Getting in the Street

A Weekend of Defending My Community

Editor’s Note: The author(s) of this article have requested that the Phoenix publish this article under a pseudonym. As with all articles published by the Phoenix, the opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of either The Phoenix or SF DSA.

White nationalism, the driver of the so-called patriot rallies popping up around the country, calls for mass murder and the enslavement of women to achieve its goals. It appeals to very few people. But to those few people, it is intoxicating. The only thing more appealing to them, in fact, is the idea that millions more — a silent majority — agree with them and will rise to their call. They believe that they will conquer the world with superior numbers and “supreme” genetics. The only way to prove them wrong is to outnumber them every time they show up. That was why, this past weekend, I woke up and put on my DSA shirt for my first direct action.

I was really scared. All the news, old media and new, made these protests sound like death traps. I’d seen the photos: black bandanas, shields, dudes with MAGA hats and guns and cameras. Police shooting tear gas canisters into crowds of civilians while “alt-right” personalities lashed out with sticks.

But I went. I went because I know that if we want to win this, people like me who are scared need to take to the streets. I went because my friends were going and I trusted my friends. I never expected socialist organizing to be “social,” but being in a group with strong collective goals has made me feel safer, more supported, and less lonely than I’ve ever been, even as I watch the world around me grow increasingly chaotic. Two years ago, would I have put my safety on the line for anything? Never. This year, I clenched my teeth and my fists and showed up.

Imagine my surprise when the events of both San Francisco and Berkeley felt more like a street party than the guerrilla warfare I was expecting. There was some tension: in San Francisco, we exchanged communication and escape plans. Our security team taught us what to do when tear gas canisters drop. We checked the perimeter, trying to determine if the armed men on balconies were police or far-right Oathkeeper militia and, if the latter, what was in their guns. Black-clad and masked Antifa stood between us and the police officers, shielding us from whatever “crowd control” police might unleash. The mood changed when we realized the white nationalists hadn’t even shown up to their own event. You’ve seen the footage — we marched. We met with other marches. We won. We rejoiced.

In Berkeley, it was a little different. The fascists actually showed up, lashing out with sticks and pepper spray at the gathered crowds. Antifa rushed in to chase them away from the demonstrators — a group of thousands that included families, clergy, and meditation circles (gotta love Berkeley). You’ve probably seen videos going around of black bloc “attacking” one of the alt-right demonstrators, since those videos are the only ones the media feel like circulating. You didn’t see that he had pepper-sprayed the crowd immediately beforehand, and you also didn’t see the black bloc medics caring for protesters on both sides who were suffering from heat exhaustion or exposure to tear gas. You didn’t see a park filled with ordinary people, tourists, and even a lone, festive juggler, all with and fully-armed riot police staring them down. You didn’t see the black bloc shielding us from the cops.

You really didn’t see the extraordinary cooperation between a coalition of groups that don’t always get along but united through organization and communication to drive advocates of pure evil out of our home. I would never have seen it either if I’d obeyed the elected officials that claim to have my best interests at heart and not turned out. And if the other people like me, those who were scared and came out anyway, had stayed home? We wouldn’t have had the numbers. It would have been a victory for the fascists, allowing them to recruit more and emboldening them in their violence.

I’ll be at every direct action I can from now on. It’s morally right, and it isn’t illegal. My right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in the laws of this country — laws these fascists claim to respect. Unfortunately, the arm of the state seems to favor peaceful assemblies of one political leaning more than those of the other. It did not surprise me to learn that police protected fascist demonstrators who brought weapons, while arresting unarmed protesters just for having masks in their pockets. It didn’t surprise me, but it does make me sad, and it makes me all the more grateful for the people who are willing to put their safety on the line so I can be a part of the crowd behind them.

I wrote this because I’m disgusted by the wailing and hand-wringing and “many sides”-ing of politicians and reporters who weren’t there. San Francisco was a major win. Berkeley was a major win. Boston was a major win. The more ordinary people stand up for justice, the safer we all are in standing, and the more broken the other side becomes. It should be obvious now that it’s not the presence of Antifa that predicts violence, it’s the presence of fascists and the state’s insistence on prioritizing their protection over protecting the people they want to kill.

I won’t believe the national media, and neither should you. If you want to come out into the streets and stand up for what’s right, I hope you do it, and I hope I’ll see you there.


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