Cops survey a scene of conflict in California’s capital, a struggle between fascists and antifascists. Blood is on the ground, and webcam recordings show images of members of the Ku Klux Klan and related groups, not only armed with knives but actually showing some men stabbing downward at writhing bodies beneath. One side has knives. One side has signs. Guess which side received charges of violating the law? Guess which side had been surveilled by state and federal agents long before the events of the day? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan. According to published reports in The Guardian (London), police accounts concentrated on two major groups: Antifascists and members of Black Lives Matter.
In June 2016, antifascists assembled at a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento. As expected, this rally was the site of intense emotions. Violence erupted between the two sides, with at least 8 antifascists stabbed, beaten–or both. How did it happen that none of the neo-Nazis were charged with anything; while antifascists were charged with everything? The answer is Donovan Ayres, a California Highway patrolman who was ordered to investigate the melee. He wrote hundreds of pages of notes, advocating charges against the antifascists. As for the neo-Nazis, nothing.
They have every right to protest, but what of those who oppose them? They, it seems, are simply troublemakers. Ayres did extensive research on the antifascists, including email, Facebook and even metadata. His research included Native Americans and Chicano antifascists. At the end of a hearing where Ayres testified, the DA was thanked by one courtroom observer for protecting white supremacists. One wonders, how does such a thing as this happen? How does something so outrageous occur? History provides an excellent answer, for police and fascists have ever been brothers beneath their respective uniforms.
During the 1930s, groups like the Industrial Workers of the World (known as the IWW, or “Wobblies”) tried to organize agricultural workers, especially in California’s fertile Central Valley. There, to protect the profits of landowners, police and klansmen joined to attack Wobblies, by beating, shooting and arresting them, as klansmen attacked and assaulted their children. Justin Akers Chacón and Mike Davis, in their book, No One is Illegal (Haymarket: 2006) pen a chilling portrait of the role of the Klan in this 1924 IWW union raid: “Three hundred men, women and children were in the hall attending a benefit for several men who had died in a recent railroad accident. The vigilantes viciously sapped down the surprised men and women, then turned their fury upon the terrified IWW kids, some of them barely more than toddlers” (pp.41-42). Chacón and Davis cite a contemporary source describing the Klan “dipping the children into the urn of boiling coffee”, scalding and injuring the children severely. Similarly, about a decade later, acclaimed historian Robin D. G. Kelley, in his multi-award winning book, Hammer & Hoe, recounts multiple instances of cop/Klan/vigilante allegiances, which served to intimidate Black workers in Alabama who dared to fight for militant, independent unions in the fields of agriculture and industry. It is also similar to the impunity shown by domestic terrorists allied with the police, who seldom faced charges for their acts of violence.
That’s the case for fascists. But what of the anti-fascists? After 3 long years of hearings on the Sacramento protests, 3 antifascists face charges, and an upcoming trial. Yvette Felarca, Filipina American school teacher, faces a felony assault charge, as does Black American Michael Williams. Latino-American antifascist, Porfirio Paz faces misdemeanor assault. All 3 face misdemeanor riot charges, the social costs of opposition to American fascists.
Today, once again, fascists have friends among American police, in California, in Oregon and beyond.
On Saturday April 6 there will be a special event in Berkeley, “Mumia Abu-Jamal: An Evening for Justice and Freedom” to raise money for the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. It will be held at the Bancroft Hotel Main Ballroom, 2680 Bancroft Way. This fundraiser is requesting $10-20 donations. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Speakers will include Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Pam Africa, Jeff Mackler, Judith Ritter and a phone connection with Mumia.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of Writing on the Wall.