Some anarchists are not promoting May Day with cringeworthy riot porn. Some anarchists are doing something awesome: Holding a rock concert in the middle of downtown Seattle to promote anarchism, have fun, and bring together the Gender Justice League, the Tenants Union of Washington State, the environmentalist Backbone Campaign, Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction, and Rojava Solidarity Seattle* in one event.
Yesterday, a local activist and veteran of Occupy Seattle, who we'll call Jake, got in touch to tell me more about the impetus for the concert. "I think there's an old narrative, especially in Seattle... of good versus bad protesters," he said. "They make us look like we're all fighting and disorganized and not able to work together. I think that's a whole bunch of baloney."
Jake wanted to bring various groups together, so he helped organize the "Solidarity Music Festival." Ryannah Quigley, a trans woman of color and director of the Gender Justice League, is emceeing. The music will range from punk, pop punk, metal, to hip hop, with contributions from Heavy Nettle, Smashie Smashie, Your Band, On the Ground, Sam Shoemaker, and istabcapitalists. The concert runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m at Westlake Park on May 1. Jake said the event is permitted.
"This is promoting anarchism through bringing people together through a shared experience and movement building," Jake said. "There's a lot of [media] focus on the riot portions [of May Day], and I think that ends up becoming a feedback loop. What we're doing is something that's more family friendly."
For the evening's anticapitalist march, participants are being told they should take precautions to avoid arrest and tear gas. Jake's advice for concert attendees of the daytime was more simple: "Leave your ego at the door. Don't be a dick. Come and have some fun... We're just doing some rock and roll, and hopefully helping some groups that are pretty awesome grow."
*Who and what are the Rojava? Anarchist-inspired ISIS fighters, for one. As the anthropologist David Graeber explained in The Guardian:
The autonomous region of Rojava, as it exists today, is one of few bright spots—albeit a very bright one—to emerge from the tragedy of the Syrian revolution. Having driven out agents of the Assad regime in 2011, and despite the hostility of almost all of its neighbours, Rojava has not only maintained its independence, but is a remarkable democratic experiment. Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils, and, in a remarkable echo of the armed Mujeres Libres (Free Women) of Spain, a feminist army, the “YJA Star” militia (the “Union of Free Women”, the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.
The New York Times profiled the Rojava and their "radical direct democracy" last year in an article called, "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard."