By S. First of May Anarchist Alliance
An M1 comrade and I went to a demonstration held in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak last night, an action in response to that atrocious video that went viral showing white children in a Royal Oak middle school chanting “build a wall” in the cafeteria, antagonizing Latinx children (link to video here). We thought it was important to show up and show our solidarity, to stand for these children — not just those in the Royal Oak area, but all over this country. Racist assaults and threats have been occurring at an accelerated rate amongst our very young as well as our adults since Donald Trump’s victory (Story Here). The assault on children is most disheartening; the experience of persistent racism at such formative ages has lasting psychological and social affects like alienation, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety — not to mention the very real threat of physical violence. This issue is especially personal for myself, not just as a person of color, but as a person with a Muslim name and background who was in middle school in this country when 9/11 occurred and thus had experienced a fair amount of racism as a child. It pains me to no end to think of the duress those Latinx children in the Royal Oak middle school are going through, having been in a similar position.
As ugly as that video and other attacks are, I cannot blame those racist children. I believe we have to recognize that the perpetrators of this assault on Latinx children are not actually other children, but adults who have influenced their children to be agents of their own racism. Unfortunately, it will be the case that this influence will have lasting effects, and the children of racists are themselves another sort of victim in all this, having never had the agency to think otherwise. Moreover, I believe much of this racism among children is the product of herd-mentality, where children join in on racist chants in order to be included on the “winning” side. Either way, this phenomena needs to be addressed, and we, as anti-racists of all stripes, need to stand up for and show our solidarity with children under attack, and be visibly anti-racist role models for all children in our communities.
We also felt it important to show our strength in whiter, wealthier suburbs like Royal Oak because, frankly, these are the sorts of places where Trump supporters are present. We thought it was necessary to show up in their own communities and face these people head on — with the victory of Trump, they have consciously leveled a serious threat against us. We must continue to respond with strength, because the resident opposition to Trump in such areas are composed of “respectable” liberals who have already began to tone down their opposition. As the Democratic Party begins to coalesce and unify around Trump in an attempt to maintain the system’s credibility, it is up to us radicals to give voice to the very real disillusionment that they are attempting to suppress.
The rally started at the Oakland Community College campus, about 5 blocks away from the middle school. Immediately, it became clear that most of the demonstrators were liberals — a mix of Sanders and Clinton supporters. They had terrible chants and signs (one guy even had a sign that said “Tariffs = Less Jobs”), and there were clearly those who were considered leaders who much of the crowd was gathered around. The crowd was mostly white, but there was a little diversity in there — I couldn’t tell how many people there were at it peak, somewhere between 60-100. As they stood around, we began agitating to take the streets and start marching to the middle school. Eventually our voices were heard, and the crowd began following us into the streets, albeit reluctantly at first. They felt a little safer knowing that we were in front — the “pet anarchists”.
Throughout the demonstration, before and during the march, we saw that there were many residents who supported us, honking their horns and waving from store windows. We also experienced several trump supporters yelling things like “build a wall” from their cars to us. As we marched, myself and two other anarchist comrades who were holding a banner were approached by an oncoming car driven by a Trump supporter who refused to stop in front of us. I doubt his intention was to actually run us over, but as he got inches away from we banged our hands on his car as a matter of reflex. It was clear he was looking for a fight. He got out of his car and tried to physically confront us three, but backed down when some of the crowd came and surrounded us. He went back into his car and drove away.
As soon as he got back in his car, we realized that many of the liberals that surrounded us weren’t there to have our back, but to scold us about being respectful to these fascists. It apparently did not matter that the guy was trying intimidate and provoke us by rolling his car into us. He was clearly ready to try to brutalize us. In particular, one liberal even put his hands on one of my comrades while trying to scold us. We verbally pushed back on him, and things calmed down a little as we continued to march.
We marched up to the middle school, and I could tell that our comrades were feeling a little down. We didn’t feel like these people had our backs. As a person of color, I did not feel like they had my back. I think due to racial and class make up of the crowd, they did not quite appreciate how serious this all was. It almost seemed like these people would be protesting the same way to president-elect Romney. I do not think its the same, I cannot afford to. At the middle school, the demonstrators again surrounded around a few key people it seemed, including someone from BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) and the Bernie supporter who scolded us on respectability. In retrospect, I feel like I should have at least went into that circle and said something, to offer a radical perspective, to share my own childhood and adult experiences with racism, but my energy was low from my experience with the liberals trying to police us. But I wonder if I should have engaged with the crowd at that point anyway — perhaps we wouldn’t have ended up losing steam like we ended up doing.
We began marching back, and some of our comrades and I began to try to get back on the streets. No one followed. We lost a lot of steam, and people were content just walking on the sidewalk. The cops (and there was a large police presence, especially when we got to the school) pressured us back on the sidewalk, and other liberal demonstrators on the sidewalk urged us to do so too. We kind of gave up at that point, marched on the sidewalk for a little while, and then we left.
Overall, I was encouraged that there was a rally to show solidarity for these kids in the first place, but by the time we arrived at the middle school, I was disillusioned. I think it was important for us to be out there, not just to show solidarity for those kids, but because this was the type of place where there are a lot of Trump supporters, and we needed to show our strength in there areas. However, this experience had brought several things to light regarding our political climate and what we, as antifascists, are going to have to deal with. We have to recognize the very real threat of violence from Trump supporters who will not tolerate an anti-Trump demonstration in their own town, the cowardice of liberals in the face of such violence, and the tendency for those same liberals to try limit and contain our discontent into something manageable for the DNC. This is a multi-theatre war, and we have to stay vigilant on multiple sides; at the same time, we have to seriously explore how to engage with those liberals who are disillusioned with electoral politics but don’t quite know how to articulate that disillusionment effectively and coherently. Such an effort requires care; it can be easy to alienate such people out of our own frustration. Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us.