On Thursday November 10th Portland exploded with over ten thousand people hitting the streets in opposition to the election of Donald Trump to the highest position of power in the world. The evening saw rebellious acts by youth of color and anarchists taking actions against bourgeois businesses in the Pearl District, one of Portland’s most gentrified neighborhoods, against car dealerships and against city infrastructure. Thursday wasn’t the end, as the next day a combative protest was also declared a riot after demonstrators hurled projectiles at police and set up blockades in the streets, huge mobilizations continued for several weeks with students self organizing and blockading bridges and several more highway shut downs also occurring. In the aftermath several individuals face felony charges, and the police are still actively soliciting information on many more.
In a blatant attempt to intimidate organizers, 4 individuals who have been very public figures in these mobilizations also had their personal information, including phone numbers and home addresses released to the public through the Portland Police’s website and twitter which has resulted in all four receiving extensive death threats. Similarly police in Beaverton (a suburb of Portland) have showed up to one organizers house and intimidated them into cancelling an anarchist demonstration. But the most serious case of repression has occurred around the situation with Mateen Abdul Shaheed.
Mateen Abdul Shaheed is a 20 year old black youth, born and raised in Portland, who was arrested on a felony warrant after police hunted him down at a friends home. He is currently being held on charges of 6 accounts of criminal mischief in the first degree, which is a class c felony. Each carry a minimum of a 5 year sentence. His bail has been set at a whopping $250,000. The charges stem from alleged acts of property destruction during the post-Trump election “Portland Riots.” Mateen is being accused of allegedly causing damage totaling $25,000 against a bourgeois car dealership and other infrastructure items such as electrical boxes in the city.
The state’s prosecution and media representations have alluded to Mateen as opportunistically using the protest to vent his personal frustrations around a situation with his partner and to become violent in the streets. This “emotional reaction” narrative has unfortunately also been taken up by many liberals and those in left circles when addressing Mateens case; however, this narrative conforms to the racist stereotype of the bestial black man operating purely out of emotions (as the state and media are attempting to frame him as an opportunistic “thug”). This framing enables the state to de-politicize the nature of events on that Thursday evening and thus delegitimize these heated protests as nothing more than opportunistic hooligans looking to blow steam; as opposed to, acknowledging the serious discontent against the establishment brewing in all sectors of society for sometime and the popular anger at the election of a blatant, vulgar and plain white supremacist to the most powerful position in the world. Clearly this situation has solicited an emotional reaction in millions, but as we know the political can often become emotional.
In reality we know that revolts of this nature are expressly political in that they are a rejection of a political totality rather or not the participants hold any revolutionary agendas or aspirations in the moment.
They are driven by a rejection of the inescapable material realities faced on a daily basis in capitalist city space and the constant reality of powerlessness in our urban metropolis. Mateen’s alleged targeted attacks against bourgeois car dealerships and other infrastructure such as electrical boxes expressly demonstrates this totalizing rejection in a precise manner.
This alienating capitalist infrastructure/built space that daily impresses the feelings of powerlessness and exclusion. A settler colonial city that everywhere possess an architecture of control, displacement, exploitation and white supremacy stretches its infrastructure the world over. Our alienating cities are places that extinguish humanity, a place where humanity can only be totally reclaimed through that space’s physical alteration and taking people power over the walls.
From Ferguson to Milwaukee, Portland and beyond, our generation’s “political” prisoners are often those swept up in these urban rebellions against this totality. The white supremacist, terroristic police state, the silent violence of urban displacement and gentrification and the alienating soul crushing nature of capitalism that forces us to act as individuals and refugees in our own cities, pushed around at the whims of developers and landlords, creates a situation of urban disenfranchisement and disembowelment. Those who participate in the rejection of this totality, to reclaim power over the space around them, who make a fleeting grasp at freedom are expressly political. They send a popular message with their “destructive” acts that a line has been crossed and that the community won’t sit idly by when it is disgraced with such aggression and insults.
“Riots” have been essential elements in urban struggle. Since the dawn of civilization they have been the underlying threat that has checked the power of emperors, dictators, kings and presidents. Over a century of protracted riots at the hands of the “plebeians” finally won recognition and rights for this poor urban class in the Roman Republic in 287 BC. Fast forward to the urban rebellions in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Known as the “long hot summer” in 1968 these rebellions put enough pressure on the federal government to develop the “Kerner Commission” which is largely recognized as the commission that finally ended segregation in the United States under Lyndon B. Johnson. Finally to name just one more example, the threat of riot in countries around the world from Greece to Chile, where there are active movements that embrace militant street tactics, act as a constant check to the power of police and government officials should they choose to exert brutality or murder against their citizenry.
This mechanism of expressing popular power has always been a tool to moderate the more odious policies those in the ruling class wish to imbue on the urban poor. Riot’s are a legitimate and well proven tactic in political struggle. They are just one tactic in a tool set, but an especially powerful one in that they require no specialization in the skills of their participants as do tactics such as clandestine struggle or community organizing. It is a form of resistance that can swoop up the un-politicized and work to actively radicalize its participants through granting them instant access to a form of popular power over the space around them.
When we come from this understanding we realize that the United States has seen a plethora of urban revolts aka riots, occur against its despondent murderous regime in the last few years, particularly in response to rampant police murders and more recently in the election of Donald Trump. People want their freedom and will not wait for liberal leaders or revolutionary experts who bring sacred “political education.” These urban revolts still cast fear into the hearts of the powerful and is a partial contributor to the reactionary nature of the white supremacist right wing, who fears its loss of power and it’s ability to murder with impunity to maintain its position, as the global capitalist system continues later and later into its late-stage, ultimately towards its self consuming last days; therefore, we must support and recognize our generations political prisoners and freedom fighters. Further we understand that all prisoners are political in a racist prison system of legalized slavery.
So why has Mateen been targeted? Because he’s a black man living in the United States but also importantly because he allegedly single handedly exerted a massive amount of damage against the City of Portland’s urban bourgeois the white supremacist infrastructure its designed to serve. Its an easy case to make an example out of him to deter others from taking similar political actions.
In times of beaming fascism we embrace the term assigned to all those working class people and those held outside of the halls of power designated by the elite during the French Revolution as the “dangerous classes.” We believe we must have a generalized and perpetual revolt against the vicious inclinations and fascistic impulses of the newly elected regime and that we must therefore support all those swooped into militant resistance against it regardless of their adherence to any prefigurative revolutionary ideology.
With that being said, please write to Mateen as he is in dire need of support. Also consider contributing to the alternative gofundme here, created to support Portland anti-Trump rebels.
Free all prisoners!
Please write to Mateen with letters of encouragement and solidarity! It must be addressed as follows.
Mateen Shaheed #791405
11540 NE Inverness Dr.
Portland OR 97220