, such as youtube, soundcloud, stitcher, pandora and so-on.

. … . ..

playlist ending

“We either organize or we die, our lives depend on this!” – Reflections on Anarchism in Borikén (Puerto Rico) after Hurricane Maria and #RickyRenuncia

Anarchist Perspectives in Puerto Rico

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This week we have the opportunity to share a talk by Coco (they/them pronouns), who is a queer, Black, Puerto Rican anarchist about the recent 17 days of direct action against no-longer-governor Ricardo Rosselló and organizing as an anarchist after Hurricane Maria.

They talk about some of the lead up to these revolts – about the fascist campaign and term of office of Ricardo Rosselló -, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, decolonization and fighting US imperialism as it relates to PR, queer people and femmes on the front lines of the protests about Ricardo Rosselló, the active warping of this situation by media outlets, and many many more topics!

Coco originally presented this talk at the Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair 2019 on Saturday August 24th.

I wanna give voice to something that came up in the Q&A after the talk, which was not recorded, in which Coco made space for an open conversation about revolt in Puerto Rico. They asked of the audience what we thought when #RickyRenuncia was trending on Twitter, and people were saying stuff like “we need to look to PR and learn from people there in order to figure out what to do where we’re at”. And a really good conversation wound out about disaster/riot tourism that has always been a problematic current on the far left, especially where the struggles of non-white folks are concerned. It was located in that conversation that the support of people interfacing with struggle that isn’t theirs is very conditional and fragile, and it was stated by participants of the conversation that there needs to be another way of looking at struggle that doesn’t involve an attitude of entertainment style consumption but rather comes from a place of real solidarity and real support.

As Coco stated, the media has really been messing with the narrative of what has been going on in PR, painting it either as super pacifist or like people are “out of control hooligans” or other such nonesense. For better sources of information, you can visit our blog at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org where we will post links to people and accounts you can follow who are on the ground or have a perspective that isn’t beholden to the larger capitalist media outlets.

Those links are:

https://twitter.com/_DESinformate

https://twitter.com/TodasPR

https://twitter.com/ClaridadPR

https://twitter.com/80grados

Here is an announcement on behalf of the upcoming Queer Conference at UNC Asheville:

Communities? Will a rainbow flag on a police car protect queer folks from a culture built around (trans)misogyny / misogynoir and sexual assault?

We are constantly reminded that our culture is still built on anti-black, anti-queer violence by the all too frequent murders of black transwomen, the further criminalization of queer sex workers, and the erasure of rural LGBTQ+ identities experiencing the pains of addiction, joblessness, and lack of resources. Today, we are at another fork in the road, where there is nominal acceptance of certain gay and lesbian identities (namely white, educated, middle-class families), while a wide range of experiences of people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella get forgotten. As queerness becomes hip and queer subcultural styles are being bought and sold, we must ask how the culture, lives, and sexuality behind the looks can survive and thrive. With the rise of global fascism, the impending doom of large-scale environmental collapse, and the inevitable next crash of capitalism, can we still envision a queerness that seeks liberation rather than admission to the status quo and benefits of a vastly unequal US society? How can we balance these visions with protecting the precarious lives most threatened by the current sociopolitical landscape?

To submit a proposal, follow the link at https://queercon.wp.unca.edu/

For any questions you can email qsconf@unca.edu

. … . ..

Music by:

Princess Nokia – Brujas (instrumental loop by William)

Ruby Ibarra – Us off of Circa 91

Calle 13 – Afilando los Cuchillos, or Sharpening the Knives, which is all about the revolts against Ricardo Rosselló.

Nuancing Disaster Relief with MAD Distro NC

Disaster Relief Moving Forward

Download This Episode

This week we had the chance to talk to Sascha, who is a community organizer in the triangle area of North Carolina, about ongoing organizing to help rebuild and continue to aid folks after the multiple hurricanes recently hit this region.  This interview went in directions that we couldn’t have predicted, and really went on a deep dive of how to conceptualize of disaster relief in our changing climate, in addition to more practical topics. We hope you enjoy it!

To get in touch with the project that our guest is talking about, and if you have extra monie$ to spare, you can visit maddistronc.org for ways to donate or drop by to 800 Henderson Street in Durham if you’re in the area.

To hear the interview that we referenced about halfway through, you can go to our website and search “Indigenous Activist”, it should be the first item in the search results. You can also hear a 10 minute edit of this interview with Vanessa on how to be better accomplices to Lumbee folks in Lumberton NC in the October episode of B(A)D News, Angry Voices From Around the World which you can find both at our website or at aradio.blogsport.de.

B(A)D News is a monthly news collaboration between projects in the A-Radio Network, which includes anarchist radio from Chile, various places in Eastern and Western Europe, and right here on Turtle Island. Keep your eyes peeled to our feed for when this show updates!

Announcements

Blue Ridge ABC events in Asheville

If you’re in the Asheville area this week, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross has two upcoming events.

TROUBLE showing at Firestorm

On Friday, November 2nd at 6:30pm at Firestorm Books & Coffee, BRABC will be airing the latest episode of Trouble, the mini-documentary series by sub.Media. This month’s episode is focused on the J20 inauguration conspiracy case that ended some months back. This’ll be followed by a brief chat about the film and the case. This event happens the same time, same place, on the first Friday of every month and is a great way to start of your weekend.

Political Prisoner Letter Writing

On Sunday, November 4th at 5pm, just a little after next week’s episode of our show of this show, BRABC will also be hosting their monthly Political Prisoner letter writing night at, you guessed it, Firestorm! ABC will be bringing info on prisoners whose birthdays are upcoming or who are facing repression or coming up on parole, will provide the materials and a friendly atmosphere and help in writing letters to prisoners. If you’ve ever thought of writing someone in prison before but been overwhelmed by the prospect of it, this is a great way to get started.

Recent Violence from the Far Right and What to Do

We don’t frequently comment on this show about ongoing events we aren’t either announcing or featuring on the episode, but this is a rare example.  This last week saw a couple of racist attacks that we want to mention in case you missed them, in order to point to the continued and intensifying need for anti-racist and anti-fascist organizing, research and street presence. On October 24th, a white man named Gregory Bush allegedly failed to break into a black church in Louisville, KY, and instead decided to shoot a black man (Maurice E. Stallard) inside of a Kroger and a black woman (Vickie Lee Jones) in the parking lot, killing them both. The shooter told a witness “Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Yesterday, on Saturday October 27th during shabbat services, a gunman with white nationalist ties named Robert D. Bowers, entered the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, and killed 11 congregants while wielding an AR-15 and two handguns, injuring 3 more congregants. These are just two recent examples of white rage acting out against others, a visible trend and not out of sync with the settler-colonial and anti-black violence of the United States, yet undeniably horrendous. The victims families are in our hearts, as are all of the many unmentioned victims of reactionary violence. On this note, we’re including a couple of anti-racist announcements folks can join in on if they care to.

To literally steal a line from the latest Hotwire episode from crimethInc, “To mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and to push back against the uptick in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobic violence around the world, there’s a Jewish call for International Days against fascism and anti-Semitism.” The call reads:

“On November 8–11, we will sing out and celebrate the survival of our peoples. We will say Kaddish for those who gave their lives in the fight against fascism. We will engage in acts of Kherem and ritually excommunicate those Jews who aid and abet the fascists of our time. And we will march on the institutions, the political parties, and the private businesses that collaborate with their genocidal agenda. At the same time, we will show the world that the real threat to our security as Jews isn’t our Muslim neighbors, but “Western Chauvinists,” Christian supremacists, and white nationalists – the would-be pogromists of our day. Starting now and continuing through [the year] 5779 and beyond, we will (re)build an international network of anti-fascist Jews and our allies. From the streets where we live to the places we work and play, we will organize to defend all of our communities from those who would exterminate us. We invite you to join us in the fight: For a world without pogroms. For a future without fascism.”

The call is using the hashtags #AntiFascistFall, #CancelThem, and #OutliveThem. More info at outlivethem.wordpress.com. https://itsgoingdown.org/international-days-of-action-for-a-world-without-pogroms-for-a-future-without-fascism/

Call for solidarity from Atlanta

Atlanta Antifascists are asking folks to contact Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School about one of it’s students, Casey Jordan Cooper. Cooper has made explicit lynching threats against black students, has organized Alt-Right efforts around the school and has documented connections to white nationalists like Sam Dickson. Alongside a bunch of really amazing research that AFAinATL has done, you can find more about Casey Jordan Cooper, including a video and 500+ page dossier on him, the request for a call-in on Monday, October 29th to the University and a script up at atlantaantifa.org. We don’t need anymore nazi lawyers and this school should be ashamed to continue to hold Cooper as a student considering it’s lip service to the importance of it’s students providing non-prejudicial service to their clients.

WNC undercuts Patriot Front

A big ups to comrades in WNC who, very carefully and soberly, infiltrated a new chapter of the white nationalist grouping Patriot Front and were able to disrupt their activities during an attempted banner drop. This sort of high level of engagement is dangerous and not to be taken lightly, but can be quite effective at gaining intelligence on the enemy and ruining their days. More info on this can be found on this IGD post!

Support Malik and Rashid!

In prisoner news, two affiliates of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter are in the news. Keith “Malik” Washington, whose supporters we’ve had on the show before, shared that he’s on a hunger strike at the McConnell Administrative Segregation Unit in protest against his continued repression and repeated medical endangerment. More info can be found at comrademalike.com. Also Kevin “Rashid” Johnson who we spoke to in September. He has been refused medical aid by guards at Sussex II, denied the ability to send or receive mail, including legal mail. He has been threatened with dogs while chained up, kept in his cell 24/7 and other terrible circumstances. Visit rashidmod.com for more details and the numbers and officials that you can call to protest on his behalf.

. … . ..

Playlist here.

Mutual Aid in the Wake of Hurricane Michael

Download Episode Here

This week on The Final Straw Radio, we feature a conversation with Pearson, an anarchist resident of Tallahassee, Florida, and is involved in storm relief mutual aid work in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Pearson is also the co-host of the leftist podcast “Coffee With Comrades”.

For the hour we talk about Hurricane Michael, which just passed through the Florida Panhandle and up through the Carolinas, affecting Georgia and Alabama as well. Within a 36 hour period, the hurricane ramped up from a Tropical Storm to a category 4 or 5 hurricane (depending on who you talk to). Michael was the strongest hurricane to hit that part of Florida ever on record, making landfall on Wednesday, October 10th in the morning and may be the third largest to hit the U.S. mainland with winds surges of up to 175 miles per hour and sustaining at 150. Because of the quick increase, localities in the storms path found themselves under prepared for such a devastating catastrophe. The state of Florida Department of Corrections refused to evacuate about 12 prisons that were in the Mandatory Evacuation areas in the path of Hurricane Michael despite a call-in campaign by Fight Toxic Prisons.

For the hour, we talk about the immediate response efforts in Tallahassee, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, anthropogenic or human-caused Climate Change and it’s various impacts on the residents and environs of Florida, and a bunch of other related topics. Later, Pearson shares about his podcast, “Coffee with Comrades”, available at http://coffeewithcomrades.com/

Here are a few links for info if you’re in Florida as well as ways to donate from a distance:

Florida People’s Advocacy Center in Tally is a safe space for people to come for disaster relief (trans inclusive and very supportive of undocumented individuals)

Tallahassee DSA Fund:
http://gofundme.com/dsa-tlh-hurricane-relief-fund

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief:
https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org/donate/

Amazon Wishlist for the Panhandle:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3QUS9SLT7QD3/ref=cm_wl_huc_view

Announcements

Anti-Racists in Greenville, SC

On Saturday, October 13th in Greenville, SC, there was a racist “Build The Wall” anti-immigration rally organized in support of Trumps xenophobic policies. Naturally, there was a counter-demonstration. Two anti-racists were arrested for picketing ordinances and another for disorderly conduct. If you’d like to help them, there’s a paypal where donations are being collected for legal and any medical fees attached to this at paypal.me/upstatesc

Connor Stevens post-release fund

First, Connor Stevens, one of the convicted Cleveland 4, is up for potential parole as soon as November, 2018! From the fundraizr for Connor:

“Connor Stevens is one of the Cleveland4. He is being released soon so we’re raising funds to help get him basic necessities when he is released! It’s possible he’ll even be released by November!

Click here if you are out of the US and would like to donate via Paypal

The Cleveland 4 were four Occupy Cleveland activists who were were arrested on April 30th, 2012, accused of plotting to blow up a bridge. But it was the FBI, working with an informant, that crafted the plot, produced the “explosives,” and coerced these four into participating.

Connor took non-cooperating plea deals and pled guilty to all charges. The judge applied a “terrorism enhancement” to their sentences, elongating their sentences as well as subjecting them to harsher prison conditions. Connor served 8 years 1 month—all to be followed by lifetime supervised release.”

You can find his post-release fundraiser at: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/d1PY2c or by searching “Welcome Home Connor Stevens” at fundrazr.com.

To hear our past coverage of the Cleveland 4 case, including an interview with Connors mother, you can check out (our website and search Cleveland 4)

Zak Kostopoulos

Zak Kostopoulos, an 33 year old lgbtq+ drag performer and activist who worked against prejudice faced by folks who are HIV positive was beaten to death in a homophobic attack near Omonia Square in Athens, Greece on September 21st. Zak lept into a jewelry store in order to avoid a nearby brawl when the emergency shutters descended, trapping him inside. He was then set upon by the owner of the shop and others who were heard uttering homophobic and hate statements against those with HIV. After escaping the store, by smashing through the window with a fire extinguisher, he was followed out by the owner and another thug. Zak was beaten to the ground while surrounded by mostly male onlookers. When police showed up, they handcuffed Zak. The murder was captured on camera. The shop owner was only arrested after the video went viral and he was only charged with manslaughter, not murder, as he claims to have been protecting his property, which is absurd. Following news of the murder, an emergency anarchist assembly was called and a march of 500 took the streets of Athens with smaller marches happening in nearby cities. Marches followed that week.

Apologies for the wait in announcing this sad news which a listener sent us after the murder took place. We are thankful for being informed.

Mumia Abu-Jamal

There is a call for supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal to fill the court room and the streets on October 29th from 8am til 11am in Philadelphia at the Criminal Justice Center, 13th & Filbert. Mumia is a former Black Panther, is a journalist and Political Prisoner who was put on death row for decades for the killing of a cop he says he did not commit. Mumia’s trial has been recognized internationally, including by Amnesty International, as a political show trial. More info up at http://mobilization4mumia.com

Certain Days Calendar benefit show

On October 19th at the Pine Box Rock Shop, 12 Gratton Street in Brooklyn, NY, there’ll be a benefit for post-release funds by the organizers of the Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar.

From Certain Days:

In the last year, we have been fortunate enough to welcome home a handful of political prisoners from US prisons. Our movements have not exactly been prepared for this good fortune, and so support committees, families and friends of these folks have been forced to scramble for funds for basic living expenses. In addition to that, many of these people have been targeted in the media and beyond by various law enforcement unions and organizations, making open fundraising online a difficult proposition.

We need to step up our game and aid not only the handful of political prisoners that have been released this year but also, the people who may be leaving prison soon.

The show will feature performances by Despairwolf, MAAFA_Hardcore, High Cost, and Trophy hunt, and we understand that the door fee will be VERY reasonable for a show in NYC.

. … . ..

Playlist here.

An Indigenous Activist on Post Hurricane Relief in Eastern NC

Mutual Aid in Post-Hurricane-Florence Lumberton, NC

Download Episode Here

This week we had the opportunity to connect with Vanessa Bolin, who is an indigenous artist, community organizer, and activist who has been helping with flood rescue and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, NC, which is in Robeson County. In this interview we talk about what still needs to be done in this area, how to help out, some important parallels between post hurricane relief and anti pipeline organizing, and the importance of foregrounding marginalized voices in mutual aid efforts.

Our guest mentioned the Interfaith Alliance for Climate Justice (IACJ), which has a fundraiser right now that is benefiting the indigenous communities of Robeson County. Here is the donation link via Facebook, or you can go to their website to donate that way.

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is also coordinating a bunch of efforts, you can learn more about this group at mutualaiddisasterrelief.org or look them up on any social media platform. If you have 4-14 days spare and want to get down to Robeson County to help out, especially if you have proficiency in Spanish and skills in logistical coordination, you can send them an email to get networked in at WeKeepUsSafeVC@protonmail.com.

There is also a GoFundMe for mutual aid efforts in Asheville, benefitting affected areas in Robeson County.

Links to some things our guest mentioned:

To learn more about the Indigenous Wisdom Permaculture Model and convergence, just follow the link for information and future convergence dates.

To see the Water Protector Arts Facebook page, you can just go to Facebook and search the name of the page.

You can follow this link to reach directly out to the Lumbee Tribe if you are intending to do direct support work.

To connect with EcoRobeson, the group which is doing anti pipeline work in Robeson County that is mainly affecting already disenfranchised people, you can follow this link.

Somethings we’d like to mention:

When Vanessa talks about the struggles of the Dine people (who are sometimes known as Navajo) where she mentions uranium mining, this is a huge issue that spans many generations. You can visit Black Mesa Rezistance, which is an organized effort in Black Mountain and Big Mesa (also known as Arizona) on the part of the Dine and Hopi people to defend themselves and their existences. You can learn more about this effort at https://blackmesa.rezist.org/ and follow the links for further material to learn about the history and present day projects and struggles.

And finally, for a look into some of the truly amazing legacy of the Lumbee Tribe in so called NC, we at The Final Straw recommend the book To Die Game by William McKee Evans. This book details a resistance movement at a time when Lumbee youth were being targeted for conscription into the Confederate army, and how they along with a diverse coalition of other resistors, eluded capture in the swamps of eastern NC for over 5 years. You can also read about this in the book Dixie Be Damned, along with many other lesser reported moments of resistance in the American Southeast.

Announcements for Prisoner Support

Jalil Muntaqim

Jalil Muntaqim, former member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army is facing the parole board in November as his August visit was postponed due to clerical issues. He’s going to be getting a lot of pushback from the Policeman’s Benevolent Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Corrections Guards associations and the rest of the gallery of reactionary so-called unions for cops. Those groups are on alert, as we’ve seen with the tug of war around the release of Herman Bell, any time an aging political prisoner, especially one accused of involvement in the killing of a cop, comes up for parole. The parole boards are often made up of former judges, D.A.’s, Prosecutors and law enforcement, forming an added blue wall for prisoners facing parole boards. So, Jalil needs us to write letters of support for his release. Although some of the links are dead from the earlier parole push, you can check this IGD link (see our shownotes at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org for the link) for a list of achievements Jalil has since his incarceration.

Also, Jalil’s birthday is October 18th, so feel free to send him a separate birthday greeting!

Also, also, check out our website to hear past episodes featuring interviews with Jalil conducted by buddies at Prison Radio on CKUT in Montreal.

To support Jalil, follow these instructions passed on from National Jericho NY:

Write a letter in you own words in support of parole for Jalil, address to:

Senior Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator
Sullivan Correctional Facility
325 Riverside Drive
Fallsburg, New York 12733

BUT SEND TO:

Nora Carroll
The Parole Preparation Project
168 Canal Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013

The subject line should be “Anthony Bottom 77-A-4283”

We are making an effort to include letters of support for Jalil that are personalized and from people who are familiar with him and his work. If you want further instructions for how to write a strong, personalized letter of support, please email carroll.nora@gmail.com.

Also, please send a copy of your letter to Jalil for his files:

Anthony Bottom #77A4283,

Sullivan Correctional Facility,

P.O. Box 116, Fallsburg,

NY 12733-0116

More on Jalil can be found at http://freejalil.com

. … . ..

Casey Brezik

Casey is an anarchist political prisoner who also has a parole hearing coming up, his one and only for his 12 year stint for the stabbing of the president of a university in Missouri. Casey recently got married to a woman being held in another Missouri prison. He’s studying calculus so he can go to school to be an aerospace engineer once he’s released. He goes before the parole board November 2018. He’s unsure of exactly when he gets out, but knows he isn’t eligible until November 2020. He’s currently saving his money (and asking for help) to afford a cheap vehicle when he gets out in order to transport himself to work and school. His intentions are to parole out to the St. Louis area and attending a community college until he gets his basic credits and can transfer to a university. His eyes are set on the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Casey suffers from depression and has a history of schizophrenia. he describes himself as socially awkward and says he often feels misunderstood. He has a kind heart and he looks forward to getting out relatively soon and getting to see all of those who have shown him support over the years. He thanks you all.

Casey was recently transferred to the Farmington Correctional Center in Farmington, Missouri. In November, he will go before the parole board for the first and ONLY TIME and he needs your help!

Thoughtful and professional letters to the parole board by people who care about Casey and are willing to offer support to him during his transition back to life outside of prison can make it more likely that Casey will be released.

*Even though the letter should be addressed to the parole board, all letters should be sent directly to Casey and he will deliver them to the parole board:

Casey Brezik #1154765
Farmington Correctional Center
1012 West Columbia Street
Farmington, MO 63640

More on Casey at https://supportcasey.org/

. … . ..

Sean Swain

Anarchist prisoner Sean Swain is still being silenced by the state of Ohio and could use your letters. He’s potentially in the process of being transferred in an inter-state deal which will make his life way harder. Sean has communicated that he was at one point on hunger strike and is extremely isolated. You can write to Sean at :

Sean Swain #243-205
Warren CI
P.O. Box 120
Lebanon, Ohio 45036

It’s suggested that concerned listeners call

ODRC Director Stuart Hudson (614) 387-0588
Governor’s Counsel Kevin O’Donell Stanek (614) 466-3555
Callers should voice concern over Sean’s health, access to communication and the blocking of counsel from his recent RIB hearing that threatens to transfer him out of Ohio.

More info on his case can be found at seanswain.noblogs.org

. … . ..

NC Prisoners repressed from #PrisonStrike

On IGD you can read the list of demands specific to NC prisoners that Joseph Stewart wrote back in July. He was transferred after the outside published his statement in support of the strike and has intermittently been left off of prisoner support call-ups so he can surely use some supporting letters at Polk CI where he is currently housed. You can write Joseph at :

Joseph D. Stewart

#0802041

Polk CI

Box 2500
Butner, NC 27509

Three other prisoners in NC, are held within the Hyde Correctional Institution, a facility in Fairfield, NC, are being threatened with retaliation for their active support and organizing in solidarity with the national #PrisonStrike. They’re facing threats of administrative repression, as are any other fellow prisoners connected to the national strike. More info in our show notes

Please write letters of support to:

Randy Watterson #427985
Hyde Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 278
Swan Quarter, NC 27885

Todd Martin #1071227
Hyde Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 278
Swan Quarter, NC 27885

Jace Buras #1522417
Hyde Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 278
Swan Quarter, NC 27885

. … . ..

The Vaughn17

From a statement by the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM) and Vaughn17 Support in Philly:

On Feb. 1, 2017, after a series of peaceful protests yielded no results, incarcerated comrades took over a building at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Delaware to demand slight improvements in their treatment. After a 20-hour stand-off, the prison’s response was to literally bulldoze their barricades and figuratively bulldoze their demands, retaliating with constant beatings, destruction of prisoner property, and denial of food and medical care.

Furthermore, the state has accused 17 of the incarcerated with egregious offenses even though these charges have no basis in reality. The state’s response shows once again that any prisoners standing up for themselves, to regain dignity and achieve decent treatment, is a threat. And the state will collectively punish everyone and anyone to hide its barbarism. The only role of prison guards, wardens and the Department of Corrections (DOC) is the perpetuation of slavery and subjugation.

There is a call for court support for the 17, who will be attending trail in small groups, at New Castle County Courthouse, 500 N. King St., Wilmington, DE 19801. The first trial starts on Monday, October 8th and the last is slated for February 11th, 2019. People in the area interested in helping volunteer for court support can learn more by reading this IGD article.

A pdf of a poster with addresses, pictures and info on the 17 prisoners pulled into this case can be found here

. … . ..

Show playlist here.

“They Can Take Our Lives, But They Can’t Take Our Will to Defend Them”: Supporting the Valle Garita Squat in Boriqué

Download Episode Here

This week I had the chance to speak to Ricchi, who is a Puerto Rican anarchist, about an autonomous squatted community center in Borique called Valle Garita. In this episode, we talk about the squatted space and the intentions of the organizers, plus the cultural context of squatting, reactions of the police, landlord, and bank, and some concrete asks for solidarity and support from non locals. We end the show with a brief report back and analysis of what went down on May Day in San Juan and all over Puerto Rico, so stay tuned for that!

To connect with this project you can go to their website at https://www.urbeapie.com/ , and to write them you can email urbeapie@gmail.com

On the social media, you can follow the Valle Garita squat by following @vallegarita or following that same hashtag, you can also search for them on Facebook. You can also follow Urbe Apie on Instagram @urbeapie.

For sending cards and letters of support you can address envelopes to:

Urbe Apie
Paseo Gautier Bénitez #16 
Caguas Puerto Rico 00725

Letters can be written in Spanish, English, or any other language!

A brief correction from our last show where I interviewed Nutty about the monopod blockade at the Hellbender Autonomous Zone, I stated that the MVP was overseen by Dominion Resources and Duke Energy, and that is not the case, I was thinking of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The MVP is in fact owned by EQT Midstream Partners and NextEra Energy, Inc. EQT has a history of fracking and is now trying to get into transport. Thanks to all the people who set me right on that! If you have any questions or corrections, don’t hesitate to email us at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net

Shoutout to Nutty, Red, and Minor, and all those who are protecting and defending the land and water from predatory corporate pipelines!

For regular listeners of The Final Straw, the sound quality might not be what you are used to from us. We are continuing to experiment with our audio set ups, please bear with us through these experiments!

. … . ..

Josh Gerdts Memorial Fund

In some very sad news, Josh Gerdts, an anti-racist skinhead, was murdered two days ago in Chesterfield County just south of Richmond VA. He leaves behind a family, including a very young child. The family has set up a gofundme to help pay for the funeral and to help raise the child, which you can find at http://www.gofundme.com/joshgerdts

Rest in power, Josh. You will be missed.

Vendenga Rojava: a New Radio Show out of Rojava, Mesopotamia

VEDENGA ROJAVA – ECHOES OF THE RESISTANCE An internationalists radio project bringing an inside look into Afrin resistance. Revolutionaries from different parts of the world organized in different collectives and organizations in Rojava found and importance to come together and launch an audio project focused on the peoples resistance against an invasion of Afrin canton carried by the fascist state of Turkey and its jihadist proxies. Our aim is to spread an awareness of this historical event and inspire English speaking folks all over the globe by ongoing struggle and revolutionary organizing in Afrin, Rojava and beyond. Listen and share our reports, updates, analysis, interviews, stories about life of fallen comrades, music and more. This radio show is a limited project and will have only three issues. For more tune us up on May 16th on soundcloud.com/vedengarojava.”

No More Deaths

From nomoredeaths.org: “On January 17, Scott Warren – a humanitarian aid provider from the group No More Deaths – and two individuals receiving humanitarian aid were arrested by US Border Patrol. Scott was preliminarily charged with felony harboring and could face five years in prison.

The arrests took place just 8 hours after No More Deaths released a video of Border Patrol agents destroying water gallons and aid supplies, and a report which concludes that Border Patrol plays a significant role in the destruction of humanitarian aid.

We need your support to fight these charges and resist the dangerous, divisive claim that sharing food and water with undocumented immigrants is a criminal offense.”

If you would like to donate to this group, which does excellent solidarity work with people crossing the southern border between Mexico and the US, you can visit this particular page at http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/defend-volunteers-facing-federal-charges/

This is coming on the heels of ramped up repression by border patrol against No More Deaths, for an article about this issue you can visit https://theintercept.com/2018/04/30/were-gonna-take-everyone-border-patrol-targets-prominent-humanitarian-group-as-criminal-organization/

ACAB2018

We are well into our preparation for the next Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair, happening June 22nd-24th, and we want to invite you to participate in shaping the themes and helping gear up for this exciting weekend!

We are holding an interest meeting to ask for volunteers and discuss possible contributions folks can make:

Monday May 7 at 7pm Firestorm Books 610 Haywood Road

Our main items where we need help are:

Street Team Promotion, Online/Social Media Promotion, Arranging Housing for Out of Towners, Fundraising, Cook Food, DAY OF (biggest Need)
If you have other ideas, we welcome your input!

If you can’t make the meeting, we’ve made an online signup sheet which you can find here.

<A3 = ACAB 2018 Crew

http://acab2018.noblogs.org, acab2018@riseup.net, and Instagram: @ACAB.2018
. … . ..

Playlist here.

Mutual Aid in Caguas (PR) + La ZAD Wins?

Download This Episode

This week on the Final Straw, we air two interviews.

In the first segment, we hear from two organizers with the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo or Mutual Aid Center in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Emilu and Kique talk about Caguas, about the colonial relationship between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico, the post-hurricane disaster relief they’ve been doing as a continuation of social organizing in the wake of that colonialism, and building a network of C-A-Ms around Puerto Rico. More on their project can be found on fedbook.

Then we hear from Camille, a resident of the ZAD in Notre Dame des Landes in Western France. Camille shares the news of the recent French government statement that they are cancelling the planned airport in NDDL, which has been a goal of social movements and the land occupation at the ZAD. More info on that project can be found at zad.nadir.org. To hear our past interviews on the ZAD, check out this initial interview, this response to major demonstrations in Nantes, this conversation with participants at ZAD du Testet, this response to the police killing of Remi Fraisse in relation to the ZAD du Testet and this interview from Dissident Island Radio about State of Emergency.

Trans Prisoner Day of Solidarity, Event in Asheville

TOMORROW January 22nd is the 3rd annual Trans Prisoner Day of Solidarity as initiated in 2016 by eco-anarchist prisoner Marius Mason. Last year’s call-out, plus a list of some events around the U.S. can be found at itsgoingdown. If you’re in Asheville, Tranzmission Prison Project will be hosting a card signing event and discussion at 7pm at Firestorm Books and Coffee. Cards will be supplied and it’s suggested to bring vegan snacks to share.

Breaking News from the VA NLG

Third Charlottesville Counter-Protestor Arrested

January 21, 2018:
Charlottesville, VA: Mr. Donald Blakney was arrested at his home on Friday by Charlottesville Police Department (CPD). He is charged with Malicious Wounding — a felony that carries a 5 year minimum and the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.
On August 12, he was physically attacked by a participant in the Unite the Right rally, who also yelled racist slurs at him. Later that fall, he was questioned by CPD and the FBI under the pretext of the ongoing criminal investigation into right-wing violence that day.
The charges against Mr. Blakney are apparently based in part on a video broadcast by the ABC News program 20/20 that depicts him at the scene.
Mr. Blakney is the third counter-protester to be arrested and charged arising out of the events in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. Corey Long and DeAndre Harris are both also facing criminal charges. All three are Black men and local residents who were attacked that day.
Mr. Blakney was released on personal recognizance Friday. He has an arraignment tomorrow, Monday January 22 at 10AM in Charlottesville General District Court and is requesting that supporters come in solidarity. Mr. Blakney is represented by attorneys Sandra Freeman and David Baugh.
– NLG Central Virginia Chapter

The Heat is On: Update from Blue Ridge ABC on Week 1 of #OperationPUSH!

One week ago prison rebels across Florida launched Operation PUSH. Their demands were simple: end prison slavery and price gouging, restore access to parole, and put an end to the brutal conditions they are subjected to daily.

Information has been slow to trickle out due to intense repression and communication blackouts, but we know there has been strike participation at 15+ prisons, and we know that support on the outside is growing, with 150+ organizations endorsing the action and major solidarity actions in Florida occurring at various locations, including a 5-hour long occupation of the DOC office in Tallahassee on Tuesday.

The repression is already starting to come down: people being thrown into solitary confinement; being threatened with violence; being bribed to end their action and inform on other strike organizers; being transferred to new facilities to disburse strike activity throughout the system and isolate people.

One disturbing feature of this repression is DOC’s focus on identifying specific groups coordinating support on the outside such as the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons and IWOC and disrupting prisoners’ communication with these groups.

Prison organizers who correspond with these groups are being targeted for having their “security threat level” increased–a practice that translates into greater isolation and harsher conditions of confinement. One prisoner was told point blank, “As long as you communicate with these people you’re always going to be labelled a security threat and you’re always going to be put under investigation.”

Communication has been curtailed so severely that it’s hard to know how much of an economic impact the strike has had so far; we do know that in some cases scab labor has been brought in to keep facilities running. This state of uncertainty is a strategy prison administrators use to sap organizing energy. As IWOC recently wrote, “a common theme among report backs is the attempt to sever communication in order to create the perception of inactivity and break the spirits of those participating in the strike.”

But strikers won’t be fooled so easily, and neither will we. We will keep showing up because those on the inside are putting it all on the line, and we are in absolute solidarity with their courageous acts of resistance.

NOW IS THE TIME TO STEP UP OUR SUPPORT!

– Letter writing to striking prisoners TODAY at Firestorm, 4pm

– Join the “phone zap” (calling campaign” TOMORROW, MONDAY 1/22!  Go to incarceratedworkers.org to find the call script and make those calls!

– Tell people about this! #operationpush #endprisonslavery

J20 Statement from TFS

Yesterday marked the year anniversary of January 20th, 2017. The by now all too familiar litany of charges, events, numbers, police tactics, and trials sometimes bears repetition at, but at other times can obscure the human element at play, lives that have been varying degrees of upended or lost in this process.

Three days ago on January 18th 2018, 129 of the original defendants were acquitted of all charges “without prejudice”, a phrase that sounds benign and even somewhat positive. In actuality, it is in place here to protect the plaintiff (in this case, the state) from the defendant (here, the 129) invoking a doctrine called Res Judicata (meaning “a thing decided” in Latin), which essentially states that someone cannot be brought up on charges for the same thing twice.

I think it is important to belabor this point, not in any way to nay-say the relief that anyone may be feeling right now or diminish some very very well deserved congratulations, but to say again and again that the state is not here to give anyone who opposes it relief, or joy, or a sense of justice. The daily realities of so many of us who resist the state by our actions, beliefs, or our very existence is proof enough of the state’s essential nature. This phrase “without prejudice”, when used in the case of a dismissal of charges, means legally that the original charges could be brought again at any time, as though those charges never existed in the first place.

This is a very smart move on the part of the courts. It seems very likely that this was a carefully timed mass acquittal, having little to do with meting out so called guilt or innocence, and everything to do with attempting to fracture support and stymie momentum. They can be seen to be throwing us a bone while actually going ahead with their original intention.

What is unfortunate for the courts is that support for the J20 defendants is not being taken in by this tactic. This is a time for us to focus all our resources on the remaining 59 defendants, keep an eye or two on the shenanigans of the court trying to pull legal fast ones over on our comrades, and take care of ourselves and each other cause this is far from over.

You can see a beautiful statement of solidarity with the remaining defendants at defendj20resistance.org, and as always, keep up with developments in this case by following the hashtags or handles related to “defendj20” on all your fav social media platforms.

To see a list of actions and endeavors in this anniversary week, you can go to itsgoingdown.org.

You can help support the defendants by going to their fundraising support page.

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Show playlist here.

Anti-Repression Panel from the NAABC Conference 2017

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Anti-Repression Panel from Denver

This week we are featuring a recording from an Anti-Repression panel that took place in Denver in October of this year. The sound quality is affected by a fan system that the venue had running, but the words are well worth hearing.

For the hour, we’ll hear words from a few perspectives of resistance in the U.S. currently. First, we hear from Danica from occupied territory of Portland about work around anti-colonial antifa resistance and self-defense in the North West. Next up, Firehawk talks about work in un-ceded Pueblo, Colorado, about working with femme, queer & trans prison rebels, Unstoppable zine and The Fire Inside project. Montana talks about autonomous relief work in Houston after Hurricane Harvey and the slow-disaster that is white supremacist capitalism in Texas. We hear from Jude talking about the J20 conspiracy cases coming out of the Inauguration, the court case moving forward and up til a few weeks ago. Finally, we hear from Jess who has been working with Water Protectors doing legal collective work up in so-called North Dakota mostly around #StandingRock with a very in-dept report-back on wider repression and specific case details.

A few updates are worth mentioning in the J20 case since Jude spoke on this panel: the first defendant convicted, Dane Powell, has been released and there is a linked support site for his post-release; two of the riot charges have been dropped down from Felony to Misdemeanor; & the first court dates have been moved forward to November 15th and info about how to help with court support can be found at Its Going Down.

As stated above, 2 of the initial 8 felony charges (‘engaging in riot’ and ‘conspiracy to riot’) have been dropped to misdemeanors, thus shaving decades from the potential sentences of the defendants. We here at The Final Straw suggest that Judge Leibovitz use a secure tor browser and visit https://dropj20.org to learn more about ending this expensive, insulting and dangerous act of political persecution that is the J20 case.

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Show playlist here.