On Jan. 20, more than 200 people protesting Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., were arrested by highly militarized cops who sprayed them with chemical agents and then detained them in the cold rain for many hours. They were charged with Felony Riot Act, which carries 10 years and a $25,000 fine. As one arrestee from International Workers of the World in Baltimore told Workers World, “[Prosecutor] Kirkhoff has never prosecuted protesters before. She does a lot of homicide cases. She specifically asked for this case. My lawyer said it would be ‘consistent with her personality’ if she had a political axe to grind.”
Neo-Nazis (also known as alt-right) are licking their chops at the prospect of more than 200 front-line fighters spending years in jail instead of in the streets shutting down their rallies. Alt-right spokesman and Brietbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was slated to speak at the University of California, Berkeley Feb. 1, but massive protests caused the university to cancel last minute. There was one arrest. Donald Trump, in response, threatened to pull federal funding from the university.
The next day, legions of cops arrested 11 freedom fighters at New York University. Anti-fascist activists were trying to shut down white supremacist and VICE brand creator Gavin McInnes from speaking. Inside the safety of a building, McInnes was captured on film crying while making a report to the cops. A Workers World Party member reported, “The vibe in the crowd was a unified front against fascism. It was good to see young communists and anarchists working together. For example, we commandeered a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat from a hubristic white male who decided to walk through our crowd. We worked together to take his hat and start that f*cker on fire, using communist flyers and an anarchist’s lighter.”
The right wing knows its best champion is the state. Killer cops who gun down thousands each year and lock up millions of Black and Brown people take no issue with white supremacists or neo-Nazis. Go to a Klan rally to see for yourself who the cops are protecting and serving. After the murder of Alton Sterling this past summer, Black Lives Matter activists were hunted through the streets of Baton Rouge, La., tackled and beaten by cops. The streets of D.C. on Jan. 20 were mainly bereft of right-wing paramilitaries, such as Bikers for Trump, because they knew, rightly so, that the state was now in the hands of out and proud neo-Nazis. The cops were the real fascistic paramilitaries.
Many whites, finding themselves for the first time on the other side of a police baton, chanted at cops during airport shutdowns against the Muslim Ban beginning Jan. 4: “Take off your riot gear! I don’t see no riot here!” This is an erroneous chant that could be misunderstood as separating the new masses in the streets from the struggles at Standing Rock and in Ferguson, Mo. It is right to resist, and whether they realize it yet or not, they are standing against the same state as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Water Protectors.
Now the state wants to bring heavy charges against J20 resisters. Different collectives and affinity groups have started raising money, and the strategy seems to be using busy public defenders. Since defendants come from all over the country, it’s difficult to get everyone in the same room for a meeting, much less to agree on a unified legal strategy. The fear is that while some white defendants may be able to secure decent legal representation, those who are poor or of color may not be able to do that. What an absolute tragedy it would be to have what was a multinational, multigender group of freedom fighters split as they are on the job, at school or in the eyes of the cops.
Unions were created so that individual workers could unite to form one fist against the bosses. Collectively presenting demands and undertaking direct action were the only way to defeat the bosses. Defense committees work in much the same way. Instead of saying “everyone for themselves,” defendants unite to come up with a common political, tactical and logistic strategy. Instead of a handful of people in New York organizing separately from a handful of people in Baltimore, all can agree on common principles and basic ground rules, such as no snitching and transparency about defense funds and how they are used.
These issues and tasks may be difficult to undertake, but the clock is ticking as hearings have already begun and will continue over the coming weeks and months. Taking on the most notorious empire on the face of the planet is no easy task, but it’s up to us to do it. The state is united in its purpose to smash resistance to white supremacy and imperialism, and that means first smashing unity between freedom fighters in the streets. We must show unified support for these defendants, and the defendants themselves must show unity among their ranks. A single individual is nothing to a state that spends billions tearing up whole societies both at home and abroad. We are stronger together — not just in our action, but in our defense of one another.
Please show support for those arrested on Jan. 20. Encourage unity and demand that ALL CHARGES are dropped by signing the petition at tinyurl.com/jkxpwad.