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(en) US, New York Counter Inaugural Cluster Report from Inauguration Protests

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 28 Jan 2005 10:54:44 +0100 (CET)

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The inauguration of 2005 was a $40 million spectacle that paid for incredible
security measures such as 10 foot riot fences and well-fortified checkpoints,
not to mention thousands of police officers from across the country. Despite
these measures, an anarchist march several hundred strong marched in the
streets without a permit, broke through police lines, made it to the fence
at the parade route, and made successive charges nearly making it on.
This is an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, what was done right and
what mistakes were made. We are from the New York Counter Inaugural Cluster
who made the call for this march and organized some of the infrastructure for it.

We had constructed a reinforced banner that had an exoskeleton of
pvc pipe with a banner stretched onto it. It was 5'3" high by 20' long.
The center of the banner had a flaming skull with monkey wrench
crossbones and circle-A eyes. The text read, "Right Wing Scum Your
Time Has Come." It was modified so it hinged in the middle to form
a 45 degree wedge for more leverage. It's size made it impossible for
the police to see what was behind it (except lots and lots of boots)
and it gave courage to us at the front who couldn't always see what
was in front of us. We all thought it was pretty bad-ass and
intimidating as fuck.

In addition to the banner, we also had a communications network set
up to not only filter the publicly released text-messages to those
relevant to our march, but also to be in the streets keying us in to
weak checkpoints, low-policed streets, etc. With these two
components and the strength of hundreds of militants, we figured the
possibility of forcing access to the parade route could be quite real
and discussed what could be done after we were on it.

The day did not begin without problems. Our banner was transported
and ready in plenty of time for the 12:30 assembly time. We figured
we would bring the banner to the meeting point at Logan Circle at
12:45 and leave at 1pm (the original meeting place was Franklin
Square, but upon learning that this square was to be a police staging
ground, DC Anarchist Resistance changed the location to Logan
Circle). A few minutes before 12:30, we received a call saying that the
march was beginning. We had to run with the banner to catch up to
those who had begun to lead the crowd out of Logan Circle. We
caught up to the march more than a block south of Logan Circle,
missing a crucial first turn where we would have secured something
that could have challenged the fences between us and Pennsylvania
Ave. This early departure also left many behind, including our
marching band - the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, who were on time
or slightly late for the meeting time. A friend of ours reported that at
12:45, he met up with at least 40 anarchists back at Logan Circle who
were wondering where the march was.

Despite these early shortcomings, we were marching forcefully
south, 5-700 strong chanting, "What's the Reaction? Direct Action!"

Our comms informed us how to snake through the streets to avoid
impassable barriers. At one point a line of motorcycle cops impeded
our way. As the banner approached, menacing as it was, they backed
off and we pushed through. As we neared the parade route, there was
a slight delay in deciding upon a direction at one intersection. Then
we finally got a report there was a weak point to the west, so we
should turn right. As our comms shouted "Right!", others in the bloc
shouted "Left!" drowning out our people and causing this turn which
had disastrous effects. After snaking further toward the parade route,
we came to D and 7th Sts., where a dense crowd of people
street-wide were waiting to get through a checkpoint. We were a
block from the parade route and we at the front had no idea if these
were republicans or liberals (we later learned it was a mix of both). At
any rate, it was no use trying to force through them. We tried to cut
across the corner to confront the checkpoint, but a line of police
attacked, ripping and stepping through the fabric of the banner,
beating upon the pvc until it broke, and then in the ultimate irony,
picked up the pieces of the banner itself and began beating us with it.

We reassembled quickly, counted-down from ten, and made another
charge. This was met with much pepper spray. By this time,
reinforcements had arrived and we were forced to retreat north and
west. Without the banner and somewhat dispersed, we resigned to
reconvening at a previously decided time and place.

At 7th and H, we met with about 100 other anarchists who were
ready for another action. The time was shortly before 2:30. There was
an impromptu spokescouncil happening and riot police were starting
to appear from the west. As a crowd, we took the streets and started
heading south. We snaked back down to a checkpoint, this time at E
and 13th Sts. At this checkpoint we were at first repelled by
undercovers who were threatening violence. We counted down from
20, and at zero, charged the fence. It did not budge and we received a
incredible blast of pepper spray. Shortly thereafter, we regrouped on
the other side of the checkpoint, forced an opening in the fence and
received even more of the pepper spray that most of us tasted that
day. By this time, the motorcade had made its way to the capitol and
further actions did not manifest until late into the evening. We had
made our presence known, but surely things could have gone better.

One of the main problems leading up to the action was that there
were two calls for militant marches on that day. We were in contact
with people in the DC area and we were told that a call for an
Anti-Fundamentalist bloc (read black bloc) was going to be made by
the Baltimore Anarchist Union one week after the DC general call to
action for the inauguration. Two weeks later, this call was retracted
before it was ever publicly released due to "lack of interest." Already
preparing for the inaugural actions, we decided it was upon us to
write a call for an Anti-Authoritarian bloc. After drafting it, we sought
endorsements, but received few responses. Six days before the
inauguration, a call for an "Anti-Fascist Contingent" was made by
Baltimore ARA (Anti-Racist Action). This was to be a militant
faction of the liberal DAWN march and was endorsed by ARA
chapters up and down the east coast who never endorsed our call for
the Anti-Authoritarian bloc. This came as a total surprise to us and
quite a blow that they would not try to coordinate or communicate
with us in any way before the call was made. After much critique of
the timing of this call and the seeming divisiveness, the authors
claimed that their intention was to break away from the DAWN
march to meet the Anti-Authoritarian bloc. As events unfolded, it
became clear that the authors of the Anti-Fascist contingent wanted
the Anti-Authoritarian march to forego our objective of gaining
access to the parade route and instead provide support and a diversion
for an action they had planned.

The late call for a militant march before ours, the departure of the
march before people were assembled and we were there, the shouting
of "Left!" by unknowns at the front (the weak point we were trying to
exploit was to the west, their target to the east), and the attempted
hijacking of the reconvergence to support their Plan B showed that
whether purposely or not, the Baltimore crew was undermining the
coordinated plans of NYC and DC anarchists and putting everyone in
the streets at unnecessary risk to make their own actions feasible
(which never materialized). Our purpose here is not to shit-talk other
activists or blame others for our shortcomings, but to draw attention
to a pattern that we think is counter to anarchist process and
principles. A public call was made for one objective - to make it on
the parade route. Everyone there, it would be assumed, was there to
support that objective and we took a lot of the responsibility to
provide the infrastructure and materials to make it plausible. It was
very frustrating to have so much in place that either did not get used,
or was not exploited to its fullest. It will never be known if we would
have made it on the route if we had re-reinforced our banner on the
way and acted on information from our comms to the Achilles Heel
of our homeland's security, but it couldn't have been less effective
than our actions that afternoon.

For tactics, we think the reinforced banner and our comms network
were important facets to the action. Though the banner did not last
long against police violence, it did get us that far without much
impediment. A stronger banner could be made out of different
material such as insulation boards, and we could have used better
fasteners than plastic zip ties, which we used because they were
quicker and thought they would last. As for comms, we would like to
have more people in the bloc who were empowered to interpret
information from comms and determine direction. We at the front
could have also been more patient and held our position since we
were for the most part in no immediate threat. Instead, we always felt
compelled to keep moving. Either of these precautions could have
prevented marching toward the Navy Memorial, which was taken by
the anarchist march last inauguration and was the most heavily
fortified area this time around. Finally, when meeting resistance from
the police, we found that the use of countdowns are very effective for
our morale at mass actions. When we made our charges, we would
count down from 10 or 20 depending on the situation. This had an
incredible effect of steeling our courage and banding us all together
and getting us ready for what we all knew we were going to do. When
all we could hear is people shouting, "4, 3, 2, 1," we felt nothing
could stop us. And one day, they won't be able to.

While we never met our objective of accessing the parade route, we
are not dissatisfied with our show as a vibrant, growing militant
anarchist movement. In an environment of domestic war and
increasing repression of dissent, we came and confronted the power
of the state and dared to act for what we dream. This was the first
successful unpermitted mass action since 9/11 reinvigorating a
culture of direct action and moving away from liberal coalitions that
are content with sign-waving in pig-pens. Despite the gallons of
pepper spray and repressive tactics of the state, most participants
came away from the action feeling positive about it. We also solidified
connections within our cluster and between groups from other states
strengthening all our resolve to bring this system down. We proved to
ourselves that the state is not all powerful and we have the power to
challenge it. Finally, the actions later that night showed that militants
here will not be intimidated and that we are thinking clearly when we
target corporations and institutions of power that drive imperialism
and oppress us all. The anarchist movement is alive, kicking, and
growing with every mobilization and in-between - the kids are alright.
Copied from infoshop.org

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