Finding ways to resist: learning from anti-gentrification actions in Montreal

From The Cannon Street Bellows

As rising housing prices push more of us into difficult situations here in Hamilton, it can be hard to find inspiration for how to fight back against gentrification. But just down the 401, anarchists in Montreal have been developing a practice of direct action against businesses involved in gentrifying their neighbourhoods over the past several years. Focused on Hochelaga in the east and Saint-Henri in the south-west, a variety of strategies have emerged that share a common goal of making the territory inhospitable for businesses that try to attract a rich clientele to working-class areas.

Starting in 2010, there have been a steady stream of attacks against surveillance camerasBy destroying the cameras, anarchists challenge the logic of surveillance – who does it actually make safer – and also make it easier to attack other targets in the neighbourhood. The early attacks in Montreal used a fire extinguisher filled with paint and a communique that circulated in December 2016 showed a masked up person wearing a string of destroyed cameras as a necklace.

In Saint-Henri in May 2015, the grand opening of a juice bar was interrupted by a masked crowd that threw a smoke bomb into the venue and then attacked the owner with pepper spray when he attempted to intervene. This tactic of mass, open attacks against prominent gentrifiers shows clearly that the rich are vulnerable and the police can’t stop a determined group from attacking them. Still in Saint-Henri, in May 2016, a de-gentrification action collectively pillaged a fancy food store in the area and redistributed the food to local residents. Back in Hochelaga, a march on Halloween 2016 distributed candy to people in the neighbourhood, while also painting dozens of tags against gentrification and the police, who, when they arrived, were driven back with rocks. Mass resistance breaks the spell of peaceful acceptance of development and gentrification, and helps us shake off the fatalism and despair that they inflict on us.

There have been some attempts at similar actions in Hamilton: last June, a group of about thirty people confronted a tour of real estate investors called Try Hamilton. Using chants and a barrage of gross stuff, they showed that there will always be resistance to those who try to get rich by pushing people from their homes. Their commitment to self-defense against the police meant that, like in the Montreal actions above, no one was arrested.

There have also been a large number of clandestine attacks against high-end and pro-gentrification businesses in Saint-Henri and Hochelaga. These actions have featured many broken windows and much graffiti, with a preferred tactic being the use of paint-filled fire extinguishers. In November 2016, a communique circulated calling to go beyond attacking the exterior of these shops: the windows of three stores in Hochelaga were broken and then a fire extinguisher was used to coat the interior with paint. The communique read, “By destroying these windows and ruining this merchandise with paint, we engage in an act of war. We will not let these boutiques install themselves here peacefully. This facade of peace is nothing more than an attempt to make invisible the war in progress against poor and marginalized people.” A similar action against a clothing store in Saint-Henri in 2015 was claimed as part of Black December, a call by international anarchist prisoners to attack symbols of domination that was also answered in Hamilton by graffiti on the Barton Jail.

Throughout, there has also been a consistent effort to publicize anti-gentrification actions and circulate counter-narratives about development. Following a June 2015 attack on a restaurant in Hochelaga that is themed around macho imagery, a poster circulated queering and parodying the restaurant’s logo and explaining why expensive restaurants are not welcome in the area. In December 2016, a poster went up in Saint-Henri about local historical figure Louis Cyr, whose image has been commercialized by an expensive restaurant in the neighbourhood that had been attacked several times in the preceding two years. Parasitic entrepreneurs will try to commodify aspects of local culture and history in advertising campaigns to sell the neighbourhood to outsiders. What does this look like? Think all the discourse about steel or industry by gentrifiers in Hamilton, like the Cotton Factory or Seed Works. These redeveloped industrial spaces brand themselves using elements of local labour and popular culture to attract yuppy offices and events.

This is only a small sample of the actions that have occurred, but they show that with determination, we can find the means to resist. Although it can seem hopeless,, in an interview with Submedia in December 2016, two anarchists who participated in some of the above Montreal actions said: “[Gentrification] can seem inevitable, and maybe it is, but it’s still worth the effort to struggle against it and not just roll over. In the unbearable world we live in, I feel that my life can find a sort of meaning if I fight back.

For more information about actions in Montreal: Montreal Counter-information

Democrats plan to bring the Senate to a screeching halt to protest the GOP healthcare bill

chuck schumer


Senate Democrats plan to go all out in their protest against the GOP healthcare bill starting Monday night.

Lawmakers in the party plan to use a series of stall tactics to try to draw attention to the way Republicans are writing their version of the American Health Care Act and to protest the policy changes that are expected to be in the bill.

A Democratic Senate aide told Business Insider the move would consist of four measures:

  1. Objecting to nearly all unanimous-consent requests, which are used to more quickly act on requests or resolutions that have bipartisan support. While this will not prevent any measure from passing, it can slow down proceedings significantly. The Democratic aide said some resolutions would be allowed through, such as a resolution honoring the victims of last week’s congressional baseball shooting.
  2. Submitting a series of unanimous-consent requests designed “to attempt to force the House-passed healthcare bill to committee,” delay a series of votes on the legislation, “and increase transparency, forcing Republicans to publicly defend their ‘no hearings strategy.'”
  3. Using a series of parliamentary procedures “to highlight the difference between the open process used to pass the Affordable Care Act and the process Republicans are pursuing now.”
  4. Highlighting healthcare issues “late into the evening in a series of speeches.”

While none of these measures can hold up the bill indefinitely, the Democratic protests would slow down the Senate business and most likely bring more attention to the issue.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Republicans are writing the bill in private to avoid intense publicly scrutiny.

Despite reports suggesting McConnell intends to bring the bill to the floor for a vote by the weeklong July 4 recess, there is no public text, no Congressional Budget Office score, and scant details on what the bill will contain.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that the moves were designed to shed a light on the bill and that the secretive process showed Republicans to be “ashamed of it, plain and simple.”

“These are merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful Trumpcare bill and reveal to the public the GOP’s true intentions: to give the uber-wealthy a tax break while making middle class Americans pay more for less healthcare coverage,” Schumer said. “If Republicans won’t relent and debate their health care bill in the open for the American people to see, then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate.”

While a good number of Senate GOP members have also expressed frustration about the closed-door process being used to create the bill, none have publicly rejected the tactic. In a statement, the Republican National Committee called the move a “pure partisan game aimed at placating the far-left.”



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WASHINGTON — In the spring of 2016, Brian Levin found himself in an uncomfortable position: trying to save the life of a Ku Klux Klan member.

Levin, a former New York City cop who studies domestic extremism as the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, was documenting a Klan rally in Anaheim, California, when a counterprotest suddenly took a violent swing — forcing Levin to physically place himself between a Klansman and a furious, anti-fascist mob that seemed ready to kill.

It made Levin wonder if in his focus on the obvious subject — the white supremacists — he’d overlooked a growing source of extremism: the far left. “At that point, I said we have something coalescing on the hard left,” Levin told VICE News.

Wednesday morning’s shooting of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Virginia seemed to raise the question again. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, was a Bernie Sanders-supporting man from Illinois with a record of anti-Trump rantings on social media. His politics have quickly become a talking point among some conservative pundits seeking a quick political score: proof of a looming leftist campaign against the government, or a sign of equivalency with the type of violence that normally comes from the right.

Experts in homegrown extremism say it’s not so simple — Hodgkinson had no known association to any left-wing extremist group. But they also say that the past few months have seen enough of a rise in politically motivated violence from the far left that monitors of right-wing extremism have begun shifting their focus, and sounding the alarm. They see indications that the uptick in extremist rhetoric and anti-government activism that characterized the early years of the Obama presidency are beginning to manifest on the far left in the early days of Trump’s, and that the two sides are increasingly headed for confrontation.

“I think we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the Left,” said Oren Segal, the director of the Center on Extremism, an arm of the Anti-Defamation League. Over the past few months, the ADL, which hosts regular seminars on homegrown extremism for law enforcement officials, has begun warning of the rising threat posed by far-left groups, most recently at a seminar just this past Sunday. “When we have anti-fascist counterprotests — not that they are the same as white supremacists — that can ratchet up the violence at these events, and it means we can see people who are violent on their own be attracted to that,” Segal said. “I hate to say it, but it feels inevitable.”

The evidence is so far largely anecdotal. Levin says that since December 2015, he’s documented nearly two-dozen episodes in California where political events turned violent because of agitation on both sides, something he says he hardly ever saw before. Now, there are violent clashes on college campusesinvolving groups like Antifa, the anti-fascist group, taking on the alt-right; and aggressive anti-Trump rallies attended by members of the Redneck Revolt, a new pro-minority, anti-supremacist group that encourages its members to train with rifles. Online, hard leftists increasingly discuss politics in dire terms, and rationalize violence as a necessity— even the true inheritor of traditional progressive activism. (Or, in the case of the “Punch a Nazi” meme, a fun game.)

Left-wing extremism, of course, is nothing new. Groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers have deep roots, and in the years after 9/11, Segal says, the largest source of extremist violence was from the Left: eco-terrorists and animal rights activists. But those later organizations mostly targeted institutions; in the modern era, politically motivated violence perpetrated by angry lone-wolf attackers bearing automatic rifles, of the sort carried out in Wednesday’s attack, has until now largely been a modus operandi of the far right.

In a recent interview with VICE News Tonight, a chapter leader of one newly formed anti-fascist group called Redneck Revolt said the group has taken up guns only in self-defense. “We are a response to a rise in politically motivated violence and intimidation against vulnerable communities,” said the chapter leader, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mitch. “That doesn’t mean that we’re, like, looking for a fight. We’re just trying to defend ourselves.”

Redneck Revolt doesn’t self-identify as “left,” but its ideals tend to fall along the liberal side of the spectrum: pro-Muslim, pro-immigrant, pro-LGBT, anti–economic inequality. But Mitch said that the group had also found unlikely common cause with some members of the local Three Percenter Militia, a largely right-wing, anti-Obama group. In fact, some Three Percenters have even started to attend Redneck Revolt meetings, Mitch said.

Chris Hamilton, an expert on American extremist movements at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, says anti-authoritarian sentiment may be blurring what once seemed to be clear ideological lines. “If you think about it, leftists never joined the National Rifle Association — unless they were radicals, they never thought about stockpiling weapons,” he said. “Ok. Well, maybe we’re entering a period where leftists will start thinking about things in that way, like the eco-radicals did in the ’70s.”

Hamilton says that as he browses far-left websites and listens to left-wing talk radio, he hears some of the same sentiments he’s been hearing for years on the right. “These days, that kind of sentiment is popping up in the middle and on the left; it’s not just in the sovereign citizen movement,” he said. “I’m really worried about rising civil strife in the U.S.”

Levin is worried about it too: The embrace by the far left of tactics that were previously the purview of the far right means the level of political tension in the country can only go up. “I’ve been going up and down the state of California meeting with law enforcement officials about this. I’m very concerned about it,” he said. “What we’re seeing is the democratization of extremism and the tactics of radicalism. I’ve been warning about this, and nobody gave a shit.”

Edited for

Trump Seethes, Qatar Leaves, and the Saudis Near Collapse: What a Week.

In the wake of the Daesh-claimed attack in Tehran that left 17 innocents dead, the Trump creature let fly an uncharacteristic press statement on the attacks (uncharacteristic in that somebody wrote it for him, and it wasn’t a tweet), the sheer irony of which cannot be conveyed in words, but we’ll try. Concerning Iran, the […]

via Trump Seethes, Qatar Leaves, and the Saudis Near Collapse: What a Week. —

How Mainstream Privilege Discourse Actually Bolsters the Status Quo

Protesters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, gather at the State Capitol in resistance to the Trump agenda, January 20, 2017.

By Matthew Kovac

In recent months, liberal guardians of the status quo have repeatedly admonished leftists for their radicalism, dismissing their decisions to engage in direct action against fascist hate speech or go on strike for women’s rights as expressions not of revolutionary solidarity, but of racial, class or gender privilege.

It is far past time to debunk this idea. “Radical” views have never been a “luxury” that only straight white men can afford. Indeed, many of the chief originators and practitioners of radical theory and practice over the decades have themselves been Black, Brown, women, queer and trans — members of communities for whom direct action against oppression is not a privilege but a necessary means of survival.

When divorced from a revolutionary framework, discourses of privilege not only fail to threaten prevailing power structures but actively reinforce them by erasing the voices of radical people of color, prioritizing the agendas of white women and white gay and lesbian people over other oppressed communities, and undermining revolutionary organizing in favor of “non-privileged” electoral politics.

Silencing Radical Voices

Perhaps the most insidious facet of mainstream privilege discourse is how, in the name of lifting up the interests of people of color, it often serves to erase radical voices in those communities — both past and present — by claiming to speak for all marginalized people, even those who refuse to buy into its pro-Democrat “lesser evil” conclusions.

It should go without saying that communities of color are not monolithic. Yet the practitioners of liberal privilege politics often treat them as such. When the Guardian columnist Michael Arceneaux equates not voting in the last election to white privilege, how does this square with W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1956 article in The Nation, “I Won’t Vote“? There, the legendary Black socialist wrote, “There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”

How does it square, for that matter, with the militant legacy of Malcolm X, who described those in the pocket of the Democratic Party as “political chumps” and refused not only party labels but even the label of “American”? And what about the low-income Black Milwaukee residents who, in the words of the New York Times headline, “Didn’t Vote — and Don’t Regret It”? Can their abstention from last November’s election be written off as privilege, too?

The implication is that communities of color speak with one voice, that there is only one genuine “non-privileged” course of action to take, and that anyone who deviates from that faux consensus — even if they are people of color themselves — has been duped by false consciousness. It is a profoundly paternalistic analysis of real people facing real oppression, like the Milwaukee residents living in one of the poorest, most incarcerated communities in the country.

But this goes beyond discussions of electoral politics. This ahistorical paternalism has infected progressive discourse around direct action as well. In the aftermath of February’s fiery protests against neo-fascist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, [UC Berkeley] university officials and liberal pundits alike blamed the uprising on “outside agitators,” specifically white anarchists — as distinct from the good, responsible students who came together to clean up the broken glass the next morning.

The specter of the “outside agitator” is an extension of the “left-wing purist” discourse we heard around Green Party supporters and non-voters during the election. It is a narrative that, once again, attempts to erase the primacy of people of color in leading radical anti-fascist movements, from the armed self-defense of the Black Panthers, Young Lords and Brown Berets during the 1960s, to the recent Black-led rebellions against the police state in Ferguson and Baltimore.

The notion of direct action as privilege would no doubt come as a shock to turn-of-the-century journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, who famously said that “the Winchester rifle deserved a place of honor in every Black home,” and to the increasingly recognized abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who advised in 1854 that “a good revolver” and “steady hand” presented the best defense against slave hunters. Time and time again, the multiracial history of the radical tradition defies those who would seek to whitewash it.

The Privilege of Privilege Politics

Yet the damage wrought by liberal privilege discourse is not confined to the erasure of people of color from radical history. Under the guise of elevating the concerns of all oppressed people, it in fact argues for the advancement of domestic policy priorities for some segments of the US population while relegating other racial and religious communities to the margins of the margins.

We see this over and over again in formulations of privilege in the United States, where the axis of privilege is defined chiefly by one’s relation to the issues prioritized most by white women, like abortion rights, and prioritized by well-off white gay and lesbian people, like marriage equality, while women of color and the rest of the LGBTQ2IA+ community are allowed to fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, the crises faced by incarcerated people, undocumented immigrants and transgender people, to say nothing of the foreign nationals dying under US bombs, are rarely if ever considered deal-breakers.

It was in this way that the liberal intelligentsia’s lesser-evils calculus last fall led to full-throated advocacy for Hillary Clinton. An equation more heavily weighted toward the survival of Muslim drone strike victims, or Black prisoners, or queer homeless teenagers, could not possibly have returned such a result.

“We [marginalized people] do not have the privilege of feeling or being any safer under Democrats opposed to Republicans,” queer commentator Morgana Visser wrote last fall in a rare and striking dissent from the dominant privilege paradigm. “If you feel safe under a Clinton administration, you are coming from a stance of privilege – while disregarding the oppressions of other marginalized people.”

Privilege and Counter-Revolution

Yet critical interventions like Visser’s remain few and far between. By and large, the progressive mainstream has advanced a counter-revolutionary politics that, in the name of “checking one’s privilege,” denies people any legitimate outlet for political activity beyond electoral reformism: voting Democratic every two years, calling their representatives and writing letters to the editor.

By deriding the historical cornerstones of social justice organizing — including critiques of electoralism, strikes, protests and confrontation with right-wing forces — as “privileged,” this discourse has come not only to actively undermine revolutionary politics but also to deny the legitimacy of any mass mobilization outside of the Democratic Party structure.

Strikes, for example, have been uncontroversial on the left for over a century. The general strike in particular holds near-religious reverence in radical circles as the closest thing to peaceful social revolution we are likely to get. But not for the self-righteous liberals who ridiculed participants in the March 8 Women’s Strike for having jobs to leave. One can only be thankful for the pithy reminder offered by the strike organizers: “Striking is not a privilege. Privilege is not having to strike.” After all, if even striking is now privileged, what is left to progressive activists other than the long march through the Democratic Party machine?

When revolution becomes denigrated as “privileged,” maintenance of the status quo becomes the order of the day.

Which is precisely the point: Behind all the faux progressive rhetoric, all the empty talk about intersectionality and liberation, these pundits have no plan beyond capitulation to the neoliberal Democratic Party. Their formulation of privilege leads activists to a political dead end, because if taking to the streets is too radical and harmful to oppressed communities, then they are left mired in white guilt, signing futile petitions and calling their Congressmen. When revolution becomes denigrated as “privileged,” maintenance of the status quo becomes the order of the day.

And liberal privilege discourse reflects these skewed priorities. It has become a race to the bottom to malign any possible radical action based on the identity of some of its advocates. This is not to discount the very real threats that marginalized groups are sure to face in any revolutionary situation. It is simply to observe that there is always someone with less privilege who stands to be harmed by any departure from the status quo. But that is an argument for inclusive and intersectional revolutionary organizing — not against revolution altogether. Using that grim reality as an excuse to stifle radical debates, rather than working in good faith to ensure certain communities are not left behind by revolutionary organizing, is the very opposite of woke.

Privilege theory remains useful in understanding how dominant groups accrue social benefits at the expense of the dominated. In practice, however, charges of privilege have been deployed opportunistically against third-party voters, non-voters, anti-fascists and anyone else deemed to have paid insufficient fealty to the current party of liberal pragmatism — that is to say the party of pragmatic war, pragmatic bank-coddling, and pragmatic caging of Black and Brown people.

This is no time for pragmatism, no time for reformism. The US empire has reformed itself for nearly 250 years, always toward newly refined modes of cruelty. We know the results of that grand settler-colonial experiment: 2 million people in prisons, a military empire unrivaled since Rome, poverty and infant mortality rates unprecedented in the industrialized world.

How many people has it killed in that time? How many families torn apart, lives ruined, human potentialities denied? It is an experiment that must be concluded as soon as possible. But for the liberal propagators of privilege politics, “as soon as possible” is much too soon.

That is a reactionary position. One might even called it privileged.

“The Case of Puerto Rico: Clearing the Ground for Neo-Colonialism” —

[With the recent renewed interest in Settlers, as well as the release from u.$. interment of the great Oscar López Rivera, we thought it might be prudent to provide our readers with a choice tidbit from the book in question. As the revisionists and the imperial left, devoid of real solidarity, decry the treatment of […]

via “The Case of Puerto Rico: Clearing the Ground for Neo-Colonialism” —