The State is Signalling a Partnership with Fascist Street Gangs

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On June 4th of 2017, during a so-called “Free Speech Rally” hosted by a mob of loosely affiliated nationalist groups, an antifascist protester was chased down and assaulted by a member of the Oath Keeper militia. The blackshirt in question captured the protester and threw them to the ground. Police closed in on the altercation and, with a calmness that should have terrified onlookers, cooperated with the militiaman to complete the arrest, even allowing the vigilante to use their zip-tie handcuffs [1]. They thanked him for his help afterwards. This was before the public knew how closely law enforcement was already working with fascists, and our primary concern was the rapid development of right-wing paramilitary groups. We had not yet seen the abject corruption of the J20 trial, nor had it yet come to light that after the 2016 Sacramento riot, police reached out to the neo-Nazi attackers to hunt down antifascists afterward. But it is one year later, and the American government is deepening its symbiotic relationship with violent fascist gangs.

Last week, we witnessed the other half of this paramilitary partnership in action. During incursions of fascist gangs into Portland and Berkeley, when the blackshirt goons were outnumbered by community defenders and revolutionaries, police took the offensive and blatantly acted on behalf of the reactionaries. The minute-by-minute account of both protests has been thoroughly covered by CrimethInc., IGD, Unicorn Riot, and even some mainstream outlets, but the events are shocking enough to bear repetition: police escorted Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys into town, providing them public space and security. When, in Portland, the police had set up a weapons-check zone, officers cut a deal with the blackshirts to let them bypass the zone and remain in possession of bludgeons, chemical agents, knives, and handguns, while simultaneously making bogus claims of weapons possession among antifascists to justify future arrests. When the fascists grew bored and restless, outnumbered 5-to-1 and unable to start the brawl they’d been hoping for, the police made a preemptive, vicarious attack on the opposition. As part of this attack, a police officer fired a flashbang grenade at the back of a protester’s head, which would unquestionably killed the victim if they had not been wearing a bike helmet. In Berkeley, unprovoked arrests were followed by police posting the mugshots and information of the arrested, thereby exposing them to vigilante violence in the future. Fascists cheered as they recognized the deeper implication of the police carrying out an attack on their behalf.

In the final analysis, these two events were not characterized by hand-to-hand combat with fascists, as in the battles of 2017. Rather, these were cases of deliberate police violence against a potentially revolutionary movement in order to discourage disobedience. This marks a historically important shift in the ongoing conflict between the fascist state of America, and the liberationists who have organized their own communities to defend against racist incitement, government oppression, and white supremacist attacks. It is a pivotal moment for the antifascist and anarchist movements; we are now beginning to engage with the State itself, as part of a broad anti-oppression coalition of workers. While this is a momentous step forward for revolutionaries, it is also a reminder that the stakes of our various struggles have been dramatically raised, as the political environment in America becomes ever more volatile and deadly.

White supremacist violence is increasing across the country. Early this month, 72-year-old Miami resident Walter Stolper was arrested after authorities were tipped off about his plot to burn down an apartment complex in order to “kill all the Jews” living within [2]. Stolper had rigged a couple dozen gallons of gasoline in plastic containers, and purchased padlocks to hinder access to firefighting equipment inside the complex. In his room, police found Nazi paraphernalia and literature, as well as a firearm. In Chicago, a Puerto Rican woman named Mia Irizarry was harassed by a stranger for wearing a shirt bearing her homeland flag. The “patriot” in question repeated the words of the Charlottesville attackers, warning the woman that he wouldn’t allow her to “change America.” On video, Irizarry hails a nearby police officer for help – the officer ignores her, then eventually walks away, allowing the harassment to continue [3]. Similarly, structural discrimination has been encouraged and advanced both by the now wholly fascist conservative bloc, and by the government itself. In addition to sweeping measures like the Muslim ban and the ongoing ethnic cleansing project carried out by ICE and the DHS, the government has committed to a campaign of eliminating protections for marginalized demographics, loosening regulations, and deleting civic programs designed to support “out groups.”

“In the final analysis, these two events were not characterized by hand-to-hand combat with fascists, as in the battles of 2017. Rather, these were cases of deliberate police violence against a potentially revolutionary movement in order to discourage disobedience.”

The regime has constructed a false narrative around crime in America, blaming migrants and refugees for an imaginary spike in chaos and violent crime, (which in fact is down), justifying police militarization and an expansion of surveillance programs.

Jeff Sessions has made it his mission to achieve a theocratic judicial system, and is now engaged in the construction of a “Religious Liberty Task Force” charged with combating “dangerous secularism.” This is the first material step in an effort by the government to establish Christian nationalism as the law of the land, encouraged by the recent anti-LGBTQ ruling from the Supreme Court [4]. Stephen Miller has proposed barring access to citizenship for migrants living legally in the United States if they have at any point used a form of government assistance [5].

Most importantly for this essay, vigilante violence has undergone a resurgence. After the fascist movement was – at grave cost – broken at Charlottesville, the street-level violence that had been simmering throughout 2017 briefly abated. In Boston, a march of around 100 patriots was countered by 40,000 irate citizens, a momentary display of how rapidly the public can become cognizant of the threat of fascism. Unfortunately, where the outright neo-Nazis of the TWP and Vanguard America have been scattered to the wind, new blackshirts have rushed to fill the power vacuum. At present, the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are all that remains of the old Alt-Right, two gangs of assorted white nationalists who share a mutual appreciation for misogyny, racial bigotry, anti-immigrant hatred, and physical violence. These thugs are the result of a process that began, essentially, back in mid-2017. The American public was never going to accept the symbolism of Nazi Germany sincerely enough to simply replant Hitlerism in the backyards of Americans. But replace the armbands with baseball caps, the cries of “blood and soil” with promises to “resist communism,” and bedeck the whole movement with the cheap aesthetics of a pumped-up 80s action flick, and you have yourself a form of Nazism that the American far-Right will endorse wholeheartedly.

Crucially, the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer also take great pains to also carry water for the government; Joey Gibson claimed that he had been in contact with the DHS before the June 30th attack, and both fascist groups have begun targeting anti-ICE occupations. By signaling their willingness to carry out the government’s dirty work, fascists have formed a more open and sympathetic relationship with the state. They can brutalize protesters and publicly call for immigrants to have their heads “smashed on the concrete,” safe in the knowledge that a wink-and-nod agreement has been made between themselves and the police, reminiscent of the way Bull Connor unofficially deputized white hate mobs in the ’60s.

The rebuilding of a fighting force has not gone smoothly for the fascist movement, though they have not given up on the project. The far-right is still torn by infighting, and as demonstrated in Portland and Berkeley, fascists are still monumentally outnumbered by anti-racists. But with these latest two rallies comes the troubling realization that fascists will now always have the advantage during such encounters. The police have become sensitized to using blackshirts as a vassal of their authority, as we saw during the June 30th attack, when fascists were allowed to run rampant in the streets of Portland and terrorize civilians, and during the first attack on Berkeley in 2017, when police disarmed antifascists before the melee ensued.

Vigilante groups are beginning to do in America what the brownshirts did in Germany, finding ways to enforce their own authoritarian social code through the threat of extreme violence, broadcasting what will happen to resistance groups that don’t submit to the march of white nationalism. Bystanders have become equally valid targets, as have businesses, gathering places, and restaurants that somehow run aground of the neo-fascist movement. The police understand that by affording these gangs some leeway, they can discourage protest and social uprisings through the threat of indiscriminate lethal violence, accomplishing the bloody work of authoritarianism without risking their own legitimacy. During future rallies, if antifascists are outnumbered by fascists, the police will allow their surrogates to pummel and potentially kill protesters, but if the fascists find themselves outnumbered, officers can open fire with the type of munitions the state allows only law enforcement to use liberally against civilians. As in Portland, false claims of threats from antifascists can be used to justify any response by police, even an attempt to murder a protester in broad daylight.

“While this is a momentous step forward for revolutionaries, it is also a reminder that the stakes of our various struggles have been dramatically raised, as the political environment in America becomes ever more volatile and deadly.”

This permissive attitude towards vigilantes extends upward in the chain of command. The most recent example of state complicity in this growing nightmare was the “Unmasking Antifa” bill recently introduced by Rep. Dan Donovan of New York. The bill is part of a larger strategy by the government to quarantine social revolt, specifically targeting leftist movements. This includes bills protecting drivers from legal ramifications if they mow down protesters, classifying various protest movements as terrorists, broadening surveillance measures against BLM and other movements, and penalizing mask-wearing protesters with 10 to 15 years in prison. But the language of the Unmasking bill – right down to the name – specifies that this is a measure against revolutionary entities, not against the dutiful far-right, who wear masks just as frequently as antifascists. Although it claims to address the “threat of violence” from antifascists, nowhere does the fact sheet mention that zero murders have been attributed to the antifascist movement, while the far-right has racked up a body count of dozens in just the last decade.

And behind the masquerade of this blatantly anti-leftist bill is a litany of falsehoods ripped directly from far-right media sources. The so-called “fact sheet” claims that during the February 2017 protest against Milo Yiannopoulos, antifascists threw molotov cocktails at the student center where Milo was speaking, an outright lie straight from Breitbart headlines. It mentions the Sacramento riot, but not the fact that all ten stabbings were the work of neo-Nazis. It implicitly equivocates student protesters heckling Ben Shapiro, with white supremacists slashing the throats of civilians on public transit.

Beyond representatives mimicking InfoWars propaganda, the federal government has begun its own program of fear mongering and counterinsurgency. Earlier this month, the FBI National Academy Associates convened and heard a speech from forensic profiler Dale Yeager, who warned that “radical left-wing gangs” are the real threat to the public. Despite all available data demonstrating otherwise, Yeager claims “there is no uptick in white supremacy violence.” He utilizes the myth that groups like ISIS and the Nazis actually lie on the left-wing spectrum, and insists that the government should crack down on leftist organizing to prevent a violent revolution, consciously omitting the genuine threat posed by groups like the Atomwaffen Division, whose plot to construct a dirty bomb in Florida last year was only discovered after the member of the cell turned on one another, resulting in a murder.

State law enforcement is ramping up repressive activities as well; discovered by the ACLU, the Memphis Police Department has been monitoring Black Lives activists with a “City Hall Escort List” designed to identify and flag protesters if they entered City Hall grounds. These lists quickly became a collection of anti-police or racial justice activists, their associates on social media, and information gathered by undercover officers tailing these individuals, not just at protests, but in public spaces and, at one point, at a memorial service for a teenager killed by Memphis police. These dossiers were organized into “joint intelligence briefs” shared across police department, the military, and even the DHS [8]. During the Portland rally, a police aircraft was identified circling the area in a circular pattern, guaranteeing that a phone-intercepting stingray device was onboard. This wide-net counter-insurgent strategy has already become the standard for every police department in America, and they are tuning their daily activity to include putting the squeeze on revolutionaries, while simultaneously allowing fascists to destabilize our communities with random, unchecked violence.

There is still, however, cause for celebration. The rallies in Portland and Berkeley have proven that despite increased government repression, continued threats from white nationalists, and extreme personal cost, the people have not lost their fighting spirit. Pop Mob, the coalition which stood against Joey Gibson and his knuckledragger brigade, was a brilliant success, combining BLM supporters, militant antifascists, anarchists, anti-racist activists, community members, faith groups, and a large contingent from the DSA into a unified front, without resorting to a rigid hierarchy between the groups.

The black bloc mobilized to provide physical security, street medics operated behind the shield wall, impassioned speeches kept the gather in high spirits, and even during the police attack, a remarkable level of organization was maintained. The police were forced to intervene only because the fascist mob had been completely paralyzed, unable to do anything more than drink, complain, and mill around without a fist fight to keep them entertained. Pop Mob has effectively set the standard for how revolutionaries can take command of their own defense, rendering fascists incapable of action. Although we can anticipate police using more aggressive tactics in the future, we should take heart knowing that as the neo-fascist movement has continually faltered and failed to gain widespread support, the power of the people has only grown and matured over time. Furthermore, in the wake of the latest rallies, even well-known publications like the Guardian were willing to publish articles addressing the unprovoked brutality employed by the police.

Nonetheless, caution will be a virtue going forward. The government is instructing its law enforcement organs to suppress popular uprisings, and the police are now willing to use a long-term strategy of atrophying our movement, either through arrests, intimidation, injury, imprisonment, or even death. The idea, as befits a strategy of counterinsurgency, is to gradually rob us of resources, exposing us to attacks from vigilantes even outside of rallies, as per the doxxing of Berkeley arrestees. The pincer move of blackshirts and police, denying us safety even when we muster the larger group of supporters, means there will never be another protest that ends with a clean-sweep victory for antifascists. It is a shift in behavior which, historically, implies that the State has become genuinely afraid of a burgeoning revolutionary force blossoming within our communities.

This is a crucial moment of class struggle; fascism has become an immediate threat to the lives of millions, ranging from the immigrants and refugees killed by neglect, to protesters who stand up to hate mobs, to private citizens who could become the prey of the next Dylann Roof or Jeremy Christian. The safety and liberty of people who refuse to submit to a fascist government is being imperiled, and the authorities are helping to stoke the fires of another Charlottesville. We have the opportunity to bring our message to communities everywhere, to empower the public, and build an even broader base of liberatory causes. The mass movement growing in our midst could leave its mark on history, and bring our struggle to the doorstep of the American government. Thankfully, it appears none of us will have to fight alone.

SOURCES:

[1] https://www.opb.org/news/article/portland-oregon-arrest-patriot-prayer-trump-free-speech/?utm_content=buffer7f8a3&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer?utm_content=buffer7f8a3&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
[2] https://abcnews.go.com/US/miami-man-arrested-alleged-arson-attempt-wanted-kill/story?id=56583194
[3] https://www.vox.com/2018/7/10/17555490/man-harasses-woman-puerto-rico-flag-shirt
[4] https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/7/31/17631110/jeff-sessions-religious-liberty-task-force-memo-christian-nationalism
[5] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/08/stephen-miller-white-house-green-cards.html


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