In August 2019, a masked and body-armor-wearing Antifa supporter brought a .223 rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition to Ned Peppers Bar, a nightspot in the Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio. It was shortly after midnight and not long before closing. Patrons were gathered outside the restaurant on the sidewalk.
The gunman first fatally shot his sister and her companion, then proceeded to fire on the crowd at large, killing nine patrons and wounding 27. “I’m going to hell and I’m not coming back,” wrote Connor Betts on his social media account before the killing. “I want socialism. And I will not wait for the idiots to finally come round to understanding.” Though most of the mainstream media ignored Betts’ affiliation with the radical leftist group Antifa, it did not go unnoticed by the New York Post.
With an article by Andy Ngo, the Post ran this attention-grabbing headline:
Dayton shooter Connor Betts may be Antifa’s first mass killer
Ngo wrote, “His case … makes clear that Antifa’s violence goes far beyond the street hooliganism it has become infamous for. The group espouses the belief that liberal democracy is irredeemably oppressive — fascistic, even — and must be thoroughly destroyed.”1
Andy Ngo knows all about the violence being perpetrated against conservatives by Antifa. In July he was attacked and beaten by Antifa members while covering a protest in Portland, Ore. Ngo was hospitalized with bruises, cuts and scratches. He even suffered a brain injury. As if that wasn’t enough, his attackers also robbed him.
“The most serious injury to me was my brain in the course of the mob beating,” he told The Hill. “So going forward I will be having various forms of neurophysical therapy and speech therapy to address some of the neurological challenges that I’ll be having.”2
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The name Antifa is a contraction of “anti-fascist.” The first Antifa group was formed in Germany in 1932, where it was known as “Antifaschistische Aktion” or Anti-fascist Action. At the time, it was involved with the Communist Party of Germany. The group operated on the assumption that the Nazi party would never have come to power if there had been more aggressive opposition in the streets in the 1920s and ’30s.
Following the collapse of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, the group went mostly dormant. It would not become publicly visible again until the 1970s and ’80s, and especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, when neo-Nazism began gaining significant strength in Germany. Antifa also became visible in America during that time period, forming as a group called Anti-Racist Action (ARA).
The name highlights how controversy surrounding racism in America, brought into the public eye by the speeches and demonstrations led by Dr. Martin Luther King, gave Antifa a cause upon which to piggyback in the United States. The group knew that it could not gain supporters in America by opposing neo-Nazism (which barely existed in the U.S.), but racism could serve as a valuable recruiting tool to draw supporters to its socialist and anti-capitalist causes.
During the decades that followed, Antifa would broaden its outreach program to recruit anyone opposed to conservative politics or traditional Biblical values. By the time Antifa became a household name after the inauguration of President Donald Trump in 2017, the group held the position that anyone opposed to same-sex marriage, unfettered illegal immigration, abortion, socialism, gender-fluidity or government-funded healthcare and “free” college tuition was a white supremacist, fascist, Nazi or a hatemonger.
Antifa organizer Scott Crow told CNN: “The idea in Antifa is that we go where they [right-wingers] go. That hate speech is not free speech. And so we go to cause conflict, to shut them down where they are, because we don’t believe that Nazis or fascists of any stripe should have a mouthpiece.”3
Antifa Makes American Headlines
I was aware of Antifa years before they made national headlines in America, shortly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. I met them three years earlier, as did our film crew, during our filming of Europe’s Last Stand, a documentary that detailed the aggressive rise of Islam in Western Europe.
At every demonstration opposing the Islamic infiltration of Western Europe, Antifa members by the hundreds would show up as counter-protesters. They would always outnumber demonstrators, would wear masks, and would shout epithets like “Nazi scumbags” at the anti-Islamic-takeover demonstrators. Antifa members would also throw rocks, fireworks and trash cans at those they opposed, physically beating those they could get their hands on.
At most rallies police managed to keep the competing demonstrators apart, though this was not always the case. We met them in France, England and Demark. Some members allowed us to interview them. Every Antifa member we put on camera took the position that discrimination, in any form and for any reason, was a display of fascism and Nazism. They also agreed that violence was a justifiable means to combat “fascism,” anywhere and everywhere.
It came as no surprise, then, when on January 20, 2017, the day of President Trump’s inauguration, Antifa formally introduced themselves to the American people by causing an outbreak of violence in the nation’s capital. Six police officers were injured, with one taken to the hospital. Some 217 protesters were arrested, many of them for throwing bricks and rocks, smashing windows, setting fire to trash cans and destroying a limousine. The incident caused more than $100,000 in damage in Washington, D.C. The nation’s capital was not alone in the Antifa violence of that day. Riots also broke out in New York City, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and Portland. The Antifa protesters shouted, “Nazis go home,” and “No Nazi USA.”
One Antifa member explained the purpose of the mayhem. It was to display opposition to President Trump’s “sexism, Islamophobia, his bigotry and nationalism.”4
Six Antifa members would go on trial. A lawyer for Oliver Harris, one of the men arrested, told the jury, “These folks were engaged in protected speech.” Apparently the jury agreed, acquitting all six.5
Antifa: Who are they?
Most Antifa members are relatively young, between 20 and 29 years of age. During our undercover investigation into a branch in Pennsylvania, we discovered the majority of Antifa members were homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or “gender-fluid.” Typical Antifa members live at home with their parents, go to college and communicate with fellow members and leaders through cellphone encrypted-messaging apps like Signal.
There is no known top-down command structure to Antifa. The organization does not have a national headquarters, an official spokesman or even a known bank account. That does not mean, however, that Antifa lacks funding, organization or communications. There are approximately 200 groups in the United States that either claim to be Antifa or show up in support of Antifa-led demonstrations.
Left-wing Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros has been linked to the funding of Antifa. Researcher and author Matthew Vadum said Soros gave $100,000 to the Alliance for Global Justice, which in turn gave $50,000 to Refuse Fascism, an Antifa group that formed shortly after President Trump’s election.6
Still, little is known about Antifa’s national funding, though local groups often raise money through website donations, online social campaigns, silent auctions and special events. Funding aside, Antifa has been tremendously successful at captivating America’s attention, especially among those in the media, academic and political circles and law enforcement. Almost all of that attention has grown from their unashamed and unapologetic embrace of violence, destruction and obstruction.
On the lighter side (if there is a lighter side to this malevolence), Antifa will use human bodies to block major highways in an effort to send a threatening message. In 2018, when Antifa blocked highway traffic in downtown Portland, Ore., it almost started a riot. “Protesters started a riot in downtown Portland,” tweeted videographer Brandon Farley after 100 Antifa members not only blocked traffic but struck people’s car windows, attacked a man in a wheelchair and called another driver a “little white supremacist” because he had North Carolina license plates.7
“Go back to North Carolina! We don’t need your KKK,” the North Carolinian was told.
In a campaign called “The Nightmare Must End: The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!” Antifa members blocked heavily traveled Highway 101 in California to publicize an upcoming November, 2018 event. The staged demonstration took place on Sept. 26, 2018, with eight Antifa activists standing in the middle of the highway for 20 minutes during rush hour to hold up signs reading, “Nov 4 It Begins.”
Antifa has proven itself to be more about violent confrontations than blocking traffic, however. This was made abundantly clear during a violent protest at the University of California at Berkeley on Feb. 1, 2017. Nearly 150 Antifa supporters participated in a demonstration against the school to shut down a scheduled speech by high-profile Trump supporter Milo Yiannopoulous. Just as they did during the violence at Trump’s inauguration, Antifa set fires on the streets and smashed windows, causing over $100,000 in damage to the university. The police took a “hands-off” approach and made only one arrest (for a minor “failure to disperse” offense).
Most importantly, Antifa achieved its goal: UC Berkeley canceled Yiannopoulous’ speaking engagement that night. The Berkeley riot has come to encapsulate, define and demonstrate the strength and essence of Antifa. Antifa is less about promoting its own message and more about using violence and intimidation to silence messages with which they disagree. The group’s goal is quite literally to shut down free speech.
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said on Fox & Friends, “They are a anti-First Amendment, ultra-violent terror group that wants to silence people’s free speech.”8
Clubs, Rocks, Molotov Cocktails
Antifa is less successful when it organizes demonstrations that try to advance a political message. Members tend to shy away from such rallies, the media presence is typically small and even liberal politicians keep a noticeable distance.
The “strength” of Antifa is not in promoting their own radical socialist agenda, but rather in their demonstrated ability to use counter-protests to shut down opposition views. Virtually every pundit — both liberal and conservative — would agree that Antifa’s Nov. 4, 2018 “nationwide rally” to topple the Trump/Pence “regime” was a miserable failure, with very few members showing up at designated rallying points.
The main problem with that event — for Antifa — was that there was no one to club over the head, spit on, throw things at, threaten, insult or belittle. With no visible enemy in sight at the rallying points, the event simply fizzled. Antifa activists are not interested in simply holding placards and shouting for change. They want to swing those placards at human heads. This is why the name Antifa and “black bloc” are often synonymous.
“Black bloc” is a tactic in which a group’s protesters dress in black while wearing ski masks, scarves, motorcycle helmets or other protective headgear. The main purpose is to protect themselves from injury and conceal their identities from the police. “We’re covered in black so when we attack these guys we can’t be prosecuted,” Jon Crowley, an Antifa member, said in an interview with the Boston Herald.9
Beyond the black clothing and protective gear, Antifa will show up at rallies with clubs, bricks, homemade slingshots, chains and Molotov cocktails. They have also been known to throw feces and urine at opponents. Because Antifa paints everyone who disagrees with their politics as either Nazi or fascist, it has become easy for them to embolden and inspire their members to carry out acts of violence against their perceived enemies.
One high-profile Antifa member explained it this way to The Hill, a newspaper and website that covers the daily dealings of Congress: “The justification for the use of violence is that Nazi ideology at its very core is founded on violence and on wielding power by any means,” said Mike Isaacson, one of the founders of Smash Racism D.C., an antifa organization in Washington. “There is the question of whether these people should feel safe organizing as Nazis in public, and I don’t think they should,” Isaacson said.10
That is, label your opponents as some of the worst criminals in recorded history, then proceed to practice violent vigilante justice against them. Targets of Antifa’s violence have been mainstream conservatives, white supremacist groups, neo-Nazis, Trump supporters, Trump’s White House staff and its employees and even conservative talk-show hosts, all lumped together.
Beyond targeting individuals and groups whom they label as Nazis, Antifa also targets government institutions they consider “racist,” such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE. Sixty-nine-year-old Willem Van Spronsen left a manifesto to his friends claiming, “I am Antifa,” before he left for an ICE detention center in Tacoma, Wash. on July 13, 2019. In Spronsen’s manifesto, posted just before he left his home armed with a rifle and incendiary devices, he said he wanted to take action “against the forces of evil.”11
Once he arrived at the Northwest Detention Center at around 4 a.m., Spronsen started throwing his incendiary devices and attempted to burn buildings. He set vehicles on fire and tried to ignite a propane tank. He even blew up his own car, which his daughter had loaned to him. When police arrived they shot and killed him. After his death, an Antifa group praised Spronsen. Seattle Antifascist Action called him “a good friend” who “gave his life to the struggle against fascism.”
Fear and Intimidation to Silence Conservative Free Speech
Of all the political objectives on Antifa’s docket, none is more threatening than their determination to silence conservative free speech. Because Antifa labels all conservative speech as hate speech, Antifa members feel they have just cause to employ threats of violence, and actual violence, to shut down conservative speakers and events.
The Berkeley riots proved the effectiveness of that strategy when Antifa managed to compel the university — through violence — to cancel the speech of Milo Yiannopoulous. It is Antifa’s modus operandi to make conservatives feel scared for their lives if they hold a public speech or event, or even appear on a public television or radio program. And now they know it works.
In November 2018, some 20 protesters descended on the D.C. home of Fox News talk show host Tucker Carlson. Carlson was at work at the time, but his wife was home alone. Antifa members pounded on the front door, shouting, “We will fight. We know where you sleep at night.”12
The out-of-control group of radicals banged tambourines, waved posters, shouted through a megaphone and chanted “racist scumbag, leave town.” Carlson’s wife, Susie, was so scared she locked herself up in a pantry closet. “They were threatening me and my family and telling me to leave my own neighborhood in the city that I grew up in,” Carlson would say.13
In another incident, in Pitman, N.J., Antifa managed to get a conservative conference shut down by threatening to set the venue on fire and burn those attending alive. In August 2019 a group called Minds of New Jersey wanted to host a 20-speaker conference to talk about “racism, violence and authoritarianism.” Antifa declared that the speakers were “well-known fascists and their sympathizers.”14
To stop the event, Antifa not only hijacked and held hostage the Twitter account of the hosting venue, the Broadway Theatre, but also told management that they were considering “locking them in and lighting a fire.” As a result of the threat, the conference was canceled.
Threats have also been directed at conservative Christians. Not long after a professor at Iowa’s Kirkwood Community College, Jeff Klinzman, told local media, “I affirm that I am Antifa,” it was learned that he had previously written about Evangelical Christians: “Kill them all, and bury them deep into the ground.”15
Antifa: A Terrorist Organization
As a result of Antifa’s violence against individuals and institutions, and the expressed intent to harm people with whom they disagree, some politicians are now demanding that the group be declared a domestic terrorist organization. President Trump said, “Antifa, in my opinion, is a terrorist organization. You see what they’ve been doing.”16
He also Tweeted in July 2019, “Consideration is being given to declaring ANTIFA, the gutless Radical Left Wack Jobs who go around hitting (only non-fighters) people over the heads with baseball bats, a major Organization of Terror (along with MS-13 & others). Would make it easier for police to do their job!”17
Legislation in both the Senate (Sen. Res. 279)18 and in the House (H.R. 4003)19has been introduced that would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization and impose heavy fines and imprisonment for Antifa-related violence. Sen. Ted Cruz told The Daily Caller: “Violence and the threat of violence for political ends isn’t right, and the fact that 36 ANTIFA protesters were arrested — including nine for assault and battery on a police officer and five for carrying or assault with a dangerous weapon — is yet another indication that ANTIFA is an active domestic terrorist organization.”20
- New York Post
- The Hill
- Seurth, Jessica (August 14, 2017). “What is Antifa?”. CNN.
- George Soros donated $50,000 in 2004 and $50,000 in 2006 to Alliance for Global Justice. Source
- Daily Caller
- Boston Herald
- The Hill
- Buzz Feed
- FOX5 DC
- Daily Signal
- H.R. 4003
- Daily Caller