“The alt-right may have seized the lime-light, but their nihilistic ideology is brittle, and can be shattered by a real positive vision, by a real historical force.”
If the past few months have felt like nothing but a blur of bad news, Sunday night in Atlanta broke through the fog. That evening there was a powerful response to the public murder of Heather Heyer by a white supremacist attendee of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. A determined, autonomously organized demonstration of at least 500 gathered to remember Heather and speak out about the situation in America. While the mic was open to the whole crowd, everyone was asked to speak only from where they were now, and not on behalf of electoral candidates or political organizations. A diverse group of speakers decried the American colonial project. The one person who appealed for peace was booed, while the mention that peaceful protest does not work was met with cheers. An elementary school age girl shared that she was ready for new stories about what it means to be human. So are we.
There was never any doubt about the memorial turning into a march, and after a moment of silence for Heather the crowd took all four lanes of Peachtree St. From there, demonstrators marched three miles to Piedmont Park setting fireworks off and chanting everything from, “We are the 99%” to “Fuck the Police” along the way. Masks were handed out to participants and handbills were handed to onlookers.
Once at Piedmont, the crowd gathered by a Confederate monument inside the Park, the Peace Monument of The Old Guard Battalion of the Gate City Guard. The crowd of several hundred cheered as masked demonstrators lit flares and began climbing up the monument. The face of the monument was spray painted red as chains were wrapped around it. The olive branch of “Peace” at the highest point of the monument was ripped off. The “Peace” of white America that this monument represented was broken. This outburst of rage is what happens when we are attacked; we will not go quietly into the night, we will strike back, whether it’s fascists, the police, or any other attempt at controlling our lives.
The Old Guard was a militia formed in 1854 to help keep law and order in Atlanta – the order of the time of course being slavery and white supremacy. When the Civil War broke out, the militia was one of the first armed formations to respond to Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s call to fight the North and defend the institution of slavery. After the defeat of the Confederacy the militia remained a formation, as did many militia groups did during Reconstruction – these militias resisted the attempts of the newly freed Black population, which was struggling to remake society in a way that would allow their full participation.
Now is the time to lay the material foundations for a life in common, to put forward collective joy against the cynical death march of capitalism. The future belongs to the daring, and only to those who get organized.
In 1910, survivors of the Old Guard erected the Peace Monument after they had taken a speaking tour of northern cities and wanted a symbolic monument to the reunification of white America and the defeat of Reconstruction. The “Peace” commemorated by the Piedmont Park monument is the multi-generational period of segregation and racist terror known as the Jim Crow Era. Living in Georgia, our landscape is strewn with similar racist monuments. The persistence of these monuments whitewashes the past and demonstrates that institutions and parts of the (white) public remain committed to white supremacy.
“Now is the time for partisanship. Now is the time to lay the material foundations for a life in common, to put forward collective joy against the cynical death march of capitalism. The future belongs to the daring, and only to those who get organized.”
A lone police officer came into the park around this point wanting to talk to demonstrators and attempting to stop them from pulling down more of the statue. He was slowly surrounded by masked contingents of the crowd who yelled, “Fuck 12” and the like. As a white woman ran to protect the officer, a young black Atlanta leftist came in with a megaphone to give the officer a chance to speak. This was an intolerable gesture by most of the group present and struggles over the megaphone ensued. An increase in police presence as well an announcement that the march was over led the demonstration to split into a few different factions. Some stayed to yell and taunt the police, others left to go home, and others chose to take the Beltline, drawing attention to the role that the giant sidewalk plays in propelling development
Once on the Beltline the energy
The memorial and march was called for by All Out ATL – a network of Black power, progressive, antifascist, hooligan, and anarchist forces initiated to shut down a racist rally in 2016. In response to Charlottesville partisans were able to call for and organize a rally on our own terms which allowed us to set the tone for the event. There was no concerns over peace police
From the text of the leaflet passed out at the demonstration
Liberal society has blood on its hands. When it coddles the smug face of white nationalists, liberalism reveals its true spinelessness. The ACLU defended the fascists’ right to assemble in Charlottesville. The Proud Boys and MRA’s gave a platform to these would-be school shooters. As always, the cops sat on their asses. We are betraying our friends and neighbors if we don’t take a stand. We need to combat and defeat these assholes every time they show their faces, with or without a legal stamp of approval.
As the crisis we’re living through deepens, the center can’t hold. This is a situation of polarization. The alt-right may have seized the lime-light, but their nihilistic ideology is brittle, and can be shattered by a real positive vision, by a real historical force. Hand Wringing and finger pointing doesn’t matter. Now is the time for partisanship. Now is the time to lay the material foundations for a life in common, to put forward collective joy against the cynical death march of capitalism. The future belongs to the daring, and only to those who get organized.