Frontline’s new series in collaboration with ProPublica is about the rise of hate groups in the United States and the first episode “Documenting Hate: Charlottesville” which aired on 7 August 2018 (currently streaming online) connects California, including Southern California to the Unite the Right supporters. Frontline journalist A.C. Thompson was at Charlottesville and has spent the year following up the clues and culprits of what became a “crime scene.”
You might think that this is just about Virginia or the South or a statue of Robert E. Lee. But the protest drew people from at least 35 states. California figures prominently and if you really think about it, that makes sense. California has been historically concerned with who lives here.
You can’t fail to recognize the neat rows of surburbia perfection that is Irvine taken in an overhead shot. Thompson talks with journalist Frank Tristan and Gustavo Arellano, the former publisher and editor of Orange County’s alternative weekly OC Weekly. Tristan covered a pro-Trump Huntington Beach rally.Through social media posts and court records, they found that the violence was organized, part of the activities of Rise Above Movement (RAM).
The people the investigations follow include Rob Rundo, UCLA PhD. candidate Michael Miselis, Samuel Woodward who allegedly killed Blaze Bernstein, and former United States Marine Corps lance corporal Vasillios Pistolis.
Michael German, former FBI agent, who is currently at the Brennan Center for Justice, commented about the violence in Charlottesville, “This was not just predictable, but predicted.” He cites the escalating violence in Anaheim, Berkeley, Sacramento and Huntington Beach. He also noted the inaction of the police, something that Thompson had already noted in Charlottesville. German said, this means the violence will continue to escalate because these alt-right street fighters think “they’re [the police] going to protect me going in, then left me do it and protect me coming out.”
After watching “American Experience: The Chinese Exclusion Act” one can’t help but think about demographics. Thompson doesn’t delineate the numbers, but Huntington Beach is 76 percent white, 11 percent Asian and 1 percent black. Compare that to Orange County which is 41 percent white, 43 percent Latino and 20 percent Asian. Irvine is, 46 percent white and 38 percent Asian. Imagine what the California and the rest of the Pacific Coast and even the southwest might look like without the Chinese Exclusion Act that was only repealed in 1943 and the quotas from other Asian exclusion were only changed with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
In Charlottesville, the Unite the Right supporters were chanting, “Jews will not replace us” as if they and their ancestors were in the U.S. first and forever.
One white nationalist says of Trump “his movement has opened up the door it is up to us to take the initiative.” Thompson felt that Charlottesville was not only a crime scene, but part of a “national reckoning about race.” For California, it should be clear that this isn’t about just black and white.