Friday, June 27, 2014



Prison Friday at Scission has rolled around once again.  One thing I learned when I was in prison is it takes more than dialectical-materialism to keep you going...mind, body, spirit...need to nourish them all and get strength from them all.  So here I am today, heading off shortly for a visit with my friend, healer, and shaman Phoenix.  What an incredible woman.

Of course, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with the post below which is about, of all things, mug shots.  If you have ever been arrested you know about them.  Usually, shortly after or before getting fingerprinted (I wonder do they still roll your finger in ink...probably some digital recognition software these days), you have to make that big decision.  You ask yourself, do I want to look mean, tough, indignant, friendly, happy, obtuse, what.  I always tried to look mean and tough.  I couldn't tell you why.

I never gave much more of a thought to mug shots.

Turns out maybe there is actually something to think about.  Turns out mug shots have an actual purpose in the incarceration system.  At least, that's what they are saying over at Prison Culture.

No, Mugshots Do Not “Humanize” Anyone…


Bertillon Card of Laura Scott (1908) - from my collection
Bertillon Card of Laura Scott (1908) – from my collection
I collect mugshots. Actually, let me backtrack.
Several years ago, a friend and I were antiquing in rural Virginia. We walked into a store owned by an older white woman. My friend wanted to look at a wood chest that she had spotted in the window. While I waited for her, I browsed the store searching for interesting finds. My friend decided to buy the chest. So I walked towards the cash register as she paid for her purchase. That’s when I saw them.
Tucked into the corner was a bin filled with about two dozen Bertillon cards (the precursor of the mugshot). They were all of black men. Some dated back to the 1930s but most were from the 1950s. How did this woman come to acquire these Bertillon cards? Why did she keep them in a bin tucked in a corner of her store? I wanted to ask my questions out loud but thought better of it. Instead, I asked how much she would charge for the lot. She peered at me over her bifocals and said that I could buy all of them for $150. I was surprised. I thought she would charge much more. I wondered again why she had the cards. I bought them; this was in 1998.
Since the late 90s, collecting mugshots has become very popular. They are sold on Ebay, in antique shops, at estate sales and in some cases in art galleries. Depending on the year and quality, some mugshot photos sell for $5 and others can cost over $300. The mugshot is the perfect artifact for the Neoliberal age. The individual in the mugshot is decontextualized from their community and turned into a commodity to be traded and sold in the free market.
I began collecting mugshots because I couldn’t understand why an older white woman in rural Virginia had a couple dozen Bertillon cards of black men in a bin in her antique store. I was unsettled and perturbed so I embarked on my own version of a salvage mission. I fancied myself a rescuer or maybe less generously a savior. For me, these Bertillon cards were mis-placed and I considered destroying them once I brought them home. For weeks which turned into months, they sat in a shoebox at the base of my bedroom closet. I wasn’t curious about the names behind the faces. In fact, it was better not knowing them. I was simply relieved that the Bertillon cards were no longer sitting in that bin in rural Virginia.
Bertillon cards and mugshots are specific creations adopted by the state. They often mark the beginning of the (official) criminalization process and so they are material representations of state power. Both the photograph and the live body depicted become fodder for the criminal punishment system. For many people, the mugshot starts the clock on a dehumanizing journey through an unjust system that can lead to incarceration (where you exist solely as a number).
The mugshot then is a tool used by the state to flatten individuals and turn them into rationalized, bureaucratized ‘things.’ This process is so successful that many observers never consider the pain and suffering (too often) etched on the faces of those being photographed. These images of the accused (usually never convicted) are made public for all to consume as they like. Indeed in the age of the internet, police departments regularly post mugshots on social media. Look at this ‘thing,’ the gatekeepers of the state tell us. And millions of people oblige.
I know that I am not alone in questioning why law enforcement is engaged in such an exchange. Who benefits when they publicly share mugshot photos? Who is harmed? When I was growing up, the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of my favorite books. Just as Hester Prynne is forced by her neighbors to wear the letter “A” on her chest as punishment and to shame her for having transgressed societal (religious) norms, the police are marking hundreds of thousands of people every year with a Scarlet Letter; In this case, “C” for criminal.
The cops are not in the business of ‘humanizing’ suspects. In fact, their goal is to ‘other’ them and make them alien. The formerly incarcerated and convicted have taken to social media to counter their dehumanization by declaring that they are more than their records. Perhaps the accused will eventually be forced to create a campaign suggesting that they are “more than their mugshots” too.
I never destroyed the Bertillon cards that I bought in 1998. In fact, over the years, when I’d find more, I added them to my shoebox until I eventually transferred the collection to a larger container. The cards and mugshots sat in storage for years until 2012 when I decided to curate an exhibition titled Black/Inside. The original Bertillon cards from my collection were prominently featured. I began the process of telling stories about the flattened lives on those cards. It was another salvage mission but this time I stood as witness & interlocutor rather than as savior.
And every day, I still think about destroying the mugshots because they are intended to dehumanize and oppress… Full stop.
Note: To learn more about the story of the woman on the Bertillon card above, Laura Scott, clickhere.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Let me tell you something, I used to live in Philly.  Let me tell you something else, I learned more in my time in Philly (where I had a job working on the streets of North Philly and speaking in drug treatment programs all over town) then in decades elsewhere.  Tough town, not an easy town by any means, a no nonsense sort of place.  Philly is a city full of neighborhoods, with different ethnic groups, different racial groupings, good guys and bad, racists and anti-racists.  I'll tell you what though, if I were the damn Ku Klux Klan, I would keep my skinny (or fat) white ass out of town.  I know some folks who live there and they are not the sort to sit idly by when Kluxers gather on their turf. 

And so it came to pass, that one day a pack of white supremacist yahoos got it in their heads that they could stroll into my friends town and preach their garbage.  They thought they could slink in secretly.  They thought wrong.

The following is from my pals at One People's Project.  After that is a piece from ANTIFA PHILADELPHIA.

As we used to say, "dig it."


Or, how the longest day of the year became the longest day of the lives of any hatemonger in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. A few Klan groups thought they could hold a clandestine rally in Philly today, and unfortunately for them, we found out, and not only a Klan group operating in Philly was exposed, Keystone State "Skinheads" got the treatment as well since they are in this neighborhood too!  Hey Fascist scumbags! We know how to do this! Don't test us! Links to more pics and other reports are being added as they are published.

One People's Project

PHILADELPHIA, PA – A rally held today by a number of Klan organizations was meant to go under the radar. Instead not only did residents come out once they learned of their presence, a second impromptu rally took place at the home and reputed headquarters of another hate group nearby once the Klan members retreated. The event in effect alerted residents to a rather quiet Klan presence being run by a possible city worker.
According to some reports, the threat of a Klan rally was brewing for just over a month in the Tacony section of Philadelphia after a local Grand Dragon was kicked out of a town watch organization. According to Joe Nicoletti of the Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch, The East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire have been trying to start their own town watches, and have been trying to recruit within established committees such as his. When he discovered this among his own ranks, his town watch removed the person. In response, the Klan groups wanted to come out to the neighborhood in a “show of force” to support him. There was no public call or any messages on the internet announcing the event, but a permit was filed with the city. Police officials said they could not release the name of the person who filed the permit.
The Klansmen boasted upwards to about 80 Klansmen were to participate with a number of high profile speakers on hand, but in the end only seven stood on the steps of the Tacony Library on the corner of Torresdale and Knorr. Among them were Richard Preston, Imperial Wizard of the Confederate White Knights of Rosedale, Md., which as only been in existance for three years, The Knights of the Nordic Order, which was founded by former Aryan Brotherhood members, and other Klansmen from Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. The East Coast Knights banner was unfurled during the rally.
Community opposing the KlanCommunity members noticed the buildup of police and some antifa outside the library prior to the arrival of the Klan and were unaware of the type of event that was to take placein their neighborhood. Once they were informed dozens poured out to shout the Klansmen down. Some in the community joined hands across the street from the library as a show of unity. The rally, which was supposed to start at 1 PM and go on until 3PM, started a half hour late and was completed an hour early with the Klansmen abandoning the library as the crowd followed them and driving off.
The multiracial Tacony neighborhood is ironically also where many members of the white supremacist Keystone State “Skinheads” (KSS, a/k/a Keystone United) reside, and after the Klan departed, antifa and some community members walked to the home of KSS members Bryan and Patricia Vanagatis, which has been a reputed meeting and headquarters for the group just blocks away from the library on Dittman St. A peaceful protest was held at the home that went on for another half hour and protesters also took the time to talk with the neighbors, many of whom were Black and Hispanic. Although there were people in the home, no one engaged protesters or even came near the windows until police knock on the door and an older woman answered. No KSS members noticibly participated in the rally at the library.
Vanagatis House
The Vanagatis House. Photo Credit: Michael Albany
While no one has yet to name the person that was kicked out of the town watch and sparked this rally, The East Coast Knights' Grand Dragon is William Walters. According to his Facebook Page Walters is from Tacony and works for the City of Philadelphia. Among his pictures is the logo for the Tacony Town Watch. His posts call for the end of same sex marriages, interracial relationships, illegal immigration, and what he calls white discrimination. “(F)or every non white right our government passes they take away rights of the White Americans!!” he writes. “Equal opportunity means the minorities get the jobs first, qualified or not !!! Stop affirmation Action Now!!!”
There was no incidents, injuries or arrests during either the rally at the Library or at the Vanagatis house.


'Aw Hell Naw!' Michael Albany Photography

Reportback: Philly Sends KKK Packing, Pays KSS a Visit

Saturday was a bad day to be a Fascist in Philly.
Thanks to One People’s Project, Philly Antifa was alerted, less than 48 hours before, to a planned rally by several sects of the Ku Klux Klan in the city.
Maturbator Race
Masturbator Race
The KKK is extremely fragmented these days, so for an explanation of those involved we turn to DLJ over at One People’s Project:
“According to some reports, the threat of a Klan rally was brewing for just over a month in the Tacony section of Philadelphia after a local Grand Dragon was kicked out of a town watch organization. According to Joe Nicoletti of the Tacony/Holmesburg Town Watch, The East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire have been trying to start their own town watches, and have been trying to recruit within established committees such as his. When he discovered this among his own ranks, his town watch removed the person. In response, the Klan groups wanted to come out to the neighborhood in a “show of force” to support him. There was no public call or any messages on the internet announcing the event, but a permit was filed with the city. Police officials said they could not release the name of the person who filed the permit.
The Klansmen boasted upwards (of) 80 Klansmen were to participate with a number of high profile speakers on hand, but in the end only seven stood on the steps of the Tacony Library on the corner of Torresdale and Knorr. Among them were Richard Preston, Imperial Wizard of the Confederate White Knights of Rosedale, Md., which as only been in existance for three years, The Knights of the Nordic Order, which was founded by former Aryan Brotherhood members, and other Klansmen from Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. The East Coast Knights banner was unfurled during the rally.”
Thanks, DLJ
Despite almost no notice, over 60 people turned out to protest against the Klan. That number started as a handful but continued to grow as word spread throughout the neighborhood and people came out to join Philly Antifa, One People’s Project and their fellow Anti-Racists.
The rally was typical Klan fare these days: they had 7 people, a permit and police escort. They were slated to rally for 2 hours but were there for about 45 minutes.  No one heard a word they said over the boos and jeers.  Someone had also written a sign that said “honk if you hate the KKK” which elicited plenty of honks. The Klan left hurriedly.  They didn’t even bother to talk shit except once inside their cars speeding away. But that wasn’t the end of the day for Antifa.
Instead, about 2 dozen people from the crowd got to talking about something: the fact that local Neo-Nazi organizers Bryan and Patricia Vanagaitis lived only a few blocks away.  Together we walked over there to 6611 Ditman st. and said hello.
Gross. Uh, we mean…hello?
The crowd chanted “DEATH DEATH DEATH TO THE NAZIS” and “THIS IS OUR COMMUNITY NAZIS OUT NAZIS OUT” out front and spoke with the Vanagaitis’ neighbors, informing those who were unaware of their affiliations.  Eventually it became clear that no one was coming out even though they answered the door when the cops knocked.
The Vanagaitis’ house. Hung above the porch was an Italian flag with aFasces on it, a Fascist symbol associated with Mussolini.
Despite claims by KSS that they “prefer to be in the streets” in 2012 Greek Nazi Zine, the Vanagaitis’  passed on our invitations to come outside. In the same interview, the KSS member says that “The reds (meaning anyone who opposed fascism) in America are often times young, spoiled, suburban kids with no real desire to be face to face with us, or people of other groups…” (Omerta Terror Machine #28)
Well, guess 2012 WAS a long time ago…

Wednesday, June 25, 2014



Hello Earth People.

Have you noticed lately that on the NBC/CBS/ABC evening news every night at least one of the top stories has to do with some sort of extreme weather situation and usually, also some sort of disease, virus, bacteria which is surging, resurfacing, adapting to treatment, out of control?  Yup, the time to talk about global climate change as if it is some scary future scenario is long gone.  The time to claim that each severe weather problem is merely an individual event and that we cannot connect it to climate disruption ended way back when.

People, while we mostly sit around talking about, twiddling our thumbs, and once in a while marching around in a circle or offering ourselves up for a nice peaceful arrest, people's lives are being destroyed...right now.

As is usually the case the primary culprit behind the problem, behind the bury your head in the sand propaganda, behind the there is nothing to fear slogans is global capital.  As is usually the case in such situations and wherever global capital is involved the first to suffer and die are the poor and people of color.

Yes, eventually all of us, everything living and breathing on the planet will pay the price for capitalist accumulation, State subterfuge, our own inaction, no doubt about that.  However, right now the price is being paid by some, by many.

Back in the eighties when I was working at a free heath clinic, helping to develop some grassroots response to HIV disease, observing the gay community pay a huge price for inaction by many, indifference by many, plain bigotry by many, a gay man said to my "beshert" (look it up), "Something needs to be done.  Someone has to do something."

Well, folks, today SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE.  WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING...not someone us...not tomorrow now...

Do the words, "by any means necessary" come to mind?" 

They should.

Earlier this spring the Guardian wrote those most affected first by climate change include:

Pensioners left on their own during a heatwave in industrialized countries. Single mothers in rural areas. Workers who spend most of their days outdoors. Slum dwellers in the megacities of the developing world...those who did the least to cause climate change would be the first in the line of fire: the poor and the weak, and communities that were subjected to discrimination...

A  recent global assessment by the UN stated up front,

People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change...People who were already disadvantaged, more of them are going to be suffering from malnutrition...

Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross climate centre and an author of the report from the UN said,

It's the poor suffering more during disasters, and of course the same hazard causes a much bigger disaster in poorer countries, making it even poorer.

Not tomorrow, but right now shifting seasons are destroying harvests and causing widespread hunger.

Even World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim says,

 In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could batter the slums even more and greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the Earth's temperature.

 We have powerful new evidence that even if  climate change falls short of the much-discussed 4°C warmer world, we could witness the rolling back of decades of development gains and force tens of millions more to live in poverty.

When   Typhoon Haiyan left an estimated 10,000 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the Philippines, it underscored a cruel truth about climate change: it hits the world’s poorest the hardest.

In Africa, be it the expanding desert,  the destruction of agriculture in the sub Sahara region, fluctuating water resources, expanding vectors for disease, global climate change is happening right now.

As Economix made clear in an article last winter:

...the poorer the country, the harder it might be for it to respond to a changing climate.

Let’s take the example of a typhoon. Before a storm hits, building sturdy, secure houses and ensuring that a population has a plan for evacuation are critical to preserving life and property. Right after a storm, highways, search-and-rescue teams, helicopters, tractors, firefighters, hospitals and surgeons become critical for doing the same. Afterward, insurance, savings and a well-financed government response become necessary for rebuilding lives and cities. When it comes to such disasters, money matters.

The same goes for many other phenomena related to climate change caused by human activity. If a given area is getting drier and hotter, a subsistence farmer is going to face greater struggles than a diversified agricultural conglomerate. A shrinking water supply might be harder for Pakistan to manage than California. The same might be true for rising oceans.

And we all know about island nations sinking under the waves as the oceans rise.
 As those sea levels rise, more and more previously inhabited coastal land will be submerged, destroying the homes and possessions of many poor people without the means to replace their possessions.  

ARStechnica comments:

Sea level rise, while considerably less sudden than a flash flood, also threatens many poor, low-lying coastal areas and islands. More than 175 million people live on the Ganges-Brahmaputra and Mekong River deltas, for example, where large amounts of food are grown. Rising sea level means worse flooding, invading saltwater, and a loss of land, displacing many and eliminating their livelihoods.

Those folks living in that delta are not the rich of the world.

A report from the World Bank, said:

As the coastal cities of Africa and Asia expand, many of their poorest residents are being pushed to the edges of livable land and into the most dangerous zones for climate change. Their informal settlements cling to riverbanks and cluster in low-lying areas with poor drainage, few public services, and no protection from storm surges, sea-level rise, and flooding.

 That is what is happening today, as you read this, in Liberia, for example, as the post below from All Africa will make very clear, too clear.

The truth is simple unless the multitude act now, right now, strongly, powerfully, with force, with disregard for borders and States, not waiting for governments and politicians, or the World Bank, or the NGOs, those being crushed by global climate disruption today will multiply rapidly tomorrow...and the next day...

Liberia's Poor and the Rising Sea

Monrovia — Mary B owned a shop in West Point, Monrovia's densely-populated slum community, where she sold liquor just few yards away from the sea. But last month, the ocean left her homeless and without a business because the devastating erosion of the coastline has resulted in most of the land eroding into the Atlantic Ocean with thousands of homes being washed away by the encroaching sea.
"While a human being or your landlord will tell you 'I give you notice at a particular time' then you will pack your things and look for another place, the sea can't give you notice," the young woman who preferred to be called Mary B told IPS.
Situated between the Mesurado and St. Paul Rivers on a peninsula projecting out of the Atlantic Ocean, the township of West Point is home to about 75,000 people living in shacks that are predominantly made out zinc.
Mary B said she had bought the piece of land from the commissioner of the township for 11,500 Liberian dollars, about 130 dollars,and built her shop on it.
According to the Township Commissioner's office, residents in the area are primarily squatters, with no legal rights to the land though it is possible to obtain a Squatters Permit from the administrative office, which grants a certain level of legitimacy to the dwellers.
Though for sometime now, residents of West Point have been hoping that one day they will be relocated because of the continuous environmental degradation on the shoreline here.
A report on the threat to the environment in Liberia released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2008 states that erosion in this West African country is causing the shoreline to recede in some cities, including Buchanan, Greenville, Harper and Robertsport. Beach mining is also said to be the main contributing factor.
Mohamed Carew Alias Kaddafi, 43, is physically challenged and a father of six. A carpenter by trade, he ran a small grocery shop in West Point which was washed away in the storm.
"We were in the shop, the water came with force and blasted the whole place," he told IPS, adding that this is not the first time he has lost his business to the sea.
"It happened before in 2007 and I lost my house."
He may be eager to move elsewhere but the government has not committed to a relocation plan.
West Point is home to many of Monrovia's disadvantaged people and many cannot afford the city's huge rents, which are fixed in U.S. dollars - 150 for a modest two bedroom apartment. To make matters worse the government does no have public housing available.
People in the area have always talked about plans by the government to relocate them, but the Public Works Ministry says the government has no such plans to move over 75,000 people.
However, the government agency responsible for monitoring environmental conditions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), says the erosion in West Point and other communities is something the government is concerned about.
"In Liberia, climate change is causing serious coastal erosion and degrading of coastal environment," Stephen Neufville, acting head of the EPA, told IPS.
West Point and other coastal communities in Monrovia are expected to benefit from the second phase of the Coastal Defence Project otherwise known as Enhancing Resilience of Vulnerable Coastal Areas to Climate Change Risks in Liberia.
However the EPA says that the start of the next phase of the project, which includes Monrovia, where West Point is situated, "depends when we get the next funding." The previous funding they say, was used for the first phase that is currently ongoing in Buchanan.
This project, launched by the United Nations Development Programme and the government of Liberia, is set to help coastal communities in three counties develop defensive mechanism against the effects of climate change that cause sea erosion. The Coastal Defence Project involves building breakwaters to stop waves from eating up the coastline.
But many residents fear that this may be happening too slowly and if nothing is done to relocate them from the area, the sea will continue to cause destruction to their lives and properties.
"For us in West Point, we call the sea the original landlord," Mary B said.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Lawrence, Kansas
April 1970

Say, "Black Bloc" and some people go nuts.  Supposedly peaceful people start screaming about police provocateurs and running around in crazy circles.  They cry out, "They are ruining everything."  They say the Black Block people will destroy all their good work and turn off the masses.

NOTE: Back in the day, some of us who others thought were just crazy bad apples called ourselves, for a bit, "go nuts."

On the other hand, some people just love those who self describe as Black Bloc.  Finally, they say, people willing to say "no more" and mean it.  People willing to take on capital directly, fight cops, and not just sing songs, march in circles, and allow themselves to be peacefully arrested.

Ask people to define Black Bloc...and, well, you know, all kinds of answers spring forth.  They are this, we are that.  They wear masks and break windows.  They stand their ground and take no bull.

“It is the 10 percent of the demonstration that don’t run from police, who are not scared. Nobody owns it,” said one of these mysterious entities, who identified himself only as AM because of the risks of arrest.  Criticized for resorting to violence, AM a Brazilian Black Blocker answered, “It is the violence that has always been in the slums of Brazil but now has come to the center of town.”

Some of us used to say "bring the war home."  Oops sorry for the aside.

Someone else will quickly say, "but they don't offer anything.  They are just negative."

Hmm...heard that one before.

The Buffalo Springfield long long ago once sang, 

There's something happening here
 But what it is ain't exactly clear...

There's battle lines being drawn, 
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong...

There was this article in Truthout back during Occupy days that simple referred to Black Bloc anarchists in Oakland as a "cancer."  In that article Chris Hedges wrote:

Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution.

Do they?

Hedges wrote:

The Black Bloc movement is infected with a deeply disturbing hypermasculinity. This hypermasculinity, I expect, is its primary appeal. It taps into the lust that lurks within us to destroy, not only things but human beings. It offers the godlike power that comes with mob violence. Marching as a uniformed mass, all dressed in black to become part of an anonymous bloc, faces covered, temporarily overcomes alienation, feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and loneliness. It imparts to those in the mob a sense of comradeship. It permits an inchoate rage to be unleashed on any target. Pity, compassion and tenderness are banished for the intoxication of power. It is the same sickness that fuels the swarms of police who pepper-spray and beat peaceful demonstrators. It is the sickness of soldiers in war. It turns human beings into beasts.

Sound like a bunch of Nazi brownshirts, doesn't it.  THEY used to slur us that way, too.  We got called that when we broke up gatherings of real nazis, racists, or attacked speeches by government spokespeople, or disrupted this or that, too, back, way back, when I was so young.  Hell, you can still read many of those weepy radicals from my day apologizing for the "violence."  You can still here them say, they were too smart and too committed to do that sort of thing themselves.  You can still here them say it was "us" who destroyed the movement. You can still, all these decades later, hear them attack Weather and others as if Weather and those others were the enemy, not those dropping thousands of tons of bombs on the people of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, not those murdering Black Panthers in their sleep, not those gunning down unarmed protesters in Orangeburg, SC, Kent, Ohio, at Jackson State in Mississippi, or on the summer streets of Lawrence, KS.  

Ahem.  History is rewritten every day.

 Hey, I broke my share of windows and threw my share of rocks and bricks.  In April of 1970, in Lawrence, Kansas, myself and hundreds of others spent three nights battling cops and soldiers who invaded our neighborhood just down the hill from the KU campus...who during the day did things like surround the place I lived, call it a bomb factory, and search, search, search.  We ignored the curfews and took to the streets, at first battling the "pigs" head on, and then moving into a hit and run mode, and urban gueralla warfare.  There were gunshots, and explosions, there were booby traps and soldiers with bayonettes.  There were arrests and escapes. There were people dragged from their homes.  I was arrested twice in three days.  I will always remember running down the dark alleys that marked the area where I lived and hearing, blaring from the windows and rooftops around me the Jefferson Airplane singing:

Look what's happening out in the streets
Got a revolution
Got to revolution
Hey I'm dancing down the streets
Got a revolution
Got to revolution
Ain't it amazing all the people I meet
Got a revolution
Got to revolution
One generation got old
One generation got soul
This generation got no destination to hold
Pick up the cry
Hey now it's time for you and me
Got a revolution
Got to revolution
Come on now we're marching to the sea
Got a revolution
Got to revolution
Who will take it from you
We will and who are we
We are volunteers of America

and more to the point:
We are all outlaws in the eyes of America
In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fuck hide and deal
We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young
But we should be together
Come on all you people standing around
Our life's too fine to let it die and
We can be together
All your private property is
Target for your enemy
And your enemy is
We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves

It was surreal, but it was also REAL. 

I should add that it all didn't end when those three days and nights concluded.  It went on.  In July, two folks were killed, shot in the back of the head by Lawrence cops.  One a young black man, Rick Dowdell, a member of the Black Student Union who didn't kowtow to police orders, one a white kid, Nick Rice, standing about ten feet from me, during street protests a few nights after Rick was killed in what was called by the cops, "hippie haven."  I confess that I threw a few rocks that night myself through the tear gas.

It just wasn't all peace and love and there just didn't seem the right moment to sing folk songs.

Anyway, I find it impossible to weigh in exactly on THE Black Bloc, because there is NO the Black Bloc.  I find it impossilbe to say their tactics are good or bad, becasue first, and again, there is no specific "they," and then I would add it all depends on the time and the place and the situation.Violence is not golden.  Violence and property destruction is not good and it is not bad.  Again, it all depends on the circumstances, the reasons, the time. 

Anyone, who just says the Black Bloc is this or the Black Bloc is that, doesn't really know what they are talking about...not really.

What I do know is this.  You want to talk about violence, you want to talk about provocation, you want to talk about torture, death and destruction, talk about Global about the State...then get back to me.

So after this walk down memory lane that brings us to the following from ROAR.  Remember this is not from me.  I had my say above, This is from Esther Solano Gallego and Paulo Rogério Lugoboni Filho. All I know about them is what you will know about them if and when you read the text below....Take it or leave it.  Love it or hate it.  Laugh at it or think about it.  Makes me no never mind.  

The story of the unsung heroes: Black Bloc Brazil

By Esther Solano Gallego On June 23, 2014
Post image for The story of the unsung heroes: Black Bloc Brazil
Despised by many, hailed by some: the Black Bloc in Brazil uses its “performative violence” to draw attention to the everyday struggles of millions.
Article by Esther Solano Gallego and Paulo Rogério Lugoboni Filho. Illustration by Luciano Cunha, creator of O Doutrinador.
It was in the first weeks of the massive anti-government protests that started in June 2013 and shook Brazilian society to its very foundations that the Black Bloc made its first appearance on the protest scene. Demonstrations took place in dozens of cities across the country, but the black-clad youngsters who covered their faces and linked arms at the front-line of the marches, ready for any confrontation with the security forces, made their appearance mainly on the streets of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
While being denounced by some for their violent tactics, actively looking for confrontations with the police and smashing banks and other symbols of global capitalism, those joining the Black Bloc in a protest could also count on some support from fellow protesters. During last year’s education crisis in October, which drew thousands of indignant teachers to the streets, the Black Bloc was present to protect them from the police violence.
In response, the SEPE Teacher’s Union declared its unconditional support for the Black Bloc, claiming that many have been protected by the masked youngsters from the excessive use of force by the police. Even though the SEPE has now retracted its support for the Black Bloc, and popular opinion has turned against it due to its negative depiction in the mainstream media, this strategy of radical anti-authoritarianism is still alive and kicking on the streets of Brazil today.
Despite the disproportional attention paid to the Black Bloc’s violence in the mainstream media, it is in fact still a largely marginal phenomenon. Even in a metropolis like São Paulo, where protest marches tend to draw in thousands of supporters, the Black Bloc usually does not consist of more than fifty to a hundred people.
Another flaw in the mainstream media’s reporting on the Black Bloc is its false presentation as an organization with a command structure, internal hierarchy and a clear agenda, whereas in fact it is nothing more than a tactic in which a group of like-minded people naturally flock together to resist the violence of the state, bound by the unconditional solidarity that lasts only as long as the protest itself, after which every individual goes their own way. In the words of some black bloc participants, the tactic has been described as a performance, a form of direct action that uses symbolic violence as a way to call for public debate.

Why so violent?

Ever since the Black Bloc entered the protest scene in Brazil, three crucial questions have intrigued observers and government officials alike: what motivates these people to take their anger to the streets; how do they justify the use of violence; and why do they not engage in peaceful protests?
Due to the explicit distrust that the majority of Black Bloc supporters have towards the media, especially the mainstream channels, it is really hard for society at large to obtain access to the ideologies and reasoning that guide their actions on the streets. The key, and most provocative, element that causes a big fuss in public opinion is the use of violence as a legitimate tool of protest. The arguments given by Black Bloc participants to justify their sometimes violent direct actions are essential to understanding all the dimensions of that phenomenon. Still, the ideological motivations and reasoning behind these actions is not well understood by the great majority of the population, whose only contact with the Black Bloc is through the mainstream media.
After talking with a number of Black Bloc participants, we can affirm that there exists a huge convergence between the beliefs of the protesters and the specific tactics generally used by the Black Bloc. Behind the heterogeneous profiles of these youths one can notice a common denominator; a collective idea that defines their shared points-of-view. First, there is the conviction that purely peaceful protests are not bringing any tangible results, and, as such, are inefficient.
In the words of one protester: “If we want peace, we have to fight for it. Peaceful protests are meaningless. The government doesn’t care! They only listen to violence.” This argument is closely related to the general discontent with the political institutions of the country. On top of this, there exists an intense anger towards the police and towards the military task forces in particular. “The military are murderers,” one protester told us. “They kill all the time and we can’t react. Military pigs!”
“Indignation” is the term that most frequently comes up when talking with the youths that are trying to explain the meaning of the Black Bloc to them. The feeling of indignation is instigated by the general discontent of the people with the political powers that are perceived as corrupt and absent in those sections of society where their presence is most urgently required.
The lack of high quality basic services, the difficult urban life, the disinterested stance of the political establishment, the uncertainties of the future, and the dismantlement of the public sector in contrast with the rise of the private sector are some of the examples continuously cited throughout the conversations we had with protesters. In this sense, the perception that today’s youth has of government and, in a broader sense, their perception of the current socio-economic system, closely mirrors public opinion.

Direct action

The Black Bloc is defined by its participants as a form of direct action. But what does this mean? In this particular case, the direct action of the Black Bloc can be seen as a form of both symbolic and performative violence against the symbols of corporate and state power. It is intended not to injure people but to still draw attention to the protests and provoke a social and institutional reaction. McDonald’s restaurants are vandalized, banks are left with broken windows, and government buildings are defaced: it all forms part of a collective tactic based on a theatrical display of confrontation with the powers-that-be.
Violence, in this way, can be considered a form of expression. It communicates to power a message that purely peaceful protests cannot, challenging the government and forcing it to bring about meaningful change. The bourgeois protests, or coxinhas, which are often entirely peaceful, have in the eyes of many failed to achieve any positive results for the population at large. For some, then, the use of performative violence — not oriented towards people but to property and, only in defensive battles, against the police — becomes necessary. One protester framed the violent protests as a warning signal to the government, which still refuses to address the protesters’ claims: “If violence isn’t used, you don’t get attention. They do not see our revolt.”
In this way, the use of performative violence is justified as a political instrument. According to these youths, the historical protests of June have not brought about any positive results or structural changes. Therefore, in order to advance to the next stage of the struggle, the form and content of the struggle needs to be radicalized by putting direct action at the heart of the movement’s tactics. This radicalization of the protests is a natural consequence of the refusal of public officials to engage with the popular will. Having reached the point at which the government clearly felt comfortable to simply ignore the peaceful marches of millions, performative violence is now perceived to be the only way for legitimate popular demands to be heard.
That said, the spectacular dimension of the protesters’ violence is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the theatrical appeal of the violent protests for the mainstream media provides the protesters with a stage on which to display their message to a wider audience. On the other hand, it reinforces the media’s craving for the spectacle and thereby risks further marginalizing purely peaceful protests.
It is not uncommon for a protest where the Black Bloc makes its appearance to have an equal number of journalists, both from the mainstream channels and independent outlets, present on the scene. “We only gave attention to violent protests. That’s what matters,” admits Bruno Paes de Manso, a blogger for Estadão, one of the country’s largest newspapers. “The media creates a monster and then it doesn’t know what to do with it. We legitimize that violence. The peaceful protests don’t matter, they don’t sell and they can’t be turned into the front page of a newspaper.”
Now, with the FIFA World Cup-circus descending upon Brazil, the country’s resistance movement has the opportunity to showcase its grievances on a truly global stage. Different social forces are emerging in the face of this opportunity, and the tactics of the Black Bloc are becoming more and more popular. Even while being depicted in the media as a criminal organization, the Black Bloc gains strength inside the movement, mainly among those mobilizing against the tournament.

The battle at the doorstep

In the wake of the first birthday of the Marches of June, diversity of tactics now appears to have become a significant part of the political process in Brazil, capable of drawing attention to demonstrations that haven’t reached as wide an audience as last year’s mobilizations. This, in a sense, symbolizes a break-through with respect to the lethargic political reaction to last year’s protests — one that may yet prove to be a turning-point for Brazilian politics insofar as the development of a truly democratic society is concerned.
Perhaps most importantly, the rise of the Black Bloc forces us to confront the question of violence in a broader, more structural sense. Why do we pay such tremendous attention to some broken windows, while no one is talking about the 50.000 annual homicides, or the equal amount of women who are raped every year in Brazil? Does the theatrical violence of the Black Bloc truly deserve more attention than the tragedies of everyday life in the favelas? One explanation is that the performative violence of the Black Bloc has brought the battle to the doorstep of those who are pulling the strings, whereas the very real violence against the poor and marginalized occurs at the fringes of society, safely hidden away from the public gaze in areas where the cameras of the mainstream media rarely venture.
Whether one agrees with Black Bloc tactics or not, we have to admit that they successfully draw attention to the very real indignation that slumbers below the surface of Brazilian society. We can debate how successful the use of performative violence can be in achieving one’s long-term goals of radical social transformation, but we cannot deny a person’s right to resist in whatever way they see fit. When violence is the only face of the state that people experience, no wonder it’s through violence that they resist.
Esther Solano Gallego is Professor of International Relations at the Federal University of São Paulo.
Paulo Rogério Lugoboni Filho is a student in International Relations at the Federal University of São Paulo
Luciano Cunha is a Brazilian author, cartoonist and graphic designer. His latest creation is the anti-hero O Doutrinador (‘The Indoctrinator’), who — dressed in black, sporting a Sepultura t-shirt, carrying a machine gun and with his face covered by a gas mask to avoid identification — has set out on a mission to rid the country of its corrupt politicians. In less than a year the comic has drawn a lot of attention from infuriated Brazilians who in some way feel connected to the anti-hero’s mission. The popularity of O Doutrinador has sky-rocketed in the past year, drawing attention not only from those who support Cunha’s work, but also from government figures who attempt to muzzle him via lawsuits, violating his freedom of expression and trying to kill his creative liberty. We at ROAR are therefore very excited to feature a series of unique drawings by Cunha to illustrate our Brazil coverage in the coming weeks. O Doutrinador can be found on FacebookYouTubeand his personal website.