An Interview with Antifa in Louisville, Kentucky after Cville and Lville Solidarity March & Rally on August 13th, 2017- Part One
-Interview conducted by Paula Martinez-Benge of TATM-
Steven: My name is Steven. I work with the Louisville Anti-Racist Action also known as Louisville ARA. Our mission is to develop a culture of resistance to fascism and to expose and confront white nationalism wherever it appears and to deny its platform at every opportunity.
We work predominately on organized white supremacists groups. We just don’t have the resources to go after every racist in the country but the ones that are actively organizing and trying to gain political power.
They [white supremacists] were active before Trump but in smaller groups. The Traditionalist Worker’s Party is the one we have here.
Paula: The Traditionalist Worker’s Party? So that’s the name of the group here in Kentucky? Oh. Ok.
Steven: We have other white supremacist groups in Kentucky but…
Paula: But the Traditionalist Worker’s Party has the largest membership?
Steven: They have the largest membership and are the most active.
Paula: What do they do? I haven’t heard of them.
Steven: The Traditionalist Worker’s Party they started…originally it was called the Traditional Lutheran Group and back then it was a lot of Neo-Nazi skinheads and youth culture and that kind of thing and then their leader, Matthew Heimbach, started the Traditionalist Worker’s Party out of that. That was supposed to be their electoral politics but they never really did well in electoral politics so now what they do is that they organize…
Paula: They’re too racist for the white supremacists here in Kentucky?
Steven: Yeah, yeah, they can’t even get elected by the racists here. What they mostly do now is that they try to recruit members and then hold big rallies all over the country. They held one back last October in Sacramento, California. Basically, in that one, the Traditionalist Worker’s Party aligned with the Golden State Skins. The Golden State Skins is a racist skin head group out in California.
That one ended up in a street battle between anti-fascists opposing them and the Gold State Skins. It resulted in multiple stabbings. One of them [a skin head] was killed but uh…
Paula: It’s unfortunate but it’s still uh…
Steven: So that was the first major confrontation in a while but there have been some smaller skirmishes.
After that they announced an event in Pikeville, Kentucky. In that one they announced they were forming an alliance with the National Socialist Movement. The National Socialist Movement back in the ‘80s and ‘90s was probably the largest most organized white supremacist group in the country. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s that was kind of white supremacist groups in the U.S. to target, the National Socialist Movement.
National Socialist Movement (NSM), basically, we fought them for 6 or 7 years and then they disbanded for a while. They started to reorganize. Their leader’s name is Jeff Schoep.
So, in that one [the Pikeville Rally], the Traditionalist Worker’s Party was forming an alliance with the National Socialist Movement and League of the South. League of the South is a neo-confederate. Basically, they’re the new Klan or they want to be the new Klan.
So, they held a rally there [Pikeville] and originally there was a counter rally planned but because they [the counter rally] were being infiltrated by people working for NSM and TWP and because of police they cancelled their rally, the day before Pikeville.
We had organized with other chapters all over the region. We had people from Chicago, Nashville, Columbus, and Cleveland. We were working with liberals in the Appalachia region.
Paula: That’s where they get people. The vulnerable poor white people.
Steven: Yeah, they seem to be targeting that area. They weren’t able to recruit anyone there that we could tell.
They [the white supremacists] showed up with about one hundred people and we showed up with about a hundred and sixty [at Pikeville].
We faced off in the streets. There was a large police presence between us so it was a lot of screaming back and forth. Basically, we have to show up every time they show up.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been targeting a local Traditionalist Worker’s Party chapter. There’s about six of them living, here, in Louisville. We’ve confirmed them in a couple of different places. They used to use the Daily Stormer, the largest white Nationalist Internet forum.
They used to organize these things called Book Clubs which are supposed to be like social gatherings but it’s actually a recruitment tool.
They were posting public dates for those meetings on the Daily Stormer. We observed a couple of them and they… and then they scheduled a meeting to celebrate Hitler’s birthday party. It was 4/20 on April 20th.
Paula: What an unfortunate way to celebrate 4/20.
So they held a birthday party for Hitler and they did it at the Irish Rover on Frankfort Ave [a pub in Louisville]. We got organized when we saw that on the Daily Stormer and we put out a call out to our chapter. We had about twenty-five members at the that time. Since then, we’ve grown to thirty.
We put a call out to all of our friends. We put around eighty to one-hundred people inside of the restaurant. We got tables and we sat and waited for them to show up.
When they showed up, we walked in with a birthday cake with a picture of Hitler on it blowing his brains out and it said ‘Follow your leader.’ We dropped it on their table.
Paula: Through laughter, oh my God.
Steve: We then proceeded to chant ‘Nazis get out’ and stomp around the restaurant and, basically, scramble their table. Several of them stood up and pulled knives. The owner of the restaurant…
Paula: Why do you think is it that this reaction comes from the right? Where they meet nonviolence with this level of intensity… where they have to resort to violence?
Steve: That’s the only thing they can resort to when their ideology doesn’t stand up to debate. When confronted because they know that no one actually likes them unless they’re other white Nationalists…
Steve: So when they’re confronted that’s usually what they’ll resort to…
Paula: Cause today when we had those…I’m not surprised but when you see it in person…it is shocking… regardless if you’ve seen it before because you’re annoyed…because you’re like…really? This is the way you have to meet us because we’re peacefully protesting and instead of talking with us. The first thing you do is grab wooden pads out of your cars?
[In reference to the wooden batons brandished by the Louisville Metro Police Department during the peaceful Solidarity March & Rally with Charlottesville in Louisville, Kentucky, a day after Heather Heyer was killed in a terrorist attack].
Steve: So that’s the thing when we go into these confrontations we don’t go in to be violent but we don’t go in and we’re not gonna respond to things. If they attack us…
Paula: Of course, you have to…
Steve: And it’s kind of reached a crescendo at this point. The work we’re doing is effective.
The ARA came out of…back in the ‘80s. It was kind of influenced by the Anti-Fascists in Europe. There’s huge Anti-Fascists organizing in Germany that has been centuries of history but, you know? Transferring that back to the United States in the ‘80s, most people really didn’t know back then of the movements in Europe. It was a different context because, back in the ‘80s, they were fighting the Klan, too.
The ARA, Anti-Racist Action, today, adopted the Anti-Fascist model.
The thing about it is that the state won’t protect us. The state won’t protect you from a Nazi. They’re not going to stop them from organizing or prevent them from planning attacks. The work that we do is, basically…the main objective of the work that we do is confronting them and exposing them. It makes us. We are now choosing to be the targets instead of people of color and queer people, those people that they would be attacking or targeting if it wasn’t for Anti-Fascists.
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