People gathered in roughly 700 locations around the U.S. over the weekend in response to violence in Charlottesville instigated by right wing extremists on August 12. Activist Heather Heyer died, and 19 others were injured in an act of terrorism perpetrated by a young Nazi sympathizer. Virginia State troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates died in a helicopter crash as the day came to a close.
The “Unite the Right” rally brought traditional white supremacist groups and militant members of the so-called alt-right together for what they hoped would be a clarion call to the darkest side of the American psyche. Years of dog whistles from the highest echelons of politics promoting fear of the ‘other’ paid off on Saturday, as advocates of hatred openly displayed their wares.
The President of the United States refused his staff’s entreaties to issue a statement directly condemning the far right, instead choosing to deflect blame using the “many sides” misdirect.
This is what a hero looks like. pic.twitter.com/oVFMyYXtan
— Tim Fullerton (@TimFullerton) August 14, 2017
There were three vigils in San Diego mourning the deaths in Virginia and denouncing hate, one Saturday night in El Cajon, two on Sunday in Encinitas and downtown San Diego.
The Union-Tribune covered the Saturday event in El Cajon, putting the crowd number at 70:
One speaker called images from Charlottesville, Va. “horrifying” as video footage showed a motorist plowing into a crowd, hitting several people, then backing rapidly away. Police later made an arrest. A 32-year-old woman died after being run down by the car.
“We’ve seen this before, in the 20s in Italy and in the 30s in Germany,” Monty Kroopkin said at the El Cajon gathering, calling extremists in Charlottesville fascists and neo-Nazis. He said he hoped the nighttime vigil would show that “There’s more of us than there are of them.”
The peaceful crowd gathered behind Los Panchos taco shop on Broadway at Mollison Street, the site where Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot by an El Cajon police officer on Sept. 27 last year.
The downtown event was held outside the County Administration Building, the same location where right wing extremists associated with the “Proud Boys” disrupted an anti-Trump rally on July 2nd.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s stood by and initially did nothing as individuals clad in street combat gear threatened participants, using a hand held amplifying blaring siren noises to drown out speakers.
It was a miracle –in my opinion– that there was no violence on the waterfront. Frantic phone calls to elected officials finally brought on a modicum of police intervention, mostly of the “both sides” flavor. Anti-Trump rally organizers were required to relocate their public address system to a new location, ceding the original spot for the rally to a rag tag group obviously looking for a fight.
Organizers of the rally have taken their complaints to the San Diego County Community Law Enforcement Review Board and expect to have a public hearing in October.
It’s fair to wonder at this point if police inaction in these situations isn’t about making a statement of support.
A team of journalists at ProPublica published a report accusing Virginia State police and National Guardsmen of “watching passively for hours as self-proclaimed Nazis engaged in street battles with counter-protesters.”
There was nothing haphazard about the violence that erupted today in this bucolic town in Virginia’s heartland. At about 10 a.m. today, at one of countless such confrontations, an angry mob of white supremacists formed a battle line across from a group of counter-protesters, many of them older and gray-haired, who had gathered near a church parking lot. On command from their leader, the young men charged and pummeled their ideological foes with abandon. One woman was hurled to the pavement, and the blood from her bruised head was instantly visible.
Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades — and did nothing.
It was a scene that played out over and over in Charlottesville as law enforcement confronted the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades. We walked the streets beginning in the early morning hours and repeatedly witnessed instances in which authorities took a largely laissez faire approach, allowing white supremacists and counter-protesters to physically battle.
Among the speakers at Sunday evening’s candlelight vigil on the waterfront, organized by a coalition of groups including Indivisible chapters and the Women’s March, were Congressman Scott Peters, Rev. Gerald W. Brown, Executive Director, United African American Ministerial Action Council, Imam Taha Hassane, Director of Public Interfaith Relations, Islamic Center of San Diego, Rev. Beth Johnson, Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Cheri Metier, Interfaith Center for Worker Justice of San Diego, and Yusef Miller, Community Outreach Coordinator, Council on Islamic Relations.
Musical performers included the San Diego Peace and Freedom Singers and San Diego Women’s Choir. The event ended with a stirring rendition of “This Land is My Land.”
From the Union-Tribune coverage:
About 1,000 people gathered for a unity vigil at the County Administration Center Sunday evening — one of thousands to take place across the country in the wake of a white supremacist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va.
Many were holding signs, but one slogan that peppered a number of posters stood out: “If you’re not outraged, you aren’t paying attention.”
The quote was the last thing Heather D. Heyer publicly posted to Facebook before her death. The 32-year-old woman was run over by a suspected white nationalist during a counter-protest.
Los Angeles Times coverage included gatherings at City Hall in LA, where hundreds of participants carried signs saying: “Stop white terrorism,” “Nazi scum,” “White silence = white consent,” and “There is only one side” — a reference to Trump’s widely criticized remarks blaming the violence on “many sides.”
More from the Times:
In Long Beach, a large crowd of people gathered at Harvey Milk Promenade Park for a candlelight vigil to “stand in solidarity” with Charlottesville. In Oakland’s Latham Square, organizers said Sunday night, several hundred showed up for what police called a peaceful demonstration….
…Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets in the Bay Area late Saturday, with some demonstrators in Oakland setting off fireworks and briefly halting traffic on I-580. In Orange County, 150 people rallied against racism in Sasscer Park in Santa Ana, organizers said.
The Press Enterprise reported on vigils held in Temecula, Redlands, and Riverside.
Reaction from the far right part of the political spectrum indicated satisfaction with the way things in Charlottesville turned out, especially the President’s refusal to specifically condemn white supremacist and Neo-Nazi participants.
From the Huffington Post:
White supremacists were more than pleased with his reaction. “Trump’s comments were good,” read a post on the prominent white nationalist site Daily Stormer as they live-blogged yesterday’s events.
“He refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him,” the post continued. “No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
This is the flyer for the rally in Charlotteville. The one Trump won’t speak up against. Jews who still support him: time to open your eyes. pic.twitter.com/i0tolcQCcN
— Elad Nehorai (@PopChassid) August 13, 2017
Later in the day, the Neo-Nazi site posted a story about the women who died in Charlottesville, under the headline: “Heather Heyer, Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident Was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut.”
Complaints directed at hosting site Go Daddy led them to give the haters 24 hours to find a new home for their propaganda.
(It should be noted that Go Daddy refused to respond to previous protests regarding their hosting Daily Stormer, which was a major factor in the SD Free Press not considering them when we moved our operations earlier in 2017.)
Keegan Hankes, a research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Variety right wing groups were banking on the publicity from the August 12 event to swell their ranks.
“You’ll see the whole (white nationalist) machine swing into action when this is all over,” he said. “You’ll see them very selectively pushing out images that show fake numbers and peaceful demonstrations by their groups. They’ll portray violent leftists and the Virginia State Police siding with the violent leftists to give a sympathetic edge to the people who are spewing the hate.”
Getting back to Trumpland, the President seems to be doubling down on his message of not picking sides, even as America’s front pages are filled with scenes of marching Klan members, anti-Semitic signs and slogans, Nazi flags, racist banners, and blood in the streets.
On Monday morning Ken Frazier, the head of Merck pharmaceuticals, said in a statement he was stepping down from Trump’s council on manufacturing “as a matter of personal conscience” and “to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”
Less than an hour later, the nation witnessed a very un-presidential twitter temper tantrum attacking an African-American CEO for taking a stand against racism. (And, yes, I know, lots of us have bones to pick with Merck.)
With Ken Frazier’s exit, the remaining member CEOs of Trump’s jobs advisory council. pic.twitter.com/8WZxgFP508
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) August 14, 2017
The administration was warned about impending right wing violence, months ago. Foreign Policy had a scoop of it own this morning, reporting
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy.
Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”
What is to be done? The point was made repeatedly at the downtown San Diego vigil about the need to take actions to fight this sort of bigotry and violence on an ongoing basis.
Folks at Indivisible have published an action guide for people who want to follow up with the elected representatives.
For example, Congressman Juan Vargas is the only local representative to co-sponsor HR3591, the bipartisan “Dream Act.” This bill is already co-sponsored by 136 members of the House, including 31 from California. Perhaps we should be asking Reps. Susan davis, Scott Peters, and others to take a stand. By the way, Senators Feinstein and Harris are already co-sponsoring S1615, the upper chamber version of this legislation. .
I’m taking some time off. It’s August and time for a California staycation road trip. If something big comes up, I’ll post from whatever coffee shop will have me. Otherwise, I’ll be back August 25th.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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