Contesting the Right’s Designs on Public Space, with Prof. Jalane Schmidt

August 11 will be the first anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Heather Heyer was killed and several other people injured when white nationalists and white supremacists from around the country rallied–and brought weapons. In preparation for the anniversary, Charlottesville activists are planning vigils and teach-ins and keeping an eye on the far right’s activities, from Portland, OR to Washington, D.C. Prof. Jalane Schmidt is an organizer with Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, and she joins me to discuss the recent far-right violence in Portland, the planned rally in D.C., and what Charlottesville activists are planning for the anniversary and beyond.

They are trying to push decent citizens out of the public square, anyone who opposes white supremacy, out of the public square, and also, to normalize their movement.
Part of what they are doing is they really like to go to places with iconic vistas; whether it is the Lee statue or to Mount Vernon, Washington’s estate up in Northern Virginia–that is where Identity Evropa went a few months ago–or other places. They like to have clean, unobstructed sight lines between themselves and whatever iconic place where they are: university auditoriums, for instance, the Oval Office, because that is very good for their recruitment. This makes for very good propaganda videos.
For instance, here, May 13th, 2017 was the first alt-right torch rally here in Charlottesville. Some 150 white supremacists gathered uncontested. They caught us flat-footed, by surprise. Then, of course, August 11th, around the Jefferson statue at the University of Virginia. Again, largely uncontested. Then, October 7th, 2017 they had a third torch rally here in Charlottesville, also catching us by surprise. That is what they like for their propaganda videos. That is what they like to circulate online. And Richard Spencer even said that last August 11th on the steps of the rotunda at the University of Virginia, “Look! We just took over!”
So, they want spaces cleared of the rest of us, especially those of us who are people of color. But, they are also trying to grow their movement. It is a strategy. That is why it is important to, yes, show up in greater numbers – there is safety in numbers – to say, “No, we won’t allow you to scare us away and we won’t allow you to take over public spaces and to normalize with your appearances there, your movement.”

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