While families picked restaurants for a post-football game dinner and students packed into bars to begin their Saturday night, one group on Kirkwood Avenue was not there to celebrate.
More than 150 people gathered in Peoples Park around 7 p.m. for the March Against White Supremacy. They listened to speakers and then marched mostly down one lane of Kirkwood, turning on the B-Line Trail to gather at Showers Commons and finally coming back.
“No hate, no fear, the time to fight is here,” they chanted as they marched down Kirkwood.
They were protesting a variety of issues related to white supremacy, from alleged white nationalists at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market to national raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The march was organized by Young Democratic Socialists of America Bloomington with support and speakers from other Bloomington activist chapters including UndocuHoosiers, No Space for Hate and Black Lives Matter. Community members and students also joined in.
Some anti-facist, or antifa, protesters were dressed in black clothing, and pink bandanas covered their faces instead of the usual black masks. One member said the pink was a show of solidarity with anarchist feminism and how different groups, including sex workers, are affected by white supremacy.
Senior and YDSA co-chair Jess Tang, who uses they/them pronouns, said the march had a general anti-white supremacy message to help include a wide variety of experiences.
“To me, it is important to have a voice in the community that is confidently anti-racist, anti-fascist,” Tang said.
Some concerns center around recent issues in Bloomington, Tang said, such as the Ku Klux Klan flyers found around town and the claims of farmers market vendor Schooner Creek Farm being tied to white nationalism.
But Tang said students and members of the community may have also experienced or seen white supremacy in other forms, whether it be in Bloomington or somewhere else in the world.
Tang said they faced retaliation from some people for organizing the march. However, they said the event was important enough to keep going.
“I think sometimes there are necessary sacrifices for wanting to speak out,” Tang said.
Ko Dokmai, an UndocuHoosiers board member and one of the event’s speakers, said marching down Kirkwood was a way to fight against the belief that society has a certain time and place for everything.
In an interview, he said people don’t like the idea of their day-to-day progression through life or even the progress of capitalism being shaken by people bringing up issues they believe to be in the past, including slavery and police brutality.
“What is more dangerous, what is more fascist, than the idea that progress cannot be interrupted?” Dokmai said.
The group had a large audience of onlookers as they marched through downtown Bloomington, including many IU parents and fans there for that afternoon’s football game against Eastern Illinois University.
Students yelled from Kilroy’s on Kirkwood and the Upstairs Pub as marchers passed, and young men booed the group from above Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
For some of the march, a Bloomington Police Department car followed behind the group, a K-9 dog barking in the back.
People recorded the group, and Crazy Horse outside diners stopped eating when the marchers walked by. Some families looked on in disbelief, quietly telling other family members how stupid the ordeal seemed.
Antifa protesters flanked the outside of the group, holding out their hands to stop traffic at intersections to tell drivers to stop even if they had the green light.
When the group reached Showers Commons, they formed a circle and sang songs. Antifa protesters formed a second outside circle, watching over the singers but not really participating.
The group marched back to Peoples Park afterward, with two antifa protesters at the front lighting red flares that illuminated protesters' faces in the night’s fallen darkness.
More people continued to react by yelling things like “white lives matter” in response to a “black lives matter” chant, raising a fist in solidarity or just recording with their phones.
“Don’t just record us, join us,” one marcher yelled out. “You can see a lot more from the center.”
At least one group was convinced: a trio of freshman girls joined in toward the front of the march, still wearing IU gear for the game earlier that day.
They said it was a cause they all believed in and wanted to exercise their right to protest.
Freshman Isobel Kennedy said joining in was empowering. She saw the march as a way to spread an anti-white supremacy message to a larger audience as people watched the group go by.
“It made it relevant for people to hear us screaming down the streets,” Kennedy said.
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