From a participant in Refuse Fascism LA “Cages Action”
Reposted from revcom.us |
Pouring over the vision from Refuse Fascism of initiating Out Now everyday in the public square—and working to figure out the contradiction between the need for this but not yet the mass recognition of this, working on the problem of how to meet the challenge of beginnings that can cross the chasm from the small numbers we have to what we need—Refuse Fascism LA made a decision last week that there needed to be a bold and creative action. We went to work on what we have going for us, confronting the reality that we are in the midst of a rapidly accelerating rolling coup—with a great group of people who understand that and ascertaining that if we utilized the strength of that we could draw attention to Pershing Square, attracting people and the media. We set out to put the public square on the map of public conscience and imagination. We needed an outsized impact for the actual numbers we have to get the word out to the millions who do not even know about us but who care—people who are agonizing and who hate everything this regime stands for and the horrors it will bring if they triumph. This rolling coup MUST be stopped!
We needed bold and creative actions to make the Grand Central Station conception in the Refuse Fascism vision real vs being reduced to a few or dwindling numbers of people getting out literature at a table. While I think we fell short of the ground we needed to gain and hoped for, I feel that we might well have lost ground had we not done this. There were shortcomings that people are turning to on how well we were able to get the word out beforehand that limited the number of people who would have wanted to be part of this—which people are problem-solving this week. But it’s important to sum up and mine what we did right so that we and others can quickly learn the lessons—finding the keys that open the door to calling forth what is so urgently needed RIGHT NOW!
Right now we really need to win the argument with all the people that are holding their breath and holding back from taking the streets—and following the leadership of the Democrats that are telling them don’t worry we have this—just vote. Yes, even as people do need to massively vote against Trump by voting for Biden, we have to tell them that voting will not be enough and simply relying on voting will likely lead to disaster. Trump is already stealing the election—he is not relying on winning even the Electoral College count by “free and fair means” but is actively carrying out now a “rolling coup” to steal the election and remain in power, no matter how people actually vote.
Not later after the election but right now, there is a need for massive mobilization around the unifying OUT NOW! demand. Now, even before November 3, growing as a powerful force heading toward that day, and beyond as necessary.
We have to win that argument—with words and argumentation but also winning it with action—winning it with deed. The lunch counter sit-ins of the civil rights movement put the argument out there with small numbers taking a stand that called forward the rest of society to pick a side. The massive outpouring of youth around the environment was preceded by Extinction Rebellion pouring blood down the steps of the public square in Europe.
Bold, nonviolent, creatively disruptive actions are very much needed! They can in effect be a polemic through action—a polemic against that whole Democratic Party message of “don’t rock the boat, be as milquetoast as possible, don’t ask Amy Coney Barrett about her theocratic beliefs, all will be fine, nothing to worry about.”
This is like saying there is a Category 5 hurricane coming, but it’s OK to keep your head down in your business as usual life vs realizing you have to really pay attention to the weather warning—’cause it’s time to pack the car and evacuate—and making sure all your neighbors get out in time.
So not only was the “Cages Action” good to do, we need to do much more of this everywhere in the immediate period before the elections.
There are many ways to do this—it’s hardly the only form this could take. What the cages did accomplish was to dramatically visualize what fascism means for the lives of immigrants and what the real-life consequences are when Trump talks about “genes” and calls a whole people criminals and rapists! How that leads to what was starkly exposed last week in the revelations of Jeff Sessions ordering to separate kids from their parents and quoted by other officials saying, “We need to take away children!” The violence and forced hysterectomies going on in these concentration camps and family separation that has not ended but is little known and been normalized. This is only one aspect of what fascism means for billions of people when it fully consolidates power in the most powerful country in the world—and the publicity and spokespeople for this worked on and had to keep improving and honing the take-home message of this—to make it clear that we are racing towards an election that is not a normal! That Trump is not conducting a campaign but a rolling coup with a strategy and plan to stay in power—telling us openly that he will not respect any vote he does not win and refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.
This action was put together by people young and old—from the religious, environmental, immigrant rights activists to artists, an immigration attorney, and the civil liberties community that went to bat for our right to be in the Square when security wanted to remove us. In different ways all these people come together to brainstorm the why and how of this. People worked to envision and build the cages and to reach out to the people who could dramatically represent for this to be in the cages for two days. Some people kicked it off and others came to fill their shoes when they could not be there the next day.
As Michelle Xai, who anchored the action, summed up, there was a process of bringing together people who were acutely feeling the advance of fascism and very concerned about how much it has been normalized who are also beginning to see this not just as another horrible policy but as fascism—the torture of people and children in these camps as Nazi-esque and a strong feeling that society cannot just stand by while this is happening. She argued that we had to go out to the community around downtown to get all the supplies we needed—which included getting wood and spray paint which people donated and others helping to find discounts. RF had gone early in the week to the garment district to get donations of fabric for banners. Relying on people to donate these things was part of many unseen people who contributed to making this happen. Versus doing everything ourselves, or everything going through one person—this had to involve people every step of the way and in a way that people who did not know each other or normally work together were learning from each other as we solved problems. People from different walks of life and experience coming together to brainstorm created a higher order of imagination—people saw this from different angles and while every good suggestion did not get realized, they can still inform and enrich the next run out. Bringing more people in to take responsibility is essential to a movement where not just activists but ordinary people can go get more people involved and integral to the kind of movement that can actually scale up. This is not optional but essential to building the kind of movement that can unite people from many different perspectives who are uniting around our single demand. Coming together like this created a higher order of imagination than we started with—people had great ideas that all came together and ideas that didn’t quite get realized but that will still inform and enrich the next time out.
The action itself was visually arresting. An immigrant rights activist portrayed what it was like to be locked in these cages and for the rest of society to forget it is still happening and really got deep into people’s hearts. A Honduran man who had been in detention as a child spoke of the fascist government in his country and the effect it would have on the rest of the world if this is the end of democracy in the U.S. The afternoon of the first day when we took one of the cages to Grand Central Market, a family even put their own kids in the cages to make the image and point more powerful. That afternoon a relative of Dijon Kizzie spoke. (Dijon Kizzie was a young Black man murdered by police in August in South Central LA.) Just days before, she had been to his funeral—and she came to be part of this and powerfully speak to why the treatment of immigrants was unacceptable and why it was right to be here protesting.
The next day the cages were occupied by three women who began the day dropping their mylar blankets to reveal bloody pants symbolizing the women who had been subjected to involuntary hysterectomies reminiscent of the Nazis. Two of them felt compelled to be there by seeing the social media from the day before and spent an entire emotionally intense day in the cages.
The action was covered by the Spanish-language media, both TV and print, local and national (with potential for international coverage). Local CBS broadcast it three times during the day. Univision did a two-minute segment and La Opinion did a special feature. There were photographers and stringers who came to photograph and a press team that is working on this collectively did a great job talking to everyone. One thing to note is that the reporters are all extremely concerned both about the issues but also Trump’s war on the press—many are sympathetic and want us to succeed and we have to work with them like any other section of people who care deeply and do not want to see Trump carry this coup to completion. We have to build relationships and strategize with them on how to break this into the media, while at the same time taking bold actions to demand the media say what is really happening.
I thought the other highlight of the day was the agitation done by Michelle giving people a sense that we were not just going to march and be happy with thumbs up from people on the street—the purpose of this was to go out and engage people downtown and recruit ordinary people on the sidelines to be grass roots organizers for this. This approach was also a fight—on the spot we had to assemble simple kits that had not been put together and we had to send out someone with a passion for this right before the rally began to a store to contribute the bags we needed so that people could carry the kits that needed to be distributed.
For many people on the march this was a new and exciting thing to do. At first people were shy and not used to just marching—but people soon began to get the swing of it. The agitation was both a challenge and a welcoming conversation with people on the streets picking up on what people on the sides of the march were saying and engaging—with polemics to backwards responses and to people giving us the thumbs up that they had to do much more. The agitation was also bilingual and at several points we stopped the truck and held up traffic for lightning rallies. When the march got to Grand Central Market (an old historic market downtown now with covid all the seating has been pulled outdoors) the crowd burst into applause. People went to the tables and signed people up and people made contributions (including a Latino business owner who sent in 60 dollars after on Venmo—commenting on how brave the demonstrators were to go out like this now—this was the least he could do). Construction workers coming off their shifts took stickers and leaflets passing it out to each other and even some of the white foremen were passing it out to their crews. Some people who came down out of their buildings. Stores taking materials were saying they were hearing about Pershing Square. So it was very important in addition to being in the Square taking dramatic action to march out of it to go get more people—to reach out to the community downtown letting them know they had to be there and giving them ways to contribute and become grass roots organizers themselves.
Lastly we had to take the next day to transform the very primitive organization of Refuse Fascism that had many of its connections disorganized in the phones of individuals—which meant communicating with the base of Refuse Fascism was all “hub and spoke” left to one-on-one communication by overtasked organizers and activists. That weekend the National Office of Refuse Fascism launched a new organizing platform that has a new way of centralizing and reaching people—a way to sign up right on the homepage that grass roots organizers can use to sign people up on the spot, and for those people to be daily and hourly in touch through social media and text messages. After undertaking the work to totally alter the organizational approach that was an obstruction to involving people—the local chapter was able to pull together a Zoom call of 32 people the very next day.
The rest of the telling is in the really wonderful dispatch done by the RNL show which includes part of the speech from Andy Zee—which is also posted in full at RefuseFascism.org. This speech is a must watch—it lifted and cohered the people who marched on Saturday—giving them a better understanding of what we are facing and why we have to act now and how to argue and make the case with those not yet moving. Andy also gave people a sense working with the plan and vision of how we could drive out a fascist regime by Bob Avakian of how this small but mighty movement with truth and right on its side can grow to what humanity urgently needs it to rise to.