The fash said they were going to be out at Statehouses all over the country, but after Jan. 6, many of them ended up looking like ghost towns. Longtime NJ activist Bob Witanek files this report.
After the January 6 Trump inspired Capitol rampage, a call went out from one or more of the myriad of right wing organizations swirling around the Trump protests calling for armed open carry protests at all 50 state capitols in the USA to occur on January 17. The FBI picked up this information and issued a warning and several follow up reports on the call, with further publication of information on the potential threat from state police forces and state elected officials including in NJ. As January 17 approached, there were no confirmed reports of any active NJ groups calling for a mobilization, there were NJ gun groups disavowing the call and even some Trump supporters issuing statements that people should not attend. NJ state announced National Guard and massive police preparations for any potential mobilization for Trenton with concern over violent potential after the January 6 DC fiasco.
I had expressed concern on Facebook over the potential for a violence prone mobilization in Trenton seeking folks interested in joining me to physically monitor the potentially dangerous political mobilization. There was some mild support and some hesitancy about whether we should dedicate capacity to such monitoring and concern that any presence might provoke a violent reaction or be a safety risk for those deciding to participate in the monitoring.
In the end there was one other who was interested enough to participate in such a monitoring exercise – and if you were to venture a guess, you would probably suggest that person was Daryle Lamont Jenkins – and in that case you would be correct.
By now most know in most of the states across the US there were no significant mobilizations at the State Capitols – there was some sort of small armed protest in Ohio but it was largely uneventful. The greatest impact of the overblown call for such protest, popularized mostly by the FBI, was the likely 10s of millions in costs to state governments that allocated expenses providing heightened security for potential events that did not materialize.
While there was no presence of potentially violent forces for Daryle and me to monitor in Trenton NJ we did have a bit of luck as we ended up doing literally, an impromptu press conference! We were about ready to call it a day when Daryle noticed the myriad of reporters all headed up the block – as it turns out Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora was presenting a press conference. We joined the audience and Daryle asked him a question about the fascist stickers belonging to the New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA) affixed to most of the traffic device fixtures around State Street.
After the Mayor was done, not based on any planning on our part the media turned to Daryle and me for our remarks. Not having any right wing protest to report, they apparently determined that we were not media so that we could be the subject for their report! So we were in the right place at the right time to use the opportunity to insert our perspectives into the narrative.
In a NJ Spotlight video, we provided perspectives in which I call upon NJ communities to develop a monitoring infrastructure to observe and keep tabs on the activity of the potentially violent right wing elements in NJ and Daryle provided a succinct overview of some of these groups and their methods.
My main point, fortunately, was featured at top of the clip of my remarks that was included in the news clip:
“We need as communities to develop the ability to watch these groups when they come out . . . to keep an eye on them and if they are going to move through a community . . . we need to move with them!”
Daryle and I during our private conversations in Trenton discussed firming up monitoring capacity – something that Daryle has done for two decades through One Peoples Project – in the state of NJ. NJ Anti-War Agenda is looking to work in coalition with One People’s Project (what other groups) to publicize monitoring of potentially violent, racist and anti-community NJ political formations.
The effort will:
* Provide a sign up link for those interested in monitoring social communications, being trained in providing physical monitoring, video and audio documentation, writing and publications and training for physical monitoring and provision of tension barriers for our own gatherings when necessary.
* Provide a link and other methods where people can drop information to a team-monitored box
* for pertinent information that checks out, maintain a table of searchable links for potential violent political operations in NJ.
After our impromptu press conference in Trenton, I silently partnered with Daryle who surveilled and video recorded an East Brunswick, NJ Trump flag wave event on Route 18 and Tices Lane. He carried out a conversation with Michael Shapiro – the leader of the group – who is listed online as the owner of Budget Recycling in Belleville, NJ. He complained about supposed suppression of conservative views and advised us to worry about socialism taking over. Two and a half months after losing an election – they are encroached with their vehicles parked in a private lot, and cat calling to thousands of vehicles passing on Route 18 – and he is complaining about his speech being suppressed!
While some might consider these Trump rallies to be less fascistic, from the video you can get an idea as to just how extreme the Trump flag wavers are – one of the participants – apparently responding to negative reactions from passers by on Route 18 was shouting through a bullhorn calling them “Triggered Communists” and saying “Lets get the communists out of America”. So they want a nation where only people with the extreme views of Trump supporters are allowed to stay!
For a few months now there has been this crew alongside Rt. 18 every weekend in East Brunswick to big up Trump. This was who came out today. Found out later Mike Shapiro was in DC on Jan. 6. Not sure he went inside the Capitol though. This was 37 minutes from Trenton. pic.twitter.com/9csxccELfn
— Daryle Lamont Jenkins (@DLamontJenkins) January 18, 2021
January 17 was overall a fruitful endeavor – we set out to monitor potential violent rightist in Trenton – and while they did not show -we were able to inject, with significant media coverage, a call for collective community response to the growth of these threats, information about the some of the violent oriented groups, and now we are further leveraging our work toward developing a statewide system in NJ for collective monitoring and when necessary protective mobilization in order to offset any possible impact these groups have toward our own political work and our communities.