LCRW is 100% reader-funded!Support LCRW
There were a few disturbing incidents in the lead-up to the rally in Martinez on the 11th.
In late June, white supremacist fliers calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization and saying “We (whites) our[sic] the chisen[sic] people” (probably meaning to say “We are the chosen people”) were found near downtown. The fliers may be associated with the infamous neo-Nazi forum Stormfront.
“We’re sick of this narrative, that’s what’s wrong,” a man in a viral video of the incident said. “The narrative of police brutality, the narrative of oppression, the narrative of racism, it’s a lie.”
Nelson and Anderson went on The Daily Stormer’s favorite pundit’s show after being charged with a hate crime for it. Tucker Carlson praised them for their “bravery” and let them spout off about Black Lives Matter having a “hidden agenda.” Like the neo-Nazi fliers found in Martinez, Carlson has called BLM a terrorist organization.
On the 6th, Joseph Osuna brandished a loaded .22 revolver after arguing with someone else at the mural site. He reportedly shouted “All lives matter!” He’s being charged with three firearms-related offenses and faces up to three years.
The event on Sunday itself was called “Zero Tolerance for White Supremacy Peaceful March and Rally.” It was initially called in response to the neo-Nazi fliers. Minnesota Immigration Rights Action Committee, Native Lives Matter, South Bay Resistance and Together We Stand organized it. There was also a broad call for Bay Area anti-racist and anti-fascist groups to show up because of possible hostilities from, well, racists and fascists. Groups like the Brown Berets and local SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) showed up to help provide security.
Right off the first thing we saw was just a car with a bunch of blue lives matter stuff and we were like “Oh, we’re in Martinez.”
We went through town. All the businesses–way further back than just the main area of the town–had been boarded up, apparently by recommendation of the sheriff. There was a lot of talk that the sheriff had escalated things–as if he was saying “you’re bringing this upon yourselves.”
We parked in one of the lots with a lot of liberal protesters and families. It was just a peaceful protest. The RevCom people were just getting out near us. Everyone walked in a group to the courthouse. All the buildings were boarded up since Friday.
“There was a guy outside of his bail bonds shop. He stood around the whole time waiting to fight whoever tried to break in,” Kathleen Goldman, another protester, recalled.
When we left after the march, he was nervous–eyes darting back and forth, no mask, wide stance in front of his bail bonds shop. He was doing this ‘if they loot, we shoot’ kind of thing.
The event started at the courthouse with speakers. We walked up and there was a guy wearing a bunch of military and veteran gear sitting down with no mask with an expensive radio. That guy and some of the other guys struck me as Patriot Movement-types at first, but by the end they had the vibe of ‘It’s OK to be white’ racists. At the courthouse, there were a lot of leftists with plate carriers and medical gear and radios. Three people with body armor were riding horses. There were two cops on a rooftop overlooking everything and barricades all around.
The first speaker had just started. A counter-protestor with a skull mask and two others who were unmasked–one a woman in a dress and another man just walked straight into the crowd.
“It was super weird because he was in a skull mask and a ‘don’t tread on me’ shirt and looked creepy as fuck. But he showed up with a guy who just looked like a frat boy and his girlfriend. And he was just trying to seem intimidating,” Goldman said, laughing a little.
No one stopped them–probably because most of the crowd were just liberals and ordinary people.
Pretty instantaneously, the bald guy in the Harley Davidson shirt walked right up to the microphone to yell and agitate. Organizers got on the mic and told people not to pay him any mind. People chanted “black lives matter” at him and he was just removed from the area. He got pushed down to the street corner. We listened to the speeches a bit then went out to the street. The bald guy was there with the Clamper guy. Most of the guys had motorcycle shit. I think a lot of them were Clampers.
Speakers at the mic talked about police brutality, white supremacy, the recent uprisings. RevCom got on the mic and said the right wing wants a race war–which in my opinion felt like an escalation.
Native Lives Matter and the Brown Berets showed up. There were SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.) Some unaffiliated leftists in body armor marched along with them. Anti-Racist Action put out a call to action for the event. It felt like there were two marches: the antifascists and people there for security in one and the liberals who wanted nothing to do with them in the other. Despite that, the counter-protesters shouted and threatened and intimidated people the whole march. The press followed the antifascists.
The Clamper guy was yelling over a barricade at someone else. They exchanged threats. He had an iron cross with the word “Clamper” in the middle and a lot of skull and bones iconography on him. He did the Proud Boy thing–acting like he was defending himself while trying to provoke people and thinking he was clever for it. It seemed to me he knew what he was about. He was holding a beer.
“How am I ignorant? I support this. I’m in favor of free speech. Just because I’ve got fucking a hangman’s noose doesn’t mean anything about black people,” the Clamper said. He said the noose on his vest had to do with secret society symbolism.
“If you knew anything about the Masons or the Clampers, you would fuckin’ know about this old man. So get the fuck out my face,” he shouted before people got in between him and whoever was arguing with him and de-escalated.
Near the end of the confrontation with this guy, someone with the BLM protesters said something along the lines of “What are you gonna do about it?” and the counter-protesters masked up all at once. Two others came over along with the man in the skull mask. They all formed a little blob and crossed their arms. The brown berets got involved–some keeping the counter-protesters occupied while others took photos of them. They kept the blob occupied while the march turned a corner. We stayed with the antifascists and Brown Berets because catching up with the march would’ve been unsafe. They were too far ahead and the counter-protesters were spread out one or two at a time in front of boarded up stores. It was a minefield.
When we turn the corner, there was a group of cops. I’d never seen them in that formation before. They were far from the action, standing in groups of two spread out over a hundred yards of a boarded-up street the protesters weren’t even marching through. They had long, sword-like batons and apparently were watching for looters. They had mis-matched gear. One had a wooden baton and others had black-painted ones. All had tube masks on. One had an American flag face mask–same exact kind as some counter-protestors had later. We passed a fountain and some parks with police tape wrapped around it. Meanwhile, the march was extremely peaceful. There were babies in strollers. No one was going to tear down or deface anything.
The way the police handled it, in my view, raised the tension to a crazy level. They manufactured the crisis by telling businesses to board up their storefronts, having spotters on the rooftops and stationing themselves away from the march while these Clampers and racist dudes stood at corners and storefronts imposing on them.
So we walked down and the protesters started chanting “Cops and Klan go hand in hand!” Goldman recalls one cop shouting “What?!” The policemen must not have heard that one before. It took them aback.
Most of the cops were not wearing face masks. The only people not wearing masks that day were the police and the white mob that came to intimidate the protesters. The march, to remind you, was specifically against white supremacy, so that should make you think about what these people were standing for.
I was filming the guy with the skull mask. He went up to a cop and pointed at me and said something to the effect of “Hey, this guy’s been following me and filming me. You gotta go take care of him.” So we walked into the crowd to lose him. The counter-protestors were doing that constantly–going up to the cops and asking them to “take care of” the BLM marchers.
“Hey, your job’s important. You gotta make an example of these guys,” one of the counter-protesters said to a cop.
The march took another turn around a corner to go to the Marina. At that corner and a corner back a block in the shade there was another group of racists. In yet another corner still there were a bunch of really beefy racists we hadn’t seen before. Most of them didn’t have masks. The ones that did had camouflage or American flag tube masks and were all tattooed up. They were a lot more threatening. They’d yell and jeer “No! What are you talking about?” when the “Cops and Klan go hand in hand” chant started.
There was a standoff between antifascists and them while the march turned the corner. But then some of the protest leaders on the megaphone started yelling at the antifascists, telling them not to give the counter-protesters any attention.
“They were yelling like ‘Ladies and gentlemen, stop! This is what they want! They want the media attention,’” Goldman recalled.
“At first people were understanding of that but the protest leaders kept yelling at the antifascists while they were trying to de-escalate,” Goldman said.
“The antifascists and unaffiliated people were acting as security. They were handling it, but they (the organizers) kept yelling to leave the fascists alone. Then one of them yelled ‘Oh, they’re sad because their president is losing. But of course, the people who were actually dealing with the situation didn’t just walk away. You don’t leave fascists alone to just follow the crowd,” they added.
People stayed there for a while. There was disagreement over what to do among the marchers. One of the marchers started shouting at an antifascist. The main crowd had left at this point and if the counter-protesters were a bit bolder, it could have been really bad. The numbers were about even. The counter-protesters were shouting COVID conspiracies, spit flying out of their maskless faces. Eventually, we crossed over the train tracks to the Marina.
At the Marina, people made speeches about topics pertinent to Black Lives Matter such as police killings and brutality. They said it was a successful march. Mothers of people murdered by police talked about white supremacy in the area. Two white men on bikes were perched on the edge of the crowd overlooking it from a hill. Two of the counter-protesters walked around the perimeter. They were maskless with shades on, arms crossed, surveying the crowd. Pickup trucks drove around the park doing a slow roll to watch the march.
“There was a guy sitting next to us who just randomly started running toward the parking lot. All of a sudden I see all the other leftists in tactical gear running towards the parking lot as well,” Goldman recalled. Walkie-talkies went off all around them.
Someone came up to us and said “I don’t know if you know this, but the guy who was sitting next to you was one of the counter-protestors.” Goldman recalled the antifascists chasing after him. This counter-protestor apparently had body armor. We walked over to where they were but the counter-protester had left already.
“It was completely quiet except for some of the people who were talking because they were dealing with the fascists,” Goldman reflected. “It was super-tense–at least from our perspective. There were fascists across the street.”
The counter-protesters were positioned right across the tracks where people were going to come back out to. I think the counter-protesters planned this out to some degree in advance. The cops were hands-off enough to send a clear message to the counter-protesters. They were controlling territory. It felt like Klan shit.
A train passed and blew its whistle to the protesters. One speaker called Joe Biden a white supremacist. Some in the crowd cheered at the remark. Others weren’t so pleased and stayed quiet. The same speaker told the crowd not to go alone to do anything because of the counter-protesters.
Even when we walked back through town with the unofficial security team, it seemed like it could’ve touched off into a melee at any moment. When we walked back across the tracks, the counter-protesters were drinking tall boys of White Claw in the street and patting each other on the back. It was clear the whole crowd knew each other. They were already drunk and the police didn’t care.
“Gimme another Claw! The Claw’s the law!” one shouted.
It felt like something out of To Kill a Mockingbird. This was a march against white supremacy and these guys felt comfortable threatening people at it. They stood on this corner mocking and jeering. We walked past with them and one singled out a visibly queer person in the group who was wearing body armor.
“What do you need this for? Are we so scary?” the counter-protester said while rapping his knuckle on the much shorter person’s armor.
Another called out to me and asked why I had hard-knuckle gloves on using the same line. Another was shouting drunkenly and calling us “Antifa” and asking us why we had body armor. His friend pulled him back and said “No, no–they have a right to do that.” They kept on laughing nervously. The medical and security team did look militant and prepared to defend themselves after all. They all masked up at the end. Among them was Ashton Whitty, a former correspondent for both InfoWars and the white nationalist outlet The Red Elephants.
One man came up to us and asked me why I was filming. He and I took photos of each other. He lifted up his shirt and showed me his tattoos–a bank, a skeleton and a gun. My impression was the gun tattoo was meant to be intimidating. It was this drunken, nervous, hyper-masculine Proud Boys-like crowd. It felt like all the racists in town just came together with a plan to shut the march down or at least make a stand.
After the counter-protesters masked up, they’d come up to the BLM marchers, getting in their faces and asking “Oh, are we cool? Are we cool?” They were looking for a fight. Around then, a line of five cops came in and told people to clear off of the streets. After they came down, they fist-bumped the man who was drinking in public while he had a can of White Claw in hand. The cops let the counter-protesters back on the streets, but not the anti-racists.
“You gotta make an example out of these guys,” one counter-protester told the cops.
It got a creepier vibe when the cops showed up. We decided to get out. It was clear the cops would let the counter-protesters do what they wanted. We walked past the cops and drunken counter-protesters. We walked past another cop leaning against the hood of a car chatting with two other counter-protesters. Further down there was another group of cops–none of whom were wearing masks. On the other end there were even more cops and counter-protesters chatting.
We walked past boarded-up businesses. There was a guy with a goatee and Oakleys leaning up against a shop who’d been in the counter-protest crowd earlier. It might have been his shop for all I know. It felt like the whole town was watching us. We kept on walking and there were cops leaning over railings watching people. There were guys drinking in front of their houses.
Someone had spray-painted a message about a local cop who had killed someone. I’m not sure when it was painted. There were even a couple of the counter-protesters waiting in the parking lot when we got there.
I think there were about 30-50 counter-protesters in total. It took a lot longer than it should have. It was only about a half-mile from the Courthouse to the Marina, but it took forever to get there because of the harassment. The march broke up into smaller groups along the way because of the counter-protesters.
There was never going to be a threat to the local businesses from this march. But it was set up to be a lot worse than it was. I think the racists or the cops or both wanted it to be worse.
When we got out, we drove by the police station. There was a BEARCAT ready to roll out. All for a completely peaceful protest with religious and community leaders.
“We were also fortunate to have a large contingent of officers from every agency in this county and we appreciate their assistance,” Martinez’s Chief of Police said in a statement later that night.
“While we did not need to use the additional resources, having them nearby and available was comforting,” he added.