Antifa shortfor"anti-fascist" is the name for loosely affiliated, left-leaninganti-racist groups that monitor and track the activities of local neo-Nazis. The movement has no unified structureor national leadershipbut has emerged in the form of local bodiesnationwide, particularly on theWest Coast.
Some of the groups, such as the 10-year-old Rose City Antifa in Portland, the oldest antifa group in the U.S.,are particularly well-organized andactive online and onFacebook,while its members are individually anonymous.
President Trump has singled out antifa as part of what he calls the alt-left in his initial claim that "many sides" were to blame for violence in Charlottesville the weekend of Aug. 12, not just the neo-Nazis, KKK and white nationalists.
How is it pronounced?
"AN-tifa" with the emphasis on the first syllable, which sounds more like "on" in English than "an."
When did it start?
Anti-fascist groups, particularly in Europe, have been around for many decades, notably in Italy, against Mussolini, and in Germany, against Hitler. In the postwar period, antifa groups resurgedto fightneo-Nazi groups, particularly in Germany. In the U.S., the anti-fascist movements grew out ofleftist politics of the late '80s,primarily under theumbrellaof Anti-Racist Action.
What does the movementwant?
Theprimary goal is to stopneo-Nazis and white supremacists fromgaining a platform rather than to promotea specific antifa agenda. The antifa groups aredecidedly anti-racist, anti-sexistand anti-homophobia, but also by and large socially leftistand anti-capitalist.
How do the groupsoperate?
Mark Bray, a lecturer and Dartmouth andauthor of the new book Antifa: The Antifascist Handbook,says the groups "organize educational campaigns, build community coalitions, monitor fascists, pressure venues to cancel their events, organize self-defense trainingsand physically confront the far right when necessary."
A main goal is to try to deny fascists a public forum, which is why they turn out in numbers to physically confrontneo-Nazis, the KKKand white supremacists atpublic demonstrations. They also step in to protect counter-protesters at such events.
In addition, antifa is particularly active in"doxxing," or identifying neo-Nazis and like-minded individuals and disseminatingthat private information to the public and employers to discourage people from joining their ranks.
Memberspointedly do not eschew violencebut rather see themselves as engaging in "self-defense," protecting other protesters and primarily confronting neo-Nazis and white supremacists to deny them a platform to publicly spread their views.
"We are unapologetic about the reality that fighting fascism at points requires physical militancy, Rose City Antifas Facebook page reads. Anti-fascism is, by nature, a form of self-defense: the goal of fascism is to exterminate the vast majority of human beings.
Political activist and author Cornel West, speaking to Amy Goodman on the program Democracy Now about the clashes in Charlottesville, saidantifa intervened when the "neofascists" move against his group of protesters."We would havebeen crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchistsand the anti-fascists," he said.
Bray says the riseof fascism in the 1930s demonstrates that it wasa mistake to allow such groups to air their views in hopes that public opinion would blunt their growth."We should be wary of those who are more distressed about alleged violations of the speech of fascists than the actual violence they perpetrate," he says.
Where has the movementdemonstrated?
In addition to Charlottesville, antifa forces, whooften dress inblack and wearmasks, have confronted or clashed with far-right groups in such places as the University of California at Berkeley,where protests by West Coast antifa forces, some of whomsmashedwindows and setfires,forced the cancellation of aspeech by alt-right activistMilo Yiannopoulos in Februaryand another by conservative commentator Ann Coulter in April.
In June, antifa forces turned out to protest a pro-Trump free-speech in Portland. Some antifa counterprotestersbegan throwing objects at police, who responded with flash grenades and pepper balls, according to the The Oregonian.
Antifa was also out in force in Juneto confrontPatriot Prayer, a free speech groupprotesting political correctness and hatred at Evergreen State Collegein Olympia, Wash.
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