A meeting of Anarcho-Syndicalists devolved into chaos at Portland State University last week. The “Law & Disorder” conference presented by the Students of Unity was disrupted by protesters complaining about “survivor trauma” and the “patriarchal society” which is “prioritizing powerful white men.”

Eventually police were called, causing the protesters to flee.

Anarcho-Syndicalists are a subset of anarchists who believe in a communistic approach to self governance. Their theory is to use revolutionary unionism as a method for workers to destroy the capitalistic society and gain control of the economy. Contrast that with libertarian anarchism, Anarcho-Capitalism, which argues that free markets and voluntary interactions are the greatest moral and ethical good.

Video contains strong language.


UPDATE: Kristian Williams, who was speaking at the conference, wrote about her experience being protested at her blog:

On May 10, 2014, we attempted to speak on a panel at Law and Disorder entitled, “Informants: Types, Cases & Warning Signs.” This is a subject with which all three of us are only too-well acquainted. It is a subject of utmost importance to us — both personally and politically. One of us has a partner spending almost 20 years in prison because of an informant.

We believe that sharing our experiences with the movements and struggles we are a part of and that we care about deeply can go a long way towards protecting those movements and the people involved in them. And so it was with great dismay that we realized two weeks before our talk was to happen that people were planning on disrupting the event.

The series of events that has unfolded has been disheartening and upsetting to us as long-time anarchists and organizers. As our first presenter began to speak, several people from the crowd stood up and started chanting over him (“We will not be silenced by your violence”) while the panelists sat silently, waiting to speak. The people who were chanting have accused him of silencing survivors of domestic abuse by writing a critique of call-out culture in his essay, “The Politics of Denunciation.” Despite the efforts of the moderator, some conflict-resolution peacekeepers, and event staff hired by the conference organizers, it became impossible to proceed with the panel.

When we were notified that the police were preparing to intervene, we decided it was best to end the event and leave. To be clear — no one on the panel called the cops. And we also didn’t tell anyone else to call the cops. This should be obvious to anyone who was present at our panel, as none of us used our phones or in any way communicated with anyone else who used a phone during this time. We did everything within our control to prevent this from happening and were assured prior to the event that no one would call the cops and that no one would be arrested. We would not have agreed to speak if not for these assurances. As speakers, we have had two security priorities throughout this entire experience: 1) ensuring that the cops did not get involved, and 2) ensuring our ability to speak about an issue we believe is critically important to our struggles.

In the end, we resigned ourselves to sacrificing our second priority (our ability to speak) to ensure that the first was achieved. Our exit from the room was the only way we knew of to ensure the safety of others who were present — including those who were being disruptive. We believe that the damage caused by patriarchy and intimate violence in our movements is a real and terrible force. These are problems that need to be discussed, addressed and confronted head on. The way we do that as a community has real implications for how we move forward together — our process around these issues has the potential to make us stronger. To forge relationships based on solidarity, mutual aid and support that can carry us through as we struggle against the state, patriarchy, capitalism and all forms of oppression requires a level of willingness to treat each other with respect and care — even when we disagree. We also believe that our communities and movements are strongest when we can disagree without branding each other as enemies.

Dialogue around critical issues is sometimes painful and complicated — but it doesn’t have to mean that we destroy each other in the process, or that we sabotage other important work. There are so many other places we need to be focusing our energy and outrage — but instead people seem insistent on internal destruction. This pattern is not unique to this particular instance, unfortunately, but seems to be happening in many other places across the country. We hope that someday very soon we can learn to disagree in ways that are constructive, rather than destructive. That is, in part, why we opened the panel by promising time afterwards to talk about the issues about which people are upset.

We wanted to provide space for people to engage in a more productive dialogue about how to resolve our disagreements and frustrations. It is unfortunate that this did not happen because people shut down the entire talk. We would like to thank the organizers of this event for standing on principle. It would have been much easier for them to cave under the pressure of coercive threats than to move forward with the presentation. Their willingness to foster a dialogue, rather than run from politically complicated issues was heartening and reassuring during an otherwise sad and stressful time.


Apparently the protest was organized as a response to this article. Protestors planned to disrupt Williams’ speech after writing this summary of their grievances in an online forum at FreeTextHost:

Kristian Williams is scheduled to speak at the Law and Disorder Conference ( Law AndDisorder ) from 11:30am-1:30pm on Saturday, May 10th. It will be held in PSU’s Smith Memorial Student Union room 238. Please come and support the survivors who Kristian Williams has targeted, support the feminists and survivor-supporters who Kristian Williams has deemed as “divisive”, support a rad community that supports survivors and values women. We need to get him off the bill or make his time hell!

Please go to the Law and Disorder Conference pages that are linked above, or email them at ( lawandisorder@gmail.com ) and tell them to cancel Kristian Williams place at the conference! Ideally they’ll shut it down before we have to go and make hell. They’ve been working on a “safer space policy” and they need to know that manarchists whose goal it is to silence survivors aren’t welcome!!

RELEVANT INFORMATION:

The following is summarized in a comment by dave negation on Kristian Williams’ article titled “The Politics of Denunciation” http://anarchistnews.org/content/politics-denunciation

“One common response to Kristian Williams’ piece is that,whatever the specifics of what occurred in Portland, Williams’ piece is nevertheless valuable and makes some good general points. I disagree. It is extremely difficult to pry apart the content of Williams’ piece from facts about what happened in Portland. Williams’ account is utterly dishonest, and his article obscures Williams’ own role in what occurred. On the occasions where political content may be examined separately from Williams’ distortions, his commentary plays to typical sexist caricatures, such as of women as manipulative and unreasonable. The article is also unbalanced in its emphasis on doubting survivors. Williams does not argue for generalized suspicion, but wants suspicion to be focused on survivors. In other contexts where suspicion develops, Williams portrays this as a destructive breakdown of trust that is harmful to the community.

A longer criticism of Williams’ article is necessary, because to the extent that his politics are clear (and potentially separable from context) they are very bad indeed. In general, however, Williams’ article is not good faith contribution to discussions about gender, patriarchy and abuse. Rather, it is an attempt to circulate lies about what occurred in Portland and to harass a local survivor and her supporters. Williams’ motivations are much clearer once we examine some of his distortions as well as Williams’ own role in the events he wrote about. Providing such context is the task of my comments here.

Williams omits that he helped to edit the anti-survivor statement that was read aloud at the Patriarchy and the Movement event. In conversation, Williams admits to having helped prepare the statement. However, Williams writes his “Politics of Denunciation” article as though he was some sort of neutral bystander to the entire scene. Furthermore, Williams characterizes the prepared statement as being about the personal experience of Eleanor (who read it aloud) “trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing.” This is a tortured way to put things, to say the least.

The statement signed by ex-Bring the Ruckus (BTR) members Geoff and Eleanor was a direct response to the survivor’s experience plus Peter Little’s name having being mentioned. (See one version of the statement here.) The ex-Bring the Ruckus statement begins: “A lot has been said this evening regarding our comrade Peter Little and his behavior.” Note that this was a prepared statement, so it is clear that it was to be issued just in case Little’s name got mentioned at the event. The statement claimed that Geoff, Eleanor and the rest of the ex-BTR crew considered the matter to be closed, and that they wished to present general points so as to move away from “personalized attacks on comrades.” It is clear, firstly, that the statement co-edited by Williams portrayed the underlying situation as being about “personal attacks” not anything of substance. (To be clear about Williams’ relation to Bring the Ruckus: Williams was not a member but he worked closely with that organization.) Secondly, the more general points within the statement were a way of speaking about the specific situation without actually going into details, or they were red herrings to divert from the situation at hand.

When Eleanor, either going off-script or reading from a version of the statement that was different from the one subsequently circulated online, made a comment along the lines of “we think it’s important to be critical of survivors” (proximate quote, the ex-BTR intervention was not recorded) this comment was understood as a jab at the survivor, phrased in the typical indirect style of Portland Bring the Ruckus. People gasped and were upset because they understood the ex-BTR statement and Eleanor’s comments as an attack on the survivor, even though it was passed off as some sort of general comment (and then later denied altogether by Eleanor, despite a room full of people having heard her speak.)

Here, I should say something quick about the underlying situation. There is certainly more to say, but this is just a quick version for those who do not want to trudge through the various accounts online. Peter Little is not being accused of intimate violence against the survivor; they were never intimate. The issue is that Peter Little hijacked an “accountability process” regarding an abusive friend of his, with Little then portraying himself as the voice of the process while breaking all understandings that the “process” was founded on. Instead, Little used his power and his self-presentation as the voice of “accountability” to demean and try to ostracize the survivor. As a result, Little was asked to leave the process, having in effect already sabotaged it. The great majority of those involved in the process have by this point spoken out regarding Little’s behavior and identified it as highly damaging. Little continues to besmirch and organize against the survivor to this day, and has continued to escalate despite many opportunities to change his behavior. As far as anybody can tell, Little’s actions are due to a grudge he has held against the survivor ever since she–long before the situation of abuse– made a snarky comment critical of Little and Bring the Ruckus. It is simply not acceptable to use situations of abuse instrumentally, as a way to exact revenge upon a survivor for petty grudges and quarrels. Yet this is precisely what Peter Little did. (Peter Little’s own account is that he was acting gallantly to save a child from the survivor’s wrath, a threadbare and insulting story.)

Back to the Patriarchy and the Movement event: the ex-Bring the Ruckus statement was clearly an attempt to shut up a survivor and those who had supported her. Williams turns the situation on its head when he suggests that it was some sort of “totalitarian” feminism that was engaged in “silencing.” (Following some shock and uproar, Eleanor was given space to politically defend her statement, which she could not do.) After the Patriarchy and the Movement event, Eleanor and Geoff even made an insincere apology for their intervention, admitting that “We can see how this was interpreted as an attempt to shield an individual and felt silencing.” Now, Williams has changed the narrative to his BTR friend having been “silenced” and in fact being a victim. The apology made by Eleanor and Geoff was a cynical political move from the start, but their online post at least demonstrates what was actually considered as “silencing” at the time. The anti-survivor nature of the ex-BTR statement was not only noted by the organizers of the Patriarchy and the Movement event (http://patriarchyandthemovement.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/statement-on-the-patriarchy-and-the-movement-event-portland-2282013), but also by the Red & Black Café (http://www.redandblackcafe.com/statement-in-response-to-2-28-13-event-2) (where the event was hosted), the Patriarchy Resistance Committee of the Portland branch of the IWW (http://patriarchyandthemovement.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/statement-from-the-patriarchy-resistance-committee-of-the-portland-branch-of-the-iww), as well as other observers.

With all this in mind, how was the statement read by Eleanor actually about her “experience trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing” as Williams alleges? As stated earlier, Williams’ wording is tortured. One of the reasons why people were so appalled by the statement signed by Eleanor and Geoff, is due to Geoff and Eleanor’s earlier role in this situation. Trying to address Little’s harmful conduct discretely, the survivor’s supporters attempted to talk with Bring the Ruckus about what was going on. The result was a meeting with Geoff and Eleanor, which is now Eleanor’s “experience” referred to by Williams. Yet the “personal experience” in that case is not one of opposing abuse, but rather of betraying a survivor! This needs to be further spelled out.

Bring the Ruckus constantly emphasized how everyone who knew of the situation needed to be quiet about it. The survivor’s close support did not accept the initial demand of Bring the Ruckus, which was: in order for BTR even to meet with you and hear you out, you must not talk to others about this matter. The survivor’s support team refused such a gag order, but tried to stay mostly quiet thereafter so as to create a situation favorable to what was needed: de-escalation, an apology from Little, and damage limitation. Instead, the BTR circles (including the clique which remained in Portland after that organization’s formal disbanding) from that point onwards just made excuses for Little and decided that the survivor was really the problem, for having dared to have a problem with their favored commissar.

It was protracted efforts against the survivor which led to one of her supporters finally talking about the situation openly at Patriarchy and the Movement, because relative quiet on this issue had only been used against the survivor. Prior to Patriarchy and the Movement, the ex-BTR people certainly did not practice the discretion which they expected of everyone else. The survivor was presented by Little and his associates as “political liability” to anybody who would listen (the phrase itself is vague, but was used for the purpose of borderline COINTELPRO-jacketing, when the survivor was not simply portrayed as crazy.) In context of such ongoing efforts, the pre-written statement from Geoff and Eleanor (with Williams’ assistance) was a way of communicating to the survivor that their clique would throw all their efforts into opposing anyone who did not shut up. Williams had already been recruited for the purpose of their intervention, helping with the statement in case Little’s patriarchal behavior got referenced at the anti-patriarchy event. Williams had not even heard from the survivor or her supporters before he threw himself into the conflict. So much for Williams’ pose of wanting “political discussion” or for people to examine situations critically!

Williams’ article claims to be about “The Politics of Denunciation” yet ignores the actual denunciation that has taken place since Patriarchy and the Movement. Soon after the Patriarchy and the Movement event, ex-BTR cadre telephoned their contacts coast to coast in order to denounce the survivor. Within a couple of weeks of the Eleanor and Geoff pseudo-apology, Peter Little recruited his allies Don Hammerquist and Janeen Porter to issue a 2700-word statement against the survivor to all their contacts on an international “revolutionary” listserv. Hammerquist and Porter made clear that they would not tolerate any challenge to their account not backed by “supporting evidence,” while they broadly circulated lies from Peter Little without any proof except Little’s word for it! Those who could offer evidence contradicting Porter and Hammerquist’s repetition of Little’s dangerous claims were banned from the listserv. Also involved in harassment of the survivor were Seattle’s Black Orchid Collective, who wrote not one but two pieces on the topic (the final one wondering why the survivor’s supporters had not turned to them for help!) Peter Little’s new organization Hella503 also circulated a fantastic “report” against the survivor to their contacts. (When Hella503 began, it featured several alumni of Portland Bring the Ruckus, which suggests some of the pressure on the group to work against the survivor.) None of these actions consist of “denunciation” to Williams, apparently.

Finally, it is ironic that at the start of Williams’ article as posted on Libcom, a “Trigger Warning” has been added to beginning of the text, presumably by some editor. (Libcom article offline at time of posting here.) A glance at Williams’ article will show that the word “triggering” is used in the article twice, both times in quotation marks. Williams’ article suggests that when people use the term “triggering” this is just to get what they want and to stop conversation. Good luck involving survivors in your efforts, if that is you how you view things. You will need all the luck you can get.”

Additional context:
The original accountability process which Chad Walter failed to adequately engage in (as of July 2011): http://chadwalterinfo.wordpress.com/accountability-process-demands-and-response/

P.S.. “Posts in support of Kristian Williams or in any way dismissing survivors WILL BE DELETED.”