An Anarchist’s Response to Seattle’s May Day Riots: Part 1
Few in Seattle have yet to hear about the May Day riots, which featured property destruction to some of our downtown establishments. Individuals dressed in black clothing and ski masks broke windows and threw flaming containers of human feces into Nike Town, American Apparel, and the Federal Court Appeals building during a public demonstration focussed otherwise on immigration reform and the Occupy movements. In the time following, there have been a lot of news headlines and Facebook statuses demonizing “anarchists” as the party to blame for this event. For those of you who don’t know (which is probably most of you), I am an anarchist, and have been since I was 15. It’s not something that I talk about frequently because frankly, I don’t have much of an audience for it- even among my friends. But after seeing the mainstream response to this event, I decided that it was as good a time as any to clear up some serious misinformation and shed some light on what this event was really about.
First of all, before people go around condemning “anarchists” for this event, I think it would probably be useful to at least have a working understanding of what this word means.
The word Anarchist stems from the Greek prefix “an-,” meaning “without,” and “arkos,” meaning government. In laymen’s terms, therefore, an anarchist is simply someone without advocacy for government. It does not imply violence, property destruction, or even activism of any sort. It is merely a person who doesn’t want a government.
Now, in the context of the May Day events, the people who were breaking windows may well have been anarchists. However, to label those actions as “anarchism,” is simply not accurate. Remember, this term implies nothing about property destruction whatsoever.
Here’s an analogy: you read about a car bomb that went off somewhere in the middle east. Do you think it would be a clear or accurate description of the event to say “muslims bomb local intersection.” Of course not. The vast majority of muslims have no interest in killing anyone. So is that really a fair statement to make then? Personally, it strikes me as pretty slanderous toward a well-intentioned, unaffiliated group of people.
So what should they call it? Well, how about “an anti-capitalism activist group engaging in property destruction,”? Too much of a mouthful? Well sorry- that’s what it is. It’s not accurate to label it as anarchism. And it’s no more accurate to label those people as anarchists than it is to label them as atheists, heterosexuals, caucasians, or any other category they fit into that’s not technically affiliated with their approach.
Look, I don’t identify super strongly with being an anarchist. I don’t rep it on any of my clothing, and I’ve never painted the “A” logo on anything. But I take the time to point out this distinction because there are a lot of good people out there who get a hellacious rap from the rest of society simply because people don’t understand what anarchists are really about.
I hope this clears up the situation for a lot of you, and that after reading this, you’ll at least think twice before blaming “anarchists” for this issue.
In part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss what I actually think of the approach that these individuals took as an impetus for social change, and what the effects on our society will ultimately be.
If you are interested to read about why I came to view the world through an anarchist’s lens, you can check out one of my first posts here
Talk to you guys soon.
Peace, Love, and Consciousness