These highlights are from the Kindle version of Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy by Andy Ngo.
My name began to trend on Twitter across the United States, even though most people had no idea who I was. Even liberal mainstream media outlets like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN could not ignore what happened. In contrast to the narrative Americans had been sold that antifa are merely “anti-fascists,” the video showed a mob of mask-clad extremists beating a journalist in the middle of a major American city with impunity. It confirmed what some had been warning for years: antifa is a violent extremist movement that attacks all kinds of targets under the guise of “anti-fascism.”
Adam Kelly, 37, was hit from behind with an overhead swing by several masked militants as he attempted to help an older man being beaten on the ground next to the Pioneer Courthouse. One of Kelly’s attackers used a baton to strike him on the head. The impact could actually be heard on video. Kelly’s head injury required twenty-five staples to close.
Gage Halupowski, a 24-year-old Portland resident, was convicted and sentenced for the attack against Kelly. To date, he remains one of the very few antifa extremists in the United States sentenced to prison time. Tellingly, antifa groups refer to him as a “political prisoner.”
For whatever reason, the violence on June 29, 2019, in Portland became one of the watershed moments that brought national attention to antifa violence and the left-wing politicians who enabled it despite many people having been victimized before me.
What my mentors failed to see at the time was antifa’s sophisticated strategy to destabilize society using propaganda, radicalization, violence, and even electoral politics. It was always wrong to reduce antifa to a ragtag group of street hooligans. Behind their violence is a plan to destroy the nation-state, America in particular, to bring about a revolution that leads to their vision of utopia. In 2020, the country experienced a taste of this when a relatively small group of committed radicals incited and carried out massive damage to life and property in the name of “anti-racism”.
Hawaii senator Mazie Hirono, one of the highest-level Asian American politicians, cochairs the subcommittee with Senator Cruz. I wrote my remarks hoping she and her Democratic colleagues would understand, even just a little, that antifa are not simply “anti-fascist” as they claim. I cited evidence from court documents, government press releases, law enforcement, and my own research to show that antifa are violent and seeks to destabilize the United States through domestic terrorism. My comments were ignored by the Democrats. Not one asked me any questions or even acknowledged my presence there. Senator Hirono for her part repeated headlines from the Guardian and other leftist sources that erroneously say that antifa have “killed no one.”
By 2020, antifa grew to become a near-household name in the United States following months of street violence and property destruction. President Trump moved to have his administration treat them as a domestic terrorist organization after promising to do so for a year. Predictably, this prompted a new wave of countless reports, op-eds, and essays defending or whitewashing antifa.
Simply put, antifa are an ideology and movement of radical pan-leftist politics whose adherents are mainly militant anarchist communists or collectivist anarchists. A smaller fraction of them are socialists who organize through political groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and others. Labels aside, their defining characteristics are a militant opposition to free markets and the desire to destroy the United States and its institutions, culture, and history. Contrary to what many on the right believe, they are not liberal, though that does not mean they haven’t made inroads in transforming and radicalizing the Democratic Party.
What unites this group of leftists is its opposition to so-called fascism, though importantly, what is defined as fascism is left wide open. This is intentional as it allows antifa to justify all manner of violence and extremism in the name of opposing “fascism.”
Antifa are no longer a fringe group of radicals wreaking havoc in a handful of cities in America. They’ve seen tremendous success through finding fellow travelers in education, journalism, the legal profession, and politics.
On May 6, 2020, Indianapolis police shot and killed 21-year-old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed. That day, Reed recorded a livestream of himself fleeing police in a high-speed car chase. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said they tried to pull him over for reckless driving before he sped off. Reed’s Facebook livestream showed him armed with a distinctive gold-and-black pistol during the chase. At some point, Reed pulled over and continued to run on foot; his gun can be seen tucked under his waistband. After an exchange of fire, Reed was shot dead by a police officer, who is also black.
On Twitter, tweets claiming Reed was unarmed and “murdered in cold blood” went viral. The falsehood was amplified by a network of left-wing influencers with millions of followers, such as teen gun control advocate David Hogg. And per usual, media stories poured fuel on the fire by leaving out key details in news story ledes and printing old photos of Reed rather than recent ones showing him proudly engaging in illegal activities. Even worse, news reports failed to mention that one of his last uploaded videos showed him committing a drive-by shooting with a handgun matching the one he used against police.
For days, demonstrators gathered in Indianapolis to protest law enforcement. Anti-lockdown protesters had been threatened with fines and even jail time by mayors and governors for violating public gathering rules. Yet no one took issue with the massive crowds of people demonstrating in the name of BLM.
The Hennepin County medical examiner found that he died as a result of the “combined effects of… being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system.” There was no evidence found of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation in the county’s autopsy. It was later revealed that Floyd’s blood contained a fatal level of fentanyl.
As businesses were looted throughout the city, rioters surrounded the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct. The mob was so large the mayor gave an evacuation order to the officers trying to defend the station. After they fled in vehicles, the mob promptly stormed the building and set it on fire. Some even made it out with stolen police equipment. For hours, the city burned and citizens experienced what true anarchy and chaos looked like. The state could not or would not protect its citizens, leaving business and property owners in particular to fend for themselves.
In the grand scheme of mass riots, broken windows seem minor, but as noted by the Minneapolis Police affidavit, the act set off a “chain reaction” that led to looting and arson. Think of it as James Wilson and George Kelling’s “broken windows theory” in a different context. Antifa know the effect that smashed windows, breached businesses, and fires have on crowd mentality. Each act serves as blood in the water. It can turn protesters into rioters. That’s why antifa teach this in their literature that is disseminated widely online and in real life.
“Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence,” said New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones in a CBS News interview in June 2020.23 Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for her involvement in the error-laden “1619 Project” in the New York Times Magazine, which argues that America’s true founding is in its enslavement of Africans.
The word “violence” is being systematically remade to conform to their worldview. Looting and arson aren’t violence, they argue. And yet physical violence directed at their opponents is also not violence but rather “self-defense.”
In St. Louis, Missouri, David Dorn, a 77-year-old retired police captain, was killed by looters. In Davenport, Iowa, Italia Marie Kelly, 22, was shot in the back and killed after leaving a protest. Her younger sister recorded an emotional Facebook video blaming protesters for the violence. “A protester shot my sister! A protester!” she cried. “You are so mad at the police that you are hurting everyone else.” After fourteen days of riots, there were at least nineteen dead. Most of the victims were black.
The riots in Minneapolis and other cities in May were also used to set a new precedent, a new normal for America. Anytime there is a police-involved shooting of a black person, no matter the circumstances, the response will be mass violence.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, a former auto-manufacturing center, Jacob Blake was shot by police after fighting with cops in a residential area. He had shrugged off being hit with a taser round and reached inside his vehicle, where there was a knife. This was all caught on camera. Blake, who is black, had a warrant issued for his arrest by the Wisconsin Circuit Court for a felony sex crime and other charges related to domestic abuse. The criminal complaint for that May 2020 incident accuses Blake of raping a woman with his hand in front of her child.41 According to police scanner audio on August 23, officers responded to the same woman’s residence after she called 911 and said Blake was at her home again. Blake’s criminal history also includes assaulting police, resisting arrest, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, and use of a dangerous weapon.42 Even though he survived the shooting, the response was again mass carnage and looting in the streets of Kenosha. Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris later visited Blake and said she was “proud of him.”
Banta wasn’t the only one who traveled around Wisconsin in response to the Jacob Blake shooting. Of the 175 arrested in Kenosha after a week of deadly unrest, 102 had addresses in other cities.
Seattle & CHAZ
Despite the ultraviolence of the Seattle riots, police were prohibited from using the best tool they had for crowd control: CS gas. Also known as tear gas, CS gas is used by law enforcement agencies around the world. As soon as one is exposed to the gas, which is dispersed from canisters, the eyes, nose, throat, and skin experience intense irritation. Through the course of my protest and riot reporting, I have been exposed to it at various times and intensities. I describe the feeling as walking into a plume of pepper. Each breath brings more pain. Fortunately, the extreme discomfort and irritation are temporary—the effects usually clear within about twenty minutes of leaving the area. It is favored by law enforcement because it works extremely well at clearing crowds and has a low chance of actual bodily injury compared to other tools, like batons. But the SPD were now banned from using it.
No longer able to push back the nightly onslaught from black-clad rioters in Capitol Hill and facing pressure from the mayor’s office to pull back, Seattle police boarded up and abandoned the East Precinct. Within hours, militant BLM and antifa protesters declared ownership of most of the neighborhood. They named their new six-block territory the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or CHAZ. (It was later renamed by some as Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or CHOP.) No laws or rules applied here except for one: “No cops allowed.”
Against all logic and reason, CHAZ was allowed by the city to run its course for more than three weeks. It was a large-scale experiment in anarchy, chaos, and brute-force criminality.
When the SPD evacuated from the station on June 8, 2020, masked protesters stole city property—barricades, fencing, and more—to create makeshift barriers. These barriers became the official walls around CHAZ. A movement that has border abolishment at the core of its ideology immediately set up its own border to keep out outsiders.
In many ways, being at CHAZ was like being among jihadists. To each other, they showed a lot of care and camaraderie in the form of mutual aid, and compassion but opponents to their political agenda needed to be destroyed.
As much as CHAZ was an experiment in anarchy and chaos, it was also a successful experiment in propaganda making. What journalists were allowed to record was heavily controlled by the residents there. For example, in one instance a black man carried an American flag through the zone. He was immediately accosted and followed by a large mob, including masked black bloc antifa, who shouted racist invectives at him. “Race traitor! Race traitor” one man yelled repeatedly on a bullhorn. “Fox News will use this,” another person yelled after rioters tried to steal his flag. This became a relatively common refrain in CHAZ anytime fights broke out. CHAZ supporters were not interested in reality. They wanted the media to broadcast to the world a fabricated utopia.
One glaring blind spot in the mainstream media coverage of CHAZ was how the space gave platform to violent extremist ideologies. Reports about CHAZ’s political agenda focused shallowly on “racial justice” and “defunding the police” rather than its explicit calls to kill cops and overthrow the government. Hundreds of graffiti messages and images lined the zone showing dead pigs wearing police hats.
Political groups also moved in to capitalize on the opportunity to recruit new members. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) featured prominently via a booth. The DSA has been given a veneer of mainstream respectability with the popular rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two politicians endorsed by the party. But reading their manifesto makes clear they are traditional socialists with the explicit agenda of “abolishing capitalism.”71 Another group that set up in CHAZ was the Seattle Revolutionary Socialists, who share a similar agenda to the DSA but are more explicit about their regime change ambitions. Tellingly, there was no Democratic Party presence at CHAZ. As leftward as the Democrats have swung in reaction to Trump, the party is still viewed as too moderate for the revolutionaries who want the abolishment of police, capitalism, and the United States itself. They mean it when they chant: “No Trump, no wall. No U.S.A. at all!”
Not only did the city of Seattle refuse to restore order, they actually provided periodic upgrades to CHAZ. On June 16, 2020, the city brought in concrete street blockades that also doubled as graffiti canvases. The city maintained cleaning services, wash stations, and portable toilets for the occupiers. Despite claiming to be an “autonomous zone,” CHAZ was a welfare state parasitizing off Seattle taxpayers.
In the early hours of June 29, 2020, a white Jeep driven by two young teens made the fatal mistake of going inside the autonomous zone. What exactly happened remains unclear because witnesses refuse to cooperate with law enforcement, but security video recorded the sound of a dozen shots being rapidly fired. After a few minutes of silence, another eighteen rounds were fired.
What we know is that a 16-year-old black male was taken from the scene to hospital where he was pronounced dead. A 14-year-old passenger sustained serious injuries but survived. Photos and videos of the aftermath showed grisly details. The vehicle was riddled with bullet holes, allegedly fired by CHAZ’s “security.”
Before the identities of the victims were known, online antifa-sympathetic accounts claimed CHAZ security had “neutralized” a threat from white supremacists.
It later emerged that the victims of the shooting were two unarmed black males. Marty Jackson, a street medic, told an NPR affiliate that CHAZ security shot at the vehicle and that one of the victims was instantly killed from a headshot wound.88 Despite claiming to be a refuge for blacks from white racists, CHAZ ended up with a 100 percent black victim shooting rate.
After four shootings, two homicides, and a growing chorus of anger from residents in the form of a class action lawsuit, Mayor Durkan finally relented and issued an executive order to forcibly dismantle CHAZ.
Within thirty minutes, CHAZ’s three-week siege was finally over. All it took was a police force given the directive to do their jobs effectively.
On July 23, 2020, a large group of antifa marched around the neighborhood carrying bats and pipes.89 After smashing several businesses, they started fires. Journalists who recorded the carnage were threatened. Police were ordered away, and no arrests were made. Despite the violence during and after CHAZ, Seattle’s city council remained sympathetic to antifa. They never condemned the violence against police officers and police buildings.
I asked Mike Solan why police appeared to be letting rioters return week after week, and sometimes day after day, to attack the same areas. His response was blunt: “Our commanders are now hesitant to engage with some of these groups roaming around the city. If we do use force to stop the impending property destruction, SPD will not have the support from our politicians to publicly back us.”
By August 2020, the SPD police chief announced she was resigning. Carmen Best had served as an officer in the city since 1992 and became Seattle’s first black female police chief. But as she said in one of her final press conferences, “I’m done. Can’t do it.” The day prior, city council voted to cut SPD’s budget, including eliminating one hundred positions.
At every step of the way, the Portland City Council demonized its police force, accusing them of racism and brutality. City council members Jo Ann Hardesty and Chloe Eudaly were at the forefront of that effort. They pushed for the Portland Police’s Gun Violence Reduction Team to be dissolved after Floyd’s death, claiming it targeted blacks. The mayor gave his support, and the unit was dismantled. In the following months, shootings and homicides in Portland spiked to the highest levels in decades.
Cyberswarming is the act of calling online followers to a real-life location or event. Antifa traditionally use it to immediately mobilize a crowd against people they perceive to be ideological threats. But in 2020, they were using it to direct people to locations to riot. The YLF released daily meeting locations, tactical plans, and maps on Twitter and Telegram. When they put out a call to meet at the George Washington statue in northeast Portland on June 18, 2020, their followers obliged. That evening, dozens of people lit the 100-year-old bronze statue on fire and used rope to pull it down. At the base of the statue, they wrote “White fragility” and “BLM.” On the toppled statue itself, they spray-painted “1619,” referencing the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project. Instead of repairing the damage, the city removed the statue. By November 2020, far-left rioters in Portland toppled or destroy seven more statues including ones of Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. They also set a downtown museum on fire. No one was ever arrested over the vandalism.
To achieve their goals, antifa use violence. But sustained, effective violence takes organization, planning, and money, in addition to participants. To achieve this, a smorgasbord of ad hoc antifa groups popped up. Describing themselves as “mutual aid” groups, they supplied everything from food and bail money to riot gear and weapons.
Riot Ribs was one of the most successful Portland antifa mutual aid groups during the summer. It raised more than $330,000 but suddenly dissolved overnight in July 2020 and disappeared, along with the money.
Of course, as much money as these mutual aid groups received to provide supplies to rioters, they pale in comparison to how much the Portland General Defense Committee was able to raise on GoFundMe. Similar to the wildly successful Minnesota Freedom Fund, which bails out rioters and those charged with serious crimes like murder, the Portland group pulled in over $1.37 million. The huge flow of cash is used to bail out every rioter arrested, cover their legal expenses, pay for housing and new mobile devices, give donations to other groups, and whatever else they feel like supporting.
What amazed me about the strategic choice of weapons—both purchased and homemade—was how innocuous they looked on camera and to bystanders. For example, one doesn’t necessarily register a water bottle as a dangerous and potentially deadly weapon. However, black bloc rioters froze them to make them hard as rocks. Taking one to the head could lead to a serious brain injury or death.
Chavez is also a prominent member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a legal group with historical ties to the Communist Party. It has chapters across the United States. The organization formally declared its support for antifa and political violence in a statement on its website in 2017: “While many abhor tactics that involve violence, historical evidence shows that direct action has contributed to shutting down fascist movements before they gain too much power or influence.”119 In effect, the NLG is the legal arm of antifa.
The NLG’s executive director, Pooja Gehi, identifies as an anarchist. The organization provides green hat–wearing “legal observers” at left-wing riots and protests. Even before COVID-19, they frequently hid their identities by wearing masks. The volunteers appear to be neutral legal observers, but in fact they are only there to record out-of-context video to use in lawsuits against police or their political opponents. They do not film antifa.
“Antifa seek to force law enforcement into a dilemma action, where there are simply no good responses from a public relations standpoint,” Smith told me via email. “They either fail to respond to antifa harassment and look weak, or react in ways likely to be perceived by the casual observer as an overreaction. Both choices undermine the legitimacy of the state and its security forces.”
All these stories based on antifa talking points were meant to create an impression that Trump had literally sent secret police to disappear left-wing opposition. It was false. Using unmarked vehicles to make targeted arrests is neither illegal nor unusual. Every law enforcement agency around the world uses unmarked vehicles. When officers had attempted the usual route of moving in to physically arrest someone, they were mobbed by rioters who “de-arrested” their comrades by surrounding police and pulling them away.
The photographs of the “Wall of Moms,” dads, and veterans against federal officers were propaganda. The “peaceful protesters” were used as human shields to deter or delay law enforcement from taking action. It was incredibly effective. When officers inevitably responded following hours of assaults and property damage, photographers were ready to capture “moms” being tear gassed. These were the photos published around the world. However, many of the so-called moms were young antifa women who simply put on yellow T-shirts. (Yellow became the color associated with the Wall of Moms.)
One new phenomenon that developed over the weeks of rioting was antifa activists masquerading as press in order to avoid being arrested by police or to get closer to them to throw projectiles. They simply printed out homemade media badges and wrote “press” on their clothing. On multiple occasions, they were seen participating in violence themselves, such as throwing rocks and fireworks at officers or blinding them with flashlights.141 Sometimes they actively provoked the police into arresting them so their comrades could record video and send out tweets about police “targeting” media.
On August 8, 2020, hundreds of BLM-antifa protesters shut down the streets of a residential area in north Portland as they marched to the Portland Police Association building. They shined bright lights into homes and apartments. “Out of your house, into the streets,” the mob shouted to families in their homes. One person who looked disapprovingly out of his window had a large light shined into his home. “We’re gonna burn your building down,” a protester shouted to the man. “We know where you live!” another protester yelled.
From May through August 2020, hundreds had been taken into custody by law enforcement. But the result was the same for almost everyone: the Multnomah County district attorney dropped the charges, even the serious felonies. Assarrah Butler, the accused riot supplier who, in June, sped off in her car, hitting other vehicles, was originally charged with felony riot, felony failure to perform duties of driver to injured person, felony criminal mischief, felony fleeing, reckless driving, and reckless endangering. Every single charge was dropped.
Eleven days into office, Schmidt announced an official policy regarding riot and protest cases in the county. Under his policy, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office preemptively declines to prosecute charges of interfering with an officer, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, escape from law enforcement, and harassment. Felony riot charges are also automatically dropped unless coupled with a charge not already included on the list.
Between May and October 2020, there were nearly a thousand protest- and riot-related cases in Portland referred to the district attorney’s office. Many of the cases involved people who were arrested on numerous occasions. Tracy Lynn Molina, 47, was arrested by Portland Police seven times, for example. Her charges were dropped every time. Of the 978 arrests and citations, over 90 percent were rejected for prosecution. The main reason given? Out of the “interest of justice”—whatever that means.
Since 2016, we have been told over and over by biased media and antifa apologists that antifa is not an organization. We’ve been lied to. While there is no single capital A “Antifa” organization with one leader, there are indeed localized cells and groups with formalized structures and memberships. Though officially leaderless, these are organizations by every definition.
The RCA curriculum is modeled on a university course. Yet it includes training on how to use guns and do reconnaissance against enemies. Unsurprisingly, one of the “guest speakers” is an academic: Portland State geography instructor and writer Alexander Reid Ross. (I contacted Ross for comment. He posted my contact information on his social media and did not respond to my inquiries.)
As a prospective member of RCA, one of Lion’s first tasks was meeting with members at the Coffeehouse-Five café in North Portland for operation security training. There, he was instructed to install VeraCrypt on his laptop. The software is used to encrypt files and digital storage devices. Next, he had to install a list of programs and applications all centered around bypassing surveillance and maintaining anonymity: Tails (an operating system), Tor (for anonymous web browsing), Thunderbird (an email application), KeepassX (a password manager), and Exif (to strip all metadata from files).
RCA is one cell within the Torch Network, a network of connected violent militant antifa groups across the United States. The radicals running the network are officially anonymous, but a search of the site’s domain registrant shows the name Michael Novick. Novick is a former member of the Weather Underground terrorist group.170 There are eight chapters in addition to Portland: Antifa Sacramento, Western North Carolina Antifa, Rocky Mountain Antifa, Atlanta Antifascists, Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective, Antifa Seven Hills (Richmond, Virginia), Central Texas Anti-Racist Action (Austin, Texas), and Northern California Anti-Racist Action.
Security is drilled into the heads of all antifa members and their allies. They’re trained to not trust those around them, including friends and family. They know they are participating in criminal conspiracies and are hypervigilant about hiding their tracks from law enforcement and anyone who might report them.
The two required readings, “An Activist’s Guide to Information Security” by Sprout Distro and “What Is Security Culture?” by CrimethInc, are among the most popular instruction manuals on how to anonymize oneself online.
One text for further study in the unit is Mark Bray’s Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. M. Testa’s popular Militant Antifascism is another recommended reading on the list. This unit is all about theory. It is akin to Muslim Brotherhood radicalization, which involves having members read texts that intellectualize religious extremism and romanticize Islamic law. Likewise, the readings in the RCA antifa unit brainwash members on the failures of liberalism and capitalism and the need to create a new utopian society.
The SPLC has establishment liberal and media legitimacy as an arbiter of “hate groups,” but too often it actually serves to launder antifa’s ideology into the mainstream. For example, groups that hold traditional Christian views meet the threshold for being an SPLC “hate group.”
Idavox is an antifa blog site dedicated to publishing information about accused white racists and “fascists.” It is a project of the American nonprofit One People’s Project (OPP), founded and run by Daryle Lamont Jenkins. Its motto is “Hate has consequences.” I knew of Jenkins from when he organized a protest of my speaking lecture at Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, in late 2019. Think tank Capital Research Center describes the One People’s Project as a nonprofit “arm of antifa” that curates lists of enemies where personal information is published.
Unit six’s readings and indoctrination “competencies” are no different than what are taught in American universities and colleges. Courses on women’s, black, gender, and queer studies all teach students the heuristics of understanding the world and people through a grievance lens. Antifa traditionally did not include critical race theory and intersectionality in its base ideology, but the current manifestation of the movement has been infected, like most institutions in the United States (e.g., academe, government, media, Big Tech, etc.).
Hillary Clinton lost, and those who took to the streets in Portland were not wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats but rather black uniforms. They were antifa. Carrying bats and other melee weapons, antifa militants smashed property in downtown Portland and started fires on the streets. They caused over a million dollars in damage in one night.
The meteoric rise of the movement virtually unknown to Americans only a few years ago has led some to believe that antifa is new. This is wrong. The militant far-left movement and ideology have existed for over half a century in Europe. It has had decades to develop a coherent ideology and both violent and nonviolent strategies to undermine liberal democracy under the guise of fighting fascism.
For good reason, the most remembered of German paramilitaries is the Sturmabteilung, the original paramilitary of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, also known as the Nazi Party. Called “Brownshirts,” based on the color of their uniforms, these paramilitary men were Hitler’s violent street thugs. The unfathomable evils of the Sturmabteilung, and later the Schutzstaffel (also known as the SS), are well documented by historians and survivors of WWII. The SS, which originally started as a bodyguard-type paramilitary for Nazi Party leaders, later came to replace the Sturmabteilung and was used to carry out Hitler’s “final solution” plan.
Like the Nazis, the Communist Party of Germany (German: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, or KPD) had its own paramilitaries. The party was Stalinist in orientation and was closely aligned with the Soviet Union.196 At the national conference of the German Communist Party in 1924, they formed a new paramilitary: the Red Front Fighters’ League (German: Roter Frontkämpfer-Bund). The league’s paramilitary members had their own uniforms, and the group adopted the clenched fist as its symbol. Leftist groups today from Black Lives Matter to antifa have adopted that communist symbol.
In May 1932, the German Communist Party announced the formation of the Antifaschistische Aktion (Antifascist Action, commonly referred to as “Antifa”), a new paramilitary communist group. This is the original “Antifa” and the group that contemporary antifa around the world take inspiration from.
By January 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor. Two months later, the Reichstag, or parliament, passed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler’s government the legal authority to be a dictatorship. The communist efforts to take control of the state failed.
From 1949 to 1990, East Germany existed as a communist state carved out of the Weimar Republic by the Soviet Union, one of WWII’s victorious Allied leaders. For over forty years, the extremely repressive conditions in East Germany exemplified what “antifa” state-building actually looks like.
Through the East German Ministry for State Security, better known as the Stasi, citizens were monitored and spied on through a vast apparatus of informants who infiltrated all aspects of life and civil society. The secret police agency was originally modeled to be similar to the Soviet Union’s secret police, the KGB. The Stasi’s mandate by the state was to weed out political dissenters and to terrorize the masses into compliance, in addition to conducting espionage. Antifa groups today do something similar on a community level.
Secret police form a pillar of communism. Under Maoist China, a similar system was deployed to spy on its citizens.
Following the end of WWII, Walter Ulbricht, a key architect of the Weimar-era German Communist Party, returned from exile in the Soviet Union to reestablish a communist party along Stalinist lines in the Soviet-occupied part of the country. Under his leadership, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (German: Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) was founded. This remained the one party in control of East Germany from the state’s founding in 1949 to its end after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Under Ulbricht’s leadership, East Germany ruled over its citizens with an iron fist.
The documentation of East Germany’s four-decade reign of communist oppression in the name of “anti-fascism” is extensive. In fact, one of its most important tools in addition to the Stasi was the Berlin Wall—known by its name in the East as the anti-fascist defense wall (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall).
Like the Antifa Action of the interwar years that claimed certain buildings, neighborhoods, and districts in the Weimar Republic, contemporary antifa groups do the same. Of particular note are parts of the Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain and Neukölln neighborhoods in Berlin. Here, radical far-left squatters occupy abandoned property and land.
At the moment, the threat of the far right is understood by the American public and actively countered by government, academia, media, and civil society. No comparable resolve or mass organization exists to counter the far left. Why? One explanation is the cultural dominance of the left. The political homogeneity in popular culture, academe, and urban centers of influence (e.g., New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, etc.) has produced a populace with severe blind spots.
Before developing an American offshoot, antifa found footing in Britain in the 1970s punk rock music scene, particularly through the “Oi!” subculture, which brought together punks and skinheads from the London working class. Though skinheads are now commonly thought of as being associated with neo-Nazis, skinhead subculture can be left-wing, right-wing, or apolitical.
Antifa literature and propaganda cite the Battle of Cable Street (and later, other clashes against the National Front and British National Party) as a prime example of how mass violent direct action can stop fascist organizing. But this is wrong. What stopped the far-right parties from organizing was their falling out of favor with voters due to their extremism. Mosley’s British Union of Fascists lost significant popular support for its open embrace of anti-Semitism.
In the late 1980s, a group of far-left skinheads known as the “Baldies” began meeting in Minneapolis to strategize how to oppose the far-right skinhead movement that was growing in the American neo-Nazi scene. The Baldies believed violence was the appropriate way to respond. They were influenced by British extremist anarchist papers like Black Flag and Class War, publications that encouraged violence and insurrectionist behavior. Together with other left-wing skinheads from across the Midwest, they formed one of the first known American antifa networks. Made up of numerous groups, such as the Anti-Racist Action, they named the network the “Syndicate.”
From 1997 to 2006, the FBI tracked an average of 7,900 hate incidents a year, of which 46 percent were intimidation-related and 31.9 percent were simple assaults.225 Thousands of reported hate incidents a year may sound like a lot, but the United States has a steadily growing population of more than 320 million people. Calculated as an incident rate, it is less than 2.5 incidents per 100,000 people. Additionally, looking closer at the data reveals nuance. Whites are underrepresented as offenders at less than 60 percent. They make up more than 76 percent of the U.S. population. Blacks are overrepresented as more than 20 percent of offenders, compared to being around 13 percent of the overall population.
The campus far-left violence and rioting involving students and academics in early 2017 were only the beginning. On the other side of the country, around two hundred students at Middlebury College in Vermont shut down a scheduled speaking lecture featuring American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray in March 2017. They accused the political scientist of racism and fascism for his 1994 book The Bell Curve, which in one chapter compared psychometric disparities across population groups.
An online profile by the Southern Poverty Law Center declaring Murray a white nationalist was also shared among activists to rally them to shut down the event. Unable to speak on stage due to the shouting and chants, Murray was ushered to another room where he spoke to a camera that livestreamed the footage.
Antifa violence on American university campuses continued month after month in 2017. In May, dozens of radical left-wing students at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, shut down a biology class taught by Professor Bret Weinstein. They took issue with his emails expressing concern over the university’s planned “Day of Absence” event where whites were asked to stay away from campus.
Northwestern University joined forces with outside agitators to riot in Evanston, Illinois, at an anti-police protest. They smashed windows, threw bricks, and hurled explosive mortar fireworks at Evanston police officers. They also used high-powered lasers to blind police. Northwestern University is one of the world’s most prestigious private research institutions. And yet a faction of its student body organized and behaved exactly as the antifa who riot in Portland and other cities. How did American institutions of higher learning become breeding grounds for far-left violent extremism?
Antifa do not view their premeditated and preemptive acts of violence as “violence.” It is part of the strategy of remaking words to have completely new meanings. But it also pulls from a left-wing philosophical tradition established by twentieth-century German philosopher and sociologist Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse is one of the most important philosophers and social theorists to the modern left. His theories and ideas form the ideological pillars for many so-called social-justice and antifa movements today, even without its adherents realizing so.
Born in Berlin in 1898, Marcuse was a committed leftist all his life. As a young adult, he studied the writings of Karl Marx and voted for the German Communist Party. In 1933, he joined the Institute for Social Research, a think tank at Frankfurt University. It is more commonly known as the “Frankfurt School.” With the rise of fascism in Europe, many of the intellectuals at the Frankfurt School escaped to the United States, where they became faculty and influential thinkers.
Columbia University in New York City took in a number of Frankfurt academics. One of the Frankfurt School’s lasting legacies is the development of critical theory—the Marxist-inspired theory that undergirds all the various “studies” disciplines in academe today. In short, critical theorists develop ways to “criticize” perceived structures and systems of oppression in order to bring about radical change. It offers a heuristic for understanding all human interaction through power dynamics between groups. When applied to race, concepts like white privilege, whiteness, and intersectionality purport to explain why there are disparities in outcomes among racial groups. Colloquially, critical theory is sometimes referred to as “cultural Marxism,” an application of Marxist theory to groups of people based on identity rather than class.
Marcuse became known as the “father of the New Left” for his ideological influence on left-wing student protest movements in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly through establishing the now far-left foundational belief that tolerance means actively suppressing “intolerant,” usually right-wing, ideas.
In 1965, Marcuse coauthored a book with sociologist Robert Paul Wolff and philosopher Barrington Moore Jr. titled A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Marcuse’s essay in the book, “Repressive Tolerance,” laid the foundation for redefining “tolerance” to mean militant intolerance toward “prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions” and the extension of tolerance to “policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.” In other words, we should not allow perceived intolerant ideas the space to be expressed and should be more accepting of extreme beliefs on the left.
The mainstream left’s retreat from liberal values of free speech has worked to the benefit of antifa in every way imaginable. Now, not only are large factions of the left sympathetic to antifa violence, some are actively working to suppress their opponents through getting corporate businesses and Big Tech to ban them.
On August 9, 2014, an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown committed a strong-arm robbery at a neighborhood convenience store in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Shortly after, police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, questioned Brown. Brown matched the description of the robbery suspect reported to police. According to Wilson, Brown assaulted him during the questioning and attempted to grab his pistol, causing it to fire inside the car. Wilson says he chased after Brown, who turned around and charged at him. Wilson fired upon the six-foot-four man, who died at the scene.
With the aid of social media and wall-to-wall broadcast coverage featuring rumors that Brown had surrendered with his hands up and was “executed,” the BLM narrative was born. From coast to coast, “Hands up, don’t shoot” became the mantra that drove tens of thousands to the street to protest or riot against what they say is institutional racism in policing and the American legal system.
In November 2014, a St. Louis County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against Wilson, finding that he was justified in the shooting. In the hours after the announcement of the decision, more rioting, fires, and looting occurred in St. Louis County. Protests broke out across the country in 170 cities.
Eric Holder, the left-wing attorney general, made statements openly sympathetic to Brown and BLM. But to the disappointment of many, the report produced by the DOJ in 2015 further exonerated Wilson.256 How? Physical evidence, ballistics, DNA, and vetted witness statements.
The most devastating consequence of BLM is that it provided the outlet for radical Marxist views to enter mainstream American media, politics, and society under the guise of “racial justice.”
BLM was founded in 2013 shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. Zimmerman, who is Latino, was found by a jury to be defending himself from Martin, who was beating him on the ground.
Since its founding, BLM’s leaders have not hidden its radical Marxist orientation. BLM draws from the legacy of the militant black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, seen in figures it reveres like convicted cop killer and fugitive Assata Shakur (formerly known as JoAnne Byron).
That Shakur is treated as such a revered figure in BLM is no small detail. Shakur was a member of the far-left violent extremist group Black Liberation Army (BLA). The BLA declared war on the United States and carried out a series of bombings, robberies, and cop killings in the 1970s. Its actions mirrored those of the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Shakur escaped prison in 1979 with the help of BLA members who took correctional officers hostage. She later fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum and treated as a hero by the communist Fidel Castro regime. She is believed to be there to this day.
From street protesters carrying signs and chanting slogans urging for police to be killed to even instances of mass murder, BLM’s legitimacy was protected by liberals. And while the murder of Heather Heyer at Charlottesville continues to be a rallying cry for the left, few seem to remember that in July 2016, a 25-year-old black man killed five police officers with a sniper rifle at a BLM protest in Dallas.
Despite the BLM-inspired violence in 2016 and riots in 2020, the group and movement are still protected by the mainstream media. “There is absolutely zero, none, zero evidence that Black Lives Matter has ever pushed for anything violent, pushed for anything violent to happen to police,” said MSNBC host Joy Reid in October 2020.
Indeed, both the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation began warning state and local law enforcement in early 2016 that left-wing extremists associated with antifa are increasingly engaging in “domestic terrorist violence.”309 And though violence is one of the defining features of their organizing tactics, it is second to their ideology. Antifa tactics will adapt and change over time in different contexts, but their extremism is constant.
The U.S. government has a good track record of identifying, prosecuting, and jailing far-left terrorists. So much so that young people today aren’t even aware of the history of far-left terrorism in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. And the left-wing bias of the media certainly tries to hide that history by focusing only on far-right extremism.
The FBI, in conjunction with local police departments, was able to arrest members of terrorist communist groups like the Black Panther Party, Weather Underground, and the May 19th Communist Organization, among others.
Few seem aware antifa specifically train for street violence. The media coverage on antifa almost always focuses on how they’re “not organized” or “not a group.” It is not a coincidence that a large group of militants dressed in the same uniform know how to coordinate mass attacks on people and property.
Using a radical bookstore as a front for extremist antifa training isn’t unique to Portland. In fact, a whole network of bookstores and “community centers” exist for this purpose. The most well-known one is the Slingshot Collective. On its website, visitors can view all affinity spaces broken down by continent. I recommend readers check out the website to see which extremist spaces may be in operation in their state or city.
Firestorm Cafe and Books, a “worker-owned” far-left bookstore and meeting space in Asheville, North Carolina, is the Southeast’s mecca for anarchists.
Redneck Revolt is an antifa militia-style group that is closely linked with its Pacific Northwest offshoot, the John Brown Gun Club. Redneck Revolt was founded in 2009 and gained national media prominence starting around 2017 when it was present at antifa events and protests in a support role. Its members wear military-style gear and open-carry pistols and semiautomatic rifles. They’re unapologetic about intimidating opponents. They call themselves anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, anti-nation-state, and pro-gun.
Van Spronsen’s failed attack on the Tacoma ICE facility remains one of the higher-profile incidents of antifa violence, even though apologists say it doesn’t count because he was the only one killed. To that, I say the failure of a terrorist attack doesn’t exonerate the perpetrator.
Many remember van Spronsen’s firebombing because it was the first known time an attacker left behind a manifesto explicitly stating his ties to antifa.
One man in Ohio who joined the chorus of antifa in calling Willem van Spronsen a “martyr” was 24-year-old Connor Stephen Betts. He went on to carry out his own deadly shooting in a packed commercial Dayton neighborhood on August 4, 2019. He killed nine people, including his sister, and injured twenty-seven others. Responding police shot him dead within less than a minute.
Connor Stephen Betts did not leave behind a manifesto as far as we know. But he was an active Twitter user under name “@iamthespookster.” Before that account was taken down after the shooting, it provided as clear a view into his beliefs as any manifesto could. Betts was antifa.
And also illuminating is who Betts was repeating and interacting with on Twitter. He frequently shared posts from freelance writer Kim Kelly. The frequent Teen Vogue contributor has written an essay on the far left embracing guns. She’s also authored a glowing profile of anarchists and argued many times on abolishing prisons. She referred to van Spronsen as a “comrade.” And in a now-deleted tweet, she defended him and called for others to take inspiration from his attack.
Michael Forest Reinoehl shot Aaron “Jay” Danielson, 39, using a pistol at near-point-blank range after lying in wait for him around a street corner. The shooting was caught on camera from a distance by a livestreamer. A person believed to be Reinoehl shouted: “We’ve got a couple right here!” Two shots rang out, and Danielson fell face-first to the ground.
Though most antifa are quick to conceal and hide their online presence, Reinoehl still had an active Instagram account where he had posted throughout the summer riots. Within seconds of skimming his posts, it confirmed what I suspected all along. Not only was he obsessively in support of BLM, he identified himself as “100 percent antifa” and wrote long posts about the need for violent revolution.
Nearly two months before the killing of Danielson, Portland Police actually had Reinoehl in custody—but he was let go. On July 5, 2020, during the start of violent riots outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse, Reinoehl was detained and cited for possessing an illegal and loaded gun in a public place, resisting arrest, and interfering with police. He was photographed fighting cops while they subdued him to the ground. In the photo released by Portland Police, his pistol is seen on the ground next to him.
On June 8, 2020, he and his teenage son were racing in separate vehicles in eastern Oregon. Reinoehl was stopped by a state trooper, who saw his 11-year-old daughter as the passenger. According to state police, they found prescription drugs, marijuana, and an illegally possessed loaded Glock pistol. Reinoehl had a warrant for that arrest due to his failure to appear in court. But he was never apprehended.
Immediately after the killing, Reinoehl went on the run. He fled out of state to Lacey, Washington, about two hours north by car. Five days later, he emerged in a VICE News interview with sympathetic left-wing journalist Donovan Farley.
The night he was killed, BLM-antifa rioters attacked a police building in southeast Portland. On the ground outside the police building, they graffitied over and over: “You murdered Michael Reinoehl.”
It’s clear when antifa assault others with weapons. But few notice when they slowly brainwash communities through propaganda.
When antifa showed up to my family’s home on Halloween night wearing printout masks of my face, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. And yet they were nonviolent and likely didn’t even break any law. This is what I’m trying to communicate to readers: antifa deploy diverse tactics to achieve their agenda. With and without violence, they are able to terrorize victims and even force the hand of the state.
The insidious nature of much of antifa doxing and doxing-adjacent tactics is that they often don’t violate criminal statutes or social media policies. You cannot get banned from Twitter for disclosing where you see someone. Likewise, it is not a violation to retweet a post from someone else who publishes actual private information. Driven by intense hatred, antifa want their targets to fear living a normal life. This is their terrorism without violence.
This is what New York Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram video after the Democratic National Convention in August 2020: I think it’s important for us to talk about the deeper issues of this election, because let’s keep it real: We need to win in November. November is about, in my opinion, stopping fascism in the United States. That is what Donald Trump represents.
It should be no surprise that her militant opposition to U.S. border enforcement, like calling migrant detention centers “concentration camps,” was echoed by antifa terrorists Willem van Spronsen and Michael Reinoehl.
Immediately after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September 2020, she stated in an Instagram live video: “Let this moment radicalize you.” However, it’s not only Ocasio-Cortez who has successfully injected antifa-style politics into the mainstream. What we are witnessing are antifa ideologues, supporters, and sympathizers realizing the efficacy of state and social subversion through the legal democratic process.
Most hard-core antifa do not accept working within the legal framework—for example, elections—but they increasingly recognize that this route should be tolerated for success. Violence and riots may achieve certain goals in the short term, such as terrorizing the opposition into silence, but it is the nonviolent democratic route that provides mainstream legitimacy. In that regard, antifa’s biggest victories have not been their successes in shutting down events or brawling with “fascists,” but rather the acceptance and tolerance they’ve gained in the mainstream left. Indeed, if the riots of 2020 prove anything, it’s that a sizable portion of Democratic politicians, intellectuals, academics, and journalists find riots and looting justifiable if committed in the name of “racial justice.”
The son of Virginia senator and former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine was arrested at an antifa riot at the Minnesota State Capitol in March 2017. Linwood Michael Kaine was part of the black bloc who set off fireworks and smoke bombs in the capitol building to shut down a rally in support of Trump. He eventually pleaded guilty to obstructing the legal process. His charges of concealing identity and fleeing were dismissed. Kaine was only sentenced to a year of probation.
If antifa’s operationalized tactics can be described as a multiprong machine working through violent and nonviolent means, the lubricant keeping it all going is information warfare. A military concept, information warfare refers to the use, denial, exploitation, or manipulation of information against an opponent.398 That includes hiding information as well as spreading disinformation and propaganda to wage war.
The network of antifa-supporting journalists is powerful not only because they work with media sites or papers but also because their smears are laundered between one another and amplified far beyond the original publication. The smears eventually become citations in a Wikipedia entry or the first results in a Google search.
I did not like Trump’s 2019 comment describing the mainstream media as “truly the enemy of the people,” but one can see the basis for that sentiment when looking at how transparently extreme ideologues are presented as the arbiters of truth.
As Unmasked demonstrates, antifa can terrify, dox, harass, and intimidate without any use of force. They’ve been particularly effective because they have infected one of the most important institutions of a free society: the press. Ironically, media is now often used to undermine public support for free speech and the nation’s norms, culture, and history.
Communism, like fascism, is anathema to liberalism. By liberalism, I am not referring to leftism or the political ideology of contemporary American Democrats. I am talking about the political and moral philosophy of thinkers like John Milton, John Locke, and James Madison. Liberalism is the framework that allows for the protection of liberties, equality, property, free speech, and freedom of expression.
Grievance ideologies resonate with millennials and Gen Z because of an economic reality they experience: crushing student debt, job insecurity, and the inability to ever afford a home. I can understand why those who lose faith in the American idea—in liberal democracy—turn to extremist ideologies for solutions. The corruption in politicians and state institutions at times rattles my own confidence in the American rule of law and democracy.
The world antifa envisions is a literal “utopia.” Translated from the original Greek, “utopia” means “no place.” No society can function as antifa envisions. Their small-scale experiments at creating separatist anarcho-communist communes, have ended in disaster and death. Even when their anti-fascist ideology was instituted at the state level (e.g., in the former East Germany), the result was the creation of a sprawling spy apparatus that monitored the public and private thoughts of citizens for wrongthink.
One of the most disempowering mind viruses infecting America and the West at the benefit of antifa is grievance ideology. Through its control in every cultural and educational institution, it primes people to become perpetual victims. It makes them see grievance in every interaction. It turns pain and ignorance into hatred. It turns people into oppressors.
The problems witnessed in Portland and other left-wing cities is not the lack of laws but the lack of law enforcement. When the far left say the American legal system is “broken,” I actually agree with them but for different reasons. Why are district attorneys, who are elected politicians, determining who gets prosecuted? They have every incentive to bow to the whims of the mob in order to stay in office. There must be better independent oversight to hold rogue prosecutors accountable.
The BLM-antifa narrative that police are murdering black and brown people in epidemic proportions needs to be thoroughly debunked. It is not supported by the evidence or data. This should be the job of the media, but it has been they who fan the flames of racial division through one-sided wall-to-wall coverage.
Check out Unmasked on Kindle here.