At Anarchist Meeting, Cucumber Sandwiches and an Alleged Police Spy

Anarchist meetingJared Malsin Author Wayne Price, left, makes a comment.

Three days after alleged anarchist protesters ran amok in the East Village, an anarchist meeting on Sixth Street was disrupted by a verbal altercation between an organizer of the event and a man he later accused of being a police spy.

Nine people were in attendance at Tuesday’s Anarchist Forum at the Sixth Street Community Center. The meeting featured coffee in paper cups, vegan cucumber sandwiches, and a polite discussion of how health care services might be organized in a future anarchist society.

The forum is a social event that has taken place once a month since November, according to organizers Evan Courtney, 36, who works in an import-export business, and Walter Williams, 60, a retired software developer residing in Washington Heights.

The tension occurred during its second hour when Mr. Courtney confronted an attendee named Leo, who had arrived over an hour late.

The conversation had turned to a hypothetical discussion of a general strike when Leo asked the group, “Let’s say if these things were to take place, how would you think that the government would try to intervene? What do you think their counter-measure would be?”

Mr. Courtney shot back, “They’d send guys like you.”

For several confused minutes, Mr. Courtney refused to explain his comment further, even as Leo and others asked him for clarification. “What is that supposed to mean?” Leo asked.

“I don’t understand what that meant,” Leo again told Mr. Courtney, going on to speculate that the comment had to do with his physical appearance. “Like, they’d send people to discredit the movement, basically? To make it look like it’s a bunch of radicals? Is that what you’re saying?”

Leo, who declined to give his last name but said his nickname was “Weasel,” had arrived with two companions (“Shaqira,” and “Tommy”). In contrast to some of the more conventionally dressed participants, he wore a leather jacket, jeans, and an orange-tipped mohawk. However, he asked not to be photographed. He said he was 26 and lived in the Bronx.

After the meeting, while carrying leftover food and kitchen equipment to his car, Mr. Courtney said he was sure Leo was a spy.

“That was the N.Y.P.D,” he said. He said he was certain because Leo’s remarks were “open-ended leading questions having to do with use of force which is what the N.Y.P.D. intelligence guys look for. That and they came dressed in the wrong costumes.”

Asked if alleged undercover officers often come to the monthly meeting, Mr. Courtney said, “No, I have a feeling it was only because of the disturbance yesterday,” referring to Saturday’s showdown at the community center.

Discussing that incident, participants in the meeting argued that anarchism, as a school of thought, encompasses more than just window breakers. Mr. Williams told The Local, “This was an anarchist discussion about anarchist issues, not to say that the people who did that are or are not interested in this kind of political analysis or discussion. Anarchism is really about finding ways for people to get together to live together without coercive authority.”

Wayne Price, 65, an author of two books on anarchism, agreed, saying “People have this image which they’ve been fed of anarchists as violent; and it’s true, as I said, there has been a minority, for a long time, of people who are very violent, and in effect buy into that image, and act out, thinking, ‘that’s what it means to be anarchist.’”

He added, “I’m certainly not going to, you know, critique any particular action. Certainly anything the anarchists do is nothing compared to the violence that states do, countries waging wars all around the world.”