“There was a tank before there were ambulances”

The following is an interview with a JVP member from Durham, North Carolina who was in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday August 12th to protest the white supremacist and antisemitic march. This interview was conducted on August 16th.

How are you feeling today?

I’m in Durham now, I was at the rally Monday night where activists removed a Confederate monument and that was really amazing. But yesterday and this morning some of those activists have been arrested. I’ve been receiving news about that all morning. That’s where my thoughts are today.

Can you say more about the rally Monday night, what it looked like and what it felt like?

So it was organized by the Workers World Party in Durham, it was being emceed by a group of queer people of color and immigrants. It was awesome. I was given the opportunity to speak about what I saw and my experience in Charlottesville. It was really powerful to be in a space with comrades, with shared beliefs and dreams.

Why did you go to Charlottesville? What compelled you to be there?

As a Jewish person, we can’t ignore fascism. There was a call from Black clergy in Charlottesville to come out and defend the city. I was able to go on Saturday, so I did.

How were people organizing on the ground there? 

One of the most important things is to give a shout out to the people who were there as medics. They saved people’s lives. Even before the crash they were administering first aid to people who had been tear gassed, they were making sure people had water, and taking care of people who were being beaten up by fascists.

That was..the medics in Charlottesville were amazing.

Another organization that I think should be highlighted is Redneck Revolt, that’s a group of working class, white folks that do trainings about how to be armed safely.  They did a lot of work to keep people safe, dissuading fascists from starting fights, keeping people safe & organized after the crash, and also medic-ing after the crash. They were really instrumental.

What role were you playing?

That’s something that I struggled with actually. I’m not a medic, I didn’t feel like I was comfortable or ready to physically fight fascists that day. But I was there.

I didn’t want anybody in Charlottesville to feel like they were alone in this. To feel like they weren’t being seen and heard. That was my role there.

That is useful for people to hear: even if you don’t have a special skill, just being there and supporting is an important role to play.

What is the main takeaway you think people should be thinking about in the wake of events in Charlottesville?

"They’re not f**king around. Nazis aren’t f**king around and we can’t f**k around either. We have to get serious.

We aren’t going to be able to love the white supremacy out of these people. If people keep telling me that “love trumps hate” and that I have to love the Nazis who tried to kill me on Saturday, I can’t take that anymore. I think that people have to start realizing that the people who were most affected were the ones who were being really militant.

How can people support organizing in Charlottesville or people dealing with the trauma from Saturday or challenging white supremacy in general?

You can give directly to Black Lives Matter Charlottesville for ongoing mental health and trauma counseling for local organizers as well as victims of violence on Friday and Saturday, especially people of color. There are also fundraisers for the medical costs for people injured, here’s one from DSA.

There are actions happening everywhere & more called for this weekend. To join a solidarity demonstration or vigil, you can search here. To create your own action, go here. The Movement for Black Lives has also put out a specific call for actions that target institutions of white supremacy on Saturday, August 19th.

What’s happening next in Durham?

More raids and more arrests are coming. There’s a bond fund for the people arrested that you can give to and there’s a phone number to call the district attorney to get him to drop the charges. Call the Durham County District Attorney and demand they drop all charges at 919-808-3010.  Donate to the bond fund at: durhamsolidaritycenter.org/bondfund

I also want to make a point about police militarization.

I saw that the president of the Anti-Defamation League tweeted on Saturday: “Whether by the #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke.”

The thing is:

"There was a tank before there was an ambulance. There were 50 riot cops with tear gas canisters before there was an ambulance.

For the president of the ADL to condemn antifa, making that same false equivalence, is crazy. For his organization to also be sending police to train in Israel where they use military tactics against protestors is just terrible. These tactics do not keep people safe. These tactics did not keep Heather Heyer safe.

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