A response to criticisms of The Million Mask March

Washington, DC (TFC) – The Million Mask March in Washington, DC drew the fire of TFC journalist Alex Freeman today. To paraphrase the rant, he categorized it as a drunken activist holiday in which people might get arrested and violence might break out while leading people to the conclusion that it is all the work of an ego-driven fame hound. It’s a miscategorization that doesn’t match up with the reality on the ground, or the events planned. He advocated a boycott of the event.

Planned events at the 2015 Million Mask March include: a protest at the Saudi Embassy in support of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, a solidarity demonstration in support of Palestine at the Israeli embassy, a protest at the Federal Reserve, the annual trek through DC disrupting traffic, and the coordination at a national level of some very powerful movements.

Representatives from Anonymous, Three Percenter organizations, PANDA, the Panther Party, the Common Ground Movement, and Solutions Institute will be meeting along with representatives from groups that won’t be named which were on the ground in Ferguson or Baltimore. Any of these organizations are an annoyance to the system while standing alone; coordinated efforts by these groups are downright dangerous to the system. This meeting has international press coverage scheduled. A meeting of some of the largest opposition groups in the United States is occurring in the seat of power and it will be covered by major media. Perhaps boycotting the event because one guy out of 1000 got drunk and fell through a window at a party after the March last year isn’t such a great idea. Later on the night of the meeting, there is concert at a DC sports bar featuring activist musicians. If you’re focusing on the party, that isn’t the March’s fault.

The man that went inexplicably unnamed in the article, even though he seemed to suffer the brunt of the criticism, is John Fairhurst. Fairhurst was the person that many rallied behind at the 2013 March. Some people feel that he doesn’t project the image they want for the March or Anonymous. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I’m on fairly friendly terms with Fairhurst. It’s hard not to become friendly with someone that you run into at every major action this country has seen during the last three years. From Ferguson to Boston to DC to places I didn’t make it to, Fairhurst was there. He’s loud, boisterous, and yes, sometimes drunk. I know this because we were drinking from the same bottle after the riots in Ferguson. He’s what could be considered a “person of influence” in the movement. Those that don’t like him have often used his presence to attack events he attends or helps to organize. Many of these people fashion themselves as anarchists. As an anarchist, you probably shouldn’t be looking for a leader. You are your own leader. Attend the March and participate in the activities that you choose to participate in. The activities of others shouldn’t really be much of a concern to you. A broken window in a hotel did not make international news last year; shutting down Pennsylvania Avenue did.

The Million Mask March has historically been a combative nonviolent protest. Yes, there are arrests every year. Yes, there is typically some petty vandalism. Yes, activists break the law every year. Yes, people are tazed. Yes, people run from the cops. Yes, people (even journalists) become embroiled in altercations with federal agents. Yes, protesters put the Department of Justice building on lockdown last year. Yes, they tore down a fence at the Capitol. Yes, that will probably be the tone again this year. This is not a passive protest. It never has been. It is rowdy. It is combative. Admittedly, that sort of activism is not for everybody.

The article points to a law that prohibits face coverings in Washington, DC as if everyone might be arrested. The statute is pretty clear that unless a person is engaging in a very specific set of activities, it isn’t illegal. It’s only illegal if the person is wearing the mask:

(1) With the intent to deprive any person or class of persons of equal protection of the law or of equal privileges and immunities under the law, or for the purpose of preventing or hindering the constituted authorities of the United States or the District of Columbia from giving or securing for all persons within the District of Columbia equal protection of the law

(2) With the intent, by force or threat of force, to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person because of his or her exercise of any right secured by federal or District of Columbia laws, or to intimidate any person or any class of persons from exercising any right secured by federal or District of Columbia laws;

(3) With the intent to intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass any other person;

(4) With the intent to cause another person to fear for his or her personal safety, or, where it is probable that reasonable persons will be put in fear for their personal safety by the defendant’s actions, with reckless disregard for that probability; or

(5) While engaged in conduct prohibited by civil or criminal law, with the intent of avoiding identification.

 

More importantly, who cares about the law? It’s commonly held that unjust laws are not laws at all. It’s commonly held that civil disobedience and dissent is necessary to a free society.

Alex repeatedly points to alcohol as some nefarious evil that detracts from activism. Don’t want to drink the night before? Don’t do it. To suggest that others shouldn’t go to a concert because they might be arrested the night before the March requires a special kind of thinking. Many in attendance are traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to protest the police state, but it’s being suggested that they don’t engage in a lawful activity out of fear of the police state. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. If you do not exercise your rights, you do not have them.

The article says to avoid the DC Million Mask March because the federal government doesn’t listen. It suggests protesting in state capitals instead. State governments are no less corrupt and immovable than the federal government. The suggestion misses the entire point of this action. Staging coordinated protests on a global scale is not about forcing the government to act, even though individual events within the various Marches maintain that goal. Protests in state capitals are important and are scheduled, but thinking beyond the United States, it needs to be remembered that this is a global event. Activists are meeting in the capitals of their respective countries all over the world. US activists can’t sit on the sidelines. Global coordination on this scale is about solidarity and recruitment. It shows others that they are not alone and it encourages uninvolved people to question why millions have taken to the streets. The DC protest isn’t about forcing the suits in the buildings to do anything. It’s about making waves big enough to catch headlines and recruit new activists who will be busy the whole year. It’s about handing off the torch. Much like the meeting the night before, the undoubtedly rowdy protest that will occur on the 5th is about building a bigger and stronger movement.

Many older activists make the mistake of believing that everybody in the movement should be at their level of experience. I remember my first real act of defiance. I threw a rock at a cop car. I thought I was changing the world. My rock flying through the air was the beginning of the revolution. I realize how ridiculous that is now, but only because I read and was encouraged by older activists. Yes, many of those who attend the Million Mask March in DC are headed for their first acts of civil disobedience. Some are young and aren’t quite sure of themselves yet, others don’t really even know why they are going. They just know something is wrong with the world. They will make mistakes. They will do things that aren’t as productive as other actions, but they are acting. They are putting themselves out there on the front lines. They will also be gaining experience and learning. It is an imperative that they have our support. Older activists can’t forget the excitement and zeal they felt the first time they figuratively or literally flipped a bird to the system. Trust me, we all made mistakes.

I, for one, will be in Washington, DC on November 5th. I’ll stand against censorship and in solidarity with Raif outside of the Saudi Arabian embassy. I’ll stand against ethnic cleaning outside of the Israeli embassy. I’ll be speaking at the meeting the night before. I’ll probably go to the concert. I might even *gasp* have a couple of beers while I’m there. What I cannot do is abandon a global event because I don’t necessarily agree with every action committed by every single person in attendance. When engaging in a global struggle, we can’t be perfectionists. We have to be realists. Hopefully, we’re also idealists.

Image Source: Justin King

Image Source: Justin King

Editor’s note:

To those that questioned why we allowed Alex’s article: We do not censor at The Fifth Column.

To those that will question why we allowed Justin’s article: We do not censor at The Fifth Column.