by Those neighbors you called the police on last week
In 1824, prospectors drilled two salt water wells at Maryland Street and Fountain Avenue on the eastern banks of Pigeon Creek in Lamasco, Indiana. They auspiciously intended to open up a salt factory and expand their fortunes but would have no such luck. Despite their ambitious investments into the project, they quickly learned the water was too salty for the primitive desalination equipment of the times and the landscape proved too hostile for their endeavor and were forced to abandon it.
This saltiness and hostility toward the upper class--the "burghers" (literally German for "wealthy out of towners") as they came to be known locally until the mid-1900s–-has permeated the neighborhood throughout its history.
After weeks of indecision, I finally decided to make the five hour drive from Evansville to Pikeville, Kentucky, last weekend to attend a neo-Nazi rally. To be real, I didn't totally feel like going. I mean, who wants to spend their weekend listening to arguments in favor of sending gay people and people in mixed race relationships off to re-education camps? It sounded super annoying and it would have been easier to just avoid the whole thing.
But I've been getting more and more concerned lately about the growth of white nationalist movements, all these racist attacks on marginalized groups, and the way the white working class is hitting the streets in support of a billionaire and his fascist policies. Like anybody who's read a few history books, particularly about the growth of fascist movements in Europe in the 1930s, I don't like the way the winds are blowing.
Plus, this shit felt personal given the fact that one of the main groups organizing the event--the Traditionalist Worker Party--has its home base just a few miles up the road in Paoli, Indiana, and its shitbag leader, Matthew Heimbach, has told the media about how he thinks people in Southern Indiana are really open to his dreams of concentration camps and white ethno-states: "Southern Indiana's a natural home for our politics...You have struggling working-class issues; you have the frustration and alienation from Washington insider politics. We need to be where people are being left behind, and I think there are few places that can compete with Kentucky (and) Indiana."
A couple of weeks ago, I left Evansville, Indiana, to spend time in southern Arizona working with No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid group that aims to prevent death in the Sonoran desert, where 170 bodies and human remains were recovered in 2016 alone. For the past twenty years, heightened obstacles along the U.S.-Mexico border have funneled people migrating north to do so in remote and treacherous areas, such as around the town of Arivaca, Arizona, where I've been staying. I am offering water, food, and medical care to migrants to be in solidarity with them, to accompany them briefly in their journey and to take a political stand against the ongoing immigration crisis. To read more about the situation and my motivation for spending time in Arizona, you can read my previous post here.
Someone asked me recently what I've learned so far in my first two weeks. A couple of things came to mind.
First, walking from Mexico to the U.S. can take much longer than I thought; sometimes 14 miles as the crow flies can take a week or longer, especially when people lose their guide, become sick or injured, or have to hide from Border Patrol. Depending on where a group launches their journey, several days could be spent walking on the Mexican side before crossing as well. Folks who have stumbled upon our camp since I've been here have sometimes walked for 8 or 9 days.
Members of Evansville's Critical Thought Collective will give a presentation on Thursday, April 20th on the continuing threat of white nationalism and what we can do about it. The event, which is sponsored by the USI Philosophy Club, will begin at 6:30pm at the Rice Library at USI, room 011. The presentation will include information on the upcoming white nationalist gathering in Pikeville, Kentucky, a brief history of white nationalist activity regionally, information on recent attacks and harassment against marginalized groups in the region, and information on active white supremacist groups in the region and methods of confronting them.
For the next five weeks, I'll be distributing food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities to people who are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and walking north through the southern Arizona desert with the hope of a better life in the U.S.
Although the U.S.-Mexico border may seem distant, border dynamics and immigration policy affect those of us in Southern Indiana, too. In Vanderburgh County, 4,800 residents are immigrants. Of those, an estimated 1,522 (31.7%) have no formal residency status, and about half of those without papers have been in the U.S. for thirteen years or more.
For immigrants (as well as their friends, family and community members), the risk for attacks, exploitation, and deportation are increasing along with fear and psychological stress that accompany these realities. In one week in February 2017, for instance, over 100 people in Indiana and Kentucky were arrested in a series of immigration raids. For those deported, getting back to Indiana and Kentucky might come with significant physical risk (including risk of death) and financial burden. Immigrants in Southern Indiana who manage to avoid raids like these might attempt to become more hidden or "well-behaved" and, in turn, more vulnerable to abuse from bosses, landlords and police. Meanwhile, the criminalization of immigration benefits private prisons by filling their cages, which increases the prisons' income from the federal government who pays the prisons to house inmates. These same prisons help to write the immigration legislation that criminalize immigration and keep the prison business lucrative.
Extreme right-wing groups advocating white nationalism and a fascist government have recently announced their plans to hold a conference and rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, on April 28-29, 2017.
The press release for the event from the National Socialist Movement announces that an umbrella organization calling itself the National Front, which includes the Traditionalist Worker Party along with various KKK, neo-Nazi and other Alt-Right groups, will hold a conference at Jenny Wiley State Park near Pikeville, Kentucky, on April 28, followed by a rally at the Pike County Courthouse in Pikeville from 2-5 p.m. on April 29.
On Tuesday, February 23, Evansville Letters to Prisoners hosted a benefit at PG on Franklin Street to raise money for folks from the region who are facing charges related to anti-inauguration protests in Washington D.C. this past January. This was the fifth in a series of benefits in the past six months. This event showed how the volunteers who put these on have progressed in their theatrics, ability to engage in anarchist ideas in an accessible manner, and commitment to exploring the experiences of the beneficiaries in a tangible and interactive environment.
In response to the spectacle of Trump’s ascension, anarchists from around the country met in Washington D.C. and made a counter-spectacle. Several of the images that have become iconic from the inauguration day riots were used to theme carnival games for the benefit in Evansville. Attendees were greeted at the door, encouraged to donate some money and then presented with a table of free literature, including analyses and explanations of the black bloc, the tactic of property destruction, rioting and insurrection.
As the U.S. Government prepares to inaugurate its new Commander-in-chief, people across the country are making sure that their opposition does not go unheard. In Evansville, banners and fliers appeared around town this morning expressing opposition to government tyranny, scapegoating of minority groups, climate change and prisons. Below is a series of photos that were submitted to us this morning. If you would like to submit photos of your own, email us at evansville [at] riseup [dot] net.
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Protest tactics came to life on Saturday at PG, where attendees at Evansville Letters to Prisoners' event could learn how to "lock down" to equipment, create barricades, make face masks out of everyday items, shield themselves from state violence, and compile and use a street medic kit.
Participants could also make prayer ties and participate in a drum circle facilitated by members of a group of native and non-native people who meet regularly to drum. The repeated rounds of drumming throughout the event echoed the role that spirituality has played at Standing Rock. Drummers carried in mind a particular intention during each round of drumming, including positive intentions for water protectors and hope that those seen as enemies--cops, security personnel, politicians--change their minds and hearts.