On August 12, 2017, white-supremacist thugs launched an attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, who was intentionally hit by a car. In the years since, the frequency of such heinous incidents has been on the rise across the U.S. Ku Klux Klan rallies and events were held publicly and shamelessly in 2018– from Madison, Indiana to Anaheim, California. While the number of active KKK chapters is dwindling nationwide, those that remain active have been reinvigorated; moreover, in tandem with the reemergence of public KKK activity, there has been a steady growth in the number of other white-supremacist militias.
The Proud Boys– a group of fascist scum whose hate-filled faces reflect the perfect storm of white supremacy and patriarchy– enthusiastically took part in the attack at Charlottesville; its leader, Gavin McInnes, has made a career of trying to convince the world that these scum are not who they very clearly are: the State’s right hand, doing its dirty work– “taking out the trash.” It has been proven that, in at least one instance (in Portland, Oregon, last year), Proud Boys have been invited to assist police officers in arresting protesters. Last October, McInnes gave a speech at the Metropolitan Republican Club in Manhattan, where Proud Boys and skinheads stood shoulder-to-shoulder and attacked anti-fascists who had gathered in protest of the event.
Early 2019 saw the right-wing militia United Constitutional Patriots holding people and entire families hostage– at gunpoint, in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the night. These grievous sins were not merely allowed but often encouraged by ICE agents until public pressure grew to such a degree that the State felt compelled to make an example of the group’s leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins (also known as Johnny Horton Jr.).
White-supremacist ideology has also been expounded by “lone wolf” operators such as Patrick Crusius, a rabid racist who shot up a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, leaving twenty-one people dead and twenty-six injured because he was worried about a “Hispanic invasion;” and Santino William Legan, the fascist teen who shot up the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California– allegedly just because he was “very angry,” but it was soon discovered that he was a firm believer in “Social Darwinism,” or racism-for-snobs. Both of these murderous rampages took place in the summer of 2019.
The years since Charlottesville have brilliantly exemplified the abject failure of liberalism and the waste of any effort expended towards working “within the system” built on white supremacy. When what was very clearly a ban on Muslims’ ability to enter the U.S. was initially proposed, people flooded the airports; for a moment, it seemed that “people power” in the liberal sense had won the day, as the courts rejected the ban some days later. A very similar ban with only one minor change was also rejected; but the third time was the charm. By simply adding two countries to the ban list that were not majority-Muslim, the ban was passed.
No one flooded the airports this time.
In 2018, the public became horrified to learn that families were being separated at the border– a practice that in fact had been taking place for decades in the U.S., but that had become immediately and disturbingly more common under the current regime. In June, Trump signed an executive order convincing liberals that these separations would end; now, today, in August 2019, they are still very much happening. Many children who have been so separated are effectively missing, as are many parents. The goals that were fake-set last summer for returning children to their families remain as much a fantasy now as they were then.
The end of 2018 saw scores of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed liberals celebrating the “Blue Wave” that was supposed to put an end to all of these horrors (all of which were, at one point or another, perpetuated by “blue” people). Today, the Muslim Ban remains in place; state after state is restricting abortions to the point of effectively outlawing them; children are still being ripped from the arms of their parents, and people are still dying in detention centers, as well as in the desert and in prisons everywhere. Well-meaning individuals such as Scott Walker, a volunteer with No More Deaths who gave water and shelter to two people in the desert, face over twenty years in cages for demonstrating this most basic humanity.
We stand on the cusp of a new historical reality…
In spite of these bleak realities, there is reason for hope now that did not exist in 2018, or in 2017. People are actually starting to resist. Not rhetorically, and not electorally; but people are finally beginning to understand that the current system is cruel, horrific, and unsustainable, and good people of conscience are stepping up to draw a firm line in the sand, risking everything in the process.
On July 13, 2019, Willem Van Spronsen was murdered during his attempt to sabotage an ICE facility in Tacoma, Washington. His final words begin as follows: “There’s wrong and there’s right. it’s time to take action against the forces of evil. evil says on life is worth less than another. evil says the flow of commerce is our purpose here. evil says concentration camps for folks deemed lesser are necessary. the handmaid of evil says the concentration camps should be more humane. beware the centrist.”
He also provides some useful historical analysis for those who are not yet ready to admit where we are today: “When I was a boy, in post-war Holland, later France, my head was filled with stories of the rise of fascism in the ’30s. I promised myself that I would not be one of those who stands by as neighbors are torn from their homes and imprisoned for somehow being perceived as lesser…Are you going to just stand by?”
Exactly one month later, on August 13, 2019– just weeks after the El Paso Walmart shooting– someone who has yet to be identified fired at ICE offices in San Antonio, Texas. This act confirmed what could before only be hoped for: that Willem’s actions were not a one-off. That people are starting to see the forest through the trees.
Throughout August, citizens in revolt doused NYPD officers with water. On August 14th, at least six police officers were shot during an attempted raid in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Just three days later, on August 17th, 2019, police ruthlessly unleashed pepper spray upon families celebrating “Marcy Day” at Marcy Houses in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, New York. Undaunted, residents defended themselves by throwing various objects at the police, injuring three officers.
This moment is unique, in terms of both human potential and human will– the true components of People Power, neither of which can be voted or chanted into existence. It is also nothing special: just another round of folks waking up to the sounds, sights, and smells of their own oppression; just another swath of humanity rejecting its shackles. We are in a unique position to learn from revolutionary history and honor the memories of those who have fought and died attempting to dismantle white supremacy by finishing what they started. We already know what forms of manipulation and brutality can be expected; but we also know that it isn’t just the radicals promoting revolution right now. It is something with which the people at large– more people than many of us have previously imagined– are willing to engage.
We stand on the cusp of a new historical reality, in which State propaganda increasingly fails, phasing itself out of existence; in which Neighbor and Friend become Comrade– first one by one, then in clusters, later in droves; and in which systems that keep people in cages and allow them to be abused and violated are abolished, once and for all. We are moving ever closer to this vision; but among the essential tasks of any revolutionary is to recognize when to walk, and when to leap.