Submitted to It’s Going Down
We arrived at the Capitol early that morning. It was already so hot, but comrades and regular people were pouring in to shut down the Nazi rally. There were children and elders, liberals and anarchists, all genders and all races… We could agreed on not allowing the convergence of white supremacy to happen on our watch. There were folks holding banners, talking and chanting together, and forming a line to block part of the entrances onto to the Capitol grounds.
It was a calm but electric time, the anticipation rising along with the size of the crowd and temperature from the sun. People were adjusting their masks and staying hydrated, planning their various forms of protest and action. Everyone was grateful for the trees which would provide us shade from the 100+ degree heat (especially the black bloc). I watched while someone wearing a bright bandana over their face gently follow a butterfly with cupped, outstretched hands. It was a western tiger swallowtail.
The medic teams decided to approach people while in full black bloc to let them know we were there and available in case someone needed medical assistance. There were just a handful of us, each with a variety of supplies including nitrile gloves, gauze, duct tape, instant ice packs, and milk of magnesia mixtures for pepper spray or mace. I spoke with a girl no older than 20, her eyes filled with terror: “I’ve never been to anything like this before, it’s scary. I saw a flyer that said Nazis were going to be in Sacramento and people were going to shut them down.” She seemed nervous about even the idea of there being medics for protesters, not like we were highly trained or anything. Those new to the struggle and seasoned veterans alike share similar concerns about safety.
An experienced comrade told me weeks before that they knew we had to go out there but they didn’t want anyone to get hurt, and they weren’t capable of guaranteeing that. It’s true, we can never make that guarantee for others. I cannot tell this girl everything will be fine. But I can tell her to stay with her friends and keep a safe distance from the Nazis. All we can do is come prepared for the possibilities, organize honestly and horizontally, and have each other’s backs when shit goes down. Whose streets? Our streets.
Antifa medics were the first responders on June 26th. Masked and unmasked, novice and off-duty professionals.. It was a chaotic scene. Running, yelling, fighting, bleeding, crying… Some people chased down the Nazis who just stabbed and battered our comrades. Others stayed to attend to them, dressing wounds and applying pressure with gloved hands. Every person injured by a Nazi was a person of color or queer/trans, those with the most at stake rushing to defend their existence against monsters who target them. I remember yelling at a pig for not having any ambulances on hand when white supremacists are known to stab protestors of their rallies. The pigs didn’t do shit except tell the Nazis which way to go to avoid the crowd and protect them as they fled the scene of attempted murder, accomplices in a genocide for cis white nationalist hegemony. Fire rescue and ambulances trickled in just in time and if it weren’t for some of the medics and supplies provided by the infrastructure we organized, our comrades could have died in Sacramento that day.
When I was finally falling asleep that night, after footage of the madness traveled throughout international news sources, I thought of the terrified girl from that morning. I hoped she was okay. The media will always paint the black bloc as violent outside agitators, opportunists hell-bent on bringing the ruckus. They can’t see what happens behind the scenes. They won’t show what we do in our everyday lives that wrests power from and delegitimizes the State, supporting one another in ways they have never intended to do for us. That girl and many others will remember the black bloc as being gentle and kind, offering water and help and dancing together in celebration of shutting the rally down.
These events have shown me that the struggle is tangibly real. It is not just an abstraction to theorize or read about, but a concrete representation of our fight for liberation, and our work is not over when the demo ends. There are legal teams preparing for repression and harassment, people to articulate our narrative to others, fundraising for medical bills, plus numerous shows of solidarity from across the country and world. Providing hospital support was an incredibly powerful and inspiring experience, albeit very exhausting and emotional. I watched when one comrade was discharged from the hospital and stopped to visit another who was also stabbed, turning my head to wipe away the tears I couldn’t stop from escaping. We’ve all seen and gone through some intense shit together, and we must never lose sight of this less sensational side of revolutionary activity.
Navigating through feelings of panic and rage and despair to get the job done and find inspiration. Having safe spaces to confide and process things with support from friends and comrades. Disconnecting from the false reality of “everyday life,” only to return hours later for another case of the Mondays. Devoting days to doing research and visits to make sure everyone is safe, supported, and accounted for. Hugging a new comrade when they leave the hospital, and hugging old ones because you’re so glad it wasn’t them. Falling asleep to flashbacks and memories we can’t stop from looping, unable to avoid them in the media or our own minds. Creating and maintaining these relationships across all identities and miles of land, forming new groups and networks that will strengthen our resistance… These are the things that allow us the trust and capacity to succeed in the traditional spectacle of insurrection.
A butterfly will never snitch.
Fundraiser for medical support: www.rally.org/june26th