What Are We Going to do About These Concentration Camps?

via birds before the storm

The first time I saw the Klan, I was ten years old. My brother and one of my sisters were in the car, and my dad was driving. We were stopped at a light and maybe five Klan members in full regalia were offering leaflets to white drivers. My father, a white man, rolled up the window, locked the doors, and grabbed the steering wheel in a death grip.

When the light turned green, we drove away.

“Those people carry guns,” he told us.

He was excusing himself for not getting out of the car and physically confronting five large men, an action which could easily have put him in the hospital or worse. He probably did the right thing. He had three children in the car. There were five of those guys. The cost/benefit analysis of starting a fight was all wrong. But the Klan, wherever it shows its hideous face, should be confronted. Should be fought, through whatever means.

Sometimes we have to fight.

Which brings us to the concentration camps in America.

* * *

My entire adult life, I’ve been politically active. I’ve gone to countless demonstrations. I’ve been in jail in two countries for fighting against things I consider deplorable. These past couple of years, I’ve been more of a cheerleader for antifascism than a street warrior, to be sure, but when Nazis come to my small town I’m out there with everyone else ready to tell them that it’s a shame their lungs are functioning.

Yet this morning here I am, at home, just trying to live my life. I’m going to play a show later tonight, and I have to practice my harp.

I have a lot of experience trying to just live my life while horrible shit is happening. Maybe you do too. Maybe you’re trying to drag yourself out of poverty while millions of people are in prison. Maybe you’re raising your kids while carbon pumps into the air and the US refuses to consider any agreement to limit the effects of climate change. Maybe you’re used to this.

Every day, we make cost/benefit analyses and most of us decide not to do anything that would get us thrown in prison or gunned down by the armed forces of the state. We sit and think about that poem; you know the poem. “First they came for the communists and I didn’t say anything because I was not a communist…”

That poem is derived from the post-war confessions of a pastor, Martin Niemöller. A conservative, he initially supported Hitler’s rise to power; he only decided to oppose the dictator when Hitler insisted the state was more important than religion. By the time Hitler came for him, of course, there was no one left to speak out.
So what the fuck is wrong with our cost/benefit analyses? There are concentration camps on the border. By and large, they aren’t holding American citizens. So in the short term, it’s safer to do nothing. Maybe complain on Twitter. Maybe write articles like this. In the long term, though?

When is it time to act?

It’s easy to feel like I have my hands full dealing with the local Nazi problem where I live. The paramilitaries that are crashing pride parades with guns and burning down community centers and doxxing antifascists eat up a lot of my brain space.

It’s also easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of problems confronting us. The war on people with wombs. The war on trans people. The war on people of color. Climate catastrophe. The United States has always been a Bad Thing, from when slaving colonialists founded it all those years ago to when it became the police force of the world a hundred years back to when it declared a “war” on drugs to when the prison system—and its literal, legal slavery—became a for-profit industry. It’s always been a Bad Thing and we’re kind of numb to that. We suffer from a kind of disaster fatigue. Our ability to be outraged has already been heavily taxed, and sometimes climate change and concentration camps are simply Too Much Problem for us to wrap our heads around.

Problems have this way of terrifying us into inaction, into numbness. Collectively, right now, we’re a deer in the headlights.

I, we, need to work our way through that. Fast. Now.

They’re not coming for me today. I’m a trans woman, so yeah the right wing is working its base into a fervor blaming me for all our social ills and to be certain I’ve gotten a lot worse attention from strangers since Trump came into office. But no one is trying to put me in a camp. I could keep my head down. A short term cost/benefit analysis says that I should.

Fuck that.

When mass action is called for at these camps, consider going. If you can’t go, support the actions. Support the people who take action who aren’t taking the kind of action you might take personally. Support pacifists who lock themselves to the gates of these places. Support rioters who break glass, cut fences, or physically fight the forces who are locking up children. Support the activists who target every aspect of this murderous machine. Support them all vocally and support them all financially. Do not let them play us off each other. Do not let them divide us.

Any study of successful social movements in history is a study of how peaceful strategies and militant strategies, which seem opposed both tactically and ethically, complement each other very well. We need people who resist peacefully. We need people who resist less peacefully. And most importantly, we need to not get caught up fighting one another instead of our enemies.

We need to take action. To be clear, voting is not action. Voting, very specifically, is a way of asking someone else to act for you. Engage in electoral politics however you would like. But never let the state strip you of your agency. You’re a human. You’re a person. You have the capacity to take action, to effect change. You have the capacity to work with others to do… well, pretty much anything.
It is completely possible for tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of us, to surround these camps and force them to release the detainees. It could work with fewer people than that, too, though I have a feeling there’s an awful lot of anger, an awful lot of power, waiting to be unleashed against the machinery of oppression right now.

Mass action is risky. It’s messy. It’s terrifying. It’s also the right thing to do, and it’s perhaps only way out of this mess.

There are a million problems, but this is one of them. And to change everything, you pick one problem and start there.

There are 12 Comments

"Support them all vocally and support them all financially. Do not let them play us off each other. Do not let them divide us."

hmmm. so you are saying, support people who would play "us" off each other, divide "us". really? i'm all for solidarity, but i fucking choose who i have solidarity with. you want to support activists (politicians by another name) that want to destroy any semblance of real anarchic thought, go right ahead. don't expect me to fall in line. though you never know when i will be there, taking my own action.

Hey Margaret tell your copy editor that when you word something vaguely that can be misunderstood in a way you didn’t intend to text you instead of leaving snarky replies on anews.

First things first: the migrant community gets to set the rules of engagement for fighting this enemy. That said, they have a totally free hand against this kind of enemy and we should be prepared to back them up no matter how far migrants decide to take this. If they stand down, we stand down unless asked to the contrary. If asked for street heat, we must be ready.

One very effective tactic for this is to find ways of forcing local and city governments to refuse to provide police protection for ICE raids. Without help from supposed sanctuary city cops, they do NOT have the manpower to do these raids without taking serious risks ICE should not be able to enter an urban neighborhood without worrying about how they are going to fight their way back out. If an urban uprising gets going and they have no support from the other pigs in the town, they can only flee like the vermin they are and hope they don't get ringed in. If they do they are in a world of shit. Thus, denying them police help will either stop the raids entirely or force them to launch very few raids, using all of their assets on a very small number of raids to save their own asses.

For me as this has been for many Indigenous and mixed Indigenous folks on this part of the continent, this is a matter of pan-indigenous solidarity: an attack on one of us is an attack on ALL of us, and many of us refuse to recognize borders drawn by those who swarmed from their ships like plague rats, then stole everything that wasn't nailed down, everything that WAS nailed down, and everything to which it was nailed. To Europeans who describe migrants and immigration laws with a comparison to burglars, I say the white racists and ICE are not only not the homeowners, they are the burglars themselves-on stolen land.

When you say "the migrant community" what do you mean? How do we know who to look to?

Why look to a non existant community instead of undocumented people you have affinity or friendships with?

OK, so I have to explain every tiny detail it seems

Existing migrant activist groups get the first say on this as they are the most closely engaged with the overall politics. If you have a circle of 25 friends and three are undocumented, the opinion range you get is three out of however many undocumented people are in your community. If you are acting in direct defense of one of them (e.g ICE shows up at their door) you don't need any permission other than theirs. If YOU are undocumented and ICE shows up at your door then you need only your own permission to act. If ICE shows up at the door of someone you've never met, first orders come from any support team they have, FOLLOWED by their legal team (if any, remembering attorneys can't advise extralegal action w/o risking their bar cards). Next up if neither of these exist is the overall migrant activist community.

If you are acting on behalf of folks you have never met (say in response to a series of ICE raids or CPB jailings at the "border"), than migrant activist groups get the first say. This is exactly the same as going to Standing Rock in 2016, where it was clear to most that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe had the absolute right to make the decisions on how to deal with the "Black Snake" as the pipeline was called due to a prophecy. Internal division among Lakota water defenders led to others cherry-picking which Indigenous elders to listen to, which created problems enough. In the end, my suspicion is the tribal leadership ordered the camp evacuation post-Trump because they saw the situation was no longer militarily tenable, and because the siege of Backwater Bridge had cut off tourist/casino revenue without which food and medicine would become unaffordable. Water is life-but so is food and the tribal leadership has to consider the sum total of all threats to the tribe, wheras a single-issue water defender travelling half a continent to fight was focussed on just one of them. Nothing wrong with that, but such things are one of many reasons those who live in a community every day and are there long after the newspapers and the "battle glory" have moved on get to make the decisions.

You're going to need big buses, diversion tactics, a way to get them out, and somewhere to take them too (with all the basic necessities, you're not moving them out of a shit hole to put them in an equivalent shit hole).

but does anyone actually read this human's fiction? Because I wish I could say that their fictional writing salvages the disaster of their polemics and politics but unfortunately it doesn't. Their fiction suffers from a desire to infuse their politics into the fiction. The stories of hers that I have read are often simplistic, especially the recent one recorded by Resonance into an audiobook, and frame anarchists as the good(albeit complicated with suffering) guys and that there is a bad other. This is reflected in their essay form.

"Any study of successful social movements in history is a study of how peaceful strategies and militant strategies, which seem opposed both tactically and ethically, complement each other very well."

This assertion is preposterous. Can they give one example? If I've learned anything from capital H History it is that the peaceful side of the protest uses the violent side to get its small reforms in. This is how civil rights worked in America, how things went in India with Gandhi using the violent side of the revolution for his own personal/political gain. I don't put much stock in uppercase history because it is meant to be used as lessons for the future and I don't personally believe or find value in mass action, therefore History doesn't apply to you.

Also, it seems like there is a positive connotation to her claiming arrests on in multiple countries? Is there a badge of honor to being detain by the enemy? Pretty sure this is a badge of honor to people using the logic of America like John McCain lol. That is flat out crazy. It seems ITS are the only people who value not getting fucking arrested which seems like a fairly low bar to me.

Also, maybe life itself is a concentration camp. Punishment from God/The Gods/Fate/Chance being arbitrary and not based on the good/bad or value of our actions. I guess this is offensive to people in "real concentration camps" but not really offensive the way I see things. Either way, this essay is lazy and/or not really interesting/new/thoughtful thinking, which isn't really that much fun and doesn't leave room for growth or play!

Criticizing the contents of this article is valid.
The question remains urgent.

The people that are complicit, with different degrees of responsibility, cannot wash away their guilt, even after decades pass, their guilt will not expire and will hang over their heads like a sword.

They will be fair game for whatever forms karma may take.

i really don’t care if my euphemisms fly past above your head. i don’t believe in karma, apparently i do believe in self-censorship.

Presumably anyone seriously attempting to answer this question would start with; is there a functional/capable resistance movement capable of breaking huge numbers of people out of detention and housing them? A: No.

So until this current situation changes … nothing? We're going to do nothing.

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