Ricky Best, Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher. We say their names and honor their struggle and sacrifice and determination to defend two young women being attacked by a fascist on a Portland commuter train. We honor all the people who stood up in defense of those young women, against the brutality of the fascist attack – the people on the train who attempted to assist the dying and injured, and the people who pursued the fascist as he tried to escape. All of these people give us hope that thousands of our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers and beyond are ready and willing to stand against the fascists, in defense of the working class and communities under attack. Our thanks to all of them.
The fascist attacked these two young women because one was wearing a hijab, a scarf covering her head, and she appeared to be Muslim. According to Destinee Mangum, just 16 years old, the fascist approached them and started yelling because her 17 year old friend is Muslim. “He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country. He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves.”
Ricky Best, a father of four children, stood up in defense of the young women, and sacrificed his life protecting them. At 53, he had recently retired after 23 years in the army. He was a platoon sergeant. His oldest son said his dad had always taught them that, “we’re all human beings.” We wonder if Ricky Best thought of his own children, his own 12-year-old daughter, when he came to the defense of the two young women on the train.
Taliesin Namkai-Meche was 23 years old. He graduated from Reed College last year, and was working at a new job– beginning his life and hoping to start a family. He, too, stood in defense of the two young women against fascism. As he lay dying on the floor of the train, another passenger, Rachel May, took her shirt to cover his wound. She told Taliesin: “You’re a beautiful man. I’m so sorry the world is so cruel.” She said Taliesin’s last words were: “I want everybody on the train to know I love them.” Our love to Taliesin Namkai-Meche; our love to Ricky Best. Our condolences to their families and friends.
Micah Fletcher is 21 years old, a student at Portland State University; he was on his way from classes to his job at a pizza shop. A poet, he too stood up in defense of these young women. He survived his wounds thanks to assistance from another person on the train.
In that train car, working people stood up against fascism in defense of communities under attack. This defense is not just the work of a cadre or affinity group of anti-fascists. It is thousands of working people who are ready to fight the fascists and to organize broad based community self defense. As anarchists and antifascists, we do not work in isolation from these communities, but as part of them. People in their thousands and tens of thousands are willing and determined to fight. Our job now is to fight, to organize, and to face the fascists and the state alongside them.
The brutality on this Portland train, the attacks on these two young women, the murders of Ricky Best and Taliesin, the wounding of Micah, this is “free speech” for fascists. Free speech for fascists means they are free to brutalize young women because one wears a hijab, free to assault and attack, free to organize their movement to take away the lives and freedom of others, and free to murder anyone who dares to stand up against them.
To those who have been so concerned about free speech for fascists – the liberals, the politicians both Republican and Democratic, the college administrators who look the other way at the far right threatening their students, the ACLU, and the corporate media: the carnage in Portland is the result of “free speech” for fascists. We should not be confused. Free speech for fascists means fascists are free to oppress and attack and murder. Look at Clearlake, California, where a white supremacist yelling racial slurs attacked a Black man with a machete on the 30th. Look at Washington state, where two young members of the Quinalt tribe were run down by a white supremacist, killing one. Look at the University of Maryland where 23 year old Richard Collins III, a Black man, was murdered by a white supremacist who was a follower of a group called Alt-Reich. Racist attacks and murders are on the rise all around this country. Some of the same liberals who were preaching free speech for fascists and protecting them, now say they will “ban” the fascists from marching or refuse permits or whatever. These liberals will not defend the working class and communities under attack from the fascists. We have to do that ourselves. The only way to defend against these racist and fascist attacks is for masses of working people to be united and organized and prepared to defend ourselves and our communities. We cannot rely on the government or the police to defend us; they are attacking us and they have defended the fascists and the alt-right.
We must organize to defend against these fascist attacks and to defeat the fascists, whatever it takes.
Trump, Bannon and their supporters have unleashed this wave of racist and fascist attacks on Muslims, Black people, Latinx people, Indigenous people, immigrants and others. The alt-right calls “free speech” and “anti-Sharia” rallies, but these titles are paper-thin veils on the promotion of violence against women, people of color, Muslims and the LGBTQ community. Racists and fascists are emboldened, protected by the police and encouraged by top government officials. Fascism, white supremacy, misogyny, nationalism and racial hate are on the rise in the U.S. and Canada and much of Europe and many other areas of the world. It will not go away. Fascism must be defeated, and it is only the working classes and the communities under attack which can answer, oppose, push back and end the fascist threat by destroying it and the system which produces it.
Fascism didn’t drop from the sky, and Trump didn’t drop from the sky. Fascism and Trump are produced by this system – capitalism. White supremacy and misogyny are as American as apple pie. The USA, and the wealth of the capitalist class, are built on genocide, slavery, white supremacy, and the merciless exploitation of working people. This system produces economic crisis and the destruction of the earth, and follows them up with war, austerity, and fascism. Fascist attacks on our class, aimed at the most marginalized among us, are meant to break our solidarity and suppress our defiance, to intimidate the most oppressed in our communities, and to radicalize a subset of our class to be attack dogs against the rest of us.
As anarchists, we reach out to organize and unite with our communities to oppose fascism and to defend our class and its most marginalized people. But to defeat fascism and white supremacy once and for all, we must bring down the capitalist system, its ruling elite in Washington and every other capitol, and destroy imperialism once and for all. We are up against the fascists, the police, the government, and the billionaires they all protect. The task before us, as a working class and as people fighting for freedom, is to defeat fascism and to end capitalism. No one can do it for us; no saviors are coming. The liberation of the working classes and oppressed people must be carried out by the working classes and oppressed people. There is no short cut. But though we are on our own, we are many, and we are together – like strangers on a train who rise to the moment, so must we.