State of the Arts: The Creative Cities Conspiracy and Gentrification in Tacoma

(Although this article is nearly 4 years old, we repost it for future reference. Most of it is still applicable and relevant to the current situation.)

TACOMA – Trudging up 11th street from the bus stop one cold and soggy fall evening, my friend and I were stopped by an older homeless woman who had just been denied a bed in a shelter. She asked us if we knew of another place she could go for the night, and my friend remembered that his old house was still sitting vacant after his former roommates had been unceremoniously evicted almost a year before. We knew that the house was accessible through a backdoor and had been previously squatted with success, so my friend gave the woman the house’s address, and we parted ways.

A few days later, shuffling back down the hill to the transit center, I noticed that some new artwork had been installed in the Woolworths building’s Broadway windows. I stopped to look at the warmly pieces hanging silently in their sterile display case. It was very quiet on the street—dead quiet—just me and the artwork. Generally unimpressed, I continued on my way, only to encounter another of these ghostly galleries at the corner of 11th and Commerce. Here was an interactive video-installation piece. Two small tables were set against the windows, one piled with fake fruit and glass orbs, another with doll heads, wig forms, and masks. Two cameras angled at the viewer from behind each still-life composition, the lens-views obscured and warped by the objects on the tables. Screens displayed what the cameras recorded.

I had noticed these peculiar storefront displays in the past, once gawking through painted windows at the mysterious interior of the “Jesus-4-Less!” shop across from the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. It couldn’t be a real shop, I thought at the time—could it? Then I noticed a logo on the glass— “SpaceWorks Tacoma”—and realized that it must have been some sort of art project.

Looking around at other signs of what yuppies call “urban revitalization”, I had a feeling I knew exactly what was going on. Here were new sidewalks and a busy Tully’s Coffee. I’d been hearing a lot about the changes happening in downtown Tacoma from friends who had grown up here or who had lived in Tacoma for a while. This “SpaceWorks” thing reeked of the art-fueled gentrification that I knew was happening in cities all over the world, from the newly muralled slums of 2016 Olympics host city Rio de Janiero, Brazil, all the way to Hamburg, Germany.

Out with the Old, In With the Nouveau Riche

Gentrification describes the process in which waves of wealthier people move into a neighborhood, usually displacing the poorer current residents. Race is an important factor in many gentrification processes, with the newcomers being mostly white, and the current residents, people of color. In all instances, the gentrifiers’ relative wealth allows them to buy and rent their way into poor neighborhoods which have suddenly become desirable due to their proximity to urban business and cultural centers. Landlords are eager to raise rents or sell their properties, often evicting old tenants, and current owner-occupiers are sometimes forced to move due to increased property taxes and pressures from zoning and code enforcement agencies.

Gentrifiers sometimes come on the coattails of young bohemian populations—mostly artists, musicians, and students, but sometimes even punks squatting vacant buildings. They seek to escape from humdrum suburbia into the authentic urban “village” they’ve seen in so many romantic comedies. And so, once a base of hip culture is laid and a neighborhood seems relatively secure, wealthier and wealthier people move in, spurred on by newly developed housing complexes and businesses designed to appeal to their quirky, cosmopolitan tastes. Sometimes the newcomers even receive tax breaks and other incentives, as in Philadelphia, PA, where developers and purchasers of new properties are exempt from paying property taxes for a full ten years. Parks and sidewalks get a serious facelift, the city having decided to put money into gentrifying areas under the assumption that the gentrifiers’ disposable income and tax dollars will bolster the local economy in turn. Meanwhile, police presence in the area increases noticeably, and “undesirable” people like homeless folks and teenagers are more frequently harassed, ticketed, and arrested for petty “quality of life” crimes that were previously ignored.

Sound familiar? It should. This is exactly what is happening right here in Tacoma.

Life = Money?

Are those who are attempting to “revitalize” downtown Tacoma attempting to restore the life of the city or are they simply giving a boost to business interests? After all, this is what is means to “revitalize” something: to resuscitate it, to animate, arouse, and awaken it. The implication, of course, is that downtown is dead. True enough, it seems that downtown is pretty dead most of the time, bustling alive only when people are going to and from work and school, or when special public events like First Night are held. Otherwise, cars move through the lonely streets, and the few pedestrians rarely stop to do much more than wait for a bus. Of course, the area around UW-Tacoma and the museums teem with commerce, exactly as intended. Meanwhile, homeless folks and people waiting for court congregate in front of the County-City Building, and School of the Arts students buzz down Commerce. Still, it would be a stretch to call downtown Tacoma a generally lively place.

According to Amy McBride, the City of Tacoma’s Arts Administrator and brainchild of SpaceWorks Tacoma, empty storefronts are a big part of what’s killing Tacoma. “Having dead, empty storefronts is the opposite of revitalization,” she told me during an interview this past December. “The saying we’ve been using and that I’ve heard a lot is that empty storefronts are like ‘lost teeth in a beautiful smile.’” Through SpaceWorks, property owners have allowed artists to use their vacant properties to jumpstart their careers. Artists, it seems, are acting as the frontline dentists for downtown Tacoma’s smile, putting shiny gold teeth where there was nothing before. They need only pay the utilities, and they get a clean, dry, centralized space in which to display their work. Some artists have even been granted entire storefront retail spaces in which to start their fledgling businesses.


But is it really all for the love of art and artists? McBride goes on, “If you think about it, if you were wanting to invest in downtown or to open a business here, and you come downtown to some street and the tumbleweeds are blowing through, are you going to be excited about locating there? No. So the idea of activating these storefronts was to revitalize downtown, almost to stage it to look like what a community that has all the storefronts filled could look like… To start to model what an active life might look like.” Evidently, life means money and commerce to people like Amy McBride. It’s easy to ignore the negative consequences of gentrification when you’re not the one getting the boot.

Florida in Tacoma

In a 1989 article about New York City called “The Occupation of Art and Gentrification” that was originally published in No Reservations: Housing, Space and Class Struggle, the author writes, “…the role of artists hasn’t been organic/spontaneous but they have been utilised by an alliance of State, real estate and big business elites to act as the thin end of a wedge that will destabilise and ultimately displace working-class communities.” For decades, art has been a tool commonly used by city governments and developers to gentrify urban areas. Because art seems to symbolize energy, innovation, and human potential, it is the perfect wrapping for any capitalist settler project. Many recent development initiatives, like the one chugging along here in Tacoma, have been inspired by pop-economist Richard Florida’s “Creative Class” ideas, which are very popular amongst urban planners and proponents of gentrification.

The “Creative Class” describes the demographic segment made up of knowledge workers, professionals, intellectuals, and various types of artists, most of whom are college-educated and white. Put very simply, Florida sells the idea that if a region can attract enough members of the Creative Class, the region will experience economic growth and will benefit from the skills these folks bring with them.

In September, 2006, the Tacoma-Pierce Country Chamber of Commerce Foundation paid Richard Florida and his team of consultants to meet with 30 of Tacoma’s yuppie leaders for a two-day Creative Cities Leadership Seminar (CCLS). Apparently, says Amy McBride, “it was expensive.” According to the website of Creative Tacoma, a group that emerged from this workshop, Tacoma was the first city in the world to invite Richard Florida to town for a personal consultation. In attendance were various non-profit directors, city bureaucrats, representatives from local educational institutions, corporate suits, business owners, and other members of the Tacoma/Pierce County elite, including none other than much-reviled County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Fuel up for the day and meet some of the colleagues who you will be working with as you begin transforming Tacoma Pierce County for the Creative Economy.”

The Leadership Seminar involved an analysis of Tacoma/Pierce County’s demographic statistics, case study reviews, and brainstorming and networking sessions. During one presentation, seminar participants were encouraged to evaluate all kinds of human characteristics for their potential economic worth, including Tacoma’s “Gay Index”, “Boho Index”, and “Melting Pot Index”. They were even taught to put the number of interracial couples on the scales for proper valuation. Ultimately, based on the available data, Florida’s consultants revealed that Tacoma was in a fair position to push forward a Creative Cities agenda, and participants spent a lot of time cooking up projects they thought would help bring forth their desired Tacoma. Some of these, like Love Tacoma and Team Green, continue to operate in some form today.

From casual happy hours to sophisticated wine tastings to next week’s most anticipated show, you’ll be able to meet and mingle with amazing people in Tacoma’s urban community.” – Creative Tacoma: One Year Later

Love Tacoma is currently on hiatus, but until recently organizers put together regular gatherings at local businesses where, judging from the pictures on their website, members of the Creative Class rubbed shoulders over cocktails. One such event was the “Hipster Boutique Tour.” The idea was to create a proud, ever-expanding yuppie scene that would work to cement and spread gentrification. This, I suppose, is what “Love” means. They even have t-shirts.

Sustainability isn’t a trend anymore. It’s basic business. It’s the next great phase of economic evolution.” – BE Green South Sound

Team Green had a significantly busier run. A year after the CCLS, Team Green member and Port of Tacoma community relations manager Evette Mason was quoted in a Creative Tacoma publication, saying “If we became known as a hub for green products and services—and the community at large supported greenness—it would attract more business and people.” The focus was not on healing the environment by fundamentally revolutionizing everyday life, but instead on using sustainability rhetoric to make more money for business owners. Team Green sowed the poison seeds of green capitalism that are now sprouting in the forms of BE Green South Sound and the recent Tacoma Shift Happens event, “a celebration of local, independent businesses, and all that they contribute to life in Tacoma.” Here we see capitalism taking the genuine desire to live in harmony with the earth and turning this into a slightly modified version of itself. As ecological devastation becomes a more and more apparent threat to human survival, “sustainability,” along with “creativity,” has been mobilized to re-brand an economic system that feeds on environmental exploitation and the oppression of workers. It seems that some people will cling to capitalism’s rotting corpse as long as there’s still a little fat left to suck on.

Secret Yuppie Memos… Revealed!
Being a pioneer is exciting Tacoma is almost like pre-Belltown in Seattle” [sic]
– CCLS Memo #2

A series of memos were circulated amongst attendees in the months following the seminar, usually consisting of report-backs from networking events and dinner parties where participants questioned fellow members of the Creative Class about Tacoma’s Creative City potential. Reading through the memos, concern about Tacoma’s gritty, violent reputation surfaces again and again. One participant concludes that in order to attract gentrifying elements to Tacoma, the city would need an “overhaul of external image.”

Here’s an excerpt from CCLS Memo #4: “In a recent issue of The News Tribune, two freshmen at the University of Puget Sound wrote columns about their first impressions of our community. In these articles, I found the stereotypes they heard from friends and family prior to moving here to be very telling: Tacoma was referred to as ‘Tacompton’ and as a dangerous and gang-infested city by members of these students’ communities. The image of Tacoma that exists regionally and nationally is that it is violent, stinky, industrial, and dangerous.” Recall again that County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist attended the CCLS. Is it possible that he took this image overhaul thing so seriously that he decided he needed to take down 36 Hilltop men in order to clean up Tacoma’s bad reputation?

Urban Pioneers TM

Of course, it would be fallacious to suggest that the arty gentrification of Tacoma began with the visit from Richard Florida. The city bosses were already scrambling headlong down this path in 2005, when an article about Tacoma called “Creative Class: Yes, It is About the Artists” appeared in the January issue of New American City magazine. The author interviews Amy McBride, the current City Arts Administrator, and Benjii Bittle, City employee and developer lapdog, who explain how Tacoma’s plan was to initially cater specifically to artists themselves, choosing to set aside the larger “Creative Class” and all of its web developers, advertising agents, and investment bankers, at least for the time being.

When questioned on the issue of gentrification, McBride responds, “We recognize that the way we’re using the arts as an economic development tool encourages gentrification—and that’s part of the idea.” More recently, in an interview with my very own self, McBride admitted, “I always want to be attracting the Creative Class—innovative people. I think the beauty of Tacoma is that it’s the type of city that attracts pioneers….” McBride’s reference to “pioneers” is particularly telling. Gentrifiers often use frontier language to portray themselves as brave, intrepid explorers on the frontlines of economic and social transformation. But just as early US pioneers wrought disaster on native communities, so do today’s urban pioneers leave a trail of destruction behind them.

Despite this, new gentrification projects are being planned all the time here in Tacoma. The January 2011 issue of CityArts magazine highlights Mike McMenanmin’s plans to turn the old Elks Temple on Broadway into an “entertainment emporium”. Developers Grace Pleasants and Rick Moses want to construct a mixed-use highrise right next door, which will include both retail and loft space. The article states that, “If completed, the cooperative project will certainly transform the complexion of business in downtown Tacoma. Less obvious, but no less significant, is how it will change the city’s cultural landscape.” “Complexion”—really? Did they just let that slip? Certainly they couldn’t mean the project will further white-wash downtown Tacoma… could they?!

Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource.”
– Richard Florida

I must admit that I appreciate pretty things. In fact, if I was better-behaved and actually thought a condo and a career would bring me everlasting happiness, I’d be a perfect addition to Tacoma’s Creative Class. I like to sew and paint, and sometimes I write poetry. I work on a local magazine. Perhaps you are similar to me—maybe you’re a musical artist; maybe you take yoga classes. Maybe you don’t do any of these things, but wish you could. Maybe you’re happy to simply observe and appreciate a piece of theater or a dance performance. In theory then, we should be happy that the City government is attempting to stimulate creative enterprise and bring more art to Tacoma. But I’m not. I will not accept any ridiculous “revitalization” scheme that relies on reproducing and expanding capitalist relations, no matter how good it might look under coats of paint and varnish. Capitalism is necrophiliac—death-loving. It does not bring life but greedily consumes it.

Projects like SpaceWorks do nothing to fundamentally challenge the way things are. Capitalism does not work to benefit the grand majority of the world’s population, including most people right here in Tacoma. A tiny proportion of people are extremely rich, a few more comprise the comfortable, shrinking middle class, and the rest of us sell ourselves to survive, slogging off to work every day just to earn the money we need to meet our most immediate needs. Others take on an illegal means of subsistence and are thus in constant danger of ending up either dead or in jail. Some rely on state subsidies. No one is free because nothing is free. Our lives are chained to the system that is killing the earth and is, in so many very real ways, killing us as well.

When someone sells their art, they are turning their art into a commodity. A can of beans and a pair of jeans are both commodities. You can buy them with money. When things become commodities they enter into system of circulation in which all things are measured in terms of their monetary worth, a relative value. As the author of “The Occupation of Art and Gentrification” writes, “The ideology of art defines itself as a purely creative activity furthest removed from the dirty dealings of the market place but in reality art embodies the crazy logic of capitalism in its clearest form – the total domination of exchange value over use value.” This is why many collectors attempt to amass a fortune of valuable and rare works—because “good” art is money!

On paper, SpaceWorks and the litany of similar projects may sound pretty innocuous, even positive, but put into practice, arts-fueled gentrification has destroyed communities and displaced poor and working class people in cities all over the US and the world. When they are viewed through a wider lens, it is not difficult to see connections between projects like SpaceWorks and police operations like the recent Hilltop Crips “Conspiracy” case. Social Control wears many faces: there’s smiling Amy McBride at the Arts Commission and grim County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist in the courthouse. Together with other City bureaucrats, the Tacoma Police Department, the Business Improvement Area, the Chamber of Commerce, and local artists, they form a network of agents working to transform Tacoma into a yuppie playground. Their common aim is to cleanse and beautify Tacoma in order to entice new investment. They hope that by removing signs of poverty and a very real, pervasive hopelessness, Tacoma will suddenly burst forth with economic “life”. But is investment really what Tacoma needs? Does this city need more boutiques, cafes, bars, galleries, corporate headquarters, and tourist spots? That, of course, depends on who you ask.

Those who stand to substantially benefit financially from gentrification do, in a sense, “need” gentrification. The wealthy can only maintain their wealth by constantly creating and exploiting new sources of wealth. Gentrification has been extremely lucrative for some people, even as it has wrought disaster and loss for many more. The average Tacoman has little to gain from an idealized “Creative Tacoma.”

When I asked Amy McBride who she wanted to attract to Tacoma, she replied, “People who can employ people.” Am I supposed to be happy if I have the “opportunity” to work a low-wage barista job at a trendy new cafe? Should I jump for joy if there is an influx of wealthy parents who could hire me on as their private help? Certainly a few local artists, performers, and craftspeople could get their big break—but what about the rest of us?

The push for developing an economy based on “creative enterprise” is an old trick, as most of the City’s professional bureaucrats are acutely aware. The cover of the February 2010 CityArts magazine says it all: “BROOKLYN/OAKLAND/TACOMA? The next warehouse scene begins here.” In Oakland, CA, overflow from San Francisco has caused drastic changes in living costs and, therefore, in the race/class composition of many Oakland’s black and Latino neighborhoods. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, NY, thousands of poor and working class people have been priced out of neighborhoods like Williamsburg, the epicenter of vacuous hipster culture. Evidently the City of Tacoma and the business elite are after similar results. Perhaps that is the true meaning of Tacoma’s own “Art at Work” program—putting creativity to work in the service of gentrification is a mainstay of urban economic warfare.

When the South Tacoma Mall was built in 1965, the lion’s share of Tacoma’s commerce shifted south and downtown became a ghost town. Since the foundation of the Downtown Tacoma Business Improvement Area in 1988, local politicians and business and property owners have attempted to bring back downtown’s golden years. Though some new businesses have trickled in, and a targeted policing strategy has created a “business-friendly” level of security, downtown Tacoma’s boom years have likely passed. Though hopeful bureaucrats may hide their eyes and plug up their ears, all signs suggest that Tacoma’s money problems are intrinsically connected to the collapse of capitalism. Everywhere people scrape by on credit and food-stamps. Two branches of the Tacoma Public Library recently shut down. The county must add yet another regressive sales tax to maintain Pierce County Transit’s current service levels. The state of Washington is facing a $4.6 billion deficit and the legislature has cut all kinds of public assistance programs. The economy is in a tail-spin. Still, the elite schemes. Still, an alliance of government, business, and non-profit leaders attempt to make Tacoma more hospitable to the wealthy. One should expect no more or less of them. This is what they do.

Members of the Creative Class certainly are an innovative bunch. They claim to have all kinds of solutions to Tacoma’s pesky public image problem. But most of us have nothing to gain from their plans but another crappy job. We could buy what they’re selling and bow to the same old drudgery and tarted-up tyranny.

Or we could destroy it!

Originally published in Autonomy//253 #5 (2011)

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Response to Racist Graffiti At SCCC

submitted via email:


This picture was taken at midnight the evening of May 1st, 2014 on the windows of the SCCC student activity center. SCCC has a large Asian student body.


This despicable graffiti presents us with an opportunity to explain to everyone that actual anarchists believe in the universal equality of every person on the planet. There are no inferior races and every division based upon ethnicity is false. We fight for the universal liberation of all people from the ruling class of capitalists and the tyranny of wage slavery. Anyone who does not believe these basic truths is certainly not an anarchist.


The FBI, local law enforcement, or other hostile parties could have placed this graffiti in order to demonize the anarchist movement. But it is just as likely that a young white person from suburban King County stupidly equated anarchism with their own racism, bigotry, and intolerance. It is unlikely that we will ever know the truth.


Racial divisions have always been fostered and exacerbated by the ruling class in order to keep the poor and working classes fighting amongst themselves. We will not tolerate any racism, and if actual anarchists had observed the person responsible for this graffiti then a conflict would have surely erupted. We would prefer not to have any conflicts amongst the poor and working classes, but we will stop any racist tendencies that emerge in this capitalist prison.

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Counterforce: “The Strong Are Only Strong Because We Live on Our Knees”

reposted from Destroy Uber:

On Saturday night, a mob of people ran through the streets of Seattle, chasing down Uber cabs and detaining them amidst traffic.  Ten cars were detained and fliers were distributed to the drivers and passengers.  Hundreds of people witnessed this act of defiance against one of the most disgusting tech companies in existence.  To learn more about our motivations, read below the pictures






Stop The Uber Man

The leader of Uber is a man named Travis Kalanick, a 37-year-old sociopath from the superficial landscape of Los Angeles. He went to UCLA and joined the Theta Xi fraternity. A few years before he entered the university, Theta Xi drew widespread scorn when its internal fraternity songbooks were leaked, revealing the scope of the brotherhood’s racism and hatred of women. These drunken monsters would routinely sing lines like “maggots crawl out of her decomposed womb” and “the dirty fags who contracted AIDS and died.”


From this pool of misogynists, rapists, and business contacts, Kalanick launched himself into the dot-com boom of the late 1990′s. His first venture was a knock-off Napster, designed to divert money from the music industry and into his own pockets. At an early age, Kalanick became convinced that competition was the only force that could motivate him to do anything, so he set his aim at the music industry and was quickly knocked out by them. But to this foolish young capitalist, his defeat was only fuel to his blossoming free-market ideology.

In no time at all, this eager beaver had started another company. Red Swoosh started in 2001 and provided Kalanick with the affirmation he needed to continue believing in himself. Unsurprisingly, his new company was simply another Napster rip-off, but this time he succeeded in making it work. In his twisted imagination, he ascribed this success solely to himself and his ability to compete, ignoring the fact that he was harvesting the natural urge of people to share with each other and converting that human desire into revenue. For six years he extracted capital from all the people trusting enough to use his services.  “In a lot of ways, it’s not the money that allows you to do new things,” he told Wired. “It’s the growth and the ability to find things that people want and to use your creativity to target those.”  He seems to believe that his inner capitalist strength is the prime generator of all his wealth, and in this regard he is no different than any of the other Uber Men of the tech world.


This Is More Serious Than You Think

Nietzsche once wrote about the Uber Man, the perfectly evolved being that would leave humanity behind and fulfil the destiny of all of who came before. This Uber Man trampled on gods, morals, everything that kept him from becoming what he was: a dancing star, born of chaos. Just before he wrote about the Uber Man, all of the women in Nietzsche’s life had left him. In his despair, he withdrew into isolation and exalted himself on paper. Unfortunately for all of us, the idea of the Uber Man lingers on and as it turns out, the City Council of Seattle is quite enamoured by him. But we’ll get to that later.

Travis Kalanick cashed out when Red Swoosh was acquired for 15 million. With his share of the money, Kalanick went on to start Uber, the mobile app that connected passengers with a fleet of private taxi contractors. As Kalanick put it, “We just wanted to push a button and get a ride. And we wanted to get a classy ride. We wanted to be baller in San Francisco. That’s all it was about.” From these humble beginnings, Uber metastasised across the world after securing millions from angel investors and venture capitalists in 2011. In the three short years since then, Uber has made significant headway towards creating more and more service jobs catering to the ruling classes. Not only can people become drivers, they can now be bike messengers or even pilot helicopters for the super rich.

Kalnick views the contractors who generate his sacred capital as expendable pawns. If a driver suddenly drops from a 4.8 driving score to a 4.7, they are terminated without any explanation. In this competitive atmosphere, drivers are constantly fiddling with their smart phones and stressing about their next fare. During one such moment, a money-obsessed driver ploughed into a mother and her children on the streets of San Francisco. A six year old girl named Sofia Liu died because this driver cared more about maintaining his score and cramming in a few more fares than he did about paying attention to what—or who—was in the road in front of him. After her death, Uber did not assume liability and refused to compensate either the family or assume legal responsibility for their driver. According to Uber, because there were no passengers in the car, the man was not an Uber employee at the time. He was just a man in his car.


(Sofia Liu, RIP)

Can You Really Afford That Shit?

Since then, Uber has assumed liability for its drivers at all times, but we want to assure Kalanick that the ghost of Sofia will never leave him. Kalanick doesn’t seem to notice her, however. Time recently judged him to be one of the 100 most influential people and the magazine writer had these words to say about him: “Simply put, Uber is rad. Its co-founder, Travis Kalanick, is super rad. He’s savvy and driven. I can’t wait to see what he’ll conjure up next, as I’m sure it’ll be something I’ve never known that I’ve always needed but truly can’t live without.”

In Seattle, the acolytes of the local Uber PR team are constantly Tweeting about any and everything related to the company. When it was announced that Kalanick won the prestigious honour of being featured in another Time Magazine list, a woman named Jen Joyce told the Twitter following “our very own [Travis Kalanick] has been named one of Times most influential people.” Jen is the Seattle Community Manager for Uber and seems to be very dedicated to the CEO and the company. For the past two months, she has helped organize the Uber campaign to overturn a cap on the number of cars the company can put on Seattle streets. She and the Seattle team went to bar after bar and convinced drunken strangers to sign a petition supporting Uber freedom.


(View of Downtown Seattle from local Uber HQ in Smith Tower)

Over 36,000 people in Seattle signed their names on pieces of paper provided by Jen and her minions. 630,000 people live in the city, and only a minority of them use Uber. Getting a short ride from Capitol Hill to South Seattle costs around 30 dollars. Most of the people who work service jobs in order to pay rent and feed their children cannot afford to regularly use Uber as many techies and professionals do. As luck would have it, Uber figured a way around that.

By marketing itself as way to get shitfaced drunk and then get home safely, Uber is hoping to clean the pockets of everyone who wants to feel free on a night like this one. Most people want to feel free, especially when they are not, and alcohol is a good way to pretend. On top of the forty dollars they might spend on booze and food, the average Saturday night drunk can now spend another thirty on an Uber cab. Uber Seattle is always offering discounts for people who go to bars, who love happy hour, who like to get wasted, who dig getting totally fucked up, and who also like to drink. Without the desire to escape produced by this sick capitalist society, Uber would be lacking in drunks to ferry home every night. But of course none of the success of Uber has anything to do with the passengers, or with their misery, or with Jen’s fierce and terrifying identification with her CEO. No, the success of Uber has only one source, and you already know who we’re talking about.

And Now Here Comes The Politicians

We are anarchists, not socialists. We want the abolition of the economy, the destruction of capitalism, and the immediate communization of all shareable resources. But clearly we are nowhere near this state of affairs, just as the socialists are nowhere near their own conception of socialism. But like Robert De Niro says, “We’re all in it together, kid.”

Our friendly socialist Kshama Sawant in the City Hall tried to push for a cap on the number of Uber cars on the road and spoke publicly about Goldman Sachs (along with Google and Jeff Bezos) being a major investor in Uber. Burgess, Bagshaw, and Rasmussen were the only council members to oppose the cap. Nevertheless, despite their allegiances and power plays, it was the capitalists that decided the matter for the City of Seattle, not the other way around.

Sometimes the capitalists try to sound like anarchists. Travis Kalanick wants to undermine every City Hall he encounters and render its laws meaningless. But in the end, he wants the laws to favor him and him alone. He is the Uber Man after all, and if the state wants to keep him down, then he should be free to hijack the state and make it serve his ends. Like the besieged capitalists in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, people like Travis Kalanick will compete with everyone on their way to the top, trampling on their workers and ignoring ghosts like Sofia.

With the click of a button, Kalanick will completely destabilize and undermine African immigrant communities in Seattle. Just as once he disrupted the music and taxi industries, now he can disrupt the lives of individual families. Dozens of cab owners are currently threatened by the unrestrained expansion of Uber, and if the company is allowed to discard any regulation, multiple families will lose a significant portion of their monthly incomes when Uber overtakes the smaller taxi services. In the cannibalistic utopia of the free market capitalists, this is the normal way of things. In their world, everyone must live on their knees so that the Uber Men may be great.

Happy May Day, Champ!

We find this disgusting, and hopefully after reading this, you do as well. As anarchists, we want to encourage people to come together to build a new world while rebelling against the obvious and blatant exploitation around us. Act now, act relentlessly, and do not hesitate. Please act now, as quickly as possible, and do anything you think will make a difference. Don’t go through the normal channels, don’t rely on the government. Do it yourself. Talk to your neighbours, get on the same page, and regain the dignity you probably didn’t realize you had lost.

Anarchism is a practice and a philosophy, as broad as it is diverse, so don’t come looking to join the party. If you hate arbitrary authority, if you know how to share, and if you want the people around you to be safe, you’re probably an anarchist.

We don’t have any fucking money, that’s for sure, and we hope everyone reading this knows that everyone else is also broke as hell. There are more of us than there are CEO’s, though, so don’t forget that. They have a lot of money and the state at their disposal, but if enough of us figure our predicament out, we could knock them all on their asses on a single day. Hopefully we get there. Keep up the good fight whoever you people are.

We haven’t even started messing with Uber. Stay tuned.

Remember Sofia

Death To Capitalism

Long Live Anarchy

-The Counterforce

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Counterforce Blocks Microsoft Shuttle in Central District (Seattle)

reposted from PSA:

This morning around 8AM, near the intersection of Madison and 23rd Ave, a small
Counterforce assembled to block another Microsoft shuttle bus in another heavily
gentrified Seattle neighborhood. For roughly 30 minutes, people holding banners
reading “GENTRIFICATION STOPS HERE” blocked the front and back ends of the bus.
Others attempted to distribute flyers to the Microsoft employees boarding the bus,
but they were grumpy and only two took them. During the delay in what is probably a boring and uneventful commute every other day, they sat in quiet misery, playing with their smart phones, not even really talking to each other.

Act One


The gentrification of Seattle is an oft forgotten tale, buried underneath glossy advertisements for new houses and below the foundations of sleek apartment buildings. While the first dot-com boom of the late nineties was bringing gentrification to different Seattle neighborhoods, something evil was unfolding in the streets of the Central District, one of the historically black neighborhoods of the city. While multiple Microsoft employees colonized the neighborhood, a federal program called Weed and Seed forcefully removed entire multi-generational black families from their homes.


Weed and Seed was a program sponsored by the Department of Justice and implemented by the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, the Seattle Police Department, Seattle Parks Department, Seattle Housing Authority, land speculators, neighborhood groups, and individual gentrifiers. The federal government initially allocated 1.1 millions dollars for the Seattle program in 1991. Two thirds of this money was dedicated to law enforcement, the remaining third was used for social services.


While federal and local law enforcement began targeting young black men, locking them up and destroying their families in the Weed aspect of this operation, the Seed aspect began grooming neighborhood groups to internalize the hierarchy being imposed upon them. These groups were encouraged to snitch on their neighbors for every reason from trash in the yard to suspected drug deals. In this way, law enforcement outsourced its intelligence gathering to these neighborhood groups. In exchange for helping to lock up and evict their neighbors, these groups were awarded access to city resources, development projects, the passage of ordinances, bus routes, and grants.


Act Two


In 1996, Washington Governor Gary Locke arrived at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Madison Valley. A young black student from the neighborhood followed him around as his escort. The two of them walked down the hallways together, touring the building. At this elementary school, the young black student had been trained by Microsoft employees in the use of JavaScript on a computer running the Windows 95 operating system. In 1996, this elementary school was one of the best in the city in terms of discipline and achievement. While this school provided its abundant resources to the majority black student population, Microsoft employees and other gentrifiers began moving into Madison Valley so their own children could attend.


The young black student was raised a block away from the elementary school. He knew of a plum tree up the hill from his house and would quench his thirst with plum juices in the summer, a time when these plums were the most refreshing. One day in 1997, he arrived at the location of the plum tree to find a stump, hidden behind a new fence. A young white student lived in this house with his parents. The young black student captained the elementary school chess club in which this young white student played. Both of his parents were members of the local neighborhood groups. The father of this household worked for Microsoft.


This family was part of a broad movement of gentrifiers, ranging from gay couples to aspiring parents, all belonging to the same socio-economic class and perpetuating the same prefab aesthetic. From 1995 to 1997, the percentage of households in the Central District without children increased from 57% to 73%. Buried within this piece of data is the story of all the multi-generational black families that were incarcerated, evicted, ripped apart, and weeded out so that these new residents could begin seeding the area. In the same time period, the black population of the Central District decreased from more than half to less than one third, while the white population increased from 13% to 43%


In 1997, the young black student’s best friend had an uncle with a drug habit. His uncle did not live in the family house but used it as a mailing address for social services. It was a stable space where he knew his family could always receive the mail he needed. When the authorities arrested him for his habit, the City of Seattle used the mailing address as grounds to begin evicting the family using the variety of legal mechanisms provided by the Weed and Seed program. After the family was evicted and the house was seized, the young black student only saw his best friend once in the next fifteen years. His friend’s family moved south to Kent and disappeared from Central District life. This family was one of the many weeds removed by the federal gentrification program.


Act Three


Starting in 1997, the housing prices in Seattle began to sharply increase month by month. The first tech bubble and the national housing bubble arrived simultaneously in Seattle. Thanks to Microsoft, Amazon, and the startups, more and more tech employees began invading the Central District. At the crescendo of the first tech bubble in 1999, Seattle property values had jumped over 18% since 1997. When the bubble burst in 2000, these housing prices continued to rise, in part because of the stability of Microsoft and the local housing market.


The young black student noticed that Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School had begun to decline. Due in part to the new childless professionals moving into the area, enrollment began to drop at the school. Funding was consistently cut to the school and by 2003 the idea of closing it was first proposed. In the Central District, the grandparents of children born in the 1980’s began to pass away, leaving the family houses to their children. An average single family house in the Central District was worth $190,000 in 2001. By 2003, that home would be worth $262,000.


Suddenly these children were being offered a quarter of a million dollars for the family house, a sum of money few had ever conceptualized or encountered. The incentive for these black families to leave their neighborhoods only increased, especially as the Weed and Seed continued to lock up young black men and women. By 2005, the average single family home was worth $355,000 and the black population continued to decline in the Central District.


In 2006, the doors of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary were closed, just as the Weed and Seed program released its final report. A woman named Betsy Harris, co-chair of the Weed and Seed Steering Committee, summed up the program as follows: “It’s the big picture, and as overwhelming as it seemed at first, we have all worked hard and our community is being revitalized, one block at a time!” By the time she said this, many gentrifiers had been living in the neighborhood for a decade.


Final Act


At the end of 2007, the national housing bubble burst, sending Seattle housing prices down for the first time since the beginning of the boom in 1997. But by this point, most of the original black residents had been weeded out of the Central District. In 2009, the traditionally black T.T. Minor school closed its doors after suffering the same fate as Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary. Microsoft went mostly unaffected by the recession, so much so that it began running the Connector Shuttle into all of the neighborhoods its employees had gentrified.


Microsoft employees continued to move into the Central District throughout the deepening recession, exacerbating the problem that had led to the closure of the elementary schools. While these schools were boarded up, Bill Gates continued to push his ideology of charter schools and standardized testing. It is difficult to see these two processes as separate. On the one hand, the majority of the Central District black population had been removed and deprived of its traditional schools. At the same time, the proliferation standardized testing allowed for schools to be deprived of their funding if they did not perform according to a rigid criteria. This allowed people like Bill Gates to point at the boarded-up schools and low test scores as objective proof that his ideology of charter schools was superior to public education.


Beyond this, the high capitalists of Seattle like Bill Gates, Bill Gates, Sr., Jeff Bezos, and Paul Allen, diverted some of their money into an organization that reflected their capitalist ethics: Rainier Scholars. This philanthropic organization selected poor elementary students of color and enabled them to become good capitalists. The very white and very protestant work ethic was spread like a religion amongst these young students of color. Rainier Scholars tracked and monitored specific students throughout their academic careers and encouraged them to enroll in private schools at the first opportunity.


By the time these students reached college age, Rainier Scholars helped place these students in the same white hierarchy that had destroyed their neighborhoods and limited their opportunities. This pipeline to higher education, facilitated by the closure of neighborhood schools, insulated these select students from their own communities and culture and championed the dominant culture of corporate loyalty, self-denial, and consumerism. If they worked hard enough, these students might one day work for Microsoft and be able to take the Connector Shuttle with the other gentrifiers.


The gentrification of the Central District is all but complete. The white population is now over 60%, the highest it has ever been. The young black student mentioned in this text is now a service worker, still living in Madison Valley at his family home. The young white student whose family cut down the plum tree is now employed by one the tech giants in Silicon Valley. Today there are gentrifiers in the Central District who can claim to have been in the neighborhood for almost twenty years. These people can reassure other gentrifiers that it is okay to move into the Central District. They say we are all uprooted anyway and that community can be whatever you want to be. But the community of gentrifiers that exists today in the Central District has almost no conception of the brutality that allowed them to move into houses that once belonged to multi-generational black families.


We tell this story as a warning. The techniques of gentrification practiced in Seattle over the past twenty years are now being exported south. Our comrades in San Francisco and Oakland should know that if they do not fight with all of their hearts, what happened in the Central District can happen again in another neighborhood. We wish everyone luck in their struggles against gentrification.


For the love of the Central District

For the end of Microsoft

For the end of gentrification


-The Counterforce


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On the Seattle Metropolitan Project and its Consequences

Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes watching a crew tear down a brick wall, and I thought of the workers, long since dead, who first built that wall. As much as I love the new, I remain haunted by the old. Just like you. Just like this neighborhood.

 -Sherman Alexie, South Lake Union, 2012


This story starts, simply enough, with some power lines.  Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has begun advertising its new plan: Energize Eastside.  They propose to build 18 miles of additional electrical transmission lines between Renton and Redmond.  The new lines will be able to handle 230 kilovolts as opposed to the current 115 kilovolt lines.  In the process of building this new infrastructure, PSE will seize land from private owners, tear down more trees, and in certain cases bulldoze entire houses.

PSE is promoting Energize Eastside as a necessary expansion that will decrease the chance of blackouts during future storms.  However, it is no secret that the Microsoft campus is in Redmond where the proposed power lines begin and that a Boeing factory is in Renton where the proposed power lines end.  Scattered around these new lines are the Costco headquarters in Issaquah, T-Mobile US headquarters in Bellevue, and Google’s expanding Kirkland campus.  Energize Eastside is built for these companies and the project reflects their needs.


For example, Microsoft has a nearly secret data center in Tukwila that barely shows up in any search algorithm.  Located at 3333 S. 120th Place, just down the hill from the Seattle Department of Homeland Security headquarters, the T5 data center houses an unknown amount of Microsoft servers.  This data center uses a massive amount of electricity and represents only a fraction of Microsoft’s local energy needs.

On March 19th, PSE will host their first neighborhood meetings on the proposed route of the Energize Eastside power lines.  Redmond, Bellevue, and Renton will each host several of these meetings until May.  It will most prudent to attend these events and make them difficult for the architects of this new corporate project. Continue reading

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Cause or Effect?


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March 10, 2014 · 4:08 pm

The Hood Ain’t The Same

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