Note: I’m willing to see data that shows me I’m wrong. More data is good. I’m willing to change my mind — email me leads at miss.kitty.stryker at Gmail. I hope more people research this too! I just haven’t seen anything that leads me to think that this is that complex. And policing the hood or snitching on neighbors? Less into that.
I’m seeing a lot of anxiety spreading on social media that the CIA is pawning off professional fireworks to Black teens to destabilize the BLM movement due to one person’s tweet.
For context, I am maybe one of the most anti-government, anti-cop people I know. I am for full abolition of the police and prisons. I am not super keen on the federal government. I’m usually pretty quick to believe that the government and the cops are Up To No Good. But I have to say I don’t see this adding up, both from my experience talking to folks in my neighborhood, what I’ve witnessed, and seeing interactions other folks have had.
I’m also seeing a lot of calls to “record suspicious activity you see in your neighborhood” which… I don’t really get. For whom? For what purpose? How is this not super Karen-y behavior?
Let’s say you miraculously film a cop dropping off fireworks in a neighborhood. Clearly marked, in a patrol car, undeniably a cop. Who are you going to report this to, again? Cops don’t even hold each other accountable for murder, lolsob. And what if they aren’t a cop? Do you report them for naming and shaming to local organizers? Are you going to turn local organizers into the police force for your neighborhood?
Do you not talk to your neighbors… or do you only talk to them when you’re lecturing them on their behavior?
Let’s talk a little bit about COINTELPRO. Yes, there are absolutely examples of the government and the police infiltrating political movements to destabilize them. This was specifically used to great effect during the Civil Rights movement, and was busted open when the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI busted into their offices and released some of their files.
One of the FBIs favorite tricks to encourage dissent? Letters full of fake information to encourage paranoia and exacerbate rifts. It’s absolutely fair and reasonable to be wary that such things might be happening again. Let’s also just be wary of spreading our own rumors — the left really doesn’t need its own QAnon.
I don’t want to wear a tin foil hat, they’re just not flattering.
If this was a COINTELPRO operation? I just don’t believe that it would be handled this sloppily. Videos of firefighters setting off fireworks, or fireworks going off near police precincts without the cops doing anything, or videos of a street filled with cop cars with fireworks happening nearby… these are all really high key for a shadowy operation. It’s just as likely that Americans just like to see things go BOOM, especially when they’re not supposed to have their hands on it.
And let’s be real— cops stepping back and letting fireworks go off unchecked got a lot of you to change your tune from “defund the police” to “I wish the police would do proactive policing again”.
If there’s a secret operation going on, it seems much more “AND THEN THEY’LL BE SORRY” than sleep deprivation.
Is the left being spied on? Absolutely. Are neighborhoods being given bog standard illegal-but-not-hard-for-a-consumer-to-get-across-state-lines fireworks for free by the secret police? I doubt it. It’s grim to say, but it would be more likely for faulty fireworks to be the things getting distributed if the government wanted to terrorize and intimidate a community.
It’s also really interesting to me that the person responsible for this wide fireworks panic seems to consider anyone disagreeing or offering proof contrary to their theory “government agents”, and told followers that it’s dangerous to just go and talk to your neighbors to find out what’s going on, that it’s better to just film in secret and guess at motives… rather than ask questions yourself. Seems like that will encourage fear, not dissipate it.
Remember those bricks? Turns out they were by construction sites. Rember the outside agitators? Turns out they were angry locals, pissed that they had been held hostage by the police and capitalism for so long. Sometimes the obvious answer is, actually, the answer.
This is why I am very very wary of outside agitator narratives. The white woman who set fire to the Wendy’s Rayshard Brooks was murdered at? Apparently, that was his girlfriend. People (on the left!) were so quick to spread her photo around to sniff out the “outside agitator” that they instead doomed a comrade to jail. I mean… who do YOU protect, and who do YOU serve?
Increased fireworks are probably more prevalent in part because a lot of these folks are essential workers who don’t have anywhere to spend money, so when someone comes through from Nevada (or wherever) with the 4th of July haul, people are buying enough to set them off more frequently. Fireworks stores, after all, say sales are up.
And I mean hell, they’re not legal in Oakland, but it’s perfectly easy to drive for an hour and pick up some fireworks from a local stand. If you wanna go even bigger, it’s 9 hours to drive to Vegas. It’s not that difficult, and that’s without looking at the underground market. This guy got caught with 500lbs of fireworks. Fireworks being sold out of car trunks and duffel bags just isn’t that uncommon. This guy got busted with 3000lbs of fireworks in 2018. Maybe you just didn’t know this market existed?
Those big booms that aren’t fireworks? Possibly M80s, which are illegal to buy and to make but aren’t impossible to get your hands on. At least some of them? Seal bombs, not terribly hard to get a hold of in an area known to use them as a seal deterrent. Dropped in a milk jug full of water, they make a big explosive noise, low and reverberating.
Why aren’t cops showing up? Well, cops know they’re being watched and are picking and choosing their battles. Traditionally, fireworks were a show of defiance, with different neighborhoods setting theirs off in stages so the cops never caught them in the act and were just racing from one spot to another. Right now, cops as far as I can tell aren’t in a rush to arrest people for fireworks, and also, are often busy dealing with protests, so it’s not a priority.
Additionally, cops across the US have said they were going to have the “Blue Flu”, trying to make a point that maybe people *do* want to call cops for nonviolent crimes. Cops aren’t showing up in an attempt to prove you’re too scared to be without them, and they’re doing this as retaliation because of calls to defund them and hold them accountable. People were overpoliced for years over small shit, and now that the cops are having a petulant tantrum wherein they refuse to overpolice, people are taking advantage. Cops are ignoring these noise complaint calls — therefore, more fireworks.
It’s not just more fireworks, though. It’s also more food carts, who also aren’t getting harassed by cops about whether they have a permit or not.
Its also drag racing & side shows. It’s graffiti. Sex workers are getting left alone more, as are homeless folks.
There's lots of stuff going on now that the cops are hands off. Without proactive policing, yeah, we see more graffiti and bacon wrapped hot dog carts.
As for the question of these being bigger or more professional — well, you’d be amazed what you can buy, just at a normal fireworks store, for a start! Laws have relaxed more and more each year. There are some pretty big exposives available, and they’re pretty cheap currently. And that’s if you’re not even looking at the fireworks underground market, which also exists. With street sounds down, too, because of the pandemic, we might just notice noise more acutely. If someone shoots a firework closer to the ground vs up in the air? That’ll echo more loudly.
Did you know a regular firework that can bought from a retailer can go from 50–250 feet in the air? Know how high a professional firework like they use for the Macy’s parade can go? OVER 1000 FEET. They use shells 2–3' in diameter. That’s not what these kids have, I promise. If you’re living in a state that makes all aerial fireworks illegal, you may think aerial fireworks are all professional grade… but that’s simply not the case.
If the fireworks people see in neighborhoods turn out to actually be professional-grade fireworks (which most of the ones I’ve seen in person and online were not, by the way- they were big and loud, but not that big and loud), I’d be curious if there’s not some factor involved around most 4th of July gatherings having to cancel because of COVID-19. It looks like there’s been an awful lot of fireworks being pushed cheap by businesses that are struggling with so many displays being canceled. Those big explosive booms? Often end up being M40s, cherry bombs, and other explosives that are illegal but people still get their hands on them somehow. I mean, Youtube is filled with white rural kids playing with explosives.
I also think it’s important to remember that it’s mostly happening after 8 because that’s when it gets DARK.
It’s not because of some conspiracy to give Black and brown folks sleep deprivation. Fireworks during the day are just not as cool! I saw a bunch on Saturday, and while they look glittery and are still loud, it’s just not the same. Some people are doing in the day because they still like the BOOM but generally, yeah, it’s gonna be at night.
What I‘m concerned about being perpetuated is this patronization of Black folks as setting off fireworks only because they’re pawns of a white intelligence agency manipulating them. This taps into some white savior shit wherein people want to snitch on each other for buying/selling fireworks in order to rescue them from manipulation by the police. It’s respectability politics shit. It ignores that you are then being manipulated by such rumors into being the police. Stop and think for a minute.
This happens every June to July. That fierce, defiant joy is brighter this year because the cops are finally learning to pick their damn battles. It started in May this year? Well, what happened in May that pissed off people across the globe?
People are very angry at a system and government that has terrorized them for years. Some folks feel this is fair play, something gentrifiers can’t ignore. Something that shakes people up. And some are celebrating the police just barely beginning to get their just desserts.
When we’re so quick to trust Black people who tell us to snitch on other Black folks? That really deserves interrogation.
The fact these conspiracies about how Black people behave are spread by mostly non-Black folks also deserves interrogation. This sounds an awful lot like the “outside agitators” rumors, which also, incidentally, turned out to be false overall.
I do feel for those with PTSD and animals who are scared. I really do. I know this season always sucks for you and even if you do go and talk to your neighbors it won’t completely stop the behavior. That blows and I wish there was a way to make it easier.
That said, I also feel for the Black teens who are fucking furious at all of us for pushing their needs aside while their friends and family were murdered and jailed for years. We’ve ignored them for so long. Now, they’re making sure they’re heard. Are we surprised?
I don’t know there’s a great way to address both types of trauma in a way that feels just and fair for both. Talking to each other seems like the first step. Let’s build more trust, not less.
Thanks for coming to my TedTalk.
PS- just to clear this up — the Boogaloos and white supremacists? They aren’t using fireworks to terrorize people. They’re straight-up shooting people.