Resist: Bay Area 2, Fascists 0
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The only thing better than a Bay Bridge series is one where both San Francisco and Berkeley get to win by sending the fascists running for Pacifica and the hills.
When he first started his planning efforts earlier in the year, Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson must have thought he was being clever. He and his team applied for - and got - a permit to use federal land at Crissy Field because they apparently reasoned (correctly) that federal officials would be less susceptible to pressure to cancel the event than their state and local counterparts. They worked hard to put forth a "moderate" face despite Gibson's having been photographed alongside white supremacists like Nathan Damigo and his choice as a speaker of Kyle "Based Stickman" Chapman, who is now facing felony weapons charges related to his activities at an earlier Battle of Berkeley.
Alas for Gibson and crew, they quickly learned the truth of Helmuth von Moltke's maxim: "No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy." A week after violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, tens of thousands of anti-fascist Bostonians corralled a handful of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other fascists who organized a "free speech" rally in a gazebo on Boston Common, forcing the rally's early cancellation.
Then it was San Francisco's turn. While the National Park Service resisted calls from Mayor Ed Lee and other politicos to cancel the event, it imposed strict guidelines before it would issue the final permit to the organizers, including a requirement that everyone - attendees and demonstrators - enter through a single gate and be searched.
Since this would have forced the fascists and those who showed up to oppose them into a small space, many expected the trouble to start before anyone stepped foot onto Crissy Field. Of course, we'll never know, as the courage of the organizers evaporated Friday, August 25, when they canceled the event set for the next day.
That didn't stop tens of thousands of people from marching from the Castro, the Mission, and Alamo Square Park to Civic Center anyway to show the fascists they weren't welcome.
Thanks to the overwhelming turnout against them in the streets of San Francisco, the Patriot Prayer organizers suffered the indignity of having to literally flee to Pacifica for their hastily-convened presser, where they blamed "antifa punks" for their defeat. While they put in brief appearances at both Crissy Field and City Hall later that day, they were chased off at every turn.
In this, as in all that they did, they were wrong. It wasn't just antifa who beat them. It was the entire city.
The Fourth Battle of Berkeley
The first Battle of Berkeley in 2017 took place February 1, when anti-fascists forced the cancellation of Milo Yiannopoulos' speech at UC Berkeley and was centered on campus (and later, downtown). The second occurred March 4 as antifa and other comrades forced attendees at a "Turn Up 4 Trump" rally out of Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park. The third - and the largest until two weekends ago - happened April 15, when Trump supporters were joined by Oath Keeper militia members, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists in the park and on the streets of Berkeley before being driven off by anti-fascist forces.
For no apparent reason, given the city of Berkeley's historic unwillingness to enforce its own ordinances banning unpermitted gatherings in Civic Center Park, Amber Cummings, the trans woman (and associate of Chapman and Damigo) who attempted to organize a "No to Marxism" rally in Berkeley applied for a permit anyway. The city turned her down for technical reasons, so Cummings canceled the August 27 event and publicly asked everyone to stay away.
Instead, thousands of anti-fascists streamed into Berkeley to contest the same field they had fought the right-wing for in March and April. Unlike those prior engagements, this battle wasn't primarily an antifa and Black Bloc show. A plethora of individuals and groups, ranging from those who declared themselves to be "Pro (Groucho) Marx" (and who had the fake glasses, nose and mustache to prove it) to clergy showed up to oppose any fascists who did appear.
Sure enough, Gibson and crew apparently couldn't resist trying to make a run through antifa's and the Black Bloc's lines. They quickly learned why this was a terrible idea and fled to the Berkeley Police Department, which briefly placed Gibson in protective custody. The BPD then pulled its officers from the area, which meant antifa and the Black Bloc had to provide security against potential fascist stragglers for a march led by comedian and activist W. Kamau Bell from Civic Center Park to Ohlone Park.
The marchers arrived at the park without incident and declared victory over the fascists, who were either scattered, AWOL, or hiding with the police by then.
Want to learn how to occupy a building? Of course you do. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 9, at Omni Commons, 4799 Shattuck Avenue in Oakland, East Bay Homes Not Jails and Occupy the Farm will show you how it's done. Donations are encouraged.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, September 16, the 2017 Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair kicks off at the aforementioned Omni Commons. The event is free and runs until 6 p.m. For more information, visit http://bayareaanarchistbookfair.com/.
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