Reflections of Resistance
The following are reflections from radical Pagans in the protests on 20 and 21 January, 2017.
District of Columbia, 20 January
ROUGHLY 20 MEMBERS of the Pagan Cluster gathered on Friday to take part in the #DisruptJ20 “Festival of Resistance” march from outside Union Station to McPherson square. Our contribution to this march was a collaborative, three-part moving ritual that unfolded over the course of the day.
As we gathered outside Union Station, our group cast a circle, invoking both the Ancestors and Descendents to witness and bring their blessings to our work. We sang “We are sweet water, we are the seed/We are the storm winds that blow away greed/We are the new world we bring to birth/ A river rising to reclaim the earth!” as we danced a Spiral Dance, raising energy to wrap our group in a protective energy for the rest of the day.
When the march got underway, we shifted into the next part of our ritual; a dis-spelling. We understood the inauguration itself as a major spell working, an attempt by the Trump Administration to ensnare the world in a net of oppression and glamour through pageantry and power. Our intention was to weaken the integrity of that spell. As we marched through the streets, we sliced, cut, hacked, sawed, and slashed at the cords of this net of oppression. As we walked we sang
“We are the knife that cuts the spell / By sacred flame and holy well / As we will so mote it be / All Earth’s creatures shall be free”.
Reaching McPherson square, our group joined together for a final Spiral Dance. This time we danced to weave in energies of justice, liberation, and protection into the space we had created, transforming the net of oppression into a living web of connection. As we moved, we sang
“Let it begin with each step we take / And let it begin with each change we make / And let it begin with each chain we break / And let it begin every time we wake”
Learn more about the Pagan Cluster (https://pagancluster.wordpress.com/)
San Francisco, 21 January
PATRIARCHY was smashed a bit today. For everyone who says that women could not rule with the same stregnth and determination that men can please consider the unique peaceful marches of today. Not one arrest. That’s because Matriarchy and the Goddess decended upon the crowds in intergenerational peace. It was palpable. But did it linger?
Will we capture a movement or was it an expression of a funeral for what once was? They didn’t know they were planting seeds. The youth were there. They will remember, many thier first communal expression of solidarity. We capture that and we’ll be just fine.
We still gotta water the seeds to make them grow. Sometimes it will even take some painful fire. But we’ll nature them, and they will grow. We don’t have to tear it all down if we can get them to grow! Some of it gotta go tho. Keep repeating: “the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 36 years young”. Then get mad and do something about it. Organize the Youth. Set Fire to thier brain. Give someone shelter from the rain.
–Anakh Sul Rama
District of Columbia, 21 January
WHY DID I MARCH? Because I watch us fragment ourselves and waste our power in meaningless squabbles that boil down to “you are not pure enough to stand with me so go away or I will withdraw”. Meanwhile, the opposition stays on target and takes more and more power away for themselves only. I see it in government, in paganism and Heathenry, in various ethnic and gender-identifying groups. I say, “find the common purpose and stand together for this issue. We don’t have to like each other to work for a common good.” I went to the march in DC yesterday to stand with women of all ethnicities, genders, ages, backgrounds, religions, and levels of experience in political action. I went with hopes to witness the birth of an energizing movement and also with plans for responding to volatile and violent situations.
I went as prepared as I could be for law enforcement with shields and batons, rubber bullets and tear gas, because they had been deployed the day before. I went with emergency numbers written on my body that will still be there in 4 days because Sharpie doesn’t wash off easily. I went with a plan for 4 separate meeting places in case it went badly. I was afraid because it is true – I have never been hit, been gassed, been screamed at by cops, been trampled. I went because my white skin and middle-class background can be a shield to people whose skin in not white and whose background is not WASP-American-middle-class. I went *because* most law enforcement will hesitate to strike me and that can give someone else a chance to get farther away. And I went because the oaths I made to a couple of my gods means I cannot stand by in strength and safety and watch others pay my debts.
I am posting my joy that it was peaceful. A peaceful march of novices, for those who have never been pushed to march before, this means many will march again. Every time they come out, they meet real people with stories of experience more violent, more frightening than they have imagined, whose stories are filled with pain and fear and loss. By standing beside others, we draw strength and we learn and we grow braver and stronger. Most important for the novices, positive and uplifting early experiences build courage to face the more volatile situations. If yesterday had gone badly, how many of those millions would have gone home, retracted back into their safe worlds, and given up? How many of those novice allies are only now finding the threats that their own doorsteps and are without the examples of elders to show them how to respond?
Tiohtià:ke (Montréal), 21 January
“Debout, debout!” comes the static-filled call from the raging granny on her microphone, somewhere far into the crowd. Another microphone, this time pushed into the face of my partner, the only visible man in our small group. The reporter introduces the radio station she works for, asking for a soundbite explaining his reasons for showing up to a ‘women’s event.’ My mother, her face like a stone statue, interrupts the reporter and speaks: “I am angry. I am afraid.”
We’re not marching, but I wish we would. Place-des-Arts is beautiful in that cold modern way—steel, cement, and glass which fits the gray light of January—but with the five thousand people assembled here it is hard to hear the speakers on their stage, especially while nearby construction workers use their jackhammers to break up the cold cement of the terrace right outside the Hyatt Regency.
I think of hotel magnates and tourism which are just one facet of the inexorable cogs of gentrification. I think of the unrest in Saint Henri. I think of the lack of overt police presence here this Saturday morning—very different from the earlier Friday night protest where forty riot police officers attacked a few dozen student protesters on the street. But here there are baby-boomers and paragons of respectability present: labour union representatives, party members of Quebec Solidaire and the NDP, respectable and famous journalists such as Sue Montgomery speaking to the crowd. There are parents with their babies here, standing in the cold for four hours. The police won’t attack this crowd, and besides, the police and Montréal’s municipal leaders don’t feel threatened by this gathering. Here in Québec, the fantasm of fascism and Trump seem like far-away concerns, nebulous, outside ourselves.
We are protected by the 45th parallel and by that esprit insoumis québecois that absolves us of all settler supremacist culpability.
My friends and I hold a small eulogy for the anarchist venues and other gathering places that have vanished from Montréal thanks to gentrification.
We talk about the community spaces that have been shut down, the places that were burned down or condemned, targeted by the city and its police. I share my experiences of watching how over the past ten years lesbian, queer, sex-worker, transgender, radical, revolutionary spaces one after the other have died out like canaries—but this coal mine is just this late-stage zombie capitalism, and the toxic vapours are just liberal progress.
But there’s hope here too. The communist party came out to pass flyers. Trans-inclusive signs can be spotted. I see a sign calling for the abolishment of borders which states that nobody is illegal. A little boy holds a sign saying: “Water Is Life.” I see Black Lives Matter pins and poster-boards. My personal favourites: “Hey Justin, stop kissing Trump’s ass” and “Vivement le socialisme!” One of the speakers mentions that we are not protected by American-style imperialism, racism, sexism, and colonialism here in Canada. We have many of the exact same problems here, too. We listen to Mohawk and Cree speakers, drummers and artists who speak of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and remind us that we are on stolen, un-ceded indigenous land—Tiohtià:ke. And when several of my friends notice a lone Trump supporter on the margins of the crowd who has attracted the attention of several media outlets, we casually move closer to him and quietly obstruct his fascist poster with our own signs.
This is not the first day of our resistance. The work began long ago, a legacy started by those who knew they might not live to see its results. I hope you’ll join us.
–Gersande La Flèche, Tiohtià:ke (Montréal)
District of Columbia, 20 January
I went to DC on Friday to participate in the J20 Festival of Resistance with a group of Reclaiming witches from Baltimore and the DC/VA area. We chanted, drummed, and worked magic as we marched with several thousand others. The Festival of Resistance was a mostly peaceful, permitted march so it hasn’t received the media attention the other protests have, but it offered an outlet for those who wanted to bring their families, or who aren’t willing or able to participate in riskier activities. It was the perfect energy for magical political action.
I was struck by the emptiness of the MARC train to DC, by how many more protesters there were than Trump supporters, and by how many protesters and Trump supporters seemed to be experiencing the day through the lens of a camera or screen of a smartphone.
St. Louis, 21 January
I ATTENDED the Women’s March in St. Louis on Saturday. We were expecting about 2000 people. The crowds were estimated to be about 13,000. It was peaceful, it was joyful.
The thing that struck me was that so many different factions had come together in common cause. By the end of the march, we had solidified into a cohesive resistance to hate and divisiveness. His vision is not ours.
District of Columbia, 20 January
I’VE BEEN PROTESTING for two decades now. Having cut my teeth on the anti-globalisation protests in the early part of the last decade, then the massive anti-war protests soon after, I came to expect a certain energy, a certain direction, a certain intersectionality, a certain group spirit. But when Obama was elected, that revolutionary drive seemed to disappear.
Obama seemed to convince many people, especially (but not exclusively) whites, that things were ‘okay,’ even as Blacks were increasingly murdered in the streets and Arab children blown to bits overseas, capitalism ground lives to dust, the environment got more polluted and the state accumulated more and more power under a smiling, kind president. Radicalism got replaced by electoral politics, action replaced with deliberation. Many left-groups turned to in-fighting, the revolution suddenly mere theory instead of being-together outside Capital. Intersectionality was replaced with identity politics, solidarity replaced by segmented academic constructs, and it seemed nothing would change this.
We have Trump to thank for reminding us what we’re really about.
I saw the first signs of the return to solidarity at Gay Pride in Orlando on 12 November, just after the election of Trump. I stood with my Black lover next to a Black man and his white lover, beside a white woman and her Black lover, in front of a white man and his Black lover all celebrating not just our gayness but standing together against a new regime of terror against all. The intersectionality that Liberalism destroyed (and replaced with shallow identity politics) returned with a vengeance as we marched with large Latino and Black families, young girls with cornrows giving candy to old queens in heels, Black trans women and old white women walking side-by-side against hate and a new regime of racialized violence.
DC was like that, too. Though I saw much to give me hope, more than anything it was this fact, the great admixture of miscegenating culture donning black hoods and face-masks, wielding puppets and hammers to smash the state in a solidarity we’d all forgotten.
This solidarity became most poignant when I walked with friends to catch up to a march. Trump supporters wearing three-piece suits and “Make America Great Again” caps shouted obsenities at us as we passed them, or yelled TRUMP in our faces like an exorcist might scream JESUS. But their anger was that of fans leaving a football game where their team lost: their rage could not touch us.
A Black woman joined us for a little while as we walked. She said she’d come towards us after seeing our friend’s sign and our stickers. She told us she was relieved to find us after being yelled at so much by Trump supporters. “A ten-year old boy shouted shit at me” she said. He pushed her. She told him to say “excuse me” and the boy’s mother intervened. “You don’t owe her anything,” said the white matriarch. We ourselves had witnessed white boys and girls as young as 8 shouting obscenities at us and others, encouraged by their parents.
That’s the world they’d build, if we gave them the chance. But with bodies and signs and hammers and bricks, those who came out made clear we’re not going to give them that chance.
What are we for, if not to show this can all be different? That solidarity means giving protection to those targeted, rather than endless debates over who is more oppressed? The hatred is real and virulent: it’s time to stop talking and do something, and that’s what we all did in DC that day.
I hope it continues.
Sarasota, 21 January
I WAS PRESENTLY surprised to find a robust crowd of over 10,000 (according to organizers) in Sarasota, FL for a rally and march across the Ringling Brother’s Bridge. The mood was jubilant. Many I spoke with had never attended a march before. The crowd was overwhelmingly white, although there were some Black Lives Matter signs in view.
The police were present, smiling and acted as chaperones.
District of Columbia, 20 January
MY EXPERIENCE at J20 reflects the way everything around me seems to actually work: bad things are happening, but you can’t see them. You don’t see what’s really going on, which makes it easy to ignore it if you are willing to ignore it. I can hear people yelling for everyone to run, but I don’t know why. I’m walking down the street with some friends, and everything seems fine – so why do I keep hearing the explosions of concussion grenades from one block away? We can see the smoke, but we can’t see what’s burning and we don’t know who set the fire. This sense that there is no way to understand what is really going on – that no one is ultimately responsible for any of it – is at the heart of capitalism. Trump isn’t actually the cause of the smoke. He is only the trash that got set on fire.
–Christopher Scott Thompson
Portland, 20 January
It was a shit-show.
Minneapolis, 19 January
WE WERE GOING to take to the streets Thursday night, hoping to catch the cops off guard the night before the inauguration. We were going to fill the spaces of a wealthy, gentrified neighborhood with sound, with dancing bodies wearing binders and wigs and pink balaclavas, setting off smoke bombs and roman candles. We were going to loudly declare that we could find joy in our bodies and in art and each other no matter what was to come. We got off work early. Organized rides. Ate dinner with gently quaking hands. Made game plans to manage any flares of social anxiety, cops, violence, PTSD, or chronic pain. We got ready.
But the cops got there first. Some pulled up on the curbs, flashing their lights, stealing our scene. Some snuck into parking lots, down residential streets, silent, patient, watching. The crowd never gathered. Many never stepped out of their cars. Everyone felt robbed of a highly anticipated sneeze, left with nothing but dashed expectations and bodies flooded with hormones.
So we drove away. Pulled off somewhere, debating what to do next. Words clipped, jaws clenched, breath audible in the quiet. A few of us dared to slink along sidewalks, scoping out cruisers, before retreating to the bar to get royally wrecked. One asked a muscle-bound stranger to punch him, please, punch him, just punch him in the gut. Two of us went home, escaped into shared body heat and generous gulps of red wine. I disclosed truths I hadn’t before and laughed at wounds still bleeding, ignored how raw my voice sounded, even to me, even through wine.
The weekend came and we sobered and rallied. We’re still organizing, networking, drawing up plans. But I won’t forget that night. By denying us movement and space and sound and joyful retaliation, our own momentum was used against us. The cops poisoned us with stress hormones and broken hearts, a physiological landmine we planted ourselves.
The denial of public space and public voice is psychological warfare. It is not to be underestimated.
Portland, 21 January
I’M A WHITE GAY MAN who got married last October. This past Friday afternoon as one of my coworkers was complaining about the possibility that their commute home might be disrupted due to the possible anti-Trump protests I responded that the reason I’m wearing a wedding ring is that a black trans person picked up a brick and threw it at the police. Stonewall was a riot, and was, arguably, the spark for the gay rights movement. I feel a debt to speak out for those more vulnerable than myself and to fight against policies that will harm many in minority communities.
That is why I marched as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence in the Women’s March on Saturday. I have several identities, however, and it made me aware of the different ways we need to be fighting against fascism. My role as a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence is very public. How could it not be when I am covered in clown makeup and glitter? And it was wonderful to see 100,000 voices raised in Portland against Trumps policies of hatred and to see so many messages of inclusion. But I was also aware that this was a more mainstream and “liberal” march. I know that there are others out there in the shadows who are taking more… messy actions. And in my less known and less flashy role as a witch that I may be called on to make some tough and uncomfortable decisions. Revolutions aren’t decided over a cup of tea. May I have the strength to stand when called upon whether the situation requires glitter and sass or stealth in the shadows.
–Sister Krissy Fiction
Hawai’i, 21 January
I MARCHED in a small town in US-occupied Hawai’i—for women, for all genders, and against the Trump regime. It really was all combined here. There was a surprising turn out, over 3,500 people, which would be something like 10% of total population in a place that can seem disengaged and is very dependent on tourist economy and pretty much lacks public spaces. We marched down a highway under a hot sun. Many people driving by showed their approval. A fair amount of diversity with lots of signs for trans rights, Black Lives Matters, and many other issues. I talked to a lot of people, and many were aware that deep changes and long-term resistance is needed. My partner and I felt energized and met an inspiring homeless advocate/artist. I feel like a lot of people were caught by surprise but that new connections and links are being made. I would have liked to have seen a lot more linkage with decolonization and anti-capitalism. We brought a bit of Pagan magic into the march via a Libertas/Liberty sign.
Manchester (New Hampshire), 20 January
THE EVENT I attended on January 20th was attended by a group that was small but unified in our radical politics. Only a few dozen of us were there, but all those who spoke or held signs showed they knew that all our struggles (workers, queers, people of color, religious minorities, and others) are inter-connected. It was powerful to be in that group, and even more powerful to return home to my new community and talk about our place in things to come. While I’ve been called to many protests by Morrigan and Lugh, this season and this protest I am called by Brighid as I carry the spiritual hearth of my new home with me out into the increasingly uncertain world outside.
We hope these inspired you. Please feel free to tell us your stories in the comments, and resist beautifully!
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