By Nancy Rommelman
Erin Smith was at a GOP election watch party at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on November 8, 2016. For the one-time deputy vice chair of communications for the city Republication Party, it should have been a time of jubilation.
“As soon as they announced Trump the presumptive winner, we’re told, ‘Hey, there’s a mob of protestors out front,'” says Smith, who stepped outside to find the San Francisco cops being pushed back by a crowd, some in head-to-toe black: clothes, helmets, face masks.
A trans woman, conservative, and former tugboat captain who says she’s “a weird activist/analyst-type person right now,” Smith soon became galvanized to find out more about a group that dressed as revolutionaries and took their fight to the streets. What was animating them? Trump animus? The romance of revolution? The boredom and frustration of COVID sequestration? An unfocused desire to fuck shit up?
It takes a special moral blindness to see setting fires, breaking windows, and threatening journalists as the road to justice. I’ve seen this moral blindness rise along with the violence in Portland. Young activists have told me frankly that they don’t give a shit if someone working in the basement of the police station burns to death because, hey, she chose to work there. I’ve seen activists cheer the murder of a member of the conservative group Patriot Prayer. You cannot employ the violence of your perceived enemies and expect your revolution to end in peace.