All posts by nightfallmn

Against The Smart City!

In April Hennepin County ran the latest demonstration of the EasyMile EZ10, which is not an overpriced treadmill as the name suggests but rather a self-driving shuttle, on the greenway in Uptown. This followed a run of demonstrations along Nicollet Mall that took place during the lead-up to the Super Bowl earlier this year. However, before the test run/photo op could begin a banner was affixed to a bridge directly over the test site reading “Against The Smart City!”

This action resonates strongly with us, so we’re using it as a starting point to elaborate this rallying cry, against the smart city. In the words of the anonymous communique, originally submitted to Conflict MN:

“While touted as progress, there are still those of us who see these projects as only the further deepening of the desert. As our cities become increasingly automated, this process attempts to eclipse not only the possibilities of revolt, but even that of a life of anything but its perpetual (re)production. These automated shuttles will be yet another vehicle for funneling citizens between where they work, shop, and sleep, as mindlessly as the shuttle which carries them.”

The ones who dropped the banner identify these automated shuttles as a new piece in a mosaic of projects designed to smooth the flow of people and capital within the metropolis. In other words, the city is designed to make sure that the only possible forms that life can take are that of producing or reproducing the capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchal reality. Although there are not yet plans to permanently deploy the shuttles locally, these tests give us a glimpse of the future form cities will take if no one intervenes.

Most often, these projects are criticized for their role as harbingers of gentrification. And there is no doubt that these shuttles were never meant for the poor. However, we feel the need to expand our critiques. We aren’t opposed to these projects only because they cause displacement, but because they create a way of life we refuse to live.

The smart city is not only the way in which bodies are transported throughout the metropolis. As the name implies, the premise of the smart city can be boiled down to the logic of the smart phone applied at the municipal level. In their 2014 book To Our Friends, the Invisible Committee sketch out a broader picture:

“Behind the futuristic promise of a world of fully linked people and objects, when cars, fridges, watches, vacuums, and dildos are directly connected to each other and to the Internet, there is what is already here: the fact that the most polyvalent of sensors is already in operation: myself. “I” share my geolocation, my mood, my opinions, my account of what I saw today that was awesome or awesomely banal. I ran, so I immediately shared my route, my time, my performance numbers and their self-evaluation. I always post photos of my vacations, my evenings, my riots, my colleagues, of what I’m going to eat and who I’m going to fuck. I appear not to do much and yet I produce a steady stream of data. Whether I work or not, my everyday life, as a stock of information, can always be mined. I am constantly improving the algorithm.”

The automated shuttle was, of course, not the only thing tested during the Super Bowl. Local law enforcement began using FieldWatch, an app that allows police officers to stream video directly from their phones to the command center, at the time staffed by nearly one hundred people. Along with newly installed surveillance cameras, this gave law enforcement a real time view of virtually the entire downtown terrain. While the Super Bowl festivities have left, the police continue to take advantage of their new tools, and have even requested the installation of another thousand cameras.

Looking at these shuttles and cameras alongside the proliferation of new light fixtures such as on Lake Street underneath Hiawatha (as we wrote about in Issue 9), we start to see what the pieces in the mosaic form. Not only a city devoted to the total surveillance of public space, but also the shaping of that space to eliminate the possibility of any disturbances. In other words, “a terrain where all that can happen is what has already been predicted and planned” to quote from this latest communique. Or, as the Invisible Committee wrote:

“The stated ambition of cybernetics is to manage the unforeseeable, and to govern the ungovernable instead of trying to destroy it. The question of cybernetic government is not only, as in the era of political economy, to anticipate in order to plan the action to take, but also to act directly upon the virtual, to structure the possibilities. […] In this vision, the metropolis doesn’t become smart through the decision-making and action of a central government, but appears, as a ‘spontaneous order,’ when its inhabitants ‘find new ways of producing, connecting, and giving meaning to their own data.’”

This “spontaneous order” occurs because the potential for disorder has been foreclosed on by the very structure of the city. Not only do these surveillance projects allow the police to track those they designate potential criminals, they psychologically impact our behaviors and encounters—this is the real panopticon effect. While disorder can never be completely eliminated, the smart city is designed for its maximum attenuation. And to put our cards on the table, we greatly prefer disorder over the world as it exists.

How could we not? It’s clear to everyone that there is something deeply wrong with the state of affairs today. We are told that there are proper, legal channels through which reform will happen—but these channels are only yet another way to structure our possibilities.

The Against The Smart City communique offers a few words of encouragement, with which we’ll close:

“While their fantasy is to build a terrain where all that can happen is what has already been predicted and planned, we know that fundamentally life cannot be reduced to data and in its flux escapes prediction and control. Don’t wait for others to take action for you. Take it yourselves.”

Why Write?

Recently we were pleased to notice that a number of issues of various radical publications from Minnesota’s past had been uploaded to counter-information site Conflict MN. Digging into the history of struggles that have taken place in this land has always been an important part of Nightfall, so we want to amplify some of the perspectives contained within the pages of these publications with a new semi-regular feature. Each column will spotlight a different publication, giving an overview of some of the topics covered in its pages as well as reprinting excerpts that seem particularly relevant to our contemporary struggles. This feature will start with our next issue, but first we want to lay out some thoughts on the place of radical publishing in a larger liberatory movement. In the meantime we encourage you to head over to Conflict MN to read the publications for yourself.

Why write? It’s a question that keeps popping up in my head lately. Some who do this work hold that we can free ourselves from the domination of the capitalist world by taking up the tools of image production and using them for our own purposes, rendering the dominant media obsolete by becoming the media ourselves. For me, however, the goal of becoming the media has always rung hollow. I don’t want to be the media, I want to be free, and a world where we are all constantly producing and sharing content with each other strikes me as something less than a utopia. Indeed it would not be far-fetched to argue that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have in fact fulfilled the promise of a world in which the people who consume content are at the same time those who produce it, yet the isolation and pacification associated with older forms of mass media remain, and in some ways have even deepened.

The problem is not just that Facebook is a hierarchical corporation raking in ad-revenue off the interactions of its users, or that most Facebook posts are actually other people’s words that we repost as stand-ins for original expressions of our own thoughts and feelings. The problem is that no matter how horizontal a form of media becomes, if it solely leads to its own reproduction rather than the production of new and more vital ways of organizing our lives and deepening our bonds with each other in the real world then it is ultimately just another strand in the web of spectacle that keeps us from confronting the emptiness of our lived experience. This is often just as true for self-consciously radical media as it is for mainstream entertainment, as making and consuming more and more woke critiques of the existent from the comfort of one’s home can often end up acting as a stand-in for putting any effort into any real world projects or relationships.

Nonetheless, I know that writing can also act as a spark to set off the powder keg of the daily resentments and frustrations we all face in our daily lives, opening us up to something more. While I definitely at times can slip into a cycle of endless mediated passivity, my own life and practice have been enriched again and again by being exposed to the experiences of people with different perspectives than my own. Clearly those who want everything to stay as it is recognize the destabilizing potential of certain types of media practices too, leading to regulations such as one recently instituted at a number of New York prisons limiting written materials to a list of 50 pre-approved texts consisting almost entirely of romance novels, religious works and coloring books. Apparently prison administrators suspected that books prisoners were reading were giving them too much perspective on their position within the modern prison-slave industry, leading to them being increasingly harder to control.

What then separates media that connects us and enriches our lives from media that isolates and pacifies, if it is not just a matter of being far enough to the correct side of some spectrum of radicalness? I don’t have any concrete answers, but I suspect that often the answer is not actually innately embedded in whichever fragment of media that is under consideration but rather in how it is put to use by those who interact with it. This idea certainly seems to be supported when I look over issues of the publications we intend to spotlight more in this space in the future, such as Daybreak, an anarchist newspaper from the early-2000’s rooted in DIY culture; Anpao Duta, a Dakota journal of decolonization from the late 2000’s/early 2010’s; and The Blast, an anarchist newspaper from the 90’s with a wide range of coverage but with especially strong coverage of prison resistance.

A persistent feature of all of these publications is articles focusing on introducing key radical concepts, such as autonomy and decolonization, providing points of entry into the themes being explored in these papers for people who may be less versed in radical ideas so as to introduce them to anti-authoritarian politics. For people who have already been exposed to those ideas, however, what is most exciting and energizing to read through are the articles that combine reports of local happenings that were often ignored or diminished by mainstream outlets at the time with analysis of how these efforts can function together to build up vibrant networks of resistance. For example, reports on confrontational actions such as the clashes between police and North Minneapolis residents that took place in 2002, covered in Daybreak #3, or the arson of a museum in southeastern North Dakota celebrating the Whitestone Hill Massacre of 1863, covered in Anpao Duta #4, share pages in these publications with articles on community efforts to establish autonomy from corporate medicine and the agribusiness industry.

In addition to rescuing these happenings from the waste-bin of history, these articles give the impression of being both firmly rooted in and feeding back into the struggles and movements taking place at the time. There seems to be a clear recognition on the part of many of the articles in these publications that the point of writing and reading should always be to thoughtfully and deliberately consider the problems we face in a way that will serve to enrich our actual lived experiences, rather than simply build up an intellectual identity or brand to show off to others. In this respect I think it is no coincidence that these publications were all wholly or primarily print-based. The effort involved in writing, designing, printing and distributing an actual physical publication forces you to be very deliberate about what you want to communicate and what you intend to get out of it, something that is rarely true for writings distributed online.

“I detest writing” opens Russell Means in his essay “For America to Live Europe Must Die,” which is appropriately not actually an essay but a transcription of a speech. “[Writing] is one of the white world’s ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.” Means consents to have his words written down only so as to reach into the pockets of the world where the written word is considered the most valuable and authentic form of communication, that is the Western world, and see if he can touch the hearts or minds of any people who find themselves positioned there. This goal, to use writing against the systems of control which birthed it, is as close as I can come to a mission statement for a project like this. If it leads us, both as writers and as readers, to starting conversations, asking questions, and listening more to the people and the world around us then it is a good thing. On the other hand, if it only leads to more reading, watching, and writing, continually chasing that next edgier burst of information, well then that will be the time for us to lay down the pen and paper and step outside.

Friendship & Resistance

We’ve now passed the one year mark of Trump’s presidency. This time last year we were fast learning what his reign had in store for us. Following the riotous eruptions nationwide on the day of his inauguration, immense numbers of people participated in Women’s Marches, others spontaneously blockaded airports, and hundreds stormed the UC Berkeley campus on February 1st and laid siege to the police-protected venue hosting Milo Yiannopolous.

In the year since nothing has slowed down. The regime continues to launch assaults on a daily basis: voting down net neutrality, revoking the temporary protected status of thousands of Central American migrants, allowing states to require people to work in order to acquire Medicaid. All of which was punctuated by scandal after scandal, provoking our indignation at Trump’s latest racist remark or indiscretion. Rage against the police as well as the far-right has escalated and spread to every corner of the country.

At the beginning of 2017, we published an essay “Autonomous Organizing in the Age of Trump” which looked to the year ahead while sketching the outline of a possible strategy for resistance. Without falling into passive retrospective we want to consider the past twelve months with this strategy in mind, and to see how we can prepare for the days, months, and years ahead.

Autonomous self-organization is the term we used to describe the approach we laid out. By autonomous we mean actions taken outside of formal organizations, parties, non-profits, etc. In place of organizations we suggest affinity groups, the close circle of friends whom one trusts deeply— as trust and a shared vision is necessary for acting together in a meaningful way. By self-organization we mean that there are no leaders to follow when acting, that affinity groups should strive to take active roles instead of passively participating. In addition to guarding against the threats posed by authoritarianism, repression, and co-optation, self-organization makes our struggles more vital and effective, taking away the passivity inherent in waiting for someone higher up to tell us how to achieve the world we want as well as the disappointments and frustrations we encounter when we go along with something that feels wrong to us just because the more experienced or legitimate people say it is the right path.

On January 20th, 2017 perhaps a thousand people marched from south Minneapolis to downtown against Trump’s inauguration. The night before, posters were wheatpasted along the route of the march with anti-state messages that interrupted the prevalent narrative that Trump was to blame rather than the whole system. After the mass march concluded in front of the county building, some came together on the light rail tracks and began shooting off fireworks, drawing in more and more people bored by the politicians’ speechifying before deciding to march. The crowd shot off more fireworks at the youth jail and vandalized the nearby Wells Fargo headquarters before quietly dispersing. By all accounts, there was no one in charge, just a convergence of affinity groups who each brought their own goals and contributions—fireworks, banners, spray paint, a sound system, etc—together forming a successful action.

Between larger public actions, single affinity groups can take action in a decentralized manner while honing their skills. For example, multiple vandalism attacks on gentrifying businesses in south Minneapolis took place over the past year, with at least three reported in February and one more on Halloween. Beyond these types of attacks, the idea of affinity groups applies more broadly to any time a crew of friends organizes together to accomplish a task, such as a crew of graffiti writers who steal spray cans before painting the town.

It is hard to think of a place where this approach was better put to into practice recently than at the G20 summit in Hamburg. When the police cracked down on the large demonstration on the eve of the summit, the crowd fragmented into smaller mobs that split up throughout the city center, wreaking havoc as they went. Smaller groups attacked police officers, burnt luxury cars, and blockaded intersections all night before crowds re-converged at dawn. The police, who had been prepared for the threat of a single enormous crowd, were powerless to contain the decentralized and autonomous resistance that spread throughout Hamburg. The police would not regain control of the city until the end of the summit. In the meantime, a liberated zone was established and people were free to do as they pleased—perhaps they enjoyed a drink outside with friends, covered the walls in artful slogans, or looted a convenience store. Speaking on revolutionary organization, the Invisible Committee write “by successfully reclaiming urban districts and areas of the countryside, by establishing relatively secure zones, it became possible to go beyond the stage of discrete, anonymous activity on the part of little groups.”

Approaching this question locally, we’re obviously starting from a much smaller scale. Still, there is something to think about when a masked individual steps away from an anti-fascist demonstration and tags “Antifa Zone” on a wall, as happened last August along Cedar Ave. It shows, first of all, that in this neighborhood we have some amount of power, that one could brazenly declare such a thing in broad daylight—if a right-winger could do the same with one of their own slogans, they haven’t dared to try it yet. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it shows that police control is not omnipotent, that there are gaps in the police’s ability to maintain order. It is by expanding these gaps in police power that we open up the potential to create a real “antifa zone” or a liberated space, just as the decentralized attacks in Hamburg opened up such a space despite the twenty thousand police officers summoned to the city.

To expand these gaps through decentralized actions, emphasis is placed on actions that are easy to do, with tools that are easy to acquire. Paint is cheap and easy to find—pouring it in a bottle and tossing it at a bank ATM is simple to accomplish. Ten more affinity groups inspired by the paint attack could easily do the same with a little effort. For example, from the end of summer until Columbus Day, the Pioneer Statue in northeast Minneapolis was vandalized at least four times, presumably by different people or groups. The first was communicated anonymously over counter-info site Conflict MN; those that followed it were apparently inspired by the initial defacement, finding it easy to repeat. Likewise with a wave of vandalism against the police also in northeast Minneapolis. Over the summer several anti-police slogans were seen spray painted in the area, and come autumn there were reports of graffiti at the police union headquarters, a cruiser and the MPD substation itself. From the hand styles it again seems safe to assume these were often from different individuals or affinity groups.

For these practices to truly proliferate, they must spread beyond any particular subculture, scene, or identity. The state and the media have latched onto the term “antifa” as an identity for a certain set of rebels who participate in militant actions. With this label, or any other, individuals are put at a distance from everyone else, making them appear foreign rather than as as one’s neighbor, one’s coworker, one’s friend. The goal with this maneuver is isolation, preventing rebellious practices from spreading all throughout society and reducing backlash when repression strikes.

Taking a step back, a fundamental component of affinity group-based autonomous organizing is of course affinity—that is, friendship. A lot of people don’t have a crew to go to a demonstration with, or go tagging with, or to even speak of these ideas with. Often, there isn’t anyone in our lives who we trust enough for these things, or who is even interested in them. Having public spaces to find each other in are vital to forming the bonds that grow into what we call affinity groups. Spending time together and sharing our lives with one another can strengthen these bonds over time and ultimately form the basis of the liberating experiences we create. Many who have spent time at Standing Rock or other protest encampments in the past have remarked that just the simple fact of living together, of making and sharing food around a fire day in and day out, caused their projects together to proliferate and bloom in ways that no amount of prearranged structure ever could. Putting our lives in common in such a way here in the city can be a more tricky proposition, as cities were in many ways designed to keep people locked into the role of isolated worker-consumers, but this doesn’t mean we can’t take small steps in such a direction. Reading groups, workshops, movie screenings, potlucks are a few of endless possibilities where we can come into contact with others who see the world as we do, with whom we experience community. Through these encounters, constellations of crews and affinity groups can emerge.

As a friend once said, the commune is that which sustains the attack and the attack is that which enlarges the commune. It is through friendship that we build the bonds necessary to self-organize and attack, and it is through attacking this world of misery that we can reclaim a sense of living, fighting because we have something to fight for: each other.

Super Bowl Blues

On February 4th, 2018 the Super Bowl is coming to Minneapolis and the city is already busy preparing for this big event. For almost a year the city has been advertising how important this event will be not just for the Twin Cities but for the entire state of Minnesota. There is talk about new jobs being created, money from visitors and businesses supporting the Super Bowl flowing into communities all across the state and last but not least the new Stadium that was built especially for this occasion but that will be there for a long time to host all kinds of large events. The advertising makes it seem that the Super Bowl is truly like winning the lottery for this state, and everybody living here will see how much it benefits them.

That is not at all true. The organizers of the Super Bowl don’t care at all about supporting the local population and making the city a better place for those who live here. The city government and the developers behind the Super Bowl are only interested in making money, and to do that that they have shown themselves willing to spend a lot of money first. That’s why there is a new stadium to make Minnesota is worthy of hosting the Super Bowl. That’s why there are endless new condos being built all across the Twin Cities with security gates, fancy rooftop swimming pools and rent so high most city residents can’t even dream about living in one of them. In order to build these condos older houses that have affordable rent prices and cater to low income folks are destroyed, making it plain that poor people are not welcome in a city preparing to host the biggest sport event in the United States. These people have to go to make room for those who are welcome. Urban professionals, mostly white, who have the necessary wealth to afford the fancy condos, the hip restaurants and tickets for the new fancy stadium. Gentrification is nothing new, but the Super Bowl accelerates the process and makes large parts of the city unlivable for anybody who is not a white wealthy professional. What’s more, gentrification doesn’t stop at new condo buildings and fancy restaurants that are unaffordable.

The cops are also preparing for the Super Bowl. In recent months the police presence, especially in Downtown Minneapolis, has increased. Cops specifically target people of color and houseless people and harass and arrest them in order to get these people out of downtown in time for the big game. To help them with this mission, the cops will be receiving $3.1 million from the Super Bowl Host Committee, a conglomerate of NFL representatives, developers, and politicians, that will go towards paying for overtime for MPD officers and those brought in from around the state to assist, a command center, trainings, and fancy new toys of repression, the latter of which will remain in the hands of MPD and continue to negatively impact those oppressed by then far beyond the end of the game. Some of this money will also be going towards purchasing police liability insurance, so that the police will be protected from consequences should they find themselves compelled to venture outside of the bounds of the law to ensure an orderly urban playground for those attending the big game.

In these ways the Super Bowl mirrors the last national mega-event to take place in the Twin Cities, the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008. In preparation for the RNC every officer in St. Paul was equipped with a taser, which they kept after the event was over. Furthermore, as part of the agreement to host the event the city demanded that the RNC purchase $10 million of police insurance for its officers, which emboldened them to attack protesters repeatedly over the course of the event and make hundreds of arrests of questionable legality.

These tactics always come with big events, especially sports events. In 2016 the Super Bowl was hosted in San Francisco. This was not just any Super Bowl, it was the 50th Super Bowl, and the event was to be even bigger and more spectacular than any before. In the months and weeks leading up to the game the city of San Francisco and the cops started a strategic campaign to clean up the streets and push homeless and low income folks out of the city. In an area like the Bay Area that is already heavily gentrified, with rent prices so astronomical that most people can barely afford to rent a closet, the homeless population is very big and poverty is omnipresent. By pushing out poor people the city of San Francisco was trying to hide its massive poverty and homeless problem and instead make the city look clean to not scare away white wealthy sports fans coming for the super bowl. But anti-gentrification activists and anarchists in the Bay Area made sure the city didn’t get away with hiding the problems gentrification created, starting a campaign against the Super Bowl. People made call outs for marches against gentrification, Super Bowl statues that were set up around the city advertising the 50th anniversary of the game were vandalized or destroyed and most importantly people organized to show up when homeless camps were facing eviction or raids.

In 2014 Brazil hosted the soccer World Cup. It was supposed to be a big event that drew thousands of people from all across the world to celebrate soccer and Brazilian culture. To make all these tourists feel welcome and maybe convince a few to come back in the future for vacations the country invested a lot of money to build new soccer stadiums, highways, expanded public transit in a lot of cities and got a lot of foreign investors to build new housing, hotels and other entertainment locations to make all these wealthy tourists feel more at home. The problem with all these investments was that in order to fund all the new projects the government had to use over $4 billion that was taken away from schools, hospitals, etc. Many thousands of people were forced to leave their homes without being offered an alternative to make room for all the costly new buildings for the World Cup, most of which wouldn’t have any further use once the World Cup was over. As early as 2007 groups and committees with the help of many anarchists began organizing resistance against the World Cup and the gentrification that comes with it. The movement exploded in 2013, a year prior to the World Cup, in protests against proposed transportation fair hikes, where hundreds of thousand of people took to the streets all across Brazil. Riots continued in the weeks leading up to the games, along with protests led by indigenous activists resisting colonization.

Another example of radical resistance against big sports events were the protests against the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. Leading up to the event indigenous activists and anarchists joined forces to fight the gentrification and the further take-over by capitalism of the stolen lands of Canada. Several riots against the gentrification caused by the Olympics wreaked havoc through downtown.

We need to see the Super Bowl for what it is: an event that caters to the upper white class that city leaders are hoping to attract to the city in larger and larger numbers at the expense of everyone else. It accelerates the process of making the city uninhabitable for the rest of us. We hope that we can glean insight into these past examples to agitate social tensions as we fight against this process. 

With Communities Like These…

At the risk of repeating ourselves a bit we want to take some time to talk about the concept of ‘community policing’. It’s a phrase that has been around a while, but it has recently seen an upsurge in popularity as those in power attempt to shore up their legitimacy in the face of the tumultuous revolts of the past few years. For example, when Fortune Magazine named then-MPD Chief Janee Harteau one of the top leaders in the world, it specifically cited her emphasis on community policing as a major accomplishment. Months later, when Harteau was driven out by Mayor Betsy Hodges in an attempt to head-off the outrage that threatened to boil over following the murder of Justine Damond by MPD officer Mohamed Noor, Hodges stated that Harteau had in fact not gone far enough in cultivating “community trust in policing”, and stated that Harteau’s successor would need to make community policing a top priority of the department.

So what is community policing? On the surface it doesn’t sound so bad, right? Aren’t anarchists and abolitionists always talking about how communities should be able to resolve conflicts themselves, free from state interference? When one looks at the actual policies that are joined under the banner of community policing, however, it is clear that this is not what those in power mean when they call for a greater emphasis on community policing. Instead, community policing seeks to fulfill the traditional goals of policing through nontraditional means. Community policing serves to shore up the racist, patriarchal, ecocidal regime we live under by reinforcing the illusion that the people who are being subjected to police violence are somehow willing participants in their own oppression. Tactics such as neighborhood watches, cop meet-and-greets like National Night Out, increased representation of minorities on police forces, and the appointment of block captains and community-police liaisons allow cops to form closer relationships with those within targeted communities who might be persuaded to support the agenda of the police as well as intelligence on those who might challenge it in one way or another. This allows the raw violence of policing to fade into the background of the social consciousness, coming out only when it is deemed absolutely necessary.

While the label ‘community policing’ is new, it is helpful to recognize that as a tactic it is not new at all. From the Roman Empire, which sent select children from the areas it conquered away to Rome in order to groom them to govern in accordance with Rome’s interests, to the State of Missouri, which cunningly took momentum away from the fierce rebellion in Ferguson in 2014 by assigning State Trooper Ron Johnson, an African-American Ferguson native, to head the counterinsurgency, authoritarian regimes throughout history have found ways of legitimizing their violence by making it appear as if it had the approval of the ‘community’. No doubt this will often be partially successful, as evidenced by the various commenters on social media who argued that now that a black man is chief it will be impossible for MPD to continue reinforcing white supremacy. Luckily not everyone has been misled, as multiple people stormed Hodges’ press conference following Harteau’s resignation, refusing to be pacified so easily. As Minneapolis continues to rank as the most active National Night Out participant in the country year after year, it remains vital to resist this insidious camouflaging of the brutality of policing. Through this refusal we can begin to shape the vibrant and autonomous communities that “community policing” pretends to offer.

What Is This About? A Report On The Response To The Yanez Verdict

On June 17th, 2017 Officer Jeronimo Yanez was let off the hook by a majority white jury after murdering Philando Castile in cold blood. Obviously, the verdict was devastating, cruel and absolutely absurd. Most of all, though, it was unsurprising. That night over two thousand people took to the streets in the Twin Cities. Tensions were high and so was energy from the growing crowd. Young people came out by the hundreds, clad in masks and armed with anger. Earlier in the day, on a video posted to social media, Philando’s mother Valerie Castile tore in to the verdict and the police:

“They murdered my motherfucking son with his seat belt on. So what does that say to you? Now they got free reign to keep killing us any kind of way they want to. So I just want to say one thing to everybody out there, I don’t give a fuck what you do. Do what your heart desires… Fuck the police!… I hope that mother fucker die tonight.”

And yet, as in demonstrations time and time again before that night, a somewhat small group of Black Lives Matter organizers led the massive crowd in a winding route around the city of St. Paul and ultimately, via an orchestrated effort, onto Interstate 94. Police, in communication with organizers, quickly re-routed traffic to flow far around the people standing on the highway. During the march, liberal-minded activists and their dutiful ‘white allies’ shouted at and shamed people expressing their anger through graffiti, and in some instance even attempted to turn them in to the authorities.

Accusations of “violence” flew, along with claims that “that’s not what this is about,” even after Valerie Castile explicitly called for people to express their anger in whichever manner their heart desired. People donning masks in order to avoid further police repression and information doxxing by the far-right were called “cowards” and “instigators”. It almost seemed like these people had forgotten that a man’s life was taken by the state, and that earlier that day it had been made clear that officers who do the same thing in the future will not be punished. But somehow writing on a traffic sign to remember and avenge Philando Castile is considered “violence”.

At the end of the night, as the crowds trickled out and went home, police moved in and arrested 18 people. The police were careful not to let crowds gather on the pedestrian bridge or along the side of the highway, from where volleys of rocks and fireworks seemed to originate last July when I-94 was first shut down following Philando’s murder.

The State should consider itself lucky that the city was not in flames after the verdict came out. There is a process of silencing that is occurring that is enacted not by the police departments or National Guard but by the very organizers of such rallies as well as some of the attendees. One in which a young person who fears for their life in the face of police violence is held to unrealistic and ahistorical standards of respectability towards public property and corporate shop windows. Where the dispossessed are still expected to take orders from the wealthiest and loudest non-profit voices. One where they are commanded to politely ask the slave owners to give up their plantation.

The marching, the signs, and the chants aren’t enough. They never were. It’s time to put the ‘peace police’ to rest, and to make the State fear our strength instead of re-routing traffic for us. The white supremacist police institution of the United States has a vested interest in getting away with shooting black folks, and it is clear that until it faces consequences for its actions it won’t stop killing.