The acronym ACAB, often seen in urban space in the form of graffiti or stickers, first appeared in the U.K. in the 1970s, linked to punk culture, and later found a certain popularity during the social movements of the 1980s. Meaning “All Cops Are Bastards”, over the last 20 years it has become widespread in public spaces internationally, in the wake of a number of political movements, from alter-globalization groups to the French gilets jaunes, or Yellow Jackets, along with black blocks and TAZs, even spawning different variations, such as “All Capitalists Are Bastards”, “All Colors Are Beautiful” and “All Cats Are Beautiful”.
Observing how ACAB (or its numerical version, 1312) is written, allows one to traverse multiple political landscapes, as well as a number of visual cultures (anarchist, punk, hip-hop, LOL) to which this acronym has spread. It is through this scriptural, graphic and visual movement that it has become both a sign of recognition and a polysemic statement.
Authors: Ariane Bosshard, Jérôme Dupeyrat, Olivier Huz and Julie Martin