Bash Back! 2009: An Editor’s Note
from Queer Ultraviolence: A Bash Back! Anthology, by Fray Baroque & Tegan Eanelli
On Saturday night of the convergence, a now-infamous queer dance party on the El train turned into a spontaneous and illegal march in the streets. Hundreds of people paraded through Chicago’s assimilationist gay neighborhood, Boystown. The atmosphere was joyous, with people dancing wildly and wearing lingerie as masks. Some were completely naked except for their face coverings. The police subsequently attacked the peaceful yet illegal march. People near the back of the march began to place newspaper boxes into the street to stop the police from running queers down. At this point, shameful people in the crowd removed the boxes and screamed, “This is not polite!” With the boxes back on the sidewalk, the pigs were able to injure participants with their cars. The march ended with four people in jail, and one person hospitalized after a police cruiser intentionally drove over their foot.
The following morning, leftist-seeming elements at the convergence ﬂung wild conspiracy theories to disrupt the original radical predisposition of Bash Back! Although there was no black bloc and not a single window was smashed, spineless “outside agitators” claimed they were tricked into participating in a black bloc, and put into harm’s way. Some thought the march was oppressive because there was no consensus to have a riot. First of all, if those people thought that march was a riot, they clearly have no idea what a riot is. Had there been a spontaneous riot, what are the rioters supposed to do? Are they supposed to sit in the middle of the street, in front of the police and vote on whether or not to ﬁght the police?
Many white attendees who had ﬂocked to Chicago from the coasts claimed the spontaneous Bash Back! action was racist. When queer people of color from the Midwest countered otherwise, they were met with a brief silence followed by white people proclaiming that the “black bloc” was indeed racist. These “anti-racist” whites added that the partiers on the train exposed Black people to queerness, which was also “racist.” By the logic of these white “anti-racists,” there must be no queer people of color. The whites and cisgendered people insisted the action was also transphobic, despite trans people telling them not to speak for trans people. Some men even went on to call the actions of women “manarchist.” In a tone implying his guilt, Eric Stanley, of the defunct Gay Shame San Francisco, and now a lecturer at the University of California Santa Cruz, cattily said to a Bash Back! organizer, “Just so you know, people are descending upon Bash Back! to destroy it.”
Lez-be-real here. Propaganda for the convergence said things like, “You bring the balaclavas, orgies, and riot.” There were posters with images of riﬂes, riots, and people brandishing assorted weapons. Had any one of the people who objected to the street march on the basis that it was oppressive or unsafe read a flier, poster, communiqué, or for that matter, anything Bash Back! produced? lt was absolutely clear what kind of people would be attending the Convergence and the tactics Bash Back! advocated were even more clear.
Liberal provocateurs used any sort of identity politics to shade their own cowardice. When the very people these leftists claimed to represent (people of color, transfolks) countered the liberal narrative, they were silenced in the name of anti-racism and trans-solidarity. Rather than admitting their fear and guilt, “anarcho-liberals” fall back on racist tactics of refusal. They ignore, isolate, and alienate people of color (minus a few tokens) to create their own Twilight Zone anti-racist narrative. The Bash Back! tendency was the antithesis of leftist identity politics. The 2009 Convergence was when these two tendencies finally came head to head.