For Immediate Release
Thursday August 24, 2017
Racial justice leaders demand Berkeley ban fascist rallies
Community leaders unite to call for organized resistance
East Bay racial justice organizers convened an emergency press conference at Berkeley City Hall today to expose Berkeley authorities’ flawed approach to addressing the white nationalists who intend to descend on the Bay Area this weekend. They also called for a rally to raise a united front of resistance to the purveyors of racist violence in the Bay Area and across the country.
“Cities like San Francisco and Berkeley have no obligation to facilitate acts of violence by hate groups. The fascist rallies should be forbidden,” said Dan Siegel of the National Lawyers Guild and the Oakland Justice Coalition.
Siegel is responding to concerns that a recent Berkeley ordinance plays into the divisive approach promoted by the Trump administration. On August 18, the Berkeley City Council gave a blank check to authorize police intervention for non-permitted events, in a move that will likely target anti-fascists as well as white supremacists.
“We are not proposing that offensive speech be outlawed,” said the well-known civil rights attorney. “A free society must tolerate speech that is hurtful or offensive. But no civilized society should tolerate behavior that promotes violence and even the total destruction of people based upon their color, gender, religion, or origin.”
Tur-Ha Ak of the Anti-Police Terror Project denounced efforts to target and criminalize those who publicly challenge violent racists. “Berkeley City Hall has repeatedly claimed that they cannot stop white supremacists from rallying because of their commitment to free speech,” said Ak. “Arguing about the free speech rights of Nazis, fascists, and KKK members is a trap. The issue is not speech, it is violence. The fascists do not want to argue with us, they want to harm us. We will not stand by and let it go down like that – nor will we accept the criminalization of those who defend our communities.”
A petition circulated by racial justice groups demands that Berkeley authorities be clear that fascists are not welcome in Berkeley, that anti-fascist (or antifa) activists not be criminalized, and that they will not impinge on the freedom of assembly of those defending themselves against white supremacists or obstruct peoples’ right to stand firm against racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic forces.
Bay Area labor leader Kung Feng said, “White supremacy and fascism are the direct result of policies that pit working class people against each other across lines of race and ethnicity – and that ultimately benefit the ruling class. When Trump’s dog whistles inflame the Nazis to incite violence against our communities, the answer is to rise up and demand justice, from the street to the legislature.”
The East Bay chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) – a national grassroots anti-racist organization – encouraged the public to join a rally to challenge hate and racism on Sunday August 27, 11-2 pm, at Ohlone Park in downtown Berkeley.
“Ignoring white supremacists is not an option,” said Jason Wallach, a small business owner and organizer with the East Bay chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). “Fascists do not just ‘go away’ when they are unopposed. They work to gain power, and to incrementally normalize hate and discrimination. That’s why we will show up, in a way that is disciplined but direct, to prevent their violence from taking root.”
Local faith leaders also endorsed a clear position of resistance to white supremacy.
“Faith communities, and particularly the Black Church, have always stood together to lead the struggle against hate and genocidal violence,” says Nichola Torbett, Christian organizer and lay leader at First Congregational Church of Oakland. “We may have different approaches, from the non-violent civil disobedience that won historic civil rights legislation to the bold bodily courage of the anti-fascists – but we all need to step up to make love win over hate.”
The Rally to Resist Violence & Hate in Berkeley will begin at 11 a.m., Sunday August 27, at Hearst Ave. and MLK Jr. Way in Berkeley. For more information, visit surjbayarea.org or facebook.com/SURJBayArea