Thomas Hummel reports from the anti-fascist demonstration in New York City.
Saturday, November 16th, the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist, alt-right group describing themselves as “Western chauvinists”, organized a rally outside of Trump Tower. They gathered to protest the four-year sentences received by two of their members who violently assaulted anti-fascist protesters alongside about a dozen other Proud Boys last October.
Those attacks occurred after a speaking event hosted by the Republican Club for the Proud Boys’ founder, the racist hipster Gavin McInnes. Proud Boys were filmed kicking anti-fascist protesters to the ground while shouting “faggot” and “you’re dead, motherfucker.” A Proud Boy was later overheard shouting “I had one of their heads and I was just smashing it into the pavement! I ripped that motherfucker’s mask off and kicked him right in the head! That son of a bitch! He’s a fucking foreigner!”
The Proud Boys tried to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the public by having “Latinos for Trump” co-sponsor the event. Latinos for Trump is a far right group fronted by the Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio. Tarrio, who has been known to wear a “right wing death squads” patch on his clothes, attended the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 as a member of the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights, the street fighting arm of the Proud Boys.
By including resistance to Trump’s impeachment as one of their rally’s demands, the Proud Boys were trying to use right-wing anger over this possibility to move people closer into the camp of fascism.
It goes without saying that such barbarism needs to be actively resisted. When word got out that the Proud Boys would be coming to our city, United Against Racism and Fascism put out a call for a counter-demonstration led by “everyday anti-fascists”. The call was answered by a diverse set of organizations that all realize the necessity of putting our differences aside in order to fight the common threat of fascism.
This coalition met at the southwest corner of Central Park, a few blocks away from Trump Tower at 59th Street and 5th Avenue. We intermingled to the sounds of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra while slogans were shouted, instructions were given, and medics distributed hand warmers to fight the November cold. After about an hour, when our numbers had swelled to about three or four hundred, we marched down to Trump Tower. About ten Proud Boys and a handful of their MAGA hat-wearing supporters were gathered there, reaching perhaps twenty-five at their peak. The group was penned in on the east side of 5th Avenue while the counter-protesters gathered on the west side, using music, noise-makers, and slogans to render the Proud Boys shouts inaudible. After about forty-five minutes to an hour, the Proud Boys lost heart and walked away to joyous cheers on our side of the street. We marched away to the tunes of Bella Ciao.
The Importance of the United Front
The action was undoubtedly successful and it was heartening to see ordinary New Yorkers from a variety of political tendencies come out against a common threat. Organizations involved included Outlive Them, socialist and anarchist groups, activist organizations like Rise and Resist and Reclaim Pride, and even an group of anti-fascist soccer fans. We acted in the spirit of the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s call: “if the fascists come tonight to wreck your organization’s hall, we will come running, arms in hand, to help you. Will you promise us that if our organization is threatened you will rush to our aid?”
This kind of coalition building is a breath of fresh air. We are entering a period of increasing social, economic and environmental instability. We need to put our differences aside in order to increase our strength around common causes. The work United Against Racism and Fascism is engaged in has the double benefit of countering fascism at the same time as it increases our familiarity with one another and lays the foundations upon which these left coalitions of tomorrow can be built.
There is still work that needs to be done. Conversations need to be had making further distinctions between the United Front approach and the kind of anti-fascism which relies on a militant minority wearing black masks. Being an ‘everyday antifascist’ does require a modicum of courage, but it is a beautiful thing that we should be openly proud of. We welcome the greatest number of people to join us in our fight to smash the threat posed by these neo-Nazi thugs.
To more antifascist successes to come!