Our comrade, our beautiful homie, our friend Cole was snatched away from all of us last month. He was only 41 and passed away without warning. A huge hole has been ripped open and left us all stunned. It has taken a month for us to even feel right posting this memorial page.
He touched so many lives. But how to sum up a life?! How to stay true to the wholeness and contradictions of a life? People grieve and mark the lives of those passed in different ways but the official obituaries seem to only stand as society’s recordkeeping.
So what to do? How to honor his life and honor what we each knew of him?
Let us all share our own versions of Cole. Comment below.
We will publish and share everything whatever you send us.***
Share what he meant to you.
Tell your stories. Send a pic.
Tell him how you miss him.
Grieve however you have to.
Let it flow and let this page stand for him.
May his memory be a blessing.
Oakland Abolition and Solidarity
*** Commenting on WP can be clunky, so feel free to also contact us at
@oaklandabosol on insta
I met Cole in 2016 here in Oakland and yeah we clicked. We were organizing together almost instantly to support the coming national prison strike. No doubt we were kinda different side by side LOL but at root I recognized a real one and as we got to know each other it turns we shared a lot…. working class, working in the trades, precocious as kids that didn’t go to college, our struggles with dope and recovery…. And he was a smartass, ready with a smirky smile.
“I’m not a strategy guy. I’m a ‘point me at it and get it done’ kinda guy.”
Well, maybe you are Cole but still, you are one of a kind, man. Fuck. WERE one of a kind. I am still struggling to believe you are gone.
He wasn’t some larger than life hero – he struggled. He fucked up. He had demons. He kept a good bit of himself TO himself. I could feel that that he hadn’t yet come into the fullness of his whole self. Maybe that is yet another thing we shared. He was the first person I truly opened up to about my 20 years of methamphetamine lyfe and playing with suicide.
There are some conversations you can only have with someone who has been through the same hell.
I felt honored by the trust he had in me. I feel his absence everyday.
I have so much to tell you still, Cole. We were cheated.
I first met Cole working on the CA prison strike probably six or so years ago. My first big memory of him was just a handful of us standing around outside of San Quentin, holding space in solidarity with prisoners demanding justice for repression and an end to gang validation policies that kept many people locked up in the SHU. Just in the nick of time, Cole roled right up to the gates of the prison and started piling out our bright, strongly worded banners and black and red flags and our presence felt like it grew in strength and clarity of message just having these things. I was so proud to hold our flags and see abolitionist messaging front and center at the action because it is not always part of the conversation when it needs to be.
That was who Cole was to me. He ran on anarchist time, and even though he was more than enough, he always brought more than just himself. He spoke passionately about liberation and pulled deeply from his own life experience as an organizer in a way that had me saying, “yea, that!” in meetings and interviews.
Cole bridged a lot of people from labor solidarity, to prison abolition, to antifascist and community defense efforts. I think a lot of mourning, especially when people die so young, is mourning the loss of potential. I wish I had made more time to hang out after meetings and actions. I have learned so many wonderful things after he’s gone that we could have bonded on, like our love for animals and nature. Losing Cole is like a redwood falling in the forest of the activist community. Someone who has dedicated their entire life to the struggle harbors so much influence and knowledge that everything around them suffers the loss. I can only hope we will be like sequoias and grow and knit our roots together in the space he left. Thank you Cole, we will keep on loving and fighting.
So many of us in the struggle are broken toys. Folks have spent time inside, have dealt with intense violence, have generally learned to mistrust others and to be wary of what we say and do in front of strangers. That wasn’t Cole. Despite his own experiences, Cole was exactly who he showed you he was. It was more than honesty, it was even more than integrity. Cole inspired all of us with his fortitude, with his refusal to back down, the strength of his will. And yet somehow even on top of that disciplined drive and commitment to struggle, the quality that shone through was compassion. I haven’t met many people quite like him, and he will be missed terribly.
The world is less without him, and I for one, feel like it’s incumbent on all of us to be more in his memory.
My first introduction to Cole was right after my 2016 fire season, when I was rollin with Lakota fools, across a pig line from my own fuckin union, and Labor for Standing Rock and solidarity work supporting the frontline camps, was goin strong.
I was kinda functioning as a fixer, gettin money an supplies from a buncha rank an file union ppl an fellow travelers, to folks actually doin work on the ground, not jus chasin clout or runnin a scam, when all that money was flying around but not goin to the Frontline.
We had a free load of firewood from the Bay that jus needed delivery. Than Steve hit me up an told me about a wobbly* in the Bay who was willing to take vacation days and use their CDL for our supply run. Now I got a CDL and lived years in Wyoming. that offer was no joke, especially in November, on those sketchy fuckin roads.
(*there’s a conversation about Cole an the wobblies and how dirty he was done, that I’m not gettin into here, but down to talk about elsewhere.)
We got with Cheyenne River an ultimately decided to try to get an indigenous truckin outfit to make the run, but that offer stuck with me.
An when I wound up in the Bay after I left the rez an was training for the next fire season, i made a point to dig up Cole an grab a beer, cuz that was such a solid move, I had to meet the fucker.
As my rhythms changed an I started coming back around the Bay in the winters, grabbing a beverage and debriefing with Cole turned into an important touchstone for me in my transitions to and from the Bay, an various duty stations around Eastern Oregon.
It could be kinda disassociative workin itinerant work in Hella hypermasculine environments, and juxtaposing that against off seasons in the Bay, where co-option of shit I was still wrapping my head around, was in full swing. And I felt that dude really got it.
I got into prison abolition (an met such solid fuckers) through Cole, after bein fuckin impressed when I met him during the NoDAPL fight, and seeing him be a solid fuckin example of how to be a solid union dude, an put “solidarity as a verb” into practice on the daily in regular life, not jus on a jobsite.
I’d be bouncing around from random helibases and fires around the PNW, talkin prison strikes and abolition with the cats on the crew. Pretty receptive audience for the conversation, cuz we’d all worked around Con Crews an saw how fucked over they were. We did the same gnarly, dirty fuckin work, an as fed WFFs didn’t get paid nearly enough, an these fools were gettin hosed way fuckin worse than our own fucked up deal.
Then after rapidly surpassing my grasp of concepts, I’d be comin back to the homies in Oakland for a recharge an regroup cuz I’d talked myself well past my understanding of concept.
There was plenty of mutual respect there, and when I think of what judgement and wisdom I do have, “good judgment bein a byproduct of bad judgment” pops into my head hard. I think that was a big part of the trust an respect I had for Cole, was his honesty an lack of guile about not bein some fuckin hero, but a dude who sure as fuck wasn’t perfect, but gave a fuck, and was fuckin devoted to learning from mistakes and learning and growing himself as he mentored others.
I’m still pretty numb about the reality of not having that yoked fucker around in the flesh, honestly.
But also I got alot of gratitude that I was able to get to know the parts of Cole I did, and it made me a better dude for it.
Those interactions and the honing of skills and beliefs that they buttressed, helped shape me into who I am, an are something I’ll always carry in my heart, an influence my conduct goin forward.
On his arm Cole had a tattoo of the words “sous les pavés… la plage!” — a slogan from the May ’68 Paris rebellion: “under the paving stones… the beach!” Dismantle the bullshit to create a better world, something like that. (Also: literally pick up cobblestones to hurl them at cops)
My favorite memory of Cole doesn’t have him directly in it, which I guess makes sense. We were together at organizing meetings for a couple of years but almost never hung out socially. We clicked and I always felt like there was a basic recognition between us, starting pretty soon after we met. And I felt a strong, easy alignment with him when it came to political organizing. But we didn’t spend a lot of hours together outside of meetings.
So, kinda randomly, my favorite Cole memories are from my honeymoon overseas. My wife and I made a side trip to visit a radical labor union that had interviewed Cole. We delivered a special banner as a token of thanks and solidarity from him, and then I stayed up late posting that interview on our website. Easier said than done, since I had to translate it back into English from the post on the union’s website; google translate gave me some raw material, but it needed serious revision to make sense, and by the way I was doing this on my phone.
But I didn’t mind. It felt great working to get Cole’s words out into the world, and acting as his messenger to bring gifts to comrades far away. In a way, this very indirect collaboration was the most direct work I ever did one on one with him, aside from tabling together at bookfairs.
Anyway, the world was better with him in it, and I regret not spending more time with him when I could.
Cole was one of those people I was always happy to see, relieved to see even. He was someone who, when he showed up, generally things got better. Thing is, I didnt actually know him that well. I didnt work with him a whole bunch. We were generally in different projects, but the same struggles, and I was always happy when our paths crossed. I cant share some of my favorite memories of him publicly. But what I will say is in our line of work, sometimes you just have to go with your gut on people. Sometimes you dont know why you trust someone, but you do. There’s a lot to be said of security culture, and moving slowly with people, but sometimes circumstances dont allow for that, and you have to make a call. Cole was someone who I just felt from jump was solid. We probably did sketchier shit than was appropriate for how well we knew each other! haha But I have zero regrets on that because he always handled himself in a solid manner…always ready, but never too eager…ready to throw hands if necessary, but not someone who pushed that as the only solution. He was tough, but he was sweet. That balance is something I trust in people.
Sitting at the memorial we had for him was such an interesting experience. There were a lot of people who didnt know each other. On the one hand that felt a little awkward, but on the other hand it was so quickly apparent that this person had touched people’s hearts in a wide range of circles, and how special that is. He left an imprint that stretched beyond social cliques or political milieus. In a political culture that is often constricted by social clout, it was so obvious to me that he’d broken through a lot of that and done solid work with people from all sorts of crews, cities, and experiences.
We need more of both of these things. I hope I can take inspiration from the way you handled yourself Cole, and push myself and the rest of us to try and work and live a little more like that. You were a real one through and through. Thank you
Words can’t really express the sadness in my heart after I heard that we had lost you. I continue to think about the body of work you contributed to with us behind the walls, and how you stepped up to the leadership role when IWOC first got off the ground. Your example of activism in our class struggle should be followed and adhered to as to how a revolutionary fights for the people, as well as how the ideology of an anarchist thinks. You were not just a comrade, but a friend and a brother. You’ll be deeply missed, but your legacy will live on. Long live the spirit,
May you rest with the ancestors
[…] and tributes to Cole, Oakland Abolition & Solidarity is hosting remembrances of him on their In Memoriam. Cole Dorsey’s presence, and absence, will be felt in the revolutionary working class […]
I’m sorry I’m so late . Cole was a super cool guy . I admired his work ethic. We talked about Detroit a lot and what tattoo he was going to get next . He was strong , and he had a huge heart . I’m shocked and upset that I can’t text or call him . Can’t wait to see the birds again bro ..
Cole is a beautiful soul.
I first met Cole in the lead up to the 2016 Prison Strike in the bay area. Still remember going over to his place for the first time. I really looked up to Cole as a older brother type figure in a lot of ways and learned a lot from him. He got involved in the movement a lot younger than I did and had been involved in stuff I had only read about. Listening to Cole’s stories about stuff was like hearing something out of a history book at times – there was a reason that people respected him so much. Still have a lot of funny memories of that guy. From putting up prison strike posters to pulling up in a huge bus outside of grocery store while the riots were going down and seeing him and just bursting out laughing. What a fucking world. The last time I talked to Cole was a few months before he passed away. I was telling him about fash activity where I lived and how scary things were getting. He said that if anything ever went down he would be there, I just needed to reach out. That’s the kind of person that he was and that’s while I’ll miss him.
It’s taken me some time to fight thru the denial here. I was at a noise demo a few days ago on New Years Eve outside a prison in the central valley. It’s a familiar place by now, but unfamiliar to be there without Cole. I might go months without seeing Cole at a meeting, but he never missed a chance to yell at some pigs or throw hands with some fash. And it was in those moments where it was easy to see his light, his profound lack of hesitation, and antagonistic joy. At one of those rallies we were making noise at shift change and he told one of the guards to “get a real job,” and I swear the dude almost got out of his car. At another action in the valley he yelled at a city cop to “be respectful” and listen to the speakers and had that fucker slinking away with his tail between his legs in about five seconds.
Nothing is the same. I feel like there’s so much more to say, but that’s how I always felt about Cole. We were just getting started. I love you, and I miss you terribly. I hope we can still be as loud out there as we were with you. I hope you’ll still join us