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We Didn’t Fix Austin (Or America)’s Nazi Problem

Posted in Austin, Creative Commons, and Journalism

A friend that lives in Portland posted on his Facebook about the latest spasm of white supremacist violence that took place there. A bunch of Piss Boys ran around the city overturning vehicles and assaulting community members and journalists. Again.

Someone that I’ve a bunch of mutual friends in common with responded. A sort-of-smug comment to the effect of “thank goodness we ran those people out of Austin, Texas!” And I’ll be honest, that comment shocked me: we did what?

I’m not going to call that person out because my therapist encourages me to avoid internet drama. More importantly, the comment reminded me that this attitude is probably widespread in my city and across the country.

I asked myself, are there people in this country that go days without thinking about the rise of fascism and the collapse of the climate? What must that be like?

Life in the Post-Trump Interregnum

As someone that still keeps a pretty close eye on the activities of local fascists, I want to correct anyone that holds the idea that Austin is some kind of chill, safe-haven for the Weird Left. Even setting aside the shenanigans at the Texas legislature — and we most definitely should not ignore that — there are still fascists active in our streets and our local politics. And some of them are very well funded.

It’s true, we had some good street fights against fascists back in the day. I fondly remember shutting down the “March” Against Sharia, an Islamophobic event that never managed to “march” due to our massive noise demo. Much like a miniature version of Portland, the fascist far-right saw Austin as a battleground in their culture war. One where they’d be met by antifascist resistance. For a minute, we defended our city against them.

A lot has happened in the years since then, however:

The Left in Austin, the kind of people that would confront fascists or police violence (or fascist police violence) lost a lot of power due to infighting, burnout, and police aggression. Austin pigs brutalized Black Lives Matter protests, causing life-threatening or -altering injuries with “less lethal” weapons. Then a lot of folks got scared or tired of marching. As fewer people attended, cops arrested anyone that took the streets.

And the pandemic happened. Many of my comrades now put their efforts towards mutual aid. This is vital work: helping our communities survive this crisis. But the fascists never went home or stopped gathering.

Fighting on new fronts

Fascist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, the pro-cop biker gang WTF Riders, and the SPLC-designated hate group This Is Texas Freedom Force continue to mobilize here. We never chased them out.

If the fash seem less visible it’s mostly because they’ve been absorbed into other movements, like the antivax/pro-civil war shindigs happening all over. And because we’re less capable of tracking & opposing them now than we were circa 2017. Both those factors make fascism more, rather than less dangerous.

Yes, some of their numbers dwindled with Trump out of office. But a lot of center-left folks went home too.

Unfortunately, we haven’t won against fascism and white supremacy. The fighting has just barely begun.

The fash took their culture war to other fronts, too. Fascist donations helped elect Mackenzie Kelly, a former Gamergate supporter that’s supportive of gangs like the WTF Riders, to the city council. The same deep, right-wing pocketbooks passed a camping ban amid an eviction crisis. And they want to pass a new law that could divert thousands of dollars into police budgets, drain other departments and block defunding efforts for years or decades.

From the Dallas QAnon conference, to attacks on public schools and school boards, similar frightening patterns are playing out around the state and nationwide.

Waiting for the tornado

If I had to describe what life feels like in 2021, it feels like watching the sky turn pea soup green before a massive tornado bears down on us.

(I’m going to take “storm” metaphors back from the CHUDs.)

Some of us can see the funnel clouds forming. Meanwhile, others put away their umbrellas, hang their coats in the closet. They’re nailing the storm cellar doors shut.

What can we do? Keep pushing, keep organizing. Be loud about what you see happening. Write zines. Form and tighten your mutual aid networks. Find secure ways to communicate with people you trust.

Plan for disaster with your comrades and your neighbors. Build shelters big enough for everyone you can fit, because we won’t get through this alone.

Presented under a Creative Commons license

Creative Commons LicenseWe Didn’t Fix Austin (Or America)’s Nazi Problem by Kit O’Connell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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