Open Letter to the Smashy Community,

Categories: Local Business Liaison Committee, Open Mic

smashy acab

Dear assorted hooligans, vandals, and other such free associating ruckus types,

Understanding this is being read by police, especially Sean Whent (aka Top Cop!), pardon the length.

When we say “Diversity Of Tactics” we’re not talking about voting, boycotting, marching, or writing firmly worded letters to the editor. When anyone says diversity of tactics, they are talking about you, you spray painting, wheat pasting, window smashing, cop car stomping, tear gas huffing, rubber bullet chewing, brick chucking, police fucking, champions of liberation through chaos… or is it chaos through liberation? Who cares. What matters is you have your reasons, and the courage of your convictions to do what you deem necessary. That alone garners more respect than polite society can afford. Such nobility is reserved for the unsung, the anonymous, and not associated with Occupy Oakland (see RICO Act) horde of well coordinated and not associated with Occupy in anyway, independent actions of zestful anti-cap ribaldry, which has never had anything in the slightest to do with Occupy Oakland, the encampments, Unions and their affiliates or subsidiaries, donors, sympathizers, prominent individuals, committees, any persons or non-persons, living or dead, fictional or otherwise, in perpetuity throughout the Universe,

In short, you don’t exist. Your works however, are undeniable. There are undoubtedly squares in the room, and it would be a disservice and disrespect to continue without addressing their ignorant assumptions and concerns.

Misconception 1: Vandalism is counterproductive

Vandalism has the deepest of roots in activism, and we can not cut off our roots and expect to survive. The entire history of the labor movement (from Luddites to wildcats and Unions), Civil Rights, the inception of the gay rights movement, and the prosecution of Oscar Grant’s murderer, proves vandalism and riots are effective measures for bringing about a better world. Don’t shoot the messenger, and deny this at the cost of your own relevance to the conversation. This is reality, not ideals. If you shout “no justice no peace”, give thanks to those who make good on your promises.

Misconception 2: Vandals are outside agitators

Often enough, vandals do come to Oakland only to smash. However, I ask if Berkeley college kids count as outsiders? How about homeless youth from San Francisco? Also, what exactly constitutes outsiders in an international port city? Again, we know such people only by their works. Those who smash pot clubs do the work of the Feds. Those who smash Black owned businesses may as well be the Klan. Those who smash anarchist establishments (ie NoBAWC network) are helping KONO. Those who harm the community, are certainly outsiders.

Many buildings and homes are bought by outsiders, who then abandon and allow these properties to fall into disrepair, thus blighting an entire area. After property values drop (and maybe a few people die as a result), the same outsiders then buy up the whole neighborhood, gentrify and ‘flip it.’ When the community resists this outsider strategy by developing/squatting a building, armed outsiders (police) arrive in turreted assault vehicles. These outsiders are terrible, and something should be done about them.

Misconception 3: It is the cops, agent provocateurs


It’s happened, it’s documented, we’ve seen it, and had undercover cops pull guns on us when they were exposed. However, the idea of this as a regular and defining aspect is deeply mistaken and unduly paranoid. This speculation often arises in response to well organized street parties, which exceed the expectations of the peanut gallery’s disparaging assumptions. Far too many underestimate the professionalism, mindfulness, and militant demeanor with which vandal crews achieve their goals. One viral blog assessed a particularly effective mob, to be government agents simply because of their obvious physical fitness. Those who rise to the occasional of taking on the challenges and risks of this tactic, are not pudgy armchair generals or keyboard warriors. Many spend years in training before ever breaking their first window. Hell, even Al Q’ada has monkey bars. America’s homegrown, corn-fed, smashy crews are the peak of fitness. They are a force to be reckoned with, physically and mentally, and their actions – or just their destructive potential – have always been a fulcrum upon which American social movements have succeeded.

One last clarifying detail, black bloc is not a proper noun. It is not a group. It is a tactic, like non-violence. Black bloc has nothing more to do with vandalism than hashtagging has to do with eating sandwiches. Sure it happens (even a lot), but that is not what it is about. Black bloc activists include but are not limited to medics, lawyers, situationists, and human shields (traditional non-violence). When police push the skirmish line, black bloc activists are the first hit, the canary in the coal mine, the alarm letting other participants know the police have gone wild.

To the initiated, thank you for patience,

Fucking up Oakland can be very beneficial for big-picture goals. The FBI has been doing it for decades. Unlike the FBI, your efforts have brought some measure of benefit locally (prosecutions of cops, dignity through uprising, less brutal police, some effective riot-lining). However, the collateral damage to community property has been nothing short of promoting gentrification. These errors are needless, resulting from a lack of social cohesion and sense of mission. Often, it arises from people not knowing Oakland, and that’s understandable. We built it that way.

Historically, Oakland is an anarchist hold-out, birthed and forged in rebellion. Receiving both waves of the Great Migration, Oakland’s population and experience are Black. Some may quibble about post gentrification statistics, but this an an ‘All Lives Matter’ dismissal of history and context. When you come to Oakland (as a resident, business, tourist, or activist), you come to a Black city, which is also the most ethnically, linguistically, and economically diverse city in the nation. We are a cosmopolitan town, unique, strong, and enigmatic. You need a map. Don’t come as a mark.

The Town got money. Know this. Just because we are a Black city, doesn’t make us Flint Michigan. There is a lot of Black property, Black business, Black workers, and Black power. Town business is revolution. The first wave of Black migration to Oakland volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The second wave fought again in WWII. Spilling the blood of fascists in two consecutive wars created a generation of vets, fearless of White people. They killed hella White people (in Europe, no less). This is the generation that burned down cities and volunteered to be beaten by police for Civil Rights. Not only was this generation successful in their movement, they succeeded economically and acquired property in Oakland. Ever since, White-supremacy has targeted Oakland, attacking our businesses, our bodies, and our souls.

If you smash a window, not only may it be part of an anarchist network, they might be growing weed in the back. Proprietors of a Town business have more reasons than you can know, to not want to talk to cops. Insurance isn’t a guarantee, especially for those who need it most. The deductible can put an indy shop out of business. The person working where windows are smashed, may have third world PTSD. They may be related to Oscar Grant, or have witnessed his murder. One thing is certain, they feel. They will likely lose wages and tips. Terror and dispossession is gentrification. Town business is living revolution.

Queer gentrification is a debated issue. Even if no distinction is made towards queer business (owners, workers, clientele), we should note gay rights was smashed into existence; riots, pummeled police, and burning cop cars. As well, physical safety is still a concern for the queer community, and queer establishments still exist to provide safety and freedom from intimidation. Just as with Black owned business, the psychological harm inflicted by attacking these shops is exceptionally deep, historically deep, and does a lot to promote gentrification.

The goal of riot-lining without collateral damage is not only possible, it has been a reality on many celebrated occasions. It is the defining characteristic of an effective riot. The largest uprisings are often the most surgical, the most disciplined, and self-directed. In a crowd, there will always be fools and provocateurs. Unchecked, they can undermine the mission. By engaging in the tactic, putting one’s self at risk, one has every right to protect the mission.

Respect yourself. Respect your work. Do what you gotta do, and protect Town Business.

Remember, Sean Whent (Top Cop!) is always watching. That’s his thing.

Dictated but not read,
J.D. Atwater


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