President Donald Trump has signalled the US government’s readiness to designate the Antifa movement as a terrorist organisation in a move that makes the group illegal on US territory.
Here’s a closer look at what POTUS described as an anarchist-led movement that he said was “quickly shut down” by the US National Guard amid the ongoing protests in major American cities over the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last week.
The history of Antifa, which is short for anti-fascist, dates back to the 1980s, when a group called Anti-Racist Action confronted neo-Nazi skinheads at punk gigs in the US Midwest and beyond, according to Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.
WATCH as these members of ANTIFA get caught collecting bricks to deface the city of Charlotte in the wake of a protest.pic.twitter.com/jfVcf7FPfF— Students For Trump (@TrumpStudents) June 1, 2020
Apart from neo-Nazis and neo-fascism, the movement, which doesn't have an official leader or headquarters, is opposed to white supremacists and racism and it was reportedly mostly dormant until Donald Trump became the US president in 2016.
Unnamed representatives of Antifa groups in Oregon were cited by the BBC as saying that they are seeking to build "a movement that really insulates us from” POTUS’ policies.
"It's not just resisting the federal administration but also resisting moves that can lead to fascism, and those happen locally whether from local officials or from local alt-right movements”, an Antifa source told the news outlet.
The movement’s tactics include chanting and forming human chains during protest actions to block right-wing demonstrators, as well as online monitoring of right-wing groups on social media; sometimes, Antifa activists release personal information about their opponents on the Internet in what is known as “doxxing”.
During rallies and protest marches, the most extreme Antifa factions reportedly carry bricks, chains, knives and pepper spray, even though the movement’s sources told the BBC that they denounce the use of weapons by such factions. According to them, Antifa members resorting to the use of force can be seen as sort of self-defence.
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, for his part, remains sceptical about Antifa’s non-reliance on violence.
"What they're trying to do now is not only become prominent through violence at these high-profile rallies, but also to reach out through small meetings and through social networking to cultivate disenfranchised progressives who heretofore were peaceful”, Levin was quoted by ABC News as saying.
In January 2017, Antifa members protested Trump’s inauguration and later that year, they confronted a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia and a separate high-profile right-wing event at the University of California, Berkeley.
Men in Black?
It remains to add that Antifa supporters are often clad in black and that they sometimes cover their faces with masks or helmets to avoid being identified by opposing groups or the police.
The movement includes a substantial number of women who reportedly perceive the current US administration as being anti-female, citing Washington’s policy on abortion rights, affordable health care, and immigration.
Trump has, meanwhile, pointed the finger at Antifa over "violence and vandalism" across the US, which he claimed is “being led” by the movement and “other radical left-wing groups who are terrorising the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses, and burning down buildings”.