Michael Mejia


"So, seriously if you wanted to get out you would get arrested." She's sitting in the intersection with about 60 others, surrounded by cops in riot gear. They begin a slow advance. Someone spits. "Fuck you!" a woman yells. Someone spits again, and the cops come on, batons out, shouting "Move!" Officer 11909 slams his shield into him, opening a cut over his left eye. "Fuck! Where the fuck am I supposed to go!" "Are you okay?" she asks. "Asshole," someone shouts. "Are you fucking kidding?" He puts a hand out. "We're fucking people! We're people! What's wrong with you?"



She trots her torta cart through a crowd outside La Fogata, tear gas erupting a block away. They're chucking stones, firing slingshots. He crosses carrying a tripod. These cops are huddled on the corner, holding their shields together in a protective wall. He throws a rock back at the boys coming across the median, getting bolder, forty yards away, twenty. Now something's burning back there. Now a molotov's exploded where the cops were and they're backing away, scattering in a disorganized retreat, the boys advancing, accelerating their bombardment accompanied by a wailing guitar and Brigadier Ambrose shouting "P-O-L-I-C-E! P-O-L-I-C-E! P-O-L-I-C-E!"



"You're being recorded!" They've formed their own line. Handmade shields spraypainted with peace signs, anarchist A's. He's crouched behind a red wingback chair. Flashbangs, tear gas, breaking glass. The Asian kid ducks, turns instead of snapping a pic. They scatter, fall back. Car alarm. "If you do not disperse you may be arrested!" She holds her hands to her ears. He's checking his camera's LCD. He's taking another photo. "Fuck you!" Ski helmet, goggles. "There's nothing peace about you!" We're dollying backwards, following him retreating with his chair, recording with his phone. He lifts the chair, hugs it, exits right.



Pops and hisses. Gas. Shouts and whistles. Breaking glass. Stones pelting shields. These cops are backed against some concrete chairs, public art. Hands up, he tries to calm the crowd. Five cops run. The others collide. This one drops his shield. That one falls down. They escape as protesters swarm the spot, hurling stones, waving red banners. Burberry scarf. Striped conical hat. He's toting a red crate. One cop's limping, supported by another and a man in jeans. A wall of appropriated shields advances, one spraypainted with an anarchist A. They pose for the photographer. Two peace signs. One fist.



Red sweatshirt, blue ballcap, spraying the second floor windows with a fire hose. A photographer. Echoing pops. Drums, shouts, cowbells. Now they're hosing down the cops ranked behind barbed wire in the glass-walled plaza, curved walkway overhead. Not water: milk. A fire by the line of bikes. Tires, green gas can. Horns, whistles. Now they're dragging away the barrier. Milk films the cops' faceshields, blinds them. He lunges forward, swings his baton over the wire, doesn't connect. That guy in the grey jacket has fallen. He rolls away. The cops pull the wire back into place. Here comes the milk.




Fiona Banner's 1997 book The Nam is a highly detailed, highly subjective documentation of the author's viewing of Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and The Deer Hunter. You can find an excerpt in Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith's anthology, Against Expression. I was interested in the way Banner's project concretized a process of visual reading as well as by her inquiry into the mediation of history and the otherwise transparent process of overwriting memory, of the transformation of historical fiction into historical fact.

Also, I'd been asked by Peanut Books to contribute some text to their book version of Marina Zurkow's [The Petroleum Manga], a series of line drawings of petrochemical-based products: a model airplane, a computer keyboard, crystal meth, disposable diapers. I was drawn to the police riot shield.

Banner and Zurkow led me to YouTube videos of violent conflicts between protestors and police, the kind of protests that might be responding in some way to the environmental, political, social, and cultural disasters represented by Zurkow's objects, protests that often are very deliberately documenting themselves through multiple lenses, producing and distributing (in the filmic sense) real time histories of resistance, trespass, and brutality, making themselves available for repackaging as potent metonyms for broader, more abstract ideological narratives.

My title is the statement of [an Anarchist in Toronto] who rejected the recording of his fellow protestors' destruction of property as "unfair" to those who hadn't covered their faces. "We're trying to fucking commit crime here," he says.

The Petroleum Manga is scheduled for release in 2014.