Special to Phoenix Class War Council
“[When] we permit the police, Klan and Nazis to terrorize whatever sector of the population they wish without repaying them back in kind. In short, by not engaging in mass organizing and delivering war to the oppressors, we become anarchists in name only.”
Canisters are hurled into the sky, exploding into smoke as they hit the ground, only to kicked back towards the police. Purple smoke billows into the air, making its way upward, encircling the towering buildings. The sound of shots fills the street, as police fire round after round of pepper balls into the crowd. Your proletarian hero is at it again. I’m in the southwest now, Phoenix to be exact, and I’m standing on what appears to be a completely deserted street in the heart of the desert. Save of course for three groups: the anarchists, the Nazis, and the police. The latter two groups though, seem more of a coalition than two separate entities…One can almost hear the music in the background playing, “Wow-wow-wa-wa-wow…wa-wow-wow,” as if I was stepping out onto a street from a dusty old saloon, hand cocked on a pistol. But it’s smoke grenades that are rumbling past me – not tumble weeds, dear readers. Still, for the two groups assembled here today, this town is by no means, big enough for the both of us.
Taking a moment out of the riot, I pause to clutch my face, as my eyes and skin burn from a cloud of pepper spray that has made its way right for me. Through my burning eyes however, I notice that people aren’t running away. The line is being held. People fall back when the police attack, but only for a bit, just enough to avoid the gas. Then they regroup, aided greatly by medics and friends, cleaning eyes and helping comrades. Together now, they unleash rocks, bottles, and hunks of concrete, which rain down on the police and the group of about 30 Nazis behind their lines who carry American flags and shields with swastikas. I learn later that many within the Nazi’s group had to leave early because of the violence. Several newspaper boxes are quickly appropriated and placed in the middle of the street as a barricade. Together, people beat the boxes, making a primordial rhythm. A banner, one of the ones that the police have not yet taken and destroyed, reads ‘WE ARE WAR MACHINES!’ The crowd gathers again, some all in black with masks, others wearing only street clothes. They look at the advancing police army surrounding a group of Neo-Nazis and declare, “!No pasaran! They shall not pass!” I stopped to catch my breath as I realized that people have been doing this for close to an hour…
On Saturday, November 13th, several hundred people responded to a call from the Phoenix Class War Council (PCWC, say it again with me, Pee Cee Dub Cee), to face off against 20-40 members and supporters of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), perhaps one of the largest white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups currently in the United States. The NSM, which does about one public event a month according to the white nationalist website Stormfront, came to town in November of 2009. Like this year, in 2009 hundreds of protesters responded to a similar call as the NSM rallied on the steps of the State Capital. While police forced the NSM to shut down the rally ahead of time due to such a large and rowdy counter-protest, (which included a small amount of rocks thrown), the violence was nothing like what occurred on the 13th.
The scene from the street on Jefferson was one that does not usually play itself out for anarchists in the United States. I almost had to ask myself – was I watching a street battle in Europe or Latin America? No, this was Phoenix, not Athens or Santiago. We were in the almost nearly deserted downtown; surrounded by glass buildings and near empty streets, save for several stragglers, cars, police, and those at the protest. The riot against the NSM is perhaps the largest uprising that anarchists have participated in the city of Phoenix in the last 10 years, and its success brings up several points of discussion as anarchists continue to struggle and intervene in Arizona and around the world. Furthermore, the actions of the police only further help drive the nail in the coffin against the liberal notion of “free speech,” and leave only more sinister questions for the revolutionary movement.
“Who’s Streets? O’odham Land!”
Since the NSM made its way to Phoenix in November of last year, only to be escorted by the police back to their cars before their permit even expired – much has happened. Tensions over speed cameras have continued – as anarchists have pushed for a critique of them from an anti-border and anti-white supremacist perspective. Anarchists in the PCWC have continued to push the fractures and tensions with the Patriot/libertarian/constitutionalist movement, and instead support a pro-proletarian and anti-racist line of attack. In early December, anarchists helped shut down a speaking event of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, seen by many to be the figure head of the pro-law enforcement anti-immigrant assault on immigrant workers in the state. In January of 2010, anarchists in Phoenix helped organize for a revolutionary bloc within the massive march against Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Arpaio has become a focal point for the immigrant movement, as the Sheriff has made it a point of his administration to use his cops to make sweeps of various towns and deport thousands. But what made the bloc at the anti-Arpaio march different from others was the nature of who it represented. The bloc was called the DO@ bloc, and represented a union of Dine’ (Navajo), O’odham, and anarchists. In the North area of Arizona, Dine’ people claim their indigenous home, and in the area close to Phoenix and Tucson, O’odham people live, on both sides of the US/Mexican border. The indigenous and anarchist organizers of the march made it clear that the purpose of the march was to not only to stand in opposition to Arpaio and the state, but also against the recuperative and bureaucratic organizations that had called the march. As the call for the march read:
“We hope to use this formation on the streets at the January 16th march against deportations in Phoenix to project a vision for a different mode of resistance that breaks with the stilted, uncreative status quo that dominates movement organizing in town. This document is our explanation of the type of force we would like to put out there and why we think it’s necessary.”
The DO@ made a clear connections between the forces that oppress, destroy, and colonize indigenous communities, deport and hinder organizing of Latin American migrants, and attack working class “citizens” throughout the United States. That force is the economic system of capitalism, and the government that exists to make sure that that system stays in place. Again from the call:
“We recognize what appears to be an unending historical condition of forced removal here in the Southwestern so-called US. From the murdering of O’odham Peoples and stealing of their lands for the development of what is now known as the metropolitan Phoenix area, to the ongoing forced relocation of more than 14,000 Diné who have been uprooted for the extraction of natural resources just hours north of here, we recognize that this is not a condition that we must accept, it is a system that will continue to attack us unless we act. Whether we are migrants deported for seeking to organize our own lives (first forced to migrate to a hostile country for work) or working class families foreclosed from our houses, we see the same forces at work. Indeed, in many cases the agents of these injustices are one and the same.”
In mid-January however, at the end of the massive Arpaio march in which the DO@ bloc participated, the police moved in, attacking, punching, and arresting several people. The attack was un-provoked – with police clearly singling out the DO@ bloc for attack. Five people were attested, and ticketed with trumped up charges of assaulting an officer and rioting. As this article is finished, one young woman enters into jail for 30 days, while others still have charges pending or are facing various fines.
The police made one thing very clear: they were not interested in protecting the “free-speech” of those that were part of the DO@ bloc, which was part of a legal, permitted march. Their very presence was enough for the police to react with violence. The coming together of working class whites, anarchists, migrants, Chican@s, and Native peoples represented too dangerous a force to be allowed to publicly march. Proving to be the all too “loyal” opposition, Puente, a mainstream immigrant organization (the organizers of the march), denounced the DO@ bloc, supporting the police line that the marchers brought the violence on themselves by attacking the police first. Anyone who watches footage from the march can easily see that the police acted first against the marchers, and used the opportunity to make arrests, leaving various militants with hefty jail times and fines. The Puente leadership, which coddles up to the mayor and other city elites, has nothing in common with those in the DO@ bloc, so it’s clear why the lines are drawn between the revolutionary segments and the reformists.
It is also is not surprising that Puente did not make a public call to support resistance to the NSM – a call which could have brought possibly hundreds of supporters out to the event. Knowing that supporting such an event would lead their followers into a situation that they couldn’t control was too much for Puente. Groups like Puente see the management of these events and movements as an opportunity to gain supporters and thus power. We, however, are interested in getting organized against capital. Thus, many people I talked with after the anti-NSM riot were ecstatic about the possibility of many people within Phoenix waking up to the possibilities of action outside of legal, permitted, and tightly controlled protest. The anti-NSM riot showed that there was a new power on the street – one uncontrolled by any bureaucratic non-profit, forging a history and confidence on the street and between comrades in struggle.
As we continue, it is important for the rest of this essay to keep the attack on the DO@ bloc very much in mind as we talk about the resistance to the NSM in November of 2010, because as we will see, the police are willing to beat, arrest, and attack one group while protecting and in some cases, working with, another.
“And I can see through the walls now, we need to go to City Hall and try to tear the walls down!” -Willy Northpole
On November 13th, about 40-50 (a size that became smaller) Nazis with the National Socialist Movement were confronted in the streets of Downtown Phoenix by about 200-300 counter protesters. The group was made up a variety of groups, but the largest was made up of anarchists, Native warriors, and small groupings of Leftists, pro-migrant peoples, and religious organizations such as the Unitarians.
The day started with people gathering in front of the federal building, where the Nazis were planning to rally later in the day. A banner was dropped shortly after people began gathering around noon, and at about two, the Nazis were sniffed out by a roving black bloc, as they were marching from their parked cars (which was the same site as last year) to the Federal building.
The larger group waiting outside of the Federal building then started to run around the corner and down the street towards where the NSM was marching in formation with police out in front for protection. A standoff then began between the anarchist led group and the NSM protected by the police from about 2pm to about 2:40. The street was held and as expected, both groups chanted and traded insults. The fascists almost sadly jokingly begged the police to, “Move those Jews out of the way!” A friend that was positioned behind the Nazis videotaping got to here more back and forth interactions between the police and the Nazis, as the NSM became more and more angry that the police were unwilling or unable to move their march forward and get the group towards the capital. As 3pm quickly approached, more and more people within the crowd thought that as soon as the clock struck 3, the police would call off the rally and lead the Nazis back to their cars, being that their permit expired at that time.
The black bloc went into action around this time however, getting into a formation which allowed reinforced banners to hide the group and allow the militants the ability to launch projectiles. After several rounds of attacks launched on the fascists, the police sent in a snatch squad, and one section of the black bloc moved away from the front of the line in order to avoid arrests. However, after that section of the black bloc fell back, the snatch quad simply withdrew into the larger crowd of the police. It was around this time that the police decided to unleash the dogs of war, spraying the front of the crowd with pepper gas. At this time I had my back turned, and was trying to give a young hooligan my pink and black bandanna, when the gas entered the air and everyone started to run.
Far from being skeered, the crowd instinctively looked for the nearest projectiles and quickly returned fire. Medics and those in the crowd not throwing rocks and whatever else was humanly possible, helped those with burning eyes and skin tend to their wounds. The crowd quickly re-massed and again held the line. What then began was a running street battle between the police and the anarchists that lasted to 45 minutes, until the Nazis were finally delivered to the Federal building, which was located down the street. Anarchists during the skirmish acted with the utmost bravery, un-arresting people, taking blast after blast of pepper spray, and not being afraid to physically combat their enemies.
When the Nazis finally made it into the Federal building courtyard, they only stayed for about 45 minutes, as their tired and boring speeches were drowned out by the counter protesters who came to taunt them. Even NSM write ups of the event point out that NSM supporters were not able to hear the speeches or participate in the rally. Afterwards, the NSM members were taken back to their cars by the police. Cops then arrested two protest participants as they were leaving the event. Support work is being done as we speak to help the two young people who were arrested by the police, and charged with a variety of felonies.
Through the various affinity groups within the cities coming together and plugging in where they could, they helped to create the conditions that aided the larger organic uprising against the police and the NSM. These affinities and level of organization has also not come out of this air, but years of hard and ongoing organizing and various state wide meetings between various groups, collections, and organizations. Furthermore, people simply were not afraid of the police. Instead of running when police brought out the pepper spray, or when the advanced, they simply stepped back, and then again held their ground, all the while using the opportunity to attack with projectiles. As one friend said after being spray, “Your eyes hurt for a minute, but then you realize you’re still alive, and then you’re back in it.” This self-valorization – the process in which we discover new ways of life, relation, and become powerful through struggle – was all part of the spark which drove those fighting on the 13th. Through the pepper spray and hurled stones – you could make out laughter and see smiles, even through the masks.
Take the Knife Off the AK, Cut These…
“You better have you’re gats in hand, cause man…” -Biggie
It has to be said. People were packing, again. It was a thrill to see people in the streets running with us while packing on the side. Also, being in Arizona, who knows how many other people were also carrying concealed, which is legal without a permit. Like last time though, we can assume that the other side was doing the same thing. While a shoot out between the two groups would have been bloody, we should keep in mind that opponents to fascism are still armed and willing to openly show it
During the entire event, police acted and coordinated with those within the march. They were seen using hand signs towards the rest of those marching behind them, giving a clenched fist when they need the group to stop. At one point, police even moved to the right side of the street, allowing the NSM ‘stormtroopers’ to move to the left side of the street. Perhaps this was done in an attempt to move the anarchists out of the way, or simply bait them into attacking the Nazis, which was attempted, so they could then be gassed by the police.
Police also allowed J.T. Ready, a former Republican precinct committeeman and on and off again NSM member, to walk into the crowd to engage with protestors. At one point when the crowd began to hurl spit, insults, and projectiles at J.T. Ready, a large African-American man came up and protected him as he walked back into the Federal building area. He stated, “You have every right to be here.” This is interesting yet sad, considering Ready thinks that he has every right to deport this man ‘back to Africa.’ This man was later heard saying, “If they kids had better education in school, they would know that non-violence works…”
The thoughts and actions of this man represent the poverty of thought behind the “Free Speech” position. Though we’ve all heard it before, the idea of free speech is based upon the concept that the government of the United States allows us all the freedom to say what we want; to express ourselves politically in the peaceful way as long as we do not break the law. Thus, any attempt at limiting the free speech of others is an assault on the free speech of all of us, so the line goes. Furthermore, we should not attack those who which to do us harm, because the government exists to stop any sort of extremists that are attempting to illegally harm citizens of this country. Meaning, even if we don’t like them, Uncle Sam has our back and will take care of them.
The problem with this line of thinking is that the state and its police are not neutral. The state for example, has organized itself numerous times to attack social movements aimed at transforming and liberating society. The government attacking groups such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense are good examples. Furthermore, the entire COINTELPRO organization, during the 1960’s -70’s, was designed to stop and hinder social movements for liberation in the United States (and even some on the right). Through a campaign of disinformation, murder, and terrorism, the US broke apart, assassinated, and destroyed various organizations and people for the sake of keeping the status quo.
One need only take a trip to Berkeley, and visit the site where logging industry goons, instructed by the FBI, set off a bomb under the car of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, two Earth First! activists involved in protecting wilderness and unionizing loggers in the 1990’s – to see just how committed to “free speech” this government is. In this country, if you challenge capitalism in a meaningful way, you will face repression. This is why the state tries to steer us into legal avenues. Want to protest? Sure, get a permit and make sure the police are there to keep you on the sidewalk. Want to strike? Sure, make sure you go to the union bosses with your problems, they’ll work it out with management. Want to make the world a better place? Sure, get a job with a non-profit, which gets state money to do the work that the state used to do. To the state, you are only free to speak as long as you’re reading from their script.
And, we do not need a government to allow us to say what we want, and organize in public. As the Eugene based anarcho-punk band Axiom growled, dude, that’s a “natural power, not a right.” As we have seen, the government will stop us, with violence when they need to, when our movements become a threat to the established order. Lastly, we can’t rely on the government to protect us from right-wing racists who may simply talk about deporting mass amounts of people and imprisoning many more, when that is exactly what this government is clearly doing, especially in Arizona. The state is not here to protect us at all, and so, the state is not concerned with ‘free speech’ at all. States everywhere are designed to make sure that society does not tear it apart based upon class tensions; between those that own and control the means of existence and those that do the work in this society. It is thus concerned with keeping the social peace, and so sees revolutionary groups very much a threat.
Sure you’re angry! You have a right to be. So, write a letter, hold a sign, even read a socialist newspaper if you want! Just don’t go on wildcat strike, firebomb the police state, or loot a grocery store, or try and stop a Nazi march! We can say things in this society, but it’s important that it stays there. That is why the state is willing to attack anarchists within the immigration march in early 2010 while defending the Nazis in November. Police wanted to send the message that a demonstration legally sanctioned by the state (the NSM rally) was going to be protected with the full power of that state. And all those who were willing to do exactly what Hitler claimed was the only way to stop the rise of fascism, or “fighting them in the streets” – were going to be put down with massive force. The same way it wanted to send a message during the legal march against Arpaio by attacking the anarchists. Its message was to the immigration movement and was as clear as crystal. That message was this: get with the revolutionaries, and you will be arrested and attacked with the power that Unkie Sam can muster. Anyone who supports the idea and line of “free speech” supports the government’s platform. But we anarchists are not here to play by the state’s rules – we are here to destroy the capitalist government.
We must also keep in mind that regardless of whether the Nazis ever get close to power, the state already violently carries out the mass deportations and incarceration of huge segments of our population, often against communities that have been exploited by capital through colonialism and the racialization of the working class. To allow those that would use their actions to usher in yet another form of totalitarian government while we sit by, while another totalitarian government protects them, is sick and sad. People can say whatever they want, but when they call for genocide, violent deportations, fascism, and race war, they can only be met in the streets with force. The mouths that scream “free speech” one minute only to cry “race war” the next can only be argued with bricks, fists, and whatever means necessary. We will not allow the ideology of the bourgeois state to dictate our actions; we organize on our own terms.
When I returned from Phoenix, I began reading a lot about fascism, the Holocaust, and one of the ‘pioneers’ of Neo-Nazism in the United States, George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party (ANP). Rockwell is important, because after his assassination in the late 1960’s, former party members would go onto form organizations that would lead to the formation of the National Socialist Movement. Politically, the ANP, and thus the NSM who followed its lead, pursued an activist and electoral mode of organizing. If they were Leftists, they’d be as hard as racist ACLU members, or something. Anyway, for the ANP and the NSM, this means constantly being in the public eye, getting as much media as possible, and being on the streets whenever they can. The more they fly the flag, the more people will come rally to them. They contend that it’s only a matter of time before things get so bad that white people will wake up and realize that the NSM is the only game in town not taking it for the Jews.
Rockwell had standard politics for a ‘National Socialist’ at the time, although he stressed he was not a ‘fascist,’ because he supported free enterprise. More racist lemonade stands, and less racist state owned factories, yay! Rockwell never led an organization of more than 200 active ‘stormtroopers,’ or men that lived in ANP barracks and outfits, although the ANPs influence through supporters and literature reached out far beyond its membership base. What is interesting about the ANP though, unlike the KKK, is the importance that placed on staying inside the law. Rockwell envisioned that he could gain power by being in the public eye, making them aware of his program, and then during a time of economic downturn become more and more popular until he could run for President.
The ANP used the civil rights movement as a ‘point of intervention,’ hoping to gain support among those that opposed desegregation, Leftists, and supported the war in Vietnam. Strangely enough, Rockwell also saw the fact that they were called ‘Nazis’ and publicly displayed the swastika and gave the Hitler salute as a plus for the organization. Without the word “Nazi,” Rockwell commented, the news would not cover the ANP. With few members, police harassment, the threats of violence at all times, and low funds, ANP actions never went beyond simple rallying, passing out flyers, and giving speeches, and failed to awaken many “whites” to an Aryan consciousness. However, such organizing on the part of Rockwell did turn many onto Neo-Nazi politics, and helped to usher in a new generation of racists that today comprises groups like the NSM. While the ANP failed to take power, it did succeed in at least creating the next generation of foot soldiers.
Being legal is important for these groups. Rockwell, for all the venom he aimed at the “Jewish” US government, worked closely with the FBI, giving them information on each and every stormtrooper, letting police know where they would be traveling and where they would protest, and much more. When ANP members left the organization he alerted the FBI, that way, if the ex-ANP members committed any acts of violence, they could not be traced back to Rockwell. This is funny, because the ANP was ripe with infiltrators, as we can be sure the NSM is as well. Some on Stormfront even accuse J.T. Ready of being a fed! Perhaps he was caught stuffing his chipmunk cheeks at Taco Bell…? Anyway, in an interesting note about the ANP, COINTELPRO was even involved in disrupting the organization (and causing infighting with the Klan) and playing off various members of the ANP against each other. Rockwell could wave the flag at the FBI all he liked, they still didn’t like him; but they saved their real guns for the Fred Hamptons of the world.
Despite this, following the state’s rules does bring protection, and allows you to be a Nazi out in the open while the police beat back your detractors. This is a formula that the NSM has followed everywhere it goes. It arrives with swastika flags, counter-protestors attempt to attack, and the cameras go click. And thus, the NSM is quite at a crossroads. It needs the Nazi imagery just to get attention, but it also needs to appeal to main street whites to try and get numbers – which the whole Nazi thing kind of kills. At the same time, while riots against it, whether in Toledo in 2005, or Phoenix in 2010, give it publicity, it also makes the NSM seem weak and under attack.
In many ways, groups like the NSM are a dead horse. Passed over by an era of facebook event invites and grassroots organizing – there seems to be little place for them and their tired and boring brand of simple flag flying and Nazi speechifying. Even when the NSM tried to make entries into the Tea Party they have gotten the cold shoulder. J.T. Ready was welcomed with open arms before he was outed as a Nazi, but when he and some of his racistas showed up to a teabagger shindig with a Hitler portrait, they violently got the boot. But, we should keep in mind that the threat of these groups lies not just in their existence, but in the idea that they will help to raise the next generation of Hitlerites. When are these guys going to get tired of waving the same flag and hearing Jeff give the same speech in his new coke dealer suit before they start getting other ideas? We can deal with the activist NSM, but one that is focused on direct action would be much, much scarier.
For now though, weak and under attack is exactly what the NSM is. Like the ANP before them, without massive police protection the NSM would be beaten down and broken apart at most of the rallies that they help organize. Like the ANP and much of the white power movement, the NSM is often derailed by in fighting between members and splits within the party. As anarchists and other radicals continue to physically confront the NSM, we are making it harder for these groups to organize and meet new people. We are also making it less attractive to join the organization due to the possible violence one might face. While media attention is drawn to the NSM when we physically confronting them, attention also goes to us, and we appear as the only ones willing to stand up and physically fight the Nazis, who are themselves seen as the extreme extension of what the state already is.
So while more people may know about the NSM, more people at the same time know that anarchists kick the shit out of them and have more numbers. We are also seen in the context of popular rebellions against not only the Nazis, but also the state and its police. Furthermore, we must also be wary of whatever the media tries to paint us as, and focus more on what the street has to say. In the aftermath of the riots in Phoenix, many people felt energized and ready for the battles to come – hoping that riot would provide a springboard for more radical actions. Moreover, these actions give credit to the idea that people can self-organize and act outside of the activist groups that seek to manage and control popular protest.
Anarchists however, should be keen to keep in mind several things. They should look at the communities that the NSM and other neo-Nazi groups reach out to: mainly working class and lumpen white communities. We need to be engaging with these communities, expressing that our enemies are not other poor and working people led by a mythical Jewish order, but the ruling class. Likewise, we need to keep in mind that these Nazis are simply reacting and feeding off of what the state is already doing. If we are not also struggling against attacks organized by the government on indigenous communities, the border, deportation of migrants, etc, then we will not be fighting the conditions that give rise to many of these ‘extremists.’ The NSM doesn’t operate detention camps and do sweeps breaking apart families, filling the jails – the state does.
“Government? Fuck Government, niggas politic they selves…” -Jay Z, Where I’m From
People on the west coast often ask me why I’m excited about Arizona. For one, I’m excited about a place where anarchists actually support each other and play a part in each other’s struggles. Living in a place where anarchists from the two other cities less than two hours away hardly ever come to my town, it is hard to believe the degree in which solidarity does exist. Arizona is inspiring to me, because the bonds that people have made there over the years are staying and growing more powerful.
People on the 13th could have been terrified. “Why should we go out into the streets to confront the NSM?,” they could have asked. The police were willing to attack them during permitted marches. What were they going to do at an unpermitted action? But people didn’t give a fuck. They came out with or without charges from the months before. Some might have held back, but people were not going to be scared of taking to the streets. And they weren’t. Anarchists in Arizona took their vengeance for the Arpaio march; the price was the blood of the fascists and the police who clutched their faces as rocks rained down on them while we cried pepper spray tears of joy.
Meanwhile, indigenous militants in groups such as the O’Odham Solidarity Across Borders collective and fighters from Flagstaff have also created, maintained, and built a revolutionary indigenous politics that has informed and grown within and alongside Arizonan anarchism. Lastly, the connections being made between all sections of the exploited and oppressed, from workers to indigenous – is inspiring. People are working together against common enemies and towards common visions; re-compositing themselves together despite the divisions that capital places between us. That in itself is inspiring.
So when they ask me why I’m excited about Arizona, I tell ‘em this.
It is the place where the sons of immigrants and the daughters of Natives and the children of settlers don masks and fight together. Where they chant: “Riot! Si se puede!” And indeed, it has been done. And in that moment, we can feel the common humanity that unites us all and reminds us, that together, we are fighting.