Antifa

Introduction

Antifa (an abbreviation of anti-fascism) is one of the most prominent far-left movements in the United States. Additionally, Antifa adherents in the United States are often associated with violent riots and confrontations with the far right, which has led U.S. officials to call for designating it a terrorist organization. The U.S. Antifa movement is rooted in anarchism, which pushes back against symbols of authority such as the police. Nonetheless, Antifa is not a coherent, centralized group but a broad ideology centered around the so-called opposition to fascism. While there are some formalized groups that call themselves Antifa, Antifa has no centralized and overarching leaders, membership rolls, or structure. Individual Antifa groups are thus unrelated to each other and, at times, promote differing tactics and ideologies.*

The modern Antifa movement began in Europe in the 1960s and spread to the United States by the following decade. For years, U.S. Antifa activists largely remained a subset of anarchist and the punk rock movements, maintaining vigilance to keep far-right extremists from disrupting events.* Antifa groups began coalescing in 2015 with the rise of U.S. populism and a reinvigorated far right.* Antifa rose to national prominence in the United States following the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Antifa activists violently confronted far-right marchers. U.S. media has since reported on numerous Antifa protests that have turned violent. Antifa activists commonly consider the views of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and similar far-right extremists to be repugnant and dangerous and therefore justify violence as a means to silence and delegitimize them. Antifa has also attacked journalists and police who defend far-right protest activities.* In addition to violence, Antifa groups largely utilize the tactic of doxing—publicly revealing personal identification details of opponents.*

With a wave of protests against police brutality sweeping across the United States in 2020, various Antifa groups have denounced the police as representatives of a fascist system. Antifa protesters have accused police of shielding neo-Nazis and thus denounced police as collaborators.* In July 2020, the political advocacy group American Police Officers Alliance released a report accusing Antifa of contributing to political and social unrest in the United States with a goal of disbanding the police.* However, police reports, FBI intelligence, and court records have recorded little evidence of Antifa’s participation in the anti-police protests across the country.*

Despite its broad opposition to fascism, Antifa itself stands accused of promoting anti- Semitism because of vocalized opposition to Zionism as part of a broader opposition to racism and inequality. In 2017, the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) interviewed three members about Antifa views on Jews and Israel. Each responded differently but the commonality was that all three felt safe and welcome as Jews within the Antifa movement. Views on Israel varied, however, with some calling it fascist and others saying it is not. One Jewish Antifa member said that Jews do tend to avoid Antifa events because they feel Antifa is demanding that all Jews abandon Israel. That same activist told CJN that “Nazis support the State of Israel” because they use the example of a Jewish ethno-state to argue that whites should also have their own ethno-state and Jews expelled from this ethno-state could just go to Israel.* Jewish Antifa activist Daniel Sieradski has told media that Jews are welcome in Antifa as its primary goal is to fight a common enemy, the Nazis.*

In May 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States would soon designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.* Following Trump’s announcement, the state-owned Turkish media outlet TRT World alleged that Antifa had been in Syria since 2014 aiding Kurdish militants and received training from them.* Representatives of the United Nations condemned Trump’s declaration on Antifa as harmful to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.* Despite Trump’s declared intention, actually branding Antifa as a domestic terrorist organization faces legal hurdles as the United States has no method to designate domestic terrorist groups. Antifa’s decentralized structure further complicates the issue.*

Leadership

Antifa has no central leadership or organizational structure. Individual Antifa groups exist but they are unrelated to each other and act independently.

Base of Operations

International.

Website

Various Antifa groups have created individual websites. One group for example, New York City Antifa, has a site at https://nycantifa.wordpress.com/. Antifa Philadelphia has a site at https://phillyantifa.org/.

Membership Size and Relevance

Antifa has no central organizational structure and thus no membership rolls. Multiple Antifa groups have formed across the United States, but they are largely independent of each other. These groups have turned to social media to spread their messages. Among them, New York City Antifa has more than 57,000 followers on Twitter.* ANTIFA Philadelphia has more than 18,000 followers on Twitter.* A group calling itself Antifa International has more than 29,000 followers on Twitter.* Hub City Antifa in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has more than 5,100 followers on Twitter.*

Antifa rose to national prominence in the United States following the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Antifa activists violently confronted far-right marchers. U.S. media has since reported on numerous protests by Antifa that have turned violent.* In May 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States would soon designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

As there is no central, unified Antifa organization, various Antifa groups have largely adopted two primary symbols: a circle containing three downward-facing arrows and two side-by-side flags, one black and one red. The circle with the arrows is known as anti-fascist circle and was originally designed in the 1930s for the German anti-fascist paramilitary organization Iron Front. The black flag traditionally represents anarchy while the red flag represents communism or socialism. Both symbols have been adopted by various groups, including Antifa, which do not necessarily assign the same meaning to the symbols.* In order to appear more intimidating, Antifa protesters typically dress all in black with black masks to obscure their identities.*

In terms of recruitment, each individual Antifa group has its own procedures for contacting and joining. Many of them offer methods to contact them online, where they also promote their own activities and ideologies.

Violent Activities

Rhetoric

  • New York City Antifa, tweet, August 16, 2020: “stop believing the copaganda version of what policing is, if you still do. television shows lied to you. policing is about maintaining power and social control.”*
  • Antifa International, tweet, August 15, 2020: “Cops & the Klan go hand-in-hand. #kkkops”*
  • ANTIFA Philadelphia, tweet, March 15, 2019: “People critique us and what Antifa does but we exist to confront fascism in all it’s forms. Fascism breeds days like this, where scores of people are taken away from us all in the most repulsive of acts.

    We will not sit on the sidelines, we will not allow fascists to be normal.”*

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

The Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive. An incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide… [terrorist attacks will] remove the threat of the Hispanic voting bloc.

Patrick Crusius, El Paso Shooter Aug. 2019
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