I was falsely arrested reporting on J20. The prosecution of its protesters proves America is ripe for fascism
I was arrested on January 20, 2017 while reporting on a protest against Donald Trump’s inauguration. US Capitol Police and officers of the Metropolitan Police Department surrounded me alongside 230 other people. Last week, I was the first to be declared innocent of felony rioting by the government.
It is with considerable difficulty that I cover Disrupt J20 now, 11 months since my arrest, when I was forced, out of fear of punitive measures from the Department of Justice, to maintain near-total silence on this national story of which I had intimate knowledge. This process drove me mad for many months, but it began to pay off on November 21, after a DC judge unequivocally cleared my name of the charges of felony rioting. Nevertheless, the effect that the ordeal had on my personal life was substantial. That and my often Quixotic commitment to social movement reporting demand my return to this story.
I long intended to report extensively on the opposition to the president’s inauguration before I became intrinsic to the story. In fact, I was prolific in my reporting leading up to the police kettle on the 20th. For reason of reckless police action — which a judge last week declared mistaken due to my innocence — I, the reporter, am rendered incapable of being unbiased. My proximity to this case demands a certain delicacy and a level of honesty that the language of news cannot sustain. As such, maintaining an ethical mode of reporting demands an honest, narrative-based re-telling of what I have experienced, and what I understand the prosecution of the protesters to signify.
I was monitoring the planning on what people were calling “Disrupt J20” since early on. My beat as a reporter has centered around coverage of protests and social movements since I began as a journalist, and the knee-jerk resistance to then president-elect Trump quickly proved to be worthy of my attention. I flew back home from Standing Rock just in time to cover the election back in Washington, DC. I was almost immediately confronted by increasingly frequent and increasingly militant demonstrations, unaffiliated with Disrupt J20, that took an angrier tone than those I’d grown accustomed to covering in the nation’s capitol. I had been reporting on social movements for two years, but then it seemed revolutionary anger was brewing among the masses; some incensed by their new president, others angrier at their compatriots for voting for him. The latter would soon crystallize. Hillary Clinton gave a speech during the election warning of the “alt-right,” a term coined by Richard Spencer. Then he shouted “hail Trump, hail victory” to a crowd giving Nazi salutes at his annual conference. Clinton and the media’s combined propulsion of Richard Spencer and the alt-right into the mainstream fomented the rise of fascism’s American foot-soldiers. Less than a year later, I’d find leftist demonstrations I reported on disrupted by increased numbers of them, and that at their own rallies, the amount of violence they were prepared to enact gave the police a serious run for their money.
The night after the election, I documented a large street march to Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. Masked protesters threw paint on its windows. Two nights later, I reported on a “black bloc” march that overtook critical highway tunnels that serve as major arteries for the District.
I covered two more protests in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, two “Jewish Resistance” demonstrations: one against Steven Bannon and the Jewish Federation of North America and the another outside Trump International Hotel, where The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was holding a Hanukkah party. I also reported on a protest against surveillance of Muslims outside of the White House, an activist’s trial, a highway shutdown aimed at legislators, and a noise demonstration outside of a jail. There was little doubt in my mind that the momentum of widespread anger against the president-elect was fashioning inauguration protests — be it Disrupt J20 or the Women’s March — into a spear against the incoming administration.
And I wasn’t the only one. The mass mobilization of Disrupt J20 was widely anticipated by anarchist activists I spoke to then to be the powder keg which would spark not just the failed promise of revolutionary potential presented by the Bernie Sanders campaign, but also serve as what anarchists consider the only meaningful form of opposition to fascism, which is to say rivaled militancy.
I attended a planning meeting which I later learned had not only been infiltrated by operatives for the right-wing provocateur media star James O’Keefe, but also by law enforcement. I interviewed two organizers. One named Maddy, and the other Legba Carrefour, an anarchist activist recently profiled by the Washington Post, but whose reputation I knew of from years prior, before I had moved to Washington DC; through my extensive network of sources in New York City.
Prosecutors working on the Disrupt J20 case filed a search warrant in February for the entire contents of Carrefour and organizer Lacy Macauley’s Facebook pages between the night of the election and February 9. I have also sought information from Macauley on number of occasions in order to inform my reporting.
He told me, in his typical hyperbolic manner, that “after the election you got people like Obama saying ‘we need a peaceful transition of power at absolutely all costs.’ And this is a man who spent the past year bashing on Trump, nearly calling him a fascist. So I think that we need to basically make this a not-peaceful transition at absolutely all costs.”
“And so how are you guys planning to disrupt then — throughout the day?” I pressed the pair.
Maddy said that Disrupt J20 was planning on blockades of traffic and checkpoints into the official inauguration ceremony. They wanted to “make the entire inauguration a clusterf*ck,” and “if nothing else delay. We’d like to make it not happen.”
While it seemed the activists had high aims, I suspected that part of what I was being told was rhetoric, and moreover, while barricades around a highly anticipated event are “not peaceful,” but they are also not necessarily violent. Disrupt J20 did not, at the end of the day, aim to place the nation’s capital under siege, and neither were protesters equipped to do such a thing on that day. Accordingly, the police were.
I continued to question Maddy and Legba on their aims and what they ultimately told me was that they would like Disrupt J20 to “set a tone” for future anti-Trump protests.
But while the arrests and treatment of the anti-capitalist protesters on January 20 may have captured the attention of some civil rights groups such as the ACLU, the much larger “Women’s March” the following day was what largely inspired the culture of the anti-Trump so-called resistance. Despite the commonality one might presume to exist between these factions of the anti-Trump movement, the petite-bourgeois liberal resistance has been largely silent on the J20 anti-capitalist resistance.
Two days before the inauguration, the group Democracy Spring issued a statement in response to reports about how Disrupt J20 was bent on violence, which was co-signed by three prominent organizers of the Women’s March. It called on “all who will protest the inauguration to diligently uphold this same commitment [to non-violence.]” And quite the commitment it was, apparently, as the statement’s authors noted that “some of us are devoting ourselves this week to self-purification.”
“Any action that harms people or destroys property … will weaken our resistance,” the press release declared, thereby designating acts of property destruction under the same category of “violence” as “harming others,” or— assault.
The Women’s March was completely mum on it until a member of Dead City Legal Posse — a “collective of activists and legal support workers in DC,” formed to backup the J20 defendants— pressured the group to issue a statement of solidarity, according to an activist I spoke with who has knowledge of the call. Since then, the group has tweeted about the case twice. It was around the time the statement came out when a local organizer told me that the Women’s March asked DC’s Black Lives Matter chapter to buy porter potties when they asked how they could help.
The liberal inclination to demonize militant J20 activists and idolize those of the Women’s March would find no greater steward than the Washington Post, who ten days after the inauguration ran the headline “Why the Women’s March may be the start of a serious social movement.” The demonstrators who had just spent more than a day in jail were characterized thusly: “Protesters who destroyed property on Inauguration Day were part of well-organized group.”
Meanwhile, mass media and social media resistance icons have maintained obnoxious reticence, preferring to instead expose Trump’s fascism through his nebulous ties to Russia.
In the days leading up to the inauguration, “affinity groups,” or small associations of activists based off of shared interests, carried out the actions planned during the mass mobilization. On the night of January 18, I documented a hundreds-strong LGBTQ dance march to then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s temporary residence in DC’s Chevy Chase neighborhood on his last night of living there.That night, I welcomed a number of journalists that would stay with me in my modest English basement in DC. I had so many fellow reporters sleeping on the floor that I was forced to deny a spot to other journalists whom I respected and was eager to meet.
In the morning, I reported on a protest outside a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission meeting that was supposed to be open to the public, but was in fact closed off by the Department of Homeland Security. Later that night, I covered mass protests outside of the National Press Institute, where members of the alt-right and leading political operatives for the Trump campaign held the “DeploraBall” inauguration party. The evening saw clashes between police, protesters, and attendees to the ball. Afterwards, my peers and I spent the entirety of the night and a good portion of the morning trading stories and editing our footage. We published our final cuts around dawn. Some of us, myself included, did not sleep at all.
We left the house to go report on checkpoint blockades at 7:00am, parting ways to cover some number of the 11 points of entry for which there were planned disruptions. I chose to cover the one organized by Movement for Black Lives at Judiciary Park, which is sandwiched between the DC Superior Court where J20 protesters would later be tried and the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Well over a hundred protesters formed multiple, layered blockades with their bodies, some using chains to do so. From what I observed, those looking for entry to the inauguration parade route at that location were entirely thwarted. Beyond one or two would-be attendees who attempted to sneak past lines of activists chanting, repeatedly, “this checkpoint is closed,” there was little of note. Alex Jones emerged to frantically berate the media and onlookers about an alleged assault of a woman and some members of the Bikers For Trump group got shove-y with antifa protesters.
Later, I’d learn that the President’s professed delusion — or perhaps his attempt to delude — regarding the size of the crowd at his inauguration ceremony was of great interest to liberal America. Media were entranced by it for the entire first week of the Trump presidency. But why it happened was never explained. Doing so would have compromised liberal respectability — the primary weapon of the Democrats against Trumpism save unproven allegations he colluded with Russia.
I moved on to Logan Circle, where the anti-capitalist march congregated. I took a cab some of the way and walked a portion of it as well. Downtown DC was seemingly transformed into an occupied territory almost overnight. Secret Service, US Park Police, Capitol Police, and the National Guard all contributed to policing efforts that day. An additional 3,000 officers from local jurisdictions and federal agencies joined in too. Attempting to consider the entire list of militarized equipment I personally encountered would be unproductive. Much of it, such as the armored vehicles on every corner downtown, was likely attained for free from the Pentagon under the Obama administration. But the sheer number of times police would soon begin deploying weapons, I had not quite anticipated.
When I arrived at Logan, the calmness had a discomforting quality. There was little more than a group of five officers far across the street as far as the eye could tell. Even then, before I knew an undercover police agent infiltrated the planning meeting, it would have been naive to think the police didn’t know about this march. But they would come, as they always do.
Inside the park a sea of black-clad, masked protesters — three to four hundred of them by my estimation then — bearing flags and banners and chanting anti-capitalist slogans, engulfed a statue of a mounted Civil War general, sword drawn, evidently prepared to slay Confederates. “Eat your pheasant, drink your wine / your days are numbered bourgeois swine,” rang one chant. I was later told by a world-class Russian reporter and linguist that it was a remarkable translation of a untitled couplet by the Bolshevik poet Vladimir Mayakovskiy. He penned it exactly one hundred years ago in 1917, as the vanguard party to which he belonged seized the state from the provisional government, which Lenin had declared bourgeois.
In my extensive reporting at antifascist and anti-capitalist demonstrations, I’ve often been singled-out and asked to leave, but this crowd had no such intentions. A few people greeted me immediately but I was not sure who all of them were behind masks. In any case, more than fifteen, perhaps twenty, activists and journalists I’ve known throughout my career were present at the march some point, many of whom were arrested alongside me.
I filmed some protesters burning Trump-Pence campaign signs and a flag, specifically the Blue Lives Matter one; the viral police infusion of the warrior cop’s “thin blue line” into the sphere of liberal identity politics and hate crime laws. The march began rather like any of the dozens of other non-permitted marches I’ve covered, with a roaring chant of “Whose streets? / Our streets!” which typically presages police action. Helicopters buzzed overhead.
I started streaming on Periscope. After two minutes, I reported that I saw flares, and the sound of a tiny incendiary device, what I suspect was a cherry bomb — a cheap gimmick easily purchased alongside fireworks. It landed my uncle in suspension back before the era of school militarization and draconian zero tolerance policies, he admitted to me years ago.
Some protesters dragged newspaper boxes into the streets. Then, small groups of typically not more than ten people broke storefront windows of various businesses in downtown DC with bricks and hammers. I filmed one protester throwing a flare inside a newspaper box, to dubious effect. I filmed some vandalize a DC Fire Department van and smash the windows of a limousine. It was later set on fire, but that wasn’t associated with the anti-capitalist march.
I followed the march to Franklin Square,where police began firing off what I thought was tear gas. Moments later, I reported an egg thrown at an officer. Somebody threw a brick from a distance. It landed closer to me than to the line of officers, who were using their bicycles as blockades and were wearing helmets.
I filmed more vandalism of a van standing next to a live streamer I later learned was an undercover agent for the Oathkeepers. A few protesters sprayed it with paint and threw a brick at it. Some military personnel, I presume a member of the National Guard, looked on as he guarded a massive cargo truck that was blocking a street. The van had all the signs of also being government property. No obvious indicators. But it was an illegally parked, pristine Chevy with black windows and vague documents in the windshield.
Next came the Starbucks and Bank of America, whose windows were knocked down by another handful of protesters.
“Was it the same dozen who smashed the limo? It’s impossible for me to say,” remarked Evan Engel, another journalist arrested near me.
It became apparent that the police were prepared to make arrests, using motorcycles to quickly wade through the tail of the march, weaving through toppled trash barrels and newspaper boxes, all while deploying huge amounts of orange and white OC spray and mace. Mace and tear gas are irritants but pepper spray is an inflammatory agent, so police typically use combinations of both for crowd control.
OC — pepper spray — is derived from the Cayenne pepper, which was first harvested for warfare by the Taíno people, whose decimation was greatly induced by Columbus’ system of ruthless colonial extraction and whose resistance was crushed for its lack of superior weaponry. When Columbus met them, the very first time he encountered any of the native people whose nations he would go on to raze, it exacerbated an unending genocidal settler project. He said their good will and lack of firearms would make them “good servants.” The people that paid dearest on the continent under the brutal hand of European imperialism in the Americas were the Taíno.
Mace is derived from Tear Gas. It’s believed that tear gas was first used in warfare by German fighters World War I against the Russians during the Battle of Bolimów, their first experimentation with large-scale chemical weapons. It’s popularity soared during this time. Today its wartime application is outlawed by most countries. Pepper spray is similarly banned.
According to documents obtained and reported on by Baynard Woods of The Real News Network, MPD cops sprayed protesters more than 100 times that day. But pepper spray and mace were far from the only weapons of war police deployed. 74 Sting-Ball grenades were thrown (they shoot out rubber bullets and chemical irritants upon explosion.) Six 40mm Stinger rubber bullets rounds, five foam batons, and a 40mm Exact Impact rounds were also fired. $300,000 was expended on weapons and equipment for the MPD. Weapons deployed by the US Capitol Police remain unknown.
I took a fair bit of spray collaterally then. Police started swarming through like angry hornets whose hive has been struck, pushing people in their way over and all but butting others from behind with their motorcycles. Other officers marched in blocs with batons drawn. Entire blocks I’d just traversed wreaked of chemical agents.
The live stream I was recording through my company’s account came down. I opened a new one through my person account and continued. In the two minutes that followed, I struggle to keep a fast enough pace to stay ahead of the police and report what is happening to my fresh audience. My periscope’s angle rotated as I ran from riot police gripping batons. At one moment, I was giving exposition to my new audience and filming running protesters. The next, I was being pushed down, or perhaps hit with a baton from behind, by charging police. I tell my audience for a third time since beginning to live stream that day that I am a reporter and not an activist.
I was asked to go back to my companies’ account.
In the course of the one or two minutes that followed, I can be seen on my phone attempting to re-open a stream in police body-worn camera. Unbeknownst to me, the march and I had all become encircled by cops, and some of them were attempting to escape them.
Protesters began chanting a countdown. I am not sure how many. It looked like about thirty from evidence later released to me. I hadn’t thought it was coming. A portion in the front ran.
I got enveloped in the crowd despite my effort, and momentum brought me with them for a moment. Those who led the charge mostly escaped the kettle, I learned later from aerial footage released to me. Some of the arrested could be seen leisurely following the charge.
As I was immobilized, the police doused me directly with chemical spray and in short notice deployed what I thought were two flash bang grenades within feet of me. In fact they were Sting-Ball grenades. I was immediately stripped of my senses; a momentary whiteness caught my retinas, perhaps even through my eyelids. In any case they were forced shut. I had terrible tinnitus.
DC’s Office of Police Complaints (OPC) sent out 11 staff members to monitor police actions that day. In the consequential report, OPC workers observed a supervising officer order an assault on a member of the media. Another was hit with rubber bullets expelled from a Sting-Ball, and yet another “who was dressed in distinctive clothing identifying him as an OPC monitor,” was hit in the head with OC spray. Repeatedly, police deployed their so-called less-than-lethal munitions without warning. Neither was there a dispersal order before the mass arrest — something I was mostly unaccustomed to seeing in my experience reporting at protests.
According to the OPC, MPD is trained to roll sting-ball grenades — not throw them — “to avoid having a rubber pellet strike anyone in the face.” It was yet another Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) ignored by the MPD.
I screamed wildly for a protest medic. The burning of my face from those chemicals remains the most incapacitating pain I have ever experienced. I was quickly treated but it took what seemed like ages for the pain to subside enough to open my eyes. Some videos I had tried to tweet were failing to upload.
I learned from bodycam video released to me that it was only about ten minutes before I presented my press badge to authorities, at which point three pushed me away. I continued to try to explain.
“Am I supposed to be arrested or something?” I implore them.
“You guys are all under arrest.” an officer tells me.
“Why am I under arrest? I’m doing my job, sir.” I say to deaf ears.
My shirt was soaked from the water and Maalox was treated with, and it was still morning in late January. I called my boss, smoked a cigarette, and briefly acknowledged a number of reporters and activists I’ve known that were present. I tried to grab the attention of a reporter I knew but police pushed me away again. I recorded a statement but that too would not upload. The only information I was able to release publicly was a picture of a Sting-Ball and rubber pellets.
“Here is the flash grenade they used that blinded me and left my ears ringing. Cops encircled crowd when I couldn’t see; arresting everyone” I tweeted.
I was freezing, my knee scraped and my toe sprained from the push I’d received from charging riot officers. My face felt like it was going to burn off, and my body ached from sleep depravity and days of keeping up with marches. I offered myself to police once they began making arrests, a process which lasted a total of nine hours as protesters were forced to urinate in bottles, packed together tight as sardines.
That kettle was never supposed to happen. The practice was all but completely outlawed after two mass arrests gone wrong around the turn of the century. A 2000 protest against the “prison-industrial complex” near the World Bank and International Monetary Fund saw the mass arrest of 700 at once, and 1,300 over the course of mere days. Not a single person was ever convicted and the city was forced to dole out $13.7 million. Another mass arrest of 400 in 2002 at a protest against the World Bank, peaceful protesters and bystanders were hogtied en masse. The US Attorney’s Office would argue the move was done to prevent the “mass fornication” of protesters. For that, the city settled for $13.25 million with protesters.
These tremendous blunders led to an overhaul of police protest procedure as new laws were drafted in the District.
The requirements dictated that police arrest individuals responsible for unlawful acts, but I had not witnessed a single arrest prior. Moreover, the law requires cops issue a dispersal order and provide adequate time and a safe route for protesters to leave before before breaking up a demonstration.
Police Chief Peter Newsham, then interim, said two days later that he “couldn’t be more proud of the way this department responded,” the Washington Post reported in an article about his lauding of the effort. It failed to mention his disgraceful handling of a 2002 protest that cost the city millions.
But Newsham didn’t order the mass arrest of this one, according to in-court reporting by the media collective Unicorn Riot. The mass arrest of the anti-capitalist march was ordered within six minutes of its start by Commander Keith Deville, who helped draft MPD protest policies. At trial, the defense showed Deville video of the Sting-Ball hurled through the air at the kettled protesters. He said the officers “showed restraint in my opinion.”
Deville was also shown video of indiscriminate baton beatings, which he called a “correct” measure.
Police failure to warn protesters and bystanders before deploying OC despite clear rules in the SOP was justified, Deville argued, because the demonstration was a “riot,” and not First Amendment protected activity.
Unicorn Riot also reported on Deville’s history of homophobic and transphobic comments resurfaced by the defense. He also made jokes about the holocaust, which the defense has surfaced.
There was a small group of people lined up ahead of me. One officer told everyone around that we were “all over the news.” I remember the conservation that followed with my arresting officer acutely. As I waited, cuffed with zip ties and with his arm around one of mine, he must have noticed the RT logo on my jacket’s arm. He said something to the effect of “oh, you work for RT, huh?” I nodded and he went on about how he monitors my company to keep tabs on protests. I asked him what, in his estimation, I could have done to avoid arrest. He told me to keep a greater distance. That struck me as poor advice for a journalist swept up in a mass arrest, for which there were no dispersal orders. That was before I knew so many other journalists had been allowed to walk out upon request to the police. My presumption that offering myself up for early arrest would guarantee greater comfort would follow proved supremely naive.
Police stripped me and the others of our belongings before loading us into paddy wagons, split with two sides that fit five arrestees each.
The expectation for at least some improvement to my body’s comfort quickly dissipated as the vehicle’s door was closed a new pain set in. I’d just gotten a haircut, and my bangs kept scraping my eyeballs, delivering fresh doses of the chemical agents straight to its intended target. I couldn’t do anything about it but instead tried to focus on the pain of the plastic cuffs restraining my hands behind my back, tightening ever slightly with each movement I made. I quickly learned that the heat was even less friendly than the cold. Myself and the four others locked in my section of the paddy wagon generated a good deal of heat, and before we knew it the air became heavier and breathing more difficult. The chemicals were airborne. As the windows steamed up, my pours opened, letting even more compounds seep into my skin.
A DC law pertaining to the transportation of prisoners states: “Members shall ensure that the transport vehicle is properly heated or cooled at all times while prisoners are held in the transport vehicle. If a prisoner is retained in a transport vehicle without air conditioning, the transporting members may open the rear doors of the transport vehicle or a single rear door of the wagon to allow fresh air into the vehicle.” We were given no such courtesy.
Hours later, I learned of a young guy who looked to me as though he were not even of voting age. He was hit badly as I was, and hyperventilated for hours while having a panic attack in the back of the vehicle. We waited with the doors closed on the corner of L and 12 St., at the site of the kettle. Then we were moved to a small precinct, where we waited even longer behind closed doors.
Finally, someone opened the door and we could breath. An officer who told us he’s typically assigned to a DC undercover gun task force complained about his assignment. He asked us what we thought of our brand new president, who was sworn in as we gasped for breath. He chatted with us for another forty minutes, assuring one that he would be able to use the phone once inside. We were brought in for mugshots and finger printing. I begged officers to let me wash my hair as it was a recurrent source of electrifying pain. Before I was confined to a cell, they let me run my head under the water fountain for a few moments, which which had a nominal effect of removing the agents from my hair, considering how hard I begged. It was around this time we were told we were being charged with misdemeanor rioting.
My cellmate was another baby-faced kid. Someone on the cell block sang the entire Soviet International. At some point, legal activists outside of the precinct yelled into our windows and took down phone numbers and messages from arrestees whose families may be worried about them. Several got their messages out. I managed to nod off into a few moments of rest in the metal bunk as people on the block sang “Solidarity Forever” at least two more times. The same young man asked again for the phone, and was told he’d be given an opportunity at Central Booking. After my release, I’d hear that a photographer and an activist I know were to be anally probed by officers at the police academy they’d been transferred to as a temporary jail before everyone arrested was moved to booking overnight.
But getting there was not without its round of challenges for me. I insisted that I would not leave the precinct without full assurance I would receive all of my belongings. I had already sent three property receipts back throughout the holding, demanding the next accurately reflect my belongings.That was considerable annoyance to the officers present. They kept telling me that even if my property wasn’t documented, I would get it back nonetheless. I knew better than to think that items deprived of a paper trail last very long in any government office. So throughout that process, anytime I could capture an officer’s attention for long enough, I’d tell them what was missing from my sheet, as well as the already documented items I had with me.
An officer stood outside my cell, the door to which was open for the first time since I’d been moved in, telling me to come out to get in line to leave. “I don’t want to leave until my paperwork accurately reflects my property” I angrily protested before acquiescing.
I raised my concerns to an officer walking by, who took my slip for a fourth time as I detailed my belongings. When they moved us to a waiting area, I reminded them that I was waiting for a new slip. Outside, I gave them another reminder. We were loaded into another paddy wagon and I continued complaining. The men in the back with me began grumbling too; not at me for holding them up, but at the police for treating me unfairly. So police shut the door. They came back to tell us that some of our charges were being reduced and we’d be leaving soon, opening the door back up for us. Then, the story changed and it was just me whose charges were scaled back. They continued to advocate for my property sheet. Eventually cops brought a new one back, which was also incorrect, before taking off. Ultimately, I would receive some items not listed, while ones that were disappeared. My charges were never reduced.
I was beginning to notice my hunger, unsure if it had been a full day since my last meal: dinner after the Deploraball. It felt like a week ago. The police brutalized me, I thought, ruined my reporting plans for the day, and blatantly disregarded my property, including media equipment, when I should have been enjoying a hot meal with friends and the fruits of days of consecutive reporting.
Finally we arrived at Central Booking, a colloquialism for the jailhouse-courthouse hybrid facilities that have defined the process of arraignment in major American cities. There, we’d eventually see an appointed magistrate judge who would read our indictment to us. The black women who transported us were infinitely more generous than the drivers before, and immediately opened with door for us to breath when we parked. They left it open until we were moved inside.
Again the young man asked to use the phone, and again he was denied. He was told he would be able to use it in the morning when we were transferred to the courtroom portion for holding, though that would never effectuate either. As my exhaustion heightened, the state of my memories-to-be was rendered essentially doomed to a vague condition. Though his name today escapes me, I remember, without a doubt, that my new roommates’ face was that of yet another fearful post-adolescent for the first time facing Kafkaesque consequences for their legally adult decisions. I’d long been intimate, by chances of experience and observation, with the unfeeling absurdity dealt down upon the powerless in this county by American bureaucratic structures masked as services to the public.
I allowed this consideration of the modern American system as such to occupy my brain in place of the new jail cell, which was far worse than the one prior. It was observably dirtier, stickier, and stinkier. Only the lighting was less jarring, which I suppose is an expected perk when confined to booking, which serves largely as a temporary storage vault for humans until a judge is ready to have them escorted in. I counted bugs of untold species in my immediate field of vision into the double digits. At least five on my bed alone. One, I thought was a kind of cockroach. The bed was even stiffer than the other precinct’s.
And it was far louder. A lone man’s wail from the far end of the dungeon that is Central Booking reverberated through the night in the cell chamber we were placed in. I suspected he was suffering from withdrawals. “Hey CO!” he shouted repeatedly for hours, which is short for Corrections Officer. It was maddening. The guard periodically egged him on, laughed at him, or traded profanity-laced insults, both at the top of their lungs. Finally, some food was offered around. Because of my pescetarian diet, I was offered two sandwiches. Each consisted of a thin tomato slice, a singular slice of Kraft American cheese, and two or three shreds of lettuce snuck between a double layers of white bread on either side. I ate bits of it and eventually I got some semi-meaningful sleep.
In the morning, we were handcuffed by our wrists and feet, connected by chains to one another into groups of eight, divided by two columns of four. We were transferred through the building into a courthouse cell block which held four per cell.
Some kind of city worker came by to administer urinalysis tests for illicit drugs and told us without prompting that we could refuse them, but doing so would delay our release.
We were quickly shuffled to a mass holding area to make room for incoming arrestees in the dedicated cell unit for drug tests. We remained for some hours. Everyone arrested who identified as male was confined together, split between two adjacent large, fishbowl-style cages as more and more groups of protesters were paraded in during the remaining hours of our detention. I had little opportunity to speak to anyone I knew, some whom I began to realize were among the journalists staying in my apartment. But most of my time was spent brooding on my wrongful detention and the pain inflicted upon me by police. It was all totally unfair. I wasn’t a protester and other journalists were let out. But I then came to meet another journalist for a pretty well known outlet.
Not that I was really a journalist at that moment. I was as considered by my captors then as everyone else: threats to the state, the public, — something — whose imprisonment was justified. My mood only lightened when we were all moved out to a narrow, stretching room with booths facing a mirror side. Public defenders waited for us there.
It was a tight fit. There very may well have been every man arrested during the inauguration present. People were tripping over one another to reach their lawyers. A court official gave a complicated suggestion to the group on how we could be released sooner, and ominously stated it would require that everybody waive some rights. Mass confusion ensued as people requested a less incongruous explanation of what he was trying to say.
In essence, we had to waive our rights to a separate public defender from those in the group we’d been placed with, which could conflict the interests of parties looking to inform on one another. In any case, it was a temporary waiver of that right. Eager to get things going, I explained what the court worker was trying to tell us to the room, and the palpable fear that the decision would lead to disagreements and divisions within the group was quelled.
One more time we were moved back to the big cages. Only a select few actually spoke with lawyers in that dual-chambered hall. A half a dozen more spoke to them from inside the cages.
After charges against him were dropped, journalist Evan Engel would report that he witnessed officers instruct a 21-year-old to lie that he did not received medical treatment, which he did, his bulging right eye colored blood-red; an injury sustained when officers pepper sprayed him with his contacts lenses in.
One person, whom was placed near at the police precinct, continued his unshaken effort to lighten the mood by asking every officer who would give him an ear whom they had voted for.
“Donald Trump,” remarked a US Marshall. I suspect it was the only honest answer he had received thus far.
Without thinking, I blurted a question out to the Marshall. Did he think it was OK to “grab women by the pussy?”
He stood directly across from me, facing in behind the bars when he mumbled under his breath something entirely inaudible to anyone, before very clearly stating: “It depends. They lose their rights when they come in here.”
A grimace overwhelmed his face, but he was already making his exit before I could try to fully comprehend it. “You didn’t hear what I said,” the Marshall told me and the few others standing nearby.
He refused to repeat himself and as he continued, rage over what was approaching 24 hours of mistreatment by police and utter disgust over the officer’s explicitly-stated disregard for female bodily integrity threw me far over the edge.
“You look like Private Pyle if he jerked off more,” I yelled at him, considering his resemblance to the character uncanny.
Just as I’d been among the first arrested, I would also be among the first to see a judge. Police began setting us in new restraints, the same variety as the last, which would be used to parade us out in front of the judge like show dogs. I examined the contraption more closely, listening and fixing my eyes on the chain links clanking against the floor. I considered that the chains clasped to the cuffs around my wrist were also fastened to the cuffs restraining those before and ahead of me. My ankles too. If all these people around me, guilty or innocent, could get caught up in such a net, then so could I too. Among us there weren’t just journalists, but lawyers and legal observers, nurses and field medics and even firefighters.
I understood that I was never afforded special privilege in the eyes of the state because I am a journalist. And I understood that in any such scenario, the principles of callous indifference which have characterized America’s transition into colonialism, then imperialism, then slavery and finally into wage-structured economic reorganization under late capitalism — or as I sometimes describe the phenomenon in America, service feudalism — also predicate any potential freedom of mine on the freedom of those perfectly innocent protesters around me and the due process and fair punishment of the less than innocent around me. The Enlightened thinkers who inspired the Founding Fathers of America insisted that certain guarantors of these basic dignities were birthrighted to us all; that the fruits of freedom were secured via a social contract with the state, which we’d never been handed a copy of.
With a degree of self-pardoned dissonance that could shock even the most egotistically impervious, ethically vacuous of the media thought leaders and political culture warriors of 2017, the American state never told its children just how the ground under their homes had been stained with the blood of the land’s original inhabitants by their genocidal ancestors — nor how Africans were codified into US law as three-fifths human, when this country’s so-called social contract came to be. Children are protected from such troubling considerations in American education.
Bored as I stood there, the lines of Woody Guthrie’s “Worried Man Blues” began to run through my mind as I looked at the web of chains around me and awaited the courtroom. Indeed I was worried and the song was the perfect parable to my dehumanizing predicament. For a moment I stopped short of audibly laughing at the caricature of the situation I had envisioned, but the manner in which we were chained gave me the unnerving impression it was exactly how legally traded slaves were kept from escaping. Then, they were considered legal property, so I considered the chains in the context of modern practices of forced labor in America — enshrined by the 13th amendment, the passing of which signified the end of regime of chattel slavery but the beginning of an era of mass incarceration and forced, unpaid prison labor.
Guthrie’s chords often originated from the old folk ballads of Europe, but it was only that style’s adoption by African slaves, whose sensibilities imbued the genre with the soul of their suffering, that popularized and defined folk in American culture. There’s little doubt that whatever incarnation of the tune Guthrie covered, the words to that version were first applied by a slave, former slave, or immediate descendant of one, forever supplanting whatever original meaning may have traditionally or initially accompanied the melody. The song goes:
2×: It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long!
2×: Went across the river, I lay down to sleep;
When I woke up had shackles on my feet!
2×: Twenty-one links of chain around my leg;
And on each link, there’s an initial of my name!
2×: The train ride is twenty-one coaches long;
And the gal I love is on that train and gone!
2×: Asked that judge what’s gonna be fine;
Twenty-one years on that rocky mountain line!
2×: Twenty-one years to pay my awful Crime!
Twenty-one years! And I still got ninety-nine!
Like other folk ballads he covered, it’s about a runaway slave. Guthrie has our weary protagonist seeking refuge by the river in his daring flight from total subjugation. The narrator implicitly portrays law enforcement as essentially night stalkers of runaway slaves, which indeed they initially were in America. The absurdist nature of the judicial system is then laid bare. In the blink of an eye, our unfortunate hero falls just as he took his first taste of freedom. When he comes to, it’s been robbed from him by the same state which once protected his slaver. This time, his incarceration is not justified via some receipt of a transaction, but some “awful crime,” which lands him in a lifetime of confinement, but which also, critically, is never fully explained.
We went before the judge without incident. No one in my group had an opportunity to speak with the public defender prior to him advocating for us before the judge. She handed each of us down charges under the Riot Act that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars. We were held collectively responsible for the property destruction that occurred that day.
The Riot Act was passed towards the end of the civil rights movement in order to legally differentiate legitimate and non-legitimate protests, predominately along racial lines, notes journalist Sam Adler-Bell in Mask Magazine. One year later, the law was constitutionally challenged by a man arrested in the uprising in Washington, DC that followed the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. His challenge proved unsuccessful as the court reasoned the Riot Act was “directed to disorders unrelated to political demonstrations,” whereas his arrest occurred in the context of a “mindless, insensate violence and destruction unredeemed by any social value and serving no legitimate need for political expression.”
Last week, Commander Deville admitted to brushing off the paperwork legally required before conducting a “high-volume arrest,” justifying his actions because the arrests weren’t related to a “First Amendment assembly,” but a “riot.” He repeatedly used this rational to evade criticism in respect to the rights of protesters.
Today, around 200 people face decades in prison — many upwards of 60 years — in connection to the destruction of property — as well as some other charges — that occurred on January 20. But much of it, including the highly-publicized torching of a limousine, occurred after the mass arrest of the anti-capitalist march. In some charging documents, protesters I was kettled in with were nonetheless held responsible for actions that occurred while we were detained.
Police say the damage totaled more than $100,000.
Reconciling that number with the others floating around the inauguration is the first step to snuffing out the most propagated myth about the J20 prosecution— that it seeks to punish protesters for ravaging the city — which to this day continues to smolder in media reporting. MPD spent more on gas masks alone.
A Marketplace.org podcast from January 18 remains the definitive account of spending around the inauguration. The host begins: “Yes, inauguration day is about the peaceful transition of power. It’s a two-century-old tradition and a pivotal ritual in our democracy,” before bridging to Washington Post feature writer Roxanne Roberts, who “has looked at precisely this question of cost” relating to a variety of inaugural affairs.
“The biggest item on the bill is actually a taxpayer cost. And that’s the police, the security, the logistics, the military,” Roberts said. Total, the price of that undertaking hovers around $100 million.
“Washington, however, is doing what it’s always doing which is making a lot of money off this. Some of the luxury hotels are going for as high as $10,000 a night, and they’re all sold out,” Roberts reported. Presumably, the draining of the proverbial swamp would have to wait until after the inauguration.
But it wasn’t just high-rollers that flooded into DC. “The rest of Washington is being filled by protesters who are coming to town and that’s different. Usually, the losers stay home and they feel bad, but this time they’re coming into town, so all the other hotels and restaurants are being filled up by people who are coming to town to protest this inauguration.”
“So the big winner of the election may be the local DC economy, at least for inauguration week,” the host says, prompting laughter and agreement from Roberts.
It isn’t clear whether protest tourism left DC’s economy with a net gain or loss as hundreds of Disrupt J20 protesters, thousands of law enforcement offices, and half a million Women’s March demonstrators descended on the district.
Following the OPC report, DC’s city council allotted an additional $150,000 of taxpayer funds from its budget to an investigate police actions that day.
That a mere one-thousandth of the total cost of police for the day was also lost in the form of property destruction was what prompted this affair demonstrates that the threat perceived by the state is not monetary in nature, but rather something entirely different.
“You don’t look at the particular costs,” political scientist Michael Parenti once declared in a speech, before providing the following metaphor which fully explains the disparity before us. “I could demonstrate to you that every single bank robbery, that in every single case practically, the cost of the police was more than the actual money that the robbers took from the bank … because if they didn’t stop that one bank robbery, regardless of the costs, this could jeopardize the entire banking system,” Parenti reasoned. “There are people who believe that the function of the police is to fight crime. And that’s not true; the function of the police is social control and protection of property,” he concluded.
That goal of social control could not be more apparent in the prosecution; the blanket charges carrying huge sentences coming from the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) under the Department of Justice. Those charges, handed down simultaneous to the 500,000-person Women’s March, sent a clear message across the nation: there are legitimate methods of protest and there are illegitimate ones.
I believe I was the first to walk out of the Superior Court that day. I was emphatically greeted by a number of activists I’ve known from over the years. Women wearing pussy hats gave bewildered glances at the radical resisters rallying and doing “jail support” outside of the Superior Court as they walked by. I noticed myself surrounded by tons of media. Many of them, I guesses, would have happily left the rally with nothing more than a picture of me — an RT journalist arrested on suspicion of rioting — getting charged and surprise-hugged by some masked antifa girl. So I made haste in leaving.
That decision proved wise. I soon learned that Fox News published a report which editorialized its account of me, attempting to lead readers along a never explicitly stated — yet unquestionably presumed — inference that I was actually rioting. That presumption was lent a mere a semblance of plausibility by an editor’s skilled framing and juxtaposition. Another entry into a long list of claims rife with fascistic paranoia coming from the TV network.
The story introduced journalist Evan Engel first, citing comments from his lawyer that he was on the job. But when it came to my case in the following paragraph, the article’s author made no such effort that I am aware of to reach the same level of journalistic standards set by the preceding paragraph. I was quoted briefly — but verbatim, declaring myself a member of the media. But by the third and final sentence of my paragraph, I was declared to be “like many of the demonstrators” in that I “appeared to be wearing black.” Never was this observation stated by any authorities. Moreover, I was also wearing tan boots and blue jeans, so I could hardly be mistaken for black bloc. But none of this mattered so long as the crusader writing the piece could make these unethical and lazy determinations of my character in the immediate wave of attention to the cases.
While right-wing media‘s claims leaped ahead of law enforcement’s, liberal media generally parroted police narratives in the coming days.
The hot take on probable cause had seemingly crept out from the arse of whomever who wrote it, but as with most specifically framed to draw false moral equivalencies and obfuscate meaningful analysis, it was the promotion of a certain kind of fear that underlined it.
I continued to see strange, reactionary conspiracies emerge about me from either side of the proverbial aisle. The nativist liberal resistance branded me a paid agent of Russia, ordered by the highest levels of the Kremlin to sow division where I could — or in the very least a propagandist of a comparable background. Internet fascists dubbed me a ‘Jewish Bolshevik’ and a ‘antifa,’ among other labels .
Our country is one in which the leading narratives of the day are cooked up by elites, stress-tested in focus groups, and regurgitated to the preoccupied masses by dutiful lip soldiers of the status quo, only to be resolved through battle within the working class. While the contradictions between leaders of the bourgeois liberal establishment and their conservative counterparts may seem higher now than ever with Trump in office, such pithy political theater never interferes with the actual doings of the ruling class, and ultimately serves to distance the masses from the material implications of the discussion, for which they will surely pay.
Moreover, leading operatives in the campaign of the current Commander-in-Chief with a propensity for disinformation and false flags have re-branded as journalists only to have that self-descriptor validated by media — their histories of disseminating hyped up hogwash be damned! Nay, history itself be damned.
Those ruses, specifically the ones by the former pro-Trump operative and Roger Stone acolyte Jack Posobiec, reveal a brand of especially delusional reactionary paranoia which is reflected in the flimsiness of his stunts: staging a “Rape Melania” sign at an antifascist protest outside of the president’s DC hotel, staging a pro-pedophilia banner at a protest against Mike Cernovich at New York University.
Recently, the Revolutionary Communist Party highly publicized some planned demonstrations organized by their front group Refuse Fascism. But their hyperbolic rhetoric about overthrowing the “Trump-Pence” regime was ripe material for clickbait authors to target ignorant paranoiacs, and paint leftists under broad strokes. Fox News warned of an “antifa apocalypse,” and portrayed their stated goals of “overthrowing the regime” with unquestioned feasibility. Separate claims that antifa “leaders” had gone to the G20 Summit in Germany to meet with Islamic State and al-Qaeda leaders were advanced by former New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief Edward Klein.
A satirical Twitter accounts’ joke about an “antifa super soldier” program bent on “beheading all white parents” was likewise re-printed uncritically in right-wing media. When I asked the RCP about it, they blamed “fascist websites,” especially “Alex Jones’ Infowars” a “site that Donald Trump follows” for amplifying the fake news which are, the spokesman surmised “attempts to scare people away from this rally.”
My video was re-published in three minutes by Posobiec, whom I keep blocked on Twitter, under the claim they’d “refused to deny” it’s existence. His tweet’s reach dwarfed mine in just minutes before he eventually deleted it.
Similarly, Project Veritas’ history of deceptive editing put the political hitman’s credibility on the stand as prosecutors tried to use his video in an early round of trials. That same week, O’Keefe’s deceptive practices were exposed again in a sting gone awry.
The undercover video produced by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas on Disrupt J20 painted activist’s plans to use stink bombs at the DeploraBall as an “acid attack,” a claim echoed in conservative media and the Washington Post. That piece of agitprop ended in the arrest of an autistic man and two other activists. In another sting around this time, O’Keefe’s operatives were caught offering $100,000 to activists to shut down a bridge on Inauguration Day.
Veritas is closely connect to Breitbart News. O’Keefe even received funding from its founder Andrew Breitbart. In 2015, the Donald J Trump Foundation gave the non-profit two payments of $10,000. Candidate Trump invited O’Keefe as his guest to his final debate against Hillary Clinton.
But it wasn’t until a few days after the jury watched the stink bomb plot video that it was revealed where Veritas secured even more of its funding: a hedge funder named Robert Mercer. He gave the group $250,000 in 2012.Mercer is known for having bankrolled a number of Nazi sympathizers. Among them: Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos, who was evidently paid so much he went on to hire a ghostwriter for $100,000 and Baked Alaska as his personal security guard. Despite Milo’s doubts over a young man’s social media use (he frequently insulted Jews,) the Mercers would bring him on for $2,500 a month.
To understand Steven Bannon, once largely considered to be the preeminent fascist of American politics, one needn’t look further than the movies he made. His “documentary” Occupy Unmasked, was rife with bombastic claims. Who was to blame for the anarchy at Zuccoti? MSNBC, no a Rolling Stone Editor, no a New York Times freelancer, no the SEIU! In this film, we find a worldview in which black America is being prepped for “race warfare.” The documentary is actually an illuminating case study of fascistic derangement. Moreover, the subjects of the documentary emphasize the danger posed by a “violent left” reveals their appraisal of leftists as the only political force they need worry about.
“The thing that ties in the anarchist movement and the Obama administration are the unions,” says Breitbart’s Lee Stranahan, bringing the emerging left that constituted the nationwide Occupy movement to hilarious — and improbable — news heights.
Early on in the film, written and directed by Bannon, Andrew Breitbart gives the following ominous warning:
“Community organizing is not the American people getting together to help the next-door neighbor put food into the cupboard. Community organizing (sic) are radicals, anarchists, socialists, communists, public sector union s who are hell-bent on a nihilistic destruction of everything that people in America care for. These people hate this country, they hate the constitution, they hate freedom, they hate liberty.”
At Breitbart, which got $10 million from Mercer, Milo worked extensively with a white supremacist the editor of American Renaissance, Devin Saucier, who served as an “intellectual guide, and editor,” Buzzfeed’s Joe Bernstein wrote on the damning documents he uncovered. Repeatedly, Milo employed racists and neo-Nazis to provide him with editorial checks and balances.
Bernstein notes that involvement of the Mercer’s became “increasingly obvious” during Milo’s college speaking tour as he implored Bannon to hire body guards. “Milo: for your eyes only we r going to use the mercers private security company,” Bannon wrote back. Two weeks after Yiannopoulos resigned from the company following an uncovered video showing him condoning pedophilia, he continued to reap payments from Mercer.
Mercer and Bannon both canned the far-right media sensation following Bernstein’s reporting.
But Milo is a small fry compared to some of the others financed by Mercer. He also gave $22 million to a super PAC that employed both Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. A number of his side projects were also paid for. In his films, he made subtle allusions to Nazi Germany. The President himself has received Mercer funding to the tune of 13 and a half million, making him Trump’s biggest donor.
But liberal media has almost entirely failed to cover Robert Mercer and his family of billionaires. Evidently, American oligarchs are infinitely less sinister than those pernicious Russian tycoons.
As conservative media advances fascist talking points relentlessly, liberal media capes for fascist movement builders ubiquitously. I identified the methods employed to whitewash the historical crimes of fascism and downplay the role its modern instigators hold. Carefully placed humanizing anecdotes and paralyzing omissions serve to de-historicize and de-contextualize the danger presented by a resurgent fascist movement.
Major liberal papers treating Nazi sympathizers like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys
The New York Times is far from the only mainstream outlet treating Nazi sympathizers like Peter Pan and the lost boys…
These methods are inversely applied to antifascist and anti-capitalist movements. As right-wing media has discarded any pretense of factual reporting, liberal media has effectively accomplished the same with its disregard for balanced framing. This was exemplified in their portrayal of the inauguration protests as “violent,” in the rare instances they were reported on at all. While MPD says six officers suffered minor injuries, the vast majority of marchers engaged in no such activity.
As with nearly every demonstration I’ve ever reported on, the indisputable majority of provocations and violence were carried out by the police.
Nevertheless, the lack of coverage was stark. Journalist Adam Johnson measured it against big media’s coverage of anti-Putin protests in Russia that broke out a few months after Trump’s inauguration. To do it, he tallied the articles published by major American outlets on the two protests in the subsequent. The result was 10 articles about Disrupt J20 and 38 about the protests in Russia.
While the coverage of Disrupt J20 mostly took on a tone of condemnation, Russian opposition protesters were celebrated by American media. It should be noted that while the protests overseas didn’t see any property destruction, they were led by Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader who once referred to people of the Caucasus, namely Muslims, as “cockroaches.” Similar to its treatment of the American alt-right, US media routinely platforms Navalny, presenting him as a freedom fighter to ignorant Americans. “He’s so far to the right he’d make Marine Le Pen’s head spin,” a Russian native once told me.
In Ukraine, the US government is even willing to prop up Nazis to fight Russia, but liberal media would have you believe they too inventions of Kremlin propaganda. This furtherance of long-standing neoconservative goals for Ukraine goes hand in glove with the interests of neoliberal humanitarian interventionists. Since the fascist-instigated Euromaidan revolution, backed by the United States and Ukrainian oligarchs (one of whom would go on to assume presidency,) the unhappiness of Ukrainians sunk slightly and has since remained at a low of 9 percent, according to Gallup, who polled 150 countries and ranked Ukraine as the 132nd least happy. Yet, the country’s parliament is considering criminalizing “cynical expressions” about the ultra-nationalist uprising. The many documented instances of Nazi apologism were never decried by western liberals under the Obama administration, and now President Trump’s military advisors are prepping a plan to grant Ukraine $47 million to buy American weapons to fight Russia.
The misdirection is a feature, not a bug, of reporting on fascist movements, for a keen audience could easily direct blame towards the wealthy and powerful. And the synthesis of reactionary bourgeois liberal sensibilities with racist right-wing chauvinism proves cultural liberals must confront fascism, lest they desire to be overwhelmed by it.
In any case, media pretends to. Putin is the fascist, Trump the puppet; his oaf in the White House. Hyper-fascistic programs like the VOICE agency receive little attention, but Trump’s bombastic insults and vague threats against the media spell certain doom for liberal democracy and free press.
In another article, Adam Johnson looked at the “three most influential media reporters,” who had all warned of the dangers to press freedom presented by the Trump administration, but had not penned a single word on any of the journalists facing decades of imprisonment on charges which ultimately stem from the Department of Justice.
But the President, in liberal media’s evaluation, was not the only clear and present danger to democracy. Johnson goes on to highlight the enormous litany of articles breathlessly warning Americans about RT, the news organization I work for. That campaign kicked off after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a 12-page report detailing alleged “Russian activities” surrounding the election. Half of the report, however, was aimed at RT’s critical reporting in the US on issues such as fracking, Occupy Wall St., and government surveillance.
Eventually, the Department of Justice forced RT to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which usually exempts media. Despite the literal assault on free press, US liberals cheered on the move, characterizing it as one against “propaganda” from an official enemy, as opposed to the acute reporting of impassioned Americans. Never was the law’s history of weaponization against leftists invoked in the media coverage that followed. Instead, media portrayed RT’s submission to the DoJ’s demand (which carried the threat of arrest and asset forfeiture for non-compliance) as the network “agreeing” to do so.
Efforts were also made to de-contextualize Russia’s response as though it was done without prompting.
In a press release issued by the State Department condemning Russian counter-measures, spokeswoman Heather Nauert declared that FARA “does not restrict an organization’s ability to operate.” That promise fell flat when the Radio-Television Correspondents Galleries — a group of journalists that decides matters of media accreditation in DC — revoked RT’s credentials. Due to this decision, I’m no longer able to report on arrestable protests outside of the White House or Capitol building. But the term “censorship” never met the lips of resistance flag-bearers nor media icons.
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” begins the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
A typical degree of narrative shaping from the US government and its most powerful corporate lapdogs and social engineers ensued. Twitter banned RT from advertising, failing to publicly disclose that they had originally approached the company to promote its election coverage with a much higher price tag. That fact was left out of the majority of the reporting. And when Google de-listed RT, effectively making it harder for readers to find us on the platform, they did so because they didn’t “want to ban the sites.”
“That’s not how we operate,” said Alphabet (Google’s parent company) executive Eric Schmidt, who worked as a campaign adviser for both Hillary Clinton and Obama. Evidently, he didn’t want the company to be accused of censorship, a primary feature of fascism. What de-listing RT amounts to then, in this assessment, remains unclear.
But none of the narratives I’ve just detailed could proliferate in a vacuum. And their viral reproduction — in the case of the inauguration, Black Lives Matter uprisings, and indigenous resistance at Standing Rock — could not sustain itself in front of an informed audience. It is in these instances that we see, again, that liberal conceptions of violence validate fascist rhetoric. This paranoid discourse is infinitely abetted by the media’s refusal to clearly define its terms: antifa, alt-right, fascism, etc. The spectacle is all that matters. As the ultimate spin master Roger Stone once declared: “the past is fucking prologue.”
In fact, the fascistic programs kicked into hyperdrive by President Obama could symbolize the support rods which secure the structural integrity of the ax that is Trumpism.
Fascism, the political system of unified action — typically against some scapegoated other — draws its name from this very symbol. The fasces of the Romans — literally just that: a bundle of rods fastened to an ax — are featured prominently throughout the federal buildings of Washington, DC as symbols of collective conviction and magisterial might.
But what are those rods?
For as much negative press as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has garnered under the current administration, little attention has been paid to the agency’s evolution. In an article for The Nation, reporters Marisa Franco and Carlos Garcia outline the blueprint for the “deportation machine Obama built for President Trump.” Under Obama, the budget for immigration enforcement increased by 300 percent. A small program called “Secure Communities,” existent in only 14 counties under President Bush but was multiplied by 3,600 percent as it became active in every US jurisdiction. Under the program, with the stated intention of serving as a “force multiplier” for immigration enforcement agencies, every single person arrested is fingerprinted, which is then run through a federal database. By 2014, immigration enforcers had scanned 32 million finger prints. That’s three times the undocumented population and a tenth of the entire US population. Obama also expanded “Operation Streamline” massively. The program puts up to 70 people on trial daily, and in the first two years of Obama’s presidency stacked federal prisons with upwards of 200,000 people. But the “deportation machine” Obama built is just the type of the iceberg.
“Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the FBI have spied on reporters … labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.,” wrote veteran New York Times journalist James Risen in a piece entitled “If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama.” He experienced it first hand when Obama’s Justice Department tried to force him to testify to reveal his whistleblower sources.
And there’s the case of journalist Barrett Brown. Brown was released from prison in late 2016, following a 2012 indictment on conspiracy charges relating to a hack of the private intelligence firm Stratfor. “The DOJ, as shown by the emails, was acting as a sort of concierge service for black operations for major companies,” he’d tell me later.
The offending act underlying the conspiracy charge was that Brown shared a link to the documents, according to the government. After his four years in prison, he gave a post-release media interview only to be re-arrested on dubious claims he failed to fill out paperwork. In response to questions I’d written for him for his first interview after that second arrest, Brown said “I have no problem going to prison if it helps to bring light to certain issues, if people take that ball and run with it.” But that wasn’t happening, as far as Brown saw. “Given just the lack of press coverage of my arrest … I’ve decided finally that when I’m off probation, when my legal obligations are over, I’ll be leaving the United States,” he announced. “I will no longer stay here in this moral vacuum.”
Of the 13 whistleblowers ever prosecuted under the Espionage Act, eight were under Obama.
And surveillance reached new levels too. During the Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore, secret FBI spy planes soared overhead. That story received only a fraction of the attention the burning of a CVS pharmacy had.
After a series of legal blows to Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures in 2015, Justice Sotomayor urged against “bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement,” warning the court that it was becoming a “useless piece of paper.”
Free handouts of surplus military equipment proliferated in this time. In President Bush’s final year, grants totaled more than $18 million, but by 2012 had reached $530 million, which was repeated the following year. After national attention was given to police tactics and deployments in Ferguson, Missouri the US Senate held a hearing on militarization. Senator Rand Paul took the chance to grill FEMA’s Grant Programs Assistant Administrator Brian Kamoie.
“In FEMA’s authorized equipment list, there’s actually written descriptions for how the equipment should be used. It says specifically it’s not supposed to be used for riot suppression. Mr. Kamoie, is that true, it’s not supposed to be used for riot suppression? How do you plan on policing that since the images clearly show us large pieces of equipment bought with your grant used in that riot suppression — or protest suppression, rather?” Paul begins his interrogation.
“Senator Paul, that is accurate. The categories of personal protective equipment that include helmets, ear, and eye protection, ballistics, personal protective equipment, there’s prohibition in the authorized equipment list that is not to be used for riot suppression,” Kamoie testified.
While 1033 handouts were generally scaled back after their heights in 2012 and 2013, or perhaps subsidized elsewhere, I am inclined to believe that American police didn’t just toss out the 12,000 bayonets Sen. Paul highlighted when America elected Trump.
Civil asset forfeiture, a policy that allows police to seize cash and assets that they believe may have been used in a crime, also skyrocketed. Neither a warrant nor an indictment are required to do this. By 2014, the total of cash and assets seized by police surpassed the total value of items stolen in burglaries. Obama made reforms, rife with loopholes, but they were overturned in just a few months by Sessions’ DoJ.
The collective blind eye our society has cast towards the inordinate and unprecedented prosecution of more than 200, marked by unconscionable threats to the future of those largely youthful Americans who, for whatever reason, endeavored to militantly resist President’s Trump administration, finds parallels in American society’s refusal to examine its own violence, current and historical.
Take the wake of a mass shooting, for example. The firearms industry and lobby, and the sorry state of America’s mental health services, are instantly deemed culpable in the reactionary firestorm that inevitably ensues. Liberals argue for laws to regulate firearms in order to reduce their capacity for mass violence, and for tougher access. “From my cold, dead hands!” the conservative commentator will defiantly shout on the CNN panel.
But what does effective gun control look like? The media won’t tell us. Neither is the inevitable effect of it ever examined. Would the state seize them or was the aim merely to restrict future access? In the case of the former, it would require a massive expansion of police powers. In the case of the latter, it would monopolize firepower in the hands of southern whites. Three percent of Americans hold half of the civilian-owned guns in the US. Three quarters own none. In America, guns outnumber people. Nearly half of white men in America But voices keen to America’s racist tradition of gun control and white vigilantism don’t get invited on CNN panels.
Others may blame mental illness, but that too is a bourgeois trap and a slippery slope that necessarily culminates in more incarceration and less due process, and transplants the onus of the crime from the individual and their ideology to the society (which indeed lacks proper services.) That isn’t so problematic save for the fact that the unaddressed violence of our society is never identified as the imperceptible yet ever-present viral strain that afflicts our society and ultimately inspires the distress that invariably pangs perpetrators of mass violence. Instead, the phenomenon of mass violence is atomized and the problem becomes the state’s inaction against the mentally ill. Of course the fascists of Europe had no such problems. They simply exterminated them alongside criminals and minorities.
Similarly, chief among the subjects America mustn’t address is its magisterial power structure. Just as unelected magistrates historically monopolized local power, so too have their successors in the United States. Bureaucracy, literally “a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives,” is an extension of such a system, and in the United States its prevalence has come to characterize the neo-colonial squeeze on American cities predominately inhabited by slave descendants. The interminable blood-from-stone extraction from black America, like police militarization, was temporarily renewed as a topic of acceptable American discussion due to police action in Ferguson. The Department of Justice report on the Ferguson Police Department, which detailed the systematic persecution of black drivers in a scheme to raise revenue for the city, underscores that magisterial stranglehold.
The uprising in Ferguson in 2014, which was echoed in New York City, then Cleveland, Baltimore, and other cities across the United States, continued into the Trump era with the Black Lives Matter protests that rocked St. Louis for dozens of consecutive days this fall. With each instance of mass responses to police violence, it is increasingly apparent that the cities that erupt are the cities most occupied and the most economically exploited. And like the inauguration protests, both traditionally liberal and conservative media’s bludgeoning of images of property destruction into the minds of the American populace doesn’t just overwhelmingly shape the public perception of those events and obscure any substantial grievances, but perhaps even more importantly, impresses upon the public that Black Lives Matter and antifascists are categorically violent.
The United State’s legacy of lawless settlerism is another violence which must also be ignored to maintain the illusion of an exceptional America. It cannot be over-emphasized how vital saving face is to American hegemony. Thus, its genealogy must remain hidden at any cost. Any settler project, if successful — and the United States was nothing short of successful — cannot exist without elements of fascism. How can a new nation, starting with a mere thirteen colonies, expand so effortlessly from sea to shining sea under a system besides that of genocidal, unified action?
After I was released from jail I got to the police station and retrieved my belongings — at least the ones that weren’t lost or held for evidence. The company phone I was carrying was returned to me but my personal phone was not. I would not get that back for more than eight months. I’d later learn that everybody’s phone would remain confiscated to be gleaned for incriminating data.
I took a cab home and made some phone calls. I reviewed some of the material I published and noticed the DC Police Department had ‘liked’ my live stream. I soon realized, before any of my guests came back from jail or from covering the Women’s March, that police had already potentially broken into my Google account through my phone, which would have exposed years of my communications with sensitive sources. I took a screenshot with the metadata to prove it was accessed. Incensed, I wanted to scream from the rooftops that the government had hacked me, a journalist, but I was on strict orders to keep my mouth shut. Three days later, George Joseph, a reporter for City Lab, published a similar screenshot sent to him by an arrestee.
While it remains entirely possible the phones were broken into, that’s not the only possible explanation for the Google activity. It could have been the Gmail app, for example, checking for new mail. Regardless, police are supposed to store mobile devices in signal-blocking bags to prevent them from being wiped remotely.
Less than a week passed. That Friday, the first journalist’s charges were dropped. The following morning, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the world I was performing my “professional duty,” and “was in police custody for almost 24 hours” despite carrying a press card. My case was also discussed in the Duma. “You’re famous in Russia” the Russian reporter I mentioned earlier would tell me in the coming week.
I was told to stay off social media and out of the field, so I went to New York City for the weekend to catch a break. That was when the President issued his first attempt at a Muslim ban. I went anyways to JFK International Airport to the mass of angry New Yorkers who began protesting at a moment’s notice. Police dressed in riot gear formed lines around entrances to the airport. The enormous crowd chanted “Why all the riot gear / there’s no riot here” throughout the night until a judge halted the order, which was announced by activists via a ‘mic check.’
It was refreshing to be back in the field, even if stripped of my ability to report. The feeling that something meaningful was happening around me was more than enough to pull me out of the rut I was in.
Monday morning I took a Chinatown bus back to DC to make my shift at the office. En route, I got a call from my lawyer to tell me the prosecution had dropped its charges against me “without prejudice.” In other words, the government had not made a determination as to whether I was guilty or innocent but had simply decided it was not interested in prosecuting me. They could still re-open the case at any time, I was told. Charges against some of the other journalists were dropped as well. I’d get to speak out for the first time since I tweeted the picture of the Sting-Ball grenade police used that blinded me and gave me tinnitus.
Publicly, I thanked the press advocacy groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders for the statements of support they made for me. Privately, I lamented they’d singled me out from some of the other journalists still facing felony riot charges. But mostly, I contemplated the state’s attempt to cut only the highest classes of the defendants from the web they entangled us in during the mass arrest. I considered that I was no more innocent of the charges than many of the people still facing them.
Those journalists, Alexei Wood and Aaron Cantú, each face more than 60 years behind bars. Wood was live streaming throughout the march and there is no indication he had engaged in any unlawful activity in the stream besides the government’s overreaching charges that he was part of a criminal conspiracy to participate in a “riot,” and in fact was doing so by the mere act of having an excited response to the scene he was capturing for his audience. Wood is among the first round of defendants currently facing trial.
It isn’t clear how the Department of Justice is justifying its prosecution of Cantú, a journalist whom I had never met but whose name I knew well through his independent reporting and articles featured in publications such as the New York Times, the Intercept, and The Nation magazine.
I still couldn’t talk but at least I was back in the field. I’d thought things may start returning to normalcy then, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
On April 3, Disrupt J20 organizer Dylan Petrohilos — another activist whom I corresponded with leading up to the inauguration — had his home raided. Cellphones, computers, and an “anti-capitalist, anti-fascist” flag were seized. That same day, a grand jury began to convene in Washington, DC.
In just a few weeks, they delivered a superseding indictment bringing new charges against 212 defendants including urging or inciting a riot, engaging in a riot, conspiracy to riot and five counts of destruction of property. One hundred were also charged were misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer. While the felony charges that came with the initial indictment were “unprecedented” in Washington, DC, the superseding indictment broke precedence nationally. Each count in the indictment begins by listing everyone charged under that law named “hereinafter, the ‘Rioting Defendants.’” In a few cases, a small handful of individual protesters were alleged to have committed specific acts of property destruction, but the overwhelming majority of protesters were never alleged to have done any specific, incriminating behavior. The “overt acts” listed as evidence of the rioting ranged from the destruction of storefront windows to chanting statements like “fuck capitalism.”
The blanket charges underscored the tactic of collective punishment prosecutors are employing in place of substantial evidence against the majority of defendants. Petrohilos, though he never actually attended the anti-capitalist march, was included in the superseding indictment, and faces 61 years.
A far-right website published the name, age, and city of residence of 231 people arrested during the inauguration, myself included, in an effort to spark a mass doxxing campaign against us. The information published was likely enough for internet sleuths to uncover the addresses and telephone numbers for a number of arrestees and their family members. I called my parents to warn them against taking calls from anyone asking about me. Throughout the rest of the month, my parents informed me on three occasions of such calls.
The news website that published the doxx belongs to alt-right activist Charles C. Johnson, who has a history of fabricated, viral claims that firmly place him in the ranks of Cernovich, Posobiec, Milo and Watson. “Charles is well intentioned — but he is wack,” Bannon once told Milo in an email. When neo-Nazi James Fields plowed through a march in Charlottesville sending bodies flying through the air, killing one — activist Heather Hyer — and injuring 19 others, an incident I bore witness to, Johnson regurgitated 4chan-originated conspiracy theories that an “anti-Trump druggie” was to blame, and doxxed him through the same website, resulting in a campaign of harassment.
Days after the inauguration doxx, prosecutors likewise sought additional personal information from defendants.
They had already filed search warrants for the entire contents of the Facebook pages belonging to organizers Lacy Macauley and Legba Carrefour from November 1, 2016, to February 9; the date the warrant was filed. The third warrant filed then was for the Disrupt J20 Facebook page. Honoring the warrant would entail the unmasking of every Facebook user who followed the Disrupt J20 Facebook, engaged with any of its posts, or simply ‘liked it.’ Roughly 6,000 people ‘liked’ the page during the warrants’ requested window, according to the ACLU who would later jump in, filing a motion to intervene and another to modify the terms of the warrants.
Yet another warrant was issued to the company that hosted the DisruptJ20 website, which the company stated in a blog post “demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people.”
In both cases, the ACLU was successful in limiting the scope of the warrants such that they no longer required information on visitors.
But the J20 defendants were not spared from similarly invasive searches. Federal authorities would later begin extracting all data from more than 100 seized phones, using Cellebrite data extraction devices sold by private firm.
“In effect, investigators are conducting an indiscriminate digital dragnet to retroactively justify their indiscriminate physical one,” Sam Adler-Bell poignantly stated in Mask.
As the USOA’s prosecution of Disrupt J20 activists continued, prosecutors in other American cities began to employ similar charges. In Jacksonville, Florida, hours after the new president bombed a Syrian air base with Tomahawk missiles, demonstrators held an anti-war rally which ended in the hospitalization of two activists and arrest of five. I investigated what happened and in my report detailed a scenario of selective law enforcement. An organizer was arrested after the rally on charges of felony incitement of a riot, yet a right-wing provocateur named Gary Snow, who had physically intimidated a deaf activist and local icon named Connell Crooms, went entirely unpunished for his actions despite breaking a Florida law banning the disruption of public assemblies. Crooms was left hospitalized and charged with felony incitement of a riot.
National media was silent. I published screenshots of Snow and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Faceboook friendship, and two documented meetings between the pair. I also reported allegations, including one made to me first-hand by a journalist, that Snow was connected to the Chicago Police Department. I also published a Facebook screenshot proving Snow’s digital connection to Jack Posobiec. I also uncovered a number of previously unreported charges against him in addition to known cases. Months later, the riot charges against Crooms and the other organizer were dropped.
Snow worked as a low-level volunteer on the Trump campaign.
In Olympia, Washington nine of 75 protesters were arrested and charged with felony rioting on May Day after some storefront windows were smashed and police say protesters threw objects and slung marbles at them. The police department said on Twitter that officers were injured, which Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts later qualified as being “not serious” due to officer’s riot gear.
The immediate day following the attack that killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia a rally was held in response in Durham, North Carolina. One woman tied a rope around a Confederate statue honoring “THE BOYS WHO WORE THE GRAY” at the courthouse, in a town that was once somewhat of a capitol for the Klan. Others yanked and it quickly toppled. Twelve were eventually arrested and charged with counts of felony participation and felony incitement of a riot among other misdemeanor property crimes. By mid-November, felony charges against all but seven were dropped.
In March I made my way on foot to a demonstration outside the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington, DC. “Rubinstein!” someone shouted from across the street. I turned to see but there were only a few cops blocking a closed street to the back entrance to the summit. Some protesters were just arrested there. I heard my name from across the street again as I drew closer and saw that it was my arresting officer. I walked over and spoke with him. He asked me about my case. I told him my charges were dropped and brought up that he told me he follows my company. “RT? I thought you meant retweet,” he told me, not that I was wearing any RT gear. I spared him the embarrassment of telling him I knew he was lying through his teeth.
And in June I would have an even more surreal experience. I was at a rally held after somebody hung a noose outside a house adjacent to a predominately black elementary school in Southeast DC. It was the third found in a week in the District, and the sixth since the election. Upon my arrival, a woman identified me as a reporter and said to stay put and she fetched someone whose name I couldn’t quite make out. It was Chief Newsham. The man who in 2002 ordered the mass arrest of more than 400 people, for which the city had to fork up more than $2 million over. He stood in front of me, but I was forbidden by my lawyer, and employer, from questioning him on it. It took every bone in my body not to, but anyways it seemed the community was comforted by his presence in the face of threats of fascist vigilantism, so I refrained from making a scene.
November eventually rolled around. Judge Lynn Leibovitz reduced the rioting and conspiracy to riot charges to misdemeanors, but protesters still face 60 years with the other charges. The count of “engaging in a riot,” in fact, does not even carry a felony offense, contrary to the superseding indictment. Some protesters had already pleaded out by now. One was sentenced to four months in prison.
My initial motion to seal my case was opposed by the USAO and then challenged by my lawyer. A judge was to decide on the case early in the month. But late in the day prior, new evidence was introduced against me by prosecutor T. Anthony Quinn, the Deputy Chief of the Special Proceedings Division at the office, which is not technically associated with the prosecution of other J20 defendants. His department primarily deals with post-conviction matters and motions to seal. The new evidence effectively postponed the ruling as both parties took the necessary time to review the material. It included edited and unedited bodycam footage, footage from Alexei Wood’s live stream, and an aerial shot. Still photographs depicting me engaging in such riotous behavior as being on my cell phone, or sandwiched between protesters, were also introduced. It was all clearly bunk evidence.
By the time of the trials, one week before my case was decided, a total of 15 others had charges against them dropped, including minors, journalists, and legal observers. But it would still be more than a week before my paperwork was finalized, per the request of Quinn that some technicality get addressed. That it had been was relayed to me on November 30.
In motions to seal, the burden of proof no longer lies with the prosecution but with the defense. Quinn aggressively questioned me on the stand. It gave a strong impression he had been conscripted by people involved in the prosecution of the Disrupt J20 protesters to see to it that my case was not closed. At one point we established that there were roughly 15 feet between myself and the police line before the charge. He then questioned me over my behavior during the first foot, and then the second, and third, leading all the way up to the fifth before I said I was in the course of those 15 feet swept-up in the crowd, but couldn’t recall my actions in each foot.
“What were you doing in the sixth foot?” he asked me to the sound of laughter from the others sitting in the courtroom for unrelated matters. As matter-of-factly as possible, he told the judge I’d been rioting. She couldn’t agree and sealed the case, thereby establishing the first incident of false arrest during the inauguration. Nonetheless, I maintain that many of the people still facing decades behind bars are equally so.
It is not my job as a reporter to condone or condemn the actions of protesters during the inauguration. I am, as a matter of fact, against fascism, but I do not narrowly define my politics as such. Such terminology, for whatever usefulness it may have once had, only serve to narrow discussion. Beyond political self-descriptors, which hardly mean anything anymore thanks to the media’s nonsense revisionism, the question of tactics also remains outside the provenance of reporters. Whether I agree with the tactics of anti-capitalists and antifascists (I often don’t) isn’t pertinent here.
All that’s really needed is the belief that in any decent society, punishment ought to fit the crime.
For many of those involved in this case, there was no such crime. And in those cases that there is, the punishment — 60 years in prison — does not fit any actions I witnessed that day.
The Obama era is passed. The reactionary doublespeak and deception which defined those politics have been relegated to the media. The new president is retweeting fascist groups. The government is not just deciding what is and is not news, but also what is and is not political expression. The FBI is currently investigating people with “kind of an antifa ideology” and “black identity extremists” as white supremacists and neo-Nazis gain a stronger foothold in American society.
Is Trump a fascist? I don’t know. He certainly has fascistic tendencies. Is America fascist? I don’t think so — not yet. The totally debased Washington establishment may, in fact, be the ones to usher in full-blown fascism. Or it could be whoever wins in 2020. It’s impossible to say. But what I can say is that the current political environment in America — wherein the objectives of the liberal establishment and those of the opposing conservative faction of the ruling class merge to squash leftists and critical media — makes fascism imminently plausible.
To me, this prosecution foretells a new era of law enforcement, state repression, and ultimately criminal justice that is dictated by the very highest of public officials. And the liberal silence surrounding it proves the possibility that such an authoritarianism could prevail. The illiberal practices employed to secure guilty pleas from the wholly innocent, including ex post facto establishment of probable cause, the blanket superseding indictment, the scale of the fines and sentences associated with the charges, the prosecution of journalists, and perhaps most importantly, the use of conspiracy charges to criminalize organized dissent, may very well be mere early indicators of prosecutorial overreach in political cases to come. Ignoring it won’t prevent that.
And should fascism actually arrive, it will not do so spontaneously. Liberal power brokers in government, private industry, and the press will bare the brunt of responsibility for failing to confront the fascist threat.
I’d wager that the liberals who failed to condemn such political prosecutions — opting instead to admonish other activists, in this case; the anti-capitalist marchers, because of their militant defiance — will regret their haste in disavowing the leftists and their indifference to their incarceration. With the anarchists and the communists so often hyped up as the primary political opponents of the far-right now out of the way, there’ll be little left to stop the fascists. This is precisely what happened in Germany with the Social Democrats in 1919, one year after the formation of the Nazi Party.
All the self-purification in the world won’t stop a Nazi with a gun. Rather it is the organization of our society which needs purifying.