Modern residents would hardly recognize the Bay Area as it was in the days of the Ohlones. Tall, sometimes shoulder-high strands of native bunch-grasses…covered the vast meadowlands and the tree-dotted savannahs. Marshes that spread out for thousands of acres fringed the shores of the Bay. Thick oak-bay forests and redwood forests covered much of the hills…
…Packs of wolves hunted the elk, antelope, deer, rabbits, and other game. Bald eagles and giant condors glided through the air. Mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes—now seen only rarely—were a common sight. And of course there was the grizzly bear…These enormous bears were everywhere, feeding on berries, lumbering along the beaches, congregating beneath the oak trees during the acorn season, and stationed along nearly every stream and creek during the annual runs of salmon and steel head.
-from The Ohlone Way
On Columbus Day, 2012, the people of Oakland awoke to find a few dozen banks and other parasitic entities vandalized. Paint was splattered all over the walls, glass littered the ground, and the windows of the City Hall were being repaired that sunny morning. This was the first time in recent memory where the holiday was commemorated with destruction, disdain, and disorder directed at the fine and noble institutions of capitalism and colonialism.
Downtown was abuzz with chatter about what had happened the previous night. The mayor and the rest of the city bureaucracy felt bereaved, having had the windows and doors of their fair temple smashed once again. They complained to the media, lamenting the fact that on Columbus Day, in front of City Hall, there was supposed to be a fan rally for the Oakland A’s wherein all the problems of the world could momentarily be forgotten. Unfortunately for them, no one walking downtown that day could forget so easily. There was still anger in the atmosphere, lingering on despite all hope for the contrary.
The world that grew from the Spanish Missions, the world that created the rows of houses, the paved roads, and the electric lights of the metropolis was attacked the night before Columbus Day. The colonial world, the old world, the linear virus that extends in all directions: this was the target. Before the virus created this metal, glass, and concrete landscape, the land that is now downtown Oakland was a vast marshland filled with countless mammals, birds, and fish. These marshes sustained human life and enabled the Ohlone, Miwok, and other tribes of the area to live without an empire, exterminatory wars, or hunger. The Bay Area was a giant cauldron of life before colonization, just as it is now largely a cauldron of death.
Let us look no further than the image of Alan Blueford chalked on the bricks in front of City Hall and let us remember how he was killed by a psychopathic police officer while he was on the ground screaming. Let us not forget the indifference of City Hall towards his death or the cold words of Ignacio De La Fuente, the aspiring fascist dictator of the city. And let us not forget that there will be no prosecution of the cop who killed Alan Blueford. This is the system of death, and for just under an hour on the evening of October 7th it was assaulted by the chaotic forces of life.
But let us be clear, the forces of life are small, and they are enmeshed within the system of death. Our counterforce is stuck paying rent, working, and stealing whatever we can in order to survive. Our time is mostly out of our hands, and what little extra there is of it is spent trying to combat our enemy.
On Friday, October 5th, a small group of people met at the Montgomery BART station on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. This city, the center of colonial expansion in the Bay Area, is host to the consulates of various nation-states. The small group of people, numbering just over thirty, stepped out onto the streets and marched to the Canadian consulate, handing out fliers explaining how the US, Mexico, and Canada are engaged in an exterminatory war against the earth and its inhabitants, determined to extract as many resources from the soil as possible before their system eats itself.
They stood for ten minutes in front of the building while in the sky fighter jets tore through the air during their annual display of fascist technology. After leaving, the group continued to march down the street towards the Mexican consulate near the entrance to the Bay Bridge. As they marched, the people on the sidewalk stared at them and their banners in bewilderment before being distracted by the jets in the air and soon forgetting what they had just seen. Once the group reached the Mexican consulate, a few people read aloud the text of their flier. They were drowned out several times by the terror in the sky. The group dispersed without incident, signaling the start of a long weekend.
The next afternoon, a group of nearly two hundred people met at Justin Herman Plaza on the waterfront in San Francisco. They assembled for an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial march that would make its way through the financial district. Almost immediately, it was clear the police were not going to allow this march to take place. They confiscated a pirate-ship float that had been constructed for the march and destroyed it, they sent in a few old and feeble cops in plain clothes to take pictures of the participants (one of whom was fortunately assaulted and scared away), and declared the march illegal before it had finished walking a single city block. Perhaps knowing their efforts would be cut short, people began hurling paint at the police soon after discovering their presence on the street was a crime. The march lasted ten minutes before being attacked by the police. Twenty people were arrested and taken away to jail. The jets continued to fill the air with terrible noises. The banner that the people had marched behind read RESIST GENOCIDE – DESTROY WHAT IS CIVILIZED.
On the evening of October 7th, people met at Oscar Grant Plaza for a march remembering the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan by US and NATO forces. Around two hundred people stood in a circle, drank tea, and listened to each other speak their minds about why they were there, where they came from, and what they wanted for the future. It felt like the best parts of the old general assemblies: togetherness, patience, strength. One speaker compared the smashing of windows to slinging rocks at a tank. She did not condemn either tactic. When I heard these words from her mouth, I spent then next twenty minutes realizing that she was correct in her comparison. Both tactics do little damage to their monolithic targets. Smashing bank windows has not brought down capitalism, just as slinging rocks has not freed Palestine. But, just like her, I cannot and will never condemn either tactic. They represent the force of life, desperately lashing against what it knows it cannot immediately stop, but determined to do it just the same. With her words, the speaker reminded me (and possibly others) of the infinite and proud nature of life. The march through downtown was powerful, angry, and left a clear, unmistakable message that could not be ignored as easily as the events of the preceeding days.
I in no way want to glorify or glamorize our inability to effectively destroy the forces and projects of our enemy. We are all caught in a web and other humans have taken the place of the spider. So often we attack each other and leave the web intact. To say we are doing the best we can is an overstatement. We are simply doing what we can, attempting to build off even the smallest success and increase the likelihood that our next efforts will mutate and transcend our past barriers and limitations.
DOWN WITH DEATH
LONG LIVE LIFE
With direct solidarity to:
-The EZLN, the imprisoned fighters, and the autonomous and indigenous communities of Mexico
-The Grand Jury Resistors in the Pacific Northwest of the US
-Those fighting the tar sands and the pipelines in Canada
-The workers of the Foxconn factories in China
-The family, friends, and memory of Alan Blueford, RIP