Anti-fascist groups, or “Antifa,” are a subset of the anarchist movement and focus on issues involving racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, as well as other perceived injustices.
Self-described Antifa groups have been established across the United States and in several major cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. A majority of New Jersey-based anarchist groups are affiliated with the Antifa movement and are opposed to “fascism,” racism, and law enforcement. Antifa groups coordinate regionally and have participated in protests in New York City and Philadelphia. There are three loosely organized chapters in New Jersey, known as the North Jersey Antifa, the South Jersey Antifa, and the HubCity Antifa New Brunswick (Middlesex County).
In December 2016, a group known as the Antifascist Action-Nebraska engaged in a doxing campaign against a prominent member of American Vanguard, a white supremacist organization. The group published his personal information on several social media platforms and posted fliers on the University of Nebraska Omaha campus, calling for his expulsion.
On March 28, a small fight occurred between Antifa members and supporters of the US President during a rally in Seaside Heights (Ocean County). Because of advance publicity about the event on social media, local and state law enforcement officers were able to keep altercations to a minimum.
ANTIFA: INCITING VIOLENCE TOWARD FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS
Violent confrontations between Antifa members and white supremacists—as well as militia groups—will likely continue because of ideological differences and Antifa’s ability to organize on social media. In the past year, Antifa groups have become active across the United States, employing a variety of methods to disrupt demonstrations.
On April 18, following the Patriots Day Free Speech Rally in Berkeley, California—which turned violent—an Antifa member wrote, “Every Nazi that gets punched is a victory. . . . We must realize that these days are going to become more and more common, unless we put a nail in this coffin once and for all.” On March 29, as a response to an Antifa post on social media, a national militia group wrote in an online article, “Whenever their kind [Antifa] assumes power, individual freedom, including of speech and worship, is brutally suppressed.”
Beginning in March, the Philadelphia Antifa Chapter used Facebook to encourage followers to disrupt a “Make America Great Again” event in Philadelphia, resulting in over 300 participants. Antifa’s presence resulted in law enforcement shutting down the event early for safety concerns. As of May, a manual on how to form an Antifa group—posted on a well-known Anarchist website in February—had approximately 13,500 views.
On February 1, the University of California Berkeley canceled a controversial speaker’s appearance following a protest by approximately 100 Antifa members. In response, far-right extremists assembled at a free-speech rally, which Antifa members disrupted, resulting in 10 arrests and seven injuries. Additionally, on April 15, Antifa and far-right extremists clashed at a demonstration, leading to 23 arrests and 11 injuries.
RECENT ANARCHIST AND WHITE SUPREMACIST CONFRONTATIONS
On February 11, members of the 211 Crew/211 Bootboys, a white supremacist gang, allegedly attacked two brothers at a New York City bar after seeing a “New York City anti-fascist sticker” on the back of one of the victim’s cellphones, according to New York authorities.
In June 2016, 300 counter-protesters, including anarchist extremists, attacked 25 members of the white supremacist Traditionalist Worker Party with knives, bottles, bricks, and concrete from a construction site while rallying at the California State Capitol in Sacramento, injuring 10.
Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as “antifa” had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by POLITICO.
Since well before the Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly, DHS has been issuing warnings about the growing likelihood of lethal violence between the left-wing anarchists and right-wing white supremacist and nationalist groups.
Previously unreported documents disclose that by April 2016, authorities believed that “anarchist extremists” were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets. They were blamed by authorities for attacks on the police, government and political institutions, along with symbols of “the capitalist system,” racism, social injustice and fascism, according to a confidential 2016 joint intelligence assessment by DHS and the FBI.
After President Donald Trump’s election in November, the antifa activists locked onto another target — his supporters, especially those from white supremacist and nationalist groups suddenly turning out in droves to hail his victory, support crackdowns on immigrants and Muslims and to protest efforts to remove symbols of the Confederacy.
Those reports appear to bolster Trump’s insistence that extremists on the left bore some blame for the clashes in Charlottesville and represent a “problem” nationally. But they also reflect the extent that his own political movement has spurred the violent backlash.
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In interviews, law enforcement authorities made clear that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and policies — first as a candidate and then as president — helped to create a situation that has escalated so quickly and extensively that they do not have a handle on it.
“It was in that period [as the Trump campaign emerged] that we really became aware of them,” said one senior law enforcement official tracking domestic extremists in a state that has become a front line in clashes between the groups. “These antifa guys were showing up with weapons, shields and bike helmets and just beating the shit out of people. … They’re using Molotov cocktails, they’re starting fires, they’re throwing bombs and smashing windows.”
Almost immediately, the right-wing targets of the antifa attacks began fighting back, bringing more and larger weapons and launching unprovoked attacks of their own, the documents and interviews show. And the extremists on both sides have been using the confrontations, especially since Charlottesville, to recruit unprecedented numbers of new members, raise money and threaten more confrontations, they say.
“Everybody is wondering, 'What are we gonna do? How are we gonna deal with this?'” said the senior state law enforcement official. “Every time they have one of these protests where both sides are bringing guns, there are sphincters tightening in my world. Emotions get high, and fingers get twitchy on the trigger.”
Even before Charlottesville, dozens and, in some cases, hundreds of people on both sides showed up at events in Texas, California, Oregon and elsewhere, carrying weapons and looking for a fight. In the Texas capital of Austin, armed antifa protesters attacked Trump supporters and white groups at several recent rallies, and then swarmed police in a successful effort to stop them from making arrests.
California has become another battleground, with violent confrontations in Berkeley, Sacramento and Orange County leading to numerous injuries. And antifa counter-protesters initiated attacks in two previous clashes in Charlottesville, according to the law enforcement reports and interviews.
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Rallies are scheduled over the next few months across the country, including in Texas, Oregon, Missouri and Florida. Authorities are particularly concerned about those in states where virtually anyone, including activists under investigation for instigating violence, can brandish assault rifles in public.
Tensions have gotten so heated that after activists traded accusations after Charlottesville, a rumor circulated online that antifa would try and shut down the massive Sturgis, South Dakota, motorcycle rally because there were too many Confederate flags and Trump signs. It wasn’t true, but it prompted an outpouring of pleas by attendees for anti-fascists to come so they could assault them. One displayed a “Sturgis Survival Kit” for potential antifa protesters, complete with a tourniquet, morphine, body cast and defibrillator.
“Both the racists and a segment of violent antifa counter-protestors are amped for battle in an escalating arms race, where police departments are outmaneuvered, resulting in increasingly violent dangerous confrontations,” said former New York City police officer Brian Levin, who has been monitoring domestic militants for 31 years, now at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “It’s an orchestrated dance. The rallies spill over into social media and then even more people show up at the next rally primed for violent confrontation.”
In recent decades, authorities have focused almost exclusively on right-wing groups as the most likely instigators of domestic terrorist violence, especially since Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people.
More recently, the antifa groups, which some describe as the Anti-Fascist Action Network, have evolved out of the leftist anti-government groups like “Black bloc,” protesters clad in black and wearing masks that caused violence at events like the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests. They claim to have no leader and no hierarchy, but authorities following them believe they are organized via decentralized networks of cells that coordinate with each other. Often, they spend weeks planning for violence at upcoming events, according to the April 2016 DHS and FBI report entitled “Baseline Comparison of US and Foreign Anarchist Extremist Movements.”
Some of the antifa activists have gone overseas to train and fight with fellow anarchist organizations, including two Turkey-based groups fighting the Islamic State, according to interviews and internet postings.
In their April 2016 assessment, the DHS and FBI said the anarchist groups would likely become more lethal if “fascist, nationalist, racist or anti-immigrant parties obtain greater prominence or local political power in the United States, leading to anti-racist violent backlash from anarchist extremists.”
The assessment also said the anarchist groups could become more aggressive if they seek to “retaliate violently to a violent act by a white supremacist extremist or group,” they acquire more powerful weapons or they obtain the financial means to travel abroad and learn more violent tactics.
Several state law enforcement officials said that all of those accelerating factors have come to pass. And recent FBI and DHS reports confirm they are actively monitoring “conduct deemed potentially suspicious and indicative of terrorist activity” by antifa groups.
But one of the internal assessments acknowledged several significant “intelligence gaps,” including an inability to penetrate the groups’ “diffuse and decentralized organizational structure,” which made it difficult for law enforcement to identify violent groups and individuals. Authorities also “lack information to identify the travel patterns linking U.S. and foreign anarchist extremists,” the assessment said.
The two agencies also said in their April 2016 assessment that many of the activities the groups engaged in “are not within the purview of FBI and DHS collection” due to civil liberties and privacy protections, including participating in training camps, holding meetings and communicating online.
In another assessment this past August, DHS warned about the potential for unprecedented violence at Charlottesville. The agency also acknowledged gaps in its understanding of antifa, saying it had only “medium confidence” in its assessments regarding both the affiliations among the various groups and the motivation of attackers.
Said one senior New Jersey law enforcement official following the antifa groups: “There’s a lot more we don’t know about these groups than what we do know about them.”
Sources for this article include:
StevieRay Hansen Investigative Reporter for SrhNews.com and HNewsWire.com
Tags Politics Tagged Under: Tags: Anarchist Extremists, Antifa,Anti-fascist groups, anti-American, End Times,Birth Pains, Anti-Christ
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