March 16, 2020; Hyperallergic
A recent piece in Hyperallergic provides valuable context for a media campaign against an organizer of Decolonize This Place (DTP). The article is insightful because it not only provides an authentic description of DTP in its current form, but it also attempts (albeit unsuccessfully) to get statements from the right-wing media outlets the group now refers to as the “Counterinsurgency Media Complex.”
DTP describes itself as an “action-oriented movement and decolonial formation in New York City and beyond” that “consists of over 30 collaborators, consisting of grassroots groups and art collectives that seek to resist, unsettle, and reclaim the city.” Aware of the growing importance of this movement, both within and beyond New York City, NPQ has kept interested eyes on its work here and here.
Within the past few months, DTP has maintained a strong focus on New York City’s mass transit system, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), and what it sees as over-policing and a misuse of city money with an initiative it calls “FTP,” a flexible acronym that can stand for “Fuck the Police” along with a dozen other things. According to Hyperallergic, this has brought hundreds of people out into the streets and subway stations.
As it has followed media coverage of these events, DTP has become concerned that one protester in particular, Amin Husain, has been singled out by the right-wing media. According to Hyperallergic’s assessment, “The New York Post portrayed Husain as ‘one of the masterminds behind the anarchist group that organized the rampage through the subways’ in January.” Similarly, “The Daily Caller, a right-wing website co-founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, accused Husain of urging DTP’s followers to ‘violently assault the city’s transit system.’”
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Last week, DTP posted a statement on the Verso publishing house blog linking these depictions as clear attempts “to demonize and discredit recent actions around the MTA by reducing them to the figurehead of a ‘violent’ Palestinian mastermind.” Knowledgeable about the theory that underlies movements, DTP is also well aware of strategies used to counteract them. They argue:
The basic logic is as follows: if the narrative in the media is defined around violent masterminds and foreign influences, it will serve to both deflect attention away from the anger that poor and working class New Yorkers rightly feel toward the NYPD [New York Police Department] and the MTA, while also providing cover to De Blasio and Cuomo as they continue to ignore popular demands around policing and transit.
Aiming for balance in its coverage of this emerging story, Hyperallergic contacted the cited media sources but apparently got no response.
More than just opposing viewpoints in the press, this focus on Husain has intensified to a level where he has received anonymous death threats and requests that New York University terminate him. Husain tells Hyperallergic, “I try to not let it bother me,” but he also notes that members of DTP have been joining him on his way to work at NYU and the Pratt Institute to ensure his safety.
No matter who is actually behind the attacks against DTP and Husain, it is clear that DTP’s coordination and collaboration is miles ahead of its opposition. As DTP writes in Verso, “People are losing fear, opening their imaginations, and acting in ways that exceed activism in the accepted sense of the word.” The group continues, “Fighting oppression and protecting our communities are two sides of the same coin, as expressed in the chant heard at FTP actions, ‘Who Keeps Us Safe? We Keep Us Safe!’”—Anne Eigeman