Don’t plan, don’t plan
In 2017, President Trump’s inauguration was confronted with the violent and destructive J20 protests in Washington, DC. There were arrests and prosecutions, but in the end any charges that had not yet been promised were dropped. You may have seen the question on social media: Could those arrested for storming the Capitol in 2021 receive the same treatment?
No. Unlike the J20 crowd, the Capitol Strikers have not withheld their identities, have no legal backing, and do not have the lines of communication and relationships necessary for defense solidarity to make a successful law enforcement process difficult.
The investigation will take some time to find out who had plans and who was acting impulsively. The common denominator among Capitol strikers, however, is that the prospect of major legal trouble is not seriously considered. They were a colorful crew: mainstream MAGA fans and militiamen; LARPers and special forces veterans; Entrepreneurs and the unemployed; Law enforcement agencies and individuals with a criminal history; and of course followers of QAnon. The only thing they had in common was that neither of them knew what they were doing.
The naivete exhibited was breathtaking. Normies and radicals bragged about their actions during and after the crime. They are streamed live. They wrote and tweeted and instagrammed, showing their faces and giving their names. One man posted a picture of himself beating up law enforcement and added a helpful label, “THAT’S ME.” Another literally stormed the Capitol with a forensic GPS monitor. A former Navy SEAL bragged about his actions on video. A law enforcement officer lied to Joint Terrorism Task Force agents about his involvement and then agreed to search the deleted pictures and videos on his phone. Another man posted on social media, “I just spoke to an FBI agent. I think I was deleted.” (He was wrong.)
In contrast, a group of leftists who settled themselves as the Tucson Anti-Repression Crew responded to the investigation into the storming of the Capitol: “News from Arizona that the FBI is knocking on the door under cover is following Find information on the far right extremists and protests. “NEVER speak to the FBI. Contact your comrades, a lawyer, and anti-repression support immediately. “
Say what you want of the left, at least the radicals know what they’re doing.
In left organization terminology, storming the Capitol is an example of direct action. Left-handed people basically take two different approaches to direct action: either do nothing (too) illegal or take steps to make sure you don’t get caught.
Look at the women’s march: on October 4, 2018, in protest against the impending affirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, they planned to occupy the Capitol with hordes of protesters. But the building was closed, so the organizers of the women’s march did not break in. They occupied public areas in the still open Hart Senate building; You didn’t break into people’s offices.
We were planning to close the Capitol, but the authorities were so scared of it #WomensWave that they turn it off for us.
– Women’s march (@womensmarch) 4th October 2018
On October 6, 2018, the day of the Kavanaugh Confirmation Vote, the women’s march gathered outside the Capitol, climbed over police barriers, and occupied … the Capitol steps. They estimate that more than 250 of them have been arrested – albeit with minor charges.
If you’ve seen our livestream on Facebook, you’ll know we’ve just organized thousands of women, survivors, and allies to flood the Capitol, climb over police barriers, and take over the Capitol steps. We estimate over 250 have been arrested. #CancelKanavaughhttps://t.co/fvJ4m2Zfvfpic.twitter.com/MghLvr8WgJ
– Women’s march (@womensmarch) October 6, 2018
They didn’t go in or attempt to disrupt the process because they knew exactly how much they could get away with. This provides protection for likeable outlets to praise without hesitation, rather than apologizing for actions that alienate people.
This last action required experience, careful legal advice and careful training. The people who crossed the barricades had given serious thought to the consequences of being arrested and accepted them and voluntarily restricted their behavior so as not to have any major consequences for themselves and to cause problems for the organizers. The organizers had prepared for arrests and had arranged legal assistance beforehand. The people who wanted to support the cause but were not ready to be arrested stayed outside the barricades. Everyone held on to their roles and performed their functions.
This is only possible because the left carefully plan their direct actions in advance. Left-handers seek advice from experienced lawyers. Left educate their people and strengthen this training through the use of marshals and de-escalators. (A Lefty College friend of mine found out about this personally when he was setting up his shed at a BLM event, quarreling with a counter-protester, and immediately had his ear cuffed by a marshal because they didn’t want to fight there.)
Even more radical lefts incorporate these steps using what is known as the “variety of tactics”. Leftists know that different people have different skills, desires and risk tolerances. Think of the federal siege in Portland: some people want to form a black block and start a fire. Some people feel more comfortable just acting as human shields (remember the “wall of mothers?”). These groups don’t just show up and hope for the best. You negotiate. They mark events in time and space and offer sympathizers as many opportunities as possible to apologize that the unrest is not that bad.
Sometimes (although some hard left criticize this, especially recently) the negotiation of various tactics is carried out according to St. Paul’s principles established by the hard left to disrupt the 2008 Republican Convention. These principles are:
- Our solidarity is based on respect for a variety of tactics and the plans of other groups.
- The actions and tactics used are organized in such a way that time and space remain separate.
- All debates or criticisms remain within the movement and avoid any public or media denunciation of other activists and events.
- We oppose any government suppression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to support law enforcement activities against activists and others.
In practice, this means using plausible denial to achieve complicity. The Wall of Moms, for example, was made famous before radical hardcore action really got off the ground. Militants may look down on it, but this is how you guarantee the wall of mothers will appear in the first place.
Instructions for a particular action are known as “action agreements”. For example, when they protested against ICE facilities in 2019, the IfNotNow group put together an extremely informative onboarding package. Along with warnings not to take any action during visiting hours, to do nothing with the facility’s staff that could affect the detainees, and not to alert the detainees themselves, they contained detailed agreements on measures: There would be no violence (including “Verbal violence”). , no property damage, no weapons and no flags; The protesters agreed to adhere to the decision-making process, to respect the variety of tactics within the rules established for the action, and to make all those responsible for compliance with the agreement responsible.
It’s not that leftists aren’t violent. Ask any business owner who looted or set fire to the premises, or anyone who was beaten up by a black block, or the family of the teenager who was murdered by the “security” in the CHAZ (whose occupier, the faithful not snitched, covered up) the murderer). But leftists learned to be careful about how and when they use violence and to what extent they use it. You have learned that if you look like a dangerous mob without actually being one, there is a need to manage events, control crowds, and there are fewer legal ramifications. These organizational skills don’t come from nowhere. Lefts have a long history of trying, failing, and retrying, with significant efforts being made to analyze successes and failures.
The people who stormed the Capitol did not get the benefit of the experience. They didn’t have any agreements. They had no risk assessments, marshals, or de-escalators. They did not analyze the possible consequences of their actions. They did not plan on legal assistance or thought about the impact their actions might have on alleged allies or on the people watching on television.
They stormed the Capitol because it felt good.
We might like say These facts don’t care about your feelings. Well, we have to internalize it. You cannot act spontaneously directly because it feels good. If you are part of impulsive, uncontrolled direct action, chances are you face dire consequences because while hard lefties receive free legal aid from the National Lawyers Guild, you have the equity that is in your house.
Some people might like the idea of sacrificing their freedom for TAKE A STAND ™, but as left organizer Jonathan Smucker pointed out, sacrifices are costs that are incurred to get a benefit. Without a way in which the victim can obtain the benefit, the victim is stupid. (Smucker learned this as a member of a Peacenik group that valued breaking into a military base to put a hammer on an F-16. He couldn’t help but notice that this action was invariably a difficult federal prison time for his comrades caused.)
It is true that activists and journalists who normalize and praise the occupation of government buildings by people they like should not be surprised when people who do not like them have the right to occupy government buildings. Activists and journalists who normalize and praise “nonviolent property damage” shouldn’t be surprised if people who don’t like them have the right to break windows and steal property. Activists and journalists who accept people they like to set up guillotines during protests – including outside the home of the owner of the Washington Post– shouldn’t be surprised if people who don’t like her feel encouraged to set up the gallows. And when journalists pretend organized outrage is organic, people who don’t know how to organize also believe this lie. But none of this releases Righty employees from the responsibility of getting their jobs done and properly organized.
Direct action is like an iceberg. The smash and scream you see says nothing about the infrastructure and the hard work beneath the surface. The organizers are responsible for setting up this infrastructure and carrying out this work. Because of this, despite the guilt, the grotesque fiasco at the Capitol is ultimately the fault of Righty’s potential organizers.
It is her fault that cops were attacked, that cop Brian Sicknick died, that Kevin Greeson and Benjamin Phillips died, that Rosanne Boyland died dejected by the crowd. And it’s her fault that untrained, unequipped, unprepared Ashli Babbit died from being forced to climb onto an armed officer through a broken window, provided he wouldn’t shoot her. And when he shot her, the untrained, unequipped, unprepared people around her watched her bleed to death from having no doctors or plans for serious injuries.
The people on the right, who are most attracted to direct action, under no circumstances can be trusted to commit them. This is a serious problem. When it comes to direct action, the moral question of any particular action is usually very tribal: our brave activists, their scum of the earth. But the real question of an action is stupid or not stupid. If you take stupid direct action, you will do more harm than good to your cause, and people can be hurt and people can die. And whether your act is stupid or not, whether you are the organizer and your employees don’t know what risks they are taking and how they can be mitigated is also up to you.
Tell me again how the law would win a civil war.
David Hines has a background in international human rights work with an emphasis on recovery from enforced disappearances and mass murder. He lives in Los Angeles.
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