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Nov 29, 22

Maryville Community Defends LGBTQ+ ‘Toys for Tots’ Event From Neo-Nazis in Tennessee

Report back from Maryville, Tennessee on community defense of LGBTQ+ toy drive from violent neo-Nazis. Atlanta Antifascists has also posted a photo gallery of the various white supremacists here.

On the evening of November 25, 2022, an armed contingent of queers and allied accomplices stood outside of “The Bird & The Book” located in Maryville, Tennessee, a small town near Knoxville. On the inside, a collection of punk bands set up their instruments while drag queens applied their makeup and wigs, preparing for the big night: a “Toys for Tots” event to collect toys for the local community’s children during the holiday season. In high spirits, the joyous queers waiting under the stars knew they must remain vigilant, for news had reached them that neo-Nazis and other violent fascists had planned to disrupt the event. The early warning had gone out over back channels, and a community defense team swiftly formed out of locals and close neighbors.

It had been less than one week since a gunman entered Club Q in so-called Colorado Springs, CO and murdered five people, injuring many more before a trans woman and one of our allies managed to stop him from committing even more violence against our community. The news, while heartbreaking, comes as nothing new to us. The queer community has long been in the crosshairs of white supremacist vigilantees and capitalist nation-states, a situation which has only been exacerbated today by far-Right figureheads platforming and promoting their anti-queer, transphobic, and outright genocidal rhetoric.

On the night of November 25th, undoubtedly emboldened by those same far-Right figureheads, a small group of neo-Nazis approached the event venue. Armed with only a single .22 caliber handgun and two banners, the fascists made their case: that pedophiles are grooming children. This, like many other far-Right claims, is nothing more than a projection on their part. The claim is a useful tool to deflect and deter from the fact that nazis and other fascists regularly abuse their partners and children. The police, who exist to protect these fascists while making space to preach their hateful and violent agenda, were also present. Cops were quick to stand between the nazis and the anti-fascists who blocked their path to the event venue. It wasn’t long before chants of “Hey hey! Ho ho! These fascist fucks have got to go!” and “Follow your leader!” rang out into the night sky, echoed by the spirited coalition of queers, anti-fascists, drag performers, and local community members.

Inside the venue, a local punk band performed one of their new songs as those in attendance danced the night away while enjoying drinks and the company of their friends and loved ones, all in a space where they could be themselves. Once they had finished their set, chants of “Fuck those nazis,” echoed throughout the venue. The largest pile of toys the event had seen in its five-year annual run lined the back wall. Drag performers hit the stage, and the outside world melted away. The only thing that mattered was the moment that they were all sharing together, as one community.

Back outside, the hate of the fascists had been drowned out by the love and solidarity of the community. Anti-fascists took turns heckling them, treating them like the pathetic circus act that they were. Outnumbered, outgunned, outmaneuvered, out-equipped, and realizing their hateful agenda was not welcome in the community, their morale was quick to plummet. It was around this time that Sean Kauffmann, another neo-Nazi who lives in Tennessee showed up.

Accompanying Kauffman was his partner and two of his fascist pals. Acting as if their morale had recovered, Kauffmann and the others were quick to threaten violence against the crowd of anti-fascists, no doubt feeling emboldened by the line of police that were there to protect them. It wasn’t long until the facade of their demonstration being anything other than a massive failure wore off. The fascists retreated, but not before being heckled back to their cars, again all while under police protection. Once the fascists arrived at their vehicles, they learned that their tires were now flat. Should’ve checked your aircaps and watched out for potholes, y’all!

With the fascists having retreated and all friends accounted for, the queers cheered and rejoiced, embracing the love they had for one another while remaining alert should their enemies try to return. Back inside, the festivities carried on without a hitch, raising over $2,500 and 150 toys to go to local kids for the coming holidays. All patrons, drag queens, and band members made it home safely. The fascists did not return.

To any queers out there that may be reading this, know that you are loved. Know that you are beautiful in ways incomprehensible. Know that you hold power that you can channel, if you haven’t already. This world is uncertain, and some would see us dead if they had their way, but as long as we come together in solidarity to keep each other safe they will never succeed. Whenever you feel down, remember that behind every fascist lies a coward, and that is why they hate us. They see our strength and feel threatened, they see our divine beauty and wish they could see a fraction of something similar whenever they look in a mirror.

Instead of fighting a world in which we are exploited by capitalist, settler-colonial states, fascists see the marginalized as the problem. The hatred that keeps them awake at night will never cease until they look within themselves and unlearn their petty spite. When you feel disheartened, remember that fascists are only good at two things: losing and dying. You are capable of so much more, and as history has shown us, we cannot rely on the police to protect us, only we can do that. Queer liberation will only come from the power we have within ourselves and our communities, coming together to rid this world of bigotry. Buy an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) complete with a tourniquet, learn basic first aid, arm yourself if you are able and comfortable doing so, practice self-defense and/or shooting skills, get involved with other queer people and spaces in your community, and get to know your neighbors.

Above all else, remember to be patient, loving, and understanding with yourself and those that are close to you. There are people that want you to be happy. I want you to be happy, and we are stronger together.

To any potential fascists that may be reading this, know that you will never know peace. You are not safe at your house, you are not safe at your job, you are not safe in our communities. So long as you decide to embrace your hateful, violent agenda, we will be here to make your life so miserable and toxic that you will never know a normal life. Leave behind hate or we will ruin your life. The choice is yours. Your police accomplices will undoubtedly try to protect you at every chance, but in the long term you will be outnumbered, outgunned, outequipped, and outmaneuvered.

We have been here forever, and we will continue to be here long after you die a lonely, and hopefully slow, painful death. You are weak and pathetic, it is why you are scared of the world you find yourself in. Where you see hatred, we see beauty, and the world we are creating will hold no haven for you, nor will our spaces of love, beauty, and joy.

Rest in peace to the five beautiful souls we lost at Club Q, the 49 we lost at Pulse, and the countless others we have lost to fascist violence. Never forgive, never forget.

Queers of the world, unite! Bash back against any and all that would see us harmed, show them no mercy and show endless love to one another. No safe space for nazis!

¡No pasarán!

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