The writing of this statement was prompted by rumors circulating the internet that the person alleged to have shot over 70 people in an Aurora movie theater on July 20 was a member of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross. These claims are patently and maliciously false. James Holmes is not a member of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross, nor is he known to us in any way. It should not have to be said, but we will say it anyway: The members of Denver ABC along with any anarchists we have ever met, would never condone the calculated and intentional killing of random people. We are in fact actively and daily engaged in work to stop such tragic and horrific acts of violence at a systemic level.
As residents of Denver it was with shock, horror, and great sadness that members of our collective awoke on July 20, 2012 to news of a mass shooting at a movie theater in nearby Aurora that left 12 people dead and some 59 people wounded. Many of us spent our day anxiously listening to the news, wondering if we knew anyone who had been hurt, or even worse, killed. As the day drug on, and we started to be able to piece together some of the details of the shooting, emotions ran high. We listened intently as family members described watching their children shot, and those of us who are parents held our children close to us, filled with dread and immense despair. All of us spent our day filled with love and empathy for those who had endured such tragedy.
As the morning turned to afternoon, our shock and horror was interrupted by alarm and anger, as we were notified that a group of people were using twitter and online forums to link our organization to the alleged shooter, James Holmes. What seems to have started as an online blog post from a very shady far right-wing blogger that the suspect was a “black bloc anarchist”, had spiraled into an allegation that the shooter was a member of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross. It is with the most vehement and stern feelings that we wish to set the record straight. Not only was James Holmes not a member of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross, but no one we know even knew him or had knowingly ever met him.
The rumor linking our organization to this individual seems to stem from Luke Rudowski, the founder of We Are Change, a right wing conspiracy theory based organization that found its roots in the early days of the Tea Party and has since latched onto the Occupy Wall Street movement. At 3:21pm, he tweeted out the following tweet: “this is going to come out in the MSM soon but my friends in Denver tell me James Holmes was apart (sic) of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross”.
This erroneous and malicious statement hit us like a sack of bricks. We were shocked. Horrified. Nauseated. This tweet went “viral” within moments, spreading across the more conspiracy based elements of the Occupy and Libertarian movements on twitter and then to online forums. Not only were anarchists to be vilified and condemned, but our specific organization became, and remains, a target.
No attempt was offered to give any evidence to the claim. Much like the supposed state agents and members of the “mainstream media” that Luke Rudowski and so many from We Are Change claim they are fighting against, they made an unverifiable claim, with no research or foundational evidence, and stated it as fact. This was dangerous, irresponsible, and mirrored the tactics of the FBI.
Although Luke has since removed this claim, and has said he was “wrong” about his allegations, the damage has been done. Once a rumor is started on the internet, it’s almost impossible to extinguish. We have received multiple emails and inquiries seeking comments from media sources, and our blog received 20 times its traditional daily traffic. And it doesn’t seem to be subsiding any time soon, as our name is now associated with mass murder.
We Are Change, as an organization, is a group that thrives off simple answers to complex questions. With thinly veiled anti-semitism and traditional conspiracy theory logic, the problems of our society are not due to complex social, economic, and political relationships like capitalism, the nation-state project, white supremacy or patriarchy, but instead are just problems created by bogeymen like enemies, like “the Fed” or “the Bilderbergers” or “the NWO” or “the Jews”. Instead of actually asking tough questions and trying to build real complex analysis of why things are the way they are, it becomes easier to wash themselves of any culpability for being a part of a replicated social relationship, and just blame the “shadowy figures behind the curtain.”
This one dimensional logic was thus applied to the tragedy in Aurora. Instead of an analysis that actually seeks to investigate the complex relationships and conditions that lead to tragic events like mass murder, it’s easier to blame a small group of people. In this case, the Denver Anarchist Black Cross. In this way, Luke and others from We Are Change can wash their hands of any social responsibility. It can’t be a complex social phenomenon… it has to be the work of a secretive organization!
We might have been able to consider this the only reason that Luke and others at We Are Change would choose our organization to target with their allegations: it was an easy option. However, this isn’t the first time that Denver ABC has been targeted for neutralization by We Are Change.
In December, Denver ABC discontinued our role as the legal team for Occupy Denver after repeated incidents of harassment and physical confrontation with members of the local chapter of We Are Change. This culminated in an event where members of We Are Change shouted down a member of Denver ABC who was addressing a crowd, by bellowing that she was a “member of the CIA”.
Luke Rudowski and We Are Change chose this moment, just as all political pundits do, to attack their political enemies and work to neutralize and discredit them: part CoIntelPro tactic of bad jacketing and making baseless accusations without any evidence whatsoever, and part political posturing.
Luke and We Are Change are spitting on the bodies of those who lost their lives with these sloppy tactics, and attempting to use someone else’s tragedy to grow their own political power by rehashing old disagreements with a political foe.
Undoubtedly, We Are Change are not alone in these types of actions. Whether it’s those on the institutional left pushing for gun control, or those on the right pushing for more police powers or a re-strengthening of fundamentalist religious values, hacks on all sides of the political spectrum are scrambling to push their own attempts to secure power at the expense of those who senselessly died in that dark Aurora movie theater.
And in the end, all of these people miss the forest for the trees. We live in an insane and violent culture. One that was founded upon mass genocide and slavery. We live in a culture that celebrates genocidal generals as “war heroes”, where military training happens in schools, where kids are bred from the youngest of ages to want to go conquer and occupy foreign countries. We live in a culture where it is always easier for people to get firearms than it is to get mental health treatment; where the only answer anyone seems to have for how this situation could have been dealt with revolves around the question of firearms. None of us heard a single person that has spoken on any media outlet, including alternative outlets, that spoke about the cultures of violence that surround us, or about access to mental health care, or necessary social services. All talk was centered on firearms: whether to ban them, or make sure the state gets more.
Let’s be clear, this is not a call for gun control. The members of Denver ABC have been quite clear on our stance on gun ownership and the right to defend communities and individuals from violence. However, even as proponents of gun ownership as a means of self defense, we cannot help but question why it is that no one has started a conversation around other aspects of this complex social phenomenon. Why do mass murders affect our communities? Why does this level of violence happen on such a regular cycle? Why would someone who shoots up a movie theater be (rightfully) vilified in a city where a celebratory statue of a man who helped massacre indigenous people by the tens of thousands is perched just yards away from the City and County Building?
Until we start to try to actually examine complex social relationships, and ask hard questions that may also indict ourselves as active contributors to this violent spectacle of a society, questions that may lead us to a critical analysis of our entire culture and way of life, we may never really have any answers on how to prevent these horrible tragedies. In fact, the longer we avoid asking these questions, and building a complex and critical understanding of the insane society we live in, the more often tragedies like this will occur.
As the members of the Denver Anarchist Black Cross continue in our work to build a free, just, and liberatory society our thoughts stand with the victims of this horrible tragedy.
In mourning and in rage,
DABC July 21, 2012.