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Dec 20, 22

This Is America #179: Repression of Forest Defenders in Atlanta and How Trump’s DHS Tried to Manufacture ‘ANTIFA’ Conspiracy

Welcome, to This Is America, December 20th, 2022.

On this episode, first we speak with someone from the Atlanta Community Press Collective, about the recent arrests of forest defenders in Atlanta, Georgia, the trumped up charges they face, and how the community is responding.

We then speak with Dell Cameron, a journalist who published a report on attempts by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to manufacture an imaginary ‘antifa’ plot during the 2020 protests in Portland, Oregon.

We then switch to our discussion, as we tackle the ongoing embrace of full on neo-Nazism by Kanye West.

All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news!

Living and Fighting

Outpouring of Solidarity as Forest Defenders Face Repression in Atlanta

photo via Alissa Azar

Last week, local, state, and federal law enforcement made several arrests of forest defenders resisting the Cop City construction project, which seeks to build a massive counter-insurgency training center, and threats the Weelaunee forest, in so-called Atlanta.

According to on this report on the arrests:

On Dec. 13, the task force raided the training center site. The [Georgia Bearu of Investigation] issued a press release publicizing the arrest of five protesters on charges of domestic terrorism, among other alleged offenses. But the agency has been unable to provide any incident reports or other documents showing exactly what the arrestees are accused of doing.

…a sixth person [was arrest] on a charge of violating Georgia’s “hands-free driving” law, which bans the use or touching of a cell phone while driving – but for a different underlying reason. “We had an individual who was out attempting to film officers,” the Atlanta Assistant Police Chief said. “We were able to get him with the hands-free law as he drove by filming our officers, so we were able to lock him up.”

These latest arrests echo the J20 case, where around 200 protesters were kettled and threatened with almost 80 years in prison after a DC black bloc march broke windows at banks and corporate store fronts during Donald Trump’s inauguration. Claiming that everyone involved in the march were part of a vast conspiracy and even arguing that membership in labor-unions like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was evidence of this conspiracy, the case was, across the board, a total failure for the State, as charges were largely dropped or thrown out. Likewise in Atlanta, the State now is arguing that protesters are part of a “Defend the Atlanta Forest” criminal organization, much like how the Trumpian DHS tried to manufacture a shadowy “ANTIFA” threat during the George Floyd protests.

In the media, police have been attempting to play up the common narrative of “outside agitators,” and are pushing the lie that locals do in fact support the massive, corporate backed counter-insurgency training facility, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Just as this episode goes to air, “the Atlanta Police Foundation has, for the 4th time, been denied their Dekalb County land disturbance permit and will not legally be able to begin tree-clearing for construction of Cop City.”

As The Intercept wrote:

Sean Wolters, a protester who lives near the planned facility, said he thought the police were employing heavy-handed charges to demoralize and break up the protests: “None of it is meant to stand up in court, but simply to suppress opposition to Cop City.”

A statement from Atlanta Antifascists against the arrests reads:

While we do not speak for the Defend the Atlanta Forest (DtAF) movement, as Atlantans we condemn the state’s brutalization and arrest of forest defenders, and the heinous and outlandish charges brought against them. The excessive charges against forest defenders are an attempt by authorities to create fear, and to menace those opposing the unpopular Cop City development.

We hope that our community will do everything possible to support the DtAF arrestees. The state’s attempt to label activists as “terrorists” under flimsy pretexts will, if unchallenged, also threaten other social movements. If there is a verified Defense Committee for those arrested, we will publicize this and urge support. Just as importantly: keep supporting the DtAF campaign against the latest attacks. Continue building the movements we need against racism, repression, and environmental destruction.

Check out our interview with the Atlanta Community Press Collective later in this episode for more information on the arrests and check out recent coverage from Unicorn Riot. For those looking to write to those arrested, check here for ways to write and go here to donate to the bail fund.

Solidarity actions have also been propping us across the country, from banner drops to graffiti, to direct actions in solidarity with the Stop Cop City struggle. In Oakland, California, an office belonging to a company owned by Atlas Technical Consultants, which is contracted to build Cop City, was reportedly sabotaged. A communique posted to read:

We glued the locks and vandalized the front windows of the Oakland CEL office…in solidarity with the forest defense currently happening in so called Atlanta, Georgia. We permanently etched “HANDS OFF ATLANTA FOREST” on the front glass doors and a nice circle-A on the window for good measure.

To those on our side of the barricade: beware of the politicians in our midst, not just those concerned with electoral victory but also those who want to use you as pawns in THEIR revolution. Understand your values and why you choose to take action. Political strategy is not a substitute for genuine connection to yourself, each other, and whats left of the living world.

In San Francisco, windows and an ATM belonging to a Wells Fargo bank, which sets on the board of the Atlanta police foundation, were smashed up. An action report posted to Indybay read:

Mitch Graul, a Lead Business Execution Consultant at Wells Fargo, sits on the Board of Trustees of the Atlanta Police Foundation. Atlanta Police Foundation supports the construction of a massive police training facility in Atlanta’s Weelaunee Forest on the land of the Muscogee Creek peoples. The site was a plantation and then a prison farm. The bones in the land demand a reckoning.

March Through Streets of Atlanta, GA

Also in Novi, Michigan, another communique claimed responsibility for smashing windows and pouring paint over the front of an Atlas office. A report posted to Unsalted Counter-Info stated:

If The State Responds To Nonviolent Protest With Violence, What Motivation Do We Have To Remain Peaceful? Over The Past Ten Years And Especially Since The Uprising In Summer ‘20 Protestors Have Been Met With Increasingly Militarized Police Repression. The Explicit Purpose Of Cop City Includes Training For Suppression Of Mass Protests By Physical Violence And Chemical Warfare. Instead Of Funding A Live-Able Social Safety Net, Atlanta Politicians Voted Against Public Interest To Create A Cop Playground. Atlas Technical Consultants Is One Of The Private Companies Propped Up By This Corrupt Scheme.

Last Night We Visited An Atlas Office In Novi Michigan. We Smashed Their Front Windows And Poured Paint At Their Doorstep.

Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, around 200 people took to the streets on Saturday, marching in opposition to the Cop City project and also in solidarity with those facing heavy charges. Speakers from Community Movement Builders and other organizations drew the connection between the demands of millions during the George Floyd rebellion to end mass incarceration and police militarization and the push by the Cop City project to do just the opposite. The march showed once again that there is vast opposition to the counter-insurgency training facility, both across the US and in Atlanta.

UAW Strike Expands Into Liberated Dining Halls and Occupied Buildings

Strikes by both graduate workers across the University of California (UC) system and at the New School in New York continued to play out over recent weeks, with strikers in California carrying out a coordinated wave of dining hall liberations, while in New York, a building at the New School was occupied. Picketers also carried out a variety of sit-in actions and temporary occupations of buildings.

At the New School in New York, a communique for a short lived occupation was published, reading:

Part-Time Faculty at the New School, has been on strike for 23 days— this makes the strike the longest strike of adjunct faculty in the nation’s history. Part-time faculty are fighting for a fair contract that truly compensates them for their labor, their care, and their commitment to their students— which the New School administration has refused to offer. Not only has the administration prolonged this strike, showing a complete disregard for its students, staff, and faculty it claims to care for, it offered nothing of substance.

They have retaliated violently. As of yesterday, ALL striking workers at the New School have their wages withheld, no access to healthcare benefits, as well as no added funds to their retirement plans. This decision risks the lives of our faculty— many of whom are caretakers, primary insurance holders, some even pregnant or have upcoming surgeries—and this is all happening while New York City experiences a Covid-19 surge with over 40k cases as of the last two weeks. Students who work at The New School have also been notified that if they don’t cross the picket line they will be without pay as well…We no longer recognize this administration as representative of The New School.

The violent, manipulative, and cruel attacks from the administration upon every part of the New School community have left us with no choice but to escalate student action — We are now occupying the University Center.

We will peacefully occupy the building day and night until the administration resumes pay, full healthcare protection, and retirement benefits to all school employees and until the university reaches a fair contract with part-time faculty. We do not take occupation lightly, this is a necessary response to the administration’s violent escalations…We will win.

Several new texts have also been released on the ongoing struggle, which you can read here, here, here, and here.

Struggle Against Gender Fascism Continues

The fight against gender fascism and ongoing attacks on LGBTQ+ events and drag shows in particular continues across the US and beyond, as anarchists, antifascists, and community defense organizations mobilize in the face of continued far-Right threats and harassment. Here’s a roundup of recent actions and events. Be sure to follow us on Mastodon for more updates.

  • In Columbus, Ohio, Proud Boys and neo-Nazi groups teamed up to protest outside a Unitarian Universalist church that was scheduled to hold a drag event. While a a counter-demonstration did materialize, including armed community defenders, ultimately the church decided to cancel the event. Locals also report police giving fascists high-fives and The Nation wrote:

Over Telegram…Proud Boys…encouraged allies to “have fun” and “curb stomp” those attending the…event. “I heard the [commanding officer] is gonna give you guys some extra wiggle room,” wrote one user on the Proud Boys’s Telegram channel underneath a post advertising the rally. The same user repeatedly identified himself as a member of law enforcement.

  • In Lakeland, Florida, antifascists, anarchists, and the LGBTQ+ community showed up to defend a drag bingo night after a previous event was protested by neo-Nazi group who threw up Hitler salutes. Check out full report here.
  • Proud Boys and others gender fascists were out numbered by antifascist and pro-LGBTQ+ counter-protesters in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Check out a full report here.

In Aurora, community defense networks brought out 50+ antifascist activists and community members to stand up against threats of intimidation from the Northern Illinois Chapter of the Proud Boys, who posted the information about a 21+ drag show threatening to “protest” and dox performers and attendees (who they disingenuously referred to as “parents of the children,” as they falsely claimed the event was an all-ages drag show). The cowards never showed up. This is a complete win!
  • In Manhattan, neo-Nazis were reportedly kicked out of a protest that attempted to disrupt a drag event.

  • Hundreds of pro-LGBTQ+ demonstrators  mobilized in Southern Mines, NC, against 40 gender fascists. Drag performers reported that they had received threats before the event, which was cut short after someone intentionally shot up a power substation, cutting power to the entire county.

  • In Fall River, Massachusetts, antifascists, socialists, and left-wing groups helped defend an event at a public library from a group of neo-Nazis who attempt to storm the building.

  • Proud Boys showed up to an event in Fresno, California, but were kept out by a counter-demonstration.
  • In Renton, Washington, despite online threats and a window being shot out at a local bar, the far-Right was a no-show at a local drag event, while a large counter-mobilization took place outside.

  • Community defenders rallied in support of a drag brunch in Bloomington, Illinois in the face of online threats from the Proud Boys, who in the end, were no shows.

  • Members of various John Brown Gun Clubs turned out at at cyclocross event in Hartford, Connecticut to push back against TERFs.

  • In Jacksonville, Florida, despite violent threats from the Proud Boys; anarchists, antifascists and community members rallied in support of a drag event that received violent threats. Read full report here.
  • A senior center in Raleigh, North Carolina hosting a Pride event that featured a drag story-hour was vandalized with swastika graffiti, however the graffiti was covered up and the event went on without incident.
  • In Boise, Idaho, community defenders mobilized in the face of online threats from the Idaho Liberty Dogs, to protest a Pride event. The far-Right protest never materialized.

Banner in Boise, Idaho

  • A drag event in Austin, Texas was cancelled after the venue received threats from far-Right groups.
  • A massive antifascist and pro-LGBTQ+ crowd mobilized in San Antonio, Texas against a far-Right rally that brought out militia members and neo-Nazis against a Christmas drag event.

  • A large group, including armed community defense groups like the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, turned out in Grand Prairie, Texas to defend a community event from several neo-Nazis organizations including Patriot Front and the Aryan Freedom Network.

Upcoming Events

  • January 28th: Solidarity Share Fair: Eugene, OR. More info here.
  • March 10th – 13th: Weelaunee Food Autonomy Conference. Atlanta, GA. More info here.
  • May 2023: Healthcare Autonomy Conference. Durham, NC. More info here.

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