I’ve been moaning that we need to evolve from protesting Trump into concretely organizing the defense of targeted groups, but I suppose it’s my own mistake that I did not spell out in detail what organizing the defense of targeted groups actually looks like in practice. My bad.
Also Trump just appointed a white nationalist alt-righter as his chief advisor who describes his strategy as “Leninist” insofar as he believes in destroying the state (you can’t just steal that label like that!). So, uh, I’m not precisely freaking out. But I am taking this whole Trump this just a touch more seriously now. But the way to take a thing seriously is not to freak out and burn yourself out in directionless ceaseless outpourings of energy, it’s to take practical steps in getting organized, which I lay out below.
Steps to Getting Started
- Realize we have to organize popular self-defense of the groups targeted by Trump’s rhetoric ourselves, it’s up to us and no one will do it for us. Even if we magically got Hillary Clinton into office (a goal I don’t share), the hate crimes would continue by Trump supporters themselves even without Trump in office; this has to be a popular defense. Clinton won’t save us, we must save ourselves.
- Transition from marches to mass meetings for organizing defense — or better yet, just use the marches themselves as mass meetings for organizing defense — either option, flexibly as it plays out.
- Organize the defense, as detailed below.
Emergency Response Networks
The point of an emergency response network (ERN) is to provide immediate support, assistance, physical defense, or reinforcements to anyone who comes under attack by bigots, or to quickly shut down or provide an immediate counter-presence against any instance of Trump-inspired bullshit.
(Even if a person is just yelling “This is Trump’s America now!” and making a scene, we want to instantly have a mob squad of 10+ people on them making them feel outnumbered, giving them a distinct impression that they are entirely wrong in their estimation of whose America it is, because after all, this election was not exactly a ringing expression of the popular will.)
They are organized by cell phone group text, Facebook group, or whatever medium is realistically rapid enough to create an immediate reaction. Coordinators can be elected if necessary; they would be the people primarily responsible for gathering phone numbers and sending group texts. It’s probably a good idea just so people know who to go to if they have questions or if something falls through, but the group can still meet up and vote on things if any decisions need to be made.
ERNs should have a few layers, depending on what they are reacting to. There should be ERNs for personal protection. These should be broken into locality and geography, buddy systems, should reflect people’s daily travel routes, and don’t necessarily need to be that big. These could be ERNS of 10 people each, or less.
Then there are ERNs for large response. Usually large response is not something that needs to be organized by ERN, because larger events can usually be more predicted. But say they aren’t. Say some kind of racist march, or racist Trump supporter rally, or organized crew of racist skinheads, or some kind of gross racist frat harassing other students on campus. This would be an instance where it would make sense to turn out an entire network of coalitions on short notice to create a rapid mass counter-presence.
There should also be a specialized defense volunteer group who every personal protection ERN has the point contact information of, volunteers who are willing on short notice to engage in verbal or physical confrontations with bigots committing harassment, assault or hate crimes. These could act as
Remember, the goal here is not to go looking for problems where they don’t exist and turn into insufferable political correctness police. That’s part of what lost us the election in the first place. If you need something extra to do, continue going on the offensive against capitalism. The goal here is to create a coordinated response system that can stand up to a very real emerging threat against people’s safety and daily routines.
Long-Term Community Defense
There is a more long-term follow-up to incidents than mere immediate response.
Many incidents occur so quickly, coming and going so fast, that even immediate response can’t even make it in time. However long-term community defense can still make a difference here. If we get descriptions or photos of bigots, harassers, and assaulters and circulate them among the community, on Facebook groups, over email or phone, then we can be informed and all collectively keep our eyes peeled. We can also use our ERNs to confront these individuals the next time we see them, make their lives difficult, shut them down, and drive them out of our communities.
Even if a person is just yelling “This is Trump’s America!” and making a scene, it’s still a good idea to get their description and circulate, not necessarily act against them until they make a move, but keep our eyes on them, because we never know what they’ll do next.
We also respond to incidents after the fact with rallies and public events responding to the incidents. Though these rallies may not be anywhere near the actual location (or time) that the incident took place, they publicize the incident. This is so these incidents don’t go unnoticed, they are highlighted in the community as something that will face hostility instead of going unopposed, and victims are given a space of support instead of feeling isolated and abandoned in the face of a world that is letting bullies get away with inflicting damage. These rallies can also step up pressure on local authorities to make a tougher crackdown on the bigots.
We can respond to bigoted graffiti or add our own side’s graffiti. We can respond to it with rallies as above, or we can deface and remove it ourselves. We can also jam our culture by flooding it with anti-Trump, pro-unity graffiti (Fuck Trump, Black Lives Matter, etc.). We can organize graffiti teams for graffiti removal (or graffiti addition).
Finally, there is just the obvious shit of counter-protesting any organized or large visible showings of racists, fascists, or racist Trump supporters, for example like the KKK in North Carolina marching to celebrate Trump’s victory.
Pushing Back Against the Climate of Fear and Oppression
Safety pins are a good start (maybe? not sure how I feel about it).
We need to go beyond a signal saying “I won’t hurt you,” though.
We need a signal that says, “If someone harasses you, I will confront them back.
If someone physically attacks you, I will physically counter-attack them, or at least try to put myself in the way so you can get yourself to safety.
If people take actions in the community to create a climate of fear and oppression, I will be part not just of creating a safe space, but active pushback and confrontation against the forces creating that climate.”
We don’t just need people who represent safety.
We need DEFENDERS.
We must organize DEFENSE.
This defense is not always physical fighting. And we are not anywhere near talking about firearms in most cases either. But sadly some people have already lost their lives from this. So that is a direction that things could develop toward, not now but years down the line. We shouldn’t panic and go in that direction for now, but getting organized in the above fashion for now helps prepare us with a structure which will give us an army to put guns into the hands into, should it ever get that dire.
Ultimately anti-fascism and anti-racism alone fail on their own terms, and we’ve got to take the wind out of rising fascism’s sails not by attacking the symptom, but the cause: people don’t turn racist out of nowhere, but because the economy sucks. (If people are comparing Trump to Hitler or Mussolini, that part of the analogy is really the crucial element — they ascended because of economic crisis too; fivethirtyeight says Trump did better in areas where the economy was weak.) We can’t just defend the oppressed, we’ve got to also go on the offensive by remembering the huge success that Sanders had in pushing a class struggle agenda, fighting wealth inequality, and raising the idea of socialism to huge new audience. We can do both at the same time.
For now, the above should give us some concrete plans we can chew on and put into practice. Let’s get to it. Infinite victory.