Ash Brighton was on the ground during the mayhem at Charlottesville. Here’s what he saw.
by Ash Brighton
On the long drive back to Ohio I’ve had plenty of time to mull over the events of this weekend. As you read this, keep in mind:
- The organizers made every effort to do things as properly and openly as possible to ensure a successful event. The security team shared plans and had frequent discussions with the local police.
- We found knives and cement-filled bottles hidden in the park before the rally. This surprised none of us but justified our security preparations and procedures.
- We were hemmed into a small area, had our planning thwarted at multiple turns, and were not allowed the essential resources for holding an all-day rally. Meanwhile, the various leftist groups had free movement around the entire southern perimeter, and only had their movement restricted by the barricades within the park.
For the morning pre-game, we met up at a nearby park, where our shuttle convoys were staged. Everyone was riding high on the success of the previous night’s torch rally. We thought it was going to be a great day and a smooth event. No one was scared of the possibility of violence, but we were fully prepared for street warfare, given what we knew about those who opposed us. When we jumped out of our shuttle vehicles in downtown Charlottesville, we were fully ready for action, and marched in formation around the outside perimeter of downtown to the closest permitted entrance through Market Street. I was in one of the first few waves, and we encountered plenty of protesting and threats but little actual violence as we proceeded to the park. The police had the park fully surrounded and seemed relaxed, but they were mostly facing us.
In case it’s not clear from the descriptions that have shown up already, the Lee Park barricades were configured such that we were allotted a square subsection of the southern end of the park, with a special speakers’ area just in front of the statue. Barricades were set up around the perimeter of downtown such that the nearest entrance for us was the blue arrow on the southeast corner. Point A was where the majority of the clashes you saw on TV occurred. The police car you saw parked in the background of the fights on the rolling CNN loop on the day of the event was at the intersection just beside point A.
The emergent strategy was for us to funnel our people into the area at point B to get them away from the uncontrolled antifa horde. At that point we set up a shield-wall escort to bring people back down onto the sidewalk to bring them to point C, a path through which we were face-to-face with antifa and protestors on both sides. People then had to ascend the steps into the park single-file. As more people arrived the violence increased. People wearing masks (a felony in Virginia) and brandishing weapons starting showing up at the front of the crowd with increasing frequency. The projectiles went from nuisance plastic bottles of water and urine to deadly bricks and cement.
Just before the “unlawful assembly” declaration, a portion of the shield-wall escort had to actively fight through the antifa horde to link-up with groups coming into the meeting. I was protecting point B and doing escort duty. I was behind a tall shield and there were multiple heavy impacts on it. On two occasions I was covering people who had been pepper-sprayed as we ran through the gauntlet from B to C. I took two frozen water bottles to my batter’s helmet while protecting point B. Watching unknown heavy objects emerge from a 50-yard wide crowd and fly directly at your head is an intense experience. By the time it was all said and done, my black shield was covered with dents, mace, and pepper spray.
We did not start any violence; this is undeniable. We defended ourselves as necessary and in proportion to the attacks thrown at us. If we were violent, the torch rally on Friday night would have gone much differently. We had a small group of antifa surrounded at the statue and never attacked them. They attacked us with a knife and a collapsible baton. We disarmed them, immediately cooperated with police to restore order, and made a hole for everyone who was protesting us to safely leave. We did not lay a finger on the people as they walked out of our circle, even after we had been assaulted by members of their group. This is fully in-line with the way we do things.
The following is entirely clear:
- There was no intention to let us speak.
- There was no intention of maintaining order or the safety of the rally attendees.
- There is abundant evidence of malicious intent on the part of law enforcement.
- There would have been more grave injuries—perhaps fatalities—of our people had we not set up a shield wall, worn helmets, and worked as a team to protect our own.
- If our fundamental rights were respected and protected, the worst outcome of the rally would have been a few sunburns. The government failed at every level.
- “Shock troops of the establishment” as a descriptor for antifa is on-point, especially after the 12th.
- When it comes to it, we can and will protect ourselves against violent mobs several times our size and larger without fear or hesitation. The bravery and heroics on display last Saturday will never be forgotten.
The media response, while obviously misleading, was nonetheless composed with startling efficiency. At our house we tuned in just after the car incident, and it was immediately labeled “domestic terrorism.” We immediately saw the implication: they were trying to make us all into terrorist organizations. The rally attendees were never referred to as anything except White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis or KKK members. Well-dressed guest speakers were prepped and ready with talking points. Literally as soon as Trump’s address ended, commentators were ready to condemn his “soft response.” Compare this to Obama’s speech in the aftermath of Micah Johnson murdering five police officers in cold blood. If you’re reading FtN you don’t need further recitation of the infinite examples of the double-standards we live under. Hopefully there will be plenty of successful litigation that will reveal the truth about everything that happened and provide proper redress to our movement.
My personal take away from this is that Saturday was the knife-edge of Clown World. The establishment and antifa openly worked together to end our rally using violence and cause us as much bodily harm as they thought they could get away with. As we were being pushed out through point A down the egress path indicated by the red arrow, an M80 was discharged at our feet. There are videos of Black protesters armed with clubs assaulting people as they left the rally: videos of black protestors armed with clubs assaulting people as they left the rally The police were nowhere to be seen and we had to set up a shield wall at point C to protect against a huge rush of antifa attacking people exiting Lee Park. CNN showed a photo of a black protester who attacked people at the exit point with an improvised flamethrower. This is one of the many deadly weapons which were used against us, yet few arrests were made.
“It’s afraid” has been a popular meme lately, but it’s indisputably true now. There can be no backing down. We may change our tactics. We may change our strategy. But what remains ironclad is the readily-apparent potency of our ideas and the skill with which we deliver them. There has been a war against us for decades, and it just got hotter. The stakes are the same as they always were: everything or nothing. Fight any way you can.