Let’s get to the bottom of some of these rumors. Like random people I don’t know calling me a white supremacist…
“He now lives with ‘progressive’ Bruce WilkEnson who is most notable for being friends with and defending local proud boy Cameron Heughly.”
Besides spelling my name wrong, this poorly written rant from January of this year, is false in many ways. For one Joe Robinson doesn’t live with me. It takes no effort to spread anonymous lies with no accountability. It takes A LOT of effort to set the record straight with facts. This is why we should stand up against anonymous and factually lacking accusations and rumors.
The facts are when this local activist was going through a crisis and reaching out for support online, I reached out to him and offered to meet up with him to talk. When I got to his house he showed me the door to his bedroom had been tagged by local anarchists, his bike had been stolen as well (his only means of transport) and he was agitated, fearful and in mental crisis. I was informed when I got there by another roommate that a third roommate had filed a restraining order against him and that the police were going to remove him. Another friend of his, a prominent BLM activist, was also there as support. I left but said that if he needed to he could stay in my roommates room for a night or two (our mutual friend who had already said it would be ok) if it occurred.
Around midnight, he and this prominent BLM activist friend showed up and he stayed at my house until the court hearing five days later. At which time the restraining order was thrown out and he was allowed to move back into his room. The restraining order was with an older trans roommate but they had been living together for a year already and they continued after it was over to live with each other for several more months until the house was sold and all of them moved out. The flyer was put out a couple weeks after he had moved back in and it didn’t help anything.
What did help was that we worked with Joe to mediate the situation and help him through his crisis to allow him and his roommate to live together amicably again. I got him a cellphone, because he didn’t have one, and my roommate gave him a temporary job for over a month in construction. By the time he had to move out, Joe had changed his life for the better. He had saved enough money to buy a car, he found a new place and he started an apprenticeship in carpentry. Most importantly he was in a much better mindset and was able to see his two kids more often. I’m really proud of Joe doing the work to get out of the hole he was in and I’m glad to have been able to have helped him a little when he needed it. Why? Because helping people is what people should do. He is already paying it forward by being an even better father to his kids.
I met Joe during Occupy Olympia. He is a believer in fighting oppression, is antiauthoritarian and anarchism spoke to his values. I always viewed him as principled and philosophically high minded although we were often at odds when it came to the strategy and tactics of change. When George Floyd was murdered, Joe left his job and became engaged as an activist once again with his whole heart, earning a lot of respect from some BLM activists because he showed up and he was a person you wanted on your side when things were scary against the white supremacists coming armed to demonstrations. Eventually though, some sliver of younger anarchists turned against him and just like that he was made an outcast after a decade of standing up for great causes.
The flyer above has too much slander, lies and half truths to really dig through and respond too because there isn’t any details. The fact is an anonymous flyer like this is an abomination to justice. As far as anyone knows the flyer could have been made by a paid instigator or informant to divide the community. Joe and I laughed about it later because they literally used my name to dirty his name! Which is extra funny considering how much animosity we had towards each other for much of the time we knew each other but now we were linked. And why? Because of my connection to Cameron Heughly which I will explain. This relates to ANOTHER anonymous anarchist flyer.
The original flyer, from August 7, 2018, had on it Cameron’s employer and that employer’s phone number, which was my employer. At work my boss suddenly is getting calls from anarchists in California telling him to fire Cameron. My boss fires Cameron, no process, no care, no severance and the anarchists applaud him. Cameron wasn’t working that day, but he’s calling me because he is scared for his family. Up and down his street was this flyer on every telephone pole. He lives about 6 blocks from me. He’s worried that his girlfriend’s home, the mother of his daughter, might be targeted. He lives with his girlfriend who is the mother of his 3 year old daughter. His girlfriend works for the state, she bought the house and owns it, not him.
I go online and I post a public FB post saying that her and her daughter’s home is not a target, knowing that people I am friends with would likely share it with whomever the anonymous anarchists are. I was worried that her house would be attacked with broken windows, graffiti or, God forbid, a Molotov cocktail. I was also frankly worried about the blowback if this didn’t de-escalate quickly.
I do not support the Proud Boys, or Cameron’s behavior, never have. Cameron was my coworker doing a tough, dangerous blue collar job, tree work. Cameron lived down the street from me and I would give him a ride to and from work often because he had no car. When you work on a crew that requires teamwork to stay alive (for not great pay, irregular hours and no benefits I might add) you end up being friends with your coworkers, and after hard days at work you drink beers and talk. Cameron had been a member of the proud boys for around a year, this was 2018, I had been over to his house for dinner and hung out with his daughter and girlfriend.
What did we talk about? How good white supremacy and the Proud Boys were? No, of course not, we argued about the issues and complained about our job. He’d come over to my house for campfires and my house was a place for anarchists, communists, socialists and all sorts of radicals to talk. Cameron would hear about our perspectives on all the issues and we’d have raucous debates challenging his ideas. And why would I even bother? Well, besides being coworkers, Cameron was an old school Salt Lake City punk. This guy literally had ACAB tattooed on his knuckles, he had been a member of SHARP, (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice), he was only a recent convert to the alt-right, the Proud Boys. And he was adamant that they were anti racist and supported LGBTQ rights, that he was against white supremacy and supported LGBTQ rights. I disagreed with him on the Proud Boys but believed that he believed it was true and that he was personally against it. We would disagree on several other issues like capitalism and western chauvinism. But an anti-authoritarian punk who is new to the Proud Boys is potentially reachable.
As a white straight male, isn’t my job as someone standing up for racial justice, to talk to people like him? That’s what the old trainings I’ve attended taught me about antiracist work. So I was doing the work. And it had some effect, he’d often say his views were changed some by our discussions and had I dehumanized him it surely wouldn’t have. It also had the benefit of being able to parlay to de-escalate dangerous situations. On at least one occasion this came in useful. A situation was potentially dangerous and because Proud Boys could ask Cameron and Cameron could ask me and I could ask other anarchists of what happened, I was able to communicate to Cameron and it de-escalated and prevented danger. Which kept people of color safe.
But that was lost because of this flyer. And a blue collar worker lost his job and the owner who exploited his labor and mine got praise. A mother was frightened as well as her daughter in a house they had just bought. A father lost his ability to support his daughter. A former ACAB, SHARP punk who had been turned off by the left was now completely cut off from those influences while the right welcomed him further. The flier hurt the cause it was supposed to support.
The Proud Boys are still here and I’m not sure anymore what Cameron is doing but I suspect he’s still around those folks because he has nowhere else to go. I hope his girlfriend and daughter are fine, they are both great people. I hope Cameron is alright as well, in a certain sense he was motivated to change a fucked world like the rest of us, he just got sucked in by a group that targets and recruits people like him while being rejected by folks, who might have some better positions on some issues, but who come off as privileged, newly woke, virtue signaling jerks.
I try to tell people like him not everyone is like that and that our responsibility is to punch upward at the billionaires and their cronies, never downward at other working class people. Plenty of working class people who don’t have all the newest academic lingo are in this fight out of solidarity. Forging deep relationships in a complicated human world as part of movement building that is multi cultural and forgiving of mistakes. That stands up to the pompousness and purity politics, which is a youthful game of little value. In fact, the best organizers I know are like that and in the long run they will achieve victory.
PS Here is another anonymous flyer targeting me when I was running for the Food Co-Op Board. BTW I ran because the board had pushed back the elections because not enough people had applied, so I put my name in. Once I realized a bunch of awesome people were running I didn’t promote my campaign at all.
This is referencing Media Island which I could write a novel about. One thing I can absolutely tell you though is that it is also incredibly untrue. Eventually all the lies sort of flow together.