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A note about violence Where are we coming from? Timeline 1982 SS Action rally 1998 kkk rally Then & NOW Media: Narrative & Impact Resources ing: This zine rn a W t n te n o C cism te violence, ra discusses sta itism. and anti-Sem

A note about violence & Peace Although media and police often talk about “violent protests” as well as “peaceful” ones, not such a clear line can nor should be drawn between the two. A peaceful rally held away from a Nazi or KKK demonstration may end without injury, property damage or arrests, but it also may not threaten white supremacy. White supremacists will still be able to hold their event, spread their message, recruit and hold future events–which is a violence in it of itself. A violent rally, on the other hand, often characterized by clashes between antiracist protesters, white supremacists and police, as well as property damage, can be effective in shutting down a Nazi or KKK rally and make it more difficult for these groups to recruit and hold future events. This helps prevent further violence at the hands of these groups and promotes peace in the future. Police and government officials create false narratives around “violent” and “peaceful” protests because their interest is in protecting our white supremacist, racialized, capitalist, cisnormative, heteronormative, settler colonial state. An anti-racist protest countering a Nazi or KKK rally also threatens the hegemony of these intersecting oppressions, along with the state’s monopolistic claim to violence. This is a big part of the reason why they are so heavily policed. Peace and unity rallies, on the other hand, which don’t challenge this power, are encouraged by police. Before calling a protest violent or nonviolent, consider who truly has access to physical force and the permission to use it, and remember that power is not distributed equally. White supremacy in all forms is what is truly violent. Confronting it is not.

Michigan Daily, May 19, 1998

Perspective: where are we coming from? White Supremacy at U of m In the Fall of 2017, the well-known white supremacist Richard Spencer requested to rent a speaking space from the University Michigan. Although Spencer’s request at UM caught many students and community off-guard, it was not unpredictable. In recent years, many prominent alt-right and neoNazi speakers like Spencer have used laws around free speech to pressure universities into allowing them to speak. Charles Murray, whose book The Bell Curve has been used by the right-wing to defend racist, anti-black ideas, spoke at UM just months before Spencer’s original request in October 2017. Before requesting space at UM, Spencer had already spent almost a year requesting space to speak at universities across the US and suing those who denied his request on the basis of freedom of speech. Spencer and other white supremacist speakers, however, have not been met without protest. When the University of Michigan’s administration agreed to consider Spencer’s request to rent space, students and community members responded by organizing a “Week of Action.” Teach-ins about the rise of Nazism and the fallacy of free speech took place alongside a speak-out, a student walk-out, a student strike, a sit-in in the office of a dean and a safety training for those planning on protesting Spencer. An anonymous group of students also created a graveyard on UM President Mark Schlissel’s lawn to reference the death of students’ trust in the university and the safety of the community. Before Spencer spoke at Michigan State University in March 2017, activists held town halls to inform the community about what was happening, set up a bail fund, and on the day-of organized a protest with hundreds of people who successfully blocked many of Spencer’s supporters from entering.

Michigan Daily, November 29, 2017

A look at history Although the mainstream sentiment around Spencer’s request to speak at UM has been that white supremacists wanting to enter our community is a new phenomenon, looking into our history tells a different story. (And it wasn’t even really that long ago y’all!) The 1980s and 90s in Ann Arbor saw rallies and protests from nazi groups and the KKK nearly every year. This zine was put together for activists, organizers, students and community members interested in learning more about this history, especially with the knowledge that more groups with the intent of harming our communities are likely to come in the near future. Our goal is to explore what happened at past Nazi and KKK rallies in Ann Arbor, how groups organized in response, the outcomes of the tactics used and what narratives were used to justify these tactics. Ultimately, we hope this knowledge can inform the ways we organize against hate groups in the future.

When UM administrators, local government officials and others in power ignore the history of hate groups organizing in Ann Arbor, and act like Richard Spencer was the first white supremacist who ever tried to organize here and instead say we should ignore these groups, the consequences are dangerous. It allows them to justify ignoring the violence of these groups, when looking at the history shows us that these groups cannot be ignored.

March 20th Rally

MARCH 22nd Rally

SS Action group shows up at the Federal Building, where a peaceful “unity rally” is being held, instead of their planned appearance at City Hall. Coalition to Fight the Right drives the Nazi group out of town, forcing them to leave in police vans. No arrests are made.

SS Action and two other neo-Nazi groups demonstrated at the Federal Building. Groups “shouted insults at each other” and no arrests were made.

March 18th Rally

Greensboro Massacre

March 17th Rally

5 antifascist protesters are killed at a KKK rally in Greensboro, NC. All defendants were acquitted of criminal charges. Police failed to prevent violence and failed to prevent Klan members from committing planned violence that they were informed of ahead of time

SS Action group rallies at the Federal Building with 11 members. 6 anti-fascist protesters are arrested. Counter protest was led by the United Community against Nazis (UCAN) and the Progressive Labor Party.

38 neo-Nazis rally at the Federal Building. A crowd of over 200 anti-fascist protesters meets them with projectiles, and 5 are arrested by AAPD. The Nazis left after only a few minutes with a police escort. Activists from United Coalition Against Racism and Progressive Labor Party accuse police of using excessive force during the demonstration and while making arrests.

'79 '81 '82 '83 '84 '85 '86 '87 '88 '89 March 20th Rally SS Action group rallies again at City Hall with around 30 members. 9 anti-fascist protesters are arrested, all from the Progressive Labor Party and International Committee Against Racism.


Institute for Historical Review sent anti-Semetic propaganda and hate mail, denying the Holocaust, to over 800 dorm residents. Students Concerned about a Reoccurance (SCAR) formed in response.


Coalition to Fight the Right, and Committee to Stop the Nazis are both formed on campus in response to the announcement of the SS rally being planned for March, 1982.

March 23rd Rally SS Action neo-Nazis hold an unpermitted march to the Federal Building with around 25 supporters. They are run out of town by anti-fascist demonstrators. One person, an anti-fascist protester, was arrested.

March 23RD Detroit City Council rejects a request by SS Action to hold a rally in honor of Adolf Hitler.

MARCH 19th Nazi no-show

Committee to Stop the Nazis holds a rally with the Revolutionary Workers League, Black student Greeklife members, and the Committee to Defend Abortion Rights at the Federal Building, where the neo-Nazis are expected to rally. The Nazis never show up and organizers declare the demonstration a success after 3 hours of occupying the Federal Building steps.


March 23rd surprise rally 30 neo-Nazis are met by a police escort at Arborland and driven to rally in Swift Run Park. No counter protest is reported. No announcement of the rally is made. The same week, white supremacist graffiti is found in Markley Residence Hall.

MARCH 18th BAMN Picket NWROC (now BAMN) organizes a rally at City Hall in anticipation of the Nazis’ regular recruiting rally. The rally receives little press coverage and the Nazi groups never show up.

March 19th BAMN Picket NWROC (now BAMN), Revolutionary Workers League, and Communist League picket at City Hall, but the Nazis never arrive. AAPD states the group did not make a request for protection. Inter Cooperative Council sends 3 members of their Multicultural Affairs Committee to negotiate a peaceful solution with the more “militant groups”.

Klan announces plans to rally again at City Hall, requests permit from City Council. AAPD sends a delegation to Louisville, KY to be trained on controlling Klan rallies.

May 9th rallies

Hundreds of protesters attend both rallies. Over 300 police are present at City Hall, more than double the presence at the earlier rallies. Protesters dismantle the police fence while Peace Team members shield the Klansmen and attempted to restrain protesters. The crowd entered the City Hall plaza, effectively ending the Klan’s speeches.

'90 '91 '92 '93 '94 '95 '96 '97 '98 March 17th No Nazis! Committee to Stop the Nazis held a rally at the Federal Building on the Nazi’s planned recruitment day. The Nazi’s never arrived, and the rally was declared a success.

April 23rd KKK in Lansing KKK rallies in Lansing at the Capitol Building. Over 800 protesters from Lansing, CMU, Ann Arbor and surrounding areas confront them. 7 are arrested, and state police respond to the crowd with tear gas and mace.

MAY 10th Lawsuit KKK leader Jeff Berry files an $8 million suit against the City of Ann Arbor for “inadequately protecting” him and his wife at the 1996 rally.

March 20th Rally

June 23rd kkk rally

6 members of the metro-Detroit hategroup “National Association for the Advancement of White People” and SS Action attempt to rally at City Hall.

KKK held a rally with the help of AAPD at City Hall. 15 Klan members spoke from a second story balcony, while protesters were corralled behind a fence.

Over 200 anti-fascist demonstrators physically prevent them from rallying. Police attempted to separate the groups on either side of 5th Avenue but protesters resisted. Police claimed to have videotaped the violence for later review, and no arrests are made.

Protesters, organized by Ann Arbor Organizing Against the Klan (AAOAK) chanted behind the fence. 7 protesters were arrested. Keisha Thomas famously protected a Klan member from attack by a crowd of protesters. The rally cost the City of Ann Arbor $55,788.

Nazis? Here? In 1982, SS Action, a neo-Nazi group from Westland, announce their intention to hold a March 20th rally in Ann Arbor. Several community groups began organizing in response. Two main groups supported direct confrontation at City Hall, the Committee to Stop the Nazis and the Coalition to Fight the Right. Other groups, mainly liberal and religious organizations, led a campaign to hold a unity rally 4 blocks away from where the neo-nazis planned to gather. These two factions promoted competing narratives. On one hand, those in favor of direct confrontation stated that fascism and racism do not go away when ignored. They cautioned that these destructive and violent forces posed a real threat to the community and would only be deterred if met by a strong anti fascist presence. The unity rally group promoted a different narrative, proposing that confronting the Nazi group would give them undue attention.

SS Action originally announced plans to rally at City Hall, while the peace rally was scheduled to take place at the Federal Building. When the Nazis saw the large crowd of antifascists gethered at City Hall, they switched their plans and went to the Federal Building instead, which became the site of the clash.


Ann Arbor Daily News, March 21, 1982 Scanned by CamScanner

Coalition to Fight the Right

A coalition of local leftist, labor groups, and students representing the “grassroots” of Ann Arbor. Planned a direct confrontation agaist SS Action at City Hall.

Committee to stop the nazis A group of organizers from the Spartacus Youth Leage, the youth branch of the Sparticist League, a national Trotskyist organization. This group was acccused of coopting and attempting to sabotage the Coalition’s protest. They planned a separate confrontation at City Hall. According to one source they took credit for “driving the Nazis out of Ann Arbor” but did not join the crowd at the Federal Building when the Nazis appeared. Scanned by CamScanner “Fifteen persons dressed in Nazi-style uniforms and chanting anti-communist slogans were backed up to the entrance of the Federal Building in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday and pelted with vegetables, flashlight batteries and ice chunks by a crowd of at least 2,000 counter-demonstrators. The neo-Nazis, members of the Detroit area S.S. Action Group, were eventually led to safety by a phalanx of Ann Arbor police officers, who were themselves hit by rocks and other missiles thrown by members of the pursuing crowd. Police Chief William Corbett said the confrontation was ‘absolutely not’ a riot, despite a brief but violent clash between the neo-Nazis and about a dozen angry demonstrators at the front of the crowd protesting the Nazi presence in the city. After a large window in the front of the Federal Building was shattered by a brick, a guard inside the building drew his revolver and pointed it through the broken glass at the demonstrators outside, touching off several moments of panic... There were no arrests, and the Nazis - several of them apparently no older than 15 - were escorted to the Washtenaw- Wayne county line by police. “

further reading: Racism-Anti-Racism-Michigan-Ann Arbor. Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Levy, Dan and Rogers, Don. “Confront the Nazis At City Hall.” The Michigan Daily 20 March, 1982. 4. Web Greenberg, Martin. “Loval Nazis Cannot be Ignored.” The Michigan Daily. 19 March, 1982. 4. Web Goldman, Bruce and Small, Kimberly. “Rally peacefully against the neo-Nazis.” The Michigan Daily. 17 March, 1982. 6. Web.

klan rallies in ann arbor Two years after rallying at Ann Arbor City Hall on June 3rd, 1996, members of the Indiana KKK announced plans to return. Since local protest took the form of a massive confrontation in ‘96, City Council ant the Ann Arbor Police Department (AAPD) sought ways to subdue confrontational protest this time around to maintain an image of peace, while still allowing the Klan members a protected platform for their speech.

UNITY rally---------


The Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), with the support of City Council and in collaboration with AAPD set out to hold a massive community rally against the KKK’s message with the help of local choirs, spepches by local activists, musical performances, and attendees calling for “non-violence”. The purpose was to draw attention away from the KKK, counter their message. Organizers believed any form of resistance that incolved direct confrontation and “violence” would give the KKK exactly what they wanted: evidence to say that they’re victims in the situation.

cops & Klan Both AAPD and ICPJ took inspiration from the KKK rally in Louisville, KY deemed a success because it was characterized as peaceful. AAPD went to Louisville to learn tactics from thsir PD to subdue unwanted protest.

police officers will spend “ Several this weekend in Kentucky learning

what worked there. He said Louisville blocked off a large area and maintained a perimeter of fences, police and trained “peace workers” through which no one could pass without being searched


Top: Ann Arbor Daily News, April 17, 1998 Bottom: Ann Arbor Daily News,Scanned April 11, 1998 by CamScanner

ICPJ trained hundreds of Peace Team members to act as “buffers” between violent protesters and police at the City Hall demo. In reality, Peace Teams assisted the police in corralling protestors and 2 were acused of assaulting protesters. While they marketed themselves as a “neutral” force, their eforts served to extend the platform for KKK hate speech, and assisted the state in their attempt to subdue dissent, a force of violence in and of itself. The peace teams and Wheeler Park rally relied on a politic of respectability, where action that is non-threatening to state power is seen as decent, and productive, while action that is threatening to existing structures and outside the hegemonic norm is seen as violent and unruly. “Order” in this case meant the Klan was able to speak and enjoy protection from both police and citizens. The result is that protestors who go against this strategy are demonized for acting against white supremacy.

Smash the kkk! The morning of the Klan rally, organizers from Anti-Racist Action (ARA) and National Women’s Rights Organizing COmmission (NWROC) gathered hundreds of community members on the steps of the Union and marched to City Hall. At the rally they were met by 227 police and an 8-foot fence between themselves and the Klan members. “Security” for the event cost the City $72,000. Duruing and after the rally, 21 protesters were arrested with ages ranging from 15-64 for allegedly throwing rocks and other violent acts. Nine of the charges carried a possible 10-year sentence. Most charges were related to the destruction of property, specifically dismantling the fence around City Hall. Scanned by CamScanner

STOP the witchhunt! After the confrontation at City Hall, the city aggressively pursued charges. Those charges repeatedly had their faces shown on cable news, and the AAPD recruited informants from the ICPJ Peace Team as well as a school emplyee and local reverend to identify protesters accused of a crime. NWROC framed this effort as an attmept to dismantle the only 2 active antiracist groups in Ann Arbor at the time, by going after both lead organizers and unaffiliated protestors.

Antifascism in Ann arbor then & now When researching the history of these rallies, we were struck by the similarities in how different groups responded over the years. Many tactics were tried again and again, with similar results. Narratives around the relationship of free speech and violence emerged and re-emerged. Many narratives are the same we hear today organizing against “alt-Right” white supreamcists, our modern day neo-Nazis.

Protected speech

though a speaker may be, “ Vile pernicious though his speech will

be, the First Amendment forbids government censorship, forbids content-based prior restraint. Just as this prohibition protects the press & the protester, so too does it shield the bigot. So, if Richard Spencer comes, Ann Arbor will cooperate and coordinate with the University of Michigan and law enforcement agencies to ensure public safety & preserve public order.

is absolutely clear that the city “ Itdoes not have the authority to

prevent them (KKK) from appearing, both from constitutional guarantees and applicable cases throughout the country in similar situations.

- Neal Berlin, Ann Arbor City Administrator Ann Arbor News, April 11, 1998

- Christopher Taylor, Ann Arbor Mayor Facebook status, November 22, 2017

How to Respond? ignore A common argument was to just ignore the nazis and they would go away. This priviledged response of complacency and inaction was adopted by the majority of the community each time white supremacists rallied.

Michigan Daily, March 2, 1982

Avoid Each year, liberal groups opposed to racist rhetoric planned an alternative rally or event to be held away from where White Supremacists intended to appear, with the argument being that a symbolic display of unity would counter the hateful language and actions of the White Supremacists, while avoiding physical confrontation. Confront

Every time the Nazis and Klan arrived in Ann Arbor a collective of affilliated organizations, or an organized coalition emerged to challenge the White Supremacists and attempt to stop their rally. These confrontations ranged in the number of participants and escalation of the action. In the early 80’s police largely let the rally play out then escorted the Nazis away when things got “too violent”. Later, law enforcement used significant force to subdue the protesters including tear gas, mace and arrest. As the years went on, more money was spent to protect the White Supremacists while they spoke. The more militant action was largely condemned by the unity rally crowd, causing division among “antiracist” groups in Ann Arbor.

Celebrity Endorsement One way the “avoid and distract” line of reasoning played out was to attract a big name speaker to draw attention away from the white supremacist rally. In 1998, the ICPJ sent this letter to Oprah Winfrey’s representative, inviting her to speak at the Wheeler Park Unity Rally. In 2017 when University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff were discussing wha to do if Richard Spencer came to campus, the idea to bring a big name celebrity, like Beyonce, to campus was heard frequently. Central Student Government went as far as to reserve the Crysler Arena in anticipation for such an event.

Bentley Historical Library, Interfaith Council of Peace and Justice Records

Pledge against the klan // have your speech & eat it too

As part of the Unity Rally at Wheeler park in 1998, the ICPJ created a fundraiser where community members pledged an amount of money for each minute the Klan was present at their rally. In 2018, in anticipation of Richard Spencer’s MSU speech, a group of University of Michigan faculty and students set up a fundraiser to pledge money to specific community organizations for every word Spencer spoke at his speech.

Scanned by CamScanner

This tactic concerned more militant protesters who were attempting to shut down Spencer’s speech, because it created a financial incentive for him to actually speak longer and gave more moderate liberal factions additional leverage to demonize those engaging in direct confrontation with the fascists.

Peace teams The peace teams trained in ‘98 by the ICPJ collaborated with law enforcement to police protestors taking direct action, including some members of the teams who identified participants to police after the rally. Several were later accused of assaulting protesters. The actions of the peace team members served to protect the Klan’s platform and extended their ability to speak at City Hall. After the rally, more community members were trained as peace teams. The police commended their actions and looked to them for help identifying protesters for arrest. As we learned when organizing against Spencer, the ICPJ still upholds the peace team model as an effective tactic for organizing against white supremacy. Stop Spencer Coalition organizers were contacted by the ICPJ offering to hold a peace team training. While no peace teams were formed for the MSU rally, the practice is still believed to be an effective tactic by the ICPJ and many other moderate liberal activists. While we support training in de-escalation and emotional safety, the insertion of an outside “mediating” force is simply a form of citizen-cops, not community based justice practice, which is then amplified through collaboration with state agents.

Message sent to Stop Spencer organizers, January 16, 2018

Police at almost every rally from ‘82 onward provided transportation for the White Supremacists into and out of Ann Arbor. This escort and personal protection cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, and the cost could not be passed on to the White Supremacists as that would prohibit their right to free expression. At the anti Richard Spencer rally, MSU spent an estimated $500,000 on security. The police shuttled the nazis in in vans through a back entranc to the venue.

Media narratives On March 2nd, 1982 Daily columnist Howard Witt wrote a piece called “Let’s Ignore the Nazis.” In this op-ed, Witt stated how Nazis are simply a “handful of ill-educated rubes sporting the latest in K-Mart paramilitary fashions wearing swastikas.” He pushed for his fellow students and community members to not give any attention to these “rubes,” and instead “educate the bigoted and help the oppressed.” What Witt was failing to acknowledge was how helping the oppressed also includes standing up against racism and bigotry. By reducing the value of words to simply that, Witt dismissed how harmful words can be when words propagate white supremacist ideals. While free speech is often cited as an argument to let white supremacists have a platform, it must be acknowledged that free speech is a fallacy that does not exist in America’s white patriarchal dominated society when marginalized people have systematically had their voices silenced. Witt’s platform as a weekly columnist in the Daily was also indicative of who controlled the news sources at the time - privileged white men. As such, the ways that we keep track of history, in part through newspapers, can leave out the voices of people who are not given platforms. The closing sentence of Witt’s column asked the audience if they would rather give the Nazis “a 20 inch story on page 1 or a 3 inch story on page 10.” While the initial news coverage of the Nazis was that 20 inch story, the Daily and its male writers seemed to agree with Witt’s words. The majority of the stories about the Nazi rally seemed to criminalize activists, creating false equivalences between the Nazis and the protestors without acknowledging that people fighting against white supremacy have a right to be angry. While the protestors did throw rocks and snow at the Nazis, the Nazis also showed up armor and shields. There was a dismissal of the violence of white supremacy itself. Over the years, Witt’s words still seemed to shape the news coverage, as stories about the Nazis became closer and closer to Witt’s ideal “3 inch story on page 10.” Because the activists and protesters already were being given so little of a platform, their voices almost completely disappeared; the stories were told by people who praised the Peace Team, criminalized activists, and were pro-police. However, as we discovered, the police and Peace Team did a lot of damage by choosing to protect the Nazis over the fundamental human rights of marginalized people. While the police and the Peace Team called for unity, just like Witt, they never tried to acknowledge the ways in which white supremacy already existed in Ann Arbor and on the U-M campus. Due to this, a false narrative was crafted when the Daily writers committed erasure by only giving platforms to privileged people in the establishment. By not allowing the marginalized people to have a voice, they erased them from the story almost altogether, to a point where even when we were intentionally trying to find these people, we were unable to. Further, because they were able to propagate this false narrative of success within a pro-police and pro-Peace Team framework, they set up a precedent for future organizing around Nazis and white supremacy that isn’t actually effective, and actively harms marginalized people. While media can be an effective tool in order to disseminate information, the manifestation of white supremacy in all aspects of American society mean that certain power dynamics determine what stories get told.

Project sources Michigan Daily Archives Joseph A. Labadie Collection The Bentley Historical Library Ann Arbor District Library. “#24 Proud History of Punching Nazis in the Face.” Audio Blog Post. Ann Arbor Stories. Ann Arbor District Library, 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 03 March 2018. President (University of Michigan) records, 1967-2014. 87274 Bimu B3 2. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, 1150 Beal Avenue, Ann Arbor MI 48109-2113. Peace Team Training. April 1998. Box 28 Folder 1. 585-U. Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan, 913 S. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190. Racism-Anti-Racism-Michigan-Ann Arbor. Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan, 913 S. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190. Radical Right-U.S.-Ku Klux Klan-Michigan-Ann Arbor-Rally 1998. Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan, 913 S. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190. Rally for CommUnity & Justice. 9 May 1998. Box 28 Folder 2. 585-U. Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Hatcher Graduate Library, University of Michigan, 913 S. University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190. Schwartz, Joan M., and Cook, Terry.” Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory.”Kluwer Academic Publishers 2(2002): 1-19. Print. Witt, H. (1982, March 2). Let’s ignore the neo-Nazis. The Michigan Daily. Retrieved from https:// Witt, H. (1982, March 16). Where will you be this Saturday? The Michigan Daily. Retrieved from

Additional resources General

Bray, M. (2017). Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook. Melville House Publishing.

Richard Spencer

How Richard Spencer Became an Icon for White Supremacists The Atlantic https://www. ‘Let’s party like it’s 1933’: Inside the alt-right world of Richard Spencer The Washington Post term=.4ea98d5ffd45

Campus Organizing

#StopSpencer Coalition University of Michigan #StopSpencer Soalition Michigan State University Detroit Free Press: Detroit Free Press:

White Supremacists on College Campuses

Colleges Brace for Tumult in 2018 as White Supremacists Demand a Stage The New York Times Southern Poverty Law Center on White Nationalist Fliering on American College Campuses:

Ann Arbor Antifascist History  
Ann Arbor Antifascist History