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Oct 2, 23

Antifascist Art Show in San Bernardino is a Huge Success Despite Proud Boy Threats

Report on antifascist community event in Southern California that encouraged local residents to paint over banners reclaimed from the neo-fascist group, the Proud Boys.

On Saturday, September 30th, antifascist artist and mutual aid organizer @eyerollsandbloodlust put on an art show at Creative Grounds studio in downtown San Bernardino. The event was the culmination of years of work by local antifascists combating Proud Boy activity and fascist and transphobic propaganda in Southern California, and the featured exhibit was a collection of freeway banners with hateful messages that had been hung out by Proud Boys around the Inland Empire California.

The banners, which had all been captured by a dedicated rapid response network of antifascists and queer activists, were displayed on the walls of the alley behind the studio alongside crates of multi colored spray paint cans, and the community was invited to redecorate them. The main gallery of Creative Grounds studio featured a timeline of fascist activity in the Inland Empire and surrounding region leading up to the event, and a statement from the artist. The back patio featured tables of antifascist art, zines, and radical books, along with delicious vegan Mexican food from local pop up Marysol’s Kitchen and performances by local Inland Empire band Porkboii and a DJ sets by DJ Rose and DJ La Toxica.

In addition to all of the art displays, tables and performances, there was a dedicated security team of antifascists and queer activists on site to protect the event and the attendees from the multiple fascist threats that had been made online leading up to the event. Working together in clearly visible pink vests, with radios and teams at both corners outside the gallery and all entry and exit points, the security volunteers successfully deterred any interference from local Proud Boys and other such hateful types, who instead took to social media to whine about the event and beg their friends to call the cops on the gallery. Volunteer medics were also on site, and due to the fortunate lack of need for their services, had a lovely time eating vegan tacos and enjoying the live music.

Hours before the event opened, local Proud Boys Louie Flores and Adam Kiefer showed up at the gallery to hassle volunteers and demand they hand over the banners. They were told no. They then attempted an odd bargain for half of the banners, and were also told no and to fuck off. With their very well thought out plan foiled, they proceeded to call the cops and claim that a knife had been brandished at them and that the banners were their stolen property; (no knife was ever present, least of all brandished, and the banners were litter at best). The police who responded to the call left without incident and the event set up was not interrupted further.

On social media, several local fascists complained about the event, including Adam Kiefer, who begged for more people to call the cops to report the event for being surrounded by “militant leftists,” Sylvie Arujo, who demanded people report Creative Grounds studio for “discrimination,” and Candy Olsen, admin of the Awaken Redlands Instagram page, who called the banners covered in bigotry and Proud Boy logos “stolen property.” Some of the posts were later deleted, possibly because through their whining they were tacitly claiming responsibility for the freeway banners they so desperately wanted back.

Well over a hundred community members showed up to repaint the Proud Boy banners, including families, children, elders, local artists, trans and queer organizers and every type of person imaginable. By the end of the night the banners had all been completely covered with new art, the hateful messages replaced with loving images and slogans of resilience and resistance to hate. The joy in the space was radiating and exhilarating.

It should be noted that Proud Boy freeway banner activity in the area seems to have stopped since the announcement of this event.

Congratulations to @eyerollsandbloodlust on the huge success of your MFA Thesis Show! Congratulations to the community for their dedication to fighting back against fascism in the Inland Empire.

Here’s what some attendees said about their experiences participating in this community centered antifascist art extravaganza:

“It was wild to see the fascist activity we’ve been living in real time laid out in one place and so cathartic to cover it with love and color alongside so many people”

“One of the banners that went up in Chino is looking wayyy better at the @eyerollsandbloodlust show”

“Amazing to see the community coming together to cover up all those stupid hateful Proud Boy banners”

“Congrats to @eyerollsandbloodlust for an incredible show! Happy to see the Proud Boy banners put to better use”

“Thanks for the free canvasses pissboys!”

“Last night was such an amazing sight! Especially after the last two+ years of being afraid to exist in public, just getting to be in that space with families and kids and queers of all stripes and not having to worry about being seen as some kind of threat was immensely healing”

“Truly the SoCal Antifascist cultural event of the year!”

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