To those on the Right, especially the Far Right, they are hardly benign or loosely organized. They tend to be decentralized (that is without a identifiable organizational structure) and yet operate with a specific purpose, leading some to speculate that there are coordinated cells within the larger mass of protesters charged with attacking specific targets.
They're those who call for the "defunding" or closure of police departments and the creation of "citizen policing", especially of minority communities by fellow minorities. Some groups went as far as to take up arms and attempt to menace the police by carrying weapons (or taking up roof top "sniper" positions) or pointing small handheld lasers at the police.
The mainstream media generally glosses over the mayhem and damage they cause (such as setting fires, looting, vandalizing), or attacking specific groups or individuals physically aside from minor irritants such as blocking traffic. Instead, the media calls these riots "peaceful protests".
Case in point is Donald Trump's inauguration when they staged attacks on parts of Washington DC and surrounding areas by starting fires, flipping cars, breaking out store windows, and spray painting almost everything in sight. Their objective, of course, was to and divert attention from the inauguration to them.
When George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed (some would say "murdered"), they staged massive demonstrations in cities and towns across America, especially in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Louisville, Kentucky, where the two incidents happened. While chaos ensued, police officers were ordered to stand down and respond only when actually attacked, and then only in moderation in order to deescalate the situation, which the media again downplayed.
Meanwhile, whenever small pockets of Far-Right groups showed up "to observe", the media heralded them as "neo-Nazis" or "hate groups". It's worth noting that in no instances during the Floyd and Taylor "peaceful" riots, did the Far Right show up enmasse. In most instances, their appearances were limited to around a dozen or so individuals, albeit with many in military garb.
So, what's the truth? Just who is Antifa and what is their objective? Indeed, given the political diversity of Antifa, is there a single objective? The name ("Antifa") is a abbreviation for "Anti-Fascism", which also kinda sums up their mission statement if you will. To be more specific, the overarching goal of Antifa is reputedly the creation of a more "open", "accepting" and "liberal" society and the total destruction of whatever they deem as being "fascist". If that sounds contradictory, it's because it is.
However, there's little or no consensus as to exactly what that would entail. Some favor creating a "Communist" style of government based on Stalinism or Maoism (neither of which had any actual basis in Marxism). This would call for a total elimination of capitalism from the ownership of private property to total government control and regulation of business (including Wall Street).Even currency would be abolished in favor of some sort of barter method. There are those who favor a form of socialism with greater government regulation of key industries, expanded social programs, overhauling the tax code, while some want legalization of all drugs, open borders, the complete confiscation of all guns, free education, debit forgiveness and medical care.
There are those who want a complete redistribution of wealth and the creation of a universal base income to fight poverty paid for by the elimination of the military (perhaps leaving a small volunteer national guard), and defunding or elimination of police departments and the creating of community policing. In a limited sense, this has already happened in some cities such as Portland Oregon.
In fact, approximately 20 cities have, in some form or fashion, have defunding their police departments with one report from 2021 saying that police department budgets across the country have been cut $870 million dollars.
Meanwhile, other participants of Antifa are more focused on climate warming and are demanding extreme changes in environmental laws with stronger enforcement. Many want changes in laws concerning the LGBTQ community including adopting the normalization of multi-genders (they claim there are 72 genders) and the adoption of asexual or non-binary pronouns. Surprisingly, this segment of Antifa has been perhaps the most successful.
In a early victory of sorts, there are five U.S. cities which have banned the use of gender specific pronouns such as "he" and "she" on government documents and forms or used in laws and policies. These cities are San Diego, Oakland, Berkeley California as well as Boston Massachusetts. 11 states have approved the use of a "third gender" on forms and documents. The reputed goal, according to various local and state officials, to create a "open and welcoming" environment for the approximately 1% of the U.S. population which self-identifies as neither male or female.who quietly promote gay identity through the use of "gay pride" flags in the classroom or allowing individuals in full drag queen attire to read to young school children. In addition, there has been changes in various local law to allow individuals to use the restrooms of the gender they self-identify as.
Another group affiliated with Antifa is Black Lives Matter which seeks to promote everything from the creation of autonomous or semi-autonomous zones exclusive to blacks to additional funding of black or minority owned businesses, housing or other social programs. Despite instances of violence and looting, BLM's aim has been to reduce what they believe is police violence and harassment of blacks in general.
Statistics indicate that blacks, who make up 13.6% of the U.S. population, are three times more likely than whites to be killed police officers although blacks are shown to be 1.3 time less likely than whites to be armed. One third of the incidents have occurred when the suspect is attempting to flee on foot or vehicle. 43% of deaths happened during the commission of a violent crime or in the possession of a weapon while 22% was during a non-violent offence.
Other groups under the Antifa umbrella include those who want to confiscate all firearms, make changes in medical care of seniors, the handicapped, or mentally ill, eliminate student debt, raise minimum wage, reform the judicial system (including the prison system by closing all privately own prisons), make changes in election laws to permit more ballot access or eliminate mandatory voter ID laws. Of course, there are plenty of those who simply enjoy causing mayhem and violence.
What makes Antifa so dangerous, however, is a lack of formal structure and thus a centralized hierarchy. Interestingly, within Antifa demonstrations there are "legal observers" from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). They monitor and video tape the actions of the police department and assist individuals who are arrested with bail money and legal representation (demonstrators often write NLG's phone number somewhere on their body in anticipation of arrest).
As an aside, the NLG also engages in passive resistance training and related tactics for protestors (many of the techniques were gleaned from lessons learned during the protest movements of the 50's, 60's, and 70's). Instruction is often either online through private chats or in person just before a protest or other action begins. There is typically someone designated to ensure everyone follows their instructions.
Antifa reminds me less of the "Red Front", the paramilitary arm of the Communist Party of the Weimar Republic, and more like the Nazi "Brownshirts" or Mussolini's "Blackshirts" of the same era (in fact, Antifa is known for dressing head to toe in all black clothing).
It's worth pointing out that while the Far Right are typically demonized by the media as being extremist, they have not been able to organize as effectively as Antifa has, and they are certainly aren't as well funded. Antifa has engaged in over 140 mass protests across the country (many of which have degenerated into riots) as of 2022, while aside from the January 6th protest, the Far Right hasn't had any major protests and or riots.
As many observers of Antifa have pointed out, despite their name, action is louder than words and their actions are more fascist than not. Some have called Antifa a new type of political guerilla warfare in the footsteps of Mao. And while there is strength in numbers, there is also guilt by association, and this doesn't apply any more strongly than in the political arena.Affiliated groups have managed to achieve some success based on individual issues and data than through their relationship with Antifa. So, is Antifa an actual threat?
In some aspects, yes. It has caused chaos as well as a great deal of property damage. It has injured police officers, journalists, and innocent bystanders. It has expressed itself as an opponent of capitalism and the Constitution. It's no friend of critical thought, the open exchange of ideas, or open debate, preferring instead to remain isolated in its political and social bubble.
At the same time, it has attracted more publicity than perhaps it deserves. Besides, Antifa hasn't truly faced any real opposition either from the conservative or independent intelligencia or on the streets by law enforcement or the Far Right, so their actual strength or clout has yet to be measured. Thus, they've yet to reach the critical mass of Mao's youthful "Red Guards" they imagine themselves to be or the Nazi "Brownshirts" which they emulate by their actions.
I suspect Antifa will gradually fade much like the Weathermen and similar groups of the 1960's and 70's as new avenues are found to affect change through non-violent means much like Cesar Chavez and Rev. Martin Luther King. Ultimately, social change requires the support of the populace and that's not likely to be achieved with indiscriminate violence.
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Fox News Video: Antifa: The Truth Behind The Mask (10:24)
VICE News Video: So, What is Antifa? (5:47)