Filed under: Anti-fascist, Editorials, Midwest, The State
Originally posted to It’s Going Down
The Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland has officially begun and it has played out as a chaotic mess and disgusting spectacle featuring the various elements of the divergent far-Right coming together to place much of their faith in the election of “strong man” billionaire casino and resort real estate tycoon, Donald Trump. Inside the convention, there seemed to be clear divisions among delegates as the “Dump Trump” faction of the Party pushed for a roll-call vote. In the end, 1,725 for Trump and 753 against, the widest margin since the 1976 convention. In the background, Trump faced wave after wave of scandal, from child rape accusations, tell all interviews from his ghost-writer of The Art of the Deal, anger at his dumb-ass kids, and claims that his wife plagiarized a speech by Michelle Obama.
Daytona Beach cop car firebombed, note left reading "fuck the police!" pic.twitter.com/RBaZvKggi1
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) July 18, 2016
But the RNC is also taking place in a very strong context and the speakers that were invited to grace the RNC stage made this extremely clear, as did the Make American Safe Again signs that were seen throughout the convention floor. In short, rage at the police, who continue to kill on average around 3 people per day, keeps on boiling and the shootings and killings of police officers across the US shows no sign of stopping. In the just the last several days, a gunman killed three police officers in Baton Rouge, a police chief in Kansas City was killed, and in New York drive by shooters unleashed a barrage of bullets at police leading to a wide manhunt. Meanwhile, high profile acts of vandalism continue such as the torching of a police car in Florida, and the hacking of a road sign to read anti-police messages near Atlanta. At the same time, protests and disruptions carried out by the Black Lives Matter movement show no signs of letting-up. Trump has responded with the classic calls for “law and order” and attacks against social movements, as did Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke, who while speaking on the RNC floor described a civil war taking place within America and lumped Occupy, BLM, and ISIS together into one single threat. He stated:
What we witnessed in Ferguson and Baltimore and Baton Rouge was a collapse of the social order. So many of the actions of the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter transcends peaceful protest and violates the code of conduct we rely on — I call it anarchy.
— Firearms (@realFirearms) July 20, 2016
Clarke, an African-American conservative Democrat who has become an RNC favorite for attacking Black Lives Matter (and blacks in general) went on to accuse the movement of generalizing anti-police sentiment and violence. Meanwhile, the rest of the RNC was no less atrocious, as the Republicans passed one of their most conservative platforms to date, attacking gay marriage, abortion, and Obamacare, promoted the growth of “gay conversion therapy,” vowed to uphold ‘law and order,’ sought to expand fossil fuel extraction and oil pipelines, and endorsed economic growth through the establishment of a ‘pro-growth tax code.’ Later in the night, Donald Trump, Jr, went on to attack teachers unions and public education in general, (maybe because he never experienced it), and promoted charter schools and “school choice.” The Republicans also moved to back the Koch brothers funded land grab movement, headed by white nationalists such as Cliven Bundy, and adopted language that calls for the dismantling of National Parks and Forests and open them up to ranching, mining, logging, and fracking. Also, this is not to mention the open calls for mass deportations, murdering of ‘terror suspects’ families, expansion of torture techniques, and more that have come from Trump over the last several months. The RNC even retweeted on the big screen a tweet from white Nationalist and anti-immigrant group, VDARE.
In short, the RNC was successful in bringing the various elements of the Right together, from the Evangelicals and Dominionists, to the Neo-Conservatives and free-market ideologues, to “anti-government” wise-use activists, anti-queer and anti-abortion campaigners, to the wide variety of white nationalists who have thrown their support behind Trump. It seems that if the Republicans can agree on anything, its that with revolt out on the streets of American, in particular black revolt, and the breakdown of obedience to law enforcement, extreme and total authority is needed in all walks of everyday life. This means attacks on the poor and working class broadly, social control over our bodies, and expansive repression through police, surveillance, military apparatuses at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, on the streets, we’ll be the first ones to say it, this is no ’99 in Seattle. The Black Bloc is not ruling the streets of Cleveland. Instead, it would seem that anarchists and anti-capitalists have mostly chosen to sit this convention out, with numbers being lower than have been seen in years past. Liberal opposition even seems to be waning, with very little showings from leftist groups in general. Black Lives Matter Cleveland has also decided to sit out the convention protests. Instead of mass mega-marches populated by union members, a variety of Left groups, and large NGOs, we’re mainly seeing a strange mix of people, massive amounts of police that sometimes out number protesters, large amounts of far-Right supporters taking it all in or hoping to intervene in the spectacle, and a hoard of journalists that sometimes is larger than the crowds they are photographing. Meanwhile, inside the convention walls the Republican party descends into chaos, with delegates burning their badges and walking off the floor and one Republican senator even calling the RNC “a meeting of brown shirts.” Tell us how you really feel. Welcome to Cleveland!
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 19, 2016
Monday began with an unpermitted march that wound through the downtown area. The police have clearly taken orders to use a “soft policing,” tactic here, with very little direct interaction occurring between protesters and the cops. The scariest pig gear on the streets that was visible on Monday were the bike helmets. There were pictures going around of starship troopers on bikes on Sunday, but they were nowhere to be found Monday, and only made a brief appearance on Tuesday.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 19, 2016
So far, the cops seem completely disorganized. Bike cops who’s training wheels were removed too early were crashing into steps, there were cops arguing about orders, and some were complaining about not knowing what the fuck is going on. These pigs are kind of a comic mess. That would be far more entertaining if only our side felt ready to take advantage of that instability. With a lack of coordination locally and any larger grouping of people in the event zone being immediately swarmed by masses of cops, its pretty difficult to conceive of successful, spontaneous actions popping off.
Folks with a little more experience seemed to pass the time looking for under covers to hassle or scanned crowds for white supremacists and other enemies. Being in a situation where you don’t just have to think about law enforcement, but also nazi scum and patriot assholes is a strange scenario most of us have not encountered. Long gone are the days of simply circumventing peace police and playing cat and mouse with riot cops. Now there are walls of media cameras, often outnumbering actual participants 3 to 1. There are a lot of enemies in these streets and none of them are playing by the same rules.
A definite highlight from Monday is watching a crew of around 30 people tail and then mob up on Matt Forney, infamous YouTube MRA asshole who promotes rape and sits within both the Men’s Rights Movement and White Nationalist circles. He and 2 other friends were spotted live streaming for Red Ice Radio, looking like it had been a particularly long time since they had left Matt’s mom’s basement. The three were visibly shaken and scared, but despite it all Matt just refused to stop filming. Brave soul that he is, he neglected to keep a close eye on where he was going and took a good tumble backwards. Hard. Shortly afterwards, he began to run, leaving his cohorts to then be cornered next to a group of sheriffs who clearly didn’t give a fuck about them. These three pieces of garbage had walked to what they believed was the “safety,” of approximately 30 Ohio sheriffs who instead laughed like kids watching a schoolyard scuffle.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 18, 2016
We mentioned everyone who appears to be sitting this one out, from anarchists to NGOs. The internet fascists however have not chosen to sit this one out. In fact, some of the most infamous among them have showed up with the supposed goal of recruiting and rubbing elbows with those who hold power. We’ve spotted Matt Heimbach, who yelled from behind police lines, “How’s your brown folks we put in the ICU?” Heimbach would go on to tell reporters that he was planning to meet with supporters and RNC delegates in a private meeting, and was encouraging delegates to write in the late George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party. He stated:
Several white nationalists have already been expelled from being delegates. All I’m gonna say is the RNC didn’t find all of them.
Heimbach was joined by “Scott Hess” and a female supporter. Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa was out live streaming for Red Ice Radio, and was sure to find his good friend Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute who held a sign read, “Wanna Talk to a Racist?” 3%ers were literally roaming the streets with rifles strapped to their backs. Soldiers of Odin were seen scoping the bar scene around the convention center on Monday night. We have seen more concealed guns printing on sketchy people than we could even count.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) July 19, 2016
While these alt-right types and neo-fascists have come to Cleveland, they primarily seem to be here to garner media attention or to experience feeling like a movement. They don’t have the numbers. There are no gangs of Heimbach boot-lickers roaming the streets ready to be the enforcers of all that is good and white. They are weak now, but maintaining the kind of vigilance that took place in Sacramento is vital in keeping them weak. It’s also interesting that all of these groups aren’t really rolling together or clique up, at least out in the open. They seem more interested in live-streaming the event and deciding what they think of Alt-Right internet troll Milo than anything else, or hanging around Alex Jones’ rally and attempting to talk to Info-Wars fans.
It’s interesting the low level of participation in the RNC protests. While there has been fierce resistance to Trump rallies in most every city he has appeared in, it feels a little like crickets out here in Ohio. We have spent a lot of time wondering to ourselves why this is as we wander the streets of this hot mess of a town. The struggle at home is real for all of us. Police are murdering people. Our water is poisoned. Folks are locked up in prison. We continue to work more for less and less pay. Gentrification and housing costs continue to grow and skyrocket. The threat of war continues to loom as does impending climate catastrophe. Our friends, family and lovers are being deported. We’re tired. This dog and pony show out here in Cleveland can feel like the least of our damn worries. As people wrote before the RNC in 2008:
Currently, a huge amount of significance is being placed on the outcome of the mobilizations against the…Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The “success” of summits as the measure of our power is perhaps the most misguided, yet persistent, idea we have taken with us from the “anti-globalization” era. Gauging our strength according to the numbers gathered together, by the dollar amount of damages done, the quantity of media coverage, and so on are not true indicators of anything.
[T]he Republican, Democratic or Green conventions are all false images of reality. Capitalism is not crystallized in conventions centers, government buildings, or corporate offices; it is not a controlling center. Capital is the domination of all life under the reign of value, which permeates our very existence through the structuring of our lives and by commodifying nearly everything on the planet.
We need tactics and strategies that can attack the true face of domination, not the red flag it waves to draw our attention.
We wouldn’t be entirely wrong to feel that way. But at the same time, the rise of fascism is real and it is happening. We’re watching it unfold in real time, right in front of us. We hope that we can start connecting the dots between all of our struggles and find new means of attacking at the same time as creating space to catch our fucking breath.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more. We’re tweeting as fast as we can out here as well. For now we want to sign off with a tip of the hat to all the folks who have shown up to keep the bad kids hydrated, well fed and out of jail. And if anyone from Food Not Bombs has a line on more of those vegan oatmeal creme pies, hit us up.