Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Getting Real—Trumps Stormtroopers Unleashed

Trump's Nuremberg moment using the White House as a backdrop for his televised Republican National Convention nomination acceptance rant.

Don’t look now but we may just have gone over the tipping point to civil war or to prevent the electoral defeat of Donald Trump in November by street thuggery.   It has been building over the last few weeks as emboldened white nationalists and “patriotmilitias have become more overt in intimidating and harassing Black Lives Matter protesters around the county.  It slipped into high gear during and after the Republican National Convention virtual Nuremberg rally and the Resident’s increasing Tweets winking at or outright approving of “backlash violence.”
For weeks Trumpistas have been driving vehicles into crowds of protestors and marchers.  Guns have been drawn or flourished in several instances.  Organized groups of nationalists and militias have been mobilized in several cities.  In Idaho, the nearly lily white state where armed right-wingers have flourished for decades, members of the Real 3%ers, Proud Boys, North Idaho Militia, and other groups began regularly massing against and menacing Black Lives Matter protesters in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint through the summer, gaining confidence as local police stood aside.  Death threats against local protest leaders and politicians deemed friendly to them escalated. 

Armed militia members, 3%ers, and Proud Boys in Coeur d' Aline, Idaho to intimidate Black Lives Matters protesters.
Separately Ammon Bundy, who led an armed standoff against federal agents in Oregon in 2016, and some of his armed followers, pushed their way into the state capitol building in Boise to oppose proposed legislation calling for masks during the Coronavirus epidemic.  State Police and county Sheriff officers did not attempt to block them on the first day of their protests but under heavy criticism arrested Bundy the next two days and issued an order banning him from the capitol for a year.  Despite the intimidation several Republican legislators and other elected official have endorsed Bundy and his actions.
The Long-running sometimes violent BLM demonstrations in Portland, Oregon gave Trump and Attorney General William Barr the excuse to order the heavy handed intervention of Federal police forces in unmarked vehicles and uniforms.  The feds abducted activists off the street and deployed tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against protesters surrounding the Portland Federal Building.  Their actions inflamed the protests and escalated the violence over several nights before they were withdrawn.  Following their removal protests in the city continued non-violently.  But the withdrawal caused militia groups to begin their own patrols in the city.  
Trump threatened to dispatch his secret police and Federalized National Guard to other cities including Chicago where there had been looting along the Magnificent Mile and other high-end shopping districts, Minneapolis where the murder by police of George Floyd set of this summer’s BLM protests nationwide, and even Albuquerque, New Mexico where there had been scant violence at protests but whose Democratic Mayor and Council voraciously opposes his precious border wall, family separation, child imprisonment, and other inhumane anti-immigrant policies.
Over the summer BLM protests were re-energized over the murders of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, and others but in most places had settled into entirely peaceful marches and vigils.  Then police in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot 29 year old Jacob Blake seven times in the back at point blank range as he tried to enter a van with his children in it. 

A lone Black Lives Matter demonstrater amid the flames on the first night of Jacob Blake protests in Kenosha.
Miraculously Blake survived but is paralyzed from the waist down.  The episode which was captured on cell phone video was so outrageous that all hell broke loose especially after the police involved with the shooting were not charged or arrested and only reluctantly placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a biased investigation.  Protests erupted in the city and including the burning of cars, attacks on the city hall and police headquarters, and damage to businesses. Trump barely acknowledged the cause of the unrest but took pains during the Republican Convention to paint Kenosha protesters as dangerous rioters who threatened the lives and safety of white voters in the comfortable suburbs.
On the second night of protests militia groups from Michigan and Wisconsin were mobilized to “protect property.”  The heavily armed responders were welcomed as allies by police.  Among them was 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch, Illinois whose mommy drove him to Wisconsin and provided him with an assault rifle that he could not legally possess in either state.  He killed two protesters, Joseph Rosenbaum and Jason Huber, and wounded another, Gaige Grosskreutz, with the weapon that had he carried openly all night.  After the shooting police made no attempt to disarm them. And after the shooting they allowed the boy to walk unmolested through their lines despite screams that he had just killed people. He was finally arrested the next day in Illinois but was released to home confinement pending extradition to Wisconsin. Tucker Carlson on Fox News declared him a hero and he became an instant cause célèbre on the right.  The militia groups vow to send more armed members to the tense city.

Kyle Rittenhouse, new pin-up boy of the Alt-Right in action in Kenosha
Meanwhile in Portland other militia groups, including those Idaho militants, massed for the last three weekends to menace on-going BLM protests.  This week the largest convoy yet of pick-up trucks and motorcyclists descended on the city in response to social media calls to come “with concealed weapons.”  BLM protester tried to block bridges and roads to prevent the convoy from reaching the center of the city.  The Militia members repeatedly drove into crowds of demonstrators and deployed tear gas, pepper spray, and paint ball rounds against them.  After hours of cat-and-mouse between the two sides the convoy had left the downtown area after 8:30.  A stray militia man wearing a cap emblazoned with the logo of Washington-Oregon Patriot Prayer, a group closely associated with the Proud Boys remained in the area on foot. 

Video shows the pro-Trump and militia member caravan careening through Portland streets pepper spraying  protesters in the hours before Aaron "J" Danielson was killed.  Trump shared video on Twitter.
It is not clear exactly what happened but the man later identified as Aaron “Jay” Danielson by Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson was shot in the chest and declared dead at the scene.  Some reports place a BLM protester who frequently came armed to the regular Portland confrontations leaving the scene, but he has not as of this writing been named as a suspect or arrested.
Whatever the case, the White Nationalist movement and Donald Trump now have their Horst Wessel moment.  Horst Wessel, was a Berlin leader of the Nazi Party Stormtroopers then known as the Sturmabteilung (SA) which engaged in violent street brawls with Communist workers.  He was shot on January 14, 1930 by Communists Albrecht Höhler and Erwin Rückert and died of blood poisoning on February 23.  Propagandist Joseph Goebbels leapt into action and made him the martyr/hero/saint of the Nazis.  A Nazi fight song written by Wessel, The Unknown SA-Man or Raise the Flag, became the Stormtrooper’s marching song under the new name The Horst Wessel Song and it was later adopted as an official German national anthem alongside Deutschland über alles.

Horst Wessel leads his SA Stormtroopers in a 1929 Nuremberg rally.
Trump unleashed a flurry of more than 40 Tweets on Sunday attacking Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, his favorite Anti-fa punching bag, BLM “rioters” and Democrats.  He shared a video of a caravan of his supporters driving through Portland and spraying pepper gas on protesters. He called them “GREAT PATRIOTS” and he tweeted “Rest In Peace Jay!” officially anointing him as a martyr.   
Donald Trump and his Republican party now openly own, abet, and encourage fascist violence.  And they don’t care who knows it as long as they can appeal to frightened Whites and intimidate any opposition.  By tying Democrats and Joe Biden directly to the mysterious Anti-fa and militant Blacks they now openly threaten the integrity of the upcoming election and lay the groundwork for a full scale uprising if they are defeated.
Yet much of the major national media does not acknowledge the new reality.  They recognize Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, divisive, and based on lies, but they are still treating these developments as just an extension of Trump’s re-election campaign and not as an existential threat to democracy itself.

Despite large peaceful protests like this on on Saturday, Trump is coming to Kenosha today to "save"the city from rioters and lawlessness and is welcoming support of White nationalists and armed militia.l
But wait, it gets worse.  On Sunday Trump announced plans to personally appear in Kenosha today.  He claimed he was going on a mission of healing and unity.  In reality he is bringing gasoline to a house fire.  He has never condemned the shooting of Jacob Blake, although he did say video of the assault was “not a good sight” and he has more than hinted support for Anti-Fa hunter Kyle Rittenhouse.  Trump has encouraged his partisans to show support for him and has done nothing to stop the militias and white nationalist groups planning to also descend on the city today.  Naturally Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian both begged the President not to come because it would stoke division and chaos.  He brushed aside concerns.
Trump’s exact agenda and the locations of his visit remain a closely guarded secret—at least to the public.  Somehow his supporters will happen to be where ever he is.
Protests against Trump are inevitable including many from coming from outside the city and states.  Armed members of the Socialist Gun Club were on the streets the night of Rittenhouse’s spree although not involved in any confrontations.  They will be on the scene again as will marchers from Refuse Fascism which was founded by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) after the 2016 election and which has regularly staged demonstrations in Chicago and other cities.  Black clad self-identified Anti-fa is always ready to turn a protest into a riot despite the opposition of local non-violent protest leaders.  Among the real Anti-fa, however, are White instigators and provocateurs from right wing boogalooers.  It will be difficult, if not impossible, to keep left and right militants from finding each other and clashing.

Meanwhile many local BLM leaders and Jacob Blake’s family are planning peaceful events in the Black community and near the site of Blake’s shooting, which Trump is not expected to visit at a Justice for Jacob Community Celebration, 40th Street and 28th Avenue from 11 am to 4 pm.  Other local leaders say that they will not mount direct protests to the President’s visit because “we do not want to lend ourselves as a backdrop for a campaign photo-op.”
The real danger in Kenosha today is not that Trump will rally his most avid base in a critical swing state, or even that street clashes erupts.  It is that by his presence he can call on his secret police and Federalized National Guard to aggressively “protect him.”  That could easily mean widespread and brutal official suppression of dissent using his famous Bible photo-op in Washington and escalated confrontations in Portland as models.  And he can clone the response in any troubled town or city he cares to visit.
The Resistance will have to thread perilous ground over the next weeks and months—standing forthrightly against fascism while avoiding falling into a trap of being blamed for violence and justifying further repression.  We patently cannot control every group that wants more confrontation or the righteous anger of a brutalized Black community.  But we can help to build a militant and disciplined mass movement that continues to reach into communities large and small across America just as the BLM marches this summer have done.
Be strong!  Be safe! Do not give in!

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