On July 21, 2009, the events of May Day 2008 finally came to a close with the sentencing of four anarchists of the South Sound region. For over a year they have been legally bound to endure an array of court dates, legal costs, extradition waivers, etc. All this has stemmed from some debatable interactions with banks that have since then had a wide impact on the Olympia activist and broader communities.
May Day 2008 began at noon downtown in Sylvester Park with a large crowd listening to speakers who talked about issues ranging from establishing Olympia as a sanctuary city to the history of May Day. Because the rally was intentionally focused on immigrant solidarity, all the speeches were directly translated into Spanish. At the conclusion of the speeches the crowd led itself on a permitted march up Capital Blvd. to the Capital Campus. At the Capital more speeches followed as well as some disagreements over tactics. Next, the crowd continued the march to the City Hall and then downtown where a "break away" march occurred. The break away march consisted of people who were seemingly prepared to use a diversity of tactics. These tactics proved to include property destruction via rocks through the windows of banks. The cops reacted predictably as pigs and began assaulting and arresting people at random. Six people were arrested and taken away though many more were de-arrested.
In the weeks that followed police harassment against activists continued as well as a disturbing amount of in-fighting and finger pointing towards local anarchists. Claims went as far as to blame anarchists for the denial of the Sanctuary City proposal, demonstrating a lapse in memory regarding standard city council behavior. Whether or not all groups agreed the tactics were effective they did work to initiate a significant amount of dialogue around property destruction and what solidarity looks like.
Over the next year, despite state repression, anarchist activity continued undeterred. In addition to countless hours of day to day community organizing, the cops were attacked at their Westside station.
Mid afternoon on July 21, 2009, about 20 or so friends, family and comrades of the arrested converged at the Thurston County Courthouse to witness the conclusion of the court proceedings. While the defendants and their supporters waited for the proceedings to begin, a badge wearing buffoon tried to quiet the crowd but was met instead by jeers and laughter. The atmosphere amongst the visitors remained supportive and there was an understanding that this particular charade of justice was soon coming to a close.
Inside the courtroom at last, the authorities displayed a typical detachment with reality. There was an excessive amount of sheriffs supposedly meant to deal with the anarchist crowd control. The prosecutor Bruno, a parody of JP Moneybags, consistently talked in language equating anarchists to criminal combatants. The Judge could hardly suppress her disdain for the accused with body language that all but gave away her bias. In the end after final statements were given, a last ditch effort to demonize the defendants was provoked when Prosecutor Moneybags submitted a photo of an unidentified person in black clad clothes. Meanwhile, the defendants and their supporters braved the drudgery with jokes, small talk and hugs.
The co-defendants received from 10 to 120 days in jail, although they will avoid hard time because Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch authorized the use of work release or home detention with electronic monitoring. They must report by Aug. 4. Hirsch also ordered the co-defendants to each serve 240 hours of community service.
Not all defendants interacted with the judge in a similar fashion when given space to present a statement. Responses ranged from so-called "groveling" or using an apologetic response and conceding to making a mistake to a "defiant" non-response. It should be understood that whichever approach is taken, the bottom line is the state is illegitimate and we should not expect nor desire them to be moved by our behavior in court. More importantly, within our anarchist communities we should respect our own capacities to navigate the legal system in whichever way we see fit. Ever heard of self-determination? We would do well to balance a level of being self-critical with a space for support and compassion. There is no interest in being part of replicating the same characteristics of culture thriving on bickering and miscommunication.
If there is anything to be remembered from such a day in court, it is that amidst the fallacy we remained in solidarity with each other and were able to offer and provide comfort to our compaņeros during a time of misfortune. We do this because we love each other, what we stand for, and how we are creating a world where days in court are a boring memory.
Anarchist activity looks like many different things for all anarchists. We are deeply involved in building communities based on mutual aid, voluntary cooperation and happiness inside a world programmed not to understand such concepts. While our daily affairs may lead us into conflict with cops and other authorities, anarchy is much more than the reliable opposition to banks, schools and prisons. We must consider moving beyond defining anarchist activities solely as confrontation with figments of the state. We do not advocate a cease of direct action but rather an applause of the all the dreams that we can realize.
On August 4th the defendants are ordered to comply with their respective sentences as given by Judge Hirsch. As documented in the court proceedings all four defendants have been and will continue to be involved in important work within their communities. Luckily, the court has no idea about what community work actually means and how subversive it is to their positions of authority. These punishments should not be seen as setbacks but rather as court-appointed hindrances that we will creatively endure together. We would like thank our friends who will now have the opportunity to reflect not on mistakes but on the learning process of being an anarchist with a monitoring chain on their ankle.
PS - on May 1st 1886 the struggle for the 8 hour work day culminated with the arrest and eventual execution of four anarchists (Albert Parsons, George Engel, August Spies and Adolph Fischer). May Day has deep ties with the anarchist tradition. In the Olympia community we would like to recognize this tradition and not repeat the history of state repression of anarchists by continuing to put anarchy on trial.