Interview with Refuse Fascism Activists Arrested in Washington, DC for—Get This—Reading, on Public Property, a Challenge to Steve “the Mouse” Mnuchin to Debate!

March 6, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Monday, March 5, two Refuse Fascism activists were arrested in Washington, DC for delivering a public challenge to Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to debate. This debate challenge comes in the wake of the widely publicized arrests of members of the Revolution Club and Refuse Fascism activists at a Mnuchin speech at UCLA last week, as well as the protest of many diverse groups, after which Mnuchin begged UCLA to suppress the video of the event (see coverage here). talked to the Refuse Fascism activists arrested in DC, after their release the next day.

Revcom: Why were you in DC?

A: We went to Washington, DC to stand with Dreamers and immigrants. We went with a whole bunch of different organizations to condemn the Trump/Pence regime’s attacks on DACA—yesterday was the day it was set to expire. It’s in the courts, but attacks on immigrants are rolling on, and people came out from all over the country to say they weren’t going to accept it. And we came to unite with them and demand that attacks on immigrants must be stopped, and most of all—we came to demand that the whole Trump/Pence fascist regime must go! Unless and until it is driven from power, which is what is determined to unite with people to do, this regime will continue to launch new attacks and hammer forward with their fascist program.

We also came to deliver a message to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was instrumental in pushing through a draconian tax bill which will chip away at healthcare, including for millions of children. It will do a lot harm to Black and Brown people, chipping away at Medicare and food stamps. For many people it will be a death sentence. So we went to Washington, DC to deliver a message—and a challenge—on behalf of the protesters who disrupted him at UCLA and challenged him on these polices. They denounced him for punishing people for conditions they didn’t create, that are out of their control—and for a mentality of “Let Them Eat Cake,” like the Queen of France told starving people in the 1700s. And they challenged him to debate. So we were demanding Mnuchin answer their challenge.

The thing that’s outrageous was that you had these two aspects of fascism being protested on the same day: the attacks on immigrants and the attacks on peoples’ human rights and the basic rights they need to live.

At UCLA, young people who are standing up for humanity, for the seven billion, go and confront this fascist Steve Mnuchin about these outrages and to demand he answer for them—and debate. Mnuchin’s answer was to roll these two courageous young women protesters out of the room, then suppress the video, and then we were arrested just trying to read this challenge out loud in public—it's unacceptable!

Revcom: What happened when you went to read the challenge? It seemed like you just tried to read your letter outside the Department of the Treasury and a bunch of police jumped you.

A: Yes! We were engaged in publicly protected, nonviolent speech, and our arrest was totally illegitimate. Then they held us for 24 hours!

Revcom: What was that like?

A: First, they shackled our feet and hands. Then, before they checked us in to be booked, they kept us in detention. They did not offer us the chance to get our phone call, we had to ask for this and keep asking for it. Later we talked to some of the arrested DACA protesters, and they too were not offered a phone call, and some had their request for one denied.

In jail, we ended up meeting a lot of the Dreamers who were arrested protesting for immigrant rights and were also held 24 hours unjustly. And we also met people in jail, Black people in particular, who told us that they felt the laws and the police becoming more draconian in Washington, DC under Trump.

The conditions in these jails are abysmal, and practically everyone was Black, except for those arrested for protesting and the prison guards. They forced people, including us, to go many hours without water. The beds are unsleepable, big slabs of metal—not mattresses. I’ve been arrested before and the conditions of the jails in Washington, DC were appalling.

A Latina woman who was diabetic told guards that she needed something for her blood sugar and the prison guard told her that she should have thought of that before she had done what she did. Another woman who was hypoglycemic— a DACA protester—was also medically neglected even though her friends kept telling the guard she was in need of medical attention.

A number of the people there were Dreamers who had DACA, but the guards checked everyone’s legal status and told one women they were going to release her but they wanted her to know that she was not here legally. She burst into tears. (We don’t know if they actually did release her.)

Revcom: How important do you think your action was? And how important is it that the action taken by the youth at UCLA and the challenge to Steve “The Mouse” Mnuchin get known and spread far and wide?

B: Our arrest was totally unjust. We were reading a letter that needed to be heard, and we are very proud to have done what we did, on behalf of the protesters at UCLA.

This is the first time I’ve ever been arrested, and I can’t even begin to express how much solidarity I have with all the sisters and brothers across the country standing up against this fascist regime, and all the Refuse Fascism chapters organizing to drive out this regime, a regime full of people like Steve Mnuchin, who are packing the most powerful military on earth with funds, while they’re taking away meals on wheels. These are the politics of cruelty and the politics of fascism.

It is so important to keep getting out this challenge. This is an extremely well written letter, challenging Mnuchin to debate, and calling on him to be accountable. Spreading this statement is important. And most important is understanding that “first they came for the Muslims, then they came for the immigrants—and we’re saying NOT THIS TIME!” Immigrants must stay and poor people have a right to live! Trump/Pence Must Go! And we’re not going to stop or back down in the face of any repression—and that’s why we went to Washington, DC and why we’re going to keep fighting [to organize millions to drive out this regime].



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