System working as intended

Protesters speak at a Refuse Fascism rally in Union Square, San Francisco, November 4, 2017. Photos by Pax Ahimsa Gethen, CC BY-SA 4.0.

As we approach the sad anniversary of President Donald Trump’s election victory, Refuse Fascism has begun holding daily nationwide protests, with the intention of continuing until both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are removed from power. Peddlers of fake news predictably characterized these planned demonstrations as the start of a violent “Antifa civil war”. But while Refuse Fascism is, by definition, anti-fascist, the organizers have not called for use of the black bloc tactics employed by some Antifa activists —and Antifa itself is a movement, not an organization per se. Regardless, the call to action on November 4 was for peaceful rallies and marches, not violence and mayhem.

The November 4 rally I attended in San Francisco’s Union Square was indeed peaceful. The city had denied a permit for this gathering, stating a conflict with the annual installation of a Christmas tree and opening of an ice rink. The organizers went to court to try to force the city to grant a permit, but were unsuccessful. Undeterred, they told people to show up at Union Square anyway, then negotiated with the police, who allowed them to demonstrate for one hour at the square before proceeding to march through the city.

At the start of the rally, a white man stood in front of the speakers and loudly recited the Pledge of Allegiance. When onlookers complained, he yelled about his free speech rights. He encapsulated the entitlement of people who are already in power—and always have been —to shut down the speech of others.

Protesters at the November 4 Refuse Fascism rally fill Union Square, San Francisco.

Eventually the entitled whitesplainer left the stage, and the speakers were able to get on with the planned demonstration. People of color and the LGBT+ community were represented and emphasized in the talks, although much of the crowd was white (which isn’t unusual for a weekend afternoon in the middle of a San Francisco shopping district). I didn’t see any ASL interpreters unfortunately, but there was a translator for a Spanish-language speaker.

Another counterprotester later arrived, Amber Cummings of “Trans Women for Trump”, who I’d seen defending trans-antagonist Milo Yiannopoulos in Berkeley previously. I didn’t take any photos of her this time, though she was doing her best to distract from the speakers by lifting her “Stand Against Antifa” sign up high behind them. I left before the rally concluded (as I was singing in a concert that evening), but read afterward that the march drew a couple of hundred attendees.

While I am not affiliated with Refuse Fascism or any other political organization, I share their goals of removing the entire administration, not just Trump, from power, and continuing to fight against oppression regardless of which political party occupies the White House. Many of Refuse Fascism’s organizers are communists or socialists, but they are willing to work with Democrats even if they don’t share a fondness for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. I did not vote for either of those candidates — I have voted only for Green or independent candidates for president, as well as for many local offices, since 1996 — but I do see the Trump administration as particularly dangerous.

A protester wearing a pussyhat holds a sign reading “Stop the Madness Impeach 45”.

At the same time, I share the thoughts of Caitlin Johnstone and others that as long as US-Americans live under a capitalist military-industrial complex, the marginalized will continue to be oppressed no matter who is in power. I feel that the system is not broken, it is working exactly as intended: To maintain and increase the wealth and power of straight white cisgender Christian men. People who fail to meet one or more of those criteria are welcomed into the club only if they are willing and able to assimilate.

The reactions of those in power to the latest mass shooting — thoughts and prayers, arm even more citizens— cemented in my mind that this system cannot be reformed, only overthrown. The God those in power are praying to was created by and for the benefit of straight cisgender men. The separation of church and state in this country is an illusion. Even as a firm atheist I don’t wish for religion to be abolished, but instructing the masses to leave things in God’s hands while glorifying the unrestricted use of lethal weapons gives me the feeling that we’re living in a theocratic police state. I don’t really care if this political system meets the textbook definition of fascism or not; the mounting dead bodies at home and abroad are reason enough to revolt.

Protesters raise fists and signs at the November 4 Refuse Fascism rally in Union Square, San Francisco.

As a pacifist, I will not fight violence with more violence; I refuse to take up arms, and I do not condone anyone else doing so. I wish I knew how to have a bloodless revolution. I have no prayers, but I do have thoughts, which I put into these words and pictures. It isn’t enough to change the world, but it’s what I have to offer.