A New York Pirate’s Guide To Resistance

This is a guest post from Jay Emerson, founder of the New York Pirate Party and a long time political activist.

With uprisings happening all over the U.S. lately you might be wondering what to do when the shit hits the fan. Maybe you were thinking of going to a protest in your area to fight against some form of oppression or another, but don’t know what to wear or what to bring to the party, or even what to expect. These activist fashion and culture guides will help you navigate the complex world of “anti-fascist” chic!

Now i’m not going to go over everything because a good portion of pirates already know what to do. What I hope to give is tips and tricks to stuff you already know.

First, you need to get some protest threads and a backpack full of helpful items. Definitely a good read: How to gear up for the protest

Ok so you’re dressed, got your gear ready, and are about to embark to your local resistance area.

Before you do that, something I learned throughout years of activism was to bring a second set of clothing, but make it nice clothing. Business casual. Polo shirt and khakis or something.

Here’s why.

During the 2004 RNC in NYC I was with a group heading towards Union square where we were about to be kettled on a side street that the cops were forcing us to go down. I saw where they were flanking us and then I saw the end of the block where a line of police were waiting while the cops started lining up behind us on the other side of the block. Before they got into position I bolted. One cop gave chase and I lost them around the corner by going into a Starbucks. So here I am dressed like fucking Mad Max getting stares in a coffee shop. If the cops check in here i’m screwed. I wait for a person to get out of the bathroom (so I don’t have to buy anything to use the bathroom), run inside before the door closes, change my clothes, and walk out in a nice polo shirt and khakis.

Even asked a cop for directions out of the protest area near the kettle spot too.

This is overkill as I needed the “disguise” to wear INTO the city since I could get arrested on-site due to me being watched and listed in the T.A.L.O.N. program at the time, but I always bring nice clothes now.

You’re at the protest. Man those cops look serious. All Stormtroopered out ready to give me some democracy where the sun don’t shine

Here’s their most common weapons

Tear Gas Canisters: These are hot. You need heat resistant gloves or some kind of hilarious item to throw it back with where you don’t have to touch it. If you are caught in a smoke cloud, soak a bandanna or other cloth in apple-cider vinegar or lemon juice and tightly cover your mouth and nose with it.In emergencies, dry powder such as flour, baking soda, detergents, or even soil can be used to reduce the quantity of chemical agent available for uptake through the skin. Pouring flour onto the chemical followed by wiping with wet tissue paper is reported to be effective against the nerve agents soman, VX, and mustard gas. Finally, avoid wearing oil-based creams or sunscreens, etc.
Rubber Bullets: It’s gonna hurt. No way around this.
LRAD: Loud fuckers but some people aren’t effected by it. Ear plugs help.

This is important and keep in mind this is my own opinion of the types of groups you will meet at a protest. What group you are with depends on what you want to do that day. Feel like relaxing and just protesting? Find a UFPJ (United For Peace and Justice) type group or anywhere there’s strollers with babies in them.
Wanna be where the action might be? Look for the black bloc’s red and black flags, there’s your party people.

Liberal Democrats – This is your social protester. Do not look down on them Captain Anarchy, you’re at the same protest. They usually make up a bulk of the demonstrations and you can find them easily by their party’s candidate most likely in placard form en masse.

Socialists and Communists – Do you like free paper? If so join this group. They wear red and sometimes green but if you see a USSR flag you’re probably in the right place. They give you so many free pamphlets and newspapers of theirs it can be overwhelming. They’ll hold the line in most cases but some of them have an attitude of “not making trouble” for the cops because they are workers also so be wary if your not about that authoritarian love.

jay protest

Anarchists/Black Bloc – These asshats are up for anything. Look for those dressed in all black with black and red flags. At the very least they’re you’re best bet at being protected if/when the police try to charge in. Although that’s a 50/50 because there’s some who run at the first sight of a cop coming near them.
Personally I march with the Anarchists and their Black Bloc. I go as a medic since I have training in basic first aid (volunteer firefighters all have to go through such training) and generally don’t get too involved unless my help is needed. I go with them because I have a knack for catching what we call “agent provocateurs”.

These are the 6 foot ninjas that are goading you to set something on fire or break shit. Don’t. Instead, if you’re confident, call them out for it.

No way around it, you got got.

jay insane

What next?

I truly wish I had a general answer for you but given the USA PATRIOT ACT you can be held without talking to a lawyer. Anything goes here. They can charge you with whatever they want but most charges get dismissed.

In my experience they used sleep deprivation by blasting gospel music in the holding pens at a parking garage that had fence-like cells. Then bring you to the jail for processing where they might make you do humiliating things. For example, I was pulled into a shower area with 6 other people and we had to strip and hop like a frog.

Oh how the authorities love their petty games.

But you knew the risk. You knew if captured your enemy they would not be nice. Right?

Chances are you’re going to be a “catch and release” so the State can dwindle the numbers at the protest and put fear in the hearts of others around you. If you had the NLG’s (National Lawyer’s Guild) number on your arm and they actually give you a phone call, make it to them. They got me out right away.

Otherwise enjoy your bologna and cheese.

No tips for jail life other than to keep to yourself and don’t snitch!


Jay Emerson is Founder of the New York Pirate Party and a long time political activist.
He grew up in Farmingville, NY and is actively involved with numerous Immigrant Rights groups on Long Island. He was a medic from the very start of Occupy Wall Street in NYC.

New York Pirate Party can be found on Twitter, and as we speak they are accepting new members without membership fees: https://twitter.com/NYPirateParty


Björt Framtíð had optimistic beginnings.Bright Future began in 2012 when two members of parliament from opposing sides of the aisle joined forces. Combining elements from both left and right to present a new kind of politics, Bright Future wanted to be a progressive force. With support from people in the cultural sphere, the party became a darling of downtown Reykjavík hipsters. Their political program was vague but optimistic. Iceland should have a “stable economy and currency” and “more democracy and deliberation”. They would “focus on human rights and the environment” and ensure “rich diversity in all aspects of life” as well as a “more honesty”. In retrospect and taken out of context, it might be hard to see how such a hollow platform survived scrutiny. But four years had passed since the financial crash of 2008 and people were tired of anger and bickering. Voters wanted something new, and Bright Future delivered. Balancing sincerity with tongue-in-cheek humour, they sometimes made promises for comical effect. With Bright Future they joked that Iceland would win Eurovision and become a “happier place with less fuss”.

In the 2013 elections, Bright Future secured 8,2% and six seats in parliament. During the coming two years, Bright Future would poll well, peaking at over 20% in mid 2014. As the Pirate Party started to rise in the polls in 2015 to over 30%, it was at the expense of Bright Future and the lacklustre Social Democratic Alliance. Dissatisfied Icelandic voters were becoming accustomed to jumping from one new party to the next. When results were in from the 2016 elections, Bright Future had won 7.2% of the vote. Their campaign focused on feminism (“Less mansplaining — More Bright Future”), honesty (“More Bright Future — Less empty promises”) and environmentalism. Óttar Proppé, coming across to many as a sensible aging hipster in TV debates, had inspired confidence.

Early elections had been called in response to the Panama Papers, and few progressive voters wanted either of the two government parties at the time to stay in power. In the coming months, the four parliamentarians of Bright Future took part in coalition talks on all sides. When they entered into talks with the Independence Party, their voters and many of the founding members protested. When they then formed government, progressive voters accused them of being a crutch to the Independence Party.

January 2017: Óttar Proppé signing a coalition agreement with Bjarni Benediktsson of the Independence Party.

Many of the original members of the party resigned, as did two of its former parliamentarians, one of whom called the coalition “treasonous”. But Óttar Proppé and his group stood their ground, stating that a government with them was better than a government without them. Only eight months later, they pulled the plug and withdrew after a particularly nasty scandal involving the prime minister covering up that his father had recommended pardon to a convicted paedophile. Óttar Proppé and his party claimed that this was the ultimate proof of them standing by their word of changing the culture, but the voters thought otherwise and regarded them naive and flaky. Bright Future lost all seats in parliament in the subsequent snap election.

So what is the lesson to be learned from Bright Future? This is where I need to disclose my own bias. I’ve worked with the Icelandic Pirate Party for the last two years, and I’ll admit that there is no way for me to stay completely impartial. But I’ll give my analysis, which will also address the strengths and shortcomings of the Pirate movement, for you to make of it what you will.

Politics is about shifting and distributing power. Without having models to explain how power flows, one cannot propose ways to change that flow. We call these models ideology, and it is this sort of ideology that Bright Future is lacking. Bright Future does not have an ideology. Instead, Bright Future has values. Values like courage, balance, warmth, understanding, trust and responsibility. Exchanging ideology for values has become fashionable as the old ideologies are outdated and nobody is willing to commit to another “ism”. This is understandable, but unwise. Values are not a strong anchor, because their relativity allows for too much ambiguity. Bright Future’s values can support entering into government with the Independence Party to ensure these qualities or support staying clear of such a government. And it’s not until you actually get into the position of forming government that your resilience and staying power is actually tested.

A set of values is a lofty ideal, but it’s no replacement for ideology. For example, values do nothing to explain why groups turn against each other or why inequalities arise, in the way that socialism could. Nationalism, liberalism, fascism, socialism and neoliberalism are all models that have, in that order, shaped western society. These models and the forces that employ them have not gone away. Politicians without ideological backbones risk becoming useful idiots for those with stronger spines. A party based on vague ideas like “changing the tone”, “offering another narrative” or “participatory processes” runs a real risk of becoming a vehicle for those with a clearer and simpler agenda. Bright Future is a cautionary tale of what happens when you tell yourself that tone and choice of words is more important than content. It’s a warning to those who want to attempt to “change the culture” without doing their homework on what it is they want to achieve.

So where does this leave a movement like the Pirate Party? I argue that the resilience of that movement is due to it having an ideology at its core. First, we need to acknowledge that despite the best efforts of the establishment, Pirate Parties have been represented in EU and national parliaments since 2008. Even as the movement slows down in one place, it has emerged in another, recently gaining 10,8% in the Czech national election. The Pirate movement is the most successful new political force since the rise of the environmental green parties.

Czech Pirate Party leader Ivan Bartoš interviewed after his party won 10,8% in the elections this year.

What all Pirate Parties have in common is an ideology based in network thinking and freedom of information. Like all ideologies, it has its roots in a canon of thinkers including Larry Lessig, Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen and Yochai Benkler. These shared models lead to conclusions that all Pirate Parties must share to justify their existence. A Pirate Party must oppose censorship. It must fight for transparency and be ruthless against secrecy and corruption. Pirate Parties all believe in some form of collective intelligence to inform decision making. They oppose surveillance and work to expand human rights into the digital sphere. Pirate ideology leads to the right to be forgotten online, policies on cyberwarfare, e-government and data retention. Network thinking leads Pirates to expose flaws in the political process, in parliament and in electoral systems. Pirate Parties have a clear and coherent ideology when it comes to information as a resource, and they see political processes and economic policies as systems that can be hacked for better or for worse. In some cases, as with tax evasion and other white-collar crimes, Pirate Parties have been more adamant critics than left wing parties as they see this as a lack of transparency. That being said, there is much that can not easily be addressed by the core Pirate ideology, like income inequality, class and the environment. But having at least one heavy anchor keeps Pirate Parties on course. Indeed, in Iceland the Pirates have been clear about not going into government with the Independence Party, not because they are fiscally conservative, but because of differences over transparency and reforms of the political system.

Although Pirates have a unique and useful ideology, there is much work to be done. Pirate ideology is based on models of how information flows, and sees information as resource so different from other resources that it must be considered separately. This insight into the nature of information and its effect on power is what defines the Pirate ideology, much like how the most defining insight of Marxism is how material capital affects power. But the ideas and models of Pirate ideology need to be researched and developed to stand the tests of time. Deep and careful work to define the theory is needed to give it staying power.

Parties like Bright Future that completely lack an ideology are likely to disappoint their voters by unexpectedly changing course. But here’s the kicker — it’s not only the new parties that suffer from lack of ideology. Especially on the left, most parties are built around the collective memories of ideologies long gone. Decades of third way politics and trying to meet neoliberal trends has eroded the left. The left now lacks the grand visions it was once (in)famous for. It is not surprising that it’s right at the time when the ideology of the left was crumbling in the 2000s that identity politics gained ground. When the left lost its models of class and inequality to explain why groups are being exploited and turning on each other, we got an uprising against the symptoms of those inequalities, based in values but without vision for how to achieve change. And those who benefited most from this turn of the left were the capital interests that the left tried to meet half way with third way politics.

Chomsky had a point, and we don’t just need narrative but above all ideology to wake up again.

Pirate ideology puts more emphasis on information as a resource than any other ideology. Indeed, most ideologies before it handle information as an afterthought. As information becomes an increasingly dominant resource, ideologies that have models to deal with it will gain ground. However, there are many issues to which the core pirate ideology struggles to come up with answers. These include some of the most pressing issues facing our societies, like climate-change, migration and income inequality. To address these questions, Pirate parties rely on the collective intelligence of their members to come up with answers through online policy formation. But lacking shared models to understand and address these questions, policies run the risk of becoming a mishmash of fashionable and often incoherent opinions. We can also expect disappointment when Pirate politicians in government are forced to make decisions on issues not covered by party policy. Voters will be disappointed to find that in areas where the party does not subscribe to ideologies, the ideologies of their representatives can differ wildly from their own.

Pirates will need to work this out to succeed. We might start seeing Pirate parties that also subscribe to other models, like social democratic pirates and explicitly anarchistic or libertarian pirates. But in a sense, this is just procrastinating the problem. Our representative democracy is broken and needs a radical overhaul. It’s a huge project that will need both compelling models and a powerful narrative to be successful.

So where does all of this leave Iceland, where we started this cautionary tale? Indeed, after the snap elections in October this year, the Left-Green Movement is now in coalition talks with the Independence Party, looking for “common ground around the issues”, to the dismay of most of their voters. We’ll see what follows if that unholy alliance is struck. What has become clear to me is that we cannot afford to keep fumbling around in the dark. At least two major mechanisms need revision — our progressive ideologies are outdated and our representative democracies keep leading to broken promises. We don’t need value based politics, we need ideological direction and new models. I think the Pirates have a part of the puzzle. Now let’s find the rest.


Pirate Parties from around the world are uniting in condemning censorship by the Spanish government.

Pirate Parties worldwide support Catalan Pirates against censorship
We, the Pirate Parties and NGOs of the Pirate movement around the world, express our solidarity with the Catalan Pirates whose websites about the Referendum of Self Determination campaign and the use of Tor are currently being censored by the Spanish authorities. Additionally, we express our solidarity with all citizens of Catalonia who have been met with violent state repression for exercising their democratic right to vote in the independence referendum.

We denounce all political censorship. The Internet censorship by Spanish authorities is an unacceptable violation of human rights and political freedoms, regardless of the legality of the Catalan referendum and the merits of the secessionist cause.

We call upon the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and all democratic governmental bodies worldwide to intervene in support of democracy and freedom of speech in Catalonia. Human rights violations, such as this clearly blatant disregard of free speech, are never internal affairs of any country but the business of all humanity.

Pirate Parties International (PPI), Geneva
Pirate Party Switzerland
Pirate Party Canada
Pirate without Borders
Pirate Party of the Netherlands
Pirate Party of Catalonia
Austrian Pirate Party
Pirate Party Australia
Pirate Party of Tyrol
The Czech Pirate Party
Pirates of Venezuela
Pirate Party Belgium
Pirate Lobby
Pirate Party of Norway
Pirate Party Germany
Partido Interdimensional Pirata (Argentina)
Partido Pirata (Chile)
Pirate Party of Sweden
Pirate Confederation (Spain & Catalonia) –
Mary Read – Feminist Pirates (Spain & Catalonia)
Pirate Movement (Spain & Catalonia)

Featured Image: Don McCullough CC BY


On Saturday the 28th October 2017, general parliamentary elections were held in Iceland. These elections came just a year after the last ones because the ruling government collapsed in September after one of the third ruling parties left the coalitionciting a scandal involving the Prime Minister’s father.

The Icelandic Pirate Party (PPIS) achieved a result of 9.2% earning them 6 seats in parliament, out of a total of 63. This is a decrease of 5.3% and results in a loss of 4 seats. It is, however, the third consecutive national election in which PPIS managed to get into parliament.

These were the first national election for PPIS without the well know Birgitta Jónsdóttir as the top candidate. She decided not to participate in this elections to focus on other things she feel are important. Also, Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir decided not to run again; this being in line with the Icelandic Pirates idea that members of parliament should not stay in office for too long.

The sheer number of parties elected to the new parliament (8) means building a stable coalition will be difficult and there could well be another round of elections before the term of government is fully served.

The Pirates elected to the new AlÞingi are:

  • Halldóra Mogensen
  • Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson
  • Björn Leví Gunnarsson
  • Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir
  • <Smári McCarty
  • Jón Þór Ólafsson

Twitter quotes

Today is my last day as a parliamentarian. So thankful for the trust and the support in the role as a poetician….

— BirgittⒶ Jónsdóttir (@birgittaj) 

And thus begins my second term as an elected representative of the Icelandic people.

— Smári McCarthy (@smarimc) 

Well this is by far the weirdest election result I’ve seen, I can’t imagine this parliament finishing a term 

— Arnaldur Sigurðarson (@Arnaldtor)