I am writing this after the 116th United States congress has reconvened to count the electoral-college votes for the 2020 election…Not after having been driven out of the Capitol Building by armed right-wing extremists in what was essentially an attempted coup to reinstate the outgoing President Trump for a second term. The members of congress eventually returned to the Capitol building under armed escort after the Capitol was eventually cleared of Trump fanatics and various other breeds of right-winger.
To surmise the day’s events thus far, numerous Trump supporters descended on Washington, D.C. incited by President Trump and several other Republican leaders’ (i.e. Sen. Lindsay Graham, Rep. Kevin McCarthy) false claims of a fraudulent election that they have propagated not only in the weeks leading up to congress’ certification of Biden, but even prior to the November election itself (Rupar). With this backdrop of propaganda and misinformation, it is no surprise that this coup attempt occurred. What was worth noting is not only the embolden spirit of the horde of armed and blatantly violent right-wingers, but how the Capitol police responded. Unlike the BLM and anti-fascist protests that took place during the summer of 2020, the far-right MAGA assault on the Capitol building was met with half-hearted resistance and in some cases apparent collaboration with the police. In much of the footage documenting the events of today, one can see a lack of riot gear, rubber bullets, choke slams, and garden-variety police brutality until after the demonstrators stormed the capitol, whereas BLM and anti-fascist protests were immediately met with National Guard presence despite being unarmed and largely peaceful.
Although the capitol police used pepper spray and eventually mobilized the National Guard to drive back the mob, it’s evident that there is a double-standard in place regarding political demonstrations. Moreover, this sharp difference in how police mete out force against different protestors, reveals the priorities of police. The right (even the far-right) is met with minimal resistance or even possible collaboration (Gerstein), whereas the left, with no provocation, is met with any and all “non-lethal” forms of violence. In addition to disparity in treatment regarding political orientation, there is disparity in treatment with regards to race, in which the tepid use of force against the overwhelmingly white MAGA demonstrators, pales in comparison to the generous helping of violence inflicted upon BLM protesters.
Why is this? The answer is simple: the Right and White nationalism do not pose a threat to the status quo but the Left does. This is of grave concern for not just leftists, but for people of color and members of marginalized communities.
If one has paid close attention to right-wing activity throughout the country, one would know that this was not the first time right-wing extremists have shut down or stormed a government building. In Oregon, both in June 22nd 2019 and December 21st 2020, the state capitol building was shut down and stormed (respectively) by armed right-wing militias. Right-wing militia groups and organizations like the Proud Boys also have increasingly started attending right-wing events as “security-forces”, in which they often clash with BLM activists, anti-fascists, and counter-protesters (Crosse) (Associated Press).
In addition to recent events, there has been a longstanding historical imperative for commoners and marginalized communities to own and protect themselves with firearms. Contrary to liberal ideology, gun control can be both racist and classist. A prime example being the Mulford Act of 1967, in which Republican Assemblyman Don Mulford proposed a bill that banned the public carry of loaded weapons, and later signed by then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. The bill was created in response to Black Panthers engaging in lawful armed patrols of their communities, in which the Panthers would protect members of their community from violent police (Newton).
In addition to the Mulford Act, multiple bills and laws have been designed to deprive both poor people and communities of color from owning guns, often in the forms of high taxes or “Saturday Night Special” laws that banned the sale of cheaper firearms. This deprivation of a means of defense leaves communities vulnerable to repression and violence from both police and right-wing extremists (Elkwall).
Not only do firearms serve as a means of immediate protection, but firearms have been fundamental to any social revolutionary movement as well as preserving the political power of working-class commoners. Famed author and staunch socialist, George Orwell, once stated, “That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” Those words couldn’t be truer in recent years with working-class and marginalized communities being threatened by the emboldening of right-wing militias, the Federal government’s targeting of anti-fascists as “domestic terrorists”, the deployment of secret police to protests in Portland, and the culminating coup on the U.S. Capitol building. It follows that both individually and collectively we need to arm ourselves; every person of color, every woman, every queer, and every worker. In the end, this is how we will safeguard our communities and the political power of the working-class.
An elephant in the room that must be acknowledged is that many amongst the modern left and marginalized groups are neophyte at best when it comes to firearms, and completely averse at worst. This is largely attributed to both the non-inclusive nature of gun-culture (which is often dominated by white conservative men) and the stigmatization of guns by liberal centrists. Taking all this into account, it would be reasonable to suggest to such novices that merely becoming familiar and comfortable with firearms is a suitable place to start. Having done so, the next step is to join or even form a group that one can both socialize and practice marksmanship with others. A perfect example is the Socialist Rifle Association (SRA), a leftist answer to the NRA (We Keep Us Safe). The SRA engages in typical gun club activities, but also in mutual aid and community defense, having guarded counter-protesters at the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville (another grim reminder of the serious threat posed by the far-right).
Another point I wish to make abundantly clear is that, I am not writing this to fearmonger nor excite anyone to violence. My goal is to bring the attention of working-class leftists and minorities to the hard truth that faces us: racism and fascism are alive and well, and we need to take every precaution there is to defend and protect ourselves as well as our political ambitions.
There are eerie parallels between 1930s Spain and present-day America, and although there are many take-away lessons from that period, one in particular comes to mind. When Franco and the Nationalists did their coup (effectively starting the Spanish Civil War) the Republican Government was reluctant to arm the citizens for fear of appearing not in control. In the end, the citizens had to seize arms for themselves to defend against the Nationalist coup, after being refused by the government (Revolution, Counter-Revolution, and Terror). It was through organization and self-armament that the common citizenry was able to fight fascism, and it is through those same means that we in the present day will also fight our own battle with fascism.
Crosse, Jacob. “Armed Fascists Storm Oregon State Capitol Building.” World Socialist Web Site, 23 Dec. 2020, www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/12/23/sale-d23.html.
Elkwall, Steve. “The Racist Origins of US Gun Control.”
Gerstein, Julie. “Officers Calmly Posed for Selfies and Appeared to Open Gates for Protesters during the Madness of the Capitol Building Insurrection.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 7 Jan. 2021, www.businessinsider.com/capitol-building-officers-posed-for-selfies-helped-protesters-2021-1.
Newton, Creede. “Gun Control’s Racist Past and Present.” Gun Violence News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 6 Oct. 2017, www.aljazeera.com/features/2017/10/6/gun-controls-racist-past-and-present.
Press, Associated. “Militia Threat Shuts down Oregon Capitol amid Walkout by Republican Lawmakers.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 23 June 2019, www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/militia-threat-shuts-down-oregon-capitol-amid-walkout-republican-lawmakers-n1020696.
“Revolution, Counter-Revolution, and Terror.” The Spanish Civil War, season 1, episode 2, Granada TV, 1983.
Rupar, Aaron. “Key Republicans Quickly Fall in Line behind Trump’s Attempt to Undermine the Election.” Vox, Vox, 6 Nov. 2020, www.vox.com/2020/11/6/21552446/trump-loss-biden-kevin-mccarthy-lindsey-graham-ted-cruz-newt-gingrich.
“We Keep Us Safe.” Socialist Rifle Association – About, socialistra.org/about/.