OPINION: Armed response to fake “antifa” post more of a danger to community than any anti-fascist

As many Camas families prepared to attend peaceful rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement last week — rallies that were, by the way, spearheaded by a small, thoughtful group of Camas High School students — other forces in this community were preparing for another type of “rally.”

A reader alerted the Post-Record to a Facebook post of a Washougal man, which read “Call to arms possible!!!!!!! Antifia may hit Camas this afternoon. I’m grabbing my sidearm and a shotgun and headed to town. Word came from credible source. Who’s available? Strength in numbers!!!!!!!!!”

Beneath the man’s Facebook post was a shared Twitter image from a group calling itself “ANTIFA America,” which read: “Tonight’s the night, Comrades. Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas.… the white hoods… and we take what’s ours.” 

Below the Washougal resident’s Facebook post, a photo of four white men holding weapons — two of them in camouflage, two wearing sunglasses at night — in the middle of downtown Camas with the original poster stating, “We’ll need to save our city’s if they come” below the photo. 

The reader who first alerted us to this post commented that they “want to live in a safe community without threats of violence.” 

We wholeheartedly agree. And there is no doubt that far-right elements who insist they are “protecting their cities” by dressing up in military-light gear and heading down to take on the “scary antifa” are more likely to cause violence than any rally organized by a bunch of high school students and attended by families with small children and local clergy members. 

We know it likely won’t change the minds of the original poster of the Facebook post mentioned above — or any of his like-minded friends — but here are some facts about that “ANTIFA America” post the Washougal man shared on his Facebook post: 

The post was a fake: The post was not from any group connected to the movement known loosely as “antifa,” which stands for anti-fascists. Instead, it was created by a white nationalist group that used to be known as Identity Evropa but recently changed its name to the “American Identity Movement.” 

The post violated Twitter’s “platform manipulation” policy: Twitter actually suspended the group from its platform on May 31 for posting the fake tweet, but the post had already circulated widely by that point. 

The post wanted to incite violence: For anyone who doubts that Identify Evropa/American Identify Movement (IE/AIM) wanted the fake “ANTIFA America” post to incite violence, we suggest you read up on the group’s history.
Here is how the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — an anti-hate group founded in 1913 as a response to the anti-Semitism and bigotry that has a mission of protecting Jewish people and “securing justice and fair treatment for all” — describes Identity Evropa: “A now-defunct white supremicist group that started in 2016 as one of the most active groups of the alt-right segment of the white supremacist movement” with a “brand of white supremacy … rife with racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.”

Although the group’s leader rebranded IE as AIM in 2019, the ADL reports that he also invited all of the former IE members to join AIM and that “for all practical purposes, AIM is essentially Identity Evropa with a new name and logo.”   

The post seems to have achieved its mission in many places: Reports of armed gangs of mostly white men described by one NBC News report on a would-be-comical-if-it-wasn’t-so-dangerous “anti-antifa” event in Klamath Falls, Oregon, as wearing “military fatigues and bulletproof vests, with blue bands tied around their arms” and carrying everything from hammers and axes to guns. 

“They said they came with shotguns, rifles and pistols to protect their downtown businesses from outsiders,” the NBC News reporter wrote. “They had heard that antifa, paid by billionaire philanthropist George Soros, were being bused in from neighboring cities, hellbent on razing their idyllic town.”

A Klamath Falls man, one of the town’s few black male residents, said the armed men’s presence felt “like walking through an enemy war camp.” 

And then there was the story about a multi-racial family trying to camp in Forks, Washington, last week, when a group of people surrounded them to ask if they were “antifa.” The family said they were simply camping, but the wannabe vigilantes apparently didn’t believe them. News reports say the family told deputies that people carrying “what appeared to be semi-automatic rifles” followed them as they drove toward their campsite. After hearing gunshots, the family decided they’d better get out of Forks. But the vigilantes had allegedly felled trees across the road leading out of their campsite to block them in.

“The family called 911 for help. Four local high school students used a chainsaw to help clear the road for the family,” the Oregonian reported last week. “Deputies arrived and escorted the family out. The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.”

Far-right violence is a greater concern at Black Lives Matter protests: The cries over antifa coming from the far-right, including from our own president, seem to be a simple diversion tactic designed to avert our eyes from the far-right’s actual violence at peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. As Business Insider recently put it: “The GOP’s claim that antifa is infiltrating George Floyd protests is a right-wing ‘bogeyman’ that bears all the hallmarks of a domestic disinformation campaign.”

In fact, National Public Radio (NPR) this week points out that, of the 51 people facing federal charges connected to the protests, none of them have links to antifa. 

The single instance in which an extremist group is mentioned in court documents is a case against three Nevada men. Federal prosecutors allege the trio belong to the right-wing Boogaloo movement that wants to bring about a civil war. The men have been charged with plotting violence during Las Vegas protests,” NPR reporter Ryan Lucas wrote on Tuesday, June 9. 

We’ve seen several instances of far-right violence at peaceful protests and rallies, including one instance in Virginia where a self-professed Klu Klux Klan (KKK) leader drove his vehicle into a crowd of peaceful protesters last weekend. 

In fact, far-right extremism is growing at an astounding rate in this country. In 2019, the New York Times reported that far-right groups had killed as many people as Islamist terrorists in the U.S. since 9/11 and that violence from the far-right is increasing. 

And while our nation’s right-wing leaders continue to push “antifa,” a non-organization not linked to any murders or extremist acts of violence at recent protests, the FBI is reporting just the opposite in internal memos: According to a June 2 article in The Nation, the FBI’s Washington Field Office has concluded it has “no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence”  in the May 31 protests held in Washington, D.C. 

These folks have no idea what “antifa” even means: Unlike what Donald Trump and company would have us believe, the entity loosely known as “antifa” is not a “terrorist organization,” but rather a leaderless movement with roots in the 1920s and 1930s movements fighting fascist regimes throughout Europe. 

Nowadays, folks who identify as antifa generally say they oppose neo-Nazis, fascism in all its forms, white supremacy and racism. Some of those identifying as antifa have called for more violent methods of fighting fascism, such as physically engaging in fights with white nationalist or white supremacists groups. 

They are not a terrorist organization coming to a small town near you to terrorize white suburban families, no matter what you might read on some guy’s Facebook post. 

To learn more about antifa, we suggest the following resources: 

The New Yorker: “An Intimate History of Antifa” (Aug. 27, 2017)

The Conversation: “What — or who — is antifa?” (June 9, 2020)

BBC Radio’s “Seriously …” podcast: “Seven Things You Need to Know About Antifa”

Rolling Stone: “Antifa and the Alt-Left: Everything You Need to Know” (Aug. 18, 2017)

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