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The Anarchists Illegally Fixing the Streets of Portland

Sick of waiting for the local authorities to fix the streets and roads of their pothole-riddled city, a group of self-described anarchists decided to patch the pesky holes themselves, even if it means breaking the law.

The Portland Anarchist Road Care (PARC) was founded by a small circle of friends in response to the deteriorating road conditions in the Oregon city, which they believed made driving or cycling more costly and dangerous for citizens. They grew tired of waiting for the city to fix this pesky problem, and decided to do it themselves, using a well-known technique called cold patching. The anonymous anarchist have fixed potholes on three Portland blocks so far, but are constantly on the lookout for new crevices to fill.

“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 of PARC told The Huffington Post. “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.”

Photo: Portland Anarchist Road Care/Facebook

For many people, the mere mention of the word “anarchist” conjures up images of angry mobs settings streets on fire, being violent and generally creating chaos, but that’s not what these Portland anarchists are about. To them, anarchy is “about building community and creating networks of solidarity and mutual aid.” In fact, they claim that they have received criticism from the left for not “tearing the streets up, rather than paving them”.

Portland authorities are not too happy with the activity of Portland Anarchist Road Care either. Although they failed to fix the potholes in a timely manner themselves, they claim that the mysterious organization did not ask permission to perform road repairs, nor do they have the appropriate safety equipment for it.

Photo: Portland Anarchist Road Care/Facebook

“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,” said Dylan Rivera, of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. He did however mention that he understands these people’s frustration with potholes.

“We aren’t asking permission, because these are our streets. They belong to the people of Portland, and the people of Portland will fix them,” PARC responded.

Photo: Portland Anarchist Road Care/Facebook

Though limited in scope and number, the anarchist’s road repairs got a lot of attention from the media both on local and national level, and ultimately inspired Portland authorities to mobilize a record number of workers for what they called a “Patch-a-thon.” In a single day, they managed to fill over 900 potholes, which amounts to a month’s worth of pothole fixing. There’s still a lot of work to be done though, and the anarchist have promised to remain vigilant.

The group already has over 6,000 followers on Facebook and claims to have received an influx of volunteers willing to help fix city streets. They now plan to mobilize hundreds of people around the city and have a meeting planned for today, to set up a plan and better explain what Portland Anarchist Road Care stands for.

Photo: Portland Anarchist Road Care/Facebook

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

But pothole fixing is only the beginning for Portland’s anarchists. As their number grows, they hope to one day branch out into other forms of infrastructure repairs, but their real goal is to “build the community networks that we envision for a post-revolutionary society.”

 

“As anarchists, we seek to bring about a society in which coercive hierarchies, such as government and capitalism … no longer exist,” one member of PARC told The Oregonian. “To be exceptionally clear, anarchists do not desire chaos, we desire freedom and equality. By creating structures to serve the same purpose as state structures, such as our organization, we have the ability to show that government is not necessary for society to function, that we can have a truly free and liberated society”