Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Community Organizing, Midwest, The State
A grassroots community center in Southern Illinois is planning a city wide assembly on Tuesday October 23rd, in the face of an upcoming visit from President Trump on Saturday and threats from far-Right paramilitary and neo-Nazi groups.
President Donald Trump was scheduled to rally in support of Republican Congressman Mike Bost in the town of Carbondale, Illinois on Saturday October 27th, however soon changed the venue to a nearby airport in Murphysboro, IL., according to The Southern.
The change in venues comes after a series of threats from the far-Right, according to local organizers at the Flyover Social Center, who stated in a press release on their Facebook page:
When [Trump’s visit] was announced, City Councilman Adam Loos proposed a resolution stating that Trump is “unwelcome and persona non grata in Carbondale,” saying that “the proper term for politicians who gain and maintain power by scapegoating and demonizing racial and ethnic minorities, women, people with disabilities, and immigrants is ‘fascism.'”
Loos is correct, and we commend his bravery. Unfortunately, he seems to be alone in the city government. Within a day, the Mayor Henry cancelled the Carbondale City Council meeting during which Loos’s resolution would’ve been presented. Through various contacts in city government, we’ve learned that the reason for cancelling the meeting was “credible threats of right-wing paramilitary violence.” The local government has abdicated its power in the face of fascist threats. Henry won’t admit it publicly, of course. To do so would be to admit that he is willing to be intimidated into submission by fascists.
Speaking to The Southern, the Mayor of Carbondale, Mike Henry stated:
“I had credible indications that there will be multiple acts of civil disobedience at next week’s council meeting,” Henry said as part of a prepared statement to The Southern. He said these demonstrations, which are coming from both the side supporting the visit and those against it, “will make it extremely difficult to conduct the public’s businesses.” [Our emphasis.]
A local organizer at the Flyover Social Center disputes this version of events. In a phone interview with It’s Going Down, they pointed out that when the Mayor decided to cancel the City Council meeting, the only thing resembling a “protest” against Trump was a call for people to attend the meeting to speak in favor of Adam Loos anti-Trump resolution. Furthermore, this call to speak at City Council in support of Loos’ resolution wasn’t put online until 11 PM late last Friday, hours after the Mayor had notified City Council members that the meeting was cancelled, and 30 minutes after it was publicly announced at 10:30 PM.
“What we were told by people who wish to remain anonymous in the city government, was that there were credible threats of paramilitary violence.”
The organizer at the Flyover Social Center stated, “The Mayor needs to be clear as to what the threats from the Right were. What we were told by people who wish to remain anonymous in the city government, was that there were credible threats of paramilitary violence. If we’re wrong about that, then the reason [the Mayor] cancelled the City Council meeting was simply because people were going to come and support a resolution by a city council member to denounce Trump.”
The local organizer also pointed out the clear “both sidism” at play. “Their side [on the Right,] is threats of terror and violence against our community. Our side is demanding that our city make a firm resolution against fascism. If the City Council isn’t going to do that, then the people of Carbondale will do it ourselves.”
“in recent days a business card from the neo-Nazi group, Patriot Front, had been left in their mailbox.”
In a recent Facebook post, the Flyover Social Center also noted that in recent days a business card from the neo-Nazi group, Patriot Front, had been left in their mailbox. For many this sent a clear message: both that the space was being watched by neo-Nazis, but also that the fascists were nearby.
Patriot Front is a rebranding of the group, Vanguard America, a make over that took place after a suspected member of the organization was arrested for the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017. While staying true to their white nationalist and national socialist politics, the group opted to use American flags and “American nationalist” symbols in their presentation, as an appeal to Trump supporters and others on the Right.
In the last year or so, the group has mostly engaged in flyering and banner drops, but has also taken to organizing flash rallies as well as demonstrations outside of anarchist spaces, such as a bookfair in Houston, and a social center; Monkey Wrench Books in Austin. In July, the group also attempted to attack an #AbolishICE protest encampment in Austin; knocking over items and attempting to tear down structures. After a few minutes, the group quickly left. Antifascist researches have pointed out that the head of Patriot Front resides currently in Texas, however the group has regional and local leadership across the US.
Ironically, both the Trump visit and news of possible threats from the far-Right comes as the City of Carbondale is attempting to bring back yearly Halloween celebrations, which for decades have been repressed after riots took place throughout the 80s and 90s, culminating in the burning of a police car. The Halloween events brought together people from across the Midwest, and represented an uncrushed spirit of rebellion that had survived both police repression in the 60s and 70s, and the assault of neoliberalism. As the organizer with the Flyover Social Center said in regards to the connection between Halloween and Trump, “As soon as people saw the date was on the 27th, [they] were saying ‘Well, we thought we were going to get away without a riot.'”
But despite threats from neo-Nazis and paramilitary groups, the locals are hopeful that they can bring people together outside of traditional politics represented by the neoliberalism of the Democratic Party, or the proto-fascism of Trumpism.
As the Flyover Social Center wrote in a recent statement:
People like Trump and Bost offer false promises, but they don’t care about us. They are gutting what remains of social safety nets, they want to destroy the forests and rivers that we love in an outdated and irresponsible idea of economic development. Their policies will leave Southern Illinois poorer, sicker, and weaker, while enriching the wealthy and concentrating power in the hands of a police state.
But there is another vision for the development of Carbondale and the surrounding rural communities. We share with others a vision centered on compassion, cooperation, and an honest recognition of the crises we face. This vision can only be enacted by people themselves, and no politician or corporation is going to build a free, equal, and dignified world for us. Our vision centers on autonomy, on communities providing for and developing themselves outside of the power of corporations and the government.
Trump, Bost, and their thugs seek to destroy any vision of a better, freer world, and to reassert the racist, sexist, xenophobic foundations of this country — foundations that have been challenged by courageous people throughout each generation of history. We have to live up to their legacy. This is not a time when neutrality is possible.
Mayor Henry backed down. The people of Carbondale won’t.
For those interested, the City Assembly to ‘Shut Down Trump’ will take place at Carbondale Civic Center, 200 S Illinois Ave, at 6 PM. A social media event can be found here. People are also calling for support on the 27th in Carbondale, to defend the area from far-Right groups.