Mutual Aid Disaster Relief: Mutual Aid and the Criminalization of Compassion: Humanitarian Aid Must Never Be A Crime

September 22, 2023

Mutual aid is your neighbor bringing over a freshly baked blueberry pie because they know you love that kind and they love to bake. It’s the fourteen-year-old down the street who mows the lawn of his elderly neighbor because he likes to do things for people in need. Mutual aid is also the family who just lost everything in a flood and still makes it over to the local supply distribution center in town to volunteer their time to help other families in need. Mutual aid is giving water to those crossing borderlands, dying of thirst, seeking refuge and freedom. Mutual aid is standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with unhoused people who have been violently evicted from their houses, tent cities, park benches, and church steps. Mutual aid has no borders and extends beyond nationality, race, gender, ability, sexuality, creed, political affiliation, and even beyond humanity, to other species and the rest of our non-human relatives. Protecting the waters, the mountains, and the forests is also mutual aid. 

These are acts of kindness, compassion, mutual aid, and solidarity. 

Mutual aid work is community care. Mutual aid work is the work of love. Mutual aid work is the work of justice. If the government chooses to criminalize this work, it simply proves the government’s inhumanity and irrelevance. Mutual aid is all about people from below looking after each other, because time and time again it has been proven that we cannot rely on large institutions, for-profit businesses, nonprofits, or governments to be there for us in our time of need. Mutual aid is the multitudes meeting the unaddressed needs of their communities. Martin Luther King Jr. describes this interdependence with each other by saying, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

We all drink water. We all breathe air. We all eat food. Among all our other differences, we can unite in the struggle for everyone to have clean drinking water, fresh air to breathe, and plentiful healthy food to eat. We have hope for our collective survival and addressing the profound disasters and crises humanity faces. Our hope is not in politicians or billionaires, but in each other-–in small, simple acts of kindness, compassion, and courage. Mutual Aid Disaster Relief commits to continuing to provide water, food, and other essential humanitarian assistance to people impacted by current and future disasters. 

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr have irresponsibly and dangerously put out the astonishingly false narrative that mutual aid and solidarity are criminal and nefarious into the public discourse. This seriously endangers billions of people around the world who engage in, benefit from, and survive by simple acts of mutual aid on a daily basis. 

This indictment is harmful to people around the country as it seeks to fuel a completely false narrative not only about the nature and history of mutual aid, but about the people who practice mutual aid on a daily basis. This false narrative, if allowed to continue, would only lead to further harm to those seeking to care for each other. 

If all the people practicing mutual aid, either those doing it in their everyday lives informally because humans naturally care for one another, or by using the appellation, were forced to cease these highest and most life affirming humanitarian gestures, the end result would be mass starvation, mass illness, and mass death. The resulting alienation of humans from one another would be unimaginable.

Governments continually deny funding for community support such as healthcare, affordable housing, living wage jobs, food, water, and basic safety from gun violence. If elected leaders will not solve the crises we face, the least that government can do is commit to not criminalizing and targeting those of us who do provide wellness services, shelter, food, water, and advocate for peaceful communities.

It is inhumane to criminalize care. Calling movements for mutual aid extremist organizations belies all that these movements do and strive for. The proper and correct description of those who are opposing Cop City and protecting Weelaunee Forest are people with profound integrity, strong moral compass, and high moral character who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. They are not domestic terrorists. 

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