Interview with Popular Mobilization on Antifascism & Creative Resistance in The Pacific Northwest
by Samantha Kutner (bio)
Ethnographic Researcher at LightUponLight
On June 29th, 2019, Andy Ngo, a popular right-wing journalist, shared coverage of his assault at an otherwise peaceful protest, allegedly at the hands of Antifa members. Soon thereafter, mainstream media figures tweeted their support of him and their condemnation of Antifa, pointing to the incident as evidence that Antifa is a violent extremist organization. The extent of his injuries was subject to debate. — Commentary from Operation Wolverines
How I learned about Popular Mobilization.
Nuanced analysis of both the situation in Portland and Proud Boys activity gets lost on the national stage and gets subsumed by misinformation and polarizing rhetoric.
A project to come from my ethnography research was my incident tracking map of all Proud Boys incidents that have occurred since the group’s inception in 2016.
For this reason, I manually vet all Proud Boys incidents before including them in my database. Doing this involves processing information emailed to me and reaching out to those who were present at the incidents.
The June 29th event “Milkshake: Shake Back the Streets,” occurred in Portland, a city known to hotbed of fascist organizing, collusion, and violence for several years. Portland is part of the white ethnostate envisioned in the Butler plan, which includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and the western part of Montana, and makes Interstate 15 the defacto border.
Patterns in Data
In June, I noticed an increase of attempted disruptions of LGBTQ incidents i.e. “Drag Queen Story Time” that were initiated by Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer.
Prior to this increase, my research peer CV Vitolo Haddad, in an act of masterful trolling, they gained the rights to the Proud Boys logo and turned it into a symbol for gay pride.
On the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I thought it best to do something to express both my solidarity with the LGBTQ community & an attempt at creative resistance during gay pride month.
This was when I first encountered Popular Mobilization, an “Everyday Antifascist” organization that seeks to oppose fascism through non-violent and creative means.
Since “Milkshake,” I’ve been speaking with Effie, the spokesperson for Popular Mobilization. The national focus has since shifted to the mass casualty events in Dayton, El Paso and Gilroy. Before the August 17thevent, let’s look at the lessons learned from Milkshake. Here is our interview from July 15th, 2019, shared with Effie’s permission. SK: What would you like others to know about American Antifascism? Effie:
Several of us hold white collar jobs. Many of us are parents. There is diversity in what it means to be an antifascist.
Antifascist should not be a dirty word! It should be bad to be a fascist!
Also, black bloc is not a group. There is no unified organization of Antifascists. It is a tactic.
SK: What was your intention with Milkshake?
Effie: Popular Mobilization’s main mission is to inspire people to show up and resist fascism.
At a prior Popular mobilization event, someone had a truck with a speaker blasting music. there was such a positive response and energy the music brought and I sought to recreate that positivity again.
This event corresponding with Pride Month seemed like the perfect opportunity of joyful resistance and expanding what it means to resist fascism.
SK: How many Antifascists were at Milkshake?
Effie: Approximately 300.
SK: In contrast, how many Proud Boys were present?
Effie: A couple dozen at most.
Proud Boys marched on East side of river. They hung out on bridge and were on the waterfront from a brief period of time, along with Portland Liberation, Haley’s new spin off group. The police kept us separated
SK: Were there any distinguishing Proud Boys markers?
Effie: There were not many in Fred Perrys. Body armor and camouflage clothing, along with Trump MAGA hats.
Context: Proud Boys tend to wear Fred Perry Polos or shirts with antagonist slogans e.g. “Feminist Tears,” and “Pinochet Did Nothing Wrong,” a reference to the Chilean dictator who murdered between 1,000–3,200 people identified as communists or socialists. Other identifiers are Proud Boys tattoos, which signify third degree membership. The 4th degree is an endorsement of violence, which is framed as anticipatory self-defense i.e. “not starting fights but finishing them.”
Effie: On our side, we encouraged people to attend as if they were going to a Queer dance party.
Some wore big sparkly bodysuits, some wigs, and glittery masks, brightly colored bandanas (as a protective measure).
Effie: The email sent to the Portland Police Bureau came after the tweet. PPB claimed they tweeted based on an email, inadvertently laundering misinformation that benefitted the far right.
On Andy Ngo
Effie: Andy Ngo is well known. He has been a problem in the city for a number of years.
He was originally a part of the student paper at Portland State University.
He was removed from the paper after retweeting something out of context to make it look like a Muslim speaker was advocating for violence against Muslims.
This turned him into a free speech martyr.
His standard tactic is to antagonize people to evoke any kind of response, even if it is people saying it to him. He will edit it to make it seem like he is the victim and further the leftist narratives.
Context: Selective editing is a common tactic used by James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas and employer to conspiracy theorist and alt right provocateur Laura Loomer. A frequent supporter of O’Keefe is Jack Posobiec and Peter Thiel Associate Jeff Giesa, who will come in later. Also important to note is former Men’s Right’s activist, rape apologist turned far right personality & #pizzagate promotor, Mike Cernovich. Most recently, selective editing was referenced in the court’s decision in the October 12th, 2018 NYC assault involving Proud Boys.
Effie: Ngo tweeted before the Milkshake event that he was afraid. This suggests that before the video surfaced, he was already trying to build narrative.
SK: Have you seen Ngo antagonizing people directly?
Effie: Ngo showed up at Democratic Socialists of America event and was trying to film names and email names on the list in the hopes of doxxing people.
He is responsible for perpetuating the Quillette Magazine narrative that journalists covering the far right were Antifa sympathizers. This narrative put many journalists covering the far right on an Atomwaffen kill list.
So he’s not just antagonizing, but also putting people in danger.
Ngo was actually the first person publicly share that Proud Boys would be at the May Day Event. He announced Proud Boys were having a march and he was present at Cider Riot, where he claimed he was attacked
At Cider Riot, woman’s vertebrae was fractured. She was hit over the head with a collapsible metal baton. A baton is a common weapon because it’s small and easy to conceal. A grand jury has since indicted two men responsible.
Effie: We are counter protesting. Counter being the operative word. We’re not planning rallies independent of what the far right are doing. We’re only responding to what they’re doing.
SK: So Shake Day was a response?
Effie: After May Day, Haley Adams had an event scheduled. It was called “Counter Revolution Against Domestic Terrorists,” where Antifa were designated the domestic terrorists. Very much an attempt to bait a response. She rescheduled three times. The final rescheduling was on June 29th.
At first we weren’t planning an event. We observed the online chatter. After Andy Ngo tweeted about Proud Boys being there, we decided to get involved.
SK: What do you think could have occurred, had you not held a counter protest?
Effie: We don’t want to allow Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys a platform in our city. We also believe if no one shows up to counter them, they will find others to target. We found this was the case when no one showed up to May Day. Patriot Prayer spent months planning the May Day event, who’s stated intention was to “Take Portland back from communists.”
Antifascists did not have an event planned for downtown, we had a family friendly labor rally in a park.
When no one showed up to May Day, they planned their new March route…to our rally. Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer came and stood a few blocks away on an overpass.
We went to Cider Riot for the after party where they also showed up.
Cider Riot is an excellent example of what they do when no one shows up to counter them.
SK: So, based on what you are saying, it seems that if antifascists are present, Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer get the response they want and if you are absent, they will increase their response effort to get your attention? Is that accurate?
Effie: It’s not just attention seeking. They escalate.
Our reason to show up to increase the cost to participate in things.
Effie: Even though the turnout of Milkshake was small, Andy Ngo’s assault gave the far right a propaganda victory, which made media outlets disseminate “both sides” narratives. I was horrified that so many respectable news organizations reported the news as fact without critical analysis or investigation.
The [Portland Police Bureau] tweet itself said they “received reports that there may be cement.”
This was an incredible leap of logic.
Many reporters took PPB tweet as fact.
SK: I believe many are still largely unaware of far-right collusion within the Portland Police Bureau. I believe many read their tweet, trusted the PPB as a credible source of information and did not consider it imperative to fact check.
Police in the PNW
Effie: Another misconception many have is, “You’re getting death threats, why not call the police?” This is a well-intentioned question, but it lacks the understanding collusion between the Portland Police Bureau and Patriot Prayer organizers and likelihood of biased treatment of counter protestors.
One example, after the June 4th 2017, following the murders of Jeremy Christian, police kettled 300 protestors in a city block, by the parking garage of Pioneer Center Mall. They took their pictures and their ids. Some had no antifascist connections; some were tourists exiting the mall.
I could not believe they let us march for so long and did not utilize their crowd control weapons. This implies that PPB’s directives seem to have shifted. They did not use the flash bang or much of the munitions that they shoot.
Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer seemed to have lost some of their organizing capacity. Last August, they brought many out of town and out of state people.
Context: There has been a rift between Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer [due to fights within their ranks]. At one point, there was considerable enough overlap to include them in the Proud Boys Incident Map.
SK: Should future Patriot Prayer incidents remain off the incident tracking map, as well as Portland Liberation [the news offshoot of Patriot Prayer led by Haley Adams]?
Effie: In January, Haley started stepping out on her own was in November. Started a “Him Too” Facebook page and events. She was hosting in conjunction with Quincey. Hell Shaking Street Creatures, (co-sponsor), Joey Gibson was a co-sponsor, patriot prayer was not. Joey said it was Haley’s event, but others should still go.
January, Haley Adams decided to target DSA meetings. Started showing up to get into them. Far right individuals who identify as gay tried to get into the Queer caucus were not allowed in. Haley intended to occupy that area, which was too busy a street for it to be successful. After hearing the news that they were coming, several organizations devised a safety plan.
Part of the intention was to have the event be as boring as possible. We had old timers staged in the front there to regale others with stories. They succeeded, and some started leaving.
As they were leaving, they encountered other antifascists, and got involved in a skirmish which ended up in two of their members getting beat up. One of the individuals beat up was a black man. The far right attempted to use the black lives matter argument in reference to a multiracial far right individual getting attacked.
Context: When writing about multiracial members, it is important not to discount the agency involved in a multiracial member’s choice to remain in a far right organization. The strategic use of multiracial members as ideological shields is a known tactic mainstreamed by Jack Posobiec and Matt Giesa. It includes Andy Ngo, an openly gay man who serves as key propogandist of the far right.
Effie: At times I feel badly for people being used like that but being a member of one marginalized group does not preclude you from hating other marginalized groups. A black man, for example, can be notoriously Islamophobic. A lot of cis gay men are incredibly transphobic.
On July 14th, in a now deleted Tweet, @leftkist shared the latest propaganda material.
Note the Framing, the evolution of cement rumors to chemical attacks and the contradictory messaging.
On June 15th, 2019, Popular Mobilization sent a formal demand to the City of Portland to retract their defamatory claim about the cement milkshakes.
Popular Mobilization has announced a new strategy to resist fascism, one adopted from German resistance efforts.
On the evening of October 15 than antifascist in the cyber security realm detailed other antifascist efforts taken to prevent fascist organizing, as well warn Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer members of the legal consequences of their actions in Oregon some of which include riot charges and conspiracy.
Thanks to collective, nonviolent efforts, it looks as though fascist organizing has been significantly reduced this weekend. Stay safe this Saturday, and consider supporting both creative and data driven resistance to fascism.
Originally published at https://www.lightuponlight.online.