Friends and fellow workers,
All of you are likely aware to some extent of the massive pro-gun rights rally taking place in our city this coming Monday, 1/20. The governor has declared a state of emergency, multiple groups of fascist terrorists have been apprehended en route to Richmond with specific plans to attack our city, and many false narratives that are aimed at stoking violence between those coming to attend this event and anyone else they can point to have been released. One of the most egregious of these is perhaps the recent piece published by Vice News.
This piece from Tess Owens contains an interview with a member of ASH regarding the group’s views on gun control in the present context of the upcoming gun-rights rally happening on January 20th in our hometown, Richmond, VA. This current situation has been a focal point for disparate factions of right-wingers to, as they have before, create a unified coalition centering on a single issue. Wrapped up in fearmongering right-wing talking points, a host of groups (including Alex Jones *shudders*) have made plans to descend on our city.
From Right-wing grifters, conspiracy theorists, play-pretend commando to alt-right, white nationalists, explicit and implicit fascists all seem to have common ground in this moment. No doubt, many working class people are also wrapped up in this event because they indeed realize that the state is seeking to revoke their long-held right to self and community defense. This creates a situation that is much different from events prior that such media outlets sensationalized and profited from by overhyping the far left vs. far right clashes, chomping at the bit to portray both sides as groups of violent political actors, completely erasing the reality that each of these clashes were instead examples of marginalized communities banding together to defend themselves from proto-fascist (and of course some outright fascist) agitators seeking to ignite a race war.
The intent of ASH’s interview with Vice was to simply state that despite the conspiracy theories about “capital A” antifa, antifascists seek to oppose all forms of oppression. This message did not fit the neat narrative that is so uniquely profitable to major media corporations and was thus severely distorted. Opposition to such oppression doesn’t stop because it is the state that seeks to remove our ability to defend ourselves. The reporter decided to run a story that implies ASH will ally themselves with racist & fascist movements due to a perceived overlap in ideology on this current issue. If this feels cheap and sensationalist, it’s because it is.
Having worked closely with ASH on projects before, we know them to be some of the most committed and principled anti-racists & anti-fascists in the region. Media outlets that prey on our desires to tell our side of these complex stories, profit off sensationalism and misrepresentation with little regard to the effect it might have for our community. This type of reporting has caused very real damage. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that a corporate outlet like Vice would be so lacking in journalistic ethics.
Vice’s checkered history on these issues should also be considered in light of this piece. For example, the treatment Vice gave to fascists in the wake of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on 8/12/17, provided explicit fascists with an extensive platform through a media interview special which has been viewed over 6 million times on YouTube alone.
We condemn the cowardice and dishonesty of Vice for failing to present a story without causing damage. Again, we want to express our love and solidarity to our comrades in ASH. The members of ASH are working class people who live in our beautiful city. As union members we are no strangers to the media misrepresenting us in respect to their profit margins, but we won’t stand for it. Whether it be members of the IWW or comrades from across the globe we stand arm-in-arm with ASH against the greedy bosses that seek to fan the flames of a civil war across the right-left spectrum over rights that should be inalienable to all people – all for a bump in their profit margins.
This is an intentional tactic on behalf of the wealthy bosses of Vice and other outlets to detract from the only war any of us are interested in fighting – the class war.
In sum, the Richmond IWW would like to clarify our position on a few things:
1. We unequivocally oppose and do not benefit from the working class losing its ability to defend itself. Gun rights are worker’s rights and any abolition of these rights will result in the systematic targeting of marginalized communities.
2. Our comrades in ASH are fully dedicated to opposing fascism and just because antifascists happen to have a single common interest with those from all across the political spectrum doesn’t somehow place them as ideological allies. ASH is well known in Richmond and does much good work to defend and aid our community in its most dire moments.
3. We caution other antifascists or any other interested in coming to Richmond on 1/20/20 that doing so will be at your own peril. We have no idea what will happen on J2020 and cannot in any way assure folks from out of town any degree of safety or support as all of our resources are already tied up in offering safety to members of the community here as best we can.
4. Gun control laws are, in fact, innately racist and classist. Support for such laws is as well racist and classist. Gun control laws were first created, at the behest of the NRA, as a means of criminalizing and suppressing militant black organizing after the Black Panthers staged a non-violent, though armed, protest at the California state legislature. This While the rhetoric for stricter regulation of guns points at mass shooting and school shootings as evidence of the need for this regulation, the impact these laws will be in keeping with this initial design– the further criminalization of and violence towards Black and indigenous people. Additionally, as the murder of Philando Castille at the hands of the police for being legally in possesion of a firearm proves, as far as the police and the Amerikkkan state are concerned, only white people are “legally” allowed to be armed. Thus, the discussion of legality as it relates to gun rights only serves to reify anti-black oppression and white supremacy. Thus, this clamoring to align all who would keep their rights to self-defense with right-wing extremists is at the behest of the liberal media establishment in their never-ending quest to weaponize marginalized identities. The heads of this same industry also maintain an exploitative and oppressive industry that so frequently and openly collaborates with fascists.
In closing, any self-respecting journalist would be writing a piece about why the often fascist-adjacent militia movement is throwing its hat in with the long-held leftist position on gun rights – that the working class should not and will not be disarmed – rather than trying to ideologically align antifascists with fascists. Do not believe the narratives and blatant lies being spun about the mass action happening in Richmond on 1/20/20 from either the media or far-right commentators and spectators.
We do however caution all who may be in the city on this day that while we hope nothing happens, all of the ingredients are certainly going to be present. To those wishing to help with efforts to defend the city, please contribute all you are able (see the link at the end of this article) from the safety of your home as we cannot guarantee your safety in Richmond. To those of us who have no choice but to be in the city that day – please take care of yourself and those around you. Stay safe, but not quiet. Speak to your neighbors and find out their needs and fears. It is up to us to take care of each other as the state and capitalist class is quite plainly uninterested in such a thing.
The membership of the Richmond branch of the IWW
Please consider donating to the street medic team who will be active on the scene during J2020 (https://www.iacjva.org/give).