Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Community Organizing, Southeast, The State
What follows are three separate reflections from antifascists, anarchists, and anti-authoritarians who were out in the streets of Richmond, Virginia on January 20th. While the grifter-Right played up conspiracy theories of thousands of ‘ANTIFA’ being bused in to attack pro-gun demonstrators (which of course, never materialized), this campaign of misinformation was largely carried out to distract from the fact that a group of armed neo-Nazis were arrested on their way to the Richmond rally. According to court records, members of the Base had planned to open fire on the thousands of people assembled in the crowd, which included many families and children, in order to spark a larger armed uprising, pitting pro-gun demonstrators against the police.
Sitting at the phone charging station and the liberal gun club gave me this, so I am going to give them a plug and say No to HB961. I think it is window dressing and not a serious bill. pic.twitter.com/M8eO3QMu75
— Goad Gatsby (@GoadGatsby) January 24, 2020
On the ground, antifascist groups were involved in documenting, mapping, and confronting fascist activity, organizing a medical clinic, and also engaging in outreach and dialog with everyday working-class people who came out to the demonstration in the thousands.
Again, this is footage that is provided by a member of the Proud Boys. In that video, the member of the Proud Boys is taunting people about how they don't look tough and then his Monday Morning Quarterback video is saying how they were at fear for their lives. pic.twitter.com/70r0otirpV
— Goad Gatsby (@GoadGatsby) January 22, 2020
What follows are reflections from the Steel City chapter of the John Brown Gun Club, a medic who was followed by police throughout the demonstration, and another antifascist who attended the demonstration and was also harassed by law enforcement.
Report from Steel City John Brown Gun Club from the Streets of Richmond
As some of our neighbors already know, multiple members of the Steel City John Brown Gun Club attended the Second Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia this past Monday. We helped bring together antifascist/antiracist community defense organizers from across the region and beyond to stand in critical solidarity with those rallying in protest against that state’s new package of restrictive firearms legislation. While we understand that the issue of gun control, and this rally in particular, is a fraught one, we decided to engage, believing that building relationships and participating in public spaces of resistance is more worthwhile than opting out just because they are complicated. If similar laws were implemented in our region, much of the community defense work that we do would could be rendered a felony. This includes our work of providing training to community members who desire the means and skills required to defend themselves and their neighbors.
We also attended the rally knowing that it would be a thoroughly conservative space, a fact that was been rendered contentious by irresponsible media coverage leading up to the event. Mainstream coverage painted the rally-goers as being, uniformly, members of Nazi militias, and did everything in its power to draw allusions to Charlottesville, trading clicks for panic. We knew from an early stage that this was not accurate, as we have spent years carefully building diplomatic relationships with several moderate patriot militias who were planning on attending. While we still have definite and stark political disagreements with these formations, they have established a record of countering fascist infiltration in the Patriot movement, and have stepped up publicly on multiple occasions to defend the Muslim community and other groups targeted by organized White Supremacists. That record of support and trust was expanded this weekend. Beyond these groups, our research before the fact suggested that, while a few individual known fascists and small Nazi groups were aiming to attend, the overwhelming majority would be run-of-the-mill conservatives. These are people who, for the most part, do not share our political philosophy, but who often do share our class and cultural background. This being the case, we take it upon ourselves to be present in conservative spaces like these in hopes of pushing back against the creep of fascists who use these spaces as recruiting grounds, and in order to challenge our conservative neighbors to defend the rights of everyone in our communities – not only those who look, worship, or live like them.
“We take it upon ourselves to be present in conservative spaces like these in hopes of pushing back against the creep of fascists who use these spaces as recruiting grounds, and in order to challenge our conservative neighbors to defend the rights of everyone in our communities – not only those who look, worship, or live like them.”
We spent the day of the rally engaging in hard conversations with other attendees, passing out flyers encouraging members of the Patriot community and other Second Amendment activists to live up to their stated word by standing for the rights of “We the People”. We asked them, and continue to ask, why we only seem to see 2A supporters mobilize around firearms legislation, and not around the pointless murders of people of color by the same state that would strip these gun owners of their rights. Where were they when Philando Castile was slain? Where were they when Stephon Clark was shot in the back for holding a cell phone that a cop mistook for a gun? Where were they when so many young Black and brown men were extra-judicially executed for “matching the description,” only to have the DA decide not to file charges? We saw, in this gathering, a mix of many competing and conflicting patterns. For the most part, we were received warmly by other rally goers who were happy to see people with differing politics show up in opposition to this restrictive firearms legislation, and these rally goers were willing to engage with us seriously in our critiques of the movement. As we expected, and counter to the breathless media narrative, we were not met by streams of armed Nazis, but mostly by friendly people with no animosity toward anyone but the government, which is trying to take away their rights to access the means of self and collective defense. This being said, we did find the event peppered with actual White Nationalists and extremist thugs, several of whom we came into direct conflict with. When all was said and done, we are happy to report that even in a sea of conservatism, that kind of fascist trash can be swept off the streets. We are also happy to report that relationships that we have been cultivating with several moderate East Coast militias have justified themselves beyond our expectations.
White nationalist, anti-Semite who writes on the "JQ," author on neo-Nazi Augustus Invictus' website + Unite the Right organizer 'Based Southern Belle' aka Sidney Horton burst into tears because #Richmond2ARally organizers didn't want her around. Says she "had to leave Virginia." pic.twitter.com/DCFLkbeH5Z
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) January 21, 2020
These militia formations were welcoming of our presence and coordinated with us to be best of their abilities, based on a shared opposition to the VA state government. We also shared a commitment to deescalation and preserving the safety of the local community above all else. Several of their commanding officers even offered to help us distribute flyers identifying violent regional fascists, though the chaos of the day and logistical issues kept this from happening. And when Sydney Horton (White Supremacist co-organizer of Unite the Right 2), who had infiltrated a militia gathering prior to the Rally, learned of our presence and demanded we be removed, those commanding officers stood by us and sent the Nazi packing. Even as we write this, large swaths of the far-right Patriot community are damning and attacking these moderate militias for coordinating with us and other community defense organizations, which have been painted by many right wing news outlets as some kind of armed wing of “Antifa.” The commanding officers in question have not wavered in their support of us under this pressure, and we commend and thank them for choosing integrity over popularity.
“Our hope lies not with institutions, parties, or ideologues, but with our neighbors. The most profound takeaway from the weekend was certainly that liberatory politics can exist in and exert an influence on spaces where we don’t expect them to be welcome, and that we have a duty to be in those spaces and to do the work of pushing the boundaries of political spaces and territories.”
In the final counting, we walked away from Monday with much of our most challenging work validated. We watched the State take a tense situation and turn it into a powder keg through its arrogance, negligence, and disconnection from the people they laughably claim to represent. We saw various media outlets, across the board and regardless of political bent, betray their mandate and abandon actual reporting in favor of stoking panic. But we also saw people who should, in terms of strict ideological purity, be our enemies, stand by us at their own expense. We are left, as ever, with the certainty that our hope lies not with institutions, parties, or ideologues, but with our neighbors. The most profound takeaway from the weekend was certainly that liberatory politics can exist in and exert an influence on spaces where we don’t expect them to be welcome, and that we have a duty to be in those spaces and to do the work of pushing the boundaries of political spaces and territories. We will not survive if we delude ourselves into thinking that any kind of success can come from barricading ourselves in among people who already agree with us.
We want to thank Christian, Gary, Mike, Tammy, Cody, and their allies for their hospitality. Thank you for your continued effort to engage with us in good faith, to find common ground, and to wrestle with us about what liberty and liberation mean. We look forward to future arguments. We want to thank our friends and loved ones who traveled from far and wide, who shared meals with us, spent the night with us, and joined us in the streets, as well as those who took on the work of caring for those at home while we couldn’t be there. Thank you for sharing in the slow, quiet labor of changing hearts and minds. Thank you for sharing in the dangerous work of confronting fascism publicly in what could be considered enemy territory. We also want to thank those in Richmond who greeted us warmly and offered us shelter, who talked and hummed and sang with us during our preparations. You know who you are and you are welcome here.
John Brown Lives
A Report from a Medic, Followed by Police
I was at the rally in Richmond on standby to provide medical support. I’m antifascist and anti-racist and extremely pro-gun and so I came into the situation with conflicted feelings. On one hand I support the Virginians who want their gun rights protected and on the other hand I’m diametrically opposed to those who would latch onto a rally like this as an opportunity to espouse white supremacist rhetoric or attempt to escalate to violence.
“We were followed by the police for 45 minutes around the capitol and through the crowd. While in the crowd I and my friends watched the cops lurk behind us and a militia march in front of us, backed up by two men wearing valknut armbands.”
One of my buddies and I for the day are also visibly trans and when we started scouting the action we almost immediately picked up a police tail. We were followed by the police for 45 minutes around the capitol and through the crowd. While in the crowd I and my friends watched the cops lurk behind us and a militia march in front of us, backed up by two men wearing valknut armbands. Despite all associations of these insignias we continued to be the ones pursued and watched closely by the police.
“Even after we left the crowd and were escorted by our friends to a safe house, the cops persisted in waiting outside for another 40 minutes.”
Even after we left the crowd and were escorted by our friends to a safe house the cops persisted in waiting outside for another 40 minutes. I, like many at the protest, was here to support gun rights and resist white supremacy, yet found myself intimidated and harassed by the police while present in my role of support, scouting, and medical standby while white supremacists and accelerationists marched in the streets with impunity. While this is not unexpected it’s a stark reminder of the complicity of the police and the State in the maintenance of white supremacy and the suppression of trans resistance to it.
Love and solidarity to all the Black and trans gun owners.
All power to the people!
Harassed and Followed Into Building By Police from Rally
I got there early with a couple friends, probably around 8. We said hey to a medic we knew that was a few blocks away from capitol grounds, and then made our way in. Two friends decided they wanted to walk around the edges instead of going in. As the rest of us were waiting to get into the streets surrounding capitol grounds, we noticed a few cops standing close to us. It was reasonable to assume they were just jammed up in the crowd as well, but as soon as we got to where we could walk a little more freely, they began very obviously tailing us.
“The cops trailed only a few feet away from us, blocks away from where the crowd stopped.”
After a few hours of them never leaving our side (including shoving past protesters to keep up with us) we decided we needed a break. I have access to a building with an electric lock door that’s nearby, so we walked over there. The cops trailed only a few feet away from us, blocks away from where the crowd stopped.
“At that point I confronted them asking why they were following us and that they didn’t have permission to come into a private building.”
I knew if they were going to follow us that I could lock them out of the building, but I hadn’t counted on them making someone who was outside unlocking it for them. At that point I confronted them asking why they were following us and that they didn’t have permission to come into a private building. They got very aggressive saying they lived there and suggesting we were trespassing. I inferred from their tone that if we didn’t go into a room they would find a reason to arrest us, so we did. It didn’t feel safe leaving until someone else met us and told us there were no cops in the building.
Anonymous Richmond antifascist