Report from Pittsburgh Anarchists on Clashes at Trump Rally

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Originally Submitted to It’s Going Down

On April 13th Pittsburgh anarchists participated in an attack on a Donald Trump campaign rally. This is a message from some of the organizers of this anarchist contingent as well as thoughts on our current situation.

On April 11th, the Trump campaign announced plans for two events on the same day in different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Earlier in the day he would participate in a “town hall” with Sean Hannity in Oakland, a college neighborhood, and in the evening would hold a large campaign rally in the downtown area. Almost immediately, different factions of the Left issued calls for actions and began planning demonstrations. Shortly thereafter came the all-too-common threats from the Right of armed confrontation with demonstrators.

Actions against Trump’s Oakland event were called for by various student activist groups on the University of Pittsburgh campus as well as by WHAT’S UP?!, a local anti-racism group. ANSWER, a front group for the Pittsburgh chapter of Party for Socialism and Liberation, issued a call for a rally and march to Trump’s main campaign event in downtown.

Anarchists and autonomous anti-fascists knew from the very beginning that our goal was full disruption and confrontation with both Trump and his supporters. We felt that established organizations such as WHAT’S UP?! and ANSWER would both work to disrupt this goal in favor of their own visions of what a successful anti-racist action should look like. We chose to organize our own contingent so as to maximize our autonomy and control of our actions and desires.

Actions against Trump’s events began in the early afternoon in different parts of the city, but for the purposes of this piece we will focus on the events surrounding his main campaign rally in the downtown area of Pittsburgh. We choose this focus because it was here that the main energies of anti-authoritarian organizing were placed, and also because we feel that it offers a road map for the fight against the white supremacist Right.

The main gathering of anarchists was a few blocks from Trump’s event and was timed to coincide with the arrival of other marches from different parts of the city. We weren’t aware of other groups’ intentions, numbers, or desired level of disruption, but we thought that our best bet was to time our march to meet the other crowds after they had already arrived at the convention center. This would allow us to bring a surge of our energy and numbers while at the same time pushing forward with our momentum into the crowd of Trump supporters to achieve our primary goal of confrontation.

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We were successful with this tactic. Our contingent came prepared with a dozen black and Anti-Fascist Action flags on strong poles and a large black banner. As we arrived at the convention center, we marched and pushed straight through a crowd of Trump supporters, knocked aside barricades, and pushed to the main entrance of the building. Many other demonstrators had already made it that far and were blocking the roads; others followed us through the hole in the crowd we created. Once our contingent arrived at the entrance, immediate physical confrontations erupted as we marched directly into the line going into the building. Trump supporters were tackled, punched, and pepper sprayed as we attempted to fight our way inside.

During these fights the police moved in, made some seemingly random arrests of those not involved in the fighting and pepper spraying, and formed a line between us and the group of Trump supporters. People then lit flares and began to throw objects over the police into the line of supporters and repeatedly attempted to push through. At this point it was clear that the rally inside had already begun and the people we were fighting were those stuck outside, unable to get in.

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After about an hour of this, Trump’s rally ended and attendees began to leave out of the exits. The crowd rushed the exits, following, screaming at, shoving, and pepper spraying people as they left. The exits were blocked and police inside the convention center redirected the supporters to doors out of our reach. Despite this, stragglers continued to find their way into our crowd and were heckled and attacked. The city and county police eventually donned riot gear and formed a line to clear the streets. Without any more arrests the crowds dispersed and the event ended.

Our Situation:

We see the rise of Donald Trump as a major aspect of the Right’s direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement, Barack Obama’s presidency, and what they see as an existential threat to white supremacy in this country. This reaction from the right wing has taken other forms, as we have seen with the armed Bundy Ranch standoff, the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the non-fatal shooting of demonstrators during an anti-police violence demonstration in Minneapolis by white nationalists.

According to The Atlantic, aside from the demographic markers of lower class membership, whiteness, and low education attainment, the main factor tying Trump’s base together is support for authoritarianism and white supremacy. The main policy points of Trump’s campaign have been rooted in the widespread criminalization, detention, and expulsion of Muslims, Arabs, latin@s, blacks, and other non-whites from the United States.

Support of Donald Trump and by extension these aims is enough to justify oneself as a target of anti-racist violence.

It is our belief that recent events have marked a shift in the political struggle of this country. More and more of the populace has fled mainstream political forces for “outsiders” seen as on the fringe, such as Trump and Bernie Sanders. We see a demarcation developing between the Left and the Right – between those who support corporate control of resources, the expulsion of non-Whites, and increased police militarization for urban pacification, and those who support individual autonomy, collective ownership of resources, and racial and socioeconomic justice. The inherent bilateral structure of the American political party system leaves us with bastardized social and political movements – the “Left” must abandon its Marxist tendencies to fit into a Democratic narrative, while the “Right” must attempt to fit its authoritarian Judeo-Christian white supremacist ideology into the Republican establishment.

As we saw inside Trump’s campaign event in Chicago, on the streets of Minneapolis, and in downtown Pittsburgh the other night, militant physical conflict between these two forces – between those who wish to maintain white supremacy, and those who wish to see its abolition, has come into the open and forefront of American political discourse. We see an opportunity here to forcefully attack both the dominant American political structures while at the same time fighting back the far-Right tendencies that we see with Donald Trump’s rise to political fame.

It is our hope that the threat posed by the white supremacist Right, as well as the exploitation of the opportunities that we speak of, can help our movements to more clearly place ourselves in the struggle for liberation. Militant self-defense from authoritarianism can help grant us the individual and collective autonomy necessary for any liberatory revolt to occur. We see this as a time for libertarian anti-capitalists to learn to take seriously the threat posed by the new Right and to take the steps necessary to forcefully fight the structures of white supremacy. This is not a time for the introspection and critical self-reflection of the popular anti-racist praxis, but a time for mutual self-defense and collective force against the American white supremacist system of apartheid.

The time has come to Burn the American Plantation.

– Your comrades from the hills and valleys of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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