Statement and criticism of the “Immigrants March” in Ann Arbor
If we have shortcomings, we are not afraid to have them pointed out and criticized, because we serve the people. Anyone, no matter who, may point out our shortcomings. If they’re right, we will correct them. If what they propose will benefit the people, we will act upon it.
It is for this reason that Revolutionary Student Alliance, Ann Arbor has drafted this statement and criticism of the Immigrants’ March that took place this Saturday. A few RSA members were in attendance, and we noticed that many aspects of this march, which was supposedly intended to support the people most endangered by the increasingly reactionary Trump administration, in reality reinforced white supremacy and imperialism.
When we say “immigrants’ march,” who are we talking about? Going off the signs held by many of the people in attendance at this march, “America” (stolen land) is a “nation of immigrants.” Imperialist American flags were being flown and settler chants like “this is what America/an immigrant looks like” were repeated with glee. One person even held up a sign with a picture of a Muslim girl with the imperialist American flag draped around her head—the same flag of the country that has been bombing and destroying majority Muslim and Arab countries for decades while closing its borders to them.
Let’s be very clear: “America” is not a nation of immigrants. This narrative erases indigenous people from the reality of the settler-colonial “United States.” Furthermore, white settlers are not immigrants. Equating European settler-colonialism with the actual problem at hand completely whitewashes the issue and covers up the dangers faced by actual immigrants at-risk of deportation, especially Arab, Latinx and other non-white immigrants who risk being racially profiled because of their appearance or accent. Settlers are not immigrants—they stole this land, carried out a horrific genocide against its indigenous population, stole millions of Africans and enslaved them here, and now have the audacity to claim this is a “nation of immigrants.” The pilgrims were white terrorist colonizers, not immigrants being persecuted by a fascistic state. Their settler flag doesn’t belong at a march for immigrants unless it’s on fire.
Furthermore, the imperialist actions of the United States and western Europe are what’s causing immigration influxes in the first place. Nobody wants to leave their home unless they’re forced to, thanks to the imperialist wars in the Middle East, imperialist exploitation of South America, the Latin American debt crisis in the 80s, NAFTA in the 90s, overthrowing of democratically elected governments and leaders like Salvador Allende, installation of fascist dictatorships like those of Pinochet; the list goes on.
This settler influence made the march look more like a white pride parade than a militant demonstration of the power and rage of the oppressed. These marchers were not taking the deportation crisis seriously. There was a complete lack of militancy at this march: signs that read “Make America Kind Again,” lukewarm chants like “This is what democracy looks like,” and worst of all, collaboration with the pigs. The organizers of this event got a permit for the march and obediently led the protesters through the street, being careful not to disrupt anything. The solutions to ICE tearing families apart were to call your representatives and attend city council meetings—legalist strategies that appeal to the oppressors, without a broader perspective or an “or else” to intimidate the ruling class.
What are these kinds of tactics going to accomplish? The state and other bourgeois institutions are only going to become more reactionary over time. We know full well that legislators and pigs don’t give a damn about the people—pigs beat, murder, imprison and deport millions of black and brown people while upholding the law or getting acquitted despite breaking it. A true protest must be a show of force, antagonistic to the system it opposes. Getting a permit and nicely following the rules isn’t going to change anything. The state is destroying homes right now—the people can’t afford to sit on their hands and wait.
The worst part was when one of the organizers gave a pig apologist speech encouraging pigs to get more involved in the community, coming into our schools, coming into our spaces so they can “start a conversation.” This is dangerous and can get people killed. This is an anti-people pig line that puts the masses more at-risk. The police descended from colonizing slave patrols, they’re foot soldiers of a white supremacist capitalist-imperialist state run by corporations and rich white men. These are the people we want coming into our communities? Why, so they can profile us, beat us, interrogate us, and deport our people if they don’t have documentation?
We criticized this organizer after the rally, expressing our concerns, but this person continued to uphold the pig line. This is an egregious error on the part of the organizers of this event who should have made sure not that they did not engage in pig apologism and put the masses in danger because of their march. Pigs are murderers and class traitors. We don’t talk to police, we don’t work with police, we don’t call the police and we don’t argue with our oppressors.
At the rally, a member of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), the youth wing of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), gave a speech. We believe the harmful nature of this organization deserves comment. First of all, this person’s speech was class-reductionist workerism that erased the actual struggles of non-white immigrants by saying the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration were an “attack on the entire working class.” Were they? Are white workers really the target audience here? This is erasing the entire issue at hand—this march isn’t about the “entire working class,” it’s about some of our most vulnerable people needing support and solidarity at a crucial time. This person took some time to prattle on about the Russian Revolution and other issues totally unrelated to the immediate concerns of the masses while continuing to preach their reductionist line. Secondly, the Socialist Equality Party tried to claim the murder of Trayvon Martin was fundamentally not about race (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/04/pers-a05.html) and has on numerous occasions apologized for rape, for example by defending human filth Brock Turner (https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/06/11/stan-j11.html). This organization would sooner side with the Klan than with the people—it has no business at any ostensibly pro-immigrant events. SEP is a racist, sexist organization and no organizers should be working with them.
The march ended sooner than the listed time and people began to disperse. We were not aware of this at the time, but One Michigan for Immigrants Rights, an immigrant-led organization based in Detroit, was scheduled to talk before the rally ended. They were not informed that the rally had ended despite having drove from Detroit to speak and were greeted by an empty Diag with no rally in sight. This put members of this organization and actual undocumented people at risk, wasted their time, cost them money, and completely disrespected them. When a member of One Michigan called the main organizer, Brad Adam, they were confronted with chauvinism and poor allyship on his part. Brad claimed there was nothing he could do and instead began to argue with One Michigan, failing to comply with the very people he claimed to support. He apologized but would do nothing else, not realizing the harm he had caused. It wasn’t until One Michigan confronted him with this issue that he switched sides and offered to reimburse them—after claiming he couldn’t, of course. This poor leadership and chauvinist behavior is alienating and puts people at risk. The organizers of this event should have sought the guidance of immigrants and immigrant-led organizations who have direct experience with this issue, rather than chauvinistically acting as though they know better. On the phone call, Brad even said he had never even been to a march before, and yet felt he was in a place to organize one. People like this should not be organizing events—they have no business organizing or advocating for people who they are incapable of standing up for.
There are a number of areas that we could improve in as well. We failed to use this time to conduct agitation and hand out propaganda. A revolutionary must always have the mass line in the forefront of their mind, and always be looking to gather the ideas of the people and hear their concerns while raising their level of consciousness. We did not interact enough with oppressed—nationality people and actual immigrants in the march, and in the future we must always think of new ways to serve the people. We should have gone further in calling out and confronting the more egregious white supremacist and imperialist signs we saw at the march, and we should have arrived with revolutionary chants in mind to further agitate and push the demonstration in a more militant direction. We also could have given our criticisms to the leadership of the event sooner and more comprehensively, while also looking for a basis on which we could unite to further the cause of the people.
Fight ICE with fire!