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Alabama antifa call Huntsville police chief’s claims “bizarre,” explains how group operates

Micah Danney

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Huntsville's police chief holds up a poster a press conference that he claims to be from an antifa group.

Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray told Huntsville City Council members that the use of crowd control weapons to prevent rioting in early June was based on information that indicated there were plans by agitators to do damage to the city.

McMurray said that those agitators appeared to be members of or sympathizers with the group antifa, a loose network of organizers and activists that grew out of the anarchist movement.*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to decapitalize the term antifa, which describes an unofficial group that shares a philosophy, goals and methods but no leadership hierarchy or organizational structure.

Police arrested 24 people, none of whom were proven to be affiliated with antifa. McMurray said this was because the group’s members know how to avoid arrest and likely moved on to continue their activities in another city.

APR spoke to a member of Alabama Anti-Fascist Action, an online group that is part of the national antifa network. They agreed to speak anonymously about who they are, how they function and what they’re all about — and what they think of McMurray’s statements.

APR: Why do you want to remain anonymous?

Alabama Anti-Fascist Action: White supremacist groups and other extremists have a history of targeting antifascist activists and their families. Our network has received an uptick in threats of violence in the last few months due to the charged political environment and our involvement in doxxing members of Atomwaffen and League of the South. Because we live in a very conservative state with deep roots in white supremacy and neo-Confederate sentiment, Alabamian and Southern antifascists in general face some steeper challenges than other regions. We take our security very seriously to prevent individual activists from being doxxed. Given Chief McMurray’s recent conspiracy theories, we’ve chosen to tighten security at this time to also avoid police harassment.

What can you say about who your members are?

Activists within our network come from many different backgrounds, from salt-of-the-earth working class to veterans to people in professional fields to stay-at-home moms. While most of our activists are Leftists of various kinds, our specific network is founded on the principle that our individual politics are not more important than the goal of antifascist resistance, so we are willing to work with anyone who shares that value and a commitment to good praxis regardless of specific political slant. 

At this time, there are antifa within every major city in Alabama, but we especially appreciate our rural activists out in the counties and small towns where white supremacist movements are more likely to recruit.

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How does your network operate? What motivates its members?

All antifa collective efforts function differently and independently of each other. Our particular network could best be described as a loose collaborative exchange between antifa activists spread throughout the state. We collect and share information, assist each other with projects and concerns, and plan direct actions together when necessary. All individuals act as autonomous equals, we don’t appoint leadership or recognize hierarchy among the participants. As to what motivates us, here’s a statement from one of our folks that I think sums up how many of us feel:

“My great-grandfather died in a concentration camp. I exist right now because someone helped members of my family escape the Nazis. I think about that a lot, about the kids in the border camps and how some day we’ll have to answer for everything. When my great-grandkids hear about me, I want them to hear about someone like the German men who helped my family, not the Germans who did nothing. There’s a lot of talk of heritage these days. Antifascism is my heritage. It’s literally why I’m here.”

The goal of antifa isn’t to disrupt society, bully conservatives or meddle in status quo politics. We’re here because as long as there are fascist elements in our society – a militarized and over-utilized police force, for-profit prison industry, state sanctioned surveillance and violence against peaceful people, mistreatment and demonization of immigrants, unchecked and blatant white nationalism, and so on – someone has to be there to resist the progress of modern fascism and help protect vulnerable people in our communities. We’re just normal people who have decided that we will not stand by and watch history repeat itself.

Chief McMurray has repeatedly referenced antifa as central to the use of force by police under his command on June 1 and 3, citing intelligence gathered before the events and alleging participation by antifa agitators who avoided arrest. How do you view his comments?

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We’ve been following the situation in Huntsville closely. First I would like to say that there were no antifa direct actions carried out at any of the protests in Huntsville and there were never any planned. In communicating with antifa in other states, we have found no evidence of any outside antifa involvement in the protests and in fact we find McMurray’s assertions to be bizarre and evidence that the chief doesn’t understand what antifa actually is or does. 

While antifa often work to disrupt or counter-protest demonstrations by white nationalists, disrupting a peaceful protest condemning police brutality and exposing members of the local Black community to further police violence is completely against everything we stand for. It would serve no purpose. We would also like to state for the record that none of the people included in McMurray’s presentation are participants in our network or any other antifa groups that we are in contact with. They may be antifascist, as we all should be, but they are not “antifa” in the sense that they’ve been accused. We find it disturbing that the chief made only minimal attempts to obscure the identity of those individuals and effectively doxxed innocent people on a public broadcast, putting them needlessly at risk for harassment and violence.  

All in all, it’s fairly obvious to us that Chief McMurray is either the victim of some sensationalized fear-mongering that has very little to do with the reality of antifascist activism, or may be trying to retroactively justify his decisions in order to paint them in a better light. With antifa being painted by Trump as a national boogeyman, it’s easy to fall prey to conspiracy theories.

McMurray characterized antifa as highly organized, and described the protesters the same way. He cited the presence of medics and aid stations as evidence of preparation for violent engagement with police, and he showed a diagram of protest roles that he characterized as a blueprint for it. Can you comment on these characterizations, and on how self-described antifa activists employ these or other tactics?

Individual antifa groups vary in degree and style of organization. Most, like ours, are only loosely organized. Highly organized groups are rare. Most antifa participate in other types of activism and have experience attending or organizing protests. The tactics referenced by McMurray are actually just common protest tactics that have been in use by hundreds of different groups and causes for decades, with some new developments that have come about due to technology and observations of the Hong Kong protests. 

The infographic shared in the presentation is ubiquitous on the internet. Antifa groups do use some of the same principles when planning direct actions, but our style of activism is very different on the ground and so most of the tactics that McMurray covered are not useful to us.  

First aid stations and medics have always been staples of protests, because people get hurt even under the best and most peaceful circumstances. Ankles get twisted, people get sunstroke or dehydrated, counter-protesters sometimes become violent. It makes sense to have people there who can dispense water and minor first aid to those who need it and to be on hand in case there is a serious emergency until paramedics can respond. Given that tear gas was used on the smaller group of protesters on June 1, it’s hardly surprising that people came prepared on June 3 just in case. Bringing first aid kits and protective clothing to a protest when the cops have already demonstrated a willingness to gas peaceful protesters is not provocation, it’s common sense. 

It’s clear to us that the protesting public in Huntsville is capable of organizing among themselves without assistance from antifa or “outside anarchists.”

What is your view of police within the antifascist framework?

Attitudes towards the police vary greatly within antifascist circles, because there are so many different ideologies that overlap with antifascist work. The most common point of view and the one that is held by the majority of our co-op, is that it’s fruitless to argue about “good cops” and “bad cops,” because the police can only ever be as good and as just as the system allows them to be. In an unjust system, all cops are bad. They may be decent, well-meaning people outside of their working environment, but they still choose to put on a uniform and uphold a broken system every day. Every cop that shot at, gassed, or pepper sprayed a peaceful protester on 6/1 and 6/3 in Huntsville is someone’s “good cop” uncle, brother, father or son. 

We believe that many of the problems are systemic. The police are over-utilized to deal with problems that should be handled by other professions and they’re not appropriately trained for those situations. Aggression and an environment of paranoia and us-versus-them mentality are cultivated. 

Specific to antifascism and antiracism circles, we pay special attention to fascist elements within the police force including abuses of power and the large number of cops that have ties to white nationalism in many forces around the country, as well as the activities of ICE regarding the immigrant community. 

We would not go as far as to call all police, as a whole, enemies of antifa, but we do not cooperate or collaborate with police while the justice system remains deeply rooted in corruption, white supremacy, unnecessary violence and toxic behavior.

What would you like concerned residents to know about you or your presence in the state?

Antifa is not a scary shadow organization. We’re not here to cause chaos or hurt innocent people. We’re your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors, and we’re here because we see the dark turn that events have taken in this country. We know from history where those paths lead and what happens when no one confronts fascism, rampant nationalism and supremacist ideology until it’s too late. 

We want better than that for Alabama and for the American people. The nature of fascism is to separate us and pit us against each other until there is no one left to resist. Like the antifascist resistance movements of the early- to mid-20th century, antifa exists to make certain that wherever there is hate, oppression, state corruption and human rights abuses, there will be resistance. If you ever thought about Nazi Germany and thought, “I will never let that happen here,” you’re an antifascist.

Micah Danney is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile residents impacted by Sally urged to apply for federal aid

FEMA has approved $11.1 million in housing grants to individuals and families through Sept. 28, according to the governor’s office. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced more than $11 million in federal disaster aid has been approved for those impacted by Hurricane Sally in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties.  

FEMA has approved $11.1 million in housing grants to individuals and families through Sept. 28, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Hurricane Sally took a punch to our coastal areas, but thanks in part to the millions of dollars in federal assistance, the people of Alabama are moving along the road to recovery,” Ivey said. “I remain grateful to President Trump, Administrator Gaynor and their teams for prioritizing the people of Alabama reeling from Hurricane Sally. We will get through this together; we have done it before, and we will do it again.”

Federal grants to repair homes or for renting temporary housing made up $8.9 million of the FEMA funding. Grants for childcare, moving and storage, medical and dental comprised the remaining $2.1 million. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved an additional $570,900 in disaster home repair loans for those impacted by Sally.

Ivey’s office encourages homeowners and renters in Baldwin, Mobile and Escambia counties to apply to FEMA for federal disaster assistance as soon as possible. Residents of these three Alabama counties may also be eligible to receive assistance for uninsured and underinsured damage and losses resulting from the hurricane.

Residents in those three counties impacted by Hurricane Sally may register for FEMA disaster assistance online by visiting disasterassistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Multi-lingual operators are available. The toll-free lines are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST.

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Those with a homeowner’s insurance policy are encouraged to file an insurance claim before applying for federal assistance. 

Information that may be useful to have when you register include:

  • Address of the damaged primary dwelling where the damage occurred
  • Current mailing address
  • Current telephone number
  • Insurance information and description of disaster-caused damage and loss
  • Total household annual income
  • Names and birth dates of family members who live in the household
  • Name and Social Security number of co-applicant (if applicable)
  • Routing and account number for checking or savings account so FEMA may directly transfer disaster assistance funds

 For more information on Hurricane Say visit FEMA’s website here.

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Education

New website for state resources for children, families launches

The website provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services.

Eddie Burkhalter

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A screengrab of the Alabama Family Central website.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the creation of a centralized website for the state’s social service programs and services for children and families. 

Alabama Family Central was created through a $500,000 allocation by the state Legislature from the state’s Education Trust Fund budget and provides access to all the state’s resources for children and their families, including child care, education, family services and health services, according to Ivey’s office. 

“Alabama Family Central will ensure that all parents and children in our state have access to crucial information and resources from numerous state agencies and non-profit organizations,” Ivey said in a statement. “Great parents need strong partners, and I am proud of the strong collaboration between the state and private sector to offer a one-stop shop of assistance for Alabama families. I appreciate the Alabama Partnership for Children spearheading this effort.”

In addition to pointing visitors to state programs and services, the website also points families who are undertaking remote school learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic to A+ Education Partnership, which advocates for quality education in Alabama.

The state website specifically directs visitors to a page that provides COVID-19 resources for parents, including sections on guidance and decision-making, supporting learning from home and coping and well-being. 

“When I learned that our students would be learning remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my heart immediately went out to the parents who would need assistance teaching their children at home,” said State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, in a statement. “I requested funding to set up such assistance, so I humbly thank Governor Kay Ivey and Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, for granting that request. It was a pleasure working with A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama Partnership for Children to incorporate this idea into their programs, and I look forward to its expansion. Every child deserves access to the highest quality education, no matter their circumstances.”

The Alabama Family Central website includes:

  • A+ Education Partnership
  • Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
  • Alabama Department of Early Education
  • Alabama Department of Education
  • Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • Alabama Department of Mental Health
  • Alabama Department of Public Health
  • Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • Alabama Medicaid

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Congress

Palmer supports legislation making unused PPP funds available to small businesses

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, added his signature to a discharge petition that would force a vote on a bill that would allow unused Paycheck Protection Program funds to be made available for small businesses.

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses. The program has kept thousands of small businesses open since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still in need as the economy continues to recover.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has refused to hold a vote. The Democratic controlled House passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which Republicans opposed.

Palmer and House Republicans accuse Pelosi of holding American workers and businesses “hostage,” preferring the Democrats’ relief legislation.

“Speaker Pelosi has made her objectives abundantly clear,” Palmer said. “We could have negotiated and delivered immediate aid for small businesses and individuals weeks ago, but her leftist agenda always comes first. Many businesses are barely hanging, on anxiously awaiting the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, but Pelosi is determined to hold them hostage to get her way. She would like to bail out states that were bankrupt before the pandemic and further a welfare agenda that is harmful to the economy. Today, I proudly signed a discharge petition to circumvent Pelosi’s control of the House floor and force a vote on a bill that would bring real relief to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic. It’s time for Members of Congress to stand up for small businesses and American workers since the Speaker clearly won’t. Small businesses across the country can’t wait.”

A discharge petition on H.R. 8265 was filed on Friday by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, and 218 signatures are needed to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. The bill was introduced on Sept. 16 by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

“This public health crisis has left our small businesses near permanent closure, and that will happen on a massive scale if Congress doesn’t act,” Beutler said. “Yet Congress isn’t acting, so I’ve filed the discharge petition in the House today so we can bypass the political posturing and bring relief to our nation’s small businesses and their employees. Other relief remains vital, but we either save jobs and businesses now or provide triage soon for the damage caused by empty buildings, lost livelihoods and health care plans, and fewer employment opportunities overall. Reviving the PPP has to be our priority.”

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“The Paycheck Protection Program has served as a critical lifeline for America’s small businesses,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. “Since its launch, the program is credited with saving 51 million jobs nationwide. But our work in helping small business owners stay open and keep employees on payroll is not done. A recent report indicates that as many as 36 percent small businesses say if no new funding comes from Congress soon, they will be forced to lay off workers or cut back hours. Democrats have consistently blocked or delayed relief, but Republicans are not giving up. That is why House Republicans, led by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on a stand-alone extension of the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of the year. It only needs 218 signatures to force a vote, so I hope that our Democrat colleagues will join us in delivering relief. My Republican colleagues and I will continue to act on our Commitment to America; we will be relentless in our fight to protect jobs, small businesses, and the American dream.”

“Since March, small businesses—corner stores, retail shops, and family restaurants—have been struggling to survive,” Chabot said. “Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to pass the CARES Act, which delivered rapid assistance to small firms through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. Unfortunately, in recent months, additional relief for small businesses has been caught up in the partisan logjam and the livelihoods of real people hang in the balance. Congress must work together to get help to small businesses in Washington, Ohio, and across our great nation. Rep. Herrera Beutler’s discharge petition to force a vote on my legislation is the way to do just that. I thank her for her leadership on behalf of America’s small businesses.”

Multiple news outlets, including Roll Call and The Hill, are reporting that several House Democrats are “strongly considering” signing Beutler’s discharge petition.

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Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District. Palmer does not have a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Agriculture Secretary Perdue to tour storm damage today

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will tour farms in South Alabama on Monday to see damages from Hurricane Sally.

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate and Gov. Kay Ivey’s chief of staff Jo Bonner will visit South Alabama on Monday to tour damages following Hurricane Sally.

They will visit Flowerwood Nursery, a horticulture operation in Loxley, Alabama, severely impacted by Hurricane Sally.

Perdue, Pate and Byrne will also meet with Baldwin County farmers at a visit to Underwood Family Farm, a pecan farm in Summerdale.

Following the two stops in Alabama, Perdue will visit Jenkins Farm in Jay, Florida, a cotton farm impacted by Hurricane Sally. The secretary will hold a roundtable discussion with local Florida farmers and stakeholders impacted by Sally.

Hurricane Sally came ashore on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 miles per hour winds and torrential rains. The wind, the downpour and then the flooding devastated crops in the area as well as blowing down trees and damaging homes and businesses.

Sally was the first hurricane to make landfall in Alabama in 16 years.

“Throughout Southwest Alabama, winds and flooding have left many without essentials like power, water and shelter,” Byrne said on Thursday. “Fortunately, help is on the way.”

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“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who experienced significant damage during this powerful hurricane,” Pate said. “Alabama farmers have already faced economic hardships this year due to market instability, trade concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia Counties have been declared a natural disaster area by the Trump administration.

“I went up to Escambia County today to check out some storm damage around Atmore and meet with local officials,” Byrne said. “Thanks to Sheriff Jackson for showing me some of the damage. It wasn’t just the coastal counties who took a beating from Hurricane Sally. Residents of Escambia County are all eligible to seek Individual Assistance from FEMA for any disaster related issues.”

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The Alabama Farmers Federation has started a relief fund so that people can help Alabama farmers who were impacted by Hurricane Sally.

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