Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Antifa (“Anti-Fascists”). It’s not really an organization. It’s more of a “movement.” Various individuals and groups adopt the name, because it is a popular title among leftists. It is the next phase of “Occupy Wallstreet,” and is no more or less dangerous than it has been for years.
Occupy Wallstreet (OWS) started in Canada and focused on economic inequality. Their chant was, “We are the 99 percent,” noting that the richest one percent of the population in America owns 40% of the wealth, while the bottom 80% of the people own only 7% of the nations’ wealth. The heyday of OWS was 2011, but it has faded from our consciousness since then.
Antifa is the heir of OWS, but with a wider agenda. It focuses on fighting actions that may be seen as fascism. Perhaps it would be good to define fascism. American Heritage defines fascism as, “A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, violent suppression of the opposition, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.”
That is, Antifa is against such things as too much power in the presidency, too much power in corporations, too much coziness between government and corporations, too much wealth in the hands of too few people, too much military power, too much militarization of the police, and too much oppression based on gender and race.
Antifa became noticed after the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist march, in which video shows participants marching with torches, shouting, “Jews will not replace us!”
As we noted elsewhere, the global power of white supremacists is considered the number one threat to America by many, with the United States State Department listing them as a “terrorist group,” considered as dangerous as al Qaida or ISIS.
The problem is that some individuals who call themselves Antifa are able and willing to do physical battle with rightwing groups, so it’s hard to tell who is the aggressor.
Speaking of violence at Charlottesville, there have now been 34 instances of drivers purposely driving into peaceful protesters. And now, six States have proposed laws to legalize the act, if they claim that they “accidentally” drove into people.
Lawmakers in North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Texas proposed bills that would make it legal for drivers to hit protesters if the driver did not do so willfully, according to Mick Bullock, a spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Antifa has no organization or hierarchy, so it’s impossible to claim that “it” is planning protests.
Despite claims by President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr, there is scant evidence that loosely organized anti-fascists are a significant player in protests.
The Los Angeles Police Department said it saw no organized effort by antifa during protests in the city.
A review of the arrests of dozens of people on federal charges reveals no known effort by antifa to perpetrate a coordinated campaign of violence. Some criminal complaints described vague, anti-government political leanings among suspects, but a majority of the violent acts that have taken place at protests have been attributed by federal prosecutors to individuals with no affiliation to any particular group.
. . .interviews with several major police departments and a review of hundreds of newspaper articles about arrests around the country revealed no evidence of an organized political effort behind the looting and other violence. . .
The most serious case that has emerged in federal court involved three men in Nevada linked to a loose, national network of far-right extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. They were arrested on May 30 on charges of trying to foment violence during Black Lives Matter protests.
And that is the key. Antifa is really just a title individuals have assumed, equivalent to being a “Chicago Cubs Fan.” Some Cubs fans can be pretty extreme, but they are not organized.
Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in July that the agency “considers antifa more of an ideology than an organization.”
As we noted, the looters appear to be locals who see an opportunity for personal gain during the chaos. As for the arsonists, they are anarchists who just want to destroy. They are not part of the peaceful protests, and they are not organized. They just take advantage of the chaos to sow more.
That is not to say there are no organizations of anarchists. Organized groups, such as the Red Guards, appear at any sign of unrest.
In one example where antifa is mentioned, the police in Austin, Texas, said members of the Red Guards, a Maoist organization, were involved in organizing the looting of a Target store. The Red Guards have been associated with past antifa protests in Austin, but local activists said they were largely estranged from the group.
We have also seen violence from the Boogaloo organization, which seeks a race war. They are easy to spot, because many want to be identified.
In Las Vegas, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court said the three suspects called themselves members of the “boogaloo,” which is described as a far-right movement “to signify a coming civil war and/or fall of civilization.”. . .
Individuals associated with the boogaloo movement have been out in force at numerous demonstrations in the past few years, clad in their distinctive combat dress and armed with rifles. They often claim that they appear armed in public to underscore their commitment to Second Amendment rights, or to protect local businesses.
But online, boogaloo discussion groups overflow with racist statements and threats to exploit any unrest to incite a race war that will bring about a new government system.
In Denver, the police seized a small arsenal including three assault rifles, numerous magazines, several bulletproof vests and other military paraphernalia from the car trunk of a self-professed “boogaloo” adherent headed toward a protest, a man who had previously livestreamed his own support for armed confrontations with the police.
. . .they plotted to blow up an electric substation along the route of the demonstration in the hope that would prompt more violence between the police and protesters, according to the complaint. They were arrested after preparing Molotov cocktails from gasoline and lemonade bottles before a march.
So while there are dangerous individuals and groups in the country, the hapless people who identify with Antifa are not the real problem.
Antifa doesn’t appear to have any organizing structure, but it has become a potent term for conservatives — a quick way to brand part of the opposition. . .
As a bogeyman, Antifa serves a purpose. Instead of saying there are a lot of dangerous individuals, and some anarchist groups, “Antifa” becomes a strange label to stick on all of them, incorrectly. In fact, Trump has threatened to label Antifa a terrorist group, like white supremacists, but that’s difficult since they’re not a “group.”
Trump on Sunday declared that he would formally designate antifa a terrorist group. It’s a threat he made previously in the summer of 2019. . . Nothing came of those threats, though, and few legal experts think the latest declaration will actually pan out.
Antifa, they note, is a decentralized movement rather than a national organized group. It has no leadership, hierarchy or centralized recruiting, propaganda or fundraising mechanisms — characteristics that would give the government the ability to prosecute these groups as if they were the Islamic State. . .
“It’s like calling Deadheads or Red Sox Nation” an organization, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
It is undeniable that there are dangerous people among us. There are also some dangerous groups. But claiming that Antifa is an organization distracts from trying to understand where the real dangers lie. Antifa grew out of Occupy Wall Street, and continue to be a ragtag gaggle of disaffected individuals, who claim to have kinship by saying they “belong” to the Antifa movement. But acting as if it’s a group leaves a false sense of security that arsonists and looters can somehow be controlled by attacking a non-existent national organization. Not an intelligent approach.