The following report back was written days after the Unite The Right rally that took place in Charlottesville during August 11th and 12th of 2017.
We have chosen to release our collective accounts on the 6th month anniversary of the torch rally because we believe that as anarchists and antifascists, it’s critical for us to remember our history and to learn from it.
Friday, arriving in Charlottesville our crew knew what to expect. For weeks we had been aware of the Alt-Right’s plans to have a torch march the night before the Unite the Right rally. Having known about the torch march, we had no choice but to oppose it. We feel that as antifascists, we don’t “save our energy for the big fight,” we must oppose fascism whenever and wherever it chooses to rear its ugly head. Other traveling counter protesters we networked with for the weekend events were made aware of the size of the demo we were expecting Friday night, and we consider it a tactical failure that so few fellow antifascists came to oppose the torch rally with us.
To those who did, we hope we’ll you see on the barricades. We were aware of the level of danger of the situation, and decided it was best to try to plug into the area and see if the locals were planning anything, as well as figure out the most tactically logical way to oppose the march with so few numbers. We found out about a gathering at St. Paul’s Church for local radicals and progressives. In order to learn more and connect with the locals, two of our crew went to the church to find out more. The following is an account from that encounter in the words of our crew members who attended.
The Night of the Torch March
The church was conducting a non-violent direct action training, and later hosting an interfaith sermon featuring Cornell West calling for 1,000 faith leaders to oppose the hate driven Unite the Right rally. We were able to meet with a local radical minister deeply involved with the struggle in C’ville, and discuss the churches worries, plans, and needs for the upcoming troubles. The good Reverend shared with us that he had personally been doxxed, the church had received multiple threats, and white nationalists were attempting infiltration.
There was a lot of concern about the neo-Nazi torchlight display of force that was in the works very, very, very nearby the doors of the church. We offered to assist with the physical security of the church. The Reverends response to paraphrase was, “Sure, we can use an extra set of hands. But we recognize and appreciate a diversity of tactics. Perhaps what is just as important is that the Nazi torchlight march is opposed and disrupted.”
From there we were introduced to other radical actors on the ground. This was something that struck our delegation, some of us who have been involved in antifascist politics for a number of years thought, ”Wow – this is the first time we’ve ever basically received a Reverend’s blessing for doing this kind of work.” A small number of us returned to the church in the evening to see where we could fit in and support the local community and the larger community of faith. Redneck Revolt and a number of other groups and individuals had set up a layered security perimeter to ensure the physical security of the church. The people and the church were at serious risk as it was standing room only, packed to full capacity with a fascist paramilitary force wielding fire as weapons across the street.
While members of our crew were in the church, the bulk of our group was scoping out the scene. As the Nazi’s started to amass in Nameless Field, we quickly realized our numbers were nowhere near as high as we had hoped. We decided the best course of action would be to meet them at the statue of Thomas Jefferson, their end point, and disrupt their photograph. In total the number of people opposing the group of Nazis was under 40; around 15-20 antifascists circling the scene as well as 15-20 peaceful student demonstrators.
As the march commenced, we got word that there were around 250-300 Nazis on the field lighting their torches. The students linked arms and circled the statue, chanting and singing in protest. The small group of antifascists floated around them ready to fight and defend the protesters from the oncoming group of Nazis snaking their way over and down the steps towards us. The Nazis encircled us, chanting, “Jews will not replace us, you will not replace us.” They came ready to kill any protesters, bearing not only torches, but also bottles of kerosene, cans of mace, and other miscellaneous weapons. Then they attacked, and we fought like hell.
That evening, we had noticed police lurking around, even having walked by a group of officers who greeted us, suspecting nothing wrong. While we were waiting for the Nazis to arrive, a police vehicle was parked at the bottom of the steps across the street as well as one not more than 100 yards further. During the battle at least 4 officers stood less than 10 feet away and watched while unmasked student protesters were attacked by a violent, angry, torch wielding, mob. We are not in the least bit surprised.
The entire concept of “police” supports the agenda of white supremacy, and with it the systematic murder of the oppressed. The battle was madness. Every member of our crew was pepper sprayed and beaten, with multiple people doused in kerosene. Nearly every protester was injured during the altercation, and a team of medics did their best to aid them during and immediately after the battle.
However, even though we were heavily outnumbered we were successful in stopping them from taking the boastful picture they had planned. When the Nazis began to lose momentum, and the police finally told everyone to disperse, about 50 of the Nazis took a picture without torches that hasn’t since made it onto any social media because of how defeated they were.
Around the same time, a group of between 35-40 racists dressed in the American Vanguard uniforms approached the steps of the church chanting, “You will not replace us, Jews will not replace us,” again. There was a call from Redneck Revolt and the Socialist Rifle Association to defend the church using the high ground and our smaller numbers managed to keep the marchers from reaching the church.
The entire evening was a terrifying reminder of the level of growing seriousness in the Alt-Right movement. What was even more powerful, however, was what we managed to accomplish when a small number of people stood their ground and fought back.
Charlottsville Revisited: Moving Forward in the Antifascist Struggle
We’ve come a long way since Charlottsville. In the days following these events, it felt like most of the world was flooded with a storm of media coverage, interviews, report backs, and solidarity actions. For a brief moment, one could almost feel like we had beaten the Nazis back into their caves and we could once again focus on combating our real enemy, the State. However, as Charlottesville fades further into history, we are aware that this is not the case. Fascist activity around the so called United States is slowly picking back up, with a myriad of gatherings and speeches being coordinated to happen over the next few months. We feel that it is critical to analyze the tactical choices made in August, and how we can learn from them.
For us, one of the most glaring tactical missteps was that the general consensus from counter protestors that the torch lit march held by the Nazis would be significantly smaller than it was, even when we had reliable intel regarding the numbers who planned to be present. As antifascists, we believe that we should never underestimate our opponents, especially in situations such as these. Solidarity is our most powerful weapon against the rising fascist creep and we need to make sure we use it. Moving forward, with the Alt-Right conference (Detroit, MI March 4th-5th), the TPUSA regional conference (April 14-15th Chicago, IL), the NSM meeting in Temple, Georgia (April 20th-21st) and the American Renaissance conference (Burns, TN April 27th-28th) on the horizon, we recognize that we must grow our networks of solidarity both within more clandestine circles and local communities. We’ve beaten them before and we’ll beat them again.
The solidarity actions that took place after Charlottesville were incredibly powerful. With these, antifascists around the world were able to not only support comrades fighting in Virginia, but to send a message to those in power and the paramilitary far-Right organizations that defend them: We will never stand down. We are everywhere. Once again, we want to analyze this level of solidarity and how it can be used to further support each other in the future. From our perspective, anarchists and antifascists in North America could do a better job of supporting both local and international struggles through solidarity actions. The fight against fascism goes far beyond street battles and we recognize that any struggle against domination anywhere, is our own. We want to send our love and support to every crew, friend, and stranger who supported the struggle in Charlottesville.
6 months later, we still feel the pain of Heather Heyer’s murder and with it, the burning rage we hold towards each and every fascist scumbag that’s infected our communities. With every action we take, we carry the memory of everyone who’s lost their lives in the struggle against fascism and in the fight for a better world. We have a long battle and a long road of healing ahead of us.
In Love and Struggle,