This is not the first time that the Willamette Week has stumbled over issues of fascist ideology, which most notably occurred in their defense and promotion of crypto-fascist Michael Jenkins Moynihan, whose ideology and associations were obscured in an August 2000 Willamette Week cover story.
Pitkin contributes to a culture of silence around issues of oppression and racial intimidation in our city, indicating that anti-racists are the bigger problem. To support this idea, he mischaracterizes our organization from the article's start to its finish, going so far as to claim that we refused to grant an interview. What he neglects to mention is that while in dialogue with Willamette Week editor Mark Zusman, we consented to do an interview on the condition that the Willamette Week correct factual errors on their website relating to Rose City Antifa, which they failed to do before our scheduled interview, therefore forcing us to cancel.
We have never had confidence in Pitkin's journalistic skills or professional ethics. It was clear by his earlier authorship of an opinion piece against Rose City Antifa ("Rogue of the Week" article of July 15) that Pitkin had compromised his ability to report news accurately and without bias. Our organization has talked with ethical journalists in the past, and is willing to do so in the future.
Other major distortions in Pitkin's article include, but are not limited to:
- His statement that: "Polite Portland may seem the last city in the U.S. in need of anti-fascist squads." If one sentence were to sum up Pitkin's ignorance about Portland's long and violent history of white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizing, this would be it.
- Pitkin's characterization of Tim Calvert and Tim Titrud as innocent victims of a campaign of harassment instead of active players in the anti-Semitic underground, regardless of Calvert's former left-wing credentials. Much documentation regarding this point exists for those able to use the "search" function on Portland Indymedia. Furthermore, the idea that we are the victimizers is absurd. Tim Titrud should not complain when he gets part of a Hitler poster in the mail--this same poster was sold at a Holocaust-denial event that Titrud actively supported and promoted.
- Pitkin repeatedly casts doubt on the racism and anti-Semitism of organized bigots, stating that they are merely "accused" by Rose City Antifa. In reality, no such doubt exists, especially when figures such as Valdas Anelauskas self-identify as "racialist[s]" and white "separatist[s]." Statements critical of anti-racists are not couched in similar terms within Pitkin's article.
- Pitkin fails to include crucial information when arguing that Rose City Antifa's research and tactics are "clumsy." Rose City Antifa admits that it did not realize that landlord James Copp had died between the first time he was discovered to be renting to neo-Nazis (Volksfront leader Randal Krager) and the second (two other members of Volksfront). Copp's voice remained on his message service. Our error was promptly corrected, and no hostility was intended towards the bereaved. Missing from Pitkin's narrative is that members of the Copp family had been intimately acquainted with white-supremacist circles in Portland; James Copp's baseball bat was wielded by Ken "Death" Mieske to deliver the fatal blows to Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Seraw in 1988, and Copp's daughter Patty Copp (now Patty Pearl) drove the car full of neo-Nazi murderers.
It bears repeating that Rose City Antifa has never exposed a white supremacist or anti-Semite for their beliefs alone. We have only focused our energy on people who have organized to spread their hateful beliefs through propaganda, violence, or organized political efforts.
Not only does Pitkin have trouble reporting facts, his article reveals a skewed and perverted understanding of the "serious questions about the outer limits of free expression and civil protest" that relate to anti-fascist activity. He vents at anti-racists for using their own speech to highlight fascist organizing, and the real atmosphere of intimidation and violence that such organizing presents. In a climate that is inherently violent due to the nature of supremacist movement-building, our group has been incredibly restrained. Some of us choose not to give our full names, but only because we would prefer not to get the death threats we receive on our group voicemail on our personal lines. We are an organization with a public presence, and the consistent accuracy of our information speaks for itself.
We believe those who are concerned with positive social change and human dignity must be able to name fascist ideology for what it is, without apology. Anti-racists are not driving "a wedge into Portland's close-knit protest community." Rather, no community can be "close-knit" when some members deny the humanity of others based on race, creed, gender or sexuality.
Rose City Antifa is part of a broad movement and long tradition of action. Contrary to Pitkin's article, we are by no means isolated. Our group hopes to organize meaningfully alongside all others pushing for fundamental human dignity, something which is never assured without a struggle. For those who disapprove of our tactics, we invite them to out-organize us in a broader common effort. We also welcome constructive criticism of our attempts to build a culture of anti-racism and anti-fascist resistance, but that criticism must spring out of reality. We are disappointed that Willamette Week squandered an opportunity to illuminate an issue of great importance in our world. By failing to accurately report what anti-racism is, and could be, Willamette Week has done everyone a disservice.
To find out more about the vision of the Anti-Racist Action Network, of which we are a part, visit: antiracistaction.org
To read our electronic correspondence with the Willamette Week, see the appendix here.
A response to Pitkin's article from Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates and Stanislav Vysotsky of the Sociology Department at Willamette University may be found here.
Rose City Antifa
fight_them_back [at] riseup [dot]