On July 4, while much of the country is celebrating that ancient, radical rant about all men being created equal, a Washington town will be an unwilling host to its exact antithesis. For the first time in years, a white power rally has been scheduled near Seattle.
The rally, set for the park adjoining city hall in Enumclaw, seems to be an isolated affair. Fliers for the Independence Day rally started appearing in Enumclaw a few weeks ago without any attributing sponsor; no information about it appears on the KKK's Web site (www.kkk.com) or its local voice-mail messages. According to Bill Wassmuth of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, the rally is apparently the work of a small cadre of local Enumclaw skinhead youth calling itself the Zoffo Protocol.
Isolated or not, racist hate groups are a serious affair, and the question immediately arises of how best to respond. Enumclaw, best known as the home of King County's fairgrounds, retains just enough of its pre-existing small-town status that you sense everyone knows everyone—but that's no longer true. And the last thing Enumclaw wants is to become known as an epicenter of racism and hate.
The community's response has been led by pastor Mike Johnson of the Enumclaw Community Church. Johnson organized an article, appearing in last week's Enumclaw Courier-Herald and signed by the area's state legislative representatives and business leaders (but not, curiously, by the town's mayor or city council members), affirming Enumclaw as a town that values diversity and inclusion.
Johnson wants would-be protesters to stay away. "Our community is best served by people giving it as wide a berth as possible," he says. "These kind of causes are wedded to the press. Without attention they wither and pass away."
The focus of Johnson and other Enumclaw leaders has been to respect the right of the Zoffo Protocol to assemble (if they show up) in a public place, but they're hoping that people from the community won't be there to turn it into a confrontational spectacle. "The best thing you can do as a member of our community," explains Johnson, "is to work to promote the community values we want, to do something positive. A counter-rally only says we don't like this, it doesn't actively do anything."
Johnson, despite being the closest thing available to an organized voice from the community, is not likely to get the response he wants from rally opponents. Enumclaw is also part of the larger metropolitan area, and plenty of folks from Seattle are planning on crashing the party.
'Ignoring Nazis doesn't work'
"Avoiding and ignoring Nazis doesn't work," flatly says Luma Nichol, an organizer for United Front Against Fascism. Nichol et al. are working with the King County Labor Council's Diversity Committee to mount a silent counter-protest on July 4 in Enumclaw. Nichol adds, "Their organizing so far has been underground and in seclusion. As long as they don't meet community opposition they can fool people into thinking they've got something going."
Bill Wassmuth elaborates that the goal, in this and any counter-rally, is two-fold: "To send a message to white supremacists that their message is not welcome, and to send a message to the targets of their hate that they are a part of the community."
The Enumclaw counter-rally came through the King County Labor Council because of an existing "Hate Free Zone" union campaign mounted in response to recent hate mail received on the Eastside and in Seattle.
Organizer Verlene Wilder outlines a scenario where Enumclaw residents (leafleted by Labor Council volunteers last weekend) and Seattle area union members and other protesters will maintain a silent vigil facing the neo-Nazi rally with "Hate Free Zone" placards.
The result is a rally that's unlikely to stay quiet, being organized and called for by Seattle activists who don't live in Enumclaw and don't have to live with the effects of their actions, and who are coming despite a community that says it doesn't want them or the neo-Nazis. It's a sticky question: who owns the right to oppose these guys?
Part of the dilemma is that while the Zoffo Protocol may be a tiny outpost of hate, indigenous to Enumclaw, it is part of a larger movement that affects all of us. The United Front had already been busy organizing busloads to protest an Aryan Nations march scheduled for next weekend in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. The Labor Council's Wilder is convinced the Seattle area will see more such rallies, linking them specifically to passage of I-200. Wilder traces the reasoning of white supremacists: since I-200 "passed, there have to be more people who think like we do." And the recent outburst of antiNative American bigotry accompanying the Makah's whale hunt confirms, once again, that not far under the skin of liberal Washington lies some very ugly racism.
While it's awkward to come into a community like Enumclaw, ultimately standing up to these sorts of racist antics is everybody's responsibility. Invariably, there will be confrontations, and the white supremacists will get the TV time they crave; civil rights proponents must ensure that the TV message is a clear and loud "no" to racism. Absent any other forum for that message on July 4th, the choice is clear: go to Enumclaw—as we must go wherever is necessary—and proclaim, in voice and action, that love must always triumph over hate.