Roses on my Table
Ethan Silverstein (2011)
“I’d rather have roses at my table than diamonds on my neck.” Emma Goldman
Roses on My Table is a short documentary about daily life in a Richmond Virginia anarchist collective called Wingnut. It was produced in response to a statement by Virginia State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment describing Wingnut residents as “armed and dangerous terrorists.” It attempts to correct common misconceptions about what anarchists believe and how they seek to accomplish their political objectives.
Wingnut first formed in 2009 when one of their members purchased a condemned home and enlisted a group of anarchist friends to live there and make it fit for human habitation.
Like other anarchists, Wingnut residents believe society would be better off without a state and arbitrary coercive authority. Their anti-government, anti-police and anti-prison views are well received in their mostly minority neighborhood. In part, this relates to the community services they offer. The house is open to the public twice a week with free Internet access and meeting space to discuss neighborhood concerns. In addition to providing kitchen space for the Richmond chapter of Food Not Bombs (a national group dedicated to feeding the homeless), Wingnut also performs a once a week neighborhood cleanup.
The group collectively makes all decisions about the house and the political activities they undertake. When neighbors ask how they seek to bring about political change, they assert it’s not up to them, that autonomous groups of people need to decide “how life should be.”
Two specific Wingnut actions the film depicts are the March 18, 2011 occupation of a neighborhood park to stop the city from selling it to developers and a citywide clean-up of fallen trees and other storm damage following Hurricane Irene in August 2011. As part of the occupation of Monroe Park, the collective helped set up a homeless community for park residents, as well as collecting food and starting a free market This was six months before the formation of Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park.
Towards the end of the film, a homeless person involved in the occupation neatly sums up Wingnut’s vision and purpose: “If society collapses people won’t be able to survive on their own – human society has always operated collectively. Society works better by helping people out.”