Living and Fighting: Atlanta Activists Show Eugene How it's Done

J. Ellis #climate #opinion

Not so long ago Eugene, Oregon was the hotbed of the green anarchy movement: a reputation that resulted in feds kicking doors down in the Whiteaker and the Chicago Tribune declaring this small university town the “cradle to [the] latest generation of anarchist protestors,” at the dawn of the 21st century. But let’s face it, Eugene’s scene has taken a hit from the pandemic and fragmented leftist disunity.

Its glory days are long over; many organizations have struggled with loss of membership and participation as Eugene’s radical rep fades to memory.

But hark! There is hope yet.

Eugene’s radical pulse has recently attracted a small pilgrimage of Atlanta activists, here to check out the state of the scene in a place that once defined green anarchy.

On Friday night, November 5, the Neighborhood Anarchist Collective sponsored a presentation called “Living and Fighting: The last ten years of autonomous struggle in Atlanta from Occupy to Defend the Forest,” where a couple of organizers from Atlanta showed Eugene how it’s done in 2021.

The organizers came bearing zines that detail the last decade of anarchist struggle in the region. Next time you’re at a zine swap (or the ROAR center) keep an eye out for At the Wendy’s: Armed Struggle at the End of the World, Don’t Die Wondering: Atlanta Against the Police, and the simple yet effective, How to Start a Fire: an invitation, for exceptional and informative reads about lessons from Atlanta direct actions.

The presentation itself was inspiring, Atlanta knows how to throw down. If you’re an organizer in Eugene, you better have jotted mental notes. While you may associate Eugene with trees sooner than Atlanta, the city actually has the highest percentage of tree canopy of any major metropolitan area in America. As a result, the close proximity of forest to this urban center has massive ramifications for issues of environmental justice. In Dekalb County, the South River Forest was used as the site of a prison labor farm throughout the 20th century. Now, the city’s forest defense community is banding together to prevent Hollywood from clearing this land—now a public park—to build a production studio, and stop the construction of a 300-acre “mock city” designed for police training.

Key to this struggle’s successes is the diversity of participation at these direct actions.

Atlanta’s activist community is composed of an array of tightly interwoven affinity groups that show up in enthusiastic droves for actions. Some standout initiatives highlight the various approaches the ATL scene uses and how they complement each other to foster community solidarity. Projects, initiatives, and groups utilize various facets to engage people in their politics such as: community organizing spaces, community kitchens/gardens, forest festivals, and recreational activities like Bike Life, a collective that gathers to ride BMX bikes in the Atlanta streets/forests while doubling as some of its most staunch defenders.

We can stand to learn a thing or two from these Atlanta forest defenders as they exemplify what effective community outreach and intersectional organizing can look like.

So, Eugene, let’s not waste anymore time. We have no excuse not to employ tactics and strategies proven to be effective elsewhere, so what’s the delay?

What is stopping you or your organization, fellow organizers from throwing a rave in forests scheduled for clearcuts, hosting that benefit show/zine swap in your backyard, or scoping out spots to start up our very own autonomous community and organizing center? Let’s organize with intention and envision the larger goal of nourishing our very own symbiotic mutual aid network. All of the building blocks are already there, and the last few weeks of direct actions and forest defense are a testament to that.

Meaningful networks are waiting to evolve—actualize these networks with a simple “hello, my name is…” maybe followed by “solidarity,” and we might just start to see the mobilization of hundreds of people ready to take a stand for their land and neighbors. Let’s catch up with Atlanta’s momentum.

Keep up to date and learn about Atlanta’s forest defense and other organizing at the link below: