Communities Against Racism & Fascism (CARF) declared victory after a white supremacist rally planned for Sunday, August 27 in Berkeley never materialized. CARF organizer Nancy Kato said that the group’s call for the community to stand directly against the Nazis helped to discourage the ultra-right and embolden civil rights protesters.
Despite pleas by city officials to stay away, hundreds of counter demonstrators were at Civic Center Park in the morning well before the far-right rally start time, and hundreds more marched to the park mid-day. “The few neo-Nazis who turned out were a handful of not-so-proud boys,” Kato said riffing off the Proud Boys, an armed far right squad, rumored to have made a brief appearance at the park.
The ultra-right targeted the Bay Area with two events last weekend, a San Francisco rally by Patriot Prayer on Saturday, August 26, and a ‘No to Marxism in America’ rally the next day in Berkeley. Both gatherings were cancelled late on Friday. However, conveners Joey Gibson and Amber Cummings claimed they would still make appearances in Berkeley. Given that, CARF went forward with its demonstration as planned.
Sunday was an absolute rout for the fascists. In the morning, a handful of men with Make America Great hats were surrounded by protesters chanting ‘Nazis go home.’ Rumors circulated as to which white supremacists were in attendance because none made themselves known. “They were slinking around, intimidated by the sheer number of counter demonstrators,” said Sam Rubin another CARF organizer.
Later, Patriot Prayer’s Gibson was chased off by masked protesters.
Just as thousands took to the streets in San Francisco the previous day, thousands more rallied in Berkeley in diverse actions organized by UC Berkeley students, faith-based folks and a liberal/left coalition. CARF had urged demonstrators to turn up at the Nazi rally site because the group believes that a massive outpouring of opposition when and where the fascists gather is the most effective; ignoring the racist thugs only encourages them. This call for a direct counter encouraged some protesters gathered on the other side of campus to march to the park.
For days ahead, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin had urged residents to stay away. “There was a lot of fear-mongering by city officials, and the mainstream media fixated obsessively on the potential for violence,” Kato noted. But after Charlottesville, hundreds of thousands in cities across the country have expressed outrage that the KKK, Nazis and white nationalists are openly recruiting. “Shame on public officials who try to scare protesters away,” said Rubin.
After Sunday’s protest, the mainstream media focused on a few physical confrontations, and a dozen arrests. Rubin remarked, “They missed the main story: all those brave people who turned out against the fascists.” Berkeley’s mayor said Black Bloc should be declared a ‘gang.’ Rubin scoffed, “Would the Mayor and the media have called the Greek or the French Resistance ‘gangs’ during World War II? They too were defending their people against Nazi violence.
Kato noted “The stories conveyed by the mainstream media and city officials was eerily identical, even orchestrated. We heard there were undercover cops at the park, and we know agent provocateurs have haunted civil rights actions since the ‘60s. Is that what happened here?” she asked.
CARF asserted that officials and the media are playing directly into the hands of the fascists. Indeed, two days after the post-protest media hype about violence, a rightwing group demanded on Facebook that Antifa be declared ‘terrorists.’ “The attack on Antifa is a concerted effort to limit all anti-fascist protests and to restrict protesters’ First Amendment rights,” concluded Kato.
The strong response on both sides of the Bay shows that those who spew hostility to Muslims and Jews, to immigrants and people of color, to queers and trans folk, to feminists and to the Left are not welcome here. Kato concluded: “Next time they announce their presence, let’s all work together to build a stronger and bigger organized movement dedicated to bold, direct confrontation to tell them, ‘Never Again!’”
Issued by Communities Against Racism & Fascism