Guest Post: “Counterdemonstration in Nazi Land”

This post was written by a supporter of Revolutionary Youth Alliance and as such does not officially reflect the political line of our organization. Still, we think the perspective the author provides is valuable and we’re hosting it for others to enjoy. This is the first of hopefully many more guest posts to come.

 

Saturday, June 10th, Lansing, Michigan

 

“Is that police?”

“What?”

“There. The ones with the guns.”

“Those are the fascists,” Comrade Thomas said. “That’s the Michigan Militia.”

I blinked. “Oh.” Well then.

I didn’t recognize the fascist crowd when we were upon it because there were so few of them. I did notice the people with automatic rifles, though, because they were facing us, standing still, and wearing camo uniforms. They seemed very self-righteous and proud of themselves.

The police did not tell the fascists to leave, nor did they seem interested in photographing, profiling, or arresting them. What they did do was create a 1.5-ish meter gap between us, achieved by propping up orange and white folding signs and stringing two lines of police tape in front of each crowd. On the folding signs were the words “PUBLIC SERVICE” across the top, which I thought was ironic.

While we chanted We love our Muslim neighbors and glowered at the fascists, I wondered how many of them were actual genocidal maniacs (the self-aware Nazis) versus how many were just local racists that felt like doing something on a Saturday (the not so self-aware Nazis.) I searched the small but growing crowd across the rift to look for them. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but assumed I would know it when I saw it. Swastikas? Pepe pins, maybe? Let’s check it out. A detail that stuck out to me was the recurrence of the American flag, which I thought was interesting. I remembered the call-and-response chant we did on the way there about racists belonging in “Nazi Land,” and Thomas sarcastically employing a curious tone of voice, saying, “What’s Nazi Land?” (America, I guess.) I spotted a narrow post with a celtic cross printed at the top, propped up by a white man with a fuzzy brown beard and gas station sunglasses. Ah. There’s one, I thought.

I implicitly decided to buddy with comrade Sam (read: follow them around.) Sam intimidated me because I was acutely aware of how much smarter they were than me. However, they were also the person I had spoken to the most by far out of everyone I knew in RYA, which I felt gave me permission to be clingy for a couple hours. They didn’t seem to mind; antifascists, in my experience, don’t tend to mind it when people need help or support–or, in my case, somebody to cling to at their first counter-demonstration.

When we migrated to the front–an exciting place to be–to our immediate left, a comrade was in the middle of yelling at the fascists and not caring about her slow steps forward. Her waist tugged the yellow police tape taut. That made me a little nervous. I imagined her breaking that tape, followed by images of red spray, diabolical machinery noise, and screaming. I poked her bare shoulder with my index finger, wanting to beckon her back a little, but she didn’t notice. Only then two chauvinist pigs on the other side of the gap started yelling at her about female hysteria, and I didn’t want to invalidate her anger like how they were doing. Okay, know what? Fine, I thought. Let whatever’s going to happen happen.

“I’m taking away your seven. You’re a six,” one of them said, spitting his words out like he was punishing her. His friend, holding an American flag on a pole, gave a throaty laugh. The sound was vaguely reminiscent of a stalling engine. “There was a bitch with a mask on handing out fliers and taking pictures over there. She was an easy two.”

I remembered hearing high school boys rate the high school girls on a scale of 1-10 similarly, carelessly, and I remembered all of the violence at the hands of men that some of my female-identifying comrades and friends have told me about. Violence from misogyny, from entitlement, from dehumanization. I stared at the men across the line and thought violent thoughts.

It wasn’t just this one comrade; there was a lot of shouting all across the gap in front. It wasn’t unbearably loud, since the fascists had maybe 30-40 people and we had upwards of 60, but the raised voices less than two meters in front of my face made it a lot to absorb at once. My takeaway was that the fascists are very full of misunderstandings about the city of Dearborn, Sharia law, the Quran, the gays, and clitorises, and are very very emotional (rabidly angry) about all of it. At one point, I saw a Nazi with a yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” flag point at a comrade holding a sign that read “HALAL” on it in English letters: “Is that ‘halal’?!” He screamed, “Is that fucking ‘halal’?!” At this, a stranger with a violet bandana came up next to me and started shouting back at him. “Shut the fuck up, you Nazi piece of shit! Fuck you, you fucking Nazi!” I turned my head and looked up at him. Standing profile to him, I could see his eyes behind his sunglasses; they were the color of unforgivingly cold weather. I saw fury. I wondered who he was thinking of at home.

When I started acclimating to the commotion, I thought about the people they were talking so much shit about–Muslims, mostly. That was the point of their demonstration; to come together and have an Islamophobic ass-wiping party. My mind went back home, to the people who make home; Muslim friends, queer-trans friends, immigrant co-workers, and my immigrant family, and I looked across at the crowd and thought of violence again.

At around 1:00, we marched away from the fascists and went back the way we came. Most of us left, but maybe 15-20 comrades stayed behind. I was somewhat worried for their safety, but told myself that the Michigan Militia wouldn’t fire at unarmed antifascists because that would make for bad press. While we walked, I reconvened with Elizabeth, a comrade I met at the May Day festival the previous month. Elizabeth reminded me of my (very nice) old kindergarten teacher, so naturally, I puked up all of my thoughts on her on the way back. I talked about how caring for the people has to be the same thing as hating some people sometimes, and how I was stupid for not really getting that before today. She occasionally validated me with a breathy-voiced “yeahhh…” and a sympathetic nod. I noted dependence on others as a motif for the day.

On the walk back, I remembered how I tried to distinguish the blatant fascists from the moderate fascists. I realized that the fascist that “felt like doing something on a Saturday” is the same fascist that was holding up a Celtic cross, who is the same fascist that was rating our female comrades on 1-10 scales, who is the same fascist that started screaming after reading the word halal.  As we came to the parking lot where we’d started from, I looked at the people giving each other water and sharing food. I looked around at all of us and felt safe. For placebo confidence, I threw my head back like I was drinking a shot, inhaled the atmosphere, and I looked up.

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