by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
The annual May Day marches and gatherings received a very different sort of news coverage this year than they've had in previous years. Rocks were thrown through the windows of Mayor Mike McGinn's home, approximately 75 'anarchists' clad in black took direct action against financial, government, and commercial institutions downtown, and approximately eight people were arrested - all these things arguably stole the spotlight from the normally massive immigrant rights march that has been taking place every May Day in Seattle since 2000.
This year's May Day had three scheduled marches: an anti-capitalist march at noon, a march against police and racist violence at 3 p.m., and the march for immigrant and workers' rights from Judkins Park at 5 p.m.
It was during the anti-capitalist march when black bloc activists attacked buildings and windows with poles and paint bombs. After a few clashes with police, most of the activists were able to change clothes and dissipate back into the crowd. The march against police and racist violence from Westlake Park to Seattle Center was surrounded by riot police for its duration, which presumably kept anything like the events of the earlier march from happening again.
According to Jorge Quiroga, an organizer of the march from Judkins Park, this year's event was much smaller than usual. There were noticeably fewer families, and while marches in past years have filled up to four city blocks, this march filled only one.
'It's unfortunate now that when people think of the May Day march, they'll remember the violence rather than the ongoing hope for immigration reform,' Quiroga told the Seattle Times.
Clearly, this is unfortunate. Most anarchists would also agree. So why did what happened, happen? Seattle Gay News looked to the anarchists themselves for answers.
'I don't like seeing the city destroyed. This is not at all within the spirit of May Day celebrations,' said Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell.
A www.pugetsoundanarchists.org blogger who chose to remain anonymous responded directly to the council member.
'May Day is in no way a day reserved for exclusively peaceful demonstrations, and it never has been. The city, the police, the Democratic recuperators [sic], the banks, and the business and property owners would prefer if May Day was peaceful, for this would perfectly serve their interests.'
The anonymous blogger went on to say, 'Anarchists fight for total freedom. And on the way, we are consistently disparaged, misquoted, attacked, imprisoned, and murdered.'
After the events of the noon anti-capitalist march, McGinn declared a state of emergency in the interest of public safety - a seemingly necessary gesture. But whether justified or not, it allowed police to confiscate anything that could be used as a weapon from protesters, including protest signs.
'The state of emergency declared by the mayor was an effort to protect capital and nothing else,' said the anonymous blogger. 'While he may continue to cloak his actions under the guise of liberal-humanism, the mayor revealed himself yesterday as being a reactionary guardian of capitalist order and harmony.'
So what did the actions of the black bloc activists accomplish? They've made Seattle public opinion of anarchism far worse, and it is very likely that their actions caused the diminished presence at the Judkins march.
Michael Douglas, a member of the Occupy Seattle movement, told the Seattle Times that the vandalism shouldn't distract from the underlying reasons for the demonstrations, including abuses by Wall Street and support for labor unions and immigration.
'There are many larger issues,' Douglas told the Times, 'but they all kind of revolve around the same thing: seeing people as less than you.'
The Seattle Times is reporting that prosecutors are already readying their charges, which will likely be as extreme as they can make them, as public opinion seems to be on their side (unlike during the aftermath of the WTO protests years ago, when public opinion seemed to differ).
The defense offered of their actions is rooted in their political philosophy.
The anonymous blogger wrote, 'The tactics displayed on May 1 not only demonstrate an ability to attack these seemingly invincible structures, they also encourage and promote agency amongst people who rarely get the chance to strike back at the institutions that they despise. The authorities do not want a populace that asserts itself outside the legal framework. They want to preserve the system that has brought us all to the dead end we now face. & There is no legal route out of the current impasse. There is only rebellion, illegality, experimentation, mutation, and abandon. Our goal is and will remain to encourage people to disregard the laws that allow this death-culture to grind on and on and on. This does not only mean destruction - for there is so much to create - but it is undeniable that destruction is central to this project of snatching our lives and the earth back from those who haven [sic] stolen them.'
'As far as I can observe, the minority of violent 'black bloc' thugs who marred the May Day protest in downtown Seattle were white kids who, based on demographic trends, grew up in suburbia,' wrote Seattle Times columnist Jon Talton on May 2.
Although their philosophies are outside of the mainstream, Puget Sound Anarchists' response suggests they are not the 'thugs' he labeled them as.
'Downtown has by now returned to normal,' said the blogger. 'Cars and buses move freely through the streets as people numbly trudge from home to work to store and back again. Shoppers and shoplifters pass each other on shining escalators, surrounded by millions of dollars worth of disposable, sweat-shop-produced crap. Teens and middle-aged women crane their heads around to examine their asses in dressing room mirrors, frowning with anxiety. Workers slack and pilfer a little at a time, hoping the boss won't notice. Dead-time reigns.'
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