“White Lives Matter” rallies shut down and shouted down

People hold a banner reading
April 11. Standing on the “Free Speech” stage in downtown Seattle, Radical Women Organizer Gina Petry (left) and other protesters hold a banner making it clear that racist bigots were not welcome. PHOTO: Doug Barnes / FS
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This spring, white supremacists announced “White Lives Matter” rallies across the United States on April 11. In less than a week, Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) branches coordinated or supported community-led anti-fascist actions in cities on both coasts that far outnumbered the right, and in some places, the bigots were a no-show.

The breakdown. After KKK leaflets appeared in Huntington Beach, local Black Lives Matter (BLM) leader Tory Johnson initiated a call for a counter demonstration. Johnson declared: “We are united against racism and hate. White supremacy is not welcome here!” FSP got out the word and brought carloads of people to the protest. Over 300 came out to counter the 50 white supremacists who gathered. Police separated the groups, and after an hour the racists left, with chants of “No Nazis! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and “Black Lives Matter!” ringing in their ears.

Local residents were proud of this victory, and appreciated the support from FSP, Radical Women, LA Coalition for Community Control Over the Police, Refuse Fascism, Internationalist Group, and independent activists.

In New York City, dozens marched down 5th Avenue to oppose a “White Lives Matter” rally at Trump Tower. When one fascist showed up and flashed the Hitler salute, the crowd responded with chants, horns, and whistles, and banged on pans and chased him away.

Seattle FSP called together an ad-hoc community organizing group. On April 11, a militant crew of 150 protesters picketed, sang songs, held an open mic rally, and declared victory when no right wingers showed. The action was endorsed by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), Radical Women, ANSWER Coalition, Seattle Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Seattle Revolutionary Socialists, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Veterans for Peace, and the homeless advocacy groups SHARE and WHEEL. And many unionists were present on the line. Labor’s involvement is crucial, since fascists’ main purpose is to destroy the labor movement to keep workers divided and exploited.

Bay Area FSP members and supporters coordinated with a Sacramento anti-fascist group and caravanned to the California capital to counter the proposed white supremacy rally at McKinley Park. Only one right winger briefly appeared. The counter protesters held a raucous speak out. After the rally, three of the local anti-fascist organizers were arrested on bogus assault charges, with a combined bail set at $250,000. After a calling campaign to free them, all charges were dropped.

Unfortunately, not everyone supported the counter demonstrations. National BLM leader Patrisse Cullors urged people not to go to Huntington Beach. Instead, she hosted a six-hour live-streamed dance party called “F*ck White Supremacy, Let’s Get Free.” Luckily, hundreds ignored this divisive call.

In Seattle and NYC, anarchists posted false information to create confusion on right-wing websites. Some people bought into the idea that this trick could stop white supremacists. FSP called on people to counter protest anyway since the ultra right was still planning to rally. History shows that fascists and racists are more emboldened if they go unchallenged. A mass movement is what is needed to directly confront them.

Effective strategy. What works to stop the neo-fascists is a united front of the left, unions, people of color, feminists, and immigrant rights, LGBTQ+, Jewish, and other groups targeted by right-wing violence. (See United Front: key to the essential fight against fascists.)

Well-organized, community-led actions send a clear message to white supremacists and to police who share their views. On April 11, the anti-fascists were bigger, stronger, louder, and united. The bigots were stopped in their tracks.

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