|Protesters form a human chain near the 5th Police Precinct during a demonstration in Minneapolis on May 30, 2020.Chandan Khanna / AFP - Getty Images|
President Trump had accused far-left organisations, including activists of ANTIFA, of orchestrating violent riots across several cities of United States and accused them of besmirching the memory of George Floyd.
Floyd, aged 46, died on Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, held him down with a knee on his neck though he repeatedly pleaded, "I can't breathe", and "please, I can't breathe".
The police officer has been arrested and charged with three-degree murder and manslaughter.
"The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists. The violence and vandalism is being led by Antifa and other radical left-wing groups who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting business and burning down buildings. The main victims of this horrible, horrible situation are the citizens who live in these once lovely communities," Donald Trump said.
"Radical-left criminals, thugs and others all throughout our country and throughout the world will not be allowed to set communities ablaze. We won't let it happen. It harms those who have the least. And we will be protecting those who have the least," the president had warned.
Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta announced curfews on Saturday in a desperate bid to curb the violent anti-police protests breaking out across the country.
A nighttime curfew was also implemented in Louisville, Kentucky as the United States continues to be rocked by demonstrators angry at the death of a black man during an arrest in Minneapolis on Monday, AFP reported.
Here’s a closer look at Antifa protesters, who have become more visible in the last several years.
What is Antifa?
Antifa is short for anti-fascists. The organization says it does not follow any hierarchy but is backed by autonomous activist groups.
ANTIFA groups also claim to be opposed to ‘neo-Nazis’, ‘Neo-fascism’, ‘white supremacists’ and ‘racism’, but regards law enforcement officers and the state to be among the “oppressors”.
The term is used to define a broad group of people whose political beliefs lean toward the left — often the far left — but do not conform with the Democratic Party platform. The group doesn’t have an official leader or headquarters, although groups in certain states hold regular meetings.
Antifa positions can be hard to define, but many members support oppressed populations and protest the amassing of wealth by corporations and elites. Some employ radical or militant tactics to get their message across.
Scott Crow, a former Antifa organizer, says the “radical ideals” promoted by Antifas are starting to be adopted by liberals. “They would never have looked at (those ideals) before, because they saw us as the enemy as much as the right-wingers.”
The majority of Antifa members don’t fall into a stereotype. Since the election of President Trump, however, most new Antifa members are young voters.
|US President Donald Trump|
|Antifa, meaning "anti-fascist," is a coalition of protesters, left-wing activists and self-described anarchists who seek to physically confront and bring down what they deem as the far right. Trump and his administration have long targeted the group, which has made its presence felt at protests throughout his presidency.|
How did Antifa start?
The exact origins of the group are unknown, but Antifa can be traced to Nazi Germany and Anti-Fascist Action, a militant group founded in the 1980s in the United Kingdom.
Modern-day Antifa members have become more active in making themselves known at public rallies and within the progressive movement, says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism atCalifornia State University, San Bernardino.
“What they’re trying to do now is not only become prominent through violence at these high-profile rallies, but also to reach out through small meetings and through social networking to cultivate disenfranchised progressives who heretofore were peaceful,” Levin said.
Where do they protest?
Members have been spotted at high-profile, right-wing events across the country.
In August 2017 members of the group showed up in Charlottesville, Virginia, to condemn racism and counter protest hundreds of white nationalists opposed to the removal of a Gen. Robert E. Lee statue. The protests turned violent when James Fields, who is not a member of Antifa, plowed his car through a crowd of counter protesters, killing Heather Heyer.
Earlier that year, Antifa protested the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt-right provocateur, at the University of California, Berkeley. They also protested President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
While it can be difficult to distinguish Antifa activists from other protesters, some dress head to toe in black. Members call this the “Black Bloc.”
They also wear masks to hide their identities from the police and whomever they are protesting.
|Facts about Antifa |
ANTIFA - The anti-fascist movement has been making the headlines, but what is it?
|"This is being driven by Antifa," national security adviser Robert O'Brien told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "And they did it in Seattle. They have done it in Portland. They have done it in Berkeley. This is a destructive force of radical — I don't even know if we want to call them leftists. Whatever they are, they're — they're militants who are coming in and burning our cities, and we're going to get to the bottom of it."|
Why are they controversial?
The group is known for causing damage to property during protests. In Berkeley, black-clad protesters wearing masks threw Molotov cocktails and smashed windows at the student union center where the Yiannopoulos event was to be held.
Crow, who was involved with Antifa for almost 30 years, said members use violence as a means of self-defense and they believe property destruction does not equate to violence.
“There is a place for violence. Is that the world that we want to live in? No. Is it the world we want to inhabit? No. Is it the world we want to create? No. But will we push back? Yes,” Crow said.
Levin said Antifa activists feel the need to partake in violence because “they believe that elites are controlling the government and the media. So they need to make a statement head-on against the people who they regard as racist.”
“There’s this ‘It’s going down’ mentality and this ‘Hit them with your boots’ mentality that goes back many decades to confrontations that took place, not only here in the American South, but also in places like Europe,” he added.
White nationalists and other members of the so-called alt-right have denounced members of Antifa, sometimes calling them the “alt-left.” Many white nationalists from the Charlottesville rallies claimed it was the Antifa groups that led the protests to turn violent.
Peter Cvjetanovic, a white nationalistwho attended the Virginia protests, said he believes the far left, including Antifa, are “just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the right wing could ever be.”
“These are people who preach tolerance and love while at the same time threatening people with a different political ideology. We go to our rallies and they harass us and attack us but they held theirs and we ignore them. You don’t see right-wing protests get like this,” Cvjetanovic told CNN affiliate KRNV.
But Crow said the philosophy of Antifa is based on the idea of direct action. “The idea in Antifa is that we go where they (right-wingers) go. That hate speech is not free speech. That if you are endangering people with what you say and the actions that are behind them, then you do not have the right to do that.
“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.”
|US Attorney General William Barr accused American far-left extremist and anarchist groups of using Antifa-like tactics for violent protests which had engulfed the US. |
“The voices of peaceful protest are being hijacked by violent radical elements,” Barr said.
KEY FACTS ABOUT ANTIFA?
Trump and Attorney General William Barr both blamed ‘Antifa’ for violence and property damage at the protests, which have led to looted stores, burning buildings and vehicles and thousands of arrests.
But, as some critics have noted, Antifa, short for anti-fascists, is not an easily-defined group, but a fluid movement consisting of left-wing activists, anarchists and other militant anti-fascist demonstrators.
Some have instead argued that the president’s move is an attempt to crack down harder on protestors more broadly–he has previously threatened to send the US military to intervene in the Minneapolis protests.
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