It was hard to tell the bad guys from the worse from what we saw of the mayhem at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Sunday.
About 30 thuggish looking neo-Nazis had signed up to conduct a rally, presumably to spew some vile propaganda at anyone willing to pay attention. That’s rarely very many.
What hadn’t been expected was the arrival of 350 protesters. Some were dressed in black, like ninjas or members of something called the Black Bloc – a violent anti-authoritarian, anarchist flash mob. Many wear masks of Guy Fawkes, originator of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the English Parliament in 1605. The stage was set for a clash.
Despite the presence of 100 police officers, the scene quickly became chaotic as the sides fought with knives, sticks, signs, rocks and chunks of concrete. Ten were injured, five from stab wounds requiring hospitalization. It was a shockingly bloody scene.
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Police say they moved in quickly to protect people.
Other skinhead rallies at the Capitol have included the obligatory shouting, but nothing much more happened. But in this intensely emotional election year, self-styled anti-fascists are responding more aggressively.
We have utterly no regard or respect for anyone so profoundly un-American that they would embrace anything connected to Nazism. Knowingly associating with an ideology responsible for creating death camps and murdering 7 million people ought to be enough to make anyone a pariah.
We also have no tolerance for anyone who comes to a demonstration with the intent of making a point through violence – no matter how repugnant their targets.
If they recognize their own version of intolerance, it doesn’t faze them. Members of the so-called Black Bloc have no use for free speech or fairness or, apparently, journalists. Sunday, a KCRA news crew trying to cover the event got shoved around and even knocked to the ground. Apparently, they don’t like anyone documenting their disregard for fairness or rules of conduct.
The Black Bloc arose during the Occupy movement, but soon their violent tactics made them an anathema to organizers. There was a violent clash in February at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim, where three people were stabbed in a melee between protesters and Klan members. It happened again Sunday.
Whatever protesters wanted from the confrontation, it backfired. The neo-Nazi group, which very few people had ever heard of, got a national platform through cable news coverage. The protesters came off as thugs. They even managed to cast neo-Nazis as victims – something we would have thought impossible.
The message of right-wing hate groups is un-American. So is denying others the fundamental freedom of expressing an opinion.
Naturally, both sides blame the other for the violence. It takes two to fight, even if they’re both fighting on the side of intolerance.