Our message of solidarity against the alt-right

June 9, 2017

Two acts of deadly racist violence on either side of the U.S. have drawn attention to frightening rise of the far right under Donald Trump's presidency. On the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park, Richard Collins III was stabbed to death on May 20 by a white UMD student who, it was later revealed, participated in a racist Facebook group called "Alt-Reich: Nation." Less than a week later, in Portland, Oregon, known white supremacist Jeremy Joseph Christian killed two men and severely wounded another, after the three tried to stop him from harassing two women of color, one wearing a hijab.

In both cases, anti-racist activists and organizations, including the International Socialist Organization, have responded with urgent protest to send a message of resistance. Before two events this week--a June 4 counterdemonstration in Portland under the slogan Portland Stands United Against Hate to confront the far right's mobilization, and a June 6 town hall meeting in Washington D.C. under the title "The Racist Murder of Richard Collins III: Fight the Alt-Right"--ISO branches in Washington and Portland exchanged statements of solidarity with the victims of racist violence and those organizing against it.

Statement from Washington, D.C.

WE, STUDENTS at the University of Maryland (UMD) and residents of the Washington D.C, Virginia and Maryland area, extend our solidarity and support, from one community mourning and fighting against racist murder to another.

We send our sympathy and support to the families and communities of Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher. These men were murdered and wounded for standing up to racist hate.

We know firsthand the horror and sadness that plagues a community when such an attack happens.

On May 20, Richard Collins III, a graduating senior at the historically Black college Bowie State University, was murdered on the University of Maryland's College Park campus by a white UMD student for no apparent reason other than violent racism. Collins was also killed for standing up to racism when he said "no" to the demand that he move aside so his attacker could have full control of a nearly empty sidewalk.

What would have simply been an act of rudeness by a white bigot and the reasonable refusal to give into bigoted demands in years past has, in these new times, become an excuse for racist murder.

Anti-racist demonstrators in Portland send the message: Fear will not silence us
Anti-racist demonstrators in Portland send the message: Fear will not silence us (Leighta Lehto)

Racist activity had been on the rise in and around the greater D.C. area in the months leading up to the 2016 election. After Trump's election, we have seen white supremacists act with growing impunity and increased audacity. In the past few months, nooses have been discovered hanging:

Inside a UMD fraternity kitchen;
-- On the DC campus of American University; and,
-- Most recently from a tree outside the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall.

On May 31, a noose was discovered inside the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, at an exhibit about the violent history of the KKK.

The level of boldness it takes for racists to feel confident in vandalizing a memorial to an important aspect of the civil rights struggle and the fight against racism--with the most threatening symbol of the lynching and violence that the struggle fought to overcome--is appalling.

These ugly incidents are part of a national upsurge of threatened and actual violence by the far right, that has touched Portland, College Park, D.C., and other communities as well.

At UMD, we have watched as our university president, like other political leaders locally and nationally, has failed to take seriously the threat of racist violence and neglected to take any meaningful action. We cannot rely on campus administrators, or city and federal officials alone to keep our communities safe. Their tactics of downplaying, dismissing, or ignoring racism have clearly failed.

Instead we need to organize ourselves and make it impossible for the bigots on the far right to propagate their hate or grow their organizations. We stand in full support of the people of Portland taking the streets to condemn the hate and violence of the far right. By protesting them, we demonstrate the strength and numbers of our side. We have the power to outnumber them and win when we all stand together.

We, like you, are organizing anti-racist individuals and groups to oppose the growth of racism by building the broadest anti-racist movement possible. On Tuesday, June 6, a new community grouping, calling itself "D.C. United Against Hate," will hold a town hall meeting called "The Racist Murder of Richard Collins III and the Fight Against the 'Alt-Right'." We expect this will be the beginning of a new movement against racism in and around the nation's capital.

Again, we affirm our solidarity with you and your struggle in Portland. We will have you in our hearts and minds on June 6, as we honor Richard Collins III, Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher in a moment of silence--followed by 120 minutes of speaking out, testifying, and organizing.

The targeting of young Muslim women and the murder of those who stood in their defense in Portland, the murder of Richard Collins at UMD, and the growing presence of open racists in Washington D.C., are horrific reminders of the persistence of racism today and the need to organize for a better world that is free of Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and all other oppression. Together we can win that world!

In solidarity,
UMD Socialists and the International Socialist Organization-Washington, D.C.
June 3, 2017

Partial list of endorsers of the June 6 meeting in D.C.: Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Circle of Love and Support (COLAS), Code Pink, Faith Strategies, International Socialist Organization, Jewish Voice for Peace -DC Metro Chapter, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington Action Fund, Protect UMD, Students for Justice in Palestine UMD, UMD Socialists, Washington Peace Center, WPFW 89.3 FM

Statement from Portland

IN LIGHT of the tragic and gruesome attacks carried out in both of our cities, the Portland, Oregon, branch of the International Socialist Organization wants to express its solidarity to its comrades and to the community of the greater D.C. area who have experienced racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic attacks.

We send support and compassion to the family and community of Richard Collins III, murdered by a white supremacist as he waited for a ride with his friends.

On May 26, right-wing extremist Jeremy Christian killed Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Mecche and wounded Micah David-Cole Fletcher on the public TriMet light-rail train. These people had stood up to Christian as he flung racist abuse at two Muslim female youth who were traveling on the train. The murderer had recently attended right-wing extremist rallies and posted white supremacist propaganda.

This is the same racism that killed Richard Collins III at the University of Maryland campus on May 20. Collin's murderer, Sean Urbanski, was emboldened by the same mass phenomenon as Christian. They identified and organized with the far-right extremists who have been given confidence by the bigoted Trump administration.

Both white supremacists attempted to harass and intimidate, both were challenged, and both resorted to murder.

The tragedies of May 20 in Maryland and May 26 in Portland are both part of the far right's agenda. They have neither vision nor solutions--they can only put forth terror and bigotry. And every ICE raid, every attempt to ban Muslims or attack reproductive rights carried out by Trump inspires the far right to further carry out this horrendous agenda.

We here in Portland stand in full solidarity with you, the students of the University of Maryland and the residents of Washington, DC, Virginia and Maryland area, in your struggle against the onslaught of racist attacks in your communities.

Like you, we watch as bigots grow more emboldened while our political leaders do nothing. The racists have left nooses in your schools and your museums, evoking the terror of the lynching tree, and neither campus administrators nor city officials adequately respond.

And like you, we are finding that it is only everyday people, committed to living in a better world, who are organizing a fight back against these right-wing terrorists. We stand in full solidarity with the town hall meeting to be held on June 6 organized by "D.C. United Against Hate."

The day after the attack on TriMet, a vigil was organized here in Portland to honor the heroism of Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher. Around 1,000 people came out to stand witness to their sacrifice. And in our mourning, we also felt anger. People felt the need to stand up, and in midst of so many others feeling the same thing, people became emboldened to fight back.

This determination coalesced into a large demonstration organized against a far-right rally on June 4. Like so many of the far-right events being held throughout the country, this one used the cover of "free speech" to justify spewing their hatred. The murderer Jeremy Christian, being questioned after arrest, said he carried out his violent attacks to protect his free speech.

In the world of the far right, the bigots would be protected as they harass, intimidate and terrorize people of color, women, LGBTQ folks and leftists.

Here in Portland, we have refused to stand by as these bigots take our city. On Sunday, June 4, as many as 1,500 people rallied to challenge the far right. More than 70 organizations endorsed Portland Stands United Against Hate, which brought together voices from the various communities that make up Portland. We outnumbered the bigots. We chanted loudly our solidarity with immigrants, Muslims, Black Lives Matter and all those struggling against terror.

This demonstration and so many others across the nation show that people are ready to stand united against racism, Islamophobia and all kinds of hate. This also proves that a majority of people will not tolerate the hate of the far-right anywhere. The need to build a broad anti-racist movement in our localities and nationwide is evident, and we see by our own actions that that we can do it. Our power relies in our radical solidarity against all forms of hate.

It's an honor to be fighting in the same struggle with you on the other side of the country. From Portland, Oregon, to Washington, D.C., it will be the work of masses of everyday people who take on these racist thugs and defend ourselves.

On both ends of the U.S., and in the many places in between, we want to see a world without racism, without bigotry, where people don't have to be afraid as they ride the train or wait for a ride. So long as we remain united, we can transform the world together.

In solidarity,
Portland State International Socialist Organization
June 5, 2017

Partial list of endorsing organizations for the June 4 Portland Stands United Against Hate rally: Portland International Socialist Organization, Voz Workers' Rights Education Project, Portland Jewish Voice for Peace, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, PCUN (Oregon's Farmworkers Union), Latino Network, Causa, Portland Democratic Socialists of America

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