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Culture Of Resistance

Forming In Phoenix Metro

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Cover for The Center for Media and Democracy Report, Dissent or Terror.
For Some Phoenicians The Release Of Dissent Or Terror Represented Misspent Tax Dollars, For Others It Represented An Attack On A Community


By Justine Hecht
Special for Modern Times Magazine

June 27, 2013 — With the recent release of The Center for Media and Democracy Report, Dissent or Terror , an interesting form of community resistance is emerging in the downtown Phoenix Arts District. The report itself revealed long term and heavy surveillance of both Occupy Phoenix and anarchist activities and highlighted the relationship between institutions of law enforcement, political, and financial entities. While plenty has been written on the report itself, little has been written on the response from the affected community.

Immediately following the release, a group of former Phoenix occupiers, anarchists, and artists, called for an urgent community meeting in a dirt lot near Fifth and Roosevelt streets. This meeting represented several things, firstly, the act of reclaiming a public space for the purpose of solving community issues is in itself a subversive act. This challenges the capitalist assumption that the use of space be determined via the exchange of money and services. Instead, the downtown community took this moment to temporarily reclaim the commons as a collective decision-making forum. Furthermore, when a community acts on its own, without the need for any designated authority to tell them how or when to do so, this is direct democracy in action.

Organic community organizing such as this has historically been the foundation of creating lasting social change. When we look back to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or — SNCC for short — who organized against racism and who are famous for the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s, it was this kind of organizing that lead to their actions. Having seen their friends and families being treated as sub-humans created the space from which an emotional connection, as much as a political one, was the catalyst for taking direct action to demand their dignity.

It is also important to note that community resistance to law enforcement has often been a deciding factor in fights for liberation. The Spanish Revolution in Barcelona, Spain in 1936 is another good example. In this case, communities were so interconnected, and the state so unable to provide social services, that the people of Barcelona saw very clearly the role the police played in maintaining class inequality and state sponsored violence. This clear line, separating friends and enemies, allowed the people of Barcelona to develop strategies capable of not only dealing with police violence, but also ways of actually kicking law enforcement institutions out of their city. For a time, Barcelona experienced an anarchist revolution that was bent on the full liberation of all people.

It’s not that I necessarily see the actions being taken by the downtown community as being indicative of successfully kicking the police out of the area tomorrow. Instead, what I see is the creation of a historical foundation from which total liberation can eventually arise. I see a culture of resistance being developed and pushed forward, so that next time the police and the state try to infiltrate activists or art communities as a means of subverting political dissent, people already aware of their ill intentions, will already know how to respond. Emma Goldman believed she wouldn’t see a revolution in her lifetime; I tend towards this same thinking. But it is the action we take now, the sets the stage for the formation of a free society when the revolution does occur. As the popular anarchist slogan says, “Live Communism – Spread Anarchy.”

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