Over the weekend a pitiful neo-fascist mobilization took to the streets of Portland, including members of the Proud Boys, the Patriot Prayer and the Three Percenters. Their own website describes them as “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world”—a mix of misogynistic, white supremacist and imperialist ideology.
On Saturday, a few dozen members congregated at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where they chanted “U-S-A.” On social media, many Proud Boys talked about the desire to “exterminate” Antifa in preparation for Saturday’s march.
Separated by police barricades, hundreds of counter-protesters spoke out against the fascists.
After only thirty minutes, at the request of the neo-fascist groups, the police closed the Hawthorne Bridge, a key exit and entrance to Portland, allowing the fascist groups to march across the bridge to make an exit.
“It was a striking scene: the same group of out-of-town fascists that have terrorized people here for years, given free rein over a city bridge, on their way back from an unpermitted rally in a public park, after weeks of threatening to harm and kill local anti-fascists” said Christopher Mathias and Andy Campbell in the Huffington Post.
Donald Trump Supports the Fascists
This march was specifically billed as an “anti-Antifa” march, a response to the milkshake and punch thrown at far right blogger Andy Ngo. The groups believe their short and poorly-attended march was successful in advancing their crusade against Antifa and raising their profile on a national scale.
“Go look at President Trump’s Twitter. He talked about Portland, said he’s watching Antifa. That’s all we wanted. We wanted national attention, and we got it. Mission success,” said Proud Boys protest organizer Joe Biggs to The Oregonian.
It’s true—Donald Trump refused to put out a single tweet or statement against the fascist groups that converaged in Portland. Rather, he used his twitter to echo the messaging of those groups.
Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an “ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.” Portland is being watched very closely. Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2019
On one side, there were known white supremacist groups, making Nazi signs. On the other were Antifa groups, led by people of color and folks in wheelchairs. On one side, neo-fascists. On the other, people who oppose neo-fascism. Antifa isn’t an organization, unlike the Proud Boys or Patriot Prayer. It’s a movement that is attempting to build power by taking the streets to confront the rise of a militant and violent right. And yet, this movement is maligned in the media and, particularly, by Donald Trump.
For the past few weeks, Trump has been attacking Antifa, supporting the Senate resolution proposed by Ted Cruz, insisting that it should be categorized as a “domestic terror organization.” He has continued to argue this even in the wake of the El Paso mass shooting by a white nationalist who killed over 20 people. He has refused even to moderate the anti-immigrant language that has served as inspiration for white nationalists across the country, from the Proud Boys to the El Paso shooter.
This should come as no surprise, of course. Donald Trump has shown over and over again that he is a white supremacist President: Mexicans are rapists, immigrants come from shithole countries, members of the Squad should be “sent back,” and particularly absurdly, that there were “decent people” on both sides in Charlottsevile. And after the most recent shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Trump said that he was “concerned about the rise of any group of hate … whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s Antifa, whether it’s any group of hate,” creating a moral equivalency between fascists and anti-fascists.
No such moral equivalency exists. We should all be anti-fascists. This should not be controversial.
But it hasn’t been only Donald Trump who has taken sides against Antifa. After Andy Ngo was allegedly punched, Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, and even Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden unequivocally condemned the attack. Biden said that he “believes violence directed at anyone because of their political opinions is never acceptable, regardless of what those beliefs might be,” and that “He believes freedom of expression is fundamental to who we are as Americans, and that Andy Ngo’s attackers should be identified and investigated.”
It would almost be funny if it weren’t for the fact that some of the most important political players in the country are wringing their hands over a milkshake and a punch while people are dying in concentration camps. But that is exactly the situation we are in.
In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in late July, Ted Cruz compared Antifa to the KKK, saying, “I am concerned that these are not isolated instances but rather this is a pattern, an organization that is engaged in masked, anonymous, violent terrorism.”
The Cops and the Klan Go Hand in Hand.
The Antifa movement made up of several groups with differing ideas which has been consistently criminalized by the police and politicians and maligned in the media. If Ted Cruz wants to talk about a group that resembles the KKK, he shouldn’t point to the Antifa movement . He should point to the police.
For years, the police protected the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer as they held “free speech” gatherings, that the Huffington Post argues “served as nothing more than thinly veiled excuses to fight leftists in the city’s streets.” Just last year, the police attacked the people who organized a counter-protest against white nationalists, throwing flash-bang granades as the neo-fascists cheered. Communication logs from earlier this year revealed that police willfully overlook the actions of the armed and violent Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys, while criminalizing and explicitly targeting counter-protesters. A clear example is an incident in which a member of Patriot Prayer was stationed above a parking garage with a rifle and binoculars. No actions were taken by the police. Counter-protestors with shields made out of plastic garbage can lids were “taken care of.”
A report has detailed friendly text messages between the Portland police and Patriot Prayer ring-leader Joey Gibson, including messages in which the police tell the alt-right leader where leftist protests will be held. In fact, Portland Police Lt. Jeff Niiya even congratulates Gibson on a possible Congressional run, and Gibson apologizes in advance for any trouble at future protests.
In Portland, there have been deaths at the hands of white supremacists. Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were allegedly killed by white supremacist Jeremy Christian in Portland in 2017 when they tried to stop Christian from threatening two black teenage girls. Christian had attended a Patriot Prayer event and had been active in several alt-right events.
In cities across the country, the police repeatedly attack and arrest Antifa participants. We’ve seen over and over how the police attack and arrest folks who are protesting for the basic right of children not to be separated from their families. And over and over, we’ve seen how the police argue that they can’t manage to detain a Black person with a broken tail light without shooting them, even while they are able to detain a mass shooter without incident.
These new groups like Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, despite some differences with white nationalist groups like the KKK, have similar connections with the police. This is part of a broader history, one in which “the cops and the klan go hand in hand,” where white supremacists are part of the police force and the police in general support their actions. We’re all familiar with the stories of what this looked like in the South: police detaining Black folks only to release them into the hands of a lynch mob.
But this connection between white supremacists and the police exists all over the country. Even the FBI, an organization that is far from progressive or anti-racist, wrote a 2006 report showing concern about the possibility of a concerted infiltration of white nationalists into the police. Of course, the same FBI has targeted “Black identity extremists” more often than white nationalists, demonstrating the way in which all law enforcement agencies of the capitalist state are tinged with the same right-wing and racist ideas.
Only a few days ago, when thousands of racist facebook messages emerged, a St. Louis police sergeant answered in the affirmative when asked if there were white supremacists on the police force. There were also the vile and racist messages in the border patrol facebook group.
The police force is the armed, legalized, and state-sanctioned wing of the white supremacist movement. The police can and do kill and harass Black people with impunity, with or without body cameras and video evidence, and the police have been given free rein to terrorize the Black community.
As the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants—as well as violence by mass shooters—increase, we cannot afford to look at these as isolated phenomena. This isn’t disconnected from neo-fascists who hold rallies under police protection. The Trump administration is fueling white nationalism. The police only play at being unbiased while they actively build friendly relations with neo-fascists. And so, we will need much more than direct confrontations with neo-fascists to confront this attack: we will need a mass movement in the streets and in our workplaces to fight all facets of white nationalists—from the policies of the Trump administration to the rallies by the Proud Boys. We all have a responsibility to be anti-fascists as we organize against the rise of the right and the Trump administration, the concentration camps, and police brutality.