In this week’s Hate Report: A handy primer on the anti-fascist movement; the Ku Klu Klan’s imprint on Charlottesville, Virginia; and what happened to business owners who gave to white supremacist David Duke.
August is the month that “antifa” – shorthand for the anti-fascist movement – became a household name. The opaque group gained prominence as the foil to white supremacists and an obsession of right-wing media, all the way up to President Donald Trump.
According to Google Trends, queries about the oft-misunderstood movement spiked more than tenfold in August, in the wake of deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a heated demonstration in Berkeley, California.
We began diving deep into the antifa movement earlier this summer and on Tuesday published a story looking at its tactics and motivation. We learned that the San Francisco Bay Area antifa had formed an alliance with more mainstream left-wing activists to provide protection for local counterprotests in the wake of the Charlottesville.
But its members also are going on the offensive. The Bay Area antifa has created a Rapid Response Team – named for Heather Heyer, the young activist who died in Charlottesville – to search out, confront and, if necessary, beat up alt-right protest organizers. This core cell of the antifa has plans to hunt down “Nazis” – a catch-all term the group uses for not just white supremacists, but also right-wing activists who support or give a platform to racists.
“We’ll go to their house, I’ll put it that way. We’ll go to their house,” one antifa activist said.
We’d like to think our story is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand this growing movement and its justification for shutting down speech and resorting to violence if necessary.
And we’ve put together a list of three more stories you shouldn’t miss if you want to get up to speed on the antifa.
The story claims that law enforcement officials have been warning the federal government about antifa’s increasingly violent tactics since at least early 2016. The movement has been spurred on by Trump’s election, the story says.
The money quote:
“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.”
This story was published in March, but it’s still the best thing we’ve read about Jenkins, who recently was dubbed the “self-appointed spokesman” of the antifa. To understand Jenkins is to understand that while the antifa as a movement recently has made headlines, the work of anti-fascists in America has been going on for decades. Jenkins specializes in “doxxing” white supremacists and neo-Nazis – finding out who they are and publishing their personal information for all to see.
The money quote:
He goes after the people trying to remain anonymous. “I don’t care about (white supremacist) Richard Spencer,” he says. “I care about the guy shaking his hand. So I’ll take his picture and figure out who he is.”
- An intimate history of antifa (The New Yorker)
This piece looks at “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” a recently published book by Mark Bray that does a great job detailing the movement’s growth in the U.S. and giving historical context to the antifa’s resurgence. Read the book if you want to learn even more, but give this summation a quick read if you want the highlights.
The money quote:
Historian Mark Bray presents the Battle of Cable Street as a potent symbol of how to stop Fascism: a strong, unified coalition outnumbered and humiliated Fascists to such an extent that their movement fizzled. For many members of contemporary anti-Fascist groups, the incident remains central to their mythology, a kind of North Star in the fight against Fascism and white supremacy across Europe and, increasingly, the United States. According to Bray, Antifa (pronounced an-TEE-fah) “can variously be described as a kind of ideology, an identity, a tendency or milieu, or an activity of self-defense.” It’s a leaderless, horizontal movement whose roots lie in various leftist causes – Communism, anarchism, Socialism, anti-racism.
Who’s talking about the antifa?
To get a sense of just how much Fox News has focused on the antifa, we reached out to SnapStream, a company that builds software to monitor television broadcasts. SnapStream found that on Aug. 30, Fox News mentioned the word “antifa” 63 times on nine different shows. The following day, the channel had 54 mentions on eight shows.
Greg Gutfeld, a host on Fox’s “The Five,” for example, slammed the group as a violent gang no better than the white supremacists and far-right agitators its members have shown up in public to protest.
“The antifa is the new KKK (Ku Klux Klan) – those are (the) only two groups I can think of that wear masks besides kids on Halloween,” Gutfeld said. “They go after, they attack people, and they know they are doing wrong, which is why they wear the masks. If they were doing something right, they wouldn’t wear the masks like the KKK. They are the antifa KKK, let’s call them that.”
This obsession with the antifa was echoed in corners of the internet populated by the extreme right. Between Sunday and Wednesday morning, Reddit’s pro-Trump community, r/the_donald, mentioned the word “antifa” in post titles at least 161 times. Over that period, “antifa” was mentioned in over 1,500 posts on 4chan’s alt-right /pol/.
When the KKK came to Charlottesville
In a trove of private chat logs leading up to the Charlottesville protest, the event’s leaders said KKK members were welcome to attend as long as they didn’t come in their full robe-and-hood regalia. The goal was to remove the most overtly off-putting symbols of white supremacist violence to endear the group’s efforts to the white conservative mainstream.
However, with or without the hoods, the KKK left a lasting imprint on the rally.
Days after the event, the American Civil Liberties Union released a video showing a white man apparently yelling, “Hey, nigger,” and firing a gun toward anti-racist demonstrators near police.
The man wasn’t apprehended at the time. But he later was identified as Richard Preston, the imperial wizard of the Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was charged with a felony for discharge of a firearm within 1,000 feet of school grounds.
Before he was identified, Preston gave an interview with a Fort Wayne, Indiana, news station insisting that the event was peaceful until counterprotesters instigated violence.
“We didn’t go as the Klan, we didn’t go there to create havoc and fight. We went there to protect a monument,” he said, noting that the event’s original purpose was to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
But the leaked Charlottesville chats showed the Unite the Right rally’s goal was to intentionally antagonize counterprotesters into violence so they could look reasonable by comparison.
Reminder: Political donations are public record
A pair of businesses have shuttered following revelations that their owners donated money to bolster the political ambitions of former KKK grand wizard David Duke.
O’mei Szechuan Chinese Restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, closed its doors when it became public that owner Roger Grigsby had donated $500 to Duke’s 2016 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana.
Grigsby, who also donated to Trump’s presidential campaign, said he closed the restaurant after receiving a flood of rage from community members and having many of his employees resign in protest.
“They spread the gossip, they spread it as if it’s truth. All the things they called me: white supremacist, neo-Nazi, KKK – it’s all bullshit,” Grigsby told The Mercury News of San Jose.
Grigsby added that he believes Duke is misunderstood. “He is defending the civil rights of European-Americans, whites, defending them from attacks against them,” he said.
Prior to its closure, O’mei had operated in Santa Cruz for nearly four decades.
The Minneapolis bar Club Jäger also closed its doors when Minneapolis City Pages reported its owner, Julius De Roma, had given $500 to Duke’s Senate bid. Following those revelations, Club Jäger experienced a mass exodus of talent, as employees quit and artists scheduled to perform at the venue canceled bookings en masse. Some of the bar’s employees said they were subject to street harassment and had been spit on in public.
Rob Callahan, who hosted a weekly trivia night at the bar, told City Pages that a staff meeting called soon after the article’s publication was a particularly intense experience.
“Half the people were in tears, and the other half were pretty much punching walls,” he said.
On the other end of the spectrum, hundreds of eateries have joined a coalition to fight hate.
The Sanctuary Restaurants movement is a voluntary program in which business owners can display placards indicating their establishments are hate-free zones for people of all races, genders, religions and immigration statuses. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the group that founded the program, also trains owners and managers to practice what they preach.
Launched early this year, the effort has 387 restaurants on board across the country.
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