After a bit of confusion with my map app I found parking half a mile from the rally site and walked. There were lots of cops from multiple departments. I saw city, county, and state cops. Also cops on bicycles and horses. The helicopter arrived later. Dallas PD did not want to let things get out of control and they wanted everyone to know that.
I followed the crowd to the plaza in front of City Hall. There were counter-protestors at a confederate memorial by the Pioneer Park Cemetery, too far away for me to see them. The crowd was peaceful. The organizers requested that no one wear masks and I only saw a couple of black-bandanna types.
A couple of friends found me there, which made standing around more pleasant. The organizers had a series of speakers, but the sound system could barely project over the packed solid crowd at the stage. Neither my friends nor I wanted to LARP sardines so we hung on the outskirts and watched people's signs. (The Baptist preacher could project well, but I couldn't hear well enough to follow him.)
The signs fell into several categories:
1. Nazis, fascists, and white supremicists are bad. I agree.
2. Peace, love, and other things are good. Also agree.
3. I hate Trump. I didn't vote for Trump, but I'm not panicking over him either.
4. Revolution now! (In socialist, communist, and possibly a few other flavors.) Nope. I swore an oath to the US Constitution.
5. Speech is violence. I disagree.
One of my friends had a sign saying "White Silence Is Violence." I didn't argue with him about it. I was there to support the rally, not split it, and if I insist on only grouping with people I agree 100% with I'll always be standing alone.
Nitpicking arguments is what this blog is for.
Insisting that speech is never violence is more than a nitpick though. No matter how horrifying someone's speech is, and advocating genocide is as horrifying as it can get, it's not justification for initiating force against them. We have rules defining incitement and harrassment. Waving a flag in a park doesn't count as either.
Declaring speech is violence serves a specific purpose: granting permission to attack people engaging in speech.
We've had plenty of precedents of people engaging in hateful speech. The Nazis had to go to the Supreme Court to get permission to march in Skokie. Did that get them the white supremacy they wanted? No. It got them mocked as homosexuals in the Blues Brothers.
The previous month Charlottesville had a KKK rally. It was handled firmly by the police. What did they get out of it? Nothing. Not even national publicity. I didn't hear of it until the Nazis did their rally and the cops let it turn into a brawl. (Why am I blaming the cops? Well, when the ACLU thinks the police are being too retiring there's some bad police work going on.) Countering the Klan with speech and ostracism worked.
I see a lot of people looking at the brawlers and saying "this bunch is on my side." I don't. To me they're both on the same side, the Violence Party. The brawls are their primary election. Democratic primaries are usually contests between the unions and the liberals. Republicans ones are between country clubbers and Christians. The Violence Party is competing to see which form of total control they want to impose on the country. The thugs can be counted on to rally behind the winner. There's already switching going on between the groups. The Portland knife murderer used to support Bernie Sanders, and one of the Nazi organizers in Charlottesville was an Obama supporter.
I'm a member of the Voting Party. I want our arguments settled with speech and votes, not force. Because once we let force make the decisions it'll displace speech everywhere. Giving a mayor the power to suppress speech by withdrawing police protection to enable a heckler's veto will mean giving Trump the power to use the same tactic. That's not anyplace we want to be.
A digression, since someone will probably ask. The government removing statues from government property I’m fine with. That’s democracy. Vandalism is a crime. Removing the marker from POWs' graves is a dick move.
Back to the issue of violence. The black bloc rioters have been scaring me for months with the attacks they've made to suppress speakers. I’m all in favor of being opposed to fascism. But when someone uses violence to shut down a speech, breaks windows, assaults journalists, and advocates a totalitarian form of government . . . that’s a fascist, even if you put an “anti” label on him. They even shut down the rally I was at. As the organizer posted on FB:
Now, many of you may not know this, but there was an altercation between members of Anti-fa and officers of DPD. There were threats made on the part of Anti-fa towards police, the threat of escalation was real, and that is why the ending of the event probably felt so abrupt. We were unable to do the vigil portion, and we are truly sorry for that, but getting everyone out of the plaza and home safely was paramount and a top priority. Obviously, nothing ever came of the conflict between Anti-fa and DPD, but it's better to be safe than sorry, always.I didn't see that confrontation. One of my friends had a seizure and I was busy cushioning their head from the concrete. When I looked up there were a dozen riot-geared cops surrounding us. Seemed ridiculous overkill at the time, but now that I know what happened I presume they were making a show of force to make sure the black-masked types didn't try anything more.