Austin: Combative May Day March Takes Place Despite Fascist Harassment and State Repression

Red Flags flying on May 1st in Austin, Texas.

By the Editorial Board

Communists, revolutionaries, and activists took to the streets of downtown Austin this May 1st to carry out the annual combative red International Workers Day march for the 6th consecutive year. This year’s demonstration was of special importance due to the economic crisis and subsequent health crisis that has gripped the world.

The militants convened around 5pm at Republic Square Park; the march began with a group singing of the Internationale, the anthem of the international working class taken up by Communists for over 100 years. The march soon took to the streets with a large group of police and a small group of reactionaries and fascists in tow. Chants included: “Sweep this rotten world away, It’s International Workers Day!”, “In the streets, in the fight, workers of the world unite!” and “Marx, Lenin, Mao Zedong, the fight, the fight, the fight goes on!” The leading banner read, “Long Live the First of May, the International Day of the Proletariat.”

For the past three years since Chief Brian Manley has taken over Austin Police Department, red marches have been met with an overwhelming police presence that seeks to disperse radical protests or drive them onto the sidewalk. The demonstrators, taking this condition into account, were quick to respond to the police by out-maneuvering them, taking the streets and quickly moving onto sidewalks and through alleyways when necessary to avoid mass arrest.

Republic Square Park, May 1, 2020

After marching down 4th St., the march moved to the sidewalk and rapidly headed north, where a small group of less than 10 reactionaries and fascists had assembled. When the large red march collided with the handful of reactionaries, the police were unable to control or contain the situation and a fight between the two sides erupted. According to reactionary accounts there were eight right-wingers and 100 Communists, an exaggeration to juke the numbers and justify the pathetic failures of the reactionaries. Tribune of the People estimates 70-80 in the red march and about twelve total in the reactionary group, with about 200 police present.

Collin Whites, a fascist and member of the group Texas Nomads, was confronted and beaten by demonstrators. Whites was quickly pinned to a bench and pummeled. Whites had previously been hospitalized after being bashed over the head with a club by revolutionaries at last year’s May 1st. Another well-known local fascist and Texas Nomad, Jeremy Brooks, was targeted and slammed backwards on a set of stairs with his neck pinned between a flagpole and the corner of a step; he was also injured.

Other reactionaries who attempted to assault the march, including Gregorio Rendon from San Antonio, were dragged into the crowd and beaten with sticks and fists. Rendon received blunt force head trauma and was taken from the scene in an ambulance, covered in his own blood. The ringleader of the reactionary group, Christopher Ritchie, was also confronted violently.

Self-proclaimed “National Socialist,” Andrew Arcaute, who later told police that he was afraid for Brooks, was seen brandishing a large knife. In response, one of the demonstrators punched him so hard that he dropped his knife before being grabbed and handcuffed by the police, later being released from custody. To appease the fascists and reactionaries, the police attempted (and failed) to tear up a poster with the image of Communist leader Joseph Stalin, which was used at one point to bludgeon a fascist and was later placed in the trash by police, however it was recovered by revolutionaries and restored.

The revolutionaries showed courage and stood firm against both the police and fascists. At least two fascists were hospitalized and their blood was spilled on the street and across their “Trump 2020 flags. No revolutionaries were injured or arrested at the demonstration.

The marchers understood two important things when choosing how and when to fight: first that the fascists were outnumbered and weak, the demonstration had high morale and courage to combat, making a quick assault possible from a tactical viewpoint. Secondly, that the police were restrained from making large scale arrests, having already come under fire for arresting dozens of progressive activists and tenants earlier in the day. Chairman Mao teaches to choose the battles on the basis of guaranteed victory, and this lesson was upheld in regard to both offensive strikes and defensive maneuvers. Maoists hold that revolutionary violence is an immutable law of history; they do not fear spilling the blood of the enemy as it only nourishes the revolutionary struggle,and they understand that each battle, even small ones, are preparation and training for future bigger ones.

For the past two years, May 1st demonstrations have been christened in the blood of fascists, and this will continue as long as the right attempts to dissuade or harass workers’ marches.

In videos of the demonstration, revolutionaries are seen overwhelming the far right-wingers with greater force and tenacity. The fight resulted in predicted police attempts to split the march into two. According to sources within the revolutionary camp, possible splitting of the march was planned for and protocol was developed to be able to reunite the demonstration, which would take place a few blocks away.

Every red march in Austin has become a struggle; every step taken is one in defiance of the state, reaction, and revisionism. March leaders held the groups together, reuniting them and overcame difficulty, proving that a combative May 1st march is a tradition that will not be given up, even in the harsh conditions this year.

The marchers chose to disperse and reconvene at the central jail to support the dozens of arrested progressive activists who had been booked earlier in the day for carrying out a car slow-down protest organized by Rent Strike ATX. After marching, fighting, and spilling blood, the red May 1st demonstration did not relent, doubling the numbers at the press release for those arrested and providing speeches and chants in celebration of International Workers Day.

A woman with Rent Strike ATX announced that APD had arrested a 75-year-old tenant during the car slowdown protests, and she remarked that this placed an already vulnerable Austinite at greater health risk, highlighting the fact that during the mass arrest the police were removing the masks of those they arrested with no regard for viral transmission.

Those engaged in the rent strike are responding to necessity and have proven they are willing to put themselves on the line for what is right.

A spokesman for Rent Strike ATX explained, “we know that we will not get the support we need from politicians, politicians have never helped people,”  before giving the platform over to a woman tenant of East Riverside who was speaking on behalf of the Red May 1st demonstration.

“We stand in solidarity with all those who got arrested today,” she said, “we have solidarity with Rent Strike ATX, knowing full well that we have a long fight ahead, we must find unity and solidarity in principled struggle against those who choose to oppress us…we will continue fighting.” She stated, “we must put faith in ourselves and the working class” before concluding with the slogan “it is right to rebel!” which was greeting with loud chants and applause.

The revolutionaries and progressives have many political disagreements and follow different tactics and strategies of organizing and fighting, but unity was sought on the basis of firm and uncompromising support for the rent strike and political prisoners. No one should be jailed or harassed for being unable to pay rent or for standing in solidarity with those who cannot pay. Rent Strike ATX, while having largely avoided militancy in their approach to organizing, has reached tenants and been a pro-active force since the start of the economic and health crisis. They have taken the side of the people, making sacrifices and taking risks to secure their interests. Tribune of the People encourages our readers to donate to those arrested on May 1st and to support the Austin rent strikes generally.

Speech commemorating International Workers Day

Finally, a revolutionary delivered a speech commemorating International Workers Day, 2020, which explained the political line of the red march: “we want a society without rich and poor, a society guaranteed by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, mainly Maoism!” he continued, “we are forced  into breadlines and charged full price for bread, every humiliation, every oppression germinates resistance.”

The speech exposed the role of US imperialism in shoveling the consequences of the crisis onto the working class, and specifically the working classes of oppressed nations in the third world. “In the long-term, it is nothing but cornered prey, surrounded by the people of the world who cry out in hatred, calling for the death of US imperialism!” The crowd cheered out in response, “death to US imperialism!”

“Socialism will be won and defended only through armed struggle. It will be so!” the speaker exclaimed, “The struggles for wages, safe working conditions, the rights of undocumented workers, the rights of working women to abortion access,  the right to shelter and food, are the people’s rights. They are each a battlefield in a larger war.” He explained, delineating the political line, “We Communists must never relent, we will never abandon the people.”

The speech gave special attention to the increasing unity of the International Communist Movement as it approaches the Unified International Maoist Conference, and it paid tribute to the world’s greatest living Communist, the Communist Party of Peru’s Chairman Gonzalo, recognizing him as the ideological leader of the world proletarian revolution.

“Our goal is the eradication of class, make a casket for the old society!” he concluded before the group began shouting the slogans of revolution.

This years Red May 1st can only be considered a success, the indomitable red flag of socialism was held aloft, emblazoned with the hammer and sickle of the International Communist Movement, the heads of the great Communist leaders, Karl Marx, Freidrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Chairman Gonzalo were held high and defended.

The marchers chanted in unison, “Tell me what you’re fighting for? Revolution, Peoples War!,” “Marx, Lenin, Mao Zedong, the fight, the fight, the fight, goes on!”