FARGO — An impromptu counter protest in response to alleged plans for a “White Lives Matter” rally brought hundreds of activists and concerned citizens to the Fargo streets Sunday, April 11.
Starting around noon, police blocked off roads in the downtown area surrounding Island Park to City Hall, while more than 200 protesters — rallied together by social justice groups OneFargo, the Black Lives Matter chapter of Fargo/Moorhead and the Red River People Over Profits Initiative — gave speeches and held signs defying Nazis and white supremacists.
Chaplain Sarah Miller with the Chaplains on Call and Emergency Response team said her organization was alerted because of an online albeit anonymous poster for so-called White Lives Matter protesters to rally on April 11 at 1 o’clock across the nation.
“We are here at this one because we go to anything where there is a reported threat to cause problems,” Miller said. She used to attend rallies in plain clothes, but after she was attacked recently while working with homeless people, she came to the Sunday's rally dressed in a uniform and carrying a handgun.
At least five people who were suspected of supporting white supremacist ideals were seen shadowing the rally, which began at Island Park, and the ensuing march, said Jamaal Abegaz, who is with the African People's Socialist Party.
Abegaz, who said he was exercising his 2nd Amendment rights by carrying two handguns at his sides, said he was expecting more of the so-called White Lives Matter supporters.
“We were expecting these folks to show up at 12:45 p.m., but as you can see, some of them are standing around trying to film us. They were going to do this nationwide, but since they couldn’t find their own rally, they decided to mix it up with ours,” Abegaz said.
“Fascists, stay in your house. Stay in your chat rooms and everyone will be just fine,” Abegaz said.
One bystander, John Vaszquez from West Fargo, who was filming the rally in front of City Hall said the protesters were "borderline between a protest and rioting."
Vasquez learned of the rally from the reported "White Lives Matter" poster circulating online. He said he is opposed to white nationalism, but he fears Black Lives Matter have a socialist agenda.
"For me, seeing this and how this system works is interesting," Vasquez said. "I've seen them on YouTube, and they got the right to do what they want."
“We’re fighting the same fight, but you’re fighting for a different cause,” said Kollin “Heavy” King, of the so-called White Lives Matter rally. King, who helped organize rallies in Grand Forks last year, came to Fargo to speak to about 200 people in front of City Hall.
“This has to end, it can’t keep going on from generation to generation and teaching our kids to hate,” King said.
Wess Philome, an organizer with OneFargo, helped lead protesters downtown, stopping the march on Main Avenue to prove a point.
“They’re uncomfortable being there, having to face us,” Philome said about traffic that stopped to wait for them to pass. “We are going to end systemic racism in North Dakota and it will be one of the most beautiful things the world will ever see.”
Because not enough positive change has occurred since last year’s social justice marches, Philome called for more activists to begin attending City Commission meetings.
“Look at this building,” Philome said outside City Hall. “Do you think they are listening to us? They are not. The fight is in there. Change has not happened in a year, and we need you all to be there.”
The Fargo Police Department reported no incidents occurred during the march, which ended at about 2 p.m.