Meet Antifa: This left-wing group is facing down neo-Nazis and the far-right on campuses, at rallies

On Friday, in a small town in Virginia, the largest group of white nationalists came together in over a decade in a march called 'Unite the Right.'

Hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members carrying torches held a rally to protest the planned removal of a statue memorialising Confederate General Robert E Lee.

Anti and pro-Donald Trump supporters clash during competing demonstrations at Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center Park in Berkeley. AP

Anti and pro-Donald Trump supporters clash during competing demonstrations at Martin Luther King Jr Civic Center Park in Berkeley. AP

The event turned violent after a car driven by one of the people attending the march — reportedly a Nazi sympathiser — plowed into a crowd peacefully protesting the rally, killing three and hurting more than a dozen others.

President Donald Trump initially condemned what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides".

However, he failed to explicitly call out the role of white supremacists in the clashes, which led to strong criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

Trump bowed to pressure from all sides and condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring "racism is evil" after two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate.

But by Wednesday, Trump reversed himself in a rambling press conference.

"I think there is blame on both sides," Trump said. "You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now," Trump added. "What about the alt-left that came charging... at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? (...) There are two sides to a story."

Trump's declaration that there were "fine people on both sides" outraged the Left.

But some conservative groups sought to equate the far-left, also known as "Antifa", with the far-right and claim that both sides share equal responsibility for the violence.

What is Antifa?

According to the Associated Press, Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is an umbrella term for the far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations and other events. The movement emulates historic anti-fascist actors in Europe.

Timereports that these groups have a long history of protesting globalisation in Europe, while in the United States, these protesters find common ground in opposing capitalism. Others describe themselves as anarchists.

One self-described Antifa activist described the movement to Time thus: "The standard for antifa ideology is anti-capitalism, anti-fascism of course. Those are kind of the two main pillars, but within that, encompassed, it also comes with being anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-ableism, anti-transphobia, anything like that and just protecting people who are marginalised and oppressed.”

Why is it controversial?

According to theBBC, Antifa does not seek power through electoral victories and legislation and their methods hew uncomfortably close to anarchists, including destruction and property and violence. Antifa made its presence felt during the Berkeley protest of far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos and the inauguration of Donald Trump, BBC reported.

According to the Daily Dot, violence broke out on the Berkeley campus after a cell of Antifa activists turned up and allegedly set fires, smashed windows and threw fireworkers at police officers to protest  Yiannopoulos's invite.

Those in the mainstream left tend to shun Antifa because they deem their tactics counter-productive and are wary of Antifa's violent methods.

Does it have a hierarchy or a headquarters?

No. The Daily Dot reports that Antifa has no official leader or structure, so a local chapter will reach out to other Antifa-linked groups through their committment to fighting sexism, racism and classism. Groups affiliated with Antifa are popping up in almost every major American city, Daily Dot reports.

Time describes the Antifa movement as "loose and informal", showing up in graffiti in colleges and online forums.

Antifa's genesis

According to the BBC, Antifa seems to have its roots in the US, UK and Germany.  Germany's  Antifaschistische Aktion was formed in 1932 to counter the popularity of the Nazi party. However, they  were disbanded in 1933 after Hitler took control of parliament.

Antifa reformed in the 1980s after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Trump's election seems to have sparked a resurgence for thee movement.


Published Date: Aug 16, 2017 11:15 am | Updated Date: Aug 16, 2017 11:15 am


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