Huntington Beach police are preparing for a rally Sunday, April 11, that’s among others promoted on social media across the nation to “unify White people against white hate.”
Things could get heated, however. The local Black Lives Matter chapter has announced on social media that it will hold a counterprotest at 11 a.m. Sunday at the pier. The “white lives matter” rally is advertised for 1 p.m. Sunday at the pier.
In a statement, the BLM chapter’s leader, Tory Johnson, said the counterprotest will be a demonstration against racism and hate.
“White supremacy is not welcome here and we will do everything possible to prevent this rally and defend our community from racist terrorism,” he said.
Huntington Beach has a history of attracting those who promote white supremacy. The city also has a history of rallies turning violent. In March 2017, a rally in support of then-President Trump turned into a brawl between supporters of the president and counterprotestors.
More recently, neighborhoods in Southern California cities including Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Villa Park and Long Beach have been hit with flyers mentioning the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacist ideology as well as Sunday’s rally, and extensively using the phrase “white lives matter.”
Meanwhile, the Huntington Beach City Council voted this week to condemn violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans and to condemn white supremacy. Another action called for city-sponsored events to counter the planned “white lives matter” rally on Sunday. Those events are scheduled to be held April 18 at Central Park.
OC Human Relations will hold a virtual event at the same time as the “white lives matter” rally to give community members a space and opportunity to discuss issues around race, hate and bigotry, said Alison Edwards, the organization’s CEO.
“The idea that working toward equality means that someone else needs to be disadvantaged is just a way of spreading fear,” she added. “This is not a time to be divisive. We all need to work in solidarity.”
Is ‘white lives matter’ a group?
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the phrase “white lives matter” originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which emerged in response to police brutality against Black people.
“White lives matter” appears to be a phrase rather than the name of a specific group, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
“That’s not to say there is no cell of individuals or a small group that decided to form a little group by that name,” he said. “We just don’t know. These types of catch phrases and bumper sticker slogans are typically used by a broader sub-culture rather than an organized group.”
Harbinger of things to come?
Levin said his center is closely monitoring the rallies promoted for Sunday in six or seven major cities in the United States, including Huntington Beach.
“If there is a city this Sunday for law enforcement to be ready in Southern California, Huntington Beach would be the place,” he said. He noted Sunday’s rallies appear to be the first time far-right groups or individuals have attempted to organize in this manner since the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Around the country, there have been reports of other cities gearing up for rallies on Sunday as well. According to the Statehouse News Bureau, an Ohio news outlet, law enforcement agencies in Columbus, Ohio, are preparing for a planned and publicized “white lives matter” rally at the Ohio Statehouse. Other rallies are being promoted in cities in the Carolinas as well, according to posts on Telegram.
Levin said he expects to see more activity among far-right groups as COVID-19 protocols ease. But, he said, they’ll likely stay local or regional and tend to operate as loners or small cells.
“They are moving into more encrypted platforms,” he said of far-right groups. “We see more regional activity as we see groups of people who feel politically disenfranchised. Organized groups are continuing to exist and exert influence even though the leadership is tumbling. In the far-right, white-supremacist world, leaderless resistance and regional action is the fallback.”
So, could Sunday’s event be a forerunner of things to come or might it fizzle out at a national level?
“I think there is going to be some fizzle, drizzle and thunder,” Levin said, “but mostly fizzle and drizzle.”
Source: OC Register