Inauguration Protest Safety Tips

Writing

Note: I am NOT attending the protests but it appears that no one is circulating basic safety tips and that many of you are vastly under-prepared for the possibilities you face this weekend. As such, I am providing what I consider basic information. A shortened version of this was posted on another site, the editors were uncomfortable with my argument about the general stepping down as well as several other points. They also used my position to promote the marches in a way that was not my original intent, which has been made quite obvious to everyone familiar with my work. My feeling is that you are all smart enough to read my reasoning and decide for yourselves if it is plausible, so I have provided all of the original information. I apologize for not sharing this sooner, I had waited to post this while waiting for other editors to get back to me, when I saw the final product, which I think is quite obviously not my work though it uses my research heavily, I realized that I had to post this somewhere. Maybe I’m wrong about these things but you are grown ups and you can decide for yourselves. This is a perfect demonstration of why I had to start my own blog instead of trying to get published among existing publications, they always do this to my work.

This is a set of last minute safety tips for activists attending the inauguration protests against Donald Trump. Leftist activists should expect and plan for a probable escalation  in state violence for several reasons. The first reason is that Trump’s personality, administration and political ideology all suggest and lend themselves to the interpretation that violent suppression of protests is a legitimate action for the state to take, especially if those protests turn violent. The American public has limited appetite for violence against protestors when those protestors remain nonviolent, but the minute the protests become violent much of the country believes that the state has the right to use force to suppress them. Anyone who lived through any of the inner city riots prior to Obama, which includes those of us who lived in places like Los Angeles and Oakland during Rodney King, will remember that under most circumstances little patience is given for riots or forms of violent protest. The government can and will send in the national guard to violently suppress if they feel it is needed to restore order. They can and will do this under both Democrats and Republicans. They did it under both Kennedy and Nixon and they will do it under Trump.  Since several official groups have said that they are showing up to the protests with the intent to “disrupt” and commit damage to infrastructure (which is what the state would call terrorism), Trump’s administration has already had a month of pre-planning which has assumed violence would erupt at these protests. Therefore, people should assume in THEIR plans that Trump’s plans are based around that assumed violence, in which case, he believes violent suppression is one of his options. So does the rest of the administration, the military and a large percentage of the citizens of the country.

 

Last week the head of the National Guard in Washington D.C. was forced to resign at the last minute. Actually, he is being forced to resign mid-mission while 5,000 troops are deployed in the Nation’s capitol. This is highly unusual and he himself was not able to provide an explanation. He called the timing unusual and said he would never choose to abandon his men like this. No explanation was given, and his resignation will come AFTER Trump is sworn in, which means that it will come after Trump receives total command over the troops. It is important that you understand that generals do not resign for whimsical reasons, outside of some sort of gross dereliction of duty, like when MacArthur was asked to step down for threatening to nuke China, the only reason a career military man publicly goes through the effort of defying a commander in chief like this is if they don’t like the orders they’ve been given. Although there is no modern example of this happening in at a swearing in ceremony, generals resigned under Hitler (Rommel), under Pinochet (a handful early on who were killed), and under colonial governments in India for refusing to take their commander’s abhorrent orders against the people. During wartime, American generals and commanders have resigned over actions in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. There have also been instances during different revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s against the repressive Soviet state where the state security apparatus resigned in mass, rather than turn on their protestors.  In some cases, specific leaders have stepped down or spoken out against the dictator in question rather than kill their own people. It is important that you understand that doing do means an end to their career, and in many cases in the past, to their lives. What is unusual about this situation is that they planned for it in advance and that it is happening at the Inauguration. This likely means that the general in question stepped down because he refused to accept the plans given to him by the administration. In this case, those plans could only have been about what to do about the protestors.

 

 

Trump has had government agencies claim this is “no big deal” and issue fake news reports while the respected general himself claims he would never do this without being forced. Since there is no good reason to do this unless they were planning on doing some real brutal carnage, and since it is fairly common for fascists to replace leadership like this once they take power, we can expect that the moves of the last few days add up the conclusion that they plan to escalate state violence at the protests. Switching out the head of a national security event while thousands of your troops are deployed in your nation’s capitol and the general in question says “the timing is unusual”, means that something very bad is about to happen. Additionally, when I started speaking out about it, I was immediately attacked by propaganda and a fake conservative news profile, which means they are already trying to cover it up and discredit the general and any activist that suggests otherwise. The media has already begun to spin stories that justify any violent repression that results from the disorder this weekend. Breitbart’s only counter to this whole story was that the general asked to resign, not that Trump had asked him to, which hardly changes the circumstances and doesn’t answer any of the questions that surround this. If Trump asked him to resign, it is because he refused his orders. If the general resigned on his own, it is because he found the orders abhorrent and didn’t want to carry them out. Breitbart went out of their way to attack this story as fake news but could not deny that any of these had happened, they just quibbled over some of the possible details. They also called the general a coward in the piece they posted on my wall, which besides being an extremely offensive smear campaign of a career military hero, is a deeply disturbing narrative in context.

It is my recommendation that ALL parents and those with minors skip these protests. Whatever your anger is at Trump is, there are other ways to express it that don’t put children at risk, and these protests aren’t going to accomplish enough to make it worth the risk. Any activist that tells you otherwise is being both delusional and irresponsible in my opinion. I can’t tell adults without dependents what to do, but I suggest that everyone take precautions and record everything.

It also seems clear from the narrative that has been woven over the last few days that they intend to push us towards infighting while issuing a final killing blow to the left. Which groups they’ll divide is still up in the air, but the most important thing is that left understands that this administration is a threat to all marginalized people and that we have to stick together. We are only safe as a coalition. We must do everything we can through our own narrative and film recordings to fight any attempts during and after the fact to paint our movements as in opposition to each other. Here are some basic safety tips we are recommending that everyone take in advance of the weekend.

  1. Even state police have access to Stingray’s, machines that mimic cell towers in order to suck up the information from every phone in the area. If you have your phone on you, expect your name to be on a list of “people who protested Trump’s inauguration.”
  2. A common tactic is jamming all cell signals in the area to make it harder to coordinate. Shortwave radios solve this problem. Note that this also means cell phones can’t stream video. This can be solved by finding people or places in DC where video footage can be taken and uploaded without depending on wifi or cell service. Remember that people protested before cell phones too, there are ways word of mouth coordination can spread just as quickly with good organization and coordination. Plan for this possibility and if it doesn’t happen the worst-case scenario is that you were overprepared.
  3. In 1999, police were able to arrest 500 people at the WTO protests. Given 17 years of new technology, it’s hard to predict what capacity of arrests the police can handle. But it’s large. Mass arrests are common without a changing of the guard, but may be a feature of this years’ protests. Be prepared for that, but also don’t give them an excuse.
  4. Cameras must always be on. They must be filming both the authorities (to show time-stamped evidence of any wrongdoing) as well as the protestors (to show time-stamped evidence that there was no provocation). Film what the authorities do. Film what protestors are doing. Film solidarity. Film love. Film actors of violence too. Remember that they will discredit us in the media afterwards and remember that because there were claims of fake hate crimes that the only thing people believe now are what happens on film.
  5. Look out for agent provacateurs. If the person next to you starts breaking windows or throwing rocks, they may be purposefully trying to justify repression by the authorities. It does not matter what is filmed if an agent provocateur can act freely among marchers. It does not matter if the agent provacateur can later be identified, he or she must immediately be stopped. DO NOT GIVE THEM AN EXCUSE. Anything they can use to blame the violence on us will be used to later frame a narrative that provides the American public with a justification for the death and destruction that follows. It will also be used to kill or maim innocent people. Whatever the left believes, the rest of the country only believes in the right to peaceable assembly, if people start getting violent and the authorities respond with violence, the rest of the country does not feel bad when we die. I promise you that.
  6. At the moment of the inauguration, the head of the national guard will step down and be replaced by one of Trump’s men. The most likely time for repression will be between the moment Trump is inaugurated to the official changing of the guard. Even if they aren’t, assume guns are pointed at your face. Don’t make sudden movements, don’t yell or run at the police, don’t start violent chants. Do not back down, but do not give them an excuse to kill you.

7) Watch locals and watch the media. Have situational awareness. Pay attention to the crowd and the mood and try to get out before things get real. Your nurses, union workers and grass roots activists, as well as journalists tend to have a sense for these sorts of things, not because they are wizards, but because they’ve been doing this for a long time. You should look to them to guide you as to when mood changes happen.

8) They’ve planned this LONG before you’ve even gotten there. The goal should be for us to be so impressive with our message that if they chose to get violent that they look shameful. We may not be able to avoid violence at this point, but we can do our best to protect as many people as we can and to turn around their bullshit on them. This is a bold move out the gate, and they are making it because they think they can. Don’t make them right about that.

9) Touching a cop, yelling at a cop, resisting arrest, yelling for help when you are already in a cop’s possession, and defying a lawful order are all punishable as assault and illegal. If the cops arrest you, follow their orders and be polite. They will not hesitate to use the excuse to beat you or bring you in on assault charges.

10) Avoid wearing anything terribly obvious, any jewelry or anything you wouldn’t want confiscated. There is a strong possibility these will be destroyed or taken from you, but in a violent struggle jewelry is also a liability.

11) NEVER TRAVEL ALONE.

12) Carry government issued ID everywhere. The cops have the right to demand your identification, and they also have the right to carry you in if you refuse to give it to them. Anyone who doesn’t have this identification shouldn’t be at these protests this weekend.

13) Remember that Trump is popular with a large percentage of the country and that there WILL be counter demonstrators. They have also been planning. They also have beliefs. They are also angry. They are also going to follow orders. Be prepared for the probability that clashes with the state aren’t the only group you have to look out for. People of color, Queer individuals (especially visibly gender fluid and trans), and women should all take extra precaution. Do not travel alone or at night. Travel with a group, and ideally with escorts. STAY AWAY FROM TRUMP’S SUPPORTERS. They are probably armed, but there are also groups like Bikers for Trump who are out for blood. The only thing standing in their way is the state. You do not have the means to take them on in this situation and I promise you they WILL be armed to the teeth.

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How to become revolutionary

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We need to have some clarity about our goals. The goal of social justice is to work to end human suffering and ensure equity of opportunity. The goal is not to get a resume boost, or to fulfill some inane rite of passage in college or to get revenge on anyone. If those things are your motivation then you aren’t fighting for social justice. Our responsibility is to be aware of when and where people are going hungry, facing violence, denied opportunity or sick without care. It doesn’t matter what the person looks like, talks like, acts like, or who or what they identify with, if they are suffering our job is to investigate the reasons and try to alleviate it. The vast majority of people on this earth are suffering and sometimes they don’t look, talk, or think the way you expect. That’s because the vast majority of people at elite American universities (the kind that construct culture and knowledge) are not people who have suffered. And I don’t mean in the sense that they don’t look like people that have disproportionately suffered in this country, you have to have actually suffered or been denied access to count. There should be no more taking on experiences that you don’t actually have. If you haven’t suffered or been denied access then you are privileged in this world.
The role of government is to ensure that we can collectively take better care of each other in an organized fashion than we could living on our own. If the government isn’t doing that, it’s not doing it’s job and we should work to reform it. But that doesn’t make government inherently bad, I don’t want to live in a place where there is just chaos and neither do you. So maybe lay off the promotion of anarchy, it’s just stupid.

The most important thing I learned from history is that there are universal lessons that can be drawn to learn about human behavior but that it’s impossible to graph history onto to now. We are not living in the time of slavery or the antebellum south, this isn’t Jim Crow. Injustice now is happening now and we need to deal with the particulars of it, and also to acknowledge and celebrate our successes. To make the claim that nothing has changed is not only stupid, it is also insulting to those who came before you. You don’t need to take a history of injustice and graph it onto another to legitimize it, injustice is injustice and telling the real story of it is sufficient.

History and life experience have taught me how much I can’t know and how much what I read can be wrong. What we learn in classrooms often only reflects the known reality of teachers and those teachers are rarely truly representative of the world. You should be suspicious of all knowledge and quick to listen to others whose experience differs from yours. You have so much to learn and you will for the rest of your life, and if you cut yourself off to knowledge now, cut yourself off from anything that doesn’t reflect your worldview you are going to be blind to a wide portion of the world. We have to all stop rejecting anything that disagrees with us without investigating it but most importantly, we have to stop punishing those in the community who question or think differently than us. When we do that, when we control stories and speakers we don’t like but who come to us from a place of seeking justice, we are no better than the oppressors. I’m not asking you to listen to privileged douchbags who promote Ayn Rand, though you should listen to them so we can effectively counter their arguments, but I’ve seen people and I have personally, been ignored or demeaned in the social justice community because the party line was questioned.

We are exercising our intellectual privilege in a way that is destructive. We need to work to practice what we preach everyday. For me, free speech, maintaining the values of the Enlightenment is the best way to ensure justice. And I’m not Eurocentric about that, as you look through history the strongest societies are those that value reason and truth, if we misuse statistics or intentionally deceive, even when it furthers our cause, it is wrong. And it won’t serve us in the end because it will just give the people who don’t want us to succeed more fodder to challenge us. But also, it just creates an environment where we can’t see what is actually going on because people will be scared to contradict us. It also makes it such that we will miss out on the best ideas and creativity because that only happens in an open environment, and if we are not open minded the creative minds will go elsewhere. It is fundamentally conservative to demand that people stick to the party line.

  • Now, the world is complex and we need experts, I happen to be most knowledgeable about class and particularly poor white people and living in multi-cultural suburban ghettos but that doesn’t mean that I believe that the people I am most knowledgeable about and closely tied to deserve anymore help than anyone else whose suffering and I’m not going to sacrifice the well being of others to serve my group. I have a responsibility to fight for injustice without regard for the identity of sufferer. I am not going to take food from one starving group to feed another and if you are making people starve for any reason you are in fact part of the problem. Making other people starve or suffer to benefit your group is not a revolution, it is just more of the same. Real solidarity means that we fight to end suffering and inequity for ALL people.

Ok, but how are we going to do that? We need to do it in an organized fashion because our goal is not to prove how clever we are or that we are super revolutionary but to get those nice people who are just trying to go about their day to care enough to make life difficult for those people who actually have the power to do anything. You don’t do that by burning things down in most cases. Which is also destructive and unhelpful for the children who live in that community. I know because I’ve been that child and I’ve been around those children my whole life. No child has ever been uplifted by violence and no community is built by violence. Violence is traumatizing and I find it ridiculous that a group of adults can say to children, “hey it’s ok, we were mad” as an explanation for mass violence.

You also don’t make things better by inconveniencing, nice, working class people if they or the thing you are disrupting isn’t the problem. If BART is racially segregated then you should protest BART. If you want to protest Caltrain because it’s crazy expressive and it only exists because people in Atherton are racist and classist, then be my guest. If the freeway is part of an apartheid regime and you want to hold it up then have at it. However, if these things have nothing to do with the problem at hand and you are just protesting on them because you are starting the revolution or whatever then you need to stop. In the case of police shootings, police and the communities they think they work for are the problem, so maybe protest outside police stations, or the capital where drug laws are made (and if you aren’t fighting in part to end the war on drugs, you need to stop until you understand why you need to be doing that) or outside Lulelemon or for the love of god, at least have the decency to shut down the 280. We’ve reached this point where we read a little bit about the Civil Right’s movement of the 50s and 60s and copy something and think we are done. But that movement was disciplined and organized and cared about being effective and their audience. When the problem was the buses they protested the buses. When the problem was interstate travel, where they were literally banned from traveling interracially, they protested interstate travel. Right now, the problem is the cops, so maybe we should be focused on getting that message out instead of worrying about what is going to be cool on TV and Twitter.

And let’s get clear about something else. You are not revolutionaries. You are not changing the world with your protest. At best, you are making things a little bit better in your corner of the universe. If you assume anymore than that not only will your precious heart be broken but you will be insulting the people who matter. You will be insulting the community you claim to be fighting for because they’ve been fighting this their whole lives without a choice. You will be insulting the people that quietly do the hard work day in and day out, the stuff you never hear about, that never shows up on Twitter. The people who heal the sick, feed the hungry and educate the children everyday who are never acknowledged and who don’t have time to show up to your protest because they are working. Real social change is hard and takes time and dedication, it means that you have to accept defeat every single day no matter how bad things get and still get up in the morning and try again. Protests can help, and some protests can be wildly effective but even the Montgomery bus boycott took a year of planning and a year of execution. They aren’t really going to change anything overnight and especially when they are aimless and poorly organized and just inconveniencing the people you are supposedly trying to help. Poor people, the kind who are most likely to face police violence ride the BART and drive the 101 and the I-80. They take those modes of transport after long days of feeding people, maybe even the kids at Berkeley and Stanford, and healing the sick, and teaching and keeping the city going while you tell people how cool you are on Twitter. Now all you’ve done is pissed them off, how likely do you think it is that they are going to take you seriously when you walk into their community and talk about revolution? The problem isn’t the people on the 101, the problem is people in rich areas like Atherton, Palo Alto, and the surrounding areas of the Berkeley campus, who day in and day out decide that they would rather have more than any human being could possibly use while other people around them go hungry. And if you learned that, the poor would trust you a lot more and then you could roll up your sleeves and do the hard work everyday to make things a little bit better and plant and tend seeds that will someday, if you are lucky, if they survive the winter and people trying to cut things down, help to really change something. Then, when you are focused solely on ending suffering and ensuring equal opportunity, and you do the hard work every day without hope of reward, and you’ve done it for a long time, then maybe you can call yourself revolutionary.