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This Is What Taking Your City Back Looks Like

by Kate Ryan

March 15, 2017
Image via Facebook

Just when you thought Portland couldn’t get more lovably eccentric, a crew of masked anarchists took to the streets … to fix the city’s potholes. Believe it or not, these self-described anarchists have been patching up Portland’s roads for weeks. We know this because the group, dubbed Portland Anarchist Road Care, has been sharing photos of their efforts on their Facebook page.

But why potholes? A representative from the group explained the reasoning behind their efforts, telling GOOD via email,

“Experiencing the terrible condition of the roads on a daily basis, and waiting weeks and months for some attempt to fix them, we finally reflected and asked ourselves, to quote John Lewis, ‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’ So we set out to do it ourselves.”

Which probably still leaves you wondering, aren’t anarchists just a bunch of violent revolutionaries hell-bent on inciting disorder? Portland Anarchist Road Care’s representative (who chooses to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) sees it as quite the opposite saying, “As anarchists, we seek to bring about a society in which coercive hierarchies, such as government and capitalism (as well as white supremacy, cis heteropatriarchy, ableism, etc.) no longer exist.”

The group sees these hierarchies as the main instigators of war and poverty, which they hope to alleviate by returning power back to the community. “To be exceptionally clear, anarchists do not desire chaos,” says the group, “we desire freedom and equality. Not just equality for us, but equality for everyone, by removing the institutions that uphold inequity.”

According to KGW Portland, city officials don’t see it that way. Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, told the news outlet, “It’s not safe for them because there is traffic on the streets and they can potentially put themselves at risk and the public at risk if the repair isn’t done properly.” Rivera added that city crews get the job done more effectively and repaired nearly 1,000 potholes just last week. Because the work can only be done when it’s dry, however, city crews have to wait for rain-free days, which can take a while in a city like Portland.

Still, the anarchists say the response to their work has been overwhelmingly positive so far. “It is forcing us to re-evaluate our action plan, because we have so many people wanting to get involved,” says their representative. “Instead of focusing on us being one group to do this work, we are shifting our priorities to the community building side of our mission, focusing on educating and mobilizing large numbers of people.” Fingers crossed that means they’ll launch a branch in Los Angeles where we’ve got potholes galore. 

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This Is What Taking Your City Back Looks Like