A far right provocateur from Texas attempted to organize a successful demonstration in San Francisco on Saturday October 17. Instead, he lost his two front teeth when he was punched in the mouth by a local militant.
Philip Anderson and little more than a dozen of his supporters retreated from downtown San Francisco ten minutes after beginning their rally when they were confronted by over 250 anti-fascists and anti-racists.
The young and multi-racial crowd of left-wing activists was led by relatively well-organized groups of black bloc-style militants. There were no visible contingents of socialists, union members, or civic organizations.
Anderson and his supporters had planned to march on Twitter headquarters, ostensibly to protest censorship of right-wing activists on the social media platform. “This is why we’re having a rally,” Anderson claimed in a Twitter post. But they were unable to march to Twitter headquarters or anywhere else.
The far right activists avoided further humiliations only because of their close collaboration with the San Francisco Police Department. Police barricades and dozens of riot cops made space for them to assemble in United Nations Plaza. When they were targeted by a barrage of plastic and glass bottles thrown at them from the left-wing crowd, the police escorted them into a van on a side street that carried them to safety.
Like the many other so-called free speech rallies organized by far right activists since 2017, the real purpose of Saturday’s rally was not to protest censorship but to engage in confrontations with local anti-racists and anti-fascists. Anderson had signaled that this was also his real intention in a message to his supporters, saying “All we’re going to be doing now is beating the living shit out of all the people trying to stop us.”
If Anderson did not make it clear enough, the purpose of the attempted demonstration was also made plain by the announcment that Enrique Tarrio and Joe Biggs would be featured speakers. Tarrio and Biggs, who live in Florida, are leaders of the violent semi-fascist gang called the Proud Boys. They never actually showed up to the rally. Neither did more than half of the publicized speakers.
And, evidently, the scant forces mustered by the far right in this instance were not nearly enough to stand up to those of the local anti-racists and anti-fascists.
It could be that this flop was simply a failure on the part of one tiny faction of far right provocateurs, but it could also be part of a pattern.
A Proud Boys demonstration in Portland, Oregon last month dispersed after fewer than two hours when it became clear that turnout was far below expectations. They had attempted to mobilize forces from all over the United States but ended up with only two or three hundred supporters.
The far right has struggled to mobilize large numbers in the big urban centers since they were routed by thousands of anti-racists and anti-fascists in Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area in August 2017.
It is still a small, unpopular, and factious movement in the U.S. Nonetheless, the U.S. far right is extremely well-armed with guns and automobiles, and it has used both with increasing frequency to attack the anti-racist social movements.
In this exceptionally polarized moment just two weeks ahead of the election, it is crucial to stand up to bigoted goons and far right provocateurs who want to harass and intimidate us. They can not be allowed an inch of space to enact their fantasies of authoritarian terror.
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Alex Schmaus is a member of United Educators of San Francisco, the Tempest Collective, and the Democratic Socialists of America.