A new far-right threat crystallizes

April 17, 2018

Nicole Colson reports on a new far-right threat against anti-racist activists.

FAR-RIGHT racists are circulating a list of the names of left-wing activists in a clear attempt to threaten and intimidate anti-racists into silence.

The threat is specifically directed against activists who were in Charlottesville, Virginia, to counterprotest when a far-right collection of racists and neo-Nazis gathered last August for the "Unite the Right" rally against the removal of Confederate monuments.

During those demonstrations, activist Heather Heyer was murdered--run down by neo-Nazi James Alex Fields as she protested against racism. Fields deliberately drove his car into the crowd, killing Heyer and injuring at least 19 others, some seriously--including Bill Burke, a member of the International Socialist Organization, publisher of SocialistWorker.org.

The list--circulated online at multiple right-wing forums, including the neo-Nazi Stormfront website and the Facebook page of "Stop Communism in America"--purports to name "All known Antifa [antifascist activists] who went to the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017 (August 11 and 13 as well)."

Fascists on the streets of Charlottesville
Fascists on the streets of Charlottesville (Rodney Dunning | flickr)

One posting of the list to the online "Mississippi Gun Owners" forum features multiple comments that are thinly veiled threats of violence against anti-racist protesters. At least one poster there claims to be a former member of the military.

Heyer's death and the attack on protesters in Charlottesville was the result of right-wing violence encouraged--sometimes tacitly, often openly--by the mainstream political right and its more overtly racist and violent "alt-right" and far-right brethren since before the election of Donald Trump.

In this polarized political climate, the far right seized on the slogan "Making America Great Again" to promote their bigoted ideology. In multiple instances, white supremacists attempted to put on a show of force with large demonstrations, including in Charlottesville.

Infamously, after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Trump took sides with the bigots, describing the violence as coming from "all sides."

"Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch," Trump said, adding that blame for the violence also belonged to those on "the left" who opposed the white supremacists.

Trump ignored the torch-wielding white supremacists who marched at night on the University of Virginia campus, followed the next day by the Charlottesville rally in which open supporters of Hitler chanted Nazi-inspired slogans, and gangs of racists targeted opposing demonstrators and people of color to beat up.

After Charlottesville, the hard organizing work of anti-racist activists in Boston, the Bay Area and other cities--mobilizing hundreds and sometimes thousands in response to far-right rallies and speaking tours--has helped to take some of the wind out of the far right's sails.

For example, alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer, a lead organizer of the Charlottesville rally, last month said he was considering suspending his speaking tour on college campuses, complaining that anti-racist protesters had succeeded in making his appearances "not fun" anymore.

THE CIRCULATION of the list of 650 activists' names to these hate sites is a reminder that the threat of fascist violence has not gone away--and that our side has to be prepared and stand in solidarity against the threat.

At least seven current or former members of the ISO--along with some members' partners--and many other activists who we know and are proud to stand alongside are listed by name. Many on the list also have their cities and political organizations listed as well.

We shouldn't let the far right's terror tactics cow us into silence, but the threats of such a list must be taken seriously. Heyer's death and the beatings in Charlottesville are only the most visible far-right attacks on anti-racists.

In February, a report from the Southern Law Poverty Center (SPLC) documented more than 100 people who have been killed or injured over the past several years by perpetrators who were clearly influenced by the alt-right.

The SPLC report notes that many of those implicated in violent assaults incubated their hate in racist neo-Nazi and alt-right online forums and social media, precisely where the new list appeared--and that online hate can spill over into real-world violence:

The violence that left one dead at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer should not be understood as the high-water mark for the movement as some analysts have argued. The alt-right worldview...will remain compelling to disaffected white males and those who claim to speak for them for the foreseeable future...Meanwhile, the alt-right is redoubling its efforts at youth recruitment, intensifying its rhetoric and calling for radical, individual action.

As one ISO activist who was on the scene in Charlottesville, explained in an interview with SocialistWorker.org, the best weapon against the fascist threat is to build the anti-racist opposition as widely as possible:

I left Charlottesville more convinced than ever that we need not only confrontation, but overwhelming numbers, and for that, we need to build with solidarity in mind as we organize for these kinds of demonstrations. We need to appeal to the layers of folks who are either too afraid to show up or haven't yet fully absorbed the threat posed by the far right, and hence make the case why it's important to mobilize.

Because our only safety is going to be in the kinds of numbers that overwhelm the other side so that they can't pick us off, so that they can't just keep us buried in skirmishes, and so they can't even have cars near us, much less assault us with them...We need entire towns marching when the fascists come to town.

Further Reading

From the archives