Fears were that we as counter-protestors in DC today were putting ourselves in harm’s way a year after white supremacy killed Heather Heyer and injured 34 others. We did run a risk. But this year it didn’t go the way it went in Charlottesville.
Today, thousands of us greeted the dozen or two Nazis and white supremacists who showed up at Unite the Right 2. The partisan estimates I heard from speakers on our side about our numbers ranged from 5,000 to 15,000. From the sea of people I walked and stood among at Lafayette Park, I can say with utter certainty that we numbered thousands, not “hundreds,” as Huffington Post erroneously and inexplicably reported. The Washington Post was closer, reporting “thousands” in one line while, oddly, saying “hundreds” in another line in the same story. CNN, as of this writing, has avoided citing a number, although its headline accurately trumpeted that counter-protestors “dwarfed” the racist knucklehead turnout.
The mood among us was angry and about as closely-knit as strangers can be in public. At the metal barricade separating us from the racists – where a line of impassive and armed D.C. police faced us and a line of riot police on horseback stood directly behind them – strangers hugged each other and held our stance on the delicate line between principled necessity and life-endangering recklessness. When someone in our ranks started lobbing objects at the line of police officers who stood immobile six feet away from us across the barricade, others of us verbally spanked him with reminders about the potentially deadly consequences of thoughtless self-indulgence. This rally was serious. Jokers and fuck-offs were not welcome.
We won today. When the handful of Unite the Righters wrapped up their proceedings early, in the thunder and lightning and pouring rain amid our thousands-strong chants, we cheered and serenaded their exit with a pop-song chorus of “Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye,” along with rounds of family-unfriendly curses. That part of it felt triumphant.
But consider: A handful of rank white supremacists from outside of our city came to town and commandeered our police (I can tell you first-hand that the presence of D.C. police was solely to protect these racists from a massive and enraged crowd) as well as our Metro and a section of a major downtown public park – all at the expense of D.C. taxpayers, who literally paid for advocates of white-supremacist race war to obtain police motorcades to and from the Metro, special Metro accommodations, and police protections in a public space.
There is a conversation America needs to have – parts of Europe have already had it – about the “free-speech” rights of those whose positions and actions directly generate genocide and other fundamental crimes, including state crimes, against humanity.
More about that soon.