By Jordan DeLoach, Darya Nicol and Samantha Master
Black people: we love and we see you.
Black organizers and our accomplices are fighting back against the white supremacist, pro-fascist “alt-right, ” including those who descended on Charlottesville, VA this past weekend. Their intent was to violently intimidate those seeking to tear down, once and for all, the state’s monuments to the old (and defeated) Confederacy and white supremacy. In the aftermath of white nationalists’ state-sanctioned intimidation tactics, Heather Heyer is dead and dozens of Charlottesville residents and anti-fascists are injured.
This ain’t new. White supremacists have been publically provoking violence against Black people since we’ve been here. But we have a right to fight back.
As we rise up, like the people of Charlottesville, to fight for our freedom, we must prepare ourselves to confront the rising threat of neo-Nazism and neo-confederates. We must remember: the goal of any counteraction is still to build Black power long-term. The fight doesn’t stop in the fightback. We must keep going ‘til we all get free.
If white supremacists are planning a rally in your area, organizing a counteraction like the anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstration protesters in Charlottesville put on can be a powerful way to stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. Below, we’ve listed a few direct action tips you can consider if you learn that a white supremacist rally is coming to your town and you want to do something about it.
1. Get a little help from your friends. Once you hear that a white supremacist rally is in the works, reach out to like-minded friends to provide one another with emotional support and to imagine what expressing resistance towards the rally could look like to y’all. Reach out to local anti-oppression organizations and coalitions to see if they’re planning anything and to learn how you can get plugged in. For more information on what it’s like to participate in a direct action, the Direct Action Survival Guide zine by Sprout Distro is a good crash-course!
2. Know the risks. Counteractions are incredibly powerful tools in the fight against white supremacy, and fighting for what’s right involves risk by nature. Some risks are unavoidable, but some risks can be mitigated with careful planning. It’s crucial for you and your team to do risk assessments before, during, and after your counteraction to keep yourselves as safe as possible. White supremacists often stage these events to instigate and engage in violence and intimidation; and, police brutality and intimidation targeted at anti-racist and anti-fascist protestors is common. This risk is higher for protesters who are Black, brown, queer, trans, and/or gender nonconforming. Know what risks each member of your team is comfortable with and develop your counteraction plan accordingly. The website Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution has a good overview on developing a risk assessment for an action here.
3. Know your rights (and don’t forget the risks). Counterprotesting can sometimes put you at risk of being arrested. Because police can act as a tool for racism, homophobia, and transphobia, this risk is greater for people who are Black, brown, queer, trans, and/or gender nonconforming. It’s necessary for you to know your rights when interacting with police; and, since police officers often disregard protesters’ rights, you must understand the weight of the risk involved. The National Center on Transgender Equality has an incredible guide titled Participating in Direct Actions: A Guide for Transgender People (available in English and Spanish) that describes relevant rights and risks for trans people. It’s also a great resource for anyone interested in counterprotest.
4. How will you take it to the press? Look into developing a media strategy with local organizations and coalitions involved in the counterprotest. White supremacists are notorious for minimizing the violence they inflict, scapegoating, and telling “alternative facts.” A strong media strategy can help uplift the narratives of the people targeted by white supremacist violence and can strengthen the impact of your counteraction.
5. Squad up. Use a buddy system with your crew at the counteraction to ensure that no one is left alone. Before the counteraction, your team should think about what roles people on the team should play during the event. Will you need someone with first aid skills? Someone familiar with the law? Someone to talk to the media?
6. Record everything (within reason). Getting video footage of the counteraction (especially of interactions with white supremacist protesters and police) can provide an important historical record of events. Recording during an action can also be protective. However, some counterprotesters may not want to be filmed, filming can distract you from your surroundings, and, sometimes, openly recording police officers and white supremacists acting a fool can agitate them, which could put you at greater risk for more harassment and brutality. It’s a balance, and careful planning can help you and your crew determine the best way to use this tool for your counteraction.
7. Take it to social media. Speaking of recording, Periscope the counterprotest. Start a thread about it on Twitter to share a first-hand account. Use hashtags on all your social media posts to track their reach. You and your crew should develop a social media strategy before the counteraction to determine the most effective way to uplift your message.
8. Security, security! Maintaining security over sensitive information is essential when coordinating a counterprotest. Consider what kinds of communication should occur in person or over encrypted message.
There are ways to help a counteraction without being present at the action, too. Many roles are needed for effective and safe counteractions and that includes remote roles. If you don’t feel comfortable being at the action in person (or if you’re unable to attend), you can connect with local coalitions and organizations to see what resources they need and to learn how you can support. Counterprotesters might need remote help with circulating information on social media, fundraising, preparing food, making flyers or banners, and more.
If you learn that a white supremacist rally is happening outside of your area and you want to help, reach out to relevant coalitions and organizations in the town to see if they are planning to respond to the action and ask them what resources they need. Do your best to review and share reliable primary accounts of the counteraction (like tweets, posts, articles, and news stories from the folks on the ground).
White supremacy is terrifying, but it is not unfamiliar. As Black people, we must continually mobilize the legacies of the deceased and join with the realities of the living to counter such terrorism. America has never been a safe space for us, but we can always find refuge in one another.
To truly be free, we must continue to strive toward our liberation. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? None of this can be answered by ourselves, so we do this in collaboration and community.
Processing these events and putting our bodies on the line for the liberation we believe can take its toll. This is why it is vital to practice self care. To learn some ways on how to practice healing, check out MelaNation issue 2’s section on healing, starting on page 29. Remember that there is freedom in self care and healing, and always know that we’re here with you. Together we’ll forge a path.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom,
It is our duty to win,
We must love and protect one another,
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
– variation of a passage by Assata Shakur