The Cop-Free Zone




“The cop-free zone is not the particular block or traffic circle or park. It is the shared commitment to defending a space and eliminating the dynamics of policing and white supremacy”

“even the most temporary autonomous zone can enable people to rethink their assumptions about policing”

“contemporary cop-free zones have served as memorials to those whose lives have been taken by police violence, hosting breathtaking participatory art installations”

“In response to the sudden popularity of police abolition, the state urgently needs to create spectacles that create the impression that the abolition of policing is even more gruesome than the ongoing violence of police”

“Trying to control fixed territory puts us on the defensive, making us a stationary target for white supremacists and others to attack us”

“The proposal to abolish the police is not a proposal to defund a particular institution, but to overhaul our entire society, abolishing the disparities that make police necessary to maintain the prevailing order”

“to be autonomous is not to administer an independent juridical zone the way the state does; rather, autonomy is a question of how much leverage all the participants in an environment have over what they are able to do and experience in it”

“autonomy is not a property of a defined physical space, but rather a quality of a network of relations”

“We should understand occupied spaces as an effect of our efforts, rather than as the central cause we rally around”

“misunderstanding autonomous space as a physical territory rather than as the relationships and courage that maintain it can lead to some participants making disastrous compromises with the authorities in hopes of being permitted to retain that territory”

“the first line of defense of the cop-free zone is not the violent force with which it is defended, but the ways that the participants turn care into a transformative force”

“Barricades keep the police from rushing in to make random arrests. Barricades do not feel pain when they are hit with batons. Barricades do not need to be bailed out of jail”

“Regarding the question of escape routes, remember, every exit is also an entrance. Because the intended goal of the occupation is to hold space rather than to be mobile, it makes sense to have a strong perimeter on all sides”

“Yes, perimeters will be the points of conflict. That will always be the case, no matter how big or small the space. Geometry shows us that the larger the area occupied, the more police it will take to surround it”

“Area X serves as both a memorial to the fallen and a gathering place—a stretch of the city in which the police cannot enforce law and order and with which they cannot negotiate”

“People shut down the freeway and blocked traffic—and then sure enough, 30 minutes later, activists were on their bullhorns telling people to “link arms,” “prepare to be arrested,” everything I know means “this is not where it’s at.””

“staying too long on the highway is just being traffic, and we have to be water. As we exited the freeway, we passed more pacifiers with bullhorns, leaving them to stick to their corner on another highway on-ramp”

“We walked down to where the shooting had taken place the night before. That was where the fight was at. There was nobody there trying to pacify or neutralize, only a mixed crowd that all wanted one thing: to burn that building to the ground”

“It’s interesting to note that the only reason the crowd was able to attack the building in peace is because all the activists and NGO people were focused on the freeway, at a distance from what was to become Area X”

“As one comrade put it, the dilemma is less a matter of friction between formal and informal organizing and more about the difference between memetic and synthetic modes of organizing”

“In the memetic framework, the question is how a rebellion can reproduce groups and networks based in affinity so they divide and multiply, enabling the antagonism to spread across social and political divides”

“In the synthetic framework, the question is how these efforts can be brought into harmony and potentially made more coherent”

“Could we create something more synthetic that goes beyond the stale models of formal organization we’re already familiar with?”

“We have been moving in synthetic direction by adopting the custom of always bringing supplies or material support”

“We want people to know that we’re powerful, that we’re capable of fighting, but we don’t do that only through conflict and militancy. A large part of utilizing our power is demonstrating our power to give, to share, to care.”

“Without community relationships and trust, it can be hard to know how best to show solidarity with those harmed during these actions”

“Still, the true cause of harm is the police, who terrorize people every night of the year, not just when there are occupations”

“All of the speakers seemed to be giving conflicting messages; we saw them arguing among themselves off to one side. The police had come out and lined up near us by this point”

“One speaker would say we needed to make the police understand Black stories, while scolding us for trolling the police because it unnecessarily put us all in danger. Another speaker would get up and say we were “taking back what’s ours” and that we were staying there for the night and not to destroy any building in the area besides the precinct—a message that could easily be misheard or misunderstood as it traveled through the crowd. One speaker would say “there are no bad protesters!” and affirm diversity of tactics while the next one would scream that “unless a Black person is doing it next to you, you are doing it wrong” and that “ACAB is not the priority, BLM is”—also a confusing message that could easily be misinterpreted under the circumstances”

“ABBIE HOFFMAN: I live in Woodstock Nation”

“It is a nation of alienated young people. We carry it around with us as a state of mind in the same way as the Sioux Indians carried [sic] the Sioux nation around with them. It is a nation dedicated to cooperation versus competition, to the idea that people should have better means of exchange than property or money, that there should be some other basis for human interaction”

“I came prepared to try out a method for extinguishing tear gas that I had only seen in videos of foreign uprisings.”

“I rushed over to pick up a smoking round with my leather glove and dunked it in my bucket of water and baking soda”

“Finally, the sun began to set. We had made it to the golden hour before night. In my experience, this is when the magic happens. No matter what happens during the day, if you can maintain the people and the energy until sunset, something good can happen”

“Eventually, the police reappeared with reinforcements. Time to deploy our third defensive tool of the night, the laser. My buddy shined it at the cops; as he scanned them with it, I remembering seeing one officer grab a second cop with a big firearm and point directly down the laser’s line at us. Oh shit.1 This time, the tear gas didn’t rain from the sky—it came right at us. Wear goggles and helmets y’all”

“He was trying his best to reconcile good ally politics with an apparent belief in going beyond peaceful protest, but, like, strategically. My buddy said he’d chill with the laser and I told the kid I appreciated him coming up and talking to us and not getting aggro”

“all the anger, the frustrated emotions held back when the police were pushing us around earlier that day, earlier in our lives—for the last few centuries, really—all of that exploded… and with it the windows of every nearby business”

“In that space, the currency of society was turned upside down—it didn’t matter if a store was a corporate chain like Target or Subway,2 if it had shiny plate glass windows, fancy decor, intricate and interesting signage—it was going to get it. On the other hand, anywhere that looked kind of run down, or had a tired, Black security guard working detail, got a pass. “The man’s just working,” folks shouted as the security guard smiled at the mob and waved back in appreciation”

“We weren’t just against the police, we were there together

“The territory we controlled wasn’t fixed. It expanded and contracted as the night went on. It didn’t have anything that Fox News could describe as a “border,” the way they did when they maligned the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. But that was fine with me. The responsibilities of maintaining fixed territory, especially in the face of constant threat from the authorities, can become a burden that shuts down opportunities to experiment rather than opening them up. As an anarchist, I don’t seek to control territory. I seek to liberate it”

“At that moment, Law, as we knew it, wasn’t present. The only people making decisions about how and who got what was ourselves”

“The joy the police experienced came from belittling me or belittling others in front of me. They drew no joy from the risks they chose to take. Whereas I had been interrogating my motives, my emotions, and my Self all night long, they let their Selves be determined by petty backslapping over who could best intimidate others”

“For the police, freedom means impunity, freedom from having to deal with the consequences of the ways they treat others—precisely the opposite of the accountability that we aspire to”

“Your heart can be a police-free zone. Defend it”

“Last night on Capitol Hill in Seattle was a wonderful demonstration of diversity of tactics”

“There was a candlelight vigil to honor those killed by police and vigilantes since this uprising started. So many flowers and heartbreaking, heartwarming art”

“A live band was playing on a nearby street and people were dancing. Others were giving out tons of free food—a hot meal as well as snacks, water, juice, and medical supplies”

“There was an entire medic station in the outdoor patio of a restaurant. Art and murals covered everything, people freely spray painting out in the open on the street and walls”

“Thousands of people out, lots of folks just hanging out at Cal Anderson park right next to everything. Signs saying “Emotional Support—> this way.””

“In retrospect, the laser and the loud music basically painted an audio-visual target for the police. Like most crowd tactics to resist police, lasers can provide increased safety if many people are using them, but if it’s only a few, they can increase the risk, especially to those employing them”

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