Fighting White Supremacy on Springfield City Hall’s Steps

Local activists rally in front of Springfield City Hall, inspired to act after weekend shootings

With only one day’s notice, about 75 people attended a rally in front of Springfield City Hall Wednesday, Aug. 7, to condemn the rise of white nationalist-driven shooting attacks and to pressure Springfield City Council to take action.

The rally, called Standing Against White Nationalism, was organized by Springfield Alliance for Equity and Respect, a program of Community Alliance of Lane County (CALC). The suspected shooter in El Paso, Texas, who killed 22 people published online a manifesto that echoed President Donald Trump’s language of a “Hispanic invasion.”

“The mass shooting in El Paso was an attack on immigrants. It was a terrorist attack coming out of white nationalist ideology,” Johanis Tadeo, an organizer for CALC, said at the rally. “That’s why we’re here: to speak up and counter white nationalism.”

Samantha Alcantar of City Wide MEChA said she feels beyond scared to be brown in the community. She adds that Springfield city councilors should come together and have a conversation on having better gun control to make the community feel safe and to make a change in the community to create change and safety in the community.

“There’s not a day that I go out and feel safe anymore,” she said. “Not knowing if I’m the next person who’ll be a victim of someone with white supremacy ideologies or even an ICE officer confusing me for an immigrant.”

She added she doesn’t feel safe that an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent won’t detain her despite her legal immigration status.

Lane County Commissioner Joe Berney said at the rally that the U.S. has a problem but a wall won’t fix it.

“Momentum is building in the few days since El Paso to treat white supremacy violence as terrorism just like we treat violent jihadist terrorists,” he said. “Domestically, we are literally seeing the political rhetoric of the president of the United States viewed by these extremists as calls for violent action against immigrants.”

It doesn’t matter whether or not the president is truly a racist or simply pretending to be one on TV to appeal to his base, the end result is the same, Berney added.

Pablo Alvarez of Beyond Toxics and NAACP said white nationalism is nothing more than white terrorism. He added that white terrorists want fear from the community. When the community lets fear overwhelm and become apathetic, the white terrorists win, he said.

“They want us to forget that black people built this country. They want us to forget that Latinx people built this country. They want us to forget that Native American people are the soul of this country,” he said. “They want us to forget this.”

A lot of names are thrown around to describe white nationalists, but Cooper Brinson, a staff attorney at Civil Liberties Defense Center, categorizes these people as “Nazis with nuances.”

Brinson said that from 2017 to 2018, white supremacist groups have grown by 50 percent from 100 to 147 groups. And, since 9/11, right-wing terrorism has been responsible for more deaths in the U.S. any other ideology.

He said he doesn’t know if there’s a way to work within the capitalist system to fight white supremacy. One important way to combat white supremacy is that white people should listen to people of color, those most affected by the ideology.

“We have a responsibility to use our privilege to take down, destroy and permanently stamp out white supremacy in this country and the world,” he said.

Tadeo told the audience to continue the conversation about white supremacy throughout the community.

“We are going to start these conversations and make sure we’re heard,” he said.

Three Springfield city councilors were in the audience: Leonard Stoehr, Sheri Moore and Steve Moe. Stoehr and Moore spoke as private citizens, not as representatives of the Springfield City Council they said during the rally.

After the rally, Stoehr told Eugene Weekly that residents who want to pressure Springfield City Council to take action should “show up and raise hell,” adding that that encouraged the city government to end a controversial contract with ICE in 2018.

Tadeo tells EW that when Springfield City Council comes back from recess, he and others might push the city government to take action against the general rise of white nationalism in the U.S. He says he hopes to work with the city to draft a resolution to take action and draw language from other cities that have made condemning resolutions.

“That’s something we’d like to see from city of Springfield. That’s how we build trust back,” he says. “That’s how we’re able to feel a part of the city and a part of the conversation.”

UPDATED 10 am Thursday, Aug. 8