While utility pole posters, Facebook, and talk radio have focused on November 4th anti-Trump protests, including one slated for downtown Seattle, a more compelling group of activists will gather Saturday to discuss how best to defend their Cascadia movement from white supremacy.
After a slew of complaints and concerns from Cascadia Now members, the group is backing a Cascadia Anti-White Supremacy (CAWS) summit.
“It should be a lot of fun,” Cascadia Now founding director Brandon Letsinger said. “We want to get people jazzed up, educated and informed about Cascadia and what the white supremacist groups are, how we can all be working to combat these things.”
Cascadia Now wants to create an inclusionary space for the pacific northwest, defined by places surrounding the Cascade Mountains and associated fauna in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, northern California, parts of Idaho and southern Alaska. They’re a nonprofit that sponsors groups, takes care of IRS reporting, and has a guiding collection of principles for a movement. It officially became a nonprofit three years ago. Throughout Seattle and Capitol Hill it isn’t uncommon to see “the doug flag” — a blue, white, and green flag with a Douglas Fir tree on it.
The summit will feature educational components to define Cascadia, raise awareness of white supremacist tactics and strategies, and learn what technical steps people can take. It’s a six-hour event that will also include breakout groups and time for “resistance art,” encouraging people to use wheat paste, button-makers, stencils, and prints.
Letsinger said the white supremacist issues began early this year as racist groups began to co-opt the terms and symbols of the Cascadia movement including its flag.
“There’s always been elements of the Cascadia movement that tend to be much more aligned with the alt right,” Letsinger said. “The Northwest, and especially Seattle, has racist roots so we need to be aware of that and use our privilege to step up.”
Cascadia Now members asked for something to be done. Initially, Letsinger made sure blog posts and strongly worded statements went up, but they wanted to do more.
“We really wanted to take a stand,” he said, “and define cascadia as 1) the region we live and 2) a positive movement that all people could be a part of.”
Jay Conrad, a core organizer of CAWS, is also helping coordinate the summit.
“The use of the bioregional flag was the final red flag that we have to really do something about this now,” Conrad said. “People were concerned of flying the flag outside of their house, people worried about the association that might befall them now that this group has co-opted.”
Conrad explained white supremacist groups are good at co-opting symbols and language. An example is safe spaces. Initially dubbed to make understanding and hate-free places for marginalized groups, the term safe spaces has been used for exclusively white people by racist groups.
“These [cascadia] organizations, it’s not like they’re loosely tied,” Conrad said. “They’ll straight up put up posters that say ‘protect your white family.’ It looks like something straight out of World War II propaganda.”
The summit is slated to run Saturday, November 4 from noon to 6 PM at University Temple United Methodist Church. Organizers say the space was chosen because CAWS wants a private venue that will allow them to remove aggravators if necessary. You can learn more at cascadianow.org.