Don’t Expose Protesters to Alt-Right Retaliation

Tell the media they’re putting people in harm’s way

Did you read about how the media put protesters against white supremacists and neo-Nazis in danger of reprisals by the far right? No? Berkeley, we have a problem.

On August 5, 2018, Berkeley witnessed another “Say No to Marxism” rally. This rally built on the momentum of a similar gathering in Portland the day before, for which organizers recruited big names in the far-right. Although Amber Cummings, the Berkeley event’s main organizer, vehemently denied any association with America’s white supremacist movement, she has fought alongside them in the street – and as in Portland, some major white supremacy groups were invited to the rally, including Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, and American Guard. Cummings invited alt-right speakers including Bay Area Proud Boy Jeffrey Perrine, who became infamous at an earlier far-right rally where he called for immigrants’ heads to be “smashed against the concrete” and to “separate their kids.” After the event gained negative publicity, the Proud Boys’ leader, Gavin McInnes, pulled his official endorsement, and the American Guard were disinvited; but Perrine and other well-known white supremacists were still photographed at the rally.

On the morning of August 5th, a wide coalition of community groups came together to counter-protest. From the beginning, police arrested counter-protesters for infractions such as wearing masks and carrying sign posts to a political protest. And before we go any further: We understand that some people feel uneasy in the presence of protesters wearing masks, but we ask you to consider these facts:

  • Some of those most vulnerable to alt-right attacks, including people of color and LGBTQIA folk, feel a strong need to conceal their identities from white supremacists. Like other people about whom we read far too often, they can find themselves in trouble for no reason other than simply existing while being black or brown or gay; they may have no intent to do anything to harm anyone, but may rely on masks to protect themselves from being identified and bullied or worse once the protest is over.
  • That’s no idle fear: publicly posting the identities of counter-protestors for harassment and death threats is a common white supremacist tactic.
  • Thus, by arresting those wearing masks, police may be endangering precisely the people who need the most protection from white supremacists.

In light of this, what followed played right into the hands of the alt-right. The Berkeley Police Department tweeted the mugshots, full names, ages, and locations of those they arrested, and news outlets, including NBC Bay Area, CBS and Berkeleyside, reported their full names, ages and towns of residence – leaving vulnerable community members open to future harassment, death threats, and attacks by violent white supremacists.

Regardless of whether or not the protesters committed a crime – and no one had been charged at the time of reporting! – this kind of release of information does not further justice. Rather, it puts those arrested at a serious risk of violence and harassment from the far-right, incites fear, and has a chilling effect on the number of people willing to attend future protests. This matters. We as a community need to be able to show up when our friends, loved ones, and neighbors feel threatened. We need to know that we can show strength and solidarity and stand up to bigotry without fear of being targeted. And we need to know that local publications will not publish our personal information and make it easy for the people who wish us harm to find us.  Tell Berkeleyside, CBS and NBC (for CBS and NBC, please write a comment after the article) that we will not accept this dangerously negligent reporting or public shaming and that they do not represent us in their actions.

What you can say:

My name is ______ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am outraged by your decision to publish the names, ages, and hometowns of those arrested at the August 5 rally and march in Berkeley. Alt-right organizations like those participating in this rally have a stated policy of exposing, harassing and threatening those who oppose them; your actions endanger members of our community and further embolden the far right in their tactics of violence and intimidation. I am asking you to remove this information from your article and commit to not repeating this sort of action that directly puts lives in danger.

Tell Your Members of Congress: Oppose H.R. 6054

Meanwhile, on the national front, there’s H.R.6054-Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018. This bill provides:

Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, while in disguise, including while wearing a mask, injures, oppresses, threatens, or intimidates any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.

Let’s unpack that. It means, you could get put in jail, if you:

  • are exercising your free speech/assembly rights
  • while wearing a mask (what’s a mask? more on that in a minute)
  • and you injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate anyone – whatever that means.

Now you’d think that:

  • you’re not supposed to injure, oppress etc. anyone anyway
  • and that should apply to everyone no matter their political beliefs (the law specifically doesn’t apply to the police, which is a whole other story).

– but, as Vice says, “After all, it’s pretty clear whom something called the ‘Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018’ is meant to target.”

Now, we know that there are folks on all parts of the political spectrum who don’t like Antifa, and many who don’t condone violence under any circumstances. That’s an important discussion, but it isn’t necessary to get into here, and this is why:

  • You might think this law doesn’t appeal to you, but you might be very wrong. I’ve never gone to a protest in a mask but I’ve pulled a scarf across my mouth and nose when stink bombs went off. That counts as a “mask.” And who knows but someone might hear me say something against the Current Occupant of the White House and claim that I intimidated them?
  • And it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine someone calling the police on a group of young people of color who are wearing masks and making a lot of noise – say, on October 31 …
  • Bottom line: Do you really want this government – which calls the media the enemy of the people and prosecutes non-violent people for being journalists or carrying medical supplies at protests – passing laws that by their very name are aimed at jailing protestors on the left?

Please tell your Member of Congress:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____ and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please speak out against HR 6054, Unmasking Antifa Act of 2018. This government should not be passing unnecessary and poorly conceived laws that by their very name are aimed at protestors against white supremacists, at a time when the government is failing to take adequate action against white supremacists and supremacist organizations themselves. Please keep HR 6054 from becoming law.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Indivisible East Bay Meets With Sen Harris’s Staff

Meeting with Daniel Chen

Walking into the IEB meeting with Daniel Chen, Senator Kamala Harris’s District Director on August 2, 2017, we had varying opinions on most issues we wanted to discuss – but we were INDIVISIBLY united on one question: when would Senator Harris hold a Bay Area Town Hall?

Unfortunately we left the meeting without an answer. Daniel clearly heard our message – it is not acceptable that Senator Harris hasn’t held ANY town halls in Northern California – but the most he would say was that an August Town Hall was a “number one priority” for Harris.

Daniel didn’t give many firm answers to the rest of our questions, but he took notes and said he’d convey our suggestions and concerns to the Senator.

Meeting with Daniel Chen

A rundown of the main issues we covered:

  • Health Care: We asked Senator Harris to join Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in committing to make no cuts to Medicaid before agreeing to any bipartisan health care bill. Daniel acknowledged and thanked Indivisible’s extensive grassroots work fighting for our health care.
  • Budget and Defense Spending: Daniel will ask Harris to issue a statement on why she agreed to co-sponsor Senate Bill 1414. The SHIPS Act mandates expansion of military spending on battle force ships, up from 276 to support a minimum of 355. The bill is primarily a reward to military contractors.
  • Department of Homeland Security Oversight: Daniel said that the Senator is currently mainly focused on retaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). She is aware that ICE and border control have been turning away asylum seekers without granting legally mandated hearings, and she’s seeking documentation of this in the field. Daniel will convey our suggestion that she consider visiting the border to greet asylum seekers.
  • Defense Appropriations and Constitutional Role of Congress: We expressed our concern that the executive branch’s impulsive, undisciplined, and unreliable approach to foreign policy is leading to escalated U.S. involvement in conflicts abroad without strategy or accountability. Daniel will talk to the Senator about supporting a bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, work that Rep. Barbara Lee has been doing for years and that recently gained significant support from both sides of the aisle before being removed from the House Defense Appropriations Bill at the direction of Paul Ryan.
  • LGBTQ Rights: Daniel will convey our request that Harris co-sponsor S. 1303. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act prohibits discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child.
  • Reproductive Rights: He will also convey our deep concern about the DCCC’s announcement that they’re willing to fund Democratic candidates who don’t support abortion rights, and about the failure to mention abortion rights in the Democrats’ “Better Deal” agenda. We stated that abortion rights should definitely be a litmus test for Dem candidates.
  • Obstruction of Justice: We were disappointed by Harris’s vote to confirm Christopher Wray as the new FBI Director. Daniel told us she was convinced by his responses at the hearing that Wray would remain independent, and gave us her statement regarding her vote.

It’s nearly a week since we met with Daniel, and still no word on an August recess Town Hall with Senator Harris. Please contact Senator Harris and tell her you want her to meet with her Bay Area constituents!

Update: Senator Harris asked for constituent input on priorities, please use this form to give her feedback.