Paul Messersmith-Glavin: Opinion: ‘Havoc’ stems from upholding supremacy, not dumpster fires”

Anarchists are so committed to the ideal of a world free of all forms of domination and hierarchy, including those based on race, that they are willing to expose themselves to repeated police violence for expressing this view, the author writes.

The Oregonian, May 2, 2021

Messersmith-Glavin serves on the board of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, a grant-giving organization created in 1996 to support the development of anarchism. The IAS publishes the Perspectives on Anarchist Theory journal, as well as books in collaboration with AK Press. Messersmith-Glavin is an organizer, author and health care worker in Portland.

In the April 25 editorial, “Drawing the line between chaos and community,” the Oregonian/OregonLive Editorial Board approvingly cites Mayor Ted Wheeler’s attempt to divide racial justice protesters from “self-described anarchists” who bring “havoc.” There is a great deal to unpack in Wheeler and the editorial board’s assumptions.

Let’s start with the misunderstanding that anarchists, self-described or otherwise, have no interest in racial justice. Anarchists seek a world free of all forms of domination and hierarchy, be they based in race, gender, class, ability, age or any other aspect of social or material differentiation. So committed are they to this ideal, they expose themselves to repeated police violence for expressing this view. It is empirically incorrect to suggest otherwise, as one would find out if one simply talked to them or listened to their words. Anarchists are involved in organizing against racial domination in Portland and around the world and have participated in protests against police killings of people of color for years.

Definitions of “violence” are contentious, but surely, we can agree there is a significant difference between broken windows and a 46-year-old man shot dead by police while in a city park, the latest person to be killed by Portland Police. There is no moral equivalency between dumpster fires in the street and murder. It is disingenuous to condemn property destruction while ignoring the relentless violence of Portland police, who used force a documented 6,000 times last year alone against citizens expressing their opinions on the value of Black lives. The overwhelming majority of violence against people occurring during protests is committed by Portland police, not by protestors.

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