J20 Seattle: Full Report Back from Milo Event Disruption
From Its Going Down
This communique comes from comrades in Seattle, centering on the Milo event. We offer these reports and our initial reflections to continue the process of understanding the present moment and what will come. All times are approximate.
J20, University of Washington, 6pm
A long queue snakes around UW’s Red Square, an hour before the Milo Yiannopoulos speaking event “Cyberbullying isn’t Real,” hosted by the College Republicans student club, is set to begin. Milo is a darling of the white nationalist “Alt-Right” movement, and hundreds of fans are waiting to hear their favorite fascist speak. Student protests throughout the day have set the tone for the evening, and a small ring of anti-Milo people watch the spectacle while holding their signs. Besides the large police presence throughout the campus, on the square there are a few groups of bike cops and a few smaller groups spread out, and it’s obvious the Hall is being used as a staging ground for police response. To the side around 15 people in black, plus maybe 20 other protesters in less coordinated attire gather. We are outnumbered. Police immediately move into the group and confiscate anything that could be even loosely imagined as a weapon: signs only, no bags they said.
It quickly becomes clear that the group needs to move from the sidelines to the center, to hold the stairs leading to Kane Hall and block the line from entering the building. Following waving anti-fa flags, chanting “anti-fascista,” the bloc circles the queue past hundreds of jeering idiots, many sporting iconic red hats and khaki pants, to take a position at the front of this line, on the steps of of Kane Hall, between the crowd and the entrance. Banners were unfurled, including one that read “Smash Gay Nationalism – Queers Fight Back”. The bloc is squeezed between a metal police barricade set up to control the entryway, the queue of Milo fans to one side, and students and additional protesters joining from the other side. It is tense and close – fascists and anti-fascists toe to toe. At the front it is hard to tell who is who – only during chanting do the sides become clear. The Milo crowd is largely comprised of white men of all ages, including middle and high school aged youth who seem to be riding high on a sense of power. Their signs read “Celebrate Patriarchy” and “Against the Fascism of the Left.”
6:30 – 7pm
During this time the tension and agitation maintained without dramatically escalating, while anti-fascists continued gathering in number. The Milo crowd, attempting to be heard over the resounding calls of the anti-fascists, were intermittently chanting “USA,” and once echoed the “Fuck Nazis” cry from the anti-fascists but included air humping and invitational arm movements, seemingly to imply that they did indeed self-identify as Nazis. Individuals from the Milo crowd were consistently attempting to agitate the antifa crew, yelling insults and threats, snapping cameras in faces, occasionally grabbing, pushing, or shaking the protesters. At one point the smell of rotten eggs briefly filled the air, and a Milo fan was seen wiping eggshell and goo off his face. A younger fascist agitator who had been antagonizing the protestors throughout the evening was spotted with a bloody mouth, covered in blue paint. Red hats were grabbed and burned. From somewhere within the anti-fascist crowd a projector displayed anti-Trump statements on the walls of Kane Hall and other buildings surrounding red square. Small scuffles broke out, but none escalated beyond minor push-shove and the occasional punch, as formerly cocky fascist scum would wander too far or pick fights with people who didn’t quietly submit. Peace police placed themselves between the Milo fans and anti-fascists, with their hands up, attempting in vain to pacify both sides. During this time the campus police were heavily monitoring the crowd of protesters. They snatched a medic out of the crowd, searching their bag and confiscating bottles of LAW (liquid anti-acid and water, used for eye flushing). The cops debated whether to arrest or not, and ultimately ran ID and released. During this exchange it became clear that the cops were watching the crowd from the upper stories of Kane Hall and calling in people to snatch and search. This tactic continued throughout the night, with at least a few other people with backpacks being grabbed, searched, and having bottles of LAW confiscated. The cops seemed to be on high alert for weapons, flammables, and other tools of trouble-making, but only from the protesters, leaving the Milo crowd alone. During this time it seemed that the queue was successfully blocked from entering Kane Hall.
There were reports overheard on the police scanner of a person with a gun at Kane Hall. The campus police did not change tactics or appear to take any action regarding this report.
Word began to spread through the crowd that the event had been canceled. Milo fans did not budge, instead waving cellphone displaying a live-stream of the talk that was indeed happening inside the building. Mainstream news has reported that approximately 150 were inside, though the sold-out event was held in an auditorium that seats 700, and at least several hundred of those ticket-holders were waiting outside. It is unclear how and when the people inside entered the building, but with small numbers it was impossible to block all entrances to Kane Hall. At this point tensions began to increase. A “Pepe the Frog” white nationalist banner was unfurled by a young fascist. Milo fans threw cans of energy drinks and deployed pocket pepper-spray or mace into the group of antifa. A man waving his event ticket in the air tried to shove his way toward the building and was blocked by the large wooden signs of anti-fascists, who closed ranks to form a wall. The ticket was grabbed and destroyed. Similar scuffles would occasionally flare, though the intermingling of the crowd made pushing lines or throwing projectiles less possible.
By this point the bloc that had been stymied at Westlake had largely arrived on campus, bolstering the numbers of anarchists at the front. Many students, bystanders, and liberals had joined with the masked anarchists, enthusiastically participating in and even leading chants, singing, donning handed out masks, and helping hold the front. Socialists were in the mix as well, attempting to give political platform speeches on a megaphone but were drowned out by the impassioned chanting of those who realize that shutting down a fascist event was larger than and infinitely more important than whatever party politic the socialists were interested in spouting.
The main march from Westlake arrived at Red Square, having made their way through Downtown, Capitol Hill, and over the University Bridge to join those blocking Milo’s fans from hearing their favorite fascist in person. Cheers broke out as a wave of people and signs flowed into the square, and a sense of victory was in the air, as well as a much needed relief at the sight of back-up. The anti-fascists had been badly outnumbered until this point, but the tide had just turned. As hundreds of people kept arriving, the remaining Milo supporters were nearly surrounded.
Scuffles broke out along the line as Milo fans were pushed away from the steps of Kane Hall. Within moments, a shot was heard – an anti-fascist comrade had been shot point blank in the stomach by a Milo fan. They were shot in the middle of the crowd, along this line where anti-fascists were face to face with the Milo crowd. They were helped out of the crowd by street medics, who immediately found a clear space and began administering emergency first aid. Campus bike cops surrounded the scene, pulling the medics off their patient and blocking them from continuing emergency aid. The cops encircled the comrade, though did not appear to have or be using emergency first aid supplies to help whatsoever, and preventing medic help while they waited for the glorified golf cart and further assistance to remove the victim from the scene. By 8:30 they had left Red Square.
The anti-fascist crowd, with their larger numbers, began circling the building to block all entrances and exits to Kane Hall. Inside the building, news of the shooting reached Milo who declared to cheers, “If we stop now, they have won.” When Milo’s talk did end, police advised the small group that had made it inside the building to remove their MAGA hats, and hide any other visible indicators of their affiliation. Fashy haircuts, khaki pants, and the sweaty sheen of a fearful fascist however, cannot be hidden for long…
Milo attempted to leave UW campus, accompanied by a campus police escort. Protesters were briefly able to hold the street and block his escape and further disrupt any sense of normalcy he tries to build around his nationalist, transphobic, misogynist rhetoric.
Protesters had largely dispersed into the night. To disappear into the landscape of the city, anarchists and fascists alike removed their masks, hats, putting away all obvious identifiers to get home safely. We mingle as we re-emerge into the daily milieu. The enemy is all around us. Stay vigilant, stay alive, go hard, take care.
TLDR: LESSONS FOR CONSIDERATION
Some things to keep in mind:
- Our enemies blends in. On a college campus, it was difficult to tell who was there as a protester, a Milo fan, or a passive onlooker. The crowd was close, the ranks intermingled. There was no clear separation. It was only possible to identify one’s accomplices by who was masked up or who was chanting with which side. Here in Seattle, we have become accustomed to primarily fighting the police. For better and for worse, the cops and the anarchists have a mutual familiarity with one another’s appearances, tactics, and available weapons. White nationalists and fascists are less obvious. Familiarize yourself with the symbols, dress, and language of the far right.
- The police will always be our enemy. On Saturday morning, the shooter and another individual turned themselves into the campus police. Both were subsequently released without charges, “Pending further investigation.” While the police have a long history of shooting the unarmed and marginalized, in protest situations this has become rare. To what the extent the police will allow fascists to carry guns and shoot us at rallies and protests may indeed be decided in the next days and weeks. We must be ready to defend ourselves and support each other regardless, as we have always done, but it is important to note the changing landscape upon us, and orient ourselves and tactics accordingly.
- Furthermore, the police were actively targeting medics, searching bags, and confiscating any unknown substances or items that could be used as a weapon. This happened yesterday at UW and at Westlake, up until these blocs held enough numbers to resist the police. Even when we are not directly facing off with the cops, we can expect them to be against us, attempting to antagonize and block us at every turn. Be intentional about what you bring with you, how you carry items, where to meet and how. Learn how to de-arrest your friends. Know that if you are carrying a bag you may be targeted.
- Information helps us stay safe. Accurate information. After the comrade was shot on Red Square, many anti-fascist protesters had no idea that a shooting had occurred. Even those only 10 or 15 feet away had enough people between them and the events to have missed it completely, misinterpreting a gunshot as a flashbang or firework. Stay informed. Use a buddy system. Learn about and use secure communication techniques. Be ready. Check in with people around you. What have they heard? What have they seen? Are they ok? Are you ok?
To quote another report back from J20 in Seattle:
Guns are here, and the risk of gun violence – or stabbing – from white supremacists is real. We have to prepare for these risks but we also know that specialized, armed militancy will lead toward isolation and increased risk. Our strength lies in the streets – in creating situations that are ungovernable, in making space for others to experiment with autonomy and direct action, and in preventing fascists from organizing. WE are very aware of the threat of armed fascists, but are also certain that symmetrical warfare will end poorly for us – and for anarchism. There have certainly been historical moments when it made sense for anarchists to take up arms and go to the mountains – and perhaps people should prepare those skills, in case those times come again – but more often than not we see guns and specialized violence leading to marginalization and increased vulnerability to attacks by fascists and police alike.