“The Poster Wars”: Fighting Fascism on the Street Level

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

Fred Hampton, “Power Anywhere Where There’s People,” 1969

There has been an alarming increase in white nationalist organizing in Seattle in the last year. In August 2016, a white nationalist group called Identity Europa (also called Identity Evropa, or IE for short; formerly, the National Youth Front) held a private conference in Ballard. Immediately afterwards, a wave of white nationalist posters and stickers began to spread over Seattle, concentrated in the University District. Most of these posters are for The Right Stuff, a neo-Nazi website that hosts a prominent alt-right podcast, The Daily Shoah (Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust). These are people who revel in edgy extremism, talk about putting Jews in ovens, and invented the practice of putting triple-parentheses around the names of (((Suspected Jews))) to target them for harassment and worse.

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The name “alt-right,” short for alternative right, was coined by Richard “Hail Trump” Spencer. Like “fascism,” alt-right is a vague, much-debated term; the alt-right currently seems to boil down to a belief that traditional hierarchies are justified, so feminism, egalitarianism, and racial equality must be rejected. They claim that racism is justified by biology, culture, and/or history (many of them call this “race realism”), and that today white people are threatened by immigration and interracial mixing (what many of them call “white genocide”). They are really into Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump, and deporting brown people; they really hate Muslims and the radical left (antifascists, socialists, communists, anarchists, and so on). Beyond that, they have several disagreements: whether homosexuality is okay, whether Jews run the world, what rights women and black people should have, how to approach religion and economics, whether to use the word “fascism,” and how to achieve their goals.

Instead of debating the meaning of “fascism”, it is probably more useful to discuss the movement in terms of white nationalism, as Fredy Perlman does in the essay, “The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism”:

Common language and religion appear to be corollaries of nationhood, but only because of an optical illusion. As welding materials, languages and religions were used when they served their purpose, discarded when they did not. Neither multi-lingual Switzerland nor multi-religious Yugoslavia were banned from the family of nations. The shapes of noses and the color of hair could also have been used to mobilize patriots—and later were. The shared heritages, roots and commonalities had to satisfy only one criterion, the criterion of American-style pragmatic reason: did they work? Whatever worked was used. The shared traits were important, not because of their cultural, historical or philosophical content, but because they were useful for organizing a police to protect the national property and for mobilizing an army to plunder the colonies.

We need to take these threats seriously, before more people get hurt. But there is good news: the alt-right mostly consists of people hiding behind computer screens, spewing hate in an echo-chamber of blogs, social media, discussion forums and podcasts. Many Americans are starting to question whiteness, capitalism, sexism, and so on, and that makes the alt-right desperate. Their online organizing can still be dangerous, as when they snitch to ICE on undocumented people and dox their enemies. Milo Yiannopoulis told his audiences to “purge your local illegals”. On the day of his UW talk some people attempted to dox undocumented UW students, and doxed a couple student organizers. Yet so far, the alt-right are not organizing publicly and in the streets. Mostly, they are organizing from their computers and parents’ basements—or in the case of Richard Spencer, his parents’ vacation home. They are attempting to make the leap from online spaces to physical spaces with their propaganda, secret meetings, and outreach to or infiltration of existing groups. Antifa (antifascist) organizing works to disrupt this stage, by documenting white supremacist activity, exposing their organizers, and breaking up their meetings.

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In early December, 2016, fake Emerald City Antifa (now Pacific Northwest Intersectional Anti-Fascist Network) posters appeared in the U-District, reading: “When you date a white it’s not alright/Propogation of whites is propogation of hatred, oppression, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, racism, ableism. This will not be tolerated/You have been warned!” Emerald City Antifa quickly declared to posters to be fake. Alt-right trolls have circulated templates for similar fake antifa posters online, and many of the posters were put up next to posters for a Cascadian white nationalist group. Similarly—possibly by the same people—a fake antifa group called “Action Front! Collective” appears to have been set-up by white supremacists. They have postered on Capitol Hill and created a website, actionfrontblog.wordpress.com. They set-up several fake “Seattle Antifa” social media accounts, at twitter.com/seattleantifa, seattleantifa.tumblr.com, and facebook.com/Action-Front-138904783253471/. Many alt-right people have been setting up such “honey pot” fake-antifa social media accounts to collect information on the Left in the last few months.

On the night of February 15th, 2017, three neo-Nazis were nearly caught in the act outside the UW-Seattle Glenn Hughes Theater. They left posters for “AtomWaffen Division” with straight-up Nazi imagery across campus, including a call to “drive out sodomites and degenerates.” They posted a Youtube video of themselves putting up the posters and doing a fascist salute outside Sieg Hall. The UW police stepped up patrols outside the theater, and UWPD Major Steve Rittereiser told a reporter: “For some people, [those flyers are] going to be clearly offensive. For others it’s going to be seen as not offensive. We are an open campus that respects freedom of speech, freedom of expression, so we will let people judge that in a way they want to. Obviously, if you find it offensive you’ll want to stay away from that.” Quotes like this, and police inaction after the Red Square shooting on January 20th, make it clear we cannot rely on the police to protect us.

In response to all this, people have been removing racist propaganda, and some are putting up antifa posters and stickers. One group collected reports of white supremacist propaganda through antifa206@riseup.net, and made a map of incidents available at pugetsoundanarchists.org. The map lists 112 documented incidents over the last several months. This includes 45 posters and stickers for The Right Stuff, concentrated in the U-District and downtown Bellevue; 26 Identity Europa posters and stickers, mostly on UW campus and Capitol Hill; 19 American Renaissance tags, another white supremacist group, almost all in the Central District; and six swastikas, mostly in the U-District.

Recently, stickers reading “ ‘Diversity’ Is a Code Word for White Genocide” and for the white nationalist group “True Cascadia” have appeared in the U-District and on Capitol Hill. (The main Cascadia group, CascadiaNow!, and the designer of the Cascadian flag, Alexander Baretich, explicitly denounce white supremacy and all forms of bigotry.) Strangely, there are two stickers that often show up in the same places as the more-obviously-racist propaganda: one reading “Craft Beer = White Supremacy,” and another reading “White Suburban Folks,” with an outline of a man, woman, boy, and girl.
You can carry a thick sharpie or paint pen to cover racist graffiti, and a small tool like a carpenter’s chisel for scraping racist posters and stickers. Be aware of local graffiti laws. In Seattle, there is no law explicitly prohibiting stickers or wheatpasted posters on public property. Spray painting and sharpie graffiti are legally considered vandalism.

Identity Europa’s main national organizer is a California State University-Stanislaus student named Nathan Benjamin Damigo, who works closely with Richard Spencer. Several years ago, Damigo was convicted of a felony hate crime for brutally attacking and robbing a Muslim cab driver. On November 12th, 2016, Damigo visited Seattle to speak at the Northwest Forum, organized by Greg Johnson of the white nationalist website Counter-Currents Publishing. Last December, Northern California Anti-Racist Action reported:

“Much of IE’s recent efforts have gone into massive road trips, in which cadre members have traveled around their respective regions putting up posters and stickers, and in some cases attempting to engage with students. By and large these efforts have been thwarted; from their failed attempt at holding a rally in SF to hundreds of posters and stickers being destroyed. IE also spends a lot of energy on inreach into campus groups such as the college Republican clubs and other white nationalist organizations, using Trump’s campaign as a foot in the door much like ‘Alt-Lite’ speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos have done.”
On February 25th, 2017, the Northwest Forum featured Kevin MacDonald, an anti-Semitic professor called “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic” for his race theories about Jews. MacDonald is co-director of the American Freedom Party, Identity Europa’s parent organization. Johnson has stated Counter-Currents will organize six more Northwest Forums in 2017, in each even-numbered month. One or more of these forums will likely be in Seattle. Damigo has stated he is interested in working with College Republicans, and he appears to have a cozy relationship with the University of California-Berkeley College Republicans. James Allsup, the president of the WSU College Republicans who helped organize Milo’s visits to WSU and UW, is openly a white nationalist.

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This might all be overwhelming or intimidating, but it is very unlikely that each of the groups represented by the propaganda have an active group of followers in Seattle. The alt-right has a lot of overlap; there are probably only a handful of people responsible for Seattle’s white nationalist propaganda. Here are some basic steps towards overcoming them:

Photograph and report fascist propaganda to antifa206@riseup.net. As mentioned above, remove fascist posters and stickers with a scraping tool or house key; cover fascist graffiti with paint or a sharpie. Practice good security culture to defend yourself against doxing by right-wing activists. Get out and do some wheatpasting, stickering, and otherwise bring some color to our gray city. If you witness harassment, ask the person being harassed how they are and what they need; place yourself between them and the harasser. Report ICE raids and checkpoints to the United We Dream hotline: 1-844-363-1423. Take pictures, video, and notes of what happens, time, number of agents, badge numbers, and vehicle types. Talk with your neighbors about starting an Anti-Racist Neighborhood Watch (see the Anti-Racist Neighborhood Watch Quick Start Manual at portlandassembly.org). Organize with your co-workers or fellow students to demand bigotry-free workplaces and schools. Read up on white nationalists and stay updated on antifa organizing. Some good sources are ItsGoingDown.org, AntiFascistNews.net, PugetSoundAnarchists.org, Crimethinc.com, RoseCityAntifa.org, and the report “CTRL-ALT-DELETE: The origins and ideology of the Alternative Right” by Matthew N. Lyons at PoliticalResearch.org. And of course, you can get together with some trusted friends and start an antifa group. The more the merrier.


 

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