On June 26th, 2016, antifascists successfully prevented a Neo-Nazi rally that was set to take place at the Sacramento Capitol. The Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and the Golden State Skinheads (GSS) came together to plan the rally as a show of force and a platform for their racist ideology. The former a fascist political organization, and the latter a local white power gang, the partnership was supposed to be the perfect match of brain and brawn. According to TWP Chairman Matthew Heimbach, “The Trad Worker Party are bringing it off the internet and onto the streets of Sacramento on June 26th. The Antifa are not happy about this, but there is no way they will be able to put a stop to it. If the TWP can march in Sacramento, then they can hold a rally anywhere.” Local antifascists heard that, and knew that action had to be taken- not just for the sake of preventing this one rally in our town, but also for the sake of setting a Golden-State-Standard and discouraging future fascist activity. Three months of careful planning and nonstop organizing later, and it was showtime. It was clear that all our hard work was not in vain- a crowd of around 500 counter-protesters, made up of countless individuals, affinity groups, and a few larger organizations, showed up to shut down the rally with us. Outnumbered by about 25 to 1, the white supremacists had to be protected by over 100 police officers, and even then were completely blocked from holding their event. SacPD and CHP were woefully unequipped to handle the sheer number of counter-protesters, and finally cancelled the official permit that had been obtained for the rally. However, this was not enough to dissuade the white supremacists from trying to take the area by force- several attempted to hold ground on the capitol steps, though all were inevitably stopped. When it became clear that they couldn’t get the upper hand, the TWP and GSS charged directly into the counter-protestors, stabbing and wounding several people in a bloody melee before being chased down the block and into a waiting getaway car by angry antifascists. If it weren’t for the dedicated street medics on duty, it’s entirely possible that some of the stabbing victims could have died that day. As it was, 9 individuals were hospitalized. Even with such extreme tactics, the fascists in the TWP and GSS still couldn’t hold any leverage against the much larger mass of counter-protestors, and were rebuffed each time they attempted to gain ground.
Neoliberals, pacifists, and corporate media alike roundly condemned the violence that took place that day, framing the counter-protestors as instigators and the white supremacists as acting out of self-defense. They won’t acknowledge (and some may not even realize) that anti-fascism is in and of itself an act self defense. In a world that commits constant and unspeakable violence by way of white supremacy, patriarchy, xenophobia and capitalism, how could taking a stand against oppression and its keepers be anything but fighting back? White supremacist groups, like the system that they are a product of, are instigators of violence. They perpetuate violence by their very nature, by their very ideology. Antifa’s violence is that of a prisoner breaking open the bars. White supremacy’s violence is that of a tyrant exerting equal parts power and cruelty. To obscure this truth is to turn a blind eye to patterns that have repeated themselves throughout history. Too often it is still obscured. The pacifist left would have us trying to reason with the Nazi threat while our comrades are being stabbed, just as they would have us languor in the red tape of bureaucracy should we oppose the greater system that results in so many people starved, imprisoned, beaten, raped, tortured, and left to die of sickness. Deviate from this narrow and impractical path, and be seen as the same as what you are fighting in their eyes. This sort of policing and condemnation of militant resistance isn’t strategic, isn’t effective, and serves only to divide and weaken our movements. Any moral superiority supposedly gained by those who maintain a strictly nonviolent ideology is quickly revealed to be a facade- in the face of structural and systemic violence on a far greater scale, these so-called pacifists would rather turn their frustration toward the comparably minor violence of those resisting, effectively ignoring and diluting the root of the problem. It’s no wonder that this ideology is so commonly parroted among reporters, journalists, elites and politicians- it serves as the perfect framing to both discredit those resisting injustice and redirect public focus from the broader issues at hand. Could we really expect them to promote resistance? To do so would be to pave the way for their own destruction. Instead, they will feed us safer and more disarming half-truths, and sit back as their opposition tears itself apart. Don’t believe them.
What happened on June 26th is not an isolated occurrence. It is part of a much broader pattern- fascists and white supremacists are emboldened by a political climate that looks the other way at best and sympathizes with them at worst. It is a direct result of the rise in frequency and aggression of right-wing extremist groups. The number of radical right hate groups has increased 14% in the past year, and California is number 2 on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of top five states for hate groups. The Valley has never been a stranger to hate groups and the violence that follows them. Just a few weeks before the 26th, a Sacramento local pastor praised the shooting of 49 queer people in Orlando in a recorded sermon. A few months before that, a pariah of the white nationalist movement dropped flyers across Midtown Sacramento calling for the murder of Muslims and Latinos in our city, and for the securing of “body dump sites” by fellow white supremacists. Around the same time, a group of men in white sheets terrorized a mother and her child outside of a shopping center in Auburn, CA. Earlier this year, Klansmen stabbed 3 antifascists in Anaheim, CA, and received no charges. Indeed, the June 26th Nazi Rally fits right in with the bigger picture of hate-fueled violence and terror, a pattern that will no doubt drag onward as history repeats itself. Each time we take action, we are pushing back against this narrative. Each time we do nothing, we are allowing it to stand as valid, acceptable, normalized. We cannot afford to stand around or look the other way in the wake of this very real threat- instead, we must continue to disrupt and fight against it in any way we can. Together we must organize, build, and grow, and ensure that the blood spilled on the 26th wasn’t for nothing.