The Sojourner, my witchy, progressive metaphysical shop, was vandalized recently with a large “Antifa Hunting Permit” sticker defacing our front door. Once discovered, the picture and rage-post made the rounds on Facebook, which caught the attention of the local news stations. Reporters for WITN, WNCT, and WCTI12 stopped by to interview us after I filed an incident report with the Greenville Police. Mayor PJ Connelly even made a statement condemning this intolerant act. Later, our story made national news in Newsweek and The Wild Hunt. If these vandals intended to gift us with a ton of free publicity, they did a stellar job. Business is booming, and we’ve received supportive messages from all over the country.
I’ve waited two weeks to write about this incident in hopes that I could report how justice eventually prevailed. Alas, not so much. I have a big problem with being marked for death by a Trump supporter. I have an even bigger problem with Trump’s encouragement of so-called “antifa hunters” upon the national debate stage the very next week. I don’t think Trump’s America is so great. This is our story…
Antifa Hunting Permit defaces The Sojourner Door
On Saturday, September 19th, just after we’d closed for the night, a young man wearing a big hat and face mask, torn jeans, flannel shirt and combat boots, paid us a nefarious visit. With him was a teen-aged friend, a white girl appearing to step straight out of Hot Topic, so I’d normally assume that these are our Sojourner kind of cool people.
In plain view of numerous city surveillance cameras, they parked in a city lot with the make, model and plates of their car easily identified. Then with this 12″ x 16″ yellow sticker, they strolled up our block in Uptown, in broad daylight, stuck it to our front door, then took a trophy picture. He didn’t even wear gloves, so his fingerprints are all over the thing. Then they walked across to the city parking deck elevator, where he stripped off his big hat and mask. Those cameras caught the money-shot of both their faces, which held a shocking surprise. In all the video, these young people behave as though what they are doing will have zero legal consequences, so why hide? Turns out they were mostly right.
Antifa Hunters are not “Very Fine People”
The responding officers agreed that these people had, at the very least, vandalized our property. Because our entryway arbor was draped in rainbow pride and black lives matter flags, the detective began an investigation into whether or not this was a motivated as a hate crime.
We felt that this sticker communicated a threat to the safety of our families, and a warning to all who came to our shop they might be hunted down and murdered. Our manager, Courtney Varnadoe, posted the picture of what she found that Sunday morning, and her feelings to Facebook, which were shared 205 times:
“This is an outright threat. I bring my child to work with me. People I love congregate here… I am furious, shaking, and livid… I am anti-fascist, and if you don’t think this could happen to your family, think again.”
This “Antifa Hunting Permit” sign was made and sold on-line by white-supremacists in Florida. It is obviously bogus, but the “USA” and flag implicates the federal government, as if they condone shooting Americans. The concerning part, is that this site markets Trump 2020 swag, 2nd amendment gun rights stuff and racist confederate flag gear side by side. So, Trump might call them very fine people. I think this is a dangerous combination.
In recent news, a self-identified “ANTIFA Hunter” in Florida was actually convicted of making threats against a BLM activist. So, I saw this as a potential interstate terrorism issue, and reported it directly to the FBI tip-line.
The Good News
All of our concerns were taken very seriously by the GPD. It was stupidly easy to identify and track down this careless vandal at his mother’s house, and I hear she is very disappointed in her son’s choices. Detective Lawson did due diligence in determining their motivations and actual ability to carry out this threat, which was none at all.
His initials are JKRB, so I’ll call our suspect “Joker-B.” I’m not here to dox this guy, but thanks to public records, I know a few things about him. He’s been a registered republican since he was 16, in 2016. He is a 20 year old black man…who grew up in the old confederate south, and for reasons unknown, chooses to side with white supremacists. My assumptions and stereotypes were absolutely wrong.
Joker-B admitted to the GPD detective that he did it, but it was just a prank to him. The good news is they’ve determined that he has no affiliations to known terrorist or hate groups (other than the republican party) and is unlikely to carry out further harm to us. So, why did he do this petty thing?
He says he’d been in the shop a few weeks before, saw all the bumper stickers, and asked our associate Lanie Godley, if we carried “Trump 2020 buttons.” She answered, “we don’t carry that sort of thing here,” and returned to her work. Mind you, we don’t carry campaign swag for ANY specific candidate, but asking for that was obviously him gunning for a confrontation. Lanie declined that fight with a hard-nope. Joker-B retaliated with a passive-aggressive, “Redneck Nation” sticker. That is some weak tea, y’all.
What does Antifa even mean?
The Wild Hunt article by Star Bustamonte illuminated a short history of the term Antifa:
“According to the U.S. government’s FBI director, Chris Wray, Antifa is an ideology, not an organization with actual members…Antifa is shorthand for anti-fascist, and those who identify as such oppose authoritarianism, oppression, and all forms of discrimination…Anti-fascism traces its roots back to WWII and the Antifaschistische Aktion, a group created by the Communist Party of Germany 1932 to combat fascism and oppose Hitler…As a rise in skinhead and neo-Nazi activity rose again within the punk rock scene beginning in the 2000s, and again in 2010s, so did groups opposing them who began using the term anti-fascist, and eventually Antifa. More recently, Antifa has entered the mainstream…as an ideological force opposing white nationalism.”
Like any decent American, I am definitely opposed to fascism! Just like our grandparents who defeated Hitler’s Third Reich, we Sojourner’s also fight oppression, and discrimination of all forms. We are peaceful folks who believe in the processes and protections of a social democracy, too.
The term Antifa first came to my attention through the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. BIPOC folks are by far the majority of our Sojourner customers, and so their needs are our business. We are shop-keepers for Goddess’ sake, but when we see injustice, we join in peaceful protest. Even during a pandemic, The Sojo staff marched together, along side many loyal customers. One was even waving burning sage that she bought from us, which made my day! Lanie, was later teargassed…
The Bad News
Even if Joker-B considered it a prank, it was not harmless in the greater scope of this current America. This “Antifa Hunting Permit” sign was designed like a joke, but what isn’t funny is that it dehumanizes people – the political opponents of Trump”s authoritarian oppression – as though we are worthless animals to be exterminated. To post these signs, declares open-hunting season on American citizens, as if that murder would be sanctioned by the US Government.
Marking businesses for discrimination with a big, yellow symbol is straight out of the Nazi play-book! History has already shown us where this path may lead, if unchecked. By tagging us as anti-fascists, they damn themselves as being fascists. Fascists like Hitler and Mussolini. Fascists are the bad guys, y’all! Did Indiana Jones teach this guy nothing? The Allied Forces won World War II to prove it!
In this bizarro Trump America, where everything horrible seems to get a free pass, those distinctions are not so clearly understood anymore. A week later, in the first debate, Trump once again called on White Supremacist groups like the Proud Boys to stand by for orders to “do something about antifa.” Trump, the fascist-in-chief himself, names anti-fascism as his enemy. He is rallying the members of real, organized, FBI-tracked terrorist groups, against the nebulous ideologies of decent, (mostly) peaceful activists who oppose White Nationalism! As a person recently marked as being antifa in the national news, Trump’s rallying cry was blood-chilling.
Despite the best efforts of Detective Dawson and the GPD, neither the District Attorney nor FBI will bring any charges against Joker-B or the underage girl with him. By law, they say this doesn’t count as a “hate crime” because a political ideology is not a protected class. It was NOT our race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation he was targeting, just our lack of Trump 2020 buttons.
Neither does the sticker legally “communicate a threat,” because the law requires that he name specific people with specific threats which he is capable of carrying out. Turns out Joker-B wasn’t serious or dangerous enough to do actual harm. That part is good news.
Edit: I’m still pursuing the misdemeanor vandalism charge, but we await a clarification from the DA on whether or not a sticker counts… In short, the law as written right now, simply does not satisfy our complaints.
The Moral of the Story
The worst part for me during all this hullabaloo, is the betrayal I feel. The seething ignorance of the old, white republican commenters on the Facebook news sites does not surprise me. It hurt my feelings to be targeted by a young, black man, whose rights and safety I’m working so hard to support. I don’t know what it takes for a fellow like himself to think anything Trump offers is a good idea. I hold him in compassion, and pray that the Divine Cosmos delivers him some much-needed lessons.
JKRB, if you see this, know that I’d welcome a peaceful conversation with you some day, because I’d really like to better understand what you were trying to accomplish with this stunt. Frankly, I think you owe us an apology.
To the rest of the community, know that the good witches of The Sojourner stand firm in our progressive convictions. We will not be intimidated. We champion the rights and protections for all people regardless of spiritual path, ideology, gender, sex, race, ethnicity, nationality, or sexuality. We denounce white nationalism and fascism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. The Sojourner remains a sanctuary for all people of good conscience to gather in safety, and to make our own special magick in peace.
I invite you all to check these forms of micro-terrorism wherever they arise. Report them, press charges, speak up, VOTE TRUMP OUT!