Opinion: Alt-right successfully pulls the ‘Reverse Selma’ in Berkeley (again)

The organizers of last weekend’s rallies set them up deliberately to be confronted by the left in a type of “Reverse Selma” action.

By Daveed Walzer Panadero

Daveed Walzer Panadero is an activist and organizer in the Bay Area. He is the co-founder of LovedUP, a mobile dance rally, which had a 600 person action in SF this last weekend.

When the Amber Cummings/Joey Gibson’s Patriots Prayer shit-show came to town last weekend, it seems pretty clear that the left here was still trying to fight the last opponents (Charlottesville’s neo-Nazis and white supremacists) with the last fight’s methods (for those that are non-violent: trying to prevent permits and/or drown them out, for those that are militant: preventing them from speaking with violence)….

But these are different opponents and they’re using different methods. By coming to liberal SF/Berkeley with their five alt-right supporters in tow, they’ve have stumbled on what I call the “Reverse Selma.” It’s the upside-down version of Dr. King moving his marches to Birmingham, the seat of the South’s most virulently racist police chief in the country, Bull Connor, to deliberately provoke violence.

Antifa activists talk about not allowing fascists to have a platform. Well, when your opponents deliberately seek you out in hopes of a violent response – guess what, YOU ARE THE PLATFORM. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this and deliberately courted violence. It’s what moved the great tide of sentiment against the racist south.

How do we know these guys are pulling a Reverse Selma on the left? It requires very publicly advocating non-violence and a public distancing from inconvenient allies that could muddy the water (though privately supporting them). It makes for bad optics. Gone are the invitations and explicit endorsements of obvious white nationalists. In their place are explicit rejections of the most obvious villains and a single-minded message around free speech and “open conversation”.

Joey Gibson’s having a hard time maintaining the facade, these are his friends and most vocal supporters he’s pushing away, but he’s getting better at it. The key is keeping an almost laser like focus on antifa aggression by seeking out opportunities to be grossly outnumbered and, hopefully, assaulted. Americans as a whole abhor political violence; it was a winning strategy back in the 60’s, it’s a winning strategy now.

Now that Amber and Joey are known far-right personalities, they’ve figured out they can even dispense with the pretense of a rally. Unlike MLK, who needed to gather thousands, they’ve learned that they can literally just announce they will be somewhere and show up with four MAGA clowns to get the maximum likelihood of violence and sympathetic press coverage. Ten minutes to create a Facebook announcement and the next “Reverse Selma” is scheduled.

I’m not naive; just about everything Joey Gibson says is disingenuous. He’s very much working on behalf of the forces of the far right by twisting the tools of the civil rights movement into service of the very racism they were meant to fight.

We think we should be fighting to prevent people from hearing their message. But guess what, except for the “Reverse Selma,” there is no message. They’ve got nothing to say that anyone would be interested in hearing and they are not interested in actually speaking. For god’s sake get that man at a podium and a mike. Seriously, without the violence he needs, I’d really like to see what a kind of cringe-worthy borefest it would be. Or let Amber speak and watch just how deflating it is to her hateful agenda.

It’s time to find an effective counter to the Reverse Selma.