Anarchy in the O.C.

The skies of Santa Ana were frigid and gray last Saturday, but the only storm in sight was brewing under the roof of El Centro Cultural de Mexico. Here, dozens of vendors, volunteers and community activists gathered for Orange County’s First Anarchist Bookfair.

The gathering may seem like a silly meeting place for eccentric fight-the-power revolutionaries, and one moderator of the event, who went only by the name “Nancy,” acknowledges this — she admits that the outside world may laugh at the OC’s anarchist population, but their following is growing rapidly as a result of some outspoken leaders, who advocate for a lot more than “fuck the police.” The O.C. anarchists want equality and a world devoid of oppression or prejudice. A lofty goal, but the organization of the bookfair is a major first step in bringing together anarchists from all walks of life. The fair provided a place for Southern California’s anarchists, feminists and social justice advocates to share their stories, hold dialogue and discuss anarchist literature with like-minded individuals.

The fair itself was held in the small El Centro Cultural de Mexico building, a multicultural arts center in downtown Santa Ana, ironically flanked by towering city government buildings. Huge black-and-white posters lined the front of the venue, advertising in handmade letters, “OC Anarchist Book Fair,” as well as “Free Inflammatory Literature,”  “Free Avocadoes” and  “The Really, Really Free Market” giving out clothes across the street. The anarchist dream is one in which everything is free — from the people to the avocadoes.

Inside, the building was divided between the actual book fair and the makeshift lecture hall and workshop rooms. The book fair hosted a colorful combination of vendors from the O.C. to the Bay Area, touting all sorts of radical literature, including abstract zines, social-justice-themed children’s coloring books and even the unexpectedly mainstream, such as Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

In the lecture room next door, panels were held throughout the day, featuring prominent anarchists of the area, advocating for a lot more than just death to capitalism. Everyone spoke eloquently and rationally about their plans to create a world free of colonialism, oppression and discrimination.

Angela Mooney D’Arcy, executive director of Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, was the first to take the stage clad in a shirt that read “Protect Sacred Places.” Mooney D’Arcy, who is also closely involved in UCI’s Sustainability Initiative, advocates for representation for California Native American tribes and grassroots sustainability groups along the coast. Throughout the discussion, she stressed the importance of  the leadership of young people — at UCI and beyond.

“We must teach the next generation to use strength and resources to create a world free of oppression, where many worlds fit together,” D’Arcy explained.

Her faith in anarchism proved the best alternative to the state-sanctioned colonialism, which has torn down the lives of her people for centuries.

Another panelist, Kelly, whose primary focus is feminism, argues that our existence depends on our resistance. She sees anarchy as a means to ending state-sanctioned discrimination based on sex.

“We don’t have a choice as women but to resist.”

Copwatch was another organization present at the event, whose chief focus is abolition of the police. Galilea, a young teen panelist bubbling with enthusiasm over her involvement with the organization, describes her personal encounters with police discrimination as a Hispanic female. For Galilea, racism is too deeply ingrained in police culture for the institution to be effective. She and her middle-school-aged sister now advocate anarchism in the schoolyard as a solution to race-based police violence.

These anarchist women don’t want society to devolve into a stateless, rule-free mess, but rather provide alternatives which they firmly believe will help solve issues, from environmentalism to racism. The oft-misunderstood idea of anarchy is about equality in its rawest form.

Even in notoriously straitlaced Orange County, the anarchist movement is picking up speed. Their forward momentum can best be summed up by a front-row audience member, who took the microphone at the end of the panel.

“We are oppressing ourselves when we call ourselves the minority. We are the majority.”