On Sunday in Washington, DC, several thousand demonstrators rallied in the morning sun and marched in the afternoon rain to protest the presence of a few dozen fascists and white supremacists in their midst. Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, sought to once again gather together a broad range of right-wing extremists in a show of force. He failed by almost every measure except one: His people still had the protection of the local police.
In the year since Heather Heyer was killed by a violent white supremacist, the coalition that descended upon Charlottesville has collapsed. Some of the most violent groups present on that day, like the Traditionalist Worker Party or American Vanguard (with whom Heyer’s alleged murderer, James Fields, marched), no longer exist (these two were torn apart by a tawdry affair and an internal power struggle, respectively). Charismatic leaders in the movement have lost significant sources of revenue, as web-hosting services and crowd-funding platforms have banned them from their businesses. Whenever organized white supremacists, fascists, and neo-Nazis gather together in public, they run the risk of being outed to their friends, families and employers—a risk that only the most hardcore are willing to take.
All of this is in no small part thanks to sustained pressure from antifascist militants in the streets and online, diligent investigative reporting, and the growing upsurge of leftist organizing that recognizes fascism and white supremacy as existential barriers to a different, better world. However, the conditions that allowed for a violent right-wing street movement to arise in the first place have not gone away, and while that particular movement may have receded somewhat in places like Charlottesville and DC, it appears to be growing elsewhere, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
What’s more, these movements still end up being protected by the local police. Remembering the weeks before last year’s rally, Ben Doherty, an organizer with the Charlottesville chapter of Standing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), recalled how police had dealt with a Ku Klux Klan rally on July 8: “The police, all dressed up in their riot gear with these huge weapons, kept their backs to the Klan the entire time and were facing the anti-racist protesters, despite the fact that members of the Klan who came here said they were gonna be carrying guns,” he told me. “Then after they escorted the Klan back to their cars and let them leave the city, the police then turned on anti-racist protesters.… They went into formation, declared an unlawful assembly, and then tear-gassed the peaceful protesters who were just standing there.”