Last May, protests occurred in Seattle that involved scores of people destroying property in Seattle’s downtown core. While the financial damage of those protests totaled thousands of dollars, the state used its considerable resources to not only monitor the protest, but also to bring indictments for the damage. After federal agents with the FBI, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force worked with the Portland police to identify “known” Portland anarchists, those anarchists were followed to Washington by FBI agents as they allegedly traveled to a lawful protest. Due to either unintended or convenient gaps in the evidence the government was able to obtain, the U.S. Attorney in Seattle convened a federal grand jury in Seattle to target anarchists who were alleged to have damaged three glass doors at the William Kenzo Nakamura Federal Courthouse.
May Day has traditionally been a day of labor solidarity. It was begun in the campaign to create a standard eight-hour workday, an effort which saw both peaceful mass demonstrations and militant struggle when police or private security engaged workers in armed struggle, which was usually precipitated by brutality by thugs in the pockets of bosses. Internationally, May Day is celebrated as a day of labor solidarity, and in countries with leftist governance, it is often a national holiday.
In 2006, the largest mass demonstrations in U.S. history occurred on May Day when immigrant groups came out to proclaim their dignity and fight against the massive repression of immigrants by federal and state authorities under President George W. Bush, repression that has changed in form, yet intensified under Barack Obama.
Since the terror attacks of September 11, especially, the specter of terrorism has given the government a blank check to grant themselves powers and privileges that would only seem possible during history’s darkest times: kidnapping, torture, indefinite detention, surveillance and targeting of scapegoated internal populations, and use of unmanned killer drones in illegal conflicts, their use decided upon in a secretive process presided upon by a few select individuals. The national security apparatus has been given opulent resources in identifying and targeting risks, and at this point in history that the state evidently finds precarious, many more people have become “terrorists” as a result.
We know that nothing is ceded to us without struggle. As anarchists, we see the distinct confluence of different forms of oppression coalesce under the banner of our economic system, capitalism, and while some fundamental forms of oppression would certainly exist without capitalism, we find that this exploitative form of human subjugation demands and exacerbates them. Anarchists and others have found no shortage of ways to fight these oppressions, and, in that struggle, we and many, many others before us have experienced scrutiny, scare tactics, legal repression and incarceration from those who benefit from the fruits of the continual reproduction of the status quo. At times, this has also been a life-and-death struggle.
As anarchists, we support a variety of struggles. We do not believe that small-scale destruction of corporate property can be construed as “violence” or “terrorism.” Throughout history, many heralded social campaigners were considered radical subversives seeking to wholly undermine the routine exercise of power and we would be remiss to romanticize their struggles or preferred tactics without also looking at the context in which they took place. What is a riot in the face of racial genocide? What are shop windows in the face of endless war? Some of our favorite historical figures not only fought in armed conflict and destroyed property, but also refused to occupy assigned social positions and, as such, damaged the routinized practice of power. They were violent insurrectionists and avowed pacifists, but in their own time, many were hunted by the state and labeled “terrorists,” “communists,” or worse.
We are part of a long struggle and we will never stop. May Day is our day to join with other struggles and extend solidarity to all who wish to fight the drudgery and brutality of life under patriarchy, white supremacy, capitalism, and any other function which prevents the flourishing of human freedom, real peace, and a sustainable existence in this world. The Pacific Northwest has been a part of militant struggle against these oppressions and it forever will be. We remain in opposition of the government’s surveillance and attempts to imprison people in our community and we will be out in force with anyone fighting on May Day and every day after.
To the silent and the fiercely loud, solidarity forever,
The Portland Radicle