An anthropological expedition into a Portland anarchist newsletter

I recently stumbled upon a “blog” called Rose City Counter-Info, which brands itself as an “anarchist counter-info platform in Portland, Oregon.” Specifically, it is a “platform for submissions of any communiques, reports, zines, analyses, announcements, calls to action, art and musings relevant to anarchists and radicals in ‘Portland’ and the greater Portland area.” The “counter-info platform” here is quite interesting, with a number of anonymous submissions describing a variety of wild criminal acts, chiding others for insufficient levels of action, etc. Here, I will attempt to document some of the most interesting aspects of this seemingly underappreciated part of the culture that is our beloved Portland, Oregon.

My familiarity with Portland mostly comes from hear-say. It is reputed to be home to a nearly ungovernable level of homelessness, vandalism, and property crime, largely originating from what could be described as an alliance between the unhoused and a roving band of nearly-vagrant “anarchists.” Whether these claims are truly accurate or not is not for me to judge; I am mainly here to explore what this singular blog has to offer. Certainly I cannot say I have seen its like for any other city in Americaーor perhaps for any other city at all, really.

First of all, what is a “Counter-Info” blog? It appears that “counter-info” is actually common lingo in the world of anarchism. For example, Sprout Distro, an “anarchist zine distro,” electronically distributes copies of Counter-Info: A “How-To” Guide (PDF), which “explains how to launch and maintain an anarchist counter-information website.” Essentially, a counter-info website is like a website for the local anarchist community; the guide emphasizes that while a specific anarchist group may run the website, the website should be a neutral place for all local anarchist cells:

They even close with a list of notable counter-info blogs, which I invite the reader to peruse at their own discretion:

We can therefore speculate that Rose City Counter-Info is meant as a counter-info site for all of Portland, OR, i.e., the Rose City, rather than being specific to any anarchist gathering there. (Indeed, in the preparation of this article I initially speculated they might be tied to the “oldest known active antifa group in the United States,” Rose City Antifa, but failed to identify any clear ties.)

What content is actually posted on Rose City Counter-Info? Navigating to its homepage, we see a chronological list of posts, and scrolling down, one of the first posts we come upon is Anti-Eugenics Action Against Worker’s Tap (PDF), which describes an incident on January 29th where “some disabled anarchist attacked Worker’s Tap through tagging it and damaging a window.” They describe some dismay at not being able to do substantial damage, but go into some depth describing the rationale behind each individual piece of graffiti. I quote a full passage here to give you a sense of the writer’s style:

Due to the bullet-proof glass, the window’s damage would only consist of small dents. However, multiple phrases were thrown up. A circle “(A)” to signify that this was an anarchist who did this action. A “161” to call out that it was fascists forces whom originally paved the path of COVID as a genocide since April 2020 through the blood of primarily Black and Indigenous disabled people, a road of bones which now many liberals and ableist anarchists goose-stomp on in collaboration with the fascists to maintain a “normal” for keeping bars and other viral-friendly entertainment operating at the expense of disabled lives. Finally, “COVID Kills!” was written twice to address how this bar inherently operates with unmitigated COVID spread, murdering disabled people in the process; its funnily hypocritical that the place has bullet-proof windows to protect patrons from CHUDS but no air ventilation inside the building to reduce COVID spread.

Interestingly, it seems this is actually an instance of anarchist-on-anarchist violence. The author specifically calls out “event organizers in the anarchist scene who contribute to the COVID pandemic by organizing super-spreader gatherings,” suggesting that Worker’s Tap is a frequent host to anarchist social events. They make their distaste of these gatherings very clear:

The Shoah went as far as it did because of the non-Jewish proles whom sided with Hitler and the bourgeoisie, snitching on Jews in hiding or enacting zero resistance to the concentration camps. The COVID genocide is the same in needing proletariat support to persist, to massacre disabled people by attending super-spreader events and refusing to mask with the heinous excuse that the fascist project of “endemicity” is somehow “inevitable” or is somehow immune to being defeated by grassroots resistance.

Talk about emotion! The report is undersigned, “AMAM (Anti-Maskers Are Murderers) 151 (Anti-Eugenics Action)!”

This article subsequently inspired a response from another member of the anarchist community, A Brief Response to Worker’s Tap Vandalism (PDF), which expresses disapproval for the attack on Worker’s Tap being a “counterproductive way of spurring conversation about disability, accessibility and covid.” They are very unhappy that the vandals chose an anarchist-friendly establishment as their target rather than other, perhaps more deserving, entities:

If the goal is to make plain and clear the very true reality of how fucked society’s contempt for disabled folks is, attacking a leftist space that’s raising money toward the family of a murdered forest defender is a shitty choice of targets. If the issue is mass groups of unmasked people, why aren’t the windows of music venues like Crystal Ballroom or Dante’s getting smashed, or the brunch staples of PDX with two hour waits every Sunday? If the primary goal of your action is to spark a conversation, in particular about anarchists / leftists, there’s endless ways to do that without harming those who support us and share similar goals.

They take special offense that the Worker’s Tap vandals reference to the name of a departed anarchist, Tortuguita:

This response is being written by a few of us who knew Tort personally. Tort was our friend and our comrade. One of us also suffers from a life-long health condition predisposing them to an increased likelhood of serious complications from COVID. Worker’s Tap offered us a place to heal with comrades, and to celebrate Tortuguita. The irony of saying an action wouldn’t have happened without Tort’s inspiring militancy–when the place being attacked is willing to openly and financially support their family–is seriously offensive. Why not focus the energy and anger toward finding other methods of helping their family, loved ones, and all other forest defenders facing charges? Or at least release that fucking anger on something more meaningful than a bus stop or other leftists and anarchists.

It is notable how they feel the need to point out that one of the authors suffers from a chronic health condition.

Finally, they end their “brief response” (surprisingly measured in tone given the size of the provocation!) with a series of chants:

Here we see some novel vocabulary. First, it is somewhat unclear what they mean by “cop city will never be built!” given that “Cop City” is a name typically used to refer to Atlanta, Georgia. Perhaps they mean to protest the encroachment of police upon their own city? The phrase “fuck 12” was also unfamiliar to me; according to Wiktionary, it is an anti-cop slogan coined “after the 2013 song of the same name by Atlanta-based rap group Migos with the lyric ’12 kickin’ in my front door’ in description of a narcotics raid.” Finally, Tortuguita is the name of a “beloved queer community organizer” who was apparently (tragically!) killed in, well, Cop City when Atlanta police tried to clear a year-long protest camp. From The Appeal:

On Wednesday morning, Atlanta police shot and killed Tortuguita during a SWAT operation to clear a protest camp, where self-described “forest defenders” have been gathered for more than a year. Law enforcement officials claim that Tortuguita—a 26-year-old whose birth name was Manuel Teran—refused to exit their tent and shot first, leading officers to return fire. Police reported that one officer was struck by gunfire, and was recovering at a local hospital. But organizers of the “Stop Cop City” movement have expressed skepticism about the official narrative. Teran wasn’t known to own a gun or carry one in the forest, they told The Appeal. They have demanded an independent investigation and called for the release of body camera footage of the incident.

Reference after reference! It is actually quite notable how self-contained this deep world of anarchist culture is. One has the impression of reading, say, a company’s internal email chains, full of vocabulary which only has meaning with a certain division and references to projects from years past.

Speaking of Tortuguita, if we scroll down just a little bit more, we reach a post titled Excavator torched in retaliation for the murder of Tortuguita (PDF). It includes, well, a picture of the excavator in flames:

Exciting! Nothing gets the blood running like a prayer to wish “FIRE UPON THE EARTH DESTROYERS:”

Ah, but have we actually been tricked? Notice the text at the bottom: “submitted anonymously, image unrelated.” A pure coincidence, really; who doesn’t have their computers filled with pictures of burning equipment? Curiously, I could not easily locate any other sources for this image on Google. But I suppose an excavator probably burns up somewhere on Earth each day.

Here is something even more exciting, just one post down: Bank of America set on fire in Portland (PDF). True to name, the attached image does show a Bank of America in flames:

Ah, but here’s the twist: The accompanying post is written in the first person! (“It was just a joke, officer, I swear…”) The post is actually somewhat eloquently written, especially in comparison to the examples we have seen so far:

It is always nice, I suppose, when people are straightforward about their intentions. No tricky interfactional warfare here; just an act of pure anarchic vandalism performed against a symbol of the Establishment for the explicit purpose of raising hell.

I am seeing a common theme here: vandalism of property to make a point. So far, however, we have only really seen offenses performed against private property. If anarchists are truly against state control, should it not be a matter of course that they take their complaints straight to the source, so to speak? Fortunately, they have not failed to appreciate this point, hence the Attack on “Lewis and Clark Column” in Washington Park (PDF), where “some anarchists visited the Lewis and Clark column” and proceeded to tear pieces off the statue and spray red paint all over it. In their own words:

I actually feel rather sorry for the poor column after seeing the end results:

The results are really remarkably gruesome! The first thing that comes to mind is some sort of degenerate hentai scene with a ball gag in someone’s mouth and lewd text scrawled all over their face (don’t worry about it if you don’t know what I mean….). Plus, it really does look like some sort of gigantic bloodstain sprayed all over the tower.

Now, it is true that we barely have any Native Americans left. Did Americans really “genocide” them? Well… it would be fairly hard to argue that we didn’t, to be honest. So as far as cause selection goes, I would say this particular gang did not choose too poorly (no comment on the efficacy of their revolutionary acts).

One might hope that all of their actions are motivated by reasoning just as noble. Take, for example, the Arson Attack In Solidarity With Alfredo Cospito (PDF), where “a KONE service truck was set ablaze while parked behind their corporate office in Milwaukie Oregon.” (Sadly, there is no pictoral evidence of this blaze.) The authors are kind enough to provide some context about the relevance of KONE Corporation here:

The multinational corporation KONE a manufacturer of elevators, escalators, and door systems has contracts with prisons and military facilities worldwide, including the Aviano NATO Air Base in Northeastern Italy, through their subsidiary KONE SPA.

I suppose that prisons and military bases need to buy their doors and escalators somewhere!

But who is this enigmatic fellow, Alfredo Cospito? It appears that he was “was arrested in 2012 and [has] remained imprisoned by the Italian state ever since.” The post claims that “he was linked to various clandestine actions and membership in the Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI)” … “according to prosecutors,” of course. These “clandestine actions” include (according to Wikipedia):

  • “On 7 May 2012, Cospito and his accomplice, Nicola Gai, rode on a motorbike to the house of Roberto Adinolfi, executive of the Italian nuclear power company Ansaldo Nucleare. The pair shot Adinolfi in the leg three times, fracturing his knee; kneecapping was a tactic used previously by the Red Brigades.
  • “While serving his sentence, Cospito received an additional 20 year term for the 2006 bombing of a Carabinieri cadet barracks near Turin.[14] The bombing was planned with a booby-trap technique, with two explosive devices: a minor one to lure cadets out, and a second one with a much higher potential[15] (500 grams of black powder, along with bolts, screws and stones)[16] timed to explode 15 minutes later, to kill them.[16][17] The court found that only by chance the two explosions resulted in no casualties.[18]

Although Cospito has already been imprisoned for about a decade, it appears that the Italian government has recently decided to “cut off all contact to other humans” for Alfredo Cospito under an apparently infamous article 41-bis of the Prison Administration Act, which “allows the”allows the Minister of Justice or the Minister of the Interior to suspend certain prison regulations,” essentially enabling a ban on all external communications:

Evidently the act of arson described therein is meant as a protest against this exercise of “41-bis” specifically.

National terrorism is quite a serious chargeーwhat about something (arguably) a little more lighthearted? We need not scroll too far back before we arrive at Anti-Maskers Confronted at Le Care Pharmacy and the Revolutionary Potential of Anti-Eugenics Action (PDF), posted on September 16, 2022. (One wonders if the consistent usage of “Anti-Eugenics” here suggests consistency in authorial identity between this post and Anti-Eugenics Action Against Worker’s Tap!) The confrontation seems to have been fairly intense:

On a September cloudy day, two anti-maskers were confronted by a disabled militant for enacting the lethal violence of spreading a virus that has been known to be The Major Killer of disabled people in this decade (source: One revealed how most of their kind are fucking cowards, and ran away. The other masked up, not willing to throw down for their “right” to be unmasked. This was an action of community defense, making the pharmacy safer for disabled people to receive their bivalent booster.

Quite a fair amount of text is devoted to spurring on others to take similar anti-eugenics actions. To wit:

It is easy and fun to confront anti-maskers. All you need is a threat assessment, a self defense tool in case things get hairy, and a safety plan. It is best to do this in a location where it is easy to flee and where the risk of being 86’d is not a big deal (the writer never got banned from anywhere for this by the way).

I commend the authors for their bravery, although if they are in fact disabled militants, I cannot help but wonder about the wisdom of angrily confronting eugenicist(?) anti-maskers in public! From their perspective, though, society is not, and perhaps may never be, ready for full re-opening, hence an interpretation of the ordinary, day-to-day living as a continual threat to their existence:

We are tired of this ableist violence. We see all these once “pandemic serious” people now unmasked at the concerts and in the grocery stores, making public space lethally unsafe for us disabled people. We see all of you partaking in this mass viral spread, one which the crypto fascist Rochelle Walensky of the CDC said in January 2022 how it was encouraging that people with 4+ co-morbidities (disabled people) were the main ones dying from the virus. The vaccines have not been enough to protect many disabled people from death via Omicron and onward, and public space has become less and less accessible for us (source: We are tired of the eugenics, of this spectacle of “normal” fueled by the blood of disabled people. It is time for retaliation!

At the very least, though, the authors do seem to recognize the burden under which anarchist movements live under and the importance of maintaining community solidarity to help members overcome the hardships of an anti-establishment life:

We need not only to attack but to develop communal care structures to keep us alive, as the strongest movements have strong care networks that support and nurture its most militant members through the hardships. The killings will only end when we set our foot down and say no more!

All said, we have seen quite a wide variety of anarchist acts so farーvandalism, arson, and even public confrontation! It is only fitting, though, to close with perhaps the most concise and expressive post seen thus far: Butcher Shop Attacked (PDF).

February 4th, 2023 | Posted in Society

3 Responses to “An anthropological expedition into a Portland anarchist newsletter”

  1. childless_werido Says:

    i put siracha on japanese food today and made a chinese american seethe.

    today was a good day.

  2. milkyeggs Says:

    @childless_werido: Yum!

  3. asdf Says:

    “cop city” refers to, specifically, “Atlanta Public Safety Training Center”, a large complex that is being built as a police and fire services training center. It doesn’t refer to Atlanta as a whole. A wikipedia explainer for the “stop cop city” movement is one of the first results on Google when you search “cop city” so I’m not sure how you didn’t catch it, but yeah there you go. Broadly speaking your intuition there’s correct, it’s to protest police encroachment on the city.

    > “Reference after reference! It is actually quite notable how self-contained this deep world of anarchist culture is. [discussions of jargon and terminology]”

    Pretty much every subculture is like that, especially ones where you need to discuss a complex subject quickly, or ones with big geographical/temporal contexts

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