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Standing Against Islamophobia: Report Back from San Bernardino Action Against Islamophobic March

By Anonymous

This is a report back from someone on-the-ground in the San Bernardino anti-fascist action against the “March Against Sharia,” an Islamophobic event that happened across the country on June 10th.  Check out our report back from the Lansing, Michigan anti-fascist response as well.

Dealing With the Liberals

During our anti-fascist organizing meetings, people from the liberal group rise up tried to derail us. They disrupted our meetings and tried to get us to stay home saying that they thought we weren’t going to be effective and that we would just play right into the fascists hands. We made it clear that they were not welcome back, but they still tried to sabotage us in other ways.  One of our organizers was the target of a harassment campaign set up by a member of Rise Up. He received dozens of phone calls from members of Rise Up harassing him.

Despite the needless roadblocks presented by liberals, we were still able to organize a force of about 100 people to take the northwest street corner of Waterman and Orange. In Southern California, especially San Bernardino, it is almost impossible to organize any kind of demonstration without the sponsorship of liberals and Democrats. We threw them overboard and actually organized more people than they did at their “counter demo,” which they organized more than a mile away. Given the unfavorable organizing conditions here, triple-digit attendance is a huge win for us.

 

The Fascist Side

We instantly recognized at least 50 of the people in attendance at the “anti-Sharia” rally as Orange County residents. The group that calls themselves the Proud Boys showed up in droves, and are from Orange County (one of our chants was “Proud Boys, Shameful Men!”). We also recognized some Oath Keepers and 3%ers, local violent patriot militia members, although they were not carrying firearms. According to our intelligence gathering, the Oath Keepers and 3%ers were actually driven in from out of state.

This tells us the fash can’t effectively organize without importing other non-local groups, something they have done around the country at these “free speech” rallies. This just goes to show that they have no ties to the community whatsoever.

 

Our United Front

We organized a coalition comprised of a dozen socialist, communist and anarchist groups all local to the Inland Empire. We were supposed to have the support of a lot of Los Angeles based groups, but the majority of them bailed on us at the last minute. Despite the non-locals who did not turn out for us, we still had a big enough crowd to hold that street corner. The fash attacked us on four separate occasions. We were a quarter of their size, so we recognized that any action on our part that could be seen as “violent” would result in us losing the street corner. The reality was, the fash charged us and if we had responded, it would have been self defense.

Our tactic instead was to pack together as densely as possible and lock arms so that we couldn’t be split by the incoming fascists. When the cops saw that we were literally going to turn ourselves into punching bags, they decided to get involved. Every time the fash tried to charge us, we locked arms and the cops blocked their path. We were all expecting the opposite. We thought the cops were going to watch us take a beating. Even though they did the right thing at those moments, the cops still surrounded us with their batons out, acting like they were going to attack us. The cops were a lot rougher on our guys than they were on the fash. If we set one foot on the street the cops were all over us screaming to get back on the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, the fash was doing the exact same thing with very little interference from the cops. At the end of the day, despite being a fraction of the size we were louder, more disciplined and more militant. We weren’t able to shut their rally down, but we held our ground successfully. We frustrated the fash so much that they turned to vandalism to get their anger out. 

 

Final Count

0 fatalities

1 injury on our side

3 arrests on the fash side

-lessons

1. Don’t consider liberal feelings, you don’t need their sponsorship to do anything.

2. Keep going. What we’re doing is absolutely necessary.

3. Be aware of the reality of your situation. Poor choices will result in self-destruction and a clear victory for fash.

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Stand Against Islamophobia: A Report Back from Lansing Class with “Sharia Law” March

About thirty Islamophobes convened in Lansing, MI to protest “Sharia Law” in a multi-city action organized by ACT for America on Saturday, June 10th. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACT for America is the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the country and just like many other cities, a massive counter-protest was organized by several different anti-fascist and anti-racist groups to stand up to their hate. The counter-protestors who showed up considered their action a complete victory. They easily outnumbered the Islamophobes by four to one, remained peaceful, and were able to keep the protestors from fulfilling their main objective of marching through a local Muslim neighborhood.

The Lansing State Journal covered this story with a photo montage that didn’t truly capture the visuals of just how much these protestors were outnumbers and failed to provide the context of a dramatic picture at the end that showed two men hugging at the end of the protest.  The man on the left is Michigan Militia member Chas Brothers from Vandalia, MI and the man on the right is Timothy Grey of the Traverse City chapter of Redneck Revolt, an anti-racist outreach group. Redneck Revolt is a relatively new organization that’s only a year old, but already has thirty chapters across the country. Per their website: “Redneck Revolt is a national network of community defense projects from a broad spread of political, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is a pro-worker, anti-racist organization that focuses on working class liberation from the oppressive systems which dominate our lives. In states where it is legal to practice armed community defense, many branches choose to become John Brown Gun Clubs, training ourselves and our communities in defense and mutual aid.”

Along with Redneck Revolt, the other counter-protest organizers decided it would be for the best for them to not bring arms to this protest, but they did come out on the front lines and introduced themselves to several members of the Michigan Militia before the rest of the counter-protest showed up in block formation to oppose them. According to Timothy Grey, they introduced themselves to a few guys in the Michigan Militia and both sides agreed that they wanted the day to go peacefully. As Timothy explained, they knew that a lot of these guys were old vets and that they would be more likely to uphold this promise on the honor system if it was established ahead of time. Prior to that Timothy and the rest of Redneck Revolt had been involved in providing the counter-protestors with the intel they needed to determine which groups had shown up and exactly where they finally decided to convene, which was a half a mile away from the Muslim neighborhood they were originally targeting. The Michigan Militia was there, along with the Proud Boys, some older people who’ve watched too much Fox news, and a few Trump frat-boys.

The counter-protest arrived with chants of “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and “No Hate! No Fear! Muslims Are Welcome Here.”  They kept their chants going for about two hours as police barricaded the two sides from each other. During all of this though, activists from Solidarity & Defense broke into the “Anti-Sharia” side and began passing out pamphlets to people, letting them know that there was a verifiable neo-Nazi amongst their ranks. He was with the Proud Boys crowd, which should be noted were not particularly proud, because several of them chose to cover their faces while they attempted to sling incoherent insults to counter-protestors.

Once the Michigan Militia got word that the neo-Nazi was trying to pass out literature of his own and had an obviously anti-Semitic sign he was planning to pull out, they made him put it all away. Despite their racist fears of “Sharia Law,” they had decided that blatant Nazism was just taking it too far. Timothy Grey and the other guys from Redneck Revolt then began a conversation with some of the militia members. Timothy asked them “You guys are veterans right?” and then looked at each of them sizing them up by age: ” You were in Desert Storm, you were in Vietnam, and you were in Korea right? The people a generation before you gave their lives to defend the people you are now defending on U.S. soil,” referring to the soldiers who fought on the Western front during WWII against the Nazis.

After that the militia members began to defend themselves by expressing their concerns about “Sharia Law.” Timothy and his friends challenged them to find a real bill where this was actually proposed. He told them they were fighting a specter, something that didn’t exist. One of them told him that this was a “Christian nation” and they refuted that you had to support everyone’s right to freedom of religion. Then to everyone’s surprise the cop who was standing near them agreed and said this country had freedom of religion. The militia men had expected full police support.

As the counter-protest decided to pick up and march back to the front of the Muslim neighborhood they were trying to protect, Michigan Militia man Chas Brothers crossed the police barricade and said “Sir I need to talk to you,” to Timothy. Timothy walked back over to him and Chas said “I want you to know that my grandparents, aunts, and uncles were in Dachau. Only two out of my seven aunts survived.” He told him how one of his aunts was the meanest person, but he knew it was because of her horrible experiences in a concentration camp. Finally Chas, who Timothy described as a Vietnam Vet in his 70’s said, “You really started me thinking today. Thank you for coming out here and sticking up for my grandparents.” Then he teared up and asked if it would be alright to give Timothy a hug and that is how the Lansing State Journal captured a really powerful moment that never got fully explained.

Afterwards Timothy reflected to his friends in Redneck Revolt that although the idea of counter-recruting is part of their mission “I have to say I underestimated the power of counter-recruiting.” This exchange showed that there are many ways to connect with people and reach across the divide to counter hate and increase better understanding.

Timothy, who works as a filmmaker,  said he got involved with Redneck Revolt this past year. He had previously been involved in anti-racist organizing over the years and had most recently worked on helping change Traverse City’s Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. He said that he was inspired by their success to see what else he could do and had a friend who suggested Redneck Revolt.  Their chapter currently has 12 members and is still growing.

Some people have asked them why they embrace the term redneck. According to their website “Today, the term redneck has taken on a demeaning connotation, primarily among upper class urban liberals who have gone out of their way to dehumanize working class and poor people. Terms like ‘white trash’ and ‘hillbilly’ have come to signify the view among these same upper class liberals of poor rural folks. To us, the term redneck is a term that signifies a pride in our class as well as a pride in resistance to bosses, politicians, and all those that protect domination and tyranny.”

This is a group that is trying to find a way to connect with other disenfranchised working class people and help them learn that their real oppressors are not immigrants, people with different ethnicities, or different religions all without the typical academic rhetoric. Timothy says that if you would like to find a Redneck Revolt chapter near you check out redneckrevolt.org. If there isn’t a chapter within an hour of you, you can apply to start a new chapter yourself.

 

You can also follow their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RedneckRevolt

Into the Fire: A Report Back from the Huntington Beach Antifascist Clash With Trump Rally

This is a report-back from an anonymous member of the resistance to the Make America Great Again pro-Trump march at Huntington Beach, California, on March 25th.

11 am – Myself and four other communists walked along the bolsa chica bike path to meet up with our anarchist and Antifa comrades. The Facebook event showed at least 100 signed up to attend the counter demonstration, there were barely 20 in total. There was an anarchist book fair that may have drawn people away, but this is unconfirmed. As far as I could tell there were three factions making up the black bloc that day: my comrades, two separate groups of Antifa for a total of 10 and the organizer and a few of his people who identified themselves as socialist party members. They chose not to join the black bloc. None of us had met prior, there was no knowledge of who was local and who was not. My comrades and I tried to lead chants with bullhorns to embolden our side. Within our small numbers were many inexperienced, nonmilitants. With each group acting separately, there was no tactical consensus.

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The person in the left is wearing a Hammerskin Nations patch (two hammers), which is the largest skinhead gang in the country.  He is openly wearing these symbols at the Trump event.

12 pm – The organizer planned on forming a wall to deter the trump supporters, but our small numbers made that an ineffective choice. When the trump supporters began to march, we realized there were at least 1,000 of them and only a handful of us. The organizers decision to go ahead with the original plan in absence of any backup plan showed inexperience and unwillingness to assess the situation at hand. We were overrun and facing violence. We did not use physical violence as a means of provocation, but as a means of self defense. The trump supporters were emboldened by their numbers and felt comfortable attacking us in absence of initial provocation. Our comrades were punched, kicked, and tackled by the trump supporters. It was a difficult spot to be in, because we knew that if we retaliated we would be putting our lives at risk due to the sheer number of trump supporters looking for fights. Most of us did not engage the trump supporters, but our comrade who was beaten did not have this luxury. After she was beaten, the police placed her under arrest. Three Antifa were arrested, two released without charge and one released on bail. No arrests were made of Trump supporters.

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1 pm – This went on for over an hour before the majority of trump supporters left. The ones that remained were far more violent. The 7 black bloc that were left were armed only with small tasers and pepper spray. Some trump supporters were spotted with brass knuckles and knives. The symbols that we identified were the crossed hammers and Reichskriegsflagge, both used by white supremacists. We were still outnumbered and in even more danger than before. We decided to leave as quickly and quietly as possible, but we were followed and chased by two skinheads and a group of at least 20 trump supporters. There’s no doubt in my mind that they wanted us dead and the police had no interest in the situation. Those of us who were left were picked up at an undisclosed location and made it out relatively unscathed. Thoughts and reflections – This counter demonstration was poorly planned and ill executed. The only ones who showed any discipline or militancy were the two groups of Antifa and my comrades. Without greater numbers and coordination, we were immobilized and disarmed. Without an alternate plan of action, we were divided and that allowed the Trump supporters to beat on us without constraint. A call for unity is absolutely necessary to achieve any measure of success. In other instances Antifa has been successful in demoralizing the fascist right wing. As far as I can see, southern California lacks the organization and discipline that other Antifa groups exude.

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