By Mike Talavera
On Sunday night, a group of antifascists protested an event hosted by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) at Monkey Nest Coffee in Austin, TX. The protesters chanted slogans like “When women are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” and “PSL harbors rapists! Drive them out of our spaces!”
Instead of engaging with the protesters, the attendees of the PSL event took refuge behind a line of police that had been called by the business owners, leading one antifascist protester to call out the hypocrisy of an event supposedly about antifascism to rely on police protection.
PSL has dodged the accusation of harboring rapists ever since an investigative report was published by Red Guards Austin in May entitled “From Rapist to Revisionist – McKinley (formerly known as Caleb) Forbes.” In that post, the communist collective presented evidence that McKinley, who has worked to build up Austin’s PSL chapter through the front group “People’s Congress of Resistance,” had preyed on and abused women in Virginia’s leftist circles, raping at least one victim, back when she was called “Caleb” and presented as a man.
“PSL and its affiliated projects are hereby put on notice:” the post warned, “you can either isolate Forbes by sharing a public statement that she is not allowed in your spaces, or stand by Forbes and attempt to protect this rapist scum at your own risk.”
Nevertheless, PSL chose not to oust Forbes, and it is unclear what they have done to investigate RGA’s claims, although chapter leader Brian Griffith dismissed the accusations against her as “unfounded.” In response to PSL’s inactivity, the masses took action.
On May 9th, local organization Stonewall Militant Front protested a PSL event at The Big Easy Bar and Grill in east Austin. The small business owner came out to talk to the protesters and learned about the allegations against Forbes and PSL. Shortly after, he sided with the protesters and asked PSL to leave.
The owners of Monkey Nest were not as sympathetic. Shortly after the protest started Sunday evening, the owners and managers came out and aggressively yelled at the protesters, spewing ridiculous and outlandish insults against them.
According to the protesters, the owners had been notified the day before through multiple calls and emails about PSL’s rape apology practices. The owners deflected and said that it was out of their hands because the customers had paid to rent the space.
Despite having already notified the owners, some of the protesters the night of the event still attempted to make them aware of the rapist-defending group they were hosting, but they continued to yell as if they couldn’t hear the protesters.
The protest had been preceded by a small group of masked protesters (who appeared to be mostly women) disrupting the event inside. One patron of the cafe told Incendiary News that the reason behind the disruption was confusing at first, but the flyers handed out by the protesters clarified things.
“[PSL] just hid in there room and had to get escorted out by police. They seemed like they were ashamed,” the customer said. “For an organization that claims to be for socialism and liberation it was not a good look.”
A Facebook post by a self-identified PSL supporter leaked to Incendiary News shows how the group rationalized the police presence. “Thanks to the actions of RGA, police were called to the coffee shop to keep a watch on the group and make sure PSL members, and others were safe.”
At the event itself, only one of the PSL supporters reacted to the protesters outside, yelling, “Y’all are giving communists a bad name!”
One of the antifascists replied, “No, you are bro! Real communists don’t harbor rapists!”
In addition to defending Forbes, PSL has affiliated itself with conspiracy theorists and outright fascists. Party leader Brian Becker has had guests on his radio show “Loud & Clear” like anti-semite Alberto Garcia Watson and right-wing publication The Duran editor-in-chief Alexander Mercouris, among others. Protesters Sunday drew attention to these shady relationships between slogans on the megaphone.
The protesters continued chanting and handing out flyers until the event was over. Cars and even public buses honked in support as they passed by, and protesters took flyers out to cars despite being warned repeatedly by the police to stop. Several people heading into the cafe turned away after talking with protesters.
If the local chapter of PSL thought that ignoring the case of Forbes would make it go away, the protest Sunday night seems to prove otherwise. According to a source, the manager of Monkey Nest informed customers after the protest that the business would not be renting space out to PSL again.
Sunday’s action demonstrates that the May protest by Stonewall Militant Front was not a one-off occurrence, but rather a sign that the masses of Austin are committed to holding PSL accountable and driving defenders of rapists out of the city.