Southern Maine IWW members joined the organizing efforts of a broad coalition of community groups last Saturday to put together a demonstration of working class solidarity against the alt-right organizers of a cynical “Rally to Denounce Political Violence” in Augusta.
The alt-right led rally was held on the west side of the state house, where they attracted a crowd of roughly 20 people in front of a banner reading “No Antifa No KKK No violent USA” Their speakers included apologists for white nationalist groups. Many of them advanced the narrative that civil rights and anti-fascist activists occupy the same moral realm as the KKK. Some held that they were worse.
Meanwhile, in Capitol Park, on the opposite side of the state house, SMIWW members gathered together with a crowd of about 100 fellow workers to present a different point of view. Speakers from a variety of organizations including the IWW, the Socialist Party of Maine, Showing Up for Racial Justice, CONFRONT, the International Socialist Organization, and the Green Independant Party expressed a message of solidarity with oppressed and marginalized peoples and support for community self defense.
After the lineup of speakers, a contingent from our side, led by a few comrades affiliated with Maine TransNet, decided to take the initiative and marched across the way to verbally confront the alt-right group. They spent some time facing off in spirited debate with Samson Racioppi, one of the organizers of the 2nd Boston “free speech” rallies (the one that was shut down by 45,000 counterprotesters). After this they returned and rejoined the main group.
As the lineup of the “denounce political violence” speakers reached it’s end, their final speaker stood up and faced the small crowd. “Who here is against white supremacy?” she asked. Some expressed their approval. “If you’re against white supremacy then come with me, because this rally is about white supremacy,” she said, then led half of the group in a defection to join the counterprotest, while the last alt-right holdouts in the crowd, one dressed up in a “Pepe the frog” costume, heckled her.
The counter-demonstration then slowly drifted apart, with like minded activists and fellow workers hanging around and networking. A few alt-right agitators came around trying to antagonize people but were sent on their way without violence.
This action was a clear win for working class Mainers. A collection of bigoted trolls was effectively prevented from their purpose by the social pressure of a broad spectrum of community groups.
Their message and purpose was exposed to the light of day by Southern Maine IWW members. An organizing committee assembled and put together a counter-demonstration on short notice, inclusive of a variety of labor, political, and racial justice groups. The press picked up on our work and exposed it to the people of Maine, ensuring that the public would not be duped by the disingenuous message of the “denounce political violence” organizers. And finally, their rally was taken down from the stage by one of their own speakers.
In the grand scheme of things this was a small action and a small victory, but it showed us all, in a small way, that working class Maine people, standing together in solidarity, can still make a stand for what is right, and can still win. Today, we took down a few reactionary trolls out to divide us. Tomorrow, we take down the employing class.