“We Go Hard In the Paint”: Lessons From the Victory in Providence

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A report back from the recent antifascist mobilization in Providence, Rhode Island.

Following a spectacular failure on August 4th, Resist Marxism’s second attempt at a rally in Providence, RI, on October 6th was again successfully shut down thanks to another aggressive counter effort by members of the local community and their allies.

”The fash had been provided two lines of barricades; they decided to line themselves up along the outside of their outer perimeter…A large contingency of armed anti-fascists formed and held a line directly opposite the fash. Battle loomed.”

This time, two fash pseudo-celebs Joey Gibson and Tusitala “Tiny” Toese were shipped in from Vancouver, and the Proud Boys made a sad Rhode Island debut. The American Guard showed up, too, as did Boston Free Speech, who hid in their safe space behind barricades. A broad spectrum of tactical diversity coalesced into a total ass-whooping the fash won’t soon forget. All in all, they were outnumbered and outmaneuvered, left with only feeble attempts to equivocate on social media about bro-bonding or whatever.

Local organized militants played a pivotal role in galvanizing the counter-demonstrators. Right from the beginning, through effective and offensive battlefield maneuvering and forceful community self-defense, they forced the fash to play tactical catch-up at every juncture. The fash had been provided two lines of barricades; they decided to line themselves up along the outside of their outer perimeter, leaving no room to retreat from the building anti-fascist crowd. A large contingency of armed anti-fascists formed and held a line directly opposite the fash. Battle loomed.

“Tiny threw the first punches, if you can call them punches at all—he kind of just flailed around, backed up, and let his goons take what quickly became a profound fash bashing.”

Tiny threw the first punches, if you can call them punches at all—he kind of just flailed around, backed up, and let his goons take what quickly became a profound fash bashing. Dozens of counter-demonstrators readily engaged in hand-to-hand combat. During the clashes, someone deployed a fire extinguisher filled with white paint, hosing Tiny and a dozen or more Piss Boys (plus several riot pigs haha). Smoke grenades went off. More fists flew. It was fucking unbelievable.

Worth mentioning: undercover pigs (typical jacked bros with ear pieces) were quickly identified and confronted, with anti-fascists approaching them and telling them to get the fuck out, not to cause trouble. The undercovers bounced as the fight began, neutralizing any effectiveness in quelling the counter demonstration they’d hoped to achieve.

All the while, pigs stood idly by, which is becoming a theme in Providence: they don’t give a fuck. Tiny clearly began the fight by bonking multiple people directly in front of staties and they didn’t budge. It wasn’t until several riot pigs got doused in paint that they finally intervened, and even then just barely, separating the two sides at the site of the main brawl. The fash began shuffling around to the right side of the demonstration grounds: a beautiful retreat. They talked shit as they did, of course, and a few scuffles occurred along the way.

The fash ceding territory to the counter demonstrators was an indisputable victory for our side. They got their asses kicked, covered in paint, smoked out, maced, and pissed on. The momentum was entirely behind us as we followed them around to the side of their demonstration area, where a second confrontation was brewing. We pressed on their loose regrouping, another brawl ensued, and we gave no ground. The fash were clearly deflated, and we were poised to finish them off.

“every action is a learning opportunity and we must remain critical as we hone our tactics for future encounters.”

Then, suddenly, our ranks began to back up. Why? It appears that some counter-demonstrators sounded the alarm of an imminent kettle scenario. People panicked and ran, briefly. Folks quickly realized the falsity of the alarm – there was no such immediate threat – and resumed the push against the fash line.

We must be vigilant against group panic. Assess your surroundings for yourself before backing up: Are the pigs visibly creating a perimeter? Who is giving you this information? Do you know them? Strangers are not to be trusted! If you don’t know them, don’t accept their intel out of hand. Verify that shit. Can one person in your group safely and quickly survey the scene before everyone retreats? Moving forward, every effort must be made to ensure that retreat is the absolute last resort.

And it is important for anti-fascists to begin mounting a defense against the police. They are a far bigger threat to our liberation than the RM dweebs, and for anti-fascists to build a true working-class movement we must build a practice of resistance against the police. Police, riot cops, national guard—we can defend against them! Our goal at these rallies should be not only to undermine and demoralize the fash, but to undermine and demoralize the pigs as well.

That doesn’t mean always trying to brawl with them or necessarily risking arrest or injury, but it does mean adopting strategies beyond “run when they threaten us.” In Providence, we outnumbered the police: with training and forethought, it is possible to outmaneuver them and end actions on our terms. The lack of resistance to police in our political actions is widespread in the US left, and points to a failure of imagination and strategy. If we can’t even develop a culture of disobedience and de-arrest at anti-fascist rallies—where we have foresight, legal support and infrastructure—how can we build meaningful resistance to police in our neighborhoods?

Back to the day: our side quickly righted itself and reengaged the fash. John Camden, who’d spent the day in his usual chest-thumping shout fest, got pepper-sprayed and cried. Tiny’s brother, who’d been instigating shit the whole time, got clocked like fucking wild. The pigs gave dispersal orders well before RM’s event could gain any momentum. Total motherfucking shutdown. No arrests, all while sending a clear message to RM and anyone who openly associates with fascism: you are not safe.

An important note: at least two people on our side could be heard taunting fash with the word “pussy.” There were also people making denigrating comments on the fash’s body size. Don’t fucking say that shit. Plenty of slander out there that isn’t sexist and otherwise oppressive. We have a responsibility as anti-fascists to the public’s perception of us—to those who use that kind of language, you have some unlearning to do: take that shit seriously or fuck off. We will win against the fash because of our discipline, principles, and commitment to liberation by any means necessary, not because we pissed them off using frat humor that is only funny because of the subjugation of our comrades.

Overall, the counter-demonstration was a major success: antifascists whooped their asses in style! The Providence community showed up in force for a second time, ready to rumble. John Camden cried, Tiny flailed his arms hysterically before hiding behind his goons while they got the shit kicked out of them, a fire extinguisher full of paint was successfully deployed, and the fash gagged on odorous liquids as they marched in retreat. Even so, every action is a learning opportunity and we must remain critical as we hone our tactics for future encounters: vigilance against the kettle is key (we must be wary of the immediacy of the threat before sounding the alarm), and most of all, we must be creative in our strategizing against the pigs.


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