Phoenix FTP: Round 2
On the first Friday of every month, downtown Phoenix hosts local artists showcasing their work, musicians playing live shows at the various bars, and food trucks would selling their food in designated areas. The heart of First Friday is a stretch called Roosevelt Row, from Central St. to 7th St. Every space during the event is tightly regulated, barriers are put up to make sure nobody strays off the sidewalk, and members of the police force are stationed on every block to maintain order and keep everyone “safe”. Local anarchists have fought against the level of policing of the event many times over the years, and previous actions during First Friday have ended in the Phoenix PD showing up in full riot gear and pepper-spraying children. In spite of that, local anarchists organized an FTP action to storm through First Friday as part of the ongoing response to local police brutality and the murder of Michelle Cusseaux by Phoenix PD.
The anarchists rallied at a small park on Roosevelt Ave. and grew into a decent sized mob, some waving red & black flags, others playing instruments, and some just yelling profanities at the bike cops that were keeping a lookout from the safety of the sidewalk. Phoenix ABC handed around sharpies and ensured that everyone had the jail support phone number written somewhere on their body, and the entire street medic team from Phoenix Allies for Community Health (PACH) made the rounds introducing themselves. Phoenix Police Department had come out in force, bike cops, riot police and the “community liaison team,” which are known locally as the Red Squad since their primary assignment is keeping tabs on local activists. Several people noticed a man who stuck out like a sore thumb and confronted him as an undercover. Pictures captured during and after the action confirmed the suspected undercover walking with the police. About an hour of distributing goggles, masks, flags, and middle fingers, the anarchists were ready to head down the street.
At about 9pm, the rally moved from the park into the street, pushing down barricades and ignoring the police set up at every intersection. Megaphones were passed around amid chants of “hands up, shoot back!” and “whose streets? our streets!” After going up and down Roosevelt a few times, the march had swelled to 200 people, with some of the First Friday attendees joining the march. Knocking over street signs and blockades as they went, the action moved down 5th Street, the heart of the Phoenix art district. Fifteen bike cops and a SUV cruiser followed, but when the march stopped and anarchists began to congregate at the end of the street, the cop SUV did not and began to slowly push through the crowd. Several protesters stood in front of the cruiser and refused to move, but the police SUV pushed up into them anyway and after a few minutes, bike cops came over and started aggressively trying to shove protesters out of the way. Someone yelled, “sit down!” and several people all sat down at once in front of the vehicle. There were a few tense moments as more and more people sat down while the bike cops hovered around, waiting for the word to start arresting people. After a few minutes, the SUV slowly began to back down the street away from the protesters. The remaining bike cops formed a line across 5th St and after a moment of hesitation, two protesters pushed through a narrow space between the cops, followed almost immediately by a flood of other protesters. Instead of continuing down 5th St., the anarchists swarmed around the bike cops, surrounding them on all sides and making them uncomfortable until they broke rank and pushed through the crowd.
At this point, a group of 5-6 agitators started working through the crowd, shoulder-checking people and making aggressive comments about the action, such as, “Wait until I kick your ass. Then I bet you’ll call the cops.” One female agitator continuously motioned to her purse and made comments about having a weapon in there. Some of the protesters got into altercations with them throughout the rest of the action, and even though the march continued through First Friday for another hour, the agitators stayed close and continued to try to pick fights with people. At the end of the march, this group of agitators was caught on camera walking away with the suspected undercover, and they have since been turned into a series of memes throughout the Phoenix anarchist community.
After about two hours of disruption and fun, First Friday began to wind down and some scouts reported to the group that the Phoenix PD was assembling a riot squad of about 40 officers at the park where the rally had started, and another scout report 60 riot cops assembling at another intersection. Everyone rallied in the middle of a busy intersection to pass around the megaphones and make calls to continue fighting back against the police state, then disbursed and disappeared into the night. No justice, no peace, Phoenix! Take back your lives and take the streets!