Late last year, the National Socialist Movement announced the opening of a California chapter based in Riverside, the largest city in southern part of the state's Inland Empire. On September 26, they held a protest at the corner at Madison and Indiana, where people of color gather to look for work. In response, activists formed a broad-based coalition composed of political parties, students groups, labor unions, churches, and community groups to demonstrate their opposition to racism and hatred at City Hall. Meanwhile, a smaller contingent of antifascist activists took a more direct approach at the targeted corner, confiscating swastika-laden flags from the nazis and ultimately expelling the ragtag bunch after a few small skirmishes.
Humiliated, the Nazis decided to return the following month. Once again, the community rallied against them, drawing anywhere between 700 and 1000. On this occasion, however, the racists enjoyed the protection of numerous riot-gear clad police officers from multiple agencies who allowed them to make their hateful stand. When valiant antifascists from the Brown Berets penetrated the police perimeter, a small conflict took place. The day ended with two of our comrades behind bars, one for disobeying a police order and the other for throwing a "deadly weapon" later identified as a lemon.
As Nazis continued to organize, community activists recognized the need to increase the pressure. They published Jeff Hall's home address, which he uses as a base of operations, and called for a protest, scheduled to take place during the NSM's monthly meeting. "We're doing this because there are people in our community--people of color--who live in that neighborhood," explained one of the organizers, who asked to remain anonymous.
In response, the Nazis published a flyer calling for a demonstration at the home of a longtime Riverside activist, accusing him of "child endangerment," who had been active in the anti-Nazi organizing last year. Apparently, the Nazis were under the impression that the Riverside activist--who is Jewish--had called for the demonstration at the Nazi house, where a young child also resides. The Riverside activist was not involved in the planning and execution of the home demonstration, but made a handy scapegoat, especially for those who believe that people of color are incapable of organizing in their own defense. Unlike Hall, the activist, who is a leader in a statewide socialist party, does not use his home as a base for organization.
However, due to the the overwhelming presence of California human rights defenders at the National Day of Action for Arizona, turnout was relatively low. Only about seven members of the SoCal Antiracist Network were present, backed up by a contingent of about five Brown Berets. "Our reason for being there was to be security, to get Chicanos out of there if anything happened. We were not there to break any laws, we were not intending to go into the house," said of the the leaders from the Brown Berets.
Four police officers in riot gear were at the end of the cul-de-sac where Hall lives, and the police helicopter hovered overhead. Once the antifascists took their stand, a crowd of about thirty Nazis in full fascist costume swarmed out of the house and confronted one of the organizers. "We're not here to fight," he explained, and backed up about thirty feet. The Nazi charged him aggressively, but the antiracist defended himself, knocking the Nazi out cold at the end of his charge. The Nazis continued their offensive against the antiracists, chanting "Get the girl!" and attempting to strike the only woman present, a member of the Brown Berets. They brandished two firearms as police looked on, refusing to intervene in the violence. "If you don't like it, get out of here," one of the officers told a member of the Berets.
In light of the armed Nazi aggression, the antiracists withdrew their picket for the day. The antifascist struggle in Riverside, however, is anything but over.