Report-back From November 24th Ferguson Solidarity Demo

Two separate meet up points were called for the Seattle area on Monday after
it was announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing
Mike Brown. The first met at Westlake at 6 and the second met at Seattle
Central at 7. Around 7:30pm the two crowds converged at Pike and Broadway
swelling to about 200-300 people. There a moment of silence was held for 4.5 minutes, representing the four and half hours that Mike Brown’s body laid
uncovered in the street after being shot. Afterwards, The crowd began to
march towards the Police Precinct at 12th and Pine, where a brief confrontation happened with the police who were manning the barricades they had set in front of the precinct. At this point a conflict between protesters in the march also erupted, there was a clear sense that many different groups were trying to shout each other down, with many people in the crowd openly arguing in the streets. After about ten minutes People continued shouting and chanting and setting off roman candles. As the crowd set off in the direction of downtown people began to chant, “fuck downtown lets go to the CD”.

As the march moved towards the CD people chanted, screamed, set off
fireworks, and dragged things into the street. Eventually, the march made its
way to the Garfield Community Center where the city and police were holding a “community meeting” to dialogue about the no-indictment decision. This space was an obvious attempt to keep people off the street and keep anger funneled into “positive change” in the wake of the grand jury decision. The
motivations for people in the crowd to enter the meeting were varied, but no
one was fooled by this obvious attempt at cooption. A portion of the march
continued inside the building and demand that the police leave the
discussion. Meanwhile, outside the rest of the march gathered and there was a
brief confrontation with a police cruiser, as fireworks were shot at officers
on bikes and in cars.

Around this point a suggestion was made to take the freeway. At first, this
seemed like a far-off goal as the crowd was still a considerable distance
from both I-90 and I-5, but as the march made its way further south into the
Central District this seemed like a more and more realistic possibility.
There was a brief standoff with the police at Rainier and Jackson, during
which a smoke grenade was thrown at a line of bike cops (the bike cops
instantly scattered). Politicians from the RCP tried to pontificate over
their bullhorns about their bullshit pretty much every time the group stopped
in an intersection, but were repeatedly met with personalized jeers and told
to shut up. The group continued toward downtown on Jackson and the atmosphere was excited and jubilant. As the march got within a block of the freeway ramps people started jogging and tried to rush the line of bike cops who were blocking the ramps. After being turned away at the off-ramp, they ran the other way to the on-ramp and were again met with a line of bike cops. At this point a tense stand-off ensued. The police fired pepper spray canisters and flash-bang grenades into the crowd, and the crowd returned antagonisms,
throwing road flares, fireworks, traffic cones and other projectiles.

Prior to the exchange of projectiles, the crowd was divided between those who desired to expand the scope of the conflict beyond a limited call for
“justice” for Mike Brown, and those who intended to compartmentalize and
manage the conflict. However, after the pepper spray and flash-bang grenades, more and more people could be heard chanting “Hands up, shoot back!” rather than “Hands up, don’t shoot!” Disparate elements within the crowd came together to keep each other safe, to wash out the eyes of those hit with pepper spray, and to push back at the cops. There was a palpable change in attitude; “This is about Mike Brown!” changed to “Fuck the police!”. The line of bike cops succeeded in pushing the crowd off of the on-ramp, but people managed to make it onto the highway anyway from another entrance about half a block up.

Many seemed apprehensive about taking the highway and the cops came around and prevented the majority of the group from making it onto the highway. But the 10 or so people who made it on brought northbound I-5 to a complete stand-still. They were closely tailed by police and briefly detained. At this point the rest of the crowd was watching and following those on the highway from up above. A giant mortar firework was thrown from above into the middle of a group of cops, successfully distracting them as the rest of the group moved past. One person was arrested on the highway and was charged with reckless endangerment and criminal trespassing. After the rest of the group got off the freeway, everyone joyfully regrouped at the next ramp and turned back up toward Capitol Hill.

On the way back to the hill the energy of the crowd, while still divided, was
distinctly angrier. People had been peppersprayed and the echoes of flash
bangs still rung in many people’s ears. Traffic cones, outdoor signs from
businesses and other objects were dragged in the street in an attempt to keep
the back line of police vehicles from advancing. Nearly the entire march had
been flanked by bike cops using the sidewalks, people in the march responded
by strategically moving dumpsters and other debris to block the sidewalk and
keep the police at bay. As the crowd wound its way back uphill businesses
including a Wells Fargo Bank were attacked with projectiles while RIP Mike
Brown and FTP were spray-painted along the route. Eventually the group found itself back in the same confrontation that started the night at 12th and
pine. The group had dwindled to less then 100 and was focusing its attention
on the police precinct itself until it eventually dispersed of it’s own

An over arching theme of the evening was the divides between those wishing to control or manage the conflict and narrative and those who wished to
highlight the fact that Ferguson, from the beginning has been about more then
just Mike Brown. The riots in Ferguson back in August, and those last night
are clear indications that the generalized rage against all police
institutions has reached a tipping point. This conflict of intentions was
made clear at the outset of the march when people shooting fireworks or
chanting “fuck the police” were confronted as “white co-opters” of the black
communities response to the death of Mike Brown. Similarly, a sound system,
brought for the entire march to use was deemed “offensive” by some and
prevented from being used. This and other tactics of control are emblematic
of groups from the Left and individuals wishing to push their own personal
and political agendas instead of creating space for the varied reactions to
this and any police killing. Some of this stranglehold was coming from
organized political groups like the RCP, but some also came from individuals.
These tensions, although somewhat alleviated by the police pitting themselves against the crowd as a common enemy after the attempted highway blockade, maintained throughout the march.

There is no singular role anarchists play inside of these moments, the aims
achieved are as varied as the desires expressed. When confronted with the
internal and external policing apparatuses such as were evident last night
the best thing to be done is to help hold space open for anyone wishing to
engage. This can be done by consistently confronting those interested in
managing these demos. A semblance of this was attempted last night in both
physical and verbal confrontations with those with megaphones and in
maintaining an antagonistic presence. If repeats of the level of escalation
seen last night and beyond are going to be possible, it will be necessary to
keep showing up and not backing down even when a percentage of the crowd is hostile to it’s grip on the larger body being wrenched from them.

Another solidarity demo has been called for on Saturday night:

At war with the world? Upset that the the pig who fucking murdered Mike Brown is still alive? Disgusted that the RCP continues to try to stop people from expressing their rage? When the RCP and other self-appointed cops showed up in Ferguson the first time, they tried to bring an evolving insurrection to a halt, but they won’t be able to do that this time around. Feel free to express your rage anytime and anywhere, but if you’d like company then join us Saturday night.