Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Police, Southwest, The State, White Supremacy
Report back from recent rally in solidarity with #GeorgeFloyd that was attacked by Trump supporters and the police.
Despite a barrage of violent online threats, hundreds showed up in solidarity with George Floyd at a Black Lives Matter protest in Oakdale, California on June 3rd, starting at 10am. Oakdale is a town of around 20,000 people, located about 10 miles outside of Modesto. Known as the “Cowboy capital of the world,” it’s famous just as much for being the hometown of neo-Nazi leader Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa as for rodeos.
The day began with a few speakers sharing their experiences with police discrimination and was followed by a moment of silence before the group headed out. As we marched north down 2nd Avenue, onlookers and those in opposition were very vocal, one woman going as far as to yell at Black Lives Matter supporters, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” It was apparent standing up against police brutality and racial injustice was not welcomed, or even understood by many of the people here.
— D (@_dmarie99) June 3, 2020
We finally got to Wood Park and stood on the grass as traffic passed by, some cars honking and sticking their fists out the window gave us hope, and reminded us we weren’t completely alone here. Oakdale Police Department had the road closed off on one side, where we were standing. People began to take the streets but were immediately scolded by designated peace police claiming doing so was an act of “violence.” A small conflict ensued between organizers and protestors, as some tried to explain that you can remain peaceful while protesting in the street. Many came to the aid of the peace police, stating that protesters should not silence people of color, despite those same people silencing and reprimanding other people of color who disagreed with them.
The protest continued
Man in #Oakdale #California today attacked a car full of #BlackLivesMatter protesters. He was wearing hat with the Three Percenter logo, a far-Right militia that protected neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and is linked to a string of bombings against immigrants and Muslims across US. pic.twitter.com/YLNCcYzz7E
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) June 4, 2020
After a while we began to walk back to where the protest began. Once there, many disbanded and returned home, but at least 50-100 remained. Soon after, Stanislaus Sheriffs showed up in full riot gear, holding batons ready to strike. Our side had 30+ police and Sheriffs facing us, while the Trump side only had three. The Trump side was also openly drinking large amount of alcohol out of a cooler, right in front of the cops. It was clear who the police considered a threat, ironically despite the wave of death threats that had been issued against the protest on social media before hand. The crowd became agitated, chanting, “Why you wearing riot gear, I don’t see no riot here!” All the while, counter-protesters stood on the other side of the street next to a financial office and a Little Ceasars, taunting us with Blue Lives Matter and Trump 2020 flags. Protesters responded by playing FDT by YG over a speaker and singing along.
Video of the white supremacists saying “are you tired of walking like this” and then acting like gorillas. They also say multiple times that they would “smack the black off of us” we’re not the antagonizers. @modbee pic.twitter.com/qk44FjjrSo
— Miles Lewis🛸 (@themileslewis) June 5, 2020
At this point someone from the other side, clearly disturbed by this behavior, came over to ours and informed the police that the counter-protesters were picking out targets from the crowd. The police did nothing. Protesters told police and Oakdale Mayor McCarty of the safety concerns, saying that we could all go home if the counter-protesters were dispersed. No action was taken.
Three of four protesters decided to cross the street to get pizza for everyone. Immediately counter-protesters ran to meet them but were stopped by police. Inside the Little Caesars a counter-protester that was in line attempted to attack them. They had to exit the building and were again met with counter-protesters who tried to fight them but the police sent them away. No further action was taken to disperse the counter-protesters and no arrests were made after the assault and attempted assault.
Counter-protesters continued to taunt the crowd. At one point, one person yelled: “Are you tired of walking like this?,” and then proceeded to mimic walking like a gorilla. When protesters yelled back at them in outrage, the another man said, “I will smack the black off you boy.” Later, a car full of protesters drove by honking their horn in support and a counter-protester in a red Trump tanktop and cowboy hat pointed at the car and pretended to shoot at them. Police did nothing about any of this.
At around 2:30 pm, some young protesters were driving by honking and shouting. The protesters cheered but thanks to slow traffic they were slowed to a near stop right in front of the counter-protesters. According to Oakdale Police Department, a water bottle was thrown from the back of the car, though this can not be seen from any of the video footage circulating the web. Counter-protester Nick Gonzales quickly ran up to the passenger seat and began violently attacking the man sitting in it. Later, photos showed that Nick was wearing a hat featuring the Three Percenter logo, a far-Right militia that protected neo-Nazis at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Members of the group have also been linked to a string of bombings against Muslims and immigrants over the last four years. Nick Gonzales as well as two protesters: Brandon Gray, who was in the passengers seat of the car, and Joseph Lutz, who is being charged with allegedly assaulting an officer. Brandon Gray has since been released with no charges.
Militia supporter + attacker of #BlackLivesMatter demonstrators in #Oakdale today has memes on his Facebook page promoting the hoax, which was started by neo-Nazi trolls on social media, that protesters are going to ransack white suburban communities – lie amplified by Fox News. https://t.co/HPIpz1uOoB
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) June 4, 2020
As this attack was unfolding, more counter-protesters rushed the car and Black Lives Matter protesters ran across the street to help their friends. The police immediate reacted by tackling and knocking several BLM protesters down to the pavement. One woman in the crowd was pushed to the ground face down, causing her nose to bleed profusely, and then dragged away by the police. Two riot police held up rifles and fired into the air in the direction of the crowd causing everyone to scatter in a panic. These were initially thought to be rubber bullets but Oakdale Police claim that they were a “non-lethal sound distraction device.”
The woman who was injured collapsed in the middle of the plaza having a panic attack and protesters began screaming for a medic. When a medic quickly came, four mounted police armed with a bokken (wooden katana sword) ready to strike responded by separating the injured woman from her friends. Protesters who initially thought the injury was caused by a police projectile began condemning them for their behavior, police responded with threats of violence and arrest.
Oakdale’s PEACFUL protest today UNTIL THE RACISTS ACROSS THE STREET STARTED A FIGHT that THE PROTESTORS WERE BLAMED FOR AND PAID FOR. FUCK 12. pic.twitter.com/S1gxdmchTH
— sweets✨ (@asyasweets) June 3, 2020
A large white van and several police cars pulled into the parking lot behind the Gene Bianchi Center and over a loud speaker announced that the protest had been declared an unlawful assembly and that anyone remaining would be arrested.
The next day, it was announced that Stanislaus County was in a “state of emergency” in order to better crack down on protests. As one Sheriff in the Oakdale Leader stated:
“While we expect to see additional peaceful demonstrations as we have seen throughout this week, we do not expect demonstration to turn to violence unless instigated by outside influencers,” said Sheriff Jeff Dirkse. “This proclamation is primarily an administrative tool for the county to access state resources as well as activate the State Emergency Services Act, which helps to facilitate coordinated response throughout the County if needed.”
But the violence in Oakdale was not carried out by “outsiders,” it was carried out by racist Trump supporters from Oakdale and the police themselves. Giving the police more money and power won’t make us safer either; it will give the police simply more leeway over our lives and freedoms.
Whether from the far-Right or the police themselves, white supremacist violence has the same intended outcome: to attack those standing up and fighting back to assert dignity. It’s up to us to support each other on the streets and keep each other safe: the police sure aren’t going to.