UPDATE: When farm staff realized who the National Policy Institute was, staff actually asked the Nazis to leave their barn, and National Policy Institute conference attendees left without a fight, according to a statement put out this afternoon by the good people at Rocklands Farm.
— IDENTITY EVROPA DC (@TheDistrictIE) November 20, 2017
The Nazis met in secret in a barn this past weekend out in rural Maryland for their National Policy Institute “Winter Conference.” Yes, a barn. A barn that had light streaming in through the cracks in the walls.
The Nazis were literally meeting out in the cold.
They hadn’t publicly announced their conference. They had been barred from meeting at the Ronald Reagan government building, an esteemed government venue in a central Washington DC location which had been their conference venue for the past two years, according to The New York Times. Building managers had barred the group because they didn’t want to be at the center of a protest. The strategy of “no-platforming,” of removing the Nazis’ ability to meet however we can – it worked.
Nazis have fallen a long way since last year.
Wearing button-down shirts and ties, 24 members of Identity Evropa also assembled for a hasty photo op at Alexandria Christ Church on Sunday morning to hold banners, but they disappeared soon afterwards. According to one Twitter user, @NotMatthiasX1, who responded to my tweet on their banner-holding, they may have entered the church service, where they were challenged by at least one “heckler” at the church. Identity Evropa certainly didn’t announce ahead of time that they would be at the church. If they had, we surely would have been there to protest them, with more than 24 people.
Meanwhile, the DC Antifascist Collective held a well-publicized “Antifascist Anti-Conference” at St Stephens Church, one floor below a punk rock flea market. We invited everyone. We served food and socialized. We talked about the future of antifascism and strategies for keeping the right wing from gaining any new ground. We are organizing in public while they are organizing in secret.
The slogan that white supremacists have chanted in their torchlight rally in Charlottesville was “You will not replace us!” But here we are, organizing our weekend conference in public while they’re in the shadows. Many of us are chuckling: Yes, we have replaced them.
This is a far cry from their conference last year, when the white supremacists were feverishly confident that the recent electoral victory of Donald Trump meant their racist day had come. The conference held by NPI had assembled a number of other white supremacist and “Alt Right” groups for a conference with about 200 attendees, in the esteemed Ronald Reagan government building in Washington DC in November 2016, one year ago. Although they released no images of the crowd size, their attendance this year is likely much smaller, as their barn in Poolesville, Maryland, didn’t exactly look equipped for a crowd any larger than a typical quaint wedding.
Last year the world gasped when we learned that Nazis were meeting in the open in our capital city. Many had been traumatized less than two weeks earlier when serial abuser, racist dog whistler, gaslighter-in-chief Toxic Cheeto won the election. We cringed when we saw that they were doing Nazi salutes in the halls of power in our capital city, as head Nazi Richard Spencer said “Hail Trump! Hail Our People!” Several of them also posed for Nazi salute photos the evening before at their meet-and-greet.
This year, the white supremacists are heckled and opposed wherever they go, and it’s not always from self-proclaimed activists, but from everyday people who reject their hateful ideology, such as when Richard Spencer and his crew of Nazis tried to return to Charlottesville for a torch-lit rally but were chased off by passersby.
Last year, their conference was covered by news outlets like USA Today and CNN. It was open to news outlets like The Atlantic and VICE, who were busy writing slick biographical pieces of the notorious Nazi Richard Spencer. They were covered the “Alt Right” as if it were the hot new thing, rather than worn-out racist concepts with new fashy haircuts. Dick the Nazi had his day in the sun. He may have been just a curio then. Now many news outlets try not to touch him with a ten-foot pole.
This year, no news outlets have reported on the “Winter Conference” they had in the barn this weekend, as of Monday afternoon.
Last year, members of the DC Antifascist Collective had organized a large rally outside their conference last year. We blocked 14th Street and congregated holding signs that read “No Racism, No Fascism.” We had also gotten their pre-conference meet-and-greet event at The Hamilton restaurant cancelled, leaving them scrambling for another location. As one DC activist wrote on DC Indymedia:
After all, in November 2016, perhaps a thousand very serious protesters targetted NPI. The night before that protest, NPI was unsucessful in concealing their 3rd fallback location for their pre-conference party, at Maggiano’s Little Italy. Protesters stormed the restaurant as diners on the first floor cheered and nearly managed to force passage at the top of the staircase to storm the party itself.
Many are working at keeping the National Policy Institute from organizing events here in Washington DC, and it seems that these no-platforming tactics kept this year’s Nazi conference out of our city. The Ronald Reagan government building mangers wouldn’t host the event, basically because they feared that we, the protesters, would be there. And, yes, we absolutely would have been there in force.
Friends, we may be winning the battle against the Nazis. But we must stay vigilant. From their cornered, frightened, frustrated place, they are still very dangerous.
We might be slowly defeating their most extreme, hateful elements of the right wing. But we still have a long way to go.
Some of the extremists on the right wing are setting their sights on the 2018 midterm elections, hoping to elect some of their “Alt Right” types into positions of power. The federal government is trying to silence protest through strict oppression of 200 people facing charges for protesting at Trump’s Inauguration. The Trump Administration continues to push for keeping immigrants and Muslims out of the country, further rolling back the rights of transgender people, calling for more extreme racism against black people and people of color, compromising on women’s health and women’s rights, and consolidating more power in the hands of the rich.
As we know, fascism does not enter through popular movements. It mostly enters through the government. Whether we need to fight brown-shirt groups in the streets, or whether we need to fight them in the halls of our own government, we will continue to oppose fascists wherever they are.
These Nazis are basically hiding under a rock. If they come out from under their rock, we will find them. Or, if we find the rock they are hiding under, we can pick it up and watch them scurry. Either way, we need to keep going and be ready for them.
UPDATE: Statement from Rocklands Farm
“At Rocklands Farm, we proudly do business according to family values, including welcoming people of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.
In all we do, including hosting private events, we strive to uphold those values, as well as ensure the safety and respect for our family, staff, customers, community, and business.
Throughout our history of hosting private events, we have never had to ask a group to leave. However, yesterday, November 19, we discovered that a private event held here was, in reality, a gathering of an organization that is strongly in opposition to our values. We immediately and politely asked the group to leave. We are grateful that the group agreed to peacefully leave right away. Rocklands Farm absolutely does not support or have any affiliation with the National Policy Institute or similar groups.
We want to reassure our community of our commitment to family values. We are currently reviewing our event booking policy to ensure any future events reflect the values we try to uphold as we continue to feed, nourish, and engage our community.”