On Mayday I was in Olympia, Washington one of the few East coast ports rumored not to be shout down by the one day strike against the war. The meeting that evening in Evergreen College attracted around 18 people, we'd probably have got more was it not for the drama of the day.
I had expected this to be a quiet Mayday but as my bus pulled (late) into the station I could see there was a Mayday rally of a couple of hundred people happening in a park. Turned out this was mostly anarchist and IWW folk and was demanding that Olympia become a sanctuary city - ie that the council instruct the police that they are not allowed to arrest undocumented migrants or AWOL soldiers. At the rally I was pleased to spot on the IWW table two PDF files that I had put online years before, its nice to know that the time spent back then in putting them up is still useful.
The rally turned into a march which headed for the state capital building. There, somewhat spontaneously, the crowd surged up the steps and into the building itself and headed for the Governors office. They hammered on the doors and chanted 'sanctuary now', after a while people started to trickle out to hear speeches on the steps outside at which time it was noticed that anarchist graffiti had appeared on the walls.
Later the march headed to the city council building and then back towards the park, by now the numbers had dropped to a little over 100 and it was being followed by an increasing number of cops. Suddenly from somewhere behind me some black blocers started throwing rocks at the bank windows were passing in a pretty careless way (a couple of us got here by fragments). This didn't seem like a bright thing to be doing on a tiny march demanding a sanctuary city so when they headed towards another bank we decided enough and went to the park.
There though we got a call to say the all too predictable arrests were in progress and a couple of people had been injured. From newspaper reports it appears that the next bank attacked had a couple of plainclothes cops in it and they came out and grabbed people that they thought had thrown rocks. The rest of the cops who had been lurking in side streets started pouring in including at least one armed with a paintball gun that fired pepperspray filled balls. By the time we arrived on the scene he was happily firing this at the crowd from a range of only a few feet, at this range the balls will break the skin of anyone they hit.
The cops were all fired up and visibly arresting people at random on the street, I think six or seven arrests were made in all. The organizers of the march were pretty pissed off at the whole chain of events and I have to admit it was the silliest 'black bloc' thing I've seen to date. Quite what the thinking behind attacking the banks from such a tiny march with so many cops in the vicinity was I don't know.
It's important to cop on to the fact that while respect for a 'diversity of tactics' is one thing it's quite another to conscript people in this sort of vanguardist manner by suddenly launching a physical attack from within the ranks of people who don't share your tactical vision. In particular anyone doing this from within a small crowd must understand that the resulting police response is very likely to target those your hiding behind. I blame youtube - there is an addiction in some north american anarchist circles to Greek anarchist riot videos posted on youtube - and the tendency to mistake simple militancy for positive revolutionary politics. Whatever it was it certainly wasn't 'building a popular anarchism'!
The local newspaper report on the days events can be found at http://www.theolympian.com/670/story/436724.html
While In Olympia I interview Christa. She talks about work in Olympia, homelessness, the port blockades of war equioment, ICE raids/ sanctuary city, local anarchist activity, the Utopian Design Collective and primitivism, sex workers in Seattle, going to the DNC and RNC mobilizations. The interview is at http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/may2008/christa.mp3
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