Racist members of the National Socialist Movement, based in Detroit, and the KKK, which has four known offices in Georgia alone, demonstrated in front of the Georgia Capitol this afternoon against immigrant rights, in addition to their standard message of hate and division.
Maybe our parents and grandparents expected this sort of thing, but 50 years after the civil rights movement, we're still dealing with people set on spreading hatred and division in our society. And make no mistake, their once dormant, nearly dead, movement is rapidly growing everywhere. And that is a threat to anyone who wants peace, freedom, and justice for all Americans, and all people.
While the Nazi/KKK rally could muster only about 25-30 people willing to show their faces in public, a broad and diverse coalition many times that number formed up in the last week and met them with several hours of fierce chanting, drumbeating, yelling, and singing.
The group was met with anti-racist protesters as soon as they began making their way up Martin Luther King Jr Drive (the irony is not lost), toward the capitol, behind a swarm of Capitol Police, Georgia State Patrol Officers, and Atlanta Police. They would hide behind a wall of police protection, many of their protectors black and brown, until the very end.
Even more disturbing than the sight of fully-dressed Nazi's and Klansmen (and women) in the cradle of the civil rights movement, was the treatment at the hands of local police of the counter-protesters. While anti-racist protesters were allowed to hurl insults and taunts at the racist group, many including harsh language and profanity, one LGBTQ woman was targeted for a sign that read "F*** Off Nazi Scum." The woman was asked one time to put her sign away, although it was hard to hear anything in the crowd, and without another word, not even a chance to clarify what the officer was saying, a Capitol Police officer forcibly pushed his way into the crowd to grab the sign. The woman stepped back in reaction, at which point the officer reached into the woman's tank top, grabbed the area between her breasts, violently pulled her into the street and slammed her into the back of a police car, slamming her into it. Immediately after, the woman -- despite not fighting back and weighing a mere 110 pounds, if that -- was pounced on by officers from multiple departments and hauled away. All the while, police yelled threats at the crowd such as "make my day" to anyone who would dare question their treatment of a friend and ally.
It's been a while, if I can remember at all, since I witnessed such blatant violence in person, let alone 2 feet in front of me. Sadly, violence like this is rarely seen at the hands of racists or street thugs, or those from whom you might expect it, but at the hands of the police. The state. Paid for by my tax dollars and yours.
Sadly, as I watched the scene unfold, my worst fears about the police, the state, and the awesome power they weild over us, and their harsh, cold willingness to use it, were confirmed beyond any doubt. I wondered what the Nazi's and KKK must think as all this happened. The cops are there to protect THEIR free speech. But who are the cops facing? Who are the cops taunting and harassing? Who are the cops threatening to arrest for any slight infraction? It was NOT the racists. They had free reign to do as they please, in our home, our city, our streets.
The police made their intentions well known in infamous scenes from the civil rights movement. Most of them happened before I was even born, yet they stick out clearly in my mind. Perhaps the scene today will stir up some sort of reaction from the general public. Probably not though. We're too busy with our own lives to worry about what's happening to someone else.
Which is a perfect recipe for disaster -- and exactly what the Nazi's, the KKK, and countless other hate groups thrive on. They want us to be complacent. They want us to think racism is a thing of the past. They don't want to see us talking to our neighbors, befriending one another, and learning to get along as brothers and sisters sharing once country, one planet. They thrive on division. And, at least in this case, Atlanta-area police are their willing accomplices, regardless of their color.
This was confirmed, once again, as a line of police from many different ethnic backgrounds provided an armed escort line (complete with yellow police tape) to allow the racists to escape to their cars and travel safely back to their hotel for the evening.
What a strange sight it was to see the very people they would attack and very likely (re)enslave if given the chance, protect them from the very people who made it possible for them to stand there in those uniforms, as one, black, white, brown, man, woman, straight, gay, whatever, in the first place. What a strange sight indeed.
My mind still doesn't know what to make of all this. Was is a win for anti-racists? It sure doesn't feel like it. We met them on our home turf, stood strong, people from all cultures and backgrounds. We ran them off, making them look like the cowards they always turn out to be. But something still feels very, very wrong. There must be something better than this. Is this the best America can do in 2013?
How can the Nazi's and the KKK have their free speech protected at all cost (and believe me, the overtime cost to pay for all the police is coming out of YOUR pocket), yet an LGBTQ woman peacefully holding a sign can be savegely attacked by the police -- in 2013?
The civil rights movement is far from over. In fact, the hate movement is stronger than it's been in quite some time. Until we run the last Nazi, the last Klansmen, and the last enforcer of racist state violence from our streets, the civil rights movement may not look the same, but it will definitely be here, and it will remain strong, in our hearts, in our minds, and when necessary, in our streets.