On Saturday, February 3rd, 2018 for the second time in the span of less than six months white nationalists, minutemen, pseudo militia members and a loose contingent of Trump supporters and other far-right-wing (alt-right) extremists descended upon San Diego’s historic Chicano Park. (The ‘alt-right’ is a far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism that is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist. It is highly decentralized but, has a wide online presence. Followers rail against multiculturalism and what they see as “political correctness.” Openly spouting messages of white supremacy, xenophobia, misogyny, and other extreme far-right ideologies. The movement is noted for a being hotbed for harboring and sheltering racists, white supremacists and neo-nazis within its ranks). Chicano Park is located in the working-class community of Barrio Logan; a historically Chicano (Mexican-American) neighborhood Southeast of downtown San Diego. The so-called demonstration or ’Patriot Picnic 2.0’, was organized by a group who call themselves the ‘Bordertown Patriots’. While not an official organizer, the event was heavily promoted and attended by Roger Ogden. A local San Diego resident who operates the website ‘Patriot Fire blog’ (formerly known as Impeach Obama); which Ogden has used extensively to document his long history of animosity towards Chicanos, Muslims and other, largely minority communities in the region who he believes are contributing to the decline of U.S. society. Ogden was organizer of the first ‘Patriot Picnic’ event back in September, which is widely believed to be facilitated as an attempt to scout out and case the parks murals and other featured art as revenge for the then-recent removal of a confederate monument; and an overall attempt to turn the park’s murals into a toxic issue. Similar to much of the company around him, Ogden can at best be described as a right-wing provocateur whose main aim is baiting people from the communities he harasses into violent or compromising behavior and capturing it on video for his website which he then shares to his followers to in an attempt to gain sympathy from the far right. In line with that goal, the ‘Patriot Picnic 2.0’ event drew a small conglomerate of local right-wing groups, but was largely made up of loose set of out-of-towners from neighboring cities and regions; with some coming as far as northern California, Portland Oregon, Washington State and even Arizona in an attempt to boost the events low turnout numbers which are said to however somewhere in the area of about fifty people. Much like the first protest from back in September, this second round of demonstrating was once again in protest of the Park’s storied murals; in addition to the group’s newest faux grievance of the park’s flying of the flag of Aztlán. In fact, one of the stated goals of the group was to raise the U.S. flag in the park. Even though it was already widely known by the community and those who actually frequent the park regularly that a U.S. flag is already flown next to a Chicano veterans memorial (ironically right next to the very same space the ‘Bordertown Patriots’ had decided to occupy). While day’s events on the 3rd lasted much longer than that back in September, much like the first protest the ‘Bordertown Patriots’ and the accompanying band of supremacists, racists and other hard-right extremists were escorted by police out of Chicano Park once SDPD informed them if they wanted an escort they would have to leave then, vastly outnumbered by both those from the community and others who had come to join in support of the park. In essence, the entire event largely took place without incident. Of the three arrests that happened Saturday, it can’t be stressed enough that all took place off of park grounds and that no violence took place within the park itself. Likewise, of the three arrests that were made once the alt-right left the park, the most serious and only injury was an incident that resulted in a SDPD officer being injured. The confrontation by in large seems to be the consequence of the SDPD officer, identified as Officer Ruggiero by 10 News, instigating the confrontation by assaulting a homeless man, Frederick Jefferson with a baton who was not involved with either side of the protests whatsoever who was simply attempting to cross the street to get distance between himself from both the alt-right and the police. In fact, most of the tension came from within the ‘Bordertown Patriots’ side itself, which many of the attendees arguing and squabbling amongst one another during the duration of their several hour-long occupation of the park. While Saturday’s events largely took place without serious incident or injuries, they are nonetheless part of a disturbing trend that has progressively become more and more commonplace as white supremacists, ultra-nationalists and right-wing extremists progressively become more and more emboldened in an era where violence from the far-right has increasingly become more prominent and permissible on a scale not seen in over a generation under the shadow of a Trump administration.
It’s no secret that nationalism and patriotism as a cloak for white supremacy and ultra-nationalism in this country is very, very old. In fact, it’s one if not the oldest tricks in the white supremacy handbook of methods by which the white power structure of the country has used as means to sanitize and make palatable their sentiments and attempts to attack, scapegoat and vilify poor, disenfranchised, predominately communities of color throughout much of the nation’s dark, turbulent history. Apparently not much has changed, unfortunately. It’s a shame that after nearly forty-eight years the Chicano community of San Diego still has to put up with white nationalists/supremacists and other ultra-right-wing bigots who are enraged at the mere thought of a symbol of self-determination and agency free of the white power structure of the United States existing in this country. It saddens me to say that in the wake of the election of Donald Trump and following events such as the ‘alt-right’ rallies in both Portland, Oregon and Berkley, California; as well as the white supremacist riots following the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville Virginia last summer which left activists Heather Heyer dead after a self-professed neo-nazi rammed his vehicle into a crowd of protestors killing Heyer and injuring thirty-five others, that these and similar events are increasingly becoming all too common in frequency.
Of course this doesn’t even begin to remotely touch on the rash of other high profile, oftentimes fatal attacks from white supremacists, neo-nazis and other violent, racists groups/individuals that fall under the broad ‘alt-right’ umbrella that have continued to take place all across the country; as violent posturing and rhetoric continues to leak from the darkest corners of the internet and make the leap into the realm of reality. Needless to say, given what we have already seen, these events now taking place in our own city of San Diego do not surprise me. That’s not to say that I am numb or indifferent to these heinous displays that take place throughout the nation, however. What I saw march into Chicano Park on February 3rd under police escort clad in riot gear, to protect these agitators who had taken it upon themselves to slither into the community with the stated goal to actively instigate trouble-absolutely appalled me! It was a disgusting display of xenophobic, nationalistic, white supremacist platitudes; all poorly disguised under the thin veil, and unconvincing guise of so-called ‘patriotism’. But to be honest, there is no better description I could conjure up myself to describe and personify the lengths in which this country will go and bend over backward to protect white supremacy. To see Logan Avenue occupied by the SDPD, almost essentially turned into a militarized zone, filled with dozens of cops, police vehicles, snipers posted up on freeway on-ramps and cordoned off with metal barriers is now a common site we are all unfortunately all far too familiar with. I say this because not only is it a testament to the physical protection and safe quarter the state without fail gives to white supremacy, it is the protection of misinformation, fallacies and outright lies that are constantly given a safe quarter as well. At the Barrio Logan community’s expense (and the San Diego taxpayer’s as well I may add) this pathetic band of white nationalists, neo-nazis, minutemen and violent alt-right groups once again rallied up in the sacred confines of Chicano Park demanding that the city of San Diego force the community take down the murals and put up a U.S. flag; while proclaiming under the egregious lie that the park was not inclusive and actively excludes people who aren’t Chicano or Mexican. Having the nerve to cite their previous efforts last summer of harassing and inciting the community, followed by their subsequent escort by police out of the park as supposed grounds for their case of discrimination. Needless to say, all these claims are completely false, unwarranted, fabricated nonsense from the mouths of people who are out to simply incite and instigate controversy where there simply never was any, to begin with. They are not from people who hold real valid concerns or wish to make actual, thought out principled critiques and arguments. Put simply, their claims are bullshit ladies and gentlemen. There simply is no better way to put it. Their claims, their arguments, and little guiding ideology to support the aforementioned two are complete bullshit.
But, it is the current state we now face. Because we now live an era where nonsense reigns supreme, facts be damned. We live in an era where local news media will tip-toe around and selectively choose what elements to report on in regard to the opposition. Many of these people who came into the park with the ‘alt-right’, came wearing helmets, gas masks, and tactical vests. While others came carrying flag poles and some even armed with mace and brass knuckles. Some flashed mock, pseudo white power symbols while obscuring their faces with masks; while others hurled insults and mocked the traditions and Indigenous ceremonies that were taking place across the street. As the age-old saying goes, if one wants to see who came looking for a fight, simply look for who came dressed for one. And it goes without saying anyone with two functioning eyes could see the ‘alt-right’ and crew certainly came dressed, itching, hoping for a fight; even it was mostly confined to amongst themselves. Unfortunately, it seems that by in large most local news outlets in San Diego that covered the events in Chicano Park, once again failed in their duties to properly report a clear and accurate narrative; falling for the bait hook line and sinker thrown by these right-wing extremists. For weeks leading to the third and following since the local media has served as a more than willing platform for the ‘alt-right’ to use a springboard to catapult them into the mainstream local news cycle of San Diego. To make matters worse it seems that by in large local media has opted to frame the whole matter through the lens of being a simple disagreement between two sides, rather than an instance of open white supremacists, nationalists and simply bigoted people angling for violence at a designated national historic site. Again, the media failed to point out that for weeks in advance, the ‘alt-right’ had planned on looking to harass and intimidate a predominately Chicano community to garner media attention and advance their hateful, self-serving agenda. A huge disservice not only to viewers and readers all throughout the county of San Diego; but for larger news outlets outside the region as well who will undoubtedly pull much of their coverage from local news sources to report to a broader audience. However, while it may be a low bar to meet, it should be noted that both CBS 8 and KUSI actually had the moral courage and conviction to properly label the white nationalists as such in their reporting; as opposed to coverage from the San Diego Union-Tribune who described them as “local conservatives”. Crafting what is at best, a deliberately misleading and overtly sanitized description that’s more likely to invoke images of Archie Bunker and other old, dusty, outdated stereotypes types. Rather than accurately characterize the dangerous, outsiders and individuals, many who forged a reputation of caravanning back and forth to various ‘alt-right’ events in an effort of attempting to harass and intimidate marginalized groups and communities. In fact, the San Diego Union-Tribune even went as far to give Roger Ogden his own fawning op-ed, once more essentially giving a known bigot free press and an open platform from which to further his own agenda and attempt legitimize his cause.
It is very common knowledge that Roger Ogden, along with the multitude of individuals he has chosen to align himself with to advance his cause are not bastions of virtue or purveyors of great moral integrity. It is important to stress the fact that this information is not hard to find. In fact, I dare say it is actually exceedingly easy to come by for a dedicated, responsible journalist that one, has the patience to look. And two actually wants to find it, with a particular specific emphasis on the latter. For example, in an interview published by San Diego State University’s student newspaper The Daily Aztec Jourdin Davis, a demonstrator with The ‘Bordertown Patriots’ said no white supremacists were at the event, and any who showed up would not have been allowed in. Saying, “Those are rumors that were debunked on the spot, there’s no neo-nazis or white supremacists here at all, or anybody who stands behind that philosophy”. While the ‘Bordertown Patriots’, its organizers and attendees can feign ignorance all they want, at least one amongst their ranks, John Turano; who also goes by the name of ‘Based Spartan’ and a variety of different monikers is a known white supremacist and can be identified by a multitude of tattoos. Most obviously by a ‘white pride’ tattoo that can be seen inscribed on the sides of his arms. While Turano attempted to obscure one side by wearing an armband to cover one segment of the tattoo while at Chicano Park, Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of Snopes was quick to identify Turano on Twitter and point out his long documented history of attending similar events in the past and even went as far to blast the Union-Tribune for failing to pick up on and report these crucial details to the public. Which includes attending a pro-Trump “free speech” rally in both Portland, Oregon and Berkley, California last year. As well as verbally assaulting a twenty-three-year-old student and her family in Los Angeles, yelling obscenities such as, “Fuck you and your people. Go hang yourself, fucking Palestinian whore. You think I give a fuck? This is America. Suck my dick. I’ll give you $20, whore. This is America, if you don’t like it you can fucking leave it. You can suck my dick with your hijab on, that shit’s sexy. Trump baby. Representing over here, Trump style!” By all accounts it appears Turano and others like him are the norm, not the exception when it comes to the moral make-up of the ‘Patriot Picnic 2.0’ attendees. In the line with the event’s general goal to incite and instigate, others within the ‘Bordertown Patriot’ crowd could be seen photographed flashing the ’ok’ sign. A common troll tactic which gained popularity on various ‘alt-right’ websites and pages such as 4chan which started as an online hoax that the sign had been co-opted as a white power hand symbol standing for a more malicious meaning by representing a “w” and “p” for “white power”. However, as noted in a Buzzfeed report on the matter the line between a hoax and actual are continually becoming more blurred. Saying, “Where it gets really fuzzy, however, is trying to determine when and if these symbols cross over from ironic usage. Take milk. While milk as a supremacist symbol may have started as a sneering troll, it has now become an oft-used prop to publicly signal support for white nationalist politics at rallies, protests, and brawls. Even if it’s being used ironically, it has taken on additional context when people are using it knowing how it will be interpreted. The meaning for all of these things — OK hand symbol possibly included — depend entirely on how they are employed.”
These weren’t the only troubling elements spotted on the ‘Patriot Picnic 2.0’ side as well. Members belonging to other pseudo-militia type groups, such as the ‘III% United Patriots’ and the ‘Oath Keepers’ who have a history of also harboring and catering to sensibilities of white supremacists were also present at the park. The Oath Keepers, while not an overtly racist group, having even been criticized as being not “racist enough” from other hate groups (albeit still racist); has its own share of troubling and problematic history as well made an appearance amongst the ‘Bordertown Patriots’ crowd. The group drew criticism for patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with semiautomatic rifles during the 2014 protests following the police shooting of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. Likewise, the group has since then come under further criticism in the years following, particularly serving as self-appointed security for a variety of other far-right events throughout the country. Advocacy groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League have dubbed the Oath Keepers an “extremist ‘patriot’ group”, saying they have shown “violent, racist and conspiratorial tendencies”. With so much overlap between white supremacists, ultra-nationalists, pseudo-militias and other hate groups which find safe haven under the broad encompassing umbrella of the far-right, it comes as no surprise that this loose conglomerate of white supremacists, ultra-nationalist, minutemen and other ‘alt-right’ personalities and individuals would find common ground under this wretched banner; which has turned outdated, but, nonetheless commonly held perceptions of the face of hate and bigotry in this country on its head.
It goes without saying that by in large our own cultural perceptions of what embodies hate and bigotry in this country must be re-evaluated and updated to match those which most accurately reflect those of our own current modern times. The reality we currently face is that hate in this country does not have to be exclusively shrouded in a white hood and sheets. Hate does not always come in the form of swastika clad skinheads and neo-nazis. Hate does not always have to take the form of illiterate, backwater hicks and rednecks. These are called stereotypes, and while examples of this are without a doubt common enough and more than plentiful to propel them to the imaginations of the general public; we fool ourselves into tricking our minds that hatred, bigotry and white supremacy in this country abides and can only exist and function within these narrow confines and constructs. This is how white supremacy functions, and how the institution of white supremacy itself regularly shifts to deflect and absolve itself of culpability. The truth is, more often than not hatred, bigotry and white supremacy does not come packaged in the form of these obvious, tired and cliched stereotypes. These are simply the most overt, and blatantly obvious examples one can see coming from a mile away. Today they manifest themselves in far more concealed, insidious and immensely more dangerous forms. They come disguised in the form of dudebros, frat boys or adolescent white male college students who are common targets for recruiting from far-right extremists. They come disguised in the form of many Blue Lives Matter and Trump supporters who rally behind his most vile, toxic sentiments, masking their hatred behind thin blue lines and cheap red baseball caps and to varnish their obvious contempt. They come in the form of online trolls who hide behind anonymous online identities that regularly stalk, harass and doxx people of color on websites and other social media platforms. And oftentimes, in fact I’d say historically hate comes dripping, draped from head to toe in the U.S. Flag disguised as ‘patriotism’. The fact of the matter is white supremacy often times comes disguised in the form of not only that which has placed upon a pedestal and therefore deemed sacred and infallible; but that which is also close and relatable to the so-called white ‘average american’. A co-worker, a classmate, perhaps even a close friend or perhaps even a family member. In this country’s institutions, it is regularly manifested through; the police, the courts, and military whose reach know no bounds wreaking havoc through the global south and beyond. It is this proximity that not only gives white supremacy it’s cover, it’s what makes it so easy for far too many to deny, dismiss or even belligerently defend. Therefore, making far more dangerous and exponentially more deadly. Because to be blunt, white supremacy is far more likely to take the form and manifest itself through the form of someone you and I interact with on a daily basis than any of the other widely known and outdated aforementioned stereotypes. Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist who now works with Life After Hate, an organization that rehabilitates former neo-nazis and right-wing extremists, gave an interview with 60 Minutes shortly after the ‘Unite the Right’ violence in Charlottesville last August describing this same exact phenomenon of the rapidly changing face of hate in the country saying this. “You know, we were skinheads, and in our day, there was KKK, and you could easily identify a white supremacist walking down the street. Nowadays, because of a concerted strategy on our part 30 years ago when we recognized that the average American white racist was put off by our edginess, we decided to tone it down, to grow our hair out, to wear suits instead of boots, to go to college campuses and recruit, to get jobs in law enforcement and join the military to get training and to even run for office. It was a strategy to blend in, look like your neighbor, your dentist, your attorney, your teacher, your nurse and take the message of the ideology and polish it just to make it a little bit more palatable, a little bit easier to swallow for the average American white racist and recruit that way. Because we recognized that, if we wanted them, we needed to be like them, sound like them and look like them, and here we are 30 years later, and, in fact, that’s exactly what’s happening”.
By all accounts, it appears Picciolini’s reflections are manifesting themselves all across the country, as white supremacists continually work to assimilate into mainstream society and mainstream their views as well. To further illustrate this constant evolution and mutation of white supremacy with the ever-changing times and societal norms I’m going to use cinema, one of my favorite artistic mediums to relate my point. I’d like to reference one of my favorite movies, the 1982 film ‘John Carpenter’s The Thing’. For those unfamiliar and who don’t possess the stomach to sit through this grotesque, claustrophobic film I’ll give you the rundown. In this film, a group of researchers trapped on the Antarctic continent have to fight off and destroy a horrendous, terrifying monster from space that crashed here on our planet thousands, perhaps millions of years ago which is dug out and thawed from the ice by the unsuspecting research team. Once thawed from the ice, the re-animated creature awakened from its long icy slumber quickly begins a deadly, brutal assault throughout the camp. The catch is, however, the invading monster is a cunning and intelligent shapeshifter. In essence, The Thing can imitate any living organic organism; people, dogs, etc. and will infect and mimic anything it comes in contact with to prolong its own longevity. In fact, it can imitate them so well they are completely identical and the monster can move about freely throughout the camp undetected. Killing off, infecting and imitating the crew members one by one as it attempts to free itself from the Antarctic continent and spread out to conqueror the rest of the world. Long story short, after a series of setbacks the group using a blood test from the samples of surviving crew members discover that they can detect, draw out and ultimately destroy the monster with fire. When faced with fire, every time without fail every cell and molecule of this monster will lose its composure and violently react like an individual animal recoiling and fleeing from the sting of a hot flame; fighting for its own self-preservation and expose itself for the imposter that it really is. And that is exactly what white supremacy in the U.S. is. A horrendous, ugly, despicable, deadly monster insidiously hidden but always present, that morphs and changes with the times to keep itself cleverly hidden in playing sight. And social movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and efforts to reform lawn enforcement and the criminal justice system, the movement to protect Dreamers, pass a clean DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, the swiftly changing racial demographics of our country, as well as the election and subsequent re-election of a Black man like Barack Obama to the highest office in the country is just a fraction of the hot flame that has exposed the monster that is white supremacy which has been hiding and lurking in playing sight this whole time and now has fully manifested itself once more. Manifested in the form of the rise of the ‘alt-right’, the mainstream acceptance of white supremacists and ultranationalist in our contemporary politics and perhaps most prominently by the ascendance of such a grossly incompetent, misogynistic, bigoted, xenophobic demagogues such as Donald Trump to the highest office in the country. Again, racism does not simply gradually diminish over time, history has shown that the reality is racism adapts and mutates in according to modern norms.
The groups and individuals targeting Chicano Park are a testament to this ongoing, not so covert shift. In fact, they are the condemnatory indictment of exactly what has been wrong with the U.S. and our society for a very long time; and has come to a head and been emboldened within the toxic incubator of a tumulus political and social climate under the shadow of a Trump era. It has been shown time and time again that these people actively go looking to cause problems and manufacture trouble where none has existed before. The fact of the matter is this, the racist groups and individual bigots picking Chicano Park for their ‘meeting’ is to purposefully target and antagonize, in a malicious attempt to intimidate and menace the Barrio Logan community. Chicano Park isn’t a discriminatory place. The paintings, murals and other works celebrate the Chicano culture. Our culture. The community Barrio Logan and the greater Chicano community of San Diego at large is well justified fighting back and trying to protect Chicano Park and the culture it represents; and will not allow the narrative to be dictated clueless individuals who don’t have the slightest understanding or comprehension of Chicano Park, Chicano history or Barrio Logan. This is not merely about exercising free speech at Chicano Park. Roger Ogden and his loose contingent of white supremacists, ultra-nationalist and other right-wing extremists could have made their voices heard anywhere. Their choice was deliberate, calculated and disgusting. The truth is, it was never about flags. It was never about murals. It was never about access to the park, symbolism, patriotism or any other meaningless, superficial, buzzwords used to disguise vile, ugly ultra-right jingoism. This was one hundred percent about unbridled, unadulterated racism, bigotry and xenophobia with the specific intent of deliberately targeting San Diego’s Chicano community. They say the park is not inclusive when they fail to confront, let alone acknowledge the ugly fact that this country has NEVER been inclusive. They falsely claim to have been discriminated against, when the park itself is a space that was created as a reaction by people they themselves had suffered decades of systematic discrimination and exclusion. The fallacy that is white supremacy and the glaring ugly truth of white nationalism is that racists strategically attempt to demonize and label anything not eurocentric in nature to obscure their own vile, ugly sentiments. They work to vilify anything that does not center themselves as the center of the universe and by default see anything that does not cede or yield to their ridiculous demands as anti-white (or more commonly veiled under their own guise ‘un-American’). It is the racist, xenophobic notion that in order for one be a ‘real American’ people of color are required to disavow and reject their own culture, history or native tongue in favor of a watered-down, whitewashed cookie-cutter identity forged to appeases the fragile sentimentalities of white anglos. We resoundingly reject this notion.
However, just as I was on February 3rd, my main broader focus is not on the hateful sentiment that seeks to sow resentment and divide. Because the beauty that surrounded all of us throughout the rest of the park that day is what binds and unites us. What I witnessed was a beautiful, and diverse and joyous rainbow coalition of different races, ethnicities, creeds, and colors from all walks of life gathered to celebrate the splendor and beauty which is Chicano Park. That ladies and gentlemen is what Chicano Park represents, it is the undeniable truth which shows through and is impossible to blackout or obscure. The future of this nation looks like the crowd of seven hundred plus people who gathered in and around Chicano Park. Not what was gathered across the street taunting with obscenities, urinating on murals and flashing white power symbols. These people of the latter and the sentiments they espouse are the remaining elements of a dying segment of society, and events like such are its last desperate death rattle. Chicano Park, not only conveys and reflects the struggles, hardships, and injustices suffered by the community; but, likewise is a living testament to the ingenuity, determination and triumphs of our people in such a pure and beautiful manner. Quite frankly, the art speaks for itself, a statement which speaks volumes louder than the lies and slander of Roger Ogden, white supremacists or the few ‘alt-right’ nobody’s who wish to sow trouble and do harm to our communities. We are strong, they are weak. We are united, they are not. Our position comes from one of love, while theirs is derived from bigotry, xenophobia, and hate. Hate is hate. No matter how many U.S. flags and red baseball caps are used in a feeble attempt to dress it up, mask and obscure it. Mexicans, Chicanos, we have been a part of this land from the very beginning; before this region was even technically part of this country. Our legacy to this land goes far beyond colonization, the creation of arbitrary, man-made borders and dates on a calendar. Yet we are still made to feel like outsiders in our own home, but, here we still are birthed from these two complicated and intricate lineages. You cannot erase our culture, our history, and our identity. This land the occupied South-West is our home. We have been here before this was the United States. Before this was Mexico. Before New Spain. And we will be here long after, no matter how much society attempts to re-write and whitewash history; you cannot divorce our history and legacy from this land.
For more information on the history of Chicano Park, its murals and upcoming events please refer to the Chicano Park Steering Committee’s official website as well as this informational documentary detailing the Park’s rich history.