I was interested in seeing how large the crowds were at the tax protests last Saturday. The march in Atlanta did not seem too huge, but quite a few people turned out in major cities across the United States. Donald Trump is still commenting on these marches, tweeting that the protesters were paid and reminding people the election is over. Trump apparently does not understand that the belief that the election is over is compatible with the desire to see his tax returns. I like how he is now tweeting the he had a big win for a Republican in the electoral college. Since he did not claim a popular vote victory or question the legality of people’s Clinton votes, it makes me wonder if he really believed what he tweeted before. He may have. He may sincerely believe all his flip-flops. Or, maybe someone is editing his tweets now that he seems to be striving for normalcy. Who would have known how hard it would be to pass a new health care law or deal with North Korea? Don’t you just threaten and bully? Anyway, I wish he would tell me how to get paid for marching for a cause I believe in. Sign me up.
All of the tax marches were peaceful. However, I also looked at protests in Berkeley. The alt-right baited the anti-fascists, hoping for a violent confrontation. The video shows the alt-right, Trump supporters, dressed in patriotic garb, facing off against anti-fascists, many wearing all black clothing with their faces partially covered. Who are the good “guys?” The anti-fascists took the bait, and violence ensued. The police force was inadequate. Both parties look guilty and the race war the fascists hoped to encourage looked like it started in Berkeley. This media coverage undoubtedly generated recruits for the alt-right and suggested that anti-Trump supporters are equally guilty of causing problems. Not true, but perceptions matter. The brutality of these people made me sad.
Generally speaking, the best way to handle right-wing extremists looking for a fight is to ignore them. Instead, march the next day. Schedule press interviews. Ridicule them on social media. But try not to fight them if they are just exercising their right to free speech. They want the press to show up. They won’t repeatedly get the media’s attention if there is no conflict. They seek violent confrontations because that fits their narrative. You, the antifascists, won’t change their minds on the streets. The only minds that matter are those who watch the press reports. We want the story to be that the fascists are a small group of unimportant, violent, and un-American racists. If they speak their minds, most Americans will hear what nut cases are saying.
March for women’s rights, support efforts for government transparency, make your views known about the value of scientific reasoning, and protest efforts to roll back health care, but don’t join in violent protests against groups who promote violence.