Two years ago today, a thousand fascists converged on Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, hoping to normalize white supremacist violence as an ordinary part of US politics. The night before the rally, police were nowhere to be seen as hundreds of fascists marched through the streets with torches, shouting anti-Semitic chants; the next day, massive numbers of police stood aside and did nothing as white supremacists physically attacked local activists of color, clergy members, anarchists, and others who had gathered to protest. The police only revoked the permit for the rally when courageous anti-fascists successfully defended themselves, creating so much chaos that it was impossible for the rally to proceed as planned.
On the anniversary of those events, we have prepared a poster clarifying the longstanding relationship between police and white supremacist organizations.
Fascists are not the opposite of police. They are not lawless; on the contrary, they hope to intensify the violence with which laws are enforced. They count on police to protect them from the wrath of the public as they recruit new members and encourage them to carry out attacks. They hope that these attacks will give the police the excuse to clamp down further on the general population. Their aim is to normalize bigotry and violence, so there will be less outcry when the police intensify the discriminatory and violent ways that they enforce the laws.
Police are not the opposite of fascists. They harass, kidnap, incarcerate, deport, and murder more people of color, women, and queer people every year than any fascist group; they do more to advance the white supremacist agenda than any independent far-right organization. It was police who enforced the segregation laws of the Jim Crow era, police who cracked down on civil rights demonstrations, police who killed Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. Throughout history, there have been countless longstanding relationships between police and white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. But such relationships are not essential for the police as an institution to continuing playing a structural role maintaining the disparities of our unequal society.
If we permit the police to present themselves as the only ones who can protect us from white supremacist attacks like the one in El Paso so they can acquire more resources, legitimacy, and authority, that will enable them to intensify the institutional role they already play in maintaining these disparities. Still worse, the next time the government shifts further to the right, the police will have all of those additional resources at their disposal with which to escalate their violence.
It’s up to us to keep each other safe.
A banner hanging at the parking garage on East Market Street in Charlottesville on the side facing the entrance of the Charlottesville Police Department station, two years after anti-fascists shut down the “Unite the Right” rally.