Harpo Jaeger dot com

Facing the Nazis in Tucson

CW: Nazis, Nazi imagery, physical aggression and general awfulness

Two Nazis in Catalina park from a distance.  One wears camo pants, a flak jacket and a gask mask.  The other wears grey pants, a White supremacist t-shirt and sunglasses. A small crowd turned out for the Tucson Refuse Fascism march on the evening of Saturday, July 15. We were accompanied by about 20 uniformed TPD officers, and two Nazis. Here they are in Catalina Park, shortly before we started moving.

A timeline of the evening’s events

We left the park around 6:30 PM, heading straight down 4th Ave. After less than a block we took the street. TPD blocked traffic in front and behind us as we moved. We were surrounded by officers, but they kept a respectful distance and managed traffic flow to allow us to move at our own pace.

The Nazis were not keeping a respectful distance. They started off right behind us, but as we moved, Gas Mask Nazi edged closer and closer to our rear. The younger protesters were leading the march, with the older marchers in the back of our column, so I dropped to the rear with my bike, and put myself between them and Gas Mask. Meanwhile, Sunglasses Nazi took up a position on the sidewalk, filming the entire protest. They were there to provoke a scene or interfere however they could.

Close up of the Nazi in the gas mask, showing a swastika and the words I AM HATE sharpied on his flak jacket. Our group was small, but spirited. Especially with our police escort, we attracted quite a lot of attention, garnering both cheers and boos from people along 4th. We talked to bystanders as we went to try to get them to join in, but the sight of a Nazi in a gas mask and flak jacket probably dissuaded a lot of them.

Things started to heat up as we proceeded through the underpass and down Congress. Gas Mask pushed further into our group, throwing Nazi salutes as he walked, and shouting “Heil Trump!” Around Congress and 6th, he came right up behind one of our protestors and I made a quick turn to the left, cutting in front of him with my bike. He responded by violently shoving me forward. TPD were on us immediately, and they forced me up and away from him. I hadn’t laid hands on him the entire time.

At Veinte de Agosto Park I asked the group if we could step off the road briefly. I was shaken from my first-ever physical altercation with a Nazi, and his presence was actually confusing bystanders about what our message was (no doubt this was the idea). I asked the group to take a few minutes to discuss how we could clarify our message. Gas Mask started pushing his way into our small standing circle. Again, I put myself and my bike in front of him, although somewhat more cautiously this time. In this video, you can see that Sunglasses crossed the street to film us up close, and as Gas Mask got more aggressive, TPD finally made the call to separate him from our group. They ordered him to march at least 50 feet behind us, and that was the last we saw of him. Nazis know that because their message is so unpopular, their only option is to mess up other people’s rallies. Denied a platform by TPD, he and his buddy went home (or wherever it is Nazis go).

We headed back to Catalina Park via the Valdez library, Pennington, Toole and 4th Ave. Once everyone was gathered, we did a quick debrief, at which it was universally agreed that we’d handled the Nazis very well, considering none of us had dealt with them before – and that next time we need bigger numbers!



TPD were quite respectful – they brought us water, reminded the people leading the march when people at the end were falling behind, and took cues from us as to where to go. At several points we could have been quickly kettled had they wanted to clear us out, but they let us keep moving. We were a small group, we were there to demonstrate peacefully, and we were obviously the more sympathetic party when compared with Nazis.

The public square

The police theoretically guarantee everyone’s right to access public spaces (we’ll leave a discussion of the many people who are not afforded this right to another day – the irony of the Nazi being separated from our group in Veinte de Agosto park, former nexus of Occupy Tucson, was not lost on me). “The public square” sounds nice on the surface, but in practice it means that I got to spend an hour watching TPD protect Nazis’ right to walk down a busy street, heiling and intimidating people. Let me put this very clearly: Nazis should not be afforded a public platform, anywhere, ever. But since we live in a society that thinks they should, law enforcement officers will protect them when they do. This brings me to my final two points.

Dealing with a resurgent Nazi movement

We can’t put this back in the box. On the back of his flak jacket, Gas Mask Nazi had Sharpied “I AM HATE.” Hatred is an organizing principle for these groups. It’s not a consequence of their worldview, it’s the basis of their worldview.

We need to find ways to effectively keep Nazis from showing their faces in public. In a way, our inability to rely on the police to do this for us is a good thing. I don’t want the cops deciding who does and doesn’t get access to the streets (any more than they already do). But as the institutions (political parties, the press, unions and other civil society orgs) which should be acting as gatekeepers, moderating political discourse to forestall the emergence of radical hate groups like Nazis or the KKK, crumble one after the other, it will increasingly fall to forward-thinking people of all backgrounds to resist the legitimization of Naziism.


I considered not writing this part, but I don’t think keeping it inside is healthy or politically productive. The Nazis will be delighted to read that I was scared for my physical safety after the march. After our post-action debrief, we left the park in pairs – TPD had left, and we couldn’t be sure the Nazis didn’t follow us back.

I came home shaking, turned on all the lights and carried a flashlight for the rest of the evening, looking into dark corners and streets. I went downtown for dinner in order to be surrounded by people. I spent the entire evening watching the door of whatever building I was in. I jumped at loud noises and yelling, and nearly started a fight with a some people at a bar who gave me what I thought was an unusual look. On any other night, I’m sure I would have read it as nothing significant. We slept at a friend’s house. I haven’t put my kippah back on since the march.

Gas Mask Nazi, if you’re reading this, congratulations: you made this leftist Jew scared of the streets of his town. Mazal tov! But you did something else too: you strengthened my resolve, and, I suspect, that of everyone else at the rally. You and your pathetic cameraman lackey, you who know your disgusting hatred and fear of change won’t sell and so have to resort to “infiltrating” other groups in the tough-guy outfit you bought from the Army surplus store, you who are probably afraid to tell your friends and coworkers what you actually believe, we’re putting you on notice. These are our streets. You can’t have them.