The past few weeks, friends and I have been in the streets of Seattle, participating in the #Black Lives Matter/ Ferguson solidarity protests. I wrote a reflection on the Black Friday actions that disrupted commerce in downtown Seattle, shutting down the Westlake Mall Christmas tree lighting ceremony. My aim is to amplify the question we all chanted together: “What is Christmas for Mike Brown’s Family?”
The piece is posted on the Aroma of the World blog, which I started this summer. That blog is a forum for revolutionary spirituality, poetry, and analyses of religion in society; it’s a reflection of the organizing some of us have been doing to open up space for spirituality, collective care, and healing within Seattle’s growing radical movements. As I testify in the peice, “It is that kind of love that protestors of various backgrounds showed toward each other when folks de-arrested people and cared for each other after being pepper sprayed by the cops. One friend even called those moments a ‘baptism’. This is how strangers become accomplices in the struggle for freedom. It is an ancient and dangerous alchemy, an ancestral knowledge that is drowned out by the spectacle of American civil religion.”
Although the Black Orchid Collective is no longer an organization, I know folks still read this site, so I’m cross-posting the piece here to help spread it around. The mayor, the cops, and the corporate media are spreading propaganda about the Black Friday action, falsely claiming it was done by white outside agitators, and that we attacked kids in order to ruin Christmas. They are using these lies to justify brutal repression of demonstrations, such as the 7 arrests at this Saturday’s dynamic snake march through downtown. If you find this piece to be helpful, please spread it widely; help us push back against the corporate media narrative and the pigs who use it as an excuse to attack this growing freedom movement.
See you all in the streets!
What is Christmas for Mike Brown’s Family?
Black Friday in downtown Seattle was like a scene out of the Hunger Games.
The urban landscape glistened with spectacles of holiday cheer, corny Christmas music, and advertisements. Like the Capitol in the movies, the city core is designed to pacify people, to entertain us so we can forget about the suffering and rebellion happening all over the world.
Downtown Seattle is one of several real life Capitols, controlling nodes in the network of global capitalism. It is the heart of the Empire, a glittering, hyper-surveiled metropolis designed by and for the world’s wealthiest people – the owners and executives of Microsoft, Amazon, Nordstroms’, Starbucks, and other corporations headquartered here. This is the spot where these capitalists make their plans to turn entire regions of the world into mining districts, factory districts, and deindustrialized zones of unemployment and mass incarceration such as Ferguson and Detroit. These various zones are color-coded by race and are controlled by police.
Every year, the Seattle ruling classes put on a spectacle at Westlake Park, allowing the masses to congregate on Black Friday to vicariously inhale the aroma of wealth and splendor, spending our money at the mall while we’re at it.
This is a ritual, part of America’s civil religion. Money is God, and this is how we are supposed to worship it.
Like opiates, these rituals bury our anxieties about global warming, racism, and our declining living standards. Bands play, children sing, fireworks cascade down the side of Nordstroms, credit cards swipe, and a giant Christmas tree lights up.
Only this year, the tree was surrounded by Seattle cops, posing grim- faced like little toy soldiers.
They were there because Ferguson, Missouri is in flames, and Seattle is starting to get restless too. After the grand jury refused to indict white officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown, riots and protests erupted across the country, including here.
On Black Friday, people of various cultures and nationalities travelled from their color-coded zones across King County, converging on Westlake Mall.
Young Black folks from the zones of oppression were on the megaphones, bringing people together and advancing strategies of disruption. This rowdy crowd occupied two malls. Several workers, whose labor keeps the Holiday spectacle running, walked off their jobs to join the crowd, with their uniforms still on.
The crowd stormed the transit tunnel, which police proceeded to shut down. We also picketed nearby Capitol Hill businesses that support racial profiling of East African youth.
Police made several brutal arrests and deployed pepper spray and flash bang grenades, attempting to stop the crowd from returning to Westlake mall for the evening tree lighting ceremony.
After hours of marching and evading police violence, a remnant of the crowd got back to the mall, occupying the space between the tree and the balcony where the ceremony was being held.
With fists in the air pointing up at the bourgeois spectacle on the balcony above, we chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “What is Christmas for Mike Brown’s family?” Eventually protestors stormed the balcony stage, causing the high priest of the ceremony to give up and end it early.
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