What is Antifa?

Anti Fascist Action

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President a few years back, those on the left have held his rhetoric responsible for the rise of the “alt-right” and the normalization of white supremacist organizations in America.  It’s hard to argue with that fact; two years ago I couldn’t name anyone associated with the white supremacist movement. Sitting here today, names like “Richard Spencer,” “Augustus Invictus,” “Chris Cantwell,” and asian television personality – “Tila Tequila” all come to mind when I think of modern white supremacists. While not everyone associated with the alt-right is a racist, it seems as though many members of the movement are comfortable moving within those social circles, which doesn’t help their public perception.  

While the “alt-right” has been emboldened by the Trump Administration, so have those on the far-left end of the spectrum.The actions, and perception, of the Trump Administration have led to a steady rise in Antifa. The purpose of the far-left organization is to rid the world of “fascists” be any means necessary, even violence. In the mainstream media, “Antifa” are often referred to as “protesters.”

Militant leftists didn’t greet white supremacists in Charlottesville, “protesters” did.

Far left extremists didn’t protest Ann Coulter’s appearance at Cal-Berkeley; “protesters” did.

Radicals didn’t stop Republicans from marching at a Portland parade under threat of violence; “a group of protesters” did.

Their historical aim is to fight fascism, but recently the group defines fascism as anyone they disagree with. Actual fascism if much worse.

What is Fascism?

fascism.jpg

 

Fascism is a political ideology that dominated many parts of central, eastern, and southern Europe in the early to mid 1900’s.  Generally, fascism is a  radical form of authoritarian-nationalism, characterized by a dictator and suppression of opposition. Historian Mark Bray defines Fascism as:

“a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

The most famous name in Fascism is former best friend of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini.

In 1922 Mussolini was named Prime Minister of Italy.  Two years later, in 1924, he named himself dictator.

Fascist Italian Propoganda One

Fascist propaganda under Mussolini



Millions of fellow citizens meanwhile concluded that, if not the man to finish what the great work of national unification had begun, Mussolini was at least a lesser evil.

In 1924, there was a near-meltdown when Fascists murdered Giacomo Matteotti, a Socialist parliamentarian. Bosworth surmises that he was about to blow the whistle on hanky-panky with a U.S. oil company.

Mussolini rode out the crisis by declaring himself dictator. He then kept regular office hours and maintained an ostentatiously clean desk. By the 1930s, membership in the party approached 5 million, and membership in one or another Fascist affiliate extended to nearly half the population.”

Eventually Mussolini was so loathed the Italians ended up executing him in April of 1945, then dragged his body, along with the bodies of other fascists, to the “Piazzale Loreto” for public display.

Fascism, at its core, values the good of the nation over the good of the individual. It is an ideology that is directly incompatible with liberty. In general, there are 14 characteristics of Fascism, including:

  • Powerful and continuing nationalism
  • Disdain for Human Rights
  • Identification of enemies/Using Scapegoats
  • Strong military

When you read through the characteristics it’s easy to see the overlap between beliefs held by Mussolini and Hitler. You can also see some shared characteristics between white supremacy groups and fascism, and if you, like Antifa, believe that Trump is supporting white supremacy than it is easy to understand why Antifa is calling Trump and his supporters “fascists.”

 

So What is Antifa?

 

Antifa

““Of course we’ll have it (fascism). We’ll have it under the guise of anti-fascism.” – Huey Long

In short, Antifa is a far-left militant group dedicated to fighting “fascism” in the United States and abroad. According to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray, activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people.

This belief means that individuals must take any and all action necessary to stop their enemies; even if it means using violence and intimidation to repress people.

History of Fighting Fascism:

Antifa is hardly a new idea. As long as there has been fascism, there have been people resisting the idea, most groups do so peacefully. The idea of violent resistance to fascism is hardly new, however.  It seems likely that the violent version of modern Antifa protesters has it’s roots in a protest from 1936. After Francisco Franco became Spain’s fascist dictator; people in London protested the British Union of Fascists in the “Battle of Cable Street.” The “Battle of Cable Street” provided a blueprint for future antifascists; a strong, unified front willing to fight can defeat anyone.

The modern term “Antifa” has it’s roots in the “Anti-Fascist Action,” a German anti-fascist movement most popular in Europe during the 1930’s, but saw a spike in popularity again in the 1980’s. The movement gained some momentum with punk rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s, however, the leaders of the movement determined that most American’s weren’t familiar enough with Fascism to take a stand.  For this reason the American counterpart to the “Anti-Fascist Action” that was popular in Europe, went by “Anti-Racist Action.” After all, almost everyone is against racism.

The movement received its most media attention, prior to this year in 2002. During a meeting of white supremacists belonging to “World Church of the Creator” in Pennsylvania, “Anti-Racist Action” protesters showed up. 25 people ended up getting  arrested in the fighting that followed.

How Are They Organized? And What Do They Believe?

What makes Antifa so difficult to understand, and so easy to discredit, is the fact that there is no nationally organized Antifa. Antifa exists as a network of regional affiliates. While they all aim to fight racism, the loose affiliations mean that there is never any official statement. This also means that people (myself included) often fall for fake antifa accounts.  

Antifa free speech

Antifa protester showing his opposition to the first amendment.

Antifa members are anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-Nazi, and anti-capitalism. The Washington Post describes them as a far-left group dedicated to fighting the alt-right. The majority view themselves as communists and socialists (or the seemingly contradictory “anarcho-communist”). Emboldened by the “Battle of Cable Street,” modern Antifa groups relish the opportunity to violently resist anyone they deem as a “fascist,” often resorting to violence while dressed in bandana’s and glasses as a way to conceal their identity.

 

What Have They Done?

The growing problem with Antifa is their inability to distinguish between dissenting idea’s, and fascism. On pro-Antifa website “refusefascism.org,” as part of their “Call To Action!” the author (without including any examples of the Trump/Pence administration of repressing anyone), wrote:

The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law… IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.”

The irony of this sentiment is that Antifa fully supports repressing rights. Remember, according to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray; activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people. Because of this belief, Antifa can justify being against just about anyone. Hell last week Boston Antifa groups hung up posters around the city that would help people identify “fascists.” The symbols included a thin blue line (in support of cops) and anyone with an “Infowars” symbol near them. 

Boston Antifa Hate Symbols.jpg

Hate symbols, according to Boston Antifa

With all that being said, it’s not as though Antifa has been acting with any subtlety. In Portland, Antifa used slingshots to fling human waste at police officers. Last weekend Antifa confronted free speech protesters in Boston, leading to 33 arrests.  And in Charlottesville earlier this month, Antifa confronted white supremacists, resulting in violence and the death of a woman.

Earlier this year they rallied against free speech in Berkeley, CA, when Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak, leading to violence and at least 6 arrests. Protesters claimed they were protesting “bigots trying to normalize hate.” While ignoring the fact that in doing so they were spreading hate and suppressing dissenting points of view (a key element of fascism).

Antifa is the reason Politico called Portland “America’s Most Politically Violent City.”  Antifa sent threatening emails to parade organizers in Portland telling them the parade would end in violence if the Multnomah County Republicans were allowed to have a float in the annual “Avenue of the Roses” parade. In the emails Antifa made it clear that they considered anyone who supported Trump to be a fascist. The parade was then cancelled because of the threat.

How is Antifa Viewed?

In years past, the mainstream left has, condemned the violent actions of those on the fringe left who would be willing to use violence on enemies. While some on the left reject the idea that Antifa is anything other than an organizing strategy, other’s on the left have fully fed into the hyperbole that Trump is a fascist.

Over at “The Nation,” Frida Berrigan exclaims we’re living in a fascist society under Trump, explaining that with Trump in the White House, the end of life in America is upon us.  Osita Nwanevu, at “Slate,”  posted a video praising protesters who took violent action against the despicable white supremacist Richard Spencer.  While this week over at CNN, Sara Ganim and Chris Welch profiled antifa with the original headline “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists Seek Peace Through Violence.” After a few hours of bad press, the headline was changed.

CNN Antifa.jpg

This is why it’s hard to take CNN seriously.

This week opponents of Antifa received the necessary number of signatures needed on a petition to trigger a mandatory response from the White House. The petition called on the Trump Administration to label Antifa as a terrorist organization. While Noam Chomsky, one of the most cited academics in history, and a massive liberal, called Antifa a “major gift to the right.”

 

The Impact of Antifa?

 

It’s difficult to comprehend what, if any, impact “Antifa” will have on American society moving forward.  Even though membership and notoriety has soared in response to Trump, “Antifa” still makes up an exceptionally small percentage of the left.  With that said, 18 months ago we would have said the same thing in regards to the alt-right.

Overall Antifa is a loose network of regional affiliates who fight a political ideology that calls for suppression, by attempting to suppress those that they feel are trying to suppress others. The danger presented by Antifa is their casual acceptance of violence, and willingness to suppress individual rights.

 

Advertisements

Minneapolis Police Kill Bride To Be

Justine Damond.jpg

 

Around midnight on Saturday, Justine Damond was fatally shot by Minneapolis police officers. The 40 year old Australian woman, who was set to be married next month, called law enforcement to report a possible assault taking place behind her home.  Instead of investigating the assault, the responding officers killed her.

Justine Damond became the 661st person to be killed by a police officer in the United States this year, the shooting is alarming especially considering it happened less than a month after a different Minneapolis police officer was acquitted of the murder of Philando Castile.  

What makes this crime particularly suspicious is that the two police officers didn’t have their body camera’s turned on, which in and of itself  is illegal in Minnesota. Last May,  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation requiring that all law enforcement officials have their body cameras turned on while on duty.  Furthermore, the video camera in the police cruiser suspiciously didn’t pick up any video footage of the event.

According to reports:

Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.”

The incident is unfortunate, and all too common. The number of people killed by law enforcement officials is at its highest in at least 2 decades, and we have gotten to the point where people legitimately have to think twice before reporting a violent crime.

The militarization of law enforcement, combined with legislation meant to give police even more power seems to ignore the problem. The powerful police unions who spend millions of dollars a year lobbying for more legal protection and financing encourage violence.  If we are going to see a dramatic reduction in police violence, than government officials need to demand accountability, instead, they’re doing the exact opposite.

It Costs Money To Infringe on Your Rights

 

June is a great month for many reasons, least of which is because it marks the time of year when the Supreme Court issues decisions on the cases they heard earlier in the year. While cases like Murr v. Wisconsin and Gill v. Whitford made waves this past month, headlines like  the disappointing Philando Castile verdict, and the “Back the Blue Act” have the chance to further enhance police power. The expansion of the “police state” is nothing new, and reminds me of an interesting Supreme Court case from last June; Utah v. Strieff.

In that case, Utah detective Douglas Fackrell suspected that a Salt Lake City residence may be selling drugs, so he decided to monitor the property. One day, Fackrell saw Edward Strieff leaving the residence. Seeing the opportunity he had been waiting for, Fackrell stopped Strieff for questioning.  During that questioning, Fackrell discovered that there was an arrest warrant out for Strieff, so he searched him without obtaining a warrant. Upon that search, they found some meth, and arrested him.

Lower courts found that even though the initial questioning was illegal, the evidence discovered during the stop still could be used at trial because it was proof of a crime, the Utah Supreme Court disagreed. The Utah Supreme Court ruled that the evidence found during the stop needed to be suppressed in court since the search of Edward Strieff violated the fourth amendment, therefore any evidence found during the stop should be ruled inadmissible.

The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, where the justices had to decide if evidence obtained during an illegal search is enough to arrest someone on an outstanding arrest warrant. In a 5-3 decision, SCOTUS sided with law enforcement. In his 5-3 majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that evidence obtained during the violation of your fourth amendment rights should not be excluded if the “costs of its conclusion outweigh the benefits.” 

Essentially, what this means is when a valid warrant is discovered after an unconstitutional stop, the connection between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence incident to a lawful arrest based on the warrant is sufficient. The ruling essentially nullifies the fourth amendment.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan both wrote dissenting opinions, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg joining in for parts of both. In Sotomayor’s dissent, she recognizes just how much power law enforcement wields in this country;

“Although many Americans have been stopped for speeding or jaywalking, few may realize how degrading a stop can be when the officer is looking for more”

It’s incredibly easy to get pulled over for speeding, only to have an ambitious law enforcement official “discover” some minor issue that would result in an arrest.  While most law enforcement officials are good men and women, the general public needs to be able to hold the small minority accountable for their actions. With the Strieff ruling, Sotomayor points out, the Supreme Court has given law enforcement a great deal of power;

“This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants — so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact.”

“By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time”

“It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

Sotomayor makes an incredibly valid point, it has become increasingly clear that the “Prison Industrial Complex,” has gained enough power that even though crime has dropped 40% in the last 20 years there are currently over 2.5 million people in jail.  

The prison population isn’t just exorbitant, it is incredibly expensive.  At a cost of $30,619.85 per federal inmate, per year, it seems a bit irresponsible to lock up nearly 188,000 people, of which nearly 95,000 are serving time for ridiculous drug offenses.

The cost per inmate is much higher in major cities. In New York City, for example, it costs $167,731 to incarcerate one person for a year. With 8.5 million people in NYC, that means each resident of NYC is spending $242.46 a year to lock up residents, and that number is based off of population alone. If you only count taxpayers, that cost per person would be much higher. And while $243/year seems like a small price to pay to lock up rapists and murderers, is that money really worth locking up an 18 year old with an ounce of pot?

Even if you don’t necessarily care about  other people, you have to realize that if you’re paying $243 a year to lock someone, what other government programs are recklessly spending money? Maybe you’re spending $20 a year to ensure that kids have the necessary permits to cut their neighbors grass, or $80 a year subsidizing research for a corporation owned by billionaires.  At some point in time society needs to realize that the government bleeds taxpayer dollars.

When you combine the overwhelming power of law enforcement, with a large amount of bureaucracy and a crackdown on victim-less crimes, criminal justice reform is necessary to not only wrestle back control of our civil liberties, but to  help save our economy as well.

Tyranny and Police Power: The “Back to Blue” Act

 

Criminal justice reform, and the militarization of the police, has been a hot-button issue for the last few years; groups like “Black Lives Matters” have been calling for “criminal justice reform” to become a more important issue in Washington DC.  While Senators like Rand Paul and Cory Booker are crossing party lines to introduce bi-partisan legislation, others are looking to strengthen police power.

 

Senator Cornyn’s legislation would make it nearly impossible to hold police accountable for their actions.

On May 16th Senator John Cornyn, Republican Senator from Texas, introduced the “Back the Blue Act of 2017,” which was co-sponsored by 15 other Republican Senators, while his colleague Representative Ted Poe, also a Texas Republican, introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives.  The bill grossly expands police power nationwide, and, as South Carolina attorney Robert Phillips states “essentially ends all police liability” in this country.  But it does so much more than that.  

Sections 2-4 make it a federal crime to kill, conspire to kill, attempt to kill, or assault any law enforcement officer, judge, or first responder whose agency receives federal funding. State and local law enforcement officials, who receive a large portion of their funding from the federal government, are covered by this legislation.

What Does that Mean?

“Back the Blue” would make any action against law enforcement a federal crime. Reducing local power.

Currently, crimes against law enforcement officials are covered by state and local law.  This means that if you kill a cop in Philadelphia, you are subject to whatever crimes the state of Pennsylvania can charge you with. Currently, the state of Pennsylvania has the death penalty, so killing a cop can be a capital offense, however, Larry Krasner, a Philadelphia Civil Rights Attorney running for District Attorney, has stated he will never seek the death penalty. So let’s say a man kills a police officer in Philadelphia, new DA Larry Krasner has refused to seek the death penalty.  If this angered the Attorney General’s office, they can now seek to add federal crimes against the defendant and seek the death penalty for themselves.

More importantly, however, this means that a defendant could theoretically be in a situation where he faces “double jeopardy.”

if convicted this movie is shown on a loop in your jail-cell

Take Henry Magee, for example. On December 19th, 2013, Magee shot and killed a police officer in Texas as the officer served a “no-knock” warrant.  On 2/7/2014 a Texas grand jury agreed with Magee’s lawyer, who said Magee thought he was being robbed and acted in self-defense.  In this scenario, although Henry Magee was acquitted of a crime, a “law and order” type US Attorney General could then re-file federal charges against Magee, making him stand trial again, in fact, the bill actually encourages federal action, in this scenario;

“the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence” or “a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.”

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Sections 2-4 also make it a federal offense to “assault” a law enforcement officer.  That means, if you and your buddies are out at the bar one night, and an officer tries to arrest you for being drunk in public, and you knock him down, you could face federal prosecution where the mandatory minimum sentence you can receive would be two years. 

Section 5

Section 5 makes it even more difficult to recover damages from law enforcement officials and agencies for violating your rights.  

As it currently stands, it is already incredibly difficult to recover damages from law enforcement officials due to something called “qualified immunity.”  Qualified immunity says that if a law enforcement officer violates your civil rights, than you can sue them, but that power has been limited by the Supreme Court.  SCOTUS said you can only sue law enforcement if what he did violated a “clearly established legal right” which is incredibly vague, and it has to be really, really obvious. In Malley v. Briggs the court determined that law enforcement was not liable in  “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”

So if it’s already difficult to sue the police, how can section 5 of this legislation make it worse?

“incurred in the course of, or as a result of, or . . . related to, conduct by the injured party that, more likely than not, constituted a felony or a crime of violence . . . (including any deprivation in the course of arrest or apprehension for, or the investigation, prosecution, or adjudication of, such an offense).”

This means that even if you could win your civil case against a police officer, they are only liable for “out of pocket” expenses.  This means that if you die during an arrest, those responsible only have to cover your funeral, no matter how unjust the killing was.  

The “Back the Blue Act,” if it passes and is signed into law, will grossly undermine a State’s ability to maintain their sovereignty, while absolving police of almost all accountability for their actions.  If passed, it is exceptionally likely that victims of police brutality will never see appropriate action taken against the perpetrators, and it will create federal criminals out of thousands of people.