clarification (december 2010): i am writing this because my blog post was included in some kind of media round-up of writing about the asheville 11 case, & suddenly i started getting a lot more hits & truly bizarre comments in response to this post. so READ THIS FIRST & bear it in mind when you read the rest of the post. this blog is a personal blog, & the contents of the posts reflect my personal opinions. i write fairly often about political topics & current events, but i am not a journalist. i am not breaking any news & reporting any information other than my responses to news events (& i think it would be tough to make the case that my opinion can really be called “information” in any serious sense of the word.
clarification continued: this is a post about my personal feelings on both property destruction as a political tactic, & my opinions about the types of anarchists that tend to espouse supportive defenses of property destruction as a political tactic. this post was inspired specifically by a five-point defense of the asheville 11 that made the anarchist news circuit. this post is a mainly a response to that piece of writing & its logic-based conundrums. i am not personally acquainted with any of the asheville 11, i have never met any of them as far as i am aware, i was not in asheville on may 2010, & i have no idea what they may or may not have gotten up to that night. all i know for certain is what everyone else aside from them knows for certain: the actions of which they are accused. even if a person has expressed interest or admiration for property destruction as a political tactic (& i have no knowledge that any of these kids have done that for sure), that doesn’t mean they have made the leap to actually engaging in property destruction. the burden of legal proof in this specific case remains on the prosecutor to conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, link any of these defendants to property destruction perpetrated in asheville on may 1 20010, & that has not happened.
clarification, conclusion: i wrote this not to necessarily demonize any of the asheville 11, but to respond to the politically facile defenses of them that have been circulating in (some) anarchist media. i considered myself an anarchist for many years, & i still consider myself a radical, & i think it’s important that radicals hold each other accountable around political ideas (among other things). the asheville 11 case has polarized the anarchist community in some very weird ways. apparently someone (not sure if it was someone related to the asheville 11 or not) wanted me to write a “retraction” of this entire post. i’m not going to do that. i’m not going to “retract” my opinion on property destruction & the fact that radicals often enegage in polarizing activities & expect the entire community to have their backs on principle. i don’t expect every other radical out there to agree with me, but i do think i’m entitled to my opinion. but i caution readers against confusing the expression of my opinion with some sort of fact-based statement concerning the guilt of these eleven defendants. i also encourage people with questions or comments about this post to limit their communications to ME. my contact info is in my blog info page in the title header, & you can also leave comments. no one speaks for me but me, so don’t stress them out by asking them about this shit.
i’m not going to go into too much detail, because anyone reading this probably also has access to a google search feature, & i don’t want to give these kids much more publicity than they have already gotten. but long story short: on mayday, a group of anarchist kids (kids not necessarily implying youth so much as immaturity & lack of political sophistication) took it upon themselves to stage their own mayday protest in downtown asheville (in north carolina). car windows were smashed, store windows were smashed, there was a certain amount of vandalism…anyone familiar with the average hijinks of pissed off american anarchists in the new millennium probably gets the picture. the cops were called & they managed to round up eleven folks by looking for young people wearing bags or backpacks, or people who were out of breath. these eleven were arrested & quickly became known within anarchist circles as “the asheville 11,” patterned after defendants of years gone by, such as the “panther 21,” a group of 21 black panther party members arrested for conspiracy & murder in 1971. the 21 arrested black panthers comprised most of the leadership of various black panther hubs on the east coast, & while all were eventually acquitted, the resources demanded by the trial in both time & money contributed to the destruction of the national black panther party.
the fact that this is an example of real activists doing important work within their own communities being truly railroaded by a justice system corrupted by racism & fear just makes it all the more disgusting to me that these asheville kids are claiming to be “the asheville 11”. like they are unjustly detained freedom fighters or something. in truth, they are a mix of college students & young people (the oldest kid is 26 years old–the youngest is 17) that are not in college. as far as i have been able to figure out, they are beacons for freedom & decency pretty much within their own minds & perhaps in the minds of other brainwashed by their shared ridiculous political viewpoints. it’s also interesting to note that a few of them spent time in lawrence a few years back. the review from lawrence activists that attempted to work on projects with them: “they seemed kind of like they were into action for the sake of action. like property destruction just for the sake of fucking shit up. & that never seemed all that cool, because, you know, you’re risking arrest when you do that shit. & not everyone can risk arrest that way. if you’re trans, or if you’re a parent, or if you’re not a citizen, you’re not going to want to necessarily be in a position to get arrested over some dumbass bullshit that is basically just in defense of a questionable principle to begin with. so i was pretty relieved when they left town.” (clarification december 2010: please note that i am not a journalist. i did not systematically go around lawrence interviewing lawrence activists about this topic. the sentences in quotes here are not direct verbatim quotes from any specific lawrence activist. they are a general paraphrasing of ideas from several different people, & they do not represent the opinions of every radical lawrence activist. it’s also worth considering that there is a difference between being “into” property destruction or “fucking shit up for the sake of fucking shit up,” & actually doing it yourself. i’ve never met these kids & have no idea what they may or may not have personally done, activity-wise. but personally, i find even being into the concept of property destruction as political action quite trying…although obviously not illegal.)
all of the kids that were arrested were released on bail within about a week, maybe little more. while they were in jail, they & their supporters requested donations for legal support, bail, & vegan snacks from the commissary (as if there was ever any doubt! has an anarchist EVER been arrested without requesting some kind of vegan delicacy at some point in the process?) from the larger anarchist & anarchist-sympathizing world. & i was really disgusted. there are people out there with real problems who could put that money to far better use. i used to be pretty interested in thing like jail support & unarresting & all that shit…back in like 1999 or whatever. but it’s become such a matter of course that it’s like kids think they can just go ahead & get arrested for any dumbass stupid thing, claim they were doing it because of their anarchist principles, & people will line up around the block to provide bail money & write supportive letters. people have been doing idiotic things in the name of their principles for a long time, & i personally don’t care to support all of it with my money or emotional energy. like, really? you set a bunch of minks free from a mink farm in the dead of winter into countryside chock-a-block with mink predators? that’s just stupid. or, really? you broke into some dude’s house in the middle of his kid’s birthday party because he works in a lab where testing on animals is performed? jesus h. christ on a cracker. & then these asheville kids…
from what i have been able to gather from a mix of “corporate” & anarchist news, the vandalism in question resulted in a smashed ATM (so THAT’s what ended capitalism!) & several store windows. stores were a mix of corporate chains & self-described independent businesses. a few reports i read indicated that one of the affected businesses was a long-time print shop that did a lot of print work for the lefty community within asheville. car windows were also smashed. the asheville 11 cop to the fact that a BMW was smashed. they have not acknowledged a report i read, which indicated that a buick from the 80s belonging to a high school teacher was smashed.
i’m writing all this because i made the grievous error of reading a recent piece called “five myths about the asheville 11: they they’re being demonized & why it matters”. the anonymous author, who may or may not reflect the views of the asheville 11, insists that police & newspapers politicized this case & specifically persecuted these kids within a political framework. perhaps. but if my understanding that this vandalism took place on mayday in an attempt to return mayday to its original radical anarchist roots, & that it was a protests against capitalism, that the vandals themselves (whether or not they are the asheville 11) politicized things. it’s not the job of police to punish people for their political viewpoints…but no one is being charged with, say, treason or anything. the charges are all related to vandalism. the bail was set higher than usual for a vandalism case…but it also sounds like the vandalism in question was far more widespread & severe than your typical situation of catching a kid tagging a stop sign or something. i don’t doubt for a second that the police & media sought to make an example of the folks they arrested…*shrug*. given the privilege & hubris of the defendants, i don’t feel much pity for them.
my favorite part of the “five myths…” piece is myth #3: “but they attacked local businesses!” first the author says, “well, maybe they didn’t. they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.” s/he then elaborates on the way gentrification has impacted asheville in recent years, ultimately claiming that some “independent” business are as bad as corporate chains…for some reason. & that people who are “long-time residents” of asheville may rightfully have some resentment against these businesses.
O RLY? as far as i have been able to tell, none of the defendants in this case are themselves “long-time residents” of asheville. they are kids from all over the place, several just passing through town. so i’m not sure what “resentment” they could have against these businesses. oh, but that’s right. innocent until proven guilty. okay. this is the central tenet of the anonymous writer’s argument. s/he claims that the fact that small businesses were vandalized shouldn’t even matter because defendants are innocent until proven guilty & the police have no evidence against the defendants. s/he argues that the defendants deserve support because they are being held captive by the justice system, basically.
by this logic, anyone that is ever arrested for anything deserves unwavering support until they are found guilty in a court of law. call me a tool of the man, but i don’t actually require a guilty verdict before i believe that someone did something fucked up & has lost their right to my personal support. & i am kind of shocked that an ANARCHIST would make this argument. i mean, i am pretty big on things like restorative justice to address abuse & sexual assault. should i instead be counseling my friends & neighbors to take their perpetrators to court, & withholding support from survivors until a conviction has been handed down? this really makes no sense.
i could probably write more, but i’m sick of thinking about these kids. i don’t know if they are guilty or not–though i suspect that they probably are. but even if they’re not, the attention they have sucked up in the anarchist community & the sense of entitlement they seem to have toward other people’s money, resources, time, attention, & energy is really sickening. if it’s true that there is no evidence against them–no incriminating window-breaking tools in their bags, no hidden cameras capturing their likenesses smashing up cars, etc…well, they’ll go trial like every other wrongfully arrested person & hopefully justice will prevail & they will be acquitted. in the event of a wrongful conviction…maybe then i’ll care.
mostly what pisses me off about this case is that it’s like the crystallization of everything that is wrong with anarchism. SOMEONE thought it would be a good idea to smash up downtown asheville on mayday…probably under the auspices of some kind of anarchist commentary. someone failed to do their homework, & small businesses & non-fancy cars were targeted. (& even if it was just a niketown & a jaguar–i’m not convinced that property destruction is an awesome tactic.) some kids, a staggering quantity of whom were just temporarily passing through asheville, were arrested. & those kids played to the anarchist media, basically insisting that they were political prisoners in need of bail money, vegan sandwiches, & attention for their political beliefs…even while conspiracy charges prevented them from making their defenses too explicitly political.
i’m just sick of this shit. dumbass kids doing dumbass things & then climbing up on their high horses to point it out to everyone else. wanting to feel oppressed, so they act like $65,000 bail for some property destruction is akin to being run over by a tank in tiannamen square. this another situation where i find it nearly impossible not to minimize. we’ll see how this trial shakes out, but i’m hoping i never hear another word about any of it as long as i live.