Here in Texas, there was a mixture of excitement, tension and fear leading up to the July 15th rally and march to demand that Trump and Pence Must Go. About a week earlier, we learned that a group of fascists was coalescing to disrupt our event, and were in fact planning to become an armed presence at all protests to keep the protesters in line. In a Facebook post, they stated, “This is what is going to have to happen every time these people rear their heads in the Lone Star State. We show up in force, outnumber them & make it clear to their members & supporters that this is Texas & we won’t allow them to assault Texans, riot & trash our state like they do in California, Michigan & Illinois.” This group, calling themselves the Texas Freedom Force, showed up armed to the Impeachment March in Austin on July 2nd.
They stationed themselves at various points along the march, followed marchers as they shouted into their bullhorns, harassed people who stayed behind at the Capitol during the march, and they made it up to the stage to disrupt the speakers. Some of their vitriol from the Impeachment March is captured in a video blog made by a Refuse Fascism volunteer. I urge everyone to watch it, even if it is uncomfortable, because it shows how integral these fascist ground troops are to the overall program of remaking society and government. They want an end to critical thinking, an end to diversity, an end to reason and kindness, an end to a culture of caring about oppressed people. They want a world where might makes right, and showing up to intimidate people who don’t think like them, who don’t want to live in that kind of nightmare, is part of enforcing this worldview at all levels, in the streets and in the highest halls of power. These are Trump’s brown shirts uniting as an organized force to carry out, on the most basic level, the threats of this regime.
The fact is that on July 15th, they did show up in force. Some wore paramilitary uniforms and were armed with automatic weapons. Some were dressed in shorts and tee-shirts and their MAGA hats. Many carried American flags and one held a weird raggedy combination of the American and Confederate flag sewn together. It seemed like this was a loose coalition of people uniting under one call to “defend” their president. And the fact is, we were outnumbered. As about 27 of us, a diverse and determined group, marched past them to get to the rally sight, I’m sure all of us were aware that this situation could get volatile at any moment. We countered their chants of USA, USA, USA, with No Trump, No KKK, No Facist USA.
We stayed focused, looked straight ahead, and got to our rally sight as a coherent group, ever more determined to raise our demand that this regime must go.
Once our rally started, we set our own tone, our own culture of unity, respect, and joy at speaking out. Beyond making a wall with our signs and banners to block the view from across the street, we paid little attention to the Texas Freedom Farce. We listened to each other. We heard the call read aloud again, reminding us of where we started and why we were here. We heard the message from the Refuse Fascism National Office, moved by the fact that this same statement was going to be heard in cities across the country. We cheered at the performance of a fierce spoken word artist.
We mourned and honored Alva Braziel, whose widow told the story of how he was shot sixteen times when he was out one night looking for one of their horses that had run away, reminding us of the kind of open terror Jeff Sessions and his Department of Justice wants to unleash more of, where the police have permission from the top to subject any Black person to public execution. We heard a homeless advocate talk about the callous attitude of this regime against the poor and hungry. He rightly pointed out that Trump and Pence don’t care about any poor or working class people, including the white working class.
Joey Johnson read a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party and saluted all of us for coming out in spite of great odds. Years ago Joey had burned the U.S. flag at a Republican National Convention here in Texas, and now this notorious revolutionary communist boldly returned in the teeth of the Confederate and U.S. flag waving, camouflage wearing, open and concealed weapon toting fascists.
At their peak there were about sixty of the Trump supporters, but they never succeeded in drowning us and our seven bullhorns out. They never shut us down, and never dampened our spirit. At one point a whole group of them left, and although there was a steady stream of disgusting and stupid insults from their side, including the N-word, comments about how physically weak we looked and what we were wearing and how our signs were “fingerpainted,” there were also moments where they simply got tired of yelling, and all we heard were our own voices rising up in strength and unity. One of them yelled out, “You don’t know what respect is because you’re liberal arts majors.” This statement reveals so much about how threatened they are by critical thinking. To them, respect is blind obedience. It’s the absence of free thought.
When the rally ended, one of our volunteers gathered everyone together for a picture with our signs and banners and our fists in the air. It was a beautiful sight.
And still we carried on. We weren’t sure we would have the numbers to attempt our marchthrough downtown. We weren’t sure if they would follow us, or look for an opening to surround us. We started on our march, and most of the Texas Freedom Force went in a different direction. When we started chanting, about ten of them broke off from the main group and followed us through the streets, still hoping to shout us down. Again they didn’t succeed. We were louder, our call bouncing off the buildings of downtown Houston. We gave people our statement as we passed by and made it back to our starting point. In the end, we simply walked away from the small group of fascists still yelling at us.
There was tremendous diversity among our group, people from different races, different economic backgrounds, different ages and different cities. Two people who had never been to a protest before came just because they felt they couldn’t ignore this anymore. One of our group had been arrested and released just in the past few days for protesting police violence. A young videographer who had come at the request of one of our volunteers stayed the whole time even though he was supposed to leave at noon. He captured hours of footage. As our MC said later on, we were outnumbered but it didn’t feel like we were.
I felt strongly that the people who did not come out to this, because of their fear or uncertainty or apathy, missed out on something very special. They missed out on a chance to develop a new sense of agency, to take control of their destiny and stand up for everything that is beautiful in the world and everything that could lead us to a better future.
My own fear was visceral and overwhelming, but I decided there was nothing I would rather do than face down this fear, by standing shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers. It was an unforgettable and emotional day for me, and I can’t wait for the day when millions of us take to the streets to drive out this fascist regime for good.
Two statements from participants:
From a spoken word artist: “We’re Houston, Texas and we’re refusing fascism. We just had a march in Houston. We were outnumbered. The white rightwing fascists came out but we were louder than them. They didn’t disrupt what we had going on. We had the Black and Brown community out here demanding an end to the Trump/Pence regime, an end to police brutality against Black and Brown people, and all of the injustices that occur. We stood strong, we stood our ground, and we said no, we’re refusing this fascist regime.”
From an undocumented immigrant: “Despite being outnumbered 2 to 1, we still made sure our voices were heard. We fought for the rights and defended those who are being oppressed by the Trump/Pence regime. We made sure we made clear that we will not stop until the Trump/Pence administration are kicked out of power, because this is a matter that not only affects us, but others all around the nation and all around the world. We’re doing this for everyone who lives on this great planet and who deserves to have their freedoms upheld no matter what. You need to join us because if you don’t, the Trump and Pence administration will only get stronger. They will do whatever is needed to secure their power. In six months they’ve already taken the sort of steps to create that tyrannic future that we’re trying to avoid. So it is imperative that you come out into the streets and that you shout all you need to, so we can avoid that future at all costs.”