Κυριακή, 26 Απριλίου 2009

Anti-Racists vs. Youth for Western Civilization

Yesterday evening, on UNC campus in Chapel Hill, NC, we saw round two of the battle between anti-racist community members and students and the newly founded white supremacist group Youth for Western Civilization. After the successful protest of YWC’s event last week, which ended with protesters literally chasing the anti-immigrant ex-congressman Tom Tancredo out of the building and attracted international media attention, a liberal backlash ensued on UNC’s campus. The college paper refused to print any words of support for the protest, as it was becoming a national embarrassment for the administration. Student groups that were hoping to “dialogue” with Tancredo last Tuesday, including the Hispanic association on campus, also quickly distanced themselves from the protests, even going so far as to do a joint press conference with the president of YWC. Meanwhile, Student Congress, UNC’s chancellor, and Chapel Hill Police immediately started up their gears of repression, seeking to divide protest groups from one another and find those responsible. On Monday evening, a mediated gathering between a half dozen or more student and community groups took place on campus, where people sought to understand each others’ differing analyses and goals regarding YWC and the past week’s event. It was a sad sight: a half dozen groups with little to no analysis or collective memory about how and why to fight fascism, what “free speech” means in this context and how it was being used rhetorically against us, or the relation between xenophobia and white supremacy. Additionally present was the complicated racial dynamics of power and privilege, as most of the students showing support for past Tuesday’s victory were white, while the non-politically oriented Hispanic association expressed disappointment that they weren’t allowed to “dialogue” with Tancredo, adding that the event “wasn’t about racism, it was about immigration.” (It is important to note that many of the protesters on Tuesday were people of color, unrepresented by any student organization, and these individuals‘ voices have yet to really be heard.) A final complication was the presence of non-students, who feel it is in their interest to militantly disrupt and stop fascist organizing whenever and wherever possible in their hometown, but have less connection to or affinity for the inner-workings of campus liberal politics.In no time at all, in the midst of this flurry of activity, drama, repression, and media manipulation, YWC announced another event, this time hosting anti-immigrant speaker and politician Virgil Goode from Virginia. Despite all the complications, wheatpasted posters announcing protest at the event started appearing on campus, and more meetings took place. The media was geared up, the Chapel Hill police were hyped, the campus administration felt like all eyes were on them, and for a week YWC and its critics were on the front page of every paper in town. Needless to say, there would be no element of surprise on Wednesday. The event was moved at the last minute to a larger and more secure auditorium in the Student Union, which would make the event easier to police and would allow for the droves of reporters and alumni who came to observe the spectacle for a second time. Hopefully they weren’t disappointed. There was already a protest outside the Union in full swing, albeit of a smaller and less aggressive nature than the demo the week before. The fiasco inside began with individuals handing out programs for the event, disguised to look official but actually containing key information about the source of YWC’s racist agenda and political connections, as well as making a case for why their existence on campus is not a free speech issue but a hate issue. Once the event started, it was quickly disrupted by a drag-song and dance routine from half a dozen folks standing in the front, mocking the YWC and Virgil Goode and encouraging resistance to racist forces in our town. This only lasted a brief while, but soon others began shouting at the speaker and YWC members, with charges of “racist” and “white supremacist.” Somewhere around the same time, on the outside of the building, folks began emerging en masse from surrounding buildings due to the fire alarms going off. This crowd observed the protest taking place with an air of confusion, as police looked on. Back on the inside, loud noises from an unknown source started reverberating throughout the auditorium. It seems that this was not a fire alarm, and the event continued on, albeit somewhat chaotically. More individuals started shouting, and the police began “escorting” folks they had targeted as “disruptive” out of the building, whom they then arrested. Two of the last people to be removed were pulled out of the building while holding a pink banner that said, “Fuck Racism!” Nevertheless, the speaker was apparently able to give their speech, throughout the chaos, though not without further shouting and disruption at the end. The total number of arrests by the end of night was 6. All of those folks were given misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges and released that night. Further repression has ensued this morning, when a student allegedly identified as participating the Tuesday action last week was arrested, questioned, and charged with “disturbing the peace at an educational institution.” Several other students have been harassed by police as well, in what is clearly an attempt by the administration to scare and divide organizers and save face in the national academic “community.” In the past 8 days two demos, which were militant by campus standards, a dozen or more meetings, national media attention, and at least seven arrests have occurred. Police, media, students and non-students alike are still reacting to all this, so it is difficult to provide much analysis of Wednesday’s action at this point. It does seem clear that while the speech was not totally stopped, it was indeed disrupted in such a way as to continue embarrassing the administration and costing their bureaucracy thousands of dollars in a relatively large police effort. It is also clear to people who want YWC out of Chapel Hill that we cannot continue organizing on a reactive, event by event basis. Fortunately, we are not intimidated or scared by the petty, trifling machinations of the University bureaucracy and its police and press, nor are we willing to resign the safety or our communities and neighbors to the political interests of liberal student organizations that desire “free” speech and dialogue with a white supremacist organization. YWC is now a controversial, hated group on campus, with both an embarrassed faculty sponsor and a scrambling administration tenuously preserving the group’s existence. There will continue to be debate, education, and action until YWC is out of our town. You are invited to join this struggle; find out if YWC has a chapter in your town and go after them. If not, be the creative anarchists that you are and find a way to let UNC administrators know how you feel. In solidarity and rage!one hopeful North Carolina anarchistPS. As one individual, I’ve done my best give a fair account of what’s been happening, and how a diverse range of groups and individuals have been trying to approach the rapidly shifting landscape of Chapel Hill and university politics. I do not write this with the intention of representing any specific group, merely to give a tenuous account of the strategies and actions that are unfolding, as today becomes yesterday so fast. There are obviously a wide diversity of opinions about this struggle from within the ranks of those protesting and making a ruckus, so please keep that in mind. Feel free to comment, alter, question, or raise issues with anything written here!

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