By: Sophia Posnock

[This article originally appeared on Medium.com]

The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups across the country.[1] In the first ten days of his presidency, there were nearly 900 reported incidents of harassment and intimidation, many of which invoked Trump’s name.[2] Hate groups, especially groups targeting Muslims, have tripled recently.[3] Though racism has been foundational to the United States of America, Trump’s election has brought a renewed normalization of explicit racist and sexist remarks and behavior.

This emboldening of white supremacists is felt at the University of Washington, too. This was made especially clear at the Milo Yiannopoulos speaking event that took place on campus on the evening of January 20th, inauguration day. The University of Washington College Republicans invited Yiannopoulos, and in response concerned students mobilized to stop the event. These concerns came on the heels of Yiannopoulos harassing, outing, and inciting violence against a trans student at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.[4] These students wrote letters, met with administrators, posted flyers, and started achange.org petition with over 4,500 signatures,[5] all to no avail. The updates to the petition stated that he University President, Ana Mari Cauce, did not even reply to these student concerns for many weeks.[6]There was no public comment about the event from the University before the incident.

At the event, crowds of protesters, including those forming a “black bloc,”[7] as well as people intending to go to the event, found themselves face to face in red square. The black bloc forcibly blocked the entrance to Kane Hall with their bodies. Only a small amount of the planned attendees were able to enter the hall through another entrance. Outside the event, a provocateur shot a person in the stomach. The victim of the shooting is a member of an antiracist and antifascist organization, the Industrial Workers of the World, who was actively peacekeeping and defusing arguments in the crowd. It soon came out that the shooter was a fan of Yiannopoulos and was blocked from attending the event. He had contacted Yiannopoulos over Facebook while waiting outside the event. The next day, he turned himself in to police, along with his wife, and was summarily released without being charged. He allegedly justified the shooting as being lawful self-defense, despite video evidence and eyewitness accounts showing that he was the aggressor.[8] He continues to remain free, uncharged, despite reports that he wiped clean his cell phone, which constitutes yet another chargeable crime, evidence tampering.[9]

The day after the shooting, University President Cauce issued a statement over email the day following the incident, with the subject line “Violence has no place at our University or in our Democracy.”

Cauce wrote:

“…In the days since that incident, the University has received many inquiries from community members concerned about campus safety. As has been reported, an individual connected to this shooting appeared on his own initiative at the UW Police station Friday night. After consultation with the King County prosecuting attorney’s office, the individual was not held by UWPD. The UWPD continues its very active investigation. I regret that we cannot share more details, but it is important to note that gun possession is not allowed on campus and we have acted quickly and decisively to protect our campus community.”

The idea of “keeping communities safe” seems to fall into the empty rhetoric of free speech, which implicitly, judging from how it plays out in practice, only applies to certain protected groups. Her bland response to the shooting contained no information about the shooting, no offer of support to students, and no condemnation of the white supremacists. Consider what the response would have been if the circumstances were different. School shootings are usually tragedies that grip communities. Not this one.

In the context of the shooting, the “quick and decisive” actions by the police seemed to be to push protesters down the stairs and pepper spray them to make room for an empty “medical area,” which ironically enough didn’t treat any of the protestors who had been pepper sprayed and were literally writhing on the ground mere steps from this so-called medical area. Meanwhile, the police did not solicit witness statements, corner off the crime scene, or many any attempt to stop an armed shooter loose at a crowded event on a college campus. This is what public safety means to the UW? How is anyone to feel safe when that is the response that the university president praises?[10]

This incident illuminates that these services, these protections, the police, the prosecutors, are only at the service of select groups. It seems that protecting right wing views is the priority. This sentiment was not born out of the election — many professors at this law school have stated that the conservative voice is under attack, and the true diversity that is lacking from law school is the conservative point of view. These bland proclamations of free speech and protecting all views as equal echo again the constitution’s racist and sexist foundation — lofty sounding language only aimed to protect members of the ruling class. In the media, the shooting seems to have been dismissed as having unclear motives, despite clear evidence of the politics of the shooter and victim. The shooter is fan of Yiannopoulos, the NRA, and Britebart; the victim is an anti racist and antifascist.[11] Despite the right wing’s gun violence, the left protestors have been condemned as violent for allegedly having bricks (I have seen no photos or videos of protesters armed with bricks) and for throwing paint balloons–which, potentially dangerous as they may be, do not seem to have resulted in any injuries.

This begs the question of what is violence and what is safety. Political philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes introduce the idea of the social contract; the idea that humans, in groups, agree to be governed by a state to protect the group from outside violence. To this end, the state passes laws that criminalize certain types of violence, while simultaneously giving the state legitimacy and legitimizing the violence that the state enacts. If this agreement can be looked at as a contract, then it is a corrupt one which only one party, the state and not the people, enters willingly. And the state’s use of this violence — for example the prosecutorial power — does not apply equally. People who are of color or indigent are routinely charged with petty offenses while a person who attempted to murder someone with a gun in a crowd on a university campus, and who fled the scene and destroyed evidence on his phone is allowed to walk free. Prosecutorial discretion is heralded as the prosecutor’s power to enact change, but its use here shows the true motivation of the state, which is to use violence to oppress, not protect.

The notion of a state with a legitimate monopoly on violence over a given area begins to crumble when you consider that historically no one actually agreed to this governance, or to the distinction that the state violence is legitimate. Instead, we are led to ask what the historical foundations of the state are. The answer is of course that it was invented to protect the property rights of the select few; namely, the Lockes and Rousseaus of the world.

To look for a bright side; if Trump’s election has empowered racism, then it has also reinvigorated the radical left. More and more people are protesting the oppression and violence of the state — whether through mass incarceration, the murder of black men by the police, or the drilling of treacherous pipelines through native lands, people are begging for state violence, and its unrepentant defense of imperialism and capitalism, to cease.[12]

It is no wonder that the state and its liberal sycophants like Ana Mari Cauce would condemn the actions of the anarchists and the black bloc by deriding them as violent protesters, when in fact they are the ones who were literally shot with a bullet while keeping the peace. Anarchists or antifascists do want to destroy the State. They want to overthrow the government and create a more just and equal society. An equitable society runs antithetical to the origins of the United States, and to the survival of capitalism. Until the oppressions of ceaselessly violent systems are dismantled, there cannot be safety or peace for the oppressed.

____________________________

[1] https://www.splcenter.org/20161129/ten-days-after-harassment-and-intimidation-aftermath-election

[2] Id. These numbers do not include online harassment. It is also worth noting that many incidents of harassment and intimidation, especially incidents targeting vulnerable populations such as people who are undocumented or members of racial and religious minorities, often do not report these incidents because of a fear of retaliation, a distrust of police, and other factors. For more information, see:https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2013/03/26/doj-study-more-250000-hate-crimes-year-most-unreported

[3] https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map

[4] http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/12/milo-yiannopoulos-harassed-a-trans-student-at-uw-milwaukee.html

[5] https://www.change.org/p/ -mari-cauce-ban-milo-yiannopoulos-hate-speech-at-the-university-of-washington

[6] https://www.change.org/p/ana-mari-cauce-ban-milo-yiannopoulos-hate-speech-at-the-university-of-washington/u/17792741

[7] http://www.occupy.com/article/unmasking-black-bloc-who-they-are-what-they-do-how-they-work

[8] http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/how-the-shooting-at-the-uw-protest-of-milo-yiannopoulos-unfolded/

[9] http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/cellphone-of-admitted-uw-shooter-was-wiped-clean-court-records-show/. Evidence tampering is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail under Washington law: RCW 9A.72.150

[10] In the weeks after the shooting, President Cauce continues to absolve herself of any responsibility for the shooting or the uptick in harassment and fear that the student body has. She encourages students to call the police, in the same breath as she blames the police for how the January 20 event was handled and planned: http://www.dailyuw.com/news/article_75c5b64c-edbe-11e6-992d-0fa711c72faf.html

[11] http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/02/09/24862064/victim-of-shooting-at-uw-milo-yiannopoulos-protest-still-in-serious-condition

[12] This influx of resistance builds on the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, Standing Rock, the Occupy movement, and the large marches against the Iraq war — all of which have defined leftist activism since 2000.

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