CLAREMONT, California - Despite the best efforts of the City of Claremont and the Claremont Consortium of Colleges to obstruct, befuddle, and otherwise thwart a popular demonstration against fascism, the Southern California community succeeded in doing precisely that at two parallel demonstrations in response to a heavily-armed presence of a band of racist paramilitaries and their state-funded protectors.
The neo-nazi National Socialist "Movement," who have spearheaded overt manifestations of fascism and targetted immigrant and Jewish communities in Southern California's Inland Empire in the past year, held a brief demonstration of hatred at the corner of Indian Hill and Foothill in the city of Claremont, allegedly to make a statement about illegal immigration. The NSM's mouthpiece, a Riverside-dwelling boor named Jeff Hall, (the same imbecile who missed his own first rally due to car trouble) also admitted to some other motives, telling corporate media outlets that his gaggle of losers was also opposing the students of the Claremont Colleges for expressing pro-immigrant sentiment, and that they had been invited by local racists.
While Claremont is famed primarily for its private, elitist liberal arts colleges and its overpriced shopping and entertainment district, it also has a dark legacy of racism and reactionary activity.
At the time of white colonization, what is now Claremont was a settlement of Yuhaviatam (Serrano) people. Like most indigenous Californians, their language is Shoshonean, part of the Uto-Aztecan family that also includes many of the indigenous languages of Mexico.
Under Spanish domination, the Yuhaviatam people were dispossessed of their lands and disenfranchised. Despite a violent uprising in 1812 carried out in coordination with the Cahuilla and Yuma peoples, in 1834 most were forced to live at the Spanish missions and were robbed of their religion.
Under the Americans, they suffered even worse fates, including the infamous 1856 massacre by American vigilantes, which lasted 32 days.
The racist Revilo P. Oliver, who attended Pomona College in the early 1900s, went on to promote racist ideologies, giving them a veneer of intellectual legitimacy. Alex Linder, another product of Pomona College, runs the white supremacist website Vanguard News Network.
In 1999, Claremont police officers Hany Hanna and Kent Jacks shot and killed Irvin Landrum, Jr, a young black man at a traffic stop. The weapon they attempted to pin on him to justify the murder was traced to a retired Ontario police chief and laboratory tests showed that it had never been fired. The pigs were subsequently awarded as "employees of the year."
During the same year, Nazi Party member Richard Bunck ran for Claremont city council and school board, while Hale McGee, who had operated a nazi bookstore, also pursued a council seat.1
Since about 2009, Claremont has been home to the racist Minuteman outfit "We the People, California's Crusader," whose members, Robin Hvidston and Raymond Herrera (both of whom were present at the nazi rally), opted for a PO Box adjacent to the ultraconservative and reactionary Claremont Institute when the Minutemen began to become unmasked as violent racists in the wake of the murder of nine-year-old Brisenia Flores by Shawna Forde's band of Arizona Minutemen.
Also in 2009, the ultraconservative Mountain View Republican Club invited the racist founder of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, to speak to their club on April 20. The club as since invited representatives of the hate group Numbers USA to speak to its membership.
Claremont is represented in Washington by the self-hating, closeted homophobe and racist Republican David Dreier, and recently sent the racist Minuteman Tim Donnelly to the state assembly as its representative. Donnelly has already introduced numerous anti-immigrant legislative assaults, that, while sure to go nowhere, are frightful by their very nature and encourage racist assaults of other types. Donnelly was recently listed among the Southern Poverty Law Center's "23 Candidates on the Radical Right".
It is easy to see, then, why the nazis see this city as a base of power.
Early efforts to organize opposition were confounded, first by city officials who refused the organizers of a peace rally a permit for Memorial Park, only to then reserve it themselves for the rally, creating much confusion in the process. However, despite ultimately allowing the demonstration to proceed, the city did not allow for amplified sound, effectively dooming the effort to send a powerful message of peace and racial harmony.
The colleges, meanwhile, were jockeying for control over the counterdemonstration, first encouraging it to take place on-campus, then, when unable to wrest control from the city, slandering student organizers with the statement:
"Several other individuals and groups, including those that are interested in inciting the crowd, typically attend these types of events. Some of these people are sympathizers or followers of the NSM, while others may not be affiliated in any way, they frequently are more interested in creating a lawless environment."
And discouraged students from attending at all, writing that "[b]ecause of the potential for violence, we encourage you to avoid the NSM rally and to, at all times, be aware of your surroundings and make safety your top priority."
Nonetheless, the efforts of the authorities did not dampen the will of upwards of 500 passionate protesters, who filled Memorial Park and participated in sign-making, Native and Christian prayer ceremonies, and heard from speakers from numerous student, community, and religious groups.
Three blocks north, approximately twenty nazis enjoyed enjoyed the protection of approximately 150-200 police officers and sheriffs from as many as five local jurisdictions. They were dressed in riot gear, carried tear gas-projectile-launching weapons, and there were reports of the "sound gun." The SWAT team was present, and a team of officers filmed and photographed counterdemonstrators from their perch atop the U.S. Bank in direction violation of the Handschu agreement.
As with most anti-nazi demonstrations, most activists saw the occasion more as an organizing opportunity than an opportunity to genuinely halt fascist activity, especially in light of the awareness that the FBI conducts surveillance at these events specifically to target antiauthoritarians and other practitioners of direct action.
Once again, the nazis failed to articulate a cogent message, and came off as a weak bunch of ex-cons easily-identifiable by their prison-quality tattoos.
After just about an hour of their offensive "sig heiling" and hate speech, they retreated to their cars and the people again took the streets.
And once again, by displaying their repulsive countenances in public, they have provided the resistance with vital information about their identities, which will be passed to the appropriate parties to be used at a future date.
1. Woods, Wes II and David Allen. "Neo-Nazi rally to be held in Claremont," Daily Bulletin. March 11, 2011. http://www.dailybulletin.com/ci_17596439
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