Social welfare organizations

North Georgia Socialist Rifle Association advocates for inclusion and social well-being | City News

Editor’s note: The last names of those interviewed have been omitted for fear of reprisals.

Late in the afternoon of October 8, 2021, a Bobcat dug into the rich red dirt of a hill in North Georgia. The sky had finally cleared after a week of rain. The ground and grass were still wet, but work on the ranged range could resume.

This line wouldn’t be open to the public and it wouldn’t be for profit, but those aren’t the only things that make it unique.

“Shooting ranges can be ostracized for many people who can lean left of center, especially for BIPOC and LGBTQ + individuals,” reads the booth’s GoFundMe page, titled “Building an Alternative Shooting Range” . “From Confederate flags and thin blue line stickers to targets depicting people of color and the occasional micro-assault from personnel or other visitors to the range, the long-standing culture around guns and ranges. shooting was not that of diversity. “

Construction of the rifle range was carried out by members of the North Georgia branch of the Socialist Rifle Association. October 31 marked the group’s first day of training since construction of the shooting range began, and was noted as a success by organizers. However, members are not just busy shooting. In fact, guns are only part of their purpose.

Their mission statement reads: “We recognize all aspects of self-defense and community to include topics such as firearms, disaster relief, medicine, logistics, agriculture , general survival skills and other activities necessary to unify and strengthen communities against the hardships of life under capitalism. . “

The SRA is not a militia, and individual members do not claim to speak for their organization as a whole. Its website describes the organization as a social protection group. The group incorporated into a nonprofit LLC in New Mexico in 2018 after years of online and offline communities expressing interest in gun use and self-help. The SRA now has nearly 6,000 members and over sixty chapters nationwide.

Addison, a member of the North Georgia SRA, said other members of the organization are contributing to the ongoing efforts of Free99Fridge, a community-based refrigerator-building project in Atlanta, but declined to speak publicly about their volunteer work. In fact, all members interviewed refused to speak officially, citing various security reasons, including the past. acts of aggression by far-right groups in the North Georgia region.

These dangers are not exclusive to marginal groups. Mokah Jasmine Johnson, president of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, noted that these are concerns common to left-wing organizers, even in stereotypical “blue” cities with high liberal voter turnout, such as Athens. Johnson said many people both outside and within AADM don’t feel like they can publicly express their political views.

“They’re afraid of the backlash for being vocal,” Johnson said, “Because there is a backlash when you stand up against certain injustices in this community.”

SRA’s contribution to Georgia’s Mutual Aid Network is reflected in the North Georgia Chapter’s partnership with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and other Southeastern organizations following the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida . In a grassroots community effort, self-help affinity groups in Athens and Atlanta and the North Georgia chapter of the SRA worked to raise funds and organize supply campaigns from Georgia to Louisiana.

“In Atlanta, I launched an appeal for donations. I connected with the North Georgia Socialist Rifle Association or the SRA, and they had a trailer, ”said Sav Patterson, of Atlanta Mutual Aid Disaster Relief.

Oso, a member of the SRA, said community members filled the trailer with relief supplies during the week to be sent to a distribution point in New Orleans.

“People from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief in the area go to this location, collect these supplies and then bring them to people in the badly affected areas of Houma and Laplace,” Oso said. “It was very well coordinated between all of us and I hope it will continue.”

Johnson said part of the fear of reprisal for members of groups like the SRA is in part due to employment contracts. The University of Georgia is Athens’ largest employer, and one of the documents that all new employees to the Georgia University System must sign is a Safety Questionnaire and Loyalty Oath.

According to USG New Employee Orientation, “If a person does not sign the oath, then the law says that [the person] be taken from the payroll and not be authorized to receive payment from the State.

According to the oath, the State of Georgia and the government of the United States should have “no reasonable grounds to believe that [a USG employee] is a subversive person. The oath defines a subversive person as someone who “commits, acts, advocates or teaches” the overthrow of the government of the United States or the State of Georgia, or who is part of a subversive organization.

Goat, another member of the SRA, expressed concern that while these types of safeguards are in place to protect against extremist groups, they are usually also used to justify targeting terrorist organizations. left like the SRA.

Addison echoed these fears. She said people were photographed at protests and their photos were sent to their employers in an attempt to get them fired.

“It doesn’t matter how peaceful you try to be. If your movement threatens capitalism, you will be threatened by the state, ”Addison said. “You see what happened to the Black Panthers with COINTELPRO.”

Other members of the group echoed the sentiment, drawing comparisons between their community service efforts and the free kids’ breakfast program hosted by the Black Panther Party.

This is where the backstage organization comes in. Johnson said people who are afraid or don’t want to be in the foreground usually fill roles in which they can more indirectly help members of the movement.

For its part, the SRA bans armed demonstrations under the SRA banner and continues its work outside the limelight.

“Opposing fascism and reactionary ideologies is a struggle on many fronts,” says their FAQ page, “And we are filling the education part of that struggle. “