“ Police have received information that some of the milkshakes thrown today during the demonstration contained quick-drying cement” - PORTLAND OREGON POLICE DEPT.
Welcome to American politics where milkshakes are now weaponized.
I have to admit I don’t know much about “Antifa”. They seem a subject of interest on my friend’s facebook pages - which in Alabama is largely informed by Fox News. But who are they, where are they, and what are they trying to accomplish ? Regardless of whether you hate them you have to give them credit for confronting a bunch of alt-right guys called the Proud Boys with milkshakes.
I can’t believe I just wrote … milkshakes are weaponized. Antifa (pronounced an-tee-fah) in short stands for “anti-fascist”. Daniel Penny wrote a article for the New Yorker a few years ago, followed by a piece in the The Atlantic by Peter Beinart describing the rise of the “violent left”. Both required reading for those seeking to understand the movement. I found Antifa has fascinating historical UK roots in the Battle of Cable street that helped cement British resolve against Hitler and Mussolini that led to the iron-willed resistance by Churchill saving England in World War Two.
“On October 4, 1936, tens of thousands of Zionists, Socialists, Irish dockworkers, Communists, anarchists, and various outraged residents of London’s East End gathered to prevent Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists from marching through their neighborhood. This clash would eventually be known as the Battle of Cable Street: protesters formed a blockade and beat back some three thousand Fascist Black Shirts and six thousand police officers. To stop the march, the protesters exploded homemade bombs, threw marbles at the feet of police horses, and turned over a burning lorry. They rained down a fusillade of projectiles on the marchers and the police attempting to protect them: rocks, brickbats, shaken-up lemonade bottles, and the contents of chamber pots. Mosley and his men were forced to retreat.”
The Proud Boys should be thankful they were spared the chamber pot.
After reading about these guys I am wondering what does Antifa see themselves as being, and is the threat they perceive as real as they think. Antifa is best described as an ideology, an identity, that is actively involved in self-defense. Per Bray in his book about Antifa, “It’s a leaderless, horizontal movement whose roots lie in various leftist causes—Communism, anarchism, Socialism, anti-racism.” And obviously anti-fascist. Antifa’s defining moment in the U.S. has been at Charlottesville VA. when alt-right and white supremicist groups converged in a well planned “unite the right” rally and then murdered Heather Heyer in a car attack where protestors were targeted by James Fields. Multiple clergy who attended the rally credited Antifa members in preventing their deaths something not often reported.
Charlottesville seems to partially vindicate Antifa’s hard line approach. Its difficult to imagine a way to deal with the hate groups, especially when police were willing to let them protest. That may not seem to matter much but the white supremacy groups were going to unite as one movement in a place called Emancipation Park. The park was built originally exhibiting a statute of Confederate Genral Robert E. Lee and his horse “Traveler” and named Market Street Park. But in 2017 it was renamed to honor freed slaves and the city council voted to remove ther statue. This controversy made it a focal point for the Unite the Right rally. Filled with mostly black clergy and students as the groups approached, Antifa stepped in protected the entrance and beat the alt right groups savagely with night sticks and peppered them with balloons filled with chemicals until they retreated.
Penny writes about the The Anti-Facist Handbook, “Bray notes that state-based protections failed in Italy and Germany, where Fascists were able to take over governments through legal rather than revolutionary means—much as the alt-right frames its activities as a defense of free speech, Fascists were able to spread their ideology under the aegis of liberal tolerance. Antifa does not abide by John Milton’s dictum that, “in a free and open encounter,” truthful ideas will prevail. “After Auschwitz and Treblinka,” Bray writes, “anti-fascists committed themselves to fighting to the death the ability of organized Nazis to say anything.”
This is how Antifa sees themselves, a continuation of those who stood against the rise of Hitler and european facism but having learned the lessons of inaction and determined not to repeat it. Then the key being they are fighting to suppress the ability of the alt-right and white supremicists to say anything. That extends to those who give them a voice or platform. This in part explains the attack on Andy Ngo in the video above which creates a conflict in what they are defending. But that is the part about Antifa mainstream media ignores. The movement has a mission, and to avoid rights being taken away and oppression to take root, they argue rights must be taken away or suppressed by those who are using it for their agenda. In sense this makes me think of the classic Hitler arguement; do we kill Hitler when he was younger, knowing what was to come ? Most say yes. But who determies what is not known? Antifa’s argument is smiliar, it claims ity knows the outcome of facists and white supremacists, and it is true their intentions have been made clear.
No one can say white supremacists, or for that matter black supremacists (if there is such a thing) or supremacists of any stripe want a inclusive and democratic society.
Antifa’s agenda is freedom and equality for all ultimately but that means taking away the freedom of those who seek to use it to oppress it. This implies a moral judgement and thats the rub about Antifa. They makes no bones about it they are suppressing the ability of the alt right to have an audience and will act aggressively towards those who give them a voice like Ngo. This, of course, leads to a lot of characterizations about them (like Trump) but if they are not viewed in a historical context it doesn’t make sense to those unfamiliar. Trump made the comment “they were fine people on both sides of the conflict” regarding Charlottesville. No Mr. President there are not “fine people” in the alt-right movement who think its appropriate to promote white supremacy in a park established to honor freedom from slavery. In fairness Trump likely repeated what a senior advisor told him, hopefully that individual is banished from access at this point.
But is Antifa suppressing free speech ? Yes of course, but….this they believe is necessary, as the far right and white supremacy groups are using this freedom to harm those they feel superior to. Antifa simply says no, we will stop it with force and meet you in the streets and humiliate you in the public eye.
They do this by giving the white supremacists and alt right groups more violence than they are prepared to accept and make them pay the public price of being humiliated. Thus denying them a public platform to show strength instead they become victims and look weak which denies them a desired public image of strentgh. The best example of this is how previously popular spokesman Richard Spencer got punched in the face.
Spencer who had been given a role of spokesperson for the movement became a poster boy for what symbolized weakness with a simple smack in the face by a Antifa member. Instead of people listening to what he had to say in the interview by the Atlantic below, millions watched this video over and over of him being punched and laughed.
Are these people domestic terrorists as President Trump describes or are they brave defenders of democracy ?
They certainly have made the Proud Boys a little less proud at the moment with just milkshakes, albeit weaponized with liquid cement which resulted in the boys having to shave off their hair, eyebrows and beards they famously wear and look like idiots. Or as Antifa said at the confrontation in Portland, “you want to be skinheads we will make you skinheads.”
And so they did…with chocolate milkshakes and quick drying cement.