What I have to say today is probably gonna make some people unhappy.
On Saturday, a group of regional nativists held a rally in Otay Mesa celebrating the prototypes for Trump’s wall. Rep. Duncan Hunter was the featured speaker. Eyewitness accounts agree the crowd size was 100 or less, as likely was the average IQ.
Another group thought it would be a good idea to get twenty people to yell stuff at the MAGA types. Now they’re upset because punches were thrown and the battalion of Sheriffs and other law enforcement types standing around didn’t come rushing to their aid.
The land at the end of Enrique Fermo drive where the wall prototypes exist is barren and dusty, kinda like what the rest of the county will probably look like after a few more years of fire and drought. There is no community surrounding the area.
Nobody other than those who came there with a purpose in mind–despicables, cops, a handful of media types, and counter-demonstrators saw or heard what happened.
The Sheriff’s Department issued a press release calling the incident a “disturbance,” saying deputies were on hand “so everyone could safely express their opinions.” The counter-demonstrators who were pummeled with the oversized American flag poles might disagree with that assessment.
What I saw–via several videos–was chaos, namely law enforcement types waiting for somebody to tell them what to do. It’s probable some superior officer accidentally/on purpose just happened to be looking the other way when the fisticuffs started.
One of the individuals involved with the counter-protesters wanted to submit an anonymous article to San Diego Free Press on what happened.
We don’t do anonymous articles anymore. Been there, tried it, got burned.
The thinking in sending the article to SDFP was I’d be sympathetic because of our experiences a few months back calling out a scheme to denigrate the murals at Chicano Park as revenge for the removal of Confederate monuments in the South.
Nope. It just made me angry. I also got tagged in social media posts, no doubt by folks wishing I’d share their outrage.
Let’s take a look at how the Chicano Park incident came down, as opposed to what happened Otay Mesa this past weekend.
Back in the late summer, not long after the mayhem caused by the alt-right in Charlottesville, SDFP editor Brent Beltran wrote a column recalling previous threats made against Chicano Park. He sought to illustrate the depth of community sentiment in support of the institution, should it be threatened in the future.
Unbeknownst to Beltran, there was something already in the works, via some local right-wing types believing they could cash in via a YouTube video or two. There’s $$$ to be made these days by producing content loaded up on fear or outrage, and the righties have tapped into it.
It all started with an interview with “local patriot activist” Jeff Schwilk on Carl Demaio’s radio talk show. The former Minuteman leader commiserated with the host about the indignity of removing a plaque from the Daughters of the Confederacy honoring Jefferson Davis from Horton Plaza, moving on to complain about “Nazi symbols**” and “Communists” in the murals at Chicano Park.
At Roger Ogden’s Patriot Fire, formerly known as Impeach Obama Now, the plea to contact city officials followed the admonition “Chicano Park is also a monument to the Aztecs, who performed mass human sacrifice and took part in ritualistic cannibalism.”
Some emails about their plans to visit the park were leaked. I wrote a story about it, and things almost got out of hand.
Word quickly spread that the righties were planning on holding a rally at Chicano Park. Some wanna-be ‘heros of the resistance’ took to their keyboards via social media to suggest the park be defended by any means necessary.
A [peaceful] counter-event [by people not of the community] was announced via Facebook. And then the community around the Park took over, shutting down the social media-spawned counter-event and creating an inclusive rally.
I updated the original article:
To be clear, there is no right-wing protest scheduled for Chicano Park on Sunday or any other time at this point. (The article doesn’t say there is; try reading it before declaring you’re willing to shed blood.)
What is happening is that a campaign is being organized by the fright right to make the murals a toxic issue, get funding cut, slander the history of Chicano/Latinx resistance.
Mr. Ogden and a small number of his fellow cockroaches WILL likely show up at the park, armed with cameras, hoping to get footage for a YouTube video they can shop to various reactionary media organizations.
There is currently a community solidarity event organized for Sunday, September 3 at Noon at the park. The original organizers have agreed to follow the guidance of the Chicano Park Steering Committee, to wit: NO ACTION WILL BE TAKEN without the express request of the CPSC. They, the brown berets, and others will handle any interaction needed.
The Chicano Park committee invited political, cultural, and religious leaders from throughout the city to speak about the history and significance of the park. People from the community provided security and took care of other logistics.
Eventually, the right wingers arrived for their “tour” of the park, standing across the street and taunting the crowd to announce their presence. They were escorted from the area by both police and activists.
The border wall event in Otay Mesa had zero support in any community. Those of us who’d visited the area concluded long ago, based on common sense, this location was a disaster waiting to happen for any group organizing an anti-wall protest.
TV coverage of the pro-border wall rally was likely enhanced because of the confrontations taking place, and the publicity tended to favor –in terms of messaging– the right-wing point of view.
Here’s a snip of the Union-Tribune’s coverage, which did slip in a quote, not from the righties:
The atmosphere, however, turned from peaceful to hostile when a small group of protesters marched down Enrico Fermi Place toward the rally site. The group of about 15 arrived around 20 minutes into the rally and chanted, “No ban. No wall. Amnesty for all” and “Racists, go home.”
Though sheriff’s deputies were already in place, lined up to separate protesters from the rally site, some rally-goers confronted the marchers, leading to several heated exchanges and at least one fight. Deputies broke up the scuffle within minutes. No one was arrested and sheriff’s officials said no injuries were reported.
The border wall is a “xenophobic act, reminiscent of Nazi Germany,” said Rafael Bautista, 33, of southeast San Diego. Bautista, who helped organize the protest but isn’t affiliated with a single group, said he migrated to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 4 and has family on both sides of the border.
Counter-protesting a right-wing rally in this remote location makes even less sense–akin to poking a hornet’s nest with a stick–unless you have a strong martyr complex.
I’m not saying every demonstration needs to be held in ‘safe’ location. But if you’re going to take risks, planning is essential. The organizers of this Washout at the Wall admit they had no plan, other than proving to the world they were anti-racists.
What happened was a bunch of ‘we’re not racist’ types got more attention than they deserved. And some people got to type “f**k the police” on Facebook afterward.
The most likely result from this event will be more appearances by the righties at future progressive demonstrations and events. I’ve watched some of their videos and read their social media posts from this weekend. They’re encouraged by what happened. They think they ‘won.’
While San Diego’s right-wing extremists need to be considered as a threat to the safety of the community in general and activists in particular, organizing ‘against’ them is a waste.
They number in total less than 200 people countywide, are mostly crippled from acting as a group by factionalism and are likely riddled with informants because they are low hanging fruit.
Please, leave the adventurism to video games and movies. There is plenty of real work to be done, no matter what your approach to activism.
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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