Anti-fascist demonstration at the trial of neo-Nazi Gabriel Sohier Chaput
The Montréal Antifasciste collective invites comrades and allies to join us outside of the Montréal Palais de Justice on the final trial date of neo-Nazi ideologue and propagandist Gabriel Sohier Chaput. The struggle against the far right, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and all other fascistic and hateful ideologies is first and foremost a matter of community self-defence, and not of police repression or court proceedings.
From 2012 to 2018, using the pseudonym “Zeiger,” Sohier Chaput was involved in a number of neo-Nazi projects, including the Daily Stormer website and the Iron March forum. He is now charged with hate speech in connection with a single article out of the hundreds he has written. (Read Montréal Antifasciste’s exposé on Zeiger here: https://montreal-antifasciste.info/gabriel-sohier-chaput-aka-zeiger.)
The first three days of his trial, held last February and March, revealed a botched police investigation and a poorly prepared prosecution, which is all the more galling given the overwhelming mass of evidence already assembled by journalists from the MontrealGazette in a series of articles published in spring 2018 based on research carried out by anti-fascist activists. (Read a summary of the first three days of the trial at: https://bit.ly/3nDhzHn.)
At the time, Montréal Antifasciste wrote: “It is clear that the police and the crown completely ignored our work and that of the Gazette journalists who publicly exposed Zeiger. . . . This shocking lack of preparation confirms two things that we have always known: 1) the police do not take the threat represented by the far right and neo-fascist currents at all seriously; 2) it is not in the courts that true justice is to be found but in community solidarity and self-defence.”
Sohier Chaput was never called to account for his central role in the Iron March forum, a key meeting place for neo-Nazi militants around the world who are disposed to engage in violence against their enemies, notably the Atomwaffen Division, an organization that recently made headlines in Québec following an RCMP operation in Plessisville and Saint-Ferdinand. The evidence shows that Sohier Chaput was an Iron March moderator, as well as having published numerous essays on the forum and having promoted the establishment of an international neo-Nazi network that was to include a clandestine terrorist wing. He also organized an immense digital archive of fascist works for this network and re-published James Mason’s Siege, the principal ideological text used by the Atomwaffen Division and the so-called “accelerationist” tendency of the international neo-Nazi movement. Sohier Chaput also joined other white supremacists at the infamous “Unite the Right” rally, in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, where an anti-racist activist was killed by a neo-Nazi.
There can be no doubt as to the central role that Sohier Chaput played in the neo-Nazi ecosystem from 2012 to 2018, a period marked by the Donald Trump presidency and the rise of the alt-right movement, just as there can be no doubt as to the contributions he made as an ideologue and a prolific propagandist. He himself has stated that he published hundreds of articles in which he unquestionably incites hatred against and encourages the harassment of Jews, Muslims, racialized people, LGBTQ+ people, feminists, progressives, etc. Nonetheless, this major propagandist of racial hatred is likely to walk out of court today entirely unscathed, because the police and the crown didn’t consider it necessary to make use of the abundance of evidence anti-fascists had gathered against him. At most, he will receive a symbolic sentence and then be turned loose to return to his toxic activities.
In a leaflet that will be distributed at the demonstration, the Montréal Antifasciste collective explains: “As anti-fascists and anti-racists, we believe that combatting the hateful positions of white supremacists cannot be left to the police and the courts. Rather, it is the responsibility of the community at large, in solidarity with the groups and individuals who are being targeted. It falls to each and every one of us to identify and flush out the Nazis and other fascists in our neighbourhoods, to expose, isolate, and neutralize them by any means necessary. It is also our responsibility to deal with anyone who tries to follow in their footsteps and emulate them. . . . Whatever the verdict in Sohier Chaput’s case, his punishment will certainly not be commensurate with all the harm he has caused. In the final analysis, far from the closed doors of the Palais de Justice, our communities are responsible for our own safety. We must organize ourselves to resist the harm done by racists/sexists/homophobes/transphobes like Sohier Chaput. We must deny Nazis, white supremacists, and other fascists space to grow and develop. Finally, we must all continue to fight the far right and the fascist threat in our daily lives, at our workplaces, in our neighbourhoods, in our cultural spaces, and everywhere else for as long as it takes!”
The anti-capitalist MayDay 2022 blatantly showed the limits of our offensive demonstrations. It’s a good thing that comrades were able to hit certain symbolic targets, but it’s a real problem that these attacks signaled the end of the demonstration instead of rekindling its momentum. We must therefore reflect on our means, our tactical choices, and our collective capacities.
To start off, lets be clear that it is not the attacks that cause the demonstration to disperse. Some people will always leave an event when it starts becoming more offensive but this is not so much the case here, or only very marginally. We can assume that most of the comrades present know what they are getting into, and what to expect. In the same way, the massive police presence, sometimes sticking very close to the crowd, does not prevent the event from taking place (cf. the last COBP demonstration). The fateful moment arrives with the use of tear gas.
For some reason, the stinging smoke seems to instill a nameless terror in the Montreal milieu. Gas is certainly very unpleasant and can become a real problem for some people who are more sensitive to it, but this is certainly not the case for everyone and its use in other countries does not provoke the same reactions. In other places, the gas is often more concentrated and used more generously. So the problem here is most likely a lack of training and collective solidarity. I think we can identify several interrelated factors; fear of the gas and its effects, fear of arrest, collective panic/mob movement, and local culture.
I run because you run…
The fear of gas and its effects seems at first to be quite rational. It is normal to try to get out of a painful or uncomfortable situation. However, this fear of pain or discomfort is largely disproportionate. The problem with this phenomenon is that it acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everyone knows that the effects of gas tend to worsen with fear or stress, especially for people who are not used to it. The act of trying to get out of the gas at all costs paradoxically reinforces its effects by contributing to collective panic phenomena. Moreover, when desperately trying to get out of the area, we are more likely to make bad tactical choices, individually or collectively. Some people choose to leave the demonstration in small groups, under the illusion that they will be able to rejoin later. In fact, the behavior spreads and the random calls to gather elsewhere only serve to camouflage the chaotic dispersal. It seems to me that this state of affairs must be radically changed.
First of all it’s good to draw the attention of the demonstration to what the police are doing, but shouting “they are gassing” seems to have the opposite effect of what is desired. Even before seeing the pucks bouncing on the ground, a wave of panic runs through the group and those with less experience already start to run. A solution should be found so as not to indirectly reinforce the effectiveness of the police attacks. Perhaps it would be good to punctuate these calls with encouragement not to panic, to stay together, and not to run.
When the capsules are on the ground, rather than trying to get away from them, it should be common practice to move them away from the demonstration, or even to return them to the sender (the cops on bicycles did not have masks on May 1st and seem to have been quite inconvenienced by the gas). When some people did try to move the capsules away, most of the observed attempts were to kick the capsules towards other parts the demonstration, even if this was not the objective. The intention of these comrades is good, but their initiative is made very complicated by the fact that the demonstration is already starting to break up, that the area to protect is becoming blurred, and that they risk finding themselves isolated.
Once the gas starts to spread, let’s invite the more panicked among us to take a second to analyze the situation. Is the gas really that bad? Are the police really getting too close? Does it look like they are targeting people or preparing to make arrests? Does it look like they are trying to set up a trap? If none of these conditions are met, running will only make the situation worse. Instead, we can stick with our buddy, stay with the group, follow the front banner, and try to remain calm to not to worsen the effects of the gas. To escape in small groups is an individualistic solution to a collective safety problem.
Of course, sometimes it is necessary to run, but again, there is no need to start a panicked sprint if the cops are not on your tail. In most cases, it is enough to jog a few dozen meters to get out of a dense cloud or to get out of the riot squad’s reach. Not running too fast also contributes to maintaining the coherence of the demonstration, prevents slower comrades form falling behind, and avoids the targeting of isolated individuals.
But… I run because YOU run…
The risk of arrest has been discussed above, but it seems important to return to it in more detail. This fear is much more legitimate than just the fear of gas. Getting caught can have serious consequences for the lives of comrades, especially if they have carried out offensive or criminalized actions. Again, it seems that the solution everyone chooses is to try to get out alone, or with their small group.
It should be remembered that currently the cops are trying to target certain people from the demo, but rarely the crowd as a whole. By running around unreasonably, we make their work easier; individuals and small groups are isolated, changing as best they can, without any protection, with the omnipresent risk of being arrested, especially for the slowest or least discreet. This provides opportunities for the police, whether the person has done anything or not. Most of the time the riot police charges are just to make us run or back up. Due to their heavy equipment, they will not try to follow us for long; their tactic is essentially to scare us by shouting “Boo!”.
However, there is no simple solution for how to resolve this issue of fear of the police and the lack of trust between comrades. It is a matter of learning to work together to develop the solidarity that is sorely lacking. It is also necessary to train collectively and to participate as groups so that there is a critical mass of people who know each other and are familiar moving together, to prevent our demonstrations from descending into “everyone for themselves”.
Should we stop running then?
It is therefore necessary to speak here about the question of collective panic and crowd movements. We have seen that these demonstrations exhibited patterns of irrational behaviors (fear of gas, arrests etc.) which provoke a form of collective panic. In my opinion this is the main danger in our demonstrations, before the police and their weapons. We should not be surprised by police brutality, arrests and trials. All revolutionary militants know these risks or have experienced them. Nevertheless, most of us began our involvement with the idea that collective force was the way to make change. But these moments of individualistic breakdown are a blow to the beautiful myth of solidarity in our movements; when the going gets tough, it’s every person for themselves and then we’ll see each other afterwards. For new people, this can put them off organizing with us for good. This problem on its own should encourage us to find solutions but unfortunately it is not the only one.
A crowd movement caused by panic can be particularly dangerous and difficult to stop. The size of the demonstration makes the danger limited in our case and should not cause any deaths. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to imagine that serious injuries could be caused by the movement of people trying to escape from the gas and/or the police; pushing and shoving making people fall down, trampling of people who have fallen on the ground, not to mention the inherent dangers of traffic.
It is very difficult to stop these kind of panicked movements once the phenomenon spreads through the group. Everyone has experienced it, it starts with a few people running or shouting and soon the panic spreads like a wave through the group to the point that even cool-headed people are forced to run or become isolated (thus participating in the reproduction of the phenomenon). It is essential to try to nip this panic in the bud. We must calm our panicking comrades and make them come to their senses. We must refrain from running as long as possible and regularly call on everyone to remain calm, grouped, and united.
…I’m lacking trust…
Here we must point out the underlying problem of everything that has already been raised; the lack of a culture of collective resistance that encourages united behavior. It is still incredible that, in a city that has so many revolutionary militants, better coordination is not possible. The lack of practice is definitely a factor, as offensive demonstrations are not so frequent throughout the year, but the problem remains. The work carried out by certain groups to organize these moments is disproportionate in relation to the duration and impact of the event. It is the responsibility of everyone to make the best use of these dates that we impose on the calendar of our enemies; 20 minutes of attacks in the city center should not be enough to satisfy us, nor should the disconcerting ease with which the police are able to stop the problem. Far from coming out of it energized, I am instead assailed by a feeling of great collective weakness. Comrades should forgive this conclusion which contrasts with the usual post-demo self-congratulations, but this text does not seek to play the role of a press release. There are clearly problems, and it is important that we address them collectively.
We are anarchists committed to anticolonial and anti-extractivist struggles across Turtle Island. We have followed the fight of Wet’suwet’en land defenders against the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and the subsequent repression of the RCMP on their territory. We want to let the contractors and benefactors of this project know that we hold them complicit in the colonizing violence of this pipeline project. They are not safe from us on or off the territory.
Sometime in this past month, we visited the Bothar company storage yard in Calgary. After some research, we found out Bothar is the company contracted to execute the microtunnelling process (AKA drilling) under the Wedzin Kwa, the last of nine major river crossings to be completed in the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Based on our recon, we knew this company possessed in their Calgary yard at least 3 bore cutterheads, 2 slurry mixers (for the bentonite process), 2 sets of pipe thrusters, and 2 control stations to direct the bore during microtunnelling.
With a bit of practice, and some safe internet research, we easily learned how to use a portable oxy-acetalene torch. We broke into the lot where their equipment is stored. Even with increased police patrols and a busy neighbouring lot, we were able to sabotage various pieces of equipment, including the pipe-thrusters used to place piping under river beds. The entire operation took less than an hour, and we left some major damage in our wake. Now they know we can reach them anywhere, at any time.
A large proportion of Bothar’s key equipment is supplied by the German companies Herrenkencht + Bauer. If you are located in Germany, feel free to pay them a visit. They are complicit in violating Indigenous sovereignty and destroying the hereditary territories of the Wet’suwet’en peoples.
The tactic used here is one of many being leveled against CGL. We chose to target Bothar directly for several reasons. Foremost, because attacking the equipment of the companies involved in these projects inhibits their ability to conduct work.
Furthermore, attacking companies away from the drill site spreads out the financial and defensive costs. The cost of damaged equipment and resulting delays creates a financial disincentive to participate in the CGL project, which is already massively over budget. Equipment loss and delays may help tip the scales in our favor. If all they are defending are their investments on a single drill pad, they can lean hard on the swarms of pigs and security goons currently bearing down on the Wet’suwet’en Yintah. But defending their investments across all of Turtle Island? Best of luck to them.
Finally, striking companies at their home base demonstrates that this fight isn’t localized to Wet’suwet’en territory. The more companies targeted, the clearer our message is. The Wet’suwet’en have called for actions of solidarity and this is a reponse.
Let this be a warning to any company which seeks to cause further harm to the planet in order to profit, and to all who would violate indigenous soverignty to further capitalist interests. No matter how much surveillance, security, and police patrols they try to protect themselves with, we will always find cracks in their systems. We can reach them. We will enter their yards, we will destroy their equipment, we can use their “advances” against them. If you and your comrades feel inspired to target the industrial players on this fucked-up imperialist game board, now is the time to get out there.
— some anarchists
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Comments Off on 5th Annual Halifax Anarchist Bookfair
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
September 3rd (Sept 4th rain date) 10am-6pm Location TBA
We are at a breaking point. Thread by thread our global economic system is unraveling before our eyes as we dance on the precipice of all the converging and cascading crises of these turbulent times. From pandemic to war, inflation to crumbling supply chains, ecological breakdown to housing scarcity: we are feeling the crushing weight of capitalism more than ever.
The roots of these crises lie within the construct of authority itself. Anarchism helps us to understand the roots of these systems of power, to widen the cracks in their foundation, articulate our desires for self-determination, and dream of a world where all are free.
The Halifax Anarchist Bookfair exists to create space where strangers and friends can gather from all walks of life to discuss, question, and learn how we can fulfill the needs of our communities without coercion. To gather is to remind ourselves that we are capable of joy even in struggle, that our strength and bravery in the face of state violence are worthy of celebration.
The bookfair will feature publishers, book distributors, vendors, artists, and facilitators from across Turtle Island, including workshops, discussions, stories, parties, and kids’ activities. Join us as we share our love, grief, and rage, and build toward the liberation of all people. All anarchists, book lovers, and curious souls are welcome!
Please get in touch with your workshop proposals, table requests and inquiries, accessibility needs, collaboration ideas and wildest dreams. Please get in your requests by July 20th.
Comments Off on Vancouver: Attorney General’s Windows Smashed after Approving Charges for Land Defenders
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
Last Wednesday, David Eby, the Attorney General of BC, fucked up by approving criminal prosecution of contempt charges against Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters. We helped him re-decorate his office in recognition of his poor choices.
Early Tuesday morning, we smashed the glass of his fancy Kitsilano office. We left behind messages demanding that the charges be dropped. Eby and his prosecutors have no jurisdiction in Wet’suwet’en territory. Eby and all “canadian” politicians should understand they are watched and their racist decisions will always have consquences.
Our main goal in writing this text and drawing attention to the issue of prison expansion in Ontario is to stop the projects, so in this final section we would like to offer some ideas about how that could happen. This is just our contribution to what we hope will be a larger conversation, and we certainly aren’t trying to say there is only one way of struggling against prison. That said, we hope that you will resonate with our ideas and feel inspired to push in similar directions.
First though, who is this “we”? We are a group of friends who live in Southern Ontario and who have, separately and together, been doing prisoner solidarity organizing of different kinds for many years. We are anarchists, and although our focus has often been prison, we bring to it a broader critique of power and hierarchy that influences how we choose to organize. Some of us have done time, but all of us know what it’s like to be separated from people we care about by prison walls, and this feeling is a big part of why we don’t want to see the system expand.
In this section, we are speaking to two overlapping groups of people: those who do prisoner support and solidarity, and those who share our politics as anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians. For those who share our broad politics, we want to encourage you to care about the details of prison expansion in Ontario and put energy into stopping it. For those who already do work around prison, we want to make the case for a certain way of thinking about how and why to oppose prison expansion.
We will talk first about the opportunities we see in building a campaign against prison expansion, and then present some ideas for how to go about it.
Although each individual construction project is local, the overall process of prison expansion is regional and provincial in scale. The prison system affects all of us, no matter where live, and although there are specific reasons why people in and around Thunder Bay or Kemptville might want to oppose the projects in their communities, every single person in (or near) Ontario has a reason to oppose both the expansion overall and each individual project.
The financial and political interests around the expansion projects certainly aren’t limited to the communities where the prisons are located. Framing the issue as provincial in scale creates opportunities to network more widely and also to take the struggle to the doorstep of every construction company, OPSEU office, politician, or architecture firm that is driving prison expansion forward.
Set our own time frames, prepare for the future
Often, our organizing is reactive and urgent, meaning we are responding to things happening around us as quickly as we can. This is definitely not just true of organizing around prison. In this case though, the expansion project will be happening over at least the next three years. There will be moments where things are urgent, but generally speaking, a campaign against prison expansion could set its own time frame and have control over the pace of struggle.
Working on longer time frames also makes it easier to look beyond the projects currently on the table and prepare for what will come after. The Eastern and Northern Strategies are not the first waves of prison expansion and won’t be the last (see our case study about the Toronto South Detention Centre). Stopping the current projects is not our only goal. How we organize in the present creates the conditions we will fight in next time around.
Deeper Analysis of Prison in Ontario
Anyone who organizes around prison knows that one of the biggest hurdles is how little visibility the issue of prison has. Canadian society as a whole just kinda chooses not to pay any attention. In politicized spaces, although many groups have some general desire for prison abolition, they often don’t know much more than the average person about how prison in Canada actually works.
Ontario’s prison system certainly has similarities to prison systems elsewhere, but it is also specific to this region. One of the best ways to learn about the prison system is to support prisoner organizing, since the tiny routine details of how the system works are the terrain on which that struggle occurs.
Understanding how prison works in our context can help us understand how power functions more generally and help give teeth to an abolitionist politic, since when we struggle against prison, we struggle against state violence at its most bare.
A campaign against expansion is also an opportunity for folks who already do prisoner solidarity work, and here’s the main reason why:
Struggle against recuperation
As we explained in a previous section, recuperation is when the state tries to involve its critics in a process of transforming the institutions they criticize. The best way for the state to undermine prison organizing is to take up a version of our demands and use it to justify expansion and reform.
One of the strengths of the current prisoner solidarity movement in Ontario is also a vulnerability: focusing on our local prisons and amplifying the demands prisoners make about their conditions inside. This is a key part of why this organizing has been so effective in recent years, but it also makes it harder for us to react when the prison system responds to our demands by “improving” itself in a way that goes beyond any individual prison.
We have done a great job rallying people around demands that come from inside prison about conditions there. However, on the inside, a conflict over triple bunking or early lockup can easily escalate to become a fundamental challenge to the prison’s authority. Prisoners in struggle change the balance of power inside. On the outside though, the same demands that are so powerful inside are actually just mild policy disagreements. Therefore, amplifying prisoner demands may not be a sufficient basis for an abolitionist politic on the outside.
A specific campaign against Ontario prison expansion can happen in parallel with support for inside organizing. It can help to broaden the issue and give us space to argue against the existence of prisons, and it also allows us to push back against the prison system’s attempts at undermining prison struggle through recuperation.
We want to propose a two-pronged strategy for stopping this wave of prison expansion: direct action targeting the construction process, and undercutting its social and political support.
Obviously we aren’t inventing anything here. These dual approaches are commonly used in other campaigns. For instance, in campaigns against pipelines in Ontario, people occupied construction sites and also undermined pro-pipeline advocacy in order to deprive the project of support. Around encampment defense, people helped to physically prevent evictions while also targeting politicians and lobby groups who supported evictions.
Although these two approaches are distinct, it is important to think of them as part of a single strategy. Different crews may do different kinds of work, but we should emphasize the way those kinds of work complement each other. We will look at each approach separately, but first we want to propose a general principle:
Decentralization means encouraging organizing within many different, autonomous groups, whether ones that already exist or ones formed for this purpose. Decentralization is an alternative to centralization, which would look like trying to funnel everyone who wants to oppose prison expansion into one big organization.
Decentralization allows for a wider diversity of approaches and messaging, making the campaign more creative and wide-reaching, and it makes it easier to scale up across different regions. It definitely comes with challenges, like for instance, coordinating between different groups can take more work and it can be harder to build momentum in some cases. But for us, the advantages outweigh the inconveniences.
We aren’t going to be trying to get anyone to join anything — rather, we will be encouraging folks to self-organize within as many different groups as possible. Coordination is still important, so we encourage you to send content about the expansion to (name of website) and action reports to North Shore Counter-Info, which is a secure, autonomous media platform.
OK, on to the two approaches:
Undercutting Support for Expansion
Right now, there is a whole network of support for prison expansion. This often looks like support for prison reform, notably around mental health, addiction services, and programming for Indigenous prisoners. Many of the groups and individuals doing this are not our enemies, but they are participating in the province’s recuperation strategy, and not all the groups support it to the same degree.
Undercutting support for the expansion looks like like:
Dramatize the issue of expansion. Push the conflict into the open – break social peace and make it clear that there are sides in this struggle;
Giving the less supportive groups the chance to step away from the project and withdraw their support;
Isolating the most hardened groups that are unlikely to step away and reveal them as enemies. The activities of these hardened groups can then be targeted for disruption.
Below is an incomplete list of some groups that currently support this project. They are approximately listed in order of how supportive they are of the prison system, from less supportive to more. Those at the top can be asked (or pressured) to drop their support in order to isolate those at the bottom.
Various mental health organizations (Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, CMHA)
The Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler: “These are much-needed improvements and we acknowledge the Solicitor General’s commitment to improving living conditions and providing more culturally relevant and inclusive supports for inmates,”
The John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies
Colleges that offer training for prison guards Mohawk and Niagara Colleges, for example
Construction companies and closed-shop construction unions who will be hired by the big companies that win the contracts It is good to pressure companies before contracts are awarded, since there are often costly penalties for withdrawing.
Architects, environmental assessment firms, consulting companies, lawyers and other professionals who will be hired by the companies that win the contracts It can be hard to figure out exactly who is involved in this work, but it seems like Ernst & Young LLP has been involved in consulting around the Thunder Bay Correctional Complex, presumably hired by Bird Construction. It is much easier to access this information if you are a member of a construction association or a trade union.
The Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) and other construction lobby groups
Construction companies who are submitting proposals during the RFQ stage
The Ontario Liberal and NDP parties
Construction companies that are awarded contracts Ellis Don Bird Construction
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) Warren Thomas: “This announcement puts yet more resources in the corrections system. I’m particularly happy to see the new infrastructure improvements. But the proof is in the pudding, and I’ll be even happier when I see shovels in the ground. These projects can’t be completed soon enough.”
The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Premier Doug Ford: “By making these important investments in Eastern Ontario, we will upgrade our corrections infrastructure, better protect our correctional officers, and contribute to our economic recovery through these new construction projects.”
OPSEU’s Corrections Division
The Ministry of the Solicitor General
Direct Action Targeting the Construction Process
The Northern and Eastern prison expansion strategies involve work on five sites spread across a large area over many years. Each of these projects will go through phases of planning, consultation, environmental assessment, and bidding before construction actually begins. The construction of each site will involve many different contractors and trades working together.
Most of these steps have to happen in a particular order, meaning a delay to one has a knock on effect, delaying all the others. A construction permit won’t be issued until the environmental assessment is done, and foundations will have to be poured before modular units can be brought in. As well, many of the same companies will be involved in each project, meaning a delay to one is likely to create a delay to others.
Rather than trying to stop the project with one big push, we suggest creating many delays throughout the process. In particular, look for steps in the process that are chokepoints, such as mandatory site visits or concrete pours, where any disruption will be much more effective. These delays will stack on each other, drive up the cost of the project, and push it across multiple provincial governments.
Direct action means different things to different people, but we feel like it is worth using “direct action” in its more specific sense here. That means taking actions that directly stop the thing you don’t want to happen from happening, as opposed to actions designed to get someone else to do it. Here are some examples:
Suppose there is a public consultation meeting about a proposed prison’s request for a permit. The permitting process can’t move ahead if that meeting doesn’t happen, so rather than trying to get the committee to deny the permit, direct action means disrupting the meeting. This could look like filibustering the meeting so that it goes over time and has to be rescheduled, and it could also mean blocking the doors.
Direct action is certainly not the only way of creating delays, and we don’t expect everyone who cares about stopping prison expansion to want to use direct action tactics. But direct action does not need to be very escalated or risky to be effective, so thinking about how to make your organizing more direct is still worthwhile. Taking actions that directly disrupt the construction process is the surest way of creating delays, and publicizing them also gives more opportunities to dramatize the issue, forcing groups to pick sides.
Understanding the campaign against prison expansion as having a crucial direct action component is important, since the supporters of the expansion will try to do to us the same thing we try to do to them: they will attempt to separate the more radical people using the more disruptive tactics from those they consider reasonable. They will try to recuperate — they will invite the reasonable ones in for a seat at the table and use the police to target those who won’t compromise.
Direct action and solidarity go together. Let’s try to build a campaign that is diverse in its approach and decentralized in its structure, one that is resistant to being disrupted by repression and is capable of taking actions that slow these projects down.
Comments Off on Solidarity with Giannis Mihailidis, on hunger strike since the 23rd of May!
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
On Monday the 23rd of May the anarchist Giannis Mihailidis, held at the Malandrinos prison in Greece, started a hunger strike to obtain his conditional release. In a letter he wrote announcing the hunger strike, he emphasizes – among other aspects – that this battle for his freedom is also an attempt to participate in the larger struggle against State and capital from which his long imprisonment has cut him off. In order to support this initiative out on the streets, many different types of actions are being organized across the Greek territory. To do everything possible to keep this umpteenth episode of struggle of our comrade from being caged in silence, we call for international solidarity. Although we thoroughly believe the best solidarity will always be to continue and deepen our fights, we think it is valuable to look at Giannis’ history of struggle, the hostility with which he looks at the existent, and the ideas of freedom he always carried inside of him on both sides of the prison walls – to recognize ourselves in the reflections of his turbulent journey of revolt. This is an opportunity to accompany our comrade in a fragment of his fight in a more outspoken way, using the means each of us sees fit.
Below you will find a short summary of Giannis’ long history with the authorities and a link to his initial letter announcing his hunger strike translated in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. We strongly encourage the further spreading of this call for solidarity among other comrades and spaces.
In February 2011, Giannis Mihailidis is arrested at a big demonstration in Athens and is charged with attempted murder for attacking the riot cops with bow and arrow, after which he is released on conditions. One month later, after the arrest of 5 members of CCF in a house in Volos, a warrant is issued for Giannis’ arrest for membership in CCF, based on finding his fingerprints in the house in question. He decides to go on the run.
In April 2011, in a shootout between Theofilos Mavropoulos and cops in the Pevki area in Athens, Giannis is suspected of being present and fleeing the scene by stealing the cop car. He is charged for attempted murder for injuring a cop that tried to stop him while fleeing, and condemned many years later when he’s again in prison.
A little less that two years later, in February 2013 in the town of Veria, he is arrested along with three other anarchists and sent to prison, shortly after a double robbery of a bank and post office in Velventos, northern Greece.
In June 2019, after six years in prison, he escapes from the rural prison of Tyrintha in the Peloponnese region. Seven months later he is arrested again in an Athens suburb, armed and in a stolen car, along with two other comrades. He is charged with a bank robbery that happened in August 2019 in Erymanthia, and is sent again to prison.
On December 29th 2021, he reached three fifths of his total merged sentence, and is allowed to apply for his conditional release. On May 23rd, after a first negative answer and the prosecutor’s request for a negative answer on his second application, he decides to start a hunger strike aiming at his release.
Remember our imprisoned comrades. Remember our own histories of revolt. Remember the flame – sometimes flickering, sometimes blazing – of anarchism.
WE ARE ALL POTENTIAL PRISONERS
With June 11th, we desire to deepen a critique of prison that challenges the distinction between prisoner and supporter. For us, these differences are conditional: we, as anarchists, see ourselves as potential prisoners. Some of us have been, some of us will be. This is the basis of our solidarity – a recognition of ourselves in the plight of those in prison.
The continuum of prisoner and supporter can only be seen as tenuous if one looks to the examples of imprisoned and formerly-imprisoned comrades: Marius Mason’s activity with the Anarchist Black Cross, Bill Dunne’s liberation of an anarchist prisoner, Pola Roupa’s attempted helicopter rescue of anarchist prisoners, Claudio Lavazza‘s actions to liberate prisoners. The connections deepen when one considers that numerous anarchist prisoners are locked up for attacks on prison, judicial, and police institutions; and that others connect us to prisoner uprisings from California and Alabama to Greece and Italy.
We have always said that “solidarity means attack,” but we must recognize that slogans do not offer us a way forward in our struggles. If “attack” becomes confined to a restrictive set of activities, we cut ourselves off from a more expansive vision of anarchist struggle. If we move beyond mere repetition of fetishized actions, what possibilities open up to us? Solidarity means attack, yes, but what else does it mean?
In this vein, we’d like to offer our suggestion: instead of doing what you always do for June 11th, try something new. If your focus is usually on offering material aid to prisoners, take up action against some tentacle of the prison system in your town. If you’re usually out in the night attacking, try doing something to directly support an anarchist prisoner. The point is not to further entrench the false dichotomy between direct action and care work, but to challenge our ossified roles. By trying new things, we may come to recognize that the walls that separate the dedicated supporter and the dedicated saboteur were always illusory, that our imaginations are more expansive than we thought, and that we individually and collectively are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.
Central to our vision of solidarity is maintaining the lines that connect us to our companions behind bars. We should keep alive the projects, fights, and movements to which they’ve sacrificed so much of themselves. Our connections with anarchist prisoners start from a point of commonality – that we share a desire to directly transform the world in a liberatory and egalitarian direction. Thus, our solidarity should root itself in bringing prisoners into our projects and investing ourselves in theirs. We want released anarchists to come out into a world of vibrant debate, collaboration, and action; and we want to foster that as much as possible behind prison walls as well. This can be as simple as sending news of local struggles to a prisoner or printing prisoner statements to share at events. As with any aspect of solidarity, we are limited only by our imagination and commitment.
While we should support prison struggles when they happen, we should be careful not to put the burden of struggling against the prison system on prisoners alone. Those in prison – being in conditions of extreme control, surveillance, and restriction – are in many ways the least able to actively fight winnable battles against prison institutions. Those of us living in relative freedom have opportunities to think strategically about what actions and sites of struggle would have the most positive impact on the lives of people in prison and do the most work to dismantle the prison system. As prison is inexorably connected to numerous corporate and state institutions, enemies are everywhere: where can we win?
Supporting prisoners is also a way for different struggles to converge, as the last several decades have taught us. From the Black Liberation Army to the Earth Liberation Front to Grand Jury Resistors to anti-police uprising defendants to land and water protectors, all struggles for liberation will necessarily lead to state repression and imprisonment. By building up support infrastructure and culture, by making prison a less complete isolation and removal, we strengthen every aspect of challenging this society. We also find each other, learn from each other, enrich each other.
Italian prison administrators began censoring Alfredo Cospito’s correspondences in October. Authorities charged him with incitement to commit crimes, citing his writings in the anarchist newspaper Vetriolo. This repression is part of Operation Sibilla, where Italian police have raided numerous anarchist spaces and shut down websites surrounding Vetriolo to prevent the publication and spread of its subversive ideas.
Claudio Lavazza received a hit of five years to his twenty-five-year sentence. His legal support is trying to secure an earlier parole date.
Eric King went to federal court on charges related to a situation in which he was attacked and tortured by prison staff in 2018. The jury found him not guilty and his legal team is now filing a suit against the prison administration. As of this writing, Eric is the process of being transferred and the continued target of a vindictive prison system.
Michael Kimble was assaulted by a corrections officer in June and then sent to solitary confinement before transferred. He has again been denied parole, the stated reasons being disciplinary citations for refusing to work and an altercation with a corrections officer.
Sean Swain was also denied parole, which he argues is retaliation by prison staff for comments he made and civil suits he has filed against them. He has since been transferred from Virginia back to OSP Youngstown in Ohio. His supporters suspect he will soon be transferred again.
More and more defendants from the uprising of 2020 are getting sentenced, some have been released and other going on to serve their terms. Some are still pretrial and facing lengthy sentences. The effects of this repression will still be felt for many years. May the quality of our support for these defendants make us stronger than we were before.
In Chile, anarchist Joaquín García was transferred along with several subversive prisoners to the Rancagua maximum security prison last June. In October, he along with 20 other prisoners were attacked by about 50 guards, after which he was put in solitary confinement for 24 hours. This followed their declaration of solidarity with Pablo “Oso” Bahamondes Ortiz, who was facing weapons and explosive charges, and was subsequently sentenced to 15 years. Francisco Solar, another anarchist locked up at Rancagua, was hospitalized last autumn due to the advancement of undiagnosed diabetes. He and Mónica Cabellero were accused of multiple bombings, after his DNA was surreptitiously taken during a graffiti arrest, and have been in preventative detention since July 2020. In December of 2021 he accepted responsibility for bombing police structures, in solidarity with the revolts beginning in 2019 and those harmed and murdered by the police because, “no one and nothing is forgotten.” Days later, Mónica was in a fight with another prisoner that her family called a provocation set up by the prison. At the time of this writing, information is not yet available on the sentencing or a release date for these two anarchists.
Siarhei Ramanau, Ihar Alinevich, Dzmitry Rezanovich, and Dzmitry Dubousky were sentenced early this year to 18-20 years each for direct actions against Belarusian government targets after preliminary incarceration since 2019. After sentencing it was revealed that they were tortured by guards, resulting in a confession. As anarchism has become criminalized under the ongoing dictatorship, at least two other groups are facing several years each for their dissent.
Russian authorities have sentenced teenage anarchist Nikita Uvarov to five years for a conspiracy to blow up the Federal Security Service in Minecraft (yes, the video game) and constructing small fireworks. Two of his peers received probational sentences for their alleged crimes at the age of 14. Moscow ABC has reported that repression has increased (though there are no new proceedings against anarchists and antifascists there) and they have begun reorienting resources toward humanitarian efforts as Russia continues its murderous invasion of Ukraine.
The Anarchist Black Cross of Dresden, too, has reoriented itself toward providing support to those fighting in and fleeing from Ukraine. This reimagining of their support means helping finance solidarity forces like “The Black Headquarter” that have assembled volunteers to oppose the Russian forces and also attempt to carve out autonomous space in opposition to the Ukrainian state itself. Under the banner of the black flag, Balkan anarchists and anti-authoritarians are uniting against nation-states’ concepts of war and peace. It’s worth noting that chapters of the Anarchist Black Cross were established in Ukraine in 1918 as an adjunct to the Black Army that was fighting both the Soviet and Czarist forces invading from Russia.
In England, Toby Shone was sentenced to almost four years on drug charges related to psychedelics in his possession (during coordinated raids of collective anarchist homes) after terror charges failed to stick, related to the alleged operation of counter-info site 325. Despite the government’s failure to attribute membership to the the 325 collective, the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front, the Earth and Animal Liberation Front, and involvement in related arsons and writings, he still must fight a Serious Organised Crime Prevention Order that would subject him to a heavily monitored five-year house arrest, expressing the evolution of incarceration by an increasingly digitized state apparatus.
The expansion of home detention and monitoring is not new, but still growing, as the prison society further invades the everyday through technological advances. Warfare too, grows increasingly digital from drone strikes to hacking, while government-sanctioned murder continues in all its finality. We may lack details regarding anarchists struck down or imprisoned in their pursuit of freedom in ongoing struggles in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria – still they also move our thoughts and actions. As the state persists in all its punitive perdition, killing and imprisoning, and we find common ground with those who fight in an effort to grow our power and destabilize those that seek to control us – carrying the fallen and imprisoned with us in our relationships with them and through a persistent conflict with the existent.
For ideas on potential activities, check out our blog for years of archived reportbacks. Those looking for materials to print and share can find them at the Resources page. And, most importantly: a list of anarchist prisoners to write to.
We eagerly await the events, actions, statements, and other contributions to this year’s June 11th.