Before the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center warned that a Georgia militiaman had said that a “rigged election” would lead to rebellion, and that the Oath Keepers militia would monitor polls nationwide to ensure that only U.S. citizens voted. The New York Times likewise asserted that an “army” of Trump supporters would “go into the polls and watch very carefully” in Philadelphia. Notwithstanding President Trump’s allegations of ballot irregularities, including in Philadelphia, none of the pre-election predictions of right-wing mayhem was borne out.
Many of these predictions were predicated on Trump’s alleged call to violence during the first debate, when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys, a men’s club that includes members of all races, self-describe as “Western chauvinists” and are certainly uncouth. They hold rallies for Trump and oppose things like “drag queen story hour” for children at public libraries. They exist, however, in a dialectic with Antifa, the far-Left militant group that doxes “fascists” and engages in violence against both property and persons. For Antifa, fascist is a catchall term that includes anyone who believes in private property and sees a place for police in a functioning society.
Antifa differs from other far left-wing groups, including the Democratic Socialists of America, in that it explicitly endorses “physical confrontation” in order to deny freedom of speech and assembly to its opponents. Antifa was relatively unknown in the U.S. until Trump’s 2016 presidential victory. Its most notable action in 2017 was preventing Ann Coulter’s speech at the University of California, Berkeley, by threatening clashes with campus security and Coulter’s Proud Boy bodyguards. Later that year, members of Antifa were mixed in with the large and varied group protesting the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed by a white supremacist in a vehicular attack. Last year, Antifa beat up journalist Andy Ngo, who was reporting on a Proud Boys rally in Portland.
In most cases, Antifa’s violence is employed against innocuous demonstrators. For example, African-American Proud Boy Philip Anderson organized a pre-election protest against tech censorship of conservatives in San Francisco. A Black Lives Matter supporter wearing Antifa-style black-bloc garb punched Anderson, knocking out his front teeth. In September, Antifa member Michael Reinoehl targeted and murdered Trump supporter Aaron Danielson in Portland following a car parade.
In the past, left-wing activism took the form of the anti-World Trade Organization, anti-Iraq War, and Occupy Wall Street movements. Antifa’s main cause now is Black Lives Matter—effectively aligning it with the Democratic Party and, ironically, BLM’s corporate sponsors. Sympathetic city officials in Berkeley, Charlottesville, and Portland have often avoided prosecuting Antifa members arrested for acts of vandalism and violence. Typically, Antifa activists who commit violence or destroy property are bailed out by groups like the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a bail fund that Kamala Harris urged her followers to support after George Floyd’s death.
After last week’s election, it was not the Proud Boys, militiamen, or “white supremacists” that engaged in political violence, but Antifa. In Portland, Antifa members threw flares and shined high-power lasers at city council member Dan Ryan’s suburban home because he voted against an amendment to defund the police. Antifa rioters also destroyed the windows of a downtown church. In Denver, Antifa smashed shop windows, burned American flags, and displayed “Death to Fascism and Liberalism” signs. In Washington, D.C., black-clad assailants, possibly Antifa members, stabbed Enrique Tarrio and another African-American woman, Bevelyn Beatty, who is known for vandalizing BLM murals.
Reducing Antifa to an “idea,” as Joe Biden did during the first presidential debate, was an expedient move for Democrats during the election season. Throughout the summer and fall, Antifa members have filled out BLM street rallies (while transitioning to black-bloc garb by night), denied public spaces to Trump supporters, and rioted in order to portray “Trump’s America” as divisive and dangerous. If the courts should somehow hand Trump a miraculous election victory, we can expect Antifa to go into overdrive. More likely, however, the challenge of dealing with the militant group will fall to a new Democratic administration, for whom it will not be easy to put the Antifa genie back in the bottle.
Antifa’s political demands include no U.S. foreign intervention, no national borders, and no jails or police, among other policies that don’t align with a center-Left agenda. Many Antifa adherents recall Harris’s “pro-incarceration” record as California’s attorney general. They won’t hesitate to label Biden a “fascist” if he deviates from their demands or those of BLM. The far-Left and center-Left were united against Trump for four years; now we’ll see if Antifa moves the goalposts for “fascism” to include some of its more centrist former allies.
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