By Jeff Knox
(March 28, 2017) Eight years ago, shortly after Barack Obama was elected, a group of citizens protesting his policies gathered outside a Phoenix venue where the new president was giving a speech. Several of the protesters were openly carrying sidearms, and one had an AR-15 slung over his shoulder. The armed protesters raised eyebrows and attracted national news media attention. MSNBC in particular hinted that the armed protesters were racially motivated showing closeups of the rifle-toter’s back, with the “evil black rifle” silhouetted against his white dress shirt. The photos they showed were cropped in such a way that only the rifle and the shirt were visible, though the uncropped photos clearly showed the back of the African-American man’s head, the side of his face, and his hands. MSNBC later offered up a “clarification,” to correct their “mistake,” but the narrative that violent racists were carrying guns as a threat against America’s first black president persisted.
Fast-forward 8 years, and the scene in Phoenix was more threatening, and received much less coverage. A couple of hundred supporters of President Donald Trump showed up for a Make America Great Again march from a nearby park to the Arizona State Capitol. In response a couple of dozen counter-protesters showed up with rifles and shotguns strapped to the plate carriers on their chests, and red bandannas tied around their necks. Many also had scarves covering their faces. The protesters marched in a 2×2, paramilitary formation past the capital in a grim show of resistance and intolerance.
A reporter from the very liberal alternative weekly New Times, fell in with the anti-Trump marchers, videoing them and trying to ask questions about their objectives. Rather than explaining their positions or stating their goals, the marchers responded with physical intimidation and not-too-veiled threats.
The incident generated little coverage outside of the reporter’s Facebook Live, which has gone viral among pro-gun social media. The lack of attention is not just because Americans have been desensitized to seeing armed protesters at various open carry events around the country. It’s also because the media prefers to focus on radical right-wing extremists and militia members. People wearing body armor and openly carrying rifles and handguns have become routine for Black Lives Matter protests and anti-Trump events, but we rarely see them on the evening news. Instead we see the “extremists” among Trump supporters, yelling obscenities and falling for the bait being offered by the anti-Trump crowd. While journalists still like to make an issue about armed protesters, they much prefer to limit their coverage of such things to the right-wing.
The groups on display at the recent Phoenix Trump rally were an interesting mix of communists, anarchists, Chicano nationalists, and confused libertarian populists. The counter-protest was apparently organized by the local chapter of a group called Redneck Revolt, which paints itself as a populist movement of poor whites who blame all of the world’s problems on rich white men and the capitalist system. The local group calls itself the Phoenix John Brown Gun Club, in honor of the infamous, radical abolitionist. They were joined by members of Antifascist Action Phoenix, and members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano nationalist group. All of the groups have similar rhetoric decrying fascism, capitalism, and rich, white people, and advocating for the poor and working class of all races, religions, ethnicities, and sexual denominations. None of them seem to have any suggestions for better systems, just rejection and destruction of the current ones. All espouse revolutionary philosophies that sound very much like communism, but few will come right out and admit to being communist.
There are many unanswered questions regarding where these groups get their funding. The Brown Berets, as part of the Chicano/Aztlan/Reconquista movement, have long had ties to communist groups and funding, but the newer “anarchist” groups that have popped up primarily since last November’s election, don’t have the historical connections, but seem to have no trouble coming up with thousands of dollars to provide signs, buses, and travel expenses to get their troops on the ground in various places around the country.
Most of the core activists in these Antifa groups are the same black-masked vandals we’ve seen turning peaceful demonstrations violent in big cities around the country for years. Many were also involved in the Occupy protests. Now they are energized by a common enemy – Donald Trump – and anyone who supports him or anything he does. They are actively recruiting disgruntled young millennials at a startling rate. Their core message sounds good, if you don’t think too hard about it, and their philosophy embraces the idea of violent rebellion in a way that has not been seen in this country since the days of the Weather Underground with Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. Then, as now, the agenda was the destruction of the American capitalist structure. The only difference in the propaganda of today from that of the Weather Underground in the ’60s, is that Dohrn and Ayers openly advocated a classless, communist society as the ultimate goal. Today’s radicals just refer to the goal as a classless society, minus the reference to communism.
As Bob Dylan said in the song that gave the Weather Underground its name, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Better batten down the hatches.