And they thought a little graffiti was bad back then…

5 minute read

January 10, 2021, 11:42 AM

I was recently participating in a comment thread on the Staunton News Leader‘s Facebook page about the arrest and charging of Jake Angeli, one of the more prominent figures to participate in the storming of the Capitol on January 6.  Most the comments praised the arrest, while some other comments amused me thoroughly.  One comment claimed that it was not Trump supporters who came to DC, but rather, it was “antifa”.  That comment reminded me of how little many right-wingers understand about what antifa is, and it made me laugh.  Recall that I used to do a lot of antifa back in my day (though the common use of the term “antifa” postdates my participation), so I know a little something about it.  The thing that amuses me most is when people think that it’s an actual organization, because trust me, it is most definitely not.  For those not familiar, the term “antifa” is short for “anti-fascist”, and if a bunch of people assemble and decide that they want to call themselves “antifa”, then they are antifa, and it’s over at the end of the event.  It’s really not that complicated.  There is no real organization to it, and people don’t answer to anyone at some headquarters.

But that commenter’s attempt to pin the whole thing on “antifa” reminded me of an event that happened back in January 2007, nearly 14 years ago.  Back then, at an anti-war protest (which I documented here under the title “J27 Anti-War Demonstration“), an affinity group of sorts, comprised mostly of people wearing black clothing and masks, i.e. a black bloc (which many might call “antifa” today), broke away from the mainstream march and headed up to the United States Capitol.  The group made it as far as the bottom of the steps, where Capitol Police was standing to prevent further movement.  No effort was made to go past them, and as far as I know, the bloc was content with that.  While we were there, a few people pulled out some spray paint cans and left some tags on the sidewalk in front of the steps of the Capitol.

Here’s what was left during that event:

Graffiti on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol

Graffiti on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol

Graffiti on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol

I remember this quite well.  At the time, I wrote, “Then I smelled something: spray paint?  Turning to someone next to me, I asked, ‘Do you smell spray paint?’  They agreed with me.  And what do you know… someone had actually tagged the sidewalk in front of the Capitol – twice, in fact.”  I also personally took some of the heat for this in the media, after a guest poster on Michelle Malkin’s blog singled me out about the incident about a month and some change later.  I even received threats of physical harm in reference to the next big anti-war event in DC, which would occur the following Saturday.  I wasn’t worried about the people that I was with causing any harm, because a lot of these folks were regulars, i.e. this was not their first rodeo.  I was somewhat concerned about these right-wingers who came in from out of town, though, because they might have had fantasies about roughing up some peaceniks.  Ultimately, nothing happened at that event when it came to the right-wingers, since the cops did a pretty good job at keeping the two sides separate.

In any case, a little spray paint on the sidewalk was “OmG tHe WoRsT tHiNg EvEr!!!!” according to the fanatical right wing in 2007.  Admittedly, the tagging of the sidewalk should never have happened, but that’s well in the past at this point.  But now, we have had right-wingers who busted into the Capitol and ransacked the place on the occasion of the counting of the electoral votes, and certain people on the right were cheering it on as it happened.  I expected a large crowd outside of the Capitol protesting while the vote tally occurred inside, because right-wing events are typically pretty sedate.  They come in, they march around a bit, they make some noise, and then they go home.  In other words, not that exciting.  That big teabagger march that I photographed in 2009 was a big snooze.  Left-wing events are far more interesting in general than right-wing events, because you never know what is going to happen.  So I was as shocked as anyone to see demonstrators breaching the Capitol’s security and finding their way to the top level of the Senate dais, where the presiding officer usually sits.

I wonder if this will also be the end of the disparate treatment by police that I’ve noticed between right-wing protests and left-wing protests.  For the aforementioned teabagger march, there were about ten MPDC officers assigned for the whole thing according to Captain Jeff Herold, and the entire complement was standing on the steps of the Wilson Building, watching the group like playground monitors.  So for all intents and purposes, they were doing their thing unsupervised.  Compare that to the March on Crystal City six months prior, when we had about that many officers just paying attention to our little black bloc, let alone the big march.  Do I expect that to actually change, with right-wing events’ getting the same amount of coverage as left-wing events?  I’m not holding my breath on that.  But I suppose that at the very least, I suppose that the right wing can’t claim any moral high ground anymore about how they comport themselves during protests.  I’ve never seen a black bloc ransacking the Capitol, after all.  They condemn “antifa”, and then go out and top them at their own game.

Meanwhile, from everything that I can tell, Trump knew that he had lost, knew that there was no way that he could actually get a second term, and admitted as much.  He also indicated that he was more or less getting everyone all wound up just for the lulz.  That then had some major real-life consequences for a lot of people, and that made me really angry with Trump for essentially sending these people off for something that he didn’t even believe in himself.  It also made me feel a little bit badly for the people who participated, because I imagine that a lot of those people didn’t realize that Trump was doing it all for the attention.  I said in a Facebook post at the time, “Does the word ‘suckers’ seem like an adequate term to describe these Trump supporters now?”  I haven’t yet found anything to convince me otherwise.  I suppose that this should be a lesson to a lot of people: use that noodle of yours.  Do your own research, and come to your own conclusions.  Think critically.  Don’t just blindly follow.  Have some conviction, even if it’s unpopular.

And then hopefully, the inauguration is uneventful.  We know that Trump doesn’t plan to attend his successor’s inauguration, but who knows what his rabid supporters might try to pull.  All I know is that I’ll be at work that day, just like I was during the storming of the Capitol, and just like I was at Trump’s inauguration four years ago.  And I’m hoping that I have a nice, boring day on the 20th.  We’ll see, I suppose…