Colin P. Ashley is a Graduate Center student in Sociology. Below is his statement in response to the brutal attack this past weekend on Colin and a group of other activists by pro-Trump goons. It is republished with Colin’s permission.
I am in good spirits. I am not detoured. I am Black, Queer and yes still fabulous! Next time I will be better equipped to whoop some fascist ass.
ON WHAT HAPPENED
Saturday was an amazing day for racial justice organizing and activism. I started the day by attending the Forward Union (FU) fair tabling for PPA. The FU event was a space that allowed artists, grassroots activists and organizers, and community organizations to meet and share what they were working on around issues of justice and equality. While there, I was invited to speak on a ‘Why we say Fuck the Police! panel’ with family from NYC Shut It Down. The panel was extremely powerful, the message well received. Despite the snow the event was well attended and quite impactful. It ended with a dance party, drag queens and a queer performance piece. I danced. I then went and joined other friends at the Decolonize This Place closing night event (many of whom were at FU and left earlier). Decolonize is a space where social justice movement folks, artists, thinkers gathered to commune, organize, celebrate, and work towards decentering whiteness. The place was packed, filled with people of color, queers, friends, family. I danced.
As the night started to wind down a large group of us stood outside chanting various movement chants—solidifying bonds and our commitment to continue forward in our fights for racial justice. A smaller group of us moved down the street heading off to grab food and continued chanting. Four men quickly approached us shouting “Trump, Trump, Trump” with one of them flashing his blue lives matter bracelet at us. We in response continued chanting, switching up our chant to the fuck trump protest song: “Ole, Ole Ole Ole…Fuck Trump, Fuck Trump.” One of the guys, RacistHomophobeDudeBroMcFuckFace pointed at me and shouted, “He’s a fucking faggot.” and I screamed back, “Yeah, I’m a fucking faggot so the fuck what!” and continued on my way crossing the street.
This moment is important…really important…because I know this guy. Guys like this have called me faggot before. Guys like this who are insanely insecure and threatened by any and all difference. He expected my shame. He expected me to be demure and weakened by his homophobic slur. His toxic masculinity is fueled by this expectation. It was a desire for power and I did not comply with this expectation. This moment is also important because it is not new. I’m a black queer man. I’ve been called faggot and been threatened before. I have known all types of violence like this. While the election of Trump may have emboldened these types they’ve always been there: threatening anything and everyone that they perceive as different. Their sense of self depends on this. I know this guy and we all must know him. Authoritarian and fascists ideas resonate with him. He knows offense and seeks power through his fists. He is probably more willing to kill for his ideas than we are.
When I turned back around, dudebro (6’2”, 220lbs) was yelling at Connor, a friend and fellow queer activist. A few folks were trying to separate them. As I approached, dudebro sucker punched Connor in the face. I stepped in to defend Connor and the brawl took off. My instinct was to grapple. This instinct failed me. I did everything in my power to bring the dude to the ground. While doing so he wailed continuously on my face. Once on the ground, he managed to get on top of me and continued wailing. I landed some body punches but couldn’t sweep him. Several friends tried to peel him off me but his friends were attacking them and preventing them from offering aide. My perspective from this point was limited. It was a perspective from the ground. They ended up taking off and I was rushed inside to get needed care. I was later told that the group of guys ran to the cops and used the cops as a shield from those of us who ran after them. I was told the cops let them go and told our people to go inside. I wish I knew more of the details around this but this does not surprise me. The police are not here to protect us. I certainly don’t remember the cops breaking anything up but again, perspective: ground
ON CIRCULATING TRAUMA
I get that these stories need to be told. Believe me I do. My face, my name, my stories have circulated rapidly through social media before, but we as organizers and activists must do better. The story that first circulated on FB and Twitter did not go through my community first. I understand that this is a communal story, but I personally felt distant from what was happening on FB and Twitter. I just felt disembodied. (Probably due to the head injury!– buh buh buh) I guess this is part and parcel to the nature of social media. But I was missing. Some of my politics were missing. So I want to share this to feel a bit more bodied. I worry that the 24 hour news cycle has taught us that we have to push out information rapidly. We don’t. We have to first center the survivors of violence, their needs, story, and politics–especially the most marginalized amongst us.
The day after the attack, I found myself constantly juggling texts, fb posts, signal threads, twitter feeds, emails, and calls. It was a lot. But I tried to dive in, frozen popsicle over my eye (I’ve since moved on to a real ice pack) and did my best. These conversations were fundamentally important. Organizers were figuring out how to respond and take action, the press (more on them later) wanted details, and most importantly my whole community wanted to make sure that I was ok. I am still slowly responding to this outpouring of love.
I did not cry after the attack. I cried because of the immense support I received. It was awe-inspiring. This is why I believe that we will win. We just need to continue to grow more organized and strategic. I have worked to cull deplorables from my social media network. Others have not. I was immediately targeted online by Pepe-meme wielding deplorables. I am not upset at anyone or asking that anything be taken down. This story should be told. These are just some ideas on how we can better protect ourselves going forward.
ON THE PRESS
The press moves fast. We must remember they want a story. In these cases the story is about the act of the harm, not necessarily the people who were harmed. Let’s slow the press down. Especially the press that is friendly to social movements. Our stories are important. Our politics are important. I point to this because the story being told over and over is too focused on Trump. Yes, since he was elected, hate crimes have gone up, but we must continue to stress that this shit is a continuation of this country’s racist, sexist, homophobic history. This shit is instilled in our very structures and institutions. A bunch of fagotts being beat up by some hateful racist homophobic pigs isn’t new. Our enemies are bigger than this group of assholes. We have to dismantle entire structures. We have to live in alternative ways. We have so much work to do.
ON NEEDING SELF DEFENSE
Yep! Check! Wish I knew some sweeps and I need to get my jab on point. But, to be clear…many of us are working tirelessly on trying to organize these classes and much much more. What we need is you. We need more people joining us, organizing with us, volunteering their skills. Many folks organizing around racial justice are exhausted and burnt out. We have already lost too many of our strongest organizers because of this. Since the election we have many new faces in our organizations. People are growing fast politically, but those of us who have been in this for a while now are still being told love and peace when we say militancy, strategy, and resistance. We are not anti-love. Love just isn’t a political strategy. These sentiments must be channeled into forms of resistance and this resistance must be both strategic and militant. We need all hands on deck.
Many people are too invested in non-profit organizations. The work that many of them do is important but their role is by nature limited. Many people still hold to a faith in the Democratic party and their elected officials. They have failed us time and time again. Malcolm X’s speech about the fox and the wolf rings loudly in this moment. Others still cling to the idea that racial capitalism can be reformed. This is the biggest lie. We must let it go.
Come. Join us in the grassroots organizations working on these very issues. We are not paid. We do this work out of love and survival. We need you. If you have ever said on social media that we need to take self defense classes and are not part of an organization or community group: join one. Help us organize these classes. If you can teach self defense: volunteer. Here are NYC groups that you can plug into:
People’s Power Assemblies (PPA)
NYC Shut It Down
PPA has just formed several borough based community defense committees… two in Brooklyn and one in queens have grown the fastest so far.
There are many ways to plug in and offer support…just jump in.
This was a hate crime…but the whole damn country is a hate crime on top of a hate crime on top of a bunch of hate crimes. Assholes like the ones that attacked us need to be stopped but the whole damn country needs to be transformed. Racial capitalism must be destroyed and I am still dedicated to working toward its destruction. Again, I am not detoured. I have lost loved ones to police brutality. I have lost loved ones to homophobia and transphobia. I have seen friends attacked by the police. I have seen a friend nearly lose her arm because of the militarized police at Standing Rock. This moment isn’t about our current political reality. Our political system was designed to uphold racial capitalism and to condense power and wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer people. Trump is a continuation of this, not its exception. This system is clearly collapsing under its own contradictions. We must help that collapse along while building alternative ways to exist. We must take seriously the racial justice movements that have worked towards the destruction of racism, hetero-patriarchy, and capitalism. The moment is upon us.
Black Lives Matter