On March 3rd, a white supremacist group tried to hold a rally in Duluth, MN to spread their message of hate. Anti-fascists locally and from around the state, along with members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Wobblies, Occupy, and anti-racist Duluth residents, chased them out of town in short order.
In response to backlash against public anti-racist billboards (part of the UnFair Campaign), the Supreme White Alliance (S.W.A) saw this as an opportunity to try to gain recruits. We saw this both as a threat that their organization could grow, and as an opportunity to confront fascism head on. Prior to the rally, we met with community organizers, made a pamphlet, and canvassed neighborhoods that were under direct threat by the Nazis.
The morning began at 8:30am with a ceremony put on by Anishinabe people and members of AIM. Our early morning tactics were to confront and escort away any Nazis and potential white supremacist recruits. About six showed up alone or in pairs in anticipation of the hate rally, and we engaged them until they left.
Around 10:30am, Robert Hester (Chairman of the Supreme White Alliance) and five cronies were met with immediate confrontation, snowballs to the dome, and a cacophony of rage. Four comrades were arrested and released with bullshit charges. The anti-racist action succeeded in preventing the S.W.A. from spouting their hate, forcing their retreat into City Hall under the protection of riot police.
With about 70 to 100 people taking this confrontational stand, the people of Duluth showed that they will not tolerate hate groups in their community. At the same time, however, some groups and individuals in the area decided to pursue a strategy of non-confrontation. Organizing separate events at sites far away from City Hall where the S.W.A. rallied, they tried to rally around themes of peace, understanding, and community growth. While we stand in solidarity with the anti-racist sentiment of those in attendance at these events, we respectfully disagree with their tactics. We don't dislike peaceful assemblies and discussions, but we want to ensure that these options remain open to all, given the very real threat that fascists pose. Non-confrontation is not a good tactical approach when faced with such a force. It didn’t work in Germany or in the southern USA and it won’t work here, at least not on its own. We believe that conflicts surrounding the use of more confrontational approaches are not helpful in anti-racist work. Solidarity and respect for diversity of tactics is key to our continued success in dismantling white supremacy.
The action we engaged in at the Civic Center was not intended as a conversation with the Nazis or as a spectacle for the cameras. We were not trying to win them over to our side by convincing arguments. We were there to show them that there is a force to be reckoned with if they plan to organize in and around our communities. If they do, there will be very real consequences for them. “You’re not welcome here, we’re watching: this is your final notice.”
While the day’s action was a sure victory, there was a public and media-hyped backlash from some groups who were against a direct confrontation approach. This indicates that much work is needed to break anti-racist organizing out of its stranglehold by the liberal capitalism-friendly non-profit-industrial-complex. Some of the latter folks claimed to be acting on the basis of a “consensus in their community” in favor of their non-confrontational approach. We beg to differ, based on our conversations with numerous people who were apparently left out of this “consensus”.
We engaged with some of the white folks who came to the rally to hear the white supremacists’ side of the story, and realized that they are prime potential recruits because they have genuine economic grievances. The fascists can easily channel these grievances into their conspiracy theories that pit white people against the rest of humanity. By confronting these potential recruits, we prevented them from connecting with the fascists. By talking with them, we began to break down some of their racist myths and to channel their grievances into an anti-racist outlet, into seeing them as symptoms of an underlying disease: the capitalist state, bound up with the dividing forces of white supremacy. The strongly positive responses we received when canvassing amongst lower-income folks, especially people of color, lead us to believe that there is much fertile ground for face-to-face anti-racist organizing aimed toward bridging the racial divisions that keep the working class divided. As our enemies work together (“Cops and Klan, hand-in-hand,” we chanted when our comrades were arrested for chucking snowballs), so movements of abolishing white supremacy and destroying capitalism—and smashing hetero-patriarchy and decolonizing everything—must go hand-in-hand.
- Some anarchists and anti-fascist allies in Minnesota