Community defense works

I generally try to maintain a balance, in my content, between confronting the grim realities of our world, and building hope for the future, and contributing to a map of how to get there. I honestly have a hard time telling how well I find that balance, but I feel like I tend to err on the side of being a bit too grim. I’ve talked some about the hate campaign being directed against LGBTQIA people in general, and trans people in particular, but I think it’s important to note that communities are not only rallying to defend themselves, they are doing so successfully:

Christo-fascists in Kansas City, MO gathered near the Midland Theater to protest “A Drag Queen Christmas.” The group “Conservative Moms of KC” organized a small gathering across the street from the Midland, where they attempted to harass incoming attendees to the show and film those going in. They were organized by Rachl Aguirre, a one-time candidate for District 8 of the Missouri State Senate. They kneeled on the concrete and tried to pray the gay away, screamed, “Repent!,” at those across the street and sent members to harass and film attendees. The local branch of The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) was also in attendance. The TFP is a self-described “Counter-revolutionary” Catholic organization classified as a “virulently anti-LGBT group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Local leftists received intelligence of their upcoming protest roughly 24 hours before the show, and were able to organize a robust community defense team in less than a day. Local anti-fascists braved the cold to stand in solidarity with the performers and attendees, forming a defensive line outside the theater to deter harassment by the fascists and safeguard guests as they entered the venue. Representatives from the Kansas Trans Guard, People’s Spark and other organizations held the line against attempts by far-Right protesters to personally approach the venue and film attendees, blocking their line of sight and pushing them back as necessary.

The Kansas City Police Department was, as expected, completely useless in protecting the event and its attendees. Though officers had initially instructed “Conservative Moms of KC” to remain across the street, they refused to intervene when Rachel Aguirre and other protesters crossed the street to verbally harass incoming attendees and film them without their consent. KCPD actively tried to prevent the anti-fascist organizers from blocking her way, stating, “She has a right to walk on the sidewalk.” The defenders closed ranks and held the line, retorting with, “Well, we have a right to stand where we want. If she wants to walk, she’ll have to go around.” Malicious compliance prevailed, and the protesters eventually withdrew back to their side of the street. KCPD also allowed TFP to set up their protest line on the sidewalk immediately bordering the venue, where attendees were lining up to enter the show.

The outpouring of support from the event planners and attendees, however, more than made up for the cold and confrontation. Anti-fascist demonstrators worked in close coordination with event staff, helping to facilitate entry for incoming guests by keeping far-Right protesters back and guiding attendees around confrontations. Many attendees were quick to express their gratitude for helping keep the event safe. Their thanks, and the impotence, willful or otherwise, on the part of KCPD is a poignant reminder that we are the ones who keep us safe. Fascists will doubtlessly continue to protest drag shows and other LGBTQ+ spaces in the coming months. Yesterday is proof that deterrence goes a long way towards protecting those spaces, and ensuring that hate has no place in this, or any city.

Standing up to fascists isn’t guaranteed to work every time. They want violence, and they like starting fights, then playing the victim. The key is that they’re far less likely to start something if they think they’ll lose. As the article mentioned, cops are likely to help right-wing extremists than to protect anyone from them, but when a community stands together, it not only provides physical protection, it also provides much-needed moral support to the targets of this hate campaign.

If It’s Going Down isn’t on your list of news sources, it should be. It’s an anarchist publication with a mix of original content from various sources and anonymous submissions. It’s a place to find news and perspectives that are rarely seen in corporate media. A lot of the news there has to do with direct action like this, or like the work of land and water protectors.

I feel as though, when I’m writing about a successful effort to mitigate or prevent harm being done, it’s a gloomy sort of good news. There’s this outpouring of love and support, but it’s only happening because of an attempt to eliminate a group of people from society. It’s good that this went well, but it’s still awful that this action was necessary, you know?

There’s one other thing, though, that I believe turns this into better news than it might otherwise be. See, the “left” in the United States doesn’t have much political power. There are a number of factors at play here, but the primary one is the multigenerational effort, using both the power of the government and privately-funded propaganda, to crush the labor movement, and eliminate left-wing thought. What I see, in stories like this, is the same thing I see in the rise in unionization in the U.S., and the mutual aid groups taking care of people trafficked for political gain, is people realizing that they do actually have power, when they work together. It’s people doing things that the government ought to do, if it actually served the people. They say direct action gets satisfaction, and a growing number of people in the U.S. are finding that out for themselves.

These are dangerous times, no mistake, and direct action can itself be dangerous, especially when it’s standing up to fascists. Fortunately, as they also say, the union makes us strong. Our power, when we work together, is greater than the sum total of each of us as individuals, and the more people use that power, the more likely they are to be willing to consider a world with less and hierarchical systems. There are other ways to do things, and we can do them.

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