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From Durham to Boston, We Saw Why You Don’t Just Ignore Fascists. You Outnumber Them.

This weekend, we’ve seen yet again why it’s crucial to show up in the fight against racism, just like the anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville did.

After the Ku Klux Klan reportedly planned to rally in Durham, North Carolina, residents showed up by the hundreds to counter-protest. The Klan never showed up, but hundreds of local residents took to the streets to demonstrate against white supremacy and hate – and to enjoy a dance party.

Meanwhile, in Boston, a so-called “Free Speech Rally” which had originally invited a bunch of white supremacists to speak, was scheduled to take place on Boston Common today. Thousands and thousands of New Englanders showed up to counter-protest, with attendance estimates ranging from 30,00045,000. Meanwhile, only a few dozen people showed up at the “Free Speech” rally, which had a permit for up to 100 attendees.

As you can see from the video, the “free speech” proponents looked small, petty, and foolish. Obviously, this annoyed Trump, who won exactly zero counties in Massachusetts, so he had to tweet something divorced from reality.

(Hi, there were approximately 27 arrests in Boston. Out of 45,000 people.)

These were definitely not the only anti-racist demonstrations this weekend. Groups in New Orleans rallied for the removal of Confederate and Andrew Jackson statues, and demonstrators in Dallas will gather later this evening for an anti-white supremacy march. These are great causes, and I don’t want to downplay the importance of proactive anti-racist rallies. However, I highlighted Durham and Boston because they were specifically organized to counter-protest a fascist/white supremacist rally.

Some thinkers will advise “ignoring” white supremacists and alt-right groups, because “they want a platform” or “they want the attention.” And that’s certainly true when it comes to media coverage. Richard Spencer can’t wait to get his punchable face on television, or spout his ideology to a newspaper. They love any opportunity to win over followers by spreading their garbage.

However, a counter-protest serves to redirect media attention. If you look at the coverage of Boston in particular, very few outlets mentioned the speakers or talking points of the “free speech” contingent. Instead, it was all about the massive counter-protest and its organizers. Suddenly, the message was about resistance and anti-racism, about the counter-protesters and their concerns.

As it says on this image from the Charlottesville candelit vigil, organized as a direct rejection of the torch-wielding racists who were there a few days earlier: “We replaced you.”

(You can tell you’ve stolen the narrative when even racist-in-chief Donald Trump, who obsessively watches the media, wants a belated piece of the feel-good coverage. After disparaging Boston in his police tweet, he then tweeted, “I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!” Cool story, bro.)

Counter-protests also help to discredit the newly emboldened far-right, and to make the people targeted by far-right terrorists feel less scared and alone. White supremacists want to claim America as “their” country, as the exclusive provenance of white people. It’s crucial to demonstrate, as they try to grow their movement, that they are vastly outnumbered and widely hated. It’s crucial to show them the joy, solidarity, and life-giving, righteous anger that animates the “social justice warriors” they claim are ruining the world. (Tubas and trombones and dance parties, folks.) Most of all, it is crucial to remind them that the United States does not belong to them – and that the future belongs to their opponents.

(Via USA Today, The Herald SunWBUR, and NPR; image via Shutterstock)

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