POLITICS

Anarchists In Portland Are Fighting The System By Fixing Potholes

Punk is still dead, though.

16/03/2017 12:43 PM CST | Actualizado 16/03/2017 1:51 PM CST

In 1977, the Sex Pistols said anarchy was about destroying the passerby. In 2017, anarchy is apparently about fixing potholes.

PARC/Facebook
Safety first! Anarchists in Portland make sure to put out orange cones while they fix potholes around the city.

A group of anonymous anarchists in Portland, Oregon, ― where else? ― have taken their version of anarchy to the streets to help their local communities by fixing unsafe potholes themselves. The project, which began in late February, is the coolest thing to happen to punk after Green Day officially ruined it for everyone.

“The roads in Portland were getting worse and worse, and like everyone else, we were just waiting for someone else to fix it,” a member with the Portland Anarchist Road Care, or PARC, told The Huffington Post in an email. “We sort of reflected on the situation, and asked ourselves the questions made famous by John Lewis: ‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’ Two days later we were patching holes.”

On Facebook, PARC is keeping their more than 4,000 followers updated with their progress. So far, they said they’ve repaired five potholes. They said they believe in community solutions over “hierarchical institutions like government.”

It might seem confusing. Anarchism usually tends to conjure up images of angry men in Guy Fawkes masks setting things on fire. But that’s not what PARC is about.

Umit Bektas / Reuters
An anti-government protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask gestures behind a barricade that they set on fire during a demonstration in Ankara March 12, 2014. 

”Many of the critiques we have received from the left have said we should be tearing the streets up, rather than paving them,” PARC told HuffPost. “We find this view ableist, classist and antisocial. To us, anarchy is about building community and creating networks of solidarity and mutual aid.”

The anarchists have also faced criticism from ― you guessed it! ― the government. Dylan Rivera with the Portland Bureau of Transportation told HuffPost that fixing potholes should be left to professionals.

“Patching can pose a risk to the individuals doing the patching because there’s traffic moving on these streets, and they may not have the proper equipment or training to make a safe work zone for themselves.”

What the anarchists are doing is illegal, Rivera said. But he sympathizes with them, saying he understands the public frustration with potholes, especially after a heavy rain and snow-battered winter.

“Portlanders are very community minded,” Rivera said. “They express themselves in many ways, whether its parades or helping neighbors out in snowstorms, and so we see what these folks are doing as really an extension of the community mindedness of Portlanders.”

Rivera also mentioned that earlier this month, the city spent a full day to fill more than 900 of the dangerous road hazards. Rivera said weather conditions also need to be dry for city workers to fix the potholes. PARC disagrees.

PARC/Facebook
A masked anarchist helps his suburban community in Portland.

“[The PBC] use the excuse of not being able to pour hot asphalt in the rain, but there are alternatives,” PARC said. “The method we use, called cold patching, is less permanent than the hot asphalt that is traditionally used, but it is able to be used in the rain. There are steel road plates that could be laid over the worst of the potholes, which measure easily over ten feet long.”

Rivera said the city has used cold patching in the past before, but not often because it’s a temporary solution. Instead of fixing paved roads, which are maintained by the city, Rivera suggested the anarchists could offer help to neighbors who live on gravel roads as they’re not maintained by the city. He said as long as the property owners are agreeable to it, citizens can help patch those holes up.

PARC said they have received an influx of volunteers to help, and plan to “mobilize hundreds of people all across the city.” 

“[Anarchy] is about claiming communal ownership over our spaces, be they public, work, educational, or otherwise,” PARC said. “Our work directly puts that ideology into practice. They are our roads, we use them every day, and we will fix them together.”

Keep raging against the machine, citizens.