A dozen activists in Refuse Fascism, some of whom are also in the Revolution Club, are facing up to seven years in jail for their involvement in the movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime through non-violent but sustained protests. One of those targeted is Michelle Xai, a member of the Revolution Club and a leading activist in Refuse Fascism in Los Angeles. Recently she was interviewed by Sarah Roark, a member of the editorial collective of RefuseFascism.org. For background and updates on all the cases, see “Stop the Persecution and Drop the Charges Against Refuse Fascism Activists!”
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
SR: Michelle, we’ve both come to this organization Refuse Fascism. As a Democrat, I have my own perspective on Refuse Fascism’s plan for action and why this regime needs this kind of deep and powerful and urgent response and as a Revolutionary Communist you have yours. But let me start by asking you this: when people say, “Well, we survived Bush, we can survive Trump. We survived segregation, we can survive Trump. We survived the Holocaust, we survived slavery….” All these things we survived but we can survive Trump. Could you speak a little bit as to why that kind of thinking isn’t going to work for us in this moment and why we do need this direct intervention from the people?
MX: First of all, who the hell is the “we” because a lot of people didn’t actually survive that. Who are they referring to? The how-many-millions of people that actually died during the Holocaust? Maybe every person as an individual didn’t have to experience that, but then we’re actually talking about fascism in America. This is different. We’re talking about Hitler with nukes, okay? This is not just like “Okay, I can go off to the side and continue my life and maybe it won’t hit me.” And even if that’s the mentality people are taking up, check your humanity because as we’re speaking there are children that are sitting in concentration camps – 14,000!
SR: 15,000 now. It’s up to 15,000.
MX: It keeps going up. At the same time there are families that are sitting out in Tijuana that are catching diseases, that are being left to die. The little girl that just died at the hands of the border patrol, just talking about all these things brings a knot to my throat. For anybody who would want to think that we’re going to survive this, the first question I would ask is, “Who’s the we?” Jakelin, the little girl that died at the hands of the border patrol, she wasn’t just somebody’s daughter. We should be seeing that as: she’s our child. These are our children, these are our brothers and sisters; their lives are on the line. The people in North Korea, the people in Syria, these are all our brothers and sisters, these are all our children whose lives are on the line.
Even for future generations, it’s not just about one person that’s an individual and how we’re going to survive it, it’s about all of humanity and if humanity is going to survive this. That’s why there’s an urgent need NOT to wait for 2020, because look at all the damage that he’s done in just two years that he’s been in power. It’s going to continue and it’s going to get worse. When we heard him say that supposed joke about “President for life,” he wasn’t joking. We could get to the point where that becomes real. That is right in the middle of everything we’re talking about: the importance of this message and for this movement to actually grow and to really take to the streets and stay in the streets until the whole Trump/Pence regime steps down.
SR: The other faulty assumption is America first, we’re the greatest country. Well, what makes us the greatest country? Is it that we’re the biggest, the richest, that we have nukes? Or is it supposed to be something about our values? What were those values again? What does the Statue of Liberty say again? If you’re going to be a patriot and make this claim that America is so great, I expect you to be there to make that case, and be great as a people, and be a kind and welcoming and just people, which is where we’re falling down. And when people are dying from it, to me that’s an emergency. You don’t have to be any particular place on the political spectrum to feel the urgency of that, I think.
MX: As a revolutionary communist I think that America was never great. It was founded on slavery and genocide and this fascist regime came out of this same system and people need to confront that. We don’t need to go back to the way things were, this system needs to be overthrown.
But there are a lot of people who love this country and hate what Donald Trump is doing. Again, people can come from different perspectives and we can, as we’re marching alongside each other, we can be getting into these questions, but the urgency is we have to stop this fascist regime, whether you want to bring Hillary into power after, or you want to overthrow this whole system.
SR: You’re one of our activists currently being targeted for political protest. What are the charges facing people involved in Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club in Los Angeles?
MX: In total there’s 11 members of Refuse Fascism here in Los Angeles that are facing criminal charges. They are stemming from two actions in September and November of 2017 where people got on the 101 Freeway during rush hour and held signs. The one in September was calling for November 4th, which was a call from Refuse Fascism to get our people into the streets, to call other people to get out into the streets and begin this movement of staying in the streets until the regime is removed from power. And in November people got on the freeway again with a 50-foot banner that said “Trump/Pence Must Go,” and blocked traffic. In both situations people were arrested; and then there was another UCLA event, where Steve Mnuchin, who is in the Trump/Pence regime, came to speak at UCLA. And we went in there and we challenged him publicly, myself and two other people. And we were literally picked up and dragged out of our seats and held for seven hours and put under illegitimate bans to stay away from the campus.
SR: That was a viral video if I remember right, that video got a lot of views and attention.
MX: Yeah, all three of them actually. The two freeway-action videos got like 5 million views. The Steve Mnuchin one also went viral. There was a reporter inside of the auditorium, and he filmed the challenge and put it out on social media and that went viral. After that Steve Mnuchin actually blocked the video from being released – he at first signed on to make the video public. And then he backed down on it after there was this public challenge that actually was calling out this illegitimate tax bill that puts people already in poverty in even more poverty, to fund wars against people of the world and to drop nuclear weapons on people of the world, which we straight up told him; that and we called for the removal of the Trump/Pence regime through millions of people in the streets.
Sometime in July 2018, we all started getting letters in the mail, saying that they were filing charges against us and we had to go to court. Including myself for the freeway action, which – I wasn’t even one of the people that got on the freeway, and they charged me with conspiracy. They put me and Perry Hoberman, who is another spokesperson for Refuse Fascism – they claimed that we conspired to do this.
After we went to court, they actually gave us these documents which revealed there was a confidential informant that was sent to our Refuse Fascism meetings, to secretly record and pretend to be a member or supporter of Refuse Fascism. And he illegally recorded people’s private conversations, and that was the basis on which they charged me and Perry with conspiracy: based on this informant and his illegal spying.
SR: So there was actually infiltration and surveillance going on against the Refuse Fascism LA chapter as it was planning nonviolent events and sometimes even just discussing the political problems of the day with people, and this was all being recorded and transcribed?
MX: Right. We got the transcript of the recording of this infiltrator, and there was nothing incriminating in there. If anything you just read through the text, and it’s literally just talking about “Okay, we’re going to go on to the campus and we’re going to talk to people.” It’s just making plans about getting out into the world with this message to drive out the regime and to mobilize people to get out into the streets. There’s nothing illegal about that, so they’re treating protest as if it was a crime, or as if discussing protest was a crime.
SR: Most people I talk to, they don’t realize that this kind of repression, this kind of quashing of free speech – when it’s anti-Trump free speech – is already happening in these very blatant authoritarian ways. They’re surprised that these arrests are going on; they’re surprised that DHS is being sent around to question family members of protesters; that you’re being saddled with these conspiracy charges and that Refuse Fascism is being infiltrated in a very COINTELPRO way. That spies are being sent in by what I understand used to be (and still is) the anti-terrorism unit of the LAPD, the former ATD. They changed the name of it to the Major Crimes unit I think, but is it still the branch but that supposedly handles terrorists? And yet here they are spying on nonviolent protesters. You and the other 10 members of Refuse Fascism, and some with another organization, the Revolution Club, have been caught up in this net for protesting.*
MX: This right to protest is under attack right now; not just because of our cases, but again, because you have a fascist in the White House who has said that these protests should be illegal. This is preparing the ground for a kind of full-on fascism.
SR: Let folks know how they can best support you and your co-defendants in the legal case. Also let them know how they can get with Refuse Fascism and support the ongoing, every day, day-to-day labor that this kind of struggle requires.
MX: We want to build a political defense for these 11 people because they’re precious. All these people have so much heart and so much love for humanity and they want an end to this nightmare of the Trump/Pence regime. They’re fighting — think about getting on the freeway during rush hour — that’s not a light decision. These are really precious and beautiful people; their voices need to get amplified and they need to get known and they need support. Hosting us or talking to your friends and family about this, printing out the petition, having them sign it, there’s many different ways that people can contribute to this. Come and join with Refuse Fascism. These are really urgent times and we need to build this movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime from power. Getting on that website, Refusefascism.org, getting that call to action out to everybody that you know, fundraising for this important movement. There’s many different ways. We need to build mass support around these cases right now. We need people outside the courthouse with signs. That is the kind of thing that we need – people out there who are really serious about the demand to drop all the charges and building this movement to drive out the Trump/Pence regime.
SR: There you have it folks. Refusefascism.org is the hub where you can learn more about Michelle’s case and the other 10 defendants. There are links to interviews and articles and also lots of information about the Trump/Pence regime. Everyone who loves humanity needs to come together against this.
* Editor’s update: In January 2019, rather than comply with a court order that the LAPD reveal information about the police informant who illegally infiltrated Refuse Fascism meetings, the city attorney dropped the conspiracy charges and dismissed the case against Michelle Xai. While this is an important victory, the other defendants who continue to face criminal charges, are also demanding that this information be turned over as it is essential to all of their cases.