I’ve put off writing any follow-up for various reasons, but if I don’t do it now I may never. Less than two days after A22, I wrote up my experience for LCRW as “Vandy,” and in there I mentioned that I felt like it would be a few weeks before I could wrap my head around how I felt about both what happened to me that day and the overall tactics and events of the day. I gave my initial feelings under that framing, but I’ve had a few weeks to process and some of those feelings have evolved.
Initially, both prior on the day of and in the days immediately following, I had very mixed feelings about the move to break off from downtown and go to Parkrose. I had only second-hand accounts to how the discussions/arguments went between those that wanted to go and those who felt we should stay downtown. I had come to the event that day geared specifically to provide minor medic services, distribute food and Gatorade as well as eye wipes and wash, and in worst-case scenarios to provide evac for those in need. After speaking to a few people I trust who were going to Parkrose, and concluding that there were no other medic or evac vehicles going, I felt it was important for me to go even if I felt our numbers were too small and we lacked a solid plan. My hesitancy was based entirely on numbers available and tactics possible, not at all related to the need to go. We had heard, and it proved true, that there were a few locals protesting the PB rally and they were being harassed. Additionally,’ we go where they go’ is a principle I take seriously. Shortly after I arrived in Parkrose, a local ran up to us very distressed and explaining that the PBs had surrounded and intimidated them before someone helped them get away. People reassured this person and they expressed several times that they were happy to see the Bloc because the locals who had come out to voice their opposition were few and being intimidated and attacked by the PBs.
I regret not checking my doors, it was not unknown to me that I had to lock my doors with the key from the outside but I failed to double check them before we headed toward the Kmart parking lot. But I don’t regret advancing ahead of the group to the parking lot entrance or anything else about why I was there. I saw a small crowd at the edge and a large group of armed PBs approaching them from further into the parking lot and I wanted to make sure they had cover and a way out, so I pulled just into the entrance. The coward who shot me with his paintball gun during the carjacking, had started shooting at the small group I’d seen just as I arrived. His shots had to pass in front of my van to hit these people so it was an easy decision to take my foot off the brake and go ~10ft forward to obstruct those shots. I haven’t stopped replaying the following ~10 seconds in my mind for weeks now and the narrowness of my escape terrifies me; but it was important that we were there. We could have had better tactics, and we could have communicated better downtown, but the critique that those who went did so only and all out of some machismo or impatience for confrontation is unfair and inaccurate.
Our wins are not static. Yes, it was an immediate win before A22 even started because the chuds relocated to the edge of town and staged in an empty parking lot. They called retreat from the downtown area, that they so often like to boast that they are coming to clean up, days before they even showed up just because the community rallied so well. That was a win, no argument. But they still came, and still rallied, and still brought their bigotry to a community that shouldn’t have to deal with it, and they were still hurting people in this city. If we had all stayed downtown, that would not have been anything more than an empty victory at best. Antifascism never has a moment to rest on its laurels and many of those who went to Parkrose went because a victory largely or solely rooted in optics was not a victory while fascists were still harming people and holding space without substantial opposition.
Lastly, I want to say so many thank yous; to those I won’t name, to those I can’t name, to those who’ve already heard it from me, and to those that may never, I am more grateful than I can express. I didn’t get to safety alone, and the help and support I received then and in the weeks that followed is overwhelming. I wish I could say it to everyone with a hug, but until then I’ll say it here; thank you, all of you, for the many forms of support and solidarity these past few weeks, thank you.