This is the Timbers Army blog, where members can submit blog posts. 

  • 11 Aug 2019 11:09 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Shane Mount-Rubenfeld.

    Hi, Merritt.

    I’m going to presume you’re generally up-to-date with the broad aftermath of the Iron Front ban, which was awkwardly passed down from MLS HQ by your representatives. Perhaps you’ve read a few of these recent TA blogs. You have likely seen videos of white supremacists harassing and assaulting Sounders fans before their August 4 match in Seattle. I would hope you have also been made aware of the expressed intentions of Washington-based white supremacists and their pals to attend and cause trouble at Timbers matches.

    Portland’s fascist incursion is not a new problem: we live in a space sculpted by a century and a half of white supremacist public policy. Violent exclusion of minorities is a theme that runs from anti-Black territory law enshrined in the state constitution, past the unpunished massacre of Chinese workers in the late 19th century, past the Vanport displacements in the aftermath of WWII, past the murder of Mulugeta Seraw and the infestation of neo-Nazi skinheads in the 80s, to today’s sharp rise in hate crimes statewide. This story is still being written, and we are all currently playing a role in it via our individual and collective responses (whether passive or active) to both a nationwide and a local increase in racist organization.

    Merritt, we cannot place a high enough value on the unity the club has shown with the TA and the Riveters in our mutual efforts to make Providence Park an intentionally welcoming place to populations that too much of our country tries to exclude. For many supporters, this commitment to radical inclusiveness — more than goals, players, or trophies — is what cements our love for and loyalty to this club. This means not being passive allies, but proactive ones, as you were in 2013 when the Timbers and Thorns organizations publicly supported the drive for marriage equality. Then, you knew that standing in defense of human rights — which is an inherently political act in the face of those many who would use the power of the state to deny them — is worth defying the disingenuous "stick-to-sports" mantra of any who want their sports experience (not to mention commercial interests) to reflect and maintain a status quo of inequality.  A similar moment is at hand. 

    I hope you will recognize that league- and club office-produced boilerplate is not enough to repair the damage that has been done to this relationship. Supporters of these clubs deserve to hear from you directly, and I urge you to make an opportunity to communicate with us in a personal way as soon as possible.

    I’m confident no two supporters’ lists of questions for you would be identical, but there certainly would be some major themes.  Here’s what I would like to know:

    • Do you support MLS’s specific ban of the Iron Front symbol? 

    • If so, why? If not, then why did you extend this enforcement to non-MLS matches held in Providence Park despite the lack of similarly specific demands from NWSL and USL?

    • Do you believe that the league performed adequate due diligence or allowed an appropriate level of debate before handing down the ban on this symbol, and especially before making an explicit equation of antifascism with self-proclaimed white supremacist and fascist organizations?

    • Do you have confidence that the officers of the league are capable of judging “political’ symbols from “non-political”?

    • Relatedly, how do you resolve the league’s blanket ban on political expression, and your office’s public statement that “the Stadium should be a politics-free zone,” with the performance of the national anthem and the display of the flag of the United States before every match?

    • What are the possible sanctions from the league toward a specific club or club’s ownership making a public statement against this ban? What are the possible ramifications of failing to enforce the ban?

    • Do you have confidence in Portland Police Bureau's preparedness and willingness to counter the threat of white supremacist violence in the city in general, or in proximity to Timbers and Thorns games specifically?

    The Iron Front symbol is a visible representation of the best values of the TA and the Riveters. It is a declaration that we will not tolerate hatred in this space that you have helped make so special for our clubs, our city, and us supporters. I beg you to loudly advocate for us to the league as a whole until it agrees to:

    • rescind its ban on flying the Iron Front flag,

    • remove the arbitrary word “political” from its fan code of conduct, and 

    • work with international experts on human rights to craft language in the fan code of conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination.

    Sincerely,

    Shane Mount-Rubenfeld

  • 10 Aug 2019 2:37 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Eric Sorenson.

    From the MLS Fan Code of Conduct:

    Using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior.

    It’s easy to gloss over at first glance, but one word stands out in sharp contrast to the other descriptors with a closer reading:

    Threatening.
    Abusive.
    Insulting.
    Offensive.

    Political.

    Racist.
    Homophobic.
    Xenophobic.
    Sexist.

    Political.

    The other words have definitions that are commonly understood, even if they have some leeway for interpretation: Reasonable people can disagree about whether the f-bomb lyrics in our chants are “offensive” (or are they merely “insulting”?), but everybody knows that someone yelling n-words or “p*ta” deserves a ban — and, arguably, a beatdown to boot. But what about “political”? League commissioner Don Garber explained further in an interview with ESPN:

    GARBER: Our stadiums are not environments where our fans should be expressing political views because you then are automatically opening yourself up to allowing counterviews. Then we're getting into a situation which is unmanageable and really not why the vast, vast majority of fans go to games. We just saw some research that was done where the vast majority of fans do not see sports events as environments that should be driven by politics. They want to go to a game and experience it and participate in a game without having to be confronted by issues that might make them uncomfortable.

    ESPN: But where you do draw the line, though? What if someone walks in with a Make America Great Again hat? Is a rainbow flag considered a political statement?

    GARBER: A rainbow flag is not a political statement. In this case, the Iron Front is a political organization.

    Clear now? An expression of the desire for equal rights, fought for by marginalized people, and subject to back-and-forth legislation, lawsuits, and hate crimes ... isn’t political. I’m being sarcastic, of course: Garber’s statement is absurd on its face. It doesn’t even pass the bar he set in his previous sentence: “… they want to go to a game without having to be confronted by issues that might make them uncomfortable.” The LGBTQ+ advocacy via fan displays, league events, and player outreach during Pride month makes some people extremely uncomfortable — as a memorable example, recall Jaelene Hinkle’s refusal to wear a Pride jersey for the USWNT.

    The 107IST organization eloquently stated that, contra Garber, the Iron Front flag is representative of human rights, rather than a political organization, platform, party, or candidate. The most common counter-argument goes like this: “That may once have been its connotation, but the usage of the flag by violent groups today has poisoned it beyond the point where it can be shown without invoking that association.”

    However, this is also an inconsistent: The exact same can be said for the United States flag, which has been co-opted by violent right-wing groups who literally wrap themselves in the US flag as they attempt to provoke violence.

    Indeed, much of the debate about what constitutes a “political” display completely ignores the most blatantly political display in sports: the military honor guard flag presentation and singing of the national anthem. These don’t figure in the calculation of political speech because they are part of the tradition of what Jean-Jacques Rosseau termed the “civil religion”: a set of religious-style rituals and beliefs that are aimed at glorifying the state (rather than a supernatural / deific entity as in non-civic religions). The American civil religion elevates the anthem and flag ceremonies to sacred status. This process is so woven into the fabric of our society that most people don’t even think of these as being political acts, until something disrupts the ritual and reveals the implicit belief system underneath it. The backlash to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest was intensified precisely because of this religious association: He (and Megan Rapinoe, for that matter) was not just making a statement of opposition to the political status quo, the protest also amounted to heresy against the civic religion.

    So, clearly, some political displays are welcome at MLS events; Garber’s explanation that they are “not environments where our fans should be expressing political views” is logically indefensible. This is why we have a very simple set of requests for the Timbers front office and the MLS organization as a whole:

    • MLS rescinds its ban on flying the Iron Front flag.
    • MLS removes the word “political” from its fan code of conduct as it is inherently arbitrary.
    • MLS works with international experts on human rights to craft language in the fan code of conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination.
  • 09 Aug 2019 9:27 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post by Nate Dinsdale.

    I came across the following memo left on a CVS copy machine downstairs from MLS headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Thought I’d share.

    Iron Front Signage Policy *Addendum*

    Following a recent meeting with The Don, long-time MLS owner and noted massage enthusiast Bob Kraft, as well as representatives from prospective diamond-level sponsors Chick-Fil-A, Juul Labs, and Hobby Lobby, we want to close the loop on the Iron Front dialogue while also expanding it with a clear written message you can share with the [INSERT SUPPORTERS GROUP NAME HERE].

    Rule #1

    The Iron Front iconography — originally created by those resisting the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (or “Nazis” for short) — is an anti-fascist symbol that has clearly been appropriated by anti-fascists amid the current rise of what a casual observer might call “fascism” in the national discourse.

    But there are very fine people on both sides. And after checking our Suggestion Box at the MLS corporate wine mixer in Orlando over the All-Star break, we’ve learned that the symbol causes some discomfort when displayed by anti-fascist, anti-racist, pro-equality supporters groups like the [INSERT SUPPORTERS GROUP NAME HERE].

    As a result, we will be enforcing strict punishments for any Iron Front tifo, two-sticks, or other coordinated displays, starting with multi-game bans for violators.

    The recently revised MLS Fan Code of Conduct clearly states:

    Using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior

    And what is more “political” than a symbol of resistance against racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist language or behavior?

    We’re glad you asked. We would like to use this opportunity to provide additional clarification on other symbols that could be considered political and thus subject to the Iron Front Rule:

    Rainbows

    To be specific, any flags, pins, signs, patches, ribbons or other visible markings that include the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple in sequential order. While this may appear to some as a symbol for inclusion vis-à-vis the LGBTQ community, it can be seen as exclusionary of those who do not subscribe to basic human equality or care to develop an acute appreciation for Judy Garland. Plus, it’s a possible affront to the color-blind who may experience confusion by all those flags sporting multiple hues of gray. BANNED

    Peace Sign/Dove + Olive Branch

    It may seem ubiquitous, but the peace sign (☮) is anything but harmless. Its association with leftist counterculture movements and people who say “Military Industrial Complex” like it’s a bad thing could prove divisive. As for doves, well, they’re basically elitist pigeons. BANNED

    Fists

    The image of a clenched fist has come to represent solidarity, particularly for progressive activists, blue-collar workers, and people with higher levels of melanin than your average Norwegian. But it can also be construed as a signal of aggression and/or support for different forms of impolite resistance. Plus, our research intern came across some pretty unsavory definitions of “fisting” on the internet. BANNED

    Sunflowers

    These audacious botanical marvels remind us of our childlike innocence before it was traded for some TAM and GAM. And we recognize that sunflowers have become a deeply heart-warming symbol for certain supporters groups. But they do require a substantial amount of water to be properly cultivated, and we’re thinking about the environment here. Maybe a nice non-threatening air plant or neutral-party cactus instead? Plus, there could be cultural appropriation claims pending from Sporting Kansas City. BANNED

    The Color Pink

    Or “salmon,” depending on your Crayola set of references. In the past, pink symbolized breast cancer awareness, but then we focus-grouped it and discovered that some customers find it’s not particularly intimidating on a kit. In addition, there’s a potential gender discrimination suit given many of our middle-aged male fans also have what a clinician might reasonably classify as “breasts.” But it’s far from us to adjudicate whether this is because of natural physiology or from regularly succumbing to the new Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. BANNED

    MLS Presents The #DontCrossTheLine Campaign Sponsored by Continental Tires

    Now we’re talking about a real, meaningful call for social change. PLUS, for a limited time you can stand up against bigotry and get $50 off your next set of radials when you tag your social posts #MLSworks #TIREDofRacism. ALLOWED


    We hope this clarifies the issue. As we often say, we won’t always agree but we will always be open, honest, and respectful. We have a track record of being cooperative and working with [INSERT SUPPORTERS GROUP NAME HERE] on a variety of potentially divisive issues that together we have resolved in a positive and peaceful way. It is our sincere hope that this is another case of just that.

  • 08 Aug 2019 10:53 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Jonathan Everett.

    The Iron Front was used by those who opposed the rise of fascism to cover up swastikas during the 1930s in Nazi Germany. The origins are well documented. These origins speak to anti-fascism and anti-racism. These ideas are not about politics, but about ethics.

    MLS is now telling us that they believe that the Iron Front flag with its three arrows is too political to be flown at soccer games. Ironically, these games benefit dramatically from the efforts of the best players all over the world, regardless of race, religion, or creed. For MLS to say that they’re happy to accept the fans’ enthusiastic dollars to see their favorite international players — but not be willing to stand up to ensure the rights of those players’ fellow citizens is timid at best and criminal at worst. My disgust is palpable, and yours should be too.

    It was just over two years ago that two people were murdered in Portland for defending young Muslim girls on the MAX. It was less than two years ago that a girl was killed by American Nazis in Charlottesville. The people responsible for those murders were groups chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” These acts were racially driven by those whose lives are driven by hate for anyone different than themselves.

    In 2019, MLS ruled that they will not allow us to adopt and display the symbol that represents our repulsion of fear and hate. Their ruling is couched in the political mire of current events but ignores the more pressing issue. Their opposition to the symbol is tantamount to condoning the most deplorable actions of those who advocate for murder of anyone determined to be “other.”

    I reluctantly accept why a business such as MLS would try to avoid any type of potential controversy; however, denying independent supporters’ groups the right to freely express themselves as being anti-fascist while displaying the logo of such historical importance is disheartening. It is even more frustrating that our own Timbers Front Office would bow to the demands of MLS and be complicit in enforcing these types of rules. History is on the side of respect for humanity, for trying to understand our differences, and for what the Iron Front stands for. If MLS and our Front Office can’t take a stand that being anti-fascist is, in essence, the foundation of morality, then what types of organizations are they? Are they organizations we should stand behind and support?

    Will our Front Office freely admit to being hypocritical in disallowing the Iron Front, but allowing St. Pauli to play in Providence Park, while profiting directly from shirt sales with slogans such as “Good Night, Alt Right” with a fist smashing a swastika? Have the times changed so much since last year that a flag with that logo would now be banned in Providence Park? Clearly St. Pauli has an agenda. It is in their fundamental principles, and they recognize that the overall morals of the community should be, and are, directly represented and supported by the Front Office. I wish our club would do the same.

    The Portland Timbers Front Office needs to step up and do the right thing. I challenge each of you to join us in our protest against arbitrary rules from a corporate entity who is not on the right side of history; an entity who has chosen to not recognize or respect the collective values of a city it directly profits from.

    I unequivocally stand with the 107ist Board and demand the following:

    1. MLS rescinds its ban on flying the Iron Front flag.
    2. MLS removes the word “political” from its fan code of conduct as it is inherently arbitrary.
    3. MLS works with international experts on human rights to craft language in the fan code of conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination.

    Will you stand with me?

    Note: Very small credit should be given to Taylor Graham from the Seattle Sounders Front Office for acknowledging that you shouldn’t compare the use of the Iron Front and what it stands for with other political organizations and subsequently be complicit in normalizing an increasingly aggressive right wing.

  • 07 Aug 2019 10:05 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Paul Atkinson.

    The Timbers Army has stood for more than a decade as a force for human rights and radical inclusivity, expressed in our North End antics and our activism in our community and joined in recent years by the Rose City Riveters. This year, Major League Soccer (MLS) published a revised Fan Code of Conduct that contains language that appears designed to excuse arbitrary bans on fan behavior by including a prohibition against “political” signage. The new code prohibits:

    Using (including on any sign or other visible representation) political, threatening, abusive, insulting, offensive language and/or gestures, which includes racist, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist or otherwise inappropriate language or behavior […] [1]

    Subsequently the Portland Timbers, as a franchise of MLS, demanded the Timbers Army cease using Iron Front imagery. The Iron Front, appearing as a circle around three arrows pointing down and left, is an antifascist symbol from the 1930s that was designed to be painted over the swastika [2]. The Timbers front office explained this injunction as a fair and even-handed application of the MLS code of conduct. They contend that the policy is not at all arbitrary and that the Iron Front, in its current incarnation as a symbol of antifascism, is banned as political signage.

    The Portland Timbers organization also owns the Portland Thorns of the NWSL. Despite the NWSL being unaffiliated with MLS, the organization extended their ban to Thorns matches as well.

    The Timbers and Thorns front office does stand with us in supporting our displays in defense of other human rights. Banners and flags celebrating Pride Month are welcome in Providence Park, as are messages decrying racism and welcoming refugees to our city and our nation. We are grateful to have a responsible partner in this.

    The ban on the Iron Front stands in jarring contrast.

    I understand the arguments of those who say even Pride or anti-racism displays are “political,” but for this purpose I fall back on these simple definitions from Merriam-Webster:

    Political: relating to the government or the public affairs of a country. [3]

    Human right: a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person. [4]

    It is clear that human rights transcend politics and statements in support are not political. The United Nations has published a list of 30 internationally accepted human rights [5], and UN human rights chief Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has warned that rising fascism globally and in the United States specifically stands as a threat to human rights [6]. Opposing fascism, then, is a human rights stance and not a political one.

    Nationalistic displays, such as the singing of the National Anthem and a military color guard, precede every MLS match in the country. These displays are political and fall under the ban as written. These unquestionably relate to government and, in the case of the military, public affairs as well. A blanket ban on political displays cannot explain how the non-political Iron Front is banned but the political nationalism is not.

    I contend that the wrong word was used: MLS wanted to ban controversial speech, which is an inherently arbitrary standard, and tried to disguise it in a way they felt would be more palatable. Only an arbitrary standard explains the capricious and contradictory combination of an Iron Front ban with a league-backed national anthem singer and show of military arms.

    Understanding that the policy is arbitrary is important, because then we see that this isn’t a cool, logical application of an unbiased rule but rather a choice. The Timbers organization stands ready to sanction one of two groups. There’s the Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters on their left, supporting the team and standing thousands strong for human rights, inclusion, and antifascism. On their right are racists, white nationalists, homophobes, and the rising tide of American fascism, just as the UN warned us about. The Timbers organization can choose where to draw a line indicating which group they’re standing with, leaving the other isolated. They can’t stand with both, we hope it won’t be difficult for them to choose to be on the side of human rights.

    We’re not asking them for much. We want them to unequivocally rescind the ban on any antifascist imagery, including the Iron Front; we want them to work with the league to drop the arbitrary and disingenuous word “political” from the fan code of conduct; and we want them to look to international institutions for help in rewriting that code to promote human rights, inclusivity, and anti-discrimination.

    The Timbers Army and Rose City Riveters stand strong in defense of human rights and radical inclusivity. We work to build up both our teams and our community. We stand against white supremacists who have brought violence into our city and whose fascist ideology is a threat to freedom. Faced with an arbitrary standard and the ability to stand with one or the other, I implore the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns to see reason and stand together with us.

    References

    [1] "Fan Code of Conduct," 01 March 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.mlssoccer.com/fan-code-of-conduct.

    [2] "Iron Front," Wikipedia, 09 07 2019. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Front. [Accessed 01 08 2019].

    [3] Merriam-Webster, "Definition of political," [Online]. Available: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/political. [Accessed 01 08 2019].

    [4] Merriam-Webster, "Definition of human right," [Online]. Available: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/human%20right. [Accessed 01 08 2019].

    [5] United Nations, "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," [Online]. Available: https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html. [Accessed 01 08 2019].

    [6] P. Walker, "UN chief issues warning on the rise of fascism," The Independent, 09 12 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/united-nations-chilling-warning-rise-fascism-human-rights-prince-zeid-a7464861.html. [Accessed 01 08 2019].

  • 06 Aug 2019 8:50 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The author of the following post requested to have their name withheld.

    If you think of yourself as a moderate, or a centrist, or “not that into politics,” I’ll be blunt: There are people in this country who want me dead — because I’m Jewish.

    Two of my grandparents survived the Holocaust. Their families hid from the Nazis because being found meant taking a one-way train trip to Auschwitz.

    History seems to be repeating itself. Not because we have an operational concentration camp system, complete with poisonous gas showers and cattle car trains stuffed full of people. We’re not there yet, although we’re headed in that direction.

    A sizeable minority of people are openly, vocally calling for every last illegal immigrant, Muslim, Jew, LGBTQ+ person, woman who gets an abortion, black person, and Latinx person executed, jailed, or deported “back to where you came from.”

    They’re on 4chan, they’re on Reddit, they’re on websites like Stormfront, they’re on YouTube commenting on videos with titles like “Holocaust Hoax.” Those people are responsible for the murders at synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego. Those people are responsible for the martyrdom of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. Those people are rationalizing the immoral treatment of human beings at our southern border. They haven’t met a body camera video of a cop shooting an unarmed black person that couldn’t be justified.

    99.9 percent of them are past the point of reason. Sure, there are heartwarming videos of former KKK members who realized they were wrong, but they’re a slim minority within a minority, and they’re not worth the precious time and energy it takes to reason with.

    You still with me? I sincerely hope so, because if you’ve read this far, I think you’re worth reasoning with.

    Let’s return to the Holocaust. A lot of people were Nazis or openly collaborated with them. But there were probably many more people who, not being Jewish, gay, Roma, or any other persecuted minority, were safe. All they had to do was keep quiet and go about their business. Never mind that their Jewish neighbor’s business was trashed during Kristalnacht. Never mind that the two middle-aged women who lived in the upstairs apartment — the ones who everyone in your building knew were probably “together” — disappeared one day without warning.

    If you were a good citizen in Nazi Germany or any of the places they occupied, didn’t raise your voice in protest, didn’t argue with your collaborator friends or relatives about the human rights of those dirty Jews or gays or Orthodox Christians, then you could survive. You had the luxury of witnessing genocide from a safe distance for no other reason than winning the genetic or racial or religious lottery.

    You think they were deporting centrists to the concentration camps? You think the pedants who said things like “Hitler makes some good points, but I do wish he was a bit more civil” were disappeared with bags over their heads in the middle of the night?

    They weren’t. But the Communists were. The anarchists were. The anti-fascists were. Because they weren’t splitting hairs over what actually defined a concentration camp. They weren’t clutching at their pearls in fake outrage over the way Hitler referred to the people he wished to exterminate.

    The anti-fascists took action — and sacrificed their lives because of it. A family in the Dutch countryside took my grandmother and her siblings in; they were anti-fascists. The men who smuggled them out of Amsterdam while the Gestapo rounded up Jews were anti-fascists, too. They risked everything for people they owed nothing to.

    When the Timbers Army flies the Iron Front flag before games, it is a reminder to me that I am safe here. I am surrounded by the sort of people who, were they alive and given a choice in 1941, would have done the hard, scary thing. They would have stood up to the fascists, even if it meant losing everything.

    I wish we didn’t have to worry about this. I really do. I wish the people who spew so much hatred and shoot up schools or sororities or synagogues or black churches could find healing and love and hope. That they could see how scapegoating is a way to channel and direct their own frustration and failure and pain towards innocent people.

    And being anti-fascist isn’t only about what we are against. It’s what we are for that is equally important: where no one is malnourished, where no one is unhoused, where no one has to decide between paying for insulin or paying for a new set of prescription glasses, where we protect and heal our degraded planet. There is a meaningful place for you in this kind of world.

    Until that day comes, the Iron Front is a reminder of what we fight for. It’s a reminder that we must stand together, because not all of us have a choice: we will have to fight, flee, or die. If you have the luxury of being a bystander, I hope you find the courage and moral fortitude to join us.

  • 05 Aug 2019 10:59 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Rich Ybarra.

    I was disappointed to read recently in print media and social media that the Portland Timbers owner and management had taken an active position to silence anti-fascism displays in Providence Park: in particular, the ban against Iron Front displays. I find this to be a particularly ill-conceived position. The last major organization to ban the Iron Front displays and eventually the Iron Front itself was the organization the Iron Front was created to oppose. Perhaps you have heard of them? The National Socialist German Workers Party, more familiarly known as the Nazi Party.

    During the Nazi Party’s reign from 1933-1945, they imprisoned and murdered over 11 million Jews, socialists, liberals, homosexuals, gypsies, Christians, and any members of other groups that opposed them or did not meet their ideological standards of race and nationalism. As the primary antagonist in World War II, the Nazis bear a great deal of responsibility for the tens of millions of wartime deaths in Europe during this conflict. All this senseless violence was driven by an ideology of race, nationalism, and totalitarianism. Race, nationalism, and totalitarianism … Man, those ring a bell for me, do they for you?

    Our current federal executive has repeatedly made racist statements, has banned entire countries made up of people of color from immigrating, has separated families of POC without cause, and has denied disaster relief to US citizens based on his racism (Puerto Rico), all while encouraging and accepting election interference help from a dictator (Putin) and repeatedly praising the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, leader of a country in which 2 in 5 people go hungry and 400,000 citizens are locked up in internment camps for expressing unhappiness about their leader. He has also praised de facto dictators in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    As a veteran of the Iraq War, I can tell you from experience what it is like to work with people who grew up in a totalitarian state. One example was the manager of a granary and bread factory in Baqouba, a town of 40,000 in which the majority of the citizens were malnourished. He was provided with money to pay his employees, several hundred tons of grain, and a list of local outlets where he was to deliver the bread. For over a month, he did not start production or even call his employees in. When confronted as to why he was not providing for his starving countrymen when he had all the means necessary, he replied, “No one from Baghdad has called to tell me to start operations.” The man had grown up in a totalitarian state and was absolutely mortified of making a decision on his own or taking any kind of initiative.

    A second gentleman was from the town of Mosul; he was our interpreter. He was a rare breed, he was fearless to the point of recklessness; one time taking a round to his chest, his body armor was ruined. The man volunteered and went out on another mission the SAME DAY. In a quiet moment, when I asked him why he took so many risks, he simply reached into his blouse and pulled up a golden chain. On the chain was the Star of David: the man was a Jewish Iraqi. He said he would do whatever he had to do to live in a society where one was not persecuted based on their race and beliefs. These are the extremes of human existence, which is what this ideology produces.

    I deeply fear that by stifling Iron Front signage, our club are making a safe space for fascism. Fascism is not congruent with our supporter’s culture or our city. At a time when our city and nation are being pressed by nationalism, racism, and fascism, it is not time to cede ground. Now is the time to plant our flag in the ground, stand fast, and do the right thing. This will not be the end of this fight, regardless of the outcome. It will be the first of many instances in which stand together, protect the rights we’ve won, and continue to fight for the rights of the oppressed. This time, this struggle, is bigger than football. But football will be the vehicle which we use to further our cause.

    This is not a political struggle, it is a human struggle of good versus evil. As it stands right now, the Portland Timbers and MLS are standing shoulder to shoulder with Nazis. It puts the club we love in a very poor light and it makes my heart hurt to see it so. I have urged them to repeal the prohibition on flying the Iron Front flag, eliminate the term "political" from the fan code of conduct, and work with international experts on human rights to craft language in the fan code of conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination. You should too.

  • 04 Aug 2019 7:38 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Greg Donnelly.

    I used to be a lot different than I am today.

    In just a few short years, I have reconsidered my place in life, those I want to surround myself with, gained new hobbies, questioned my core values, moved to a new city, and, perhaps the most gasp-inducing of all … started enjoying soccer. If nineteen-year-old me were here he’d thoroughly kick my ass. Well, he’d try, anyway. I have about 25 pounds or so on him by now.

    One of the things I’ve been exposed to via soccer is the image of the Iron Front. For me, the symbol represents so much more than anti-fascism. Its purpose and what it stands for can be applied to how much I’ve grown as a person. Just as the first circle-and-arrows were used to stamp out the visceral image of the swastika, what it represents can be painted over a part of me that I am glad is long dead. Here’s a little story...

    First, I think it’s important to briefly state what the Iron Front is and how it came to be. Don’t worry, this won’t be a history lesson, just a brief summary of its evolution. In its original iteration, its intent was to cover the image of the swastika of Nazi Germany; able to be swiftly painted over them. In the early 1930s, it was used as a type of civil disobedience in defiance of the growing authoritarian and hypernationalist rule of the Nazis. Imagine a no-smoking sign, except the cigarette is a swastika and the red line is the three arrows. It was graffiti used by everyday people, not soldiers, as a way to loudly and peacefully speak up for what they believed in.

    Back to my story … I grew up in Los Angeles (yeah, I’m that guy); the majority of my formative years taking place during the 90s. There’s a saying that no one is really from LA, and that’s true for me as well. The city I grew up in, a dozen or so miles away from LA proper, is a mostly white, middle-class, and relatively safe municipality wedged between the disgustingly rich estates of the peninsula, the busy, diverse streets around LAX, the famous beaches, and the LA strip. It was like we were the middle section of the Venn diagram of social inequality. I grew up in a Baptist church (also all white), and was excessively active in ministries, often spending at least a couple hours there as many as four days a week, not including multi-week camps. I was taught to be deeply ashamed of my “sin,” and therefore those who sinned were detestable. We were taught to stay away from gangs, while being in one of the safest cities in the region. My classmates and I watched Cartoon Allstars to the Rescue, most of us never being offered drugs.

    It’s not a stretch to deduce that I grew up insulated from many realities of life. I had genuine hesitation and even fear of leaving the boundaries of my turn-key hometown. Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, at least to this young, sheltered, white kid, were dangerous; the dark and cursed forest we were forbidden to enter lest we lose our very lives … That may have been a bit dramatic, but you get the point.

    In my early twenties, I began listening to conservative radio. I began to believe the narrative that people crossing the border illegally were taking our jobs. I called them “border-hoppers.” I’ve used the word “beaner,” rationalizing it by saying I’ll call those deserving of the title “white trash” just as easily. I looked at groups of black people sporting baggy pants as potential “gang-bangers,” and would cross the street or take another one entirely to avoid them. I assumed every Latino was Mexican, illegal, and making our country worse. I voted on a measure to define marriage as one man, one woman. I looked at LGBTQ people as the ultimate sinners and abortion as an unforgivable travesty.

    The good news is: I didn’t stay this way.

    I don’t think I need to go into details about how and why I changed. There was no real “aha” moment. What’s important is that all these things that I am ashamed of — all these incorrect, racist ways of thinking – I’ve corrected. I realized LGBTQ people are just people, no different than I. I know that most migrants are either refugees escaping a life of fear or simply wanting to make their families’ lives better. I’ve stopped using discriminating terms. And I’ve come to believe that all people are deserving of a fair chance at life.

    The Iron Front was painted over fascist symbols. It was used to cover the hateful ideology. It pains me to admit it, but those things I once believed in were hateful ideologies. I see the symbol as a stamp covering that horrible person I once was. For me personally, the Iron Front is a symbol of liberation. It means acceptance, tolerance, love, and a defiance of those who stand against these values. I am a better person today than I was all those years ago, and the three arrows encapsulates my transformation into a person I can be proud of.

    That’s not political. That’s not ideological. That’s not partisan or an agenda. It’s treating people like people. It’s winning the fight against hate, one person at a time. It’s inclusion. It’s rejecting racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and oppression. The Iron Front reminds me of how I’ve made my life better and, hopefully, others’ lives as well. That’s not political. That’s being a good person.

    Rescind your ban on the Iron Front.

  • 03 Aug 2019 8:14 AM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following is a post from Nash Drake.

    My grandfather was a paratrooper in WWII. He dropped on D-Day, fought through the difficult-to-traverse French countryside, and made it back to his unit and eventually back to England. From there he was sent to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. As the war ended, he was sent to help provide support to an entirely new assignment. He had no idea what to expect when he walked into a concentration camp just a week after it had been liberated. What he witnessed there changed him forever. He refused to speak of it unless he had one scotch too many, and even then, the most he could do was cry and mumble to himself about how he couldn’t tell us about what he saw because he didn’t want us to feel the deep, overriding despair it had brought to him to witness the aftermath of the atrocities that had occurred to millions at the hands of the Nazis. He was adamant that no fascist should be allowed to live their life without being ridiculed, hassled, and forced back into the cracks and crevices that they hid in after being defeated. He passed away nearly a decade ago, but his blood runs through my veins, and what I am calling for is going to be in his voice as much as in mine.

    The Iron Front symbol was created to make it clear that fascism was not welcome and that the bearers of it were committed to defending the rights of all humans. Human rights are not political and not up for debate. It’s that simple. MLS has decided to attempt to keep the Iron Front symbol from being flown in stadiums (including making that decision for NWSL) as it has always been, deeming it a political symbol. If they aren’t anti-fascist, they are fascist. Here it is, everyone, the time to decide how you would deal with fascism if you were staring it right in the face.

    The things we are asking MLS for are not complicated and support the rest of the MLS code of conduct in regard to human rights and will mark our stadiums as safe spaces for all who wish to gather peacefully:

    • Rescind the ban on flying the Iron Front symbol
    • Remove the word “political” from the Fan Code of Conduct
    • Work with international experts on human rights to craft language in the Fan Code of Conduct that reflects and supports radical inclusion and anti-discrimination

    I will be writing letters, making calls, and taking part in any protests. I will not be spending money in the stadium in any way. I am asking you to join me in these actions.

    We are the Riveters and the Timbers Army. We are radically inclusive. We stand against discrimination of any kind. We are on the side of human rights. We are the Iron Front.

  • 31 May 2019 12:49 PM | Jennifer Ingraham (Administrator)

    The following post is from Eric Blaire.

    It was revealed this week that the Portland Timbers Front Office will be engaging in a form of soft censorship around a storied and powerful image flown by antifascists around the globe since the 1930s, the Iron Front. Though the club has spent weeks broadly alluding to a campaign of solidarity with fans who support our club and community under the banner of antifascism, we now see that these empty gestures by the Front Office were a farce and in fact are the beginning of a brewing conflict around so-called political “neutrality” and a community who are on the front lines of confronting rising fascist movements on the streets of our city.

    The Iron Front was an explicitly antifascist organization formed by social democrats in late Weimar Germany as a network to combat the rising threat of violent fascist movements who would terrorize Jewish people, trade unionists, socialists and anyone else they deemed a threat to their growing power. It is not a stretch of the imagination to find similarities between the violence and extremist rhetoric of the fascist gangs that marred pre-Nazi Germany and that of the far-right social movements we are witnessing in the media and streets of America in 2019.

    It is just two years since Portland watched in horror as avowed neo-nazi Jeremy Christian murdered two heroic bystanders and critically injured a third who had intervened in defense of two young women of color facing his tirade of hate speech and threats. The men did what any decent members of the community must do, act in defense of the most vulnerable against racist threats. They died at the hands of a local fascist (emboldened by his affiliations with regional far-right organizers) in the middle of broad daylight in one of the most progressive cities in the United States. This has been followed by a wave of far-right violence across the country and on the streets of our city, backed by political figures that rather than condemning and confronting hate, are nurturing a politics of xenophobia, homophobia, and racism; or as we see here locally, denying the severity of the threat posed by these fascists. The MAX heroes did not die in vain: Our city united behind the everyday Portlanders standing up against hate, and the antifascist movement in Portland is stronger and more dynamic than ever before. Regular provocations by far-right groups (mainly from outside of our city) have attempted to make Portland into a battleground over the future of America but thousands of community members have come out to shut them down, despite the risk to their lives and personal safety.

    And then there is the politics of censorship and threats by the Portland Timbers against fans here in Portland who would stand up to hate and bigotry. Most of us are well aware of the fact that the league has been absolutely incompetent in confronting the situation at New York City FC ignoring the violent neo-nazi members who have attempted to take over the supporters’ crew at Yankee stadium. Neutrality has become a lazy policy of repressing the activities of fans fighting for equality while turning a blind eye to fascists quietly gaining ground on football terraces in other parts of the country and world.

    Long before the current owner bought the club, the Timbers Army built a culture of anti-racism, antifascism, and inclusivity. The current pressure coming down from the top tiers of MLS to keep the stadiums “free of politics” is laughable at best, but also sets a dangerous precedent. We are facing repression, stadium bans (from a club that we the supporters have built!) and possible legal troubles for expressing an idea that we are, in fact, antifascist. The idea that MLS, a multi-million dollar enterprise is politically neutral is simply a myth. The profit driven culture poses as a “neutral ground” for a sporting event, but this negates the politics of immigration, race issues, discrimination based on national origin, not to mention the politics of the lives of all the working class people who scan our tickets, cook our half-time snacks, and pick hops for poverty wages so that we can enjoy our beer.

    We have had players representing dozens of cultures at our club. Darlington Nagbe came to this country at 11 years old after enduring the life of a refugee in Sierra Leone. Under the current political administration, he may very well have never crossed that line at customs to one day lead the Portland Timbers to MLS Cup Champions. There is nothing politically neutral about racism, homophobia, nationalism, or xenophobia. These are topics that unfortunately appear more and more up for debate in these uncertain times, but when it comes to arguments for and against bigotry, we must be clear that there are not "very fine people on both sides." While it is good that the league pushes for policies of equality with their “soccer for all” campaign, we cannot deny the fact that antifascism is the baseline stance we must take if we want a future that is multi-cultural, vibrant, and successful for our city and our club.

    We are living in volatile times, unparalleled in recent history. A study last year revealed that 24 million Americans identify with the fascist politics of the alt-right. 24 million. This is no longer a problem that can be talked about in hypotheticals. Synagogues and mosques are being attacked, immigrant children are dying, and the LGBTQ community is facing attacks even in our "peaceful, liberal utopia" of a city.

    The great American historian Howard Zinn once said, “You cannot be neutral on a moving train.” The Timbers front office needs to decide: Will they remain “neutral” despite their stated ethos of inclusion, or will they work hand in hand with the Timbers Army to create a culture of love, solidarity, and antifascism at Providence Park and on the streets of Portland? We will bring a thousand more messages of antifascism to the park, whether sanctioned or banned, because the Timbers Army will always be antifa.

    For love of our club, our city, and our community: The time is now. Pick a side.


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