Anarchy in the USA

You never hear of anarchists issuing toxic mortgage loans. Anarchists don’t seem prone to raiding investors’ funds and ruining a business while taking multimillion dollar bonuses. And you won’t find too many anarchists refusing health care to sick people as some insurance companies sure do.

And yet that word “anarchist” seems like the worst name you can call someone these days. That was the justification used by Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Police Chief Chris Blue for the police action/raid on the folks who had occupied the Yates Motor Co. building.

Some of the folks who broke into the Yates building may actually call themselves anarchists. But I’d bet they do so as a badge of pride because they see a society that has developed some pretty disturbing economic flaws that they would like to see fixed. In fact, they seem quite willing to endure the rancor and ridicule and dismissive behavior of the authorities and their neighbors just to point out those issues. They are impatient that change comes very slowly.

I guess anarchists don’t have the right of free speech that all us non-anarchists do, so if they try to distribute literature that points out disparities and calls for action in the streets, they lose their rights as Americans. One person’s education can be another person’s incitement to riot. Just look back at the segregation battles fought more than 50 years ago in this country. That was a social upheaval that was right and just, but man did it bring out the furies in normal folks. Maybe the economic injustices that these anarchists seek desperately to address will be viewed in the same light a half-century from now.

We all of us need a different way of viewing one another than what has become a standard system of labeling. Labels can be shorthand – with a single word folks can classify a person or political movement without having to delve further into personalities or issues. Labels can be an excuse not to evaluate and consider. Labeling someone an “anarchist” can allow some folks to insult and dismiss all sorts of issues and problems that we all must face, just as dismissing someone as a “liberal” or a “conservative” does the same damage to our sense of inquisitiveness and sense of right and wrong.

But using labels carries with it the danger of short-sighted simplification and can lead down a route such as that which resulted in Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South.

Best look beyond the labels at what’s behind these actions, rather than dismissing them as a bunch of kids running riot. What happened can be seen as either a nuisance or a harbinger. The police action could be a sign that things are changing for the worse. I’d like to know more about the events before I dismiss them.

The police don’t always get it right, just as bankers and politicians and businessfolk sometimes screw up to the detriment of us all. It’s quite all right to question the police, whether we agree with their actions or not. And as long as the police must explain their actions, no matter how far-fetched those explanations are, then we can rest assured that we still live in the United States of America, not Syria.
–Don Evans

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31 Comments

  1. Michael

     /  November 17, 2011

    Hmmm, this is a real Alice in Wonderland perspective. I think you should let Nancy do the thinking and writing….

  2. Fred Black

     /  November 17, 2011

    Don, have you read any of the flyers plastered on West Franklin? BTW, they pre-date Sunday’s incident.

  3. Don Evans

     /  November 17, 2011

    Fred,

    Refresh my memory on what they say. Try to be verbatim.

    Michael,

    You wanna be a little more specific or are you as comfortable with generalizations as the mayor and police chief are?

  4. runner

     /  November 17, 2011

    Don,

    No label here. I just think you are flat out wrong.

  5. Terri Buckner

     /  November 17, 2011

    Thanks Don. I think you hit the nail on the head.

  6. Fred Black

     /  November 17, 2011

    Don, I think you need to read them for yourself; just can’t be verbatim.

  7. Don Evans

     /  November 17, 2011

    Runner,

    When is listening to someone’s grievances “flat out wrong”? When is trying to understand why someone is upset with a system “flat out wrong”? How is getting past labels and stereotypes “flat out wrong”?

    The more information we have, the more likely we can understand whether something needs to be fixed. If someone’s extremely upset, let’s find out why. Seems pretty straightforward to me. Of course, that takes a little more than quickly categorizing someone and then moving on.

  8. runner

     /  November 17, 2011

    Don,

    Sorry, but did you listen to the childish heckling of the Mayor and Chief Blue by these punks?

    As I said about Will’s post, his approach was mature, but these people do not act in an adult manner and need to be treated like the full grown children that they are.

  9. Mark Marcoplos

     /  November 17, 2011

    Thanks for the reasonable essay.

  10. John Kramer

     /  November 17, 2011

    Don: you speak with the myopia of someone who has never owned a business. Yet you seem to feel free to be critical of the actions of private business. I just cannot see where any of your criticism holds any weight when you speak of that which you have no direct knowledge of.

  11. Don: Thank you for your post. Labels are indeed dangerous and divisive, although they can tell us about the way people think, as when Kramer labels the police as “private business”. Come to think of it, that label is sometimes all too true.

  12. John Kramer

     /  November 18, 2011

    Uhhh, wow George. I was referring to the building owner. Nice.

  13. And, uhhh, wow, Kramer, Don was talking either (1) about the people who were labeled “anarchists” or (2) about the *actions* of the police. I assumed you meant the latter when you referred to “the actions of private business”. Nice attempt at throwing out the “private enterprise” buzzword in order to keep yourself from even slightly understanding Don’s point.

    Surely *you* have been labeled in simplistic ways that miss a few nuances of your actual thinking, just as you probably label me. I believe that this is Don’s main topic and we should both agree with him. Don’s post reminds me of S I Hiyakawa, a very conservative man, whose book *Language in Thought and Action* is chock full of wise observations about the use of language to distort our thinking.

    Another example is the use of “violent” to describe what happened at Yates: it doesn’t seem to describe what actually happened very well, yet it colors peoples’ reactions. Today’s DTH used the word “forceful”, which seems more accurate (not that I have first-hand knowledge).

  14. Joe

     /  November 18, 2011

    There is always a small group of late teen, early twentysomething, anarchists sleeping on the couches of houses around university campuses. Chapel Hill is no different. If the people arrested were indeed self-styled anarchists, so what? Were the big, burly, heavily armed police really threatened by some 18-20 year old kids with sheets and posters in an abandoned building?

    This police action was unwarranted and appalling. This kind of stupidity is what I moved to Chapel Hill 20 years ago in order to avoid. If this is what Chapel Hill is turning into, then I will have to consider moving my business over the county line to Durham, where rent is significantly cheaper. I am absolutely horrified when I see pictures of heavily armed CHPD pointing assault rifles at 18 year old kids because they had a party in an abandoned (now condemned) building. Absolutely disgusting. I cast my last vote for Kleinschmidt.

  15. Scott Maitland

     /  November 18, 2011

    “so if they try to distribute literature that points out disparities and calls for action in the streets, they lose their rights as Americans. ” When did this happen Don? They broke into and occupied a building. There has been no allegation of being prevented from distributing literature.

    In Nancy’s post, Don was quoted as saying that the anarchists were labelled anarchists as a means of insulting them and demeaning their message. Now Don says, “Some of the folks who broke into the Yates building may actually call themselves anarchists. ” Yeah, maybe the BIG A WITH A CIRLE AROUND IT in the window was enough proof that they consider themselves anarchists. Can we at least make comments from facts and not a theoretical construct.

    But if you don’t believe the sign they posted. Here is the website that is marked on every poster that has appeared periodically calling for the eradication of police over the past year.

    http://www.crimethinc.com

    Here’s an excerpt from their website:

    “CrimethInc. is the black market where we trade in this precious contraband. Here, the secret worlds of shoplifters, rioters, dropouts, deserters, adulterers, vandals, daydreamers—that is to say, of all of us, in those moments when, wanting more, we indulge in little revolts—converge to form gateways to new worlds where theft, cheating, warfare, boredom, and so on are simply obsolete.”

    I will leave the discussion of the irony of “wanting more” justifying “shoplifting, rioting” for another post. Let’s move on to the verbatim quote of the posters:

    Posted last week:


    THE POLICE
    The ones that beat Rodney King, who gunned down Sean Bell and Amadou Dalo and Oscar Grant, who murdered Fred Hampton in his bed. The ones who enforced Apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the United States. The ones who broke Victor Jara’s hands and Steve Biko’s skull, who disappeared dissidents from Argentina to Zaire, who served Josef Stalin. The ones who interrogated Black Panthers and Catholic Workers, who maintained records on 16 million people in East Germany, who track us through surveillance cameras and phone tags. The ones firing tear gas and rubber bullets whenever a demonstration gets out of hand, who back the bosses in every strike. The ones who stand between every hungry person and the grocery shelves stocked with food, between every homeless person and the buildings standing empty, between every immigrant and her family.
    In every nation, in every age, you tell us you’re indispensable, that without you we’d all be killing each other.
    BUT WE KNOW WELL ENOUGH WHO THE KILLERS ARE.
    YOU WON’T FUCK WITH US MUCH LONGER.

    police everywhere, justice nowhere. http://www.crimethinc.com/police

    Posted today:

    AN OCCUPYING ARMY – CAPITALISM MEANS WAR

    On the evening of Saturday, November 12, a march organized in solidarity with Occupy Chapel Hill entered an abandoned building at 419 W. Franklin St. and claimed it for a future social center. Under banners that read “Occupy Everything” they unboarded the windows, built rudimentary facilities and sleeping quarters, and distributed leaflets to passerby explaining the envisioned community space. The next afternoon, a detachment of SWAT police stormed the occupation with automatic assault rifles, arresting demonstrators and reporters at gunpoint.

    As shocking as it may be, the violent police response was no mere accident or miscalculation. Capitalism is in crisis. The wave of occupations sweeping the globe is one response to the crisis: an attempt to meet our needs and realize our visions on our own terms, without the bosses of politicians who have failed us. But when a social system faces its demise, its guardians get itch trigger fingers. In the coming years, we will see more and more “overreaction” from the police, because it is the only option left for them. If they do not subdue this upheaval with force, they may find themselves in a world where police are no longer necessary and their masters are no longer in charge.

    WE KNOW ANOTHER LIFE IS POSSIBLE. For twenty-one magical hours, the squatters caught a glimpse of that world and began to physically build it. We can only imagine what might have been created in another day, another week, another year. We know we have the strengths in our relationships, our imagination and our resolve. The police themselves admit that they would have been unable to execute their brutal raid if more occupiers had been present. They have the guns, and they are willing to use them, but that will only stop us if we let it. We will not.

    THESE CINDERBLOCKS AND TIMBERS ARE NO LONGER AN EYESORE BUT A COMMUNITY KITCHEN, A CLINIC, A THEATER , A GYM, A CLASSROOM

    OCCUPY EVERYTHING IN CHAPEL HILL.”

    So Don, why don’t you let them occupy your house first?

    I agree that anarchists may have never done the things you say, “You never hear of anarchists issuing toxic mortgage loans. Anarchists don’t seem prone to raiding investors’ funds and ruining a business while taking multimillion dollar bonuses. And you won’t find too many anarchists refusing health care to sick people as some insurance companies sure do.”

    But I have a better question for you Don. Where is the anarchist or the anarchist system that has any loans to issue, any retirement funds at all, any businesses that create wealth and any doctors or hospitals at all.

    Anarchy is the repudiation of the concept of property. It seems to get its justification from the idea that property and the means of production are never in reach of the common worker. Here’s the rub, when has the means of production ever been more accessible? A kid with a laptop can create multi-billion dollar companies.

    Maybe if these anarchists spent less time littering our town with posters that don’t peel off and occupying buildings that don’t belong to them, they could raise the money to buy the building and build the clinic. Just a thought.

  16. John Kramer

     /  November 18, 2011

    Well George, I guess you failed to read Don’s first paragraph:

    “You never hear of anarchists issuing toxic mortgage loans. Anarchists don’t seem prone to raiding investors’ funds and ruining a business while taking multimillion dollar bonuses. And you won’t find too many anarchists refusing health care to sick people as some insurance companies sure do.”

    What that has to do with the police is beyond me. Maybe OWASA needs to check its water quality, there is some serious confusion going on in Chapel Hill amongst the intellectual progressives.

    And for all of you anarchy lovers out there, here you go (Mr. Maitland has already posted similar but there is plenty of good reading and viewing here). Kind of takes the romance out of their little clique, doesn’t it?

    I was speaking to someone who gives me good counsel on a variety of subjects about the OccupyChapelHill movement, the Yates Garage takeover, and the reactions at this site.

    They said, “Mr. Evans’ response is not surprising for Progressives. They want to believe that this movement furthers their goals, so they turn a blind eye.”

    Then they said, “Anarchists don’t really want an absence of government. They want to replace the existing form of governing power. They want to impose a government that follows their beliefs and provides them with whatever they desire. To hell with people who get in the way.”

    He showed me a picture available on the local anarchist website –

    http://trianarchy.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/update-on-the-struggle-for-the-chrysler-building/#

    Don should study this picture. The placards being held say “Off the Pigs”, “Pigs Gonna Pay”, and All Cops Are Bastards”. Don should know that some observers say the crowd was shouting “ACAB” – All Cops Are Bastards. Still believe that these are nice reasonable, non-violent people?

    My friend’s last words to me were, “ Many Jacobin Club members, supporters of the initally moderate reform movement in France prior to the 1792 Revolution, thought well of Robespierre until he got in power and initiated the Reign of Terror.”

    Goodnight, Anarchy Lovers. Sweet Dreams.

  17. Interesting discussion which underlines the reasons for having an independent assessment of the CHPD decision-making process which ended up in a SERT raid on the Chrysler building.

    George is on to something with his comments on labels and their use.

    First, it should be noted that not everyone involved in occupying the Chrysler building was an “anarchist”. Even among those protesters who are “self-described anarchists”, from what I’ve since found out, there was a fairly broad spectrum of understanding of what that meant. From what I saw at the CHPD news conference, some of the “anarchist” sat quietly letting the media drill down into the details while others – what I’ve described as the jack-asses – sat back and pestered the proceedings.

    The CrimeThinc website Scott referenced is childishly awful but on deeper analysis turns out to be a “anarchist poser” watering hole. Lots of inchoate political ramblings and a pitch for slickly produced “kick the Man in the teeth” posters and postcards I bet a ten minute conversation with the more vocal anarchists would have gone far in disabusing Chief Blue of the notion of how dangerous these folks appeared to be.

    It’s also clear that it’s in the best political interest of the Mayor, the Town and the CHPD to tar as many of the participants as possible as “anarchists”.

    Anarchy, especially the kind practiced at G8 summits, etc. – seems to be a violent, incoherent reaction to society. In terms of framing, anarchists have been lumped in with terrorist. Given that, it seems like the public is predisposed to approving extreme measures in managing them.

    But not all anarchist run around breaking windows at G8 summits or shouting ACAB. We saw that here in Chapel Hill.

    It has been interesting to hear the narrative change over the last few days. For instance, WCHL originally described the level of force in detail. Now it characterizes it as a “forced evacuation” – a term that is overwhelmingly used to describe forcing folks to leave their homes during dramatic weather events. One man’s torture is anothers enhanced coercion.

    I understand George’s point that “violent” doesn’t seem to apply to the CHPD actions but don’t agree it is that far off the mark. The CHPD exercised its highest level of force. The officers were heavily armed and armored and not generally equipped for non-lethal management of a developing situation.

    What would have happened if one of those young hotheads had lobbed a rock at an officer? Lethal force?

    I’m old enough to remember the Vietnam protests. Was Chapel Hill ready to become synonymous with Kent State?

    There are reasons the CHPD shifted to a style of policing that focuses on community engagement which we’ve seemed to have forgotten. In 1990, black dressed/camouflage and black masked law enforcement served a “blanket warrant” on the 100 block of Graham St.

    The Town, Town Manager, Town Attorney and the CHPD were sued for exercising police power well beyond the pale. In deciding the case Judge Jenkins, in his 3 page statement, reprimanded the actions of CHPD, Chapel Hill and its management team and underlined how offensive to the Constitution their behavior was.

    The Town won the case on appeal due to standing issues.

    In the appeal, the judges noted:

    The search warrant here is invalid as little more than a general warrant unsupported in many respects by the requisite probable cause. Moreover, defendants’ decision to detain and frisk all persons found within the block during the raid was based on a generalized presumption of “guilt” by presence which does not support the measures taken against each individual.

    The CHPD and Chief Blue have said that the folks on the public sidewalk were observed to have entered the premises at some point. It’s interesting that the Steadi-Rock case specifically addresses generalized “guilt” by presence.

    http://nc.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fac.19950815_0005.nc.htm/qx

  18. runner

     /  November 19, 2011

    Will,

    Do you know what you are saying here? Here, I’ll rewite it for you. “Since some of the people involved with breaking and entering Mr. Riddle’s Property weren’t as potentially dagerous as some others, the cops should have been nicer when they went in to evict the entire group from the building.”

    You folks can save your little slice and dice logic for the hypothetical debate club. This situation required the police to use as much force as they felt necessary for their own protection.

  19. John Kramer

     /  November 19, 2011

    Runner = sanity. Will et al. = not.

    It is so easy to pontificate (in very, very large volumes -Will) when these fools are not camping in your bedroom.

    So, all you apologist anarchist lover liberals, invite the anarchists into your homes since the evil person who owns and pays taxes at the old car dealer is _so_ unreasonable.

    And please do let me know how that works out for you lib-ians.

    I see a reality series in the making, but heaven knows I dare not suggest the theme in a group such as this.

  20. Runner, it’s not a matter of nice, it’s a matter of policy.

    The CHPD has a policy which emphasizes engagement which it didn’t follow in this case.

    There’s been a lot of speculation about how dangerous the trespassers were, especially by the CHPD. The one person they definitely knew about, as Chris described at the press conference, wasn’t known to be violent. Since the CHPD didn’t try to develop any other intel – at least by what they’ve said – outside of the flyers, an incident in Oakland and the kind of websites (maybe even the same websites) described above, how can you say that the danger level required the risk of adopting a stance emphasizing lethal force over other options?

    There were definitely unarmed bystanders outside the building which the CHPD handled with the same force stance as they did with the trespassers inside (which, presumably, could have been doing something out-of-sight). Chris said that these bystanders and the building itself had been under surveillance for some time. I have since found out that there were a mix of young, elderly and press which were milling about on the public sidewalk out-front. What danger did they pose?

    CHPD policy also emphasizes “right-sizing” the response – including using verbal commands – prior to other force stances. It’s a prudent policy as not only is it important to maintain the safety of the officers but also the safety of the public and even the perpetrators.

    It’s not “hypothetical” that innocent folks get hurt in SERT type actions – happens nearly every day. In a tense situation, even the best trained officers can make a mistake. I have yet to see any evidence that the risk was justified. These officers were prepared to deliver lethal force and, by Chris’ press comments, not as prepared to use non-lethal force. Again, what were the rules of engagement? If someone threw a rock, was the CHPD going to shoot them?

    As far as John’s baiting comment about anarchist loving liberals, etc. he is making a good case for my own argument – that by trying to paint all the occupiers as G8 style anarchists there appears to have been a serious misunderstanding of the threat faced. Less than 5 minutes of reading the two websites convinced me that we were dealing with a few jackass “anarcho-posers” not enemy combatants as has been suggested elsewhere.

  21. John Kramer

     /  November 19, 2011

    Hey, Will- were those fakes holding the “off the pigs” signs at the old dealership? Sheesh.

    Pass the LSD please, this is getting really thick.

  22. Terri Buckner

     /  November 19, 2011

    Here’s an article that explains what the local anarchist group believes:
    http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2011/02/09/62364/anarchists-take-root-in-chapel.html

    Here’s another reasonable piece by Tim Tyson:
    http://newblackman.blogspot.com/2011/11/things-to-consider-while-occupying.html

  23. Mark Marcoplos

     /  November 19, 2011

    Runner , you wrote: “This situation required the police to use as much force as they felt necessary for their own protection.”

    The things is, they did not do adequate intelligence work to learn that they did not need that much force for their own protection.

  24. Scott Maitland

     /  November 19, 2011

    Will, as a former attorney, I dispute your reading of the case you cite as having precedent. This wasn’t a city block. It was a building and the portion of the street in front of the building.

    On a philosophical basis, I respect the idea that labels should not be put upon people but when people put the labels on themselves by word and/or deed how can they be ignored? Perhaps there are people in that building that have differing views but how can anyone – you or me – interpret their motivations any differently when the commit the same acts under the same signs? In your haste to defend, you are missing the obvious: To wit, actions speak louder than words, and better yet, words still have meaning too. In this case, we have both actions – the occupying – and words – the signs and the heckling and the chants. To deny the meaning of the actions and the words is to engage in discrimination. They want to be heard. They are saying what they mean.

    I love the hubris displayed by the dismissal of crimethinc as childish jackasses to somehow absolve others of their actions and to dismiss them as irrelevant to the situation? Although I don’t disagree with your estimate of crimethinc, they have been agitating for a long time and need to be recognized for what they are: People prepared to do violence to advance their cause. Which they did. Which was met by force.

    Finally, all of this discussion and the fallout is exactly why we should guard against anarchism to begin with. There is a process, there is accountability. Anarchy – by definition – does not allow oversight.

  25. Scott, I agree that the cases are not directly equivalent just pointing out that Chapel Hill has had a similar community controversy before.

    I also agree with you that CHPD had to take both the actions and words of the occupiers into account when crafting their response.

    To be clear, I’m not defending or justifying the actions of the trespassers, I’m questioning the police departments response. There was a continuum of options, including the 6 levels of force referenced in the CHPD’s own operations manual. The CHPD elected to adopt a stance that the situation – from all accounts – including their own departments – the situation didn’t merit. Why?

    I disagree that the “fallout and discussion” arising from this incident is a bad. It’s the community engaging in their own form of oversight, which is absolutely what we want in our democracy.

  26. runner

     /  November 19, 2011

    The tactic that the police chose resulted in a swift resolution to this criminal act without one shred of physical harm to anyone involved.

    If the police chose a less significant tactic, one without the serious apparent threat to the criminal’s own safety, they may have acted differently and challenged the police in some unforeseen manner. The police acted correctly.

    Now can we please get back to worrying whether Penny Rich is profiting from her position on the Town Council.

  27. Joe

     /  November 19, 2011

    “If the police chose a less significant tactic, one without the serious apparent threat to the criminal’s own safety, they may have acted differently and challenged the police in some unforeseen manner. The police acted correctly.”

    Well, police are sometimes killed over random traffic stops. Perhaps they should handle speeders and people who don’t stop at stop signs with the same level of intensity? Wouldn’t that be pleasant? Do school resource officers have the correct caliber rifles for dealing with fights between 6th graders? Perhaps Mr. Maitland would like an assault team to enter his establishment with rifles drawn, ordering people down on the ground, when potentially threatening drunks need to be removed?

  28. Terri Buckner

     /  November 19, 2011

    ‘The tactic that the police chose resulted in a swift resolution to this criminal act without one shred of physical harm to anyone involved.’

    The National Guard didn’t set out to kill 4 unarmed college students either. When weapons are involved, the slightest mistake can turn lethal. Thank goodness there were no mistakes last weekend.

  29. Terri Buckner

     /  November 19, 2011

    “Finally, all of this discussion and the fallout is exactly why we should guard against anarchism to begin with. There is a process, there is accountability. Anarchy – by definition – does not allow oversight.”

    I don’t disagree with this statement, but I do think it is equally valid to turn it around and say that “all of this discussion and the fallout is exactly why we should guard against an over-extension of police power. There is a process, there is accountability. A police state – by definition – does not allow oversight.” The fact that both ends of the spectrum have valid positions is exactly why I think community dialogue is so important.

  30. Fred Black

     /  November 21, 2011

    As Scott point out, this is an interesting point of view:

    ‘Revolutions not a dinner party’
    Anarchist talks occupying

    http://www.chapelhillnews.com/2011/11/20/68194/revolutions-not-a-dinner-party.html

  31. WJW

     /  November 21, 2011

    Just wanted to say that Mr. Maitland’s post have been quite good (as well as Citi Will). That is an illuminating back and forth.

    To a couple others, as there were no rioting, burning buildings; throwing of rocks at fireman; cutting of fire houses; threats to local businesses of being burned; no calling of the National Guard by the Mayor; no 50+ officers wounded by deadly rocks, bricks, and concrete; the possible connection to Kent State seems to me to be just a tad bit overblown.

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