Milwaukee, WI: General Defense Committee Rallies Against Islamophobes

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“The rich are the ones who suck the blood of our class. If we don’t have those conversations the right wing will.”

When the Milwaukee IWW General Defense Committee heard that Act for America was scheduled to have a rally in Milwaukee we immediately began organizing to oppose it with the goal of shutting it down completely. ACT for America is an organization that stokes fear and hatred of immigrants and Muslims to lobby for heightened national security. We spoke with Twin Cities General Defense Committee members who had opposed ACT for America in the streets previously. They told us that ACT for America drew Islamophobes and Trump supporters, with some Alt Right fascists thrown in the mix at a rally in St. Paul.

We knew we couldn’t let this organization take the streets of our city, so we organized logistics, started doing turn out and made a plan. ACT for America had scheduled their rally for 8 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Milwaukee, so that’s where we would go. In the past several weeks debates on antifascism have erupted all over the country. Some suggest we ignore them, some suggest we hold rallies on the other side of town, but we believe that we must go where they go. We must always confront them with the goal of allowing no platform for racism and fascism. Shortly after masses of people in Boston smashed a fascist march, ACT for America canceled their rallies all over the country. Some questioned if we should bother turning out at all, but we felt we had to make good on our commitments and send a message to the far right that they would be opposed at every turn. We also knew there was a possibility that some rightists would turn out anyway.

We set two rendezvous points, one in front of the courthouse and the other two blocks away, so we could engineer a coordinated confrontation with the right if needed.But the right didn’t really show. As we gathered and began to march, a few right wing goons heckled us, but then quickly scuttled away. They must have turned up to assessthe scene. Across from the courthouse approximatelysixty people gathered as we heard from speakers on the importance of solidarity, the struggle living as an immigrant in America and the vile racism of our society. Speakers called for unity with oppressed groups and the importance of working class organization. A General Defense Committee member said, “ACT for America has tremendous influence not only over the average person where they can play on fears, but over the State as well. But appealing to representatives is a dead end; a fruitless act. We have to use collective action in our communities to build the power we need to stop this threat.”

As we build our organization we navigate a difficult path. We know that there must be mass opposition to fascism and racism in order for it to be combated, but we have to do what is necessary to no platform the far right. It’s a path worth navigating in order to build a mass organization that can utilize direct action.

Every day on the shop floor, in the school, and in the neighborhood, we must build working class self-organization. We have to have conversations about who is really responsible for the outsourced jobs at huge old Milwaukee plants like Allis Chalmers and Tower Automotive and who is responsible for the cuts to education, public service, food share, and transportation. The rich are the ones who suck the blood of our class. If we don’t have those conversations the right wing will.

-The Milwaukee Industrial Workers of the World General Defense Committee Local 19


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