Note: I am NOT attending the protests but it appears that no one is circulating basic safety tips and that many of you are vastly under-prepared for the possibilities you face this weekend. As such, I am providing what I consider basic information. A shortened version of this was posted on another site, the editors were uncomfortable with my argument about the general stepping down as well as several other points. They also used my position to promote the marches in a way that was not my original intent, which has been made quite obvious to everyone familiar with my work. My feeling is that you are all smart enough to read my reasoning and decide for yourselves if it is plausible, so I have provided all of the original information. I apologize for not sharing this sooner, I had waited to post this while waiting for other editors to get back to me, when I saw the final product, which I think is quite obviously not my work though it uses my research heavily, I realized that I had to post this somewhere. Maybe I’m wrong about these things but you are grown ups and you can decide for yourselves. This is a perfect demonstration of why I had to start my own blog instead of trying to get published among existing publications, they always do this to my work.
This is a set of last minute safety tips for activists attending the inauguration protests against Donald Trump. Leftist activists should expect and plan for a probable escalation in state violence for several reasons. The first reason is that Trump’s personality, administration and political ideology all suggest and lend themselves to the interpretation that violent suppression of protests is a legitimate action for the state to take, especially if those protests turn violent. The American public has limited appetite for violence against protestors when those protestors remain nonviolent, but the minute the protests become violent much of the country believes that the state has the right to use force to suppress them. Anyone who lived through any of the inner city riots prior to Obama, which includes those of us who lived in places like Los Angeles and Oakland during Rodney King, will remember that under most circumstances little patience is given for riots or forms of violent protest. The government can and will send in the national guard to violently suppress if they feel it is needed to restore order. They can and will do this under both Democrats and Republicans. They did it under both Kennedy and Nixon and they will do it under Trump. Since several official groups have said that they are showing up to the protests with the intent to “disrupt” and commit damage to infrastructure (which is what the state would call terrorism), Trump’s administration has already had a month of pre-planning which has assumed violence would erupt at these protests. Therefore, people should assume in THEIR plans that Trump’s plans are based around that assumed violence, in which case, he believes violent suppression is one of his options. So does the rest of the administration, the military and a large percentage of the citizens of the country.
Last week the head of the National Guard in Washington D.C. was forced to resign at the last minute. Actually, he is being forced to resign mid-mission while 5,000 troops are deployed in the Nation’s capitol. This is highly unusual and he himself was not able to provide an explanation. He called the timing unusual and said he would never choose to abandon his men like this. No explanation was given, and his resignation will come AFTER Trump is sworn in, which means that it will come after Trump receives total command over the troops. It is important that you understand that generals do not resign for whimsical reasons, outside of some sort of gross dereliction of duty, like when MacArthur was asked to step down for threatening to nuke China, the only reason a career military man publicly goes through the effort of defying a commander in chief like this is if they don’t like the orders they’ve been given. Although there is no modern example of this happening in at a swearing in ceremony, generals resigned under Hitler (Rommel), under Pinochet (a handful early on who were killed), and under colonial governments in India for refusing to take their commander’s abhorrent orders against the people. During wartime, American generals and commanders have resigned over actions in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. There have also been instances during different revolutions in the 1980s and 1990s against the repressive Soviet state where the state security apparatus resigned in mass, rather than turn on their protestors. In some cases, specific leaders have stepped down or spoken out against the dictator in question rather than kill their own people. It is important that you understand that doing do means an end to their career, and in many cases in the past, to their lives. What is unusual about this situation is that they planned for it in advance and that it is happening at the Inauguration. This likely means that the general in question stepped down because he refused to accept the plans given to him by the administration. In this case, those plans could only have been about what to do about the protestors.
Trump has had government agencies claim this is “no big deal” and issue fake news reports while the respected general himself claims he would never do this without being forced. Since there is no good reason to do this unless they were planning on doing some real brutal carnage, and since it is fairly common for fascists to replace leadership like this once they take power, we can expect that the moves of the last few days add up the conclusion that they plan to escalate state violence at the protests. Switching out the head of a national security event while thousands of your troops are deployed in your nation’s capitol and the general in question says “the timing is unusual”, means that something very bad is about to happen. Additionally, when I started speaking out about it, I was immediately attacked by propaganda and a fake conservative news profile, which means they are already trying to cover it up and discredit the general and any activist that suggests otherwise. The media has already begun to spin stories that justify any violent repression that results from the disorder this weekend. Breitbart’s only counter to this whole story was that the general asked to resign, not that Trump had asked him to, which hardly changes the circumstances and doesn’t answer any of the questions that surround this. If Trump asked him to resign, it is because he refused his orders. If the general resigned on his own, it is because he found the orders abhorrent and didn’t want to carry them out. Breitbart went out of their way to attack this story as fake news but could not deny that any of these had happened, they just quibbled over some of the possible details. They also called the general a coward in the piece they posted on my wall, which besides being an extremely offensive smear campaign of a career military hero, is a deeply disturbing narrative in context.
It is my recommendation that ALL parents and those with minors skip these protests. Whatever your anger is at Trump is, there are other ways to express it that don’t put children at risk, and these protests aren’t going to accomplish enough to make it worth the risk. Any activist that tells you otherwise is being both delusional and irresponsible in my opinion. I can’t tell adults without dependents what to do, but I suggest that everyone take precautions and record everything.
It also seems clear from the narrative that has been woven over the last few days that they intend to push us towards infighting while issuing a final killing blow to the left. Which groups they’ll divide is still up in the air, but the most important thing is that left understands that this administration is a threat to all marginalized people and that we have to stick together. We are only safe as a coalition. We must do everything we can through our own narrative and film recordings to fight any attempts during and after the fact to paint our movements as in opposition to each other. Here are some basic safety tips we are recommending that everyone take in advance of the weekend.
- Even state police have access to Stingray’s, machines that mimic cell towers in order to suck up the information from every phone in the area. If you have your phone on you, expect your name to be on a list of “people who protested Trump’s inauguration.”
- A common tactic is jamming all cell signals in the area to make it harder to coordinate. Shortwave radios solve this problem. Note that this also means cell phones can’t stream video. This can be solved by finding people or places in DC where video footage can be taken and uploaded without depending on wifi or cell service. Remember that people protested before cell phones too, there are ways word of mouth coordination can spread just as quickly with good organization and coordination. Plan for this possibility and if it doesn’t happen the worst-case scenario is that you were overprepared.
- In 1999, police were able to arrest 500 people at the WTO protests. Given 17 years of new technology, it’s hard to predict what capacity of arrests the police can handle. But it’s large. Mass arrests are common without a changing of the guard, but may be a feature of this years’ protests. Be prepared for that, but also don’t give them an excuse.
- Cameras must always be on. They must be filming both the authorities (to show time-stamped evidence of any wrongdoing) as well as the protestors (to show time-stamped evidence that there was no provocation). Film what the authorities do. Film what protestors are doing. Film solidarity. Film love. Film actors of violence too. Remember that they will discredit us in the media afterwards and remember that because there were claims of fake hate crimes that the only thing people believe now are what happens on film.
- Look out for agent provacateurs. If the person next to you starts breaking windows or throwing rocks, they may be purposefully trying to justify repression by the authorities. It does not matter what is filmed if an agent provocateur can act freely among marchers. It does not matter if the agent provacateur can later be identified, he or she must immediately be stopped. DO NOT GIVE THEM AN EXCUSE. Anything they can use to blame the violence on us will be used to later frame a narrative that provides the American public with a justification for the death and destruction that follows. It will also be used to kill or maim innocent people. Whatever the left believes, the rest of the country only believes in the right to peaceable assembly, if people start getting violent and the authorities respond with violence, the rest of the country does not feel bad when we die. I promise you that.
- At the moment of the inauguration, the head of the national guard will step down and be replaced by one of Trump’s men. The most likely time for repression will be between the moment Trump is inaugurated to the official changing of the guard. Even if they aren’t, assume guns are pointed at your face. Don’t make sudden movements, don’t yell or run at the police, don’t start violent chants. Do not back down, but do not give them an excuse to kill you.
7) Watch locals and watch the media. Have situational awareness. Pay attention to the crowd and the mood and try to get out before things get real. Your nurses, union workers and grass roots activists, as well as journalists tend to have a sense for these sorts of things, not because they are wizards, but because they’ve been doing this for a long time. You should look to them to guide you as to when mood changes happen.
8) They’ve planned this LONG before you’ve even gotten there. The goal should be for us to be so impressive with our message that if they chose to get violent that they look shameful. We may not be able to avoid violence at this point, but we can do our best to protect as many people as we can and to turn around their bullshit on them. This is a bold move out the gate, and they are making it because they think they can. Don’t make them right about that.
9) Touching a cop, yelling at a cop, resisting arrest, yelling for help when you are already in a cop’s possession, and defying a lawful order are all punishable as assault and illegal. If the cops arrest you, follow their orders and be polite. They will not hesitate to use the excuse to beat you or bring you in on assault charges.
10) Avoid wearing anything terribly obvious, any jewelry or anything you wouldn’t want confiscated. There is a strong possibility these will be destroyed or taken from you, but in a violent struggle jewelry is also a liability.
11) NEVER TRAVEL ALONE.
12) Carry government issued ID everywhere. The cops have the right to demand your identification, and they also have the right to carry you in if you refuse to give it to them. Anyone who doesn’t have this identification shouldn’t be at these protests this weekend.
13) Remember that Trump is popular with a large percentage of the country and that there WILL be counter demonstrators. They have also been planning. They also have beliefs. They are also angry. They are also going to follow orders. Be prepared for the probability that clashes with the state aren’t the only group you have to look out for. People of color, Queer individuals (especially visibly gender fluid and trans), and women should all take extra precaution. Do not travel alone or at night. Travel with a group, and ideally with escorts. STAY AWAY FROM TRUMP’S SUPPORTERS. They are probably armed, but there are also groups like Bikers for Trump who are out for blood. The only thing standing in their way is the state. You do not have the means to take them on in this situation and I promise you they WILL be armed to the teeth.