The Purge: Baltimore

  • Posted on: 30 April 2015
  • By: worker

From Anarcho-Geek Review - by MARGARET KILLJOY

Only two hours left before the purge. We’d better get inside. At the cafe, ominous music was playing, and as twilight set in outside, the crowd diminished and a nervous energy grew in those of us left. Or maybe that was just me.

According to the police and media (and they may have been right, I don’t know), this whole atmosphere of rebellion and resistance kicked off when a group of school-age kids put out a call for a “purge” at 3:30 at at a neighborhood mall. It was a reference to the film series The Purge (reviewed here with surprising favor on AnarchoGeek Review)… the Purge is the one night every year during which all crime is legal.

There’s so much to unpack in that. First, and perhaps foremost, what matters is that these kids decided, for themselves, that they were going to get away with crime. In this case, the crimes were almost exclusively mass assault on riot police and mass vandalism of police vehicles.

In the film, it was the government that decided to allow the purge, and a cynical take on the baltimore riots could easily suggest that they fulfilled the ostensible purpose of the film’s purge — to allow people to let off steam so that society at large doesn’t burst into generalized revolt. The theory is that if people are allowed to fight back every now and then, in a controlled manner, they won’t fight back en masse.

But by taking matters into their own hands, these kids weren’t letting off steam — they were building collective power. I hope they never forget the power they felt as they pelted the police with rocks and drove dozens of fully armored riot cops into a retreat. Police in the US don’t retreat lightly, but 13-year-olds with stones managed to force them.

But the daytime riots — or even the nighttime chaos — aren’t what makes me feel like I’m living in The Purge. It’s the curfew. As a friend told me last night, “there’s no situation that the presence of riot police can’t make worse.”

Only the bravest go outside during the purge. During the purge, there’s are organized gangs of armed violent men and women who will hurt you and take you captive. In Baltimore, they’ll hold you for ransom. The gang is, of course, the police. Backed by the national guard, they’ve enacted a curfew: no one is allowed outside between the hours of 10pm and 5am. Because of a “state of emergency,” many rights have been suspended, including free mobility and the right to see court within 24 hours of an arrest. I’ve heard they’ve suspended our right to assembly.

Of course, all of this highlights the absurdity of government and the rights it so politely grants us: something is not truly given if it can be taken away without our consent. The only actual fundamental rights we have are those we take for ourselves.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a festive demonstration at the intersection of North Ave and Penn. A burned-out CVS sits on the corner, and journalists and demonstrators and volunteer cleanup crews walked through the red-tagged (deemed unsafe by the city inspectors) building freely. Outside, riot police flanked us on one side, but granted us free mobility in the other three directions. It was a peaceful protest, to be sure, but I never got the feeling that it was a pacifist one. It was a demonstration of power. People, more or less collectively, had chosen peace after nearly twenty-four hours of fire and resistance and looting.

Baltimore, as far as I could tell from conversations and what I witnessed, was ready to calm down. Its point had been made. People weren’t ashamed they had made their point, but most people were ready to clean up and move on — not to forget, and not to stop demanding justice for Freddie Gray and everyone else who has suffered at the hands of the police — but ready to move forward to something else. (I could be wrong. I can’t be relied upon to speak on the tone of an entire city, and certainly of cultures that aren’t my own.)

At that same intersection, hundreds of people resisted the curfew together. They were peaceful and they would have stayed peaceful but for the imposition of an absurd and infantilizing power that the “democratic” government had granted itself. Naturally, people resisted this. I wasn’t there, I can’t speak authoritatively on the subject, but I believe they resisted this by practicing self-defense, and the fighting went on for hours.

So there we were, in my friend’s apartment, checking internet feeds and worrying. I was anxious because I have PTSD and don’t like the police. Out to the horizon, I saw police helicopters with spotlights scouring the city for lawbreakers — literally understood as anyone who wasn’t a cop or had specific exemption. Loudspeakers mounted to the copters announced the police’s dominance of the city, announcing the curfew. This gives me anxiety.

My friend was worried about her friends. Last update we were able to get, several were trapped inside a church being tear gassed. Another had tried to disperse, had tried to leave the demonstration, but was late in checking in. We honestly presume she didn’t make it home, that armed men burst out from a car somewhere and dragged her off to a cage, to hold her as long as they please. For biking home.

There was no way to get to those people trapped in the church, because it was several miles away through a nightmarish police state. So we fretted instead.

The curfew is not in effect to prevent lawbreaking. If it had been intended for that purpose, it would have started a day earlier, after the afternoon of riots, and it would have been for specific neighborhoods and taken on a day-by-day basis. This is collective punishment. In second grade, our teacher made us all wait in the hallway because one person had acted out. She was trying to turn us against each other, to make us angry at the person who had acted out, as though it were his fault we were all stuck waiting in the hallway. But even then, I knew that was wrong, and we didn’t talk shit about the kid who acted out, we talked shit about the teacher.

The curfew exists to remind us who the government thinks is in charge. Resistance exists to remind us who actually is.

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Comments

article was good, only thing you miss is in 2nd movie we find out its a cover for government to wholesale slaughter poor people in gentrification neighborhoods.

If nothing else this has certainly set gentrification in that city back 15 years. Nothing like racialized rioting to stunt commercial developement.

Yeah buddy, Newark, Detroit, and North Philly are great places to live. Nothing ruins a neighborhood like grocery stores and jobs.

The irony that you believe the white people who helped craft the ghetto are the only ones who can savecthe communities that have survived there in spite of it. Promptly kill yourself

Yeah... you can only have two worlds: gentrified White yuppie daymares, or Detroit. There's just no room for anarchist self-reliant living communities, there's just fucking Starbucks, or nothing.

Living self-reliant anarchist communities, Self-reliant anarchist living communities, Anarchist living self-reliant communities, self-reliant living anarchist communities...

Or perhaps autonomous communities that breathe life.

Do any of these exist? Have any existed?

The fact is that these sorts of riots do nothing to curb either poverty or police violence. Look at the aftermath of rioting in Newark/Detroit/Baltimore/etc in the 60s.

The '60s were another world. Even though you had roughly about the same racism in the police force (which has grown back with the current Police State, that you can't say was there in the '80s), it had never been challenged before by non-White agency within the State's own ranks.

And for your information, the six pigs are now being prosecuted, one for murder and the others for their complicity. Not sayin' this is "vengeance" or anything near anarchistic power, just that it appears to have achieved something. Ferguson also created a situation that couldn't have been there otherwise (like if people remained on their knees).

this rioting thing is great, i normally have to register with the megan's law office and stay away from kids, but for the past few days i've been totally been preaching anarchist beliefs the kids want to hear just to keep them near me. this anarchy thing is win-win, telling disillusioned high school kids what ever they want to hear, and then invite them back to my place to see who can swallow the most tylenol pm so i can start massaging their tense calf muscles.

creep

Yr on the wrong coast, bound together books is in San francisco.

Zinger of the year

the redbaiting is getting creepier and more specific

Lol, Red.

Yeah the east coast isn't quite that progressive.

not these days...like the TAZ in baltimore tho
-hakim bey

Gawker's been having lots of great at least vaguely pro-riot articles in the last few days:
http://gawker.com/thank-god-that-my-son-is-a-thug-1701499997

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