“To all you workers out there, every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death.”
•It’s Labor Day, and although I think most American anarchists see Labor Day as a bogus version of May Day, a video editorial from Joanna Allhands had me thinking more about it than usual this year. I generally find the Arizona Republic oped writing from Allhands repulsively stupid and reactionary, but I was entertained by her Labor Day post in which she makes the case for doing nothing on the holiday. Not a particularly radical position, and her writing generally comes from a rightwing orientation, so of course she decries her imagined advocate of labor who would like you “to join a union, or protest, or at least do something productive to further workers’ rights on Labor Day”, so she instead calls for laziness maybe to irritate the leftwing busybodies. What she has no imagination for, and sadly neither do many anarchists who want to build the struggle, is an intervention of the laziest sort, a ludic strike of play and rest, of creativity and spontaneity, a withholding of labor on a scale to bring capitalists to their knees, and may even keep the planet hospitable to humans.
Rather than sound off on some grand anarchist (Marxist informed) analysis that was TL;DR (and utterly unreadable to anyone outside of specialized Left circles) I thought I’d pull together some writings and things said against work, along with some videos. But hey, if you’re still reading this on Labor Day, have the day off, and haven’t done enough of nothing yet (or whatever you like), feel free to put the device away and settle in for a nap.
“Workers of the World…Relax,” this is a bit of an odd video, but an entertaining interpretation of Bob Black’s Abolition of Work.
•HUMANITY WON’T BE HAPPY TILL THE LAST BUREAUCRAT IS HUNG WITH THE GUTS OF THE LAST CAPITALIST
-OCCUPATION COMMITTEE OF THE PEOPLE’S FREE SORBONNE UNIVERSITY
16 May 1968
•Although workplace utopians in France and Spain called on workers to take over the productive forces and construct a socialist or libertarian society, everyday contact with wage earners mitigated the Left’s theoretical commitment to productivism. During the nineteenth century and when out of power in the twentieth, working-class organizations usually supported their own constituents’ demands for less worktime. In fact, the organizations would probably have had fewer members if they had ignored workers’ demands to avoid work. But the advocacy of idleness per se never became a publicly proclaimed platform of the Left. In the 1930s leisure was frequently defended in productivist terms as restoration after work or as effective employment of the jobless. The more subversive forms of resistance—absenteeism, malingering, and sabotage—were officially ignored, except in situations like the Spanish Revolution and, to a much lesser extent, the French Popular Front, when the parties and the unions of the Left assumed some responsibility for the smooth functioning of the productive forces and were thus forced to combat resistance.
-Workers Against Work: Labor in Paris and Barcelona During the Popular Fronts by Michael Seidman
•Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving
through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a
job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and house you leave
empty all day in order to afford to live in it.
•Behind the glorification of “work” and the tireless talk of the “blessings of work” I find the same thought as behind the praise of impersonal activity for the public benefit: the fear of everything individual. At bottom, one feels now when confronted with work – and what is invariably meant is relentless industry from early till late – that such work is the best police, that it keeps everybody in harness and powerfully obstructs the development of reason, of covetousness, of the desire for independence. For it uses up a tremendous amount of nervous industry and takes it away from reflection, brooding, dreaming, worry, love, and hatred; it always sets a small goal before one’s eyes and permits easy and regular satisfaction. In that way a society in which the members continually work hard will have more security: and security is now adorned as the supreme goddess. And now – horrors! – it is precisely the “worker” who has become dangerous. Dangerous individuals are swarming all around. And behind them, the danger of dangers: the individual.
•Too lazy to go to work, too lazy to go to war, too lazy to pay taxes…one big lazy general strike is our last hope
One of my biggest frustrations is seeing the anti-fascist resistance to white nationalists reduced to antifa as a glorified community defense body, rather than an insurrectionary push against these far right statist ideologues, the cops who protect them, and this entire order they defend. We’re currently stuck with a model of anti-fascism in which the opposition to the fascist is the limit of the action (thanks to many anarchists who willfully participate in Leftist “big tent” unity with leftists who have no interest in smashing the state) rather than as a component of a multifaceted anarchist resistance to democracy, nationalism, statism, and capitalism. It may sound like going back to basics, but as an anarchist, I believe that the anti-statist must always by definition be anti-fascist, despite the protests of the Leftist organizer who demands anti-fascist unity first and above all else. So of course it was interesting to see anti-authoritarians not just mobilize against a far right rally in Berkeley, but to attack state power (as shown in the video embedded above) in addition to a standoff and confrontation with the cops protecting the far right. Yes, here’s to the defeat of every last socialist, progressive, populist, nationalist, and fascist, and everyone in between looking for their shot at state power, here’s to Anti-Statist Action!
•Glendale cops got it out for Victor Reyes, dude has been sentenced to a year and a half after the cops came to his house to make an arrest for an alleged fight 2 weeks before. Because the homie Victor wasn’t expecting a bunch of cops to come breaking into his house in the middle of the night, he opened his door and pepper sprayed the 3 cops, natch the cops bring out the SWAT team and arrest him. Because he had previously been combative with cops during a mental health call in 2006, a Superior Court commissioner has sentenced him to a year and a half in prison for this bullshit. None of the cops who arrested him showed up to his trial and the commissioner “noted that if one of the Glendale officers had been present in court, he would have liked to hear an explanation about why they took more than two weeks to apprehend Reyes after the May incident, and did so at roughly 10:40 p.m.” Cops and their bud the commissioner ain’t trying to help Victor out though, it’s not like the commish doesn’t have the authority to drag those cops into court and make them answer for what they did, actually that little speech probably made the commissioner feel like he was one of the good guys that day, “more fair than most” he tells himself.
•The far right, Phoenix oriented freak show AZ Patriot Movement went to Tucson for an event billed as “Refuse Alt Left Fascism”, presumably expecting “La Raza” and Antifa (“an-tee-fuh”) to show up and impose the dreaded alt left fascism which Tucson is renowned for. Instead, it was really hot, no militants showed up or “alt left fascists”, and some guy got to yell the national anthem.
Welcome to Bullet Points, a (hopefully) regular endeavor where you can find news, analysis, action, history, commentary, and non-sequiturs of interest to me and possibly even other people. The idea is for this to be weekly, otherwise I’ll try to sustain it as long as I’m interested or anyone shows interest in it.
“Shared rides add to traffic because most users switch from non-auto modes,” the report says. “In addition, there is added mileage between trips as drivers wait for the next dispatch and then drive to a pickup location. Finally, even in a shared ride, some of the trip involves just one passenger (e.g., between the first and second pickup).”
“I only know that he is the most strong and invincible leader in the world. What I liked about him was his bold attitude. Since he took part in World Wrestling Federation (WWF) competitions, he must be very powerful,”
“Nobody took me seriously and some people even called me a mad fellow, wondering how prayers in a remote village would reach Trump. But I have a strong faith in what I am doing,” he said.
Giorgos Kalaitzidis was arrested after he wrote on his Facebook page: “We will burn Skai down. Today, tomorrow, in 10 years – I don’t know. But we will burn it down. And we will dance around the ashes.”
The anarchist journalist and writer Paul Z. Simons (El Errante) passed away over Easter weekend in Paraguay. Paul’s recent travel writings were a consistently entertaining reading of anarchist activities around the globe, recently resulting in his analysis of a “pure black anarchy” driving anarchist action in three continents.
Below are some memorials celebrating the life of Paul Z. Simons from other anarchists who knew him, along with a link to some of his writing.
Flagstaff, AZ/Occupied Lands — On Tuesday, September 5th, an act of islamaphobic white supremacist terrorism was carried out against Maktoob Hookah Lounge, which is located on Heritage Square just steps away from a federal building. “I got a death threat a few days ago from a white supremacist individual,” the owner, who is Iraqi, stated to the Lumberjack. “I took it seriously and I reported it to the police but then nothing happened for a good four or five days.”
The arson attack, accompanied with several swastikas, occurred at approximately 7:20am on the same day that Trump furthered his assaults on undocumented people by ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Early this evening, a few stealthy members of a new anti-colonial anti-fascist formation in Flagstaff deployed a large banner over Heritage Square reading, “We Will Defend Our Community” with a large crossed out swastika and the words, “ICE, Trump, Fascists, Nazis, Racism, & Snowbowl” all slashed with red paint.
Fascism is nothing new in Arizona, but the escalation we face in our community demands a response beyond holding signs on the lawn of city hall. While liberals wave flags, white supremacists attack. We’re coalescing into a force to ensure that racism, sexism, trans/homophobia, and colonialism are uprooted from these lands.
We will not rely on the cops. Their institution is rooted in white supremacy and ultimately serves the rich and powerful. The same police that are investigating the hate crime committed against Maktoob, target our Indigenous relatives at a staggering rate (Indigenous Peoples comprise 50% of arrests in Flag yet only 12% of the population). They represent the same forces that terrorize migrant communities and endanger DACA recipients.
While dropping banners, taking the streets, and posting flyers alone will not end fascism, we want to make it clear we are watching, we are organizing, and we will defend our communities.
A group of law enforcement officers who coordinated the crackdown on Occupy Phoenix, and regularly monitor the pages of activists through internet surveillance, are scheduled speakers at next week’s “Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement” (SMILE) three day conference. The Phoenix Police Department are the host agency for this year’s conference, Detective CJ Wren and Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) All Hazards Analyst Brenda Dowhan will be representing Phoenix, Detective Chris Adamczyk, a TLO from Mesa Police Department will also be presenting.
What they will be presenting on, should be of interest to anyone concerned with the powers given to police agencies to spy and collect information on individuals and groups engaged in political activity. While the justification has been provided that these departments are concerned with anarchists and “criminal activists,” much of the documentation surrounding Occupy Phoenix revealed that these individuals and their respective police organizations (Phoenix PD and Mesa PD coordinating with other departments through the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC)) were using secretive technologies to identify individuals who merely criticized department policy.
Journalist Beau Hodai obtained thousands of pages of documents from various law enforcement agencies on the varied multi-agency responses to Occupy Phoenix, and related events. What Hodai learned was that the counter-terrorism infrastructure established in Arizona, through the ACTIC fusion center, worked closely with corporate partners to pass information along information on protests being organized against them.
We made good use of the Hodai’s source materials, which were generously posted online, to write a series of stories that Hodai had not covered, including the revelations that a co-owner of Changing Hands Books was passing information about Occupy Phoenix along to the Phoenix PD. Another unsettling story we covered was on the Facial Recognition Unit within ACTIC that was using a facial recognition software to scan the state’s drivers license database to identify participants in protests, using photos found on social media. Given that most of the information regarding the activities of ACTIC, and the TLOs involved in targeting Occupy Phoenix, is approaching four years old, the upcoming SMILE conference affords us the opportunity to shine a light on these digital spies. Here are some highlights from the conference agenda:
TLO All Hazards Analyst Brenda Dowhan is giving a presentation on Using Social Media for Event Planning and Real-time Monitoring, in her event description Dowhan advocates for “pro-active policing,” citing an anti-police protest as an event which “could impact public safety and the community.” Given what we know from Dowhan’s history with the Occupy protests, anarchist events, and marches affiliated with indigenous causes, her objective is not to merely pass along information to other regional TLOs about a possible protest or activist gathering, but to coordinate disruption. Hodai noted in his “Dissent or Terror” article that after Tempe Homeland Defense Unit Detective Derek Pittam wrote of a guerrilla gardening event successfully disrupted by Tempe police, Dowhan responded with “Good to hear. Every site I’ve been on, they know that we are watching them.”
Dowhan was often aided by Mesa Detective Chris Adamczyk, a TLO and self-described expert in “subversive organizations.” Adamczyk will also be presenting to other officers on the topic of Unmask the Movement: Using social media to assess the risks of subversive organizations. In his description, Adamczyk laughably describes the “dark side of social media,” the world of street gangs, syndicates, criminal activists, and terror organizations. In addition to his obsessing over the Facebook page of Food Not Bombs, Adamczyk has launched a private enterprise to share his unique skill set. His website and smartphone app, called the Protestus Project, claims to be”making sense of the world of activism,” but for who? The site is updated infrequently, and appears to rely of the same open source information that Adamczyk receives on the daily from his position as a TLO at the Mesa Police Department. The website and app are uneven in what information is shared, for example the website documents an activist group involved in recent anti-police protests and provides analysis of the local Black Lives Matter/Rumain Brisbon protests, while the app appears to be an alphabetized threat assessment of local activist groups. It’s unclear if Detective Adamczyk writes all content for the website or app.
Perhaps nothing is more humorous than the presentation given by Detective CJ Wren on Stalking 2.0 ~ Stalking in the Social Media Era, which is apparently about a man who found 30 social media pages belonging to the police and saved the info to disk, and why police officers should lock down their social media profiles. Detective Wren is the Arizona Chapter President at Association of Threat Assessment Professionals, and Law Enforcement President of the Arizona Terrorism Liaison Association. Despite Detective Wren’s counter-terrorism expertise and his online privacy tips for law enforcement, a simple Google search reveals that Wren himself has a revealing social media footprint. Perhaps he should consider using his own online activities as a case study! This is all the more laughable considering his employment (along with Dowhan and Adamczyk) relies on him stalking radicals, anarchists, indigenous activists, and immigrant rights groups on their respective social media pages and storing the information forever through a joint partnership with the Federal government.
Detective Wren would like to have it both ways; an open internet for for Wren, Dowhan, and Adamczyk to prowl, collecting “open source intelligence” to share with their TLO partners and the FBI through ACTIC; and, under the justification of officer safety, a closed internet to protect the identities, actions, and opinions of police officers, shielding them from criticism. These agents of the law are speaking at SMILE because they are skilled in the use of surveillance, disruption, and repression to halt protests and groups opposed to the actions of government and business.
Creepy name aside, networking hubs such as SMILE, the ACTIC fusion center, and the activities of the anti-protest “Red Squad” counter-terrorism departments must be dragged out into the light. The increasing efforts of local police departments to spy on and disrupt the efforts of activist groups and political protest goes hand in hand with the riot police using military equipment to intimidate and control people when they sign off from the internet and take to the streets.
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?
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.