The Giants won and capitalism is the loss

The Giants won and capitalism is the loss

Cindy Milstein on the celebratory rioting which followed the San Francisco Giants winning the world series, and its background.

Today, in the aftermath of the Giants win in the World Series and the “sports riot” in the streets of San Francisco last night, one sees much evidence of tidying up. People are trying to pull themselves together after an evening of drunken (and sometimes not) celebration, sleepily heading back to work. The broken glass from their beer and champagne bottles has largely been swept off sidewalks and streets. And news media is falling over itself to sanitize what took place in the reclaimed public spaces of this city after the win, “cleaning up” the facts so as to erase what’s already is so coldly erased on a daily basis: displacement and its discontents.

One such story touches on my neighborhood, SF's beleaguered Mission, and the purported lesson of last night, as captured in its headline: "The Giants Won and the Mission Lost" (http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/6185-the-giants-won-and-the-mission-lost). This same online news outlet boldly seems to miss the reality of what’s routinely getting lost in the Mission: people along with their histories, social fabric, cultures, homes, and often lives. Or rather, what’s getting intentionally disappeared, including even the memory of those people, via the sharp precision instrument of capitalism and those who have its back.

Actually, between about 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. yesterday, it seemed that for a brief time, the Mission won — at least in a cathartic way. That the Mission got its own minor victory, if only as a piece of the profound grieving process that needs room and space to be heard for all that is being vanished. The real World Series, as most of us know in the Mission in particular, is the rigged game of private property ownership — land “rights” — that seems to inevitably put the best-funded team squarely in the winner’s seat.

San Francisco, like other great cities, has seen its fair share of losses in the past, whether under the name "urban renewal" or "dot-com" or "gentrification." That fact shouldn't be minimized. It's the ground on which the present-day, perhaps most final grand slam is made possible.

What is remarkable now is the speed at which it's happening. No seven-game series anymore for SF’s Mission. Displacement happens in microseconds, with no time for instant replay to even see or remember the play. It’s a sort of collective, societal attention-deficient disorder blended with constant-traumatic-stress syndrome and cancerous deaths of all kinds; it's crazy and sickness making.

All to say, something different is going on this time, as evidenced in my two, far different experiences of being in the riotous Mission and Valencia streets for the Giants World Series wins in 2010 and now 2014.

In 2010 when the Giants won, the enormous street party rather ugly when folks got super drunk. Some friends of mine, for instance, had their heads beaten bloody with bicycle U-locks in a homophobic attack. In another incident, a fan drove his car into a crowd of partying people on Mission Street; people surrounded his vehicle, dragged him out, and well, it's questionable whether he survived. I never found out. There was little "political" consciousness. It was, in other words, half fun and half frightening.

Now, after the dizzying acceleration of an eviction epidemic in SF's Mission, with rampant displacement of peoples, businesses, lives, homes, cultures -- so much so that the Mission is increasingly almost unrecognizable unless you look at it through Google glasses -- there's a lot of anger and sorrow here, and few avenues for processing those emotions of grief. The city seems stuck in denial.

Last night, for a brief window of time, we won back some space, albeit temporarily, to communally and spontaneously engage in the work of healing.

Capitalism will not offer us a cure for displacement, nor will politicians, police officers, or anti-depressants. Even us anti-eviction organizers (ranging from progressives to radicals) ultimately won't be able to fix it, either. We may get a few little victories -- "reforms" that keep a few more people in their homes than if we'd tossed up our hands and given up completely. That is a good thing, of course. Individual lives matter.

Knowing that we can't cure capitalism any time soon is not only truthful. It's liberatory. It frees us up to create quality space and qualitative lives in the here and now, collectively. It frees us up to name names -- capitalism! -- and work "backward" from there to strategize, organize, and struggle. Admitting we are doing not the work of curing but rather the work of healing moves us from relations of domination to ones of nondominance, where together we try to offer up empathy, mutual aid, and care, and we can resist and rebuild, even if that rebuilding starts by grieving well what we are losing, in life-affirming ways.

Much of what I saw on the streets last night was joy, which as someone commented, is extremely needed here right about now. I saw that joy in particular on the faces of poor, homeless, and other marginalized folks, especially big groups of Latino families. Parents brought lots of smiling kids dressed in orange and black out to savor a bit of victory with multigenerational relatives, chosen family, friends, and neighbors.

The other thing I saw were tons and tons of police, in foreboding riot gear, even before the Giants won, already set up to shut down people's joy. I heard the menacing wings of the helicopter circling ever lower overhead, shining its preying spotlight eyes on our merriment. I also saw the cops swinging batons, pushing against and arresting people, and shooting beanbag/rubber bullets at folks -- and hitting them (and I saw a friend medic bandage up a teen who got hit by one of these bullets, just one of many touching acts of neighborly aid).

But the other key thing that I witnessed was an abundance of what could be called "class consciousness" and a focused political sensibility -- and in large part, practiced by people who aren't what are depicted as "the usual suspects." The streets were marked by what two friends of mine in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories label "joyful militancy."

The property damage that, today, is being finger-wagged at by mainstream media and others wasn't the property damage of stealing homes or small businesses or neighborhood parks -- the property damage that displacements day after day after . . . with little peep from the same newspapers. It involved tagging, burning garbage for bonfires on concrete pavement, displacing construction materials from "exclusive" new condo projects. It was by and large directed, in short, at targets related to what's displacing folks, especially the poor, working class, homeless or precariously housed, queers, bohemians, kids with skateboards, families, those on social security and/or with disabilities, people of color, those for home English isn't a first language, people without papers, folks without other options, and those many who aren't choosing to get kicked out.

I repeatedly heard chants of “RIP Alex Nieto” and “RIP Mike Brown." I saw lots of graffiti related to Alex Nieto’s recent murder by the SF police (for being a Latino in an upscaling and increasingly young-rich-white-males neighborhood) as well as slogans decrying gentrification. Fencing was pulled away from a super-luxury and super-egregious (racist, even; this particular complex is turning the “New Mission” cinema into “the Alamo” within this soon-to-be-former Latino area) development called Vida. An empty cop car parked on a side street was smashed up and covered in spray-painted words like “fuck the police,” and all the passersby who watched were gleeful, perfectly understanding the resentment toward cops in this neighborhood.

Giants fans at least twice took smaller traffic-cop vehicles for short joy rides; police here are increasingly ticketing and criminalizing certain types of people in an effort to "clean up" the Mission for development, including targeting vehicles that homeless folks sleep in by ticketing them. A pink mustache was torn off a "sharing economy" car and burned in a harmless bonfire on Valencia Street. One of the biggest and worst property developer/realtors, Vanguard, had its big office building (a fascist-looking place, and I don't say that lightly) heavily tagged. This is a sampler of the "losses."

We can debate all night if this property destruction is a good or bad thing, or strategically useful in any way to stop what's going on here in San Francisco, perhaps the richest and most heartless of cities at this historical moment.

But what's far more interesting to debate -- and often rarely gets addressed, and indeed should be the subject of rigorous contemplation -- is the seemingly sacred right to property, the ability of property owners and their wealthy accomplices to sell off whole cities, including the lives and homes and dreams of too many people within them. Every time I see street art proclaiming "This city is not for sale," it feels at best wishful thinking and at worst a cruel joke.

Yes, there's a lot of anger here in San Francisco and even more sorrow, and if that comes out in various ways -- tears and depression, electoral and direct action tactics, shaming landlords and just screaming into the wind at times -- that should be completely understandable. Sadly, of course, none of it is working.

We, so many of us, are being displaced, the refugees of a war that is being made invisible by the powers-that-be and those many upstarts aspiring to follow in their greedy footsteps.

Last night, the Giants won and class warriors in the Mission won, too, if only for a healing moment. We took to our streets -- or what used to be our streets -- and created our own triumphant visibility, seeing each others' joy and pain. We who are experiencing the abandonment that is San Francisco shared a bit of joy and healing.

The crime, without rhetorical flourish here, is capitalism. It's stealing homes and lives. That's the real loss.

* * *

Please sign up to receive notices when I post to my blog, Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Enjoy, share, reprint, post, tweet any of my writings . . . as long as it’s free as in “free beer” and “freedom.”

This piece was originally published online, with my gratitude, in Fireworks, a Bay Area anarchist news magazine, at http://fireworksbayarea.com/featured/the-giants-won-and-capitalism-is-the-loss/. It's also on my blog, with photos, at http://cbmilstein.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/the-giants-won-and-capitalism-is-the-loss/.

Comments

Hieronymous
Nov 2 2014 17:17
Cindy Milstein wrote:
But the other key thing that I witnessed was an abundance of what could be called "class consciousness" and a focused political sensibility -- and in large part, practiced by people who aren't what are depicted as "the usual suspects." The streets were marked by what two friends of mine in the Unceded Coast Salish Territories label "joyful militancy."

As someone who was working near the Financial District when the game finished, I have to give an alternative account of the post-World Series San Francisco Soviet.

Since buses ceased operating any where near Market Street, the main conduit in the city, I had to take alternative routes and walk most of the 5 miles I needed to get home (San Francisco is 7-by-7 miles, so I covered 2/3 of the city). Every bar, and let me repeat that, every bar I passed had spilled out into the street and was indistinguishable from a giant frat party.

The Salish Territories are at least 1,500 kilometers from the streets of San Francisco, so I don't believe their account of the baseball mini-riots resulting in "joyful militancy." What I saw was lots of moronic drunkenness, chants of "let's go Giants!," ubiquitous high fives, endless honking of car horns, and heavy glass champagne and beer bottles being launched at nothing in particular (but did hear from confirmed sources that many heaved at the pigs in the Mission missed their marks and hit fellow celebrants). It was pathetically lame as only Americans sports riots can be.

But what gave it an extra lame sports fetishist twist was that people in the Mission practiced that most famous of American pastimes, shooting each other. At least 2 people turned up at local hospitals with bullet wounds and another having been stabbed celebrating the Sports Commune.

And accounts of massive, unprecedented changes in San Francisco are ahistorical. The city has burned to the ground at least 7 times in its short history. It was founded in the lavish riches of gold and silver and settled by robber barons, supplementing their bounty with the imperial spoils accumulated by way of the flow of commodities through this strategic entrepôt, who've engaged in ceaseless class war. What else is new?

Also, the only Bay Area sports riots that were even vaguely "class conscious," and even that would be a stretch bordering on the disingenuous, were the Raiders Riots in East Oakland in 2003. The Raiders won the playoffs and people attacked business and skirmished with the pigs for nearly 50 blocks along International Boulevard. A couple weeks later, the Raiders lost in the Superbowl and the local insurgents did the same, plus some -- as they completely trashed a McDonald's on International at 63rd Avenue (for a decent, but still sports fetishist, version of events see the relevant chapter in Jim Miller's Better to Reign in Hell: Inside the Raiders Fan Empire), as well as destroying and looting several other businesses.

Gregory A. Butler
Nov 2 2014 16:38

Why exactly are anarchists celebrating a riot by drunken male sports fans that - even by the low standard of drunken male sports fan riots - is mindless and stupid?

There's nothing revolutionary about this incident - if anything, it's justification for the need for a strong state with a well equipped police department, to control violent young male louts on the rampage.

boozemonarchy
Nov 2 2014 22:15

G. Butler,

The article suggests that the riot had a multiplicity of character. From drunken male sports fans to anti-police brutality stuff. H suggests otherwise it seems.

Leaving the context of that behind for a moment, I just wanted to point out how reactionary your last statement was.

Hieronymous
Nov 2 2014 18:52

Let's be honest about these alcohol-fueled sporting events: if anyone tries to impute political meaning, that in and of itself is opportunistic. Take away the bottle throwing, burning couches and mattresses, and (most of) the alcohol and it was the same people in the streets of San Francisco on November 4, 2008 celebrating the election of Barack Obama.

The Giants riots had orange team banners and the Obama celebration had American flags. What's so different?

A major difference from the Obama riots is that now everyone is a smartphone-toting photographer and selfies are as common as randomly thrown bottles.

And there were stark "class" differences between the Giants riots last Wednesday night -- in the Mission, along Market Street downtown, and near the ballpark at 3rd and King Streets -- and the back-to-back Raiders Riots in 2003. Namely, nearly 40 years of deindustrialization that left African American and Latino workers in East Oakland with a hollowed out economy, plagued with never-ending police surveillance and violence, schools little different from jail, massive unemployment, rising debt (with easy credit), yet bare survival tempered by misery and lack of hope. The Raider Riots had all the elements of a class war fightback.

It's hard to look at all the construction cranes, posh new condos everywhere, and signs of conspicuous wealth all over San Francisco and not call Cindy's descriptions of the "beleaguered" Mission disingenuous. Sure, there are working class people getting driven out during this economic boom, but it's time to stop complaining (the endless whining about "evil" Google buses) -- and glorifying drunken sports revelry -- and to start organizing as workers and tenants to fight back.

Black Badger
Nov 2 2014 19:43

Facing off against the cops is a fairly human reaction to a show of arbitrary and disproportionate force, and there is nothing inherently radical about it. Drunken frat boys probably send more cops to the hospital than anyone else.

Even if all dozen or so of your allegedly anarchist friends are around you at a sports celebration and you don't condemn the property destruction, that cannot make the overall tone radical by any stretch of the imagination.

I'm glad that there were a few folks there who were visibly against police brutality, but they were a small minority compared with the sports fans. The bulk of the graffiti was about the Giants and taggers. Once again, Cindy showcases her massive ignorance of what radical action looks like.

boozemonarchy
Nov 2 2014 22:18

Well, it looks like who really lost here was the Royals. Nobody seems to be talking about that.

I wanted to party like it was 1985. sad

S. Artesian
Nov 4 2014 14:12

All part of the business of baseball. Celebrating a commercial event is a commercial event. No spins needed. Property destruction? Big deal, just self-devaluation at work. The game's the game; and it's business.

Why are the events in SF any more significant than say those in Manchester when, and if, its beats Arsenal?

Shows you how fucked everything is-- looking for glimmers of hope in the shards of broken beer bottles.

Used to be, back in the day, a riot after a rock concert was "revolutionary." That was bullshit then, this is bullshit now.

Caiman del Barrio
Nov 4 2014 17:27
S. Artesian wrote:
Why are the events in SF any more significant than say those in Manchester when, and if, its beats Arsenal?

I'm not sure if this is a sport-related question or a 'political' one. There's very little football violence in the UK nowadays, and that which does happen is generally in the lower leagues or occasionally, when English teams go to Europe (where the cops prefer tear gas to containment/intelligence-based policing). I can't remember there being any sort of celebratory riot in England following a football result, but maybe I'm wrong. Between them, Man City and Man Utd have won the vast majority of the Premier Leagues (maybe all bar 8 since it started in 1992). I'm not saying it's impossible, apparently there were smallscale acts of public disorder when Arsenal signed Ozil last year (partially whipped up by Sky Sports News) and there were clashes between different PSG firms (I think?) when they won the Ligue 1 in France last year, but Paris' geography is considerably different to London, and lends itself much more to random/'non political' violence IMO.

You've belied your ignorance of this somewhat too, since there are two Manchester teams, and neither of them count on large fanbases inside the Manchester metropolitan area. If Man U ever win the league again (maybe when they buy Ronaldo, Messi, Bale AND Neymar...and a couple of defenders wink ), then we'd be more likely to see celebrations in Shanghai and Hong Kong, tbh. wink

Hieronymous
Nov 5 2014 21:39

EDIT: I removed the banalities that I wrote about sports riots.

What's disturbing about the glorification of these sports riots in particular, is the attempted arson of the Vida condos, under construction, at 2558 Mission Street. That's completely fucking stupid, since like almost all of San Francisco, there is a row of wood-frame townhouses (Victorians from the 1890s) -- sharing a common wall with surrounding structures -- on that same block, contiguous with the construction site.

Only a moron (including drunken sports fans) not from San Francisco, ignorant of how many times the city has burned entirely to the ground, would attempt to burn any structure adjacent to currently inhabited housing. See the map above to see how the fire resulting from the 1906 earthquake got within 1 block of the attempted burning of the Vida condos during the Giants victory celebration. The 1906 fire only destroyed 80% of the city.

Anyone glorifying something so potentially destructive is a moron. Period.