I have a heavy heart today. My heart has often been heavy since Hurricane Florence changed so many lives. But today, my heart is heavier than usual.
Bastion attacked again this morning.
We knew this would happen sooner or later. At this point, we’re the most prominent green group in Miami. They already hit us once. We assumed they would try again eventually. But of course, we didn’t know the details.
We expected a night raid. That seems to be what they do in most places — strike hard and fast under the cover of darkness. We also expected an attack on either Synergy Havana or Synergy Roads because they’re both lower to the ground and not as well-defended.
That’s not what happened.
We didn’t know this at first, but today was the start of another round of arrests. It was the second phase of the Green Purge, or “Operation Decisive Sweep” as it’s officially known. Several dozen locations across the country were hit, including some of the public Occupy-style encampments where people have been discussing what to do about the climate crisis — and now the detention crisis.
The local Bastion troops started by attacking our speedboat, the Clover, with overwhelming force. Jess and a few other people were traveling between Synergy Central and Synergy Havana when out of nowhere, a few dozen people in tactical gear appeared out of nowhere and started assaulting them from surrounding buildings with teargas and rubber bullets. They put on their gas masks and tried to fight back, but there was no hope. Everyone survived, thank God, but they were all injured in the fight and quickly captured. One of the witnesses recognized Jess and told me she was taken into custody alive and mostly okay, although she was clutching her arm in pain as they dragged her away.
As soon as they captured our crew on the Clover, they sped away in a few small, fast speedboats to join in the attack on Synergy Central.
The attack on Clover happened so quickly that they weren’t able to tell us what was happening. But we’ve been keeping in constant audio contact with everyone who’s out in the field, so we heard some commotion and knew something was up. Before the attack over there had even finished though, Bastion started hitting Synergy Central.
True to my word, I sent out a distress signal citywide the moment I knew we were under attack. It turns out that may have saved all of our lives.
From what we can tell, Bastion had two plans. Plan A was to take Synergy Central with overwhelming force. We’ve been watching their patrols, so we have some sense of how many troops they have and where they are. But they must have snuck people around in plain clothes or underground tunnels or something. Because they had about twice as many people as we expected in the office building across the street. It was at least four dozen people, maybe more. They all attacked at once, and more people quickly joined them from other parts of Brickell.
They knew better than to go wading in through the front door for another taste of the Zapper. So instead, they started by firing a few live grenades at us from across the street.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard live grenades before. Given the way things are going in this country, maybe you have. I had never heard them before and they seemed even louder than the concussion grenades. I was near the top of the building when they hit and it still sounded loud to me. I felt the explosions.
Luckily, we had planned for this. A casual observer would see all the lights and activity on the lower floors of the building and assume that we were all concentrated down there. But actually, this was mostly an illusion. We do have some work spaces and offices down there, but especially after the Bastion raid, we started moving everything to the upper floors. We kept some lights and some people down there, and we kept all the lights turned off all the time in our living quarters and offices upstairs. All of those late nights and early mornings in the dark upstairs paid off. Bastion focused their initial attack on the lower floors that were mostly not in use.
But no plan is perfect. We do keep guards in the lobby at all times, and people do sometimes use the lower floors as office and workshop space. During Bastion’s initial assault, three people died and four were injured. The person I knew best was Murray, one of our original members from Southern Illinois. This was actually his first time at Synergy Central in a week or two and I was looking forward to seeing him for lunch. But then Bastion struck him down while he was doing nothing more threatening than teaching a few people about rainwater catchment systems.
After hitting the first few floors with a few live grenades, Bastion charged in, entering the building from the lobby and the neighboring office building, just like they did last time. Their explosions had successfully disabled the Zapper, but we had other plans in store for them.
The first few floors have a few sturdy metal gates and barricades in the hallways and stairwells. This slows down travel on these floors even when you have the keys. When you don’t have the keys, it really slows you down. While Bastion was breaking down the gates with power tools, we were scrambling to our defensive positions.
It’s a good thing, too, because we didn’t realize that we were about to be hit from above too.
Planes and helicopters have been scarce in Miami since Hurricane Florence. We talked about the possibility of Bastion attacking us by helicopter, but we didn’t take it too seriously. We just kept a few doors locked just in case. While we were scrambling downstairs to fight off the ground troops, about a dozen of them were entering from the upper roof of the building, deposited there by a helicopter.
It was chaos. When we heard the commotion of the helicopter and explosions upstairs, we knew we were trapped between two teams, one above and one below. There were a few dozen of us in the building at the time, and we had to make a quick decision about what to do. The Synergists is mostly a horizontally organized group with everyone making decisions cooperatively. But we do have some structure for moments like this. Harold is usually in charge of defense, but he was off at Synergy Havana with Tenelach, so it was up to me.
I will always remember that moment. There I was, standing in a crowded hallway with a few dozen of my fellow Synergists. Some were armed, some weren’t. Some had been in a fight before, some hadn’t. All were caught up in a huge adrenaline rush. And they all looked to me for a decision about what to do.
¡Dios mío! I’ve started getting used to playing a leadership role around here. But I’m more of a civilian leader, not a Green Guard leader like Harold. I took a deep breath and did my best to stay calm while I wrapped my head around the situation. Then I told everybody to follow me down to the lower levels to fight off the team invading from below. And they did.
We had some defenses in place. The main defense was small holes cut in the floor to dump concussion grenades or other surprises on people on the lower floors. It’s fairly easy to drop something down those holes, but a little harder for them to toss something up, though not impossible. We also had cameras in each hallway so we could see what was going on using our tablets. So we started dropping concussion grenades on them from above so that they would have to fall back.
This was obviously only a temporary solution. We didn’t have very many of those grenades, just a couple on each floor. So then we had to toss Molotov cocktails down there too.
This was an insane idea, of course. We were setting fire to our own building. But we didn’t have many options. Judging by the live grenades they used to make their entry into the building, we weren’t even sure if they planned on capturing us or just killing us. I still wonder what they would have done if they’d made it up that far. But luckily, right around then, our luck changed.
They suddenly started retreating. Not just backing away from the holes where we were dumping unpleasant surprises on their heads. They actually started leaving the building. We watched in shock as the troops below us scurried back down the stairs and out of the building. Then we heard the helicopter come back to pick up the troops above us. If they’d kept at it for just a few more minutes, it would have ended in an ugly gun battle, probably with all of the Synergists dead or captured. Instead, the Bastion troops all started retreating.
Why? They had to switch to Plan B.
Plan A was to take Synergy Central by force. But my distress signal apparently brought a lot of unwanted visitors to Brickell. Plan B was to hit us hard and fast, do some damage while they could, and then retreat to protect their clients in Brickell. As Bastion retreated, we heard automatic gunfire and explosions in the distance. I carefully peeked out a window to see what was happening.
When I looked down the street one way, I saw about fifty or sixty people from Synergy Havana coming our way. Some of them were wading and some were riding on various small boats and rafts. They were mostly unarmed, at least in terms of guns, but they were shouting and waving various improvised weapons at the retreating Bastion forces. There was actually a group of three of them who had crossbows, which I wasn’t expecting. In the other direction, there were a few speedboats with armed men in suits zipping past the Bastion boats toward the heart of Brickell, exchanging gunfire with the Bastion troops as they gave chase.
I warned Bastion about this. I told them that if they attacked Synergy Central again, there would be consequences. And there were. The Synergists never initiate violence, but the same can’t be said for the gangs. One or more of them decided to take advantage of the chaos for their own benefit. I don’t know exactly what happened out there, but the banks and offices in downtown Brickell definitely got hit by a few bands of well-armed criminals while their defenses were weak. I’ve heard rumors that one of the buildings was robbed and some of the people inside taken hostage for ransom. That was never my intention, but that’s what happens when Bastion goes around killing innocent gardeners and teachers and plumbers instead of protecting its clients from criminals.
I don’t know how other people do this. How can anyone stand to watch their friends and neighbors get captured and killed like this? I can’t stand it. After we put out the fires and made sure the building was safe, I saw what was left of my friend Murray’s body. I could barely even recognize him. I never had a chance to say goodbye. And I don’t know if I’ll ever see mi querida Jess again. They have her. The people who blew up our lobby, trashed our biggest garden, and killed Murray. They took her. And they still have her.
My heart feels so heavy. And even though I know intellectually that it’s all Bastion’s fault, I still feel responsible. I don’t know what I could have done differently. All I know is that I have to do something to set this right. We can’t keep living under the threat of Bastion and Operation Decisive Sweep and everything else that’s wrong with this city and this country. I said it before and I’ll say it again. Something has to change. And we have to do whatever it takes to change it.