On his application to hold a demonstration in Washington, DC, to mark the anniversary of last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, white-supremacist Jason Kessler ticked “yes” to the question of whether any groups might seek to disrupt the demonstration. “Members of Antifa affiliated groups might try to disrupt,” Kessler wrote.
The National Parks Service approved the application. This Sunday, assorted white nationalists will gather at Lafayette Park to rally for “white civil rights” and, metaphorically, to spit on the grave of Heather Heyer, the counterprotester mowed down by a neo-Nazi in a Dodge Charger in Charlottesville last year. Planned speakers include neo-Nazi Patrick Little and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. Kessler is correct that “antifa-affiliated groups” will be present, too, in numbers likely far larger than the less-than-400 expected on the white-supremacist side.
In the case of this weekend’s mobilization in DC, “antifa-affiliated groups” entails a broad and diverse coalition, coming together from different areas of the anti-racist and social-justice struggle—an alliance that belies the reductive and demonizing image of anti-fascist activism painted by the far right and the civility-fetishizing liberal commentariat. Activists from Black Lives Matter, Jewish Voice for Peace, March for Racial Justice, the Democratic Socialists of America, and many more have been organizing for weeks alongside anarchist groups and seasoned antifa participants from DC, Virginia, Philadelphia, and beyond.
Committed to a diversity of tactics, organizers are explicitly rejecting the tired and dangerous “good protester”/”bad protester” binary, which pits “peaceful” forms of protest against more militant antifa street action.
“We have the same enemy, we have the same goal,” Makia Green, an organizer with Black Lives Matter DC told me of the broad counterprotest coalition. This enemy, as Green and her fellow organizers stress, is not limited to Kessler and his cohort. As the counterprotest call-out states: “Their rallies are all public displays of violence and calls for genocide. They are Brian Trainer and every killer cop. They are the ICE agents. They are the prison system that breaks up families.”
“Anti-fascism is not just dressing in all black,” said Dylan Petrohilos, a DC-based anarchist organizer. “While there are some that choose militant forms of struggle, working to end state violence, building networks of community defense, ICE rapid response, building workplace power, occupations of ICE offices, resisting pipeline expansion, as well as many other forms of resisting white supremacy and state violence are all forms of anti-fascism.”
Under the banners “Shut It Down DC,” “Alt-Right Not Welcome,” “Rise Up, Fight Back,” and “Stop the Hate,” a weekend’s worth of counterprotest trainings and actions are planned. There will be a rally, in a separate square from Unite the Right, described by organizers as “a defiantly celebratory space, where we will center the identities of Black, Brown, indigenous, queer, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, workers, sex workers, and all other identities that white supremacy seeks to destroy.” Following this, a march will head to Lafayette Square to directly confront the neo-Nazis and their sympathizers.