Posts tagged ‘anarchist’

April 24, 2014

Counterforce Blocks Microsoft Shuttle in Central District



This morning around 8AM, near the intersection of Madison and 23rd Ave, a small Counterforce assembled to block another Microsoft shuttle bus in another heavily gentrified Seattle neighborhood. For roughly 30 minutes, people holding banners reading “GENTRIFICATION STOPS HERE” blocked the front and back ends of the bus. Others attempted to distribute flyers to the Microsoft employees boarding the bus, but they were grumpy and only two took them. During the delay in what is probably a boring and uneventful commute every other day, they sat in quiet misery, playing with their smart phones, not even really talking to each other.

Act One

The gentrification of Seattle is an oft forgotten tale, buried underneath glossy advertisements for new houses and below the foundations of sleek apartment buildings. While the first dot-com boom of the late nineties was bringing gentrification to different Seattle neighborhoods, something evil was unfolding in the streets of the Central District, one of the historically black neighborhoods of the city. While multiple Microsoft employees colonized the neighborhood, a federal program called Weed and Seed forcefully removed entire multi-generational black families from their homes.

Weed and Seed was a program sponsored by the Department of Justice and implemented by the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Parks Department, Seattle Housing Authority, land speculators, neighborhood groups, and individual gentrifiers. The federal government initially allocated 1.1 millions dollars for the Seattle program in 1991. Two thirds of this money was dedicated to law enforcement, the remaining third was used for social services.

While federal and local law enforcement began targeting young black men, locking them up and destroying their families in the Weed aspect of this operation, the Seed aspect began grooming neighborhood groups to internalize the hierarchy being imposed upon them. These groups were encouraged to snitch on their neighbors for every reason from trash in the yard to suspected drug deals. In this way, law enforcement outsourced its intelligence gathering to these neighborhood groups. In exchange for helping to lock up and evict their neighbors, these groups were awarded access to city resources, development projects, the passage of ordinances, bus routes, and grants.

Act Two

In 1996, Washington Governor Gary Locke arrived at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Madison Valley. A young black student from the neighborhood followed him around as his escort. The two of them walked down the hallways together, touring the building. At this elementary school, the young black student had been trained by Microsoft employees in the use of JavaScript on a computer running the Windows 95 operating system. In 1996, this elementary school was one of the best in the city in terms of discipline and achievement. While this school provided its abundant resources to the majority black student population, Microsoft employees and other gentrifiers began moving into Madison Valley so their own children could attend.

The young black student was raised a block away from the elementary school. He knew of a plum tree up the hill from his house and would quench his thirst with plum juices in the summer, a time when these plums were the most refreshing. One day in 1997, he arrived at the location of the plum tree to find a stump, hidden behind a new fence. A young white student lived in this house with his parents. The young black student captained the elementary school chess club in which this young white student played. Both of his parents were members of the local neighborhood groups. The father of this household worked for Microsoft.

This family was part of a broad movement of gentrifiers, ranging from gay couples to aspiring parents, all belonging to the same socio-economic class and perpetuating the same prefab aesthetic. From 1995 to 1997, the percentage of households in the Central District without children increased from 57% to 73%. Buried within this piece of data is the story of all the multi-generational black families that were incarcerated, evicted, ripped apart, and weeded out so that these new residents could begin seeding the area. In the same time period, the black population of the Central District decreased from more than half to less than one third, while the white population increased from 13% to 43%.

Act Three

Starting in 1997, the housing prices in Seattle began to sharply increase month by month. The first tech bubble and the national housing bubble arrived simultaneously in Seattle. Thanks to Microsoft, Amazon, and the startups, more and more tech employees began invading the Central district. At the crescendo of the first tech bubble in 1999, Seattle property values had jumped over 18% since 1997. When the bubble burst in 2000, these housing prices continued to rise, in part because of the stability of Microsoft and the local housing market.

The young black student noticed that Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School had begun to decline. Due in part to the new childless professionals moving into the area, enrollment began to drop at the school. Funding was consistently cut to the school and by 2003 the idea of closing it was first proposed. In the Central District, the grandparents of children born in the 1980′s began to pass away, leaving the family houses to their children. An average single family house in the Central District was worth $190,000 in 2001. By 2003, that home would be worth $262,000.

Suddenly these children were being offered a quarter of a million dollars for the family house, a sum of money few had ever conceptualized or encountered. The incentive for these black families to leave their neighborhoods only increased, especially as the Weed and Seed continued to lock up young black men and women. By 2005, the average single family home was worth $355,000 and the black population continued to decline in the Central District.

In 2006, the doors of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary were closed, just as the Weed and Seed program released its final report. A woman named Betsy Harris, co-chair of the Weed and Seed Steering Committee, summed up the program as follows: “It’s the big picture, and as overwhelming as it seemed at first, we have all worked hard and our community is being revitalized, one block at a time!” By the time she said this, many gentrifiers had been living in the neighborhood for a decade.

Final Act

At the end of 2007, the national housing bubble burst, sending Seattle housing prices down for the first time since the beginning of the boom in 1997. But by this point, most of the original black residents had been weeded out of the Central District. In 2009, the traditionally black T.T. Minor school closed its doors after suffering the same fate as Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary. Microsoft went mostly unaffected by the recession, so much so that it began running the Connector Shuttle into all of the neighborhoods its employees had gentrified.

Microsoft employees continued to move into the Central District throughout the deepening recession, exacerbating the problem that had led to the closure of the elementary schools. While these schools were boarded up, Bill Gates continued to push his ideology of charter schools and standardized testing. It is difficult to see these two processes as separate. On the one hand, the majority of the Central District black population had been removed and deprived of its traditional schools. At the same time, the proliferation standardized testing allowed for schools to be deprived of their funding if they did not perform according to a rigid criteria. This allowed people like Bill Gates to point at the boarded-up schools and low test scores as objective proof that his ideology of charter schools was superior to public education.

Beyond this, the high capitalists of Seattle like Bill Gates, Bill Gates, Sr., Jeff Bezos, and Paul Allen, diverted some of their money into an organization that reflected their capitalist ethics: Rainier Scholars. This philanthropic organization selected poor elementary students of color and enabled them to become good capitalists. The very white and very protestant work ethic was spread like a religion amongst these young students of color. Rainier Scholars tracked and monitored specific students throughout their academic careers and encouraged them to enroll in private schools at the first opportunity.

By the time these students reached college age, Rainier Scholars helped place these students in the same white hierarchy that had destroyed their neighborhoods and limited their opportunities. This pipeline to higher education, facilitated by the closure of neighborhood schools, insulated these select students from their own communities and culture and championed the dominant culture of corporate loyalty, self-denial, and consumerism. If they worked hard enough, these students might one day work for Microsoft and be able to take the Connector Shuttle with the other gentrifiers.

The gentrification of the Central District is all but complete. The white population is now over 60%, the highest it has ever been. The young black student mentioned in this text is now a service worker, still living in Madison Valley at his family home. The young white student whose family cut down the plum tree is now employed by one the tech giants in Silicon Valley. Today there are gentrifiers in the Central District who can claim to have been in the neighborhood for almost twenty years. These people can reassure other gentrifiers that it is okay to move into the Central District. They say we are all uprooted anyway and that community can be whatever you want to be. But the community of gentrifiers that exists today in the Central District has almost no conception of the brutality that allowed them to move into houses that once belonged to multi-generational black families.

We tell this story as a warning. The techniques of gentrification practiced in Seattle over the past twenty years are now being exported south. Our comrades in San Francisco and Oakland should know that if they do not fight with all of their hearts, what happened in the Central District can happen again in another neighborhood. We wish everyone luck in their struggles against gentrification.

For the love of the Central District

For the end of Microsoft

For the end of gentrification

-The Counterforce

April 8, 2014

On the Seattle Metropolitan Project and its Consequences


From Tides of Flame

Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes watching a crew tear down a brick wall, and I thought of the workers, long since dead, who first built that wall. As much as I love the new, I remain haunted by the old. Just like you. Just like this neighborhood.

 -Sherman Alexie, South Lake Union, 2012

February 23, 2014

METROPOLIS Screening and Online


Black Coffee Co-op is hosting a screening of Metropolis (2012) on Sunday March 2nd, at 7 pm, as part of the irregular Cascadia Film Night.

February 10, 2014

Microsoft’s Private Busses Blocked on Seattle’s Capitol Hill


From Tides of Flame

January 14, 2014

On the Anarchist Memes Drama – Or: Why Do Capitalists Want to Be Anarchists?


Recently, following a series of reported and flagged posts, the popular Facebook page Anarchist Memes was unpublished by Facebook (you can visit their new page here).

The posts which led to the page’s censorship revolved around feminist, trans, and anti-fascist themes, leading a gaggle of so-called “men’s rights activists” and capitalists to report the page for “sexist” and “violent” content.

December 27, 2013

#HipHop #Gentrification #KillAHipster

gentrifyBy Cody Lestelle

[NOTE: this article is an adaptation of an email I originally sent to the CHID program at the University of Washington, Seattle of which I am (sorta) an alumni. I am sharing it now in hopes of provoking wider discussion and appropriate actions on these themes]

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December 5, 2013

New York grand jury resistor denied appeal for freedom


From  at The Nation:

In May I wrote about my friend Jerry Koch going to jail. A well-loved New York anarchist, Jerry, 24, was not charged with a crime, but was taken into federal custody for refusing to testify in front of a grand jury — those black boxes of the federal prosecutorial system with a grim history of harassing activists.

January 9, 2013

Never Surrender: Kerry Cunneen subpoenaed to the NW grand jury


From the Committee Against Political Repression:

Portland anarchist Kerry Cunneen has announced their refusal to cooperate with the grand jury investigating the May Day attack on the Nakamura federal courthouse in Seattle. Kerry’s subpoena, which was delivered on December 14th, stated that they were required to appear just 5 days later on the 19th. Their lawyer successfully got the date pushed back until January 3rd, when Kerry declined to even enter the grand jury room. Kerry has stated that they will never under any circumstance cooperate with this or any state in persecuting themselves or others:

December 27, 2012

Another Anarchist Jailed for Refusing to Cooperate with Grand Jury


August 23, 2012

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were committed anarchists who had been active in many workers’ struggles. In 1916, Sacco was arrested for taking part in a demonstration in solidarity with workers on strike in Minnesota. In the same year he took part in a strike in a factory in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was here that he met Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who was one of the principal organisers of that strike. Like most anarchists, the two were also active in their opposition to the First World War.

In April 1920, anarchist Andrea Salsedo was arrested and detained for 8 weeks. On the morning of May 3rd, he ‘fell’ to his death from the 14th floor window of a New York Dept. of Justice building. Sacco and Vanzetti, along with other comrades, immediately called a public meeting in Boston to protest. While out building support for this meeting they were arrested on suspicion of “dangerous radical activities”. They soon found themselves charged with a payroll robbery which had taken place the previous April in which 2 security guards had been killed.

The case came to trial in June 1921, and lasted for seven weeks. The state’s case against the two was almost non-existent. Twelve of Vanzetti’s customers (he was working as a fish seller) testified that he was delivering fish to them at the time of the crime. An official of the Italian Consulate in Boston testified that Sacco had been seeing him about a passport at the time. Furthermore, somebody else confessed to the crime and said that neither Sacco nor Vanzetti had anything to do with it.

The judge in the case, Judge Webster Thayer, said of Vanzetti: “This man, although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless morally culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions.” The foreman of the jury, a retired policeman, said in response to a friend of his who ventured the opinion that Sacco and Vanzetti might be innocent “Damn them. They ought to hang anyway.”

85 years ago today, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. Bellow has been reprinted, in full, the transcripts of their final speeches to the court following their sentencing.


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