Posted on 2nd Nov, 2020 in Uncategorised
The last four years have been a lot of things. "Frustrating", "baffling", "sobering", "nightmarish", and "terrifying" are all descriptors that sit near the top of the list. As we draw down on the last few days of an election cycle that feels like it has lasted 400 years instead of the 4 it really played out over, I've found myself unable to idly await an outcome. (For those who may have forgotten, a typical US Presidential election cycle only lasts about a year and a half at most. Please consult a physician if your election lasts longer than 2 years.)
In recent days, it's become clear that Trump is in danger of losing his re-election bid. In a normal election year, this would be inconsequential. However, this time our tangerine authoritarian will do anything to hold on to power. In the last week this has lead to caravans of his
brownshirt supporters intimidating, and trying to run his opponent's campaign bus off the road. So when well-known literal fascist group and once-a-month masturbaters, the Proud Boys, announced that they would be organizing the convergence of multiple MAGA truck caravans in Manhattan for a mass rally at Trump Tower I obviously had to show them how New York welcomes fascists.
These racist, Trump-supporting, closeted white nationalists come from out west where they've had success in stirring up trouble. Like many, they see New York City as a symbol of diversity, democracy, and progressive values. All things which they actively oppose. Furthermore, because this city happens to be Trump's hometown and because it has been polluted with a number of gaudy buildings that bear his name, it makes this the perfect stage for both a physical and symbolic clash of ideals. They've come here looking for a fight and to intimidate those who would stand against their encroaching fascism.
I had heard about a counter-protest organized by local anti-fascist and anti-racist organizers UARF-NYC & Outlive Them NYC that aimed to not-so-gently remind the Proud Boys that they have no place here. Naturally, I decided I would join them to engage in this essential work. Absolutely everyone in my inner circle who I mentioned this to were dead-set against the idea, but the relented when the realized there was no stopping me.
I arrived at the meeting site in Madison Square Park quite late to find a medium sized crowd of anxious activists. It was definitely an intersectional coalition of people against this incursion by a known hate group. Among the groups that turned out were Lincoln Project members, college students, drummers, bicyclists, Black Lives Matter activists, socialists, literal communists, and black bloc Antifa. It was certainly a little intimidating not knowing any one there, but we all were there for the same purpose.
Shortly after noon, we got word that the Proud Boys and their MAGA truck caravans had decided to avoid the city and head upstate. (I would find out later that evening that they did this because the "police reached out to [the Proud Boys] and said, 'Hey, there’s gonna be a lot of Antifa and Black Lives Matter there. We don’t recommend you guys go there because we don’t know if we have enough backup to fully support you'.") However, there were rumors that a small contingent of MAGA trucks from New Jersey were going to cut through midtown to meet the other groups, so we decided to take a victory lap and meet them at the Midtown Tunnel.
It had already begun to rain by the time we headed out, but that didn't stop us. We marched west along 23rd Street, flanked by dozens riot cops and armored officers on bicycles from the moment we left the meeting spot. When we arrived at 23rd Street and 12th Avenue we ducked in to Hudson River Park to avoid the NYPD which had backup following us along parallel streets waiting for the opportunity to kettle us. We turned north to 24th street and then east trying to shake them to no avail. At this point the cops' frustration became visible. With a lack of fascists to start trouble with our protest, the NYPD decided they would be the ones to fill that role.
As we were heading east, they declared our protest unlawful. It is unusual that they or anyone really, has the authority to declare First Amendment protected activities unlawful but I'll save that for a law school term paper. Normally what happens next is that they announce it over loudspeakers (in this case they used an LRAD in speaker mode) with a series of demands such as "disperse now if you don't want to be arrested". Then as people begin to comply, the police will swoop in to brutalize and arrest a few people as a show of force to intimidate the crowd. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly how it played out this time as well. This time however, they decided to try and pick up a fascism bonus by targeting and the pigs would wind up arresting almost a dozen people. The NYPD continues to demonstrate why people are justified in calling to defund the police through their consistently excessive, forceful, and unconstitutional responses to protestors.
At this point, I figured it's probably time to go since I was way too close to the action and had no intention of spending Election Day in jail. The protest group splintered, with some heading to Brooklyn to take on New York City Council candidate and Boro Park anti-mask riot organizer Heshy Tischler's MAGA caravan.
In the end, it was a memorable and unusual experience. While this was certainly not my first protest, it was the first one where the threat of being on the receiving end of violence was tangible. The surprise wasn't that the Trump-supporing NYPD broke-up a peaceful anti-Trump and anti-fascist protest. When you view their actions in the context of the times we live in, it paints an alarming picture of how close to giving in to authoritarian rule the United States has come. Hopefully this will be the last time we need to take to the streets in regards to the Cheeto Mussolini and his loyal mobs.