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Aug 22, 18

Austin Goes #AllOutATX: Autonomous Antifascists Assemble

A report and analysis from autonomous antifascists about the recent #AllOutATX mobilization in Austin, Texas.

#AllOutATX was the final act in a month of struggle against fascism in central Texas. While the ongoing Occupy ICE San Antonio encampment faced attacks from Patriot Front, local police, and the FBI, this marked the final event of #AllOutAugust, which had been a series of successes from Portland to D.C. in which antifascists defeated far-right forces, often facing brutal clashes with the police who defend them.

On the 18th, attention from across the nation was on Austin. Jennilyn Kae Lohmer-Salinas, one of the main organizers of the nationwide marches “against far-left violence,” hails from the area, and Austin was one of the first cities to announce such a rally. In the days leading up to the event, the doxxing of some supporters by an independently set-up honeypot site along with internal conflict resulted in the cancellation of multiple rallies and a fracturing of fascist forces. Locally attention was also focused on this event as it promised to be a test of the strength and future potential of both fascist forces and new autonomous antifascist networks in the area. Below is an account of the events of the day and reflections on how we could have conducted ourselves better.

It is important to note, however, that much of the work that aided our victory on Saturday occurred prior to the day itself. Weeks of outreach, provoking infighting amongst the Right, doxxing, and other activities materially weakened our enemies and built a strong base for the action. On Saturday we essentially showed up to play our roles, as the victory was mostly decided before the event even began.

The Day

At 1 PM a bloc composed of autonomous affinity groups with different political affiliations and ideologies congregated at an undisclosed location. This group, featuring comrades from all over the state, served as a flexible, mobile response unit that could move as needed based off of intelligence received from scouts. While the armed groups maintained communication to coordinate their positions, the other groups remained entirely autonomous in their conduct. The far-right march amassed near the Congress Bridge from which they would march to the Capitol for their rally and speakers. As fascist plans continued to change up to the rally date, it became increasingly difficult to coordinate an antifascist response.

After gathering and gaining intel from allies at both sites the bloc decided to avoid the heavily policed, pathetic sidewalk “march” and instead march on the Capitol where the rest of our crowd had already assembled and where the overt fash had begun to show. As we approached the South Gate we filled the air with chants of “a-anti-antifascista!” and “todos somos antifascistas!” The Capitol grounds prohibit carrying firearms, so the armed comrades took up a position in front of the gate. We were separated by two lines of riot police from the armed fascist unit. Within the fascist militia we spotted and called out members of Patriot Front such as Joffre Cross and Marcel Stein, while the other militiamen denied having Nazis at their side. After holding that position for a bit, portions of the bloc made their way inside the gates to join the larger crowd while others remained to back up the armed comrades.

Within the gates the stage for the fascist rally on the South Steps of the Capitol was surrounded by a crowd of around 300 counter protestors. A PA system blasted music, people made noise with drums, whistles, buckets, trumpets, and vuvuzelas; the crowd came right up to the police line around the South Steps and the central pathway. Some crews handed out snacks and waters, others handed out masks, others noisemakers. The crowd significantly outnumbered the far-right rally, including those who marched up to the steps protected by a police escort. For three hours, the crowd stood mere yards away from the fascists and drowned them out with noise. While some dispute the ability of the crowd to drown out the fascist rally’s PA system, multiple news outlets reported that the speeches could not be heard and other comrades confirmed that what little you could hear was extremely poor in quality as speakers had to yell into the microphone to be heard over the crowd.

Throughout the rally fascist agitators attempted to enter the counter-protest and were promptly chased out and forced to retreat behind police protection. One fascist who entered the crowd filming people’s faces and carrying a large knife at his side was swarmed by protesters right in front of the Department Of Public Safety brownshirts and was almost immediately detained.

We shouldn’t confuse this for an act of goodwill or protection. They ignored the threat this man posed until the last possible moment, only intervening out of fear of self-organized self-defense from the crowd and fear of an incident of violence which would reflect poorly on them and threaten their attempts to manage both rallies.

As occurred in Portland, Berkeley, D.C., and Charlottesville, the police brought overwhelming numbers to the rally. Saturday featured a mix of Austin Police, DPS, and–surprisingly–UTPD providing security for the fascist rally. A majority of the DPS troopers, including the line stationed next to the fascist rally,faced the antifascist crowd. While there were few moments of chanting, many of the chants did target the police for their collaboration with the Right (“who do you protect, who do you serve,” “cops and klan go hand in hand,” and so on). Pig lies of “we’re here to make sure everyone stays safe,” were met with replies of “frankly, that’s bullshit,” or simply “fuck you.” There were also few, if any, liberals on site carrying out the work of the police by peace-policing. Attention remained firmly on drowning out the fascists, with somewhat genuine respect for a diversity of tactics.

The fascists attempted to proceed with their speakers, although little could be heard over the noise of the opposition. Their speakers proudly declared how they were not racist or fascist, while standing next to individuals wearing “Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong” shirts. One woman seemed to (laughably) state that Texas had never been racist. Conservative black speakers took the stage and used their presence to argue that the rally was not racist, while standing alongside neo-Nazis and attendees of the Charlottesville fascist attack. At one point Dan Flynn, the Texas State representative who sponsored the rally, spoke–even though he previously denied knowing what the march was really about. As we should expect in our current moment, the connections between government officials and fascist movements are deepening and manifesting publicly.

After hosting a few speakers, the rally stood around for a bit in awkward silence, facing off against the antifascist crowd. After realizing their generator had run out of oil to fuel their PA system and that their march would not proceed independently as planned, they began to disperse in groups. As they exited through the South Gate, the antifascist demonstrators followed them. As they went to their cars they were heckled, harassed, and recorded. It was in the closing moments of the event that some of the most tense confrontations broke out, as the crowd came feet or sometimes inches away from a fascist trying to get to their car. Many were visibly terrified or aggravated, especially those who left the event alone.

One particular confrontation escalated when a man, surrounded by protestors yelling at him, began pushing into a woman and was swarmed by other antifascists prepared to defend themselves. The cops, itching to start a fight, seized this as an opportunity to charge in and begin throwing antifascists around, aggressively grabbing and pushing protestors until they could scatter them to the other side of the street. Horses came in from behind and trapped a small section of the protestors, two were detained by DPS. Those detained at the event were, to the best of our knowlege, released shortly afterwards without a charge. The police attacks served as attempts to intimidate and scatter protestors on the scene, even though they lacked a legal justification for their actions. The energy and intensity of the cops made clear their desire to beat on protestors, despite APD’s reputation as a “progressive,” soft-gloved police force.

Shortly afterwards, the crowd began to disperse. Our bloc made it out without being tailed or harassed by cops or fascists.

What went right

The antifascist response on Saturday met its own stated goals and pulled off a victory against the fascist rally–in the limited sense in which you can call any event at the Capitol a victory. The fascists were outnumbered and shouted down. Austin made clear that attempts to publicly organize would always face substantial opposition, and that fascists would only be able to move with the help of a heavy (and expensive) police presence. Their reactionary event was forced into a reactionary position, in that their speeches and messaging were more focused on the opposition before them than they were on spreading their own message or platform. Visitors to the Capitol saw a group of speakers being shouted down as racists by a large crowd–the largest antifascist rally in recent local memory, second only to the mobilization against the White Lives Matter rally. While the organizers publicly tried to declare a victory, in private most of their attendees expressed demoralization in the face of overwhelming opposition. Even if the organizers try to organize another rally, this sort of pressure will discourage many of the potential attendees from coming out.

The crowd successfully deployed a diversity of tactics. Fully masked, black-clad antifascists stood alongside plainclothes protestors. Clowns, nude protestors, and others joined the crowd. While we may not agree with some of these tactics, those tactical differences are secondary to the focus on shutting down the fascist event. Liberals did not interfere with more militant antifascists in moments of confrontation. Fash in the crowd and InfoWars reporters were surrounded and chased out, forced to retreat behind police lines. Support teams helped make sure everyone was hydrated, energized, and cared for, with a street medic team on standby. When the police began agitating the crowd, people made sure to grab people back who were at risk of being arrested, pick people up off the ground, and take care of each other in the aftermath. Autonomous antifascists–across political or organizational affiliations–demonstrated their capacity to organize and show up when needed.

As one of the largest antifascist mobilizations in recent memory, the event had a uniquely autonomous and open character. Rather than being a clash of forces with a single point of conflict, there were multiple zones of action. One could wander easily through the crowd, which provided a nice buffer to retreat into if things got too hot. While some may decry the lack of a central leadership guiding the event, we feel that this opened the space for people to act autonomously and discover their own power (individual and collective), rather than following marching orders from antifascist “experts.”

Collective moves, such as the move from the South Steps to the Gate or the harassment of fascists leaving in their cars, were self-organized and made possible by communication across affinity groups and networks on the ground. Autonomous, militant, confrontational antifascists were found beyond the bloc itself. Many of those in the general crowd adopted and helped normalize masks and acted alongside bloc-ed up comrades, allowing autonomous militants to move freely through the crowd rather than stand out as a distinct political (id)entity. Hopefully, these moments will lay the foundations for future attempts to generalize antifascist activity as part of everyday life, rather than as specialized, spectacularized activity which only occurs in massive street confrontations.

What did not

Some attendees not part of the core groups decided to engage in conversation with fascists. This must be actively prevented. There is nothing to be gained tiring ourselves out in arguments we know our enemies do not approach in good faith.

Training and coordination was uneven across the various groups and communication was not maintained as effectively as it should have been. We aim to become closer, as groups and individuals, to gain confidence and to help the fluidity of our movements in the streets.

The sheer intensity of the noise demonstration made it difficult to communicate with the crowd or propose maneuvers. Additionally, the autonomy of counter-demonstrators in the crowd served as a double-edged sword: it became difficult to push the crowd to change course or coordinate on specific tasks. Future communication and coordination among groups will, hopefully, allow us to better relay needs and requests through the crowd and move people where we need them.

The geography of the Capitol and Austin itself posed barriers to the mobilization. The crowd reflected Austin’s largely white population, although there was a substantial number of militant, non-white antifascists present on the frontlines. Similarly, the Capitol is an empty symbol of power where no autonomous or Left formations can really claim to have a base. As such, many of those from the most marginalized communities in Austin will not show up for a fight at the Capitol in the same way they might for a fight in their community. Ultimately, the Capitol is merely a stage upon which antifascists can ensure fascist groups do not feel comfortable mobilizing. It is neither a site of power nor a site for real battles. To build real power that can continue the struggle against fascism and white supremacy, antifascists in Austin must continue to build community networks to run racists out of our communities and fight against the institutions of white supremacy which lie at the heart of this country.

The Haters

A critique of the action was posted by an irrelevant local “Maoist” formation after they flew a white flag in surrender and sat at home while fascists marched. Their polemic merits little response. While we remain always self-critical about our actions and the possibilities for improvement, we understand this critique as an empty, disingenuous polemic from a group which carried out an extremely rudimentary “investigation,” cherry-picking details that confirmed their pre-determined narrative about the event.

They erroneously claim that anarchists and other autonomous antifascists were “following” members of the Austin Socialist Collective, demonstrating again their inability to grasp the idea that anarchists may work alongside those with whom they do not agree without sacrificing their autonomy. Their misplaced emphasis on paramilitary activity and street fights as the only legitimate expression of antifascism betrays a foolish, fetishistic relationship to violence and ignorance of the real consequences such maneuvers would carry on such a hostile and militarized terrain as the Capitol. We do not fear violence and we are ready to defend ourselves, but we have no intention of taking needless arrests to pull off one cathartic punch if we can instead mobilize a mass force and win a political victory to disarm the fascists with fewer arrests. If anything, Saturday’s events proved the irrelevance of their formation in mobilizing mass responses to fascists. They were not missed.

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