Stopping the Nazis in Chicago

March 25, 2010

CHICAGO--More than 50 anti-racists gathered in Federal Plaza on March 21 for a "pro-diversity rally" on a day that ended in an exciting victory for keeping hatred out of the Windy City.

The rally was held in response to the news that the neo-Nazi Illinois National Socialist Front (INSF) had called for a public celebration of "White Pride Day" on March 21. Offensive would be too kind a word for their choice of date--the 50th anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre carried out by the forces of South African apartheid.

Organizing a counter-demonstration was made especially difficult due to the fact that the INSF refused to publicly release the location of its rally. This was no doubt an attempt to sidestep any possible opposition. Nonetheless, an ad-hoc group came together with the intention of organizing a response.

Then, a few days before they were scheduled to rally, the INSF pulled out of the demonstration, handing the organizing to two Chicago-based members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). Sources say that the reason for this was because that they heard of the planned counter-demo and balked.

With no confirmed time and place for the Nazi demonstration and plenty of reason to believe they may not even show up, organizers decided to go forward with the pro-diversity demo.

In all, approximately 60 people attended, representing groups including the Gay Liberation Network (GLN), Join the Impact Chicago (JTIC), the International Socialist Organization, Southside Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and Chicago Copwatch. Protesters came from as far away as Michigan and Indiana to send the message that the fascists aren't welcome in our cities.

Brian, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., explained why he came to stand against the racists:

I came because everything that they stand for is in contrast with what SJP stands for: justice and equality for everyone, white, Black, Palestinian, Jewish. And they have tried to hijack our movement pretending to be anti-Zionist, but they are just really about racial discrimination and racial violence. And what we are about is ending racial discrimination.

With no fascists in sight, celebratory speeches were given, but time was also taken to hammer the point that we must not ignore any group that is out to spread hate and recruit--and that we need to make our city a safe place for immigrants, people of color, women, and LGBT people.

THEN, JUST as the crowd was dispersing, news came from ARA members that four Nazis were demonstrating in nearby Millennium Park. The majority of the pro-diversity demo ran the six blocks to confront them.

Sure enough, at the edge of the park, stood four boneheads surrounded by a phalanx of cops. Although police warned the anti-racist crowd to disperse or be arrested, we exercised our legal right to have a moving picket right next to the Nazis.

With over 40 anti-racist protesters on hand, a spirited counter-demo was held. Chants of "Racist, sexist, anti-gay, right-wing bigots go away!" "Nazis go home!" and "You're not welcome" were directed right at the Nazis, who could do little more than stare at the signs and banners that they had been forced to put on the ground earlier.

Fifteen minutes in, two Nazis were arrested (reportedly because they may have attempted to assault someone right before the counter-demo showed up). Emboldened, anti-racist picketers tried to get as close to the Nazis as possible. Not long after the first two were arrested, cheers erupted as the other two were also escorted away.

True to form, the INSF is now claiming the day as a victory for their side, insisting that the four Nazis in Millennium Park were a "decoy," and that they carried out their "real" action in the suburbs. But no news sources have reported a white supremacist demonstration in any of Chicago's suburbs that day.

These hard economic times are when groups like the INSF and NSM can grow. Emboldened by the conservative tea party movement, fascist groups are looking to repeat the gains that their co-thinkers have recently made in Europe.

Given the opportunity, they will exploit racial divisions and the failures of the Obama administration to recruit, gain influence, and intimidate anyone who's not a straight, white male. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that even though the 900-plus far-right groups in the United States are small, they are growing--and, in some cases, attempting to unify.

In a disgusting move, the NSM have called for a public birthday celebration for Adolf Hitler in Chicago on April 17. With a bad taste from March 21 in their mouths, they will no doubt continue to make organizing efforts challenging for anti-fascists. But our side has shown that we won't stand for their presence, and we will stop them by any means necessary.

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