NATA-NY’s experience at the seventh annual NYC Anarchist Book Fair
By Gabriel Brown
NATA-NY member and co-founder
On April 6, 2013, the seventh annual NYC Anarchist Book Fair, which was held at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center in New York City, provided the setting for a violent attack on the peaceful members of the National Anarchist Tribal Alliance of New York (NATA-NY).
NATA-NY originally planned to attend the book fair to check out books and the different workshops. We always hope to further develop our philosophies and understandings by speaking to anarchists of all hyphenations. NATA-NY always seeks to learn from others in the anarchist community as well as share our own experiences, attempting to find unity among people on all sides of the “left/right”spectrum. We are involved with creating educational materials, building intentional communities, DIY permacultural projects, environmental clean-up actions, homeless outreach programs, etc. Our ultimate goal is to help communities build self-sufficiency for the present and the future.
The controversy began on the Anarchist Book Fair facebook event page shortly after Craig FitzGerald began posting up information about NATA-NY and Pan-Anarchism. Someone by the name of “Modern Man” began posting up a collection of articles including the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) article on the defunct group known as the Bay Area National-Anarchists and an essay that NATA-NY recently reposted entitled “Anarcho-Fascism” by Jack Donovan, who is NOT a affiliated with NATA-NY (nor a National-Anarchist at all).
Modern Man’s posts remained on the book fair’s event page alongside other anti-NATA-NY smears including demands that Craig be banned from the book fair. The articles Craig posted up on the event page were permanently deleted so no one would have an opportunity to read about NATA-NY firsthand. When I saw that the articles Craig posted were being censored, I decided to get involved with the discussion as an attempt to set the record straight regarding the inaccuracies and false narratives in the “antifa” articles written in January and February of 2013. As soon as I became part of the discussion, other event page participants began accusing Craig and I of being “fascist,” “right-wing,” “nazi” and “racist” (just to give a few examples of the typical buzz words) as an attempt to discredit our input and malign our group. Every time NATA-NY members posted articles to encourage other anarchists to see NATA-NY’s ideas for themselves, the articles were either deleted or responded to with juvenile remarks illustrating a complete lack of reflection and analysis.
Over the week of discussion, it was proclaimed that no violence would be tolerated at the Anarchist Book Fair. NATA-NY asked if that also applied to “antifa” given their modus operandi of brutally attacking those with whom they disagree. (Insert link from the Australian antifa attack on N-AM members in Australia) In response to this genuine question, Eugene Onegin explained that “antifa” isn’t violent, and that “antifa’s” victims are actually assaulting themselves. These are the kind of illogical statements made when NATA-NY attempts to have a philosophical and intellectual exchange of ideas with dogmatic “anarchists”.
Over the week of discussion, it was proclaimed that no violence would be tolerated at the Anarchist Book Fair. NATA-NY asked if that also applied to “antifa” given their modus operandi of brutally attacking those with whom they disagree. In response to this genuine question, Eugene Onegin explained that “antifa” isn’t violent, and that “antifa’s” victims are actually assaulting themselves. These are the kind of illogical statements made when NATA-NY attempts to have a philosophical and intellectual exchange of ideas with dogmatic “anarchists”.
Considering that NATA-NY is not involved with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and upholds the principle of non aggression, NATA-NY should have been allowed to be present at the book fair as fellow anarchists. However, a message was put out by one of the organizers of the event, Elias Naser, that NATA-NY would not be allowed to attend the book fair because “NATA’s position and agenda is causing a rift in the Anarchist community not only here in NY but the world.”
Although NATA-NY practices anarchist principles and has never engaged in violent actions toward activists or those within a variety of diverse political circles, it was clear that hypocrisy, censorship, group-think, and the sort of dramatic behavior that one finds in high school was at play.
Members of NATA-NY, who have been members of other organizations in the past, are not strangers to false accusations and libel; this has been a common occurrence by government front groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. “Antifa,” like its hidden SPLC/state masters, have used character assassination methods to discredit those they disagree with politically and philosophically. The same “ smear and attack” formula is used in the narratives of both nazi and communist groups as an attempt to destroy us for aiming to bridge the gap between the “left and right” under the principle of freedom.
“Antifa’s” scathing description of NATA-NY is unfounded and ridiculous when you look at the diverse group of individuals and our body of activist work.
It became clear that the organizers of the book fair desired to retain an exclusive monopoly over anarchism; they were even oppressive to their own supporters by censoring the legitimate questions regarding an alleged rapist and informant’s presence at the book fair.
The day before the book fair an announcement was made that the facebook event page would be deleted and further information and location details could be found on their website. Before the event page was shut down, a “wanted poster” was posted up and distributed amongst those who said they would be attending the bookfair to be on the lookout for NATA-NY members and to send “antifa” information on individuals involved with NATA-NY.
Knowing that there was a possibility that NATA-NY would be banned from entering the book fair, as originally planned NATA-NY members went ahead with a street action in front of the event, giving people an opportunity to speak directly with NATA-NY members about the controversy.
The book fair had a large police presence outside, and there were several security guards checking bags upon entry. There was also a secondary check point inside of the building before you entered the book fair.
When I arrived with other NATA-NY members and supporters who intended to interview speakers and participants for their independent media outlets, “antifa” dupes outside were handing out “wanted posters” with photos of NATA-NY members. One of these people handed me a copy of the flier and informed me to be on the watch because a bunch of “nazis” were going to show up to the book fair. Apparently, he did not realize that I was one of the individuals pictured. It was a scene right out of the movie “The Fugitive.”
Eventually one of individuals on the flier attempted to walk into the book fair but was stopped by security and told he could not go in. I attempted to walk into the event and also was told I could not go in. Eventually everyone trying to enter was not allowed in and it became rather chaotic with attendees arguing with security. At this point those provoked by “antifa’s” smears recognized me, pointing directly at me shouting “fascist!” Eventually other people started looking at me as if I was the devil incarnate. It became a rather hostile environment so one of our allies began to video document the belligerency for his own safety and the safety of others, including an older woman who came out in support of NATA-NY.
I attempted to speak rationally with the angry mob of people but reason and common sense were nowhere to be found. The only thing these people “knew” was what they had been told by “antifa.” Nobody seemed interested in looking to see if the narrative fit the claims made against the live human beings they were interacting with. It was as if Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the gospel of the “Red Book” had once again taken form but not by communists, by anarchists or those claiming to be anarchists
Even though I brought out information that would debunk “antifa’s” claims about NATA-NY, the venue’s attendees stated they did not care about the facts and continued to chant “nazi” at me.
I soon recognized Eugene Onegin (self-described “Secular Humanist” and “Communist anarchist”) who had been arguing with Craig and I online, so I attempted to initiate a dialogue regarding what NATA-NY stands for. Of course the same sort of responses that were given on the event page were repeated in person. With narrow-minded condescension, he claimed that the word “national” could never possibly be used within anarchism at all. Eugene attempted to make claims that anarchism was communism and justified “communism” as an acceptable term within anarchism but refused to extend that same respect toward other words or ideas.
Outside of the book fair, NATA-NY legally posted up on a public sidewalk. “Anarcho”-communists tried to do everything in their power to make our experience as uncomfortable as possible. They verbally attacked us, claiming that we were just trolls who are not anarchists at all but really just fascists. We were falsely accused of only providing a helping hand to white people during the National Anarchist Movement International Day of Action when NATA-NY gave out food and provisions to homeless people on the streets of New York. (Those claims are easily debunked by the photos that NATA-NY took that day.) Anti-NATA-NY zealots even went as far as to claim that NATA-NY is affiliated with the Aryan Nation ( A long defunct white supremacist group), which is a complete lie.
As I took pictures, I was harassed by attendees who demanded I delete any photos with them in the background. They also demanded to take my camera so they could see the pictures I took, claiming it violated their privacy rights. I attempted to be respectful (despite the ridiculousness of the authoritarian demand upon my private property), but mutual respect was never given in return. People were very sensitive to having photos taken of them or the venue, but had no problem plastering inaccurate, unfounded wanted posters with our photos all over the event. These hypocrites attempted to impose a double standard of respecting only some people’s privacy on a public sidewalk. Intimidation and hatred began to heat up beyond words when a book fair attendee spit on me, calling me a “fucking Nazi” as she walked off.
NATA-NY’s opponents argued that anarchism is about homogenized collectivism, that anarchism is communism, that the Individual is of no importance to the overall mission of replacing the state, and that freedom and equality only extend to certain groups deemed privileged because of their “oppressed” status. Many of our defamers’ platform issues were identical to the talking points of statist political parties, and the rest were all regurgitated summaries of Marxist philosophy. The idea of separation (i.e. independent self-determination) was said to be oppressive and counterproductive to replacing the state and that people did not have a right to retain their culture or individuality within a global anarchist world. Mere ideas were called dangerous and differences in opinion were defined as “violent” behavior. Some of the attendees saw the idea of real diversity (as opposed to “gray-race” homogeneity) as the root of all oppression. Many defended the “need” for people to be forced into reeducation institutions or killed off if they refused to assimilate into the greater collective of a single people. It was clear that people had limited understandings or unrealistic expectations about what an anarchist society would actually look like. Some of these individuals were becoming the very things that they claimed to oppose.
Although there was a great deal of negative behavior at the book fair, a positive side did exist. Several people asked NATA-NY members directly what we really believe. Despite the ignorance, fear, and hateful remarks made toward NATA-NY members and those associated through friendship, it was clear that individuals outside of the group-think mindset were curious about what all of the controversy was really for and why NATA-NY had been targeted so viciously. Those conversations were generally productive. NATA-NY members were able to distribute fliers explaining what NATA-NY represents for several hours outside of the book fair and managed to have diplomatic discussions with those who were concerned, curious, and open-minded.
At one point, I was discussing NATA-NY’s stance on racism (we’re against it) and racial separatism (it’s not for us, but we accept it as a reality in a decentralized world) with someone who was willing to have a rational dialogue. In the middle of our conversation, a book fair attendee came outside and handed this person a copy of the wanted poster, warning him that NATA-NY was “racist.” Rather than join the discussion which dealt directly with the topic of race, he proceeded to run back inside the building. It was clear to the person who was speaking with me that something more complex was at play here. Based on the actions of our defamers, this neutral person realized that the banishment and slander of NATA-NY was not only unwarranted, but abominable as well.
Toward the end of the night, NATA-NY had just about exhausted our supply of literature, and many people had already left the book fair. As NATA-NY was preparing to leave and take a quick group photo, a few people nearby noticed the NAM flag and became enraged. One of the most militant yelled “fuck off with your nationalist shit!” She quickly became irrational and physically confrontational, flailing her arms at the NAM flag and calling us “racists” and “fascists”. Robert of NATA-NY tried to rationally point out that her violent behavior towards a peaceful group was more authoritarian and fascist than anything we have ever done. The reactionary woman and her associates immediately increased the level of physical aggression.
Steve of WeAreChangeCT attempted to film the scuffle while a man wearing a hood hit Steve’s camera out of his hand and then ran back into the book fair. The attacker then came back outside and ran up on Steve, attempting to punch him from behind. Steve was knocked directly into a older woman (who came out in support of NATA), who fell into the street. While we were each dealing with assaults from all angles, a shadowy individual from the right side of the building ran up to me and grabbed the NAM flag. This person ran like a football player on a mission to receive a touchdown. As I tried to retrieve the flag, I was attacked by an individual from behind a car who sucker punched me in the head about five or six times. Then the man who assaulted Steve joined my attacker before he was scared away by the NYPD, who were nearby.
The Anarchist book fair violated its own policies by showing intolerance toward diverse groups, and for allowing “antifa” and their supporters to engage in physical violence against NATA-NY and those deemed associated. The environment of the book Fair was corrupted with fear, elitism, privilege, group-think, and juvenile behavior. It was a very chaotic situation, and a glaring example of hypocritical double standards that do a great disservice to the philosophy of anarchism and to individuals within the greater anarchist community.