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Night Owls #4: Winter’s Embers

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A banner dropped in Eugene, OR this past February read “Against Cop City and Its World.” These words have come to echo throughout Atlanta and across Turtle Island, indicating that the struggle extends far beyond the construction of this particular police facility. But what exactly is “the world” of Cop City?

One interpretation has to do with the strategy of secondary and tertiary targeting. This past winter, night owls across the country have set their sights beyond the state officials behind the Cop City project, focusing instead on the contractors hired to build it and the banks and corporations funding it. This is a practical approach to stopping this specific project — sabotaging the offices of contractors like Atlas and Brasfield & Gorrie is intended to put pressure on them to drop their contract with Atlanta, which would make it harder for the city to move forward with its plans.

Many of the communiques accompanying the actions we’ve seen this season state this as their goal. A claim for an action against an Atlas office in Detroit included the warning, “Atlas, until you stop supporting Cop City, there will be no safe corner for you on Turtle Island.” A communique out of Indiana writes that all executives and property of Atlas should be considered legitimate targets “until Atlas publicly announces that it will no longer work on the project.”

Additional communiques from this winter’s solidarity actions with Atlanta — to our knowledge, only a handful of claimed actions took place that were not Atlanta-related — clarify their opposition not just to Cop City but to the world that needs it. In many cases, they do this by drawing connections in writing to additional struggles that the authors see as interconnected. In other cases, this projectuality that aims to destroy both Cop City and the world that makes it possible is embodied in the choice of target. Many of this winter’s actions expanded from the more “precise” choice of targets like Atlas offices and into the wider world of exploitation and domination, which, after all, would likely just find a replacement for Atlas elsewhere if the contract was dropped. This is not to minimize the significance of actions against contractors, but rather to consider some critical questions being raised and experimented with through action, a powerful and beautiful dynamic that we were happy to see growing this winter.

Night owls in the Ozarks sabotaged “four forest-killing machines,” writing that their action was taken in solidarity with “forests under siege everywhere” as well as with the Atlanta forest. This thought was echoed later by Portland anarchists, who similarly took up a solidarity action that burned a machine unrelated to the specific contractors of Cop City. Other actions, like ones in Durham and Oakland, were dedicated to Tortiguita, who was murdered in the Atlanta forest in January, as well as to Tyre Nichols and others recently executed by the police.

 

Anarchists in Denver remind us that that the violence of US-based private extraction companies extends beyond US colonial borders, acknowledging “the murder of three land defenders in Honduras since the beginning of the year.” In another communique, Brooklyn anarchists included shoutouts to “the struggles in Latin America, the Palestinian struggle and the struggles against exploitation the world over” alongside their solidarity with Atlanta.

But there are also ways in which these struggles, regions, and systems of oppression are materially and logistically interconnected. A handful of actions in solidarity with Stop Cop City have turned their focus to this aspect of Cop City’s world. In a communique about an action against Norfolk Southern, three weeks after the catastrophic derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, anarchists in Philly wrote that they chose this target not only because NS is itself a funder of Cop City, but because “large shipping companies like NS are the circulatory system of industrial colonialism.” The authors illustrate this by discussing how rail and other logistics provide the means through which industrial agriculturists move their soy and corn, loggers get lumber to and from mills, and Amazon gets shipping containers from ships to distribution centers. “Perhaps NS funds cop city because they understand both how crucial they are in building a dead world and exactly how vulnerable they are.” 

There’s been a lot of talk of winning with regard to the fight in the forest, but in a world whose brutal domination and exploitation extends so much further than one police facility in one city, what exactly constitutes a victory? If Brasfield & Gorrie drop the contract, is it still a win if a new company then gets hired to do the same thing? If this police training facility is never built in Atlanta, but is built somewhere else instead, should we call that winning? What exactly are actions accomplishing if their perspective is confined to winning a campaign goal?

Any particular struggle against a specific manifestation of domination will have its ebbs and flows — triumphant moments, waves of repression, and responses to that repression. Moments of success and failure happen throughout a particular struggle, not merely at the end of it. Memories of past struggles can be used as a weapon, too, whether to avenge our fallen comrades or to send a kind of smoke signal that the will to rebel endures.

Projectuality is a word the insurrectionary anarchist tradition uses to describe the longterm and contextual dimensions of the projects that rebels take up, and how we make sure these projects take us to, and help us create, the places we want to go. This often includes fighting against a particular project the state is proposing, but is not confined to responding to the initiatives of those in power.

Our conception of victory and defeat must similarly extend beyond the immediate goal. For one thing, to say that nothing is truly a victory while capitalism is still intact is not just an ideological flourish, but quite literal. It is a commitment to continue fighting against all forms of domination and to resist recuperation at any cost. From resource extraction projects to new prison construction, in the rare cases in which we do succeed in stopping a particular thing from happening, the state and capital tend to simply shuffle things around until they get what they needed from that project through other means. When the state is just giving us the stick, it can be difficult to remember that the carrot is just as dangerous.

For examples of how to move through these peaks and valleys, we can look to those who have kept fighting long after a particular phase of the struggle has ended. In a recent communique in solidarity with Tortiguita, comrades resisting a nuclear waste storage project in Bure (France) wrote:

“We have taken the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the evacuation of the forest [in Bure] to show that we have neither forgotten nor forgiven what they did. And that they are mistaken if they think they have hunted us and defeated us forever.”

In torching an ANDRA transmission pylon near Bure, the writers aimed not specifically at the corporation (CIGEO) that drove the police to evict the forest occupation, but rather “deliberately place[d] our action in the context of a series of attacks carried out last year against measuring stations intended to collect geological, hydrological and meteorological data.” This choice of target comes from observing that “these structures are of paramount strategic importance in the current development phase of the project given that the data collected, for example for environmental impact studies, alone constitute a necessary basis in the creation authorization procedures. Thus, destroying them, putting them out of service, are and will inevitably be a thorn in the side of the ‘smooth running of the CIGEO project.’”

“And its world” is adopted from the slogan accompanying the struggle to halt the airport slated for development in Notre-des-Landes, France, this past decade. Proponents of the ZAD (“zone to defend”) saw the horizon of victory squashed there after a long, brutal, and dedicated fight. After the state announced that they were no longer planning to build the airport, the fixation among certain participants in the struggle on securing their hold on this particular piece of land led them to effectively recuperate their own struggle. The long and violently repressed fight against another airport in Atenco, Mexico State ended when the current progressive president AMLO was elected. He was able to claim the victory of cancelling the contentious project in the name of the popular struggle, carrying out mediatized “consultations” with the affected communities, and then proceeded to build the airport elsewhere. His government has proceeded to use the support garnered from this strategic concession to pave the way for further industrialization and militarization across the country.

Both of these struggles cost the state and the corporations behind the projects dearly, and both live on in the multitudes of actions that took place against the world that made the proposed airports possible. The claims of “victory” are attempts to rewrite these stories of struggle, and the heavy costs suffered by the rebels, as part of the necessary democratic process of checks and balances within the power structure. From unions to politicians to social movement leaders, opportunists everywhere seek to pacify our intransigent struggles with “winning strategies”.

Specific struggles are part of the fight against domination, but the whole cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts — this fight is also long, intergenerational, and cyclical. Out of the endless daily miseries of this world, choosing where to draw lines in the sand enables rebellious energy to coalesce and build on itself. The most significant struggles are ones that are approached not with an expectation of “winning,” but rather with an eye towards how to spread practices of lived anarchy and struggle, how to build capacity as individuals and networks, and what can be taken from this struggle into the next. The words “Cop City will never be built” evokes a powerful and transformative commitment to fight to the end, to refuse surrender. The fact that there is no end, that the fight against domination cannot be reduced to a single target, but is a tension that must be created and maintained, doesn’t make this specific fight any less important.

 

The only way to really do away with the world of Cop City is through profound revolutionary upheaval, an insurrectional process that goes so far that normalcy can’t return. The fight to defend the Atlanta forest has disrupted the social peace that those in power reimposed following the 2020 uprisings for Black lives and against the police. The combative struggle against Cop City lays the social groundwork for insurrection, spreads indomitable practices and ideas, and provides anarchists with the experiences of autonomous self-organization that will be needed to decisively intervene when widespread social revolt comes knocking.

Along these lines, the epic mass action on March 5th during the Week of Action in Atlanta was in itself a major milestone. That a combative crowd was able to force police out of their own outpost and then burn it down in front of them in broad daylight — unprecedented in the US as far as we know — potentially opens up vast new fields of action for those with the courage and ability to pursue them.

The publication Storm Warnings‘ 2018 essay “Without Victory, Nor Defeat” argues that the logic of victory and defeat comes from politics, i.e. activities that distribute power relations and status among individuals. Anarchy, the beautiful idea, abjures the realm of politics and proposes instead to live and fight in a state of tension towards freedom and the destruction of power relations. The only defeat is submission, resigning ourselves to the world of policing, Cop City or no; and as all those who put their freedom on the line showed us this winter, that seems unlikely to ever happen.

“Contrary to cats, we indeed only have one life, and we dare to say that it is during this life – the only one we have – what matters is to fight, to live that tension towards the destruction of authority. It’s by moving, moving on the path we have chosen, that we live up to ourselves, that we become what we are. It is the quality that bursts into our life, the quality of actions and ideas that go hand in hand. Victory or defeat have no place here, only persisting or abandoning, perseverance or resignation, passionate love and hate or obliteration to politics.”

Action Briefs

1/1: Portland, Oregon

A Bank of America, which “funds the Atlanta Police Foundation and a thousand other projects of control,” was burned. “I attack for revenge against capital for the hell it creates, to break the illusion of police control that usually protects it, and just because I can.”

1/5: Miami, Florida

Anarchists struck the contractors Brasfield and Gorrie at their office inside a hotel, which was vandalized with giant lettering reading “STOP COP CITY.” A Brasfield and Gorrie construction site also had its vehicles sabotaged.

1/15: Ozarks

Four tree-killing machines were put out of use by Pissed-off locals: “We chewed through wires and cables, filled fuel tanks with sand and soil, drained the machines dry, and restored the forest to perfect winter silence.”

1/20: Oakland, California

Two days after the murder of Tortuguita, thirty mournful anarchists shattered dozens of windows of a Bank of America building downtown, destroyed the ATMs, and repainted the walls with messages of love, memory, solidarity, and rage at the assassination of their comrade before lighting the place up with molotov cocktails. “We destroyed quickly but tirelessly. Like the peasants in the Jacquerie, the Luddite wreckers, or the Haitian revolutionaries, we seek liberation in the most obvious way: the destruction of what we know is the cause of our suffering.

1/20: Novi, Michigan

Acid-etching paint was used by “your friends up north” to redecorate the windows of an Atlas office.

1/20: New York City, New York

The glass front doors of an Atlas office were smashed.

1/20: Portland, Oregon

At a UPS shipping center, anarchists broke many windows and started multiple fires within the building. UPS is one of the biggest companies donating to Cop City.

1/21: Atlanta, Georgia

During a riotous demonstration, windows were smashed at the skyscraper housing the Atlanta Police Foundation, and a police cruiser was put to the torch.

1/21: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A small group broke off from a vigil for Tortuguita and threw up barricades and graffiti before smashing a realty office. “Neither innocent nor guilty, neither terrorists nor protesters, simply anarchists!”

1/21: Boulder, Colorado

KPMG, one of the funders of Cop City, had their office windows vandalized with self-etching paint.

1/22: Portland, Oregon

In retaliation against the murder of Tortuguita, a large excavator was arsoned. “We attack the same machines that threaten the forest in Atlanta and everything wild.”

1/24: Durham, North Carolina

Some willful vandals clogged the ATMs of a Wells Fargo branch and covered both entrances in paint. “We do this out of rage and sadness, but also gratitude and joy for life. We have all experienced so much loss these last few years. While we mourn, it can sometimes be easy to forget: action is the antidote to despair. In a crowd of thousands or a team of two, the right time is now. The right person is you.”

1/25: New York City, New York

The glass lobby doors were smashed of an Alta Vista office, a subsidiary of Atlas. “May Tortuguita’s smile be the flame we carry to set this civilization on fire, and may it be the light that reminds us to love each other over the ashes.”

1/25: Highland, Indiana

All the windows and glass doors of an Atlas office are smashed, and a powerful stench agent is left behind by Tort’s Revenge. Six Atlas vehicles were also vandalized.

1/28: Ann Arbor, Michigan

A demonstration spraypaints and slashes the tires of over 40 cars at a Porshe dealership, which funds the Atlanta Police Foundation.

1/29: Minneapolis, Minnesota

The windows and ATMs are smashed at a US Bank and Wells Fargo branch at the same time as a demonstration is underway elsewhere in the city.

1/30: Denver, Colorado

A Wells Fargo branch has its windows shattered.

1/30: Fridley, Minnesota

Workers at an Atlas office experience a chilly morning following the windows being smashed overnight.

2/2: Brooklyn, New York

Four Amazon delivery vehicles had their windows smashed at a charging station. “Death to America!”

2/6: Brooklyn, New York

After the anarchist space The Base was evicted, the gentrified weed business that took its place has their windows smashed.

2/9: Augusta, Georgia

Another Atlas office loses its windows. “don’t forget that shenanagins can happen all over the place.”

2/10: Columbia, South Carolina

Four Atlas trucks have their tires slashed, despite hired security at the office.

2/10: Berkeley, California

Five Bank of America ATMs are sabotaged with super glue and stolen prepaid debit cards.

2/11: Oakland, California

A police cruiser was lit on fire in the parking lot of the Police Administration building. “An accomplice looked out for oncoming traffic and returning police vehicles, while the other approached the lot from the opposite direction. Officers lazily patrolling the area were easily clocked.”

2/12: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A vandalized Comcast fiber optic cable provoked a major outage during the Super Bowl.

2/18: Atlanta, Georgia

The Joint Task Force to Avenge Tortuguita burned an excavator, bulldozer and a front-end loader after they were left on-site following a clear-cut.

2/20: East Hartford, Connecticut

An Atlas office and vehicle were vandalized with paint and superglue.

2/24: Minneapolis, Minnesota

A public works truck was arsoned in response to an eviction.

2/28: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The railway mainline belonging to the Norfolk Southern company was sabotaged with copper wire, which trips the signal and potentially stops traffic until the wire is located. With love for Tort, and infinite hostility for cops who killed them.”

2/28: Unknown

A Truist bank is left with a smashed ATM and windows.

3/5: Atlanta, Georgia

A demonstration of 300 people made total destroy at a work site of a subcontractor of Brasfield & Gorrie, which is also a police staging area. Police were pushed back, while two floodlights, two UTVs, heavy machinery, and an office trailer were destroyed. “Because of this action, most or all of the work conducted since the murder of Tortuguita was undone.” A second reportback describes how the police continued to be fought during a repressive operation an hour later to enable people to escape arrest.

3/11: Berkley, California

Seven ATMs are superglued at Wells Fargo and Chase bank.

3/14: Eastern Massachusetts

An ATM is superglued at a Bank of America.

3/15: Windsor, California

Anarchists smashed and etched the windows of an office of CEL, an Atlas subsidiary.

3/18: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bleach was poured into the tank of a “monster of steel and rubber” by Tortuguita Revenge Gang.

3/19: San Francisco, California

GI Partners is an investment firm that recently purchased Atlas. The facade of their building was redecorated with a fire extinguisher filled with green paint. “Fuck with the forest and the forest will fuck with you.”

Hit Us Up

If you come across existing articles from mainstream media you’d like to see included in our next action briefs, or have feedback on the column, we’d love to hear from you at nightowls [at] riseup [dot] net. Please do not send us your communiques or any actions you are personally taking responsibility for — send these instead to one of the counter-info projects that publish claims, some of which are listed here.

Distribution of Night Owls is decentralized—don’t forget to print the column, bring it to infoshops, drop it in newspaper boxes, or just pass it to your friends.

photo: Matt Hearne via Unsplash

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