Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Critique, Repression, The State, US
Today It’s Going Down was able to get a copy of a “fact sheet” which the office of Republican Rep. of New York, Dan Donovan, has been distributing to media as he promotes his “Unmasking Antifa” bill.
The bill, along with several others like it, all seek to further criminalize already existing laws against illegal acts, and is aimed at attacking a broad range of autonomous social movements from Black Lives Matter, to pipeline protesters, to antiracist activists.
In Donovan’s bill, he is seeking to further criminalize illegal acts undertaken while a person is wearing a mask. Similar anti-mask bills across the US have already been put forward and passed, (and 18 states already have mask laws), and numerous other bills are likewise designed to make it legal to run over protesters in the street, increase fines and charges against those who block roadways such as at Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and reclassify anti-pipeline demonstrators as domestic terrorists.
Members of the Golden State Skinheads/Traditionalist Worker Party wear masks as they stab multiple counter protesters. According to Don Donavon, the antifascists who they are stabbing should be put in prison for 15 years.
With Donovan’s bill however, another outcome will be a continued signal to the far-Right and Alt-Right, that the Trump administration has their back, that it turns the other way in the face of acts of far-Right violence, and that it will mobilize the State to attack anyone that would stand up to them. This of course is coupled with the reality that like never before, the far-Right is engaging in acts of murder and terror against the public. To politicians like Donovan, this violence is permitted and allowed, as long as it is aimed at those at the bottom of the social hierarchy and social movements for change.
Members of Atomwaffen Division give Nazi salutes while wearing masks at a paramilitary training camp. The group has been linked to a series of bombings and brutal murders. To politicians like Don Donovan, these people are not a threat even though they attack the public at large.
This follows a trajectory that has already been set in place since Trump came into office, as far-Right and white nationalist groups were removed from various watch lists, and both Trump and his associates have down played far-Right acts of terror as “false flags” or even defended them as in the “both sides” comments made post Charlottesville. As Mike “Enoch” Peinovich stated on a podcast before Unite the Right in August of 2017, Trump and Bannon are giving them “the space to destroy,” as police use kid gloves on the Alt-Right, which in the past several years has racked up a massive body count while hate crimes, bombings, and racist attacks have gone through the roof.
Members of the far-Right wear masks at a Patriot Prayer rally.
In the eyes of elites like Dan Donovan however, the main threat is those that would stand up to them, not the neo-Nazis, Alt-Right trolls, and white supremacists who are murdering people on our streets, in our schools, and in our places of worship.
A “Fact Sheet” With No Facts
The Donovan “fact sheet” is rife with errors – even the date of one of the only 4 listed incidents of “antifa violence” that Donovan’s office could complie is wrong! Marked as “June 2017,” the “fact sheet’ refers to violent clashes in Sacramento that actually happened in June of 2016.
But the lies and distortions contained within the “fact sheet” go march farther. In the case of Sacramento for instance, the handout implies that antifascists engaged in stabbings, when in reality it was antifascists who were attacked by knife wielding neo-Nazis who also carried handguns. The other examples continue in a similar trajectory.
Let’s walk through the four examples that are given in this “fact sheet.”
- There were no Molotov cocktails thrown at the Milo protest in Berkeley. While according to multiple eye witness reports people did shoot off fireworks, and at one point a mobile light fixture toppled over and was engulfed in flames, no one threw bottles filed with gasoline. This lie however, reported on by both Right and Centrist sources who were almost entirely not in attendance that night has gone on to to be added into both FBI and DHS reports, which has mutated into claims that antifa “firebombed Trump supporters,” such as Politico wrote back in 2017. Even the Dan Donovan “fact sheet” doesn’t state who or what these fictional Molotovs were supposedly thrown at. Reaching out to the admins at the Berkeley Antifa Twitter account as to why these false claims persist, they stated:
Molotov cocktails were not used in Berkeley on February 1, 2017. Conservative media outlets such as Breitbart, many of which not even having witnessed the events firsthand, conflated fireworks with Molotov cocktails. This is consistent with the many deliberate lies and twisted narratives invented by the right in order to silence and eliminate dissent in this country.
Jeremy Christian throws up a neo-Nazi salute while at a Patriot Prayer rally. Christian would go on to murder two people a nearly a third only a short time later. Dan Donovan thinks that the Alt-Right murdering people on public trains is less of an issue than a few cans of pepper spray found on antifascists at a protest.
- In Portland just as in Charlottesville, far-Right demonstrators have engaged in more violence against the public and counter-protesters – up to and including murder, yet Donovan’s “fact sheet” only mentions supposed weapons found by police coming from antifascists. In June of 2017, thousands protested Patriot Prayer in Portland after an attendee at far-Right rallies organized by Joey Gibson, Jeremy Christian, savagely stabbed to death two people on a Portland train and almost killed a third, after the three men attempted to stop Christian from attacking two young women of color. Later in court, Christian screamed, “Death to antifa!” The Patriot Prayer rally in June of 2017 did end in violence, but not at the hands of antifascists, but instead when police attacked the antifascist protesters with projectile weapons. According to Donovan’s “fact sheet” however, after police attacked the crowd, police found various weapons antifascists had left behind. Ironically however, just weeks ago on June 30th, police and DHS agents collected many of the same weapons as well as pistol magazines at the entrance of a Patriot Prayer rally that ended in far-Right attackers almost killing several counter-demonstrators.
Weapons and gun magazines taken from Patriot Prayer attendees on June 30th, 2018. Source Clark County 161
A knife wielding (and mask wearing) neo-Nazi Derrik Punneo attacked and stabbed several people, yet never did any jail time. Police told him afterward that they saw the neo-Nazis as “the victims” of the Sacramento rally that ended in violent clashes.
A handgun dropped by one of the neo-Nazis in Sacramento. Another gun was seen in the waistband of another racist skinhead. SOURCE: IGD
- Neo-Nazi skinheads – not antifascists – in Sacramento, CA stabbed multiple people in June of 2016 (not 2017, as it incorrectly states on the “fact sheet”), and even dropped one handgun while another skinhead was seen with another. As both the Politico article on “antifa attacks” and a DHS report in New Jersey did before them, Don Donovan’s “fact sheet” incorrectly implies that antifascists in Sacramento of June 2016 stabbed multiple people, when in reality, neo-Nazi skinheads carrying “SS” shields with swastikas tattooed on their heads attacked and nearly killed multiplied individuals. In the attack, one handgun was dropped and another gun was seen in the waste band of another neo-Nazi. Despite footage of the neo-Nazis stabbing people, police after the demonstration attempted to work with one of the neo-Nazis, Derrik Punneo, in order to ID antifascist protesters. Even going so far as to tell him, “We’re looking at you as the victim.” Soon after, three antifascists were arrested in connection to the Sacramento clashes, all people of color. Punneo has still not been charged for attempted murder, although he has a long and violent history of assault, attempted rape, and domestic abuse. Meanwhile, the leader of the neo-Nazi skinheads in Sacramento has since been arrested on an unrelated gun trafficking charge. These are the people that Dan Donovan is fighting to protect.
Right media attempted to paint Alt-Right trolls with histories of making violent threats as “everyday Trump supporters” who at “random” were attacked by mobs of antifascists.
- In August of 2017, several fights broke out when Alt-Right provocateurs – not mere ‘Trump supporters’ – entered into a massive crowd of 10,000 antiracist protesters in Berkeley, after Alt-Right organizers cancelled a Facebook event for a rally that did not have a permit. Two weeks after Charlottesville, tens of thousands of people converged in San Francisco and Berkeley against two Alt-Right rallies (both were called off by organizers at the last minute) that were set to feature speakers and groups that had attended and been involved in the Unite the Right neo-Nazi demonstration, which lead to the death of Heather Heyer. In Berkeley, 10,000 mobilized to protest a rally that did not have a permit, and was even cancelled by the organizer herself. Despite this, Alt-Right trolls attempted to harass, attack, and film people within the crowd, leading to several fights. Scenes of these fights were then used by the far-Right press and various pundits to try and prove that ‘antifa’ was randomly beating ‘everyday’ Trump supporters. Keith Campbell became the most visible example of this, after appearing on the Tucker Carlson show, and claimed he had been singled out for attack at random while walking home from getting groceries. However far from a “normal” Trump supporter, Campbell was an Alt-Right troll, a fan of Unite the Right organizers on social media, a member of the Oath Keepers militia, and a long time Alt-Right activist who had made repeated violent threats against antifascists and left-wing organizers online. As one article on It’s Going Down wrote:
As journalists from Mother Jones and Reveal have pointed out, the physical altercations were small in number and often were the result of far-Right individuals both attacking large crowds with pepper spray and provoking them. One individual stands out in the handful of physical fights however, Keith Campbell, who was surrounded by antifascists and kicked and punched, leading Reveal journalist Al Letson to intervene on his behalf, allowing him to exit the area. Media pundits on the Right and on social media have attempted to paint Campbell as innocently someone out to pick up groceries…[which] is a ridiculous lie considering he lives in El Cerrito and had publicly expressed his intention to participate in the rally on social media.
[F]or weeks leading up to the event, [Campbell] encouraged confrontation and violence with counter-protesters and claimed that like on April 15th, antifascists were going to be attacked by members of the Alt-Right and far-Right individuals.
Campbell was initially spotted by antifa walking around while trying to blend in with the crowd and recording people’s faces as a part of his ongoing doxxing of antifascists on social media. As you can see on Campbell Twitter account, he was actively livestreaming from the event with Juan Cadavid, a Proud Boy from Southern California who works openly with neo-Nazi crews. Only a day before, Cadavid posted photos of himself while holding a tiki torch, a reference to the violent neo-Nazi march that happened the night before the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Alt-Right livestreaming outlet The Red Elephants also had posted flyers promoting a similar tiki torch march in Sacramento that never materialized.
The "peaceful victim" from Berkeley you've been seeing shared by the alt-right literally was looking for a fight. More alt-right lies pic.twitter.com/1x8yjHdILj
— New York City Antifa (@NYCAntifa) August 28, 2017
The Meaning of the “Unmasking Antifa” Bill
We live at a time when neo-Nazis, white supremacists, holocaust deniers, and members of the Alt-Right are attempting to carve out a space for themselves within the Republican Party and run for office under its banner. At the same time, suit and tie white nationalists involved in groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have been given jobs within the government within agencies such as ICE and DHS. Meanwhile, Trump as well as close associates like Steve Miller, and talking heads like Tucker Carlson continue to promote white nationalist policies, talking points, and ideas on a daily basis, while other Republicans openly share neo-Nazi memes and tweets without fear of repercussion.
List of recent murders carried out by the Alt-Right.
Meanwhile, there has been an explosion of hate crimes, bombings of mosques, attacks and vandalism of synagogues and holocaust memorials, and moreover, an explosion of death from the far-Right and the Alt-Right. As Christopher Mathias wrote:
White supremacists in the United States killed more than twice as many people in 2017 as they did the year before, and were responsible for far more murders than domestic Islamic extremists, helping make 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence in America, a new report states.
For the entire Right, the myth of a violent ‘antifa’ boogeyman is as easy as it is important. On one hand it is a natural extension of the “commie” threat many people grew up with, and on the other, it seeks to obscure the very real violence coming from the Right itself.
Members of the violent neo-Nazi group Rise Above Movement in Berkeley. Well known for wearing masks, these far-Right militants have carried out multiple acts of violence while covering their faces, yet are not seen as a threat by politicians on the Right like Don Donovan.
But the political class also knows that it is also carrying out real attacks on the working-class; gutting basic social safety nets while the economy continues to immiserate and impoverish millions. In this context, repressive laws are tools to put down potential poor and working-class insurgency before it starts.
Moreover lies and conspiracy theories – whether about Black Lives Matter, Water Protectors, or antifa, makes it easier to sell repression to the public; to manufacture the consent of the governed. The question, will we buy it?
One thing is clear, such criminalization of social movements, especially those that stand up to violent far-Right groups, isn’t going to make anyone in the public safer. If anything, it’s going to continue to give the far-Right, neo-Nazis, and Alt-Right trolls the confidence to continue to engage in violent action that leaves more people dead and broader communities under siege.