Submitted to Where the River Frowns by Frank Brand
I’ve lived in Evansville for the last decade. I like it here. I like that the city is small. I enjoy the street culture and social abandonment of folks day-drinking in empty lots, singing loudly to themselves without embarrassment, or having public sex, and I enjoy folks’ inventiveness, though it’s brought on by overwhelming need-- “the mother of invention."
I moved here indirectly from Newnan, Georgia. I have to work this weekend, but if didn't, I’d be back in Newnan, down by its old remodeled square, much the style of Franklin Street in Evansville (not the warehouse area where they house prison laborers but gentrified Lamasco where the suburbanites come into town for the weekend to get drunk amongst themselves). I’d be back south in physical opposition against the neo-Nazi rally.
On Friday, July 21, banners hung across Evansville expressing support for those arrested during the protests against Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, D.C. on January 20 of this year.
The banners appeared during a week of solidarity called by the Crimethinc Ex-Worker's Collective. According to the announcement for the event, the week of solidarity was called to coincide with a hearing in Federal Court in Washington D.C. on July 27, in which a judge will hear a motion to dismiss the multiple felony charges against the more than 200 defendants in the case. More information on the case is available at defendj20resistance.org.
The banners, which were dropped at various points along the Lloyd Expressway as well as along the Greenway Passage on the Evansville riverfront, made use of a new marketing campaign, "Evansville--e is for everyone," created by Evansville's business leaders in an attempt to re-brand Evansville as friendly to commerce and development. The new brand, which many worry is an attempt at fueling gentrification in the city, has appeared in shop windows and city buildings throughout Evansville in recent months.
The modification and use of this new brand in support of protesters facing government repression is an example of détournement, a tactic of political subversion in which the symbols and images of those in power are altered to be expressions of resistance. This tactic has a long and rich history, from the Situationist International to Adbusters.
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."
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.
What does it mean that one candidate was chosen over another--how many people enthusiastically vote for any U.S. President, what impact can the President actually have, and what are alternatives to buying into this political system?
Estimates indicate that 128.8 million people voted in Tuesday's Presidential election, which is 55.6% of the voting-eligible population. However, if people who are typically overlooked for reasons of age and felony status are included, the percentage drops to only 39.6% of the total U.S. population having voted.
Of those who voted, 59 million voted for the winner--a mere 18.2% of the total population.
According to a survey from the PEW Research Institute from late October, of those who support a particular candidate, only 55% or 56% "strongly support" their candidate of choice.
On Friday, September 1st, the Evansville Police Departmentreleased footage of the execution of Daniel Wooters by police in March.
The release of this footage comes in the midst of a nation-wide wave of protest focused on police murders of black and brown people, which began with the riots that followed the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. These protests and riots have overwhelmingly focused on the murder of black men by police, and rightly so. According to the Washington Post, which has been collecting data on fatal police shootings since 2015, black people in the U.S. are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people.
But that doesn’t mean that police murder is not a reality for white people in this country as well. The police kill poor, homeless, mentally ill and other vulnerable white people shockingly often—Daniel Wooters being only the most recent example. According to the website The Counted, The Guardian’s project devoted to keeping track of fatal police shootings, 368 white people have been killed by police in 2016 at the time of this writing. That’s more than one person per day.
Despite this glaring reality and the obvious points of connection between the experience of working-class white people and working-class people of color, white people continue to swell the ranks of the cop-loving, white-supremacist “Alternative Right.” Inspired by the Trump campaign’s attacks on racial minorities and reacting to the upsurge of black rebellion, many working-class white people are turning to Nazi-style fascism rather than finding a common cause with those fighting against power.
In Madisonville, Kentucky, just an hour south of Evansville, the openly racist and homophobic Traditionalist Worker Party has an active branch. In a recent article, their leader Matthew Heimbach reports going door to door in a trailer park in Madisonville, promoting their fascist ideas among its white working-class residents. The group also recently held a tabling event at Murray State University, in Murray, Kentucky. These efforts must be aggressively countered by white-folks in the Tri-state who do not share their visions of a totalitarian government and the persecution of ethnic and racial minorities. It’s only by hitting the streets, countering their demos and doing our own outreach that we’ll stop them from laying the groundwork for the nightmare world they dream of.