Opinion Piece: By Kathleen Lortie
January 26th 2020
A few days after the US inauguration of president Joe Biden, a handful of conservative news outlets were quick to headline the “Antifa” riots popping up across several US cities. It comes at a convenient time to showcase this so-called “left-wing” violence after the previous week revealed some of the sentiments of the Pro-Trump mob at the nation’s Capitol. Antifa has been the conversational weapon of choice for conservative politicians in the US, often portraying them as a violent, lefttist, domestic terrorist organization whose aim is to wreak havoc across the country. As both sides of the political spectrum attempt to blame the other for violence, it’s important to understand who was participating in these post-inauguration riots, and why.
On January 21st, the first full day after Biden’s inauguration, rioters took to the streets in Portland, Oregon. Events that occurred include the vandalization of the Democratic Party Headquarters and a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or “ICE” building. Conservative politicians and news outlets have attributed this violence to Antifa, suggesting that even leftists do not support Biden’s presidency.
Senator. Tom Cotton told Fox & Friends, “I remember the media and Democrats blaming all this Antifa violence on Donald Trump — yet here we have Joe Biden in the White House and Antifa is still rampaging in the streets of Seattle and Portland and Denver.”
So who is Antifa, and are they responsible for the post-inauguration day riots?
Unlike what most of the rhetoric surrounding the group suggests, Antifa is actually not a highly organized group, but rather “a loose affiliation of local activists scattered across the country” (CBS News). Antifa stands for “anti-facist” and like the name suggests, they oppose fascism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, racism, and other discriminatory behavior. But it is true that some antifa activists also denounce capitalism and the government overall, although this is not characteristic of the group as a whole.
After inauguration day, rioters took to the streets to continue their fight for racial justice. However, this shouldn’t be looked at as an isolated event or a direct protest of Biden’s presidency. It is likely that some of these individuals were in fact Antifa activists who have been protesting in the area over a long period of time. These protests against police brutality have occured in Portland since the death of George Floyd last summer.
So, although it is probable that Antifa activists were present, that is not the whole story. Many of the participants in the riot are actually described as anarchists, or individuals who reject authority and call for the abolition of the state. Thus, the photographs of marchers carrying signs with phrases including, “We don’t want Biden – we want revenge!” and “We are ungovernable” are coming from two separate ideological groups.
CNN had a chance to talk to a 25-year old White rioter and Portland local about his take on the events. He said, “I want to dispel that White anarchists are co-opting this for their own gain. There are Black and Indigenous people out there that can’t have the same outward action as White people can.”
Despite the misconception surrounding which groups are rioting, the distinctions between the left-wing rioters in Portland and the right-wing Pro-Trump rioters in the nation’s Capitol should remain clear. While the Pro-Trump mob’s insurrection on Capitol Hill was a response to baseless conspiracy theories about election integrity, the ongoing riots against police brutality bears a much greater weight in the eyes of morality and social justice. While some minority groups are quite literally protesting for their lives, trump supporters are fighting to have the minority vote thrown out. Although this does not validate left-wing violence, it shows that the reasons for their cause, on principle, are based on concrete facts rather than unjustified lies. As of 2021, the current policing system remains the greatest threat to the dignity and livelihood of people of color across America, no matter which party holds power in office.
The 25-year old interviewed by CNN states “we wanted to symbolize that both parties are the oppressor. We’ve all experienced firsthand that police violence is police violence regardless… It doesn’t make a difference to the person being beaten.”
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