Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Few Of Us Attended The Salem Stands For Love Rally Today...

The rally was much larger at points than the picture above shows, there were plenty of media workers there and some good talks. Cameron Whitten did a great job in going into the crowd with our megaphone and getting people to talk and to chant. Alex from LUS hit the necessary point that organizing needs to be done and needs to involve and be led by people of color at the grassroots. This was a first-ever for some people, including the event organizer who worked hard on this effort and deserves our solidarity. Black Bloc folks showed up, got the media attention and had the expected confrontations with the cops and Trump supporters; the Trump  rally was effectively disrupted, but their march went on.

Two people, one of them a Black Bloc member, got clocked in the confrontations, and a right-winger with a weapon got busted. If the provocations came from Black Bloc, the violence came from the Trump supporters. I found the dynamic disempowering: the Black Bloc folks announced that they were there to defend us, but we didn't ask for their help and we have to live with the right-wingers here and they don't. Why can't people in this community empower ourselves to defend ourselves and determine what happens at rallies here?

I'm still trying to process what happened today. Both our crowd and the Trump supporters suffered from low turnout, and many people on our side were busy running back and forth between the two rallies. Lots of time was spent milling around, and a few people spoke about coming events and building on today. The cops were unnecessarily and stupidly causing problems and targeted us, and particular individuals. Still, at one point they let me and another comrade through their line because we are white, old and male. We lost a tactical opportunity to block or slow the Trump march on the sidewalks because so much attention was focused on the rally.

Among the Trump folks were many very angry people with racist signage, and some with the confederate battle flag and guns. Our side is also angry, but theirs comes armed and belligerent in their racism and sexism and homophobia and with their disdain for facts, feelings and discussion. It's not a matter of us being better than them, although our politics are indeed better and more nuanced, but of a contest of wills: will the U.S. be transformed into a place of peace, equality, security, environmentalism and cooperation, or will it lead the fascist camp and reaction?

How do we think about these events and where do they take us? Mobilizing is not organizing, but mobilizing against fascism is necessary. The Black Bloc presence and competing events took people away from today's events, but this is a moment when pressure and involvement are needed. If people of color are not in leadership and not showing up, what should allies, accomplices and freedom fighters do?

We have the opportunity to start organizing every day, and groups like Salem's Racial Justice Organizing Committee, Salem Resists, our socialist group and many local people of color organizations are doing that. And we have some opportunities for mobilizing and getting better at it: next week we have a rally on Wednesday and the Causa lobby day on Thursday and May Day is coming up---and we need thousands of people with us in Salem on May Day! Organizing is the test, and mobilizing is the fruit of our organizing and marks the depth of our support among the people.

Matthew Curtis Heagy, the right-wing felon arrested at the rally who was armed and used pepper spray against a cop.

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