Antifa aims to preserve safety of community through response

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Xinyu Li/File

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We would like to preface this statement by saying we do not represent every group involved in anti-fascist demonstrations here in Berkeley, or in the Bay Area. While many of our comrades may share our beliefs and opinions, we are not a unified group and we do not intend to speak for anyone but ourselves.

With that out of the way: Hello, UC Berkeley! We are those anti-fascists you’ve heard so much about recently. Let us introduce ourselves. Some of us are your fellow UC Berkeley students, while others are Berkeley City College students, UC Berkeley alumni or members of the Berkeley community.

For security reasons, we don’t usually talk to the press. But the media coverage of our actions against the current wave of far-right mobilization in Berkeley has inspired us to express to the public why it is that we do what we do.

You may have never heard of Antifa until we marched onto Sproul Plaza on the night of Feb. 1. Our struggle is global and ongoing, with a history that stretches as far back as there have been fascists to resist.

The current visibility of militant anti-fascism is due to the Trump-era resurgence of open, violent white nationalism. They’re more than just 4chan trolls spouting racist rhetoric online. Last June, when the Traditionalist Workers Party and the Golden State Skinheads attempted to rally in Sacramento, they stabbed nine people in the ensuing confrontation with Antifa. Identity Evropa leader Nathan Damigo sucker-punched a woman on camera at the rally April 15.

Our opponents push the misconception that, by militantly confronting them, we are stifling their free speech. We may be a bunch of leftists and anarchists, but we’ve still read the Constitution.

The First Amendment protects you from government censorship. It does not allow you to impose on the 14th Amendment rights of others, prevent other people from using their freedoms of speech and assembly to hold you accountable for the things you say, or guarantee you a right to a paid speaking gig on a college campus.

Ultimately, the bloc’s actions against Milo Yiannopoulos were not in response to the things he says, but the things he does. Yiannopoulos has a history of targeted harassment of transgender, Muslim and undocumented students at his campus speeches. On the night of Feb. 1, he planned to use his platform to teach the crowd how to report undocumented students to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It was also rumored he planned to out undocumented students.

This is not protected speech. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater and you can’t out undocumented students on a sanctuary campus.

Despite all of this, the UC Berkeley administration chose to put their students in danger. We decided this was unacceptable. You may disagree with our actions, but if it protected even one student from being targeted, then we are not ashamed.

Bay Area Antifa did not have any militant action planned for Ann Coulter’s event. While her views are disgusting and deserve to be protested, nobody wants to get attacked with a nightstick or go to jail over Ann Coulter. If any action had been taken, it would have been because of the extremists in attendance and looking for a fight at her speech.

But these speakers know now to expect resistance. We didn’t have to shut Coulter down she canceled once her financial backers and the administration recognized that her presence was unsafe and unprofitable.

You may have wondered where the masses of people in masks were April 27. We shut them down March 4 and April 15 because they wanted to prove they could rally in Berkeley. On April 27, they came from far and wide to fight Antifa. Instead of giving them what they wanted, we let them stand around in the park in their Spartan helmets, pretending to enjoy their open mic and getting sunburned.

Our ideology is not tethered to masculinity and strength we don’t ever have to fight on their terms. We are also aware (because again, we live here) that on a Thursday afternoon, high schoolers and middle schoolers were in class in the area where the fascists wanted to hold their street fight.

You’re probably sick of feeling like Berkeley is a warzone. We are, too. We’re tired of seeing Identity Evropa propaganda on campus and up and down the streets we grew up on. We’re tired of hearing about kids at Albany High using Nazi salutes in the hallways.

And we’re tired of fighting a second front against public apathy and misinformation.

We are anti-fascists. We are not paramilitary, outside agitators, or punks looking for a fight. We are members of this community who are invested in its safety.

We understand that not everyone can join us in this fight. All we ask is that you understand why we take to the streets.

The authors requested anonymity because of safety concerns.

Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.