A white supremacist and anti-Semitic group, the New Jersey European Heritage Association, recently announced plans to hold a march this Saturday at noon, in Princeton’s Palmer Square. Information about the march was shared through posters reading “It’s Okay To Be White,” which were posted around Princeton this week.
In August of 2017, shortly after the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Prog signed a commitment to activism and direct action alongside other student groups. The document stated that should a hate group come to Princeton, we would organize a counter-demonstration. Accordingly, campus and community-based groups plan to hold a simultaneous counter-protest on Saturday. Although as of Friday afternoon the original group has reported that it no longer plans to march, the counter-protest will go on as planned—and it does remain to be seen whether or not members of the hate group will show. The Prog supports this mobilization and stands in solidarity with all counter-protesters. Direct opposition to hate groups is not only effective, but wholly necessary.
An email sent to residential college listservs claimed that “For many [hate group members], going to the march and seeing the counter-protesters is reinforcement for their twisted beliefs and worldview and further entrenches their hatred.” Others argue that to engage with these people gives them the attention they desperately desire. However, we cannot oppose violent ideas only from a distance. We understand that to ignore open organization of hate groups is to tacitly accept them, consequently enabling them to recruit and to gain power.
Others suggest that hate groups can be disempowered through discussion and debate, and these strategies are often characterized as a “reasonable” or “civil” response. Fascists, white supremacists, and anti-semites, however, are amenable to debate, because it presents their genocidal agenda as reasonable and defensible. So-called “civil discourse” normalizes their ideas, assisting hate groups in their ultimate aspiration: acquisition of power. A cerebral understanding of what is at stake is not enough; it is our responsibility to respond with our most effective recourse in the form of a counter-protest. Our writing here is an expression of theoretical support as well as a call onto ourselves and others to show up.
Considering this, we emphasize that burden of this action must not fall on the shoulders of our community’s most marginalized. Low-income people and people of color have been standing at the front lines of struggles for justice that have taken place at the University and in this town for far too long. Students who want to be allies should note that Saturday’s protest specifically targets Jewish people and people of color, and should take action to stand in the way of their harm. We must be neither complacent nor timid, at risk of allowing these violent ideologies to prosper.
In love and solidarity,