I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hope for Arizona's Future

I first prepared this post a couple of days ago in haste. Since then I've had time to think more about the anarchists I've met in recent months - those pictured here and those who remain anonymous. What I've witnessed firsthand is that this predominately young group of people get together every week to discuss how to make their community a better place to live for the poor and dispossessed; how to build sustainable communities; how to challenge things like racism, xenophobia, and police harassment of minorities; how to feed the hungry - not as charity, but through shared vegetarian meals that makes hunger visible and the poor less stigmatized; and how to take a more active role in shaping this town without participating in the processes which corrupt it, like politics.

And every week, without fail, they pass a hat to raise a little cash to support a few political prisoners. It may not come to much, but half of nothing is a whole lot more to prisoners of conscience than a little of everything. If I was a prisoner locked away in a hole, these are the folks I'd want to know I existed, because they'd never forget me...ever.

So, as I said in an earlier post, when Marcia Powell died, I knew these were the folks to seek out who would go all the way, if necessary, to make her life visible and meaningful. In fact, it was Stan, the guy up there with the unabashed full-faced smile in the front, who remembered her from the anarchists' "Food Not Bombs" Sunday meals and delivered the only account of her anyone had at the memorial service that wasn't extracted from her criminal record. Rather, it came from his heart, and from her smile.

These are some of Phoenix's anarchists. They reject domination and hierarchy, even when it would be so much more convenient, like when they run their meetings - it's all done by consensus, which can take forever sometimes. Despite appearances and stereotypes, they aren't really all young, white and male - though I've been known to joke that I'm not enough of any of the above to be an anarchist myself. They're far more diverse a bunch than they appear, and have a fairly sophisticated understanding of what's going on in the world.

Unlike a lot of groups of young people, these folks study and work diligently to figure out their role in making this a better place, and most are involved in the community in a number of positive ways - supporting No More Deaths, the Rusty Spoke Bike Collective, Food not Bombs, Copwatch, the Latino community's battle against racial profiling, the rights of prisoners in our county jail, and the dignity and survival of the poor. When the occasion seems to call for direct action, they also put themselves on the line to protest war, capitalist exploitation, hatemongers, the carceral regime, and yes, those damn neo-Nazis (also known as "Friends of Sheriff Joe").

I'd say that as members of the Valley community, our anarchists represent the best of us pretty well. I've never seen a single one do or suggest a criminal act - no one has even fired up a joint or cracked a beer in front of me. I wouldn't be ashamed for a moment to be seen, photographed, or even arrested with them - even though I frankly still don't really know what an anarchist is. The closest frame of reference I have, in fact, is the Society of Friends. These kids hardly even swear - I'm more vulgar (and probably more of a criminal) than most of them. And when it comes to their collective politics, their community service, and their processes of decision-making, that's who they remind me of - a bunch of Quakers. Abolitionists who would live and die for what they believe in - a few John Browns in the mix, maybe (thank god, really) but mostly a bunch of committed pacifists who would hang for teaching someone to read, distributing anti-racist literature, or protesting the Fugitive Slave Act.

Now, put that in their FBI files, and shove it. And remember this if any of them get put away for manifesting the better half of humanity's conscience - find out their name, declare your public support, and pass a hat. Forget the "rights" of the racist pigs to spew holocaust lies and hate: window-smashing stereotypes aside, if these kids can't be free to express themselves in this country, then the rest of us are in a whole lot more trouble than we ever thought.

These Anarchists Rock!

(Photo stolen without permission from the Feathered Bastard's blog at the Phoenix New Times 07/14/09. Sue me.)

1 comment:

  1. I especially love that there are people giving us anarchists crap for being such a violent bunch, when AZ just signed a bill into law saying it's okay to bring concealed guns into a bar. Most anarchists I know (myself included) only believe in violence as a last resort. At least the anarchists that are all for violence don't conceal it.