PHOENIX MAGA MARCH REPORTBACK
On March 25th, Phoenix John Brown Gun Club sent an open carry community defense contingent to the Make America Great Again rally at the Arizona State Capitol. We carried in formation with an armed contingent of the Arizona Brown Berets, and in solidarity with Anti-Fascist Action Phoenix.
The Phoenix John Brown Gun Club is a branch of the national Redneck Revolt network. As a gun club, we train together for community defense, and offer firearms and safety education locally. Our membership consists of folks of various identities, from different cultural and political backgrounds, but we work together under common goals of resisting white supremacist recruitment within our communities, building working class unity, and building community defense networks.
On the morning of the MAGA rally, we arrived outside the capitol about 30 minutes early, forming up across the street from the anticipated rally location. We formed an open ranks formation with the Brown Berets and our branch members, while members of Phoenix AFA held ground on our left flank. We were in position before the MAGA march reached the Capitol, and as the 60-70 marchers approached the Capitol lawn, many of them attempted to engage us by yelling from across the street. We held this position for over two hours without incident, respectfully but minimally engaging with people who approached our formation, primarily through our assigned community liaison. Throughout the event we held up a large, visible banner that clearly proclaimed our message: Liberty for ALL working people.
We assembled across the street from the "Make America Great Again" March, not to try to stop their event or block it, but to show that the communities who are under attack by this administration (and those that came before it) will not silently suffer, and that we will organize to defend ourselves and each other. As made clear in the statement we handed out to the MAGA attendees (text included below), we do not view ourselves inherently as the enemies of anyone who voted for Trump. We came open carrying firearms, not to intimidate or scare anyone, but to show that other "deplorable" working folks, even those who supported Trump in the past, would not just stand by and allow continued threats to marginalized people.
The MAGA event had fewer than expected participants, and most started to vacate the Capitol by 1:30pm, earlier than they had advertised. Several media members and journalists arrived after the rally ended, shocked that they had missed the entire event. Consistent with our media procedures throughout the day, our press liaison handed them our statement and encouraged them to email us for direct quotes about the action. Our coalition had decided ahead of time to leave promptly at 2pm. We formed up and left the park in a column formation, taking the sidewalk back to our parking area. This was not intended to be a march or a protest, but an organized extraction of our participants.
During our departure from the action, a man started to follow and film us on his phone. Not knowing this person’s intentions, our press liaison offered him a flyer with our statement and contact information, and offered to answer questions via email. The man seemed friendly at first, but continued to follow us more than a block from the rally point, and his intentions were becoming more unclear. The MAGA march and rally had been over for more than 30 minutes at that point and we, like everyone else, were leaving. Our press liaison asked respectfully that he not follow us to our cars and he started to get aggressive. The man stated that he was a journalist, but would not give his name or show a press pass to back up that statement. His demeanor and antagonistic tone became comparable to some of the protesters we had encountered earlier in the day. He moved very close to our members while we were walking, and at one point pushed into the group and stepped on a member's leg. He repeatedly asserted his right to film us on public property, which we do not dispute. We expect documentation of our actions, but we do not interpret strange people following us as friendly, nor do we downplay the seriousness of any stranger pushing into us while we are open carrying.
At this point, we needed to create an extraction plan to ensure the safety of our members and those in coalition with us. We moved some members to the front of the line to intentionally distract the man while everyone else left, because he refused to identify himself or stop following us to our cars. We find it profoundly unprofessional for any journalist to engage in the manner that he did, including refusing to provide his name or press credentials. We had valid concerns for our own safety given the political climate we are in, and the level of risk that comes with our work. We do not escalate force without exhausting all other options, so we chose to distract the aggressive person and extract our members safely, which was done without any further incident.