Monday, September 18, 2017

Bizarro Easter Parade

Sat., Sept. 16, 2017: 10:27 a.m.: 1600 block of Monument Ave.

It was a bright, beautiful Saturday morning all over town. Folks came to Richmond's storied Monument Avenue with their placards and supplies. They came in their get-ups, including T-shirts with slogans for some, including combat equipment for others. They came to ruffle feathers; they came to keep the peace. They came to strut their righteous stuff … oh yeah.

On September 16, 2017, tasteful green, waist-high barricades hooked-one-to-the-next defined the areas around the towering Robert E. Lee memorial that had been designated for civilians, as well as the areas restricted to officials only. There were plenty of tourists in pairs and there were a few teams/organized groups that marched, en masse, into the scene with banners … oh yeah.

Exactly five months after this year's Easter Parade crowd milled around on that same stately Fan District avenue, what amounted to a Bizarro Easter Parade unfolded before us who live in the neighborhood.

For a much fretted-over demonstration set in motion by self-styled Confederacy aficionados, a rally that threatened to be Son-of-Charlottesville, there was a surprising shortage of signifying for the Lost Cause. If the alt-right was represented in the neighborhood, they were stealthy and I missed them. I saw no Nazi regalia.

Basically, there were the two opposing aspects of the spectacle, such as it was: The CSA II's mini-rally of Confederate monument worshipers and the much larger turnout of people to confront and denounce that rally. Then, of course, there were the spectators satisfying their curiosity.

On the east side of the Lee Monument a faction of those confronters caused a stir for a spell with their chants and fuming at their opposition – Hey Ho! Hey Ho! – but what I saw of it came nowhere near boiling over into violence.

What didn't happen was a riot. Even the media on hand, pros and amateurs, out-numbered the main attraction – those demonstrators, local and imported – determined to save the monuments from removal. If it was a contest for turnout, the so-called counter-protesters – Antifa and various peace and social justice groups – won by a wide margin. In that sense, it was a good day for the lefties and moderates.

Kudos to the City of Richmond for its plan to deal with the range of possibilities the situation presented, going into the day. Likewise, from what I saw firsthand the cops executed their strategy well. Looking back on the expense of managing that event, it's harmless to joke about how much money was spent. No doubt, on Monday, the 18th, some of it might seem to have been unnecessary. Still, on Friday, the 15th, no one could know what would be necessary.
OK, about Antifa: First of all, as an old goat watching from afar, I gather it's not accurate to view all Antifa activists and sympathizers in the same light. So I'll try to be fair.

Meanwhile, I'm glad that some people were brave and smart enough during the evening of Aug. 11 to help protect peace-loving worshipers in a Charlottesville church from the lathered up, torch-carrying alt-right crazies on the street.

If an aspect of Antifa deserves the lion's share of credit in that instance, then I'm grateful to them. Direct action worked.
Just as Antifa, Black Lives Matter and many Americans who aren't members of mission-driven groups, I am alarmed by the growing threat a new wave of fascism is imposing on the USA today. While I want to help quell that threat, too, my experience tells me to be careful with my tactics.

Which brings me to this point: The faction of Antifa currently insisting that no one photograph them when they are making news on public streets must be challenged. Sorry, in this country no matter how righteous their cause may seem, no one is morally or legally entitled to assault members of the working press who are documenting events in the public way. No one is entitled to menace bystanders shooting photos of what's happening outdoors in front of them.

The threat of fascism being sold by populist hate-mongers will always be with us. Societies will always be somewhat vulnerable to the harm radical ideologies can facilitate. Each generation faces threats of that sort to the commonweal. It's our duty to deal with them wisely in our time.
On the other hand, hurling threats and violence at the media is exactly how fascist villains have operated in the past. Activists of any stripe who advocate using such intimidating tactics today can't be allowed to become the face of “the resistance.” 
Simply put, that mistake would invite disaster.
Now let's sit down over coffees, or perhaps beers, and talk calmly about which Confederate monument in Richmond should be the first one removed … oh yeah.

– 30 – 

-- Words and photo by by F.T. Rea

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