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Resist: Charlottesville and everything after

by Christina A. DiEdoardo

Paul Liem of Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans calls for a freeze in tensions with North Korea at an August 15 protest. Photo: Christina A. DiEdoardo
Paul Liem of Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans calls for a freeze in tensions with North Korea at an August 15 protest. Photo: Christina A. DiEdoardo  

This column is going to be different than others you have read here.

Then again, in the aftermath of James Alex Fields Jr., a Donald Trump supporter and reported neo-Nazi who's charged with murder after driving his car into a crowd and killing anti-Fascist protester Heather Heyer, not to be different would seem like an obscenity.

Prior to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, no Fascist had killed anyone at a demonstration in America since the start of the Trump regime. Fields changed all that, which means our response must also evolve.

Sadly, as shown below, some Bay Area activists have yet to take that message in.

When vigils get hijacked
On the second day of the Charlottesville fiasco, a friend asked me what events were taking place in the Bay Area in support of the activists there. Since there were none at that point, I created a Facebook announcement of a vigil in front of San Francisco City Hall for the next day, Sunday August 13. It was designed to be simple - there were no sponsoring organizations and no permits, just an invitation for people to come that was promoted through ItsGoingDown.org, IndyBay and Indivisible, among others.

At the event, I told the 200-250 people (who were overwhelmingly white and cisgender) in attendance that I'd talk about some heroes of Charlottesville besides Heyer, like Deandre Harris, an African-American man who survived being beaten by several white racists with poles in a parking garage, and Emily Gorcenski, a non-binary data scientist who had been maced by Nazis that Friday night (after the Charlottesville police withdrew and let the Fascists attack counterdemonstrators without interference) and who was standing 15 feet away from Heyer when Fields plowed into the crowd that Saturday.

I could have stopped there, but I didn't. I also pointed out how the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, through its choice to represent the organizers of the "Unite the Right" rally and its choice to persuade a federal judge to move the rally to an unpermitted location made them responsible for Heyer's death too.

At the first criticism of the ACLU of Virginia, several factions in the crowd began an organized effort to disrupt the event. Given we were at a vigil for a woman who had been killed by a Nazi, it was shocking to hear cries from so-called progressives that "Nazis have free speech rights too!" "Why are you bashing the ACLU?," "Why is this so divisive?," and, the most ironic given the context, "Be more positive!"

A man then came up behind me and yelled that the crowd should move to another part of the park and continue without me. He then turned to me and angrily demanded, "Who the hell are you?," a strange question to ask an event organizer. Ultimately, the disruptors got the crowd to move and regroup some distance away.

I've been to a lot of protests in San Francisco and elsewhere over the last 25 years. While I don't always agree with a speaker, so long as they're generally on my side I've managed to stand quietly or - at worst - leave. I've never seen this kind of intentional hijacking of an event by friendlies before - and neither had a veteran queer activist I spoke to afterward who watched it all go down.

In his view, the trouble had been caused by members of Indivisible who were in attendance. I've seen members appear at events organized by other groups and then loudly beef with the organizers, as happened at the Refuse Fascism action against war with North Korea on August 9 at the Powell Street turnaround. There's also video making the rounds of Indivisible members shouting down an African-American woman at a rally in North Carolina the weekend of Charlottesville for not being sufficiently "positive," so what happened in San Francisco would be consistent with what is appearing to be a pattern for some members of that organization.

Whatever the cause, it's terrible optics for white and cis people to shout down progressive queer and people of color voices as their members did across the country. Indeed, it reaffirms the suspicions of many that "centrists" are no better than the Deplorables.

No war with North Korea
On August 15, the ANSWER Coalition, Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans, and several other groups drew 150-200 people to the Powell Street turnaround to protest an escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Addressing his remarks to members of the U.S. military, Paul Liem of HOBAK said, "Think before you act. Don't push that button."
Liem had recently returned from a trip to North Korea and told the crowd that North Korea was offering a "freeze for freeze," where it would suspend its nuclear program in exchange for a freeze on American military exercises.

Got a tip? Email me at christina@diedoardolaw.com.

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