It all started a month ago, when eight NSM members from the organization's California chapter, which has its headquarters in Riverside, gathered for a protest of the same day labor corner. There they had their flags confiscated and set ablaze, and after a failed attempt to snatch an Israeli flag, were quickly chased off.
Across town at City Hall, a broad-based coalition of political parties, religious groups, student organizations, labor unions, and other community groups, held an anti-hate, pro-diversity rally that saw the participation of between 150 and 200 people. The Peace and Freedom Party
played a major role in spearheading the coalition. In the aftermath of the resounding victory for anti-racists, the NSM declared that they would rally again on October 24, and the coalition acted quickly to expand its numbers and plan a strategic response. They planned a meeting at Riverside's Unitarian Universalist Church for that Saturday, inviting all concerned community members to join in. The day prior to said meeting, three neo-Nazis brandished their swastika flags outside Riverside's Temple Beth El's shabbat service, accusing the Jewish congregating of "promoting violence," apparently in reference to the non-welcome they received from the antifascists.1
That same night, the Congregational Church across the street from the Unitarian Church where the coalition was to meet was vandalized with satanic and anti-semitic grafitti, including "666" and "Eat Jews." While California NSM "commander" and Riverside resident Jeff Hall denied that there was any connection between NSM and the vandalism, it is exactly the type of juvenile tactic that Nazis are known for--right down to getting the wrong church.2
The most intense moment of the buildup to the 24th was on Wednesday, October 7, when 23-year-old resident of Riverside County's Lake Elsinore Benjamin Kuzelka blew off his own hand in attempt to manufacture explosives. His mother ran a childcare facility out of the residence. A police search of the residence turned up white supremacist paraphernalia.3
At the next meeting of the anti-hate coalition, held again at the Unitarian Church on October 21, Unitarians reported that racist skinheads had attended their Sunday service and attempted to provoke congregation members, as well as recruit some of the children of the congregation to their creed.
The stakes were undoubtedly very high for all parties involved.
The Riverside anti-Nazi coalition was keen on preventing any type of violence, and went to great lengths to avoid any situation similar to the confrontation that had occurred on September 26, establishing a large "Harmony" committee, complete with a command hierarchy, and composing a set of fifteen "Rally Rules." The list was sent out via e-mail and printed on a bilingual (English and Spanish) leaflet with Pastor Martin Niemöller's poem First they came...
on the back to be distributed to all participants. They also raised money to pay for the printing of some 400 signs with slogans such as "Inland Area Rejects Nazi Hate," "No Human Being Is Illegal," "Tolerance Yes, Hatred No!" and the George Washington quote "To Bigotry, No Sanction," as well as for port-a-potties and food for a community victory celebration at nearby Villegas Park following the departure of the racists.
The contingent that took direct action during the first rally, which was made up of many students heeding the call to make use of their educations to lead the way toward a hate-free future, also made preparations, including strategy sessions, outreach, and the creation of large, bamboo-supported banners reading "Students Support Day Laborers," "Estudiantes Apoyan a los Jornaleros," "End Hate Now!" "Somos Un Pueblo Sin Fronteras," and the crowd-pleasing "Intolerance? That Was Sooooo 1942."
The Nazis, seeking to recover from a humiliating defeat, had everything to lose. Recognizing their organizational weakness, they set the bar for themselves very low, stating that their objective was simply to "begin again at 10am and will not leave until 1pm."4
The sun was out and already hot at 8:00 the day of the big event. School board member Victoria Baca donated coffee and donuts for those committed enough to show up early (some as early as before five and six in the morning) and lay claim to the Home Depot side of the street. The police had already begun setting up metal barriers on both sides of the street and establishing their staging area on a vacant lot across from the Home Depot and adjacent to the railroad tracks.
Two young white supremacists, one with a pink mohawk and the other wearing ill-fitting Doc Martens, walked through the area claimed for tolerance looking for their ignorant brethren. They were quickly advised to look elsewhere.
Just up Madison at the Mobil Station and Denny's parking lot, where the NSM had advised supporters to park via e-mail, small groups of antiracist activists stood watch just in case the leadership actually told the truth. But apparently, they were content to leave their potential supporters to march the two blocks to the rally site alone. The police, probably with the awareness that racists had just attempted to build bombs, patrolled the area with bomb-sniffing dogs. One veteran anti-racist recognized a couple who entered the parking lot on a motorcycle from previous engagements. "Fuck you," the fifty-something woman on the back of the bike said to him as the vehicle stopped at the driveway to exit the lot. "Fuck you," she repeated to him just before the bike sped off and got on the 91 freeway.
Instead of fulfilling their promise to their correspondents, the racists parked behind the police blockade on Railroad Avenue. Some of them, presumably the "stormtroopers" they had promised to bring, were dressed in black paramilitary costumes, complete with helmets. Others wore NSM t-shirts. Among their number were members of as far away as Arizona.5
Another that had come from afar was Mike O'Dell
, whose blog postings on the no-longer popular social networking site MySpace.com include everything from lamentations of loneliness and lack of attention from women, to admissions of alcoholism and thoughts of suicide, to dirt on other Nazis from his own organization.6
Bay Area antifa take note: O'Dell lives on Hyde Street
in the Lower Nob Hill area of San Francisco, and likes to drink at the Hyde Out. His neighbors and others in the community should probably be made aware of the type of danger to which his presence exposes them.
Almost immediately after they arrived, the most determined activists, many of whom were Brown Berets, crossed the street and knocked down the metal barrier, attempting to physically remove the offending parties.7
Police in riot gear jumped in to protect the Nazis, brutalizing several of the anti-fascists. One Brown Beret, an elder in the community, was placed under arrest and was not accorded the respect due to an elder.
Despite the markedly brief nature of the conflict, the mainstream media has predictably sensationalized the day's events in their accounts. The Republican-owned Press-Enterprise
, in point of fact, dedicated nearly half of the photos of its on-line slide show
to those few moments of the over-three-hour rally.
Once order was restored, the Nazis sought to claim it as a victory. Perhaps ignorant of the idiocy of their claim, the chanted, "Whose streets? Our streets!" while standing on the sidewalk.
The initial scuffle marked the first rupture of the barricade. The next came about an hour into the protest, when the youth-oriented anti-fascist contingent marched directly down Madison with their banners, drums, and bullhorns, intent on disrupting the Nazi manifestation. Again, the police swooped in, this time on motorcycles. They turned on their sirens, but the students and their allies were undeterred. As antifa took the street to the cheers of the crowd, one group of Nazis withdrew, retiring for the day. A minor victory was celebrated. Eventually, in the face of massive violent repression on the part of the police state, they decided to change tactics, and withdrew to the intersection with Madison to regroup.
Loyda Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network
lead a group of day laborers, supporters, and percussionists in a series of creative and original chants, including "Who's got the power? We've got the power! What kind of power? People power!" and "¡El pueblo callado jamás será escuchado!"
Several organizations present distributed literature. The Los Angeles chapter of the Socialist Worker's Party set up a table with copies of The Militant
and books, highlighting Trotsky's Fascism: what it is and how to fight it
. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, too, under the banner of the ANSWER coalition, collected e-mail addresses and handed out flyers. The Los Angeles chapter of Anti-Racist Action, in a solid gesture of solidarity with their inland comrades, distributed the latest issue of Turning the Tide
and agitated for radical change from the racist system.
But most importantly, the Inland Empire Rapid Response Network, the first line of defense for the immigrant community that is constantly under siege, passed out flyers that educated their recipients of the fact that the "neo-Nazi action is part of a wider pattern of injustice and racism against immigrants" and provided ways for concerned citizens to get involved, offering hope that "united, we can stop it!" The Network operates a hotline that immigrants can call for information about their rights, to seek aid in case of detention or deportation, and to report immigration raids or racist attacks.
Time passed and it seemed that there would be no way of eliminating the Nazi threat. After discussing various tactics, SoCal Antifa decided that, with thirty minutes until the scheduled end of the Nazi harassment, they would make a final charge. They threw open the barricade on the anti-racist side and again took the street, this time coming the closest since the beginning of the protest. Again, the police, this time with reinforcement from the Corona Police Department, blocked us with motorcycles and agents in riot gear. This time, much of the anger was directed at the police themselves as they struck and pushed us.
One of the brave students could not contain his disdain and approached the bullhorn. "Thank you, America's finest, for making the streets safe for fascism! Thank you, America's finest, for supporting a platform for hatred! Thank you, America's finest, for supporting a war on immigrants!"
At this point, another arrest was made. At the moment, the word running through the crowd was that a member of Casa Blanca's armed resistance had launched a rock at the Nazis. Later it was discovered that the object was a harmless lemon.
Finally, the remaining Nazis (several more had left during the heat of the action) sieg heiled one more time before slinking away to their cars. Some of them boarded a pickup truck with the business name "Proscape" on the side. Proscape is a Redlands-based pool company owned by one Bill Paugh. His phone number is (909) 335-0997 and his address is 344 Poppy Rd, Redlands, CA 92373. His current customers are recommended to cancel their accounts in order to avoid supporting efforts such as those of his associates to disrupt the peace with racial terror. Community members are also encouraged to call (taking precautions to make sure the number being called from is private) in order to register their complaints.
The departure of the Nazis brought many of those who were previously too timid to break the barricade into the street. The spokespeople for the ANSWER coalition, in particular, while raising loud opposition through chants throughout the rally, always did so from behind the metal bars. Once the threat was gone, however, they were glad to enter the street, and without having done any of the work to claim the streets, attempted to lead a chant of "Whose streets? Our streets!" Their hypocrisy was sickening.
The anti-racists then marched down the block to Ygnacio Villegas Park for the pre-planned celebration. As they did, a suspicious character, a white man in a car without license plates, drove down the street filming the marchers on his camera phone, but he did not impede the festivities or even dampen any spirits. A large quantity of non-perishable food items were collected to be distributed to the area's needy families, who are ever-growing in number.
The rally can be evaluated on different criteria.
As far as the Nazis are concerned, their rally must be considered an utter failure. They were outnumbered by a measure greater than 30-1. They were forced to stand in the sun in a dusty, vacant lot dressed entirely in black. And while they did muster greater numbers than on the previous occasion, they were unable to do so without calling on allies from far-off locales, and most of their participants did not have the wherewithal to remain even the short three hours. The NSM was also unable to appeal to the anti-immigrant sentiment that sometimes seems so strong in the inland area, and are likely to have succeeded in winning otherwise unlikely allies to the cause of immigrant rights. Worst of all, they had to endure the company of one another.
As far as the Riverside-based anti-hate coalition goes, they were successful in organizing and mounting a well-attended protest and spreading a message of peace and tolerance. They were unsuccessful, however, in their attempts to rein in the anti-fascist zeal of the youth in particular, and the community in general. But they should be applauded for doing their utmost to be true to their ideals and doing their best to minimize the harm done by agents of the police state.
The day laborers, who, because of the rally, may have missed out on some work, nonetheless were able to have a day free from police and border patrol persecution due to the massive presence of allies. They enjoyed the solidarity of many who might not otherwise be aware of their issues. And they were able to successfully defend their right to reclaim some public space, stand up against ignorance, and hold their heads high as full members of society--even if just for one day.
The student-centered antifascists also faced a mixed bag of results. They were unable to successfully end the Nazi rally due to police collaboration with the fascists. However, this circumstance gave rise to a unique opportunity to demonstrate which side the police, and the state in general, fall on in this struggle against racial hatred. Anti-fascist elements were also able to do a great deal of intelligence work, both on the day of the action and in the days leading up thereto. Names, license plate numbers, addresses, places of work and business, associations, and other crucial data pertaining to the neo-Nazis have been verified. Some of it will be used to make it very difficult for the individuals in question to do business and continue life as normal, while some of it will simply be passed on to interested parties. These antifascist actions may occur in the following weeks, or may not happen for years down the line. Until they do, the Nazis are going to have to sit and worry. And we're fine with that.
It must also be considered a victory that, while anti-racists were able to direct their message to all motorists passing by on Indiana street, Madison was shut down and the Nazis, being restricted to Madison Ave, were unable to directly spread their message of hate to the general public.
It must also be noted that in the face of increasing attacks on the community by outright racists, the vast majority of the crowd demonstrated remarkable restraint and used the most non-violent means available to forestall the onslaught. Those few who did dare deviate from "legality" deserve the full support of everyone dedicated to peace, tolerance, justice, and a hate-free world, whether it be in the material form of bail, legal defense, or simple moral support.
The struggle against hate is one that the dedicated members of the Inland Empire community will continue until racism is eradicated from our midst or until we perish in the pursuit of that noble goal. As José, a day laborer says, "If we allow hate to keep growing, first they will come for me, and then they will come for you, and you, and each one of us. We must continue to be organized and continue to generate consciousness in this constant struggle."
1. CaliforniaNSM. "10-2-09 Protest." October 3, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYJgHJN72EI. Accessed October 26, 2009.
2. "Hate graffiti, protests cited by Riverside religious leaders," Valley News. October 9, 2009. http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/41291/. Accessed October 26, 2009.
3. "Search of Lake Elsinore home where man lost fingers in explosion yields Anarchist Cookbook, swastika," Valley News. Thursday, October 8, 2009. http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/41266/. Accessed October 256, 2009.
4. National Socialist Movement. "October 24th Protest in Riverside." http://www.nsm88.org/events/oct24thprotestinriverside.htm. Accessed October 26, 2009
5. Lemons, Stephen. "Arizona neo-Nazi J.T. Ready Leads NSM Rally in Riverside, California." Phoenix News Times
News Blog, October 25, 2009. http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2009/10/jt_ready_leads_neo-nazi_rally.php. Accessed October 26, 2009.
6. O'Dell, Mike. Mickthemick blog. http://blogs.myspace.com/449462624. Accessed October 26, 2009.
7. CBS2 News. "Nazis, Counter-Demonstrators Clash In Riverside," October 25, 2009. http://firstname.lastname@example.org. Accessed October 26, 2009. See http://cbs2.com/local/Riverside.Neo.Nazis.2.1268903.html for article with embedded video. Also visible at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh4tKS6aicU.
Rally monitors get pink tape, and captains get orange caps.
These kids were in the wrong place. (They were looking for the white supremacists rally.) They are so young, I like to think there's still hope for them. Let's hope they can stay out of prison.