Editorial: How anti-racists play into the skinheads’ hands

A 23-year-old Sacramento resident waits for medics after being stabbed at Sunday's rally.
(Renee C. Byer / Associated Press)

If such a thing existed, “The Neo-Nazi’s Guide to Getting Attention” might go something like this:

Step 1. Plan a “peaceful” rally weeks in advance with the assurance that the word will get out on social media.

Step 2. Show up and wait five seconds until the counter-protesters attack.

Step. 3. Bask in the national — scratch that, international — news coverage that gives your repugnant racist doctrine the spotlight and the megaphone it does not deserve.


There may be a Step 4 — “Repeat” — because this is starting to seem familiar. In the latest episode, a melee erupted Sunday at a demonstration in Sacramento by two white nationalist groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Golden State Skinheads. Nine people were hospitalized, two in critical condition, most of them stabbed. (That’s bad, but it could have been worse: Police found a loaded gun at the scene.)

A clash in February between a handful of Ku Klux Klan members and a much larger bunch of counter-protesters in Pearson Park in Anaheim followed the same script. In that fight, a KKK member was injured and three counter-protesters were stabbed.

Racist group gatherings aren’t the only ones that fit the pattern. Violent clashes have also erupted between protesters and attendees at rallies for Donald Trump in San Jose, Anaheim and Costa Mesa.

After Sunday’s violence — which a state police spokesman said was probably started by counter-protesters, and which is already being hailed as a victory on the Traditionalist Worker Party Facebook page — groups eager to broadcast their offensive message must surely be considering more such events.

We agree with Antifa Sacramento, the group that organized the counter-protest, that there’s no place in America for the racism at the core of the white nationalist agenda. What we disagree with is the idea that skinheads and neo-Nazis, or anyone else with a wrongheaded view, shouldn’t have a 1st Amendment right to free speech.


Of course they do. And like all Americans — neo-Nazis and anti-racists alike — they have a right to raise signs with whatever constitutionally protected message they like, and to march around without getting beaten up by thugs who don’t share their opinion.

As should be apparent by now, spilling blood isn’t an effective or appropriate way to oppose fringe hate groups on a soapbox. Those planning anti-racist events in the future should follow another playbook, one that doesn’t amplify the message of hate. For example, all they have to do is show up at a white nationalist rally to make it clear that the numbers are on their side.

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