An avalanche of anti-Nazi resistance

August 29, 2017

Eric Ruder rounds up reports of anti-fascist actions from around the country on August 26 and 27.

THOUSANDS OF people across the U.S. marched against white supremacist groups on August 26 and 27, answering the call issued by activists in the Bay Area for a National Weekend of Solidarity against Hate. The far right had scheduled events on both days in the Bay Area but ended up canceling both of them, while rallies, marches and dance parties against racism celebrated their success in forcing the white supremacists back into the shadows.

In Chicago, activists went to work immediately upon hearing that the far right was once again targeting Berkeley and that anti-racist groups in the Bay Area had issued a call for a solidarity actions across the U.S.

Beginning with a rally at Federal Plaza, people then marched to Trump Tower, where as many as 2,000 stood united in celebration, but with a sense of seriousness about the road ahead.

Fifty-one organizations endorsed and helped to build the August 27 rally under the slogan "Solidarity Against White Supremacy." The coalition included nine union locals, six socialist organizations, and people representing almost every oppressed group that has been targeted by the far right and neo-Nazis.

Marching against racism in Chicago on August 27
Marching against racism in Chicago on August 27 (Carole Ramsden | SW)

The fear that the far right aims to inspire with their rallies and violent attacks does not always have its intended effect: sometimes it helps people find the strength to resist.

"My husband is white, and my daughter is Black," said one Chicago resident. "We're a multiracial family. I don't know what happens to multiracial families in a white ethno-state. Before we get to that point, I felt like it's time to get out and say something."

Rally attendees felt an urgent need for more conversations about race. "I think it starts with those kinds of conversations, but it has to move into organizing," said Chicago resident Bridgit Gallagher. "We have to be part of movements that are working to have power, collective people power."

There was a sense that the far right, though a small minority, has made a big impact on national politics because they are organized and vocal. That means we also need to be organized and vocal to confront them.

In Seattle, about 1,500 people gathered August 26 evening for a demonstration organized by Black Lives Matter activists in solidarity with the Bay Area Rally Against Hate.

Protesters filled Westlake Park in the heart of downtown for a short rally before marching up through the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Capitol Hill. Residents cheered in support and joined in as marchers chanted "Whose lives matter? Black lives matter!" and "No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA!"

The march proceeded through some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city before arriving at Lake View Cemetery, home to a Confederate monument. The monument was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1926 to honor the "memory of the united Confederate veterans." They used granite shipped in from Stone Mountain, Georgia, the birthplace of the KKK and the site of a massive stone carving depicting Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

In front of a line of riot cops blocking demonstrators from entering the cemetery, protesters held a speak-out demanding removal of the monument, discussing experiences with racism, demanding justice for local victims of police murder like Charleena Lyles and Che Taylor, among others, and declaring that the far right and white supremacy aren't welcome in our city.

In San Diego, about 600 participated in a "Rally Against Hate" on August 27, marching from Balboa Park to downtown. Speakers were united in depicting Donald Trump as merely the latest avatar of America's racist oppression, a message underscored by the colonialist imagery that dominates the museum district where the marchers first congregated.

The demonstrators struck tones alternately triumphant and defiant as they marched down 6th Avenue, moods echoed by the speakers later in the afternoon. "If they call you a snowflake," said Stephanie, of Together We Will, "say, 'That's right--and I'm part of an avalanche that's coming.'"

Speakers celebrated the enthusiasm of the day and the success of the other rallies throughout the country, but reminded attendees that the struggle is only beginning. "This is a victory rally," said Avery Wear, a member of SEIU Local 221, "but because capitalism regenerates social misery, we have to keep fighting."

"The fight doesn't just end when Trump is gone," said Yasmin, an organizer of last month's Impeachment March. "The fight ends when we're free."

In Columbus, Ohio, an ad hoc group of community organizations called Columbus United Against Hate organized a rally on Ohio State University's (OSU) campus that brought out around 200 people and was endorsed by more than 40 organizations.

The diverse event offered a breadth of perspectives and opinions--from the Council on American-Islamic Relations to Standing Up for Racial Justice, from the Ohio Green Party to the OSU Department of English, and from the Central Ohio Reconciling Methodists to the OSU A Cappella Alliance. The event displayed the potential in Columbus for a broad, fighting coalition against the far right.

Many speakers drew out the connections between the rise of the "alt-right" and other issues. "White supremacy affects the people who come to us for care and their ability to determine their own destiny and autonomy over their own bodies," said Sarah Inskeep of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. "Anti-abortion protesters stand outside our health centers every day harassing and intimidating our patients...These anti-choice groups are the same hate groups that are showing up in places like Charlottesville."

Dkeama Alexis and Ariana Steele from Black Queer Intersectional Columbus (BQIC) spoke about how fighting the "alt-right" relates to fighting for justice for the Black Pride 4, a group of Black queer and trans individuals who were brutalized by police and arrested on trumped-up charges during the Columbus Pride Parade this past June.

In New York City, more than 150 people gathered in Union Square in solidarity with the Bay Area anti-fascist mobilizations. The rally was endorsed by a broad array of organizations, including Science for the People NYC, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Fight Back Bay Ridge and the Movement of Rank and File Educators–UFT.

Throughout the event, organizers signed people up for an emergency response network so anti-fascist groups in New York will be better prepared to mobilize counterprotests against future attempts by neo-Nazis to demonstrate.

Becky Chonigman, a college student and activist, said that the unwillingness of Trump to denounce white supremacists compelled her to attend the rally.

Speakers from Black Lives Matter, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and several other organizations addressed the crowd, and many pointed out the urgent need for solidarity with undocumented immigrants and students, who are daily confronted with the threat of the far right as well as stepped-up raids by immigration authorities.

"As educators, we see our students' learning conditions as our working conditions, and when our students are in fear because of ICE, it is our duty to improve their learning conditions," said the speaker from Movement of Rank-and-File Educators.

ISO member Yasmine Kamel was the rally's final speaker. "The fascists use the suffering of poor white people--and the failures of the Democrats and Republicans--to make a place for themselves," she said. "We need to confront them and show the people that their real enemies are racists, corporations and capitalism."

In Madison, Wisconsin, more than 65 people representing a host of local organizations came together at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Bascom Hill for a "Solidarity Against Hate" action.

Spearheaded by the Madison branch of the International Socialist Organization, the event garnered endorsements from various groups, including Socialist Alternative, Indivisible, Teaching Assistants Association, Democratic Socialists of America, Wisconsin Progressive Alliance, the Muslim Student Organization, UW Blackout, Friends of Animal Liberation and others.

"Love does not look like complicity," said ISO member Mai Lien Dombroe in kicking off the event. "We win the war against oppression and exploitation by showing up, plugging in, and getting organized. This is our chance to win the world we deserve, and in order to win that world, we will have to organize and fight for it."

Nick Puetz, a member of Socialist Alternative, made the case for confronting racial disparities at an institutional level. Outlining the failures of the Trump administration to address fascist violence, Puetz urged the crowd to look to social movements to achieve change. "No one is coming to save us," said Puetz. "We must save ourselves and each other."

The group then marched down Bascom Hill, chanting with banners and signs in hand. Chants included "¡Trump, escucha, estámos en la lucha!" and "United we stand, divided we fall, an injury to one is an injury to all."

In Boston, where one week earlier some 25,000 people mobilized to chase the Nazis from the streets, members of the ISO gathered near Simmons College in solidarity with Berkeley.

Most had not heard about the effort to confront the Nazis in the Bay Area, but some had themselves attended anti-fascist events, and everyone agreed with the importance of doing so.

Many were drawn to the signs we assembled--"Fight the right from Boston to Berkeley," "We are many, they are few" and "Join the socialists! A better world is possible."

Sam Bernstein, JC Boyle, Kyle Gilbertson, Sylvia Johnson, Josh McDuffie, Rachel Reiser and H. Yilmaz contributed to this article.

Further Reading

From the archives