By Talla Lavin
It was surprising news to the some 8 million New Yorkers who awoke yesterday, the last day of summer, to find that, according to the federal government, we were all living in an “anarchist jurisdiction.” Across the city, the leaves on curbside trees were starting to turn, flowers remained in their orderly beds, and diners at the many impromptu streateries, tablecloths flapping in the brisk autumn breeze, continued uninterrupted. Yet federal tax dollars would now be withheld, we were told, because of “widespread or sustained violence or destruction” in the city. The Justice Department cited a $1 billion decrease in the NYPD fiscal-year 2021 budget. Portland and Seattle got the same designation.
In the interest of fully understanding this much-maligned political ideology, and where our city fits in its history — not to mention the long-standing tactic of governments labeling anything they dislike “anarchy” — Curbed turned to some actual New York City–area anarchists to ask them about the new designation. Anarchism is often conflated with out-of-control violence, but that’s an inaccurate portrayal. As journalist and anarchist Kim Kelly pointed out in the Washington Post, “Key anarchist principles include mutual aid (a reciprocal approach to community care in which people share resources), direct action (the use of political protest to achieve a goal), and horizontalism (a non-hierarchical organizational system in which decisions are made by consensus).”