03/19/11 - A little context
Today is the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War and the day the Nazis came to Claremont, California. We gathered in Claremont's Memorial Park and on the corners of Indian Hill and Foothill Blvd. on March 19, 2011 under awkward circumstances. The announcement that the National Socialist Movement, a Neo-Nazi group, were coming to town evoked a series of emotions and reactions from friends, neighbors, coworkers and colleagues ranging from shock to anger to hurt to ambivalence and more. The Nazis have a knack for unifying people as they hate pretty much everybody. You have probably all looked at their website stating the requirements for membership, "those of pure White blood...not homosexual or Jew." Though the NSM is against so-called "homosexuals" and have targeted gay pride, a gay church, and gay marraige in Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina, and unfurled their flags outside of Jewish synogogues, their agenda here in So Cal is different. And I say "different" knowing that no aspect of human identity is removed or separate from the others. For example, one can be both queer and a migrant. The NSM have stated that they chose to come to Claremont because the Claremont Colleges are pro-migrant. This is a compliment to many, as the colleges house scholar activists who encourage the humanization of migrants through their writing and by fostering student community engagement. And there is a DREAMer presence that cannot be forgotten as one Claremont College student presented at the 'Perspectives on Queer Undocumented Identity' forum in Rialto today. Today people from the immigrant's rights movement, the anti-sexist movement, the anti-war movement, queer, feminist, animal liberation, anti-racist, religious, environmental movements....were all represented. We are all affected by fascism and we are all affected by anti-immigrant sentiment and laws.
A little on Race and Immigration
How do you know race is there? And is White really a race? Critical race theorists have drawn up maps of how race can be perceived, performed, represented and embodied. Though general consensus among racial theorists is that race is not biologically meaningful as a category, they have determined that social meanings are projected on race that are undeniably fraught with real-life consequences. Michael Omi and Howard Winant historically traced racial formation and racism in the US, arguing that race is cultural and historical, not biological. They problematize the immigrant assimilation narrative, pointing out that it requires white skin. They say that people of color cannot fully assimilate to hegemonic Americanness as Americanness is equated with Whiteness.
Sentiment about race and immigration fluctuate radically in popular opinion and culture in the US, usually based on economic factors, demographic changes, and media representation. Certain trends have emerged as to why outbreaks of anti-immigrant sentiment occur, the most prominent being a national crisis. The US is facing a huge economic crisis. Pair that with the fear of terrorism since 9-11 and the rhetorical conflation of immigrants with terrorists in politics, the news media, and popular culture, and what we end up with is a slippage in prioritizing the rights of immigrants.
According to law professor Kevin R. Johnson, "discrimination against immigrants often is legally acceptable." "The law" he said, "must police governmental conduct based on immigration status to ensure that it does not serve as a proxy for race." Since today's immigrants are overwhelmingly people of color, when immigrants are targeted, it is impossible to ignore the racial implications.
A little on the Video
The first half of the video was the peaceful rally organized by Claremont College students intended to serve as a peaceful alternative to a confrontation with the NSM. The second half was the "protest" and "counter-protest," Nazis against people from various communities and movements. As you can see from the video, there was a lot of anger and shouting and the Nazis were clearly outnumbered. Though this is a good thing, it was also obvious that the scary ones were not the (approx 25) Nazis but the police, and this ended up dividing many activists between those that trusted the police to protect them and those that found the police to be worse than the Nazis. This stemmed from the idea that the police have more power and that they chose to employ this power to protect the Nazis. The photo below exemplifies one group's paralleling of Nazi's and Police.
In terms of making the film, I wanted to show what I saw and how I experienced the event. The 'rally against hate' at Memorial Park was basically a group of people being shouted at by one person on a megaphone interspersed with music and chanting. Why no PA system? one might wonder. The city of Claremont thwarted the rally by not approving sound in the park. Without being able to hear the speakers, people lost interest and meandered down to the "action," a corner of people shouting and even more cops posturing with humongous weapons. Though people were both connecting with one another and fighting with one another, there was also just a lot of pure spectatorship. In an anti-climactic ending to the rally, the police escorted the NSM after one hour, walking them back to their vehicles. This incited some people to shout triumphant chants about sending the Nazis away, some people tried to follow them to the cars, and some people just threw their signs away and went home. I tried to show this sharp contrast between the peace rally and the counter-Nazi protest by showing the happy hippie music and the great points made by speakers Professor Jose Calderon and SGV DREAM Teamer Johnathan Perez at the rally and the discord, heavy police presence, sirens, chants, and anti-climactic footage of Nazis just standing around at the anti-Nazi protest. Playing with the police in the video was a fun way to make their presence less ominous and showing activist discord in the face of the police was a way of showing that the peace rally's intentions of unity and peace could not account for interpersonal anger and differing standpoints of rally attendees.