After White Supremacist Neo-Nazis carried out terror and violence in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend, the nation has been grappling with the pervasive reality, and deeply real threat, of White Supremacy. On August 14, such hate hit close to home, right here in Greenpoint. BKLYNER reported that a Greenpoint resident found a business card advertising the neo-Nazi hate group, New Order, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, near McGolrick Park. The fascist organization also recently left their card at a bus-stop near Graham and Driggs Avenues.
Greenpoint came together yesterday at an anti-Nazi rally held at McGolrick Park, on the corner of Russell and Nassau, to make it clear that such hate has no place in our neighborhood, or in our nation. The gathering was co-sponsored by Brooklyn for Bernie Sanders, Grassroots Action NY, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, Millenials for Revolution, Rise and Resist, The New Progressive, and Marc Fliedner, a former Greenpointer who is running for District Attorney.
Marc was the first in a lineup of speakers to open the event. In his speech, he drew a distinction between aggression and self-defense, stressed the right of civil disobedience, and had a message for hate groups: “haters who would come here, or plan to borough in here, hear us. Every time you plant a seed of hate, we will dig it up with our bare hands, and remove it from Brooklyn grounds. And when you plant another, we will band together, and dig together, and together, we will remove the next one…and when we are done, and you are gone, we will clean our soiled hands, and extend them to each other, and get back to the Brooklyn business of empathy, dignity, compassion, and enlightenment and solidarity, and equality and love.”
Next, Jennifer Marie Bartlett, a disability rights activist and member of Rise and Resist, drew attention to the disabled community’s lack of visibility in political protest, and asked that those interested in fighting for the rights of others fight on behalf of disabled people.
Finally, Kenneth Shelton Jr., of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, identified the problem of White Supremacy, and proposed a solution. History, he explained, tells us “the solution to White Supremacy is black and brown power. Black and brown justice for those communities.” He told the crowd that the emboldened White Supremacists of 2017 show that our nation hasn’t made progress. “Until you actually heal the wounds that are inflicted, only then will we make progress.” He cited, “school segregation, broken windows policing, economic segregation, and medical apartheid” as areas where progress is necessary. In an excellent summation of our current painful moment in history he said, “Inflicting a wound is easy, but healing a wound is so much harder.” Rousingly, he asked, “imagine what we could do if we truly organized for black and brown political power, black and brown economic power?” He reminded the crowd: “A reformer dreams of a better world, a revolutionary builds it…I want to build a new America…The Right’s talking about taking America back. They’ll have to go through me. They’ll have to go through all of us. The biggest ally in our struggle is solidarity…we must do it together.”
Greenpoint residents at the gathering agreed. Cindy Wheeler, who has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, and who showed up to the rally sporting a red baseball cap that read “Game on Asshole,” said that she came to the gathering to show solidarity. “I’m disgusted by what’s happening around the country with white supremacy being out in the streets. Until white supremacy is dead, none of us are free. Nazi symbolism in my neighborhood park is disgusting.” Another attendee, Zoe Rabionowitz, came out in response to events in Charlottesville, and reports of Nazi symbolism in Greenpoint. She said, “It feels empowering to speak with neighbors about these issues.” Greenpoint has made one thing clear: not here, not now, not ever.
This, of course, is not the first time that Brooklyn has risen against this kind of hate. Most famously, the Brooklyn Navy Yard employed 70,000 civilians 24/7 during WWII, when the borough came together against Nazism. While our current leadership sees “fine people” on both sides of our current struggle against that same menace, I’ll turn to FDR’s D-Day Prayer, broadcast nationally June 6, 1944, in which he elegantly articulates the difference between Nazis and the people who oppose them. Those who fight against Nazis “fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people.” And for a short primer on where and when to fight, I think Winston Churchill said it best, June 4th, 1940: “We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”