This past Saturday, a drag show to be hosted at a Unitarian church in Columbus, Ohio, was canceled due to threats from far-right actors. There is some local intrigue behind the cancelation, but what wasn't cancelled was the arrival of over a hundred fascists into town.
Hundreds of miles away, two separate power substations in North Carolina's Moore County were attacked–that is, shot at–until power to over 40,000 of the county's residents was knocked out. No one has taken responsibility for this as yet, but there are some clues.
Neither here nor there, a lot of disturbing shit has been going on in the collision between pop culture and politics, as Ye, formerly Kanye West for the one person reading this who doesn't know; Nick Fuentes–one of the very worst spigots of bigotry today; and Milo Yiannopoulos met with Trump recently. This all is a lot, and I won't say more here than to acknowledge it and how bad it all is. I'm sure we'll have another opportunity to talk about it later.
Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and the Lack of a Leftist Answer
For a few weeks I was aware of a drag storytime event going on in Columbus. Since this tends to be just the kind of thing that draws ire from the right, I looked into the security situation for the event and found that the people in charge had stated they had internal security and police participation, and requested no public counterprotest at the event. There was some mixed messaging between journalists, the city council, the police, and organizers, which flattens out to this message: the police never said they'd show, and in an absence of established security, the event was canceled rather than put anyone in harm's way.
This last-minute decision left, I would assume, the fascist apparatus already in motion. On Saturday morning about 50 Proud Boys gathered in Clintonville, a gentrified, primarily white and very liberal neighborhood, right on the main drag. By noon there were 100, and they found their way to the Unitarian Church that was to host the event. Columbus cops were present with the fasc right from the jump, as were some unlabeled white boys in camo carrying AR-15s. Before long, Patriot Front also showed in numbers. The grand total number of fascists who wound up marching through a quiet Columbus neighborhood, terrorizing locals and sieg-heiling, was likely close to 200.
These fascists were able to move through a liberal city virtually unbothered for hours. By the time community organizers mounted a response, the fasc were at the church and strutting. Those that came out to eventually push back the Proud Boys and Patriot Front were, unsurprisingly, members of the Black and LGBTQ communities. I don't bring this up to point the finger at anyone, but this must be an altercation from which we take a lesson. Liberals will tell you that the Proud Boys wanted a confrontation, that they wanted to be able to fight someone or even shed some real blood. What they really wanted was to get an LGBTQ event cancelled, and to push a community into submission. And they succeeded in that, this time. There are two things that allowed the fascists to march unopposed:
- A reliance on law enforcement: While it seems clear now that event organizers never actually got any kind of positive response from Columbus PD, the impetus to rely on them for protection is the first wrong move. The video linked above acknowledges the long and sordid history of police v. LGBTQ communities, but it would seem that in the execution of the event some still chose off-duty Proud Boys as their protection.
- The lack of an independent community defense network: It was the wish of the event organizers that there be no counter-protest, which is an understandable wish, I think. However, once the event was staged, community leftists should have–and likely did, to some extent–organized a response to potential fascist activity. After the cancelation of the event, leftists should have immediately stepped up to fill the void in preparation for any kind of presence of the far right.
There was a group of veteran community defense organizers who volunteered their services for this event, and I am unsure whether they chose to stand down or if they, in some capacity, were the ones who galvanized an eventual response to the fascists. Either way, the response was insufficient, and I am sure the fascists consider this an unequivocal win. Again, I am not attempting to blame anybody here. I am a community member, and I was not in the street pushing back. I need to do something more, as well. I'm simply conveying events as I am aware of them, and pointing out where improvements must be made.
The lack of a leftist presence on Saturday almost certainly emboldened these cosplaying brownshirts. There is nothing about what happened that was good–literally nothing*. From the presence of quiet and unbranded men in camo, plate carriers, and with long guns, to the friendly cooperation of CPD with the Proud Boys. Next time, we have got to be prepared in this city. We need, and every community needs, an organized defense group that is able to respond to events like these quickly, decisively, and potentially irrespective of event organizers wishes. The fascists were not just on church grounds–they were on city sidewalks, on city streets, standing on the lawns of citizens who almost certainly had nothing to do with the event. At some point this becomes the responsibility of the broader community, and the ramifications of fascists being able to get away with something like this hurt us all.
*Well, the Proud Boys did call Patriot Front "feds," which isn't not good.
Potential Fascist Attack on Infrastructure
The very same day, two substations in North Carolina were extensively damaged by gunfire. The first attack knocked out power for the nearby area, and when the second substation was rendered inoperable, the brunt of the county lost power. Because of the damage, residents are not expected to have electricity restored until Thursday. There was a drag event in the town of Southern Pines scheduled for that evening, which started people thinking.
Attacking infrastructure has been in the far right's playbook for a while, and electrical substations are key targets. They tend to be without personnel, and the equipment is sensitive enough that considerable damage can be wreaked quickly–as this attack shows. Knocking out power for such an area is wildly disruptive, and potentially life-threatening for people in hospitals and requiring electricity to operate medical devices at home. There were reports (as yet unsubstantiated) of looting, a state of emergency was declared, and a curfew enacted for the entire county.
While no one has come forward, one person, who was allegedly at the January 6th insurrection, stated on social media that they knew why the power was out in Moore County. This, along with the presence of the drag event in Southern Pines, points fairly hard at far right saboteurs. Police spoke with the poster, and stated they had "a word of prayer" with them, but had no further leads.
The Water is Getting Warmer
It's not an illusion. On virtually every front, the situation appears to be escalating. And by situation I mean the incipient battle between the the far right and everyone else in this country. Their numbers are increasing, they are engaging in new tactics, and their leadership is openly embracing people who call for some very dangerous and authoritarian changes to this country.
From the start, solutions to the problems I present here have been the same. If that seems dull, I am sorry, but it can't be helped. The problems are the same, too, they just get worse. I would urge you, once again, to reach out in your community, to find others who are organizing or wish to organize mutual aid and defense objectives. Train yourself and others in self-defense, in first responder medical care, and in the use of weapons. Our opponents are not going away, and their rhetoric is not cooling off. It's only going to get hotter.