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.
After having participated in a non-violent direct action to confront Bakken’s boring under the Mississippi River for the Dakota Access Pipeline (read more here), I was arrested and assigned an arraignment date for mid-October. While in Keokuk, I stayed at what was the Mississippi Stand action camp for several days. This reflection touches on some of most poignant moments for me.
About 20 people who had been arrested with me had arraignments scheduled for October 19. We were shuffled in the judge’s room a handful at a time, along with others from Keokuk who were appearing in front of the judge for whatever random things cops had arrested them for.
A few weeks ago, I met up with about 150 people in Keokuk, Iowa, to stop Dakota Access Pipeline construction in the small town and under the Mississippi River. By the end of the day, we'd stopped construction for about an hour, and 44 of us had been arrested, cited for trespass, released, and given dates to appear in court for an arraignment.
I had been in Iowa to attend an annual Catholic Worker gathering, a weekend of camping, roundtables, skits, and socializing, mostly with Christian anarchist folks from the Midwest who are engaged in hospitality, simple living with people at the margins, and social activism, either on farming communes or communal houses in cities.
Eight of us decided to take advantage of our proximity to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and spent Saturday, September 17, with protesters at Mississippi Stand, where Catholic Workers and others had already been disrupting pipeline construction for several weeks.
As we were driving toward the site on Saturday morning, we noticed a sign for "protest parking" at the end of a gravel driveway. We turned down the drive and met a kind family who was offering their yard and driveway as a parking lot for people coming to the demonstration. We parked and took a tractor-pulled ride down to the protest site.