About two dozen people taking part in an anti-fascism protest of the Trump administration, one of several such events held across the country Saturday, were met by more than three times as many counterprotesters at Austin City Hall.
Austin police estimated at least 20 people came out for the anti-fascism demonstration and march hosted by a group called “Refuse Fascism,” while at least 75 people from pro-Trump, pro-gun, militia and other groups took part in the counterprotest.
Event organizer Joey Johnson said the anti-fascism group had at least 45 protesters. The event’s goal, he said, was to create a movement across the country of people who want to remove from office President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“There’s a thousand reasons that exist right now to impeach Trump, but people waiting on the Democrats or Congress or the criminal investigation, that’s illusory,” Johnson said. “What needs to happen is millions of people need to get in the streets to show the world that this regime is completely illegitimate.”
Throughout the protest and march in downtown Austin, the anti-fascism group chanted “humanity first,” while counterprotesters would yell “Go home Antifa” and “USA!”
Stephanie Hamm, 73, of West Austin, said she already sees signs of fascism in today’s society, such as the limitation of women’s access to contraception, and she went to Saturday’s rally to show her opposition.
“I do think it’s important to focus on fascism,” she said. “Haven’t we already been through that? How many people did we lose?”
Ivan Throne, director of the Safe Streets Project, an initiative that he said uses technology to identify and turn in violent protesters, said the counterprotesters were “demonstrating that they (the anti-fascism protesters) cannot shut a city down with threats of violence.”
“We’re preventing an upsurge in street violence designed to forcibly steer the country on an inappropriate route,” he said.
Throne said that on Saturday his group joined up with other “patriot” groups, including Open Carry Texas, Oath Keepers and ACT For America.
Joshua Corona, 27, came from Oklahoma with about 15 people in a group carrying shields with Confederate flags on them called “The Hiway Men.” Corona said he came to “help my brothers deal with the ‘Antifa.’”
“Socialism and communism have no place in America,” he said. “I’m just a good ol’ boy from the South standing up for what he believes in.”
Johnson said the counterprotesters’ presence wasn’t surprising: “We hold Trump fully responsible for all of this because he’s the one that’s fomenting it and whipping it up into a frenzy.”
The protest remained peaceful. Austin police did not report any arrests.