Resistance, Rebellion and Repression: Questions to Consider When You’re in the Streets
Durham Anti-Repression, It’s Going Down, March 13, 2016
In the past few years, Durham – like many cities and towns across the U.S. – has seen a pronounced increase in marches, street protests and direct actions. People have come out in large numbers to demonstrate their grief, frustration and rage against police murders and state violence. Protests allow us to come together and develop our capacity to build our own power, but they also can be sites of repression – both from the state and from within. Because DARC opposes repression, we oppose the internal policing of our movements. We hope this document opens up space for dialogue and engagement with each other when we’re not in the streets – so we can be stronger together when we are.
Why do people wear masks? Doesn’t that just give the police a reason to mess with protesters?
People who wear masks are not cowards for covering their faces; they are promoting safety and even helping to increase collective power against the police. Masks help protect people’s faces and lungs from police chemical weapons like tear gas and pepper spray. They also help conceal individual identity while increasing the anonymity of all masked folks. Wearing a mask is a material demonstration of solidarity with other masked folks who may be at higher risk of state repression due to the color of their skin, their status of documentation, or their arrest record. Some mask up because simply being spotted at a political protest could get them fired from their job. Masks interfere with police surveillance and coordinated attacks on individuals believed to be political leaders. By equipping folks with increased anonymity, masks heighten the power of a crowd to claim space in the streets, to drag a fence between the crowd and the cops, to dearrest a comrade by yanking them from police hands, to paint a message to folks locked up in jail, to throw the cops’ canister of tear gas back at them. While masks serve a variety of functions, it’s helpful to remember what masks can’t do: masks alone do not get people arrested. People get arrested because the police exist to arrest people.