Last year, squads of young men and women in black clothes, masks and bandanas crept out to the streets of Portland, Oregon, with bags of asphalt in hand. This wasn’t about Neo-Nazis, law enforcement, immigration rights or other prickly issues millennials have demonstrated a passion for. They took to the streets for one purpose only: to patch potholes, which had grown out of control as the city struggled with a backlog.
Peter, a self-identifying anarchist in his mid-30s, was a part of the grassroots crew, which dubbed itself Portland Anarchist Road Care. In his eyes, the city had let down too many people who frequently popped tires and crashed bikes on their way to work. Being critical of government was old hat to Peter, who had felt a distrust of authority from a young age and fed himself a steady stream of punk rock and Noam Chomsky in his 20s. For him, fixing potholes wasn’t just a kind volunteer act — it was a political statement.
“Like everyone else, we were just sitting around waiting for the city to deal with it, and then we realized, these are our streets,” he says. “And if we want to offer an alternative to state solutions to problems, why not show people that we can do things together, as a society, that the state fails to do for us?”