Black BLM activists clash with white Antifa operatives over who gets to lead the movement
"A lot of whiteness started seeping into the forefront. A lot of white voices started seeping into the front." —Devin Boss, BLM leader in Portland, Ore.
Leftist coalitions are inherently unstable, so it was only a matter of time before clashes between angry blacks under the banner of BLM started chafing over the prominence of mostly white Antifa radicals. Power, after all, is what motivates the left, and political power is a zero-sum game. Add in the permanent racial resentment animating Black Lives Matter, and the prospects for smooth collaboration between BLM and Antifa decline over time.
The violent revolution in the streets has been going on longer in Portland, Oregon than anywhere else in the United States, so it is unsurprising that the Rose City is where the clash first has become visible. Oregon Public Radio reports (hat tip: Jeff Charles):
This week marks six months since Floyd's death, and protests continue in Portland. But now, activists in the city are divided as to whether they are still fighting in a racial justice movement centered on Black lives, or if an unfocused, anti-establishment fight against capitalism and state power has usurped the initial cause that brought thousands of Portlanders into the streets.
Instead of mass mobilizations focused on disrupting city streets and educating the public, recent protests draw a few dozen people who have regularly engaged in vandalism against such disparate targets as a Democratic Party office, the Oregon Historical Society and the Mexican consulate. (snip)
"We always made sure that Black faces were in the front and ... it was beautiful," [Portland BLM leader Devin] Boss said. "And then a lot of it slowly started seeping away. A lot of whiteness started seeping into the forefront. A lot of white voices started seeping into the front."
Boss and [Rose City Justice co-founder Darren] Golden would also prove to be lightning rods in the local activist scene. They were among the first leaders to be toppled by a tumultuous protest movement that is defiantly leaderless and rife with subplots, cliques and pers
"There was just a lot of beauty and genuineness that happened in the beginning of this movement," Boss said. "A lot of that faded away relatively quickly and turned into power dynamics." (snip)
"We've seen this happen over decades, over centuries," Golden said. "Black folks that get in power or have a voice are somehow squashed or quelled by a white political leadership or white organizing."
A familiar dynamic is underway, with the more radical elements denouncing the slightly less radical:
A number of anonymous activist social media accounts undermined and criticized groups that used less aggressive tactics, while feeding the more radical elements of the protest movement. For months, an anonymous Twitter account calling itself the Pacific Northwest Youth Liberation Front has been a repository for organizing information, helping to spread anarchist propaganda, advocating violence and encouraging followers to "burn down the American plantation."
The Liberation Front account tweeted in July criticizing Rose City Justice for "pacifying the nightly justice center action," and admonished its followers to "stop blindly listening to people with megaphones."
The next day, the account again tweeted about the group, calling them police collaborators.
These are not disagreements that can be settled through candid discussions. The potential for the escalation of conflict should be obvious. How far can it go? The experience of the Japanese Red Army Faction in 1972 provides an unforgettable example to me, for I was living in Japan at the time and watched the televised assault on the mountainside redoubt where the violent radicals were hidden (as did virtually everyone in Japan). When the building housing the radicals was demolished and police moved in, they discovered that the radicals had started executing each other ("lynch" was the word the media used) over differences in how radical they were, even as the police moved in. (A good account of the incident is found here.)
Will it come to murderous warfare between BLM and Antifa? Probably not, and certainly not right away. But because the conflict comes down to race and power, do not underestimate the potential for violence among the progressive radicals.
Graphic credit: Pixabay.