I recently wrote about a peaceful protest in Brooklyn that was attacked by a fascist motorcycle gang called the Hallowed Sons. (I mistakenly called them the Hollowed Sons.) The protesters burned American and Confederate (Battle) flags, in part to protest the Dylann Roof shooting. The Hallowed Sons were having none of that. They attacked the demonstrators, destroying protest props and bragging to the media for having used violence.
No one was arrested. This is less surprising when we take into account that part of the Hallowed Sons membership are police officers and firefighters.
Wait – cops? What gives? Aren’t these supposed to be the good guys, or at least the guys who don’t break the law?
Indeed, since the earlier writeup I have been informed that the Hallowed Sons are not an outlaw motorcycle club. They are a “non-outlaw” motorcycle club. This distinction basically boils down to conformity with the American Motorcyclist Association. The AMA was a racist, whites-only organization up through the 1950s. What made some outlaw motorcycle clubs “outlaws” was the fact they accepted non-whites.
Yet another example of the “outlaws” turning out to be the good guys.
When I revisited the Animal New York report on the flag burning event, someone identifying themselves as Hardway HSMC left this comment:
If I can clarify a few things. Ill start with the embedded video: that was an assault. Notice too the threats “ill be looking for yall bikers. Im gonna remember you” and more: the blatant racism “blah blah white boy” Where is your outrage at this? Instead you paint him in a positive light for “refusing to back down”. Thank you for providing his name. I will speak with my Brothers to see if we want to pursue any charges. Ill be sure and reference this site as proof. Next, in one of your original tweets you called the Hallowed Sons a “biker gang”. This is far from true and is infact defamatory. We will be looking into any legal recourse we may have regarding this as well-dont worry, I have screen shots.
This motorcycle club member seems very keen to disassociate his group from “gangs” and otherwise criminal acts. They’re also very keen on using the law: they threatened to “pursue any charges” for defamation and assault.
If you’ve been following this story, or the Facebook pages of the protesters and the motorcycle gang, you may notice a theme: supporters of the motorcycle gang chiding the protesters for not using violence. We even see this theme reported in the mainstream media, with a journalist poking fun at the protesters for “hiding” behind the police.
The message is clear: the protesters were not valiant or brave, because they did not stand up for themselves with physical violence.
I did ask in my earlier writeup: what if the protesters did use violence? Well, the same people calling them “weenies” (New York Post journalists Gabrielle Fonrouge, Ben Feuerherd and Joe Tacopino actually wrote and published that) would condemn them for violence. They might even be called terrorists. Alternately – here’s a recent one – rioters. I don’t believe that the protesters are pacifists. But they wouldn’t be getting any street cred from the media if they had stood their ground. Unlike a right-wing motorcycle gang with police membership, the protesters would have been arrested. They would have been condemned as violent by the same media currently demeaning them for not using violence.
This raises another question: how should we interpret the comment from the Hallowed Sons member who threatened legal recourse for “defamation” and “assault?” Will the New York Post do a follow up piece and call him a “weenie,” too?
I’m currently reading The Spanish Civil War by Hugh Thomas. In his book Thomas describes actions by the Falange, a Spanish fascist group. And when I first heard of the way the Hallowed Sons responded to the Greene Park protest, the first thing that came into my mind was these guys remind me of the Falange.
I don’t know how similar the political ideology of the Hallowed Sons and the Falange are. It probably doesn’t matter – like Noam Chomsky said in Understanding Power, “fascism takes different forms depending on the country’s cultural patterns.” What reminded me of the Falange was the way the Hallowed Sons attacked the protest and, to the point, the way the police stood by and let an armed gang of bikers run the protesters off.
There has always been a sort of contradiction in fascist thought and behavior. The Falange glorified Spanish symbolism, such as the flag, as well as the Spanish state and authority, while at the same time illegally working against the state and its legal authority. Thomas described Falangists in motorcades with machine guns driving into working class neighborhoods and shooting the place up. The police and the military stood by and did nothing; some Falangists came from the military or the Civil Guard. And despite a fascist attempt at manufacturing a working class image, most Falangists were privileged “señoritos.”
The Hallowed Sons follow the same pattern. Here we have a gang of men who have also manufactured a working class image – the attire of the outlaw motorcycle club – despite being modern-day señoritos from privileged classes (such as the law enforcement class). The symbolism of the American state, the flag, is of the highest value to them. It’s even more important than actually following the laws of that state. Disobeying the laws of the state is portrayed as an heroic act if it is for the greater glory to the state, or for an abstract idea of “America” distinct from the political reality. The uniformed police also do nothing, while the fascist motorcycle gang is made up of former military and police officers.
With a little imagination it is easy to mentally overlay a recent event, such as the Waco biker shootout, with one of the Falangist shootouts in the 1930s.
We see a similar inconsistency from many so-called “patriots” as well. And I don’t mean the Patriot militia movement, but Americans in general who describe themselves as patriotic. If you read the comments left on articles about flag burning protests, you will see what I mean. It isn’t uncommon for someone to claim that the United States is the “most free” because you can legally burn a flag – and then turn right around and say that flag burning should be illegal or suppressed with extralegal violence. Many of the people who would, on one hand, say that America offers “free speech” also qualify that by saying “but flag burning is not free speech.”
They negate the very virtues they claim make the United States unique, in other words.
None of these individuals are the “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it” type. That’s a liberal, or more specifically a classical liberal, catchphrase. These are people who believe that the United States is a near-divine political entity, that blasphemy against it should be stopped either by the violence of law or by the application of illegal violence. If you read about historical fascism in Spain, Italy or Germany, this will seem very familiar to you.
We can look into the history of American policing and find the pattern again. Throughout the American South were law enforcement officers who routinely disregarded the law when it came to protecting black Americans. Robert F. Williams shared his experience of this in Negroes With Guns. These police officers would either turn a blind eye to racist crime (like the police at the Greene Park protest), or would participate in it directly. It should come as no surprise that many of those law enforcement agents were also members of what was America’s largest fascist group, the Ku Klux Klan.
If we go back even further, we find the history of American policing in Slave Patrols. And, while Slave Patrols were legal, even these agents of law transgressed the legal limit. It was not unheard of for the forefathers of America’s modern police to engage in extra-judicial killings, or the re-enslavement of freed men and women of color.
There has always been a link between fascism and law enforcement. While the police enforce the letter of the state’s law, fascists reflect the spirit of the state. Fascist organizations are a natural home for law enforcement, examples of which we have seen above. And law enforcement is a natural home for fascists; examples of which we have seen in recent scandals involving racist police forces and Klansman-cops. The intersection of fascism and law enforcement means that the police can enforce the agenda of the state with the law, while fascist organizations and individuals can enforce the state’s agenda beyond the reach of the law.
Thus we shouldn’t be surprised when the police do nothing to stop fascist violence, or when it is discovered that fascist groups and the police intersect. The role of the police is not to stop pro-state fascism. Fascism and law enforcement are two sides of the same coin.
This lesson was well-learned during the Spanish Civil War. As soon as the state returned power to the police, law enforcement immediately dismantled workers militias and let the fascists in. This prompted the FAI/CNT militant Buenaventura Durruti to note that “no government fights fascism to destroy it.”