Photo: Screenshots from video of protesters at anti-war rally expelling anti-semite Greg Conte, an affiliate of Richard Spencer
By Peter Cherry
In response to the recent act of US imperialist aggression against Iran, the Anti-Imperialist Committee (AIC) in Pittsburgh led a protest of a local military recruitment center on Monday, temporarily blocking the entrance. This followed a Saturday protest organized by revisionist Party of Socialism and Liberation’s (PSL) front organization ANSWER coalition, where AIC had made an intervention and which ended in fascist agitators being physically pushed out into the streets.
Over the past few days, the trading of threats between the US and Iran after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani last week has raised fears among people in the US, many of whom have rightly taken to the streets to resist another imperialist conquest in the Middle East. Around the country, revisionists like the PSL, Workers World Party (WWP), and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have capitalized on these feelings of apprehension by organizing protests to push their phony “socialist” proposals of adjusting imperialist budgets or voting new faces into imperialist seats of power, both of which validate and perpetuate imperialism itself and do nothing to stop imperialist war.
That is what the Pittsburgh chapter of PSL attempted to do last Saturday, bringing out one hundred people and several organizations like the DSA to fill Schenley Plaza in protest.
AIC members attended to pass out flyers to promote the then-upcoming military recruitment center protest, and one member made a speech about how his Iranian family and the masses of Iran cannot fight US imperialism alone. He said that the working class in the US must be organized to block the transportation of war goods and to weaken recruitment efforts.
Other speakers included anti-imperialist veterans and the parents of a soldier who died in Iraq, urging disobedience and insubordination if the US declared open war on Iran.
Around 20 minutes into the rally, a small group appeared with anti-Semitic signs, led by Greg Conte, the director of Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute. While Zionists often discredit supporters of Palestinian liberation by claiming they hate Jews as a whole, this group of men had signs with the reactionary-minded suggestion that “Jews” were behind the US’s provocative actions towards Iran.
Conte, who goes under the alias “Greg Ritter,” was fired from an all-girl Catholic school in Maryland after his participation in the “Unite the Right” Rally. Fascists like Conte attempt to use the myth of Jewish financial control (omitting the fact that the imperialist ruling class is multinational) to present a twisted critique of imperialism to recruit more to their ranks.
One protester immediately confronted one of the fascists, snatching a sign in the process. Conte stayed in the crowd, while the rest of his group went across the street to continue chanting.
A Jewish protester spoke to the crowd during the open mic, pointing out that it was inexcusable that those there protesting tolerated the fascist staying at the rally. The rally itself was only a mile away from the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 Jewish congregants were murdered by a gunman in 2018. A small portion of the protest including those from AIC started chanting “Nazis out!” as the fascist attempted to take the mic.
At this moment, some protesters started to shove Conte and demanded he leave the event. Fascists from the opposing side of the street ran to defend him. As this happened, they were pushed out by the group of protesters which largely outnumbered them. Rather than fighting back, the fascists allowed themselves to get pushed right into oncoming traffic on a busy street, fleeing soon thereafter.
This successful expulsion of fascists contrasted with the recent failed attempt to remove fascists from an antiwar protest in Austin where the organizers, the Democratic Socialists of America, drowned out antifascists rather than mobilize to confront reactionaries in attendance.
This militant response to fascists trying to infiltrate a revisionist event set the tone for Monday’s protest, which met at the front pavilion of the federal building in downtown Pittsburgh which contained the military recruitment center.
AIC organizers told the small crowd that this event was the start of a wider campaign to remove recruiters for the imperialist armed forces from high schools and campuses, as well as to build links within working class communities to oppose fascism, militarization, and US imperialism. As they started chanting, the group moved around to the doors that were the entrance of the building.
As they marched to the front entrance a group of six Homeland Security officers moved forward to block entrance to the doors. A handful of other officers from the Pittsburgh city police pulled up on bikes behind the group. AIC members attempted to enter the building but were aggressively pushed back by the officers. The small group blocked the door in front of the officers and continued to give a speech.
One speaker asked for the crowd to have courage in the face of the repression, saying “If you come up here and block this walk way, you [may] get a night in jail. But if we invade Iran, hundreds of thousands of people will die. That’s the reality and we should all be in the streets.”
After this speech more joined the core group blocking the door, leading to scuffles between federal employees who were attempting to enter. The AIC organizer made the reason for their presence and future strategy clear: “This is only the first step. We are going to show that we are willing to take the struggle to their doors, but this enemy has many doors and there are more of us than there are doors to protect. We have to go pick our targets strategically. We will go to the universities and high schools where the students are fed up with this bullshit.”