William C. Anderson: Indicting anarchism, inventing ‘terror’: From 1898 to Cop City

Prism Reports | October 3, 2023

State propaganda has long mischaracterized and scapegoated anarchism to maintain a violent status quo

“Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial … Gentlemen of the jury, convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society.” – Julius S. Grinnell, prosecuting attorney of the Haymarket Martyrs  

“Peaceful protesters should be protected—but arsonists and anarchists should be prosecuted—and local law enforcement can do that.” – Joe Biden

News of the indictment of 61 people in the fight against the construction of the militarized police training facility in Atlanta dubbed “Cop City” has left many in shock. Seeing dozens charged under the state’s racketeering, or RICO statute, was confusing enough since authorities are targeting a decentralized movement using a law meant for highly organized crime. However, what left many people even more perplexed was how the 109-page indictment included descriptions of anarchism. It states early on that “violent anarchists attempt to frame the government as violent oppressionists, thereby justifying the anarchists’ own violence.” Words like these echo some of the worst days of political repression in the history of anarchist movements worldwide and should concern anti-fascist organizers today. 

What we’re witnessing is a resurgence of the worst fascistic impulses, and it’s happening under a Democrat president in a Democrat-controlled city with overwhelming Black representation. While conservative school boards are banning books and the right is suppressing history and education, we must educate about what led up to this point. What’s happening in Atlanta dates back well over a century to the original “war on terror,” which was a global war against anarchism. These events defined national and international policing apparatuses. 

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