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Tag Archives: abortion

1. Direct Provision

 

Nobody does human rights abuses like the Irish! Give them asylum seekers 19 quid a week and keep them in limbo in a disused holiday centre for years on end – sure what are they coming here for anyway?

2. Anti-Traveller Racism

“Knackers”, “gyps”, “tinkers” – all part of the beautiful local vernacular that could only mean you’re on the Emerald Isle! And just watch what happens if they try to move into your estate.

3. US Warplanes in Shannon Airport

Neutrality – Irish style!

4. Being denied an abortion

Pregnant in Ireland and don’t want to be? Haha. Good luck.

5. Corporate tax avoidance

20 companies operating out of a one-room office in the IFSC? Sounds mad, but they’re just taking advantage of Ireland’s unique tax avoidance opportunities – and having the craic while they’re here!

6. Lovin’ tourists, hatin’ immigrants

We Irish are famous for our warm and welcoming attitude, but not if you’re black or have no money to spend!

7. Magdalene Laundries

Gone be the days!

8. Guinness

Creamy Guinness. Yum!

This blog doesn’t advocate voting as a way of achieving any kind of meaningful change. But, if you’re that way inclined, it’s at least a good idea to avoid voting for someone who actively supports the brutalisation and suppression of women and others who may find themselves pregnant. I’ve drawn the European list together from two different pro-life sites (neither of which I’ll be linking to) who asked two slightly different sets of questions.

The Life Institute asked:

  1. Do you support the repeal of the legislation which permits abortion on suicide grounds, and support making Ireland a place where unborn children are legally protected and mothers get all necessary life-saving treatment in pregnancy?
  2. Will you oppose measures in the European Parliament which seek to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws and support pro-life measures such as the One of Us campaign?

The Pro Life Campaign asked:

As a Member of the European Parliament, and notwithstanding the position of your political party (if applicable) will you:

(i)  vote against abortion at every opportunity.

(ii) vote against destructive embryonic stem cell research at every opportunity.

(iii) work with like-minded MEPS to advance the protection of life at all stages across Europe

(iv) work towards the repeal of the abortion legislation introduced in Ireland in 2013

Note that this means their effective position is that a pregnant person should be forced to remain pregnant against their will even if it results in their death by suicide.

The following is a list of candidates who responded affirmatively to one or both of these pro-life groups’ questions:

Dublin

Raymond Whitehead – Direct Democracy Ireland

South

Theresa Heaney – Catholic Democrat Party

Diarmuid Flynn – Independent

Dónal Ó Ríordáin – Fís Nua

Brian Crowley – Fianna Fáil (Did not directly address suicide provision in the X Case legislation, but affirmed a pro-life position.)

Peter O’Loughlin – Independent

Kieran Hartley – Fianna Fáil

Midlands & West

Ronán Mullen – Independent

Marian Harkin – Independent

Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher – Fianna Fáil

Thomas Byrne – Fianna Fáil

Local Elections

The Life Institute has compiled this handy pdf list of local election candidates who responded affirmatively to the question:

Do you support the repeal of the legislation which permits abortion on suicide grounds, and support making Ireland a place where unborn children are legally protected and mothers get all necessary life-saving treatment in pregnancy?


It should be noted that non-appearance on these lists doesn’t mean that the candidate is pro-choice. The pro-lifers are still bitter over the passing of the extremely limited and restrictive legislation to provide abortion in the case of direct risk of death, and as far as they’re concerned, everyone who voted for the legislation or is a member of Fine Gael or Labour is effectively pro-choice so excercise caution.

This was my first attempt to write about intersectionality from an anarchist perspective. Originally published in Irish Anarchist Review #7

As class-struggle anarchists dealing with the relations between gender, race and class, we must, in theory and practice, pick a path between two pitfalls. On one side is economic reductionism – the reduction of all political questions to the social relations of production – which erases the perspectives and struggles of women, queers and people of colour; submerges their voices within an overly generalised class narrative, in which the idealised Worker is implicitly white heterosexual and male; or consigns their struggles to a secondary importance compared to the “real struggle” of (economic) class against class. On the other is a stultifying and inward-looking liberal-idealist identity politics, concerned fetishistically with the identification of privilege and the self-regulation of individual oppressive behaviour to the (near) exclusion of organised struggle, which, while amplifying the voices of the marginalised, consigns them to an echo chamber where they can resonate harmlessly.

While both poles described are actualised within the anarchist milieu, we should not make the mistake of thinking that both pitfalls are equally imminent. White supremacism and patriarchyi are hegemonic within our society and this is reflected in anarchist spaces: dismissive “critiques” of identity politics are far more common than over-enthusiastic engagement. Therefore this piece will not offer yet another of these critiques, which more often than not function only justify the continued ignorance and inaction of those unwilling to destabilise their privilege.ii

Rather this piece deals with a more difficult question: “How does one reconcile the diverse political perspectives of feminists, queers and activists of colour with the tradition of class-struggle anarchism?” I do not offer a complete or authoritative answer, but rather attempt to move forward a conversation which seems to be perpetually re-iterating its own beginning: “we must begin to talk about gender and race issues”. Indeed we must, but we must also move beyond beginning.

The traditional approach

Most class-struggle anarchist understandings of the inter-relation of gender, race and class allude in one way or another to the Marxist base-superstructure model of society, that is, that the relations of production are the base of society, which generate the political superstructure which includes the state, culture, gender and race relations etc. A vulgar Marxist idea of the base-superstructure model holds that the base determines the superstructure absolutely and the superstructure is unable to affect the base. The implication of this is that no specific agitation on gender or race issues is needed: if women, queers or people of colour wish to improve their position in society they should simply participate in the class struggle which will necessarily and automatically result in the dissolution of all hierarchies. A particularly crude but somewhat instructive example of this thinking tells us:

In any class society—thus, in any society in which the state and the economy exist—only the ruling class can be truly said to have privilege… [S]o-called privileges are nothing more than a minimal easing of the conditions of exploitation experienced by people in these specific social categories. They are intended to convince these people that they have more in common with their exploiters than with those not granted the same “privileges” and to convince the others that their real enemy is not the ruling class, but rather those granted a less intense level of exploitation… Since only the ruling class truly has privilege, the destruction of privilege will only occur when we destroy all rule.iii

This sort of utopian thinking denies that gender or race have any autonomy from class: patriarchy and white supremacism are merely tools employed by the ruling class to divide the workers. Of course, in reality, the establishment of a communist economic system does not preclude the continuation of patriarchy or white supremacism. One can easily imagine, for example, a communist system where women are held to be the collective sexual property of men, with sexual access ensured by systematic rape and battery, whose economy is perfectly functional.

More sophisticated variants of this model, often accompanied by some dialectical flourish, acknowledge the necessity of specific anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-transphobic agitation, lest these dynamics persist “after the revolution”, but still understand gender and race issues as being essentially forms of bigotry fostered by the ruling class to divide workers against themselves to prevent the realisation of their collective “objective” interests as a class. Gender and race struggles are thus positioned as ancillary to the class struggle, even if they are formally considered “central” to it. Patriarchy and white supremacism are not understood as constituting systems in their own right and forms of power other than the economic are rendered invisible. The pertinent question here is not whether this picture is correct in some “objective” sense – whether metaphysically all power “really” resides in the means of production – but rather: which voices are amplified by this framing and which are muted? What forms of action are opened and foreclosed by choosing this framework at the expense of another? Who among us has the power to define the “objective” interests of the working class?

‘Scientific socialism’ and subjectivity

No theory, no ready-made system, no book that has ever been written will save the world. – Mikhail Bakuniniv

A particularly egregious influence of Marxism on anarchist thought is the supposed need to understand the world systematically – to render the world objectively knowable through the development of a theoretical system, which totally describes reality, and provides a set of objective truths against which other understandings of the world can be compared – related to the failed project of “scientific socialism”. Anarchists (Bakunin in particular) have long recognised the authoritarian nature of this project: a movement mobilised according to scientific theories can only be a movement of “experts” leading the masses – the “false consciousness” of the masses can only be directed to revolutionary ends by the Party, which, by some unknown means, comes to be the bearer of true consciousness backed up by objective scientific facts.v

Objective or universal knowledge is impossible. We exist within a web of social relations and only a god would be able to view the totality of social relations as an objective observer. What we see and what we do not is dependent both on how we are positioned relative to others and in which directions we choose to look. The systems we develop for understanding the world are therefore products of the particular web of power relations in which we are situated; are necessarily at best partial, subjective and tentative; and reflect both the oppressions and privileges to which we are subject. Their proper function is as working theories that enable us to act as effectively as possible within our social context, not as dogmas to which reality must be made to fit. Claims to objectivity and universality are nothing other than a power grab; what is considered central to the struggle for human liberation is a reflection of who has power within the movement. The centrality of economics to our theory, and our particular conception of what class struggle entails and what it does not must be critically re-evaluated in this light.vi

Intersectionality and privilege

[T]here is an important value in overcoming the fear of immanent critique and to maintaining the democratic value of producing a movement that can contain, without domesticating, conflicting interpretations on fundamental issues. – Judith Butlervii

Feminist theory provides useful theoretical tools for analysing the inter-relations of gender, race and class. Critiques of second-wave feminism, particularly from women of colour, highlighted the role of universalist feminist narratives in the marginalisation of working-class women, women of colour, and those whose gender expression or sexuality deviated from the norm: the idea of a universal female experience in practice meant the universalisation of the issues of the most privileged sections of the feminist movement. The theory of intersectionality was developed to address the issue of how a movement could begin to accommodate the incoherency of perspectives entailed by the abandonment of universalism and still continue to function effectively.viii

Intersectionality recognises that these incoherences are not merely intellectual disagreements, but rather reflect real differences in the experience of oppression from different subject-positions. We are all oppressed and privileged in various ways within various systems, and these systems interact in complex ways to produce a totality within which gender, race and class cannot be disentangled and approached as distinct objects: ones positioning with respect to race, for example, changes qualitatively what it means to be a certain gender. We must therefore reject the notion that the class struggle is or could be the same for everyone, and turn to the more complex task of treating class as contingent on other hierarchies.

Dare to look at the intersectionalities. Dare to be holistic. Part of the heart of anarchy is, dare to go against the grain of the conventional ways of thinking about our realities. Anarchists have always gone against the grain, and that’s been a place of hope. – bell hooksix

Examining intersectionalities means not just developing an understanding of the different forms of oppression and the struggles against them, but also means asking certain questions about the ways in which they intersect. To illustrate, let’s examine two seemingly distinct areas of recent WSM activity – the Campaign Against the Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT), which is a particular tactical engagement in a more generalised struggle against austerity, and the campaign for abortion rights in Ireland, which forms part of a wider struggle to maximise reproductive choices for women – and ask: what is the relationship between austerity as a generalised imposition on our class and the restriction of reproductive choice as a particular imposition on women? What are the common forms of social control mobilised in these two seemingly discrete spheres?

Both are biopolitical projects; that is, both aim, at the level of the individual and of the population at large, at producing certain kinds of people and not others in the furtherance of particular objectives. Austerity, which is commonly understood as a mechanism of extracting capital from the population and transferring it to a capitalist class in crisis (which is true), is also a project aimed at reshaping our lives to produce austere subjects: idealised workers primed for participation in neoliberal markets, who provide a maximum of productivity at a minimum cost, living lives with a minimum of material comforts, a restricted sphere of social activity, whose activity is continually aimed at maximising marketable skills, actively seeking job “opportunities” etc.x The restriction of reproductive choices, while often seen as merely a result of backward religious moralism, must also be understood in this way: by denying women access to abortion outright and ensuring that access to contraception is expensive, sexual activity (and the social activity surrounding it) is disciplined toward the production of life within certain normative contexts (i.e. the stable monogamous relationship, called marriage in its ideal form) while other forms are precluded.xi Both involve the mobilisation of many of the same mechanisms of social control: the police, the judicial system, the contraction of the welfare state (in particular the cuts to child benefit function to prevent problematic sections of the working class from reproducing and placing a burden on the state, while imposing a particularly cruel form of discipline on those that do), the taxation system (VAT on condoms, for example), education, public health etc.

An intersectional approach thus reveals the deep interconnections between superficially distinct spheres of political activity. Women’s struggles and the class struggle are found to be inseparable. The slogans “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” and “My Body, My Choice” resonate deeply with one another, as both involve a refusal of biopolitical control and an assertion of the right to live self-directed lives autonomous of the demands of the powerful. Intersectional praxis involves, in part, uncovering these interconnections and writing them into the public discourse.

Speaking and listening

As anarchists, we are not immune to the effects of being formed within a social context in which women, queers and people of colour are sytematically oppressed. Practices of dominance and submission are deeply ingrained into our culture and habituated within normative forms of social interaction, and cannot simply be dispelled with the performative declaration: “I am anti-racist”, I am anti-sexist”, “I am an anarchist” etc.xii Put simply: if left unexamined, our subconscious habits in social interactions will reproduce the marginalisation of the already-marginalised within the anarchist movement.

If, as I have argued, the building-blocks of anarchist theory and practice are the subjective perspectives of those who experience oppression directly (as opposed to ready-made theoretical systems) then an awareness of the ways in which privilege manifests in inter-personal relations is of particular importance.xiii The ability to contribute to shaping the direction of the movement is predicated on the ability to speak and be listened to by others within the movement. The ability to speak from an authoritative position, with the expectation of being listened to, understood and treated seriously, the ability to rely on certain culturally-specific assumptions (common sensexiv) in making a point, and so on, are more readily available to those who are already privileged by power structures than it is to those who are not. Awareness of privilege, then, is an important counterbalance to social forces which produce marginalisation, which allows us to organise more effectively against those forces. This is the precise opposite of the liberal-moralist theory of privilege, which elevates privilege awareness to the status of an abstract good.

The class struggle

At this point one might be wondering what precisely the implication of this argument is. Do I mean to say that class must no longer be at the centre of anarchist politics? Or am I saying that class is understood in a way that is too narrow? I am saying both of these things, or, more precisely, both are valid ways of parsing the same argument. If class is understood as being simply a matter of economics, and particularly those aspects of capitalist economics that appear most pressing to white heterosexual men; if class-centricity means that a deep understanding of the way in which capitalism produces capitalists and workers is essential for all anarchists, while deep understandings of the way in which patriarchy produces men and women, and white supremacism produces white people in relation to a multiplicity of (in)subordinate racesxv, are not; worse still, if it means that obscure historical knowledge of failed revolutions and exegesis of the texts of dead theorists takes precedence over the experiences of living people, then class must be removed from the centre of our theory. If, however, class is understood as encompassing the totality of hierarchical social relations, as being the product of many systems acting sometimes in concert and sometimes autonomously of one another, and moreover as bringing together a diversity of experiences and struggles in a spirit of solidarity and mutual recognition, then this is precisely the heart of anarchism.


i I am using these terms in a broad sense for the sake of readability. White supremacism encompasses all oppressions on the basis of race, ethnicity, culture, nationality and migration status which function to empower whites. Similarly, patriarchy includes the oppression of women, queers, trans* people and others oppressions on the basis of gender.

ii For a balanced critique, see “The Poverty of Privilege Politics” by by Tabitha Bast and Hannah McClure, Shift Magazine, http://shiftmag.co.uk/?p=679

iii “A Question of Privilege”, Venomous Butterfly, http://www.geocities.ws/kk_abacus/vb/wd8priv.html

iv Quoted in Michael Bakunin (1961) by E. H. Carr, p. 175

v Within the Marxist tradition, this attempt to attribute the “perspective of totality” to the Party has been criticised by John Holloway. See Change The World Without Taking Power, p.35, http://www.edtechpost.ca/readings/John%20Holloway%20-%20Change%20the%20World%20Without%20Taking%20Power.pdf

vi At the risk of stating the obvious, I am not advocating here a rejection of science as a methodology or the embracing of irrationalism; rather we should embrace a certain epistemological modesty and reject the power effects of positioning a particular set of ideas as scientific/universal/totalitarian.

vii “The End of Sexual Difference” in Undoing Gender by Judith Butler, p. 176

viii See “Refusing To Wait: Anarchism and Intersectionality” by Deric Shannon & J. Rogue, http://www.anarchist-studies.org/node/339 for an account of the history of this development, as well as an excellent exposition of intersectional theory.

ix “How Do You Practice Intersectionalism? An Interview with bell hooks”, Common Struggle, http://commonstruggle.org/bellhooks

x In particular, various reforms of the social welfare system have a particular aim of disciplining the unemployed in this way.

xi The fact that this project is increasingly an abject failure producing an assortment of individually and socially problematic situations is besides the point here.

xii See, for example, “Towards an Anarchist Anti-Racism” by Dónal O’Driscoll, http://www.wsm.ie/c/toward-anarchist-anti-racism

xiii For another class-struggle anarchist perspective on “Privilege Theory”, which takes a somewhat different approach from mine, see “A Class Struggle Anarchist Analysis of Privilege Theory” from the Anarchist Federation Women’s Caucus, http://www.afed.org.uk/blog/state/327-a-class-struggle-anarchist-analysis-of-privilege-theory–from-the-womens-caucus-.html

xiv “Many quite nefarious ideologies pass for common sense. For decades of American history, it was “common sense” in some quarters for white people to own slaves and for women not to vote. Common sense, moreover, is not always “common” — the idea that lesbians and gay men should be protected against discrimination and violence strikes some people as common-sensical, but for others it threatens the foundations of ordinary life.” “A `Bad Writer’ Bites Back” by Judith Butler, https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/wash/www/butler.htm

xv See “Abolish Whiteness” by Noel Ignatiev, http://imaginenoborders.org/pdf/zines/AbolishWhiteness.pdf for a development of this point.

This paper describes an illegal feminist abortion collective [the Service] through whose efforts 11,000 abortions were performed between 1969 and 1973 when abortion was legalized. An analysis of interviews from 32 members of this lay group indicates how and why the collective was so effective in providing what is usually a physician – controlled medical procedure. After describing the structure of the organization and the process by which women obtained the abortion, including pre-abortion counseling and post-abortion follow-up, two sets of reasons for the collective’s effectiveness are presented. The first five reasons derive from the interview themselves; they deal with the organization’s social and historical context, its illegality, its charismatic leaders, its member satisfaction and its financial self-sufficiency. The next nine reasons deal with factors that make The Service a relatively typical democratic collective organization. The most important of these factors is its lack of concern for organizational survival per se. This account supports the Rothschild-Whitt model for collective democratic organizations. It also suggests that counseling is important both for the providers and for the receivers of abortions. (Author’s abstract)

Download (PDF): Seizing the means of Reproduction

Alternative download (mediafire)

TRIGGER WARNING

Discusses shaming of women who have had abortions.

Anyone who was ever curious about what kind of conversations the sort of young people who join Youth Defence have when they’re hanging out should check out this piece on their website (trigger warning for this link).

Apparently, they sit around and think about marrying aborted fetuses:

A few weeks ago, some of my friends and I were talking about Baby X. I was telling them that I was thinking we might have been friends with Baby X, or gone to college with him or her, and one girl nearly broke my heart when she said “He might have been my husband.”

Assuming Maryanne, the “student with a dream”, actually exists at all, which is doubtful1, there’s something both hilariously tragic and incredibly fucked up about young women fantasising about the awesome relationship they would have with the aborted fetus of a 14-year-old rape victim.2

1. “Ireland’s largest and most active pro-life organisation, led by young people who believe that life is worth protecting” actually doesn’t have all that many young people involved, and is in fact an astroturf group funded by American ultra-conservatives.

“I’m only single because my husband was aborted.” Yeah sure. *ahem*

The rest of the article is more or less the usual “abortion is mass murder” drivel, but with a curious sci-fi twist:

You know those movies where the main character thinks “What if I’d never been born?” and then wakes up the next day to find that nobody knows who he is and he sees what life would have been like without him? Well, we’re living in that kind of parallel universe every day of our lives… there are people missing!

2. Miss X actually miscarried, in part, as a result of the incredible stress put on her by the likes of Youth Defence.

Instead of talking about how every zygote is actually a fully-formed human because God or angels or something injected a soul into it at some arbitrary point called “conception”, instead, Maryanne relies on parallel universes to explain how statements like “imagine if everyone in China were to die tomorrow… well that’s the destruction we’re facing today” make any sense, a deus ex machina that’s gotten many a bad author out of a plothole.

It’s probably not strictly Biblical though.

What if the person who would have discovered a cure for cancer has been aborted? What if the next great leader of our country has been aborted? What if you’ll never meet your true best friend? What if you’ll never grow old with your soul mate because he or she was violently torn away from this world when they were only a few weeks old?

Ever notice how only good people get aborted? Never rapists or serial killers? Odd that.

Every person has a purpose in life, and over the past half century we’ve wiped out more than one billion people. That’s one billion lives, one billion lifetimes, one billion contributions that the world has been deprived of… Millions of people have lost their husbands and wives to abortion! And now there are millions of family trees that will never happen, generations wiped out for thousands of years to come.

And that’s only counting abortions. If we considered every potential parallel-universe baby, every sperm in every ejaculation throughout the entire of human history, every nine-month window during which a fertile woman wasn’t pregnant… we’re talking about slaughter on an unprecedented scale. The people who have never existed vastly outnumber the people who actually have, which leads to a startling conclusion:

To a first approximation, the entire human species has been wiped out by the combined forces of masturbation and contraception. Almost everyone has been murdered.

Scary stuff.

EDIT: Looks like I was right about those young people not actually existing. Thanks to the cool people at Rabble for bringing this pic to my attention.

You can also check out the cool kids of Youth Defence being cool at last year’s acid house themed Rally for Life.

TRIGGER WARNING

Contains some discussion of psychological responses to crisis pregnancy which may be triggering. Some of the links may also be triggering in other ways.

Over the last few days, a number of those awful Youth Defence posters that have been appearing on billboards all over Dublin have been ripped-down, paint bombed, stickered over with Joyce quotations or otherwise vandalised. (Video here.)

The story was picked up by Broadsheet this afternoon and predictably the comments section is filled with the usual tedious liberal bleating about freedom of speech. Here’s a couple of randomly chosen examples:

Hate this. Am very pro-choice but I also believe in free speech. Just like I don’t agree with the BNP but I hate they way people attempt to stop them attending debates but have no problem with radical leftists attending similar debates.

This is against freedom of expression. Very naive thing to do even to God bothering moral nazis.

The rest is more or less the same: people who vandalise posters are against free speech/worse than Nazis/thugs etc. etc.

First of all, we need to recognise that Youth Defence have deliberately designed these posters to evoke feelings of shame, guilt and distress in order to bully women into doing what they want. Crisis pregnancy and termination can cause acute feelings of distress and anxiety in women, much of which can be linked to pervasive conservative ideas about the immorality of abortion. These posters are designed to be deliberately triggering for women who have been through traumatic situations (triggering here means provoking extremely strong or damaging emotional responses,for example, post-traumatic flashbacks or urges to harm themselves – see here for more).

For that reason alone these posters shouldn’t be all over the city forcing themselves into people’s consciousness without their consent, and people are right to rip them down. The potential for actual tangible harm to vulnerable people trumps whatever abstract rights Youth Defence can lay claim to.

But we should also think about what exactly free speech means, who gets to lay claim to it, who benefits from it and so on.

Liberals conceptualise freedom of speech in negative terms, as the ability to say whatever you want without any coercive force preventing you from doing so. That’s a useful freedom from the point of view of those with access to the political, social, economic and cultural capital to turn their negative freedom into positive expression. It’s really useful for groups like Youth Defence, who are given massive funding by wealthy anti-choice individuals and groups in the United States, and who operate in a country in which patriarchal Catholic conservatism is embedded culturally and institutionally, but for those without access to those forms of power, their voices remain excluded.

In her testimony to the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography, Andrea Dworkin criticised the (liberal) ACLU because “they have convinced many of us that the standard for speech is what I would call a repulsion standard. That is to say we find the most repulsive person in the society and we defend him. I say we find the most powerless people in this society, and we defend them. That’s the way we increase rights of speech in this society.” (source)

In Ireland, people don’t come much more powerless than women in situations of crisis pregnancy – doubly so if they are children, or victims of rape, or in institutional care, or undocumented migrants, or simply too poor to travel to England for an abortion. Every attempt by women to pursue the access to free, safe and legal abortion in this country, either through the courts or through parliament has failed. It’s been 20 years since the X-case ruling established the on-paper right to lifesaving abortion in this country, but since then, actual legislative remedy has been prevented by kicking it back and forth between committees for two decades. In this society, for women who have found themselves, may one day find themselves, or currently find themselves faced with situations of crisis pregnancy and whose voices are routinely dismissed and ignored by state institutions, vandalism like this is their speech and should be defended.