The People United Shut Down Fascist Violence in Berkeley This Weekend

For immediate release
Sunday August 27th, 2017

What: Press Conference
When: Monday August 28, 8:30 am
Where: Berkeley City Hall (2180 Milvia Street)
Contact: 510-561-8919 

The People United Shut Down Fascist Violence in Berkeley This Weekend

Thousands of people turned out in downtown Berkeley on Sunday and successfully prevented white supremacists from gathering to commit the kind of violence we witnessed in Charlottesville two weeks ago.

Organizers will hold a press conference Monday at 8:30am at Berkeley City Hall to discuss what happened and upcoming resistance to white supremacist gatherings in Berkeley.

“Today we won a victory against the forces of white supremacy,” said Felicia Gustin of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). “We turned out united communities to directly confront hate speech and hate action, and to keep our streets free of fascists. The white supremacists’ Berkeley rally, like their San Francisco rally, was cancelled due to communities coming together to make fascism untenable.”

Organizers of Sunday’s Rally to Resist Violence & Hate in Berkeley see this victory as part of a growing national trend where people, en masse, are refusing to be bullied by white supremacists, and are coming together in a unified front across lines of race, gender and approach.

“History shows that when you give white supremacists and fascists space, their violence grows dramatically,” says Dan Siegel of the National Lawyers Guild. “UC Berkeley’s argument that hate speech should be given free reign is both foolish and dangerous. These people don’t want to talk to us, they want to kill us. In the spirit of what we witnessed this weekend, we call on UC Berkeley to intervene in the terrifying growth of white supremacy by canceling the upcoming speeches by Stephen Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulous, Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro.”

In contrast to some media reports, Sunday’s events in Berkeley were largely festive. On several occasions, white supremacists tried to enter the crowd, but they were contained and defused by masked antifa groups, ensuring that most participants remained safe.

“Many of us were not aware until today of the crucial role that antifa have been playing to defend communities against white supremacist violence, at great personal risk,” says Isaac Lev Szmonko, an organizer with Catalyst Project, an anti-racist organizing and education collective.  “Today we saw them put their bodies on the line to contain and remove violent threats one after the other in situations that could have become very dangerous, especially for the people of color, queer and transgender people, and women who were present. People were very grateful for the protection antifa offered.”

Police officers from several agencies were present, and fourteen people were arrested on various charges which are being analyzed by the National Lawyers’ Guild.

“From Charlottesville to Berkeley, police and the governments behind them have actively protected white supremacists and fascists from the thousands who oppose them, while claiming that anti-fascists are the threat,” says Lily Fahsi-Haskell from the Stop Urban Shield Coalition. “Many of us come from communities that face constant police harassment and violence, so we know that we need to defend ourselves because the police can’t keep us safe. We continue to organize against the white supremacy of militarized policing, and will work to stop the annual Urban Shield war games and weapons expo hosted by Sheriff Ahern this September 8.”

The press conference, Monday August 28th at 8:30am at Berkeley City Hall will include Felicia Gustin of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Sara Kershnar from the National Lawyers Guild Bay Area chapter, Pastor Michael McBride of the Way Church in Berkeley, Lara Kiswani from Arab Resource and Organizing Center and Stop Urban Shield Coalition, Tur-Ha Ak from Community Ready Corps and Anti Police-Terror Project, and Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, Director of Public Theology Initiatives at Faith Matters Network.