Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Critique, US, White Supremacy
Critical reflections on recent community defense mobilizations and thoughts on how they can inform resistance and increasing our capacity to protect our communities.
photo: Off the 99
On September 4th 2022, the town of Riverside, California held its first official LGBTQIA+ Pride event in more than a decade, and while almost all of the people there had a great time, a few fascists decided to show up with signs full of hateful words and weapons in their pockets to try and intimidate innocent queer people and their families. In my personal account here of the event as one of the counterprotesters, our action was mostly successful but also undisciplined; for most of the day in record-setting heat, we kept the bullies distracted and away from the event and their signs full of hateful messages out of sight with umbrellas. However, our group was not prepared for violence and once the fascists began to attack us we did not respond quickly enough and some of us ended up getting hurt for it. Worse yet, the fascists had their “gotcha” moment; a short clip of a street brawl that they could now edit and play endlessly to their audience while pointing at how “antifa” are the real bad guys. This kind of response is no longer effective at deterring nazis from harassing innocent people; they want us to show up and throw punches so that they can create more content for their propaganda machine, increasing their reach and recruitment efforts.
The time has come for a change in tactics. When fascists pull up to an event with banners and cameras in hand, they have already won whatever encounter happens next, even with the best possible outcome for our side. We need to identify and minimize the influence of fascist forces before they have the chance to organize people to get into street fights with us – and before they have a chance to turn to more extreme forms of violence. Our side may have righteous fury, but that Sunday we were visibly outnumbered and we paid a price for it. We all ended up getting home safely, but next time we may not be so lucky. Let there not be a chance for luck.
We need more ordinary people to get involved in the work of ending white supremacy. Our lives quite literally depend on it; we’re in the middle of the worst heatwave in the history of California and we cannot adequately fight the worsening climate crisis while state governments spend half of their budgets on militarized police forces that do nothing to keep vulnerable people safe, forcing groups of disorganized antifascists to play defense until they are burnt out, injured, jailed or worse. We need more fighters, but for every person out in the streets there are a dozen others behind them doing many different jobs to keep them and each other secure. We need antifascist doctors and nurses for medical care, data scientists to scrub our personal information off the internet, jail supporters for those who get arrested, cooks, care givers, educators, everyone who has a desire for a better world has a role that they can take up. After the brawl, people came out of the venue and made their voices heard, forcing the remaining fascists to go home unceremoniously. One person in particular, a queer elder with no shirt using a walking stick, got right up into the face of one of the fascist protesters that was visibly armed with a knife on his belt and forced him to walk away from the event. Seeing ordinary people stand up for what’s right gives me the strength to continue fighting.
Not all fascists are good little Eichmanns. They have names. They have addresses. The most prominent ones make a good living off the negative attention and hatred that swirls around them like a storm. In order for us to survive as a species, white supremacy must be put to an end by any means at our disposal. As catastrophic weather events continue to intensify in both power and frequency, as disease and death become the norm, more and more people will be tempted to turn to fascism and violence to secure their own comfort and safety. As antifascists, as humans, the time to act is right now, before it’s too late. Our hope for a better world must be disciplined. We must keep us safe.
In the end, the Riverside pride event turned out to be an overwhelming success. Even though it was corporate-sponsored liberal faire, with lots of private security and police that did nothing to stop the violence, I got to see many people having a wonderful time. There were kids dressed up in bright costumes with their families, nervous but excited trans teens going out to their first pride event, and queers of all ages and genders having fun and eating food and dancing to music and simply expressing themselves in a way that makes them happy. It brings me so much joy to see the next generation of queer people being given the chance to thrive that I never had in my youth. I knew in those intense few moments in the street that I was fighting for the right thing. But none of us can win this fight alone. We all have our part to play, and in solidarity we have true strength. Become dangerous.