After Gainesville, There Are No Excuses Left

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Richard Spencer’s appearance in Gainesville, Florida was the crystallization of recent trends in the neo-fascist movement. During the lead-up to his speech at the University of Florida, antifascists across the country witnessed a series of developments which pointed to a frightening change in our struggle against white nationalism. Beginning with the capitulation of UF President W. Kent Fuchs to the fascist scourge, the latest college official to choose avoiding a lawsuit over the safety of his students, an expanding level of authority was handed over to Spencer himself. Unlike earlier Alt-Right speaking events, Spencer was furthermore bolstered by a colossal police presence, made possible through the intervention of Gov. Rick Scott. What followed could have been one of the most violent and bloody confrontations in recent memory, had Spencer managed to muster a significant gathering.

Instead, the students of UF rejected the cowardice of their president and organized their own resistance. Despite the barriers standing in their way – not least of which being Spencer’s control of admission tickets – a large group of young protesters inserted themselves into the auditorium where the Trust Fund Fuhrer was speaking. They subsequently reduced him to a petulant, bawling temper tantrum, and shrugging off the efforts of ideological dungbeetle Mike Enoch to redirect their ire away from his besuited master. Spencer left the venue with the familiar taste of failure in his mouth.

But Spencer, at the end of the day, was probably the least worrisome feature of the Gainesville event. In addition to a massive state response targeting leftists and defending fascists, we yet again saw the potential of Alt-Right fanatics to commit random acts of murder. It takes less than ever for the specter of the white lynch mob to seep out from behind the mask of “white advocacy,” and this time the perpetrator wasn’t a bloodthirsty lone killer like Jeremy Christian or James Fields. Rather, the three men attempting to ambush one of our comrades were long-time followers of the neo-fascist agenda, having previously participated in multiple rallies and even the planning of Spencer’s operational blueprint for Gainesville. Hours before, one of them had been handcuffed by police, while another had been interviewed and specifically stated their intentions to terrorize the city in the name of fascism. A hit-list was published directing fascists to various locations around Gainesville for “flash mobs,” including a black history museum and a Jewish cultural center.

Despite the remarkable openness of the planned violence – which, thankfully, was not as widespread as the fascists intended – the safety of Spencer himself remained the primary objective for Gainesville’s’ police presence, and the only media outlets to publish news of the sinister post-speech plot outside of IGD were Al Jazeera and the Independent, two foreign media platforms. The surprise is not that violence occurred at Gainesville, but rather that so many resources were allocated to neo-fascists at the expense of student and resident safety, and so little attention paid to blatant paramilitarism by unambiguous neo-Nazis.

But most crucially, Gainesville has proven with absolute clarity what antifascists have known all year. The alt-right has developed from 4chan harassers into a full-blown fascist cell, and although it fails to garner widespread support, it has survived through manipulation of divided public perception, and calcified with a descent into right-wing paramilitarism. The hand-wringing of the liberal bloc has encouraged pacifism and inaction, insisting that antifascists are responsible for the savagery of the far-right; after this latest attack, their analysis is demonstrably incorrect. This essay will elaborate on the apologist myths which have been swept away by the events of Gainesville, and why militant antifascism is absolutely critical not only as a leftist movement for social change, but as a means of self-defense for communities everywhere.

“THE STATE KEEPS US SAFE”

After Spencer had left Florida, the governor made a statement and thanked police for performing their duties admirably: he was, he said, “grateful that their unified efforts, in coordination with leadership at the University of Florida, kept all involved in yesterday’s rallies safe.”

He was addressing this sentiment to the estimated 1000 police officers who had been shuttled into the area by way of his “state of emergency” declaration [1]. This allowed for the mobilization of out-of-town police, who would all be operating under the command of the state. The magnitude of the response was frightening on its own. Footage showed a university parking lot filled to the brim with squad cars. Riot police set up multiple locations around the campus. A sniper team was photographed perched on top of the Phillips Center. Barricades and other equipment were set up to heavily restrict traffic on campus, and certain streets were blocked off. Unicorn Riot obtained a map of police deployments around the university, which would entail the temporary closing of an outpatient clinic and surgery center on the campus. The sum total of security expenses rang up at roughly $600,000, of which Spencer himself paid only $10,564, the rental price of the room he would use for his speech.

Yet none of the equipment, labor hours, or expense went towards the safety of the students themselves, the people most likely to be victimized by Spencer’s followers. And of course, out of 1000 officers, none of them prevented a fascist from attempting to murder yet another anti-racist. In fact, one of the would-be assassins, Tyler Tenbrink, had already been detained by police after leaping over one of their barricades to escape a crowd of angry protesters [2]. He was warned that he would be arrested if he didn’t exit the barrier, and chose to be detained rather than face the protesters again. Presumably, the fact that he was being chased off earned him the sympathies of the cops who allowed him to go free shortly afterward.

And while the police were busy providing a monolithic shield for Spencer’s event, he was given an alarming amount of control over what was supposedly a “public venue,” which was lawbound to provide him a platform. Spencer was given control over the distribution of tickets to his event, hundreds of which were handed out on a first-serve basis, though not all ticket holders made it inside. He also had the authority to select which journalists would be allowed access to the venue, and whether or not they would be able to bring cameras [3]. His National Policy Institute was allowed to station its own security team at the doors, which turned away attendees for reasons ranging from the items they wore, to their general vibe, and even their race [4]. When questioned about the level of authority they had handed to a private party, UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said “They’ve rented the facility… It’s not our event, it’s their event, so that’s why they can have whomever they want.” All told, President Fuchs had simultaneously handed absolute dominion of the university to an enormous police presence, and absolute control of the event itself to Richard Spencer and the NPI. This was done under the exhaustingly repetitious excuse of “free speech,” even though – again – Spencer was allowed to deny students access based on their race and exclude journalists from his “public forum.”

What we have here is a fundamental change in how the state is responding to the rise of neo-fascism. Compare this treatment to the conditions suffered by DAPL protesters, who were infinitely more peaceful than any Spencer follower: during their standoff with police, water protectors were blasted with sound weaponry, sprayed with water hoses in freezing temperatures, shot with rubber bullets, covered in a chemical fog, and in one instance, a woman named Sophia Wilansky nearly had her arm blown off by a concussion grenade – almost 400 people were injured, 26 of which had to be hospitalized, before the crushing weight of the police overran the encampment [5]. Since the murder of Michael Brown, along with a growing list of police lynching victims, hundreds of Black Lives Matter participants have been arrested and brutalized, among them journalists attempting to cover the protests [6]. J20 participants are still facing decades behind bars, based on puffed-up, politically motivated charges reminiscent of those used against 19th century labor movements. All the while, dissent and protest have been criminalized through new legislation or stricter enforcement of existing laws.

And so when a person is aware of how illiberal our current society already was, and how brutally the antifascist, anti-racist, and liberationist movements of today have been attacked by the same police who have repeatedly partnered with our neo-fascist enemies, it is understandably gutwrenching to hear Gov. Scott thank the police for “keeping us safe.” Even moreso when the same white nationalists who are being defended then go out into the streets looking for blood to spill, completely unchecked by our ostensible saviors.

This is not a matter of “free speech” or “maintaining safety” for protesters. The state has been challenged by social uprisings, and just like with the general strikes and slave revolts of bygone centuries, the American Government has deployed its thugs not to ensure public safety, but to reestablish order. Threatened by the groundswell of anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, and anti-white supremacist movements now blossoming in the streets, the state has gradually ramped up the amount of resources it is willing to invest to quell the upheaval. Gainesville represents a new plateau in anti-insurgent strategy, something taken out of the playbook of an occupying army. A preemptive state of emergency was used to inundate a given area with immense firepower and crowd control. The speaker was given utmost control over his environment so that his speech would (hopefully) go uninterrupted, while police in riot gear patrolled the auditorium’s upper terrace. Everything done was done not to protect all participants equally, but to force the desired result: a speech given, and a riot prevented. So when it came to preventing actual violence, registering the seriousness of pre-planned attacks by the fascists themselves, and avoiding a possible murder, the priorities and attention of the police were already spent. It is through sheer luck alone that a person did not die in Gainesville, not “dutiful officers.”

This comes as no surprise to antifascists. We know perfectly well that the police are working parallel to the far-right, as they have been since they tilted the Battle of Berkeley in favor of the Alt-Right. Their loyalty lies with the state apparatus which pays them, and logically, they prefer the company of pro-police fascists to anti-police anarchists. As we speak, Deandre Harris is being marked by Virginia’s police while his attackers have largely escaped punishment, even though they were publicly identified two months ago, and widely-circulated video documentation proves Deandre’s innocence. This is because nothing about white supremacist violence actually threatens the integrity or legitimacy of the state – white supremacists themselves are currently embedded in every level of the American judicial and carceral systems. An uprising of black liberationists, however, has been a constant threat since the time of Thomas Jefferson, and so the FBI is now on the hunt for so-called “black identity extremists,” who are responsible for precisely zero murders this year.

The state has no interest in keeping us “safe,” least of all the militarized police. Some of the equipment banned from Gainesville – like water bottles – are commonly used by street medics during protests to administer eye-flush solutions, made necessary by police use of chemical weapons [7]. The university had previously denied Richard Spencer access to their campus, citing credible threats to their students after the events of Charlottesville; they caved to the threat of a lawsuit, and instead forked over $600,000 in operating expenses for fascists who nearly killed somebody anyway. A petition signed by 500 faculty members was ignored, as were the possible “flash mobs” elsewhere in Gainesville. In the end, it fell to students to repulse the fascist menace which had invaded their campus, just as they did at UW, CU Boulder, Berkeley, UVA, and elsewhere. This is the same university where, in 2010, heavily armed campus police mistakenly raided the home of graduate student Kofi Adu-Brempong and shot him in the head with an M4 rifle [8]. The idea that the police have done anything to legitimately lessen the threat of paramilitary violence against leftists would be good laugh, if it weren’t such a heartless lie.

Unfortunately, this is a unidirectional solution that can only escalate from here. The police have learned that at a certain point, the sheer saturation of their presence makes autonomous action all but impossible – any serious threat from a black bloc would have been met with overwhelming force. It is likely that as the year goes on, we will see larger police elements deployed more frequently, in the hopes of burning out the energy of the antifascist movement. Fortunately, the students of UF showed that community self-defense is a highly fluid concept.

FASCISTS DON’T NEED PROVOCATION

During the mid-90s, Denver experienced a resurgence in white power skinhead violence, courtesy of groups like the Denver Skins [9]. Their victims were typically people of color who were caught unaware, ambushed at bus stops or in back alleys. The skinheads made a mistake by also targeting police; this resulted in a crackdown that cauterized their movement. But by 2016 the local antifascists were still dealing with white supremacists, specifically members of the Sacramento neo-Nazi scene, who had migrated to Colorado and had reportedly been targeting the homeless population for indiscriminate attacks [10]. Then, following the election of Donald Trump, a series of hate crimes was documented in the Denver area: a school with a large immigrant population was tagged with a swastika, another appeared on the car of a local trans woman, and the words “Hail Trump” were painted onto the signage of an Indian restaurant [11].

What these attacks have in common is that the perpetrators are white supremacists, and the victims are members of vulnerable demographics. The targets of white supremacist violence are rarely those who can reasonably defend themselves – the Denver Skins learned why, when they started a war with the police. Instead, the root of all fascist, neo-Nazi, and other white power violence is frustration, so when victims are selected, it is because they can offer little resistance while their attackers take sadistic pleasure in pummeling a defenseless person.

Yet to this day, the antifascist movement is shamed by the liberal bloc for “provoking” the violent outbursts of neo-fascists. In a textbook case of victim-blaming, we are told that the Alt-Right are not responsible for their own cruelty. Rather, it is supposedly the fault of the black bloc for standing up to them; if antifascists had simply stayed home, nobody would have gotten hurt. After Gainesville, let the record forever show that this is an unqualified, inexcusable, categorical falsehood.

Take another look at the recent list of injured or fallen comrades, and the victims of white supremacist barbarity: In 2012, Wade Michael Page murdered six worshippers in a Sikh temple. In June of 2015, Dylann Roof entered a church with the intent to ambush and slaughter the congregation. In November of the same year, Alex Scarsella and three of his friends livestreamed their preparations to attack a BLM protest, shooting five unsuspecting attendants. At UW, a member of the IWW was gutshot while presenting no threat to his would-be killer. In August of this year, a Minnesota mosque was bombed, just one in a string of attacks against Muslim centers. In Portland, Jeremy Christian first took out his rage on a Muslim bystander, then killed two intervening passengers and wounded a third. During “Free Speech Week,” racist and anti-LGBT vandalism was reported, as was the harassment of local residents. And then came Charlottesville.

The focus of that day was, understandably, centered on the attempted killing of Deandre Harris, who was alone and surrounded, and the attack committed by James Fields, who rammed his car into the back of a column of protesters marching away from the area. But the night before, while the fascist horde had no idea what kind of resistance they would face the next day, their thirst for violence was already being slaked. Upon finding a group of unarmed UVA students, and outnumbering them vastly, the gang of torch-wielding white nationalists mauled their cornered victims, attempting to burn some of them alive. With no physical resistance offered, no “provocation” to be blamed, these red-eyed, rapacious vermin still seized on the opportunity to bludgeon a small group of teenagers, and then amused themselves further by tormenting a church congregation.

And now we see the aftermath of the attempted slaying in Gainesville. When outnumbered and incapable of action, the fascists kept their distance and played the victim. But as soon as Tyler Tenbrink and the Fears brothers were away from police, equipped with a weapon and a getaway vehicle, they searched for somebody to prey upon. They found a group of unarmed protesters outside a CVS, purposefully goaded them into an altercation, then encouraged Tenbrink to execute somebody, anybody. There were no black bloc participants around, no “provocative” antifascists to blame, just the privileged few looking to entertain themselves with the suffering of others. The protester in question gave an interview by phone to VICE two days after the event [12]. He explained that when Tenbrink fired, the protester was 20 feet away and had already disarmed himself to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control. But Tenbrink wasn’t responding to a threat. He was looking for a target:

“I felt like my group was in danger,” he said. “I had a baton. I hit the van that was threatening us. I hit the car to get them to drive away, which they did at first. And then they stopped, about 20 feet down the road. Windows rolled down and I heard ‘shoot ’em.’” Tenbrink allegedly got out of the car and pointed a gun at Alan and his friends, many of whom fled toward a wooded area just beyond the parking lot. Alan froze, worried that if he fled to the woods, the young men would chase his friends.

“I threw the baton on the ground and put my hands in the air,” Alan said. “[Tenbrink] pointed his gun at me, paused for a second, and then shot.”

So where, exactly, do liberals get the idea that antifascists are to blame for all this bloodshed and warfare? At this point, a person is statistically safer behind the black bloc than outside of it; so far, nobody has been killed as a direct result of participation in bloc tactics. Quite the opposite: not only were black bloc antifascists credited with keeping other protesters safe at Charlottesville, but in multiple rallies this year, our shield-bearing comrades formed the front lines of conflicts which otherwise could have been much worse. They absorbed police munitions in Portland, staved off rightist attacks in Berkeley, and as early as J20 were protecting civilians caught in the path of unrestrained police violence. Behind the shield wall, medics can operate in relative safety, peaceful protesters can be protected from fascist onslaughts (as were the clergy of Charlottesville), and the ever-simmering bloodthirst of the Alt-Right can be balanced against a formidable opponent rather than hapless students. It is a valuable tactic, one which has been used to good effect across Europe when far-right violence burned through communities there.

Certainly, the antifascist movement is not infallible or perfect; no protest movement ever has been. But to point the finger at the people who have put their bodies on the line to stem the tide of fascist violence is absurd. And now in Florida, in a conflict where the scapegoated black bloc was not even present, and the protest itself was largely peaceful, fascists yet again went looking for a throat to slit. They published a list of potential targets in the neighborhood, not of suspected anarchist hideouts, but places where they could strike fear into minority communities and, if possible, draw blood from them. Again, this knowledge was already published, and even picked up by foreign media, but was completely unaddressed outside of the revolutionary media network in America.

The mistake that liberals make when analyzing fascist violence is not unlike the mistake they make in defending the hate speech of fascists: they assume that a fascist is reasonable, peaceful, and acting in good faith. They fail to recognize that fascism itself is an ideology perfectly formulated to produce vigilantes and murderers, and that white nationalism bases itself in ludicrous notions solely to justify violence against non-whites, LGBT+ individuals, and “communists,” though the third label is affixed at any leftist whatsoever. It is not worth debating whether or not “white genocide” is taking place; no rational human can think as much. But the optimistic liberal assumes that it’s merely a misunderstanding or miscommunication, rather than a fictional concept invented specifically to frame white supremacy as an endless struggle for survival against a titanic enemy, the very kind of struggle which fascism glorifies and encourages. It’s a match made in hell, and it has no logical outcome other than prejudicially-motivated acts of destruction and murder against marginalized communities and cornered protesters.

The process of radicalization for a white-power fascist begins with the supposition of victimhood. It is a recruitment tool used to warp the perspective of a young, frustrated white man until he is convinced that the broadening of pop culture to include women, people of color, and non-cis and non-hetero characters is an assault on his self esteem. In 2000, sociologist Mitch Berbrier studied the language used in white supremacist literature, and found that the victimhood of whites was a carefully designed mechanism. As reported by the Atlantic:

Berbrier points to the following quote in a 1991 issue of The Populist Observer, the newsletter of the Populist Party: “Blacks, Orientals, Indians and Hispanics are taught to love their history, while whites are being taught to hate their own.” According to Berbrier’s analysis, these supremacist groups feel that if whites do express pride in their heritage, they are branded racists and bigots. He writes that their euphemisms, like “heritage preservation” are so-called “ethnic affectations designed to destigmatize white supremacists and separatists alike by implying that they are just another ethnic group with similar needs.” …

Berbrier points to examples of supremacist literature that claim the inability to express white pride produces a feeling of being “crushed” and the “Nordic spirit” being “broken down.” One news item in the NAAWP News pointed to a high suicide rate among white men as a sign of this supposed despair…

These claims of subjugation may seem silly coming from whites, a group that still earns more, lives longer, and feels overall happier than African Americans do. But as Berbrier shows, victimhood is a powerful psychological mechanism for recruiting members, galvanizing around a cause, and forming what is essentially a support group — for people who really don’t need support.  As Berbrier writes, the psychology of victimhood has come in especially handy for white supremacists when their tactics get violent, as they did [in Charlottesville]. “This could be manifest as the argument that white supremacists are simply concerned with the survival of their people,” Berbrier writes, “and that if some on the fringe feel that urgent action is required as a result of dangers posed by sinister outside forces, that is understandable.” [13]

Regular readers will recognize all of these trends as Richard Spencer’s bread and butter. He adopts the rhetoric of a marginalized group and uses it to justify the position that, ideally, whites should be allowed to expel all non-whites from America, because otherwise their “ethnic needs” are being infringed upon. He laments the fact that his followers aren’t “allowed” to be prideful, as though whites need a movement to establish themselves as human beings in the same way the black community did, and still does in the face of police brutality. How powerful a salve must it be for a young, disaffected gamer perusing Reddit boards to learn that his juvenile angst towards women and minorities is actually his proud white heritage crying out for a savior. He isn’t “racist,” after all; he’s a victim of racism, of a feminist conspiracy, of Marxist infiltration.

From there, the process is almost irreversible. An ur-fascist is gradually programmed through echo-chamber communities like 4chan and twitter, working his way up to the Daily Stormer and the Daily Shoah. He is incrementally convinced of his righteousness, and learns that “racist” is nothing more than an anti-white slur. He tests the waters with “ironic” racism, authoritarian ideology, supremacist rhetoric, and eventually becomes comfortable even with outright Nazi imagery. By the time he is taking part in open fascist rallies, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with grown men waving swastika flags, he is not an activist, but a soldier in his mind. And so there should be no shock when he takes “revenge” on the body of the nearest minority individual he can find, nor the fact that he doesn’t pursue a “fair fight.” He is looking for what Unite the Right organizers referred to in their Discord channel as “soft targets.” [14] This is not the mentality of a person who is looking for a polite debate, nor is it somebody who can be dissuaded from engaging in mindless violence. This individual is now living a fantasy in which he is a crusader fighting a holy war for the legacy of the White Race, and the enemy’s uniform is their skin color. Yet he remains confident that he is not racially prejudiced, and so he has no shame for his actions; he doesn’t want to kill anybody, but he’s out of options.

Fascists do not require provocation, because they follow the ideology of a warrior-cult and exalt the act of combat. They do not need “ammunition” to play the victim, because their identity is built around a false victimhood. The Gainesville attackers were incredibly candid about their motivation for coming to Florida. Speaking with a reporter, William Fears was explicit about his desire to intimidate anybody he could find:

William Fears told The Sun that supporters of the “alt-right” movement were “pushing back” against supporters of the left. “It’s always been socially acceptable to punch a Nazi, to attack people if they have right-wing political leanings,” Fears said. “Us coming in and saying we’re taking over your town, we’re starting to push back, we’re starting to want to intimidate back. We want to show our teeth a little bit because, you know, we’re not to be taken lightly. We don’t want violence; we don’t want harm. But at the end of the day, we’re not opposed to defending ourselves.” [15]

“JUST IGNORE THEM” AND OTHER LIBERAL COP-OUTS

Before the events of Gainesville, President Fuchs made numerous announcements to the press and on social media. He trumpeted the narrative that “love will conquer hate,” and affirmed the inclusive values of the University of Florida. His loudest warning to students, however, was simply to stay away from the speech entirely. “I urge you to do two things,” he advised. “First, do not provide Mr. Spencer and his followers the spotlight they are seeking. I urge everyone to stay away from the Phillips Center Oct. 19th. Second, although I urge you to avoid the Spencer event, I ask that you not let Mr. Spencer’s message of hate and racism to go unchallenged. Make it clear that messages of hate on campus are contrary to our values.”

Speaking with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fuchs also acknowledged that he had used “strong language” when he referred to Spencer as a racist – a brave act, we are presumably meant to say [16]. His column in the Alligator read, in part, as follows:

We are united in our rejection of Spencer’s white supremacist message. We are divided on how his message can be effectively thwarted so his movement does not gain in followers and momentum.  My position is past protest strategies don’t thwart Spencer but rather provide fuel on which his racism and white supremacy will blaze brighter and hotter. We need a new strategy, or we risk winning the local battle by shutting down his speech and chasing his followers out of town — yet losing the larger war for the hearts and minds of the public, and his movement of racism and hate will grow. [17]

Both of these statements demonstrate that President Fuchs simply does not understand the state of affairs in this country. Like much of the liberal bloc, and even moderate conservatives, Fuchs believes that the best way to stifle the neo-fascist movement is to deprive it of attention, like starving a fire of air, and simply avoid engaging in confrontation until the march of fascism loses steam. To still believe in the value this strategy so late in the year and after so much unprovoked killing is, frankly, sickening. No matter how well-meaning a sentiment the university President expressed, it is a rationale born from a self-comforting desire to minimize the gravity of this ongoing conflict. It whitewashes the fact that neo-fascism in America has been steadily building towards paramilitary action, that it is racking up a body count, and that it has never responded to appeasement. Additionally, it is a statement that belies a complete misunderstanding of how fascists have historically gotten “attention.”

Speaking to the latter, let’s remember how many many puff-piece interviews were handed to the Alt-Right early in its lifetime. Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos were both gussied up by various media sources, who may have believed they were offering an “inside look” at neo-fascists, but instead simply legitimized them in the eyes of the public as an ideology worthy of debate. Consider that Mike Cernovich was given an interview on 60 Minutes where he espoused the narrative of “white genocide.” Breitbart was a driving force behind the Trump campaign, and was, as we have recently learned, directly connected to the neo-fascist movement so closely that it sent Milo’s infamous treatise on the Alt-Right to white supremacists for revisions and notes. While all of this free advertising was being handed over to the far-right without serious critique, the left was being demonized for trying to “silence free speech,” for not “listening to both sides,” and for “calling everybody Nazis.” When the fascists were preparing for war, gradually incorporating more violent methods and ingratiating themselves with militia members, antifascists were reduced to a two-dimensional caricature, such that uncritical journalists still consider the terms “antifa,” “black bloc,” and “anarchist” to be a single concept.

This is a dynamic which was present in America during the 1930s. Multiple publications and journalists, in reviewing the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, made the mistake of not taking him seriously in any regard [18]. They had done the same with Mussolini, who was adored by certain newspapers and portrayed as a pugnacious, rough-edged leader who was restoring a shattered Italy and staving off the far-left which had brought it to ruin; Hitler was referred to more than once as merely “the German Mussolini.” Hitler, for his part, enjoyed not just interviews from numerous Americans, but also more tangential cultural legitimization: Charles Lindbergh, having toured Nazi Germany for the purposes of inspecting their aviation force, was bestowed the Order of the German Eagle, and delivered a famous speech for the America First Committee stressing non-involvement in WWII. He once called Hitler “a great man.” Those journalists who warned about the seriousness of Hitler’s calls for extinction of the Jewish people were drowned out by those who mocked the Fuhrer for his shrill voice and wild gesticulations, and flippantly theorized that he would actually be revealed as a fraud once he was in power.

And so there were no alarm bells rung when Fritz Kuhn began his work with the Bund to spread fascism in America. Nazi-styled youth camps popped up in multiple states, teaching young boys to salute the Swastika. 70 local chapters were founded, and in 1939 a pro-Nazi gathering at Madison Square Garden attracted 20,000 attendees [19]. Before them stood a row of men holding banners copied from German design, and behind them, a massive tapestry of George Washington, who they called “the First Fascist.” Addressing the crowd, Kuhn himself mocked President Roosevelt and the New Deal as a Jewish conspiracy against American patriots [20]. “[No] German American citizen can express an opinion that does not conform to the standardized order,” he said to the assembled mass. “We, I say, will not fail you when called upon to keep every lawful support in our power to fight the grip of Jewish communism in our schools, our universities, in our very homes.” Even when the Bund had died, other groups like the Silver Legion lived on as embodiments of American Naziism, preparing for a worldwide fascist uprising. Some members of the Bund even found common ground with the Ku Klux Klan; in 1940, they held a joint rally at Camp Nordland in New Jersey, a private Bund-controlled compound. It was only random chance that shattered American sympathy for the Nazis, namely the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.

And here we see the contradiction in President Fuchs’ advice to “ignore” the neo-fascist movement. He, and America at large, had no problem with the soft-handed news coverage of the Alt-Right which earned it legitimacy and insulation in public discourse, nor does he believe morally that Richard Spencer should be denied a platform – “free speech,” that perfectly useless maxim, comes first. His message is not so much to ignore the neo-fascist movement, as it is to avoid confronting it. Yet failing to confront fascism is precisely what gave it room to grow in the ’30s, to become media-friendly, and to adapt to American tastes. During the Berlin Olympics in 1936, upon learning that Jews were being removed from German sports clubs, Olympic official Avery Brundage bemusedly remarked that his men’s club back in Chicago didn’t admit Jews, either [21]. Today, the same process has taken effect; Richard Spencer has encouraged fascists to drop the Swastika in favor of the American flag, because in the eyes their movement, both have the same meaning. Simply splashing patriotic imagery over neo-Nazi ideology is enough to convince some people that American fascism does not exist. And that is the perfect atmosphere in which to grow a fascist movement, when it can hide unmolested by critical examination or serious confrontation.

By allowing fascists to organize, by tirelessly defending their “First Amendment rights,” liberals believe they are allowing a natural process of social balancing to take place. They have faith that fascists, left to their own devices, will fail to garner support and die off. And in doing so, they have allowed a movement openly opposed to civil rights to take root in colleges across the nation, a movement that has never been shy about its intentions to spill blood wherever it goes.

Which brings us back to the militarism of the Alt-Right. Now that they are firmly entrenched in America, the splintered forces of the neo-fascists have divided starkly in how they approach the advancement of white nationalism. By now, the Alt-Lite figureheads like Milo and Baked Alaska are something of a sideshow. They no longer hold positions of influence; Milo is living out the tail end of his pitiful career as a rodeo clown for Breitbart; Gavin McInnes has become a largely irrelevant talk show host; post-Charlottesville Baked has started hanging out with Charlie Kirk instead of harassing strangers on the street. But the other half of the fascist movement has grown increasingly violent, and increasingly militaristic, as it works to become a legitimate death squad.

This is the other reality President Fuchs has failed to understand. While Richard Spencer is giving speeches in public in a suit and a forced “high society” cadence, his allies are organizing to more thoroughly adopt serious militaristic behavior. It bears little resemblance to the comically out-of-place Spartan costumes of early April. Take for example his private guards: Gregory Conte, alias “Greg Ritter,” is one of the men frequently spotted next to Spencer during public events, identified by their blue blazers. In an operational document secured by our comrades in the Atlanta Antifa, Conte is identified as the “XO,” or executive officer. He was also an organizer for Spencer’s return to Charlottesville in September [22]. Other organizations, like Identity Evropa and Patriot Front (an offshoot of Vanguard America which recently attempted to storm an Anarchist Bookfair in Houston), comprised a “task force” for Spencer’s visit, answering to a chain of command. And among their ranks were the Fears brothers and Tenbrink, all of whom were present at Unite the Right, and all of whom share a lengthy history of white nationalist organizing. Their rap sheet on the ADL website shows they’ve been active, aggressive members of the neo-fascist movement since mid-2016 [23]. Their loyalty and inclusion in Spencer’s particular coterie is likely thanks to their willingness to assimilate with his slowly-developing paramilitary cell. Spencer has been specifically searching for allies with military experience, as evidenced by his selection of one “Caerulus Rex” as a personal bodyguard and third-in-command for Gainesville. Rex was recently exposed as a member of the National Guard, 32-year-old Brian Brathovd [24]. Nathan Damigo, a disgraced former Marine, is a long-time friend of Spencer’s who organized for both the first Berkeley rally and Charlottesville [25].

And once more, for clarity: these fascists, literal Sieg Heil-ing neo-Nazis who chant “Blood and Soil” and hold torchlight rallies, publicly announced their plans to terrorize the neighborhood after the speech had concluded. If this does not constitute a “clear threat” to the students of universities everywhere, an obvious demarcation of the difference between a speaking event and a hate mob, what could? Does Richard Spencer need to ride into a university in the turret of a T-34 panzer before the lives of students and residents are prioritized over the sanctity of the First Amendment?

Antifascists have been documenting this trend since the first sightings of Oath Keepers at an Alt-Right rally. Militias also appeared at Charlottesville, lending their heavily-armed presence to provide a menacing cover for their neo-Nazi brethren, who attacked at will knowing they had both police and militia guns backing them up. Now, Spencer’s followers are primed for conflict anywhere they go, willing to spill blood for their leader and take the punches he can’t (or won’t). Included in their toolkit is the threat of extreme violence, up to and including random shootings – though “inevitable” may be a more apt word, given the fascist inclination for preying on those who can least defend themselves.

What exactly is Fuchs’ plan, now that these armed blackshirts are intent on causing chaos with or without an antifascist response? With the knowledge that these rally-goers were planning to carry their violence out into the community after the speech, isn’t giving them total free reign actually a terrible idea? If the police are too busy protecting fascists to protect their potential victims, why isn’t the black bloc justified in becoming the bulwark their communities need, if that need arises? What excuse is left after Gainesville?

IT IS OUR DUTY TO FIGHT, AND IT IS OUR DUTY TO WIN

To briefly summarize the above: antifascists were right.

We were right when we publicly denounced fascism at the beginning of the year, on J20. We were right when we warned against using non-violence as a philosophy, rather than a tactic. We were right when we stressed that the Alt-Right should not be debated or brushed off as people with “different opinions,” nor allowed to organize anywhere. We were right when we raised the alarm after the Battle of Berkeley and the militia rallies in Portland, knowing that neo-fascists would only escalate the conflict from there. We were right when we told liberals not to put their faith in the police, because they would naturally operate in parallel with the Alt-Right. We were right to defend Charlottesville, where the community would have been at the mercy of the fascists if not for our comrades inside and outside of the black bloc. And we are right to shut down Richard Spencer at every available opportunity, rejecting the “love conquers all” mentality of people like President Fuchs. Every warning, every refutation of rigid pacifism, every prediction about the future of the Alt-Right; antifascists have called them all.

There is no excuse left for those who blame antifascists for “provoking” violence from jackbooted creeps who almost exclusively look for disempowered people to pummel and murder. The narrative that fascists can be ignored into non-existence is just as false and dangerous now as it was in the ’30s. The state has a vested interest in preventing us from challenging its authority, but it has no real impetus to crack down on “patriots” who only want to exercise their “free speech rights.” The only thing that has presented a real, functional, and successful barrier to the advancement of fascism is antifascism, along with all manner of anti-racist and liberatory causes aimed against state dominance, patriarchy, and racial hierarchy. This is what we have to work with; it’s an imperfect device, but it has done a great deal of good. Every institution which ostensibly should have protected us from men like Tenbrink and the Fears either failed us, or aided in our suffering at the hands of white supremacists. Whenever fascists have been given the benefit of the doubt, they have repeatedly, unendingly, taken advantage of that fact to somehow become exponentially worse.

Think back on VICE’s quaint interview with Richard Spencer, knowing that at the time, his rhetoric and ideology were exactly what they are today. When he spoke of “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” it was shrugged at as some pseudo-intellectual anomaly. Put yourself in the mind of the Huffington Post editors who smugly relegated news about Trump’s campaign to the “Entertainment” section. Imagine bringing images of Charlottesville back to the liberals who, early this year, were among the first to publicly shame and deride antifascists, and call this movement an “overreaction.” If any of them still scoffed seeing torch-bearing neo-Nazis backed up by rifle-toting mercenaries, committing inhuman acts of brutality and carnage, earning only a ho-hum response from the White House and police, what excuse could they possibly offer for not taking this threat seriously?

As long as the neo-fascist movement is active, nobody outside of it is safe. No matter how polite or non-confrontational, whether or not they are participating in a black bloc, nobody is an illegitimate target in the mind of a fascist. Teenagers holding a banner, anti-racists on public transit, IWW members peacefully waving signs, a gathering of BLM protesters in a parking lot; none of these people would be more or less likely to have been in Tyler Tenbrink’s sights than any black-clad anarchist with a shield and bike lock. None of them would have been prioritized by the police any more than the protesters in Berkeley, Charlottesville, or Portland. And so it falls to each and every one of us, comrades of every stripe, to do whatever we can to defend one another, no matter how great or small our individual contributions may be.

The defenses of our neighborhoods must be built brick by brick, with whatever we have at our disposal. The citizen journalist, the legal support hotline, the anarchist bail fund, the street medic, the student walkout, the chanting march, the general assembly, and the black bloc shield wall; these are the means that can protect our communities, not cowardly inaction or appeals to an unfeeling state authority. When the fascist menace has been successfully repulsed, it has been through the efforts of those who stood up to them directly, sometimes violently, and they have succeeded more than once. The one thing we cannot do is just ignore the problem, huddle in silence, and hope for the best. This methodology – developing a far-reaching network of interrelated, autonomous, cooperative sources of community defense to deprive fascism of territory – is the heart and soul of militant antifascism. And it is the one thing keeping fascist violence in check.

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/florida-governor-declares-state-emergency-white-nationalist-richard-spencer-s-n811261
[2] http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article179941551.html
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/18/white-nationalist-richard-spencer-florida-free-speech
[4] http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-florida-spencer-speech-20171019-story.html
[5] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/21/dakota-access-pipeline-water-cannon-police-standing-rock-protest
[6] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/black-lives-matter-leader-arrested-as-protests-spread-across-the-country
[7] https://wagingnonviolence.org/2017/10/police-restrict-medics-richard-spencer-florida/
[8] http://www.gainesville.com/news/20100303/sources-uf-student-was-shot-in-head-by-police
[9] http://www.nytimes.com/1997/11/21/us/spate-of-skinhead-violence-catches-denver-by-surprise.html
[10] https://rockymountainantifa.blogspot.com/2016/10/sacramento-nazis-in-colorado.html
[11] http://www.westword.com/news/six-examples-of-hate-crimes-in-denver-since-the-presidential-election-8545358
[12] https://news.vice.com/story/the-protester-shot-at-by-nazis-in-gainesville-tells-his-story
[13] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/08/the-worlds-worst-support-group/536850/
[14] https://www.unicornriot.ninja/2017/data-release-discord-chats-planned-armed-neo-nazi-militia-operations-charlottesville/
[15] https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2017/10/20/three-texans-extremist-ties-charged-shooting-richard-spencer-speech-florida
[16] http://www.chronicle.com/article/In-the-Face-of-Racism-U-of/241520
[17] http://www.alligator.org/opinion/article_68ad8856-b56c-11e7-86cc-f7d4852770be.html
[18] https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/early-warnings-how-american-journalists-reported-the-rise-of-hitler/254146/
[19] http://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/04/28/402679062/nazi-summer-camps-in-1930s-america
[20] https://timeline.com/nazis-america-camps-rallies-4fc6dfe5e3b3
[21] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/books/review/Wheatcroft-t.html
[22] https://afainatl.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/alt-right-operational-document-shows-planning-for-richard-spencers-gainesville-visit-involvement-of-would-be-murderers/
[23] https://www.adl.org/blog/three-texas-men-arrested-following-richard-spencers-university-speech
[24] https://www.unicornriot.ninja/2017/richard-spencers-bodyguard-caerulus-rex-exposed-member-national-guard/
[25] https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/08/14/californian-who-helped-organize-charlottesville-protests-used-berkeley-as-a-test-run/


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