A few reasons not to organise on Facebook.

Facebook activism

Posted By

jef costello

Recently we have seen a big increase in activist Facebook pages. Facebook seems to have become an essential propaganda tool. However we should question the use of it as an organising tool, and even as a propaganda tool.

Facebook is a sieve:
This is noting new, Facebook is a sieve. It’s actually the goal of a social network: collect data, sell it to advertisers, sell personalised adverts etc. Facebook might bristle sometimes at handing over data to the cops, but it is happy to link Facebook accounts with people’s identities. Posting on Facebook is therefore a guaranteed risk, it could even be seen as reckless. During the movement against the loi de travail we could see online surveys about where demonstrate. This kind of information only contributes to one thing, the dossiers of the secret service.

Not everyone is on Facebook:
With 22 million daily users, Facebook is the top social network in France by some distance. It is a large part of the population. However, while 84% of under-40s use facebook daily, only 56% of the population is actually on Facebook. This drastically reduces the accessibility that advocates claim is the result of intensive Facebook use by militants.

Facebook: no archives guaranteed
Another problem coming from the size of Facebook: your info is out of date in two days. Although posts are archived for the benefit of advertisers (and the cops) it is almost impossible to find a post, even a politically significant one, after three days. The information is swamped by the enormous volume of information that is circulated in real time. In keeping with the 24-hour news cycle, each news story is driven out by the next, so the extremely important information about police brutality or the video showing mistreatment of migrants in the metro quickly disappears under the weight of Hanouna’s latest homophobic outburst or the death of a famous singer.

Mark Zuckerberg can delete your page whenever he wants:
Recently the sinister Alain Soral, a notorious anti-feminist and anti-semite, was kicked off Facebook. Nothing too serious, perhaps even encouraging given the tide of hatred washing over the 120000 subscribers to his page. Nevertheless it is part of a much more dangerous system in which Facebook can simply delete pages which it doesn’t like. It doesn’t matter how important these pages might be: Negronews, liked by 500000 people and with relatively inoffensive content, was deleted for supposed “incitement to hatred” with no justification or further explanation given. Similarly “La République mais pas trop”(51000 subscribers) a satirical page was permanently deleted by Facebook’s automatic moderation, in spite of the particular attention they paid to removing racist/sexist/homophobic comments on their page.

There are several ways get kicked off Facebook:
– a moderator doesn’t like you and bans you for a petty and or subjective reason.
– the page being reported too many times. This is particularly important as it means that nationalists can shut down pages with harassment campaigns; after a certain number of reports Facebook automatically shuts down the page. This is undoubtedly what happened to Urgence Notre police assassine (Warning, our police kill, 61000 subscribers) which was attacked by hordes of unhappy police officers and has disappeared.

The illusion of accessibility: pay, or talk to yourselves
Here is the most problematic part of Facebook: the algorithms are designed to create social bubbles. A concrete example is in this article:

“As we like, share and comment on articles, Facebook’s algorithms create a model of our preferences. Then Facebook tries to show us content that we will want to see. So, if someone likes snowboarding, subscribes to snowboarding pages and shares snowboarding articles, they can expect to see more articles about snowboarding on our timelines than someone who hates the sport, which isn’t a surprise. The problem is that Facebook has become a trusted news source for net users, and political opinions get the same treatment as snowboarding.”

So, because of Facebook’s algorithms, when we publish subversive texts we are only likely to reach people who are already interested in them. We won’t reach the proletarian who is mostly interested by fishing, or the young lad who is into hairdressing, we will carry on talking amongst ourselves. The only way to get through these algorithms is to pay. Of course, nothing is free, even propaganda.

So unless you want to go broke (adverts are expensive) trying to fight Facebook’s algorithms you need to ask yourself the right questions. We need to look at our autonomy and that starts with getting your hands dirty; you need independent servers, to set up websites and learn from existing projects. For example there are MUTU sites in several cities, so we need to create our own social networks and online spaces which we control! Let’s demand more from ourselves and kick Facebook out of our struggles.

Translated from :

Via: libcom.org

Edited for mb3-org.com

Iran deploys Revolutionary Guards to quell ‘sedition’ in protest hotbeds

By: Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

The protests, which began last week over economic hardships suffered by the young and working class, have evolved into a rising against the powers and privileges of a remote elite, especially supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The unrest continued to draw sharply varied responses internationally, with Europeans expressing unease at the delighted reaction by U.S. and Israeli leaders to the display of opposition to Iran’s clerical establishment.

Defying threats from the judiciary of execution if convicted of rioting, protests resumed after nightfall with hundreds hitting the streets of Malayer in Hamadan province chanting: “People are begging, the supreme leader is acting like God!”

Videos carried by social media showed protesters in the northern town of Nowshahr shouting “death to the dictator”.

In a sign of official concern about the resilience of the protests, the Revolutionary Guards commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he had dispatched forces to Hamadan, Isfahan and Lorestan provinces to tackle “the new sedition”.

Most of the casualties among protesters have occurred in those regions of the sprawling Islamic Republic.

The Revolutionary Guards, the sword and shield of Iran’s Shi‘ite theocracy, were instrumental in suppressing an uprising over alleged election fraud in 2009 in which dozens of mainly middle-class protesters were killed. Khamenei condemned that unrest as “sedition”.

In Washington, a senior Trump administration official said the United States aimed to collect “actionable information” that could allow it to pursue sanctions against Iranian individuals and organisations involved in the crackdown.

But in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron said the tone of comments from the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia was “almost one that would lead us to war … a deliberate strategy for some,” and stressed the importance of keeping a dialogue with Tehran.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel expressed concern about the situation escalating.

“What we urgently advise against is the attempt to abuse this internal Iranian conflict … internationally. That is not going to ease the situation any way,” he said.

In a state-sponsored show of force aimed at countering the outpouring of dissent, thousands of Iranians took part in pro-government rallies in several cities on Wednesday morning.

State television broadcast live footage of rallies where marchers waved Iranian flags and portraits of Khamenei, Iran’s paramount leader since 1989.

Pro-government marchers chanted: “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader (Khamenei),” and: “We will not leave our leader alone.” They accused the United States, Israel and Britain of inciting protests, shouting, “The seditionist rioters should be executed!”

In the Shi‘ite holy city of Qom, pro-government demonstrators chanted “death to American mercenaries”.

On Tuesday, the 78-year-old Khamenei had accused Iran’s adversaries of fomenting the protests.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has sought to isolate the Tehran leadership, reversing the conciliatory approach of predecessor Barack Obama, said Washington would throw its support behind the protesters at a suitable time.

“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” Trump wrote in the latest of a series of tweets on Iran’s turmoil.

In contrast, the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, played down the protests as economic discontent, saying they were not rooted in the political issues which spurred huge numbers to demonstrate in 2009 and would end soon.

He described them as “nothing to worry about”.

The protests seem to be spontaneous, without a clear leader, cropping up in working-class neighbourhoods and smaller cities, but the movement seems to be gaining traction among the educated middle class and activists who took part in the 2009 protests.

More than 100 Iranian woman activists voiced support for a new uprising in a statement on Wednesday. Several prominent Iranian lawyers, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, urged Tehran to respect people’s right to freedom of assembly and expression, guaranteed under the constitution.

Some labour unions as well as minority Kurdish opposition groups have also thrown their weight behind the protests.

In Geneva, the U.N. human rights chief urged Iran to rein in security forces to avoid further violence and respect the right to peaceful assembly.

Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for “thorough, independent and impartial investigations of all acts of violence”.

Hamidreza Abolhassani, a regional judicial official, said a European citizen had been arrested for leading rioters in the Borujerd area of western Iran and was suspected of having been “trained by European intelligence services”. The detainee’s nationality was not given.


The protests have heaped pressure on President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who championed a deal struck with world powers in 2015 to curb Iran’s disputed nuclear programme in return for the lifting of most international sanctions.

Via: uk.reuters.com

Edited for mb3-org.com

Hundreds protest to free Morocco’s northern activists

Demonstrators hold banners in Arabic reading "freedom" and "Death over humiliation" during a protest in Casablanca, Morocco, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017. Hundreds of people from around Morocco protested Sunday in the nation's economic capital, Casablanca, to demand freedom for jailed activists. Photo: Mosa'ab Elshamy, AP / Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

By : Reda Zaireg

CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) — Hundreds of people from around Morocco protested on Sunday in the nation’s economic capital, Casablanca, to demand freedom for activists jailed for their roles in a protest movement that took off a year ago in a neglected northern city.

The demonstration was the latest of numerous protests demanding the liberation of activists from the city of Al Hoceima, in the northern Rif region where hundreds of protesters have been arrested.

Leading figures in the opposition movement known as Hirak will go on trial Oct. 17 in Casablanca. No trial date has been set for the movement’s leader, Nasser Zefzafi — arrested in June after a dramatic manhunt. An appeals court will decide this month whether a charge of attacking state security, which carries a risk of capital punishment, is maintained. The death sentence hasn’t been carried out in Morocco in decades.

Up to 1,000 protesters, led by organizers perched on a pickup truck with megaphones, gathered at a main Casablanca intersection Sunday, chanting “freedom, dignity, social justice.”

“We are here to say, ‘Enough,'” said Nabila Mounib, the president of the Federation of the Democratic Left. His federation of left-wing parties has rallied to the cause. “Release the detainees and open a debate on their demands, and above all fight the corruption that gangrenes the Rif region,” Mounib said.

The protest movement has become the biggest challenge to the North African kingdom, a U.S. ally known for its stability, since the Arab Spring in 2011 overthrew longstanding regimes in the larger region. Yet, its roots are local. Protests started a year ago when a fish monger in Al Hoceina was crushed to death by a garbage compactor while trying to save fish that officials had confiscated.

The government has promised development projects for the region, which has a long history of rebellion against Morocco’s leaders. King Hassan II, the father of monarch Mohammed VI, never visited the Rif region, something his son changed. At the end of July, the king, celebrating the 18th anniversary of his accession to the throne, included an undisclosed number of those arrested in the Al Hoceima region among the 1,178 inmates benefiting from annual pardons.

Source: http://www.ctpost.com/news/world/article/Hundreds-protest-to-free-Morocco-s-northern-12261761.php

Edited for mb3-org.com

Venezuelan government says it put down military revolt

By: Patricia Mazzei, Associated Press

Venezuelan authorities quelled an apparent military rebellion early Sunday, a ruling socialist party leader said, the day after a new all-powerful legislative body condemned by the international community began targeting opposition opponents.

Socialist deputy Diosdado Cabello called the incident a “terrorist attack” at a military base in Valencia, a city west of the capital, Caracas. He wrote on Twitter that the situation had been brought under control and that several people were arrested.

His announcement came after the release of a video showing about a dozen men dressed in military fatigues and holding assault rifles declared themselves in rebellion and urged like-minded security forces rise up against President Nicolas Maduro.

Witnesses posted videos including what sounded like gunshots ringing in the dark at the Paramacay military base. After daybreak, neighbors gathered at the base entrance, cheering and singing the national anthem. At one point, they were dispersed with tear gas.

More tear gas was used against a spontaneous protest in a Valencia plaza. Helicopters belonging to security forces flew low over the base throughout the morning.

The military denounced a “paramilitary attack” and said seven men who had been detained were “giving up information.”

In the widely circulated video, a man identifying himself as Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, demanded “the immediate formation of a transition government.”

“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to restore constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”

Caguaripano was discharged three years ago, accused of conspiring against the government. He had been in hiding since. It was unclear if he was on the Paramacay base — and if so, how he might have gained entry. The rebellion was said to take place among troops from the 41st Army Tank Brigade.

A video later showed Bolivarian Army Commander Jesus Suarez Chourio — surrounded by troops he said were from the 41st Brigade on the base — declaring victory over the “mercenary paramilitary terrorist attack.”

“They assaulted us, but we suppressed them,” said Suarez Chourio, who is under U.S. sanctions for violently repressing political dissent.


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been pushing for sanctions against Maduro’s government, said on Twitter that Cabello’s acting as the government’s principal spokesman on the incident “shows who’s in charge of security forces in Venezuela.” He called Cabello, who has long been the subject of allegations that he’s involved in drug trafficking, a “narco leader.”

Cabello responded that Rubio was the first “character” to “defend the terrorist attack.”

“Now we know where it all comes from,” he said, later calling the senator “Narco Rubio.”

“Diosdado ‘Pablo Escobar’ Cabello is unusually nervous and frantic this morning,” Rubio retorted.


Cabello is among several socialist leaders threatened with being sanctioned by the U.S. in coming days.

On Saturday, a new constituent assembly elected under suspected fraud dismissed Luisa Ortega, the attorney general investigating the government, from her post and ordered her to stand trial. In response, the president of the opposition-held parliament urged the military to step in to restore the democratic order.

Late Saturday night, the government returned jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to house arrest.


Edited for mb3-org.com

Venezuelan Anarchist framed, detained and tortured by Maduro’s police (translated from the original in Spanish)

(We received this a few days ago from our Venezuelan comrades connected with El Libertario. It begins with a note from our compañeros/as announcing a series of pieces on the current rebellion and repression — arrests, beatings, and torture — of anarchist and other protesters by the “leftist” Maduro regime, and expressing thanks to those who spread this information.

The images interspersed below showing the aftermath of the beatings are pretty large. Please scroll past them to continue reading the interview.)

Beginning on April 4, 2017, a popular rebellion has been developing against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. We’ll shortly be sending out a series of interviews with compañeros/as who have been detained and tortured for protesting. We appreciate the translation and dissemination of these interviews in other languages.

Anonymous Rebel: “Organize in whatever way you want, with whomever you want, but don’t be complicit.”

In the first days of July, in the city of Maracaibo in the state of Zulia, an anarchist comrade was arrested by the Bolivarian [federal] National Police (PNB) with the complicity of officials attached to the public transportation system of that city. In order to protect him from physical retaliation, we’re using the pseudonym “Anonymous
Rebel” here.

We spoke with him after he was released from the detention site. He’s currently well, but he was beaten during both his arrest and imprisonment and is under an order to present himself to the police once a week. In good spirits, he spoke with us about how the popular rebellion is progressing.

Can you comment on how you were arrested and if you were tortured?

In the area where I live, the people have been protesting, and I’ve always been participating in these peaceful protests with everyday people such as medics, hairdressers, people distributing free food, everyone from kids to old people.

Everything was going fine until a group of about 30 people, some in the uniform of the Metro [public transit system], poured out of the Metro station to intimidate us. They shot at us and hurled rocks at us, and we went running, with them coming after us, accompanied by the Bolivarian National Police, throwing rocks at houses, apartment buildings, and vehicles.

My arrest was a set-up because [we had stopped] to tell a regional policeman that we weren’t shooting and that it was those who had come out of the metro with rocks in one hand and a pistol in the other.

Then to our surprise, we were attacked from behind by the PNB, in what quickly took on the appearance of a battlefield, with tear gas all over the place. We ran, but the PNB on motorcycles tried to corner me two or three times, until they finally got me and arrested me for carrying a bag. They got me down on the ground and battered me with their shields. [Translator’s note: This appears to be a standard tactic with the PNB. They beat their victims to the ground and then slam down the bottoms of their heavy plastic shields on their bodies.] Then, giving us some kicks, they threw me and some other people into a paddywagon.

Later my compañera and another arrested woman arrived, and they took us to the command post of the Guardia at 7:00 pm, where they produced planted evidence to incriminate us: Molotov cocktails, a bag with sharp wire spikes protruding, and the helmets she and I had been wearing. They let my compañera go in the early morning hours, the other woman later in the morning, and they detained me [and other male protesters].

They never read us our rights, and it was until days later that they allowed me a call, which I didn’t make myself, but rather a guard  called my family telling them to bring me clothing while I was detained.

Were you in a cell with other detainees? How were the conditions?

They didn’t put us in a cell, because the jail in that command post was full. There were 40 other people there on various charges besides the protesters, so they put us on the patio and handcuffed us. At 5:00 am they woke us so we could shower. I should mention that I didn’t sleep the entire night, because of the anxiety and helplessness I felt. Five minutes to shower on a patio where there was only a hole in the ground in which to piss and shit.

At this time, an anti-mutiny squad arrived, and four of them, while we were showering, began striking us on our legs, butts, and backs, saying, “These damn anti-Chavistas, we should leave them in a ditch. I don’t know why they brought them here.”

There were two kids of 14 and another aged 17, who they also beat, one of whom, one of the 14-year-olds, when he was arrested they threw to the ground, along with other protestors, and threw the powder or crystals from their tear gas bombs directly on them and then threw water so that the chemicals would penetrate, causing allergic reactions and skin damage.

During the five days I was detained, which I passed under the sun on the patio, they only allowed us to use the toilet facilities [the hole in the ground] twice a day no matter when we ate. Our families could bring us food, but I learned after I was released that the guards had stolen one lunch and dinner my family brought for me.

Here I should thank the Centro de Atención Manos Solidarias along with the everyday people who donated to the imprisoned protesters. I had enough food, but the detainees whose families didn’t supply any benefited greatly from the aid of this social center. We were very grateful for the aid.

How did your detention affect your family and other loved ones?

My mother is 65 years old and disabled, and is in delicate health, but she was strong and was there every day. I thought a lot about her health, but my compañera is the best, and took good care of her. It’s in these moments when one realizes who your true friends and comrades are. Many of the neighborhood people supported us, some monetarily, and some with food and transport. We’re very grateful for their solidarity!

How is life in Maracaibo?

Maracaibo is a difficult city [in which to live], perhaps because the heat makes us so irritable. There’s a very noticeable discontent. The quality of life grows worse with every passing day, as everyone notices. The stereotype of the Maracaiboan is of someone paunchy, but there are [now] many skinny people who are going without necessities.

People have been protesting here since 2015. There is no apathy [in the political sense].

Why do you protest? What impels you to participate in this militant form of popular mobilization?

I’ve been protesting for several years, always anonymously. I don’t like being out front, and I don’t want any praise for doing it; I do it because I’m fed up with the situation, tired of dealing with screwed-up situation after screwed-up situation just to make enough money to buy food day after day. I’m tired of living in a militarist country where we pay taxes to feed those who treat us so badly.

I have my point of view about the protests I go to. We can’t talk about anarchism there and the people aren’t interested in it, the true rebels who put their bodies behind a placard. The majority that I’ve seen only want to get rid of this government, and it doesn’t matter to them what comes after. They only want to get rid of this band of the inept and corrupt. There’s a lot of solidarity in the protests; we’re all equal, brothers and sisters in the struggle.

Is it worth the trouble.

It’s always worth the trouble to fight for your rights, as it always should be; our discontent should be open and should be clear  — we can’t remain paralyzed with fear; it’s necessary to overcome it.

Do you think that after 100 days we’re experiencing a popular rebellion?

Today, July 10, 2017, I think that each day we’re coming closer to a popular rebellion, in that every day the people become less attached to MUD [the opposition coalition] and any political party. They’re fed up with MUD. Today I can say that thanks to this government there’s a rebellious youth, with experience in the street and that, whatever government we’re saddled with, they’re prepared and ready to defend our rights and liberties.

What do you think of the cliche that we shouldn’t support the protests because they benefit the right?

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen and heard. I don’t got out to play games with the MUD, who go out to protests and ask the people who resist which party they belong to. Every day people become less and less tied to the political parties.

How do you see the silence of many overseas anarchists about what’s happening in Venezuela?

In the end, I’ve felt with respect to the great majority of such “anarchists” who whine on social networks and say that they won’t come out [and say anything] because there are groups like the National Rebirth [Renacer Nacional] that are fascist, that are political manipulators. But that’s no reason to remain silent.

It’s necessary to fight for our ideals. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. We need to organize however you want, with whomever you want. But don’t be complicit! Don’t be critical of everything! Don’t be “anarcho” window dressing. Enough with indifference. When you see your brothers and sisters falling, it’s time to fight.

What should be the posture of anarchists in regard to the future?

It’s time that anarchists get in tune with history, get out on the streets to struggle against militarism, against hunger, against corruption, against the injustices they rail against in fanzines, songs, and the poetic fusillades of intellectuals. It’s time that Venezuelan anarchists take to the streets with a clear message and unite with the resistance.

I also hope for the creation of a serious bloc of anarchists that could become the Anarchist Network, that in truth would not consist of fanzines or music of one band or another. NO. One can’t believe in true anarchist fronts or movements advancing the struggle. It’s necessary to become involved in the barrios, the community councils, in one’s community. It’s necessary for all to say that in this moment, in this totally divided country, that’s broken into two pieces, if not many more, that we ought to take advantage of this space to say who we are and for what we struggle.


Edited for mb3-org.com

Los Angeles neighborhood self-defense stops cops

By John Parker

Los Angeles, July 14 — Tonight in my neighborhood I witnessed yet another example of the police as the occupying force in Black and Brown communities.

About 10:30 p.m., I was alerted to the situation when my dog barked — because cops were outside our window. There were nine cop cars in front of my house and my neighbor’s house, with about 13 cops in my neighbor’s yard.

In a later conversation with my neighbor’s grandson, D’Andre Coleman, I found out what had happened. D’Andre , who is about 28 and Black, was going to his car, parked in front of his house, to get his shoes. As he was putting them on by his car, another car rolled up to him and flashed a light in his face, so he knew it was the police. The cop asked if it was his car and he said it was. She asked again and he repeated that it was. When he began walking back to his house, she told him he couldn’t leave. He asked her if he was being detained and she didn’t answer, so he continued to walk.

Without warning and before he could reach his porch steps, the cop got out of the car, ran towards him and pulled on his leg, making him trip and hit his head on the mailbox. He managed to get into his house, but the cop and another cop pulled him out, handcuffed and detained him in the driveway.

Then the sergeant cop said to D’Andre Colman: “It’s all fun and games until I shoot you. Then they have to call for backup.” The lieutenant cop was standing there and heard the sergeant but said nothing.

When I saw the cops outside, I went over to my neighbor and heard the young man’s grandmother, Edith Simpson, distressed and angry, trying to explain to the cops her concern. She said she’s seen many Black young men shot by the cops in the funeral parlor where she works, so she was concerned about her grandson in handcuffs who had just been assaulted.

I told my neighbor I’d get help from the other neighbors, and I went and got my son Sekou and also our Harvard Blvd. Block Club president, Joe Crosby, who then got others to stand in our neighbor’s yard even though the cops were trying to get us to leave.

We repeatedly told the cops that the person they had in handcuffs lived here, in our neighborhood, and it was his car. He even had the keys to the car in his pocket. Their excuse was that he was suspected of stealing the car.

So, we asked, now that they knew who he was, why were they still here and why was he still in handcuffs?

The fact is they wanted to escalate the situation and probably arrest him. If it were not for the community coming out to show we ain’t havin’ it that would have happened.

Finally, after about 30 to 40 minutes and lots of insults hurled their way, the cops let him go. D’Andre emphasized to me: “If it wasn’t for everyone coming out, I’d be dead because there were a lot of cops refusing to de-escalate, which is part of the problem.”

The cops didn’t care about any legal rights or laws they were breaking. Not only did they threaten to kill D’Andre Coleman, they also searched his car with no warrant. D’Andre told me: “While I was on the porch, I saw them searching my car and I told them, when I was in handcuffs, that I did not consent to that. Later, I found things from my glove compartment and trunk on the floor and seat of my car.”

As for cops standing around and watching injustice happen during this and many other incidents of police terror, D’Andre commented to me: “If you simply watch someone get pushed and fall off a cliff without helping, then you might as well have been the one pushing.”

D’Andre noted that the police have gotten worse in our community: “Having it happen here, it’s unnerving and unsettling. I live here and they [cops] live 30 miles away.”

It really is a frightening thing when 13 trigger-happy cops are targeting a young Black or Brown person. But, most importantly, we gathered as many people as possible together to show solidarity and “discourage” the cops’ rabid instincts.

This victory was a good education in solidarity and the power of communities coming together in self-defense against these pigs. Our block club is now in the process of organizing a rapid response network for any future violations by the cops, and the family is getting legal help from Justice Warriors for Black Lives organizer Nana Gyamfi.

Edited for mb3-org.com

Ferguson activist Ashley Yates talks Oakland, Assata Shakur and Black Woman leadership

By Lamont Lilly

Ashley Yates is co-founder of the Ferguson-based grassroots organization, Millennial Activists United (MAU).  Originally from Florissant, Mo., Yates was one of the early on-the-ground organizers following the unjust police killing of Mike Brown on Aug, 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo.  In 2015, she was a Black Lives Matter representative at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.  

As one of the more vocal activists at the forefront of the Ferguson Rebellion, Yates’ many contributions have helped provide key leadership to a new generation of young freedom fighters and Black abolitionists.  Affectionately described by CNN as a “disruptor of the status quo,” Yates’ thoughts and critiques on racism and state violence have been featured on NPR, Democracy Now! the Huffington Post and MSNBC.  Read along as we discuss Assata Shakur, Black woman leadership and the recent housing developments in Oakland, Calif.

Lamont Lilly:  Ashley, thank you so much for your time and willingness to talk with me. Though you’re still connected to the ground in Ferguson and St. Louis, you’re actually living in Oakland, California, now. When did you move to Oakland?

Ashley Yates: I moved out here in mid-December 2014, shortly after Darren Wilson’s nonindictment. [While a police officer, Wilson fatally shot  Mike Brown.]

LM: What brought you out to Oakland?

AY:  There were a few different factors that went into that. A few personal things that happened made it clear that my life had drastically changed after I decided to take a stand for Mike Brown and Black lives, especially in a place like Ferguson and the St. Louis area. I realized my life was different and it was not going to go back to the way it was. I also knew I needed some space to heal and grow.

I also came to Oakland to connect with the history here, more specifically the Black Panther Party. I wasn’t a scholar on the Black Panthers or anything, but I did know that this was the founding place. I also didn’t know much about the city, or who was doing what. It just seemed like a place where I could learn and grow, and to soak up some of the organizing history.

I’ve taken a different path than what I expected, but it’s been a huge blessing. Ideally, I wanted to just jump right in and be like, “Yo, take me to every spot the Black Panthers were at.” But it doesn’t work like that. That’s just being idealistic. It’s taken me a few years to build relationships with people, but the city has given me a lot.

LL: In addition to police terror and state violence, there is another major struggle in Oakland — gentrification and affordable housing. What are the housing conditions like in Oakland, particularly within the Black community? What are you seeing there?

AY: In Oakland, there are entire tent cities and it’s concentrated. I can think of at least six tent cities off the top of my head — congregations and communities of folks without housing! And I barely know the city like that. It’s almost indescribable. When you add the developers to the multimillion-dollar corporations, along with the backdoor deals of the courts and city officials, it becomes a multilayered struggle just to keep people in their homes — or to stop an eviction. The rate at which it’s happening is just mind-blowing.

What’s happening in Oakland is a direct effect of Silicon Valley and the tech industry. These people could not be more directly responsible than if they walked in and literally “punched” people out of their homes. For me not to name that would be an injustice to Oakland.

These industries and corporations are violently displacing people, yet they’re wiping their hands clean. On top of that, some of these corporations aren’t paying any local taxes. They’re making more money, yet poor people are being pushed out of their homes.  If you allow it to, it will make your head hurt. The average rent in the Bay Area now is $3,000.

LL:  I just want to make sure I’m hearing you correctly. Did you say the average rent in the Bay Area is $3,000 per month?

AY:  I’m sorry. Let me not be hyperbolic. The number that we pulled from Forbes last year was actually $2,975. I would just round that up to $3,000. That’s absurd!

Last year here in Oakland, I was looking at two-bedroom apartments, ranging from 900 to 1,100 square feet.  Those were $2,400 a month. I saw one apartment I thought about briefly, but it was $1,800 a month. People are paying $2,000 plus for a studio apartment in Oakland now. I just can’t afford that. Also, there are not many Black communities left in Oakland. Gentrification is wiping them out. East Oakland is pretty much what’s left here.

LL: You were recently abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  What was your purpose in going? What were some of the things you learned?

AY:  Funny story about Brazil, I’m still not quite sure how that happened. Out of the blue, I received an email invite to this conference in Brazil. When I contacted the sender, there were some language barriers, but I eventually found out that I was being invited by the Brazilian government to attend their first state conference on racism and anti-Blackness.

The conference was a week long. Everyone wanted to hear about the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. People wanted to hear about Ferguson and Baltimore, and some of our strategies of resistance and grassroots organizing. The events were so powerful and political, but also very cultural, and full of art and music. I was the only representative there from the United States.

We also got a chance to visit and build with folks in the favelas, the equivalent of “the hood” in the U.S., the shanty towns. These were the communities that were forced into the most undesirable parts of the city and country — the hillsides and highlands — where the poor were forced to create their own infrastructure. We’re talking strongholds of Afro-Brazilian communities that are direct descendants of African captives, who have thrived in the highlands for quite some time.

This was right after the World Cup. There were units of SWAT teams still present in the favelas. They were charged with “cleaning up the streets” for these huge international events, to make it look a certain way.

This process of “cleaning things up” had been taking place for several months. Developers were coming into the favelas and kicking people out of their homes. These same communities were once undesirable.  But now that people have been there for decades, now that plumbing and piping and foundations have been set up, not to mention the gorgeous view — these favelas have become points of interest for luxury housing. Now, there are thousands of Afro-Brazilians being violently removed from their homes to make way for the rich and their new condominiums.

Being able to witness this for myself was so powerful. It really put a lot of things into perspective for me. It was a reminder of why it’s so important to create these relationships, to learn from each other.

One of the things I found out while I was down there is that, in addition to Israel, Brazil has also been a training site for U.S. law enforcement. We’re talking about the Los Angeles Police Department, the FBI and the Chicago Police Department, who flew down to share tactics and information with Brazilian authorities and state police. We certainly cannot ignore these international partnerships that perpetuate our oppression, both locally and globally. If our oppressors are organizing globally, we should be organizing globally just as hard for our liberation.

LL:  I wanted to ask you about the infamous “Assata Taught Me” tee, which can also be purchased as a hoodie. It has become a staple of movement apparel. Where did the idea of such a simple, but powerful statement come from? What does the phrase “Assata Taught Me” mean to you?

AY:  Right after the murder of Mike Brown, we formed a small unit on West Florissant Street. I hate to say this or perpetuate such an analogy, but when you’re in a war, you have to form a unit of survival. These were groups of people that you would show up with, or connect with throughout the day. You checked in on each other, made sure folks ate or got home safely.

At one of those first meetings of our unit, after some conversation, we knew that we would need a name. We decided on MAU, for Millennial Activists United. We eventually got tees made up, and other people really began to support them, and we were very down with that. But my concern was that a bunch of people, many of whom we didn’t even know, were going to wear our name — but be involved in different types of activities, doing whatever they wanted to do. When you consider the history of the state and their treatment of Black Liberation organizations, I didn’t think that would be a good idea. We were already being demonized by the national media.

On the back of the MAU tee was the Assata Shakur chant. We started to close out our nights with it and bring it to the streets. We originally picked it up from a Black Lives Matter session with a brilliant sister activist, Sister Malkia [Cyril], from the Center for Media Justice. She was the one who pulled this out and made it a mantra on the West Coast.

One night, I was at MoKaBe’s Coffee House and Jamilah Lemieux (from Ebony Magazine) was sitting right across from me. I was talking to her about the Assata chant and about the fact that we needed shirts with a popular movement message, but without MAU on them. Somehow in the conversation “Assata Taught Me” just came to me. It’s not an original phrase, by any means, but it was something that I felt would really resonate with people. Who else better as a symbol of resistance — from the New Jersey Turnpike, to being broken out of prison, to living in exile in Cuba? It’s the real-life story line of a Black woman legend.

The design of the shirt was created right in MoKaBe’s. Jamilah helped me pick out the font because I’m picky as hell about everything. I was just going for something strong, simple and straightforward. After Jamilah helped me through my self-doubt, we said, “Yeah, that looks good.” We put it on Teespring and went from there.

I just hope people feel empowered by it and feel a sense of community when they wear it. I hope they feel the resistance, the ancestors and unapologetically Black. You’re not only wearing Assata Shakur.  You’re also wearing the Black Liberation Army. They were the ones who rescued Assata. I’m just glad people like the shirt. The feedback has been incredible.

LL:  Speaking of women warriors, when we talk about Black Lives Matter, we must also talk about the critical role of Black woman leadership. What does it mean to you to be a Black woman on the frontlines?  And in your case, a queer Black woman on the frontlines?

AY: It’s quite sensitive, to say the least, for so many reasons. I say that because of all of the attention and the kind of misunderstanding around intersectionality, specifically — and identity politics, more largely. A lot of people don’t know this, but after Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson, it was actually MAU (Millennial Activists United) who were the first to mention anything in reference to “queer” and “movement” in the same breath. We were definitely the first advocates of this specific intersection coming out of Ferguson.

We hear a lot about the Black Lives Matter Network being queer and women now — but the first body to really raise this question was MAU. You can date back what I’m saying now to the interview we did with Darnell Moore and The Feminist Wire. We specifically did this interview to uplift the narrative of our lived experiences. (See tinyurl.com/y9e2824o.)

At the time, a lot of the mainstream media was only focused around the narratives of our two brothers, Tef Poe and Tory Russell, who are certainly honorable, but two men nonetheless. Just to be clear, that wasn’t their fault. We absolutely love Tef and Tory! It’s not a reflection of them; it’s an acknowledgement of how mainstream media works in this country.

We live in a very patriarchal society, you know. But MAU was also very active on the ground, and people were following us, as Black women. It was so important for this narrative to be uplifted as well. And although the media didn’t understand, Tef and Tory were actually a major part of uplifting our narrative. At the time, at least half of our organization was queer women. We just didn’t want that to be left out.

I think that Feminist Wire interview helped to set a new precedent about what it looks like to do this work in a way that honors our ancestors, but also honors the mistakes that were made, the erasure that happened.  There was a time when folks like Bayard Rustin and Marsha P. Johnson couldn’t fight like we fight today because of the times and the politics of those times. As a Black queer woman, it was part of my duty to pick up this mantle and to build on it.

How can we talk about resistance without mentioning the Stonewall Rebellion? How can we talk about the Black Liberation Movement without mentioning James Baldwin? We can’t! I can’t imagine a movement without Black queer people, whether we’re talking 1965 or 2014.

In reference to Black women in general, we’ve been pushing back against that narrative since Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells. It’s a shame that Black women still have to be invited to a table that we helped create. As Solange [Knowles] would say, we’ve earned our seat at the table. We’ve earned several seats! Without Black women, there wouldn’t be no damn seats, no table, no nothing!

LL: Thank you so much for talking with me, Ashley, and sharing your experiences. You really are an amazing freedom fighter. Salute to you, Sis!

AY: Thank you, Lamont. Let’s stay in touch and keep building. ■

Edited for mb3-org.com