Calling the Cops vs. Rewilding
A while back an anonymous person mailed me a giant rock with an insulting remark attached to it. I interpreted it as a form of intimidation and I called the police. They sped over to my house, took finger prints off the rock, crime scene photos, interviewed all of my neighbors and roommates, interrogated the Fedex employees, ran the prints through the database, enhanced the security video feed to get a perfect image of the perps face and put an APB out across America. They apprehended the suspect almost instantaneously and imprisoned them for the rest of eternity, justice served.
Actually none of that happened. It was, after all… just a rock in the mail.
I know that right now you may have the thought running through your head, “Wait a minute Urban Scout. How can you write a blog called Calling the Cops vs. Rewilding when you yourself called the cops!?!” I know it may seem hypocritical for me to write about this. But I think it actually provides me with the perfect context to write about why calling the cops feels, or rather felt, stupid and what we can do about these kinds of things in the future.
Blame it on my obsession with the show Law and Order but I believed that, in spite of their underlying purpose of keeping business and commerce protected, that they still would have to do some kind of protecting and serving of people. I always assumed that they at least protected people in some way or other. When I had a civilian reason to call the cops, an anonymous person harassing me, I called them up. The phone call lasted about a minute and a half.
Cop: Hello. Portland Police department.
Scout: Um. Hi… Uh… Someone mailed me a rock with an insult attached to it. I guess I’d like to file a police report?
Cop: What’s your name and address?I tell him.
Scout: I think its like a threat or something.
Cop: Alright it’s in the computer. Goodbye. (Click)
I wrote on my blog that I “called the police” and that they didn’t help me (duh!). That half minute conversation which went no where, caused a slew of teenage anarchists to attack me all over the web (probably some of the same group who sent me the rock to begin with). They called me a snitch and a narc and all those other secret police title insults. Before this, I did not understand that to anarchists (which I don’t identify as because most of the people who identify as anarchists that I know act like fucking assholes to each other), you can’t call the cops even for normal day to day policing type stuff. Whoops! (as a side note, how do anarchists feel about more serious things like abused women calling the cops?)
They don’t understand how I see the police. I don’t see them as part of my culture. I don’t think of them as “my police”. In fact… I don’t even see them as human. I see them as a different kind of animal. A civilized predator. I deal with them much in the same way I would deal with an aggressive bear. Stay calm. Don’t intimidate. Don’t run. Act nice. If they assault you, play dead. Respect them (as predators who could fuck you up without retribution). I don’t respect them as people who deserve my respect, but rather as powerful creatures whom demand my respect by using the threat of violence and death. Much like a loaded firearm; I respect a loaded fire arm not on moral grounds, but simply because it can kill me.
If you fight a police officer on their own ground, meaning, they have a uniform on, a weapon on their belt a radio on their chest, then they will do their job: keep you in line with violence. When someone commits an act of violence to someone higher on the hierarchy, the hierarchy must retaliate with greater violence. One time my friend stuck her tongue out at a cop who then ran up and twisted her arm. Her gesture assaulted him symbolically and he met her assault with a greater one manifesting the violence in the physical. Must keep the sheep in line. For this reason, I do not go to protests or any event that may bring out the police. Generally if I see the police, I turn and walk the opposite direction. Like bears, they have a language you can understand and read, but sometimes individuals will act spontaneously. Best to avoid them altogether.
When viewed this way, I neither see them as “good” nor “evil” but rather as serving a particular function in the urban ecosystem of civilization, of which I have tried to separate myself mentally as much as possible. I don’t see them as “my police” but rather “the police”. In this way, I don’t feel particularly bad about sicking them on someone who has fucked with me, the same way I wouldn’t mind sicking a bear on someone who has fucked with me. But really, I didn’t “sick” them on anyone. I filed a police report so that a legal record would exist that showed a history of intimidation if these people continued to harass me. I didn’t expect them to help me find out who wanted to intimidate me and they didn’t.
If we think of them as a large street gang (paid for by our own taxes to assist in forcing us to pay taxes…) we can see the unpredictable nature of their actions. Calling them because you need their help doesn’t necessarily mean they will help you. In fact, they might end up shooting you dead in your own house on a simple matter. Don’t invite them unless you understand the gamble. Know how to treat them, etc.
I grew up with a friend who now works as a police officer.Â While I see the person I grew up with as my friend, when they put the uniform on they become just another cog in the machine. Well, a cog with a gun and the full support of those in power and legal system. I wouldn’t think to make friends with one of them, but as ordinary people, I don’t mind them anymore than any other member of this culture. I hate generalizing people as anything, and particularly as “cops”. But while I hate “cops” I don’t hate people, who make up the organization of “cops”.
Enough about cops. So when someone harasses me… Who do I call? A problem exists here; I want to deal with things on a community level, which may mean doing things outside of or above the law. If we can’t rely on the police to solve our problems, to make us feel safe, then what other methods do we have? If we ignore the law and start solving our own problems, we may come under fire by the law itself. So in order to create a supported community, do we have to break the law? When community policing turns criminal, only criminals will act as community police? Obviously, in some instances, not calling the cops can land you in a lot more trouble with the legal system than calling them. So… you know. Every instance is particular and I never recommend any blanket dogmas like, “under no circumstances should you call the cops”.
It all depends on the crime. Things like murder, can’t really avoid the legal system. But for smaller things like anonymous intimidation and threats, doing your own detective work can feel rewarding and gratifying. If you like mysteries, than you’ll love it. My thirst for mysterious came from my training tracking animals. As a tracker, you learn the basics of investigation and following leads. I used these skills to find out the identity of “Hippie Scout” when he wrote into the Mercury to challenge me. And I used the same skill set to track down the identity of the person who mailed me the package.
After receiving the package I made a list of clues. The package was addressed to Urban Scout. This means that the person knew of me as Urban Scout and what I do as Urban Scout, which limits them to a small number of people, since Rewilding is a very small subculture. The packing slip listed my business as “Domesticario Inc.” This implied that the person who sent it understood the concepts of rewilding (or some basic anarcho-primitivism stuff) and were calling me domesticated as some form of insult. The package came to my new house before I gave out the address. This meant that someone passing through the house in the two weeks that I lived there, or one of the other roommates had given my address out. My first impression was that the roommate named “Jack”, who also goes by “Finn”, could be the culprit since he is vegan and had argued with me about some things and overall seemed pretty shady. Although, he acted nice enough and we had started to make a friendly bond and I thought he was fine, if a little simple minded and immature (but an AMAZING fiddle player).
Since every Fedex package has a tracking number, I looked up where the package came from. It came from a particular store in Emmeryville CA, or really Oakland California. This automatically looked pretty bad for Jack, since he had just moved up from Oakland. The paranoia running through me was hard to contain. I called the Fedex office and asked to speak with an employee who had been working the day before (the package was shipped over night). They told me that a woman had mailed the package. I called the Portland Police and filed my police report. I wanted to get the surveillance footage from Fedex, but they wouldn’t give it to me. I wanted to see how my roommates would react once I told them that I called the police. I also lied and said that Fedex was mailing me a picture. Jack immediately “had to go to the store” which I could tell meant, “call and warn his friends”.
Of course, body language can’t convict anyone, but what you do with your body can. I moved out immediately, but I came back a couple weeks later to get a few things when I noticed a letter on the table addressed to “Jack, Teenage Anarchy” from a girl in Oakland, CA. I snapped a photo of the handwriting with my cell phone and went home where I matched it with the handwriting on the Fedex slip. It was ridiculously the same person. Now, not only did I have her first name; Naomi, but her return address as well. Clearly, these aren’t people who know how to cover their tracks very well (or don’t care).
After I uncovered Naomi’s identity and location, I didn’t do anything with this information. I simply have it. Should the need ever arise. In the end, no harm came of me. However, this girl has an affiliation with the vegan group in SF that pied Lierre Kieth in the face. If I lived in San Fransisco and could have done some surveillance myself, and would have easily found the identity of those people too. And really, I could have pulled some favors and had friends down there do that for me, but I didn’t want to drag anyone else into it. Instead, I find it best to do nothing in response. After all, their stunt back-fired and won her national publicity which boosted the sales of her book tremendously. Clearly these aren’t activists who understand tactics. And thank goodness for that.
I like that story because for me, I know that I can rely on my wits to do the sleuthing for me. I knew I would find out who sent the rock in a matter of time. With this information, I feel safe. The anonymity of the rock scared me. Knowing that Naomi sent it and that Jack gave her the address (perhaps he coaxed her into sending it?) makes me feel at ease. It gives a name and face to the attacker, should I ever need to follow up on it. Either on my own, with my community, or with the police or legal system.
If we want a community that doesn’t require the police, we need to get serious. We need to stop acting nice. We need to take sides. When I found out who sent the rock, and that it had come through Jack, he had already moved out of the house and off to another city. What if I hadn’t moved out, but figured out it he had done it and held a house meeting. What would we have decided to do? What penalty does someone pay for violation of privacy and trust? Remember, he pretended to befriend me up until I told him I called the cops (on his friends). I had no idea. Even now, my other roommates from that house still live there. Would they have kicked him out of the house? He left anyway. Beat him up? No. They would have, at the most, whined about it (but without raising their voice) and then told me to get over it.
When Lierre Kieth called the police after being pied by Naomi’s friends, I wrote a comment of support on the San Francisco indymedia page. I wrote:
“This behavior is insane, and not surprising. I don’t understand why people are all like, “don’t call the cops”. What other accountability is there? Are there anarchists who will hunt down these three assholes and beat the fuck out of them? I didn’t think so. As much as I wish I could beat the fuck out of people who harass women (and men) like this, I’d end up going to jail when they called the cops on me. That’s sort of the joke of anyone saying “don’t call the cops”. It comes from a privileged position of not being the one who got fucked with. Let’s fuck with you and see what choices you have. It’s easier to bitch at someone for calling the cops then it is to come up with a different choice that brings balance and justice. Not that cops do that, but it’s the only choice we have cultural support for. I completely stand behind Lierre. If it wasn’t obvious already. I say let’s not let this kind of bullshit happen again. Let’s get serious about defending ourselves from psychotic people like this. Ideas?”
Of course, no one really gave this any thought, and John Zerzan on his radio show (the fox news of anti-civ) mis-quoted me as saying I only said “she didn’t have any other choice” and of course, no one talked about actual solutions to create and enforce community policing. Ironically, if I ever see Jack again, I am much more likely to start crying and asking him why he acted like my friend and betrayed my trust, than I am to physically assault him. Does that make me the better person? I don’t think so. Maybe he does deserve a good lickin’.
How can we even hold people accountable if they just keep running away (like you Jack) with their tail between their legs, from anarchist flop house to anarchist flop house. Welcome to the “anarchist” subculture of children who wear masks while pieing middle aged women and who skip town when they have their identity discovered. Even if they were hunted down and physically assaulted… is that really their punishment? Does that actually change them? Make them accountable? Maybe they don’t care. What about Banishment? How can you banish someone from a subculture where everyone is a transient, changing their name and city every other month?
As activists we sort of have this idea that “we’re all in this together” but the reality is that we are not. Theoretically we should be helping each other, but instead are malicious and vindictive. “Horizontal Hostility” they call it. I assumed that they were part of my community to begin with, and not enemies from the start. This only happened because I moved into a house with strangers (fellow activists, right?), and didn’t think that it mattered. Most people don’t know me as Urban Scout, so I figured none of these people would. But I guess as “anarchists” they knew about me and secretly hated me? Note to self: never move in with strangers. Especially those who identify as anarchists. Similarly, Lierre Kieth was pied in a foreign city, by strangers in a subculture that basically has to hate her. Where was her posse? She didn’t know she needed one until then. To start creating community policing we need to no longer assume that strangers, regardless of subcultural or cultural affiliations, stand as our allies or as part of our community.
I will leave you with several questions to ponder. How do we start building a community where we no longer feel we need to call the cops? How do we define who lives in our community and who doesn’t? Did the conflict arise between a community member, or a stranger? What kinds of accountability will we have, and what kinds of consequences will we have to hold people accountable? How do we deal with outsiders intimidating us? How do you deal with something like rape? Murder? Assault? Theft? Sit down and really think about these things. Grab a member of your community or gather them all up and have these conversations.
In the end, I have a huge community of support and have no need to call the police. I used my wits, and my friends to do the work I needed to do to feel safe again. Before this happened, I didn’t know that existed for me. Now I do. I know who I can trust, and who is there for me. I now know that when something like this happens again, there is a much more powerful force to call on than the cops. And I’m here for those people as well.