Anna Mercury
4 min readJul 11, 2021


Oh no! I just wrote a long reply and then lost it clicking away to reread something :( I'll try to remember what I wrote.

First, awesome reply. Personally I think this is far more nuanced and informative than the initial article, and I hope you publish this in its own right, with some caveats...

Your analysis of the Civil Rights movement is interesting, and definitely I learned things from it and have a new perspective on using that as the go-to RFE/Overton example. But let's remember that the Civil Rights movement is certainly not the only social movement in history. We can see the impact of the radical flank in the women's suffrage movement and in various corners of the environmental movement and yes, absolutely, in the queer rights movement. Did you forget the decades of queer rage that led to the more "tame" contemporary marriage equality movement? As the banner you'll see at any more radical queer event reminds us, "STONEWALL WAS A POLICE RIOT."

Riot. Smashing windows. Police riot. You know, the ACAB stuff.

I'd also argue that Bernie Sanders never would've risen to prominence without Occupy Wall Street influencing the national narrative around class and capitalism. Find me an effective non-violent social change movement, I'll find you a history of less socially acceptable rage behind it.

Building on that, to somehow write off militancy as always creating far right reactions is horseshit. For instance, the post-WTO protests far-right Bush era was regressive and violent. But do we really think the anarchists in the streets were personally responsible for the public's reaction to 9/11? I don't. Leftist action does not occur in a vacuum.

I absolutely agree that the Left needs to do far more than stand in the streets. I align with the mantra, "If we're not prepared to govern, we're not prepared to win." To me, doing anything but building dual power and enacting non-reformist reform is a waste of energy, but what kind of anarchist would I be if I told other people what to do?

In addition, as I'm sure you understand, there's more than one movement at play in the conversation about policing in the U.S. There's the anti-Black racism movement, but there's also the anti-police and anti-capitalist movements. These can be aligned, but are fundamentally distinct movements with distinct primary ambitions.

Returning to the example of the queer liberation movement, the militancy of the 80s and 90s was swallowed up into a corporatization of the queer struggle where Starbucks now has #pridemonth everything that diluted any revolutionary character it might have had. It'll be harder for that to happen to the anti-Black racism movement, because class and property ownership are so divided along racial lines, but if it were to happen (as we're seeing in more "mainstream" corners of the racial justice movement), the anti-police struggle would still have its legitimate grievances.

While police violence against the Black community has a particular character, police violence against, say, Standing Rock, or the Left in general (speak of the Panthers!) also is tied up in the "ACAB" conversation.

Last, I think it's important, when conducting social analysis, to look at the rampant conscious irony and nihilism of 21st century youth politics. The neo-fascists are nihilistic, the 22-year-old anarcho-punks are nihilistic, the xanax emo-rap is nihilistic. There's a pervasive feeling that life is not worth living. I think, what was such a collective gut punch about the police killings of unarmed Black folks during the height of the pandemic was this shared sensation of, "We're doing all this to survive a pandemic to live in... what world exactly?"

Rather than condemn it, those of us who don't feel the need to express such rage might do well to hold space for it, to empathize with it, to seek solutions to the grief and pain and hopelessness of being young in 2021.

The fact remains that the police, as an institution, is fundamentally violent, repressive and coercive. In creating hierarchies, and using force to condition behavior, it destroys any opportunity for real consent. As we (should) all know in understanding the difference between rape and sex, or a boxing match and assault, it is lack of consent that makes an action violent.

Police are always violent. The individual humans are not the issue, it is the role itself that is the problem. The problem is capitalism, but as I mentioned, police or a rough equivalent class have been a problem under every economic system.

I'm down to (and have spent ample time and energy trying to) organize for CAHOOTS everywhere. I actively support movements like Carbondale Spring and Care Not Cops. I also think it's morally acceptable to spraypaint ACAB on a Starbucks, because really, as we both know, *that* is certainly not the big answer to why the Left is having such a hard time.



Anna Mercury

Level 5 laser lotus, writing for a world where many worlds fit |