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What happened at BashBack

A political analysis of the events causing in-fighting following the BashBack national convergence in Chicago, written/collaborated on by people who were there and personally affected by the choices made by others.
Even with the stories running around and the press releases having just gone out, it seems folks don't have a clear picture of what went down at the BashBack convergence in Chicago last week. Many have developed opinions without knowing the full story, or understanding the implications of the side(s) they have chosen. Check out the press release, "Chicago PD attacks Queers in Boystown" for a more neutral description of the event.
This article makes no attempt to pretend to be neutral. This article is just a more in-depth look at some of the places where solidarity was missing, where we turned on each other instead of on the police state, and where we damaged instead of strengthened future relationships. Hopefully folks can read this, think about it, and learn from it, which will allow our communities to move forward without repeating the same mistakes.

During the march, folks at the back pulled a newspaper stand and a garbage can into the street to slow down the advancing police cars. Others in the crowd ran out, yelling "no!" and "this is a nonviolent protest!" They then moved the objects back to the sidewalk. Moments later, the police cars began ramming those walking in the road, and a few minutes after that, someone's foot was run over by a police car.

Points to consider about this seemingly simple action-
1. Telling anyone "no" is inappropriate during an action happening under the guise of "supporting a diversity of tactics." No is an ending and doesn't open up a dialogue or leave room for other people's opinions.

2. The debate in whether property destruction is violence hasn't been solved even through numerous books, countless zines, and thousands of hours of discussion. But even before trying to make a decision on that topic, one should ask about this case, does the moving of mobile boxes even count as property destruction?

3. This WASN'T a nonviolent action. No matter what one's opinion on property destruction/violence is, this action was part of BASHBACK. What part of BASHBACK sounds like "nonviolent"? This isn't to say anything done in connection with BashBack must use force or be violent, but the possibility of such is included in the name. Bashing Back is about taking what's ours, working for liberation, and refusing assimilation. The Points of Unity do not include "nonviolence" and in fact, include the phrase "a diversity of tactics."

4. Moving things back out of the road? Really? What difference is there between that and watering down the cement used in the hard barricade? Reread the "diversity of tactics" section. You can disagree with what some people do, but to actually, physically undo what they've done...

5. On the flip side, some have claimed "those who moved the blockades out of the roads allowed the police to catch up and hurt people with their cars." It's important that we remember what side we are all on. It is NOT the fault of any of the queers on the street that night (those arrested, those "leading" the march, the organizers of the weekend, or the folks who moved the blockades) that the police chose to be police and bash and arrest us. It is the fault of the police state for existing, and as long as we remember that, we have the more important Point of Unity there is- the realization that we are all on the same side, fighting against the same thing.

Another happening that night was the jail support- or more accurately, the lack thereof. Five people went down to the police station in Boystown in the wee hours of the morning where the four arrestees were being held. We didn't even know who all of them were- when they were moved to a paddy wagon, we had to shout across the road to them, "What are your names?"

After they were moved to the jail, three of us sat out front and watched the sun come up with the other two went to bring more folks down to the jail. These more folks, however, weren't very into the idea of supporting their comrades in jail. The folks who had gone to get them were persistent and got a few carloads to come, but most people brushed them off and went back to sleep.

We understand that folks were tired and stressed after the events of the night before. But the four people in jail were tired and stressed, too. We weren't even asking much of folks- wake up, get in car. No worrying about the location of the jail or how to take the train there. No worrying about what to bring- just yourself. We had coffee, food, water, blankets and pillows at jail. Some folks who came down just curled back up and went to sleep. Their presence still mattered, though, as did the absence of those who were able to take such easy comfort in their own relative safety and turn off any emotion for the folks in jail.

We had been told when our four arrived there at 6am that it would be "most of the day" before they were released. They would have to be fingerprinted, and the fingerprints had to be run, and then Central Station had to do the paperwork to get them out because it was a Sunday. "Most of the day." When queers started showing up by the carload at 6:30am, an officer asked those inside, "Who are those people? Are they your friends?" The four didn't answer, but took comfort in hearing that they had friends massing outside. The first of our comrades was released at 7:30am, and by 8am, all four were released into our waiting arms. All day, huh?

Anyone who thinks jail support doesn't matter, even after having arrestees run out and leap into the arms of their comrades, crying with the joy of finding such a party outside, should remember this as a time when jail support mattered to those who run things, and caused the expedited release of our friends.

Something to take away from the weekend is the realization that we are stronger together. We may have slightly different opinions on how an action should go down (or on what an action even is) or different priorities when it comes to self-care, but we are closer to each other than we are to the police state, and we would do well to remember which side we're all on in the future.

beautiful 08.Jun.2009 21:50


Thankyou for the descriptive and articulate report. Maybe, because it was written for the BASHBACK in Boystown it is a repost but I want to commend the writing and the excellent points it made as to how important solidarity is in dissent. And also, something, I hadn't thought of, which was the "party" of people outside the jail that gathers in wait of the release. I see it can shorten the incarceration time as well as provide supportive validation of the sacrifice for the cause. Valuab

Also- 08.Jun.2009 21:57


The website for BashBack is www.bashbacknews.wordpress.com

And this version of the article left out one of the best parts of the story- that there were many, MANY, unarrests. People unarrested themselves, pulling away from cops and disappearing into the crowd, out-ran and out-dodged cops, and unarrested each other mostly successfully, pulling friends free from the grasps of the cops and making escapes down side streets. There would have been far more arrests that night had people folded to the supposed power of the police; instead, folks Bashed Back and kept on fighting until the end.

Link 10.Jun.2009 19:40

to "Chicago Police Attack Queers in Boystown"