Meeting terror with solidarity around the U.S.

August 17, 2017

Alan Maass rounds up reports from activists around the country as the horror and outrage at the Nazi menace on the streets of Charlottesville last week turns to action.

THE NEO-Nazis' deadly terror in Charlottesville, Virginia, at last weekend's Unite the Right rally has sparked off protests against the far right and solidarity with the victims in Charlottesville that spread one end of the country to the other.

The response to the far right's violence, which culminated in a car-terror attack that killed one person and injured as many as two dozen others, was immediate and overwhelming. The liberal group Indivisible compiled a map showing nearly 700 events in solidarity with Charlottesville organized in the 24 hours after the murder of Heather Heyer.

The reinvigorated struggle to stop the fascists will go on, locally and nationally, in the days to come, with a counterdemonstration against the far right in Boston on August 19 and another counterprotest in Berkeley on August 27 that is generating a national call for a day on that day.

But just this early outpouring has shown the outrage and anger of huge numbers of people at both the far right killers, and their sympathizer-in-chief in the White House--and a new determination to take action.

Hundreds gathered in Chicago in solidarity with Charlottesville
Hundreds gathered in Chicago in solidarity with Charlottesville (Carole Ramsden | SW)

In New York City, numerous left-wing and anti-racist organizations came together to organize a rally on August 13 that drew some 800 people in Union Square on short notice.

Speakers from initiating organizations emphasized that the far right's violence in Charlottesville isn't an isolated incident, and that the bigots see an opportunity to grow, including by recruiting on campuses. Among the signs held by demonstrators was one reading: "James Fields drove the car--but Trump gave him the keys."

"This violence isn't new," said a speaker from Black Youth Project 100, "but what is new is the building of these coalitions on the left."

Jabari Brisport, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), who is running for New York City Council as a Green, was at the counterprotest in Charlottesville. He told how a right-winger approached him and said, "You know, I don't have a problem with Blacks like you, but it's these Jews who are screwing all of us." Faced with such hatred and division, "we cannot forget that we are larger than them," Brisport said.

Ronnie Almonte of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) urged the left to organize to outnumber and demoralize the right-wingers, especially on campuses, where they are mobilizing under the guise of their "free speech". "Free speech may protect them from the state," Almonte said, "but it does not protect them from the left's protests."

After the speeches, demonstrators began marching to Trump Tower on Madison Avenue, chanting "No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA," among other slogans. Police tried to block marchers just west of Union Square--and from the head of the march, a Black Lives Matter activist spoke about how the cops, vigilant today to confront anti-racist protesters, had stood by in Charlottesville as white supremacists attacked.

In the Bay Area, people were in the streets hours after Heather Heyer's murder to show their solidarity in the struggle against the far right.

At least 500 people gathered in Oakland's Latham Square, including members of the Black Panthers, Antifa, Black Lives Matter Bay Area and other organizations. The demonstration was called on short notice by the ad hoc coalition that is mobilizing a counterprotest against the far right's "No to a Marxist America" rally in Berkeley on August 27.

After an hour-long speakout, the demonstrators set out on a march through city streets, accompanied by a portable sound system blasting songs that included "FDT" (Fuck Donald Trump) and Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit" about lynching in the South.

"It's like, yeah, y'all have freedom of speech, but when it all boils down to it and y'all start threatening people, it's no longer your First Amendment right," one man told the San Francisco Bay View.

In Chicago, two demonstrations called for the same time Sunday afternoon drew hundreds of people each.

At the protest gathered in front of Trump Tower, Anton Ford, the event's MC, called for the crowd to remember: "We need to show that we are many and they are few. We can't rely on police or university administrators or City Hall or even the ACLU to protect us...If we're going to control the streets, we need to fill the streets."

The protest had a huge list of co-sponsors, including the Democratic Socialists of America's Chicago chapter and the International Socialist Organization, both organizations whose members were part of the anti-fascist contingent attacked in Charlottesville.

Chicago local Jobie and a friend remembered the enduring power of the national marches and local movements that have sprung into activism during Trump's presidency. "If it wasn't for the Women's March," Jobie said, "I probably wouldn't be continuing to do this, but it was a very eye-opening experience...We have to stand up so people can hear us."

Speaking to the crowd on behalf of the ISO, Kevin Moore called for a united front:

We have seen that victories can be had. It was the united front that drove those cowards out of Charlottesville yesterday. It was the united front that showed up at the airport uprisings that stalled the Muslim ban. It was the united front that shut down Trump's speech at the University of Illinois at Chicago, when he couldn't even face us because there were too many of us.

Huge cheers rung out as this memory, as Chicago stood proudly with counterprotesters in Charlottesville and against right-wing hate.

In the Washington, D.C., area, several hundred people gathered in Alexandria, Virginia, in solidarity with Charlottesville. After a 30-minute speakout at Market Square, protesters marched to alt-right leader Richard Spencer's home/office, accumulating supporters along the way. People out for the afternoon roared their support as marchers passed by.

The speakers not only talked about the far right's terror in Charlottesville, but issues that are close to home for anti-racists' in this area--not only are there monuments to the Confederacy, but streets are named after leaders of the slave South. Robert E. Lee's former mansion is a memorial to him, located in Arlington Cemetery.

After the march to Spencer's house, the crowd chanted loudly for some time. Apparently, Spencer and his goons were on the site. Their attempts to videotape the protesters on a cell phone only made the demonstration more angry.

After a march back to Market Square, a number of demonstrators left to attend the vigil across the river in D.C., where a somber crowd numbering in the thousands stood across from the White House.

One of the speakers, Eugene Puryear of the Stop Police Terror Project D.C., said: "The raw edge of the real struggle in this country was exposed. Some people want to drag this country back--make it more racist, more patriarchal, more divided, more unequal from an income perspective." said Eugene Puryear, an organizer with Stop Police Terror Project DC.

In Seattle, solidarity with Charlottesville began Sunday afternoon at a previously planned "Solidarity Against Hate" rally and march against a pro-Trump gathering organized by Patriot Prayer, the same right-wing group that rallied against "sharia law" in June.

The expected turnout of 100 or so anti-racists swelled to more than 1,000 in response to Charlottesville.

Demonstrators tried to directly confront the right-wing rally, but were cordoned off by police, who used pepper spray and even "pepper spray bombs." Finally, the anti-racist demonstrators were able to surround the outskirts of the right-wing rally. Some activists were even able to briefly take over the mic at the right's rally, and the bigots were sent packing.

In the evening, candlelight vigils in horror over the murder and mayhem by the fascists in Charlottesville took place throughout the area. More than 200 gathered on Seattle's Capitol Hill, and smaller numbers gathered in several usually sleepy suburbs like Issaquah, Lynwood and Vashon Island, as well as in nearby Tacoma.

"I just moved here from New Orleans to get away from the oppressive atmosphere, but I soon learned that racism is strong all over the U.S.," said one vigil-goer. "We have to keep fighting!"

In Philadelphia, a speakout and march called by the Philly Socialists for the night of the racist murder in Charlottesville drew out 200 people. A section of the demonstration marched to the Vine Street Expressway and blocked it for 10 minutes.

The next day, as many as 2,000 people attended a candlelight vigil near City Hall called by organizers of the Women's March. Speakers called for organizing that could push back the white supremacists everywhere they appear.

Hundreds of people turned out at other area demonstrations, including in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Collingswood, New Jersey.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a vigil at the state Capitol building Sunday night drew a crowd of nearly 1,500 people from all over south central Wisconsin. Speakers at the event came from a wide variety of groups.

Jon Cole, a welding lab coordinator at Madison Area Technical College and member of the American Federation of Teachers Local 243, said he turned out to "take a stand against the rise of white nationalism that's happening in this country. I think the rallies that they're having now show they're feeling more comfortable, and I want to do what I can to try and stop that."

Speaking for the Madison branch of the ISO, Scot McCullough told the crowd: "Charlottesville is not so different from Madison; it's a college town, a liberal stronghold...The victims of this attack could have been us...We need a mass movement that says Black Lives Matter, that says no human being is illegal, that says free abortion on demand, that says health care is a right for all."

Organizations that built the protest include Indivisible Madison, Wisconsin Progressive Alliance, Industrial Workers of the World, Socialist Alternative and the anti-racist organization Young Gifted and Black.

In Atlanta, around 1,000 people came out from across the area to several events to show support for those attacked by the right in Charlottesville, and to counteract the terror the right's actions are designed to instill.

The largest action was downtown, with as many as 400 people gathered for a speakout and march to a nearby park containing a Confederate monument. The action was organized and led by a local anti-fascist group, but the crowd was very diverse politically, ranging from members of the organized left to people with no activist experience at all.

The mood was serious, but also defiant. In the words of one speaker: "We will not be silent, we will not let fear silence us. We have to organize to ensure that more than just speaking up, we can win."

In Portland, Oregon, a vigil and speakout in solidarity with Charlottesville on August 13 drew around 600 people to the steps of City Hall. The event was organized by Portland Stands United Against Hate, a coalition of over 70 organizations formed in June to counterprotest a white supremacist group's "freedom of speech" rally one week after aracist murdered two people and severely injured a third on a commuter train.

More than 40 people spoke. Micah Fletcher, the surviving victim of the stabbings on the commuter train, gave a cutting critique of the idea of meeting white supremacist terrorism with love and nonviolence.

Speakers called for unity and bravery in the face of hate. One woman said, "We need to show up even though we are afraid."

Signs and speeches remembered not only Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, but Larnell Bruce Jr., a teen from the Portland area who was run over in a 7-11 parking lot by a member of a white supremacist group. Bruce died from his injuries that very day.

In Columbus, Ohio, 500 people marched on the Ohio Statehouse and gathered for a vigil August 13 to show support for the victims attacked by fascists in Charlottesville.

The day's events were organized by a number of individuals and groups, including local branches of DSA and the ISO, with the support of other organizations, such as Yes We Can, Columbus Citizens for Police Review, People's Justice Project, Ohio Interfaith Immigrant and the Migrant Justice Coalition, among others.

Speakers' comments connecting the threat of fascist violence to other political, social, and economic crises were meant by chants echoing these themes.

As ISO member Rachel Reiser told the crowd, "[R]ight-wing violence isn't only growing because of this administration, but has long been a hallmark of the right that has been growing before Trump was elected. It has been growing across the globe in a period of global crisis."

Among the other speakers at the rally were longtime anti-racist organizers, who talked about systemic racism, the prison-industrial complex, U.S. imperialism, anti-Semitism and the police state--while highlighting the urgent need for Columbus to start organizing itself to build the left in order to fight the right.

In the Twin Cities, some 1,000 gathered in the rain on Sunday night for a candlelight vigil near the lake known by its Lakota name Bde Maka Ska, to show that Minneapolis is united against racism.

The next day, hundreds gathered outside the office of the Minnesota Republican Party. The message coming from the speakers was clear: the far-right racism we saw in Charlottesville starts at the very top of society, and we need to build a mass movement to stop it.

Later, the crowd began marching toward downtown, its numbers swelling. As the demonstration wound through the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, a densely- opulated area with a large population of Somali immigrants, people came out of their apartments to show their support.

By the time the march reached its destination--the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility, the jail where many people arrested in Minneapolis are taken--the crowd had swelled to at least 1,000 people.

In Boston, some 300 people came out in a matter of hours to Boston Common to share their mourning and anger at the attacks on anti-racist protesters earlier that day in Charlottesville. The rally, called by Boston Feminist Liberation, consisted of speakers talking from the Common's bandstand.

"So many of us feel so helpless," said a Boston Feminist Liberation organizer. "But today, people went to Charlottesville to stand up to people who want to hurt them." A lone right-winger tried to chant down the organizer's speech, but she was undeterred.

More people filed up to the bandstand, sharing their anger and fear, but also a sense of solidarity and purpose. "We have to band together to fight fascism, as well as the administration that supports it," one speaker told the crowd.

A social worker talked about why she attended this rally: "It's hard to keep up with everything these days--it's one blow after another. But racial justice is something I feel close to my heart. It's difficult to see people elsewhere who don't feel the same way, but we're in this together. Their suffering is our suffering."

In Portland, Maine, a crowd of about 400 people gathered in Monument Square on Sunday night to stand in solidarity with victims of the alt-right in Charlottesville.

Trump was criticized for refusing to name the far right as responsible for the violence, but a majority of speakers focused on deeper systemic problems--the racism, sexism, and xenophobia that this country was founded on.

ISO member Caitrin Smith-Monahan told the crowd: "[We] must organize our side by having serious, political debates about how to move forward in a unified, comradely and democratic way. The leaders of the white supremacist movement are marching to 'unite the right.' We need to 'unite the left.'"

The crowd responded with a rousing chant of "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here."

In Orlando, Florida, more than 300 anti-racist and anti-Nazi demonstrators rallied Sunday night at a vigil in Lake Eola Park downtown.

Holding candles, the crowd marched the length of the park to the site where a statue known locally as "Johnny Reb" stood for 100 years. The statue was taken down and removed from the park in June 2017. The city relocated it in a section of Orlando's Greenwood Cemetery where Confederate soldiers are interred.

Leslie, a rally co-organizer and DSA activist, said the aim of Sunday night's event was "to help comfort the community" and to make clear that "white supremacist violence and hatred will not be tolerated." Radical School of Orlando organizer Gavin struck a militant note, saying that the "burgeoning fascist movement has to be confronted and stopped in the streets. We will not be intimidated."

In Burlington, Vermont, members of the ISO joined with the IWW, DSA, Black Lives Matter, Vermont Worker's Center, Occupy Vermont, Rights and other groups to organize a speakout and march that drew some 400 people to City Hall Park on Sunday.

Lisa Green, a resident of Charlottesville, tearfully told the crowd, "We can't have this happen in another town." Green talked about walking Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall in Burlington like the one where "the man mowed down people in a car."

In Syracuse, New York, a powerful rally in solidarity with Charlottesville drew out some 300 people.

Challenging some speakers with a more liberal point of view, Nikeeta Slade invoked the slogan: "Which side are you on?" making clear that our side is the struggle against a rising right.

ISO member Katie Feyh spoke from her experiences in Charlottesville about how 5o resist these forces. She made the case that we can't ignore these fascist forces--they will not go away--and that defeating them requires mass numbers in the streets. This was a diverse crowd, but it was mostly receptive and sympathetic to a militant politics of confrontation with the right.

Syracuse is now focused on the upcoming "counterprotest" on September 9, which should be a big opportunity to building a unified left.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, around 250 people came out to a solidarity vigil. Though organized primarily by religious and liberal organizations. there were speakers from Black Lives Matter and other groups of the radical left. Two members of the ISO who were in Charlottesville for the counterprotest spoke about what they witnessed.

In Asheville, North Carolina, a Sunday vigil swelled to as many as 500 people at tis height. The speakers were politically diverse, ranging from representatives of liberal organizations to the left.

Fear of police response caused organizes to use a weak megaphone, making it hard to hear. An attempt to march was blocked by police.

The crowd was large and diverse for Asheville. Speakers drew attention to the fact that the only free speech area downtown is associated with a Confederate monument, and it happens to stand on the site of slave market in the western North Carolina town.

Sorry for the ad on but a few inviduals were attempting to film/pictures and seemed to be far right and were forced to leave.

In Austin, Texas, about 150 people gathered for a candlelight vigil and open mic in solidarity with the anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville. The Saturday night event was the first of several over the weekend.

A common theme among the speakers was the need for what one left-wing activist called a "united front of many organizations to fight against the right."

The vigil also raised awareness that there will be a Confederate heritage event called "Dixie Freedom Rally" on September 2. A counterprotest against the racist commemoration could connect with an immigrants rights rally and concert planned for the same time and place in Austin.

In Rochester, New York, some 80 people from numerous left organizations came out to Washington Square Park hours after the racist murder in Charlottesville for a vigil.

Attendees lit candles and held a moment of silence for Heather Heyer and all the comrades wounded in Virginia. Anyone who wanted to take a turn at the microphone could address the crowd, where speakers again and again stressed the need for anyone who is not currently involved in a left-wing organization to find one and get active.

The next day, around 300 people came out to an evening demonstration, but because it was chiefly organized by the "activist wing" of the local Democratic Party, it had much less to offer people who want to fight the far right.

In New London, Connecticut, about 100 people came out to protest the white supremacist hate rally in Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Meyer.

An African American artist and protester spoke of the Black Panthers as a group of struggle to emulate. Meanwhile, a former member of the military and a trans activist spoke about Trump's disgusting "trans ban" in the military, which served as the catalyst for their "coming out" for the first time at the protest.

In El Cajon, California, east of San Diego, over 60 people representing a half-dozen organizations came out Saturday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of the right-wing terrorist attack hours earlier in Charlottesville.

The vigil took place at the site of the police murder of Alfred Olango, and the significance of the location--as well as the connection between police violence and the emboldening of the far right--was lost on no one. "This is sacred ground," said Alexander, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, before echoing the call for unity on the left to challenge the right.

J.C. Boyle, Rachel Cohen, Donnie D., Ryan Gannon, Destiny Gowdy, Felix Vonder Haar, Henry Hillenbrand, Matt Huber, Dean Imholz, Steve Leigh, Tom Lewis, Chance Lunning, Alex Macmillan, Vincent Michael, Nathan Moore, Chase Newton, Gennedy Poehner, Kiah Price, Steve Ramey, Gretchen Sager, Michelle Sapere, Thomas Scheevel, Diana Solano-Oropeza, Grant Stover, Jeremy Tully and Nikki Williams contributed to this article.

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