Last weekend, leftists and liberals came out in force for the first anniversary of the deadly white-supremacist “Unite the Right” rally, marching, rallying, and protesting in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Washington, DC.
In DC, where white nationalist Jason Kessler organized a laughable crowd of just a couple dozen far-right racists, several leftist contingents participated in a black bloc—a militant protest tactic associated with anarchists and anti-fascists—to protest his appearance. But as the bloc took the streets in a stand against white supremacy, centrists and liberals in the mainstream press and on the far right admonished the anti-racist activists for allegedly “attacking” journalists. Reports from journalists and anti-fascists who were on the ground in Charlottesville and DC refute these claims, calling them exaggerated or false. Still, the position that anti-fascists are “bad” or dangerous has ramped up as these protesters have been busier during the Trump era than in previous recent years.
On January 21, 2017, millions of people around the country protested Donald Trump’s inauguration thanks to Women’s March, Inc. Replete with permits and police escorts, the march was praised by liberals as a nonviolent show of force against the incoming president. As participants in pink pussy hats took the streets to cheers of onlookers, more than 200 people who’d marched the day before—including activists, journalists, and street medics—were being processed in a Washington, DC, jail. Their crime? They’d participated in the Disrupt J20 actions, which never received the same positive media coverage or recognition that the Women’s March continues to receive even now. Because that march was a black bloc, and some in the bloc broke a few windows, the whole group was written off as “bad” protesters.
For more than a year, the majority of people arrested in the black-bloc march faced felony and misdemeanor charges for property destruction and conspiracy to riot. But because much of the press and many liberals hold a dim view of militant leftism, little attention was paid to a major trial in which the the government tried to send dozens of people to prison for protesting a right-wing presidential inauguration. Some of the defendants pleaded guilty early on and served jail time, while other cases languished in the legal process for over a year, and several groups to went to trial. The prosecution failed to secure any convictions, and any outstanding charges were dropped earlier this summer.