Call to resist Joey Gibson and other neo-fascists coming to Kent State in Ohio.
On August 10, former Kent State student and InfoWars commentator Kaitin Bennet announced that she would be hosting another of what has become a relatively constant stream of open carry rallies at Kent State University. However, this time there was a key difference; the keynote speaker was to be extreme nationalist and close associate of a wide variety of racist, fascist and nationalist organizations, Joey Gibson. Now, many of those that have come out to push back against this event are not anti-open carry, or anti-gun, or anti-Second Amendment. Rather, the point of contention has centered around one thing, and one thing only, Joey Gibson’s presence at the event. Now, Gibson himself claims to not be a racist, or a Nazi, or even a fascist. What cannot be denied however is that through his organizing in the Pacific Northwest communities have been placed at risk of fascist violence.
For those that are not aware of who Joey Gibson is, some elements of his story definitely require some illumination. On the surface he is the leader of an organization called Patriot Prayer, a group that started throwing “free speech” rallies which quickly became a magnet for fascists of all stripes to gather. These rallies have often resulted in fascists attacking people throughout cities like Portland, first from within the events themselves, and recently by driving around outside of events and attacking anyone that they deem to be undesirable (people of color, people they identify as LGBT, people they identify as liberals or anti-fascists). These attacks have led to a number of hospitalizations, injuries and in at least one case, when Patriot Prayer supporter Jeremy Christian attacked people on a train, the death of two people and the near death of one.
“many of those that have come out to push back against this event are not anti-open carry, or anti-gun, or anti-Second Amendment. Rather, the point of contention has centered around one thing, and one thing only, Joey Gibson’s presence at the event.”
This is not, as Joey Gibson claims, purely incidental, or a result of him providing a space for “free speech.” Some of Gibson’s closest associates and supporters are themselves members of fascist and racist organizations such as the Proud Boys, Hell Shaking Street Preachers and a collection of racist, white nationalist militia organizations. An instructive example here is Gibson’s close associate, Tiny Toese, a member of the Proud Boys who has been arrested on numerous occasions for attacking people on the street that he deems undesirable, and who recently came to some low level prominence for wearing a pro-Pinochet shirt at a recent rally which portrayed police throwing dissidents out of helicopters, and then went on to defend the physical murder of, as he put it, “communists.” Not only is he a close friend of Gibson, but Patriot Prayer as an organization has thrown rallies to support Toese after he was arrested for a string of assaults both inside and outside of these rallies.
Even if Joey Gibson himself denies these associations, and it would be incredibly difficult to do so given the mountains of documentary evidence to the contrary, he has begun to engage in a consistently escalating, and frightening, rhetorical campaign. Most recently he claimed that the purpose of a recent rally was to “cleanse” the streets of Portland, and began selling t-shirts with a tombstone engraved with the name of a local anti-fascist organization on it. During his speech at the same rally he frequently talked about the, as he sees it, coming civil war, where his armed supporters will organize to “defend themselves” by eliminating their opposition. In many circumstances this could be written off as idle rantings, but that would ignore the actual real violence that has been perpetuated on communities across the Northwest as a direct result of his organizing activities.
For anyone interested in reading up about Joey Gibson’s connections to hate groups and fascist organizations please read the resource listed below:
- SPLC: https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/06/06/patriot-prayer-and-proud-boys-roll-portland-ready-fight
- Political Research Associates: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2017/09/06/joey-gibson-and-patriot-prayer-the-westboro-baptist-church-of-the-alt-right/
- Medium: https://medium.com/@justinward/multiracial-fascism-patriot-prayer-finds-a-way-to-make-it-work-5d3bde4d31a
Joey Gibson, Patriot Prayer and those surrounding the group employ a strategy which is meant to drive moderate conservatives into the arms of fascists, nationalists and Nativists. The rallies themselves have little overt purpose, framing themselves around “free speech,” or in this case as an open carry rally in a state where open carry is already legal. The nebulous mission statements of these rallies provide cover against accusations that they are organized to provide cover for hate groups, and to provide a rhetorical lever to argue for the validity of the event.
From experience one thing is clear, the goal of these events are not to make some profound political point or even to advocate for any relevant political position. Rather, the entire purpose of these events are centered around the “cult of action,” trying to cause confrontations with those negatively impacted by the presence of hate groups and their supporters. The purpose of these confrontations is clearly to cause moderate conservatives who show up to support the declared purpose of the rally to find solidarity and protection in moments of confrontation, pushing them into the orbit of more extreme elements of the right-wing. This much has been directly stated by others within the Alt-Right in moments of candor.
It is unfortunate that the organizers of this open carry event have decided to ally themselves with a person that has such overt connections to dangerous hate groups and fascist organizations. These affiliations not only taint the entire purpose of the event, but they endanger large elements of the Kent community. The presence of Joey Gibson, and the refusal of organizers to rescind his invitation, points out that this rally has little to do with open carry rights, if it did they would rescind the invitation and go on with their event. It is, rather, part of the same strategy unleashed in the Northwest, which has had incredibly damaging impacts on the communities in which these events occur.
Students from Trump endorses Ryan Fournier and James Allsup. Allsup would go on to build a name or himself in white nationalist, Alt-Right, and neo-Nazi circles, while still being embraced by some Republicans.
To fund this sort of activity, and to try to bring its toxic effects into northern Ohio, Kaitlin Bennett has begun to use GoFundMe as a platform to raise the money necessary to bring in speakers like Joey Gibson and Ryan Fournier (a Students for Trump organizer who is also very close to Unite the Right participant James Allsup and other open racists). The use of this platform to raise money for an event which will be a magnet for racists, fascists and extreme nationalists is a clear violation of the Terms and Conditions for using the platform itself.
Under the User Conduct section of the Terms and Conditions GoFundMe reserves the right to deny access to their platform for activities such as this under list of banned activities:
“7. campaigns deemed by GoFundMe, in its sole discretion, to be in support of, or for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases;”
We are calling on all those that oppose the presence of Joey Gibson at the Kent open carry rally to report this campaign to GoFundMe. Anyone that is willing can do so by filling out the complaint form at the bottom of the fundraising campaign page (https://www.gofundme.com/kait-bennett039s-kent-state-gun-rally) or by emailing email@example.com.
It is imperative for all of those in northern Ohio that want to live in a community of respect, diversity, civility and acceptance to help stand up and resist this attempt to initiate a cycle of fascist violence. If we do not stand up and oppose this now we risk falling into an all consuming cycle of escalating attacks, fascist violence and the destruction of what is left of political discourse. The problem here is not the rally itself, of which similar events occur frequently in Kent, it is the invasion of our community by people who are set on using this event as a space to push for their own violent goals; goals which place the community as a whole at risk.
-Cleveland Antifascist Network