Editor’s note: Some of the photos in the gallery will be grainy. We do not use flash photography during these events, out of respect for speakers and attendees. We know a flash can be disruptive.
Photos: Nadin and Tom Abbott
August 14, 2017 (San Diego) Heather Heyer, 32, was killed on Saturday when James Alex Fields, 20 years old rammed his vehicle into a crowd of counter protesters at Charlottesville. What Fields did was weaponize his vehicle, and commit an act of domestic terrorism. This is after the Unite the Right rally was dispersed by local police and state troopers. This dispersal came after some fights did break out between protesters and counter protesters.
The vehicle changed the conversation though. You cannot speak of both sides do it, when one side engages in a clear act of terrorism in the United States. Whether it will be charged this way or not, is a good question. However, an active civil rights investigation was opened by the Department of Justice, and it was called this way by multiple political leaders on both sides of the aisle, starting on Saturday.
The rally was called by Indivisible San Diego after a similar vigil was held the previous night in El Cajon by members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in San Diego. Why was that initial meeting held? Why did the IWW want to speak at the County Building? Heyer was active in the IWW. She was, as the speaker aptly put it, a fellow worker. However, her role and her affiliation was glossed over by many in the media, as well as the rally organizers.
Last night the leader of the local IWW came to speak, but he had to take to the microphone after the organizers declared the rally over, and people started to walk away. So forgive us for the somewhat rough sound. We will run his words in full. We think they deserve a proper place. Ergo, we are doing what more moderate vigil organizers were not willing to do.
There were two themes that he did touch on. One comes from Noam Chomsky’s writings. The narrow area of discussion allowed by the two right wing parties in the United States. His views, are by the narrow focus of discussion, not generally allowed. Why? They are the oldest remaining anti-capitalist group in the United States.
The second is that if we are to properly honor the fallen, we need to remind ourselves where they come from. He also said something we have witnessed for over five years. The IWW is in the streets all the time. They wear their T-Shirts, and they are at times targeted. In some circles, though he did not say this, they are considered radicals.
With no further, the audio is below. In the beginning, it is rough.
Now on to the rest of the rally. There are two things I need to comment on. The first is that people in the County of San Diego are energized. We had a good 3000 people attend this rally. The days of 200 people attending, being considered a good turnout, are over. Moreover, the days of taking any number of attendees on a Facebook page and expecting half to show up, on a good day, are also over. Starting with the Women’s March, those numbers have tripled, on average, At times they have been much larger than that.
The second is that this was a large rally, but the police were at ease, and even chatting with attendees, and we had a single counter protester. So of course, he kept to himself at the edge. Kudos to the counter protestor for showing up as well. He has as much of a right to be in that part, as everybody else.
Reverend Gerald Brown of the African American United Ministerial Council. He spoke to the needs of the spirit. Reverend Brown mentioned a few things, the fact that both the officers (Lt. H. Jay Cullen andtrooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates) who died in a helicopter crash and Hoyer woke up that morning. One to stand up, the other two to go to their jobs. Neither would go home that night.
“She made a conscious decision that she was going to stand up for truth. She made a conscious decision that she was going to stand up for righteousness. She made a conscious decision that she was going to stand up for love. She made a conscious decision that she was going to stand up against hate. She made a conscious decision that she was gouge to stand up for peace.”
He ended, “She made a conscious decision that she was going to be in this movement for life. Love didn’t die yesterday; love rose yesterday.”
The mood of the audience became church like. This was the prophetic voice rising on the stairs of the County Board of Supervisors building. He then spoke the words of the pledge. “We stand for one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” This promise is the promise of the country, and not just for some.
He also asked the crowd to tell those around them, that they loved them, and people did. This moment is one where a connection between people was obvious, a human connection. “Love is the ultimate,” Reverend Brown said after that.
He also said that we are all still enduring, and pointing to the connections made when one person suffers, all do. This is the prophetic voice of the churches (and others) who recognize our common humanity.
Brown did something else. He asked all faith leaders present to come to the bottom of the stairs, and join hands. This was a promise that they would all stand together with the people in the coming days. This is like the faith leaders in Charlottesville who linked arms and defended people against those who held shields and wore helmets. Those were not police officers, but the white supremacists who came to that liberal town looking to cause trouble.
One of the organizers. Wendy Louis Baderson, spoke to why she became active. It was the November election of President Donald Trump, which she could not believe. She answered the call for the women’s march, as an organizer. “It brought me into a life of activism.”
Then she went into her past. “thought my childhood I was surrounded by Holocaust survivors. I commonly saw numbers tattoos on the arms of my neighbors, my landlord, my friends parents and my friend’s grandparents. These Holocaust survivors with their tattoos on their arms were in all facets of my life.”
This is important for people who are seeing parallels to that ugly past. And to be honest, we are all seeing it through the prisms of our personal experience. She came of age hearing the stories of the camps. (Full disclosure that is my prism as well, since my father was a survivor of the Holocaust. However, not the camps. But many in my immediate family were.)
“I took classes trying to understand how entire classes of people could be scapegoated and sent to death camps.” She pointed out that many of her ancestors were doctors, lawyers and shoemakers, dentist and other professions. “They were integral to German and Eastern European life.”
Banderson said that she was shocked Trump was elected, but that a well-known supporter of White Supremacists (Steve Bannon) went with him to the White House. Since he was followed by Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka. “How could this happen in America in 2017?” she asked. She decided to resist the hate that had been hidden under the rocks during the (Barack) Obama administration.
This is how many of the people in the crowd also found themselves activated. When she asked how many had been at the Women’s March, most arms rose. There was an electric energy in the crowd.
Yusef Miller of the Council of Islamic American Relations asked the people present to also remember what has happened in the East County and the North County. These range from the deaths of Jonathan Wick and Jonathon Coronel. He also mentioned Alfred Olango in El Cajon.
Imam Taha Hassane spoke of the attacks on Mosques, Temples, and Churches. How we are all together. How this unites people. He held his daughter as he said this, in a way as a symbol of the future.
We would be remiss if we did not mention that Congressman Scott Peters (D-51) came to the rally and addressed the crowd. He spoke of how what happened was not political, and how there is some unity in Washington. He left soon after he spoke.
There was music, from labor music, to “We Shall Overcome.” People left the rally energized. There is a saying that social movements need music, and some are very familiar. Woody Guthrie’s “This is Our Land” was part of it. So were the Women’s Chorus and Voices of Our City, a group formed by Houseless and recently Houseless individuals.