Why are we talking about antifa, again? President Trump tweeted on Sunday that “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” He is apparently attempting to pin the violent protests and looting that have taken place in cities across the country on one group. But since we’re on the topic of antifa, we’ll try to explain what it is.
What is antifa? It is short for “anti-fascist.” In practice, it means fairly aggressive far-left-wing activists, who in recent years have gathered to oppose far-right groups, and who tend to protest against authoritarianism, homophobia, racism, and xenophobia. Antifa is less an actual group than a loose term for a movement.
How do you pronounce it? an-TEE-fa
Is antifa violent? Many do not condone violence, but some condone violence as self-defense, which has been widely criticized. Antifa groups have been known to physically confront white supremacists and alt-right protesters and speakers, often with disruptive behavior aiming to cancel or ruin their events. However, Antifa’s militancy and violence is not equivalent to that of alt-right groups such as neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Despite this, antifa is often presented as an equivalent (including in Trump’s tweet), and for well over 50 years this has been used by far-right leaders to justify crackdowns.
What does antifa have to do with George Floyd? Not that much. George Floyd died in Minneapolis last week after a police officer—since charged with third-degree murder—pinned him on the ground with his knee. The incident, caught on video, sparked a wave of protests that were initially peaceful but quickly turned destructive. A number of protesters have, in fact, spoken out against the violence and looting.
Can President Trump declare antifa a terrorist group? No. The U.S. can only declare foreign groups to be terrorist organizations.
Is antifa responsible for the current looting and violence? Right now, there is a lot of confusion, conflicting accounts, misinformation, and finger-pointing on social media and elsewhere. More details about looters’ actual identities will surely emerge in the coming weeks as arrested people face charges.
What can I do? This is an excellent time to amplify marginalized voices: retweet, share, etc. You can also donate to these peaceful groups.
What if I want to learn more about antifa? Here’s a roundup of further reading: