submitted anonymously –
On Sunday, December 17th a group of around 50 people gathered to answer an anonymous call to “Blockade The Genocide”. It was a group greatly varied in its participants, young and old, anarchists and Christmas elves on strike. People brought Palestinian flags and black flags, supplies to make signs, a banner reading “END US AID TO GENOCIDE, FREE PALESTINE”. Black T-shirts were shared with participants who were shown how to tie them around their heads and after a quick huddle the group took off into the dystopian depths of the warehouse logistics region that is the economic heart of Thurston County.
Outside a handful of regular pissed off drivers, the walk to the target was uneventful with good energy. Upon our arrival to the Amazon distribution center the workers closed the gate for the truck exit and we set up shop. A popup canopy went up and from there 60 tamales were offered up, people were making signs, chalking, tagging, playing soccer and a small speech was given about why we were here:
-Amazon supplies the tech infrastructure for Israel’s Project Nimbus via a 1.2 billion dollar contract to both Amazon and Google to provide cloud infrastructure, machine learning and artificial intelligence for both governance and military capabilities to prop up the apartheid state and ultimately more efficiently engage in ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people.
-Amazon also provides the cloud infrastructure for ICE’s Investigative Case Management (ICM) system which aggregates and analyzes a vast amount of private and public data to track, capture and deport migrants. This connects with the ongoing 38 day hunger strike (as of 12/18/2023) and now a boycott of the commissary by migrants held captive at the Northwest Detention Center over mismanagement of their cases, COVID outbreaks, price hikes in the commissary and a general deterioration of conditions.
-Amazon also maintains a real time surveillance network in our neighborhoods via Ring Cameras and they have warrantless and without user-consent data sharing agreements with over 2000 police departments nation wide including Olympia and Lacey police departments.
While this was going on barricades began to spontaneously materialize out of thin air blocking the roads. Branches, logs and other scrap wood, remembering what they once were before the nightmare forces of colonialism and just in time logistics tore up their habitat, decided to jump in with the rebels to hold both pigs and trucks at bay. While this was going on, the crowd got a few honks and raised fists from truck drivers on the other side of the fence, and a Palestinian worker excitedly came over to talk to us through the gate about how excited he was that we were there and gave us some info on scheduling and the trucks leaving through the other gate before he was ushered away by Amazon security.
At this point, a u-lock materialized on the gate and half the crowd split off to blockade the other gate. On the approach they immediately blocked an inbound truck and soon more supplies taking on a protagonist role of their own decided to jump into the fight – tables, cones, trash cans, truck jacks, rocks and loose fences appeared blocking the second gate as well as the police. Amazon workers closed the second gate and mysteriously a thick chain and lock appeared around it. Perhaps a paranormal investigator should come look into this curious phenomenon.
Coming up close to the 4 ½ or 5th hour of the blockade the two groups reconvened as it started to get dark and numbers began to dwindle. Pulling a speaker blasting Rage Against the Machine, the crew that had been holding down the exit gate joined back up with the crew at the entrance gate which was playing Uno, tagging the Cat heavy equipment across the street, and vibing. More cops were starting to show up and everyone decided it was a good time to take our win for the day and dip all together rather than wait for numbers to dwindle and risk a sketchier dispersal in a hostile and unfamiliar territory. The goal was that we come and leave on our own terms rather than waiting to get swept out by the cops and on that note we did well! The walk out was chill and uneventful but the actual dispersal was the least smooth part of the day. Everyone made it out okay, though we are unsure if people were detained on the way out.
Overall the action was a success – trucks were physically blockaded from entering or exiting for hours and for JIT logistics on a tight schedule this was great, there was a pretty large backlog of trucks that couldn’t get in or out. The vibes were immaculate and unhinged and the energy was great. Communication within the crowd felt calm, thorough and intentional, although not having a way to communicate between the groups when we split up outside of some people running back and forth wasn’t ideal. With honestly kind of small numbers for such an ambitious action – organized explicitly in an anarchist way inviting people to come with full autonomous participation in support of each other with no large formal organizational or NGO backing – we did fucking great. Of course it wasn’t the perfect action but it’s also only one small step and many more steps will follow.
What follows are some reflections and takeaways:
Who Organized This?
“No human activity is possible without organization, at least if we understand for “organization” the coordination of the mental and physical efforts deemed necessary to achieve a goal. From this definition we can deduct an important aspect, which is often forgotten: organization is functional, it is directed towards the realization of something, towards action in the broadest sense of the word.” – Archipelago: Affinity, Informal Organization and Insurrectional Projects
A common question that repeatedly came up is “who’s organizing this?”. The proposal for the action and some basic facilitation – scouting and research, preparatory agitation and reaching out to others, etc. – was done by some anarchists, but the actual organization of the action was done by everyone involved at every step of the way. Everyone who contributed to this action – sharing the action and inviting friends, making plans, bringing food and supplies – was doing the practical organizing to make it happen. We did not do this alone, we could not do this alone and everyone who was a part was a core organizer.
When we talk about things like autonomous organizing what we are talking about is exactly this, that people came together with their own plans and supplies and this is what made it happen. People brought food, music, soccer, sign making material, black t-shirts for face masks to share, flags, banners, etc. Every person and crew who was invited was encouraged to come with a plan, an activity, or something fun to share – the action was going to be what every participant made it. This all took effort and coordination and contributed to the energy and success of the action. We focus on this because we want to make explicit the things that people are already doing that is organizing. We want to kill the idea of “the organizer” to create a movement that is courageous, creative and has the capacity to think and act for its self, on its own terms both individually and collectively. We all fight, we all organize and no one person, crew or organization can lay claim to what we all make happen.
To get a little bit into how we facilitated this – some people had an idea and talked to friends, excitedly a broader meeting was called within our networks to pitch the idea, go over goals, needs, desires and tasks. Then when we all felt confident with the idea and information we had, a broader meeting with individuals, crews and organizations that we have relationships with was had where information was shared and the pitch was opened up for people to make their own. After that, the public call was anonymously put out.
A bit of critique on this note, there are some groups that we wanted to reach out to but didn’t get a chance to and not checking in with each other about it led to a confusing situation with one group where it was assumed they had been reached out to, someone reached out to them under that assumption only to find out no one had actually reached out to them. It’s important to have clear internal communication and checking in with each other to make sure we have done the things we say we’re going to do or otherwise share the burden and help each other out for when we over commit and fall short.
It doesn’t take much, but it does take having and putting in the effort over a long time to make relationships of mutual trust and respect. You don’t have to wait for other people – and certainly not for us – to have an idea, call a meeting, put out a call and make action a reality.
Leadership & Autonomy
It seemed like for a good chunk of the crowd this was their first time going to an action like this and were putting a lot of trust in an anonymous call to action. This created a situation where people often asked others what to do and people responded in a great way which was something along the lines of “Personally I’d do this but you should trust your judgement and do what you want to do.” Pretty quickly people got into the swing of just doing things.
Somewhat relatedly a comrade who was often on the mic offers this: “Mics, speeches and chants and shit can very easily create an informal leadership or representative position and I think in some instances I fell into what I felt was an authoritative role at times – directing rather than opening possibilities or giving opportunity for autonomous decision making. I think part of autonomous organizing is having comrades step in when they see this and call it. I didn’t see it at the time but on reflection I saw it. There were times when people, even other anarchists, came to me with questions and suggestions to announce stuff. I understand that people are very rightfully adverse to doing things like calling for huddles or taking a mic but for the comrades who do take up that task it can put us in a really awkward and uncomfortable position as well as make us able to be singled out as leaders for repression. Our crews and networks should have more conversation about this, about sharing the burden, and finding ways to really make autonomy flourish and kill the leadership role as it arises in struggle!”
Arrival and Dispersal
Arrival and dispersal are often the least prepared for parts of an action and tend to be the most hectic. Every situation and terrain is so vastly different so it’s hard to give any good advice but there are some general lessons which can be distilled from this action and we should encourage deeper thinking of this and sharing of this knowledge in the future.
It’s generally a bad idea to park in the same area as the meet up spot for an action, especially so if it’s a zone that’s easily blocked off. From the moment we leave our homes until we get back the action isn’t over and it’s not great if the police get your plates or stop you on the way out. Sometimes you have to park far away and make a hike into a zone. Having designated drivers to bring people in and out of an area can be a good idea but this also has to be planned carefully to get close enough but not so close you can be spotted by police.
For dispersal, sometimes it’s best to not directly go back to your vehicle or pick up point. Finding some woods or bushes to hide in for a while can be really useful or finding a nearby business to go into and look around or buy something. This is one of those things you’ve got to use your best judgement for, sometimes you just need to hide, sometimes it’s chill to leave, sometimes you have to hike through a fuck ton of forest brush.
There was little in the way of immediate police repression. They mostly made a perimeter, did traffic control, sat back and filmed/took pictures. On top of police surveillance there were also cameras all over the area and very high powered cameras on the Amazon building that – being the dystopic tech giant it is – we assume had other capabilities like body and face recognition.
That there were no immediate arrests doesn’t mean there won’t be arrests in the future and this is part of why we stress protecting identities and using anti-surveillance tactics like black bloc or grey/normie bloc and umbrellas/large banners to obscure visibility.
Anti-repression is an ongoing, every day practice we all engage in to keep ourselves and each other safe. Here are some tips on active anti-repression measures to take:
-We would suggest getting rid of the clothes you wore that day, especially if it was bright or otherwise easily identifiable. In most cases for something as tame as what happened this isn’t necessary (but always advised), but due to the level of active surveillance and posturing by local law enforcement it’s highly advised.
-Be careful with social media, it is a snitch and is one of the most common ways people get caught. Ideally people involved in liberatory struggle do not have social media at all and are building alternative (ideally IRL) ways of community building. For various reasons this isn’t always possible. The next best thing is having it private but this does not make it secure. Or having both a public and private but again not secure and it’s easy to connect the dots. The main point is to not post incriminating information online of yourself or others and secondly and ideally not post things that identify you as having attended an action. Sometimes that last point isn’t possible or desirable for various reasons, use your best judgement.
-If police identify you, they may show up to your home – even if you did “nothing wrong”, but that’s entirely up to police and prosecutors to decide, not us. Firstly, they are allowed to lie to you but no matter what they say you do not have to talk to them. Unless you are arrested or the driver of a vehicle, you do not have to and should not identify yourself. You also don’t have to if you’re arrested but they won’t let you out of jail until they ID you. The only thing you should say to police is “I am invoking my 5th amendment right to remain silent. I want to speak to a lawyer.” Anything else can potentially incriminate you or someone else. If they show up to your house do not let them in without a warrant and if they have a warrant ask to see it and make sure it’s signed by a judge and carefully examine the contents of it. They will probably come in regardless, police violate peoples rights all the time and get away with it but it can help in a court case down the line. IF YOU ARE CONTACTED BY POLICE, LET PEOPLE KNOW ASAP AND CONTACT YOUR LOCAL ANTIREPRESSION CREW – Olympia Jail Support can be reached at OlympiaBailFund (at) protonmail (dot) com, Puget Sound Prisoner Support in Seattle at psps (at) riseup (dot) net, or in case of harassment by federal agents contact the National Lawyers Guild federal repression hotline at (212) 679-2811.
One interesting thing as far as surveillance goes, which needs more research to verify, is that earlier in the action the Washington State Patrol Spy Plane was circling the area, but midway through once a fog started rolling in it was no longer around. Weather is hard and unpredictable to plan around but things like thick fogs or heavy rains, while miserable, can provide much needed visual cover and make surveillance much harder. Of course these require much more material preparation to make tolerable especially for long term actions.
Shoutout To Other Anti-Amazon Actions
We also want to give a shout out to other anti-amazon, Palestine solidarity actions that have taken place on the 17th and 18th!
On the 17th, people in NYC got together at a Whole Foods – which is owned by Amazon – and all wearing Jeff Bezos masks and rushed in en-mass, expropriated food and other goods and redistributed it for free elsewhere. They claimed this under the moniker of BDS – Boycott, Divest, Shoplift.
On the 18th, XR Seattle blockaded and shut down the Amazon BFI4 in Kent, WA
On the 18th in Central Point Oregon people shut down work at the construction site for an Amazon warehouse.
Who knows what other exciting anti-amazon actions people will take? The time is always right to strike and targets are everywhere!
“The onrush of a conquering force is like the bursting of pent-up waters into a chasm a thousand fathoms deep.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Confidence multiplies, victories beget victories. Small wins build our confidence in ourselves and each other and prepare us to take bigger, more daring actions. A 5-hour blockade – or longer, depending on how long it took them to clear the barricades, cut the locks and chains, reconfigure scheduling and logistics, etc. – will hardly make a dent in Amazon’s pockets. But the knowledge and confidence from a small victory enables us to return because sustained picketing and blockades could force them to cut their losses and shut down that particular warehouse. A reproducible action can be picked up by people across the region, across the country to make sustained strikes against Amazon’s infrastructure.
For the future, that area around the Amazon warehouse also hosts two other targets of note, a Whole Foods distribution center which is also owned by Amazon and a new CAT dealership (NC Machinery) which provides military bulldozers to the IDF which are used to destroy Palestinian homes and run over and bury countless Palestinians. Very close to home it was a CAT armored bulldozer which crushed and murdered Rachel Corrie from Olympia who tried to stop the IDF from demolishing a Palestinian home.
Targets are everywhere in the region and anarchists and other autonomous rebels should waste no time in laying plans. Amazon, Whole Foods and CAT are obviously everywhere but also Boeing which provides military equipment to the IDF is all around Seattle, RE/MAX which is a large Denver based multinational real estate company which deals in stolen territories in Palestine is also all over the region and fuels gentrification and displacement here, and around Seattle there are investors and subsidiaries of Elbit Systems one of Israel’s largest weapon suppliers.
As a side note, we’d like to send a greeting to some anarchists we reached out to who, for one reason or another, decided this action wasn’t worth supporting. Abdication of struggle is also a form of recuperation and pacification, but it’s much more insidious because it is self inflicted. Obviously we do not extend this to comrades who could not make it for various reasons – work, crisis, other struggles they are engaged in. We fight in the conditions we have with the movement we have, not sit and wait for the perfect conditions and ideal movement. It is only by acting and getting our hands dirty (and yes this includes thinking, reflection and strategizing) do we change our conditions and build our movements. Even if you don’t feel confident showing up to an action, perhaps there’s other ways you can support? Or some direct feedback you can offer on what would make you feel confident showing up to it or to future actions?
This goes just as much for comrades who – much more understandably – tell people to not go out to certain demos because they’re organized by awful groups. Sometimes this is the right call but just as much there are dissatisfied people who want to do something more that we can reach out to and build connections with, or we can more actively intervene and agitate in their demos, or we can use the presence of their demos to organize our own action and split attention of security forces. We must think creatively, think expansively, and think confrontationally.
We must look hard at the current state of Palestine – Israel does not hide its genocidal intentions. Historic churches and mosques, archives, libraries and every university in Gaza have been destroyed. Graveyards bulldozed. Tens of thousands killed, millions pushed into an area the size of Olympia. International aid blocked, there is no clean water, people are starving, the healthcare system is destroyed. Amazon makes this possible. The United States makes this possible. The entire western world makes this possible and cheerleads for it. Can we look this horror in the face and rise to what the occasion calls for us to do?
Remember, the future belongs to the daring.
By fire and stone, Palestine will be free!
Long live anarchy!