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November 18

Field Notes: No Gods, No Masters, No Principals

Report on a recent response to a neo-Nazi sticker campaign at a school in the Portland, Oregon area.

by Jordan Jackson

The fascists of the Pacific Northwest are on the march. I saw it in the masked faces and dead eyes of the 3%ers and Proud Boys providing “security” for Dinesh D’Souza and Brandon Straka’s recent #WalkAway farce in Portland. You’d think that their defeats in the streets of Portland over the summer would have dampened their enthusiasm. Hell, they were completely routed in under five minutes on 8/17. Joey Gibson is facing prison for the Cider Riot riot, and the Seattle Proud Boys are engulfed in scandals both various and sundry. But you wouldn’t know it; they’re gearing up for 2020. Based on last week, I’d guess the steel in their spine is driven by an influx of militia types, but that’s just speculation.

Here’s a fact: Last Sunday, the Proud Boys held a flash rally in Portland, attacking anyone they thought was “antifa.”  The highlight was Tara LaRosa, a former MMA fighter and recent émigré, making her introduction to the fash scene by choking a woman on the street. This is important context to our main story, that takes place in Beaverton, a sleepy suburb of Portland. Recently, Patriot Front, a pack of neo-Nazis founded by the teenager that led the Vanguard America thugs at Unite the Right, plastered the place with propaganda. Merlo High School, and several other local schools, were specifically targeted. This brings us to the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front (PNW YLF), who were the only organized opposition at the #WalkAway event earlier this month.

I can attest from personal experience that the YLF are a wild bunch of brave, dedicated activists. I went to one of their parties around Halloween and got valuable experience in dodging zoomers rope-swinging through mosh pits and jumping over flaming, recently “liberated” pumpkins. Think Euphoria meets Lord of the Flies, which are strangely more accurate than their respective creators intended. Their sense of fun is infectious, a stark contrast with the self-seriousness of many millennial activists. Their rejection of hierarchy is total, and they aren’t united by ideology or common enemy but rather by action. Action taken to dismantle the oppressive systems of Amerika. Most impressive to me has been their work towards changing the direction of action-reaction on the Portland scene. They’re holding a transit strike in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Black Friday, and Patriot Prayer (or at least Haley Adams’ splinter group “Portland’s Liberation”) is making noise about counter-protesting them. What a concept! A few weeks ago, they spent a Sunday rounding up coats from donations and thrift stores to give out to the city’s homeless. For them, being antifascist is a lifestyle; they embody Popular Mobilization’s call to be an #EverydayAntifascist.

But I digress. Covering areas with fascist propaganda is part of Patriot Front’s modus operandi. All over the country, from Massachusetts to Washington. Wherever white people are anxious. This is an old tactic for movements designed to draw in recruits, intimidate the enemy, and dominate public space. A recent ProPublica article estimated their numbers at only around a few hundred nationwide. Like a puffer fish, they may not be as big as they look, but they’re still poisonous. In the last year, they’ve been busy:

  • Flare-lit marches in Boston.
  • Masked flash mobs and smoke bombs in North Carolina.
  • Defaced synagogues in Georgia.

Last week, that campaign made its way to Beaverton, OR. Cecil, a YLF member, was one of the first to notice the Patriot Front stickers near Merlo High School. The first one had a cartoon of a figure in chains, their fascist symbol, and the words “America is Not for Sale.” A clear example of the antisemitic tropes of “Zionist Occupied Government” (ZOG) and an attempt to play to anxieties of “white slavery.” For that is the most potent fear of the white American- that their own sins will be turned on them. This is why there is a racial divide among those who claim to have been abducted by UFOs. Most white people report being probed or subjected to sinister experiments, but the majority of POC say that the aliens were kind. Damnit, another tangent. I am really going to need to work on that.

This affront came only days after Dinesh and Brandon Straka’s visit, which had left an impact on the YLF. More than one YLF member remarked to me that until that night they’d “never been scared of a fascist” that they’d dealt with in the streets. I can sympathize. When the Proud Boy and 3%er security swarmed around us it was impossible not to feel the Right’s bottomless appetite for violence. And so, they decided to organize a demonstration/walk-out to show that they wouldn’t be cowed by Patriot Front. To announce it, they tweeted out a video of them burning one of the stickers. The gauntlet thrown down, they started to organize on Twitter for an action at Merlo HS on 11/15.

At the demonstration, which was small, a few YLF members had printed out their own stickers. Patriot Front isn’t wrong in recognizing the power of claiming public space, even if they’re wrong on just about everything else. Fascists understand the power of branding instinctively. Hell, their leader is a brand in the shape of a man. Some were postal stickers with “ANTIFA ZONE” and a crossed-out swastika stenciled on, others had the message “Good Night Alt-Right” with a vaporwave-style image of a fash getting knocked out. Plastering the area with their own messages had eased any tension that I’d sensed before.

After about 90 minutes, the YLF bloc dispersed. I asked the YLF how they thought the action had gone. They granted that they’d wanted more turn out, but said that it had had gone, “pretty good…either way, we showed up, stood together, made our presence known and opposed those fascists.” Soon, the street was clear, but my mind was swimming. I couldn’t stop thinking of the Berkeley teacher that Andy Ngo, that fascist propagandist swine, was trying to get fired for shoving a Golden State Skinhead during the brawl that left seven of her comrades stabbed. Another reminder that the fight against fascism is deeply personal, and the end isn’t in sight.

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