Facebook event Everything is up in the air. The government is in chaos, risking peace in Ireland by making a pact with hard-line Ulster loyalists. There have been a number of terrorist attacks in quick succession. No one knows where Brexit negotiations will take us. The horror of Grenfell tower has created huge public anger […]
By Joshua Hersh
WASHINGTON — In the spring of 2016, Brian Levin found himself in an uncomfortable position: trying to save the life of a Ku Klux Klan member.
Levin, a former New York City cop who studies domestic extremism as the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, was documenting a Klan rally in Anaheim, California, when a counterprotest suddenly took a violent swing — forcing Levin to physically place himself between a Klansman and a furious, anti-fascist mob that seemed ready to kill.
It made Levin wonder if in his focus on the obvious subject — the white supremacists — he’d overlooked a growing source of extremism: the far left. “At that point, I said we have something coalescing on the hard left,” Levin told VICE News.
Wednesday morning’s shooting of Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Virginia seemed to raise the question again. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, was a Bernie Sanders-supporting man from Illinois with a record of anti-Trump rantings on social media. His politics have quickly become a talking point among some conservative pundits seeking a quick political score: proof of a looming leftist campaign against the government, or a sign of equivalency with the type of violence that normally comes from the right.
Experts in homegrown extremism say it’s not so simple — Hodgkinson had no known association to any left-wing extremist group. But they also say that the past few months have seen enough of a rise in politically motivated violence from the far left that monitors of right-wing extremism have begun shifting their focus, and sounding the alarm. They see indications that the uptick in extremist rhetoric and anti-government activism that characterized the early years of the Obama presidency are beginning to manifest on the far left in the early days of Trump’s, and that the two sides are increasingly headed for confrontation.
“I think we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the Left,” said Oren Segal, the director of the Center on Extremism, an arm of the Anti-Defamation League. Over the past few months, the ADL, which hosts regular seminars on homegrown extremism for law enforcement officials, has begun warning of the rising threat posed by far-left groups, most recently at a seminar just this past Sunday. “When we have anti-fascist counterprotests — not that they are the same as white supremacists — that can ratchet up the violence at these events, and it means we can see people who are violent on their own be attracted to that,” Segal said. “I hate to say it, but it feels inevitable.”
The evidence is so far largely anecdotal. Levin says that since December 2015, he’s documented nearly two-dozen episodes in California where political events turned violent because of agitation on both sides, something he says he hardly ever saw before. Now, there are violent clashes on college campusesinvolving groups like Antifa, the anti-fascist group, taking on the alt-right; and aggressive anti-Trump rallies attended by members of the Redneck Revolt, a new pro-minority, anti-supremacist group that encourages its members to train with rifles. Online, hard leftists increasingly discuss politics in dire terms, and rationalize violence as a necessity— even the true inheritor of traditional progressive activism. (Or, in the case of the “Punch a Nazi” meme, a fun game.)
Left-wing extremism, of course, is nothing new. Groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers have deep roots, and in the years after 9/11, Segal says, the largest source of extremist violence was from the Left: eco-terrorists and animal rights activists. But those later organizations mostly targeted institutions; in the modern era, politically motivated violence perpetrated by angry lone-wolf attackers bearing automatic rifles, of the sort carried out in Wednesday’s attack, has until now largely been a modus operandi of the far right.
In a recent interview with VICE News Tonight, a chapter leader of one newly formed anti-fascist group called Redneck Revolt said the group has taken up guns only in self-defense. “We are a response to a rise in politically motivated violence and intimidation against vulnerable communities,” said the chapter leader, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mitch. “That doesn’t mean that we’re, like, looking for a fight. We’re just trying to defend ourselves.”
Redneck Revolt doesn’t self-identify as “left,” but its ideals tend to fall along the liberal side of the spectrum: pro-Muslim, pro-immigrant, pro-LGBT, anti–economic inequality. But Mitch said that the group had also found unlikely common cause with some members of the local Three Percenter Militia, a largely right-wing, anti-Obama group. In fact, some Three Percenters have even started to attend Redneck Revolt meetings, Mitch said.
Chris Hamilton, an expert on American extremist movements at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, says anti-authoritarian sentiment may be blurring what once seemed to be clear ideological lines. “If you think about it, leftists never joined the National Rifle Association — unless they were radicals, they never thought about stockpiling weapons,” he said. “Ok. Well, maybe we’re entering a period where leftists will start thinking about things in that way, like the eco-radicals did in the ’70s.”
Hamilton says that as he browses far-left websites and listens to left-wing talk radio, he hears some of the same sentiments he’s been hearing for years on the right. “These days, that kind of sentiment is popping up in the middle and on the left; it’s not just in the sovereign citizen movement,” he said. “I’m really worried about rising civil strife in the U.S.”
Levin is worried about it too: The embrace by the far left of tactics that were previously the purview of the far right means the level of political tension in the country can only go up. “I’ve been going up and down the state of California meeting with law enforcement officials about this. I’m very concerned about it,” he said. “What we’re seeing is the democratization of extremism and the tactics of radicalism. I’ve been warning about this, and nobody gave a shit.”
Edited for mb3-org.com
Denver’s “March Against Sharia” was hot as fuck. Next time we’re going with mesh bloc. The protest itself was about what we’ve come to expect from these freedom loving, small government-advocating, tough guy types: they spend about an hour shouting at leftists behind multiple lines of law enforcement, get bored, and then end their rally […]
So the folks at the Daily Stormer like to get together and do Nazi shit fairly regularly. They like to hang out and take photos of themselves giving the Nazi salute, like this one: These in-person meet ups augment their delightful online banter. We’re big fans of Aureliuss, who offers some insightful commentary [CW: Racial […]
On Sunday the 18th of June, the German neo-nazi hooligans of HoGeSa want to join up with a group of the Dutch Pegida’s racists to demonstrate in Enschede (NL). In 2014 HoGeSa assembled well over 5000 neo-nazi hooligans in Cologne, where they attacked local residents, migrants and anti-fascists. The German nazi’s have now picked Enschede to propagate their violence as well as their racist views. We can’t allow this to happen. Stop the international nazi demonstration in Enschede!
Aside from that the German neo-nazis that call themselves HoGeSa (Hooligans Gegen Salafismus) calls for people to come to Enschede, the notorious neo-nazi band Kategorie C will perform at the demonstration. Kategorie C have repeatedly played at shows organized by the international terror network Blood and Honour and are very popular within the neo-nazi scene. Kategorie C’s performances have been banned in Germany for quite some time now, which is why they seek refuge in countries like The Netherlands.
However, it is not only German and Dutch nazis that urge people to come to the demonstration. There will also be speakers from the fascist Britain First. This way, the nazis are trying to set up a big nazi demonstration. We can not and will not allow a recurrence of what happened in Cologne in 2014. If this happens, we will be looking back on the biggest nazi demonstration in The Netherlands since the Second World War. This is why we have to do our utmost to prevent this event from happening. Together we can stop the nazi’s!
18th of June 2017
Time: 12:00 (Location to be announced!)
Antifa demo: Stop the international nazi demonstration in Enschede
Around one hundred anti-Islam activists gathered for a “March Against Sharia Law” Saturday in Foley Square, where they were met by several larger counter-demonstrations led by the Council of American Islamic Relations, the Muslim-Jewish Anti-Fascist Front, and a host of other progressive organizations. A heavy police presence kept the two factions separate for most of the day, though a few small fights did break out in the margins of the park. Four arrests were made during the rally, all of them on the pro-Muslim side, and Oath Keeper Frank Morganthaler was removed in an ambulance after going into cardiac arrest. His condition is not yet known.
The rally, part of a nationwide “March Against Sharia” that took place in more than 20 cities Saturday, was organized by ACT for America, a Trump-aligned lobbyist organization and the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. In recent weeks, the planned events have become flashpoints for free speech debates—most notably in Portland, Oregon where the mayor called on federal authorities to cancel the city’s rally in the wake of two fatal stabbings carried out by a man yelling anti-Muslim slurs. ACT was also forced to release a statement disavowing the Arkansas march after it came to light that the event’s lead organizer is an avowed white supremacist who’d previously advocated for the extermination of Muslims.
Likewise, New York’s anti-Sharia demonstration featured a mix of self-identified human rights defenders and outright white nationalists (“If you’re not a white Christian, don’t talk to me,” one woman, who declined to offer a name, told me). About a dozen walkie-talkie wearing Oath Keepers provided security for the attendees, who carried signs reading “Sharia is hate” and “No more Muslims.” The group also included such alt-right luminaries as Gavin McInnes, the leader of the Proud Boys, and Lauren Southern, a Canadian media personality who recently attempted to block a boat of refugees from entering Italy. At one point, a counter-demonstrator sprayed Southern with an unidentified liquid, allegedly urine. He was later arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a noxious matter, according to an NYPD spokesperson.
Such confrontations were the exception during the heavily barricaded event, with most of the hostility confined to taunting and chanting exchanged from opposite sides of Centre Street. “We will not yield to the Marxist left,” said Pax Hart, who helped organize the rally, over a cacophony of cowbells and air horns intended to drown out the speeches. “We don’t have to apologize for standing up to the Islamofascist movement.”
“This is the internet in real life, everyone giving you a thumbs up or thumbs down, but now we get to look you in the face, and all you know how to do is make f*cking noise,” shouted Paul Bazile, a production designer for Proud Boys magazine, in the direction of the counter-protesters. He noted that some would-be supporters had expressed fear of a terrorist attack on the site, but added, “I’m standing here with Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Red Elephants, and the NYPD. I’ve never felt safer in my life.”
On the pro-Muslim side of the street, many of those in attendance were jubilant over their relative crowd size. “It’s incredible, suddenly we have Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ, Asians, women, brown people, black people who all kind of feel targeted, so we said let’s go out and confront intolerance with creative courage,” Vishavjit Singh, otherwise known as Sikh Captain America, told Gothamist. “I’ve lived stereotypes as a turban and beard person all my life, but I use that as inspiration to build bridges.”
Just after 2 p.m., only a handful of anti-Sharia ralliers remained, as the counter-protesters, still at least one hundred strong, began marching south. At City Hall Park, some activists paid tribute to those who’d been killed in Portland, while others formed a circle to discuss future actions.
“It was really great to see multiple left groups come together and share the space to unify around this message,” said Eman Abdelhadi, the cofounder of the Muslim Jewish Anti-Fascist Front. “The free speech argument is a strawman when you’re inciting violence, and we have just as much of a right to show up and tell them that they’re wrong.”
Edited For mb3-org.com
As Donald Trump’s administration digs itself deeper and deeper into trouble, many people are looking to the corporate media, the FBI, the judicial system, or other recognized authorities to resolve this situation. Yet every effective measure against Trump and his cronies has begun with grassroots efforts. Even if he is deposed by other elements within the state, it will only further legitimize the structures through which politicians like him are able to do so much damage in the first place, setting the stage for other politicians to continue carrying out the same activities. Our freedom and safety will not be assured until we can defend them ourselves, through direct action, without need of leaders or representation. To drive home this point, we’ve prepared a poster, which we encourage you to print out, mass-produce, and put up in the streets where you live.
Resistance Is the Front Lines of Hope
When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, anarchists and other opponents of the state swung into action. While liberals and party leftists were still reeling, anarchists immediately called for combative demonstrations at the outset of the Trump regime, and took to the streets alongside other angry people to show that business as usual would be impossible under Trump.
In the first days of Trump’s administration, countless people came together in courageous acts of resistance, confronting the authorities and shutting down airports and other infrastructure. This succeeded in breaking the ruling class consensus around Trump, destabilizing his administration and undermining its efforts to shift the US government from a neoliberal strategy for managing capitalism to an overtly nationalist strategy. Had resistance continued at that intensity, neoliberalism, too, might have been in danger.
Unfortunately, this momentum was a victim of its own success. As soon as it achieved a few victories, good liberals began to stay home watching the news and “liking” things on Facebook rather than putting their bodies on the line. Meanwhile, realizing that his initial strategy had failed, Trump demoted nationalist advisor Steve Bannon, ordered an airstrike in Syria, and tried to cozy up to the neoliberal elements of the deep state. If he succeeds in doing so, he will be able to push through his racist, nationalist agenda under the cover of ordinary governance, just as Obama did.
It’s naïve to hope that CNN, the FBI, or the Democratic Party will thwart Trump’s authoritarian ambitions. They are just as essential to the power structure as Trump himself, just as complicit in its functioning. Grassroots resistance has been the only thing that has succeeded in putting the brakes on Trump’s advance. Every victory against him has begun with people taking action on their own initiative. If we hadn’t blockaded the airports, would any judge have had the guts to block the Muslim ban? If we hadn’t flooded the streets, would White House employees have taken the risk of leaking information?
Going forward, we must remember the lessons of the opening of the Trump era: that even in the face of the most powerful empire in the history of the world, we have tremendous power, as long as we don’t look to others to act in our place. Together, we can take back our lives and disable the institutions through which our rulers seek to dominate us. No party, politician, or organization can do this for us. Let’s become ungovernable and free.
This text was submitted to the 2018 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar in recognition of their important work to support political prisoners throughout North America for nearly two decades now.