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Monday, November 18, 2019

GROYPERS IN THE GOLDEN STATE: BEN SHAPIRO SPENDS MOST OF STANFORD SPEECH TRYING TO DIFFERENTIATE HIMSELF FROM ALT-RIGHT

 
By ABNER HAUGE|LEFT COAST RIGHT WATCH

If you’ve only ever been to Stanford’s campus in the dark, it’s a hell of a maze to try to navigate. Luckily, I found the auditorium quickly because of the chanting.

“Say it loud! Say it clear! Ben Shapiro’s not welcome here!” I could hear protestors shouting before I reached the place.

When I turned the corner, there were hundreds of people in line, maybe a tenth of them in MAGA hats. A metal barricade divided the attendees and about 200 protestors–mostly students and a few local activists. Most had signs. One sign read “BEN SHAPIRO AIN’T SHIT.” One just said “Shanda”–a Yiddish word meaning “shame” or “disgrace.” Another read “No more Islamophobic speakers.”

Black and white text-only flyers by protestors advertised a “Silent Rally” that had started at 6pm. I counted six different attendees sneering and saying something about the protest not being silent anymore.

“We are tired of Stanford Administration’s complicity in putting Black, Brown, Trans, Queer and Muslim students at risk by allowing SCR to bring Ben Shapiro to campus,” the flyer said. “We do not protest because we are too sensitive to hear opinions we don’t like. We protest because we are strong enough to defend ourselves.”

One young conservative type in front of me walked out of the line for a second to look at the flyer.

“I guess they got rid of the anti-Semitic flyers,” he said.

Someone had circulated flyers with pictures of Shapiro’s face on a can of bug spray with the same text as the flyer quoted above. The event’s organizers wrote on their Facebook page that “leftist activists at Stanford” were “showing their true colors” as anti-Semites by putting the flyer up. The flyers were apparently put up by Students for the Liberation of All People (SLAP,) a student activist group on the Stanford campus that also created a Facebook event to protest Shapiro.

ABOUT OUR BOY BEN

Ben Shapiro gained fame initially as a conservative pundit wunderkind with a nationally syndicated column by age 17 and two books by age 21. He was an editor at Breitbart from 2012-2016. Breitbart is the alt-right adjacent daily rag with a “black crime” section and article titles like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

In 2014, Shapiro became a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center (DHFC,) an SPLC-designated anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate group. “Colleges and universities have been one of the main targets for Horowitz,” the SPLC page on him says. According to the SPLC, Horowitz’s center “is known for compiling McCarthyite lists of students, professors, and administrators and plastering campuses with posters accusing them of being subversive.”

Shapiro left Breitbart in 2016, a year after he founded another right-wing rag called The Daily Wire where he’s still editor in chief. In March 2019, his Ben Shapiro Show was the second-most popular podcast in the United States according to Westwood One. As of September it was ranked 5th.

Shapiro’s other main public engagement is through speaking mostly at colleges at the invitation of conservative campus groups. In 2016, Shapiro was supposed to give a talk called “When Diversity Becomes a Problem” at CSULA. Shapiro’s talk was essentially repeating the alt-right thesis that minorities are suppressing free speech, implicitly white free speech, by bringing up everyday bigotry (sometimes called ‘microaggressions,’) pointing out structural racism (sometimes framed under ‘white privilege’ discourse,) and trying to make space for themselves in the form of LGBTQ+ centers, etc. (what right wing media often calls ‘safe spaces.’) CSULA officials cancelled the talk, claiming they would reschedule it to include a broader range of speakers on the subject. They later reversed the decision and let it go on as planned. The event saw massive protest and Shapiro was escorted out by police.

In September 2017, Shapiro spoke at UC Berkeley. This was in the aftermath of fellow former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopolous’s planned speech at UC Berkeley being shut down by antifascist protestors, some of whom broke windows, shot fireworks at police, set a police generator on fire and pepper sprayed would-be attendees. Yiannopoulos, infamous for getting banned from Twitter for directing a massive harassment campaign against actress Leslie Jones, had previously announced he was partnering with the DHFC on an effort to target “Sanctuary Campuses” where policies are undertaken to protect undocumented students from deportation. There was a rumor Yiannopoulos was planning to out undocumented students at the talk that night. Many antifascists I spoke to at the time cited Yiannopoulos targeting a trans student at UW Milwaukee during a speech there three months prior as a precedent for this. However, the rumor was never confirmed.

Shapiro’s speech that year cost the University and City of Berkeley $600,000 in militarized police protection. There were nine arrests. The speech was attended by dozens of members of the Proud Boys and Kyle Chapman, aka Based Stickman, who was in a leadership role with the group at the time. Chapman gained viral internet fame in March 2017 for breaking a stick over an antifascist’s head at a protest in response to Milo’s shutdown. That fame gained him leadership of the now-defunct paramilitary wing of the Proud Boys, the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights (FOAK.) Current Chairman of the Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio attended Unite the Right as part of FOAK. During the Q&A, Chapman told Shapiro that the Proud Boys “have your back.” Shapiro looked visibly uncomfortable with the group’s endorsement. The Proud Boys’ opinion of Shapiro would later sour as they continued to ally with other far-right extremist groups and movements outside of mainstream conservatism.

Shapiro spoke at length at UC Berkeley about how black people aren’t victims of racism anymore; they’re just lazy. Shapiro cites economist Thomas Sowell as a major influence. Sowell has long lent credence to white nationalists’ anti-black rhetoric because Sowell himself is black and blames black poverty on welfare and what he calls black peoples’ “laziness, promiscuity, violence, bad English.” Nathan Damigo, founder of Identity Evropa, lists Sowell as a major influence on his becoming a white nationalist.

Shapiro denies ties to white supremacy, but his racist rhetoric has influenced at least two acts of white supremacist terror. Alexandre Bisonette, who murdered six people in a Quebec mosque in 2017, checked Shapiro’s twitter 93 times in the month before his murder spree–more than any other account Bisonette visited. Another editor at the Daily Wire, John Nolte, came in second.

This year, the lawyer for a man who burned the yard of a synagogue in Indiana and spray-painted iron crosses and a Nazi flag on it claimed he was radicalized in part by conservative media. Nolan Brewer, according to a memo by his lawyer Samuel Ansell, was radicalized by his wife Kiyomi, who was 17 at the time.

“According to Nolan, she [Kiyomi Brewer] began with rightwing yet mainstream views such as those presented on Fox News,” Ansell’s memo reads. “She then moved on to writings by Ben Shapiro and articles on Breitbart News which bridged the gap to the notorious white supremacist and anti-Semitic propaganda site Stormfront.”

Shapiro responded by saying that his Orthodox Judaism discounted him from any responsibility for the couple’s radicalization into neo-Nazism. Ansell’s description of Kiyomi and Nolan Brewer’s radicalization is fairly common, however. One famous case is former white supremacist Caleb Cain, who described being radicalized on Youtube by videos that started with mainstream right-wing arguments and became increasingly tilted towards more and more extreme beliefs. Given Shapiro’s history of racist rhetoric and associations with outlets like Breitbart, his place in the white supremacist radicalization pipeline shouldn’t come as a surprise.

THE STANFORD COLLEGE REPUBLICANS

The event had run out of tickets and I was on the waitlist. I wasn’t worried about getting in.

“You should 100% plan on attending the event next week because the chances of getting in are very very high. According to Stanford policy, we had to set the number of tickets to be way lower than necessary,” an email from the organizers I got a week before the event read.

Fred R. Allen and the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) fronted the bill for Shapiro’s Stanford speech–as they had two years prior in Berkeley. YAF was founded by National Review helmsman and prominent apartheid supporter William F. Buckley. It’s not exactly clear who Fred Allen actually is. In a 2018 investigation by The Young Turks into who funds Ben Shapiro, YAF didn’t respond to inquiries about Allen’s identity. That same investigation found YAF is funded by “a fleet of billionaire GOP donors from powerful conservative families.” These include the family foundation of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, the Mercers and Charles Koch.

While in line I walked past someone holding a tiny sign that said “Fuck SCR.” SCR stands for the Stanford College Republicans–the campus club that invited Shapiro. Inviting him was the latest in a string of provocative stunts from the group this year, perhaps the most shocking  of which was reprinting anti-Semitic cartoons from the Nazi paper Der Stürmer in order to label Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley an anti-Semite.

In May, Valley was invited to speak by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organization SCR has repeatedly called anti-Semitic. Valley often uses anti-Semitic tropes to illuminate and critique Jewish right-wing figures and their often exclusionary definitions of Jewish culture and identity. Flyers featuring some of Valley’s artwork were met with complaints of anti-Semitism and SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP,) another co-sponsor of Valley’s talk, removed them. Both groups apologized in an op-ed for not making sure the full context of Valley’s work was represented in the flyers.

The organizations also pointed in the op-ed to what they felt was a disproportionate response to their flyers:

[W]e also hope that people take these events as an opportunity to critically examine the ways that certain speech and people are surveilled, censored, and punished, while others are empowered and prioritized. After all, while some at Stanford exploited this intra-community disagreement to hang up Nazi art around campus and condemn us online, others — particularly those of us who have already been doxxed by our fellow students and put on blacklisting surveillance websites like Canary Mission — will be made continually vulnerable to threats, harassment, and violence. These are the very political realities Eli Valley’s art is commenting on.” (ed. Note: more on Canary Mission here.)


By contrast, SCR members flyered residence halls with an actual Nazi caricature of the ‘International Jew’ side by side with an arguably tame cartoon by Valley. SCR members’ flyers implored viewers to “spot the difference” between the Nazi caricature and Valley’s stylized but not exaggerated portraits of Theodore Herzl and other prominent Jewish historical figures. The Valley cartoon in question was not one of those featured on the SJP/JVP posters.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Dean for Religious Life Tiffany Steinwert wrote on a blog post that “Some of the posters invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes and undermined values we seek to foster at Stanford University.” They did not specify which images were anti-Semitic, nor did they mention the SCR members’ flyers. Indeed, most of the publicized reaction to the whole controversy seems to have been focused on Valley’s images, not SCR members’ use of Nazi propaganda.

Valley himself didn’t let SCR off as easily, however.

“People who leap immediately to Der Stürmer looking at my art have such a vast stupidity about comic art and Jewish art specifically that they have no right to be talking about culture at all,” Valley said in his talk at Stanford.

“[SCR] is an alt-right group it seems to me,” Valley added. “It’s an anti-Semitic hate group it seems to me. They should not have been able to do what they did without serious repercussions.”

The Stanford Daily reported that SCR leadership claimed their member who posted the flyer “did not consult SCR leadership beforehand.”

Valley has since been a vocal critic of SCR’s public actions.

“Stanford College Republicans—a hate group that in the past year has brought a Holocaust Revisionist and a Jew for Jesus to campus—is now hosting hatemonger Ben Shapiro,” Valley wrote on Twitter about month before Shapiro was set to speak at Stanford.

LCRW reached out to Valley to clarify what he meant by the statement.

In late February, right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza spoke on campus at SCR’s invitation.

D'Souza was convicted of a felony for illegal campaign contributions & pardoned by Trump. He has a long history as a hatemonger.

While in charge of the Dartmouth Review, D'Souza published a "light-hearted interview with a former Klan leader" with a cover photo depicting a staged hanging of a black man on Dartmouth's campus. He also published an anti-affirmative action op-ed written in a racist caricature of African-American Vernacular English.

D’Souza also outed gay students in the paper. The New York Times reported at the time that “[o]ne student named, according to his friends, became severely depressed and talked repeatedly of suicide. The grandfather of another who had not found the courage to tell his family of his homosexuality learned about his grandson when he got his copy of The Review in the mail.”

D’Souza also wrote a book called “The Enemy at Home” in 2007 naming virtually the same enemies the alt-right did a decade later and blaming them for 9/11. In the book he wrote “The cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.” D’Souza made a list of 22 people in the “cultural left” in the book. 10 of them are Jewish. 

D’Souza also spreads conspiracy theories about billionaire Democratic Party funder George Soros, who’s widely understood as a modern stand-in for the old trope of the ‘International Jew’ in right-wing conspiracies.

D'Souza's grift for the last few years is making propaganda films that clumsily rewrite history to misdirect all the evils of the world onto the current Republican Party's current enemies. In his 2017 propaganda film, "Death of a Nation", D'Souza claimed that Hitler was pro-LGBTQ+ just like the modern Democrats and claimed the DNC’s platform echoed the Nazis' platform. It is these literal historical revisionist claims that Valley cites when he called D’Souza a “Holocaust Revisionist.”

“I should clarify that I was using Holocaust Revisionist in the broadest meaning of altering the facts of Nazi German history, not that D'Souza has denied the Holocaust. I realize afterwards that the term "revisionist" is used by deniers to normalize their denial as just another form of historical review. So maybe a different term would be better to describe his views,” Valley told LCRW in a Twitter DM conversation.

Valley said that the ‘Jew for Jesus’ SCR invited was Andrew Klavan, one of the writers at Shapiro’s Daily Wire. Klavan repeatedly espouses male supremacist views, including saying “the future is always male” and saying “demonizing men causes mass shootings.” He’s also espoused Christian supremacist and white supremacist views, saying on his podcast that “we should thank Christian white men for creating our civilization” and that the Christchurch murderer’s manifesto doesn’t “necessarily condemn anything that he was trying to represent.” He’s also denied that trans women are women.

The ‘Jews for Jesus’ website says they are “are Jewish followers of the Messiah – 100 percent Jewish and 100 percent Christian.” Many Jews consider ‘Jews for Jesus’ a cult. One Jewish organization dedicated to countering them, ‘Jews for Judaism,’ writes that “[Jews for Jesus’s] theology is basically fundamentalist Christianity” and that they practice widely-recognized patterns of destructive cults such as deceptive recruitment, authoritarian behavior inside the group and “hostility to the outside world.”

‘Jews for Jesus’ has faced some national controversy. Current VP and Christian supremacist Mike Pence appeared with someone from Jews for Jesus after the neo-Nazi mass murder at the Tree of Life Synagogue. The attack killed eleven people and was the deadliest act of violence against Jewish people in the history of the United States.

Rabbi Jason Miller of B’nai Israel in Toledo said on Twitter that “There are over 60 rabbis in Michigan & yet the only rabbi the Michigan RNC could find to offer a prayer for the 11 Jewish victims in Pittsburgh at the Mike Pence rally was a local Jews for Jesus rabbi? That's pathetic!”

“I find it pretty shocking that Ben Shapiro works with Klavan, given Judaism's united opposition to Jews for Jesus,” Valley told LCRW. “I know there's a lot about Shapiro that's hypocritical, but this cuts to the core of Jewish attitudes towards missionaries and cults,” he continued. “Every Jewish denomination considers Jews for Jesus an insidious effort to convert Jews in an era when forced conversions are no longer acceptable. It's amazing Shapiro hasn't received pushback for it, as far as I can tell.”

***

The line to get in was poorly organized. SCR members in suits scanned some peoples’ Eventbrite tickets while another forgot what he was doing and wandered off halfway through guiding me to another line for the waitlisted attendees.

“I think we can just go in,” my friend Andy said.

So we bum-rushed it. Nobody seemed to give a shit. As I walked into the building, a young woman in an evening gown welcomed us kindly and pointed us to the auditorium entrance. As we looked around for seats, an SCR member in a MAGA hat and dark blue suit asked me to “please fill up the seating in the front before trying to choose a seat in the back.” There were easily over a thousand people there. SCR later claimed 900 students and 800 others attended.


On the way in, Andy spotted Karissa Healy, who we filmed indiscriminately pepper-spraying people and whipping out a taser at the 3/4/17 so-called “Battle of Berkeley.” Other regulars at Bay Area far-right gatherings, it turns out, were also present that night.

We sat down halfway down stage left. There was a vocal group of SCR members in the row in front of us.

“Are you a neocon? Do you believe in regime change for Bashir Al-Assad?” one kid in front of me said to his friend as they joked around with each other and chatted.

“Fuck yeah! We’re based zoomers!” A kid in a MAGA hat and a full suit shouted.

“You know the good thing about them protesting outside is they’re not protesting in here,” one attendee next to me told his friend.

The event started with an SCR President Stephen Sills recounting how student activists tried to prevent them from publicizing the event. Activists tore down a spraypainted bedsheet SCR put up to advertise the event, replacing it with an admittedly more well-produced hand-drawn meme banner with SCR and Stanford Provost Persis Drell agreeing to “Be tolerant/Accept racism.” Some students tore down flyers for the event, one stabbing the image of Shapiro’s eyes with thumb tacks and writing “my sexuality doesn’t care about your feelings” on it and another drawing a penis over his face with the text “Oops, my hand slipped.” Sills called these protesters and those outside the event “fascists.”

Sills didn't mention that SCR was accused of targeting a Casa Zapata, a Latinx-themed dorm on campus, after staff refused to let them put up posters for the event. One resident of the dorm told the Daily SCR was “trying to antagonize residents.” SCR posted that when they tried to put up flyers in the dorm, “an aggressive mob of students heckled our members and spewed obscenities such as "s*ck my d***", following our members to keep them from entering other campus dorms.”

After hosting a discussion in the dorm, Provost Drell and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole sent an email hours before the event saying that “some of the behaviors that have accompanied these practices have crossed a line of respectful treatment.”

Sills told the Stanford Daily in an email that “The idea that we harassed the dorm residents by attempting to film them is false,” and that “We simply returned with a larger group to speak with an RF, after being harassed by a mob of over 10 aggressive and profane students two nights prior.”

THE QUESTIONS, THE GROYPERS, THE ANSWERS

At these kind of events, a speaker usually goes on for half an hour or so. Most people in my experience are on their phones or looking for a disruption or some particularly inflammatory slogan they can cheer about during the speech part of the show.

One major disruption did occur for a few minutes. People on the second floor of the auditorium got up in the middle of Shapiro’s speech and chanted “Hey Hey/Ho Ho/Ben Shapiro’s got to go!” Shapiro called them immature or something. His mic seemed quieter to me during the incident. The protesters were taken outside, the Stanford Daily reports, by the school’s Department of Public Safety. The college Republicans in front of me gleefully filmed the whole thing and eventually started chanting “USA! USA!” The speech resumed.

Shapiro was supposed to give a talk called “No, leftist idiots don’t get to raise my kids.” He managed to keep a few lines from it in the talk he actually delivered. The most notable was him saying “Drag Queen Story Hour borders on child abuse.” This summer saw a slew of protests at Drag Queen Story Hour events, sometimes by armed extremists.

But Shapiro decided to change tack and rewrite his speech because of the Groypers.

Right-wing figures like Shapiro and Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk who make the rounds at college campuses have of late been targeted by a coordinated campaign lead by white nationalist and Unite the Right attendee Nick Fuentes along with current president of Identity Evropa Patrick Casey and Vincent James of the white nationalist outlet ‘The Red Elephants.’ Fuentes is the latest ‘entryist’ white nationalist to coordinate a nationwide culture-jamming campaign aimed at pushing white nationalist and anti-Semitic talking points into the mainstream. The whole thing is being heavily cheered on by Milo Yiannopoulos, the Proud Boys and far-right figures associated with them.

Fuentes’s followers call themselves “Groypers” after the far-right meme mascot of the same name. The mascot is kind of a bloated Pepe the Frog 2.0 with a smug look on his face. Groypers have been lining up at the Q&A sections of events around the country to ask questions Fuentes and his associates tailored to provoke billionaire-backed “Conservative, Inc.” speakers like Shapiro. Groypers question “Conservative Inc.” speakers’ loyalty to Trump, how hardline they are about immigration, and otherwise undermine their credibility. The goal is twofold–establish themselves and their views as the legitimate heirs to conservatism to the GOP’s base and, as always, push their white nationalist platform into the mainstream.

At these events, Shapiro and other speakers usually hope for questions from some first-semester liberal-minded student who can’t articulate their points very well and isn’t versed in debate team tactics. If you search for Shapiro once, YouTube is likely to recommend you watch dozens of videos of him bowling over unprepared students with rapid-fire talking points and often dubious logic. “BEN SHAPIRO DESTROYS [fill in the blank]” has become a meme in and of itself in the last few years.

“Shapiro is quick and he will engage directly,” Fuentes told his Telegram followers the night before the Stanford event. “It will be very easy if you are not experienced with public speaking or prepared (mentally or otherwise) for him to frazzle you. He will talk fast and will be prepared for probably anything you throw at him.”

“Charlie Kirk is one thing, but Ben has been doing this his whole life. He’s got a Jew tongue. Be ready,” a Groyper account tweeted two days earlier.

Shapiro spent most of his speech trying to get ahead of the Groypers’ narrative by drawing facile, ahistorical parallels between the alt-right and what Shapiro calls “radical leftists,” who he apparently defines as anyone who advocates against structural racism, for LGBTQ+ rights or any other such causes. Shapiro’s argument was essentially that a group of bigots and a group of anti-bigots are alike because they both focus on “identity.” He and ‘true’ conservatives, he argued, have moved beyond talking about race and other identity issues.

Shapiro attempted to address of some of the specific questions Fuentes and his colleagues suggested for the Groypers. One specific question Fuentes suggested fielding on his Telegram was about why Shapiro “originally came out against the Covington kids.” Shapiro responded by claiming he was he was on the phone “every night” with the Covington kids guiding them on how they should handle the media and said he hadn’t revealed that information publicly before.

“A note about the Ben Shapiro event tomorrow: Shapiro will be anticipating questions about Israel and he will be prepared to field them,” Fuentes wrote on his Telegram channel the night before the event.

Fuentes, an anti-Semite himself, said it’s “bad optics” to ask questions critical of Israel. For another event at UCLA with Donald Trump Jr. and Kirk, Fuentes said “hitting Kirk on foreign aid or “the boat” will only make us look bad in front of Don and push Kirk and him closer together.”

“The boat” refers to an old hobby-horse for anti-Semites–the USS Liberty, a navy research ship which was sunk by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. Israel’s motives for doing so are still unclear but were easily absorbed into anti-Semitic narratives about Jews tricking the United States into supporting Israel.

On the question of “the boat,” Shapiro said “It happened 50 years ago. Get over it.”

Our seats ended up being a good spot to view the Q&A. It was mostly a letdown–liberal students who said they earnestly listen to Shapiro’s show trying to find a rational argument to trick Shapiro into agreeing with a less reactionary position and conservative fans kissing his ass.

The most eventful thing was when the crowd, Shapiro included, erupted into laughter and cheering when local pro-Trump activist Max Gugliemelli went up to the microphone and said “Epstein didn’t kill himself.” The phrase is a meme referring to wealthy child rapist Jeffrey Epstein who died recently under suspicious circumstances while jailed and awaiting trial in New York for trafficking children to powerful people.

“That will never stop being funny,” Shapiro said.


Gugliemelli also asked Shapiro if he’d been following the trial of Roger Stone, the former Trump campaign advisor and prominent supporter of the Proud Boys. Shapiro said he wasn’t following the trial because he was too focused on Trump’s impeachment hearings.

Shapiro’s last question was essentially “Why is America the best country in the world?” People, right-wingers included, started leaving before he even answered it. The last thing I noted down Shapiro saying was “America is the least racist country on earth.”

Fuentes and those cheerleading him took it as a win that Shapiro had even acknowledged and repeated their talking points.

“What a mistake they made,” Fuentes said on his Telegram channel that night, “I honestly was just up all night yesterday thinking how to propel the Groyper Wars after the next week when the TPUSA tour ends.”

“Ben fucking Shapiro dedicating a 45 minutes talk to explicitly denounce me and read my old facebook posts??? Lmfao thanks retard,” Fuentes continued. “America First just hit the big time.”

“Did Anyone Else Notice That Ben Shapiro Pulled A [sic] 8 Mile at His Stanford Speech?” Mike of the Proud Boys-aligned Weaponized Opinions podcast said on his Telegram,” continuing, “Meaning He Tried To Take The Groypers Power Away By Saying And Trying To Refute All Of Their Questions Before They Asked Them.”

“Like When Eminem Made Fun Of Himself,” Mike concluded.

THE STORY OUTSIDE

But there was another aspect to the Groypers that didn’t receive any attention in the following day’s coverage. Student activists I spoke to said they were intimidated and called slurs by attendees.

“We got there a little bit late, around 7:20,” a student protester who went by the alias ‘Lizard’ told me. Lizard says about ten minutes after they arrived, “most of the counter-protests had dispersed. What remained were largely the fascists who were not inside of the Ben Shapiro event.”

“We think that a lot of the Groypers who were coming to ask Ben Shapiro questions were actually outside,” Lizard said.

One of the SCR members, Lizard said, was talking to a group of 20-30 Groypers about Shapiro. The SCR member talked to them for an hour and Lizard thinks he was apologizing to the group because they couldn’t get in. Online at the time, Fuentes and his followers were complaining that the guests had been vetted.

Lizard recalled men in body armor standing outside all night heckling protesters and chatting with each other. Another activist I spoke to who went by the alias ‘Mustard’ said one person was wearing an armored vest with the logo for the videogame League of Legends on it. This person and two others with him stayed outside the event all night.

“They were also engaging and they looked like they came prepared,” Mustard said.

Lizard recalls two of the right-wingers who stood out to them.

“One of them had a white helmet with insignias on it, a military-style back pack and a chest piece,” Lizard says.

Mustard said this person “seemed to be a flat-Earther” from his comments and talked about how he “disapproves of Abrahamic religions” and instead prescribes to “the oldest religion–the Aryan religion.”

“He was talking about the USS Liberty and he was saying ‘The Israelis have a wall. Why can’t we have a wall?’” Mustard recounted.

“I heard him talking about Jews for at least half an hour very openly with five people next to him” Lizard said. “Police were also there and listening and almost nodding their heads, even when he was saying things that were explicitly violent towards Jews and his wishes to separate Jews.”

Lizard says a legal observer with the National Lawyers’ Guild (NLG) was assaulted by someone dressed as the retired Pepsi mascot “Pepsi Man.” The person in the Pepsi Man costume and another person came up to the NLG observer before counter-protests had dispersed and called him a “dirty commie” and “threw hands at him and pushed him around.”

“Later, [the person dressed as Pepsi Man] said that it was the NLG observer who pushed him first, which was not true,” Lizard recounted.

“Before counter-protests had dispersed, several of my comrades, as well as students who were not affiliated with the protests, just walking by, some of whom were black students, were harassed and verbally assaulted by some of the people participating on the Ben Shapiro/fascist side,” Lizard said

“They were called the n-word, had flashing lights put into their faces and lots of different live-streamers from different groups. [There was] some pushing and shoving,” Lizard recounted. “Our marshals also said there was one physical altercation, but we weren’t there at the time but don’t know what happened there.”

The other person who stood out to Lizard was Jeffrey Perrine, a former Proud Boy and far-right organizer in the Sacramento area. Perrine is on camera assaulting a man laying in the street with a group of other Proud Boys in an infamous June 2018 protest that turned into a riot.

At the same rally, Perrine was on a megaphone calling for violence against undocumented immigrants.

“All the illegals trying to jump over our border, we should be smashing their heads into the concrete, handling business, separating them from their kids, making sure they’re not with pedophiles and child molesters–people like the left,” he said into the megaphone.

Perrine told me that night the comment “wasn’t racist” because he wasn’t talking about a specific race of people–he was talking about “illegal immigrants.” He also said that it was “taken out of context” because out of frame, he claimed, antifascists were beating someone on the ground. Perrine told me “I was just saying we should do to illegals what they’re doing to him.”

Perrine also appeared on former Proud Boy and actual Nazi Jovi Val’s podcast “The Goy Fellas.” Perrine claimed to me that he didn’t know what it was before going on air and claims he denounced Val’s anti-Semitism. On the night of the Shapiro talk, however, Perrine went on a long, racist tirade while talking to me, at one point remarking that he didn’t like how Orthodox Jewish Rabbis suck the tips of babies’ foreskins during circumcision rites. This antiquated practice, Metzitzah B'Peh, does exist but only a few Haredi sects still practice it. Perrine called it “pedophilic.”

My friend Andy called it “blood libel” and got into a shouting match with Perrine before the latter left.

Before I ran into him, Mustard told me “there was talking that almost escalated to an altercation” between Perrine and one of their friends. “[Perrine] was yelling at them and they were joking around and I think they later shared a cigarette.”

“But later on, when we were sitting at a bench, he walked back around and then said that we thought they (Perrine and his friends) were Nazis and we should ‘come to his backyard and fight,’” Mustard recounted. Mustard says there was a “police officer” in between Perrine and “another one of his buddies.”

Lizard says some people came out of the event and went up to the police, first thanking them and then “almost got into an altercation with the cops.”

“[They] asked why they didn’t just shut the protesters down, why they didn’t just arrest them for trespassing, why didn’t they just shove them around, give them a taste of what force feels like,” Lizard said. The police apparently calmed the event attendees down.

ANN COULTER AND THE GROYPERS AT BERKELEY


Fuentes and the Groypers are considering their campaign highly successful. Currently, his banner on Twitter says “Groyper War Total Victory!” and his pinned tweet lists the dates of the stunts he’s claiming were wins.

The last major speaking event of the year for the Groypers may be Ann Coulter’s appearance at UC Berkeley on Wednesday at the invitation of the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR.)

Coulter will speak at 9pm on Wednesday. BCR’s Facebook event page says there’s currently 73 people going. It’s unclear how many tickets were sold at this point. The Wheeler Hall Auditorium where the speech will take place seats 750 people. There’s a call to protest the event at 7:15pm at the Campanile.

Protest organizers who wish to remain anonymous told LCRW many students are traumatized by the events two years ago. Throughout 2017, the university was overrun with violent provocateurs that had protection from a massive police force as they harassed, assaulted and threatened students and the surrounding community.

“UC Berkeley has pledged to commit tens of thousands of our tuition dollars to militarize campus police next week, ACCEPTING the fact that violence will occur, and yet allow this event to happen anyway,” the protest organizers said on their event page.


Coulter has a long history of racist rhetoric and writes for the white nationalist publication VDARE. The last time she was supposed to speak at UC Berkeley in 2017, she pulled out, unhappy with the time place and manner restrictions the University imposed on her talk. UC Berkeley eventually settled with BCR and YAF over the matter after the latter claimed they were discriminated against by the university. Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes gave her speech in her stead, reading it in the same park that saw the ‘Battles of Berkeley.’ The event attracted Nathan Damigo of Identity Evropa, infamous Patriot Prayer brawler Tusitala ‘Tiny’ Toese and many others in the broader right wing extremist scene.

“We're told as if it's good news immigrants use welfare at only 15 percent above native-born rate, it's like saying only 15 percent of the food has rat feces in it," McInnes said, reading from Coulter’s speech.

BCR has a well-documented history of associations with extremist figures. Former president Troy Worden once told me how excited he was that he got to meet Martin Sellner of Generation Identity, the largest neo-Nazi group in Europe who received over a thousand euros from the Christchurch murderer. Worden’s also the one who got Milo to come to campus originally. Current president Matt Ronnau was in a Red Ice TV livestream with Nathan Damigo on the day of Trump’s inauguration. The club for a time in 2017 regularly let white nationalist media outlet The Red Elephants livestream their meetings. Ronnau seems to be sympathetic with the Groypers–recently retweeting a post by The Columbia Bugle, a blog aligned with Fuentes, where the Bugle complained about Kirk not being "America First" enough.

Fuentes and his colleagues view Coulter as one of them.

“I legitimately told Ann Coulter that she should call Charlie Kirk out on immigration,” Red Elephants’ Vincent James said on his Telegram in October under a photo of him with Coulter. “She gave me a tight-lipped smile and a long slow nod…she knows.”

“Come on, Coulter, we need you!” Fuentes wrote on his Telegram, continuing, “She’s been boosting our stuff but she should fight alongside us–what does she have to lose??? Now’s the time!”

BCR stated there will be a Q&A.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Field Notes: Hog Wild with the PNW Youth Liberation Front


BY JORDAN JACKSON|SPECIAL TO LEFT COAST RIGHT WATCH

EDITOR'S NOTE: I met Jordan on August 17th this year at Cider Riot. It was the evening after former InfoWars correspondent Joe Biggs and the Proud Boys held a march in Portland, shoring up their numbers with members of American Guard–a neo-Nazi front group. 

This gonzo article by Jordan isn't about that day. It's about, as he says, "[j]ust another day in Portland" about a month later. 

I think it's important to give people who don't live in a place and didn't experience something themselves an idea of what it was like for someone who did. Jordan did the important work of collecting interviews with liberal activists and members of the PNW Youth Liberation Front and reporting scenes during the Climate March which sketch an insightful and revealing portrait of what protests are like in Portland. The conflicts, arguments and incidents between people echo larger ideological and material ones happening across the country and across the world. I found his narrative hard to put down from beginning to end and hope you will to. You can read it below or on Medium here. Please follow Jordan and his work on Twitter here

***

    “Run fast, comrade, the old world is behind you!”

    –
Anonymous Situationist Graffiti, Paris ‘68


I can report with absolute certainty that the kids are not alright. They shouldn’t be. The Baby Boomers of Amerika have committed the most egregious acts of generational warfare in human history. Forget the Summer of Love, forget the whole Lost Cause mythology of the hippie generation and just look at the scoreboard. They were given a booming economy, a strong social safety net, and an opportunity for progress on civil rights. What did they build with that? Mass incarceration, a new Gilded Age, and neoliberalism. Three Boomers have been President: Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Donald Trump. I rest my case. Time and again, they’ve proven themselves willing to sacrifice their children and grandchildren on the altar of Right Now. God damn them. God help all of us.

Why am I pontificating on the nature of generational conflict? I spent the Global Climate Strike with a pack of wild zoomers and I’ve been trying to sort through the experience since. Enough preamble; let’s begin.

It was raining in Portland and I was waiting for a late bus. A damn near universal experience in this godforsaken city. The delay was far from ideal. I don’t think that I’ve ever left for a protest with time to spare, and the 9/20 Global Climate Strike was no exception. I’m the same way with planes.

I was rereading my favorite passage from the jeremiad ‘The Uninhabitable Earth” on my phone as I chugged an Orange Red Bull and waited for my Adderall to kick in. This bit, “the belief that climate could be plausibly governed, or managed, by any institution or human instrument presently at hand is another wide-eyed climate delusion.” It seemed appropriate for the moment. Extinction is a strong argument for direct action. If the alternative is annihilation, very few solutions sound radical.

When the bus finally arrived, it was too packed with students to let any of us on. I called up a Lyft. The driver took one look at my destination and started fulminating about the “18 million dollars” that the protest would cost the city’s Hardworking Taxpayers. This was because the Portland Public Schools decided to let anyone with a permission slip attend the demonstrations. He continued droning on as we passed into downtown. The second we got near City Hall I had him pull over. There was a rant burning a hole in my throat and he wasn’t worth the time.

The streets were packed with people. The Willamette Week reported the crowd size as “tens of thousands” and that tracks. A lot of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young people excited to be skipping school to save the planet. A lot of chaperones trying to make sure that “everyone stays with their buddy.” The protest signs were bleak. A lot of variations on the theme of “the planet is dying”, which is, of course, an objective fact. Heavy stuff for kids to handle. Sure, I’m only 26, but at least I got to reach biological maturity before it was clear that our species is probably doomed.

Apocalyptic theme aside, the mood was upbeat. As I made my way through the crush of people on Madison St, I was reminded of the Women’s March in ’17 or the March for Our Lives in ’18–both events that I found extremely inspiring in theory and dreadfully boring in practice. Maybe that’s a symptom of being an angry young man. Without confrontation, you become extraneous.

The rain had cleared up and the sun was peeking through the clouds, but it still took trudging up a muddy hill to see the speakers in Terry Schrunk Plaza. The current speakers were representatives from islands in the Pacific who said they would not be victims of climate change; they would be warriors. The crowd cheered. Hell, I cheered too, but a wave of depression passed over me. Even if we keep global warming to 2 degrees, which we won’t, those islands will be uninhabitable. It was all too much. I felt sick. I could barely even hear the aging hippie lecturing me about smoking in a crowd. “Haven’t you heard? It’s the end of the fucking world,” I barked at him as I made my way back out into the street.

As I got back onto Madison, I noticed someone taking my picture. I recognized the guy. One of the self-proclaimed “Patriots” that circle any Portland protest like vultures. Each of them with a GoFundMe page ready to launch if they’re lucky enough to get punched in the face. It was a group of them: Christopher Ponte, David Willis, Reggie Axtell, Haley Adams. Brandon Farley wasn’t too far off, probably defending his honor against ‘Dick Slander’. Seeing this assortment of scum and villainy, I felt myself smiling for the first time. My existential angst was gone. Maybe I’m a scavenger too.

Armed with this intelligence, I scanned the crowds for anyone who might be interested. In the distance, I saw a flag I recognized. The black/green banner of the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front (PNW YLF). A group of them had been recruiting at a cryptofascist rally at Pioneer Square that Joey Gibson and Patriot Prayer had put on the weekend before. Watching a contingent of the Portland Satanists argue with theocratic godheads over whether Lucifer was an antifascist was the highlight of the day. But the Youth Liberation Front had piqued my interest. They describe themselves “an autonomous network of youth and student collectives dedicated to the liberation of all people through any means necessary.” They don’t accept any members over the age of 25. Am I a little hurt that at 26, I’m no longer a youth? Sure. But they’re a capable, media-savvy bunch and I can’t deny I like their style. Queer punks in black bloc ready to take on the world. I wandered in their direction and caught the eye of one of their members.

“I just saw some fash taking pictures of folks in black bloc,” I told them. He ran off to tell some of his comrades and three of them came back over.

“Where?”

“How many?”

“How long ago?”

I answered them in quick succession and made it clear that it was just a handful of grifters. No buses full of Proud Boys like last month. Their posture relaxed and one of them offered me a blue and white bandana. Over the next few hours, I would periodically put it over my face but given my wild head of hair, distinctive frame and penchant for chain smoking, it was entirely ornamental. But it marked me as part of their tribe. Uniforms, even informal ones, have power. A week later, I’d interview 6 YLF members outside of a restaurant and they bragged they’d given away all 150 masks that they’d brought. Next time, it had been decided, they’d have to bring more. They weren’t in the business of missing recruitment opportunities.

“Bloc up!” someone shouted and the YLF made their way towards Madison. I knew the march route and they were heading it off. The bloc made it to the street. I didn’t see it firsthand, and accounts varied, but I believe this is when Haley Adams (one of the “Patriots”) was doused with water, finally putting to rest the persistent rumors that she was the Wicked Witch of the Pacific Northwest. At press time, Haley has reportedly received a vision from God instructing her make a pilgrimage, on foot, to Washington DC. I wish her well, though my personal belief is that a vision quest without hallucinogens is a vision quest not worth having. Having interacted with her on one or two occasions, she strikes me as a fan of deliriants. She possesses the disassociated, hostile demeanor of someone who ate too much jimson weed. The drug du jour of the local fash is cocaine, but I make no judgments. To each their own.

A ripple started to go through the larger crowd. The speeches were over, the main organizers were preparing for the march over Hawthorne Bridge. The slow corralling of the tens of thousands of people by the main organizers would take time. Large beasts are hard to The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) and the Peace Team, civilians in hideous lime-green vests, were holding up the bloc at the intersection. Unsurprising conduct from the PPB, which has a long, well-documented history of far-right sympathies. The Peace Team is a different beast entirely. The contrast between them and the “Big Boys of the YLF” (their preferred nomenclature) was stark and seemed significant.

Peacekeepers were demanding that members of the YLF bloc take off their masks.

“Are you afraid to show your face?” They taunted.

“You’re going to scare the kids!” They warned.

I discussed this moment with Tom Hastings, Founding Director of Peacevoice and professor at PSU, at some length in the week after the Climate Strike. To say he is not a fan of black bloc tactics would be an understatement. I asked him why they were demanding that the YLF take off their masks. He sighed and said, “We only do that when we are asked by the organizers of a non-violent event to institute a behavior code.” When I asked him which event organizers had instituted a behavior code, he became very vague. Apparently, the organizer that had invited the Peace Team hadn’t attended the actual climate strike.

He displayed more candor when discussing antifascist youths. There was real anger in his voice when he related stories of being heckled by masked antifascists and made a point of mentioning that he had never had any problems with “Patriots” in the streets. It seemed personal. He mentioned the length of his arrest record and success as an antinuclear activist at least three times during a thirty-minute phone call. When I asked about the masks being necessary to prevent doxxing, he exploded, “You can quote me directly on this. Bullshit! If you aren’t willing to be identified, then what are you doing here? Own who you are…Why are you so afraid of being identified? We paid the price again and again; you have to be willing to do the same.”

I don’t doubt that Tom is sincere in his beliefs, and he might even be right about the effectiveness of non-violent protest. But his anger speaks to a larger phenomenon: The Boomer generation has a pathological inability to realize that they’ve become the Man that they used to rage against. For Christ’s sake, Tom even mentioned starting a “non-violent pilot program” with the swine of the PPB. They latch onto masks because when they were young, they didn’t wear masks. The Big Boys of the YLF burst into laughter when I told them about Tom’s point about masks. Vash (pseudonym) cracked a joke, “No shit. I’m guessing he grew up before the internet.”

Once the main crowd was ready to march to the Hawthorne Bridge, the police and Peace Team started moving towards Hawthorne Bridge. The YLF saw their moment, readied their banner, and split into two groups. Each took one side of the sidewalk and they managed to steal the march on the larger, liberal demonstration. A couple dozen non-affiliated antifascist activists flocked to their banner. The Patriots skulked after, still trying to provoke a confrontation, but I was assured by a nearby YLF member that, “We aren’t going to rise to the bait.”

“Except for the water thing, but that was just someone who got a little overexcited,” someone else chimed in. I was impressed. It had been a smart tactical decision, taking advantage of the mobility their smaller numbers provided. Now, Tom accused them of attempting to hijack the event, which is basically correct. Even the Big Boys eventually admitted that they’d been trying to pull the Climate Strike in a more radical direction. I can’t say that I disagree with that sentiment. The fucking Arctic burned this summer, which is an omen straight out of Revelations. The signs are there for anyone with eyes to see.

Vash and Eli (pseudonym), pointed out to me that the PNW YLF had been aggressively promoting the Climate Strike and had at one point been promised an opportunity to speak at the main rally only to be excluded the day of the event. I’ve been unable to confirm this with the organizers at this time, but they seemed genuinely disappointed. The only time Vash was anything but positive during the interview was when he said dejectedly, “I never even got to read the speech.” While we were crossing Hawthorne, the YLF believed that they’d be able to speak at the festival, though they’d be denied again.

The police let us pass onto the bridge, hoping to get some distance between the YLF and the main Climate Strike march. As we crossed over Hawthorne, the bloc started to spread out and when we’d almost reached the other side, a cop grabbed a guy behind me. I heard shouting that he’d spit on the officer and suddenly four of the bastards were pinning him down. Spider, an antifascist activist I interviewed after the event, was friends with the guy arrested. They said that when they finally got their knees off his back and pulled him up, his whole face was dripping with fluids. “I didn’t know a face could leak like that.” It’s odd the details people remember, isn’t it? He was also screaming that he couldn’t breathe. The PPB is now charging him with vandalism and I regrettably didn’t get footage of the inciting incident. Seems hard to prove you didn’t commit vandalism on a bridge that covered in stickers and graffiti, but I’m not a lawyer. I was, however, trying to be a “citizen” “journalist”, so I recorded his arrest.



I wanted to see how this would play out, so I stayed with Spider and a handful of the guy’s comrades for a moment. The main group had started filing by. Tens of thousands lined up to walk down the sidewalk. Unbeknownst to me, further up the bridge, agents of the state were scouring the crowd for POC to rough up. I posted a video of the arrest to Twitter. My gut twisted as I felt myself wonder whether it would get engagement. Spider was telling every kid that walked by, “The cops are not your friends, they serve the State” sounding uncannily like a school guidance counselor. I decided to get going and took a curving path to the waterfront. Some members of the YLF stayed on the waterfront path to wave at all the kids coming by. I noticed a few young boys grin as they looked at the high school kids in black. It’s easy for Boomers and Gen X to see antifa as villains, but kids love antiheroes.

The Big Boys I met with wanted to make very clear that “they probably spend half the time dancing any time they’re in the streets.” This is what I meant about media-savvy. Black Bloc-style antifascist activism is rare among anyone older than millennials. It happens, but it tends to be people that were generally social outliers. Among millennials, it’s still more or less a fringe political behavior, especially outside the PNW. The YLF wants to change that for the zoomers, and as any 60s Mad Man would tell you, “If you want to get someone hooked on your brand, you get ’em hooked in high school.

Once I finally arrived at the festival, I must admit that it felt like a letdown. This was not entirely the fault of the organizers. It had rained heavily earlier in the day, and the grass underneath them was well along in its transformation into mud. The moment of sunshine that had marked the beginning of the Climate Strike had faded, returning the sky to the dingy dishwater gray familiar to anyone who has spent time in this part of the country between September and May. Inside the festival, there were a lot of tents for different left-wing and climate focused organizations. Each set up to recruit the incoming high school students. Career day for the apocalypse.

I saw a group of 30 or 40 black bloc folks standing a little away from the stage they’d set up. I now realize that they had just been told they wouldn’t get the stage here either. “Give it up for the Occupellas,” some skinny guy in glasses said from the stage and a group of older women began to sing acapella. Now, I can’t be objective here. I hate acapella music. I’m sure the Occupellas are fine people who have done more for the world than I’ll ever manage, but on the day of the Global Climate Strike it felt like a perfect summation of everything wrong with the Left in this, the year of our Lord 2019. I wanted to throw a bottle, but I just lit another cigarette. Second pack, I really need to quit.

“We’re fucking doomed!” I said laughing like a maniac. The antifascists I directed it to laughed back, so I kept going. None of it is fit to print, but I want you to get a sense of the delirium that had begun to set in. A few minutes passed and a chant broke out:

“THE WRONG ICE IS MELTING

THE WRONG AMAZON IS BURNING”

This isn’t innovative. I’ve seen versions of this meme on Twitter a thousand times over. I include it here for a specific reason: because as far as I can tell, the chant set the agenda for the rest of the day. One thing that Eli, Vash, Enzo, Skylar, Lichan, Autumn, Spider, and JT (pseudonyms for the activists interviewed for this piece) can agree on is this: there was no plan to march to the ICE facility. It just sort of…happened.

The Big Boys offered the chant as a possible inciting incident. That makes sense. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a pack of like minded individuals in the same uniform, a war party, but it’s a powerful high. Nothing quite like it. Especially if you’re young, pissed and desperate. This is the problem with protesting abstractions. Fighting for the climate is miserable because you can’t face it head on. The Senate is ruled by a great and powerful tortoise at the head of a nihilistic death cult that cares as much about the future of the planet as they do about brown kids in cages. The official, state-sanctioned march couldn’t end in anything but a big festival, but the YLF hadn’t come to mingle. Their blood was up. Blue balls are powerful motivators. The chant offered a solution and suddenly, the call had gone out to bloc up.

Now, at the time, I had no idea where we were going, but wasn’t about to admit that. I’ve been to the ICE detention center before, but I’ve got a terrible sense of direction. Later on I pieced together the story. The original plan had been to take the MAX on Marquam Bridge, but after attaching their banner to the side of the bridge, the YLF had collectively decided that the MAX operators would probably call the PPB and let them know they were inbound. Chief Outlaw’s eyes were focused on the Climate Strike. The ‘piggies’ were all at market. When a chance falls in your lap like that, you don’t waste it to take the train.

50 black clad young radicals passed into downtown. The vibe was merry. A few YLF members walked around making sure everyone had water and the number for the National Lawyer’s Guild sharpied on their arms.

“Just tell them it’s your mom’s number,” someone joked, and the laughter was uproarious, hysterical. I felt myself tense up. That kind of laughter has preceded damn near every mistake I’ve made in my quarter century on this burning blue ball. This was no exception.

The journey was over in one long surreal moment. A mass text had brought in maybe a dozen stragglers. A hash pen was passed around. Everything got a little hazy. A black man pulled up in a red truck. He was pro-Trump and looking for a scrap. The YLF took pictures of him and his license plates and told him to fuck off. The sight of the mostly white YLF kids (accurately) calling a black man a fascist was a heady tableau. It belongs in a museum.

As we passed over a divider, I saw a few guys picking up rocks. My bad feeling intensified, but I was committed to see this through. The Big Boys hadn’t seen the rocks but didn’t dispute it when I told them I’d seen it firsthand. I don’t believe in Objective Journalism, but I do believe in accurate reporting.


  •     Rocks were present. So was a branch.
  •     The plan was undefined.
  •     The stage was set for a shit show.

We turned the corner onto SW Macadam Ave and there it was. The ICE building. The “fortress of chains” Spider called the place, and they would know. They spent months camped there during the #OccupyICEPDX demonstrations last summer. Very few people around, we marched right up the street. We passed a preschool located directly next to the facility. I wonder what their property values are. One of the little ones, a troublemaker no doubt, waved at me as we passed.

The building itself is an ugly place. An ugly place for ugly business. Hospital-waiting room white and surrounded with chain link fences laced with barbed wire. Concrete barricades at the entrance. A fitting local roost for America’s Gestapo. Now, according to the YLF, the plan was supposed to be to walk up to the three guards and finally give the speech they had ready. That’s not what happened. The ICE guards seemed shook. There only five of them with a few other employees standing behind. Some people I interviewed think the cops had warned them ahead of time and had seen a PPB van about a block back, but they couldn’t have gotten more than a few minutes notice. They hadn’t planned on 50 or so masked radicals beating down their door. At least not today.

I asked the YLF Big Boys whether they would have tried to occupy the ICE facility and they were unequivocal: No. They didn’t have the numbers to hold the place and weren’t interested in going to jail for nothing. But the guards didn’t know that. They had their rifles full of pepper bullets out and cans of mace at the ready. The bloc finally had a focal point for their confrontation. Everyone was shouting. The bloc and the DHS riot cops were maybe 20 ft apart. Chants of “Shut Down ICE!” had broken out. Tensions were running high. “No one was ready for what was about to happen,” Vash said. I wasn’t ready, but I knew something had to give, and it did. The next 54 seconds have been burned into my memory.

Now, I didn’t see the rock being thrown, but after watching videos and interviewing participants, I can confirm that it was. It didn’t hit any of the guards, but it damaged one of the vehicles. This is the picture Andy Ngo has been sharing, but I’ll get to that grifter later. The lone confirmed rock thrower was an 18-year-old barely a month into his freshman year in college. He confessed to damaging government property after a night spent shackled in the tender care of the PPB.

Quick PSA: Never say anything to law enforcement without a lawyer present.

There was also a branch thrown at one of the officers. The guards responded with brute force. Generally, it is protocol to fire above a crowd of protesters. Certainly, that would have sent us running. These guards were aiming right at us. Pepper bullets whizzed by me as I ran. The ICE guards zeroed in on one of the few Latinx members of the bloc, lighting him up with a spray of pepper bullets. Mace was deployed. Everything collapsed into chaos. Running. Screaming. If the guards had looked nervous before, they didn’t now. They routed the bloc with clinical efficiency. In the scrum, I got a bone bruise on my shin after I got knocked into a metal pole by a great bear of a young man in the bloc. It was my own damn fault; I’d been trying to take a video. I failed, but you can watch it here:

As we rounded the corner, people started to shout, “Stay together! Stay Tight!” The YLF managed to reform some of the bloc, maybe 30 people, but at least that many decided to get out while the getting was good. Given what happened next, their instincts were on point. The Latinx YLF member, who had earlier been riding around on his bike bearing the YLF banner, managed to get his bike around the corner before he collapsed, and his body started to go into seizures.

“He is writhing like a godhead in the throes of a Pentecostal revival,”
I wrote down in my notes at the time.
Maybe it seems glib to you now, it does to me, but gallows humor is a necessity to maintain sanity in insane times. Immediately, a bunch of his friends moved him to the sidewalk and made him as comfortable as they could manage. No one knew what was wrong. The members of the bloc with medical experience and his friends crowded around him. Suddenly, he went still. For a horrible moment, I was sure that he was dead. The call went out that he was just unconscious. Just unconscious. Cold comfort.


“Stop crowding him, guys!” someone shouted. An argument over when to call the ambulance was breaking out. Two old men who seemed like off-duty police started to harass some members of the bloc.

“Why do you cover your face?”

“You going to leave your buddy?”

“You know, they’re trying to do something productive on the other side of-“

This went on for minutes, slowly escalating in intensity. Faux concern transforming into gloating. Someone in the bloc pepper sprayed one of them. He was quickly stopped by his comrades. Enzo, one of the YLF members I interviewed afterwards, started shouting, “We do not mace civilians!” And just in time, a lone Boomer lady was heading up to the street screaming about cowards in masks and the black fash had rolled up again in his red van. These people don’t show up to the Proud Boy or Patriot Prayer demonstrations. They’re too respectable for that. But they share the “Patriots’” deep hatred of antifascists. Enzo yelled out again, “Anyone who isn’t helping, go to the park! Go to the park!” After a little hesitation, the bloc departed to Elizabeth Caruthers’s Park.

There were maybe 30 of us when we filed into the park. Spider, who isn’t affiliated with the YLF, was frustrated at people who were taking off their masks. They were right; the park was no doubt lousy with cameras. Someone was passing around a Ziploc bag full of pizza. Eli at the head of one faction wanted the bloc to return to ICE. They were opposed by a faction led by Skylar that wanted to get to the MAX and return to the main Climate Strike. And thus began, ‘The Great Debate’. A discourse familiar to anyone who has spent time in leftist activist circles.

“We’re never going to have a revolution if we run at the first sign of pepper bullets,” Eli insisted. Hard to argue with.

“All that’s going to happen if we go back, is we are going to get shot at and spend the night in jail,” Skylar shot back. Indisputably true. The argument went on for 30 or 40 minutes, interrupted briefly by Enzo asking if anyone spoke Spanish to talk to the parents of their semi-conscious comrade and then again by the arrival of the poor soul the National Lawyer’s Guild sent out, desperately trying to take notes from half a dozen witnesses. As the shock of the confrontation faded, the whole scene started to take on darkly comedic undertones. A parable on the limitations of leaderless resistance.

I turned to JT, one of the older antifascists that had gotten pulled in, and whispered, “Democrats in disarray.” He didn’t laugh, just shook his head sadly.

“They’re just kids. Brave kids, but this is stupid. We shouldn’t still be here.”

“Then why are you still here?”

“Because someone has to be.”

After several votes, the group agreed to split. Half were heading back to ICE and the rest were returning to the Climate Strike. For the record, Eli and Skylar were both present for my interview with the Big Boys a week later. Both said that they’d gotten too heated. Eli agreed that returning to ICE was an emotional reaction. Skylar came around to thinking we should have returned to ICE. Ships passing in the night.

When we split, I was standing in the middle, unsure where I should be. The ambulance had arrived and taken the unconscious YLF member away As I stood on the grassy knoll, I saw one police van.

Then two.

Then three.

Then the three cops barreled into the park, driving onto the grass. I saw one YLF member dive out of the way to avoid being hit. I don’t have video of the event, so I can’t confirm this, but at least one of those vans appeared to be the unmarked variety used by ICE. This would be unsurprising given recent reporting of an illegal training program between ICE and the PPB, but I make no formal allegations. The cops ran out of their vehicles onto the grass as the bloc ran. They had lost all sense of order in their hunger to punish these teenagers in masks. It was a police riot, very similar to the videos I’ve seen of the Boston PD during the Straight Pride Parade.

We ran and the predator-prey dynamic took over. I managed to get video as we fled the park. I saw multiple cops dropping clips of live ammo so they could load up with pepper bullets. They seemed to know who they were looking for but were willing to grab anyone that fell behind the herd. Batons were swung, mace was deployed.


A ragtag band of us regrouped and started moving north. In the corner of my eyes, I saw more PPB vans a street over. We’d given them time to tighten the noose. I was sure I was going to spend the rest of the day or two in jail. Then we got creative. It was JT’s idea. I got the feeling that it wasn’t the first time he’d had to lose the cops in this neighborhood. “Follow me,” he shouted. Underneath Portland’s expressways lies the Pits. A playground for the junkies and travelers of this fair city. There was a spot where we could climb up onto the side of the highway. Not too hard to scale, especially if the alternative is a weekend in the bowels of Multnomah County’s criminal justice system. Adrenaline can work wonders. A dozen or so of us scrambled out of the Pits into a small homeless encampment, just a few tents set up on the side of the highway. Just in time, Lichan (pseudonym) told me that he saw 6 vans pass by just as we made it onto the highway.

We all got out of bloc. I shoved my black hoodie and bandana into my bulletproof backpack and caught my breath. Knees on my legs, I saw the faces of the YLF members around me for the first time. I’d known they were young, but I hadn’t expected them to *seem* so young. Without masks, they just looked like a group of queer punks on their way to a show. These were the faces that the PPB had been shoving into the concrete and spraying with mace. Those goddamn bastards treated teenagers like enemy combatants, and they wonder why “All Cops Are Bastards” is taken as an article of faith by this set.

One of them, Lucy, mentioned that this was the first protest she’d ever been to. Her ride had been arrested during the mad rush in the park. The week after, I asked her if she regretted turning out. She was unequivocal: “No.” Instead, she’s been using her experience to radicalize her classmates. Such is the way of things.

When I met her for the interview, she told me she’d fractured a rib. Not at the protest–at the after-party the YLF threw the next night. By all accounts, a rager for the ages. The kind of party where no one can remember how many American flags were burned, the best estimate is 3. The only regret the YLF expressed is that a few bands had to cancel because their parents found out how they were planning on spending their Saturday night.

After we separated, I walked towards the waterfront with JT. He was on his way out of Portland, I was on his way in. I checked Twitter and found out that my video of the police riot had been quote tweeted by famous liar Andy Ngo. One of the YLF members I spoke with, Lichan, spotted him a block away wearing a medical mask. Yes, a mask! Ngo called me a propagandist while he conflated the rocks at the ICE facility with the events in Caruthers Park. Irony is dead. He got his baseless spin published in Newsweek because you can never go broke if you’re willing to shamelessly lie for the Powers That Be. My little video ended up being viewed 150,000 times. In the replies, you can see the American Right’s bottomless appetite for state violence. It is a strange thing to feel your personal experience become fodder in Twitter’s Forever War. I miss the fourth wall–the one separating the players on stage and the audience. If we were a half-way decent society, we’d give it a dignified funeral.

Just another day in Portland.

What did it all mean? For the people arrested, it means months in court and an uncertain future. For the rest of us? Eli told me that their friend has been dealing with PTSD since it was her first demonstration of any kind. It left me rattled and I’ve been around the block once or twice.

I mentioned the Straight Pride Parade in Boston, and I think that we are seeing a reaction building within law enforcement. They are tired of these purple-haired anarcho-punks calling them fascists. They’re ready to crack some heads in the name of Making America Safe Again. No worries. It’s not like we have a fascist POTUS facing prison time if his grip on power slips. But I’ll let the Youth Liberation Front have the final word. They never got to give that speech, so here’s their finale, presented without comment:

No one will bat an eye if we just idly stand by as forests burn and people starve. We must make ourselves impossible to ignore, and by masking up, we say to them: we will not cooperate. we will not be content with those who poison the earth, and its inhabitants. So mask up. Mask up and do what needs to be done. We know what we need to do to protect our community, and the world from destruction. We must throw off the shackles that tie us to these dying systems and build a new society free from the chains of capitalism, violence and authoritarianism. Join us for the revolution.” 


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You can find Jordan Jackson at his Medium profile here and follow him on Twitter here.

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