Antifa says violence is necessary
The so-called anti-fascist activist group Antifa has always been unapologetic about its tactics. But how do members justify violence? They see Nazis behind every tree, under every bed in America and have decided that the only way to kill the threat is through the use of force.
While both experts on the movement and activists within it emphasize that not everyone who participates in anti-fascist activism engages in violence, they say the use of force is intrinsic to their political philosophy.
"The justification [of the use of violence] is that Nazi ideology at its very core is founded on violence and on wielding power by any means," said Mike Isaacson, one of the founders of Smash Racism D.C., an antifa organization in Washington.
Isaacson is unequivocal in his defense of violence as a legitimate tool to combat the creeping threat of what he deems authoritarianism.
"There is the question of whether these people should feel safe organizing as Nazis in public, and I don't think they should," said Isaacson.
"I don't think anyone should think that someone who is intent on politically organizing for the sake of creating a state-sponsored genocide – I don't think is something that we should protect," he said.
This hysterically exaggerated worldview, where they define "Nazi" as anyone who disagrees with them politically, is far more dangerous than the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists combined. They are better organized than any of those right-wing crazies. And while the right-wing groups can be violent, they do not make violence a necessary adjunct to their activities or a core belief of their ideology.
Antifa activists justify their use of violence as self-defense against "the inherent danger of fascists organizing," according to Mark Bray, a Dartmouth historian and author of a recent book on the movement.
"The argument is that it needs to be stopped immediately, because if you let it grow, that poses a danger to society," Bray said.
Dubbed the "alt-left" by President Trump, antifa has increasingly been making their presence known after his victory in the 2016 election was openly embraced by white supremacists.
On Sunday, antifa protesters hurled glass bottles and bricks at police officers monitoring a far-right march in Portland, Ore.
And the University of California, Berkeley, is bracing for the possibility of more violent clashes on Thursday, when conservative political commentator and former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro is scheduled to speak.
There is no central organizing committee governing antifa, and different affiliated groups have different priorities and governing principles, making it impossible to gauge the growth of the movement in the wake of the election.
But activists and law enforcement sources say anecdotally that their numbers have almost certainly swelled. Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest law enforcement union, told The Hill that he has "for sure" seen rising interest in the movement since Trump's election, noting that six months ago he had never even heard of antifa.
Mike Isaacson, the Antifa activist mentioned above, appeared on Tucker Carlson last night and proceeded to chill the blood of most of his audience.
>> Does Richard Spencer have a right to speak in public?
>> Richard Spencer is a danger to society. When he speaks simple public, what he is doing, publicly recruiting people to his very violent movement.
>> Tucker: Does have a right to speak in public?
>> I don't think he has a right to speak in public unopposed, and that is ultimately what the purpose of antifa is, to show up and oppose him.
>> Tucker: You shut people down, you prevent them for speaking, you commit violence against them. I know people who have been knocked down and beaten by people from antifa. That is true. It does happen. We have it on tape. We can roll the tape. You are saying that's justified?
>> Yes. I believe that communities have the right to defend themselves against threats to the community.
>> Against ideas they don't like.
>> No, against people have explicitly said that they want to eliminate those people from our society.
>> Tucker: Your completing violence with ideas.
>> No, I'm not.
>> Tucker: If I have not raised my hand to strike you –
>> In order to raise your hand to strike me, you have to think you're going to strike me. When you are going out in public as a protester explicitly saying that you want to eliminate most of the people from this country, I believe most of the people in this country have the right to say, no, that's not okay.
>> Tucker: Okay, you have a right to say it's not okay. What you don't have a right is to prevent me from saying what I think, even if you disagree, and you definitely don't have a right to commit violence against me, and you're blurring the lines there. By the way, don't you work at a criminal college? Okay, you don't have the right to do that. You have the right to make a counter case. You have see the distinction there?
>> Tucker, when I walked into this building, I counted five security guards at the front door and two police cars outside. Are you going to tell me that the violence that they would enact against someone who is looking to do you or any number of the people that work here harm, are you going to tell me that the violence that they enact to protect, preemptively, the staff that are protected also by the barricades that you have –
>> Tucker: I don't even know – I'm honestly not following you. I don't have security, but there is security – speak of the security at your building. And the reason there is security at your building, that you have security, ultimately, that security provides a space for nonviolent civil discourse.
In my youth, we would have referred to Isaacson possessing a "false consciousness." The way he sees the world is an alternate reality from the way normal people see the world. He can justify violence and he can support violating the free speech rights of those he disagrees with because he thinks white supremacists like Richard Spencer are a huge threat to the community.
The reality is very different, of course. Spencer has a small following with zero political and cultural influence. But Isaacson can justify bashing people's heads in because his warped, paranoid vision creates monsters where there are only pathetic losers.
The biggest fear of law enforcement is that Antifa will start arming themselves, and with the right-wing crazies already coming to protests with guns, the chances of a violent, bloody clash rise significantly. Nothing would curtail free speech more, because it would give authorities an excuse to shut down all protests and speeches, citing the probability of violence.
Our First Amendment rights must be exercised to maintain their viability. Antifa want to prevent that at all costs and will kill to achieve their goals.