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Antifa (United States)

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Antifa (/ænˈtfə, ˈæntiˌfɑː/)[1] is an anti-fascist political movement in the United States[2][3][4][5] comprising a diverse[6][7] array of autonomous groups that aim to achieve their objectives through the use of both non-violent and violent direct action rather than through policy reform.[8][9][10][11] Antifa political activists engage in protest tactics such as digital activism and militancy[8][12] against fascists and racists such as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other far-right extremists whom they seek to combat.[13] This may sometimes involve property damage, physical violence and harassment against those whom they identify as belonging to the far-right.[14][15][16][17]

Individuals involved in the movement tend to hold anti-authoritarian[18] and anti-capitalist views,[19] subscribing to a range of left-wing ideologies such as anarchism, communism, Marxism, social democracy and socialism.[20][21][22][23][24] Both the name antifa and the logo with two flags representing anarchism and communism are derived from the German Antifa movement.[25]

Antifa actions have received criticism and praise.[26][27] Conspiracy theories about antifa which tend to inaccurately portray antifa as a single organization with leaders and secret sources of funding have been spread by right-wing activists, media organisations and politicians including Trump administration officials.[28][29][30] There have been multiple efforts to discredit antifa groups via hoaxes on social media, many of them false flag attacks originating from alt-right and 4chan protagonists posing as antifa backers on Twitter.[31][32][33] Some hoaxes have been picked up and reported as fact by right-leaning media.[31][34][35]

Etymology and use

An antifa sticker, based on the logo of the German Antifa movement

The English word antifa is a loanword from the German Antifa, taken as a shortened form of the word antifaschistisch ("anti-fascist") and a nickname of Antifaschistische Aktion (1932–1933), a short-lived group which inspired the wider Antifa movement in Germany.[36][37][38]

The German word Antifa itself first appeared in 1930 and the long form antifaschistisch was borrowed from the original Italian anti-Fascisti ("anti-Fascists").[36] Oxford Dictionaries placed antifa on its shortlist for word of the year in 2017 and stated the word "emerged from relative obscurity to become an established part of the English lexicon over the course of 2017".[37]

The Anti-Defamation League states that the label antifa should be limited to "those who proactively seek physical confrontations with their perceived fascist adversaries" and not be misapplied to include all anti-fascist counter-protesters.[14]

Ideology

Individuals involved in the antifa movement tend to hold anti-authoritarian,[18] anti-capitalist[8][39] and anti-government views,[8] subscribing to a varied range of left-wing ideologies.[40] A majority of adherents are anarchists, communists and other socialists who describe themselves as revolutionaries,[41] although some social democrats and other leftists also adhere to the antifa movement.[41]

According to Dartmouth historian Mark Bray, an expert on the movement,[42] the "vast majority of anti-fascist organizing is nonviolent. But their willingness to physically defend themselves and others from white supremacist violence and preemptively shut down fascist organizing efforts before they turn deadly distinguishes them from liberal anti-racists".[43] Antifa involvement in violent actions against far-right opponents or the police has led some scholars to characterize the movement as far-left[7][44][45][46] and as militant.[47][48][49][50]

Described as a pan-leftist and non-hierarchical movement,[41] antifa is united by opposition to right-wing extremism and white supremacy[8][20] as well as opposition to centralized states.[51] Antifa activists reject both conservative and liberal anti-fascism.[20][52] The antifa movement generally eschews mainstream liberal democracy[41] and favors direct action over electoral politics.[8][20] Despite antifa opposition to liberalism, some right-wing commentators have accused their adherents of being aided by "liberal sympathizers".[53]

The Anti-Defamation League states that "[m]ost antifa come from the anarchist movement or from the far left, though since the 2016 presidential election, some people with more mainstream political backgrounds have also joined their ranks".[14] Similarly, ABC News notes that "[w]hile antifa's political leanings are often described as "far-left," experts say members' radical views vary and can intersect with communism, socialism and anarchism".[54] According to CNN, "[t]he term [antifa] is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left -- often the far left -- but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform".[16] The BBC notes that, "as their name indicates, [a]ntifa focuses more on fighting far-right ideology than encouraging pro-left policy".[8] Mark Bray, who studies antifa, said in 2017: "It's also important to remember that these are self-described revolutionaries. They're anarchists and communists who are way outside the traditional conservative-liberal spectrum".[41]

Movement structure

Antifa is not a unified organization but rather a movement without a hierarchical leadership structure, comprising multiple autonomous groups and individuals.[14][41][43] The movement is loosely affiliated[8] and has no chain of command, with antifa groups instead sharing "resources and information about far-right activity across regional and national borders through loosely knit networks and informal relationships of trust and solidarity".[55] According to Mark Bray, "members hide their political activities from law enforcement and the far right" and "concerns about infiltration and high expectations of commitment keep the sizes of groups rather small".[55]

Activists typically organize protests via social media and through websites.[56] Some activists have built peer-to-peer networks, or use encrypted-texting services like Signal.[57] Chauncey Devega of Salon described antifa as an organizing strategy, not a group of people.[58] According to one group member, antifa's identification research on whether an individual or group is "fascist, Alt Right, White Nationalist, etc." is "based on which groups they are a part of and endorse". While noting that "Nazis, fascists, white nationalists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes" are specific overlapping categories, the main focus is "on groups and individuals which endorse, or work directly in alliance with, white supremacists and white separatists. We try to be very clear and precise with how we use these terms".[59] According to Colin Clarke and Michael Kenney, direct actions such as anti-Trump protests, demonstrations against the alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and the clash with neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally "reflects many Antifa supporters' belief that Trump is a fascist demagogue who threatens the existence of America's pluralistic, multi-racial democracy. This factor helps explain why such Antifa supporters are so quick to label the president's "Make America Great Again" supporters as fascists — and why Trump is so quick to label Antifa as a terrorist organization".[60]

The antifa movement has grown since the 2016 United States presidential election. As of August 2017, approximately 200 groups existed, of varying sizes and levels of activity.[61]

History

Logo of Antifaschistische Aktion, the militant anti-fascist network in 1930s Germany that inspired the antifa movement
The logo as it appears on a flag held by an antifa protester in Cologne, Germany in 2008

When Italian dictator Benito Mussolini consolidated power under his National Fascist Party in the mid-1920s, an oppositional anti-fascist movement surfaced both in Italy and countries such as the United States. Many anti-fascist leaders in the United States were anarchist, socialist and syndicalist émigrés from Italy with experience in labor organizing and militancy.[62] Ideologically, antifa in the United States sees itself as the successor to anti-Nazi activists of the 1930s. European activist groups that originally organized to oppose World War II-era fascist dictatorships re-emerged in the 1970s and 1980s to oppose white supremacy and skinheads, eventually spreading to the United States.[61]

Modern antifa politics can be traced to opposition to the infiltration of Britain's punk scene by white power skinheads in the 1970s and 1980s, and the emergence of neo-Nazism in Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall.[51] In Germany, young leftists, including anarchists and punk fans, renewed the practice of street-level anti-fascism.[51] Columnist Peter Beinart writes that "in the late '80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action (ARA) on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than they would be with fighting fascism".[51]

Dartmouth College historian Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, credits the ARA as the precursor of modern antifa groups in the United States.[18] In the late 1980s and 1990s, ARA activists toured with popular punk rock and skinhead bands in order to prevent Klansmen, neo-Nazis and other assorted white supremacists from recruiting.[51][63][64] Their motto was "We go where they go" by which they meant that they would confront far-right activists in concerts and actively remove their materials from public places.[43] In 2002, the ARA disrupted a speech in Pennsylvania by Matthew F. Hale, the head of the white supremacist group World Church of the Creator, resulting in a fight and twenty-five arrests.[51] One of the earliest antifa groups in the United States was Rose City Antifa which was formed in Portland, Oregon in 2007.[11] Other antifa groups in the United States have other genealogies. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a group called the Baldies was formed in 1987 with the intent to fight neo-Nazi groups directly.[39]

In June 2020, conservative journalist Andy Ngo, whom Rolling Stone has described as a right-wing "provocateur"[65] and Vox called a "far-right sympathizer" who doxed at least one antifa activist by publishing her full name,[66] sued individuals purportedly associated with antifa seeking $900,000 in damages for assault and emotional distress and an injunction to prevent further harassment. The lawsuit, filed on Ngo's behalf by his attorney Harmeet Dhillon, cites Rose City Antifa, five other named defendants and additional unknown assailants. It stems from multiple alleged attacks on Ngo in Portland during 2019 and accuses Rose City Antifa in particular of a "pattern of racketeering activities".[67]

Activities

When antifa became prominent in the news during the George Floyd protests and was under attack for being responsible for much, if not most of the violence, a report in Vox stated that "[m]embers of antifa groups do more conventional activism, flyer campaigns, and community organizing, on behalf of anti-racist and anti-white nationalist causes", quoting Mark Bray as saying that this was the "vast majority" of what they did.[68] According to Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the California State University, San Bernardino, antifa activists feel the need to participate in violent actions because "they believe that elites are controlling the government and the media. So they need to make a statement head-on against the people who they regard as racist".[16]

Historian Mark Bray wrote that the adherents "reject turning to the police or the state to halt the advance of white supremacy. Instead they advocate popular opposition to fascism as we witnessed in Charlottesville".[41] The idea of direct action is central to the antifa movement.[69] Former antifa organizer Scott Crow told an interviewer:

The idea in Antifa is that we go where they (right-wingers) go. That hate speech is not free speech. That if you are endangering people with what you say and the actions that are behind them, then you do not have the right to do that. And so we go to cause conflict, to shut them down where they are, because we don't believe that Nazis or fascists of any stripe should have a mouthpiece.[16]

A manual posted on It's Going Down, an anarchist website, warns against accepting "people who just want to fight". It furthermore notes that "physically confronting and defending against fascists is a necessary part of anti-fascist work, but is not the only or even necessarily the most important part".[70]

Rose City Antifa activists with modified anarchist red and black flag and transgender pride flag in a protest against Patriot Prayer in 2017

According to Beinart, antifa activists "try to publicly identify white supremacists and get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartments" and also "disrupt white-supremacist rallies, including by force".[69] A Washington Post book review reports: "Antifa tactics include 'no platforming,' i.e. denying their targets the opportunity to speak out in public; obstructing their events and defacing their propaganda; and, when antifa activists deem it necessary, deploying violence to deter them".[52] According to National Public Radio, antifa's "approach is confrontational" and "people who speak for the Antifa movement acknowledge they sometimes carry clubs and sticks".[71] CNN describes antifa as "known for causing damage to property during protests".[16] Scott Crow says that antifa adherents believe that property destruction does not "equate to violence".[16] According to the Los Angeles Times, they have engaged in "mob violence, attacking a small showing of supporters of President Trump and others they accused, sometimes inaccurately, of being white supremacists or Nazis".[72] Antifa activists used clubs and dyed liquids against white supremacists in Charlottesville.[73] According to The Kansas City Star, police asked persons carrying firearms (including both antifa members and members of the far-right militia movement group Three Percenters) at a September 2017 rally in Kansas City to remove ammunition from their weapons.[74]

Apart from the other activities, antifa activists engage in mutual aid such as disaster response in the case of Hurricane Harvey.[75][76][77] According to Natasha Lennard in The Nation, antifa groups as of January 2017 were working with interfaith groups and churches "to create a New Sanctuary Movement, continuing and expanding a 40-year-old practice of providing spaces for refugees and immigrants".[78] Antifa activists also conduct research to monitor far-right activity, hold conferences and workshops on anti-fascist activism, distribute literature at book fairs and film festivals as well as advocating ways of "fostering sustainable, peaceful communities" such as working in neighborhood gardens.[79]

Antifa activists often use the black bloc tactic in which people dress in black and cover their faces in order to thwart surveillance and create a sense of equality and solidarity among participants.[80] Antifa activists wear masks to hide their "identity from protestors on the other side (who might dox people they disagree with) or from police and cameras" and for philosophical reasons such as the beliefs that "hierarchies are bad and that remaining anonymous helps keep one's ego in check".[81] Joseph Bernstein from BuzzFeed News says antifa activists also wear masks because "they fear retribution from the far right and the cops, whom they believe are sympathetic if not outright supportive to fascists".[82]

Notable actions

2016–2017

Antifa groups, along with black bloc activists, were among those who protested the 2016 election of Donald Trump.[47][51][78] They also participated in the February 2017 Berkeley protests against alt-right provocateur[83][84][85] speaker Milo Yiannopoulos, where they gained mainstream attention,[56] with media reporting them "throwing Molotov cocktails and smashing windows"[16] and causing $100,000 worth of damage.[86]

In April 2017, the Direct Action Alliance and the Oregon Students Empowered, described as "two self-described antifascist groups", threatened to disrupt the 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade in Portland, Oregon after hearing that the Multnomah County Republican Party would participate. The parade organizers also received an anonymous email, reading: "You have seen how much power we have downtown and that the police cannot stop us from shutting down roads so please consider your decision wisely". The two groups denied having anything to do with the email. The parade was ultimately canceled by the organizers due to safety concerns.[87][88]

On June 15, 2017, some antifa groups joined protesters at Evergreen State College to oppose the far-right group Patriot Prayer's event. Patriot Prayer was supporting biology professor Bret Weinstein who became the central figure in a controversy after he criticized changes to one of the college's events. In addition to peaceful antifa activists who held up a "community love" sign, USA Today reported that one slashed the tires of far-right activist Joey Gibson and another was wrestled to the ground by Patriot Prayer activists after being seen with a knife.[89]

In August 2017, antifa counter-protesters at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, reported The New York Times, "used clubs and dyed liquids against the white supremacists".[73] Journalist Adele Stan interviewed an antifa protester at the rally who said the sticks carried by the protesters were a justifiable countermeasure to the fact that "the right has a goon squad".[90] Some antifa participants at the Charlottesville rally chanted that counter-protesters should "punch a Nazi in the mouth".[71] Antifa participants also protected Cornel West and various clergy from attack by white supremacists, with West stating he felt that antifa had "saved his life".[91][92] Antifa activists also defended the First United Methodist Church, where the Charlottesville Clergy Collective provided refreshments, music and training to the counter-protesters. According to a local rabbi, they "chased [the white supremacists] off with sticks".[91][93]

Groups that had been preparing to protest the Boston Free Speech Rally saw their plans become viral following the violence in Charlottesville. The event drew a largely peaceful crowd of 40,000 counter-protesters. In The Atlantic, McKay Coppins stated that the 33 people arrested for violent incidents were "mostly egged on by the minority of 'Antifa' agitators in the crowd".[94] President Trump described the protesters outside his August 2017 rally in Phoenix, Arizona as "antifa".[95]

Portland's police chief said that antifascist and anarchist protesters at a June 2017 event in downtown parks in Portland, Oregon launched objects at police using slingshots. Protesters and the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the Portland Police Department's use of crowd-control weapons, saying it was disproportionate to "the behavior of a handful of antifa protesters" in the crowd.[96]

During a Berkeley protest on August 27, 2017, an estimated one hundred antifa protesters joined a crowd of 2,000–4,000 other protesters to confront alt-right demonstrators and Trump supporters who showed up for a "Say No to Marxism" rally that had been cancelled by organizers due to security concerns.[86][97] Protestors threatened to smash the cameras of anyone who filmed them.[98] Jesse Arreguin, the mayor of Berkeley, suggested classifying the city's antifa as a gang.[99] The far-right group Patriot Prayer cancelled an event in San Francisco the same day following counter protests. Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer, blamed antifa, along with By Any Means Necessary, for breaking up the event.[100]

2018–2019

On January 20, 2018, antifa protested[101] "A Night for Freedom" hosted by far-right social media personality Mike Cernovich at the nightclub FREQ in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan. Protesters attacked partygoers spilling out of the venue, including a 56-year-old man taken to Bellevue Hospital in stable condition after allegedly being choked and punched.[102] David Campbell, aged 32, subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of felony assault for his role in the violence[103] and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.[104][better source needed]

In June 2018, a Nebraska antifa group published a list of names and photographs of 1,595 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, drawn from LinkedIn profiles.[105]

In November 2018, police investigated the antifa group Smash Racism D.C. following a protest outside the home of The Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson,[106] who has been described by the Associated Press as "a major supporter of President Donald Trump and his policies".[107] Activists of the group said through a bullhorn that Carlson was promoting hate[108] and chanted "We will fight, we know where you sleep at night!" and defaced the driveway of Carlson's property by spray-painting an anarchist symbol on it.[109] Twitter suspended the group's account for violation of Twitter rules by posting Carlson's home address. The group also posted addresses of Carlson's brother and a friend who co-founded The Daily Caller.[110][111][112][113][114][115]

In February 2019, anti-fascist activists marched in celebration through Stone Mountain, Georgia as a white supremacist, neo-Confederate rally planned to be held at the adjacent Stone Mountain Park was cancelled due to infighting and fear of personal safety. White supremacist groups originally sought to attract attention by marching at the Stone Mountain, a Confederate landmark carving, during Super Bowl weekend. The groups ignored the park's denial of permit due to "clear and present danger to the public health or safety", but this was thwarted when Facebook and Twitter terminated their organizing accounts and pages, and by one group leader's retreat due to "fears of violence from counter-protesters". In their absence, more than 100 antifa activists marched peacefully through the adjacent village, burned a Klansman effigy and chanted slogans such as "Good night, alt-right" and "Death to the Klan", before joining another civil rights rally at Piedmont Park held by the NAACP and the SPLC.[116][117][118]

Public reactions

Law enforcement and officials

In June 2017, the antifa movement was linked to "anarchist extremism" by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.[119] This assessment was replaced with one in 2019 which states that "Antifa is a movement that focuses on issues involving racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, as well as other perceived injustices. The majority of Antifa members do not promote or endorse violence; however, the movement consists of anarchist extremists and other individuals who seek to carry out acts of violence in order to forward their respective agendas".[120]

In September 2017, Politico obtained confidential documents and interviews indicating that in April 2016 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believed that "anarchist extremists" were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets.[121]

Trump administration

In August 2017, a petition was lodged with the White House petitioning system We the People calling upon President Donald Trump to formally classify "AntiFa" as terrorist. The White House responded in 2018 that federal law does not have a mechanism for formally designating domestic terrorist organizations.[122][123][124] The writer of the petition later stated he had created it to "bring our broken right side together" and to "prop up antifa as a punching bag".[125]

In 2017, Politico interviewed unidentified law enforcement officials who noted a rise in activity since the beginning of the Trump administration, particularly a rise in recruitment (and on the part of the far-right as well) since the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. One internal assessment acknowledged an inability to penetrate the groups' "diffuse and decentralized organizational structure". By 2017, the FBI and the DHS reported that they were monitoring suspicious antifa activity in relation to terrorism.[121]

During the Trump administration, the term antifa became "a conservative catch-all" term as Trump, administration officials, Trump base supporters and right-wing commentators applied the label to all sorts of left-leaning or liberal protest actions.[126] Conservative writers such as L. Brent Bozell III labeled Black Lives Matter as "antifa".[126] Politico reported that "the term [antifa] is a potent one for conservatives" because "[i]t's the violent distillation of everything they fear could come to pass in an all-out culture war. And it's a quick way to brand part of the opposition".[126] Alexander Reid Ross, who teaches at Portland State University, argued that the popularization of the term antifa was a reaction to the popularization of the term alt-right, "to the point where [the word antifa] simply describes people who are anti-fascist or people who are against racism and are willing to protest against it".[126] In June 2020, The Independent reported how Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani claimed on Fox News that "Black Lives Matter, Antifa and unspecified communists" were working together to "do away with our system of courts" and "take your property away and give it to other people", asserting without evidence that they receive significant funding from an outside source. Giuliani had previously criticized George Soros, who had been a frequent target of conspiracy theories claiming he funded such groups and demonstrations.[127]

During the nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd in May and June 2020, Attorney General William Barr blamed the violence on "anarchic and far left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics"[128] and described the actions of "Antifa and other similar groups" as "domestic terrorism",[129] echoing similar statements by National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien.[130] In Twitter posts and other statements, President Trump blamed "ANTIFA and the Radical Left" for violence[128][131] and repeatedly pledged that the federal government would designate antifa as a "Terrorist Organization".[132][133][134][135] However, Trump lacks the authority to do so because under existing law the federal government may designate only foreign organizations as terrorist and antifa is a loosely associated movement rather than a specific organization.[136][137][138] A number of legal experts believe designating antifa as a terrorist group would be unconstitutional, raising First Amendment and due process issues.[139][140]

On June 2, The Nation reported on a copy of an FBI Washington Field Office internal situation report it had obtained; the report stated that the FBI had "no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence" in the violent May 31 D.C.-area protests.[141] Two days later, Barr said that "[w]e have evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity"[142] and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said that "anarchists like Antifa" are "exploiting this situation to pursue violent, extremist agendas".[143][144] However, there is no evidence that antifa-aligned individuals played a role in instigating the protests or violence, or that antifa played a significant role in the protests,[145][146][147] and the Trump administration has provided no evidence for its claims.[147] According to Mark Bray, while "confident that some members of antifa groups have participated in a variety of forms of resistance" during the protests, it is "impossible to ascertain the exact number of people who belong to antifa groups".[55] As of June 9, none of the 51 people facing federal charges were alleged to have links to antifa.[148]

Members of Congress

Nancy Pelosi, then House Minority Leader for the Democratic Party, condemned the violence of antifa activists in Berkeley on August 29, 2017.[149][150]

In July 2019, Republican Senators Bill Cassidy and Ted Cruz introduced a nonbinding resolution that would designate antifa a domestic terrorist organization.[151]

In June 2020, Republican Senator Tom Cotton advocated using military force to quell nationwide protests against police brutality and racism, calling for the 101st Airborne Division to be deployed to combat what he called "Antifa terrorists".[152] Cruz accused "Antifa protesters" of "organizing these acts of terror"[153] and called for "systematic law enforcement targeting Antifa and other terrorist groups".[154]

Civil rights organizations

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), "most established civil rights organizations criticize antifa tactics as dangerous and counterproductive".[14] The ADL criticized antifa for its use of "unacceptable tactics" such as violence and warned that such tactics provided a powerful propaganda and recruitment tool to right-wing extremists.[14] However, the ADL stated that "it is important to reject attempts to claim equivalence between the antifa and the white supremacist groups they oppose", noting that right-wing extremist movements are much more violent and have been responsible for hundreds of murders in the United States while "there have not been any known antifa-related murders".[14]

Academics and scholars

Dartmouth historian Mark Bray, who has studied the antifa movement, has stated: "Given the historical and current threat that white supremacist and fascist groups pose, it's clear to me that organized, collective self-defense is not only a legitimate response, but lamentably an all-too-necessary response to this threat on too many occasions".[155] Alexander Reid Ross, a lecturer in geography and an author on the contemporary right, has argued that antifa groups represented "one of the best models for channeling the popular reflexes and spontaneous movements towards confronting fascism in organized and focused ways".[156] Cornel West, who attended a counter-protest to the Unite the Right rally, said in an interview that "we would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the anti-fascists", describing a situation where a group of 20 counter-protesters were surrounded by marchers whom he described as "neofascists".[157]

Noam Chomsky described them as "a major gift to the right".[27] Eleanor Penny, an author on fascism and the far-right, argues against Chomsky that "physical resistance has time and again protected local populations from racist violence, and prevented a gathering caucus of fascists from making further inroads into mainstream politics".[27] Some "anti-anti-fascists" on the left have argued that antifa attack a symptom of liberal democracy rather than combating structural racism itself and in doing so distance themselves from revolutionary politics.[158] Historian and Dissent magazine editor Michael Kazin wrote: "Non-leftists often see the left as a disruptive, lawless force. Violence tends to confirm that view".[159] The historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat argued that "[t]hrowing a milkshake is not equivalent to killing someone, but because the people in power are allied with the right, any provocation, any dissent against right-wing violence, backfires", with the effect that "[m]ilitancy on the left" can "become a justification for those in power and allies on the right to crack down" on the left.[11]

Accusations of terrorism

In relation to the events of Charlottesville in August 2017, a 2018 study conducted by professor of criminology Gary LaFree on the link between antifa and terrorism concluded that "while the events share many characteristics of terrorist attacks", the actions by antifa supporters during this event "do not include all of the elements of terrorism required by the GTD". Whereas it fulfilled the requirements of an action led by "sub-national actors" with "violence or threat of violence", it lacked in particular the "intentionality of the incident", that is the "result of a conscious calculation on the part of the perpetrators". LaFree also questioned "whether antifa can be considered to constitute a 'group' at this point in time" and stressed "how complicated it is to distinguish terrorism from other forms of illegal violence" such as those by antifa supporters.[160]

During the George Floyd protests in May and June 2020, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have blamed antifa for orchestrating the mass protests, but federal arrests show no sign that any singular antifa-affiliated group plotted the protests.[161] There have been repeated calls from Trump, Barr and others to designate antifa as a terrorist organization. However, Mark Bray argued that antifa cannot be designated as a terrorist organization because "[t]he groups are loosely organized, and they aren't large enough to cause everything Trump blames them for". In addition, Bray said that the right-wing has attempted to "blame everything on antifa" during the George Floyd protests and that in assuming antifa to be "predominantly white", it "evince[s] a kind of racism that assumes that black people couldn't organize on this deep and wide of a scale".[55]

Hoaxes

In August 2017, a #PunchWhiteWomen photo hoax campaign spread by fake antifa Twitter accounts.[162][163] Bellingcat researcher Eliot Higgins discovered an image of British actress Anna Friel portraying a battered woman in a 2007 Women's Aid anti-domestic violence campaign that had been re-purposed using fake antifa Twitter accounts organized by way of 4chan. The image is captioned "53% of white women voted for Trump, 53% of white women should look like this" and includes an antifa flag. Another image featuring an injured woman is captioned "She chose to be a Nazi. Choices have consequences" and includes the hashtag #PunchANazi. Higgins remarked to the BBC that "[t]his was a transparent and quite pathetic attempt, but I wouldn't be surprised if white nationalist groups try to mount more sophisticated attacks in the future".[32] A similar fake image circulated on social media after the Unite the Right rally in 2017. The doctored image, actually from a 2009 riot in Athens, was altered to make it look like someone wearing an antifa symbol attacking a policeman with a flag.[164] After the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, similar hoaxes falsely claimed that the shooter was an antifa "member"; another such hoax involved a fake antifa Twitter account praising the shooting.[165][166] Another high-profile fake antifa account was banned from Twitter after it posted with a geotag originating in Russia.[33] Those fake antifa accounts have been repeatedly reported on as real by right-leaning media outlets.[31][35]

During the nationwide George Floyd protests against police brutality and racism in May and June 2020, false claims of impending antifa activity circulated through social media platforms, causing alarm in at least 41 towns and cities.[167] On May 31, 2020, @ANTIFA_US, a newly created Twitter account, attempted to incite violence relating to the protests. The next day, after determining that it was linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, Twitter suspended the fake account.[168] An FBI's Washington Field Office report stated that members of a far-right group on social media had "called for far-right provocateurs to attack federal agents, use automatic weapons against protesters" during the D.C.-area protests over Floyd's murder on May 31, 2020.[141] Conservative news organizations, pro-Trump individuals using social media and impostor social media accounts propagated false rumors that antifa groups were travelling to small cities, suburbs and rural communities to instigate unrest during the protests.[169] In May and June 2020, Lara Logan repeatedly promoted hoaxes as part of Fox News' coverage of antifa, including publishing a false document she described as an antifa battle plan and claiming that a joke about juggalos was evidence of a clandestine antifa hierarchy.[170]

In June 2020, a multiracial family on a camping trip in Forks, Washington were accused of being antifa activists, harassed and trapped in their campsite when trees were felled to block the road.[171][172][173] In Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, groups of armed right-wing vigilantes occupied streets in response to false rumors that antifa activists were planning to travel to the city while similar rumors led to threats being made against activists planning peaceful protests in Sonora, California.[174] In Klamath Falls, Oregon, hundreds of people, most of whom were armed, assembled in response to false rumors that antifa activists would target the city, spread by a commander in the Oregon Air National Guard.[175] A study by Zignal Labs found that unsubstantiated claims of antifa involvement were one of three dominant themes in misinformation and conspiracy theories around the protests, alongside claims that Floyd's death had been faked and claims of involvement by George Soros.[28] Some of the opposition to antifa activism has also been artificial in nature. Nafeesa Syeed of Bloomberg reported that "[t]he most-tweeted link in the Russian-linked network followed by the researchers was a petition to declare Antifa a terrorist group".[176]

See also

References

Notes
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  6. ^ LaFree, Gary (2018). "Is Antifa a Terrorist Group?". Society. 55 (3): 248–252. doi:10.1007/s12115-018-0246-x. ISSN 1936-4725. In general, antifa falls on the less structured side of this continuum. It is not a highly organized entity. It has not persisted over time. There is little evidence of a chain of command or a stable leadership structure. To this point in time antifa seems to be more of a movement than a group.
  7. ^ a b Klein, Adam (2019). "From Twitter to Charlottesville: Analyzing the Fighting Words Between the Alt-Right and Antifa". International Journal of Communication. 13 (0): 22. ISSN 1932-8036. This present climate of partisan tribalism has given rise to new actors and factions representing the far ends of the political spectrum. [...] On the far left, Antifa represents a fast-growing crusade designed to confront all forms of fascism, principally the aforementioned groups but also, at times, law enforcement. Antifa has no single spokesperson but rather presents its movement as a collective of nameless vigilantes, typically outfitted in concealing masks and black combat gear, ready for battle.
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Further reading

External links

Quotations related to Antifa (United States) at Wikiquote