What is Antifa and why does Trump want to label it a terror group?
ANTIFA, the shadowy, violent far-left radical group President Trump said he will designate as a terrorist organization, is most infamously known for its clashes with white supremacist groups in Charlottesvile, Va., and for protesting a speech from a conservative celebrity at Berkeley, Calif.
The Trump administration has blamed ANTIFA – short for anti-fascist – for agitating attacks on police, inciting looting and burning down businesses during the protests that have been occurring nationwide in response to the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last Monday.
Attorney General William Barr, in a statement Sunday announcing the enforcement action against the group, said “violent radical elements” are hijacking legitimate protests to “pursue their own separate, violent, and extremist agenda.”
What does ANTIFA stand for?
Mark Bray, a history professor at Dartmouth College who wrote about the ANTIFA movement in his 2017 book, “The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” said the majority of the members “wholeheartedly support militant self-defense against the police and the targeted destruction of police and capitalist property.”
It’s more of an ideology shared among a loosely based group of people without any hierarchical leadership than a typical structured organization with a distinctive chain of command.
Who supports ANTIFA?
And while the group’s overall numbers remain vague, the members run the gamut from Marxists, Leninists, social democrats to anarchists.
“It is impossible to ascertain the exact number of people who belong to ANTIFA groups because 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,” Bray wrote in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on Monday.
The members do most of their organizing and fundraising on a mix of social media sites before assembling from far and wide for protests.
The aesthetic of ANTIFA
Usually wearing black clothes with their faces obscured by masks, members of ANTIFA do not shy away from violence and believe destroying property is righteous political expression.
“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,” Scott Crow, a former organizer for ANTIFA, told The Atlanta Voice.
They accept the violence 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.”
The origins of ANTIFA
ANTIFA like to trace its history of fighting hard right-wing groups to those who opposed Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany last century.
But the modern outgrowth stems from Anti-Racist Action that first appeared in 1987 in opposition to Neo-Nazi groups and the Rose City ANTIFA in Portland in 2007.
Recent actions from ANTIFA
Now, ANTIFA has expanded and become more active since President Trump entered the White House in January 2017.
In February of that year ANTIFA activists infamously staged protests at the University of California at Berkeley over the appearance of conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos.
Members set fires, threw rocks at the police and vandalized businesses, causing an estimated $100,000 in damages.
In August, they clashed with white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va., during a Unite the Right rally.
Black-clad ANTIFA activists brought Portland to a standstill in August 2019 when they squared off against right wing groups.
Skirmishes between the group happened in a nearby park and on the streets.
Police arrested 13 people and confiscated a stun gun, a shield, bear spray and metal and wooden poles.