So support my work and buy a dang thing! More zines and crafts coming soon, and a book a few years out!!
I’ve got a new personal zine out as well as a new collaboration!! Check them out at the links on archive.org below!Both zines debuted at the 8th annual Richmond Zine Fest!
Fragments of Karnage #365 – featuring poems, essays and articles, and more!
And Issue 1 of Calm Down, a call out for more effective tactics in radical/social justice/ anarchist movements.
Anarcho-Redneck Response to Recent Richmond Open Carry
by Mo Karnage
Richmond has been all in a tizzy over some recent exercising of the right to open carry guns. We’ve had some folks carrying guns in Target, and other carrying them in Carytown. Appearances of guns and those toting them at both locations seem to upset the delicate sensibilities of those who enjoy their capitalism from a more middle class seat. As my friend Dave says, the violence that happens at Target is all in the products on the shelves (sweatshop labor, animal cruelty, and environmental destruction for yall who ain’t picking up what I’m putting down). We’ve also seen local activist Chris Dorsey get hauled out of a City Council meeting over a dispute, which was blamed on his openly carried gun, and then the media gallery of the Council Chambers be closed out of a weird fear of gun wielding journalists- or something.
Maybe I don’t watch enough tv news to be shocked and upset by visible guns, or maybe its because I’m from Hanover county, but to me, guns aren’t an upsetting sight. This is the South. I haven’t been able to find a year on the start Virginia’s Open Carry policy, leading me to believe that we’ve had the same laws on the books around Open Carry for at least several decades now, and more likely since the origins of Virginia time. This is a gun state, but unfortunately not everyone here has sufficient knowledge or experience with guns and gun safety to be coming to the table ready for debate. So we have some culture clash going on.
Allow me to paint a picture. In a world where our government engages in endless war, supplies arms to oppressive regimes like Israel, engages in torture home and abroad routinely, and uses police and private security to patrol our domestic neighborhoods with an ever increasing amount of technology and weaponry, liberals are worried about the potential of violence coming from some deranged white guy who thinks he is in a shoot em up video game or whatever.
To me this is a sign of a society which had it’s autonomy erased, and has become dependent on larger bureaucracies, to its detriment. To me, this is a sign of a society which has had its understanding of the concept of violence thoroughly muddled, and has fallen prey to the idea that violence only occurs from the little guy- not the powers that be.
I also see this fear and confusion as a result of a culture that routinely chooses to treat only the symptoms of any problem, as opposed to addressing the root causes. I would argue that this method of addressing symptoms is promoted through capitalism for several reasons – mainly that it encourages greater consumerism, and prevents folks from questioning the very system of capitalism itself as a root cause of or contributing factor in many of our society’s problems.
Now why, some folks I know have been asking, would someone open carry a rifle? Well for one, because you sure as heck aren’t allowed to conceal carry it. Conceal Carry Permits in Virginia are only for handguns. You are not allowed to conceal long arm guns like rifles or shotguns (hence rules about barrel length etc.). For two, because not everyone wants to or can get a Conceal Carry Permit for any gun – they require being 21, money, a class, and usually takes about 6 weeks to get to you anyways. Not everyone wants to go through the trouble and paperwork to get a CCP and you know what, that is their right.
I’m sure there are more reasons to open carry a rifle, including it being your only gun, as well. There are plenty of practical times where one might open carry a gun, going to a friend’s house nearby, not wanting to leave it unattended in a vehicle, etc. The folks open carrying in Richmond lately are doing so in a fairly unnecessary way. No doubt. Some might call them jackasses. No doubt. But I think that as much as liberals are ignorant about open carry and brainwashed to be fearful, these folks are ignorant about liberals and their fear, and brainwashed by the gun lobby. Essentially we’ve got apple and oranges cultures coming to a head. The people open carrying are not doing so to make others scared, and indeed are surprised by the way people are scared. Their intentions might be poorly thought out, or lacking understanding of broader issues but they aren’t bad. Actually, both sides are often coming to the table full of fear- fear of guns and fear of gun rights being taken away. To discuss these issues coherently we need to get beyond the fear to analyze where everyone is truly coming from.
The anti-open carry camp seem to have an out of sight out of mind approach to guns. They aren’t actively upset until they can see them. And the assertively open carry camp seem to have an idea that if they don’t exercise their rights they might atrophy. Other gun owners have chimed in, worried that the attention being drawn to the issue might cause more harm than good, and they bring a valid point to the table. If liberals can’t see the violence- because it happens in wars in other countries over oil, or in sweatshops where their kids’ toys are made, or in forced prison labor where their office furniture is made or asparagus is grown (holler at yer local asparagus Ellwood Thompson’s), then it pretty much doesn’t exist. It is the flashy, in your face, reminders that seem to get folks all worked up. Continue reading
Code Enforcement- the Slappin’ Hand of Gentrification
“This used to be the United States,” Soffee said. “It wasn’t against the law to be poor.” – RTD 6/29/14 pg A6
Over several months I have heard from a friend who lives in a local trailer park, and a friend who’s relative manages said trailer park, about the plight they are going through dealing with the City of Richmond’s Code Enforcement Officers. The strong armed campaign to force compliance with building codes to Rudd’s Trailer Park on Southside made the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch today, opening the issue up to larger dialogue. If you have not yet read the article in the Sunday June 29, 2014 paper please take a few minutes to check it out.
The long and the short of it is, Code Enforcement has decided to focus on the 9 trailer parks remaining in the City of Richmond. To understand the whole reason behind what they are doing, and why what they are doing is problematic, we need to first understand some basic ideas about code enforcement. We also need to understand the context of targeting people who are low income, who may not have English as their first language, and who’s culture is different than the WASP mentality from which much of our local government stems. Additionally, we are – I repeat again and again – talking about a City with a 27% poverty rate, and where 40% of our youth live in poverty. Everything is about context.
Code Enforcement is not a neutral tool, and it is not an inevitable force. In fact, the way in which the City of Richmond (and many other places) uses code enforcement, especially via the CAPS program, reeks of selective enforcement. Selective enforcement being where laws are used at the whim of officials and not uniformly applied to everyone in a fair manner. One example of selective enforcement by CAPS was when several years ago they issued me a citation for my rotten soffets. I acknowledged my rotten soffets, and explained my plan to eventually get a loan to do roof and soffet repairs. But I asked the guy if he was issuing everyone in the neighborhood a citation – almost all of the homes feature rotten soffets. He said he was not, I accused him of selective enforcement, and he dropped the citation. Selective Enforcement is one of the major problems with how CAPS functions generally, and how this new attack on trailer parks specifically just stinks.
CAPS stands for Community Assisted Public Safety, and is a combination of Code Enforcement officers, Cops, and community members who snitch on their neighbors. Officially this involves five departments – Planning and Developement Review, Police, Fire, Finance, and the Virginia Department of Health. What it means on the ground is that they have meetings, like the MPACT ones, where citizens are able to make complaints. Then a code enforcement officer, often escorted by a cop (at least when they come to my house), shows up at the property to look at whatever the complaint was about, and to try to develop a laundry list of other violations.
If you haven’t read up on CAPS I suggest you take a look yourself, to see some of what is behind their attempts at “compliance”.
First off, the word compliance just leaves me with an icky feeling. Ugh -authoritarian much? Secondly, the way that CAPS functions gives NIMBY (not in my backyard) types, gentrifiers, and developers a platform through which they can try to impose their value systems on their neighbors. CAPS facilitates the prioritization of money over community, and the perpetuation of petty grudges and disagreements which then become backed by the power of the state. Concrete example of value systems conflicting- once a Code Enforcement officer came to my house, and I suspect knowing I wasn’t home, spray painted over the word “fuck” which was painted on my back fence which we use as a public graffiti wall. When I called him, irate, he explained he assumed it was not supposed to be there. I had to emphasize that, yes, I really did intend for the word Fuck to be on my fence and I did not appreciate his vandalism of my property.
At the Wingnut Anarchist Collective we have probably had CAPS called on us at least 6 times over the past 5 years. Primarily it seems to be the result of the police or yuppie neighbors who are mad about something we are doing (like our giant anti-cop mural), which happens to be legal, but so get code enforcement to come around to seek out anything that doesn’t meet code they can possibly spot. Generally code enforcement officers and cops are greeted by video cameras and curse words, cause we don’t want to encourage their return. We are privileged enough and have been educated on our rights and the local laws and codes enough that often we have been able to successfully argue back against bogus citations. Not everyone is in a position to do so.
You might also be tempted to think that every violation that Code Enforcement cites someone for is valid, but oh my you would be incorrect. I’ve had citations for ordinances which didn’t actually define any of the relevant terms, and for ordinances that the code enforcement officer didn’t actually seem to know what they meant. I’ve known people who received violations for things like peeling paint, having recently repainted their property, only to eventually discover that the code enforcement officer found one house on the block with peeling paint, and simply went ahead and issued everyone on the block the same citation. Another friend was working through the code enforcement process recently over a non-functioning car, only to end up having code enforcement come and tow the car days after he brought the vehicle into compliance with tags etc. When you hear that code enforcement issued however many citations, take it with a handful of salt, and a critical eye. And hope that the folks who have the citations against them have the ability to push back against the irrational bureaucracy, read between the lines, and know enough to never trust a government official.
Assumingly the motivation behind CAPS comes from this tired old Broken Window Theory that law enforcement have been flapping their gums about since the late 70’s and early 80’s. Theory goes, that vandalism and ‘disorder’ in an urban environment spawn or contribute to further criminal activity. Primarily this theory has resulted in police working towards covering graffiti, enforcing building codes, and other petty visual issues in communities.
The broken window theory has also notably been the motivator behind such other authoritarian approaches like NYPD’s notorious stop and frisk program. Having witnessed the RPD engaging in similar stop and frisk harassment of primarily young men of color, it seems as though RPD has bought into broken window theory hook, line, and sinker.
One of the major problems I have with the broken window theory isn’t even that it is necessarily incorrect. Perhaps it is correct, and fixing up the physical environment somewhere convinces criminals to leave that area. But there’s the major problem I do have- also known as the bubble effect. Criminals maybe leave one area, but by failing to address the root cause of criminal behavior, you are simply perpetually moving the criminal activity around but never actually solving it. Crime isn’t solved because someone get’s their windows repaired (which I will repair for money by the way, holler), crime is ‘solved’ because there are jobs with dignity available, counseling, recovery programs, a well adjusted society, educational opportunities, access to healthy food, transportation, etc. The same thing goes for poverty or homelessness. Every single effort to move the poor around (cough privatizing Monroe Park cough), including the economics of gentrification and property taxes, does not end poverty. Mayor Jones might be content to do his best to relocate poor people outside of the Richmond City boundaries, but those efforts will not produce a successful and happy society nor an end to poverty or crime. We have to think regionally, and we have to work towards a more just society. Not one where we have forced the poor into the suburbs because of the reverse white flight tendencies of liberals.
Gentrification is the process through which low income people are forced out of one area due to increases in property tax and rent. In 2006, according to the RTD, Rudd’s Trailer Park was assessed at $908,000 – now in 2014 it is assessed at almost $2.5 million. That means an increase in property taxes annually – going from $10,896 in 2006 to $30,000 now (1.2% property tax rate). While the trailer park is different than single family homes the pricnciple is still the same. The landlord has to pay higher taxes, and no doubt that cost is reflected in increased rental rates for all tenants. Leaving tenants with less extra cash to take care of things like maintenance and repairs.
I propose that the City of Richmond work to slow down gentrification through several related policy changes. We should put a moratorium on zoning changes, a moratorium on increases in property assessments for single family dwellings, and start demanding through a combination of legal and PR means that any “non-profit” organization which pays any employee over $150,000 a year including bonuses, benefits, and petty cash have to start paying property tax on all of their holdings within City limits. This makes sense to me, given the million dollar paycheck VCU pays it’s basketball coach and the over $200,000 Venture Richmond’s head Jack Berry hauls in – just as 2 examples of what “non-profits” are doing with their money instead of pitching in to the property tax fund to benefit our local schools and other public resources.
City Building Inspector Mark Bridgman was quoted in Sunday’s paper stating that any people kicked out of their house through a condemnation would be given the information of the Department of Social Services offices on Southside. As if that guaranteed housing, as if that solved their problems, or was any kind of balm to the wound of displacement. As if that was sufficient in any way, or in any way guaranteed that these folks would not end up living in another below building code dwelling. Come the fuck on. Once the City’s Code Enforcement officers stick that orange Condemned sticker on a property, it is illegal for anyone, including the owner, to be staying there. The orange stickers then give cops the go ahead to patrol the buildings to make sure that no one take shelter in the dwelling.
Where we live is about a lot more than the building we live in. People live in communities, and it is through those communities that relationships and support structures are fostered and nurtured. Getting the address for DSS is a joke. The value of community is why organizations such as RePHRAME exist to try to protect residents of Public Housing from displacement as well. If we value the well being of people, then we have to value their relationships as well. You are not looking out for someone’s well being if all you do is insist they live in a house of particular building code standards. We need to be broader minded than that. Safety, sustainability, and community need to go together.
I am not arguing that anyone should live in unsafe structures. I am not for unhealthy conditions. But code enforcement, the way Richmond is implementing it, does not ultimately stop that from happening. It is a strong armed approach, which results in dislocation of primarily low income people, the trauma of the disruption of community and support networks, and gentrification.
Targeting some of the most impoverished neighborhoods is just code enforcement going for the low hanging fruit. Yes, folks need the larger society’s help. No, that does not look a damn thing like code enforcement coming in to intimidate and strike fear into people’s hearts. Soffee, the manager of Rudd’s trailer park gets it right when he said that “instead of ‘putting people out,’ the city should be focusing on how it can help them fix the mobile homes” (RTD 6/29/14 A6).
When folks can not afford to bring their homes up to code, we should help them. Whether that be via non-profits, government grants, or just community efforts. We should also take a holistic approach. Why perhaps have folks ended up where they are? We can work as a City to make sure we have public side walks, affordable and effective public transportation, healthy affordable food, educational classes etc. available in those areas. Folks who can’t get to decent jobs, or stay healthy enough to work consistently, aren’t going to have an easy time affording home repairs.
Unfortunately, this recent push to enforce the cleanup of local trailer parks is par for the course of bad policy by the City of Richmond. Instead of looking to the roots of the problem, instead of offering positive and productive community oriented solutions, the government does everything it can to criminalize and invisibilize poverty.
These efforts to make poverty go away won’t be successful, but they will cause a lot of pain and suffering, and cost the tax payers a lot of money in the mean time. Capitalism and the State do not hold the answers to our problems, and we need to seek community oriented solutions to local issues. While at the same time we hold the state back, and stand up against unjust enforcement and unjust laws.
If you want to “like” Rudd’s Trailer Park and start or join in on a conversation about how we can help folks in Richmond’s trailer parks you can check them out online – Rudd’s Trailer Park.
Check it out at the link!
Getting interviewed by journalists and reporters gives me an insider perspective on certain aspects of the media in Richmond.
Lately, I’ve noticed a common issue with the people who are interviewing me; they are new to town. From VCU’s Commonwealth Times paper to ABC 8’s tv reporters, I’ve spoken with reporters who were practically brand new to Richmond, and reporting on issues for which they had no background. I’m pretty sure that some of my interviews have turned into lectures, with me trying to fill in for instance, the past 4 years of struggle around Monroe Park to someone who did not realize the 2010-11 campaign against the renovation plans existed. I’ve given reporters names, websites, and more to look into. But with the high speed of today’s media and short attention spans of many audiences, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to be able to cram much research in before ‘Tonight at 11″.
To be clear, this is not likely the fault of the journalists. In fact, it is more symptomatic of the sad state of journalism and the media in the United States of America today. Journalists today are notoriously underpaid, overworked, and it seems have fairly unstable career paths compared to their predecessors. One of the results of this, is that it seems journalists move around more than they once did.
I tried to ask a wide swath of Richmond’s journalists and reporters about their home town, experience in journalism, and time spent in Richmond. I wanted to confirm my suspicions that many of the journalists who had interviewed me, and produced articles on current political issues in Richmond, lacked adequate knowledge and understanding of the history around those issues.
There are of course, the old heads (sorry for calling you old yall – but really, you are), who have been around Richmond for a while, like Chris Dovi, Michael Paul Williams, Mark Holmberg, Jason Roop and more. I don’t want to age them too much, so no need to flaunt their time spent in Richmond here. Let’s just say they are well versed in the going-ons in Richmond.
But then there is a large crew of people who have only been in Richmond since 2012 or as short as 6 months. These journalists include some names you see all over the media-
Ned Oliver (Style Weekly and in Richmond since September 2012),
Graham Moomaw (Richmond Times Dispatch and in Richmond since January of 2013),
Tom Nash (Style Weekly and in Richmond for 6 months),
Tina Griego (Style Weekly and in Richmond since August 2012), Continue reading