There has been some understandable confusion and concern raised by an article published by Vice News yesterday. We are releasing this statement now to clarify our intentions for the interview.
We have spent the past day attempting to get the author and editors to amend the article to more accurately reflect what was discussed. They took great liberties in the piece that do not accurately portray our intentions. Their response has been poor and shows a lack of understanding or care for the seriousness of what is at hand.
Many folks have read this article, or possibly just the headline, and come to the conclusion that we are choosing to march with Neo-Nazis and Klansmen on Monday. This was and never will be the case. We are forever in opposition to these groups.
It is our group’s stated mission to keep these groups from having footholds in Richmond and beyond. There are many racists and fascists planning on attending “2A lobby day rally” on January 20th, at a steadily increasing rate since this bill emerged in November. We anticipated their efforts to recruit from the 2A movement, as has already been happening, and saw this as an important point to intervene since we oppose this legislation. We recognize how many in the movement, especially due to the projections of law enforcement, bear extreme prejudice towards Richmond and its residents, in the equation of “Democratic strongholds.” We understand the many racist, homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic remarks that abound in the river of online comments on these issues. Reading through and digesting these conversations is a reality of the work we engage in. We see it as our place to endure this, to be able to peer further into the void. In no way does this mean we seek to make alliances with those who wish violence and terror upon those most vulnerable.
In considering how to deter their recruitment and nullify their ability to harm folks lobbying or otherwise going about their business, we recognized that the VCDL was drawing lines in the sand on optics, and trying to distance themselves from other issues and symbols like the Confederate battle flag. As the event gained traction, it was clear from sources like 4chan, Reddit, Facebook and others that there were a range of dispositions, but that open fascists were largely not wanted.
We believed it was a sound strategy to give those who expressed this the information, tools, and opportunity to ostracize these elements from the demonstration to increase our capacity. In this way they would be easily identified and tracked. We think it is vital to de-platform and stem fascist and Nazi recruitment wherever possible and saw this as an important point to intervene. In addition, the impact that Nazi violence would undoubtedly have on surrounding vulnerable communities who are often the primary target of fascists, intervening between racists and more vulnerable groups remained a primary goal. This was the reason for any considered attendance. Up until this point, it is a strategy that has been well-engaged with on and offline over the past few weeks.
We made a decision in the very beginning that we did not want to be fulfilling the trope expected by either side. That we did not want to be the militant element that defends a Democratic institution that will and always betrays us. We felt an inherent expectation that “antifa” would blindly rush in to protest, and become a convenient excuse for the state’s inevitable poor response. Too many times have we fought and seen our efforts, and the efforts of so many grassroots activists, recuperated into a Blue strategy. We refuse to be used as media pawns by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Yet are committed to keeping our community safe, to the best of our abilities. Rather than decide to continue to be excluded from any political dialogue, we began to clarify our opposition to these measures. We felt it important to point out that the left is just more complex than the new governing majority and the figurehead of Ralph Northam. That there are many not represented who want to retain the tools for self-defense without a greater risk, or pretense for state repression as much of this legislation seeks to do.
As a recognizable face of antifascist action and militant leftism in Richmond, we received messages and inquiries about our stance from other left-leaning or unaffiliated folks who also felt lost in this conversation. We felt it important to signal to others who do not fit cleanly into the polarization that is happening. We have multiple statements on our Facebook page speaking to this dated well before the Vice interview.
We never indicated we were attending as a group, nor did we make any call to action for folks to engage in the way that is being purported. We have monitored this situation closely for weeks and found it to be increasingly dangerous. We spoke to the fact that several leftist gun groups are coming as they’ve stated so publicly. We only spoke to opportunities of counter-recruitment for libertarian and rural folks who don’t normally have access to leftist armed positions and of which the far right intends to recruit from. Many of these same folks have been disgusted to hear of white nationalist planned attendance and vowed to help us get rid of that element. We never announced what capacity we planned on attending and wouldn’t readily make statements like that for an extremely tense situation where the terrain changes daily. We certainly never said we would march with the far right, nor did we ever say we would march at all. These points are conjecture and misinterpretation that follow the same narrative polarization we have been working against. The writer took liberties to indicate in both the title and picture (which is not from Virginia) that we would arrive in black bloc to march alongside conservatives without regard to the fascist element, which is simply not the case.
We understand that mass violence and shootings are an issue among our society. Most of these incidents are in direct relation to the work we engage in trying to stamp out white supremacist violence, recruitment, and organizing. We spoke to this in our hour-long interview, but our focus on white supremacy, misogyny, and capitalist individualism as root causes of this that we aim to challenge were not mentioned. From our perspective, these legislative measures do not address the causes of violence.
Arguably, they address the mechanism.
We also see from years of research, observation, and anecdotal experience, that these pieces of legislation open up more doors to repression. This is a point of concern for us directly, as all levels of government have shown their ire towards anarchists and antifascists for years, and this has only increased as of late. We know this is not just due to a profession of our politics, but based on real demonstrations of solidarity, and a clear effort at augmenting marginalized people’s power, and not the government. These moments are when we come into conflict with the state.
This rings true for many other political dissidents and change-makers. But it would be a selfish concern if it did not recognize the greater damage it can do to folks outside of the arena of political struggle. In a state without parole, where our rate of incarceration exceeds that of most the nation, and Project Exile statutes dictate an automatic 5-year sentence for possession of drugs and a firearm- we can see this as yet another way in which mass incarceration of black and brown folks will be reinforced. These are not issues that we speak to as a means of political detail, but ones that we have engaged head-on in material organizing, and supported others in their efforts. We try to use our platform to share resources and ideas, and make connections towards a more unified opposition of these atrocities.
The idea that we are “finding more in common with ‘working class whites‘“ was language chosen by the author. In our perspective, the working class is a global one, that is predominantly black and brown. We have only ever used the language of the broader working class, and how gun control serves to weaken our defense positions. We understand how this could lead to feelings of betrayal, that we are somehow stepping away from aligning ourselves with marginalized communities. We are not. Our efforts have been with more vulnerable folks in mind. We have always embraced an intersectional politics and approach to organizing. We have learned this directly from our POC elders and mentors. We work with folks across the state, in rural areas and in cities, supporting struggles from anti-gentrification, prison abolition, pipeline resistance and environmental defense, abortion access, worker’s rights, police violence, food access, transportation, housing, and beyond.
What this article could not have spoken to was our efforts behind the scenes to work with black and brown folks who intended to lobby on Monday to ensure their safety. This was a topic we intentionally avoided. We also made clear to fellow organizers our other efforts in regards to the 2A rally, and seemed to have mutual understanding of the approach. Though some of the programming may have been public, we believe it would have jeopardized their safety to discuss that we were involved, or point to their events in any way. All of this programming has unfortunately now been canceled to due increasing threats to their safety.
It has been and continues to be an issue for us that the many important wins that can be had in the legislature, in this moment of political shift, have taken the backseat to the gun debate. While we strongly believe that opponents across either side of the gun issue are to blame for points of escalation, we also recognize Northam’s role in this as a vehicle for him to regain trust in his base. While some celebrate the state’s response in preventing “another Charlottesville”, an analogy that we still find it difficult to reconcile, we believe that pushing the event off Capitol grounds has only increased the dangers presented to Richmonders.
We urge folks not to work with this writer or Vice, and we were naive to think we would be given responsible or fair reporting. Despite our reasonable request, she refused to give us questions ahead of the interview; something we often ask for to avoid “gotcha journalism.” We will henceforth only be working with trusted outlets that seek to print narratives as they are written or spoken to. We shared this piece written by comrades that was published by It’s Going Down with her as well, but were informed that depsite being well-written, Vice doesn’t publish op-ed’s. We should have known we were dealing with the devil after the poor coverage of “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville August 12th 2017. They continued to platform fascist organizers even after massive outcry from their viewership. The outlet was, is, and will remain sensational- its language, focus, and presentation dictated by the ruling class.
We will work to get active threats out to the community as we get and verify them. We will never know all the threats but we will do our best to keep a watchful eye. We are not a vanguard force, and rely on the contributions of our community and comrades to be effective.
We will use everything at our disposal to defend our neighborhoods in the event that fascists decide to move offensively. Our hope is that instead this moment will transpire in whatever peace is left.
We are deeply sorry to our allies that this article scared or angered. Especially if it seems as though we were going to march alongside Neo–nazis or fascists. We would never do that and our intention is to only ever expose and expel them to the best of our ability. We hope that our prior words and actions speak to this, and that good faith can be assumed in us, especially in moments where we cannot afford transparency.
We are always available to talk, and we encourage you to reach out. Only some of you may know our faces, but all of you have our ears.
Love and Rage