On the morning of December 8, over 50 anti-racist members of the Quad-Cities community marched to the Pleasant View Baptist Church of Bettendorf, Iowa, in response to an anti-immigrant forum hosted by the church on December 2. The forum included Republican politicians like Bobby Schilling and was meant to demonize immigrants by presenting a series of speakers who claimed to have been victimized by “illegal immigrants.” When protesters arrived at the church, they were met by several masked far-right militia members who had been invited onto their property by the church.
Outraged protesters displayed signs condemning racism and the capitalist system which allows bigotry to flourish. There were chants of “No Walls, No Bigotry, No White Supremacy,” and “Love, Not Hate!”
The racist forum featured far-right speaker Nick Fuentes, who was a part of the fascist, white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 where activist Heather Heyer was murdered. Fuentes spoke uninterrupted for over twenty minutes in addition to participating in a question and answer session for the congregation. After community outrage at the forum and its speakers began, the church denounced “all forms of hate,” but did not disavow the racist, anti-immigrant message of the event.
Similarly, although politicians at the event, like Bobby Schilling and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, distanced themselves from Fuentes in the following days, it was only because as an individual he is politically toxic. They did not confront him when he spoke and still support the persecution of immigrants. Both Schilling and Miller-Meeks tweeted that their support for the apartheid state of Israel was somehow evidence that they opposed racism and anti-Semitism.
At the protest, student activist Jess Beshears said, “It’s good to be standing in solidarity with people against racism.” She also noted the relative privilege of the area. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2017 the city of Bettendorf had the highest median household income and lowest poverty rate of any of the Quad-Cities. Finally, she expressed a desire for a stronger and more organized response to racism and bigotry going forward.
Progressives will continue to organize in the Quad Cities and all over the country to combat racism and bigotry. Shut down white supremacy!