Opinion

Memo From California to Trump and His Nazis: We Will Replace You

To the horror of the Jewish community in the East Bay, there's been a wave of anti-Semitic incidents here lately, and everyone here knows why

Protesters demonstrating against a right-wing rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Berkeley, California, on August 27, 2017
AMY OSBORNE/AFP

BERKELEY, California - You're going down, Trump. Your Nazis, too.

Your Nazis and your KKK and your white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, chanting to the rest of America that "You won't replace us" and "Jews won't replace us," were right to be concerned.

The rest of America is already beginning to replace your Nazis. Isolate them. Shun them. Reject them. After that, it will be your turn.

My family was with the rest of America marching against hatred in the thousands on Sunday, filling street after street of downtown Berkeley. The march was so massive, so broadly based, that the Nazis and Proud Boys and the Hammerskin Nation and the Rise Above Movement (RAM) and the other supremacists around here were scared off. They stayed away. Cowed. Defeated.

You're next, Trump.

This weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area could have turned out very differently. Far-right organizers had announced plans for back-to-back rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley. The violent and tragic events of Charlottesville earlier this month threatened to portend disaster in a Sunday pro-Trump "No to Marxism in Berkeley" rally.

In a shocking exemplar of fake news - just the sort which Trump and his Nazis savor - press reports misrepresented the Bay Area Rally Against Hate counter-protest as a festival of radical left hyper-violence. In its page-one lead Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle bull-horned, "An army of anarchists in black clothing and masks routed a small group of right-wing demonstrators who had gathered in a Berkeley park Sunday to rail against the city’s famed progressive politics, driving them out — sometimes violently — while overwhelming a huge contingent of police officers."

Yes, if it bleeds it leads, but that doesn't make it true. Barely half an actual handful of supremacists even showed up, and the actual scuffles were few, tangential, and fleeting. In the main, the black-clad Antifa activists kept the march safe and secure for thousands of others.

What was vastly more dramatic was a revolutionary groundswell of profoundly non-violent solidarity among the marchers. It encompassed a wide spectrum of activists, religious leaders, unions, NGOs and ad hoc groups of individuals supported by an intensively pro-active, and at the same time restrained, local government and police response.

No less crucial, the march saw a breaking-down of self-destructive norms which have kept the American left divided and useless for years - in particular, a prolonged, largely unacknowledged undercurrent of anti-Semitism. There was also clearly a marked healing in the tragic estrangement between American Jews and African Americans.
There were Jews unafraid to wear kippot, marchers unafraid to carry signs in Hebrew and signs bearing the Star of David, rabbis unafraid to marshal prayer and scripture to fight Nazis, oppose Trump, and make common cause with black activism.

A range of Jewish social justice organizations including Bend the Arc and Urban Adama along with Muslim activists chanted "No Hate, No Fear - Jews and Muslims Welcome  Here"  Members of IfNotNow held signs reading "Jews Against White Supremacy" and "Black Lives Matter." One woman held up a sign with "NEVER AGAIN" and a Star of David on one side, and "BLACK LIVES MATTER" on the other.

In particular, there were many children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors honoring the memories of their families, those who survived and those who were slain.

"My Grandma did not survive Auschwitz for me to sit silent and afraid today!" was written on another placard with a large Star of David and the words "Jewish woman in solidarity with Muslim, refugee, Black, Latin, Queer, Native, POC [People of Color] HUMANS!"

And there was Ben Stern, a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor, who addressed the rally and helped lead the ensuing march, arms linked with his daughter Charlene and three local rabbis, Menachem Creditor, Yonatan Cohen and Julie Saxe-Taller.

Stern, a veteran of protest marches four decades ago against neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, told the crowd of his belief that he survived so he could speak up against hatred. Fighting back tears as the march began, Stern  - who lost his wife, his children, his parents, seven brothers and sisters and a baby nephew to the Nazi annihilation, said "I'm not here alone with the live people, but I see all the people of my past – my family, my friends who didn’t make it.”

In an emotional moment at the close of the march, which, in a biblical echo, wound around and surrounded the few pro-Trump activists, community religious leaders led the crowd in songs from the Civil Rights movement and chants from the decades since. One of them was local Cantor Shulamit Fairman, who recited the Hebrew Hamotzi prayer, and broke bread with the African American, Latino, and white clergy on the sound truck. They then distributed pieces of challah to the huge crowd.

You're not going to beat this, Trump. You're next, because the center, the left, and the far-left were all marching together in San Francisco and in Berkeley this week. No longer atomized, no longer bickering, no longer dithering. United against hatred. Against racism. Against supremacism. Against you.

You're next because your Nazis and your Klan have triggered a huge, high-energy backlash, and because, for whatever reason, you've still got their back.

You're next, Trump. Because finally the tables are starting to turn.

We saw it on Sunday. Your Nazis and their chants of "Jews will not replace us," have had a startling and entirely unintended effect.

On the left, there's a new and clear awareness of the evils and the reality of Trump-unleashed anti-Semitism. At the same time, it appears that the anguish and anger of Charlottesville have freed many Jews to protest as Jews.

Trump, I know you're going to dismiss what happened here Sunday. Because in the November election California voted against you by a two to one margin, and Hillary Clinton won the state by an astounding margin of 30 percentage points. You'll dismiss what happened here today because you came in third in the voting in Berkeley, with barely three percent of the vote.

But what happens in California doesn't stay in California, Trump. You're next.

You're next because a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor is still tough as nails. Tougher than your Nazis. Much tougher than you.

You're next because Jews are honoring the memory of the Holocaust by standing up to Nazis, and by standing up to you.

This is the message from California, from the rest of America, to Donald Trump:

We will replace you. We will replace you with an actual president. We will replace you with someone sane, knowledgeable, capable, humane. Someone who doesn't know how to dog-whistle, nor would they if they did.

To the horror of the Jewish community in the East Bay, there's been a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in this unspeakably beautiful area lately. And everyone here knows why.

You're next, Trump. We're coming for you.