scott crow in Chico: As the crow flies

Black Flags and Windmills: Hope Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective Second Edition

by Vic Cantu
December 13th, 2012

Anarchist spreads his message to Chico

“I am a revolutionary.” Thus began Scott Crow’s rousing speech about making the world a better place. Speaking in Ayres 106 on the Chico State campus on Dec. 6, Crow, an Austin, Texas-based activist and author and self-described anarchist, advocated fighting for what is morally correct, even breaking the law if need be. And Crow should know—10 of his friends, including his father and uncle, have been jailed for protesting, mostly for vandalism.

Crow spoke of his belief in helping the world whenever and wherever it is most needed, using what he called an “emergency heart,” which is the natural compassionate urge to help others who are in dire straits.

“I always wanted to do what was right,” he said. “I’ve slain giants, but at other times I’ve been a jackass.”

Such efforts, he said, do carry a risk.

Crow directed his listeners to use self-determination to improve the world. “Don’t wait for the government or others to act,” he said.

His proudest achievement, he said, was traveling to New Orleans in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. There, he helped as many people as possible by creating several Common Ground Collective relief clinics for medical, legal and social aid. More than one of these clinics violated local codes and regulations to get up and running, and Crow said he was proud to do so in fighting to help Katrina’s desperate victims.

Crow described himself as an anarchist at heart, but spoke of his dislike for many of the so-called anarchists popularized in the news, like the ’80s punks whom he described as “self-absorbed egotists.” He values anarchism as a path to liberation and direct action in creating good for society. His beliefs are detailed in his book Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective.

“Scott was great,” said Sue Hilderbrand, a Butte College instructor and former director of the Chico Peace & Justice Center at the conclusion of the talk. Hilderbrand had introduced Crow, whose visit was her idea and sponsored by the local chapter of the ACLU, of which she is a board member.

“He is a good friend of mine I met in New Orleans during the founding of the Common Ground relief effort,” she explained. “I also agree with the value Scott places in focused vandalism.” Crow lauded the anarchist vandals at the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests. Tens of thousands at the “Battle of Seattle” displayed dissatisfaction with the world’s financial rulers by marching, chanting and vandalizing local businesses.

Crow explained how vandalism can be useful in certain situations.

“Nobody cared about those protests until an anarchist put a rock through the window of a Starbucks,” Crow said. “[Seattle] was like a coming-out party for anarchy in the U.S.”

Countering the notion that vandalism is always wrong, he offered the analogy of a black slave breaking his chains to gain freedom.

Crow got his feet wet in the field of advocacy back in 1985 by protesting apartheid in South Africa. He explained that, prior to becoming an activist, he voted on many issues he was passionate about, but he never saw the world he envisioned come about. He said he flirted with socialism and communism until he traveled to East Germany and saw the nightmarish reality of what was practiced there.

“It was misery,” he said. “People hated it.”

One of his biggest inspirations, he said, was the Black Panther Party.

“Their nonviolent drive to help the downtrodden by providing free food, education and legal assistance was a huge inspiration to me,” Crow said.

He also recounted being inspired by the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, Mexico, who he said rose up against what they believed was an extremely oppressive government and collectively cried, “¡Ya basta!” which is Spanish for “That’s enough!”

Crow has come to the attention of the authorities on more than one occasion as a suspected domestic terrorist. He said that for years he was on the government’s no-fly list and that his phone and Internet activities were tapped.

“If I could tell the FBI one thing about me, it would be, ‘Google my name,’” Crow said to laughter from the approximately 100 in attendance. “They saw I was a paper tiger—a puppet with no substance.”

These days, Crow said, he is not out to convert anyone.

“You all have to find the strongest causes in your own Chico community,” he said. As a possible solution to a question from an audience member about Chico’s homelessness problem, he suggested taking over and occupying foreclosed homes.

Crow remains optimistic. He said his speaking engagements are a way to let others know his cause. “Telling people why we do this creates power,” he said.

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