Pennsylvania’s capital city of Harrisburg was one of over two dozen locations this past Saturday for what organizers billed as a “March Against Sharia.” The marches were organized by ACT for America and they brought out members from the white-nationalist “alt-right movement” and prominent hate groups from around the country. These so-called anti-Sharia marches also brought out hundreds of members from the black bloc and anti-fascist communities as counter-protesters and the Harrisburg event was no different.
Right-wing groups that showed up to Saturday’s march included the neo-fascist organization named Vanguard America and the anti-government militia organization the Oath Keepers. Vanguard America believes that
our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed.
One of the men standing next to the Vanguard America flag, which depicts an eagle holding a Roman fasces, appears to be Kevin Alfred Storm, a neo-nazi who founded the neo-nazi publication, National Vanguard.
The other prominent right-wing group present at the rally was the anti-government militia group, the Oath Keepers. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Oath Keepers may possibly be “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the US” by claiming to have over 30,000 members. The group consists of “present and former law enforcement and military veterans,” and they were pictured carrying weapons on the Capitol grounds. According to hate-watchers observing the event, at least 30 to 33 Oath Keepers were spotted at the event and a militia was on standby in case a confrontation occurred between groups. The Pennsylvania Department of General Services’ website states that ”
The Pennsylvania Department of General Services’ website states that “no weapons, firearms, explosives, knives, mace, pepper spray or hazardous materials are allowed in the Capitol Complex buildings or surrounding grounds.” Before the rally, members from the Oath Keepers were seen in their army fatigues walking around the perimeter and through downtown Harrisburg conducting surveillance.
The anti-Muslim march was met with resistance in the streets. About 50 to 75 antifascist black bloc members attended the counter-protest across from the Capitol. A group of non-black bloc activists also attended the event. On multiple occasions, members of the black bloc and antifascist counter protest formed barricades and attempted to prevent protesters attending the March Against Sharia to get through the blockade and attend the rally. Those attending the rally were only let through when police approached. During the middle of the rally, the black bloc began marching through the Midtown neighborhood and were pursued by police trucks and state troopers on horseback. As this was happening, the non-black block activists held their own blockade on 2nd street and confronted the anti-Muslim demonstrators on the sidewalk. A shouting and shoving match between the two groups broke out.
During the middle of the rally, the black bloc began marching through the Midtown neighborhood and were pursued by police trucks and state troopers on horseback. As this was happening, the non-black block activists held their own blockade on 2nd street and confronted the anti-Muslim demonstrators on the sidewalk. A shouting and shoving match between the two groups broke out.
Harrisburg, PA: #MarchAgainstSharia attendees clash with pro-Sharia Communists.
— Jeremy Nolt (@RealJeremyNolt) June 10, 2017
These counter protests and actions were occurring as more moderate members of the community were holding a unity rally a mile away from the action. Even though the antifascists and black bloc allowed the white-supremacists through their blockades, their actions showed a diversity of tactics when facing off with the now emboldened neo-fascists. They show that people are not willing to be intimidated by white nationalists and that they are willing to resist that hatred in the streets.