Over the past week Portland’s most active and visible fascist street gang has engaged in harassment, attacks and vandalism on the local IWW union hall.
The provocation first came to light when a local organization tweeted a video showing the gang’s main instigator, Christofascist Joey Gibson, with a group of Patriot Prayer members and Proud Boys outside the union hall harassing and attacking people.
According to a tweet by a local alt-right provocateur who is often seen filming this gang of alpha bros, “patriots” were trying to gain “access” to the hall during the meeting of one of the numerous community organizations that share the Portland IWW union hall space.
As seen in the tweeted video that’s linked above, Gibson leads an attack on bystanders who had gathered across the street from the union hall to witness and oppose them. Apparently that attack lead to a number of fascists (or proto-fascists, white nationalists, alt-righties, identitarians, or whatever you want to call them) being taken to the hospital with multiple injuries.
The attack continued a few days later, this past Thursday morning. In the early hours of morning the union hall was vandalized, presumably by members of the same gang of misogynist and ultra-nationalist scum bags who have been violently harassing the hall, the people who use it, and members of the community around it.
In a clear nod to the racism that is common among this group and most fascist iterations, only one window in the building was smashed, and it was the window that has a Black Lives Matter sign in it.
The hall was also tagged with the phrases “Antifa House” and “Smash Communism.” Both phrases are obvious clues that the vandals are members of the Patriot Prayer/Proud Boys gang. Provoking street fights with anti-fascists is virtually their raison d’être, and they ad nauseam preach the need to save some mythologized ideal of a rugged, individualist, American machismo by destroying socialism and uprooting the perennial threat of cultural Marxism.
As was reported by the Willamette Week, that same night Cider Riot, a local bar frequented by union members and socialists, was also attacked and vandalized. Predictably the fascists deny carrying out the vandalism and claim it’s false flag, despite several provocations and physical attacks by them at the house as well as threats on social media over the past week.
These developing and escalating events should be of grave concern to all unions and union members everywhere, but particularly in the Portland area where this occurred and where this kind of fascist street gang activity and provocation has unfortunately become a regular occurrence.
Now more than ever the Wobbly motto, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All!” should be ringing in our ears and driving us to action in defense of our community. There are too many examples of fascist attacks on unions in the past for us to be sedated and silent. To name just a few:
- In the 1930s Italian jackboots burned union halls and replaced them with fascist facsimiles.
- Also in the 1930s, fascist “Silver Shirts” harassed and attacked Teamsters in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
And more recently:
- This past summer in London a leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers was attacked and assaulted by members of the fascist English Defense League.
- And now fascists have engaged in numerous attacks on the Portland IWW union hall.
Not only is there a long history of fascist attacks on unions and union members, but anti-communist and anti-socialist hysteria specifically were used in the not-so-distant past to infiltrate and attack U.S. labor unions as part of a larger effort to weaken and destroy them.
Unfortunately, we know that neither Portland mayor and police commissioner Ted Wheeler nor the police themselves are going to be of any help in confronting and ending this fascist threat.
The mayor has given free chartered rides on city buses to fascists after their rallies. He oversees and apologizes for the police force that regularly ignores and allows fascist violence in our streets, and that has repeatedly and violently attacked and almost killed community members who rally in opposition to this growing fascist creep.
Even a local business owner in the neighborhood of the union hall witnessed the incident shown in this article’s first video link above, and claims to have seen the police suspiciously disappear the moment the fascists got violent.
That means it’s up to us.
It’s time for us to draw a line in the sand against this clear and present fascist threat to our community.
It’s time for the local labor movement and those of us in it to actively live up to the slogan of Solidarity Forever by uniting together in defense of our fellow union siblings and our community.
It’s time for us to show the fascists that Portland really is union town!
We must organize across unions and with community groups here in the Portland area to put an end this violent fascist threat. Our unions, our schools, our businesses, our public and private spaces, and the safety and strength of our community depends on it.
Justin Norton-Kertson is a labor-community organizer and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.