The Volcano’s Top 12 of 2020

The year 2020 was a whirlwind: the #ShutDownCanada movement in defence of Wet’suwet’en sovereignty, the global crisis of COVID-19, the George Floyd Uprising, elections in British Columbia and the USA, and record-breaking overdose deaths. 

The Volcano is affiliated with Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism and currently all of our editors are also organizers. Red Braid worked to keep apace with the historical developments of 2020, while remaining grounded in the survival struggles of our working class and Indigenous social bases. We blockaded ports and rails, occupied empty buildings, supported tent cities, and defended tenants facing eviction.

Our publishing was subsumed by the demands of these movements. We prioritized printing pamphlets and bulletins in direct, immediate service of movement work, over publishing articles online. Over the course of 2020 we published a fraction of the number of articles of previous years. The articles that we did publish along the way, as well as the months-long gaps in publishing, reflect the struggles in which we were embedded as organizers

The Volcano’s Squat 2 Survive Bulletins and Wet’suwet’en pamphlets are an excellent example of this urgent publishing in service of the movement. While we distributed hundreds of these ad hoc newsletters on the ground, in most cases we did not even manage to get these up online in any form. We are now putting them up on our website as PDFs and sharing them below to create a record of the publishing work we managed to do during and because of the demands of the social movements of 2020.

While The Volcano continued to report on organizing and produced some investigative work regardless of the difficulties, we struggled to publish broader reflections and theoretical work on the crises and movements of 2020. But we did have those conversations with our comrades in the streets and on Jitsi (an open-source version of Zoom). In 2021 we are resolved to share those ideas more widely. 

Top 3 most read articles

1. Evicted during COVID-19: Modular housing tenant barricades herself in her room to avoid homelessness

By Isabel Krupp (May 12, 2020)

“I’m currently barricaded in my room hoping for a miracle,” Kristina Freberg wrote in an email to The Volcano on May 4th. She was afraid that if she left her room, her landlord Lookout Society would board it up and throw her out onto the streets. The real agenda of the non-profit housing provider, said Kristina, was to clear out the temporary modular housing (known as the “TD Mods”) before September so that a developer could reclaim the property.

2. Lying cops, abusive staff, and needed housing: Life in and out of Surrey’s modular housing

By Kristina Freberg (August 17, 2020)

With the demolition of the “TD Mods” fast approaching, we followed up with Kristina Freberg – this time in her own words. Kristina wrote this article days before the “TD Takeover,” an action that she was central to organising. Homeless activists and supporters occupied the building for six hours, until the Surrey RCMP broke our barricades and arrested 23 people without warning. While politicians had hoped to close down the 46 welfare-rate units quietly, the community refused to let them go without a fight.

3. Gentrification and COVID-19: Fast-tracking the death of Surrey’s poor

By Isabel Krupp (April 3, 2020)

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the aggressive gentrification scheme known as the “City Centre Plan” was fast-tracking poor and homeless residents of North Surrey toward invisibility and death. Isabel Krupp argues that to survive COVID-19, low-income communities must fight back and stop the City of Surrey from sacrificing their homes to profit-hungry developers.

We published this article in our first Squat 2 Survive Bulletin, which we distributed throughout the streets of Surrey and beyond, after homeless leaders established the short lived “Hothouse Squat” in the vacant North Surrey Rec Centre.

5 more you may have missed

1. Victims of police murder on trial: How BC’s IIO uses “mental health” to clear killer cops

By Listen Chen (December 15, 2020)

Listen Chen’s investigation into the record of BC’s Independent Investigations Office shows that killer cops pull the trigger knowing that the police “watchdog” is actually their guard dog. Listen argues, “If the state puts victims of its violence on trial for their own killings, then we must respond by putting the state on trial and rallying support and defense from outside courtrooms and the kangaroo courts of police watchdog offices.”

2. Tenants fear a “return to normal”: Resisting evictions during and after the pandemic

By Sean Phipps (December 17, 2020)

The pandemic has taught BC’s tenants some important lessons. First, that all levels of government are willing to intervene in the market in order to, and only to, preserve the profits of landlords and bosses. Second, that evictions are central to how landlords defend and increase their profits. Third, that temporary subsidies, a temporary moratorium on evictions over failure to pay rent, and a repayment plan may “flatten the curve” of mass evictions, but they do not protect the most vulnerable from being booted out onto the street.

Sean Phipps analyzes these lessons and makes the case for “an anti-eviction strategy for the post-Covid era.” He argues that we need a tenants’ movement that opposes all evictions, makes use of legal and extralegal tactics, and importantly, begins to formulate, through theory and action, the role of evictions in perpetuating colonial land theft, capitalist exploitation, and imperialist domination.

3. Bowing to protest, Coast Mental Health drops its unlawful guest ban in Maple Ridge Supportive Housing

By The Volcano (December 9, 2020)

Residents of supportive housing in Maple Ridge successfully forced Coast Mental Health to drop its deadly ban on guests, but supportive housing providers in other cities continue to deny guests. We hope supportive housing residents across BC can build on the victory in Maple Ridge, especially as recent data from the BC Coroners Service shows that the number of deaths in supportive housing buildings from January to August 2020 were double the number from 2019.

4. Inside the Hothouse Squat

By Tana Copperthwaite (April 4, 2020)

Tana Copperthwaite, who was a leader of Anita Place Tent City before the camp was displaced, describes her experience in the Hothouse Squat. She writes, “I saw pride on faces that hadn’t had much more than despair etched on them for so long! Guys with open grins on their faces, the guys who never smile, because there’s no reason to, were getting sore cheeks. The spirit gets worn down, but a good cause can change your outlook on things. It was fantastic.”

5. Sanctuary Tent City isn’t gone, it’s layered in the earth

By Mel Forster (December 10, 2020)

A year after the City of Surrey displaced Sanctuary Tent City, former resident Mel Forster reflects on the tent city and the ongoing fight against displacement, showing us the inextricable relationship between grief and struggle.

Special newsletters previously unpublished online

1. Special issue in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en movement

January 11, 2020

Including articles: Destiny Morris, “Home Defenders Stand with Land Defenders; Alliance Against Displacement, “We fight for Wet’suwet’en sovereignty, the extinction of fossil fuel capitalism, and the defeat of Canada.”

2. Leaflets of the #ShutCanadaDown Wet’suwet’en solidarity movement

January-February 2020

These leaflets were not produced as a comprehensive newsletter, but were written and printed for the purpose of specific actions within the Wet’suwet’en solidarity movement of January and February 2020.

“Blockade the RCMP” was a leaflet for a rally outside the RCMP headquarters in Surrey organized by Red Braid (then called Alliance Against Displacement) on January 16th. 

The “port blockade leaflet for workers” was produced in the first week of February while a series of port blockades were underway and we needed a leaflet to hand out to the long lines of truckers and port workers stuck outside the blockades organized by a wide array of groups and people.

“No Blood for Jobs” was a follow-up on that port blockade leaflet. Red Braid produced this leaflet to distribute at the BC Federation of Labour “winter school,” held out in Harrison Hot Springs, which we crashed to talk with trade unionists about the Wet’suwet’en struggle. We also distributed this leaflet at the Vancouver District Labour Council meeting where the movement successfully fought for a resolution calling for all unions to respect the Wet’suwet’en blockades like they would respect a picket line.

Finally, the CP Rail blockade leaflet was written by Sadie Morris, “Economic Disruption is the Struggle for Sovereignty,” to argue in support of economic disruption as an anti-colonial (and decolonial) action. It also includes an article titled, “Support the Train Blockades at Tyendinaga and Treaty 1 and Gitxsan territories! SHUT CANADA DOWN!” This leaflet and its argument supported a nearly 24 hour shutdown of the CP train line used by a major commuter train and the CP commercial mainline.

3. Squat 2 Survive Bulletin, Number 1

April 3, 2020

Including articles: RCMP evict Surrey’s hothouse squat but cannot stop the #Squat2Survive movement; Founding statement of the #Squat2Survive movement; Covid-19 + Colonization = Death; Covid-19 is gender violence; Gentrification and Covid-19, and; Inside the Surrey Hothouse Squat

4. Squat 2 Survive Bulletin, Number 2

April 17, 2020

Including articles: Bailouts for consumers, starvation for the poor; Poor women respond to Trudeau’s $40 million for women’s shelters; The problem with BC’s $300 welfare bonus; A Black Indigenous woman’s struggle for home, family, and safety; Prisoner death in custody at Mission Correctional Institute; Support the #SQUAT2SURVIVE movement, and; 4 demands of the Kennedy Stewart Squat

The article in this bulletin by Ivan Drury, “Bailouts for Consumers, Starvation for the Poor,” was originally published in the US-based magazine Against the Current, and you can read it in full on their website here.

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