What Does Antifa Do? The Movement Is Being Criticized For Its Tactics

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has largely been blamed on the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched throughout the city holding hateful signs and chanting bigotry. The driver of the car who killed one counter-protestor and injured 19 reportedly had ties to hate groups. But those on the far-right are pointing the finger in another direction, toward the Antifa movement, a group that was also reportedly present in Charlottesville.

Antifa, which stands for anti-fascist, was blamed by some on the right, including Richard Spencer of having attacked the alt-right protestors. The group sees itself as a defender against fascism and racism, and saw its start during the 1930s in Europe. After World War II, the group hasn't had much to protest, but now that President Donald Trump has come to power, and white nationalists feel freer to hold such rallies, they have come out in force, sometimes physical force, to counter that movement.

In Charlottesville, the group participated in a counter-protest according to accounts on Twitter. Jeff Giesea, who is a Trump supporter according to his Twitter profile, posted a video of a wounded alt-right protestor who he claims was attacked by an Antifa member. Rolling Stone's Sarah Posner, did not report witnessing Antifa members attacking the Unite the Right protestors, but she did acknowledge that some "carried sticks and clubs." One Antifa protestor told Posner that they also chanted sayings like, "No hate, no KKK, no fascist USA."

Mother Jones has covered the movement a couple times, and has spoken with people who have plans to respond violently to white supremacists and others on the right who have become emboldened in the era of Trump. "I think a lot of people are now realizing that you can’t be neutral,” one espouser of Antifa beliefs, Jason Sutherlin, told Mother Jones. “A lot of people are suddenly realizing you have to pick a side and go to war.”

One of the first visible actions of the group was on Inauguration Day. There are connections between Antifa and the Disrupt J20 movement. That's the group that tried to disrupt the Inauguration in D.C. Most of their actions were peaceful, but some 200 protestors were arrested for vandalizing and clashing with police, throwing cement blocks, bricks, and more. Others set newspaper boxes and trash cans on fire.

That's one of their first actions, but it likely will not be their last. Sunday in Seattle white supremacists clashed with counter-protestors. Police intervened to keep them from hurting one another. If such protests and counter-protests continue, Antifa will likely reappear, protesting white supremacists again and again.