Anti-Police Action: Dance Party in the Streets
On August 23rd, several anarchist groups convened in downtown Phoenix in response to a call-out to show up in black and fight back against police brutality. On August 14th, 2014, Michelle Cusseaux was shot to death by a Phoenix police officer who had been called by the victim’s mother for help transporting Michelle to a mental health care facility. On August 22nd, the grieving family carried Michelle’s casket in protest through the streets of Phoenix to demand answers from the Phoenix PD. In the wake of this tragedy and the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Phoenix anarchists took to the streets on Saturday night.
Approximately 150 people met up in Civic Space Park and passed around a megaphone to anyone who wanted to speak out. People in the crowd handed out bandannas and shared a jail support phone number from Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross with instructions to write it in permanent marker on a body part. A street medic team from Phoenix Urban Health Collective let everyone know that they had their backs and would stay with the protest all night. Carrying flags, musical instruments and megaphones, the mob took to the streets.
For the next three hours, the protest blocked traffic on the busiest streets of downtown Phoenix, congregating in the intersections to pass around water bottles and mock the entourage of Phoenix PD that followed them with chants of “Hands up! Shoot back!” At several points, the police presence was as deep as eight cars with uniformed officers standing outside their vehicles holding pepper spray and riot masks ready. Motorcycle cops flanked the sides of the march and blocked intersections ahead of the marchers. Even the light rail was blocked by the protest and forced to wait until the action moved on.
Realizing that the cops had obviously been given orders not to engage unless aggressed upon, the anarchists began to mob back through the blockades set up by the cops, weaving through their cars and blaring megaphones into open windows. One of the protestors played “Flight of the Valkyries” on a trombone to cheers and applause. The group went through multiple pedestrian shopping areas and several metal chairs and street signs were thrown into the streets and at storefronts. While following the protesters through the shopping areas, the Phoenix PD had to get pretty close on staircases and sidewalks, so the anarchists responded by blaring sirens from the megaphones within a few feet of their heads. At one point, the entire march stopped in front of a busy bar with a rooftop DJ and had an impromptu dance party in the street. On the way back to Civic Space Park, the anarchists detoured over to the Channel 12 news station which was broadcasting live with their windows on street level. The entire group yelled and banged on the fencing around the newsroom, forcing the news team to cut to a “technical difficulties” screen while the anchor team relocated further from the street.
Once back at Civic Space Park, the megaphones were passed around again to give everyone a chance to talk and at that point, a representative for Rev. Jarett Maupin approached and asked if he could speak about police brutality as well as his campaign for governor. She was told, “No, we don’t want to talk to candidates.” The representative stated that Rev. Maupin was a community leader and had been involved in carrying Michelle Cusseaux’ body through the street, and that “the only real way to get change is to elect real leaders.” One of the anarchists told her, “Yeah, we heard about that and it’s epic as fuck, but we don’t vote for anyone. Sorry.” After rallying together, the group agreed that there would be future actions to continue to push back against the racism and violence of the police state, then disbursed about 3 1/2 hours after originally convening. Another anti-police action has been called for September 5th at 8pm to disrupt the First Friday event in downtown Phoenix.