Listen to the Episode — 66 min


Clara: The Ex Worker;

Alanis: An audio strike against a monotone world;

Clara: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;

Alanis: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.

Clara: Welcome back to Episode 27 of the Ex-Worker! I know that last time we said we’d be doing more discussion of anarcha-feminism… and we will, don’t worry, but given events of the last weeks we decided to postpone it. Instead, we’ll be covering the ongoing riots in Ferguson, Missouri after the murder of Mike Brown by police., discussing what’s been happening with some thoughts about what it means.

Alanis: Supporters of Luke O’Donovan will update us on his trial and ongoing support campaign. And on the Chopping Block, we’ll take a look at two texts that document other recent upheavals after police murders and analyze them from an anarchist perspective: Unfinished Acts about the Oscar Grant riots in Oakland, California, and Unforgiving and Inconsolable, about the protests in Durham, North Carolina after the killing of Chuy Huerta.

Clara: And we have a ton of listener feedback from all of you to catch up on, plus other news and upcoming events and Contradictionary terms. So let’s go ahead and get to it.

Alanis: For links, references, further reading, and a full transcript of the show, check out our website at, and always feel free to drop us a line by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com.

Clara: Here we go…


Alanis: We’ll get started with the Hot Wire, our collection of reports on riots, rebellions, revolts, and resistance. Clara, what’s been happening?

Clara: As Israel’s war on Gaza continues, acts of resistance are taking place around the globe. Demonstrators in Oakland prevented an Israeli ship from docking in port for several days through blockades and collaboration with the dockworker’s union, while activists occupied an Israeli weapons factory in the UK.

Alanis: Some anarchists sabotaged construction equipment at a McDonald’s in Portland, Oregon, while others attacked vehicles at a Nissan dealership in Olympia, Washington; both actions were dedicated to Amelie, Carlos, and Fallon, anarchists imprisoned in Mexico.

Clara: Quite a lot of eco-defense actions have been taking place, ranging from an indigenous blockade of a copper and gold mine in British Columbia to a treesit on an island in the Puget Sound near Seattle against a planned shopping mall to an office occupation in the UK by anti-fracking protestors to the mass detention of anti-mining protestors in Nicaragua.

Alanis: And a seed library in Pennsylvania has been accused by the government of something called “agri-terrorism” for, um, sharing seeds on Earth Day.

Clara: Turkish police murdered a protestor at a demonstration that attempted to defend a recently unveiled statue of a Kurdish nationalist icon; police were attempting to dismantle the statue after a court ruled that it “promoted terrorism.”

Alanis: In northeastern India, Irom Sharmila was released after 14 years in prison; she had been held on charges of attempting suicide after going on hunger strike to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives security forces almost total impunity to imprison and kill dissidents.

Clara: Texas Governor Rick Perry was arrested and booked on charges of abuse of offical capacity and coercion of a public servant. The fact that last month he announced plans to send up to a thousand National Guard troops to the border with Mexico appears to be totally OK, but when you start messing with the sanctity of your elected office, then you might get some blowback. We mention this news not because we think anyone should be in prison, but to highlight how ludicrous it is that we’re supposed to accept that politicians can mandate the most horrific and oppressive things imaginable, provided they don’t break the laws that they set up for themselves.

Alanis: Meanwhile, a Russian court convicted four radicals of rioting and attacking police at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow in 2012. Antifascist Alexei Gaskarov was sentenced to three and a half years in prison; we’ve got a link on our website to his statement to the court. When US representatives criticized the verdict, a Russian politician pointed out how in the US, police routinely kill people or put them away for decades – by comparison, Russian state repression looks downright civilized. What a lovely world we live in…

Clara: And finally, the news website Al-Jazeera just released a fantastic interview with imprisoned anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond. He talks about his politics, how getting sloppy around security led to his arrest, and how he is absolutely unapologetic for his actions and plans to stay active long beyond his release from prison, which he sees as a “temporary inconvenience.”

Alanis: At one point the interviewer refers to how the sentencing judge criticized him for his intention to create “maximum mayhem” through his actions. Does he regret using that language? No way, said Jeremy: “I am all for mayhem, for real.” Clara: We love you, Jeremy. We’ve got a link up to the full interview on our website.


Alanis: We mentioned in our last episode the upcoming trial of Luke O’Donovan, a young man in Georgia facing serious legal charges for defending himself against a homophobic attack. Today we’ll be speaking with Sam and Bernadette, two of Luke’s supporters, for some updates.

Thanks, y’all, for taking the time to speak with us.

Sam: It’s no problem. I really appreciate the chance to be here.

Bernadette: yeah, thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about Luke.

Alanis: Can you give us some background on Luke’s case?

Sam: On New Year’s Eve, 2012, Luke was at a party…

Bernadette: …in Reynoldstown, a neighborhood in northeast Atlanta.

Sam: Luke was attacked by a group of men…

Bernadette: He was jumped by at least five men, maybe up to twelve, and called a faggot. He was stabbed three times in the back and during the course of the fight he gained control of the knife and used it - did this in self-defense, and thought that the fight was going to end his life, and used the knife to escape. Luke was immediately taken to the hospital where he was met by police.

Sam: Luke was taken to prison and now faces five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of attempted murder.

Bernadette: None of the other men were charged.

Alanis: What happened at Luke’s first hearing in court?

Bernadette: The first time that Luke was in court was for his self-defense immunity hearing. During this time, Luke was supposed to be eligible for immunity from any charges if the judge said that he was acting in self-defense. The argument here was that Luke had been called a faggot and was being attacked for being gay, and responded with the knife in order to defend himself. During the immunity hearing, the prosecuting attorney compared the word “faggot” to non-offensive terms like - I’m quoting here - like “pussies” or “bitches”, and also like babies.

Sam: The prosecution’s main point in this was that words like “faggot” or “gay” are not homophobic when they are used to describe someone as weak, or being a “baby” or whiny. They also said that it wasn’t homophobic for a group of straight men to call Luke this while attacking him, hitting them with their fists and actually stabbing him.

Alanis: Given the hostility of the judge and the very long amount of time in prison Luke risked if he went to trial, it makes sense that he accepted a plea agreement. What happened in court last week?

Sam: Luke was offered a plea by the prosecution of ten years, do two.

Bernadette: Luke was sentenced to a ten year term, two years of which he has to serve in prison, and eight years of which will be on harsh probation, where he has to do drug and alcohol tests weekly. These are the conditions that he had agreed to before sentencing. Due to prior agreements, the plea deal went through, but the judge, seemingly in frustration, added this additional condition where Luke will be banished to the South Georgia Judicial Circuit.

Sam: And so at the end of trial, once everything was said and done, the judge struck his gavel and banished Luke from the state of Georgia except for Screven Couty, which several days later was found to be an unlawful ruling, so the judge had to right himself by banishing him from Georgia except for the Southern Judicial Circuit.

Bernadette: This is four hours away from where Luke previously resided and has always resided, and seems absolutely intentionally a measure to separate Luke from any and all of his support, and actually I think encourage him to leave the state.

Sam: This of course was horrifying to us and Luke, and was not the pre-negotiated plea that was originally offered to Luke.

Alanis: So Luke is now in jail in Atlanta, awaiting transfer to a state prison where he’ll serve the remainder of his two years. What can we do to support him?

Sam: Well, there are several things. First and foremost, write to him, write to Luke. His information can be found on the website,

Bernadette: There’s a video that he made before he went in, listing themes and topics that he would like to be written about. Luke needs money for commissary while he’s in prison. He is vegan, and so he needs money for vegan food.

Sam: He is not getting vegan food currently. TAnd so there will be a call-in day, in which people can call the jail and ask for Luke to get vegan food.

Bernadette: He also needs money for writing materials, stamps, etcetera, and other amenities. You can donate on the website. Also, we’re about to launch a campaign to attempt to overturn the banishment.

Sam: There are some postcards that have been printed to be sent to the judge - they already have his information printed on them - to try and get him to recant Luke’s criminal banishment; that’s one of the hardest things Luke’s facing right now. The postcards we can send to people from other states if you email letlukego at gmail dot com. You can also print them out yourself; they’re on the website.

Alanis: Sam and Bernadette, thanks so much for speaking to us.

Sam: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Bernadette: Yeah, thank you.

Alanis: We’ve seen reports of a number of actions in solidarity with Luke so far, including an attack on a political party office in Germany, smashed police cars in North Carolina, graffiti in Minneapolis, a demo at the US embassy in Helsinki, Finland, a demonstration and march in the Hague, Netherlands. We’ll keep you posted on any developments in his case; in the mean time, you can get his address or learn more at


Alanis: And now it’s time for listener feedback! We left it out of our last episode just because it was already so epically long, and we didn’t want to test your patience any further, dear listeners.

Clara: But now we’ve got plenty to catch up with, and more that we’ll have to leave for future episodes. Thanks to everyone who’s written in!

Alanis: First, we want to apologize for our last episode being SO LONG! We didn’t really mean it to be that way… we just got carried away with all the things we wanted to include.

Clara: A question for all of you listeners: do you have an average length you’d prefer for each episode? If you’d prefer us to cap each one at an hour, or to let ‘em go as long as we please, or some other perspective on it, please let us know – podcast at crimethinc dot com.

Alanis: Next, we received mail from a couple of listeners offering some corrections to our discussion of early anarchist women’s history in the last episode.

Clara: One listener wrote in and informed us that the word feminism had actually been coined by the utopian socialist Charles Fourier.

Alanis: The one who claimed that after the revolution the seas would lose their salt and become lemonade?

Clara: Yep, that’s him! Supposedly he coined the term in 1837, a solid thirty-some years before we claimed it first appeared.

Alanis: That’s an interesting theory, dear listener… but it’s totally not true! We found several sources that repeated this Fourier 1837 theory, but we couldn’t find the original source, try as we might… until we tracked down a fascinating little article by one Karen Offen, which attempts to track the circular genealogy of this claim. And, it concludes, there’s nothing to it. She combs through his collected writings, but finds no trace of the word “feminism.” As she writes,

Clara: “What is more, the 1837 date given with SUCH ASSURANCE by these authoritative dictionaries seems to be a TOTAL MYSTIFICATION. 1837 was the year of Fourier’s death, and a year in which he published almost nothing.”

Alanis: Now, Fourier was in fact quite radical for his time in terms of his advocacy of women’s emancipation, and should certainly be seen as a proto-feminist, as well as an influential figure on many early anarchists. But as for the coining of the word, we’re sticking with the original claim we made in the last episode - coming from historian Estelle Freedman in her book No Turning Back and cross-referenced in our online sources - that dates the word back to its first usage in French as “le feminisme” in the 1870s.

Clara: But we also made some undeniable mistakes in our last episode. Listener Sylvie K pointed out that in our discussion of the life of Lucy Parsons, we misidentified the union she cofounded, the Industrial Workers of the World – the IWW, the Wobblies – as the International Workers of the World. Geez, that’s embarrassing. Just a typo, sorry everybody. I blame autocorrect. But thanks for catching that.

Alanis: But that’s not all – far more grievously, we made another error when we identified the IWW as an anarchist union. In fact, as Sylvie K explained, “The IWW was and is not an anarchist union, although many anarchists have belonged to it. Many socialists and people who would not identify themselves as either anarchist or socialists have also belonged to the IWW. This info can be confirmed in various histories of the IWW and at their official website.”

Clara: We checked said website at, and under a page titled “The IWW Stance on Political Parties and Anarchism,” we found the following clarification:

Alanis: Where does the IWW stand on political parties? Is the IWW anarchist? These questions are a source of lively debate outside of the IWW and sometimes within the ranks, however, the simple answer is this:

IWW General Bylaws, ARTICLE IV, Political Alliances Prohibited- To the end of promoting industrial unity and of securing necessary discipline within the organisation, the IWW refuses all alliances, direct or indirect, with any political parties or anti-political sects…

Clara: I think that means us!

Alanis: …and disclaims responsibility for any individual opinion or act which may be at variance with the purposes herein expressed.

This leads some to argue that the IWW is an anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist union and/or organization, but that is also not the case. That is not to say that either anarchists or non-anarchists are unwelcome in the IWW, quite the opposite, in fact. The IWW is open to all workers.

Clara: We apologize for the mistake. Most of the present-day IWW organizers we know are anarchists, but perhaps that’s more a function of who we know than an inherent feature of the union. Of course, that makes sense, because the union’s principles are compatible with anarchist values in a way that those of most unions are not. But that’s not the same as the Wobblies being an anarchist union.

Alanis: Also, I’ve always wondered – why are IWW members called “Wobblies”?

Clara: Well, according to their website… no one actually knows.

Alanis: Really?

Clara: Yep.

Alanis: Huh.

Clara: There are four different theories, none of which are completely confirmed. It’s been a nickname for IWW folks since potentially as early as 1911, but the actual origins of it are still mysterious.

Alanis: Well, in any case, the mysteriously named Wobblies are not and have never been an explicitly or exclusively anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist union, let the record show.

Clara: Sorry for the mislabeling, everyone.

Alanis: And unfortunately that’s not all we messed up last time. Sylvie K went on to point out that our characterization of Seattle anarchist Louise Olivereau was also incorrect. We referred to her as an IWW organizer; in fact, she worked as a stenographer in the IWW office. This may seem like a minor point, but it turned out to be pretty major in the life of Louise Olivereau, in fact.

Clara: According to the sources Sylvie K sent us – which are listed on the show notes for this episode, if you want to read more – "During the summer of 1917, Louise Olivereau was a stenographer for the secretary of the Lumber Workers, a division of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in downtown Seattle… Olivereau had read widely on political theory, and she followed the writings of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman. She had become a Socialist in 1909 but grew disaffected; by the spring of 1917 she considered herself a philosophical anarchist, embracing the belief that individuals function better without the constraint of any government. Although never an IWW member, she did work in the Seattle office and believed that the organization represented the principles of anarcho-syndicalism.

Alanis: In August of that year, she mimeographed and mailed out letters and circulars encouraging young men to refuse the draft and become conscientious objectors, on her own and at her own expense. Federal agents raided the Seattle IWW office and confiscated literature, and arrested Olivereau when she went to reclaim the stuff they’d stolen. The feds tried to pin the anti-war agitation on the IWW, but Olivereau insisted she’d done it as a lone wolf, and in court gave an impassioned defense of anarchist ideals.

Clara: She was convicted under the Espionage Act, which criminalized anti-war activity, and sentenced to ten years in prison. According to labor historian Sarah Sharbach:

Alanis: “From the time of her arrest until the close of her trial, the IWW offered Olivereau no material or moral support. The union’s newspaper, the Industrial Worker, carried just one article concerning the case, and it appeared a full week after the close of the trial. Equivocal in tone, the brief editorial pointed out that Olivereau was an anarchist and that her actions had no connection with the IWW. ‘We can,’ the paper cautiously noted, ‘without either condemning or commending her anti-conscription work, yield an ungrudging admiration for the brave stand she has made in defense of the principles which she holds dear.’ Equally ambivalent was an article that appeared in the One Big Union Monthly almost two years after the trial: it praised her ‘heroic stand’ but declared that ‘we cannot thoroughly sympathize with Miss Olivereau’s purely individualistic position.’ The IWW held that her ‘appeal to the individual conscience to right social wrongs, is based on a misconception of society’ since the ‘real conflict… is between classes, not individuals.’”

She served 28 months in a Colorado penitentiary before being paroled.

Clara: Wow, how about that? So much for solidarity. Anyway, thanks again to Sylvie K for the corrections and the fascinating research. If anyone else catches any mistakes, let us know by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com.

Alanis: Alright, what’s next?

Clara: Well in episode 25, we took on the World Cup in Brazil and the protests against it.

Alanis: But on reflection, it occurred to us that our perspectives on them were informed by not being sports fans; in our comments as well as in the Dialectical Delinquents piece we shared, it wasn’t hard to be pretty scathing about the politics of the sport because we don’t actually have any love for the game. So we decided to get in touch with Gabriel Kuhn, an anarchist writer and former semi-professional soccer player originally from Austria. He’s the author of a book called “Soccer versus the State,” an exploration of the history and global politics of the sport, and we figured he’d have an interesting perspective. He responded to the Dialectical Delinquents critique by saying:

Clara: "Basically, I agree with everything that’s being said in the piece. The only thing that leaves me uneasy is the suggestion that soccer supporters are ‘the cowardly enemy within, always playing safe, always faking it, always avoiding the depths and staying on the surface’. It disregards the many supporters who really love the game of soccer, which there is nothing wrong with – it’d be a poor world where the love of games becomes a concern. Of course, one can argue that we’re not supposed to love anything co-opted by capitalism – but, honestly, what is then left to love? All the major Situationist tracts are sold on Amazon.

“More importantly, though, what does such a critique mean for political practice? Are we satisfied with pointing out how fucked up the World Cup is? That might allow us to occupy the moral high ground, but it’s not going to change anything. Besides, it’s easy to take that route for people who aren’t interested in soccer, or sports in general. But how about those who are? The ones who want to watch soccer being played at the highest level despite the disheartening environment this entails today? Wouldn’t it be politically more promising to try to change that environment? For example, by breaking FIFA’s stranglehold on the game through protests on the streets and in the stadiums; by democratizing the game and its administration; by campaigning against cynical expenses and corporate interests that alienate the working-class fan; by encouraging players and supporters to take a stand; by founding our own sports clubs and creating sporting environments of a different kind? Of course, there is little reason for folks with no interest in sports to join them. Plenty of other political organizing needs to be done, and, arguably, much of it is more important than trying to alter the world of sports. But the latter is important, too, and it doesn’t help liberation to stand in the way of relevant efforts or to dismiss them altogether. Many of us are fond of the term ‘total liberation’; fine, but if it’s going to be total, it needs to include sports as well.”

Alanis: …or does it? I’m not sure. I guess that depends on what we mean by “sports.” If we just mean athletics, collective ways of running around and having fun, than of course, by all means, let’s get exercise and enjoy ourselves in an anarchist society! But in what we understand as soccer today, there are some characteristics inherent to how it’s organized, even on an informal or non-professional level, that we can critique politically: gender segregation and focus on men’s sports, emphasis on competition rather than cooperation, etc. And what I liked about the Dialectical Delinquents piece was its focus not on the game itself, but the function that sports spectacles play within capitalism as a diversion away from the material concerns of our lives.

And I’d add to that the way that being a rabid sports fan functions as a kind of micro-nationalism, with its flag waving and blind allegiance to the team, right or wrong, for no real reason other than it’s “yours,” whatever that means. I mean, did any of y’all growing up in public schools ever have to go to a “pep rally”? When I read 1984 by George Orwell, the part about the “Seven Minutes Hate” freaked me out so bad - not just because it’s horrifying, but because it reminded me so vividly of middle school and high school pep rallies: a rehearsal for embodying blind allegiance and passionate group hatred, training wheels for militarism and national patriotism.

Anyway, point being: you could argue that total liberation has to entail a liberation of sports as well, but a liberation that frees us from patriarchy, nationalism, consumer capitalism, and all the rest might actually not be able to accommodate most sports at all, at least as we know them today. I might be more inclined to fight for liberation from sports than for the liberation of sports.

Clara: I dunno, Alanis, I think you still have some childhood sports trauma clouding your perspective a bit.

Alanis: Ouch, below the belt!

Clara: C’mon, I think you missed the point of what Gabriel was saying. For one, recognizing that mass sports spectacles like the World Cup serve a certain function as a distraction from revolution and material concerns implies that we should critique the process and mechanisms of mass distraction, not necessarily the form or content itself. You could make the same argument about all entertainment under spectacular capitalism, from Rihanna to The Simpsons. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which we can appreciate soccer - as well as Rihanna and The Simpsons- without being induced to do so by an economic and political system intent on keeping us numbed and entertained to prevent us from transforming our lives. And when we focus our critique on the game itself, and on folks’ love for it, we’re just alienating ourselves from all the people who find that sports speak to them on some level, and that the camaraderie generated by shared love of a sport or a team offers a source of connection and meaning in contrast to the isolation and atomization of life under capitalism.

And that camaraderie can be profoundly political! The Contradictionary definition for “Hooliganism” we shared last time made this point. The Carsi football club were crucial to the fight for Gezi Park in Istanbul (we shared an excerpt from the Global Uprisings interview with one of them in Episode 5); the Ultras in Egypt that took a leading role in the fight against Mubarak; St Pauli supporters were a huge part of the anti-police rebellions in Hamburg, Germany in recent months; and I could go on. In an era when nearly everyone is disillusioned with politicians and parties and the whole song and dance, I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more often these “non-political” forms of affinity are the basis for profound challenges to the ruling social order. So maybe to you the kinds of changes Gabriel mentions soccer fans fighting for - you know, anti-corporate campaigns, making the games accessible to working class fans, etc - might seem like reforms to a system that should just be abolished. But from the perspective of “fighting where you stand,” the potential of mass sports as a site of conflict and resistance could be really promising. In some parts of Europe, explicitly radical football fan clubs are some of the most active and confrontational political forces, challenging racism, sexism, homophobia, and police violence among people who wouldn’t feel any stake in those conversations or movements otherwise. And we saw that happening in Egypt and especially Turkey as well, when cross-pollinations between militant football fans and other rebellious social movements exchanged ideas and tactics that further radicalized everyone. Shouldn’t we be seeking every potential site of conflict and resistance that we can?

Uh, Alanis?

Alanis: I’m still mad about the childhood sports trauma thing. That was a low blow.

Clara: OK, I’m sorry.

Alanis: Thank you. Now: on a certain level what you’re saying just sounds like familiar boring “it’s better to work from within the system because you can reach more people that way” - which is antithetical to an anarchist approach to the world! What’s the point of being an anarchist if you subscribe to that logic? Sure, lots of people are in to sports. That doesn’t make them promising or full of potential; it just means that they thoroughly reflect the bullshit and hierarchy that’s shot through every level of our society! All of these liberal and socialist and communist revolutions have fetished the masses and mass appeal and mass communications and mass media, and look where they’ve gotten us: mass societies held together by the carrot of mass entertainment and sports spectacles and the stick of mass policing and surveillance, with mass production and mass consumption leading to mass environmental devastation and spiraling down towards massive disaster and death.

Clara: Uh, I don’t think…

Alanis: I’m not finished. Now, this perspective of “critique the system that pacifies you, not the content the system deploys to pacify you” - I think that’s helpful to a certain extent, in keeping us focused on what we actually need to dismantle to get free. (Otherwise we risk getting distracted in the exact same way they intend us to be distracted by these spectacles, except in reverse. As in, if we’re talking about the World Cup and soccer nonstop, even critically, they’re still determining our focus and diverting us from the broader picture.)

But: that doesn’t negate the actual critiques of sports themselves. You could argue that the gender segregation is just a function of patriarchy, and that the emphasis on competition is just inflected by capitalism, and that the micro-nationalism of the soccer fan is just a consequence of broader nationalisms… but if you strip all of these things away from soccer, what are you left with? Militant football fan clubs may play a role in these uprisings, which is cool, but to be honest, organized groups of angry men with blind allegiance to a team getting into fights actually doesn’t sound like an exciting revolutionary development to me; it sounds at best like more of the same old shit, just directed against the police for once, and at worst a foundation for grassroots fascism. The fact is, when I was growing up I experienced sports and sports fans as part of a process of oppressive gender socialization, tools for instituting blind obedience and hierarchy, and mandatory distractions from material concerns and other more exciting passions. There’s nothing to reclaim, no potentially revolutionary essence to distill.

In short, I fucking hate sports and I see no radical potential within them.

Clara: Wow, tell us how you really feel…

Alanis: I will, thank you.

Clara: Who knew this would touch such a nerve? This is a fascinating debate, but I think it’s beyond the scope of what we can cover in this episode. Maybe we should devote an episode to anarchist perspectives on the politics of sports!

Alanis: Uh, no thanks.

Clara: Whatever, Alanis. If any of you listeners would like to hear an episode on sports and anarchism, write in and let us know your ideas and what you’d be curious to hear about.

Alanis: Or feel free to write in with suggestions for episodes that would actually be interesting and relevant.

Clara: In other words, topics that Alanis doesn’t have sensitive feelings about.

Alanis: Anyway - drop us a line to podcast at crimethinc dot com if you’ve got something to say.


Alanis: And now it’s time to share a piece of the CrimethInc Contradictionary. This episode is brought to you the letter R: Reformism and Ringleader.

Alanis: For more reflections on the war in every word, visit


Alanis: On August 9th 2014, a young black man named Mike Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, a near northern suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Brown was unarmed, and witnesses say that he had his hands up as officer Darren Wilson shot him six times. While protests following police killings of young black and brown men have become commonplace in the last few years, the scope of the unrest around Brown’s death is unprecedented. While the news blew up around the world on Twitter and Facebook, angry people in Ferguson took their lives into their own hands and took to the streets, burning and looting stores, firing guns and molotov cocktails at police, and volleying back teargas canisters with gusto. The burned-out QuickTrip gas station, which allegedly called the police on Brown, has become the unofficial headquarters for over 10 days of sustained defiance to the police and the forces of order.
The police’s clumsy handling the killing have only fanned the flames. They first refused to release Officer Wilson’s name or file charges against him, and subsequently attempted to impose a midnight curfew in order to curb the riots. When it became clear that very few people would honor the curfew, the Governor of Missouri deployed the National Guard in order to restore order to the area. The first account we’ll be sharing in this theme segment was written ten days after Brown’s death, by residents of St. Louis who have participated in the struggle, and helps paint a clearer picture of what has been going on in Ferguson. For more of their writings and accounts of the situation, please visit or follow the link on our website. Clara: West Florissant is a major street that cuts across North St. Louis County and North City. A quarter mile stretch of the road has been the primary gathering place for protesters. Just outside that stretch, in a strip mall parking lot, is the joint staging area for the various Police departments, the Highway Patrol, and the National Guard. The small stretch is home to many looted and burned businesses including the QuickTrip or “QT”, which has become a landmark, tourist destination, and gathering place for protesters. Canfield Drive intersects with this stretch of West Florissant, leading to subdivisions and the apartment complex where Mike Brown was killed. Police fear to venture too far down Canfield. On the days when the police allow traffic to flow, West Florissant becomes congested with vehicles, many of which are loaded down with passengers, both inside and out. Routine activities include blasting music, squealing tires, and taunting the police with cries of “Fuck 12!,” doing doughnuts, and taking runs at the cops, only to brake at the very last minute. People jump from car to car in celebratory fashion, chanting, flirting, singing, drinking, and smoking. When police lines shut down the street on either end of the stretch, cars pour in from side streets to do more of the same. And when the protesters get rowdy enough, people openly drive up to stores, fill their cars with looted goods, and escape back into the neighborhoods. A significant number of protesters are armed. In the first few days, a common tactic was to fire shots in the air to scare the cops off when they got too close. Some people openly talk of going to war with the police and don’t hide the fact that they are carrying. In the last few days, people have begun shooting at the police. Tragically, the only people hit so far have been a handful of protesters, some of them with life-threatening injuries. People are beginning to advocate for more restraint with the gun fire and better aim. The rebels (and the police) have no experience with such a situation. Revolt like this hasn’t been seen in America since the 70’s. People are learning how to make and utilize Molotov cocktails, barricades, projectiles, and fire, as well as learning when and where it makes sense to attack. Coordination and communication are difficult outside moments of rioting. Perhaps it’s because there’s no safe and comfortable place to gather and share ideas. The QT could potentially serve this purpose; however, as of Tuesday it has been entirely fenced off. The second night of unrest must have involved some exceptional coordination as crews smashed up stores all over the metro area, filling their cars with all sorts of goodies. The police are caught in a bind and are seeing the limits of using force. If they keep their distance protesters riot, but when they come with force they inspire more people to come into the streets, leading to more riots. At this point, if they want to crush this thing they have to convict Darren Wilson (the cop who shot Brown) of murder. But the wheels of justice are slow. In the meantime, they’re going to have to work to divide the protesters. In their desperation, all of the time-tested dichotomies are being deployed: protester vs criminal, honest vs opportunist, resident vs outsider. Unfortunately the police have a long list of accomplices willing to do the work for them, most of whom are fully aware of what they’re doing. From the New Black Panther Party to the Nation of Islam. From HOT 104.1 to FOX News. From nonprofits like Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment to the Organization for Black Struggle. From Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton. From rappers Nelly to Tef Poe (Po). From current St. Louis Mayor Slay to future St. Louis Mayor French. And the list goes on. While they may be succeeding on TV, radio, and social media these loudmouths aren’t having as much success on West Florissant (despite their own reports to the contrary) – and that must scare the shit out of them. It’s worth mentioning that social media is where they have had the most success. They’ve become pros at getting twits who will never go down to Ferguson to retweet their fewer-than–140-character reports ad nauseam. In return, the twits get to feel as if they’re a part of something. Maybe these rumors, half-truths and lies will prove to be damaging to people, but most of it is transparently conspiracy theory bullshit to anyone with critical thinking skills.

There are still far more black protesters than white on West Florissant, but there seems to be more diversity as the struggle continues. Early on comments directed at white protesters such as, “Why are you here?” were answered with “Man, she hates the police too!” Now if the presence of white protesters is even noted, it’s more along the lines of “thank you for being here.” A sinister few liberal and leftist groups have tried to spread absurd stories that small groups of white agitators (or even KKK infiltrators!) are tricking black protesters into going on the attack. The racist underlying assumptions about the exploitable nature of black protesters makes sense when you realize that’s exactly how groups like the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party view them. Back in the real world, white protesters are just now starting to catch up with some of the ferocity of their black comrades, who’re grown enough to make decisions for themselves.

The authorities engaged in some good cop/bad cop games by putting Ron Johnson (a black officer who grew up in North County) in command of police operations. During the light of day, he and his officers take off their riot gear and walk alongside protesters. This trick has worked on the self-imposed protest leaders who openly work with Johnson to control the crowds.

There are countless calls from the Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party, and their socially conservative ilk for women to go home, for strong black men to step up, and other such patriarchal attempts divide the protesters. The first couple days these calls were met with tremendous resistance from mostly black women, who would respond with “Fuck you, go back to church,” or “I’ve been here from day one,” or “It’s our babies who’re dying”. The constant harassment seems to have taken its toll, as fewer women are out, especially after dark. But women are still out front taunting the police and rushing into stores to get theirs.

Nearly all who attempt to restrain the actions of the most confrontational and declare themselves leaders of the community are over 40. Aside from physically stopping young people from acting, they try to ostracize them from the protest. These wise elders may walk around with a paternalistic aura of authority, but the youth aren’t fooled, saying: “I can’t listen to these old heads, been sayin’ the same thing for years”; or, “This peaceful marching ain’t workin’, without the looting nobody would’ve gave a shit about Mike Mike.” Still they continuously call for the boys to grow up and be men and for the young women to go home, because the streets aren’t safe for them.

There are some indications that the liberal groups are distancing themselves from the city of Ferguson. They are beginning to organize rallies and civil disobedience in Clayton and Downtown St Louis. Maybe they’re giving up their campaign to control the angry elements. Maybe they’re trying to put a more peaceful media-friendly face on the movement. Maybe they’re just trying out new strategies for getting justice. Only time will tell.

The situation in Ferguson is scary. It’s easy to understand why some, especially those who live near the activity, want a return to normal: bullets, tear gas, sound cannons, check points, fire. But despite all this, there are a sizable number of us who don’t want a return to normal. We descend on West Florissant day and night to figure out how to avoid it. To us, the struggle is not limited to justice for Mike Brown and the conviction of a single cop of murder in a court of law. We are doing this for ourselves, our friends and family, as well as Mike Brown. We’ve already found this system guilty: the racism, the class structure, the government, the police. When the “peace” you are continuously urged to return to looks like powerlessness, humiliation, poverty, boredom, and violence, it shouldn’t be a surprise how many choose to fight. And to witness the ferocity with which some of us fight, it’s almost as if we’ve been waiting for this moment our entire lives. Two nights ago people took a run at the police command post, forcing the authorities to call in the National Guard. Previously this would have been unthinkable, but then again just two weeks ago this whole thing would have been unthinkable.

And so we raise a shot of looted gin – A TOAST! May we continue to surprise each other.

CNN: Nine nights of unrest with no end in sight to the violence, teargas and arrests. Peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson who have failed to keep the peace blame outsiders.

Alanis: On August 19, ten days after police murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a slew of corporate media stories appeared charging that “criminals” and “outside agitators” were responsible for clashes during the protests. CNN alleged that “all sides agree there are a select number of people—distinct from the majority of protesters—who are fomenting violence,” quoting a State Highway Patrol Captain, a State Senator, and a former FBI assistant director to confirm this.

Today’s militarized police understand that they are operating on two different battlefields at once: not only the battlefield of the streets, but also the battlefield of discourse. So long as most people remain passive, the police can harass, beat, arrest, and even kill people with impunity—certain people, anyway. But sometimes protests get “out of hand,” which is to say, they actually impact the authorities’ ability to keep the population under control. Then, without fail, police and politicians proceed to the second strategy in their playbook: they declare that they support the protesters and are there to defend their rights, but a few bad apples are spoiling the bunch. In this new narrative, the enemies of the protesters are not the police who are gassing and shooting people, but those who resist the police and their violence. When this strategy works, it enables the police to go back to harassing, beating, arresting, and killing people with impunity—certain people, anyway.

Sure enough, a few hours after these articles about “criminals” and “outside agitators” appeared, the St. Louis police killed another man less than three miles from Ferguson. Here we see how defining people as “criminals” and “outsiders” is itself an act of violence, setting the stage for further violence. You can predict police behavior at protests with a fair degree of accuracy based on the rhetoric they deploy in advance to prepare the terrain.

So when we hear them say “outside agitators,” we know the authorities are getting ready to spill blood. All the better, from their perspective, if people buy into this rhetoric and police themselves so no officer has to get his hands dirty. This is often called for in the name of avoiding violence, but self-policing returns us to the same passivity that enables police violence to occur in the first place. How many people would have even heard about Michael Brown if not for the “criminals” and “agitators” who brought his death to our attention? Self-policing also preserves the impression that we all choose this state of affairs of our own free will, reinforcing the impression that anyone who does not is an outsider.

What is an “outside agitator,” anyway? Deploying the National Guard to a town of 21,000 people—isn’t that outside agitation? When Occupy Oakland was in the news in 2011, there was a lot of rhetoric about “outside agitators” coming to the city to start trouble with police, until it came to light that over 90% of Oakland cops lived outside of Oakland. Surely if anyone deserves to be labeled outside agitators—in Ferguson, Oakland, or any other community around the US—it is the authorities.

But what about people who come from out of town to participate in protests? The CNN article claimed that “among those arrested are residents of Chicago, Brooklyn, Washington, San Francisco, Austin, Des Moines, and Huntsville, Alabama, according to jail records.”

This might sound like convincing evidence to middle class readers. But anyone who has been poor and precarious knows that the permanent address you give when you are arrested may not be the same as the place you actually live. You might give a different address because you aren’t sure your current housing will last, because the landlord doesn’t know your place has more people in it than are named on the lease, or simply because you don’t want local vigilantes to know where to find you. Instead, you might give a more reliable long-term address, perhaps from another state.

Still, let’s imagine that some of these arrestees who gave out-of-town addresses are in Ferguson for the very first time. Wouldn’t that make them outside agitators? Perhaps it would, if the issue was specific to Ferguson alone and they had no stake in it. But in Chicago, Brooklyn, Washington, San Francisco, Austin, Des Moines, and Huntsville, Alabama, the police have killed black men under identical circumstances. The militarization, brutality, and systematic racism of the police are in effect all around the country, not just in Ferguson. When people are suffering the same forms of oppression everywhere, it makes sense for us to come to each other’s assistance, to make common cause.

The authorities call it outside agitation. We call it solidarity.

So long as we understand the problems we face individualistically, we will be powerless against them. Solidarity has always been the most important tool of the oppressed. This is why the authorities go to such lengths to demonize anyone who has the courage to take risks to support others. Throughout the civil rights struggles of the 20th century, participants who are celebrated as heroes today were tarred as “outside agitators.” The term has a long history on the tongues of racists and reactionaries.

In this light, it is ironic, if not unexpected, that one of the corporate media stereotypes of the “outside agitator” is the “white anarchist”—as if all anarchists were white. It’s no longer considered tasteful to call people race traitors, so the allegation is inverted: white people who fight alongside black and brown people must not have their best interests at heart, certainly not as much as the police and corporate media do. Although declaring oneself an anarchist does not magically free a white person of the racism that pervades our society, it is racist indeed to attribute all the unrest in Ferguson to “white anarchists,” denying the existence or agency of black and brown participants.

CNN: Is it fair to blame the problems on people from outside Missouri?

Woman: No, it’s us, it’s us that’s outraged, it’s St. Louis Missouri residents that are outraged.

This is the corporate media attempting to play a race card of its own, in order to create divisions between those who struggle against police brutality. It’s not surprising that the authorities would seek to create discord along racial lines—one of the chief reasons race was invented was to divide those who would otherwise have a common interest in overturning hierarchy.

To emphasize this once more, we have to understand the deployment of rhetoric about “outside agitators” as a military operation intended to isolate and target an enemy: divide and conquer. The enemy that the authorities are aiming at is predominantly black and brown, but it is not just a specific social body; it is also an aspect of our humanity, a part of all of us. The ultimate goal of the police is not so much to brutalize and pacify specific individuals as it is to extract rebelliousness itself from the social fabric. They seek to externalize agitation, so anyone who stands up for herself will be seen as an outsider, as deviant and antisocial.

This would be more likely to succeed if most people were integrated into comfortable places in their power structure. But the problem with their strategy, at this particular historical juncture, is that more and more of us are finding ourselves outside: outside a steady workplace, outside a recognized position of political legitimacy, outside the incentives that reward people for keeping quiet. We are finding ourselves outside, and finding each other. We are finding that it doesn’t make sense to go on being docile, that our only hope is to stake everything on fighting together for our collective survival rather than contending amongst ourselves for a place in the hierarchy.

Next time, the authorities will be lucky if the disturbances are confined to a single town, so they can accuse those who go there of being outside agitators. The racism and police brutality for which Ferguson is now infamous are widespread. The next conflagration could spread everywhere, like Occupy did. Stop killing us, or else.

Alanis: The second piece of our theme segment, entitled “The Making of Outside Agitators,” was taken from a recent Crimethinc feature article. For more analysis about Ferguson and other uprisings, visit


Alanis: This episode on the Chopping Block, inspired by the rebellions in Ferguson, we’re taking a look at anarchist analyses of other struggles that have unfolded in the wake of police murders. In particular, we’ll examine “Unfinished Acts”, a discussion of the Oscar Grant riots in Oakland, and “Unforgiving and Inconsolable”, a collection of texts about the response to the death of Chuy Huerta in Durham, North Carolina.

Clara: On New Year’s Eve 2009, a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer murdered an unarmed Black man named Oscar Grant in Oakland at the now famous Fruitvale Station. Grant was shot in the back, execution style, and unfortunately for the police the murder was captured on a cell phone camera. When the video was released, protest erupted, ultimately resulting in a night of rioting as black, brown, and white protesters took to the streets, attacked police cruisers, set dumpsters on fire, and fought running battles with the police.

Unfinished Acts, a 40 page zine compiled by participants in and around Oakland, takes that night of rebellion as its point of departure, and traces the subsequent year of rallies, marches, and conflicts. The zine consists of first-hand accounts, maps, a timeline and script of the events, and reflections on its broader significance, as well as an introduction assessing its impact on the subsequent Occupy movement. Themes discussed include the complicated dynamics of race and reaction, the support organizing for Grant’s family and for those arrested, and the interplay between different combatants on the streets of Oakland. In particular, the zine does an excellent job reflecting on the role of anarchists, a minority but important force in the events, while analyzing different methods of recuperation used by the state and its loyalists in the activist Left.

In many ways, the lived experience of anarchists in these heated moments, and the analysis they produced in its aftermath, set a crucial precedent for future upheavals. The events surrounding the murder of Oscar Grant became a kind of template for the rebellions that have played out in several cities since then, as local communities of color respond with outrage to the increasingly militarized brutality of law and order in their neighborhoods. Likewise, patterns of activist recuperation, as well as so-called “outsider” agitation and intervention, have emerged as well, as broader societal anger towards the police coalesces in these moments.

Four years later, a similar though smaller series of outbursts took root in Durham, NC. “Unforgiving and Inconsolable” focuses on the outrage that shook that city in the winter of 2013 following the death of 17-year old Jesus “Chuy” Huerta while in police custody. Along with a number of rallies, three marches over three months tore apart the city council’s narratives of patience, peace, and reconciliation. Hundreds took to the streets, including members of the Huerta family, skateboarders and friends of Chuy, and local anarchists, attacking the police headquarters and a police substation near the site of Chuy’s arrest, and defending themselves with rocks when cops shot tear gas. The zine assembles a broad array of communiques, reportbacks, public statements, and analyses written over the winter by a variety of participants.

While these two killings and rebellions were very different, as were the cities and contexts that framed them, a number of common themes connect the two situations and these zines documenting them. In both situations, the question of the supposed “violence” of the protestors was deployed by the police and the media – often in collaboration with certain community activists and self-appointed leaders - to divert attention away from the ongoing violence of the state. In Oakland and in Durham, many forces fought for the right to represent the wishes of the family, or of the black or Latino communities, or various other positions of legitimacy, and aimed to exclude or police others on that basis. However, the events made clear that a community, an identity group, or even a single family can have many different contradictory interests or desires. In each rebellion, media and police discourses attempted to isolate anarchists as outside agitators and violent troublemakers with no regard for the grieving families or the community. Yet in both instances anarchists were able, at least at times, to make connections in the streets across lines of difference while challenging state, media, and leftist efforts to control the narrative.

While the events in Ferguson clearly demonstrate many themes in common with the revolts after the deaths of Oscar Grant and Chuy Huerta, neither of these publications offer the final word on such explosions of public outrage and anti-police anger. Revolt against the police simmers everywhere just beneath the surface, threatening to expose the most fundamental tensions in American society along the axes of poverty, race, and punishment. These revolts are sure to continue, each with their own unique potential and limitations. Anarchists can consult these texts for insights as we grapple with difficult questions of strategy, tactics, white supremacy and complex racial dynamics, and how to participate in these potentially insurrectionary moments of grief and rage.

Alanis: Both zines are available to print or read online; “Unfinished Acts” through the Bay of Rage website, and “Unforgiving and Inconsolable” from the southern anarchist publisher North Carolina Piece Corps. We’ve got links to both posted on our website,


Alanis: Well, that just about wraps things up, except for Next Week’s News. What events have we got coming up, Clara?

Clara: As we mentioned last time, anarchist book fairs are taking place on August 23rd in Philadelphia and Seattle, as well as the Connecting European Struggles gathering in Lund, Sweden.

Alanis: And if you’re still not busy that weekend, Rising Tide North America is holding a continental gathering in Whitesburg, Kentucky to mark the tenth anniversary of the Mountain Justice movement. Find out more at Rising Tide North America dot org.

Clara: The 23rd is also the birthday of Belarussian anarchist prisoner Mikalai Dziadok. Did you send him a video postcard yet? Get more info at

Alanis: There’s an anarchist book fair in Stockholm, Sweden on August 31st, as well as a Libertarian Media Fair in Essen, Germany on the 29th and 30th. And the Balkan Anarchist Book Fair will take place in Mostar, Bosnia on the 5th and 6th of September as part of the annual Mostar Anti-fascist Festival. You can find out more at [](].

Clara: Back in the US, there’s a national Anarchist Black Cross gathering from September 12th to 14th in Denver, Colorado. And that same weekend the TORCH Anti-fascist Network and South Side Chicago Anti-Racist Action will host a day-long antifascist gathering with workshops, meetings and music.

Alanis: Jason Sutherlin, one of the imprisoned antifascists from the Tinley Park Five, will be getting out of prison at the end of September! Supporters have organized a campaign for his release fund; we’ve got the link up on our website.

Clara: On September 19th–21st, folks are camping out in Utah to share stories and reconnect to the land as a part of the ongoing resistance to Tar Sands oil production. Find out more at Tar Sands Resist dot org.

Alanis: Also on September 19th through 21st the New York City Climate Convergence will take place; a call has gone out for an anti-capitalist bloc at the march on the 21st.

Clara: And don’t forget about the 10th anniversary of the Really Really Free Market in Carrboro, North Carolina on October 4th.

Alanis: October 4th has also been declared a global day of action against the use of drones for surveillance and killing by Code Pink and other groups, with events happening in various places around the world.

Clara: And last but most assuredly not least, some prisoner birthdays.

Alanis: On August 23rd, former Black Panther and underground revolutionary Maliki Shakur Latine;

Clara: Also on August 23rd, Russell Maroon Shoatz, whose collected writings we reviewed on the Chopping Block in Episode 8;

Alanis: Incidentally, if you’re in the Philadelphia area this month, folks are hosting a “Linen for Liberation” birthday pool party to celebrate Maroon’s first birthday out of solitary in 22 years. The website describes it as a “Grown and Sexy Family Affair,” so if you’re interested, check out the link on our website.

Clara: On the 31st of August, Ronald Reed, civil rights activist and Black United Front revolutionary;

Alanis: And on September 4th, Joel Bitar, a New York City anarchist extradited to Canada to serve time for actions at the G20 protests in Toronto.

Clara: And that’s all for this episode of the Ex-Worker!

Alanis: We’ve still got more to say about anarcha-feminism, so next episode we’ll return to the critiques of gender and society leveled by anarchist women in the late 19th and early 20th century. Till then, always feel free to drop us a line to podcast at crimethinc dot com, or to give us a rating on iTunes. Till next time…

Clara: Shout-outs to everyone in the streets in Ferguson and beyond. Stay strong and fight foul.

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