Sunday, June 4, 2017

Today's rally in Portland: Where do we go from here?

Four of us from Salem attended the Portland rally against hate today. Other sources are carrying news of what happened there. I want to share a few brief observations.

The rally was important largely because of the numbers involved, and the alt-right forces knew it. They were greatly outnumbered and had good reason to retreat. Despite their violent bluster, their relatively small rally was surrounded on three sides and they left looking pitifully alone and without the violence they were seeking.

The police turned their attention to the adventurist and opportuist Black Bloc or antifa anarchists and, by so doing, they allowed the fascists to get away with some of the same sorts of behaviors and law-breaking which they were attacking Black Bloc for. There are unconfirmed accounts saying that Trump supporters helped police hold and arrest some Black Bloc people.

At almost the last minute a number of organizations supporting the rally against hate withdrew from supporting the action, the action drew criticism from Jesse Jackson, a line emerged that holds that white people protesting against racist violence are actually advertising the alt-right and counterposes protesting to organizing against racism, and pacifists made a strong case for not turning out. Despite this, a couple of thousands of people---or more---turned out, and there was relatively little violence. We have to sift through the objections to the rally carefully: some of these objections have more merit than others, but the pacifist argument for demobilization is the weakest and most disappointing. The pacifists did not object on tactical grounds, but on moral grounds: the violence of the right cannot be countered by strong oppositional tactics because that's dangerous and immoral. One does not have to be a Black Bloc person to disagree with this. In fact, the pacifist position feeds Black Bloc because it does not provide an explicitly political alternative.

Let's not minimize the police violence today, or their excessive arming up. But let's also see that the media helped build an atmosphere in which many people expected heavy confrontations today and either came expecting fights and hoping for the best or stayed away out of fear. We have to confront our fear barriers where we find them, develop internal discipline, model what we learned from the Panthers and the Young Lords and build rally turnout in ways which confront or disregard our fear barriers. We go into the streets because they belong to us.

The crowd had many people in it who had participated in the womens' march, the airport protests and the May Day events. People are gaining needed experience in the streets and their determination needs to be fully validated. This experience also needs to be balanced by organizing in the workplaces and communities. Only four groups were in evidence who seem capable of carrying that out---the Indigenous Resistance people, Portland Democratic Socialists of America, Causa and the Voz Workers Right Center activists. They and the labor groups which were present are best positioned to take leadership in the future, and it seems like a safe bet that we can follow their led and win.

Some of us had the feeling that the political organization which initiated the rally was unprepared to follow through and unfairly burdened people of color organizations and others with having to carry the ball. Whether this is true in its details or not, it was clear that people of color organizations did not do mass turn out for the rally and that most people who attended the action came to yell at the fascists and not listen to speakers. We have to ask ourselves if facing off against fascists over two lanes of street traffic and a line of heavily armed cops for several hours is the best use of time and energy. On one level it looks like we took the fascist bait by engaging in the ways that we did. How do we build on that? We have to think clearly about the spectacle of a largely white crowd yelling at fascists for hours. What would it take to build a real united front with people of color organizations and have mass participation from every group?

These photos were sent to us. I don't know who took them. If they belong to you and you don't want them here, please let us know.

1 comment: