Report back from antifascist walkout and demonstration against Holocaust denier at Arkansas Tech University.
At Arkansas Tech University yesterday at noon, there was a student organized walkout protesting the Dr. Link scholarship, memorializing a Holocaust denying former faculty member. Shield Wall Network, a local Arkansan nazi group, announced on their social media and blog that they would attend to protest the walkout. I arrived a half hour after the protest started. There were around 30-40 organized protestors and about 400 spectators outside the crowd, some with signs protesting the scholarship as well, and some trolling the protest i.e. “Go home you’re all fucking stupid”. There were rumors that some members of Shield Wall showed up early and got arrested by campus police but those rumors seemed to be unsubstantiated.
At around 1 pm, there was a lone guy that showed up wearing a fascist shirt.
It was Julian Calfy, a member of Shield Wall Network. He was nearly immediately interviewed by a reporter and swarmed with campus police. Myself, along with half of the crowd that remained, started protesting to cover up his voice. It was brought to my attention that the protestors that organized the walkout were interviewed earlier. (Which is no excuse to give platform to an actual Nazi.)
The main two things that stood out here was that many spectators were talking about “the nazi is acting more civil than the protestors”, and “he should get to share his point of view because we should value free speech and hear both sides.” The other point to note was that only Calfy showed up from Shield Wall after they made a commotion on social media about showing out to protest.
Arkansas Tech campus police tell @KATVNews they have trained for these types of rallies/protests and are working with multiple agencies to keep this a safe and peaceful environment. #arnews @KATVNews pic.twitter.com/r3hMEwPToL
— Marine Glisovic KATV (@KATVMarine) April 30, 2019
The protest was mostly peaceful. There was a blonde haired girl in the crowd that was acting possibly in bad faith asking “where’s the evidence [that Dr. Link was a Holocaust denier]?” Many protestors engaged with her angrily, which I’m sure many news outlets will be eager to point out. Many of the leftist students that were standing behind me were talking loudly about how the centrists were pissing them off. I was saddened by this but also related. I tried to engage with people that were spectators and see what they were talking about. It seemed like it would be hard to change their minds in the moment.
There was a notable moment where a well-spoken and well-read leftist engaged with a centrist who was bringing up random anti-communist talking points. The conversation ended when the leftist guy said they were talking in circles so he’d leave him be. Nothing changed from that conversation, but the leftist did a great job of addressing everything that the centrist brought up with historical facts.
The rally ended when Calfy gave up around an hour into him talking himself in circles. He looked at us in the crowd and said “They’re (the campus police) here for me, not for you. Don’t mouth off and let them get you.” They escorted him out. Even centrists hated that he said that. They made fun of him over it.
I left the rally with mixed feelings. There was only one nazi that showed up, and that gave me hope in thinking that they’re not united. However, I was saddened I couldn’t connect much with the centrists and spectators in the crowd. Not all of them were speaking in bad faith, and with better persuasive skills and with the help of some like minded comrades, perhaps I could have made a connection with them and encouraged them to think more positive of the left. It is what it is. The resistance is still going strong.