Susan Dunn, 60, came out to Central Park last Sunday to protest the recent storming of the Capitol in Washington D.C. that led to the deaths of five, including a Capitol Police officer. Despite her anger, she didn’t want a confrontation.
“I’m not looking to cause trouble with the police,” Dunn said.
But just behind her, below the Jose Marti statue, a small group of young men all dressed in black, started to put on body armor and carried shields.
Dunn, along with hundreds of people belonging to different organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America and Refuse Fascism, gathered in Central Park on Sunday to condemn a possible Proud Boys rally in the area. The small group of black clad protestors carrying shields were there for protection in case the Proud Boys showed up and confronted the main group. Medics paced around, carrying first aid kits and water in case there was a clash. The far-right group ultimately cancelled their rally after word spread around on social media and led to the counter protest.
Left without an enemy to fight, the rally became a march, winding from Central Park down an eerily empty 7th Avenue. The black-clad protestors lead the march, carrying their shields and marching in lockstep, resembling a Roman legion. Their fellow protestors screened the side streets, blocking the avenue from cars as the NYPD followed them on the sidelines on bikes, and followed them closely behind as a police helicopter roared overhead.
A few members of the march were angered by the presence of bike police and began to taunt them. Despite the provocation, however, the cops did not interact with the marchers.
The rally ended at Madison Square Park, with the organizers praising the efforts of the marchers and vowing to continue. Chris, a protester from Queens, said he was pleased by what he saw.
“It went well, I think it went as expected if we didn’t really expect to see too many Proud Boys or whatever you might want to call them out today,” he said.
Chris disagreed when asked if the armored protestors heightened tensions. He argued that because the Proud Boys are violent, it only made sense to adopt a similar posture.
“We have to meet that with the same aggression. It’s sad to say, but we do have to mete out the same aggression,” he said,
Sabel, 42, from Brooklyn, felt a measure of bittersweet vindication. Sabel is affiliated with Refuse Facism, a left wing organization that has mounted protests against Donald Trump ever since he was elected in 2016 and always referred to him as a fascist since he held office.
“When we called him a fascist, we were right in 2016. We were right in 2017. And I don’t feel good about that,” she said. “We’re gonna need a lot more people standing up and actually saying, Listen, the time is now. We’re not waiting, Trump must go. And we’re gonna stand up. And if we don’t do that, what message are we sending to the world?”