Baltimore IMC :
Baltimore IMC

Commentary :: Right Wing

Fascists, Anti-Fascists And The State

As of October 8th, the majority of the Baltimore Anti-Racist 28 defendants have had their cases dismissed. This is the story of the lead up and action on August 24th, and the aftermath. [Originally published in Barricada, #17, September/October 2002].
"The totalitarian vision of fascists often resonates with the many statists who wish to unbind their hands from the pretense of 'democratic' government and civil liberties." - Call for a Revolutionary Anti-Fascist Bloc

Over the last two years, the neo-nazi National Alliance (NA) has held a variety of public demonstrations. The NA is the largest, most well-financed, white supremacist fascist organization in North America. The most successful venue for them has been Washington, DC. On May 11th, they had their fifth demonstration. The May demonstration outside the Israeli embassy, the largest public display of fascists in the U.S. in decades, numbered over 300 hundred fascists.

After the May 11th demonstration, an east coast anti-fascist networking conference was held in Baltimore to plan for the next time the NA would march. As soon as details of the next NA action were known, several calls to action began to circulate--in particular NEFAC's call for a Revolutionary Anti-Fascist Bloc. Other calls came from Anti-Racist Action (ARA), and an Arab Anti-Nazi Bloc. The Open City Collective in New York City held a teach-in, as well as publicly responding to crypto-fascist Israel Shamir attempts to spread disinformation to the Palestinian solidarity activist community.

Responding to the NA's increasing presence, local activists formed the DC Anti-Fascist Network. People went door to door in North East DC. Posters were wheat pasted throughout the city, and flyers were handed out at metro stations for months before the action. There was also a concerted effort to outreach at the Reparations march in DC the weekend before August 24th.

Leading up to the action, ARA groups did public outings of local neo-nazis in Ohio, New Jersey, and Maryland. The outing in Maryland was particularly interesting, as it exposed Steven Smith, owner of the nazi paraphernalia online store SS Regalia. Smith was attempting to use an elementary school in Edgewater as a meeting location for carpooling and busing to DC.

With the Edgewater location outed, the NA chose the Baltimore Travel Plaza for its meeting location outside DC. Once again, the location became known to anti-fascists who distributed flyers door to door in the O'Donell Heights neighborhood--warning that the fascists were coming to town and calling for a demonstration at the Travel Plaza on Saturday morning. It became common knowledge that the fascists were not only meeting at the travel plaza, but had rented several buses for Saturday.

About an hour before the scheduled demonstration, a bus load of neo-nazis from Detroit pulled into the Travel Plaza. Varying reports describe what happened next: a small mob garbed in black charged the neo-nazis. Only a few boneheads had gotten off the bus, and those that did were attacked. The bus took most of the damage, having its windows smashed, tires slashed, and the interior pepper sprayed. As quickly as they came, the attackers fled the scene, leaving behind a banner that read "Smash Hate". Eventually the neo-nazis left their bus, and were joined by other neo-nazis from a nearby hotel. Cops swarmed the Plaza, trying to understand what had happened. One cop reported to the media that it had been a fight between rival neo-nazi gangs.

Later, anti-fascists arrived in a nearby parking lot for the counter-protest that had been previously announced. They got out of their cars, saw the scene over at the Travel Plaza with its confusion of fascists, police and a downpour of rain, and debated whether to continue or head on to DC. They crossed the street. Twenty-Eight of them were arrested. They were held for an hour in the rain, while neo-nazis were allowed to photograph them, before being taken to central booking and held for twenty-four hours before receiving their papers. When they were finally allowed to see commissioners, some of the Twenty-Eight were released on their own recognizance while others received bail amounts upwards of $10,000. Twenty-Six were charged with three counts of aggravated assault, possession of a deadly weapon with intent to injure, malicious destruction of property, rioting and disorderly conduct. Bizarrely, some of them had a "hate crimes" enhancement on their charges. The only minor arrested was ludicrously charged with an additional 20 counts of assault. Even the lawyer that accompanied them was arrested with the charge of failing to obey an officer.

Meanwhile, things were getting started in DC. The NA was meeting at the top of the parking garage of Union Station. The police had erected small barricades around the south side of Union Station's exit ramp, complemented by hundreds of riot cops, horse cops, squad cars and armored cars. The hum of the police helicopter remained constant through out the day.

The Revolutionary Anti-Fascist Bloc (RAFB) was forming up at Stanton Park at Maryland Avenue and 4th St NE, including NEFAC and ARA. Their meeting location had been publicly announced, and was also attended by a dozen marked police cars. Once the RAFB had gathered enough participants, they headed up 4th Ave towards Union Station. The bloc, however, didn't turn directly towards the phalanx of police. Instead, they headed further north into North East where anti-fascists had previously gone door to door. The police held their positions and didn't follow. Eventually, the bloc reached H Street, and then quickly marched up the H Street overpass to the north side entrance of Union Station parking garage that was "guarded" by a single squad car. The bloc deployed itself thinly across the entrances to the parking garage. A few neo-nazis had already made it into the parking garage and looked over the edge at the black clad anti-fascists. Several vehicles of suspected fascists were turned away from the garage. Eventually the police redeployed and riot cops marched up the overpass ordering the bloc to disperse. The bloc headed down the hill and headed towards the police barricades on the south side.

A large crowd had gathered around Columbus Circle. Where there had been plans for several distinct blocs, such as one for the DC Anti-Fascist Network, another for the Arab anti-nazi bloc, and another for the Youth Leadership Support Network; everyone merged into one mass. The Progressive Labor Party's megaphones led the chants of "Death to the Klan". Perhaps five hundred anti-fascist demonstrators were there, six times as many as were at the May 11th demonstration. While this was a real improvement in the size of counter-demonstrations in DC over the past two years, it was only as large as similar counter demonstrations in York (Pennsylvania), Richmond (Virginia), and Wakefield (Massachusetts). Most of the demonstrators were part of leftist groups like Left Turn, International Socialist Organization (ISO), and Anti-Capitalist Convergence (ACC). The lack of spontaneous participation by locals was disappointing--in many smaller towns, there typically is larger participation from unaffiliated locals, as well as more participation from liberals groups like the NAACP, or church groups.

One group needs particular mention, the Arab Anti-Nazi Bloc that was formed by Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. The NA was attempting to hijack the cause of Palestinian liberation through their "Tax Payers Against Terrorism" and turn anti-Israel sentiment, to anti-Semitism, even boasting that there would be Arabs in attendance supporting them. There were none who came to support the NA, but many who came out to oppose them. Organized by participants in the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Palestine (CSPP) and Stop U. S. Tax Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN), their message was opposition to both Israel's treatment of Palestinians, and opposition to anti-Semitism.

The NA was able to assemble about four hundred fascists, even with one bus disabled in Baltimore--however they were also an hour late. The RAFB had deployed too early to actually block the buses of the fascists. Typically, the NA march was exclusively white, overwhelmingly male, and mostly boneheads and some older suit & tie fascists. The entire time, they were guarded by police who kept the counter-demonstrators away. Whenever small groups or individual nazis left police protection, they were harassed by counter-demonstrators to the point of fleeing back to behind police lines.

The counter-demonstrators followed the nazis along their entire route. By the reflecting pool, counter demonstrators tore down some barricades to get closer to the fascists, but were effectively kept separated from the fascists who were "sieg heiling" on Capitol Hill. At one point, the NA demonstration lost cohesion as boneheads slipped the leash of their suit & tie masters to be so "brave" as to shout insults at anti-fascists behind a fence, a wall, and a small army of riot police. The NA left Capitol Hill, forty minutes before the permit was set to expire. While counter-demonstrators dogged the NA march back from the Capitol, there was little confrontation as the sheer number of police left little opportunity. There were a few scuffles with nazis departing the area in personal automobiles. There were only two arrests of counter demonstrators for disorderly conduct in DC.

The NA headed north, returning to Baltimore. The most successful technique for the NA for increasing participation at public demonstrations, has been by combining them with hate core music shows at a venue near to the protest. In exchange for going to the demonstration, the suits bribe the boneheads with a racist concert. The venue was discovered by anti-fascists, who followed the nazis back to Baltimore.

Several anti-fascist groups met in a show space in Baltimore, the Bloodshed. Discussion ranged from jail solidarity for those already arrested, to plans to counter the concert. Police presence in the neighborhood was unusually large, and the anti-fascists decided to change location. Shortly after they left, the building was raided by police conducting a warrant-less search. There were no arrests. There were several reports that throughout the evening after the protest in DC, that anti-fascists in the Baltimore area were pulled over by the police and questioned, some at gun point.

The remaining anti-fascists had decided that the best course of action was to expose the controversial location of the nazi concert--an active duty National Guard Armory in White Marsh, Maryland. To do so, they went to the Progressive Action Center (PAC), home of the Baltimore Independent Media Center. As they gathered at the building, police began to arrive there as well. All of the anti-fascists entered the PAC and locked the door. A police chopper was overhead, along with marked and unmarked police cars. Eventually the police came to the door demanding entry. Lacking a warrant, they were denied. The PAC is an old public library in the residential neighborhood, and a day care center is in it's basement. Perhaps it was the more public nature of the location, with curious neighbors looking on from their porches, that deterred the police from conducting another raid. While some anti-fascists worked the phones and the internet to expose the hate core show, others negotiated outside with the police. From the roof, a banner was dropped reading "Anti-Racists Under Siege". When the corporate television media arrived on the scene, the police withdrew. After an exclusive interview with television news, the anti-fascists left the PAC for yet another location to plan jail solidarity for the arrested.

There were anti-fascists who made it to the National Guard Armory. Some conducted surveillance, others quickly organized a small protest. According to neighborhood residents, police had been training outside the Armory for days, for exactly what they were doing that day--guarding the neo-nazis. Over thirty police vehicles, including a helicopter, and a large group of riot police protected the nazi show. The police set up a road blocks in the vicinity of the Armory, using them as checkpoints for identifying and interrogating drivers. Unlike DC, the National Guard Armory is in the center of several residential neighborhoods, about fifty neighbors came out to see the commotion and spontaneously joined the counter-demonstration against the neo-nazis. There were no confrontations at the concert, and no arrests.

Though there was some mild harassment by police of the picketers outside the jail solidarity vigil in Baltimore for the Twenty-Eight arrested that morning, there was far more support--ranging from the recently released and their visitors, neighbors, passing motortists, and even cops who would honk their horns in support. The defense committee began raising bail. With such high bails, however, a bondsman had to be used, which still meant raising a thousand dollars for each prisoner bonded. The solidarity picket was maintained continuously until everyone was released by Monday morning. One example of the continuing patriarchy of the state is that women prisoners could not released at night, even if their bail had been posted--though men could be release at any time.

The trouble for the "Parking Lot Twenty-Eight", as they called themselves on the inside, didn't stop there. Most of their names, descriptions, ages, addresses and phone numbers found their way from the police--into the hands of fascists, who gleefully publicized that information as on their websites and email lists, along with several violent threats. Not only information from the defendants, but also information for many anarchist and activist spaces in Baltimore and Philadelphia were distributed. Then, the hang up calls started. Later, anti-fascists at their home in New Jersey found National Alliance stickers on their door and literature in their mailbox. In Pittsburgh, the fascists were bolder, three of them showed up to the home of one of the defendants armed with a baseball bat and knives. However, they were confronted by three unarmed anti-fascists--the fascists didn't go beyond talking. Eventually the police arrived and sent the fascists home. So far, none of the defendants in Baltimore have had any trouble from fascists.

Was the march by the NA a victory? Was it a victory for the anti-fascists? It seems inconclusive. Unlike May 11th, anti-fascists were considerably better organized. There were more counter protesters at the demonstration, which have been slowly increasing in diversity. While it didn't achieve the spontaneous popular participation that made York and Wakefield interesting, there was more potential for that when the nazis venture out of such a secure "official" venues as Capitol Hill, and into the neighborhoods. The events of around the NA march were the lead story on all local television stations as well as CNN and many newspapers, many with stories sympathetic towards the anti-fascists.

The only time the neo-nazis didn't have police protection, is the only time they were decisively attacked. The confrontation at the Travel Plaza certainly disrupted the NA, caused them to loose a bus and arrive late. All of the NA's security culture for meeting locations was repeatedly, and visibly compromised.

Since that time, cracks have continued to develop in the unity of the fascist milieu in North America. Bill Roper, deputy membership coordinator of the National Alliance, who had been the driving force in organizing these demonstrations--was fired from his position and expelled from the organization. Roper is now calling for others to follow him in founding a new organization--a move that may further divide neo-nazis. There have also been a number of public arguments about the NA suit & tie fascists disrespecting their bonehead supporters. For now, the Baltimore Hammerskins are throwing their support behind the National Alliance, not Roper. After another fiasco in Wakefield, many fascists are also questioning the behavior of Matt Hale of the World Church of the Creator, who led the NA into the disastrous (for them) situation in York. Gliebe, the new "CEO" of the NA, seems to be distancing himself from public protest and illegal action, while Roper might lack the support to continue his public demonstrations. One thing is certain, continual opposition to fascist gatherings by anti-fascists, does little to bolster the morale of fascists, and much to discourage them.

Most of the problems for anti-fascists have come, not from the fascists, but from the state. The state protected the fascists for the entire day. The government protected the fascist meeting points in Baltimore, escorted them through DC, and guarded their racist concert. The state provided an active duty National Guard Armory for the concert, despite public outcry against it. The state went beyond merely protecting fascists, to actively repressing anti-fascists by arresting counter-demonstrators, and framing them. The police continued to harass anti-fascists by raiding their meeting locations, and attempting to disrupt their media work, counter-protests and jail solidarity. The message was clear, "state protection for fascists, state repression for anti-fascists."

As of October 8th, the majority of the Baltimore Anti-Racist Twenty-Eight defendants have had their cases dismissed.

[This article originally appeared in Barricada, #17 September/October 2002]


This site made manifest by dadaIMC software