Calls ring out for action against the far right

August 18, 2017

Elizabeth Schulte reports on organizing for the August 27 Bay Area Rally Against Hate--and a new call for solidarity actions to take place around the U.S. that weekend.

ANTI-RACIST activists in the Bay Area who are mobilizing for a counterprotest against the far right when it rallies in Berkeley, California, on August 27 are calling on people everywhere to join them in a National Weekend of Solidarity.

The national call for support on the day of the Berkeley counterdemonstration came about after the white supremacist terror attack on anti-fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which took the life of Heather Heyer.

Amid the national and international outpouring of solidarity, the coordinating committee of the Bay Area Rally Against Hate, which has been organizing for the 27th, voted unanimously for this resolution:

We ask that people all over the United States take some kind of local action on August 27 in order to demonstrate solidarity 
with Charlottesville, San Francisco, Berkeley and all the other locations targeted by white supremacists. Whether solidarity takes the form of a rally, public forum, movie-screening or social gathering, a show of support from around the country will go a long way toward raising the political cost of racist violence. We can push the neo-Nazis and other far right racists back into the shadows. Please join us in this critical struggle!

One of the hundreds of events in solidarity with Charlottesville in Madison, Wisconsin
One of the hundreds of events in solidarity with Charlottesville in Madison, Wisconsin (depthandtime | flickr)

THE FAR right has made Berkeley, with its reputation as a bastion of progressive ideas, a target. In particular, the reactionaries have brought their hate to the home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s in an attempt to twist its democratic legacy for their own purposes.

In February, when former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos came to the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, thousands of people turned out to protest, and campus officials eventually canceled the event.

Several more confrontations followed, with the bigots strengthening their turnout each time. In April, several factions of the "alt right" and "patriots movement" mobilized from up and down the West Coast to descend on downtown's Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, leading to a far-right rampage in the streets.

With school getting underway for the fall, the same forces that turned Berkeley streets into a scene of chaos and violence are coming back for two protests on the August 26-27 weekend.

But after the alt-right's murderous attack in Charlottesville, people around the country have a much clearer view of what far right organizing produces--violence and terror.

Charlottesville has been called the largest mobilizations of far-right groups in decades. And Donald Trump's response in the aftermath showed he is unwilling to take a stand against the fascist groups that rampaged that day--on the contrary, he put the blame on anti-racists, several dozen of whom were victims of a white supremacist car terror attack.

The lesson from Charlottesville is that if we are going to stop the right from growing, our side will have to stop them.

Around the country, the overwhelming response to what happened in Charlottesville was horror, sorrow and outrage--followed by action, as thousands of people took part in protests and vigils in solidarity with Charlottesville.

Heather Heyer's mother has courageously lent strength to those determined to stand up against the bigots who took her life. "I'd rather have my child," she told those attending her daughter's memorial service on Wednesday, "but if I've got to give her up, we're going to make it count."

MAKING IT count has to start right away. On August 19, the alt-right is returning to the Boston Common, and anti-racists are hoping the wave of solidarity with Charlottesville will bolster their counterdemonstration.

Then comes August 27 in Berkeley, where opponents of the right have been organizing for months to turn out a resistance. Along with the call for national solidarity, this will be an opportunity to show the strength of our side--that there are many more people willing to stand up to racism than those who want to spread their message of bigotry.

The organizing in Berkeley has involved a broad coalition of groups and individuals coming together: "an ad hoc working group composed of residents of the Bay Area--people of color, working-class people, immigrants, queer, gay, bi, and trans people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, liberals, leftists and others," reads a press release from the rally organizers. "We think that it is time to get together, celebrate our differences, show our solidarity, and speak out against the hateful currents in American society."

Endorsers include the Alameda County Labor Council, Alameda for Black Lives, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, Council on American-Islamic Relations-San Francisco Bay Area, several area chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the International Socialist Organization (ISO), NARAL Pro-Choice California, the Muslim Student Association at Berkeley and more.

According to Alex Schmaus, an ISO member who has been part of organizing for the August 27 rally:

When Charlottesville happened, it became clearer than ever that this isn't just a local fight--it is a fight taking place across the country. This also made us appreciate what we have accomplished in the Bay Area, organizing many different social forces, including unions, student groups, political organization and faith groups.

Hopefully, this will help people around the country pull together the forces they all need to win this fight.

Many of the people that first came together to plan this are member of groups that were on the ground in Charlottesville, including the DSA, the ISO, the Industrial Workers of the World and others. We felt that tragedy personally and this was a way to make meaning from it.

The organizers of the Berkeley protest have emphasized building a united stand against fascism that can include as many groups and individuals who would like to fight the right as possible. According to Alex:

The street fighting that took place in Berkeley in the spring between the far right and the far left created a situation where anti-fascism had become a spectator's sport in Berkeley. What we want to do is provide a space for people in the Bay Area to see that there are many of us that want us to take a stand against racism and the far right, and we can keep each other safe when we come together.

The solidarity vigils and protests that took place after Charlottesville, echoing in many ways the protests that came in the days after Trump's inauguration, show there is a growing layer of people who want to come out and be part of defeating the far right.

Abdullah Puckett, a member of the Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association at UC-Berkeley, talked about organizing for the rally:

The main thing on my mind after Charlottesville was the importance of doing this now. We have to come out and show people that there is a voice of reason, inclusion and civility here in Berkeley, and that closed-off hateful mentality is not welcome here and is not a representation of this community. Another important thing is a peaceful demonstration.

One of the things I have been trying to do is bring people together. There is too much division and isolation from one another. The more that people come together and have meaningful discussions, the more we will realize what we have in common and that we can disagree civilly.

The wonderful thing about the planning process for this rally is that at each meeting, we've had more people, more organizations, more voices coming out to support this demonstration. It's been wonderful seeing how many people are out there who wanted to do something like this and have now found a group that is putting it together.

We should reach out to everyone who is trying to send a message of peaceful unity and civility, and we can't isolate ourselves from people who potentially want to work together with us. Reach out on campus, got to union halls, everywhere people want to get involved.

Berkeley organizers encourage you, wherever you live, to organize whatever action you can, big or small--rallies, marches, public meetings, speakouts, cultural events or teach-ins. For more information, check out the Bay Area Rally Against Hate Facebook page, and join the call for a National Weekend of Solidarity Against Hate and add links to your statement, action or event.

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