Violence and Restraint within Antifa: A View from the United States

Nigel Copsey, Samuel Merrill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In recent months recurrent calls have been made by conservative right-wing politicians to designate Antifa a “domestic terrorist organization” in the United States. Fixated on the spectacle of its Black Bloc tactics they have equated Antifa, what is essentially an ad-hoc, non-hierarchical, geographically dispersed social movement comprised of local autonomous activist groups, with organized violent extremists. And yet, the evidence for such an equation has been mostly limited to a handful of instances that usually bare the hallmarks of political exaggeration or are alternatively attributable to individuals loosely associated with the Antifa movement. Why is this so? How do militant anti-fascists in the US understand violence and exercise restraint in their use of it? This article seeks an answer to these questions based on interviews with activists from Portland’s Rose City Antifa, one of the United States’ most well-known Antifa groups, and an analysis of a collection of the group’s Tweets. It reveals that Antifa exercises considerable restraint, internally and externally, with regards to both the literal and rhetorical use of violence within its street and digital activism. In turn it calls upon others to exercise reciprocal levels of restraint by ceasing their labelling of Antifa as a “domestic terrorist” organization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-138
JournalPerspectives on Terrorism
Volume14
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

This research was funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) under ESRC Award [ES/N009614/1]. The authors would like to thank Professor Paul Thomas for comments on an earlier draft, and the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions

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