Understanding Antifa and the George Floyd Protests

Key takeaways

Antifa is not

  • An organization or group
  • A presence at the protests
  • Coming to your town on a bus.

Antifa is

  • An ideology committed to fighting back against violent fascist extremists
  • Willing to clash and fight, but not with guns or other deadly weapons.

1. What is Antifa?

Antifa stands for anti-fascist. It is an ideology committed to countering fascism, especially by counter-protesting where neo-nazis and other racist, fascist extremists gather. They claim to be willing to engage — and have — with verbal and physical assaults against fascists.

2. Is Antifa a well-funded organization?

Antifa isn’t an organization at all. Unlike protest groups like BlackLivesMatter which is an actual organization or any number of extremist neo-nazi or neo-confederate groups that have actual leaders and hierarchies. Antifa, therefore isn’t funded at all. It doesn’t have a bank account or a financial structure.

3. What role has Antifa played in the George Floyd protests?

None. While it is a common right-wing talking point that anarchists and Antifa is behind violent riots, there is absolutely no documentary evidence that any Antifa have participated, let alone been violent. We have been searching and reaching out to various news outlets and monitors and while the rumors are many the evidence is non-existent.

NPR reviewed court documents of 51 people facing federal charges in connection with the protests. As of June 9th, none is alleged to have links to the antifa movement.

We looked hard for any credible reports of antifa activity and could not find any. We found rumors, but not a single police report, journalist report or citizen documentation.

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4. Antifa are not armed, they are not packing into busses and they are not coming for you.

There have been persistent rumors in multiple states that this is happening. It isn’t true. There are no busses, and Antifa do not carry arms. When they engage, it’s hand to hand, with an occasional rock or water bottle thrown into the mix.

This rumor has been seen in Illinois, Oregon, Idaho, California and elsewhere. In some cases locals have banded together with militias to protect themselves. Some believe they have frightened the invaders away. But there is not one tiny bit of evidence that there was ever a threat to begin with.

We understand these rumors seem compelling and very scary — but that’s why they persist. People want to blame left-wing extremists for the protests instead of overwhelming support for Black Lives Matter. They want you to think they are violent. Most of the violence has been police initiated. These rumors are compelling enough that even some law enforcement have warned people of them, saying they do not know if they are true.

5. Is Antifa a new thing?

No. Antifa began as an idea in the early 20th century in Europe. As fascism rose, anti-fascism rose, though it took different forms. In the US, Antifa has been a loose affiliation of like-minded people. The right tends to use Antifa as a catch-all phrase meaning leftist extremists.

6. Is Antifa a terrorist group?

No one has ever killed anyone in U.S. in the name of Antifa, or threatened innocent people for political purposes. The definition of a terrorist group is a bit vague, and there’s no official definition of a domestic terror group. But Antifa isn’t an organization or group. They aren’t armed, and they only threaten Fascists who are threatening others. In short, no. They do not act like terrorists.

They have shown up as protesters, and counter-protesters. People who identify as Antifa have been responsible for vandalism and property damage, and some assaults against extremists at rallies — none inflicting critical injuries. They have been known to “dox” or publish identifying information about members of neo-nazi or other fascist groups.

References

If you’d like to fact check this piece or learn more about these topics, these are the references we used to put this explainer together.

BBC: Seven things you need to know about Antifa

The New Yorker: An Intimate History of Antifa

Anti-Defamation League: Who are Antifa?

AP: False claims of antifa protesters plague small U.S. cities

Business Insider: FBI ‘has no intelligence’ indicating antifa was linked to weekend violence in the George Floyd protests, despite Trump and Republicans’ claims

NPR: No Sign Of Antifa So Far In Justice Department Cases Brought Over Unrest

Atlanta Journal Constitution: FBI finds no evidence of Antifa’s involvement in national unrest

The Guardian: Rightwing vigilantes on armed patrol after fake rumours of antifa threat

The New York Times: Many Claim Extremists Are Sparking Protest Violence. But Which Extremists?

Wikipedia: Notable Antifa actions

The Anti-Fascist Handbook (Note — this is long history of Antifa with a lot of philosophy. It has an obvious sympathy with Antifa, but describes them as largely non-violent, although willing to engage when provoked. Their intent is to respond to fascists who intimidate people through violence by being similarly intimidating in response.)