By Ulrike Salazar
The Los Angeles based anti-gentrification coalition Defend Boyle Heights led a protest against self-denying white supremacist and gentrifier Asher Caffé and Lounge Wednesday afternoon. This was the coalition’s second protest against the business.
Approximately 40-to-50 people attended the event where only a handful of Hollenbeck Division cops guarded the entrance and protected the business and its petite-bourgeois patrons.
Jewish leftist community leaders spoke in support of DBH and the anti-gentrification resistance of the militant community. The liberal and rightwing rhetoric around the resistance and protest to the café has painted DBH and its supporters as anti-Semitic, even going as far as calling them Nazis and Brown Shirt Fascists. But Jewish leaders pointed out the transparent opportunism in this.
The irony of this was not lost on the antifascist, anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist character of the coalition and all of its supporting groups. But fascists have always been reductionist populists. It should be noted that the supposed “back-lash” to the protests has almost exclusively been from Zionists, Proud Boy fascists and out-of-state conservative reactionaries.
The largely-immigrant working-class community of Boyle Heights supports the resistance to Asher Caffé and Lounge. The business owner, Asher Shalom, is a well-documented proto-fascist Trump-supporter. He cites his largely-immigrant workforce as proof he’s not a racist. But a basic critique of capitalist economics resolves this supposed contradiction: capitalists have always exploited the surplus labor of immigrant workforce.
Asher himself came out to record the protest on his phone. As he stepped out front to leave to his car, protestors swarmed around him and screamed for him to “get the fuck out of Boyle Heights.” He looked to the cops for help but received none, except for one liberal.
The liberal, who spoke earlier in the rally about dialoguing with gentrifiers and to remain nonviolent, stood in the way and protected Asher as he walked away, saying it was unnecessary to attack the Trump supporter. But protestors immediately challenged the dangerous liberalism and rightwing centrism of this position.
“You do not get to tell us how to protest!” an anonymous member of the Communist Red Bloc yelled at his face. “He is an enemy of the people and will be treated as such. Do not police us. Fuck liberalism!”
The militant, then, turned to the crowd and warned everyone of the inherent danger of denouncing militancy. Direct action has been a staple in the anti-gentrification movement in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. It will not be won through dialogues and especially not in protecting enemies of the people. The protestors soon thereafter starting chanting “Fuck liberalism! Fuck liberalism!”
The militants then posed a question to the crowd, “How many cops are here?” They answered, “10.”
“And how many of us are here?” the militants asked. “We are about 40. We could shut this down if we wanted to.”
They invited the crowd to come off the sidewalk and block the entrance to Asher Caffé and Lounge, of which many did.
During the protest and rally, dozens of cars and big rigs honked in support of the community action. This was especially true of the Communist Red Bloc units who received honks and praise as they arrived, defended and left the protest. This is indicative of a rising tide of support for the masked militants who are building a proto-base of support in the community of Boyle Heights.
DBH does not appear to be lightening up on Asher nor his business, despite liberal discomfort.
Under the Trump Administration, all of his supporters who proudly proclaim their anti-undocumented immigrant politics must be confronted through mass participation and militant leadership.
Boyle Heights remains a shining example of what this looks like.