Editorial: Activists vs. Idiots
So May Day came and went, and we’re a bit surprised at how little happened in Olympia. Fortunately, there was no window-breaking like in Seattle. There was also no major peaceful march like in Seattle. That’s just an observation, not a criticism, and we know (and are pleased) that local activists are out working on all kinds of other great projects instead.
Unfortunately, one project chosen by at least one activist was to spray-paint pro-May Day and/or anarchist messages in spots throughout downtown and west Olympia. That’s bad enough, but there was one aspect that really sticks in our craw: The vandal (or vandals) didn’t target big corporations. They didn’t target banks that foreclosed on people’s homes or the federal government that let them do it.
Nope. Instead, they targeted cool local businesses. We personally saw paint smeared on the fronts of businesses owned by hip local people, the kind of people who are bringing good things to our community economically and socially and are contributing to the community as volunteers and are trying to earn a living for themselves – and who likely support of much of the vandal’s own agenda (or at least, the constructive aspects of it).
One of the business owners posted on Facebook that it felt like a “punch to the gut” to be attacked this way. And yes, it was an attack.
Many people responded to that post with sympathy, but an unsettling number of respondents insisted that this must actually be the work of agents provocateur. The implication was that no true radical activists would be stupid enough to take such an action sure to bring disfavor down on the activists and their agenda. However, we’ve seen radical activists in Olympia be precisely that stupid, for example when they spray-painted a newspaper photographer who was actually giving them the publicity they seem to want.
Based on their own actions, these vandals seem to prefer anonymity over conversation, so we’re not going bother trying to converse with them.
But we do have a message for other activists: if you and some friends are sitting around thinking about how to promote your political and social goals, and somebody suggests vandalizing local businesses, then that somebody is either a provocateur or an idiot, and you really don’t want to associate with them either way. ◙