Originally Posted on January 30, 2019. All photographs provided by: The Larson Lens, LLC
For much of December and January, Huntington Woods Library's "Drag Queen Storytime" was under attack by forces of bigotry within, and without, the local community. It began with City Commissioner Allison Iversen, whose emails about the event included the following "I have been trying to get this stopped since it started. Please do get more people involved. I am one voice and we need many people to call this out for what it is." That leak prompted a City Commission meeting where residents of Huntington Woods showed overwhelming support for the program.
"The results that have been achieved by Drag QUEEN Storytime is statistical truth to the desire of Huntington Woods and surrounding cities, which was echoed by community member after community member, at last month's City Commission meeting. There is a waiting list for the event, and ONE letter of opposition that was the only letter sent to the Mayor's office. The community has spoken, HATE chooses NOT to hear them,” stated Jey'nce Poindexter, Founder of Trans Sistas of Color Project - Detroit and Board Member of Women's March, MI, who was in attendance at the meeting. Allison Iversen would resign early on December 18th, with her bid to end Storytime failing.
The results have been readily apparent. Joyce Krom, the librarian organizing Storytime, has been assembling wildly successful events, with 100 attendees at her first event and a perpetual waiting list since. "We strive to support all children in our community, one of our top priorities is to be welcoming and inclusive, and always work toward creating a more equitable society," Krom told MDPAN, when describing the purpose behind Drag Queen Storytime. Miss Raven Divine Cassadine, a regular host of Storytime, was leading the reading on January 26th. "I think that it’s very important that we teach the importance of reading to the children and acceptance for everyone regardless of race, sex or gender," expounded Miss Raven, on why she stays involved.
Despite all these triumphs, Poindexter was astute to point out that hate wasn't listening. In her emails, Iversen put out a call for greater involvement in shutting down the event. Tennessee-based hate group Warriors for Christ answered that call. Their founder, Rich Penkoski, placed his ignorance on public display when describing his reasons for protesting the event "Parents that bring their kids to this, you can say what you want, but a transgender 4-year-old is like a vegan cat. We know who's making the lifestyle choices for that cat and that child. Children should be left alone." This group has attempted frivolous lawsuits in Louisiana, where they booked space in the library, then proceeded to intimidate participants (some as young as 3) and filmed the Story Hour without permission. Upon encountering consequences for this behavior, they filed suit claiming their First Amendment rights were infringed upon.
MDPAN was one of the organizations asked to come out and support the event, and proceeded to call the banners of the Motor City Sisters, GNA, TSOCP, TGDetroit, Planned Parenthood, American Atheists, and Ferndale Pride. With local organizing provided by Sara Smith, the inaugural Queensguard was formed. It's mission: protect children, their families and the Queens from hate speech and other attacks, allowing Drag Queen Storytime to continue unhindered.
January 26th, 1:30 PM, pre-event defense.
The forces of hate had an early start to the day. A group of 8 well-dressed bourgeoisie formed the "Michigan Mass Resistance", an anti-LGBTQIA group who also threatened to protest the event. They stood near the entrance, inviting passersby to pray the rosary for an imagined corruption of children. They were being interviewed by the Church Militant, a Ferndale-based group that abandoned all the class consciousness of the Game of Thrones group they copied, but kept the bigotry. South of them, along the sidewalk, were a pack of six men in hoodies, several of which read "Proud Boys" along the chest, and another in a red "Make America Great Again" sweatshirt. Warriors for Christ, numbering 6, were the last to arrive, but were very proud of their custom jumpsuits.
On the other side of the wall, Queensguard had amassed over 100 supporters with almost an hour left until the 3 PM event start time. An experienced and capable bunch, they immediately took the front line, bedecked and bedazzled in rainbows, facepaint, and a gigantic array of custom signs, plus a bunch more donated by Planned Parenthood and American Atheists. The lime-capped bigot opened proceedings declaring shame and eternal hellfire on the supporters for helping corrupt the minds of children. Queensguard responded to that verbal assault with a thundering chorus of "Love Not Hate" and "Hate Go Home".
As more supporters rolled in between 2 and 3 PM, eventually exceeding 200, Warriors for Christ decided to target specific marginalized groups during their raving. "Everyone wants to be gay, but nobody wants the AIDs," was one such example, noted by a local member of the gay community. Others reported Islamaphobic comments, and a bizarre obsession with adult diapers. As volunteers with ample cellphone batteries teamed with supporters carrying a portable speaker, the screech of bigotry was deadened by the speaker and the crowd erupting into Barney's "I Love You".
2:45 PM - Showtime
Parents and their kids arrived for Storytime. One participant in the Queensguard had a basket full of flowers with ribbon and a positive, affirming message attached for each child attending. MDPAN's Lead Marshall, wearing a rainbow cape, topped with a pink wig, brought popular children's books to pass out to each young person who could make it for Storytime. When it came time to enter the library, all 200+ of the Queensguard did their best Red Sea impression, parting to provide safe passage and booming cheers for standing up to hate.
One parent would later remark "Uh oh, I hope my kid's not expecting a present and cheering every time we go to one of these."
The Proud Boys made a considerable effort to distance themselves from Warriors for Christ, milling around on the sidewalk South of the parking lot. Unfortunately, the majority of the parents were entering from that direction. Red Orchestra (RO) provided volunteers for the demonstration to ward off attacks, verbal or otherwise, from the hate groups present. It should be noted the Proud Boys were briefly added to the FBI's terror watchlist, and have strong ties to the recently arrested Roger Stone. RO took the point on the South end of the parking lot to ensure no parents would be accosted, with significant success.
Meanwhile, at the wall, the Southernmost member of the Queensguard embarked on a special mission. Matthew Kinne is an attorney that's traveled nationwide trying to stop WfC's campaign of hate against any number of genders greater than two. He brought a large thermos full of hot water, and an entire case of hot chocolate powder with balloons tied to it. Kinne attempted to have a frank, calm dialogue and perhaps a declaration of piece. Instead, the Warriors for Christ speaker rejected the gift, and proceeded to point at trans members of Queensguard and deliberately misgender them, including comments like "God will make a man out of you!" (EDIT: 2/21/19) Kinne's mission was successful, with the Southern Poverty Law Center granting the "anti-LGBT hate group" designation to Warriors for Christ. Following the news, WfC Patriarch Rich Penkoski posted a video saltier than Lot's wife on their decision to abandon their base in West Virginia.
While everyone was dressed in their Pride parade best, it was the Motor City Sisters taking everyone's breath away. With Warriors for Christ targeting individuals among the Queensguard with hate speech, Sister Misty Meanor sprung into action. Clothed as the Virgin Mary, or at least the second part, she bravely strode to the front of the line, directly in front of the bigots. From there, she turned her back to hate and let her habit fly, supported by a pair of nearby Queensguard. Golden and blue light from the fabric completely covered the megaphone operator in Warriors for Christ from view, muffling his speech in the process.
Despite WfC's leader, Rich Penkoski, saying children should be left alone in his attacks on Drag Queen Storytime, the families participating were the next major targets of the group. A barrage of vitriol eschewed from their megaphone, attempting to tell children as young as 3 that their parents were going to make them go to hell.
Fortunately, the Queensguard was more than prepared to counter. A few clicks and swipes on a cell phone had "Baby Shark" blaring through a portable speaker, with other activists holding the mic from their megaphones up to the speaker, creating a surround sound effect focused directly on the religious zealot screaming at 4-year-olds. Swaying like the waves of the ocean, all 200+ of the Queensguard lifted their voices to the heavens, belting out every "doo doo dodo do do" along the way. Paralyzed with involuntary laughter, WfC's mouthpiece did the one thing no one expected: he stopped talking.
At this time, the Proud Boys skulked off, and members of RO took point at the neighborhood intersections to ensure their preferred tactic of jumping lone activists post-event would fail.
3:30 PM - Exit, stage left.
RO provided escort detail for families or members of Queensguard walking to their cars alone or in a small group. Thanks to the (baby) shark attack, the primary threat of WfC was effectively diminished. All families were able to return to their cars safely.
It was at this point it became apparent how overwhelming the support for Drag Queen Storytime was in the Huntington Woods community. Mayor Paul stood in the supporters camp, joined by recently elected City Commissioner Michelle Elder, who replaced Allison Iversen. The literature didn't stop with just the kids, either, as many of the organizations present educational pamphlets to distribute. Joyce Krom joined the exit procession for a bit, making sure to meet one of the illustrious Motor City Sisters:
After an impromptu dance party to finish the successful defense, the principal organizers started returning to their vehicles. However, there was a bit of a standoff as everyone departed. "We stayed with the last protester on site because they were parked in front of the WfC people and didn't want to be seen getting in their car by them," reports Gloom, a member of RO and JBGC. Both sides stared each other down for a few minutes, then back-up arrived from other organizers who just finished packing up. The WfC pick-up sped off at the sight of greater numbers and all returned safely.
MDPAN is please to report zero arrest and zero instances of violence, and would like to thank Red Orchestra and all experienced protesters who helped keep it that way.
More information about the Proud Boys can be found here.
#LGBTQIAIssues #queensguard #MDPAN #motorcitysister #LGBTQIA #dragqueen #literacy #library #ferndale #pride #PlannedParenthood #proudboys #warriorsforchrist
CW: Literal Nazis and what comes with it.
Originally Posted on June 10, 2019
Update 6/12/19: Features account and video footage of an NSM member assaulting a woman in front of multiple DPD officers.
An oral history of Antifascist action in Detroit, collected and synthesized from accounts with on-site participants.
Preparations, Confrontations, and Mutual Aid
On April 16th Burt Colucci, alleged "Commander" of the National Socialist Movement [NSM], levied a threat against Motor City Pride, stating they would be holding an armed demonstration to intimidate and harm Detroit’s LGBTQIA community. Word of the threat spread among leftist circles, and LGBTQIA rights organizers were rapidly alerted. When Motor City Pride was informed, they asked concerned residents to leave it to the Detroit Police Department.
Food Not Class (FNC), which routinely serves a free buffet and clothing/toiletries share for vulnerable community members twice a week, called in as many volunteers as they could for a special serving on the first day of Motor City Pride. They set up along an apropos wall of stone on Jefferson and Bates, having just produced a “History of Pride” zine, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. Their spread was complete with 11 cases of bottled water, lasagna, vegan chili, stuffed peppers, pizza and a veritable mountain of cornbread, delighting the houseless community and passersby alike, wetting whistles and sating appetites. Mitten Medics were on hand to make sure anyone who got hurt could get patched up, and keep folks hydrated on an 80 degree day.
Red Orchestra (RO) and the youth cadre of Communist Workers League (CWL) of Detroit provided the direct action and community defense portions of the proceedings, with Antifascists garbed in tie-dye and rainbow bandanas, alternately dubbed the “Rainbow Warriors” or “Rainbow Bloc” by onlookers and social media accounts.
While Burt Colucci’s threat was copied onto Stormfront and NSM’s homepage, they were no-shows for the proposed 1 PM start time for their acts of hatred, effectively removing the most common defense of fascism: getting the trains to run on time.
Instead of the literal Nazis, 1 PM’s entertainment came in the form of a Christian bigot trundling down Jefferson, condemning LGBTQIA individuals to hell through his microphone at each step. Once he arrived within earshot of the FNC table, Antifascists sprang into action, forcing him away from MC Pride with an ersatz blockade on the sidewalk, while others harangued him through megaphones along the stone wall. His cries of homosexuality being a mortal sin were drowned out by commands to take his bigotry elsewhere, and multiple suggestions for therapy interspersed with everyone's favorite expletives.
Finding himself in front of the Renaissance Center, the hateful zealot attempted to give antifascists the slip, heading back down the sidewalk and got as far as the parking garage elevator before running into another ersatz blockade. This time, his choices were a packed sidewalk and the oncoming traffic of Jefferson, he chose the latter and rabbited to the median where Woodward and Jefferson intersect. From there, his declaration that transgender people were a crime against god was met with protesters blasting Pride anthems, such as "Born this Way" by Lady Gaga and "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross, through a portable speaker. He found himself at a loss for words as the protesters started grinding and twerking in front of him. Emboldened future MC Pride attendees took care of the rest, verbally dissolving his life's philosophy on their way to the entrance line, and he sheepishly skittered away.
Meanwhile, Food Not Class' serving was going so well, they were in danger of running out of everything but cornbread by 3 PM. Two houseless folks who enjoyed the spread elected to stick around and serenade foot traffic with punk rock and classic pop standards on their ukelele, while hanging out with FNC volunteers. Thanks to the generosity of those who enjoyed the serving earlier, they had enough for seven large pizzas and six cases of water.
Not ten minutes after the pizza order was placed, a Swastika flag was spotted in front of Cobo Hall, headed directly for Hart Plaza.
The Smallest Blitzkrieg
Walking on the North side of Jefferson, in front of the Scientology building, a lone antifascist tried to halt their march. She was shoved down by an NSM shield in full view of DPD, who neither arrested, nor charged the Nazi with assault. (video)
A second antifascist later bolted to the scene once they crossed the street, heading towards the end of the Pride entry line. They ran into a wall of no less than thirty DPD officers, some in riot gear, acting as a phalanx for ten members of NSM. The Nazis were sporting the clearance aisle of their local Army-Navy surplus, only one had a replica SS uniform. Amid the black tacticool, one woman with a Macklemore haircut stuck out in a Mormonesque khakis and white polo ensemble. The antifascist attempted to darted around and tail the group before it could reach the entry line. DPD made grabs for the protester, amid the Nazis shouting "White Power" and "Fuck You F******" to the Metro-Detroit LGBTQIA community. The police were unsuccessful, as the first Rainbow Warrior darted across the street, flipping the guardians of National Socialism the bird.
Reinforcements arrived as the Rainbow Warriors confronted the NSM and DPD head-on (video). They rallied some of the entry line of Motor City Pride in a chant of "Nazis Fuck Off" to counter the hate speech, and were aided by three members of the houseless community, who joined the front line in trying to stop the march. It was to no avail, shoved aside by DPD riot shields, the bloc took to tailing the demonstration and were joined by a furious crowd confronting a symbol of their genocide.
A crowd growing behind them, the Nazis quickened their pace as they crossed in front of Hart Plaza, a raucous uproar of "No Nazis, No KKK, No Fascist USA" behind them, and Pride attendees banging on the fences. Near the MC Pride Bicycle Valet, an Arab Rainbow Warrior was called "Sand N*****" and told "go back to your country" by a white officer. A couple brave and agile antifascists were able to briefly slip by the police bubble to get clear photos. NSM was losing ground on the Jefferson sidewalk as it crossed Bates.
DPD elected to close down Eastbound Jefferson and escort Nazis to the median and up Randolph St. The sidewalk was taken up by a fuming unified bloc of Antifascists and Pride goers shouting "Class traitor!" and a thunderous chorus of "Who do you serve, who do you protect?"
The antifascist who was assaulted at the beginning of the march was accosted by DPD. The officer grabbed her hard enough to leave bruises, and attempted to detain her because she was carrying two water bottles. The officer was quickly surrounded by protesters and let her go.
The Rainbow Bloc grew in number and overwhelmed the Southeast corner of Jefferson and Randolph and began shouting "Queer Power!" in response to NSM taunting with "White Power!" while scurrying away under heavy police guard. Then "Trans Power!" was added, later "Black Power!" and "People Power!" echoed off the walls of the Millinder Center as the Nazis retreated to Larned and Randolph.
There they lingered as the chants died. A small detachment of the bloc circled around to Woodward and Larned, rallying Pride goers at street crossings along the way to confront them from the West. Marching in, the bloc used a megaphone to undress the NSM from their odious viewpoints, to the likely origins of their lack of self-esteem. DPD reinforced the Nazis by pushing the Antifascists back and drawing a crowd of onlookers from a nearby parking garage.
At one point, possibly Bert Colucci, it was difficult to tell the men apart with twelve inches of hair between them, tore up and peed on an Israeli flag. Perhaps he was mock peeing, but no arrest attempt was made. The bloc laughed, responding "We're leftists, we don't like Israel 'cause they act like you!"
Each attempt for the National Socialist Mormon to speak through her megaphone was shouted down, sometimes with clever jabs, a Queer Power reprisal or simply "Shut up, just shut the fuck up". Eventually, this drew more attention from Pride goers and Detroit visitors alike, and the "Nazis Are Scared" chant caught on. Curiously, they stopped attempting to spew hate at Randolph and Larned, and walked West. Masked members of the bloc eschewed them out with a spirited but off key "Na Na Hey Hey" by Steam and Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack". Sadly, a voluminous DPD presence allowed "White Power" to echo through the Millinder Center tunnel as they skulked away.
The Rainbow Warriors regrouped and cut around to Larned and Beaubien via Jefferson, and were greeted with cheers from early bar goers, chasing the NSM into a parking lot on Larned and St. Antoine. Another section of the bloc marched up to the other entrance of the parking lot and was halted by a suffocating array of DPD officers and cruisers. The Warriors remained undaunted, bringing a reprise of "Nazis Are Scared" as the police escorted the National Socialist Movement away in a rented catering van.
From the start of the MC Pride line to the parking lot retreat, the National Socialist Movement only managed to disrupt Pride proper for 10 minutes and Detroit proper for 20, 5 spent cowering in a van.
Meanwhile, the Mitten Medics held it down at the Food Not Class table, but their consumable supplies dwindled to cornbread and coffee. Fortunately, they had plenty of literature from FNC and Communist Workers League, plus radical stickers.
Post-Action Mutual Aid
After taking a half hour to regroup, FNC realized they completely forgot about the pizza. The resupply run lasted 45 minutes and everyone had to make due apologizing for only having coffee, clothes, cornbread and literature. Once the 8 large pizzas arrived, it was passed out to hungry Pride attendees in roughly 5 minutes. Many people lingered, dancing to 105.9 on the portable speaker, and/or talking radical theory.
The Mitten Medics patched up a young Pride-goer who suffered a leg injury, keeping her comfortable and well hydrated with bandage wraps and assistance on an impromptu medical evacuation. Red Orchestra and Communist Workers League squads walked the streets around Pride, checking to ensure no white supremacists lingered. Along the way, they encountered a man catcalling women waiting in line from his car. Blocking his view, he stopped yelling and got out of his car, frustrated. Unpleasant words were exchanged at low volume, but it was made clear his behavior was out of line and it was also the least logical place to try anyway. He stormed off, but bothered Pride no further.
FNC was confronted by an undercover officer, upset about the organization's rule of refusing service to law enforcement and fascists. He took a piece of anti-police literature and interrogated the organization over its permit status for the stone wall on Jefferson and Bates. Eventually, he left, thoroughly unsatisfied with his lack of service.
The sun went down, and Pride came to a close Nazi-free. All in a day's work for Antifa.
#LGBTQIAIssues #motorcitypride #communistworkersleague #foodnotclass #mittenmedics #Detroit #nazi #antifa #mutualaid #communitydefense #directaction
Originally Posted on February 24, 2018
A Hardee’s employee in Woodhaven, Michigan, has accused other Hardee’s employees of discriminating against him for his sexual orientation. The employee recounted that after an incident where he accidentally spilled ketchup on his shirt, his employees laughed it off and the jokes seemed harmless. The jokes eventually led to him discovering that homophobic slurs were allegedly being used against him when he was not around. Higher-ups allegedly knew about this inappropriate behavior, but no one took action. The employee recounted that his general manager, Scott Papineau, threatened that if he kept working like a “f*ggot”, he could walk off the floor and never come back. This incident allegedly occurred today. The employee feels that he was being bullied by other Hardee’s employees. He recalls being lied on by another employee, causing a customer to yell at him and accuse him of saying something inappropriate that he insists he never said. He believes that other employees were involved in an attempt to get him fired.
Originally Posted on September 28, 2017
Last Saturday (a very hot Saturday), the second Love is Love rally took place. This time the rally was held in Hamtramck, the last one being in Ferndale. The turnout was nice. Many came out and showed their support. There were maybe one or two hecklers but the positivity drowned them out. The Love is Love rally is about LGBT equality, love for each other, and self-love.
LGBT equality is something that we still fight for now. In August, a LGBT leader's residence the target of an arsonist in Jackson, Michigan. The alleged hate crime took place not too long after the city passed its non-discrimination ordinance. ACLU Michigan has recently filed a lawsuit to challenge Michigan's practice of allowing state contracted child agencies to reject couples solely based on their sexual orientations. LGBT activists have also fought for LGBT people to be included in the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act. Unfortunately, Michigan Civil Rights declined their requests. Our president proposed a bill to ban all transgender people from the military. Let's not forget the "bathroom" debate.
The LGBT rally kicked off with upbeat songs like "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross, "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga, and "I Wanna be Your Lover" by Prince. The wall decorated with heartwarming posters about LGBT equality, made by high school students across Detroit.
Avery Grey, Huffington Post Queer Voices Contributor, member of MDPAN, gave an emotional speech about their life as an intersex person. They also read a beautiful poem about self-love titled "The Greatest Love of All". Avery's speech and poem was definitely the highlight of the rally. It represented what the rally was all about. The Mayor of Hamtramck, Karen Majewski spoke about her support for LGBT equality. She let the audience know that everyone is welcome in Hamtramck. It was nice to see a government official stand up for LGBT rights. Abhay Sinh Rathwa, a local musician, also performed acoustic guitar covers of "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King and "What a Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke.
Love is Love was full of peace and support. There were nothing but positive vibes in the atmosphere. MDPAN plans to have more rallies in various locations around Metro Detroit. MDPAN will announce the city for the next rally soon. We hope to see you at the next one.
#Feminism #GenderEquality #LGBTQIAIssues #Peace #LGBT #lgbtequality #selflove #positivity
Originally Posted on September 11, 2017
Recently, I attended a Slutwalk protest in Detroit. I had been anticipating it for weeks. I was so excited to see all the signs and the outfits. But the Slutwalk is so much more than signs and outfits. It's not just about women walking around half naked. It's about taking a stand against rape culture. It's about speaking out against victim blaming, slut shaming, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, racism; I can go on and on. Contrary to popular belief, it isn't just about women being proud to be sluts. It does play a part in it ,though. And I'm not mad about that.
Detroit's Slutwalk took place in Palmer Park. One of the bordering streets of Palmer Park, is Woodward Avenue and West Seven Mile. Woodward Avenue is a notable street for sex workers. Many transgender sex workers have lost their lives on Woodward Avenue and West Seven Mile, making it an important street to have the protest at. I remember one of the speakers asking everyone to have a moment of silence to think about all of the sex workers who had lost their lives on the street we were standing on. That was the first time I had heard about that. I remember riding past those women as a child. I never thought about how dangerous it was for them. I never realized how many had actually died on that street.
Counselors had took the time out to support the cause and to also provide support to people who could be triggered by the stories of the speakers. I will be honest and say that a lot of the stories about rape were triggering for me. I tried to hold it in and distract myself, but my friend encouraged me to talk to one of the counselors. The counselor understood that I was angry. She told me that attending the protest was a step forward to me, and I agree that it was.
Hearing stories from victims of sexual assault and domestic violence gave me mixed emotions. I balled up my fists from anger as I listened to the things they experienced. It felt like I would burst into tears at some moments. I also thought about how much courage it took for everyone to share their stories.
Screaming "Sexual assault is not our fault!" with the other protesters was empowering for me. We also screamed, "Who's streets? Our streets!" and it made me feel so happy. It felt better to know that I wasn't alone. There was no judgement. No one was there to spread violence and hate. The protest was filled with love and support. I hope to see more of it in the future.
#Feminism #GenderEquality #LGBTQIAIssues #Peace #slutwalk #detroitslutwalk
National Day of Action
#transgender #blacklivesmatter #blacktranslivesmatter #lgbtqiaissues#massincarceration #racialjustice
An oral history chronicling the Antifascist actions in Charlottesville/DC the weekend of August 10-12, 2018.
August 10th, 2018
As Antifa chapters convened across the country, so too did the Abolish ICE Network gather in the humid and ordinarily friendly confines of Charlottesville, VA. A city besieged by white supremacist violence just a year ago, culminating in the savage beating of DeAndre Harris and murder of Heather Heyer, found itself in the grip of an oppressive police state. State Trooper vehicles lined the entrances to the historic campus, formations focused around the college's numerous monuments, and frequent patrols skulked through the downtown streets.
Nevertheless, it was Friday, and the Abolish ICE team was committed to continuing their tradition of a One Million Flames solidarity vigil, for victims of the pogrom against immigrants (including the child who died from a respiratory infection contracted while imprisoned by ICE), mass incarceration, and especially Heather Heyer. Candles lined the sidewalk of the Charlottesville Federal Courthouse, the abolitionists forced off the premises proper by local police.
They fanned out, enveloping the street corner in candlelight as cars passed by, honking supportively. A few glared at the gathering, furtively taking cell phone pictures of the demonstrators. As the abolitionists were singing "Solidarity Forever", passersby walked up to the courthouse to join them. With the local support, this One Million Flames vigil was officially a success.
The Antifa/Abolitionist collective concluded their ceremony thanking the bystanders who joined the movement, however briefly, and quietly returned home to prepare for Charlottesville's defense.
August 11th, 2018 - Downtown Charlottesville - 1 PM
Fueled by pancakes, scrambled eggs and a demand for social justice, the Antifa collective set to work planning their memorial service for Heather Heyer at the site of her murder. Despite the peaceful objective, Virginia Police had walled off the downtown plaza but for one entrance, heavily guarded with a security checkpoint and a banned items list that grew longer with each query.
Upon arrival to the parking lot, Virginia State police immediately made a show of running license plates of cars whose occupants dressed in all black with hats and sunglasses. An armored vehicle crept closer in the lot towards the Antifa gathering, but peeled off after some comrades began taking selfies in front of it.
Undeterred by the show of intimidation by state authorities, Antifa strolled to the security checkpoint. While most cleared it without incident, one of the medics was forced to discard a CPR mask as part of the "no masks" policy. Given that the heat index was in the upper 90s, the group was dressed in all black and packed into narrow alleyways, such a decision was patently unsafe on the part of Virginia State Police.
Once inside the downtown plaza, the collective marched solemnly and silently to the Heather Heyer memorial. While the police presence was oppressive, the people of Charlottesville were overwhelmingly supportive. Affirmations like "thank you for being here" punctuated the silent march, along with an accordion player plying his trade. As Antifa approached the fateful alley, time slowed and sound dissipated.
Flower bundles dotted the sidewalk along the site. The building's owner taped memorial flyers to the windows and a sprawling chalk mural covered the red brick, "Gone But Not Forgotten" its centerpiece. Some members of the collective knelt to write their own chalk messages in the pavement, others stood respectfully in silence.
A solemn, respectful service was the goal, but a horde of photographers had other plans. Several comrades asked the press politely for ten minutes to mourn without interference. That request was denied, as shutters continued to click and the Antifa collective was left with their grief and a side of gawkers. In addition to wanting a respectful ceremony, the request for no pictures is also for personal safety reasons, as both the fascist street movement and the state want to doxx the identities of Antifa for nefarious purposes.
With both pressure and grief mounting, one comrade broke down at the scene and was covered by their closest friends. A fourth spread wings of revolution to allow them at least some semblance of privacy, with help from a fifth.
Their service concluded, the collective gathered themselves and returned to the plaza. The accordion player struck up "This Little Light of Mine" and the 40+ strong black parade joined in. As the shine of those verses faded, it was replaced by a reprise of "Solidarity Forever" from the previous evening as they exited through the security checkpoint.
August 11th, 2018 - UVA Brooks Hall - 7 PM
With the previous two actions, this collective mourned the dead. Now the time came to fight like hell for the living. Black Lives Matter Charlottesville (BLM) and UVA Students United (UVASU) organized and led rally to protest the white supremacy terrorizing their community and the oppressive police state that descended on the town this weekend, in the name of overcompensation for last year. Antifa's role was to follow their lead and protect vulnerable students in attendance.
While initially planned as a rally at the Rotunda, local police demanded only students with ID be permitted to enter, and everyone was subject to a search and metal detectors. The organizing team promptly rejected that notion and announced that they were holding the rally at Brooks Hall, where all could attend. Several hundred gathered at the scene.
A crescendo of cheers quickly rose from the crowd as the banner emerged, a poignant message of "Last year they came with torches, this year they come with badges," emblazoned on the canvas.
Other banners, such as "200 Years of White Supremacy", "Cville Fights Back" and "We Keep Us Safe" joined it in sentiment. The introductory speaker put UVA on blast, profiting off the misery of the campus following the violence against Heyer and Harris. The speaker called out Virginia police for their inappropriate and oppressive deployment, pointing out that so far all the additional police action has done is harm members of the local community, while making no effort to identify or arrest fascist agitators.
At that point, roughly twenty state troopers fanned out in a straight line along the west side of the demonstration. The show of force was noted, and under UVASU/BLM's direction, Antifa quickly mobilized to help guide the protest to a location less hemmed in. Fortunately, that location was a hop, skip, and jump away at the steps of Brooks Hall. Two more of the UVASU/BLM organizers were able to speak their truth atop the balcony of Brooks Hall, but law enforcement had other ideas.
Without warning or provocation, forty police garbed in riot gear streamed onto the South side of the lawn. Their line was held back by a greater number of clergy and student demonstrators. Meanwhile, Antifa fanned out and formed a protective wall of black around the main crowd. "Not one riot cop is to lay their hands on any student!" was the edict passed down.
"Why are you in riot gear? We don't see no riot here!" was the chant from an entirely non-violent crowd, expressing their disgust at the show of force.
For a moment, it appeared the rally would be able to continue at Brooks Hall. Before the speaking program could really gain steam, a shout came from the student front opposite the riot cops. "We have been declared an unlawful assembly!" echoed through each line of people. Charlottesville and VA Police have yet to provide evidence as to why this order was declared, unless the 1st Amendment no longer applies to protests against white supremacy.
Nevertheless, it was clear the police state would not tolerate a protest so close to the historic UVA campus properties, so the rally transformed into a march, growing to over 1000 demonstrators, and UVASU led the taking back of Charlottesville's streets.
Winding through the hilly streets of Charlottesville, the emotional support team deployed affirmations to the marchers. Marchers were reminded that they're a good looking group, the best the speaker has seen. They were also told they were loved, not just in the general community sense, but by the speaker in specific. Other support teams went to work passing out water and checking for heat exhaustion, scrapes, and other common maladies that can occur when in close proximity to the hooved, snouted, and badged sliver of the population.
Out-maneuvering the forces of oppression for a time, the march transformed back into a rally on the colosseum stands overlooking the Lambeth Field soccer pitch.
Chants of "We are powerful" echoed through the colosseum steps. Initially, only a small pack of police were present on the north side of the colosseum, and UVASU was able to continue more of its program. The power of direct action and mass movement was readily apparent as a fervor whipped through the crowd. Truth eschewed from megaphones on the pitch. One speaker even taught a new song to the audience, of which two verses were very successful in taking root.
Sadly, this non-violent expression of community organizing was not to be tolerated for long. Thirty police offers flooded onto the back of the soccer pitch, walling off one of two major exits. Then, another pack blocked off the other side of the colosseum. With only one opening left, UVASU/BLM gave the order to move. Antifa swiftly mobilized to assist with escaping the second kettling attempt of the evening. Activists hopped, lunged, and crawled up the Shaquille O'Neal-sized steps to deliver a speedy and safe exit for the demonstration.
At the behest of the local organizers, the Antifa collective peeled off from the main demonstration in an effort to draw away the heavy police presence, as the march was entering a marginalized neighborhood.
Sweaty, but energized, the Antifa collective was able to safely return to their vehicles and leave police-occupied Charlottesville. Their mission was successful, all students and demonstrators were unharmed for the duration of the security detail. Freedom of expression was preserved.
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Black Trans Assembly for Abolition
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