On Friday, July 21, banners hung across Evansville expressing support for those arrested during the protests against Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20 of this year.
The banners appeared during a week of solidarity called by the Crimethinc Ex-Worker's Collective. According to the announcement for the event, the week of solidarity was called to coincide with a hearing in Federal Court in Washington D.C. on July 27, in which a judge will hear a motion to dismiss the multiple felony charges against the more than 200 defendants in the case. More information on the case is available at defendj20resistance.org.
The banners, which were dropped at various points along the Lloyd Expressway as well as along the Greenway Passage on the Evansville riverfront, made use of a new marketing campaign, "Evansville--e is for everyone," created by Evansville's business leaders in an attempt to re-brand Evansville as friendly to commerce and development. The new brand, which many worry is an attempt at fueling gentrification in the city, has appeared in shop windows and city buildings throughout Evansville in recent months.
The modification and use of this new brand in support of protesters facing government repression is an example of détournement, a tactic of political subversion in which the symbols and images of those in power are altered to be expressions of resistance. This tactic has a long and rich history, from the Situationist International to Adbusters.
On Tuesday, February 23, Evansville Letters to Prisoners hosted a benefit at PG on Franklin Street to raise money for folks from the region who are facing charges related to anti-inauguration protests in Washington D.C. this past January. This was the fifth in a series of benefits in the past six months. This event showed how the volunteers who put these on have progressed in their theatrics, ability to engage in anarchist ideas in an accessible manner, and commitment to exploring the experiences of the beneficiaries in a tangible and interactive environment.
In response to the spectacle of Trump’s ascension, anarchists from around the country met in Washington D.C. and made a counter-spectacle. Several of the images that have become iconic from the inauguration day riots were used to theme carnival games for the benefit in Evansville. Attendees were greeted at the door, encouraged to donate some money and then presented with a table of free literature, including analyses and explanations of the black bloc, the tactic of property destruction, rioting and insurrection.
After having participated in a non-violent direct action to confront Bakken’s boring under the Mississippi River for the Dakota Access Pipeline (read more here), I was arrested and assigned an arraignment date for mid-October. While in Keokuk, I stayed at what was the Mississippi Stand action camp for several days. This reflection touches on some of most poignant moments for me.
About 20 people who had been arrested with me had arraignments scheduled for October 19. We were shuffled in the judge’s room a handful at a time, along with others from Keokuk who were appearing in front of the judge for whatever random things cops had arrested them for.
Pollution statistics in Evansville are alarming--seven coal plants within 30 miles, higher levels of fine particles in the air than 90% of the country, and more toxic pollution released into the area than in any other mid-size or large U.S. city.
Poor air quality contributes to Vanderburgh County's life expectancy being lower than peer counties, as poor air quality is known to impair lung development, lead to brain damage, and cause cancer, and it is connected with autism spectrum disorder and psychiatric disorders.
Vectren, which supplies energy for the Evansville area, contributes to the problem with outdated coal-firing units at its Brown and Culley power generating stations.
Locals gathered on November 16, to confront Vectren about their ongoing use of coal and natural gas for energy production and to ask for a transition to alternatives.
What does it mean that one candidate was chosen over another--how many people enthusiastically vote for any U.S. President, what impact can the President actually have, and what are alternatives to buying into this political system?
Estimates indicate that 128.8 million people voted in Tuesday's Presidential election, which is 55.6% of the voting-eligible population. However, if people who are typically overlooked for reasons of age and felony status are included, the percentage drops to only 39.6% of the total U.S. population having voted.
Of those who voted, 59 million voted for the winner--a mere 18.2% of the total population.
According to a survey from the PEW Research Institute from late October, of those who support a particular candidate, only 55% or 56% "strongly support" their candidate of choice.
Mississippi Stand's latest direct action successfully stopping Dakota Access Pipeline construction in Keokuk, IA, consists of water protectors blocking Bakken trucks from entering their sludge dumpsite. What is this "sludge" and where does it come from?
A few weeks ago, I met up with about 150 people in Keokuk, Iowa, to stop Dakota Access Pipeline construction in the small town and under the Mississippi River. By the end of the day, we'd stopped construction for about an hour, and 44 of us had been arrested, cited for trespass, released, and given dates to appear in court for an arraignment.
I had been in Iowa to attend an annual Catholic Worker gathering, a weekend of camping, roundtables, skits, and socializing, mostly with Christian anarchist folks from the Midwest who are engaged in hospitality, simple living with people at the margins, and social activism, either on farming communes or communal houses in cities.
Eight of us decided to take advantage of our proximity to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and spent Saturday, September 17, with protesters at Mississippi Stand, where Catholic Workers and others had already been disrupting pipeline construction for several weeks.
As we were driving toward the site on Saturday morning, we noticed a sign for "protest parking" at the end of a gravel driveway. We turned down the drive and met a kind family who was offering their yard and driveway as a parking lot for people coming to the demonstration. We parked and took a tractor-pulled ride down to the protest site.
I went to the first Critical Mass that I know of in Evansville, in 2008. I think three people showed. It was organized by a friend who I knew through our working together to prevent the construction of I-69. We both lived in collective houses that shared food and other resources. I remember that time as being a lot of fun: the way we got food, the way we made income, the ways we passed time together. That’s why I was glad to see people starting up Critical Mass here again. I wanted to be around people who were thinking about how to use the city as something more than a site of routine and drudgery. I was ready for more fun. I’m glad I’ve been going on the ride because I’ve found some of those folks.
Below is an interview with three people who ride at Critical Mass regularly. After the interview are a few of my thoughts on ways people who enjoy Critical Mass might be able spill that joy from into the streets to the homes and workplaces and all the places they lead to in each of our lives.
This is a list highlighting actions taken regionally in association with the September 9th nationwide prison strike. For a comprehensive, world-wide list of actions check out it It's Going Down's strike coverage.
In 1948 at the Bucyrus-Erie plant on the west side of Evansville the workers went on strike with the demands of higher wages, a closed shop, and increased agency in the functioning of the shop floor. The workers were going door to door in neighborhoods and discouraging scabs from working their jobs. With violence at the picket lines and support from other unions, B-E couldn’t get more than 30% of its shop running. Out of desperation, B-E tried to use prison labor to get the factory up and running, but workers with community support put a stop to it.