Filed under: Anti-fascist, Editorials, US, White Supremacy
The Antifa are not happy about this, but there is no way they will be able to put a stop it [sic]. If the TWP can march in Sacramento, then they can hold a rally anywhere…
Matthew Heimbach, Traditionalist Worker Party Chairman
Honeslty [sic] my thoughts on this are that you guys really shouldn’t do this…I mean, look, personally, I don’t support this move.
Paddy Tarleton, Traditionalist Worker Party Mid-Atlantic Chapter Leader talking with Antifa Twitter Sock-puppet
Submitted to It’s Going Down
“When shit goes down, I want to be next to you guys,” I told a group of half a dozen youths, no older than 21, decked out head to toe in all black with masks over their faces. We were all tired, it was over 100 degrees, and we had been out in the sun for almost 5 hours. Next to their sides were riot shields, one still had blood spilled across it that had yet to dry. One of the youths picked up one, as if to go back into battle and looked back up at me, smiled and said quickly, “I know, we’re ready.”
Less than an hour before, around 15 Neo-Nazis associated with the group Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) had made an entrance along the East side of the Sacramento Capitol away from the large and angry crowds. Scouts first spotted three of them, as riot police took them aside and allowed them protection as they waited for the larger group. When the dozen others materialized, they walked along the sidewalk towards the West Steps where 100 riot police were stationed. By this time, police had already decided that they had revoked the fascists’ permit, in the face of over 400 militant anti-fascists and angry everyday people. As the Neo-Nazi skinheads marched along the sidewalk they screamed, “Zeek-hail!” and gave the fascist right arm salute. Their shields, made out of wood, bore white power symbols, including that of the “SS” or the Schutzstaffel, the Nazi protection squad that was in charge of administrating the concentration camps. Hitler once wrote that the only way that the opposition could have stopped the Nazis was, “[I]f our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement,” and in a few moments, that’s just what happened.
“Hey, sarge said we could be in the shade!…The fuck, I’m not on my phone!”
In the ensuing clash between the Neo-Nazis and the anti-fascists, bats exploded on shields, pepper spray went wild and the fascists stabbed into the crowd while screaming, “nigger!,” as they attacked. “That was some Game of Thrones shit!,” a friend told me later. Twenty seconds later, Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) members were running, as the crowd pushed the Neo-Nazis out of the capitol and back to their cars. Police did their best to protect them, but they yelled at the fascists, “Get out of here, we can’t protect you!” As seen in multiple videos, the Nazi skinheads were attacked along the way as were their vehicles, which they piled into and drove off in. In the aftermath of the brawl, one loaded gun was found on the capitol grounds, dropped by the fascists and another was spotted in the hands of the Neo-Nazis as they fled. The TWP never stepped foot onto where their rally was supposed to take place and only stood on the capitol grounds for close to 20 seconds. We had won. Their rally was shut down and the fascists never marched, instead, hundreds of people held the West steps and conducted a rally of their own. But this victory came at a price, as several people suffered stab and other wounds and were rushed to the hospital.
The majority of those stabbed were people of color, queer, and transgendered; the TWP was clearly targeting people. “How is he?,” I asked the friends of one of the young African-American men that was stabbed after he had been driven out. “He’s doing okay I think,” one of his comrades told me pausing for a moment of reflection. But within several seconds the solemn air was broken as his head picked up and his eyes came to match mine. With a sharp smile he told me almost laughing, “When they put him in the ambulance, he was smiling.”
Police block of streets around Sacramento capitol.
In the eyes of the mainstream media, the police top brass, and in the narrative created by the Nazis themselves that outlets with glee broadcast onto millions of screens, the real trouble makers on June 26th were not the Neo-Nazis who attempted to rally support for a fascist all-white America, but instead those that stood up to physically stop them. People just like the union members, retirees, students, and service workers I met in the droves who came both near and far “not to protest” but instead to “shut it down.” Red, brown, black, yellow, white, gay, straight, and transgendered; these people made up a growing resistance that was anti-racist, anti-capitalist, and autonomous from all mainstream political organizations and increasing in size and militancy.
But in the face of such a large mobilization, those behind the cameras and controlling the printing presses went to work. “They’re all the same, they’re all equally bad,” some stated. Even worse, “Violence only helps the fascist cause!” The media acted quickly and created a picture of black masked youth hell bent on destruction and violence, pitted against a weaker opponent who simply wanted to exercise their 1st Amendment rights. “Just ignore them, they’ll go away,” they repeated over and over again. Meanwhile, the police blamed the anti-fascists in the media for starting the violence much to the delight of far-Right as the “journalists” rushed to hand the fascists the microphone and some even questioned if they were really “Nazis.”
But lost in all of this was the most crucial question: why had hundreds of people come to Sacramento in the first place? Why, in the hundreds had so many people, from widely diverse backgrounds, from Sacramento, the greater Central Valley, across the west coast and the US itself, converged in such massive numbers against a small and east-coast based Neo-Nazi outfit? Why had so many people put their bodies on the line to shut down this group? The answer, was all around me.
Bloody clashes with the KKK in Anaheim, CA led to a new wave of mutli-racial organizing.
“After Anaheim, that’s when we started to organize,” one young man had told me the day before. He was speaking in regards to clashes between the KKK and young anti-racists in Southern California that lead to multiple stabbings and injuries. Soon after, Neo-Nazi skinheads ran into a public park and screamed racial epitaphs and threatened park goers. Several days later, black, white, and brown youth rallied in a park and marched for miles against Neo-Nazi and KKK violence. Another group of young people I talked to were pushed to be involved in anti-fascist activity after they discovered Neo-Nazi posters put up on the street they live on. When they put up anti-fascist flyers in response, someone wrote over them, “Heil Hitler.” Others pointed to the rise of Donald Trump’s appeal with many white working-class people and the growing support of his campaign by Neo-Nazi, KKK groups, and white nationalists. For many queer and transgendered people, the recent Orlando massacre and growing far-Right reaction was also on their minds, as was for many others the backlash against the Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights movements.
Hundreds converged in Sacramento and waited around for hours in the hot sun, risked arrest and bodily injury, because of what is happening all around us on a daily basis. People showed up on June 26th not because of some some notion of “white guilt,” moral duty, or desire to simply protest something, but instead were driven by their own experiences and a real desire to act in self-defense. People recognized the signs of authoritarianism and fascism within US politics, the rise and growth of far-Right and white supremacist violence and organizing, and also an inability to create social, political, economic, and ecological change through established legal and political channels. Sacramento wasn’t just the latest sign that anger was brewing against the far-Right; it also was a showing of force against the bureaucracy and ineffectiveness of the legalistic and Parliamentarian Left in general.
Holding ground in Sacramento.
The mobilization in Sacramento was simply the latest chapter in a growing book of confrontations and mass mobilizations of anti-fascists, anti-racists, and autonomous anti-capitalists against the growing far-Right which is acting as an auxiliary force for state sanctioned white supremacy. Influencing #NoNazisInSac were past confrontations such as the battle against the Confederate flag in the South in the wake of the Charleston Massacre, the organizing that went into shutting down Neo-Nazis openly organizing in Olympia, WA in support of the police, a massive show of force in Seattle against the Hammerskins, and the large scale #AllOutATL mobilization that took place in Atlanta, GA at Stone Mountain against the KKK. All of these previous mobilizations helped to inform and give lessons to the Sacramento convergence and provided examples to draw from.
But over all, the mobilization in Sacramento was exciting and extremely successful because it has reinvigorated our crews and organizations like never before and brought together people in a solid network of resistance. These formations can be called on again not just for future anti-fascist actions but to ultimately build a broad based autonomous anti-capitalist movement that is rooted in everyday working-class communities. June 26th also showed that across crews, organizations, racial and gender lines, and across geographies people are choosing sides. They are getting organized. These aren’t just slogans or things we read about on the internet. They are positions that people are organizing toward, building infrastructure around, and planning for. For us, It’s Going Down has helped to play a role in this. Many people came out to the Sacramento mobilization because of reading about it on IGD. In the future, the question for us is how can we both increase our capacity to do this with more and more people, but also how can we reach out beyond established anarchist and activist scenes.
The June 26th mobilization also showed that organizing large scale events such as this is hard work; but that ultimately if we are willing to step up to the plate and get our hands dirty, that work pays off. In the build up for the 26th, people came together to think, plan, raise money, reach out to various communities, movements, and groups in struggle and began to work together. The connections formed out of this mobilization will play a role in the struggles that lie ahead of us as will the lessons that were learned that day.
Crashing the party.
Despite this positive picture that is painted, we also have to be aware that the autonomous far-Right is growing and in various, sometimes opposed, directions. From intellectuals that are pushing more into the mainstream like those that attend the American Renaissance and National Policy Institute conferences, to more sub-cultural groups such as the Wolves of Vinland, to publishers such as Counter-Currents in San Francisco, aspiring activist organizations like Identity Evropa, to finally the Traditionalist Workers Party which is trying to build a fascist ‘working-class’ fighting force for the streets. While of these groups have different audiences and ways that they are pushing their politics and projects, they also all reinforce each other; creating paths into a multi-faceted movement and working to develop a strategy for themselves while also supporting each other. Furthermore, the TWP is pushing to occupy much of the space that anarchist or left-wing activist groups would. They talk about organizing and reaching out to communities and use slogans, rhetoric, and images commonly associated with the Left or anarchism. Screaming “Nazi” at these groups isn’t going to make them go away, and more and more, such words are also loosing their meaning as millennials continue to make up their base. Thus, not only do we have to physically confront them, we also have to out organize them as well. This means working within poor and working-class white communities and also showing solidarity and support with groups already engaging in that work which share our politics.
Lastly, June 26th taught us that the fascists are capable of attacking and getting away with it. Just as in Anaheim and Minneapolis, we must now assume that all white nationalist and far-Right gatherings will now include attempted acts of violence against counter-demonstrators. Case in point, on some white nationalist websites now, many Neo-Nazis are stating that guns should have been used to produce a body count. In short, we can’t just rely on big numbers anymore, we have to be tactically prepared for the use of deadly, or potentially deadly force. Also, we need to develop tactics which keep large groups safe and together; to be a real and tangible bloc at demonstrations. This means developing fluid organization and methods of communication that are needed to both carry out a strategy and also work within a context that is naturally chaotic and spontaneous. This is a lesson all of us hitting the streets should keep in mind.
We must organize. We must train. We must get ready.
Anti-fascists hold the West steps of the Sacramento State Capitol.
On the anti-fascist side, the events of June 26th were an impressive success and involved hundreds of people across crews, organizations, and racial lines. Those involved understand the impressive victory that took place over the Neo-Nazis but also the gravity of the situation’s aftermath and the questions that it raises. In short, the event was a success because the goals set out for the mobilization; to shut down the fascist event and give them no platform to organize from, was totally successful. Beyond that, June 26th was about building bridges between crews and organizations, increasing our capacity, and also breaking out of political ghettos and subcultures to bring more people into the organizing and the action. All of these things were accomplished and more. Despite the mad rush by the media to demonize multiracial resistance to fascism and the elation of the Neo-Nazis that they attacked several people, we must not forget this victory nor the price that some people paid in order to claim it.
“Heimbach, if you can see this on the livestream I lasted four seconds! Can I be on Russia Today now too?!”
Across this mobilization, people worked on different tasks and in different capacities; on media and outreach, on legal support, building a medic response team, logistics, finding housing for the convergence, fundraising, and also on the gathering of information. While Heimbach (very ironically considering his background) portrays anti-fascists as all “students” and “rich kids,” in reality this was by and large a working-class mobilization, from those involved in organizing it to the base that was mobilized to participate.
Moreover, June 26th represents a turning point for anti-fascists, anti-authoritarians and anti-capitalists in being able to organize themselves outside of any top-down liberal of Leftist group and shows what we can do when we work together and pool resources and skills.
The radical, pro-working class, anti-racist agenda.
This mobilization also showed that physical organizing is needed to make such a convergence a success; we can’t just rely on social media and the internet to ‘get the word out.’ We have to get out there, knock on doors, talk to people at union halls, schools, and churches, send emails and messages to a wide variety of groups, and really pound the pavement. This also means forming relationships with people and answering hard questions about strategy and tactics from people that don’t know us. Face to face relationships have to be formed and fostered and people have to begin to trust each other, especially across racial, geographic, and ideological lines. Towards this end, people involved in the convergence went to work on outreach at political, social, and cultural events, conducted flyering, sticker, and poster campaigns, organized mass meetings and BBQs, and putting on a variety of benefit events that included everything from film showings to dance parties. All of these smaller activities, from getting together to put up posters to organizing benefits, helped to pull people into the organizing and activity, build all of our skill sets, bring new people into our movement, and push us towards June 26th with a growing sense of collective strength and determination.
Police guard a parking garage on L Street with no one inside. The horses when asked for comment simply said: “Hey, it’s a living.”
All of this hard work and dedication paid off and it shows in the high numbers that were present but also in the militancy of the crowd. While there was a few isolated liberals that attempted to shame those in masks who were fighting back, overall, people were determined to shut down the rally and there was not a key division in crowd over “non-violence.” The tone and messaging of the mobilization was also important, as it was based around attacking fascism and white supremacy politically, not from a place of “guilt.” In short, it pushed people to become actors in a collective struggle against an authoritarian and racist movement that seeks to gain power, influence, and ultimately, state power. It pushed to break social struggle out of the realm of protest and liberal delusions of “speaking truth to power” or “bearing witness to hate.” June 26th wasn’t about any of that upper-middle class, white liberal hand ringy bullshit, it was about everyday working-class people fighting back together, across the divisions this system puts upon us of race, gender, and sexuality.
“Whatcha gonna do with all that black, all that black inside that bloc?”
Cue the music. Bright and early at 9 AM on the 26th at the Sacramento state capitol, already 50 people had assembled. This first wave was very young and determined and largely decked out in all black bloc, with lots of punk-rockers and traditional skinheads beginning to arrive, as did Sacramento locals who heard about the event through flyers or the Sacramento News and Review. By close to 10:30 AM, upwards of 250 people were lined up and down L Street in Sacramento, awaiting and anticipating the Neo-Nazis coming out of a car garage across the street, which they had done in past years with a heavy police escort. Around this time, police also blocked off both 10th Street (which runs in front of the West side) as well as L Street, both major streets that divert people onto the freeway and are generally always kept open during large protests at the Capitol. To many, it seemed that the police were getting ready to march in the Neo-Nazis. However, as time passed, the Nazis never appeared and after a while it became apparent that they weren’t coming into the garage.
Sensing this, people then made a move towards the West steps of the Capitol a little after 11 AM, thinking that if the Nazis weren’t going to show up (11 AM was their rally set up time), then people could at least take over their rally point. By this time, the crowd had grown to over 400 people, however, police quickly moved to block the crowd from getting onto the West steps as they formed riot lines and moved the crowd back with horses. Around this time a man wearing a “GOOD NIGHT LEFT SIDE” shirt and flying a white power flag came onto the capitol grounds and began to yell at anti-fascists. This ended up not working out so well for him, and he found himself running for protection behind the riot police. While this interaction ended quickly, it also diverted many people away from the steps and the pepper spray that was deployed caused many to cough. The incident also caused the police to “officially” pull the permit for the event, stating that they could not adequately protect the Neo-Nazis from the crowd.
“See like, I believe in white power ‘n all, but all you non-white cops are cool, cause other wise I’d get my ass beat.”
Around this time, at 11:30 AM, three Neo-Nazis wearing Traditionalist Worker Party shirts and holding shields (which people had seen from twitter the day before) were spotted on the East side of the Capitol. Police quickly took them aside and allowed them to wait with them until a larger group arrived. Once the other 12-15 Neo-Nazis materialized, the TWP then set out as a group, marching toward the West steps by without police escorting them. With scouts watching all of this movement, the larger group quickly sprang into action. As the crowd then moved from in front of the West steps towards the South side, a violent clash between anti-fascists who ran ahead of the larger crowd to meet the Neo-Nazis head on broke out. As the fascists pulled out knives and people fought back with bats and flag poles, police largely stayed out of the frey or used their bikes and horses to push back the anti-racist militants and protect the white supremacists. While the physical melee only lasted about 20 seconds, much of the crowd was kept from the fighting by the police and the Neo-Nazis soon made a quick retreat after the initial clash as more anti-fascists began to arrive. However, as seen from numerous videos, this retreat was not without incident to themselves and their vehicles. After that retreat, a loaded .9mm was found on the ground, believed to be from the Neo-Nazis and another gun was reported to be seen in the white supremacists hands as they made a swift exit.
We should be clear, both groups, the anti-fascists and the Neo-Nazis, were at the capitol with clear objectives. The anti-fascists were determined to shut down the rally and the Neo-Nazis were determined to not back down. Also, based on the evidence in front of us, many believe that the Traditionalist Worker Party members prepared ahead of time for a quick strike and retreat, based on the shear size of the opposition. Getaway cars were ready, they came in fast without the police surrounding them, and they came armed.
Apparently TWP Aryan warriors are trained to drop their guns.
After the clash, medics associated directly with the mobilization came in and offered medical attention as police at first tried to keep people from getting to them. The medics that were present deserve everyone’s respect for their bravery and commitment. Without them, those that were injured may have suffered even greater injuries or worse. Shortly after, two older Neo-Nazi skinheads presumably associated with Blood and Honor based on their patches, walked through the crowd towards a line of police. Once behind the police, they began giving “Zeek-hails!,” however they were quickly surrounded and handled, as police then rushed them inside the capitol building for safety.
“We see the blood, but where is the honor?”
After the police pulled the last two skinheads into the capitol to protect them from the angry crowd, the hundreds of people assembled then moved back towards the West steps. At this point, people’s attention was largely on those that had been injured and they came together to discuss on what had happened, share water, and also give impromptu speeches on the megaphone. At this time, around 12 Noon, the crowd was at its height and several crews of people were still showing up especially after word of the ensuing clash had gotten out. Over the next two hours, two Trump supporters that came out to counter-protest were quickly ejected and hid behind lines of riot police and someone filming for Red Ice Radio was also found and shut down. At around 2 PM, the permit for the rally was up and people declared victory. We had shut down the Nazi rally. We held the West steps in the hundreds. People began to congregate in the shade and started to collect their things and head back home. Despite the mobilization ending, in many ways the battle was just beginning.
Cops, Media, and Klan, Hand In Hand
Anti-fascism if anything, is based on the idea of self-defense. Self-defense against racist terror and violence and self-defense against the coming together of a fascist movement that seeks to take state power and carry out genocide. For the hundreds that shut down the Nazi rally on June 26th, they were acting from this starting point.
The image created by the media, the police, the liberal and conservative establishment however, is much different. In all of these narratives, from the police, to the luke-warm white nationalists at BreitBart to the liberals at the LA Times, the key antagonists and the biggest threats to the public at large were not the Neo-Nazis, but instead the anti-fascists. Why is this?
— Carlo Tresca (@chalkupydaytona) June 28, 2016
In the last few years in the US, we’ve seen wave after wave of popular struggles erupt from the Occupy Movement, to Black Lives Matter, struggles against fracking and global warming, to key workers’ battles such as the push to raise the minimum wage and the massive strike at Verizon which utilized extensive use of sabotage. But while someone like Bernie Sanders attempts to feed off of these movements and “speak” for them, clearly the system isn’t interested in listening, only containing this anger. Above all, those in power, both in politics, within the police, in the media, and especially those that own and run the economy, are afraid that an autonomous movement is going to erupt that spreads across racial and geographic lines and attacks the very foundations of power, wealth, and white supremacy this system is built upon.
In the eyes of all of these actors: the police, the media, and the liberal and conservative establishments, the coming together of hundreds of people on the 26th was a showing of this power and this potential. Thus, the media rushed to find anyone in the crowd that could downplay the mobilization and talk about how horrible “the violence was.” But while they found a few, even the self-appointed “protest leaders” from BAMN and other groups that the media attempted to prop up (or who rushed to prop themselves up) as the “respectable face” of the protest ended up echoing a clear and open message of self-defense and combativeness against fascism. In the face of this multi-racial and working-class mobilization against fascism that was organized from the ground up, the media has one place left to run: to the fascists themselves.
On the Right, groups like BreitBart (correctly) saw the shut down as part of a growing mass self-defense by poor and working people against rising far-Right reaction and the Trump campaign, and thus quietly supported the Neo-Nazis as they attacked the mobilization itself. One BB reporter even stated:
These people have forced me into the position of having to defend my own existence just because of the color of my skin. I’ve never been able to stomach the KKK, Nazi, skinhead types. And now I am backed into the corner of joining with them in my own self-defense.
Heimbach echoed much of these sentiments in an an interview with the Neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer:
Overall I was pleased with the media exposure, especially from conservative outlets that are not White nationalist but understand the implications of this event. If Leftist radicals can attack nationalists and attempt to shut down our freedom of speech and assembly, they can do it to normal conservatives as well.
By pointing the finger and putting blame on protesters, groups such as BreitBart help the fascist cause and help place the designation of enemy on those fighting fascism and racism. Further still, BreitBart is keen not to be left in the lurch, and sees the growing Alternative Right as a mass media market to interact with and pull talent and influence from. In many ways BreitBart has in the past year done more to positively promote the Alternative Right than any other right-wing media source and Andrew BreitBart had also spoken at past white supremacist gatherings before his death. Check out some of these photos:
Andrew BreitBart (now dead) poses with TWP leader Matthew Heimbach, then a member of the group Youth for Western Civilization.
James O’Keefe of BreitBart (middle, blue buttonup), poses with some friends of Youth for Western Civilization, a suit and tie fascist outfit that gave Heimbach of TWP his start.
Like BreitBart, the liberal Left is equally terrified of a growing autonomous force among the poor, working-class, and oppressed people within the United States. For instance, in a particularity bad editorial in the LA Times by The Times Editorial Board, the paper argues that anti-fascists are to blame for the rise of far-Right groups and Trump because they show up and shut down such events, leading to violence and thus, media attention. They article then goes on to name drop and give links to the TWP and the GSS while attacking anti-racists and anti-fascists.
Thus, both the LA Times and BreitBart make the connection between growing autonomous action against Trump and the far-Right and the mobilization in Sacramento and more importantly, are both united against those organizing and carrying out these actions.
But some media outlets even went a step beyond and pushed to give positive coverage of the fascists. Case and point, one interview by ABC 10 reporter Frances Wang was taken down because so many people denounced it as being such a positive expose on Heimbach’s views.
A recent interview with Frances Wang was so friendly to Heimbach that it was taken down by ABC.
Not to be outdone, other news media such as VICE have all worked to provide a platform for the fascists to talk about their views. In many ways, VICE helped launch Heimbach’s career, after they profiled him back in 2013 where he discussed forming a “White Student Union” that conducted patrols of black students while he was in college. This media focus on covering white supremacists isn’t surprising, as many reporters have learned that writing about Trump (and his white power buddies) in an age where online click-bait means everything and print is dying, is a smart career move and means a lot of coverage, clicks, and online shares. Thus, many reporters are giving more and more of a platform to the far-Right as the mainstream shifts farther and farther rightward and working-class voices opposed to white supremacy are more and more demonized.
Feeding into this media narrative is the statements of the police themselves. In the aftermath of the clashes on June 26th, several Sacramento city council people predictably chimed in with cries of “Where were the police?” In response, Sacramento Police and CHP were quick to reinforce the narrative of the anti-fascists as the true enemies. In the LA Times, a law enforcement officer stated:
If I had to say who started it and who didn’t, I’d say the permitted group didn’t start it,” said California Highway Patrol officer George Granada, a spokesman for its Protective Services division. “They came onto the grounds and were met almost instantly with a group of protesters there not to talk.
We must remember that going into large mobilizations, police have their own interests that they hope to get out of such engagements, autonomous and separate from those of any other political group. For instance, when a group of people entered the park, someone yelled at a police officer on horseback, “Overtime!” The officer looked down and smiled, giving a thumbs up. For the police, the 26th was all about getting extra money, trying out new toys, and practicing new drills. Despite claims by the police that they would keep the two sides separate and that their aim was to keep the event peaceful or else revoke the permit, they completely and totally failed to do anything of the sort.
In another vein, the police again faced criticism for being “soft” on the fascists. This “special treatment” that Neo-Nazis and fascist protesters received at the hands of the police is nothing new, and just like in countries like Greece, law enforcement has long had it’s far share of closeted and open police officers who are also members of the KKK and Nazi groups. In Anaheim, fights broke out between KKK members and protesters, resulting in several people being stabbed as the fascists were quickly driven from the streets. But before this confrontation, Klansmen chopped it up with police and shared cigarettes and in the aftermath of the violent clash, KKK members were quickly released from jail without arraignment while anti-fascists remained behind bars and now face a variety of charges. Similarly, after the Charleston Massacre in 2015 in South Carolina, Dylann Roof, a white nationalist influenced by groups such as the Council for Conservative Citizens, was taken out for Burger King on his way to jail after being found by police. Clearly, there is a pattern of police working with, and cajoling Neo-Nazi and KKK forces in the face of a common anti-fascist, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist enemy.
Interestingly enough, the white supremacists were also unhappy with the performance of the police. In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, a man believed to be Derik Punneo stated:
He added that he thought the police response was “pretty unsatisfactory. They failed to protect and serve, as was their duty … I think it’s a dereliction of duty.”
The man, whom The Sacramento Bee is not identifying because he has not been named by police as a suspect, said he was walking with a group of about 18 other white supremacists on the east side of the Capitol when police redirected them to enter on the west side.
“That’s where all the Antifa were waiting,” he said. “We were just mobbed, just rushed.”
Police, he said, were “nowhere to be found.”
Asked how he felt about being sought by the anti-fascists, he said he was not concerned. “That’s nothing new. They’re always out looking for us,” he said.
In short, it seems that the fascists, the news media, and the police all were in agreement of who the real threat on June 26th was: us.
Putting Sacramento In a Context
Sacramento sadly has decades of history of Neo-Nazi skinhead and white supremacist violence that includes assaults, vandalism, and arson attacks. In just the past several months, there has been an increase in far-Right and white power activity in Sacramento including flyers that were found left on cars that call for genocide of people of color as well as images of Neo-Nazi groups such as Golden Dawn from Greece, who have ties to Matthew Heimbach and the TWP. From the flyers:
If you have not secured a body dump site, do so now! Kidnap, rob, torture for information and execute all Muslims and Latinos. Leave no survivors…
Historically, fascism has always grown in response to mass action by the working-class and the poor against a society that exploits and abuses them. But specifically in the US context, it has also grown as an auxiliary force to the state when black people specifically fight back against white supremacy and oppression. The KKK was formed during Reconstruction as a means to use violence to intimidate blacks from gaining political rights and also push them back into subservient roles within the economy which generated massive profits for land owners. Early American Neo-Nazis such as George Lincoln Rockwell were at their most influential when they intervened against attempts at desegregation. During the campaigns of Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, and now Donald Trump, Neo-Nazis and KKK members have worked to back these Republicans candidates who use race as a means to mobilize white working-class voters against black and brown people. In short, fascist and white nationalist groups in the US while taking key influence from the German Nazis and others, have historically operated as a reserve army for the American government in an effort to uphold white supremacy.
In the past 8 years, this reality continues to be the case as the far-Right has been growing under the Obama Presidency and the economy has restructured itself in the wake of the 2007-8 financial crisis leading to an increasing wealth gap and declining living conditions. In the wake of the rebellions in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Oakland, rising white fears of black rebellion and immigration have spurred a growth in white nationalist groups. In this context, the KKK has attempted to make a comeback in a real way, as have various Neo-Nazi organizations, along with the Patriot and militia movements, and a variety of other far-Right formations. In the background, the Trump campaign acts as a spearhead, bringing these movements together while also feeding off of their energy, militancy, money, and support.
As this power grows, within the last year the list of acts of violence and terror committed by the far-Right has risen, as has the attempts by the various movements within it to place themselves out on the streets as a material force. This can be seen in the Malheur occupation that took place in Oregon at the start of 2016 as well in the various white nationalist street actions IGD has covered since the site began in the summer of 2015. As we wrote in Bern Notice:
In the past year, we have seen this play out in the streets several times. In Olympia, we watched as Neo-Nazi skinheads took to the streets in support of the police. In Minneapolis, white nationalist members of the Patriot movement (and Trump supporters), fired upon demonstrators during the #JusticeforJamar occupation. In Seattle, members of the Hammerskin Nation attempted to march in a predominantly queer neighborhood. In short, the far-right has hit the streets more in the last two years than they have since the 1990s. Its also important to note that in all of these instances, as it was in Anaheim, it took people physically confronting them to drive them out. These actions took organization, they took planning, and they took people working together across racial, geographic, and ideological lines, but more over, they also took people being ready to physically fight.
#AllOutATL provided an excellent working model for large scale Antifa mobilizations.
Since the time of that writing, we’ve seen other attempts by white nationalists to rally and hold the streets, most notably at Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia which proved to be an amazing success (and a horrible failure and low turn out for the fascists) and brought many people and groups together. At the same time the white nationalist movement was also pushed towards greater organization and unity. For instance, the National Socialist Movement (NSM) pushed for the creation of the Aryan Nationalist Alliance (which brings together white power skinhead gangs and groups) while Heimbach is pushing for the birth of the ‘Nationalist Front,’ which seeks to bring white nationalists together across a much broader spectrum.
Such a political terrain has led to growing conflict and confrontation between autonomous anti-fascist and anti-capitalist forces and the growing autonomous far-Right. As someone wrote in Minneapolis after the shooting at the Black Lives Matter encampment:
If it’s not terrorism, then what is it? Civil war. There is not a ninety nine percent of us that needs to be enlightened by the proper literature or media coverage, there are people who want to uphold white supremacy and those who want to destroy it. And on the night of the 23rd, those two groups came together to experience conflict, only attenuated by the self-designated marshals restraining people. On the night of the 24th, there was another shooting by suspected white supremacists as well, but this time someone returned fire. As conflict across the world escalates, this will happen more and more. And it’s certainly not glamorous; if there’s one thing I learned from almost getting shot, it’s that I’d prefer not to do it again. But I’m not sure that’s going to be an option.
On a similar note, someone wrote in an IGD report that even if these groups can’t win with numbers, it appears that many are pushing to win with sheer violence. As one article stated:
It seemed clear that the Nazi’s couldn’t have won a street confrontation, but the potential for them to resort to the kind of extreme violence seen in Minneapolis in late November was, and continues to be, a terrifying reality.
It isn’t pretty and it isn’t fun, but this is the political space that we occupy. It is in this context that hundreds of people converged in Sacramento for the purpose of not giving the fascists an inch.
Matthew Heimbach, the Pixel Tiger
At first I was all like, “White Jesus…,” but then I was like, “Hitler and Mosley, damn…you right.”
Matthew Heimbach, Chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party, Paoli, Indiana resident, son of two history teachers who now refuse to speak with him, and born into one of the most wealthy suburbs in Maryland, decided to stay at home during the Sacramento rally. Instead, Heimbach commented on the day’s events through a live stream set up by a white nationalist outfit, Red Ice Creations, while his troops were chased down the streets of Sacramento. Heimbach would go on to claim that the non-rally was a victory because his followers had stabbed so many. In order for us to understand why the mobilization on June 26th was a failure for the white nationalists and Neo-Nazis in the Traditionalist Worker Party, we first have to understand the goals that they had for the event going into it.
As Heimbach stated on The Daily Traditionalist podcast:
The Trad Worker Party are doing this by bringing it off the internet and onto the streets of Sacramento on June 26th. The Antifa are not happy about this, but there is no way they will be able to put a stop it [sic]. If the TWP can march in Sacramento, then they can hold a rally anywhere, since it is one of the most Liberal parts of the United States.
In short, Heimbach and the TWP had the following goals with the Sacramento demonstration as articulated by Heimbach on The Daily Traditionalist. These include:
1.) To grow from internet based activity such as the creation of podcasts and sharing memes on twitter and move into street activism.
2.) To unite a wide variety of white nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups into one united front on the streets. To allow the Sacramento mobilization to become an opportunity to build the leadership potential of the TWP for the rest of the movement.
3.) To take the streets and not back down from anti-fascists. To gain the “psychological victory” that comes from holding territory. Heimbach stated that he hoped for upwards of 200-250 white nationalist demonstrators to come to Sacramento. This victory would go on to propel the TWP to engage at that RNC later this month.
4.) Organize those interested in white nationalist ideas and bring them into street activism as TWP would in turn become a legitimate political player in street politics.
In all of these goals, the TWP and Heimbach in a position of leadership was a total and complete failure. While currently the TWP is promoting the fact that they sent more anti-fascists to the hospital than fascists, this overlooks all their previously stated goals of the Sacramento demonstration. To be clear, Sacramento represented both an organizational, political, and military defeat the fascists. Let’s take a look:
1.) Sacramento only continued the trajectory of the TWP and Matthew Heimbach (largely himself alone) getting and receiving media attention (with many outlets not even realizing he wasn’t even there). The Sacramento attempted demonstration did not get a mass of people to leave a subculture on the internet and move into the streets. Currently, the mass public face of the TWP is a mid-20s skinhead with a swastika tattoo on the back of his head and a charge for attempted rape. This is not exactly the popular image that Heimbach was going for.
Also, ironically despite Heimbach wanting to “leave the internet,” he spent more time and effort into making it an internet and online media sensation than it being a street action – and it shows.
2.) The TWP didn’t bring together different crews, organizations, or groups in a real way. It managed to bring out 15 or so hardcore members of the Golden State Skinheads, two members of Blood and Honor, one random guy waving a white power flag, and one livestreamer for Red Ice Radio, that’s it. These individuals also appeared to have no sense of togetherness or ability to coordinate with each other, especially the latter two. After members of TWP/GSS fled to their cars, the older members of Blood and Honor were left to fend for themselves; as they moved quickly behind police lines.
Also, according to Paddy Tarleton, Chapter President of the TWP Mid-Atlantic Division, there appears that in the lead up to the demonstration, several groups supporting the protest backed out. From a conversation with an antifa twitter sock-puppet, Paddy wrote:
“Aside from the logistics, since most of our members are on the east coast or the furthest eastern portion of the Midwest/Western Appalachian region, the logistics are extremely difficult getting us over there to CA.
The other problem is, since those other crews bailed on you guys in CA, from what I’ve heard, there’s only around thirty of you. This puts you in a very difficult position. No army would sacrifice its troops like that, but I do understand you don’t want to lose face in front of the Reds.”
If this information from Paddy (thanks bruh bear) is correct, then the Sacramento protest had the opposite effect. Furthermore, drama in Nazi town actually meant that numbers and groups involved were kept down due to internal infighting, not bolstered by TWP’s grand leadership strategy of Heimbach promoting himself at the expense of his followers.
Furthermore, this reality is coupled with the fact that recently former TWP member Michelle Victoria Kapelski has been expelled and apparently begun to call the FBI on former comrades, leading to door knocks from the men in black.
So much drama in the TWP…
3.) TWP was only on the capitol grounds for 20 seconds at max. They were not successful in holding a rally nor where they able to stay in the streets. While they currently are gloating that they sent several people to the hospital, they still were not able to hold their own and quickly retreated as they were beaten and their cars attacked, while also being dumb enough to drop a goddamn gun.
As Paddy stated:
“Just try to stay on the police’s good side. Don’t do anything that would hurt the reputation of other nationalists. None of us are any good to the cause rotting in a jail cell.
I had it in mind that you had obtained all the permits and that the police were aware of where you would be and everything. If that’s not the case, I would advise against it man. You don’t want to get yourself into any kind of trouble.”
Between a Skinhead and a Heimbach
The Golden State Skinheads (GSS) are not a new organization and for years has carried out and organized events and demonstrations on their own without any outside leadership or direction. Formerly, the group was under the leadership of Mike Myers, who helped to lead small protests in Sacramento at the State Capitol in 2012 and 2013. In both of these instances, anti-fascists outnumbered the Neo-Nazis gratefully and in 2012, clashes between antifa, Neo-Nazis, and police broke out as GSS members attempted to flee the parking garage in their cars as quickly as possible.
Members of Golden State Skinheads (GSS).
Around this time, GSS began to form a relationship with the American Freedom Party (AFP), formerly the American Third Position. By and large this group has done pretty much nothing, other than gain some mild publicity for public support of Trump and hosting various conferences. It was at these conferences in 2013 and 2014 that Heimbach was invited and also spoke alongside Mike Myers of the Golden State Skinheads. It appears that at these conferences a relationship was formed as the following year Heimbach was invited to take part in ‘Camp Comradery,’ an outdoor Neo-Nazi camp-out complete with workshops and speakers. At the gathering Heimbach stated, “Ten years from now, I want a Nuremberg rally!”
While it appears that AFP is no longer that active, it did lead to a connection of not only Heimbach with the GSS but also with William Johnson, one of the main mover and shakers within AFP who works as a corporate lawyer and has access to money. It is unclear if GSS is simply a chapter of TWP or remains autonomous from it, but GSS appears to take on the mantle of various white nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups depending on which way the wind is blowing. Currently, GSS is headed by “Lee Roy Jenkins” and has developed links within the Neo-Pagan community in California.
Traditionalist Worker Party and Keystone United.
In short, both the TWP and the GSS need each other. Heimbach needs muscle for his organization and thus has cultivated relationships with Neo-Nazis skinheads in California and also those of Keystone United, a similar outfit in Pennsylvania. On the other hand, GSS needs the political leadership and “credibility” of TWP, which comes with a complete package of symbols, flags made out of bed towels, videos, podcasts, an agitational newsletter, and of course, access to Heimbach himself which means lots of media coverage and connections with European Neo-Nazi and nationalist groups.
In return, Heimbach glows with affection towards his skinhead rank and file:
The Golden State Skinheads are a shining example of a skinhead organization. GSS is made up of family men, blue collar workers and comrades who understand the principles of nationalism and how through activism and politics we can achieve our objectives. They are the opposite of the Hollywood caricature of skinheads and I am proud to call them my friends, my brothers and my comrades.
What is interesting is that Heimbach claims that the demonetization of skinheads within white nationalism is part of a growing classism within the movement and instead valorizes them as working-class, family oriented, and dedicated activists. This goes hand in glove with TWP position that there is a “prole gap” within white nationalism and point at formations such as American Renaissance or the National Policy Institute as examples. What’s hilarious is that TWP fails to break out of the age old mold that has typified skinhead led organizations for decades: a working-class rank and file being being led by upper-middle class college educated managerial figures. We’ve seen this with Craig Cobb in the Creativity Movement, William Pierce in the National Alliance (who actually attacked working-class skinheads shortly after taking over Resistance Records to make money off it for himself), Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance who remains quite wealthy, and a host of other white nationalist and Neo-Nazi leaders who have attempted to use white power skinheads as their shock troops. Matthew Heimbach is not a deviation from this norm but simply a continuation.
Craig Cobb, another former rich-kid turned Neo-Nazi skinhead leader.
But it also appears that the Neo-Nazi skinheads may prove to become a political danger to the TWP, as Matthew Parrott in the LA Times was quick to deny that members of GSS have been involved in violence in the past, referring to suggestions they had been involved in criminal activity as “propaganda.” Despite whatever shit Parrott spits out, shortly after the anti-fascist convergence on June 26th that completely shut down the TWP rally, it was released that GSS member Derik Punneo has in fact has a long history of violence and attempted rape. Furthermore, after the rally, Punneo was arrested for beating up his Neo-Nazi girlfriend and sent several months in jail. With more information sure to come out in the future, it remains to be seen how hard the middle-class leadership of the TWP will stand behind their beloved working-class shock troops.
It is also important for autonomous anti-fascists and anti-racists to see themselves in relation to Neo-Nazi skinheads. We are a movement, they are a gang that comes out of and is based around a subculture. There is a difference.
The Battles to Come
As this article was being written, massive #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations rocked the US in the wake of the deaths of several African-American and Latinx men. In Dallas, a sniper open fire on police, killing several. In Portland, Michael Strickland, a local Trump supporter and right-wing activist pulled out a handgun at a BLM protest. In Olympia, Neo-Nazis again showed up to taunt the protests. Already, the far-Right media from Heimbach to Info-Wars is rallying in support of the police and calling for blood. Far-Right reaction is going to grow and we are going to see more and more violence, in all forms, directed at autonomous movements for collective liberation and the people associated with them. Furthermore, we have to come to expect that the state, or at least segments and elements within it, will look to the far-Right as a reserve auxiliary force to uphold “law and order” and white supremacy as a system of control and domination.
Don’t want them to win? If you aren’t organizing. If you aren’t fighting. Then what are you doing?
In order to prepare, we must train and organize. This means being able to move as a group, to defend ourselves, and also learn how to stay together and work within situations that become chaotic very fast. If Sacramento teaches us anything it’s that while we may have more numbers in the streets in many situations, we don’t hold a monopoly on violence or direct action. Let these moments that bring so many people together be an opportunity. Let us use this situation to our advantage and really begin to organize, talking with people, training, and starting to prepare for the next confrontation as we put in work around day to day struggles based on bread and butter issues.
In moving forward, we need to not only mobilize hard for these conflicts, but also spend time organizing among the communities that fascists and racists hope to pull from. We have to be a part of daily life and the struggles within them, not a part of some obscure and removed subculture with no ties to the communities we hope to change. From the trailer parks to the urban city cores, there’s a lot of work to do. Our networks are our strength, let’s use them.
The new baseline. Let’s get ready.
Sacramento teaches us many lessons; not only in the need to organize within our own networks and across crew, organizational, and geographical lines, but also in how to deal with the aftereffects of such conflicts. The real heroes of Sacramento aren’t just the masked warriors on the front lines who put themselves in danger, but those that bandaged wounds, spent hours in the hospital, and put in the work to make sure that money was raised and food was cooked.
In the end, Sacramento points to the need for the growth and proliferation of an autonomous anti-capitalist force that grows from and is rooted within poor and working-class communities that are already in struggle. We can begin to see the growth of such a force in Sacramento; the important thing now is to not drop the ball and keep fucking running.
Taking the capitol.
But as we grow and expand outside of activist circles and instead base our activity upon real life experiences we will have to work to bring new people into organizing while sharing skills, knowledge, ideas, and resources. What we are trying to do is hard; we are at odds with both the state and other autonomous forces on the Right as well as the liberal political establishment. The media will give us no quarter and will actively seek to demonize us and our movement. Only by building from the ground up, from crew to crew, from city to town, across the varied barriers of geography, race, gender, and sexuality, will we build a movement that is capable of transforming everyday life and creating the social relations which can build a fighting force worthy of the name.
Sacramento shows us that this is possible.
Before this text was completed, one of those injured in the shutdown of the Nazi rally was getting out of the hospital. In a visit with another person still in the process of healing, one said to the other while standing next to their hospital bed, “We were fighting for our lives, weren’t we?” The other looked up at them and replied, “Yeah, we were.”
If we can do anything for the people recovering from their wounds, it is to do exactly that.