1) What happened in Charlottesville last week was a very big deal. It brought the issues of white supremacy and ultra-rightist terrorism to the front burner of national attention. It led to widespread condemnation of the overt racism, bigotry and violence of the ultra-right. Leaders of the military, corporate ceo’s and a number of leading Republicans separated themselves from Trump, some calling into question his ability to lead the country. Trump was exposed as a white supremacist supporter.
2) The issue of the 700 or more pro-confederate statues in public places has become a very big issue. Though symbolic, it will likely continue to be a main focus for anti-racist organizing and action, of different kinds, in the coming weeks and months.
3) It is critical that links be made by those doing this organizing between the need to deal with and reject these racist symbols and address white supremacy head on, and the issues of wealth inequality, economic injustice and the fight for a $15 minimum wage. There can’t be an anti-racist movement completely distinct and separated from other movements, particularly the economic justice movement. We need to connect the links, be explicit about the intersectionality, between all forms of injustice and oppression. This is the principled thing to do. It is also key to how we increasingly marginalize, isolate and ultimately defeat the racist ultra-rightists.
4) As far as actions confronting organized white supremacist groups when they go public, it is unlikely that, as far as the actions of the police, we will see many situations similar to what happened in Charlottesville, where the police allowed street fighting to rage without any serious efforts to intervene. In most, probably almost all, future cases, we can expect the usual police tactics of trying to keep both sides separate from each other. However, if the white supremacists are able to bring out large numbers of people, as they did in Charlottesville, that will make it harder for the police, if they genuinely want to do so, preventing angry demonstrators from both sides finding ways to confront each other.
5) Those of us who agree on the need to take action to confront public actions by the organized bigots should constructively debate the question of what are the best tactics to use in doing so. We don’t need to have complete tactical agreement, but constructive debate, if all sides come to it understanding the seriousness of the threat we all face, can sometimes lead to a breaking down of differences and the emergence of effective ways to interact in action.
6) How the “counter-protestors” interacted during the Charlottesville action may offer some important lessons. Numerous nonviolent demonstrators publicly acknowledged the important role of those who were willing to physically block and fight with the ultra-rightists in preventing greater bloodshed than there was. I haven’t heard of any instances of our side randomly smashing windows of businesses. The overall political impact of all that happened, in large part but not only because of the overt anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and violence of the Nazis and their ilk, was positive, very positive.
7) Rabbi Mordechai Liebling has written this about his experience at Charlottesville: “On one side of us, hundreds of white supremacists were shouting ‘You will not replace us’ and on the other side hundreds of anti-fascists were chanting ‘Nazi scum.’ We were about 50 clergy people, of many denominations, bearing witness and being a moral presence for love and justice. We were all crowded into the width of one street. It was frightening. . . It is the work of those white people who are able to hear their pain, attempt to reach over barriers and advocate for policies that will benefit them as well. Dehumanizing and dismissing them leads to more hatred. We will not bring about a more just society through violence.”
8) Those of us who believe in the importance of confronting neo-fascist groups and who believe in nonviolence, either tactical nonviolence and/or personal nonviolence, need to step up our game. We need more numbers at these actions, and we need to be very clear about our game plan if and when faced with violence. Traditional Gandhian nonviolent tactics would call for us to be willing to be attacked and beaten without fighting back, understanding that this will expose who it is that is the truly violent side. To do that takes tremendous courage, we should be clear.
9) There is a recent experience of this approach, to some extent. On January 20th, Inauguration Day, there were a half-dozen or more coordinated groups which established nonviolent human barricades at entrances to Trump’s inaugural parade. In a training for these a day before, I remember open discussion of what to do if Nazis or Bikers for Trump or other Trump supporters tried to break our blockades violently. As it turned out, though some people were hit and spat upon, there were no serious injuries and no majorly violent efforts to attack us. And our tactically nonviolent blockades had an effect, without a doubt.
10) Last Sunday, on the day after Charlottesville, the Peoples Organization for Progress called a press conference and rally in downtown Newark in solidarity with those who protested the neo-fascists. One of the POP leaders, toward the end of the rally, after numerous speakers had spoken of the serious threat we are facing under a Trump/Republican regime, called for a united front against fascism. That is what we need. We are confronted with that danger. And we need to act accordingly, which of necessity means finding ways to work together more effectively to fight it.
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.