“We don’t give a fuck, the time is now.”
When word spread that the Portland police had just shot a man to death at the Hoyt Arboretum, we knew we had to make a choice: to allow ourselves to be human, or to participate in our own murders, to hide away in sleep and the unfolding of a routine that ends, for all of us, in death. It’s a choice that has been made for us so many times before: by the media, by community leaders, professional activists, bosses, teachers, parents, friends who do not push us to confront this fear with them. We are killing ourselves with so much swallowed rage.
Tonight, we would not go to sleep with this sour feeling in our stomachs. Tonight, we gave a name to what we feel: rage. This is how it started.
Within hours of word getting out, local anarchists met in a park, and decided we had to march on the police station. Not the central precinct: that neighborhood would be dead at this hour. We wanted to shout at the police, but also to find our neighbors, to talk to the other folks in our community, to let them know what happened and call them down into the streets with us. To not let them find out about this murder in the sanitized commentary of the glowing screen but to meet them and cry out to them, the rage and sadness plain in our faces: we cannot live with what has happened. We cannot allow this to go on.
The march left the park and headed through a residential neighborhood, interrupting the dead Monday night silence of consumer-workers recovering from another day ripped from their grasp. Chanting at the top of our lungs, we encountered our own anger, our own sense of power. “And now one slogan to unite us all: cops, pigs, murderers.”
Many expected this march to be only symbolic. Few were prepared for anything more. But we encountered a collective force that amplifies the individual rather than smothering each one of us in the mass. The two who took the initiative to drag a dumpster into the street changed the history of this city. This small sign of sabotage spread. We all made it our own.
When the first little garbage containers were brought into the road, a couple people put them back on the sidewalk, trying to clean up the march, to make it respectable. They were confronted, shouted at. “This doesn’t send a message,” they said. “You can do that if you want, but go somewhere else,” they said. But we have nowhere to go, except for the spaces we violently reclaim. And our message is unmistakable: we are angry, and we are getting out of hand. People continued to be uncontrollable, and soon those who had appointed themselves the censors of our struggle saw that it was they who were in the wrong place. No one attempted to control their participation. They were not allowed to control ours.
Once we got on Burnside Avenue, dumpsters were being turned over every hundred feet, blocking both directions. Folks had scavenged rocks and bottles and sticks and drums. One person had had the foresight to bring a can of spraypaint, also changing the history of our moment. We were no longer a protest. We were vengeance.
When the crowd passed the first bank, a few individuals erupted into action, while others watched their backs. The ATM got smashed. A window got smashed. Rocks and bottles were thrown. Sirens began ringing out behind us. A Starbucks appeared one block ahead. A race: could we get there before the pigs arrived? We won. More windows broke.
When the police tried to get us on to the sidewalk, they were shocked by the intensity of rage they faced. “Fuck the police!” “Murderers!” Their lights and sirens had no effect. Someone shoved a dumpster into the lead cop car. They were temporarily speechless.
Only when the cops outnumbered the people did they try again, with some pepper spray and brute force finally succeeding to push us onto the sidewalk. But we were smart. We knew we couldn’t win a fight just then, and every chance we got we took the street again. We didn’t surrender: they had to work for it. And never did we surrender our power over the mood of the night. Louder than their sirens were our ceaseless screams, our chants, focusing our range and wiping the arrogant smiles off the pigs’ faces. They were visibly upset by the level of hatred they encountered.
We got to the police station and yelled at the line of police waiting there for us, yelled at the media parasites standing by with their cameras, calling out their complicity in police violence and racism. Most of us didn’t worry about sending the proper message or appearing respectable. We expressed our rage and the power of our analysis, our ability and willingness to take initiative and change this world.
The first TV news clips, ironically, were the best we could have hoped for, but we do not put our hope in the media. We will communicate our critique of the police to the rest of the city with our protests, our fliers, our bodies, our communiqués. With graffiti and smashed windows.
It should also be noted that the police have not yet released the race of the person killed. We don’t know yet which community is “most affected” by this murder. We respond because police violence affects all of us, because we want to show solidarity every time the State executes someone. We know that racism is a critical feature of control in this society, and we also believe we must find ways to act responsibly as allies to communities that are not our own. But solidarity must be critical, and it can only be practiced by those who are struggling for their own freedom. It is clear from tonight’s actions that we fight against police violence because we feel rage and sadness whenever they kill someone.
We fight in solidarity with everyone else who fights back. And by fighting, we are remembering what it is like to be human.
In these moments when we surprise ourselves, we catch little glimpses of the world we fight for. Running down the streets, stooping to pick up a rock, we realize that in our hand we have nothing less than a building block of the future commune.
Our commune is the rage that spreads across the city, setting little fires of vengeance in the night. Our commune is the determination that comes back to the public eye the next day, meeting in the open, not letting the rest of society forget this murder, not letting our neighbors numb themselves with routine. Our commune rattles the bars of our cages, and this noise is our warcry: “out into the streets.”