Like most Americans- and most Republicans and Democrats- I oppose fascism and I oppose racism. If all one knew about Antifa was their name (short for anti-fascist), and their anti-racist roots, they might think that it was a common sense centrist group that the vast majority of the country, including myself, would sympathize with.
As opposed to what they have proven themselves to be: domestic terrorists.
Antifa operates under a decentralized command structure with no spokesmen or leadership nationally, making their exact beliefs not just hard to pin down, but impossible to expound on far. What few shared beliefs they have include opposition to what they see as fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, and capitalism. Assuming they apply those labels correctly, one would think common cause with the country as a whole could be made on everything but economics… but their aims aren’t even what set them apart.
It’s their fascist tactics and stylization which set them apart.
Antifa’s belief is not just that their ends justify violent means, which is morally detestable. Their methods are also ineffective and counterproductive from a pragmatic standpoint. The devil is in the details.
They believe in terrorism, as defined by violence in pursuit of political aims. They believe such violence is not only justified and moral, but necessary. They believe that fascism is rising in the US, and to let movements they think are a part of that the ability to speak or assemble is dangerous. Their belief is that if it’s not stopped now, we could literally see another Hitler as an American President, or that we already have one.
The first amendment, to them, is a suicide pact. They are the domestic neocons of the left who want to enforce their beliefs through preemptive attacks.
It’s hard to fault some members for such insane beliefs completely. After all, we’re talking primarily impressionable college kids in places like Berkeley that have been told by authority figures that Trump is a fascist and that anyone who supported him is a brown-shirt. Those of an age young enough who just want to break shit and have an excuse convenient enough to do it with friends and seem revolutionary.
These are the primary demographics of a decentralized organization which forces individual members to decide; who are the fascists or racists that are deserving of preemptive attacks meant to stem off future calamity akin to killing baby Hitler before he has a chance to set up concentration camps. Sometimes, their intended targets are obviously fascists and racists- if you believe that their ideas matter- and sometimes they aren’t.
Although some trace the history of Antifa to movements in Europe or Anti-Racist Action and the Baldies, in the US, Antifa as it’s own movement, is a recent phenomenon.
One of the first incidents began as opposition to what were pretty clearly white nationalists. On June 26, 2016, about thirty such racists gathered in Sacramento to hold a march for their cause. Roughly 300 members of Antifa surrounded their gathering, and immediately attacked. Both sides used force, seven people were stabbed, nine were hospitalized, and many others were injured. The racist group, predictably, was able to play the martyr and victim and paint the ones who attacked them as violent, using Antifa’s actions as a recruiting tool. Recently, Antifa member Yvette Felarca, a teacher in, you guessed it, Berkeley, was convicted of inciting that riot.
November, in the three days following the election and in protest to Trump’s win, mobs sporting the red and black smashed windows in a Toyota Car Dealership, banks, Starbucks, and other private storefronts. The irony was that this happened primarily in areas of the country that voted for Hillary (and primarily against businesses that supported her). Attacking the wrong people and destroying property would be a running theme for Antifa. In fact, given their anarcho-communist worldview, destruction of property isn’t even seen by many as an actual act of violence.
Scott Crow, an Antifa organizer, made that exact case to CNN before continuing on to justify violence against individuals as well. Crow said, “There is a place for violence. Is that the world that we want to live in? No. Is it the world we want to inhabit? No. Is it the world we want to create? No. But will we push back? Yes.”
In January 2017, the Trump’s inauguration ceremony presented them their next opportunity. Along the periphery, Antifa members were smashing windows and burning cars, while most non-Antifa protests against the inauguration were peaceful. Antifa were the ones engaging in vandalism, rioting, and violence, the bad apples, if you will. Obviously, such violence both around the election and the inauguration did nothing to stop Trump from becoming President or to do anything but increase Trump’s support.
February 1st, during the first of the Antifa Berkeley riots, Milo, a controversial and flamboyant alt-right mouthpiece, was set to give a speech, ironically, about censorship. In order to censor him by shutting down his event, antifa set fires, threw Molotov cocktails and fireworks, damaged property, assaulted members of the crowd, and threw rocks at the police. Among those assaulted were a Syrian Muslim who was pepper sprayed and hit with a rod by a protester who said “You look like a Nazi”, showing just how accurate their demagoguery of their opposition can be. Some of the violence was unable to escape the cameras. Kiara Robles was pepper sprayed while being interviewed by a TV reporter on live TV. Antifa caused an estimated $100,000 in damage on and around the Berkeley campus. Obviously, Milo, who makes a living out of controversy, saw his book sales soar in response as Antifa’s actions.
March 4th saw the second of the Berkeley riots, when the pro-Trump rally “March 4 Trump” attempted to show support for the President. Antifa again arrived, causing several injuries. Police were more ready for them this time, and Milo wasn’t present. Cops confiscated many of their baseball bats, bricks, metal pipes, pieces of lumber, and daggers.
April 15th were the third of the Berkeley riots and the second pro-Trump rally to come. Fights broke out, and they made use of smoke bombs, fireworks, and pepper spray within the crowd. Both groups threw rocks and sticks at each other- which unlike words alone, can break bones- and used a large trash bin as a battering ram as the crowd moved around the perimeter of the park. Eleven people were injured, six of whom were hospitalized, including one person who was stabbed. Police seized cans of pepper spray, knives, and sign and flag poles, skateboards, and other blunt objects from members of the crowd. A former Diablo Valley College professor attacked three protesters with a bike lock, hitting them on the head and causing significant injuries. He was subsequently arrested on three counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
April 27th saw the fourth Berkeley riot avoided, when Ann Coulter cancelled her speech over safety concerns from threats of violence surrounding her event. Accidentally making another conservative a martyr and making her more popular was seen as a success by Antifa.
In May came the Portland Rose Festival, a parade held every year since 1907. 110 years later, it was cancelled for the first time due to threats from Antifa over the inclusion of the local Republican Party.
They threatened to storm the parade and shut it down if the local Republicans were included (I’ve yet to find anything the local Republican Party did to anger Antifa, and they didn’t mention any specific thing or words or actions they were opposed to). Antifa officially moved from opposing fascists and racists, to opposing the alt-right, to opposing local groups who were literally just standard-issue Republicans from the Party of Lincoln.
June 4th in Portland, the “Trump Free Speech” rally did not cancel itself due to leftist threats of violence, so demonstrators made good on their previous threat by hurling bricks, fireworks and balloons filled with urine, feces and unknown chemicals. Classy…
This is one side of the confrontation at Charlottesville… not the side hitting people with a car, but the side which used bats and which may have thrown literal acid in a protester’s eyes. I covered the racist dipshits there with my last piece, so covering who Antifa really is seemed a, if not necessary, then useful followup. Are they “equally” as bad as some of the white supremacist groups in Charlottesville? That’s the wrong question. This isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a competition. Condemning one group doesn’t come with an obligation to immediately condemn the other or to equate them, but those who seek justice, love, or peace shouldn’t condone either.
What I just described is the group that Trump was referring to with his “many sides” and “alt-left” remarks that didn’t lay the blame exclusively on the white supremacists at the “Unite the Right” rally. This is their recent history, and this is what they stand for. Namely, domestic terrorism… the use of violence in pursuit of political aims, to prevent those they disagree with from exercising their first amendment rights.
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