Listen to the Episode — 108 min
Alanis: The Ex-Worker;
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Alanis: A podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Greetings, and welcome back to the Ex-Worker! In this episode, we’ll continue our look back at the past year of repression and resistance while looking forward towards the path ahead as we continue our struggles against all forms of hierarchy and domination in 2018.
Clara: We’ve got an especially exciting array of interviews to share with you, which offer reflections on some of the most significant happenings for anarchists in the US in 2017.
Alanis: First, we’ll share a powerful interview with Hex, an anarchist from Seattle who was shot by a fascist provocateur on January 20th last year at a demonstration against Milo Yiannopoulos. He offers perspective on questions of justice, violence, and compassion, the critical importance of healing, redefining resistance, and lots more.
Clara: Next, we’ll hear from an anarchist of color in Charlottesville, reflecting on how the events there have impacted anti-fascist resistance and updating us on court cases, grand jury proceedings, and opportunities to show solidarity.
Alanis: And finally, we’ve also got an interview with Miel, one of the counter-inaugural protestors arrested in DC on J20, who along with five co-defendants was fully acquitted on all charges last month in the first trial of the 200-plus folks facing multiple felonies for resisting the Trump regime. Miel traces the significance of the J20 case, state strategies of repression, and lessons we can take with us as we move forward into a new year of struggle.
Clara: And on top of all that, we’ve got prisoner birthdays, updates and announcements from other anarchist media projects, and more. My name’s Clara,
Alanis: And this is Alanis, and we’ll be your hosts. Be sure to check out our website at crimethinc.com/podcast for a full transcript of the show and lots of links to other texts, audio shows, and websites to learn more about everything we discuss.
Clara: And we’d love to hear from you! Send us an email to podcast at crimethinc dot com with whatever feedback, suggestions, or updates you’d like us to hear. Alanis, shall we get to it?
Alanis: Oh yeah. Here we go.
INTRODUCTION: WHY THE RIGHT ACTUALLY CAN’T SHOOT US NOW
Clara: Much attention has been focused on the J20 defendants arrested at the counter-inaugural protests in Washington, DC, as it should be. But DC was by no means the only place where confrontational actions against the regime took place on January 20th. We gave a run-down of different actions in Episode 55 of the Ex-Worker. But one of the most critical events to take place that day was in Seattle. In the days afterward, CrimethInc. published a piece analyzing what happened, titled “What Counts as Violence? Why the Right Can Shoot Us Now.” Here’s an excerpt from that piece to frame the discussion.
Alanis: A long-time anti-fascist was shot Friday night during a protest of alt-right racist and troll Milo Yiannopoulos, in the middle of a crowded square. The shooter, who later turned himself in, claiming self-defense, was released by UW police early Saturday morning. Somehow, this is barely newsworthy. Meanwhile, local news outlets condemn the violent protesters for throwing “potentially lethal” balloons filled with paint. This is our new reality.
It is somehow unremarkable and understandable for a protester to be shot, while it is beyond the pale for anyone to block the entrance to a fascist rally.
This should be extremely concerning to all people of good conscience.
Let us imagine, for a moment, that the tables had been turned: imagine that a Milo supporter had been shot, in self-defense or otherwise. The alt-right and the mainstream media would be in an uproar. The anti-fascist would still be in custody, charged with murder. Why do we know this? Because anti-fascists and anarchists are regularly assaulted by the police and held under outrageous bail conditions. Hundreds who protested the inauguration in Washington, DC, were in jail for over twenty-four hours before getting bailed out; some now face up to ten years imprisonment on felony riot charges. Women are regularly incarcerated for self-defense against abusive men. People of color are regularly held for weeks on end, without bail, for skipping bus fares and other minor offenses. But somehow, a man who shot into a crowd, on a campus that bans firearms, is deemed responsible and safe enough to release without charges or bail. When we are arrested, our names and faces are advertised in the media, along with denigrating comments and descriptions. We are all aware of this double standard; one only has to look at the difference between the hands-off response to the armed militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the violent attacks on water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
This is not to complain, or to ask the police for protection. We are not calling for prosecution; the courts will never serve us, and the police will never protect us. They only protect the wealthy, the privileged, and their own ranks. It is common practice for police to protect neo-Nazi rallies; and yet, when the fascists pull guns or knives on us, as in the UW shooting, as in Minneapolis, as in Sacramento, they rarely face serious consequences. We cannot rely on the police, and we do not care to. They are a violent and racist force, descended from slave patrols and anti-union thugs. Their job is to enforce white supremacy, the property of the wealthy, and the patriarchal order of society. We do not want their help. We are not surprised, because the police have always worked with the fascists, in every country where fascism has taken hold.
More alarming than the behavior of the police is the degree to which right-wing gun violence has become normalized and acceptable. Conservatives cry self-defense and gun rights, while the media accepts their narrative, seeking instead to criminalize victims like Trayvon Martin. Liberals decry gun culture, but have also become accustomed to it; it is no longer surprising, it becomes part of the background of normal life. Meanwhile, popular narratives cast anti-fascist actions and protests as exceptional, extreme, and violent. This is part of an ongoing culture war over language and truth; the extreme right seeks to cloak their violent, racist rhetoric in pleas for free speech, while refusing to take responsibility for the violence that follows. We saw this with Trump’s support for attacking protesters during his campaign, and we see it now. Every time a right-wing attack goes under-reported and unpunished, it grants legitimacy to right-wing violence and encourages others to do the same. The spike in hate crimes following Trump’s election demonstrates this clearly. As racist, misogynist, and transphobic violence becomes mainstream, it spreads and gains legitimacy. This is how fascism works; this is how it spreads. In 1932, five Nazi stormtroopers beat a young communist to death in front of his mother; Hitler applauded their actions, and subsequently released them after taking power. Their “national passion” excused their crimes.
This cannot be the new normal. We cannot cede ground on this front, or on any other front… We must make our struggles more real than symbolic, to stop the fascists from organizing and to ensure everyone hears, over and over, that this is not normal, and this is not okay.
We live in exceptional times; we must ensure these exceptions do not become normalized. But of course, simply returning to the pre-Trump “normal” is not enough. This country has always been racist; it is founded on genocide, slavery, and colonialism. Our task, as Walter Benjamin described it during another period of anti-fascist struggle, is to create a real state of emergency, to throw all of our assumed truths and behaviors into question. If we do, “our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.” To do so, to truly combat fascism requires real anti-fascist struggle, and requires supporting those who are wounded on the front lines.
Clara: Looking back over 2017, it seems as though anarchists and anti-fascists took these imperatives seriously. We mobilized ferociously to defend ourselves and our communities, and we’ve poured considerable energy into solidarity and support organizing. After its initial surge, alt-right and fascist organizing has been checked, though by no means defeated. Many of us still face legal battles, but many have seen charges dismissed or defeated while comrades stood by them. However emboldened fascists may be by the Trump regime, they know they cannot kill us with impunity. The line was drawn in Charlottesville, in Berkeley as we detailed in our last episode, and around the country where anti-fascists and people of good heart took to the streets to oppose fascist organizing.
Alanis: So where does that leave us today? What sense can we make of the violence we’ve experienced, and how can we move forward? Beyond battles in the streets, what would it look like for us to maintain a culture of resistance capable of deep social transformation? These are some of the questions that prompted us to reach out to Hex, the person who was shot on January 20th, whose long road towards healing offers lessons and inspiration for all of us.
We’ve got a link posted on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, to a radio interview Hex did a few months ago in which he describes in detail his experience of being shot and hospitalized; we’d strongly encourage you to listen to that for some background to this conversation. In this episode, we touch on the experience itself, but we focus mostly on his reflections about moving forward from the trauma of the attack. We touch on what an anarchist approach to justice might look like; moving past tactical or ethical debates over violence versus nonviolence towards an honest, difficult conversation about compassion and shared humanity; the gender dynamics of care, support, and how we define what counts as resistance; and the critical importance of healing within a broader process of revolutionary transformation. We hope you’ll listen and reflect on these questions in your own life and organizing.
INTERVIEW WITH HEX
Clara: Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what led you to protest fascism on J20 last year?
Hex: I’m Hex; I’m a computer security engineer and an anarchist, and I live in Seattle. I think a lot of this started even prior to the election. In the lead up to the election, it started to become more and more obvious that Trump was going to win. Other people didn’t believe me. But I come from a lot of small towns, and the way that Trump talks and carries himself and kind of projects himself is very much something that I recognize. He’s every small town sheriff, every small town mayor. And if we look at small town elections, a lot of them, there’s no evidence that they’re democratic, even if we believed in that system. So I recognized that character, I recognize who he is and who he projects himself as. And that’s something that works in a lot of America—in rural America, in the places that I’ve been and that I come from. So it totally made sense to me that he was going to win.
So in the months leading up to the actual election, I started trying to meet with people and organize and reach out. And I ran into a group of other folks who were talking about Rojava and some of the stuff that was happening there. And if we want a model for how to deal with authoritarianism in crisis, it’s really hard to find a better example, I think, than what’s going on in Rojava right now. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from that. And so people who were already thinking about those kinds of things were really obviously the first people to talk to.
So a few people got together, and one of the first things that happened very early on was this event. Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UW campus on January 20th, the night of the inauguration. Apparently they thought that he wasn’t going to win, they thought that Trump wasn’t going to win—even the College Republicans—so this was basically like a big fuck you to Hillary or whatever. But of course he did win. So for us, for those of us who are starting to organize early anti-fascist resistance stuff, it was like, oh yeah, this is very obviously a rallying point for fascists. And we called a lot of that stuff out to the university, but the administration didn’t believe that he was a hate speaker or anything like that—and I think still don’t.
So in the lead up to that, a lot of different groups were organizing and trying to do things. There was a call out to protest in person, to be there. At the same time, there was another march that was going on in resistance that was organized by more liberal kind of folks. But it seemed a little silly to us that people should march around opposing fascism when an actual fascist was speaking in our city that we could just go directly oppose.
So that was kind of the lead up. The week leading up to the actual event I was in Hawaii for my grandmother’s funeral. So I was out there mourning her, and celebrating her life and all of that stuff. And I got to come home to finally sort of coming to terms with some of that stuff, and the loss of a connection to a place and lots of different feelings, just immediately in to total catastrophe. We got home late the night before, and went right in to doom—which was actually the thing written on the calendar; my partner had written on the calendar on January 20th: “DOOM.” It turned out to be a little bit prophetic.
Clara: Can you describe briefly what happened on January 20th last year in Seattle?
Hex: So January 20th, there’s this event we expected there to be Nazis there. we even had discussed the possibility of there being Nazis with guns or knives. There had been an event previously in June, the previous year of June 2016 in California, in Sacramento; there was a Nazi rally and several counter-protesters were stabbed by Nazis. So this was kind of the context for this event. We’re like, OK, so Nazis have been organizing, murdering people, stabbing people, etc etc. We know about this; we knew about this prior to this, to Charlottesville, to all of this. We’ve known about the Nazi threat for a really long time, and this was basically just another thing. and that’s basically what we were going in expecting. So a lot of people showed up in bloc, so they had their faces covered, because Milo Yiannopoulos is known for basically doxxing and attacking people, for targeting people and trying to get people to physically assault them. So it’s physically unsafe to be in resistance to that event without covering yourself and whatever. I kind of didn’t worry too much about that.
So a lot of things happened that night. There was one person who was seen kind of repeatedly in fights—he’s on video in multiple places, getting into fights with people. So I saw this person, who had been fighting with a bunch of people, spraying pepper spray into the faces of some nonviolent pacifists (not just nonviolent, but pacifist folks). And when I stopped this person, and told them to give me the pepper spray and I’ll let him go—this is Mark Hokoana—I told him, give me the pepper spray, and I’ll let him go—his wife pulled a gun and shot me. This was after I had already de-escalated another situation. Two people had been in a strong disagreement and I kind of walked in the middle of it. So Elizabeth Hokoana shot me, and then the two of them fled the scene.
The police didn’t shut the scene down, didn’t try to protect the crime scene; didn’t carry out active shooter protocol, which would have been to shut the scene down. They didn’t know that the Hokoanas had fled—and if they did, that’s even worse, right, because they let someone escape, etc. And from there on out, I’ve talked a lot about the things that followed that.
I do want to reinforce that for me, from my experience, I was on the ground, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to live or not. But part of that—there was still an understanding that if I was killed here, that that would be a thing that would galvanize people, that would wake people up. And this is some of the stuff that was going through my head, that some of my comrades would carry a lot of this stuff on. So for me, I was also trying to just accept that. But a lot of other people, like my partner, for example, had a very different experience. I support my partner financially, which means that if I had died, that would have been extremely bad for them. And there was my experience, and there was also the impact on my partner. There was also the experience of the medics who came to save my life, who have been through lots and lots of traumatic experiences before that, which just compounds the PTSD that they all have. There’s this weird thing of like, in some ways this was really powerful for all of us, but also it was really harmful for all of us.
And again, I’ve been interviewed by various people, I have talked to a lot of folks, but one of the things that’s been really consistent as I’ve talked to people is that they ask about my experience and what I want, what I feel, and all of that stuff, and my understanding of what justice means. And that a lot of people have not talked about or talked to my partner, or my mother-in-law who came out to take care of me, and help me navigate the medical system, as I’m super high on opiates and trying to figure out what parts of my body have been removed and what does that mean. Or talk about the experience of the medics or the other support people. It wasn’t just me; it was the entire community, and our entire activist community in Seattle has been traumatized by this. And not just in Seattle: all the way, all over. And in Seattle a lot of our community responded by supporting my partner, by supporting me, by supporting us, and by continuing to carry forward even in the face of absolute terror.
I’ve told my story, and I think that the really interesting thing is some of the stories that we haven’t really talked about and that I can’t tell.
Clara: In the aftermath of your shooting, you stated publicly that you wanted to see a restorative justice approach in responding to the Hokoanas. There’s been a lot of controversy around this, including some criticism from anarchists who’ve contested whether or not restorative justice rather than state-based punitive responses could make sense in this situation. One year after the shooting, how has your perspective on the prospects and limits of restorative justice evolved? What suggestions would you offer to folks attempting to address harm without recourse to the state and prisons?
Hex: That’s a really tough one. I do want to address the fact that, I think it’s really important to talk about and to hold ourselves accountable to our comrades who are in prison. To the extent that we perpetuate the punitive system as justice, the more that we perpetuate the narrative and support the narrative that punitive justice, that retribution, is actually justice, the more we validate the narrative that supports and reinforces the criminal legal system. If we are accountable to our comrades who are in prison, then we have to do everything we can to confront the narrative that keeps them incarcerated, that keeps them in these systems of torture. Just from a justice perspective, right: what is justice? I think that is a thing that we really need to address and talk about.
Is it justice that somebody who would be invisible were it not for them shooting me— Elizabeth Hokoana could go her entire life without being sort of seen outside of her family and her friends and social group and etc. So is it really justice to punish someone for being so angry that they lash out in any way that they can possibly imagine? Because I’ve been there. Because I understand that. I grew up in trailers and trailer parks. I didn’t think I would ever be where I’m at. I work in computer security; I make a good amount of money. I didn’t think I’d ever be here. I completely understand where the Hokoanas are coming from, because I know what it’s like to be invisible. I know what it’s like to be hopeless and feel like there’s no way that I can possibly change anything. And it’s only by luck that I got out of that. And had I not had political influences that are very different, obviously, from their political influences, there’s no reason that I wouldn’t have been politically similar to them. Our interests are, to some degree, aligned: that I don’t want anyone to ever have to go through what I went through. I don’t want any of my friends who are still in some of those communities to continue to be invisible, and feel like they can’t have any larger impact on society. So yeah, is it justice to punish somebody for basically being driven towards violence. I don’t think that’s justice. And is it justice to punishing people for doing the same thing that police do on a regular basis?
So just to kind of set some context, the trial still hasn’t taken place. There was just recently a court date for the Hokoanas. There was a continuance, so now we’re at a year out, that this system that’s supposed to give us “justice” is kind of dragging out this weight that kind of has been hanging over my head a little bit, and obviously hanging over their heads as well. Even if retribution was justice, would twelve years in prison, which is what Elizabeth I think is possibly facing, would that be the same as me being cut open and losing some my intestines or various things, of me nearly dying? Is that the same? Is there any way in which those could be the same? All of these things are just silly.
So retribution based justice, punitive justice, doesn’t make anyone safer. It doesn’t make my comrades safer. Because ultimately, it is the legal system, it is police, it is the same people who are threatening them right now, who made their violence really possible. The Hokoanas decided to try to kill somebody with the understanding that what they were doing would be legal. They decided to kill someone with the understanding that they would basically create a situation where they would be “defending themselves” and they would be protected by the police. So it is in fact the police and the legal system that really made this a thing that was possible, that really kind of to some degree aided and assisted them, and pushed them towards violence. And of course it’s a right- wing propaganda system that drove that.
So I really fundamentally reject all of that, and say, hey, what are we doing to hold the state accountable? What are we doing to hold the university accountable? What are we doing to hold the right wing propaganda machine that tells people that liberals are dissecting babies and selling them on the black market or whatever, and that there’s some big Bolshevik revolution happening—the machine that’s tells these people these crazy things, what are we doing to hold them accountable? The answer is nothing, obviously. That’s not justice. So the only frame that we can even start to approach justice through, from my perspective, is restorative justice. As we bring up these questions, we undermine the narrative that supports the criminal legal system, and to some degree we try to support our comrades who are in prison. And that’s it. That’s sort of the best that I could do.
One of the things that people have thought about and called out is that when you are dealing with a fascist—when you are dealing with somebody who is basically an attacker who doesn’t really care about our social norms of justice and whatever—is it possible for restorative justice to work? I don’t have the answer to that, and I don’t know. One prisoner had written in response to the article in Fifth Estate, I was reading one of these letters back from a prisoner, and his response was basically, shoot the fascists. (I’m obviously paraphrasing quite a bit.) That sometimes it is necessary to use violence to protect ourselves. I don’t disagree with that. In my case, I have been in a very special position, that my privilege allows me to respond in a nonviolent way. I can call for compassion, because I’m not going to be erased. If I was not privileged—if I was not able to hire a lawyer and work with a lot of friends to push the narrative and change the way people saw things—I don’t even think there would be charges. If I was not a well-off white man, they might have just believed the self-defense claim and just moved on. But it is my privilege that made it possible to say that I believe in compassion, that I believe in recognizing where these folks are coming from; that I am trying to critique the criminal legal system; that I have this platform to even work on, to even talk. I don’t think that everybody has that. And if you don’t, just do the thing that works for you. The response for you is basically the right response.
I don’t think I could do the same thing now. I have had the experience of intense trauma. My ability to nonviolently respond, to de-escalate and put my body in the way, and all of that stuff: it’s gone. I can’t do that, and I may not ever be able to do that again. So I feel like it was really important for me to use the platform that I had in the way that I did because of all those factors.
I’m not saying this is the right strategy moving forward. It’s not. And it’s not really, “Here’s the way to do things from now on, listen to me.” That’s not an anarchist way of doing things at all, right?
Clara: What you were just saying brings up how one of the most striking things to me and some other anarchists who’ve followed your case is the sense of compassion and shared humanity you’ve directed towards the person who shot you. That’s fascinating partly because of how much it flies in the face of a certain antifa aesthetic that really glorifies physical attacks against fascists. I see that as part of what we might call a broader fetishization of revolutionary violence; we see that expressed these days in everything from photos of cops on fire to ubiquitous gun imagery to the meme of Richard Spencer getting punched. I don’t want to ask about violence vs non-violence, which is a stale debate anyway whose terms anarchists generally reject. But setting aside tactical discussions, I’m interested in how your experience of nearly dying at the hands of a fascist has informed your perspective on the ways that anarchists and anti-fascists talk about violence, and the place of compassion or empathy for our enemies in our culture of resistance.
Hex: This is kind of space where I think it gets really complex. I did an interview a while back with KUOW about punching Nazis. There’s a Nazi guy who came to Westlake Center, which is sort of a central area in Seattle, and he had a Nazi armband. I’m sure everybody’s seen this video: the Nazi gets knocked the fuck out. And so I came on and I defended that. That specific act, that specific action, I made it clear: I might have tried to do something differently, but I’m not the person who was there, and it’s really not OK to condemn the person who was there for their actions, especially based on what we knew about what happened. So this Nazi comes up and says a bunch of racist things (like Nazis do). I think the thing was, he threw a banana at a black dude and said something about this guy being an ape, or something. So the guy responded by punching him. This is totally reasonable! This is a completely reasonable response. So I basically was like, yeah, that might not have been what I would have done, but I’m not that person.
So simultaneously, I’ll say there’s room for recognition that violence is sometimes necessary. At the same time, I’m kind of starting to realize how patriarchal some of that is—that always going out and punching Nazis may not really be—may be informed by some of the same systems of oppression that we’re opposing. And I think that that’s really important to figure out.
This is where I’m going to say the really controversial stuff, right. A lot of these Nazis or whatever, fascists in general: a lot of that comes from deep self-hatred. There’s this sort of deeply pathetic thing. I look at Trump, and at once, I’m like, fuck this guy, right? But if you look, there’s a sort of incredibly sad and pathetic thing. He views himself as being this great and powerful whatever—or that’s how he tries to project his image—but the insecurity is so obvious. He has to constantly be bragging about things in order to feel OK or whatever he’s doing. And it betrays how deeply sad and pathetic he is. He thinks he’s a ladies man or whatever, but it’s really, really fucked up because the thing is that he’s a sexual predator who has no understanding of that. And that’s the thing: yes, there are so many pieces of this toxic masculinity, he’s just a manifestation of it. But also that’s coming from a deeply pathetic and sad kind of self-loathing place.
And, I don’t know: I think that we should do whatever it takes to defend ourselves. But ultimately, the system that we want to build—the system that I believe that we want to build—is one that’s compassionate, and one that’s better for everyone, even the fash. That they should recognize that yeah, we actually want a better world, and it’s going to be even better for you. One of the things that we don’t necessarily talk about is that patriarchy is anti-men, it’s harmful to men; that white supremacy is harmful to whatever imaginary group is included in that, right; etc, etc. That all the systems of oppression are harmful to even those who benefit from them. And I think that that’s a thing that we need to think about, and figure out how to talk about more.
That’s just my perspective, and I don’t know how much that’s informed by my experience of privilege now: that i have the room to be able to say we should talk to people, because it’s not my life. I mean, it was; it was almost my life that that cost. But it’s not now.
And I think part of the thing that I tried to do is to be informed by people who are targeted by the capitalist system, and targeted by white supremacy, and targeted by etc etc. So some of the things that I talked about in terms of restorative justice and trying to highlight that came directly from No New Youth Jail campaign, which is: there’s a prison for children being built here in Seattle that people have been resisting. And some of the people who’ve been resisting are young people of color. And leading up to the events I was listing to them speak, watching their Twitter. “Block the Bunker” was another connected campaign; these two campaigns against the police state and the expansion of the police state. and that to some extent radicalized me some more. So then my response was informed by that. And I think that there are probably a lot of people right now who are talking about the right responses. I think that maybe one of the right responses, maybe one of the things that we really need to do, is look at ourselves and really think about the ways in which, like I said, our responses are informed by patriarchy and historical systems of violence. And the ways in which we can actually confront those systems of violence, through things like compassion, through healing. Maybe we need to heal ourselves; maybe we need to look at ourselves and figure out the ways in which we can respond more openly and effectively and whatever, and maybe that requires us to heal ourselves and listen to people who are not saying let’s go march in the street, and let’s go attack people, or whatever.
I didn’t really realize how intense—I didn’t fully understand PTSD prior to this, I still don’t—and how that drove some of my activism. And how that radicalized me at certain points and maybe has clouded my judgment. My partner pointed out a little while ago that the sort of, “let’s go fight in the streets” thing, let’s expose ourselves to violence, let’s be injured, the [confrontational] approach that puts us in danger: it’s really easy to glorify the people who are injured, and that’s usually what happens. But there’s also other people. There are a lot of caretakers who are erased, in that confrontation-driven narrative, that hero narrative that we’ve culturally perpetuated, that there’s one person or this set of people who go out on their own and save the world, or whatever. This is a really common narrative; it’s a really common thing, and it necessarily erases a lot of people who do a lot of work. The hero narrative, in some ways, it is a very patriarchal narrative. And the ways in which we glorify violence, the ways in which we glorify certain types of actions over others, the ways in which we glorify visible things over invisible things, confrontation versus healing, confrontation versus community building, personal and interpersonal actions. That entire thing is patriarchal; it’s something that we have to face.
And for me, I’m trying to make this year as much as possible about healing. My partner and I are trying to make this about healing for us. I think that maybe that’s some of the work that we really need to be doing and thinking about. Because we’ve been in this kind of action/reaction loop for a really long time. Maybe that’s not the answer. You know, I think that that helps. The ways in which we responded this year—or, least year, the ways we responded in 2017 to fascist violence, to fascist appearance, i think that drove them back, i think that changed the narrative, I think it did a lot of good things. but that may not, and that probably won’t, get us past the cycle of rising and falling fascism. We want to get out of this loop, we want something better. And maybe now is the time to figure out what that better is. Maybe that’s healing, and looking at all the things that are invisible, and realizing that those are important, and making those visible.
Clara: Speaking of healing, it’s clear that 2017 was a really traumatic year for many anarchists: we saw mass arrests, state repression, grand juries, fascist violence, etc. It’s clear that the state and fascists are trying to use terror to keep us immobilized. You’ve endured one of the most intense instances of repressive violence in the past year, yet you’ve stayed active and committed to your politics and refused to be intimidated. Can you offer any insights or suggestions for folks struggling to recover from what they’ve experienced and stay active in resistance?
Hex: Yeah, so I think that this is a really important thing. First of all, what does “active” mean? We only see “active” as certain things: being vocal, or organizing, right. I think that one of the best things I’ve done in terms of supporting our community and supporting the continuation of some of the things that I helped to put together is to step away. I’ve stepped away from a lot of organizing recently, and I think that’s actually really good; I think that that’s really important. We stayed really, really active and we continued to fight, not because we had some great secret or had some kind of desire to show the fascists that we wouldn’t back down. It’s because we were fucking afraid. It was because we were afraid, it was because we were terrified that we were going to die. That we were facing being doxxed and death threats and all kinds of stuff. And that helped solidify our community, showed us who was able to maintain and who had to step back. And a lot of things happened from that—all of us are traumatized. I don’t know what all the things that came out of those of us who are super traumatized continuing to work, I don’t know that all of those are great. And maybe the thing that we’re calling—oh, we stayed active and we did all this. Yeah, that was good, again, in that we did stave off—if we hadn’t done that, if we hadn’t continued to fight, if we hadn’t come out to oppose Patriot Prayer and other people like that, that we might not have sort of turned the tide. But it may also—I couldn’t stop myself from being involved. And I tried. I tried at several times to step back and just let myself heal.
And I spent a lot of time re-traumatizing myself. Like, you know, prior to the Nazi getting punched, I was in a channel where we were watching where he was going and what he was doing. And so for a whole day—I lost a day of vacation, where I was like, I’m trying to decompress, I’m trying to stop, I’m trying to not do anything, heal, and do all these things. And I was in a chat where somebody was like, we’re tracking the location of this Nazi just to make sure he’s not doing anything. We’re going to watch him and keep an eye out. So I sort of watched this whole thing, and I was terrified that my friends would get shot—that he would do the same thing, that he would try to provoke a fight and then pull a gun. (And I still don’t actually believe that he didn’t have a gun; I just think that he got knocked out before he got a chance to pull it.)
So I tried to step back, but I couldn’t. And it’s been until now, where I’ve had lots of friends telling me that it’s OK, that I’ve been able to do that. And one of the things that’s important for us to face as anarchists, as anti-fascists, is that healing is also resistance. We don’t talk about community healing as anti-fascist action. We don’t talk about dealing with our trauma as anti-fascist action. But it may be some of the most important action that we could ever take.
So that’s some of my take on some of that. So part of that is, don’t feel guilty about taking a break as much as possible. And let’s really talk about the fact that prisoner support is important, and that support of people under stand repression is important. That is action; that is invisibilized action. Going out on the street and marching is one thing, and that’s cool, and sometimes that’s super useful. But supporting the people who get arrested at those marches is incredibly important. Supporting people who get arrested for shoplifting, you know?
I don’t know, that’s just a thought. I’m still figuring stuff out, you know. And we all should be.
Clara: You’ve already started to touch on this, but do you have any more thoughts on what you’d like to see anarchists and anti-fascists focusing on in our resistance in 2018?
Hex: Listening to people who were socialized as women, basically. Listening to people who have culturally been told that it’s OK to heal or who understand that there’s more than just fighting. That is one thing that’s been really important. And another thing is other people who were socialized as men telling me to stop and telling me that it’s OK, and repeating some of the things that other folks have said. Because we all—no matter how much we try to get rid of our internalized oppression, we all still have it and we’re all still working through it, and sometimes it really helps for people who present as men like me to be told by other people socialized as men to stop and it’s OK to heal. I think it’s us telling each other to stop, telling each other that’s it’s OK, and opening up and talking about the things and crying and shit like that.
There’s a lot of stuff that we’re all working through. I think one of the things that was really helpful was someone who was talking about how some activist communities are pulled together through mutual trauma and PTSD and stuff. Basically that people were traumatized in advanced, a lot of activisty folks, and that has kind of pushed us into whatever political action or apolitical action or whatever we’re doing. And that those actions have re-traumatized us. We may have some pre-existing traumas, and then we go into the activist space and cops throw blast balls at us or shoot at us or whatever. It’s really hard for us to be able to integrate the concept that healing is part of what we’re doing, is part of the world that we’re trying to build. Places where it’s OK to heal. I feel like sometimes we replicate capitalism in the ways in which we think about activism—I’m using the word activism; people can use whatever word, it doesn’t matter. I feel like we replicate capitalism in our anarchist spaces, in that we talk about, we think about: what results are we producing? What are we doing that’s visible? How are we resisting this thing? And that’s the thing that we focus on, that’s where we look, and that’s how we measure our success. But we don’t really talk about, how much time have we taken to heal?
I went to a workshop or something that was on community healing, and talking about that and listening to that made me really think. The person who was running it talked about how we externalize our healing; it’s not part of the whole process. It’s not an action; it’s not a march, it’s not a rally, so it’s not important. It’s not visible, so it’s not important. Just listening to that and realizing that it is important, that we’re all super traumatized, and that maybe we can do better things—maybe we can build the world we want to see—maybe we can even imagine the world we want to see once we’re really healing, once we are really taking care of each other and ourselves.
And what could be more a reflection of the world we want to build than one that accepts that we’re human, you know? Like, fuck figuring out how we’re going to get to this world that we want to build, and just make it exist by treating ourselves as people.
I’d like to see us actually take a step back and look at how much we’ve done, and look at how much we’ve changed things, and appreciate our work and realize that it’s OK to heal. We still have a lot to do. We still have a lot of work to do, we still have a long ways to go. But maybe we can stop and appreciate for a second what we have done, and accept that maybe that gives us some time to just appreciate and to take the time to heal, to reflect, and to imagine a world that isn’t as terrifying as the one we’re experiencing. It’s still terrifying. But we pushed the tide back a little bit, and that’s a lot.
I’d like that to be the beginning of a reflection on what we are doing, what we have done, and what we can do, and recognize our potential to actually make things different.
Yeah, I think that’s it.
Clara: Hex, thank you so much for talking with us.
Hex: Yeah! Glad I could do this.
INTERVIEW WITH CHARLOTTESVILLE ANARCHIST OF COLOR
Alanis: As we explored in our last episode on the arc of anti-fascist resistance in Berkeley, Charlottesville marked a major turning point, after which fascist organizing went into decline and huge numbers turned out to resist the alt-right around the country. But what about Charlottesville itself? Anarchists active in anti-racist resistance in that city have been regrouping after the intense trauma of the fatal August 12th demonstrations. Next, we’ll share an interview with an anarchist of color from Charlottesville, who we spoke to shortly after the demonstrations in an interview that appeared in Episode 56 of the Ex-Worker. This time, we’ll hear about the aftermath of the demonstrations in the weeks that followed, liberal efforts to appropriate their meaning, how they’ve supported folks who have faced legal charges or grand jury subpoenas, and their expanded conception of community resilience as they move forward into the new year.
Clara: When we spoke with you last time back in August for Episode 56, you gave us the run-down of the organizing leading up to the rally and counter-demonstration and all the events of August 11th and 12th. To get started, can you fill us in on the immediate aftermath of the demonstrations and the fascist violence locally?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Sure. So immediately the day after, Jason Kessler called for a press conference, allegedly to denounce the city council and the city police and their inability to separate the counter-protestors from fascists (as if that was the only reason that violence happened, as if the fascists weren’t there to start the violence.) He attempted to start a press conference, and it was immediately surrounded by hundreds of people, most of them Charlottesville residents who saw the images from the day before and took it upon themselves to shut down the press conference, which was an amazing sight to see. And Jason Kessler ended up having to be escorted by riot police into the police station.
It was amazing for me and for a lot of local people who were very central to the organizing leading up to August 12th to see all of this outpouring of solidarity from all over the world, things that I never thought I would see from places that I would never think would show solidarity with Charlottesville, or anything that happened in Charlottesville. And then the weekend afterwards was when—I think it was Patriot Prayer and some other groups, I honestly don’t remember at this point—but basically when the big black bloc happened in Berkeley, and their banner, the big banner was “Avenge Charlottesville.” That was an amazing sight to see that I never—you know, I always thought of Charlottesville as this tiny little town that would never get attention, and here we were. But in light of the violence that caught peoples’ attention, also a lot of Democrats and liberals started trying to capitalize on it, with this narrative of “no hate here in Charlottesville,” “let’s rebuild here with love”—as if they hadn’t been the ones to permit that violence. You know, the city council has had an all Democrat city council for a long time. Their rhetoric around free speech and love—love in a very blind way and very generic way—is what gave way to Nazis being able to intrude their ideologies without being opposed. So that’s sort of the week or two weeks after August 12th.
Clara: Can you tell us about how the situation for anarchists and anti-fascists locally evolved after August 12th?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Sure. I mean, the small group of people who had been doing anti-fascist work before August 12th sort of remained the same people doing anti-fascist work after August 12th, which is one of the unfortunate things that happened. In many ways we went back to the same, except now with all of this violence that happened, and this sort of scar—literal scars and also mental scars that happened. Anyway, a lot of us stayed doing the same work, and we already knew what the Democrats were going to do. And through media outlets like Solidarity Cville, people called out that narrative, of the Democrats trying to be like, oh, let’s just go back to normal, this is about love, hate is not welcome here… Which if you look at the actual public relations effort, it was all in an effort to restore business for the downtown mall area, which is considered to be going through a recession right now after August 12th. So it was really just a way to restore the money flow in the downtown mall area, that they were just doing all this campaign about “love.” So we have continued to call this out. But unfortunately because it’s still the same people and same capacity with the added bonus of trauma from August 12th, we’ve had to focus mostly on all of the trials and all of the court battles and a lot of the day to day support, because we’ve been left in such shambles after August 12th. So we’ve tried to continue calling out the Democrats and liberals and push for a more genuine anti-fascist and anti-capitalist stance. But we’ve only been able to go so far after everything that’s happened, and having the same numbers that we have.
Clara: You mentioned the court and legal battles you’ve been engaged in since August. Can you give us some updates about what’s happened so far and what’s going on with the pending cases?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Yeah. I would say in terms of court support and court battles is where we’ve been the most effective. Some cases that closed after August 12th actually were of charges that go all the way back to May and April. Various local Nazis, including Jason Kessler, had filed charges against local anti-fascists, including a brilliant black woman activist, Veronica; a lot of those cases we’re starting to get wrapped up. And also the cases over the July 8th arrests, which included arrests for nonviolent direct action from people trying to prevent the KKK from entering Justice Park. In those cases, charge after charge was being dropped, thanks to all the support from lawyers and attorneys from the National Lawyer’s Guild, who are very clear about their anti-fascist stance and are very clear about noncooperation with the police. We’ve been able to do a lot of pressure campaigns and pack the courtrooms to show that we will not allow for anti-fascists to be charged in the face of fascists gaining more and more power. So those July 8th charges have been dropped; there were three people who were arrested on masking charges, those charges were dropped last week. For those who are aware of the famous flame thrower photo that came out on August 12th, that person has been charged, and his name is Corey Long. His trial keeps getting pushed back; it was set most recently for March 16th, and we’re pushing very hard to drop the charges against him. DeAndre Harris, the person who was beaten in the Market Street parking lot on August 12th: he was charged with a misdemeanor for wounding someone else, even though he was the one who was beaten up. His trial is coming up in April. We’re pushing really hard to drop the charges against him.
So those are the updates I can think of. But I would recommend for people to keep up with Solidarity Cville on Twitter, as they’ve been posting a lot of updates on court battles, including the court battles that the Nazis are facing, which we’re keeping an eye on because for most of the court dates, their Nazi friends have been coming into town.
Clara: In addition to the legal cases, we’ve also heard rumors of a grand jury that was convened around the events of August 12th.
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Yes.
Clara: Can you fill us in on what you know about that, who the grand jury was targeting, and what we should know moving forward?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Right. So it’s not a rumor; there was an actual grand jury convened. We don’t know if there are others convened. But we know of local people and also regional people who were subpoenaed. All of them were people who were injured in James Alex Fields’ car attack. One thing that—well, we knew from the start that this grand jury was being convened to file charges against James Alex Fields. However, the true nature of the grand jury was shown in the way they carried it out. So people who were subpoenaed were telling us stories that they’ve been approached by the US Attorney’s office as early as the day or two after August 12th, while they were still in the hospital drugged up, they were getting approached by representatives of the federal government saying, “Hey, we’re really sorry what happened, we want to help you out in whatever way you need, just let us know and we’re here to go after those Nazis.” Basically in this very nice approach. Luckily some of the people who were injured were already aware of how the federal government works in these situations and how they use these tools to repress anti-racist movements, and they took a noncooperation stance from the start. Once they showed that to the federal government, they turned and started saying, “We’re going to force you to testify, we’re going to convene a grand jury if you don’t talk to us.” They started to show their true face. And sure enough, they convened a grand jury and subpoenaed survivors of the car attack. And as soon as we found out we spread the news through out network. Thankfully we have a lot of people who have a lot of knowledge of grand juries and resisting grand juries who were able to come and do workshops, and people who are very skilled in media and social media imagery, who were able to whip up a lot of that and spread awareness. We were able to organize a quick rally. Because keep in mind, from the time we knew about the subpoena happening to the time that the first grand jury appearance was supposed to happen, this was in a matter of two weeks. So we had to move very quickly. And we were able to do a press conference and put all this pressure out there. We got a lot of pushback from liberals saying, “Why would you refuse to cooperate with a grand jury when it’s Nazis?” And we laid it out, that grand juries are not solely used to file charges against a group of people, they’re used to map out networks. And sure enough, we found out about one person who as a condition to not having to testify to a grand jury, they agreed to voluntarily meet with a representative of the US attorney’s office. And that representative, as soon as they sat down, they started asking, “How did you find out about August 12th? Who did you come with? Why were you in that march?” They were asking questions that had nothing to do with James Alex Fields’ car attack, but had everything to do with how anti-fascists organize and how their networks are mapped out, which shows that they were using this grand jury to go after anti-fascists.
Clara: Do we know if there are more subpoenas pending?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: We don’t know. There are no known subpoenas pending, but we don’t know if there are other grand juries being convened. We know that James Alex Field’s trial is set for November, so if there are any grand juries being convened to file more charges against him, I imagine they would happen in the fall. But honestly, we haven’t heard of any more grand juries convened around [the events of] August 12th.
Clara: What lessons can we learn from last year’s experiences in Charlottesville for resistance in 2018?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Oh god, there’s so many lessons! And honestly a lot of them are hard to sort of speak out. But the first one that comes to my head is that pain is very real, and trauma is very real, and it doesn’t make sense to keep it to yourself, you know what I’m saying? It happened to a lot of us. If the fascists’ goal was to insert fear and to split up communities, in that sense they were actually successful, despite their rally failing. And we have to be very cognizant of that, you know. There’s been a lot of fall-out since August 12th. And despite a lot of us feeling this sense of camaraderie immediately after over being able to stand up to the fascists, more long-term as the traumas unveil and the fractures sort of come out in the open, people have had a lot of falling out, you know, including me. And so that’s say one lesson learned is that that’s going to happen; there’s no actual way to avoid this, because what we are up against is so immense. And whenever we go into these battles, or whatever we want to call them, whenever we go into these confrontations, we have to know we’re going to come out of them with pain and trauma, and we have to prioritize ways of taking care of each other on top of being able to fight against others.
Another lesson is that despite the when it comes to anti-fascism, a lot of the work is built around urgency. But acting on urgency is not going to be successful if the people involved are not clear about their intentions from the get-go and there is no infrastructure to support that work of urgency. Now, for us in a small town like Charlottesville, we had no choice; we had to act on urgency because we had nothing else. But if they were to do “Unite the Right” back to back, we would not be able to act on urgency alone. We would just wither. And so it’s really important that we do both things; that we know how to do rapid response well, which I think a lot of people in Charlottesville have learned to do well, but that we also have to know how to do long term care and support well, also.
Clara: What can our listeners do to offer anarchists and anti-fascists in Charlottesville ongoing support?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: Yeah. I’ve already plugged Solidarity Cville as a solid media outlet for people to follow—they’re on Twitter, they have a website. I will say there are so many skills and resources outside of Charlottesville that we simply don’t have here. We don’t have a radical community space. We don’t have a medic collective. There are so many resources that we don’t have that I know that other cities do, that they could offer help through outlets like Solidarity Cville. They could offer help on doing workshops, on how to establish these things so that we are more prepared for when they inevitably come back.
The other ask is: one infrastructure that was successfully set up afterwards is what we’re calling the Charlottesville Resilience Fund. The day of July 8th we set up a legal fund, and we used that because we knew people were going to have all these legal expenses after July 8th. We kept that for August 12th, and there was such an outpouring of financial support for that fund that we decided to make it a bail fund for the community for anyone, so we will be able to support all these people who get incarcerated and try to get them out as quickly as possible. And also more general resilience needs for the community, like court fees, emergency housing needs, things like that. I want to plug that fund as well, if people want to share it or donate to it. Again, it’s called the Charlottesville Resilience Fund. And there’s an Act Blue donation page for it.
Clara: Excellent. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: I want to say thank you for those who continued the fight immediately after Charlottesville. We have been utterly exhausted here, and it has been great to see that anti-fascists continue fighting in other cities, as groups like Traditionalist Workers Party and whatever Vanguard America became and Patriot Front and all those groups, as they continue to try to organize, people continue to try to confront them even after the trauma and violence of August 12th.
Clara: Thank you so much for speaking with us!
Anarchist of Color from Charlottesville: All right, thank you.
INTERVIEW WITH ACQUITTED J20 DEFENDANT MIEL
Alanis: Finally, we want to circle back to where we began a year ago, promoting the counter-inaugural demonstrations against the Trump regime and the world that makes it possible. As all of you are well aware by now, the 200-plus people arrested in DC last year have faced an arduous legal battle. Fortunately, the first group of defendants who went to trial in November have been acquitted on all charges. Our friends at It’s Going Down produced a series of trial update podcasts that covered the developments and legal arguments in detail, which we’ve got linked on our website, so we won’t go into detail about that. But we do want to step back and reflect on the overall picture and the lessons we can learn moving forward. In this episode’s final interview, we speak with Miel, who served as a street medic on J20 in DC and was part of the trial group that was acquitted last month. Miel speaks with us about the significance of the demonstrations, the evolution of the legal case and the state’s repression strategies, what we can learn from it all and how to support the defendants still facing charges.
Clara: Can you introduce yourself, and tell us a little bit about your involvement in the J20 case?
Miel: My name is Miel, and I was a medic at J20. I was mass arrested with 200 other people that day. And I’ve been involved in organizing with Defend J20 Resistance since then. I was one of the first defendants on trial back in November that returned full acquittals last month. Since then I’ve been involved in media work, and am currently working on a presentation about the J20 case that will be soon available as a live interactive speaking event. This presentation is going to include a timeline of events as they happened over the course of the last year, developments in the legal battle, ways in which organizing collective defense has happened, and my personal experience in the J20 trial as well as looking forward to upcoming trials in the year ahead.
Clara: It’s now been a year since the counter-inaugural protests of January 20th, 2017. Looking back over this past year of the Trump regime and resistance against it, what do you think was the significance of the J20 protests in DC and beyond?
Miel: Well, the J20 protests in DC really showed that from day one, Trump’s presidency would not go unchallenged. Hundreds of people disrupted the capital city that day and set the tone of resistance for the rest of the year. Just one week later we saw airport blockades across the country; following that we saw repeated instances of confrontations with the alt-right and neo-Nazis as well as an increase in pipeline camps and resistance to fracking and other forms of environmental destruction. We also saw movements such as Black Lives Matter DC come out and show support, and have maintained positive relations with those groups over the past year, and been able to work with them in solidarity.
This J20 case has given radical communities a new struggle to organize around, it has connected folks within existing regions who didn’t know each other before, or didn’t previously work together. The opportunity to come together and build those relationships and organize with one another, It also created and strengthened networks across the country, specifically around the east coast as well as beyond of anarchists and activists, including the over 200 people arrested as well as the numerous communities that they’re part of that have been working together to support and resist these charges as a collective.
Clara: Many of us were surprised that the DC police & (in)Justice Department chose to not only mass arrest so many but charge them with absurd and even non-existent felonies and to pursue the cases hard. What do you think motivated this decision? What’s the state’s strategy here, and how does it relate to other instances of repression over the last year?
Miel: I think the motivation for this decision by the state to charge so many people with so many ridiculous charges was to employ a scare tactic that could effectively dissuade people from going out and protesting. To stifle dissent and prevent our ability as movements of resistance from further action by draining energy and resources from these communities that have to be put toward legal defense for this case.
The conspiracy charges show the government has had an inability to point a finger directly at individuals’ actions and instead are attempting to criminalize ambiguous groups of people for their associations, or alleged associations. The state is obviously trying to frighten people into inaction as a means of weakening our resistance to the powers that be. They are also, effectively, punishing us before even successfully convicting us, by bogging us down with the burden of putting our lives on hold, forcing us to travel back and forth to DC to attend hearings on a regular basis; making it difficult or impossible to work or attain licensure for our trades; and traumatizing us by holding over our heads the threat of decades in prison, whether or not this actually becomes a reality.
This relates to other instances of repression over the past year such as Standing Rock, the J20 case in New Orleans, and the demonization of antifa as pertains to Charlottesville and beyond, in that multitudes of people are being charged with outlandish charges and investigated for their participation in these movements as a means to suppress our efforts and diffuse the strength we have built. I think we have shown our resilience in the face of such efforts, but the state certainly seems to be giving it its all in an attempt to weaken the networks and communities we as anarchists have supporting us.
Clara: Both here at the Ex-Worker and on other awesome anarchist media projects like It’s Going Down, the Final Straw, and SubMedia, we’ve been hearing a lot of ongoing updates about the J20 case over the past year. But just to get all our listeners up to speed, could you give us a quick run-down of how the legal case has developed over the last year since the initial arrests?
Miel: Sure. So on January 21st, when everyone was released from jail, we were all given a single felony rioting charge. This in and of itself was shocking, because it has not been typical of previous examples that we’ve seen where people have been mass arrested that have resulted in blanket felony charges. So we each had the one felony charge until the government returned a superceding indictment from a grand jury that gave us all eight felony charges. This included engaging in a riot, conspiracy to riot, inciting a riot, and five counts of property damage. These were not individualized to particular people; every single person that was arrested that day that was still facing charges was given these eight blanket felony charges.
From that point forward, pleas had been offered for misdemeanor rioting, and not many, but some people did take these pleas. Some of these were cases of folks who were under the age of, I think it was 22 or 23, who qualified for the Youth Rehabilitation Act, which means that if they take this misdemeanor plea and they don’t get in trouble for six months to a year, that charge gets wiped from their record. So what we saw was about twenty people in total over the course of the past year taking those pleas. But the majority, 194 people, held strong and didn’t choose to take plea, and instead moved forward with a commitment to going to trial.
One of the people who did take a plea was Dane Powell. Dane was facing more charges than everybody else i nthe case; he had particularized property damage charges and what have you. And so Dane made the decision to take two felonies, which upon sentencing was given four months in jail. Dane was released on October 31st of last year after completing his four month sentence and now has two years of supervised probation outstanding.
The next development that took place was that Judge Leibowitz ruled that two of the felony charges that were named in the indictment were actually misdemeanor charges, and didn’t exist in the legal system as felonies (which brings up the point about the government trying to prosecute us on charges that are just simply non-existing). And so the two charges that were reduced to misdemeanors were engaging in a riot and conspiracy to riot. So this left us with six felony charges, the one inciting charge and the five counts of property damage, and two misdemeanor charges.
The next development in the case was that the prosecution reduced the second group of people scheduled to go to trial to three misdemeanor charges, without any explanation. So they had the same six felonies that everyone else had, plus two misdemeanors, and all of that was changed to give them all three misdemeanor charges. Now, there’s this process called prosecutorial discretion, and that is where the prosecution is entitled to charge people however they see fit. Even though these people were in the same place at the same time as the rest of the people who were arrested, the government is entitled to make these changes as they see fit, without explaining their reason for doing so. And so these folks are still awaiting trial, and are expected to begin some time late January.
During the first trial, the trial that I was a part of, during a motion for judgment of acquittal, which takes place after the government rests its case in chief, the judge has an opportunity to basically throw out some of the charges on the basis that the government has not met their burden of proof. The majority of the time in trials, these motions are not granted. It is very rare that we see a judge making a decision mid-trial that charges should be thrown out. But in the case of this trial, the judge decided that the inciting a riot felony charge was “multiplicitous,” meaning that there was no way of distinguishing between the inciting charge and the engaging charge, and therefore there was no way to prosecute anyone individually for one or the other. So that charge was thrown out entirely from the six defendants who were on trial. The rest of the defendants who are still awaiting trial still have that charge, but we are hopeful that a similar outcome will result based on the precedent of that first case.
And that’s really it in terms of the development of the legal case, aside from the great victory that we saw just about a month ago where all six of the defendants who went to trial, myself included, were returned entirely not guilty verdicts: full acquittals for the 42 charges we were facing, which was a wonderful victory and really something worth celebrating as we look to the year ahead with 188 defendants left to be tried.
Clara: Given how extreme the charges are and the incredible pressure that’s been on all the defendants, it’s pretty amazing that nearly all have refused to take pleas and maintained solidarity with one another. Can you tell us about how defendants and their supporters have organized to make this possible?
Miel: Absolutely. I think the primary part of this really comes down to collective defense. Defend J20 Resistance, since day one, has been a support infrastructure that has really maintained solidarity and cohesion across the country for folks who were involved directly as defendants in this case as well as their communities of support. Early on we established points of unity that included ideas such as: nobody will snitch or cooperate with the government; an agreement to work together and share resources; and so forth. And over 140 defendants, I believe, signed on to these points of unity, and agreed that we would maintain these convictions across the course of the prosecution.
Part of collective defense was established that we would have weekly spokes council meetings that take place in the form of a conference call, and that still happens on a weekly basis. We also have working groups, such as a media team and a political campaign committee, that actively work together through Signal loops and listservs to talk about the case and stay up on what’s going on and trying to help shape our narrative as its presented to the media and our communities. We’ve also developed legal and political strategies, including the early trial strategy, which we saw returning the full acquittals, but was based on an incentive and motivation to put people at the forefront of these trials who had cases that felt stronger, cases that were maybe a little less vulnerable than some of the others that the government was pushing to go first. And as we saw that was a great success. So we continued to work together to develop these type pf strategies to help protect those who are more vulnerable in their case.
We’ve also established emotional support groups by regional groups of defendants who have maintained relationships with each other through this case. Specifically, folks in North Carolina have gotten together over the course of the months to talk to each other about what that experience was like, to help each other, support one another in the feelings that come up, in talking to our friends and family about the case, in going about our day to day lives despite what is being held over our heads.
There’s also been a lot of fundraising that I think has been a wonderful resource and support infrastructure for folks. Reimbursements for things such as traveling and other expenses incurred by defendants who are going through this case. I just want to shout out the fundraiser that we have ongoing; it is at fundrazr.com/j20resistance. We’re hoping to meet our goal of $250,000 to continue to support folks over the next year and maybe longer as they await trial.
And one of the other things that has been really helpful is on-the-ground support in DC for things such as housing. There’s been a lot of people who’ve offered up their homes to give us places to stay so that when we’re coming in and out of DC frequently we don’t have that added burden of the expense and finding of places to house us.
And we’ve also seen incredible courtroom solidarity—people showing up to court hearings and throughout the course of trial standing behind us and really sending the message that we’re not alone in this, that we have people who have our backs who will show up for us day in and day out as we see this process through.
Clara: Since other episodes, especially through It’s Going Down, have narrated the play-by-play of the first trial, we won’t ask you to bring us through every step of it. But I was hoping, could you sum up some of the significant lessons learned from this first trial, both for the rest of the J20 cases still pending and for repression and resistance more broadly?
Miel: Yeah. There is a great article that came out early on after the J20 case that’s available on the CrimethInc. website that is called “Making the Best of Mass Arrests: 12 Lessons From the Kettle”. That includes sharing knowledge and experience when the opportunity presents itself. So situations such as a kettle, where folks are detained for many hours on end but do have the opportunity to talk with one another, so more experienced folks being able to come in and say, “Hey, from my experience, X, Y, and Z.” Bringing in helpful suggestions and ways of going through the arrest process for folks who are maybe more new to it. Things like whatever you have in your backpack, not making it so easy for the cops to just hand it over to them. Maybe using that opportunity in the kettle as a chance to strategically decide what to hand over and not hand over to the cops. Not bringing your real phone to protests, because as we saw, the cops held on to and hacked into many of the phones that were seized that day, which gave them loads and loads of extra information that we could have just, we can work to make it harder for them to access.
Also one of the big lessons that I think is crucial here is continuing to care for one another and hold each other close and hold space for each other as we go through these hard times. A recognition that collective defense really can make a big difference. That showing our strength thru solidarity really does matter. Knowing that only 20 people of the over 200 that were arrested took pleas, and that 194 stayed committed to going to trial, really shows the strength and the power of holding strong to collective defense.
And another thing is that support is super crucial to our struggle and an invaluable part of our ability to continue resisting. So while support roles maybe get less attention most of the time, it is a very crucial and necessary part of all of the resistance and work that we do.
Clara: Awesome, thank you. So to wrap things up, on this upcoming January 20th, anarchists have called for solidarity events and discussions to continue to raise awareness around the case, but also to build a foundation towards fierce resistance in the year to come. So the last thing I want to ask is actually two related questions. First, what can our listeners do to support the J20 defendants still facing charges? And also, beyond defending our comrades in this case, in what directions do you want to see anarchist resistance grow in the coming year?
Miel: I think the biggest thing that listeners can do to support the J20 defendants who are still facing charges is to talk about the case! You may be surprised, but not many people actually know about the J20 case. Talking to your friends, your family, your coworkers, the media; really bringing it into the awareness of folks that this is something that’s happening that affects everyone. I think what’s really crucial at this current moment is emphasizing the more political components of the case, such as the idea that property damage is not violence, that people should not be thrown into a cage or isolated from their communities for a few broken windows.
I really want to see more people talking about the March trials that are coming up in just a couple months now. These trials will be huge and include some of our more vulnerable comrades, and they really need our support. Some of the ways that folks can support these folks as they go to trial: if you’re able to go to DC for the trials themselves, to be there in court, to provide emotional care, to offer food and other resources, or just honestly being a body in that courtroom showing folks that they’re not going through it alone. And if you’re not able to be physically present in DC, a way that folks can help is to transcribe court notes. And that’s something that you can do as long as you have a computer and can be available to take on that role.
If you are friends with defendants in this case, reach out to them! Going through something like this can be a really isolating experience, especially for folks who are not in super concentrated areas and can also lead people to a tendency of self-isolation, of depression, of high anxiety. And so if you do have the capacity, reaching out and offering to hold space for folks for that emotional processing.
State repression is a punishment within the process, and not only the process itself of awaiting trial but also the aftermath of trial are all very traumatic experiences that require healing and recovery and time. J20 defendants and all individuals facing repression by the state are dealing with a lot emotionally. And so if you are able to hold space for them to talk about this experience and process what it has meant for their lives, their relationships, and how they spend their time, that can really speak volumes and really be super valuable to the folks that are going through this.
To answer your second question, I would really like to see anarchist resistance actively building our communities’ resilience to state repression through direct care work. Caring for each other so we can be stronger together; providing the resources that are sometimes less accessible to us due to our position in the world, our financial constraints, etc. But finding ways to provide these resources for enduring and healing from trauma as it pertains to state violence. Because that’s something that we really need to get us through, and something that I feel happens and is happening, but we can always improve on. And I’d really like to see that be more at the forefront of our focus as we do support work moving forward.
Clara: Awesome. Miel, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Miel: Thank you, it was my pleasure.
Clara: So that’s just about it for this episode. But before we head off, we want to share a few updates.
Alanis: Stay tuned to crimethinc.com and itsgoingdown.org for updates on all of the January 20th events going on around the US and beyond. We’ve got the relevant links posted on our website.
Clara: Many J20 events will be screening the new film by our friends at Global Uprisings, titled “Antifa.” We’ve got a link to the trailer for it up on our website.
Alanis: Speaking of our bad-ass talented anarchist media comrades, we want to make sure all of you know about some of the other rad projects going on. Here are a couple of announcements from our friends doing terrific projects that y’all should also check out.
Clara: First off, here’s a note from the crew at SubMedia:
Alanis: Happy fucking New Year! For 2018, we just launched the newest video of our “A is for Anarchy” series: “What is Race?” We will drop ten episodes of our monthly show Trouble this year, kicking it off with a two part series on student uprisings. And in February, the Stimulator will be back with its new show entitled “The Fuckin News.”
Clara: YAAAAS! Stim, we missed you!
Alanis: And that’s not all! Also coming up are new episodes of our rad hip hop podcast “Burning Cop Car,” our series on native struggles and histories, “Indigenous Resistance in 5 Minutes,” and video ninja reports as shit goes down.
Clara: Fantastic. Next, we’ve got an update from Resonance:
Alanis: Resonance: An Anarchist Audio Distro is a podcast that records zines and books in audio form with the aim of spreading and deepening conversations about about anarchist ideas. They are releasing new audio zines all the time. Upcoming titles in 2018 include “The Unquiet Dead: Anarchism, Fascism and Mythology,” CrimethInc’s “N30” zine about the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, “The New State Repression” by Ken Lawrence, “Les Guerilleres” by Monique Wittig, and lots more. You can download all of their more than 70 AudioZines or get in touch with them at resonanceaudiodistro.org.
Clara: Here’s a note from the anarchist hip hop artist and podcaster Sole:
Alanis: In 2018 the Solecast will continue to do what I have been doing: long-form pieces that take a long view of history, interviewing writers, revolutionaries and artists about their work, mainly focusing on philosophy, history and ongoing struggles. But the show will also begin focusing more on infrastructure projects that build our capacity & DIY things we can do that make us less reliant on the state and capitalism, to gain some better ideas about how we can truly build a new world in the shell of the old, one that is worth living in. Over the winter I am doing shows based around gardening & permaculture to give people ideas on how to live off the land, feed ourselves, make our own herbal medicines, and stuff like that. If folks are working on anarchist land projects, mutual aid projects or unique and interesting things along those lines, I would love to hear from you and talk to you! If you have ideas for future shows hit up firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to the Solecast through the Channel Zero Podcast Network or at soleone - that’s S-O-L-E-O-N-E - .org.
Clara: We’ve also got an update from our friends at It’s Going Down:
It’s Going Down: In 2018, It’s Going Down will continue to be an evolving and growing platform for the anarchist movement, and wider autonomous anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, and anti-fascist struggles. We plan to continue to produce and expand our original content, analysis, podcasts, and columns. We want to increase our coverage of struggles across Turtle Island, especially from Mexico and Canada. If any comrades are interested in writing original columns, report backs and analysis please get in touch with us at info at ItsGoingDown.org!
In 2017 our platform grew immensely and IGD became something of a “go-to” for mainstream media for quotes on anarchist and anti fascist movements. Because of the huge platform we have access to, we want to continue to be a vehicle to signal boost the media generated by a wide array of groups and projects.
In the coming year we hope to continue our work, and grow in dynamic ways. We believe counter-info projects like IGD are a weapon in the hands of movements and social struggles. We want to give our most sincere love and solidarity to all of you that are living and fighting to create new forms of life against all forms of domination and exploitation!
Alanis: And finally, here’s a word from our friends at The Final Straw:
The Final Straw: These last few years have seen The Final Straw Radio expand our contributor base to include not only the voices of Bursts O’Goodness and William Goodenuff but also segments by Disembodied Voice and Gil O’Teen. Our project has joined the International A-Radio Network, participating in conferences and enjoining to create the monthly podcast of global anarchist perspectives, B(A)DNews: Angry Voices from Around The World. We’ve continued to bring you the audio rants by Sean Swain we all can’t help but love. Our tiny collective has also gotten on board with the Channel Zero Podcast Network alongside other awesome English-language anarchist podcasts such as The Ex Worker and The Hotwire. We’ve begun a semi-regular anarchist tech spin-off podcast called “Error451”.
The Final Straw Radio enters 2018 with a hopeful gaze towards the horizon. In this coming year we plan to reach for more independence to travel and cover actions and amplify the voices of folks engaged in thought and struggle that you might not hear elsewhere. More details are forthcoming. You can subscribe to our podcast and check out our website, thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org, for updates. Thanks to our friends at CrimethInc. for this opportunity to toot our own horns!
Our Finnish Correspondent: ANARCHY (TOOT TOOT!)
Clara: There are a number of other anarchist media projects you can check out through the Channel Zero Network, a collective platform for anarchist audio and radio projects. Here’s a quick update from them:
Alanis: The Channel Zero Network, which officially launched less than six months ago and is growing every day, has about fifteen different media projects participating at this point. We have designed an IOS and Android app that should be available to the public in the next few months, so people can listen to our live radio stream anytime, anywhere. We’re continually working on how to make more engaging scheduling, radio syndication and of course, to keep spreading anarchist ideas and practices. If any other anarchist media projects want to reach out for consideration, or if listeners have suggestions or ideas for us, give us a shout at email@example.com. And if you wanna listen, tune in at channelzeronetwork.com.
Clara: And that wraps up our 2018 preview of anarchist media projects! Back when we started the Ex-Worker almost five years ago, the landscape of English-language anarchist podcasts was pretty sparse. Nowadays, there are a ton of rad projects flourishing and more continuing to appear. We’re excited to be part of a growing community of anti-authoritarian audio endeavors. If you’ve got a project you’re working on and you’d like our input or for us to spread the word about you, drop us a line.
Alanis: Looking past North America, we also wanted to share a brief update about our friends from Black Mosquito, an anarchist distribution project in Germany. Their space was broken into, robbed, and vandalized with fascist graffiti recently. It’s unclear who is behind the break-in, though it seems probable that some sort of fascists, whether or not they’re really organized, were responsible. As the comrades there declared in a statement, “No matter who is behind this attack, we see it as a fascist attack on leftist structures. An expression of the authoritarian escalation of society. We will not be intimidated by it. Your hatred is our motivation!”
Clara: Warm greetings of solidarity from all of us at the Ex-Worker. We hope to be part of building global solidarity against fascism across all borders. Let’s make sure that whenever any of our communities are targeted by fascists or the state, we’re paying attention, spreading the word, and sending support.
Alanis: And last but never least, we want to share info related to prisoners and their struggles.
Clara: The New York State prison system has issued an absurd and harmful new set of restrictions on what prisoners can receive in packages from friends and family. Through the links on our website, you can read info about it from New York City Anarchist Black Cross (page 15), sign a petition to roll back the new regulations, get info on how to send the scumbags in charge a postcard demanding that they stop this madness, etc.
Alanis: Supporters have let us know that Jay Chase from the NATO 3 is currently in segregation and is in need of some books; please send a few if you can. Prisoners in Illinois can receive used books in the mail. Jay likes to read sci-fi, fantasy fiction, and history, and has an Amazon wish list here, which we’ve got linked on our website. Segregation is very tough on anyone as you are confined to your cell at least 23 hours a day. Please show Jay some solidarity and support at this tough time.
Clara: Anarchist prisoner Eric King suddenly and tragically lost his brother recently. According to his support page, “Grieving the loss of a loved one is tough as it is, but for almost two weeks now Eric has been trying to figure out the best way to mourn the loss of his brother in an already dark place… Receiving the news was clearly devastating for him and moving forward has certainly been a struggle, so please keep him in your thoughts while he navigates through this difficult time. We encourage you to keep the cards and letters coming because it’s those incoming communications full of light that can really help to keep his spirits up.”
Alanis: Love and strength to Eric from all of us in this difficult time. We’ve got his address posted on our website.
Clara: And finally, here are a few prisoners whose birthdays are taking place this month:
Alanis: On January 8th, Jeremy Hammond, hacktivist from Anonymous, anarchist, and unapologetic rebel, doing ten years for hacking into the private intelligence firm Stratfor to expose various nefarious corporate and government misdeeds;
Clara: We also want to send a shout-out to his brother Jason Hammond, who’s celebrating his second birthday since his release from prison after serving time for his role in a successful 2012 action that crushed a white supremacist meeting in Tinley Park, Illinois. Since he’s been out, militant anti-fascism has become more important than ever, and it’s important that we not forget folks who’ve faced state repression for their work. Thanks, Jason!
Alanis: On the 9th, Abdul Aziz, one of the anti-colonial rebels of the Virgin Islands Five;
Clara: On January 14th, Sundiata Acoli, former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army soldier;
Alanis: And also on the 14th, Herman Bell, former Black Panther and COINTELPRO target. Herman’s going to be up for parole in February; stay posted to his support page, FreeHermanBell.org, for info.
Clara: On the 15th, Joe-Joe Bowen, a Black Liberation Army soldier and prison rebel;
Alanis: And finally, on the 26th, Marius Mason, Earth Liberation Front saboteur, poet, trans activist, and all-around badass.
Clara: Please take a moment to send a letter or a card to these folks some time this month. We’ve got all of their mailing addresses, along with links to info about their cases, posted on our website.
Alanis: And that’s all for this episode. Thanks to all of you for listening!
Clara: The new season of the Hotwire, our weekly audio newscast, is just around the corner! Stay tuned to crimethinc.com/podcast for all the updates. And while you’ll be getting an earful every week from our good friend the Rebel Girl, don’t worry—me and Alanis will be working on things too, so keep an ear out for more full Ex-Worker episodes as well.
Alanis: Be sure to keep in touch via email to podcast at crimethinc dot com, and let us know what you think about the episode, what you’d like to see us covering, and whatever else is going on in anarchist resistance near you.
Clara: Don’t forget that this episode, like every other, has a full transcript along with links and more information on everything we discussed, available at crimethinc.com/podcast. Till next time,
Alanis: Get out there on January 20th and connect with others to build towards a rebellious 2018! Clara: See you in the streets.