Mask Up: How & Why

[Pamphlet version]

The events of the July 9th highway shutdown were inspiring, to say the least. Those who struck back against the police state inflicted significant financial damages on the city of St. Paul and the businesses that rely on I-94, as well as injuring 21 cops. Headlines the next day juxtaposed this number with the 102 arrests made that night to imply that the violence directed against the police did not go unpunished. However, the vast majority of those arrests were either negotiated surrenders by pacifists among the highway blockaders or misdemeanor citations issued hours after the shutdown was over. As it stands now only one person is facing felony charges stemming from the shutdown. The fact that there were many more who fought back that night and got away with it shows that it is possible to put the police on the defensive without resorting to suicidal lone wolf attacks such as the recent ones in Dallas and Baton Rouge. However, one person facing felony charges is still one too many, and that number could easily have been higher had the police been only marginally more prepared. Many people engaged in a variety of risky activities without taking basic precautions to conceal their identity. While the police were temporarily driven out of the streets surrounding the highway there were still cameras present, as well as pacifist enforcers eager to impose their own tactics upon those with differing ideas of how best to oppose the police. Nekima Levy-Pounds, the influential leader of NAACP-Minneapolis, stated in a speech at the Governor’s Mansion following the shutdown that “I ain’t no snitch, but if I see you smashing things I’m running to the 5-0.” With this in mind we offer the following reflections and fashion tips for today’s security-minded rebel.


The first order of business is to cover your face. A bandana will work, but a t-shirt is better. Simply put it around your head as if you were putting it on, tie the sleeves together behind your head and pull it up to just below your eyes, covering as much as possible. Combine with a hoodie and/or stocking cap to completely cover your face. Another important point is that the more similarly-dressed people there are, the harder it tends to be for police to get charges to stick to any one of them. For this reason black is the preferred color for masks and protest-wear in general, as it is one of the most common clothing colors and it makes us look fabulous. Beyond the mask it is best to stick with plain clothes that can’t be easily tied to your everyday style, such as a simple hoodie and jeans combo. If something could be used to identify you, cover it up or leave it at home. That means tattoos, hair, shoes, bags and other distinctive accessories. Glasses are not ideal but you definitely do not want to have contacts in if the cops bring out pepper spray or tear gas, so wear them if you need them and ditch them if you can manage.

In addition to having your all-black ensemble ready to go, you will generally want to wear something inconspicuous when entering and exiting areas of conflict. Avoid changing in sight of cops, cameras and people you don’t know or trust. A change of clothes is also crucial in case the cops start shooting marker rounds, little pellets that hurt like hell and leave a colored stain wherever they hit. If you are tagged by one of these, ditch the marked clothes as soon as possible, as police use marker rounds in situations where they have lost control, tagging individuals to send snatch squads after once control has been reimposed. In fact, much of the state’s case against the person facing felony charges from the night of the 9th appears to rest on the fact that when they were picked up they were allegedly sporting a tag from a round fired earlier in the night. It might suck to ditch your favorite pair of jeans, but a new pair will be cheaper than a court case.


There are many reasons you might choose to maintain anonymity at protests and other moments of rupture, the most obvious being that many effective methods of resisting the brutalities of this world, from white supremacy to patriarchy to the destruction of the earth, fall outside the boundaries of acceptable protest as defined by cops, politicians and respectable citizens. Actions such as defending oneself from the police, attacking the assets of white supremacist collaborators such as the private prison-funding Wells Fargo and expropriating the physical manifestations of the life stolen from us at work (aka looting) all carry with them the possibility of repression and are therefore best done as anonymously as possible. However, there are many other reasons you might choose to mask up. Even if, for whatever reason, you do not personally engage in confrontational actions masking up can respect and protect the autonomy of those who do. As we said before, the more masked people there are the safer are those who are most likely to be targeted by the police. Or maybe you don’t come to the protest expecting to engage in any risky behavior but are overtaken by the course of events, as happens in unpredictable situations. If you see a cop trying to drag one of your friends away and have the opportunity to snatch them back, you will be happy you masked up. And beyond your feelings on whether or not outright confrontation with the cops is tactically sound in our current moment, the long history of state repression in this country demonstrates pretty conclusively that the state will mobilize all of its power to crush any movement, peaceful or not, that poses a real threat to its hegemony. You can be sure that the police were filming the night of the 9th, in addition to monitoring the feeds of those livestreaming; those who did not have their faces covered are now that much more likely to have attention paid to them in the future.

A word or two should also be said about white supremacists. Much has been made of the fact that the white supremacists who shot five protestors outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis last year were wearing masks. Respectability-obsessed activists have manipulated people’s legitimate concerns about another white supremacist attack to pressure anyone wearing a mask, regardless of their political position or their perceived race, into removing it, thus consolidating their control over spaces of potential rupture. What has been completely overlooked in the discussion of this incident is the fact that in addition to wearing masks the white supremacists were filming everyone at the camp. These creeps have shown a pattern of harassment against known anti-racists both online and in real life, as evidenced by the death threats received by the individual who originally sounded the alarm that white supremacists were using 4chan to plan an assault on the occupation. They used their camera as a weapon much like the gun they would shoot soon after. Clearly this is a conversation that should be happening before we are on the streets confronting the police and the racists, but in our opinion the existence of white supremacists is another reason to wear a mask, not a reason to expose yourself. Perhaps in this sense these white supremacists were being more realistic than our side; they recognized that this is a conflict between two irreconcilable forms of life and took steps to protect themselves accordingly. It’s time we do the same.

Anybody But Trump?

With the conventions over and election season moving right along, we’ve seen a renewed urgency around the imperative to make sure that anyone except Donald Trump is elected. Trump’s presidency is presented to us as a doomsday scenario that must be avoided at all costs, even if that cost is voting for someone like Hillary Clinton. Yet the fact is that Clinton’s policies are Trump’s with a softer touch. There is no alternative in electoral politics – whether Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein.

There are two differences between Trump and other politicians which make his campaign remarkable. The first is that he is blunt about his oppressive positions: making blatantly racist calls for deportations while Hillary attempts to sell her immigration policies as “humanitarian,” despite the fact that they will still lead to a similarly massive amount of attacks on migrants, just as Obama’s policies have. Let’s not forget that Obama has deported 2.5 million people, more than any president before him. Trump is simply the most flagrant of the candidates; in reality they all share an interest in the perseverance of the status quo.

The second difference is that Trump’s campaign has mobilized disparate organizations on the far-right and given them space to recruit and build. Militia groups have been prominent at Trump rallies and the white nationalist Traditionalist Workers Party was spotted at his campaign events early on. At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland countless different far-right groups were present. We’ve already seen how this campaign has encouraged the far-right in terms of public organizing; the KKK have attempted two high-profile rallies this year in Anaheim and Stone Mountain, while the Traditionalist Worker’s Party organized what was supposed to be a pro-Trump demonstration in Sacramento. All of these and more were fiercely confronted by anti-fascists, although some ended with serious injuries.

If we’re being honest, there’s nothing we can do to stop the election of a president who will continue to oppress us. We should focus on what we can do: prepare for the potential of escalating conflict with far-right movements. How would white supremacist groups react to Trump’s victory in November? To his loss? What if the loss is narrow, or a landslide? Victory celebrations could become roving mobs attacking people perceived to be of marginalized identities. As far fetched as this may seem, it’s already a reality in Europe where the far-right has capitalized on the refugee crisis to expand it’s power, in addition to the historical precedent of lynch mobs in the United States. Maybe the reality of a Trump presidency that can’t deliver on his promises will lead to a depression of right-wing organizing as happens on the left every time a Democrat wins. Maybe a landslide loss will bring many who previously held faith in the electoral system into the fold of militant fascist groups.

The point is that these are the material scenarios to explore and more importantly, prepare for. Preparation can include anti-fascist propaganda, self defense training (hand to hand, bladed, and armed), building and strengthening ties with friends and accomplices, keeping tabs on right-wing activity and confronting it when the opportunity arises. Nothing could be worse than facing a trained enemy after wasting months registering voters to defeat Trump. There are no solutions in the democratic system, it’s time to leave politics behind and confront domination where it exists: it’s material manifestations in our daily lives.

This will not begin nor end on election day. These confrontations are ongoing, flaring up during large battles at white nationalist demonstrations and Trump rallies. To stomp out fascism, we must be persistent in denying the far-right a platform, denying them a voice, denying them the ability to feel safe whenever they leave their house. The convergences against white supremacist demonstrations, the attacks on Donald Trump supporters at his events, the waves of anti-racist vandalism, these and more all coalesce as hostile conditions for our enemies. What we’ve seen so far is inspiring, from Sacramento to Chicago to here at home, but we need to get ready to step things up a notch.

Beyond Justice

By now everyone is familiar with some version of this story. Jamar Clark was shot by the police on the morning of November 15th and died a few days later in the hospital. What occurred leading up the shooting is something else entirely and will not be explored here. Most are likely familiar with what followed: an occupation of the 4th Precinct’s lawn, a night of rioting, a white supremacist shooting, and more. Eventually the cold set in and the occupation was cleared, leaving many waiting to hear whether or not the officers would be indicted for their actions.

Participation in these actions was diverse; a variety of perspectives came together in one place. However, the most dominant voices were those calling for the officers to be prosecuted. Smaller demonstrations centered around this demand took place regularly after the removal of the encampment.

On March 30th it was announced that the officers who had killed Jamar Clark would not be charged. This sparked a day of protests across the city. Remarkably, the tone of these demonstrations had changed very little, as the crowds continued to chant “prosecute the police!” On June 1st, the FBI announced they would not indict the officers either. Protests have taken place since then and have remained faithful to this slogan, demanding what has already been unquestionably denied.

This brings certain tensions to the forefront: we cannot appeal to one part of the system for justice against another part; it is all the same system. Putting the police on trial and even behind bars will never dismantle the entire structure of cops, courts, and prisons—in fact, one might argue it actually supports that structure. Yet protesters continue to demand such a thing.

It is important to remember that from the beginning the call to “prosecute the police” did not speak for everyone. Especially within the first few days following the shooting, the chant was commonly interrupted with “fuck the police.” From this perspective, the demand for prosecution is less about actually prosecuting the officers and more about bringing into the political system those who previously existed outside of it. To say “fuck the police” is to
say to the government: ‘there is nothing you can do for us.’ By channeling this sentiment into a political demand (for prosecution, something the government can do) it lowers the possibility of destabilizing unrest, the likes of which was seen on the night of November 18th. If people believe that there is something the government can do for them they can easily be bought off with a small carrot, and ultimately, swept under the rug while self-appointed leaders consolidate their power.

This would explain why there are still protests for prosecution despite its impossibility. People are still angry, as are we, that police officers get away with murder. But this is nothing new. The state has always had a monopoly on violence and the police are the armed guards of the social order. Let us not forgot that in this country the police evolved from slave patrols. In many of these past instances, people have recognized that there is no justice to be found from the same system that deals us injustice—and so they burnt everything down. The fires of Baltimore and Ferguson still burn fresh in our memories, but we can’t forget Los Angeles in 1992 or the countless revolts of the 60’s and 70’s.

In these cities, however, police continue to kill with impunity. So the answer is not simply to burn everything down, although perhaps that is a good start. We must simultaneously destroy the structures that dominate and oppress us (such as the police) as well as build our communities so that we don’t need things like police anymore. It is important in this process that we do not replicate what the police do, but instead reevaluate our understandings of law, crime, justice, and pretty much everything. A small glimpse of this world could be seen during the 4th precinct occupation in November, when everyone was given food and shelter for a short time. It was far from perfect, but it is crucial to know that these are not fantasies in our heads but realities that we create.

For a world without police!

Feeling Bernt Out?

You know that Trump is a scary fascist stirring up xenophobia and that Hillary is a war monger co-opting “feminism.” But here’s the thing: Bernie effectively served as the establishment’s sponge, soaking up the mess of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Bernie Sanders channeled the energy from these movements and campaigns into the mire of electoral politics, where despite Bernie’s best intentions, no consequential change will ever occur. Rather than bringing the “political revolution,” his campaign reigned in radical activity by reducing us to deferring to the state for change. Had Bernie won, any changes we got would have been too little, too late.

Now that Sanders’ moment has passed, you may be feeling disillusioned. Many of us have held hope in progressive politicians—Nader or otherwise—at one point in our lives only to have that hope dashed. The question is, where to go from here? There are a number of directions the anti-establishment energy upon which Sanders has capitalized within the US will flow. Some will resign themselves to attempting to push the Democrats to the left, supporting Clinton while gearing up to run another social democrat such as Elizabeth Warren next time around. Others, inspired by examples such as SYRIZA in Greece and Podemos in Spain, will try to build a new progressive party to challenge the stranglehold the two major parties have on political power in this country. Many will lapse back into apathy or despair and return to bingeing on Netflix. And some who are fed up with petitioning the government to stop being so terrible and who yearn for a life worth living will instead set out not to reform governance but rather to oppose it in all its manifestations, from the parties to the cops to the seemingly benevolent social workers. We want to lay out why the latter approach is vital. If there’s one thing we know it’s that we have nothing but contempt for this world of environmental destruction, continuous war and racial apartheid.

Agitating for the reform of the American state demonstrates a fundmanetal misunderstanding of the history of this world we inhabit. The economy, as well as the states and corporations which compete for control of it, was birthed by the extermination and enslavement of hundreds of millions across every inhabited continent on earth. Furthermore this destruction has never ceased, as it is necessary to continuously deploy new waves of expropriation and violence to resuscitate the economy during the periodic crises of capitalism. In this context, arguing that positive social change will come through electing a president who will more generously distribute the spoils of this destruction among the citizens of a single country is naive at best and incredibly self-serving at worst, ignoring all the past, present and future suffering upon which this wealth is based.

Aside from this, recent events in Greece clearly show that running so-called ‘movement friendly’ candidates in elections is a waste of valuable time and energy. In 2015 Greek citizens voted the party SYRIZA (an acronym standing for Coalition of the Radical Left) into power based on their promises to end austerity and confront the bureaucrats of the IMF and the EU, who were looting the country as payment for unsustainable loans that the Greek government had taken out (under pressure from these same institutions) back in 2008 in order to bail out the private banks. SYRIZA promised to play hardball in order to force these institutions to agree to write-off some of the debt. However, seven months into their reign, following an exodus of capital from the already emaciated Greek economy, SYRIZA signed on to a new round of austerity including further slashes to pensions and public spending and a massive fire-sale of public property, including priceless historic and environmental sites. All of these conditions were mandated by the IMF and the EU in exchange for further loans to keep the government solvent, even though the IMF’s own research clearly showed that these further cuts would cause the economy to contract even further, inevitably precipitating another crisis (leading to another round of loans and another round of cuts) a few years down the line. Many have argued that the reason these institutions pushed and continue to push loans they know are toxic is because they have never been primarily concerned with being paid the money “owed” them by the people of Greece. Rather they are carrying out their assault on the living standards of these people in order to discipline them for the fierce rebellions of the past eight years and in order to demonstrate to the much larger populations of states like Spain, Italy and France, all facing impending debt crises of their own, that resistance will not be tolerated.

Just as the IMF predicted, the policies implemented “with reluctance” by SYRIZA have proven to be even more destructive for the people and environment of Greece than the policies of the previous government which SYRIZA came to power by opposing. The reason SYRIZA was forced into going against its stated ideals is that it simply had no bargaining power with which to bring about the changes it promised. Heads of state are powerless to challenge the inherently violent logic of the capitalist power structure from within and devoid of any vision for life outside of the miserable train which they find themselves piloting. Every second we spend paying attention to them is a second we could spend talking to each other. Now, as before, the only real threats to capitalist hegemony in Greece lie in the street-based movements that are fighting borders, looting supermarkets to give away the food and attacking destructive industrial projects such as mining and logging operations. The only difference is that now the militarized police that are deployed against them are commanded by a party ‘of the radical left.’

Greek comrades discovered left-wing tear gas tastes just like right-wing tear gas. Syntagma Square, June 2015
Greek comrades discovered left-wing tear gas tastes just like right-wing tear gas. Syntagma Square, June 2015

At the end of the day the actions of governments are not expressions of “the will of the people” or any such nonsense. Governments, whether totalitarian or democratic, always have been and always will be tools by which to manage the inherently unstable process of accumulation, keeping it from overextending itself and bringing about the collapse of the whole tower of bullshit. Governments do this by channeling popular discontent into ineffective forms of resistance, granting cosmetic changes that do nothing to alter the underlying structures of domination and violently crushing those who persist in rebelling. Contrary to what we are taught in school, positive changes that have occurred since the founding of this country have not taken place because of the benevolence of patriarchs like Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR or LBJ. Governments adjust their oppressive structures only when they are forced to by the threat of insurrection. We should oppose them not in order to force them to give concessions or govern more humanely but instead to destroy the power that gives them the ability to so throughly fuck our lives over in the first place. The more we do this the more we will open space to live our lives as we wish.

There is no concrete program of how we should go about doing this. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s not as simple as joining an organization or signing a petition. An autonomous and anti-hierarchical oppositional practice will take patience, experimentation, and a willingness to learn and be challenged on the part of each of us. There will be as many different practices of rebelling as there are rebels.

On The Slowdown

Author’s Note: The following, originally published in the first issue of NIGHTFALL, is put in a new light given certain recent events. The murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge by gunmen who were motivated by the high profile killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile has cops everywhere terrified that they might be next. Numerous police departments—including Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Anthony and Maplewood locally—have announced that cops will patrol in pairs rather than alone for the foreseeable future. Rather than engaging in tired moral debates on the justifications or lack thereof to kill cops, we should turn our attention to the fact that the police have had their coverage of the city cut down significantly. Do the math: if every officer who previously patrolled alone now has to travel with a partner, there are now half as many. It is now less likely to encounter officers on patrol, and more likely to have longer response times when crimes are reported. This means less harassment, less brutality, and more breathing room. It’s not clear how long these orders will remain in effect, let’s make the best of it!

A news story made the rounds this spring about rumors of a slowdown in the Minneapolis Police Department’s 4th precinct. The story alleged that during the month of April there had been a 51% drop in stops in the precinct, a 45% drop in arrests, and a 32% drop in stop and frisks. We are told that the slowdown is because officers are reluctant to do their jobs if they will be chastised for it, supposedly related to some bad publicity MPD received after officers pulled over a Target executive. However, it is obvious to anyone that the heightened hostility between MPD and the local population sparked by the shooting of Jamar Clark is at least partly responsible.

Some community groups have spoken out against the officers’ unwillingness to “protect and serve.” We will join no such chorus. In fact, we would like to encourage MPD to do their jobs less, or not at all. We consider this slowdown to be a regrettably missed opportunity—just imagine how much more we could have gotten away with while the police took the scenic route to answer 911 calls! Squatters could have cracked a new home while MPD ignored a report of potential trespassing. A suspicious person or two walking down the street would be saved the frisk while out writing anti-police slogans that demoralized the officers even more, extending the slowdown. Unfortunately, not everyone missed the opportunity to capitalize on the strike; shootings have proliferated in the area so far this year. It’s important to emphasize that this occurs not because of the police’s absence, but due to the conditions imposed on these communities (often via police).

In any case, the residents of north Minneapolis were subjected to a few less interactions with the pigs this year. This slowdown simply directs our attention to the importance of conceiving of police not as a mythical entity but instead as a group of individuals who are tasked with controlling populations. We don’t say that to inspire empathy—the opposite, in fact—but to point out that as humans their control is not infinite. They utilize cameras, cars, and snitches to expand their reach but it is still far from total. Minimizing their capacity to function is in our best interest, not as a goal in and of itself but rather as a means to facilitate the transformation of life and the creation of new worlds.

Editorial from Issue #1

Why a paper? Why now? The past few years have been turbulent, not simply for the Twin Cities but for the planet. The fire sparked in Ferguson spread to Minneapolis last November as insurgent youth laid siege to the 4th Precinct on the Northside, but the police continue to kill with impunity. A blatant neo-fascist has been nominated for president of the United States. The current president continues to deport friends and loved ones while assassinating whole families with drones overseas. Every week brings chilling new reports from climate scientists that pretty much assure us that we are all doomed.

In the face of this a newspaper seems quite insignificant. However, in order to adequately confront these problems we need to reevaluate our approach. We are sick of remaining silent while politicians and activists monopolize resistance, incessantly assuring us that the structures of power will listen to our complaints so long as we stay passive. Please please don’t try to take things into your own hands. Fuck that. If we want something done we need to do it ourselves.

So expect perspectives from rebellions near and far. Expect takedowns of the myriad ways that people are kept isolated and afraid, from overt repression to more subtle forms of social management. Expect dives into the vibrant if often-supressed history of resistance right here in the land of ten thousand lakes. Expect jokes, if we can work up the nerve.

Until next time, stay free.

An Agitational Newspaper