There were 700 of us and 30 of them, but the anarchist youths who came to Sunday’s peace vigil in Asheville succeeded in disrupting the vigil with violent chants, air horns and drums.

 

We held a peace vigil in Asheville on Sunday and about 700 people came out to denounce racism and violence and to remember and honor the three who died in Charlottesville, Va.

As we were about to start, a rowdy group of about 30 young people came running onto the scene carrying banners. Most of them weren’t old enough to vote and most of them were dressed in black. All of them were white. Some covered their faces with bandannas.

When we started speaking, they started blowing air horns, drumming and chanting violent slogans.

They told us they were Antifa, short for anti-fascists. They’re also anarchists. They came to disrupt and they did.

Unfortunately, the amplifier we have used for rallies for eight years died on us, so we had to try to speak over their noise. They wanted their voices heard and they were intent on blocking anyone who disagreed with them.

So we sang. We sang “This Little Light of Mine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “We Shall Overcome.”

And we chanted: “We will not condone violence,” as they chanted, “Black Lives Matter! Blue Lives Don’t,” and “Kill the cops!”

A number of us tried to talk to them one-on-one, and what they want is chaos. That was their answer. They want to “tear it down!” They want to kill all police. They want government gone because our current government is corrupt.

I allowed them to speak as long as they didn’t promote violence. One of them came up and grabbed the microphone, which was sitting on the ground. She thought she was going to take over the vigil. I offered her the “stage,” a 2-foot wall at the front of the space near the Vance Monument, and she spoke about how she thought all white allies were racist because they have no idea what black people want (she was white).

When I talked to one young man about my commitment to nonviolence, he called me a coward. I thanked him for talking to me and walked away.

They appropriated other people’s belongings (including my umbrella) to hold up their signs and then called us names when we wanted our things back because we were leaving. One young man accused me of assaulting the woman who had my umbrella when I took it from her. But it was fine for them to assault a news reporter who came to cover the vigil.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a ruder, more inconsiderate group of people, or people who are so fully unaware of their own privilege.

We welcomed them when they arrived, we were happy to have them participate, but they didn’t come to participate, they came to disrupt.

Several people I knew who came for a peaceful demonstration left. Others tried to talk to them but came away with the impression that they only want their views to be heard and no one else’s thoughts mattered.

The group that pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham the next night also identified as Antifa. They at least were a diverse group and from what I hear, they weren’t chanting, “Kill the cops.” So, while I’m happy to see the glorification of a system that owned human beings shut down, I’m not happy to see the kind outburst I saw on Sunday from a group of people who are doing all they can to promote violence for their own glorification.

These young people — most of whom were not old enough to vote — think violence and chaos is the solution to the world’s problems, as though they have the experience or the wisdom to solve the complex problems we face as a nation and as a planet.

Our government is corrupt as hell. Our entire economic system is a nightmare for most of the population right now. But to tear it all down and say we should each fend for ourselves is not a solution.

But there was no reasoning with the members of this group. I tried to speak to several of them and not one wanted to hear what I had to say. They shouted me down, calling me cowardly, racist and homophobic.

Yes, I’m white. So are they. There was not a person of color among them. I’d be OK with that if they weren’t calling me and others these hateful things as though they were the only ones who could be allies against the system.

The Vance Monument, which towered over us, is a tribute to a slave-owning former governor. The ground on which we stood still carries the shame of having been a slave market. I suggested we could consecrate this ground and rededicate it to justice and equality. The crowd applauded, and the Antifa folks chanted, “Tear it down!” But they weren’t talking about just the monument, they were talking about everything — all of it.

We held our vigil in spite of them. We will do the same if they show up again. Only next time, we will have an amplifier, and we will spread our message of peace.

I was so disheartened by what happened on Sunday, as were my fellow organizers. I want everyone to have a seat at the table, but I can not ally myself with people whose only aim is the violent overthrow of everything, and the members of this group who I spoke to on Sunday advocated nothing more than violence.

Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate.

There is a better way.

Love trumps hate. Yeah, that was another one of our chants.

 

This can not be allowed to abide among us

Carrying cheap citronella torches and shouting racist slogans, white terrorists held a rally. Not surprisingly, it turned violent.

 

Last night in Charlottesville, Va., a mob of white supremacists, mostly young men, marched to protest the removal of a statue glorifying the Confederacy on the eve of a rally to celebrate white power and their fear of losing it.

Marchers surrounded a church where people were praying for unity, chanting “We will not be replaced,” “White lives matter,” Jews will not replace us,” and other slogans, as they marched.

The issue is that the city voted to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, which protesters say offends their delicate white sensibilities. The statue is still in the park, pending a court ruling on whether the city can remove it.

I understand that some white people are afraid of the future because they don’t consider people of color to be their equals and they don’t want to cede their white privilege to them.

Life was easier for them when the color of their skin gave them a pass they didn’t necessarily deserve. Now they have to deal with removal of the symbols of their former unquestioned power and it scares the hell out of them.

Change is never easy, especially when you believe you’re being suppressed simply because you no longer have the power to keep others down.

Their fear is real, but it is misguided. You don’t have to give up your rights to allow others to have theirs.

Perhaps they fear that minorities are becoming the majority and if they behave toward white people they way they themselves were treated, there will be trouble.

When you hold power and misuse it, I suppose you should fear what happens when you lose power.

But here’s the thing: Those people in the streets last night, carrying cheap Home Depot citronella torches and Nazi and KKK banners, chanting racist slogans and threatening the people inside that church — I have friends who were in that church, and they were scared — did so with the help of police, who didn’t disperse them immediately.

I have seen reports of just one arrest, and a friend who is there now warns us to stay home because both sides have provocateurs and both have weapons. It is not safe there.

What happened last night — and continues today — is a page right out of 1930s Germany, and the Republicans (and most of the Democrats) in Washington have yet to roundly condemn it.

Where the hell is the outrage?

Yes, all my progressive friends have called this out.

But those in power — the people with real power — have done little.

Had those protesters been carrying a Black Power banner, immigrants’s rights pickets or a Quran, the National Guard would have been mobilized and we would be cleaning the blood of the protesters off the streets of Charlottesville this morning.

I know this is true because I live close enough to Charlotte, NC, to have been there the day after police shot an unarmed black man, and the Guard was mobilized within hours to combat people who were protesting the death of an innocent man, not just the removal of a symbol of white power (the kind of power, by they way that allows for police to get away with gunning down unarmed black man after unarmed black man after unarmed black man).

Can you see the racism yet?

Too many white people go on about their business after these murders, relieved that it isn’t their sons being shot in cold blood because a cop says he smelled pot and feared for his life. And to rationalize their complacence, they vilify the dead black man. He was selling illegal cigarettes. He smelled of pot. He might have stolen a couple of cheap cigars. He was jaywalking.

What these people don’t see, sometimes even after it is pointed out to them, is that jaywalking is not a crime punishable by death, and not just that, but without so much as a single day in court.

The white mob in Charlottesville last night was a terrorist mob. If Muslims had done that, we certainly would call them terrorists. But when white people do it, they’re just voicing their discontent.

Violence erupted when the white marchers encountered counter-protesters, one of whom apparently sprayed the demonstrators with mace, and fights broke out. I don’t condone that. If we are to rise about the hate of the alt-right, we must not be violent. Violence is what we are protesting. If we commit it ourselves, we become that which we oppose.

But there were no reports of arrests.

Imagine no arrests if the protesters had been black.

Wouldn’t have happened.

Imagine the outrage if the protesters had been anything other than white. Can’t you just hear Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell calling for stern reactions and punishment to the greatest extent the law allows? Can’t you just imagine the Twitter storm emanating from the White House?

But the White House embraces the fascist movement. Staff members working for the Occupant are more than a little sympathetic.

Overt racism has been rude and inappropriate for the last several decades, but it is enjoying a return to power under this administration, which emboldens racists. They know they can get away with their hate when the people in power share their views.

Frankly, I think the divisions in the Democratic Party are promoted by these people so we can’t interfere with their rise to power, nor their hold on it.

We must work together to defeat this. We can not bicker over whose fault it is that this administration even exists.

We have to work as one. We have to rid ourselves of this hate.

This can not abide.

 

 

 

Sixteen in one day is no coincidence

The Jewish Community Center here in Asheville, NC, received a bomb threat yesterday.

That, in itself, is scary enough, but ours was just one of 16 Jewish centers that received bomb threats yesterday.

Sixteen in one day. That’s not a coincidence.

Ever since the person occupying the White House was elected, hate has been on the rise. Bigots and racists have gotten the message loud and clear: Hate is in vogue again.

The incidents began immediately after the election. A Jewish friend of mine in Florida came out of synagogue and put her grandson into the back seat of her car, and as she drove off, she was followed by a pickup truck with bumper stickers supporting the person who won the electoral college vote and sporting a confederate flag. They pulled up alongside her car and began shouting anti-Semitic remarks.

Muslims began to report being harassed, as did LGBTQ people. Sporadic reports came in of violence, threats and vandalism at mosques, synagogues and cemeteries.

In the month after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented nearly 1,100 incidents of bias-related harassment and intimidation like the one my friend experienced.

Last Wednesday, a white man walked into a restaurant in Olathe, Kan., and shot two Indian men, killing one, while shouting, “Get out of my country!” A third man, a white man who tried to intervene, also was shot and is recovering.

The man in the White House said these incidents have nothing to do with him and his rhetoric, but I disagree. When you rail against immigrants, when you say all of Islam is evil, when you ban Muslims from traveling into our country and detain and search and harass anyone who looks Muslim at the airport, when you fail to mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when you appoint a known white supremacist as your chief advisor, you encourage hate.

It used to be unfashionable to be a racist, but now they are emboldened by the election of one of their own.

What’s worse is that no one in Congress is calling for an investigation into this coordinated effort to intimidate Jews — and let’s not pretend that’s not what this is because 16 bomb threats against Jewish centers in a single day isn’t a coincidence.

I sent faxes to both my senators and my representative, calling on them to denounce this hate and to call for a federal investigation, since this went across state lines.

I ask you to do the same.

I stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters. I also stand with my Muslim, LGBTQ and immigrant brothers and sisters from around the world because I take seriously the commandment to love my neighbors — and all of humanity are my neighbors.

 

 

A Trump protest turns violent

Shirley Teeter talks about her experience being assaulted outside of a Donald Trump rally.

Shirley Teeter talks about her experience being assaulted outside of a Donald Trump rally.

Shirley Teeter has a long history of participating in protests, beginning in the late 1960s with civil rights marches and protests against the Vietnam War.

So, when she heard last week that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was coming to Asheville, appearing less than a block from where she lives, she decided to go and speak her mind.

Before the rally, as people filed in, Teeter says, everyone seemed in good humor.

But after the rally, the demeanor was different, she says.

“They were angry, ready for a fight,” she says. “People should know how Trump works people up in those rallies of his.”

Still, Teeter, who is 69 and uses oxygen because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, never imagined a man would haul off and sock her in the jaw.

“I told him he’d better learn to speak Russian as he walked by me,” she says. “And that his first words should be ‘ha, ha.’”

She says she was referring to Trump’s cozy relationship with Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.

The man, later identified as Richard Campbell of Edisto Island, SC, hauled off and punched her in the jaw, Teeter says.

“I guess I lost consciousness because I don’t remember hitting the ground,” she says. “He tried to say I grabbed him, but that’s not true. I never touched him.”

Bystanders helped her up and emergency medical personnel tended to her wounds – bruises on her jaw and ribs and a badly skinned elbow.

“I asked the police to please arrest him,” she says. “But they didn’t.”

Apparently, if police don’t witness the assault, they can’t arrest the perpetrator, even with video evidence and a number of people offering to testify against him. A warrant was issued the next day, and Teeter said then she will press charges.

Teeter has had X-rays and no bones were broken, but two days after the assault, she was sporting a large bandage on her elbow and an ice pack on her badly bruised ribs.

Photos of Teeter on the ground, her eyes closed, went viral pretty quickly. The story made national news, including reports in CNN and the Washington Post.

“I don’t feel famous,” she says, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “I feel violated. I feel people are being manipulated by Trump. I’ve never seen a candidate behave like this. … There are those of us who listen to his words and don’t hear the same thing. I hear the lies and the call to hate people and I see him for what he is – a very dangerous man.”

Just seeing the difference in people after the rally, Teeter says, makes her want to speak out even more. Without hesitation, she says she would go again and protest.

“You can’t let hate stop you,” she says. “I don’t know why that man thought it would be OK to punch me, I really don’t, but I refuse to be angry. I’m sad about what happened, but nobody will rob me of my sense of peace. Nobody can take that away from me. Nobody.”

Have you ever lived without hope?

time cover

Watching the demonstrations in Baltimore is a lot like watching the riots of the 1960s or the Rodney King protests.

I’ve never been caught in the middle of a violent demonstration, but I can understand the fear that anyone might feel. I also understand the frustration that drives people to such drastic measures.

I don’t condone violence, but I do understand what drives it. It is a lack of hope that things will ever get better. It comes from living in fear that you or someone you live will be next.

These victims of police violence are not thugs — the cops are the ones acting as thugs when they shoot unarmed people or beat someone who already has been subdued.

There have been far too many deaths of young black men in this country. There has been far too much oppression.

The school-to-prison pipeline is real, especially in poor, largely minority communities. Teens can be sent to jail for missing school, and once they’re in the “justice” system, they’re in it for good.

Or let’s say you’re driving while black and you have a tail light out (a friend of mine had his tail light knocked out by a police officer who had just pulled him over for no reason). You don’t have the money to pay the fine and court costs because you work two part-time, low-wage jobs, so you wind up getting your fines increased and losing your license. Now you have no transportation to and from work because the buses don’t run late at night when you need them. So, you lose your job.

Since you haven’t paid your fines, which are increasing by the week, a warrant is issued for your arrest. The cops show up, and you’re headed for jail.

Now your spouse and kids are in a real financial mess. Your teenage son gets angry and starts acting out, and he’s arrested. The cops see him as a threat so they tackle him and cuff and shackle him. He shouts an obscenity and the cops start kicking him, injuring or even killing him.

With only one income, your spouse and your other child become homeless.

This happens all the time in poor neighborhoods. People are jailed for the crime of being poor, and when they finally rise up against the violence perpetrated on them, the privileged classes are more upset about the burning buildings than about the lives lost.

I worked hard for everything I have, but I’m white. I was raised in a white middle-class town by middle-class white parents. No one sees me as a threat because I’m not one of the people who has been oppressed for generations.

It’s not easy putting yourself in the shoes of someone whose entire experience is so different from your own, but it’s time we tried.

Unlike many white, middle-class people, I know what it’s like to live without hope. I’ve been there. I know the desperation.

As I said, I don’t condone the violence, but I certainly do understand it.

Before you call these black youths thugs and criminals, try to imagine what your attitude would be in their situation, and then understand that being a petty criminal wouldn’t bring the death penalty down on you.

I will defend these people against the abusive and violent system that keeps them down because Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. These police killings are no different from the lynchings of the Jim Crow era, and I understand the need of people to rise up against them. They are fighting for their very survival.

Violence begets violence. We need to remember that.

Four dead, three troopers hurt

A protester at Wayne LaPierre's press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

A protester at Wayne LaPierre’s press conference Friday injects a little truth into the proceedings.

It’s what you call irony.

National Rifle Association lobbyist Wayne LaPierre was still talking, telling us we need more, not fewer guns, that armed teachers are the solution to mass shootings in schools, as a man walked up and down a street just outside of Altoona, Pa., shooting people, killing four, according to early reports.

Among the injured are three —armed — state troopers. These are people whose job it is to stop people with guns and he shot three of them. We don’t know yet whether any of the dead are troopers.

It seems to me that something is trying to tell us that LaPierre and his ilk are full of shit. More guns is not the solution to gun violence.

Do we put guns on school buses next? Do we arm crossing guards? Remember, this latest shooting was a man walking up and down the street.

Where does the arming cease? Do we provide Sunday school teachers with an arsenal, just in case?

I’m tired of the killing, aren’t you?

I don’t think we should spend another moment listening to the NRA. I don’t even care of you’re a responsible gun owner who loves target shooting and hunting. If you believe more guns will stem the violence, you are wrong. Period.

I have tried to respect other opinions because I have a lot of friends who are responsible gun owners, but we need to control guns. We need to stand up to the bullies in the NRA and tell them where they can put their guns and ammo.

I have listened to the “other side” of the gun debate and I have reached the conclusion that they no longer deserve our time and respect. The NRA represents gun manufacturers, not gun owners. I don’t even care of we repeal the damned Second Amendment. Our gun “laws” now have nothing to do with the founders’ intentions anyway.

We have the Second Amendment because George Washington didn’t believe we needed a standing army; that well-regulated militias would suffice. It wasn’t meant for every person to have an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. That was the totally twisted interpretation by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

As my husband says, “Piss on your Second Amendment rights! What about the rights of innocent people to live their lives?”

It’s time to regulate guns. It’s well past time, actually.

To those who disagree that increased regulation will help stem the tide of violence, with all due respect, piss off. I’m tired of listening to it as people die by the tens of thousands in this country.

 

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