They need us to shut up

Those who can't bear to hear Jews speak

They need us to shut up

Last week, on Wednesday, November 15, a coalition of left organizations (JVP, If Not Now, USCPR, Adala Justice Project and DSA) staged a non-violent sit in and blockade at the DNC’s headquarters in DC. The DNC was hosting a gala event for young rising stars in the House, the kind of event you don’t even know happens unless you’re deeply engaged in party politics. At 8PM about 250 protestors, organized on a spokes-council model of small action groups, linked arms blocking the front entrance and stairway of the building, as well as the garage and side doors out the back.

They had been there about 10 minutes, chanting for a ceasefire, when hundreds of capitol police descended—police outnumbered protestors at around 3 or 4 to 1. One person I spoke to who was positioned in the rear of the building, at the garage, said they saw line after line of cops arrive running, all with riot gear on, many with batons out and gas masks up. While the gala guests—congresspeople, staffers and party hacks—watched, some horrified, some visibly sneering and pleased (attitudes they would later share with the press and social media), capitol police immediately attacked the protestors, delivering a flurry of violence that was reminiscent of the repression of the George Floyd Rebellion.

People were thrown down the stairs and to the ground, stomped, picked up and tossed bodily over barricades and fences, punched and kicked, yanked by their backpacks and their hair, pepper sprayed, and otherwise brutalized. But once police had cleared the immediate entrances and exits they kept going, chasing, harassing and beating protestors through city streets for almost an hour. You may have seen some videos, the few I glanced at were pretty horrible, but I don’t include any here. I don’t believe displaying state violence against unarmed bodies serves to do anything other than reenforce police power and white supremacist domination—it is willing to traumatize many in an appeal to a person who still believes that the police are a neutral or even moral force, and those are not people I believe in prioritizing.

With all that violence, however, there were no arrests. Arrests create paperwork, and records: records that might lead to lawsuits and evidence that contradict official narratives, records that amount to a formal continuation of an event that beating the everloving shit out of protestors only leaves informally in their scarred psyches and maimed bodies, and socially in their communities that hold the task of healing and care. This is a tactic the Philadelphia police favor as well.

The ideology machine immediately got to work.  Congressman Brad Sherman tweeted that he “Was just evacuated from the #DNC after pro-terrorist, anti-#Israel protestors grew violent, pepper spraying police officers and attempting to break into the building.” Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell said it “rattled me more than January 6th did.” This gives you a good idea of who Democrats are actually scared of, who they actually consider their enemies. Dingell’s comment also echoes the (I imagine) libidinal desire of capitol police to get revenge for the humiliation and losses of January 6th on the bodies of protestors, and if they’re armed only with chants and moral righteousness, all the better.

Meanwhile, discussion turned to “concern” about “violence” at the Chicago Democratic Convention next summer, which allows liberal boomers to harp on about their favorite moment in protest history for concern trolling—the 1968 national convention in Chicago and the militant SDS march/riot there, which they laughably and pathetically continue to blame for Nixon’s election and the failure of the anti-Vietnam war movement.

In 2023 people are writing sentences like “The city still suffers scars of the bloody confrontations between police and anti-war protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when the clashes helped doom the party’s nominee Hubert Humphrey” with a straight face.

But the speed and swiftness of capitol police’s arrival, and their immediate turn to violence, indicates that there was, at the very least, Democratic Party (and quite plausibly Biden administration) approval for any and all violence to clear the protestors.

Why did Democrats want this? Well, they have definitively lost the argument in the public square. The continued support for Zionist genocidal violence has led to an utter collapse in Biden’s poll numbers; seemingly unprecedented levels of open dissent, public statement and resignations from within the white house, congressional offices and the state department; resignations, protests and even editorials calling for ceasefires from usually trusty liberal papers; a growing split within the party itself; polling indicating over 70% of Americans agree a ceasefire is necessary; and of course, the first street based mass movement since the last upsurges of 2020.

In 2003, the Bush Administration happily ignored the nonviolent anti-Iraq-war protests: they knew they had a (slim) majority of the electorate in lockstep, and the entire media and ideological apparatus, and so were happy to appear tolerant leaders of a democracy, a softer, kinder conservative. But the Democrats desperately need this movement to shut the fuck up. As a momentum reducing tactic, it failed utterly. Within 18 hours of the events in DC the Bay Bridge in Oakland/SF and the BU Bridge in Boston had been completely shut down, events which received huge national coverage.

While I wrote a whole book about why non-violence is ineffective, incoherent and often authoritarian as a political philosophy of change, the combination of Jews visibly at the forefront of the movement, the fact that they are actually shutting down key pieces of infrastructure, and largely are not tone or peace policing in public, means that it is as effective a non-violent campaign as you can get. But such a campaign can only garner media and popular attention and sympathy—it cannot, in and of itself, force change—which can only be done by truly threatening the social order. During a genocide where every day brings dozens upon dozens of deaths, it is not nearly enough, but it is also inspiring and important.

The night at the DNC will be a turning point—the orgs involved can double down on their non-violence or they can recognize the need for more active self-defense at the events. The day-long training held before the event featured hours of discussion about how to take an arrest, but no mention of what to do if you get pepper sprayed, injured, or otherwise brutalized. While it is understandable that they saw the events at the DNC as a fairly low probability of happening—after all, for over a month these disruptions have not involved police ultra-violence—it still strikes me as frustrating and irresponsible to not have the reality and possibility of police violence integrated into trainings in 2023, even if only as a minor part.

The idea that talking about police violence “would scare people off” seems patronizing to the people who have, after all, shown up to put their bodies on the line for a cause. There certainly is an aestheticized militancy that over-emphasizes police violence and deemphasizes other forms of training and other possibilities. But there is also a responsible and caring way to talk about the possibility of this violence that doesn’t scare people off while preparing them with the knowledge—and just as importantly, the trust that people around them have the knowledge—of what to do when the state decides it has had enough.

Because when it can’t win public sentiment with soft power, it has to add hard power to the mix. The police attack in DC is a direct sign that not only are they losing the argument, they know they’re losing the argument. And there’s little that enrages Christians more than publicly losing an argument with a Jew.

Biden and Bibi seem to be carving a political path toward a potential de-escalation through hostage negotiations—or at least, announcing it publicly as a way to cool off political pressure. It is clear that the IDF and the Zionist regime has nowhere to go politically. There is nothing but continued extermination. Netenyahu still seems to hope a wider war will somehow save his plummeting poll numbers and popularity, as he continues to beat his chest toward Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

Meanwhile the IDF besieges the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza, having moved on from Al Shifa, in brazen acts of genocidal state violence and unutterable cruelty. The water, fuel and food remain cut off. Worry grows about a possible cholera outbreak. Arrests, killing and settler violence in the West Bank continue at a horrifying pace.

A turning point has come: the US state and police are ready to unleash total violence and repression—violence and repression they trained in with the IDF—to shut us up and shut down the movement. We can back down, which I don’t see happening, we can stay the nonviolent course, or we can meet the moment and turn up ourselves.