On Sunday, April 2nd, a counter-demonstration, led by the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMJP), ran the neo-Nazi, National Socialist Movement (NSM) out of our town The NSM has targeted Olympia, Washington as a major location for demonstrating their white-supremacist and anti-Jewish message and as a place where they hope to recruit disaffected white youth.
They first attempted to rally in Olympia on January 22nd of this year. We found out 24 hours before their scheduled rally of their plans. On the 22nd, the nine of them who appeared were surrounded by 200 community members who verbally but not physically challenged their message of racial hate. They left after about an hour, returning to the Seattle area, which is 60 miles north of here, and where most of them live.
The NSM announced soon after a rally they were calling in Olympia on July 2nd to 4th of this year at the State Capitol, where they have invited the Klu Klux Klan and racist skinheads from around the country to join them. Although very small, the NSM is one of the most active of the white supremacist groups in terms of actions and recruiting. Their organization will be meeting in Lansing, Michigan from April 20th to the 22nd.
A few days before April 2nd, the NSM announced they were returning to Olympia on that day-in memory of Rachel Corrie, an Olympia resident killed by the Israeli military in March 16th, 2003 as she was standing in front of a house in Rafah in Gaza that the Israelis planned to demolish. The NSM was opportunistically using Rachel’s name to try to gain support.
In the flyer, we handed out to many residents, we included the following quote from Rachel Corrie from January 19, 2003: I also think it is extraordinarily important to draw a firm distinction between the policies of Israel as a state, and the Jewish peopleâ€¦I try to ask myself-whose interests does it serve to identify Israeli policy with all Jewish people? â€¦. It serves people who want to stifle all critiques of Israeli policyâ€¦and neo-Nazis who want to use Israel’s policy as a way to justify their hate.”
On Sunday, April the 2nd, at a rally, organized by various local groups including, Unity in the Community and OMJP, a message of challenging racism, of celebrating diversity and equality was held. Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother was a featured speaker. About 200 attended. Other people were rovers, roving Olympia to find out where the neo-Nazis were going to show. The eight Nazis were located as they arrived from Seattle and approached the State Capitol.
The Washington State Police stood between the neo-Nazis and the growing numbers of anti-Nazi protesters. Shouts by us of One Race, the Human Race; and Not in Our Town, Not in Any Town; and Nazis Out, drowned out their White Power and Seig Heil chants. After about 25 minutes, they left under police escort. We hope the NSM does not return but in any case, we are committed to doing more to further racial, economic and social justice.
What follows is the talk I gave at Heritage Park, Olympia, Washington as the neo-Nazis were arriving in Olympia…
Thank You for coming!! I am here today for many reasons! My mom and dad grew up Jewish in Austria in the 1930’s-in 1938, when my dad was 22, the Nazis marched into Austria. He was arrested for being active in the Jewish community of Vienna, in four prisons for five months. He was beaten many times by the Nazis, my mom got him out, which was still possible in 1938. They went immediately to France and then came to New York City in 1939 where I was born and lived through high school. Many of our relatives like my uncle went to concentration camps; some survived, some were killed. My grandfather hid in a farm in Czechoslovakia where he died from cancer during World War II. I am here today for them.
My parents believe in the dignity of all humans but feel very powerless, fatalistic. On the other hand growing up in the 1960’s together with my background and family values they instilled in me, my response was different from theirs. “Never Again” to me means fighting and organizing against all oppression. As the U.S. fought its murderous war against Vietnam it meant organizing with all of my energy against that war. 35 years later challenging oppression also means opposing the U.S. criminal war in Iraq.
I would say we in the United States have even more of a responsibility to speak up than Germans did during the Hitler era because information is more available here in the U.S. and repression isn’t as great; understanding that repression in the U.S. is greater against Blacks and people of color than whites.
Coming of age in the 1960’s also brought home to me how central racism has been to the past and present United States and that challenging racism is key to any fundamental change in this country. Racism today in the United States is still central to the U.S. political economy-look at black and Latino and Native American unemployment and poverty rates which are more than twice that of whites.
So while opposing the vile racism of the Nazis, let us also oppose the racism of this Administration that destroys affirmative action and guts public housing and social programs, that lets poor people and particularly poor black people die in New Orleans during Katrina. Let us also remember that not only Tim Eyman but the majority of white people voted to end affirmative action in Washington State in 1998. We need to support affirmative action as we oppose the Nazis.
We need to challenge the racist anti-immigrant hysteria as expressed by the Minuteman, by a planned anti-immigrant initiative in Washington State and by the Sensenbrenner bill, HR4437, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is being considered by the U.S. Senate. It would make felons of immigrants who come here seeking jobs and also those who help them; it would spend billions on a wall and an even more militarized border between Mexico and the United States. Let us defeat this bill.
We also cannot allow Muslims and Arabs to be targeted and repressed. Let us be inspired and show support for the growing immigrant rights movement that is national in scope, e.g., the million people who marched in LA last Sunday, March 26th, and the many tens of thousands in New York yesterday, April 1st. My son, Filemn, calls it the New Civil Rights Movement. So let us defeat the Nazis by showing they are the tip of a virulent disease of racism and build a stronger movement for racial justice in Olympia and beyond.
A great German Marxist, August Bebel, once said that anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools. That certainly fits the neo-Nazi, National Socialist Movement (NSM). They have put my name, home and office address and phone number and pictures of me on their website, www.nukeisrael.com, and call me a kike and Jew boy on it. Other names are also listed there. Nevertheless, I spoke to one of their members when he called me, two days before there planned rally in Olympia.
He talked about low wages and insecure jobs of white people and how immigrants are overrunning this country. I told him that they were blaming and targeting immigrants, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, lesbians and gays, LGBT, and the disabled rather than those who have the power, the wealthy capitalist elites and the multinational corporations. He didn’t listen, the national part of their name, which to them means white, dominates the socialist. They are trying to recruit disaffected white non-Jewish youth, promising them power and also better jobs, health care, education for whites and some handy scapegoats.
We must build a movement that is about more than just peace and tolerance but one that challenges all oppression and fights for a living wage, for health care for all, for free and quality education through college, for affordable housing, for reproductive rights and taxing the wealthy in the short run and in the longer run, we should organize for a system that is not capitalist, that is sustainable and based on production for need not a system based on production for profit.
We should NOT support business Democrats like Senator Maria Cantwell and business democracy but real democracy. Otherwise the NSM and the Republican Party wins. We need to fight against the war at home as we work to stop U.S. wars abroad.
The neo-Nazi NSM on their web-site supports Palestine and is totally hostile to Israel. The reason is their hatred of Jews which comes through on every page. I am angered by this as I am equally angered by their hatred of Black people and other oppressed people. An Injury to One is an Injury to All. On the other hand, I was also offended on January 22nd, when the NSM came to Olympia, that an anti Nazi protester said I was a hypocrite because I opposed the Nazis and Israel-I guess they meant that opposing the Nazis should mean supporting Israel.
NO, NO, NO! It shouldn’t. In fact, my background as the child of holocaust survivors has led me to support the struggle by Palestinians for self-determination, for a nation in all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and with the right of return by Palestinians. Remembering how Jews have been so oppressed in Europe has made the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, the daily humiliation of Palestinians, the seizing of most of their land, the Israeli denial of self- determination, particularly upsetting to me-although that is what happens when you take someone’s land as Israel has done.
We are supporting Palestinian human rights and nationhood for totally different reasons than the neo-Nazis. This is what Rachel Corrie did; she supported a Palestinian state as she opposed anti-Semitism. Let us follow this example.
I am a member of the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, (OMJP) we believe that without justice there can be no peace. Our web-site is www.omjp.org. We live in a time with a very right wing government–the ones in suits and ties in power are much more dangerous than the Nazis and we need to challenge both of them. We also have an opportunity in this crucial period to dialog with the great majority of people in the United States who are against the U.S. war against Iraq and who are being taken advantage of by the Bush administration which is taking from the needy and giving it all to the greedy. Talking to your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers about what is going on and how to change it is a start.
OMJP believes that the neo-Nazis are not welcome in our town or any town. We intend to surround them today in Olympia, they have just arrived; and non-violently project through our actions a message that they are not welcome and we will turn their rally of hate and white supremacy into an anti-racist one that is about racial, social and economic justice.
The NSM has said they will return in early July in Olympia. One of our ideas is to have a Festival of Life, a physical place just before and while the NSM is here of music, art, workshops, networking, popular education, where people can camp out, learn from each other about challenging oppression and working for liberation and opposing the NSM and other white supremacists, that is also a base for creative protest against them. We need energy and ideas. Join Us.
Not in Any Town, Not in Rachel’s Name!!