I’m an anarchist, not an asshole
Hi. My name is KC, and I am an anarchist.
I am not this kind of anarchist.
Last night I watched, via Twitter, reports of groups of vandals targeting and damaging businesses in the Mission after a loosely organized rally in Dolores Park. Cars were smashed, windows were tagged, and I’m sure some diners and store owners got pretty shaken up. And as is always the case, these perpetrators were labeled not vandals, not troublemakers, not misguided and angry, but anarchists.
Anarchism is a complex set of ideals and beliefs. Anarchism, for me and many others, is a conscious assertion of personal autonomy in a society that seeks to take away agency from individuals. For me, anarchism is a way of engaging with and subverting the hierarchal structures that permeate my life. But I’m actually not really interested in nailing down a concrete definition of anarchism. I’m also not interested in denying that some who took part in last night’s debacle likely do identify as anarchists.
What I am interested in doing is acknowledging that what happened last night doesn’t help anyone. Calling anyone who smashes a window at a protest an “anarchist” hurts both those like me who have hope for the resurgence of anarchism as a legitimate social movement and those who don’t but still wish to be a part of larger progressive movements like Occupy.
Also, I don’t want to seem like I’m denying the importance and legitimacy of direct action and targeted property destruction. However, smashed windows are unwieldy brushes when you’re trying to paint a message against the state. Vandalism is a tool, a tool that I recognize and accept as one that I am not ethically capable of using against brothers and sisters who are working hard trying to make a living in this city.
As much as I wish it did, scrawling “yuppies out” on a window isn’t going to bring affordable housing back to those who have been outed of the Mission by gentrification.
On this May Day, let’s all take a deep breath and reflect.
To those who smashed windows last night: did the tool of vandalism accomplish your goal?
To those who wish to smash windows today: can you, without hesitation, stand behind the choices you will make?
To those observing today’s actions: will you be so quick to label every vandal an anarchist?