This May Day we call for antagonists of the global work machine to gather in Phoenix to march on the headquarters of the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). ADOT is the transportation bureaucracy behind the 30 year push for an extension to the Loop 202, which would destroy the western ridges of South Mountain and extend the south end of the Loop 202 from the I-10.
This freeway would not just expand the patchwork of suburbs and strip malls into the desert, it would expand the design of bureaucrats and capitalists to build CANAMEX international trade corridor from Mexico to Canada. The struggle against the NAFTA and TPP trade agreements has been fought here at home in the form of resistance to transportation infrastructure. The South Mountain Loop 202 extension and its role as a truck bypass, as well as ADOT’s projects the Interstate 11/CANAMEX trade corridor, are key pieces of this transportation infrastructure. International trade agreements, their roads, and development are said to boost the economy, which doesn’t benefit us, and at what cost, anyway?
This extension has been long opposed by the indigenous Akimel O’odham residents of the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), who have opposed any freeway alignment that ADOT proposed. For Akimel O’odham people, South Mountain is a sacred site, and any demolition of the mountain would be a desecration of a holy place. The Akimel O’odham Youth Collective is one group of GRIC residents who have organized against the freeway, in their blog they describe some of the harm that the South Mountain Loop 202 extension would have:
This project has been opposed by members of the Gila River Indian Community since the 1980s. There are numerous harmful impacts of freeway construction which include destroying the prehistoric villages of Villa Buena and Pueblo del Alamo, the destruction of threatened/endangered animal habitats, and the destruction of plants that are central to traditional O’otham culture. Environmental impact studies of the 202 freeway also state that the habitat for wild horses in Gila River would be irreversibly lost if the freeway is built, and that no alternative habitats for the wild horses exist.
Residents to the north of GRIC oppose the freeway as well, as Ahwatukee residents have protested and organized to halt the possibility of a freeway as well. The most prominent project organized against the freeway is Protecting Arizona Resources and Children (PARC). PARC is planning a lawsuit aimed at stopping the freeway extension by taking ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration to court over health and environmental concerns.
Speaking for ourselves, we have chosen May Day to march on ADOT and to denounce the Loop 202 extension, as we oppose the trade routes of global capitalism which move goods and people, hastening the misery of daily life in this work obsessed society. We also march on ADOT because the freeway will destroy the habitats, dirty the air, and lower the quality of life for humans and animal alike.
While May Day has come to be viewed as a workers day against capitalism, but in the roots of May Day is a celebration of humans’ connection to the earth. As Peter Linebaugh recalled in his history of May Day:
In Europe, as in Africa, people honored the woods in many ways…They did this in May, a month named after Maia, the mother of all the gods according to the ancient Greeks, giving birth even to Zeus.
In Greece, Rome, Scotland, Scandinavia, and elsewhere, the people celebrated with music, communal activities, dancing, fires, planting of trees, and erecting of maypoles.
In the spirit of pre-capitalist May Day celebrations of Spring, and the current manifestation of resistance to capitalism, we call on all those who oppose another freeway bringing destruction to the earth, air, and water. As we oppose work, we call on all those opposed to the global work machine, and the freeway’s role in accelerating the delivery of goods and movement of workers along its path.
We also call upon those who believe that inward “decolonization” and “rewilding” is no substitution for anti-colonial action from settlers on stolen land. As stated in Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex: “No matter how liberated you are, if you are still occupying Indigenous lands you are still a colonizer.”
We believe that anti-authoritarians and anarchists engaged in projects around the ecological, anti-infrastructure, or anti-militarization struggles must also articulate their relationship to the indigenous people of this occupied land. To echo the call put forth in Accomplices Not Allies, a struggle against colonialism must attack the colonial structures and ideas. Whether you can join us in Phoenix, or are in other areas of Arizona, we encourage anti-colonial organizing this May Day.
Join us on Friday, May 1st at 10 AM to march on ADOT. We will be gathering at Cesar Chavez park, located between Washington St. and Jefferson St., west of 1st Ave in downtown Phoenix.
-a group of Phoenix Anarchists
ASU FOOTBALL FANS, CITY COUNCILMEN, ACTIVISTS AND ANARCHISTS ALL BECOME TARGETS OF THE WIDENING AND SUSPICIOUS GAZE OF BIG BROTHER
Is this a photo of the “War of the Worlds” spy camera that provoked Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio into action against the encroaching Big Brother state this week?
In various Facebook posts and media interviews, the councilman for the upscale Phoenix neighborhoods Ahwatukee and Arcadia says he was just enjoying a good time tailgating at the ASU-USC game at Sun Devil Stadium when he and his friends noticed a curious white truck from the Phoenix Police Department patrolling the parking lot. Protruding out of the bed of the truck was “a tall adjustable spire” with a sci-fi look to it and a camera, scanning the assembled fans and their hot dogs.
“I was just frustrated, and I wasn’t happy about it,” the councilman told the Arizona Republic “Why does Phoenix police send out a truck with a camera videotaping tailgaters? … It’s just one more level of intrusion by the government looking into our personal lives.”
DiCiccio made several inquiries and after ASU and Tempe initially denied involvement Phoenix stepped forward to claim credit, in a way, and to tell us all to relax: the spying was for our own good and they didn’t really feel like explaining much more about it. So there. If you’re not satisfied with that then you’re supporting the terrorists.
“The suggestion is that we shouldn’t provide homeland security support to another jurisdiction unless it rises to the level where we’re ready to arrest somebody,” Stanton said as he stood in front of Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.
“I think most people, both in the law enforcement world and then families who are attending this game, would probably disagree. … Rather, what is in the best interest of keeping tens of thousands of people attending a game safe.”
What size hot dog is that in your hand, citizen? The state needs to know to keep you safe. From terrorists. Or maybe just protesters.
Because, dear reader, you may find it interesting to know that the photo above of the PPD’s spy cam didn’t come from the ASU-USC game. That photo was taken at a protest in 2012, when thousands of Unitarian Universalists bused themselves into town from around the country for their national conference and held a highly regulated and peaceful protest against SB1070 in front of Arpaio’s tent city gulag.
The PPD positioned the surveillance device by the entrance to the rally, presumably recording everyone coming in and out of the protest zone. Indeed, this caused quite a bit of controversy because police, perhaps tipped off by the towering eye in the sky, singled out several local protesters, anarchists mostly, and then proceeded to exclude them from the protest with the cooperation of out of state UU organizers (who may not have understood that they were being manipulated by PPD’s red squad).
In the emails below, PPD terror cop Brenda Dowhan (who was PPD’s main internet spy during Occupy Phoenix) is discussing putting together a “face sheet” so that cops can identify specific activists at the Unitarian protest, and expressing her concerns about anarchists and which of them ought to go on the sheet.
In one case she’s reaching out to Tempe terror cop Derek Pittam for his input. Pittam himself is famous recently for having massively over-reacted to community gardeners, deploying undercovers and riot cops to stop the planting of of veggies in an empty lot in downtown Tempe.
This face sheet is to be used to pick out undesirables, despite no criminal allegations against them, and eliminate them from the protest. She also references a previous face sheet that was created in collaboration with various private and federal intelligence agencies for the anti-ALEC protests that took place the previous April. Of course, this raises the question of whether the Phoenix cops’ spy toy has facial recognition technology.
One indication, that we’re looking at the same spy device, aside from the striking similarity to DiCiccio’s description, is the fact that the PPD’s own explanation of their ASU operation matches up with the way it was used in 2012. Responding to the Republic, the PPD reported the device was “part of a multi-jurisdictional operation to monitor entry and exit points from the stadium area from a homeland security perspective.”
And, of course, it’s not just a bounty for local law enforcement agencies. As an upcoming Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce event indicates, local companies are keen to strap on the federal feedbag as well. Innocuously entitled “Doing Business with the Federal Government,” check out the teaser:
The federal budget is more than $1 trillion, with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security spending a combined $20 billion in Arizona alone in 2012. Through this highly-interactive presentation, you will learn how to get started on earning some of that business for your company, find out about available assistance, gain insight into future trends and share your successes and challenges of doing business with the federal government.
Twenty billion dollars is a lot of dough. And it buys a lot of equipment. Although their website claims the GPCC “pursues and promotes a free market,” they don’t hesitate to line up for the government slop when its feeding time. Even when it comes at the expense of our freedom. Isn’t that interesting?
And, of course, the other part of the equation in Tempe is the city’s recent crackdown on what they call “rowdyism.” Essentially a counter-insurgency crackdown on fun with the aim of pacifying the area around ASU for developers, the city flooded the downtown neighborhoods with overwhelming police force for three weekends in a row, including enlisting the help of the notoriously racist MCSO, making thousands of arrests with contact rates rivaling NYPD’s racist “stop and frisk.” All in an alleged effort to stop college drinking. Sound familiar? In his response to DiCiccio, Mayor Stanton claimed that ASU requested the surveillance, which was confirmed by the ASU PD.
Clearly this has to viewed in the larger context of the crackdown in Tempe. Perhaps, surprised at the level of resistance their “Safe and Sober” campaign received, ASU and the city have turned to other means. Or maybe this is just a case of mission creep. After all, despite local terror cops assertions, not much in the way of terrorism is happening in the Valley. But once you got the tools, you gotta use them for something.
It’s worth pointing out that these police activities aren’t just problems of Big Brother, personal data and privacy. They can be about life and death. The militarization of the police has consequences, sometimes deadly. They certainly were on the first day of phase two of Tempe’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on “rowdyism”, when Tempe police responding to a call about a man with a box cutter gunned down Austin Del Castillo in plain daylight at the intersection of Mill and University.
In that case police claimed they “feared for their lives”. But doesn’t the deployment of spy cameras against activists and football fans indicate the same level of fear, this time of the population at large — a general criminalization of society in which we are all assumed to be guilty rather than innocent, each of us a potential threat. And, as we see, when we accept this augment for increased police power in one case, it quickly gets turned to broader use. What was bought under the excuse of fighting terrorism first becomes a tool for tracking activists and disrupting their activism, and then the next thing you know there’s an embarrassing photo of your drunk-ass puking your brains out in a DHS database.
With cities facing an alleged budget crunch, and politicians like DiCiccio calling for union busting under the argument that we can’t afford them, maybe it’s time to look to a fire sale of police hardware to get us out of the red. How about we de-certify the police union as punishment for their over-reaching. The cops clearly can’t use either their power or their toys responsibly. Plus, it could do far more than save other innocent public workers from needless cuts to pensions and salaries. Think of the payoff in terms of freedom! Can you put a price tag on that?
The Phoenix Anarchist Community has been active in recent weeks as a result of a report ‘Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America Turned on Occupy Wall Street’ compiled by The Center for Media and Democracy that details the vast web of collaboration between the Phoenix Police Department, The FBI, The Department of Homeland Security, and Counter Terror apparatuses in infiltrating and shutting down the Occupy Phoenix movement, as well as surveilling activists before and far beyond the initial dates of protest.
According to the documents, the protestors were being monitored and infiltrated by undercover police at an October 7th meeting, a full week before the protests began. It was around this time that the decision to enforce arbitrary city codes and lesser known laws for the purpose of disrupting and crushing the Occupy Phoenix movement was also made. It is of little wonder now why hundreds of police, and a helicopter descended on Margaret T. Hance Park the first night of the protest to arrest anyone in the park.
Also included in the documents is the collusion between the ALEC conference, and the Phoenix Police Department in infiltrating activist circles to monitor planned activity at the ALEC conference which came to Scottsdale on November 30th, 2011. The documents detail how the Phoenix Police circulated activists pictures as “potential persons of interest” before the conference, though who created that list, and why is still unknown. It also reveals that the ALEC conference paid upwards of 30,000 dollars to off duty Phoenix Police officers to work private security at the event, to insulate themselves from a potentially riotous assembly.
All of these documents go to show what us anarchists have been saying all along: The police are not a benevolent force to protect our rights to demonstrate. They are a militaristic machine intent on disrupting, infiltrating, and destroying our movements and breaking apart our communities. They do not, and never will, have our interests in mind, only that of power, and property.
The surveillance isn’t surprising to us, seasoned activists who have long been aware that police, and private interests collude to crush potentially rebellious movements and spaces. What should be gleaned from this information is that the police state, greatly expanded after 9/11 , is being used to criminalize dissent in the name of counter terrorism. As a community, we will not stand for this and vow to mobilize around police and state repression in all forms. We will deliberate as a community, and act as a community. We will not stand for police harassment and surveillance of our communities!
The Valley Anarchist Circle, The Phoenix Commune, East Valley Revolution, DeColonize Phoenix,artists, and other concerned community members.
According to documents released by the Center for Media and Democracy this week, while investigating Occupy Phoenix organizers and anarchists in Phoenix, Sgt. Ken Renwick (of Tempe’s Homeland Defense Unit) directed plain clothes officers to “visit Casey Moore’s and see if we can get any intel”. Casey Moore’s is a bar in downtown Tempe where police suspected anarchists gathered and hatched their plans. It’s affectionately called “Casey’s” by regulars.
The problem? May Day was approaching and while it seemed Occupy Phoenix had wound down in many respects, it was known that Tempe anarchists were planning something, probably in Tempe, maybe in Scottsdale. But finding out what hadn’t proved an easy task.
At the beginning of Occupy Phoenix Sgt. Tom Van Dorn, head of the Major Offenders Bureau and Career Criminals Squad was forced to admit that “finding out how the anarchists are organizing and what they are up to is still difficult”. Sending police infiltrators like Saul DeLara (quickly unmasked by veteran activists) hadn’t helped. By May the cops were still complaining about the lack of information, and Brenda Dowhan worried about the “complete silence from May Day organizers”.
Incidentally, Dowhan is a perfect example of the explosion of anti-terrorism positions since September 11th, signing off her emails as “Terrorism Liaison All Hazards Expert, Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau, Arizona Counter-Terrorism Information Center”. An online search reveals her as an alumni.of Kaplan University, an online college. In one email, Dowhan shared at least one link to an article posted to AnarchistNews.org entitled “Spain: New wave of incendiary attacks and sabotages by Nihilist Anarchists”. There were no attributed anarchist incendiary attacks in Phoenix during the period covered by these documents.
This wasn’t the first time anarchists in Tempe had been singled out by anti-terrorism authorities to fit their demands for a local terrorist bogeyman. In 2004, Dan Elting, a Phoenix cop and counter-terrorism trainer, organized a community forum at the Tempe library in which anarchists were described as terrorist threats equivalent to Al-Qaeda and the Klan. Printouts of the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition’s webpage were distributed as reference materials to a very conservative, elderly and scared audience. It was the only local organization so featured.
Around the time Tempe plain clothes officers appear to have been directed in the name of homeland defense to brave the cool Spring patio weather and cold beers at Casey’s to spy on anarchists, Casey’s had been informally the site of a regular Thursday night anarchist drinking night known as “Anarchy Thursdays”. This is almost certainly the reason why cops were sent there.
Anarchists had been living and organizing in Tempe for well over a decade, and downtown Tempe had seen two previous May Day marches in 2002 and 2003. The former had gotten a bit out of hand from the perspective of the cops. In addition, police reacted clumsily and pepper sprayed journalists. But by 2003 the bike unit had received training by the Eugene Police Department in crowd control (Eugene being another national hotbed of anarchist organizing at the time) and the march was more easily contained.
Over the years anarchists have become well-established in downtown Tempe neighborhoods and the community there, and had proved it most recently (pre-Occupy) during the 2010 resistance to SB1070. Anarchists had initiated and been central organizers in building Tempe neighborhood resistance to the application of the law in Tempe, doing door to door organizing, printing yard signs denouncing the law that proliferated through the neighborhood, putting on well-attended neighborhood general assemblies and one very large march through the neighborhood that attracted a wide range of Tempe residents. Police were not able to contain that march to the sidewalks and residents marched cheerfully in the streets as their neighbors frequently came out to wave in support or join in.
What the cops did know was that the Tempe May Day action involved taking over a public space (“reclaim the commons”, as it was called in anarchist parlance) in order to plant a community garden. An occupation. This much was clear from the posters that went up around town.
The chosen spot was a long vacant lot downtown. For two decades it had been the location of Tempe’s largely beloved “Gentle Strength Co-op” (although not so much with the developers and city council). Anarchists had held weekly meetings for years there as the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition, and had run an infoshop on the premises for about six months at one point (until some yuppie members complained about “bad vibes”). Still, anarchists worked there and were prominent members. But the co-op had closed now and, after a failed attempt to develop the land into a Whole Foods/condoplex, it had lain fallow and unused for years. What’s more, the empty lot was now owned by the very same Canadian corporation that owned Zuccotti Park, the site of the original Occupy Wall Street encampment.
Officer Derek Pittam, by May Day 2012 serving as a Tempe Police Department Homeland Defense Unit Detective, had come up on the bike squad and had experience dealing with Tempe anarchists. He’d had many run ins with them during protests and their routine cop watch patrols in the downtown. Like many cops post-9/11, he had moved into one of the myriad anti-terrorism-related jobs that had proliferated across police departments nationwide thanks to increased Federal funding, a kind of grade inflation that led to the ridiculous number of titles accumulated à la Dowhan by many of the officers appearing in the documents released by PR Watch. Those documents reveal Pittam was determined to deny anarchists a victory in their May Day plans.
In order to execute those plans, and to make sure that the vacant lot stayed empty and unused by the neighborhood, Pittam engaged in a series of pre-emptive actions (of questionable legality), such as sending police to visit local businesses warning of anarchist activity (including, according to one business owner, a claim that anarchists planned to run “really long hoses” across the street to water the lot). Oh, the horror!
He also wrote a letter to local businesses and prominent non-anarchist neighborhood residents. In it, he linked the May Day action to anarchist violence. Pittam clearly saw this as a battle for the hearts and minds of Tempe. He wrote: “I am very concerned that the organizers of this event have not disclosed important information in their quest to gain support from local residents and businesses.” Unfortunately for Pittam, the letter was leaked by residents sympathetic to Tempe anarchists, who then published it the day before the garden planting, causing some embarrassment.
On the day in question about seventy people showed up with the intent of building a community garden, a great many of them local residents. They gathered at the Farmer’s Market across the street, with the permission of the owner. What they found was a line of riot cops positioned in the lot. Police threatened any trespassers with arrest. Still loaded up with supplies (and with the cops baking in the hot sun), the group decided to take over a strip of city land right next to the lot. Police did not act and a garden was built. Several news outlets sent out reporters and cameras to report on it, capturing the excitement and enthusiasm of participants. A concrete planter was poured and filled with a variety of plants and vegetables. At one point police, watching from the park, thought they saw some small children vandalizing a sign, so they stormed in and detained the kids and their parents. It turned out the paint was water-soluble, so only warnings were given. The impromptu community garden was maintained for three days until city workers came early in the morning and destroyed it.
In an email tooting his own horn about police activities that day (designed, as Sgt. Renwick had said, to make neighborhood residents and anarchists “go home saddened”, denied victory), Pittam wrote, ‘Our local actions, for better or worse, did appear to have an impact. We did not have “Black Bloc” emerge…’ Why anyone would imagine a black bloc to be a useful tactic for building a garden wasn’t clear, but it must certainly have been related to the general hyping of the potential for violence that these cops regularly engaged in. Indeed, most likely a black bloc wasn’t deterred at all, but none was ever planned. After all, aside from its uselessness in that situation, it was also 100 degrees that day. Only cops hang around in all black in those conditions. They were the only black bloc that day.
Justifying their jobs in the face of what was in fact was a bit uncooperative but nevertheless standard fare protest must have been both frustrating and difficult to understand from an anti-terror framework. It’s telling that no where in these documents does it appear that police called each other out on their fantastic imaginings. Instead, like Pittam post-garden defense, it’s pats on the back, self-congratulation and attaboys.
Interestingly, people who participated in the action didn’t view it as a defeat. A plot was taken over, the contradiction of cops defending an empty lot with significant local meaning was on full display, and a garden was planted. And it was destroyed because the city couldn’t tolerate it. It would seem the organizers actually came out on top that day, not the TPD.
Nevertheless, when we read these police documents what we get is the odd juxtaposition of anti-terror rhetoric and gravity on one hand, and then the broad interpretation of results in the face of the actual run of the mill nature of the “threat”. As in the case of a local homeland defense officer, organizing with Phoenix anti-terror cops to send undercovers to spy on drunk anarchists and to deploy riot police in downtown Tempe to stop the planting of a community garden. Oh yeah, and to detain children for painting.