The following is an excerpt from Jack Posobiec’s forthcoming book, The Antifa: Stories from Inside the Black Bloc, chronicling the secret history of the radical anarchist group from their earliest days in Weimar Germany, to the battlefields of Syria, to their rise to prominence within the the United States.
Available June 1st. Pre-order now at https://www.antifabook.com/.
The riots began at the end of May, and by the end of August, nearly every state in the country had been hit. The pandemic lockdowns already had everyone on edge, then a video of a suspect dying in police custody went viral—the spark that lit the fuse. It was the summer of 2020. Riots raged in Minneapolis, from there, spreading to the West Coast and flaring to the East. Cities like Portland and Seattle first saw protests, then mobs of violent activists appeared overnight. In Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and Philadelphia, looters took to the streets, smashing storefronts and stealing their pick of what was inside. Cable networks and smartphone screens alike quickly filled with scenes of violence and carnage across American streets. Statues of America’s founders and religious figures were toppled. Lafayette Park outside the White House filled with occupiers who set fire to a historic church.
Cable networks and smartphone screens alike quickly filled with scenes of violence and carnage across American streets.
Amid the mayhem, a singular force emerged: black-clad militants joined in the fray from city to city, urging protesters to go further, to cross the line. In some cases, armed militia wearing patches and flying flags of red and black appeared, chanting that they now controlled the streets. The coronavirus pandemic had forced mask-wearing in many American cities, and so the militants easily weaved in and out of the larger crowds that summer, unrecognizable. Pallets of bricks and construction materials sitting out on city streets became caches of weapons.
By the end of the summer, over 30 people had been killed in the riots. Nearly 700 police officers had been injured nation-wide. The damages were estimated to be in the billions across the country—the highest in American history.
Most people who participated in the summer riots of 2020 did so to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, who, for the most part, peacefully exercised their First Amendment right. But another force attempted to infiltrate BLM, one dedicated to overturning the establishment through a violent insurrectionist revolution.
This was the Antifa.
An internal memo released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence, dated July 25th, 2020, explained the situation as it related to the city of Portland, which, by that time, weathered some of the most violent riots:
“Starting now for Portland, replace the V.O. definition accompanying our FIRS (field intel reports) and OSIRS (open-source intel reports) to VIOLENT ANTIFA ANARCHISTS INSPIRED (VAAI). Why? Myself and I&A leaders have been reviewing the Portland, FIRS, OSIRS, baseball cards of the arrested and FINTEL, as well as the Ops info. The individuals are violently attacking the federal facilities based on these ideologies.
We can’t say any longer that this violent situation is opportunistic. Additionally, we have overwhelming intelligence regarding the ideologies driving individuals towards violence and why the violence has continued. A core set of threat actors are organized, show up night after night, share common TTPs, and draw on like minded individuals to their cause.”
The memo went on to state: “Here is the VAAI definition which will be applied from now forward: Threat actors who are motivated by Anarchist or ANTIFA (or a combination of both) ideologies to carry out acts of violence against state, local, and Federal authorities and infrastructure they believe represent political and social ideas they reject.”
America had seen this movement’s violence the previous summer. On August 4th, 2019, 24-year-old Connor Betts, dressed in black and clad in body armor, walked into Ned Peppers Grill in Dayton, Ohio, and opened fire with a semi-automatic .223 caliber long gun. Before police killed him, Betts had murdered nine people, including his own sister, and injured 27 others.
As in many such cases, Betts had been troubled for years. A bully in high school, he spent his
aimless twenties living with his parents and devoted to what Vice News termed the “extreme metal music scene.” He performed in purportedly antiracist metal bands such as the Menstrual Munchies and Putrid Liquid. An ex-girlfriend reported that he’d confided to her about his bipolar disorder and that he suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In the wake of his horrific attack, the mainstream media struck familiar notes: mournful reflection, and anger. Pundits pontificated on the sickness in America’s soul; editorialists blasted the NRA and the (overwhelmingly Republican) politicians who support it. But, what made the Dayton tragedy especially heart-rending for so many was that it closely followed two other mass shootings in the summer of 2019, one in Gilroy, California, and one in El Paso, Texas. Both were also perpetrated by young, single white men.
One of Betts’ last acts before launching into his killing spree was to support a Twitter post calling for my own death.
Social media sleuths began tracking the Dayton shooter as soon as he was identified, and quickly found numerous references to his extreme leftwing politics. His social media activity revealed that he viewed conservatives, especially Trump supporters, as enemies, and he supported the movement known as “Antifa.” One of Betts’ last acts before launching into his killing spree was to support a Twitter post calling for my own death.
A New York Post headline blared, just two days later, “DAYTON SHOOTER CONNOR BETTS MAY BE ANTIFA’S FIRST MASS KILLER.” It noted that “Betts had long expressed support for Antifa accounts, causes, and individuals. That would be the loose network of militant leftist activists who physically attack anyone to the right of Mao in the name of ‘antifascism.’ In particular, Betts promoted extreme hatred of American border enforcement.”
In the aftermath of the Dayton tragedy, the connection was impossible to miss. “Kill every fascist,” the shooter proclaimed on Twitter, echoing Antifa militants everywhere. Over time, his Tweets dramatically increased in violence: “Nazis deserve death and nothing else,” he tweeted in October 2018. Betts frequently labeled those with whom he disagreed as “Nazis” online.
The Post continued:
“By December, he reached out on Twitter to the Socialist Rifle Association, an Antifa gun group, to comment about bump stocks, and the SRA responded to him. (A bump stock is an attachment for semi automatic rifles that allows them to fire much faster.)
In the months leading to his rampage, Betts expressed a longing for climactic confrontation. In response to an essay by Intercept writer Mehdi Hassan titled, ‘Yes, Let’s Defeat or Impeach Trump—but What If He Doesn’t Leave the White House?’ Betts wrote: ‘Arm, train, prepare.’
By June he tweeted: “I want socialism, and I’ll not wait for the idiots to finally come round understanding.” Moreover, in the days leading up to the shooting, he made posts that demonized Senators Ted Cruz and Bill Cassidy for their resolutions against Antifa extremism.”
Betts’s Twitter account also contained statements directly supporting Antifa’s call for “revolution” against the rich and he posted rhetoric in favor of beheading corporate leaders. Videos showed Betts among the Antifa counter-protestors at a failed KKK rally in Dayton two months before the shooting.
The evidence is incontrovertible: Betts was a member of the Antifa movement.
Betts’s shooting rampage is the most chilling early evidence of Antifa’s penchant for ruthless brutality. Violence perpetrated by leftist anti-government extremists had been sharply mounting in frequency and severity for years, especially since the election of former President Donald Trump.
Joe Biden infamously claimed that ‘Antifa is just an idea.’
Starting with the attack on Trump’s inauguration, antiracist violence has become omnipresent in the Trump era. Though only a handful of its actions drew more than passing notice from the largely sympathetic press—those in Portland, Berkeley, and Charlottesville—a partial list of the cities where Antifa thugs have assaulted peaceful marchers and otherwise inflicted mayhem include: Kansas City, Saint Paul, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Washington, Berkeley, Laguna Beach, Sacramento, Tucson, Portland, Milwaukee, Richmond, Atlanta, Asheville, Lexington, Phoenix, Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Vancouver (Washington), Tacoma and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Many “actions” were on college campuses, and are excluded from this count.
Why has establishment media remained indifferent? The answer lies in the personal politics of many reporters, who consider themselves to be champions of ideals espoused by Antifa’s militants. In short, they see themselves as fellow travelers for the Antifa movement, rather than critical observers or journalists.
Antifa remains hard to define by traditional terminology. It is not a gang, a political party, or even a national collective. Rather than a readily identifiable organization with a distinct purpose, vision, and leadership, it is a loose confederation of far-left, semi-autonomous cells and individuals in an open-source movement. In a Fifth Generation Warfare environment, these entities unite for specific actions and disband, often connecting only over social media. This phenomenon not only spans the United States, but extends to like-minded groups abroad. Antifa originated in Europe, and its members are united by vaguely articulated but passionately held core beliefs: a commitment to “social justice” in its fluid varieties and an equally intense hatred of capitalism and its practitioners. Its activity ebbs and flows, but its goals remain the same.
Joe Biden infamously claimed that “Antifa is just an idea.” Is that true? Antifascism is an ideology espoused by numerous groups, cells, and individuals, which harnesses distinct entities into a united movement. Throughout this book, I refer to Antifa as a movement, and I will demonstrate that this term is appropriate for the observed phenomenon.
So, what are the goals of the Antifa movement?
The ultimate goal is revolutionary change. Antifa is an anti-government insurrectionist movement guided by a belief in anarcho-communism, which combines critical ideas of anarchism and communism. Antifa’s emblem melds the black flag of anarchism with the red flag of communism. While various Antifa cells may ascribe more closely to one ideology over the other, they share a common belief in the destruction of the Western system of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of press, free market competition, freedom of religion, and rule of law. The Antifa movement is outside the realm of traditional mainstream politics, and both Democrats and Republicans have found themselves in their crosshairs. However, since 2016, its target has become former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Key to understanding Antifa is their lack of discrimination based on establishment party affiliation.
Key to understanding Antifa is their lack of discrimination based on establishment party affiliation.
According to the anarcho-communist doctrine, the larger systems and institutions of the United States, Canada, and Europe constitute “fascism” and must be overthrown. Indeed, Antifa predates MAGA by nearly 80 years—a fact unacknowledged by the mainstream media.
Thanks to a sympathetic press, the left has largely succeeded in redefining the terms “white nationalist,” “far-right,” and “extremist” to reflect their use in the Antifa and far-leftist lexicon. Once, such extreme terms were reserved for swastika-carrying Neo-Nazis and white-hooded Klansmen; today, they include mainstream conservatives, all Trump voters, members of law enforcement and the military, traditional Christians, and anyone who disagrees with the progressive left. Establishment media outlets, many corporate leaders, and extreme-left think tanks employ similar tactics, using such labels to falsely smear their political opponents, rather than exchange in honest debate over policy or issues. Indeed, the ruling class frequently uses the antifascist movement to target their populist opponents.
Despite its symbiotic relationship with the media, Antifa never hesitates to intimidate journalists. Prior to one action in Washington, D.C., its local political arm, AllOutDC, distributed a handout warning reporters to “avoid publishing any potentially incriminating photographs or video footage…” and to “ensure that you have explicit consent before capturing auto recordings or directly quoting interviewees… Members of the media who refuse to comply with these reasonable guidelines will be removed.” Shortly after this warning, Washington Examiner reporter Julio Rosas, doing his job in a public space, was assaulted for defying the order.
The Antifa movement’s clandestine operation has been critical to its growth. Like all fanatical organizations, it is a beacon for angry, lost souls. It is understandable that many millennials would be attracted to this movement. Millennials experienced 9/11 and the subsequent war in Iraq during their formative years, and graduated from college as America was in the throes of the Great Recession. Wealth and family formation for many millennials has stagnated, been delayed, or obliterated. Antifa offers an outlet for rage against the system.
Antifa’s militants were seen, not as violent insurrectionists, but as deeply committed leftist warriors who had the guts to stand up to America’s true enemies: Donald Trump and his evil white nationalist supporters.
Betts’ Dayton attack took place just two weeks after a firebombing incident in Tacoma, Washington. Antifa member Willem van Spronsen, identified as a 69-year old “carpenter and musician,” attempted to firebomb an ICE immigrant detention center. He arrived at the facility with a rifle and incendiary devices at 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 13th, 2019, following an Antifa protest there the previous day. He attempted to burn buildings and vehicles, and to ignite a propane tank before he was shot by Tacoma police.
Reportedly, Spronsen had participated in a previous Antifa assault on the same center months earlier. When he was arrested at the time, he was carrying a blackjack and a knife, yet the judge hearing the case released him without so much as a day of jail time.
Democrat mayors have long given Antifa virtually free rein. In places like Tacoma, Seattle, Portland, Charlottesville, and, later, Minneapolis, the behavior of local authorities (including orders for police to “stand down”) clearly enabled greater violence. Quite simply, Antifa’s militants were seen, not as violent insurrectionists, but as deeply committed leftist warriors who had the guts to stand up to America’s true enemies: Donald Trump and his evil white nationalist supporters. This of course, is the preferred narrative pushed by media elites and politicians.
The Trump years were a godsend for Antifa, providing favorable press coverage, and engendering a swell of support, especially on college campuses. By early 2020, the Twitter account of NYC Antifa alone had expanded by more than ten-fold from 2017: the account had more than 41,000 followers, while that of the Antifa-related Democrat Socialists of America had more than 210,000.
One of the biggest differences between the new Right and the old Right? We don’t just complain about things. We take action.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, which publicizes attacks on reporters, details on its website many, many incidents of Antifa assaulting journalists between 2017 and 2019. In Charlottesville, Antifa activists punched The Hill correspondent Taylor Lorenz in the head; in Berkeley, they beat reporter Dave Minsky with a pipe; in Richmond, they trounced a CBS cameraman; in Chicago, they punched Sun-Times writer Sam Charles. And these were journalists presumably sympathetic to Antifa—at least at the beginning.
Even more menacing is their attitude toward top targets. The home security system of Fox News star Tucker Carlson picked up audio of activists discussing a pipe bomb and saying, “We know where you sleep at night.” They proceeded to smash his door and threaten his family as his wife hid in the pantry. The Antifa group, Smash Racism DC, had posted on their Twitter account earlier, “We remind you that you are not safe.”
After Trump’s inauguration, and while reporting for Rebel Media, I was attacked by an Antifa militant myself. It was in April 2017, and I was covering a rally of the D.C. Anti-Fascist Coalition at George Washington University. I showed up with a camera and a case of Pepsi to distribute to potential interviewees, wanting to know: what did they want? Were they willing to disavow violence? Alas, I didn’t get very far before a militant sped up on his bike and started screaming at me. When I responded, he punched me in the head. Campus police rushed over, and he tried to flee, but when he was stopped, my attacker—later identified as Sydney Ramsey-LaRee—and his friends claimed the violence was in response to “ethnic slurs” I’d directed at him. Unfortunately for him, I taped the altercation, and he was cuffed and arrested. He was jailed after I testified at his trial.
One of the biggest differences between the new Right and the old Right? We don’t just complain about things. We take action.
I’ve always been drawn to media. In high school, I hosted the morning TV news. In college, I studied media production and performance, as well as political science and international relations, all the while interning with talk radio and with campaigns. After college, I moved to China for two years to work for U.S. businesses and learned fluent Mandarin (more on that in my next book). While in China, I also learned about communism.
Their loyalty is to the religions of anti-capitalism, ‘social justice,’ and, now, fiercely ‘woke’ identity victimology.
Upon my return home, I joined the U.S. Navy to work in intelligence. That work sent me to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, where I served in detainee operations as an interrogator-analyst. During my deployment, the detention center held high-level members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban—this was pre-Bergdahl. Through my training and HUMINT (human intelligence) experience, I became familiar with the ways of thinking and patterns of behavior common to radical movements. Years later, when I began to seriously investigate Antifa, the parallels in decision-making, rationalizing, cognitive dissonance, and thrill-seeking were interesting to note. The distinct psychological causes are there.
Antifa preaches international revolution. Like their comrades elsewhere, the Americans in its ranks have no regard for national sovereignty. Their loyalty is to the religions of anti-capitalism, “social justice,” and, now, fiercely “woke” identity victimology. Crimethinc, one of Antifa’s most popular websites, promotes violence worldwide and has posted videos celebrating the burning of Chilean churches.
I’ve reported both online and on the One America News Network (OANN) about the connections between Antifa and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK-YPG), designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government in the 1970s, and responsible for hundreds of bombings, and between 30,000 and 40,000 deaths. PKK has drawn as many as five hundred Antifa fighters to Syria from Western nations, including America. One was arrested after coming home and participating in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), and later, planning to attack the Florida capital on inauguration day 2021.
For years I infiltrated Antifa meetings. Through this, I came to understand Antifa’s structure, organization, and strategic intent. Like the Taliban, Antifa operates through localized cells, and both employ an organizing principle intelligence professionals refer to as TTP (Tactics, Techniques and Procedures), which allows for procedures in one place to be followed in another with a minimum of direct coordination. These groups are comprised of innumerable individual groups and operate under a variety of names. Most similarly, despite being small, Antifa’s reach is vast, extending to cities and towns across the country.
When I began sounding the alarm about what I’d discovered, my cover, of course, was blown. Ever since, as one of a handful who have worked tirelessly to expose Antifa, I’ve been the target of vicious attacks from Antifa supporters, both on the streets and in the media—including by more than a few who have revealed themselves on social media to have been devoted “friends” of the murderer I mentioned, Connor Betts.
Indeed, just four hours before the shooting, Betts himself retweeted a not-so-subtle threat aimed my way. I was responding to the El Paso shooting and wrote, “Raise your hand if you agree it’s time to put parties aside and rebuild America’s mental health system,” in what I took to be a fairly innocuous message. In response, Betts’ Antifa comrade exploded: “Raise your hand if you agree it’s time to crush these vile little worms into dust once and for all.”
Antifa’s ultimate goal is the destabilizing of our nation and the undermining of our democracy, leading to a revolution—an updated version of the Maoist model that I learned about while living in China. The violence they advocate and nurture is a means to that end, intended to sow chaos and raise suspicion of traditional institutions of order.
[I]t is a belief system that allows not the slightest reflection or hesitation. The most extreme measures and heinous acts are acceptable when done on its behalf.
Perhaps most chilling is its adherents’ absolute confidence in the righteousness of their cause and their certainty about its eventual triumph. Like the Taliban—and those behind The Terror in Revolutionary France or the Bolsheviks in Russia—it is a belief system that allows not the slightest reflection or hesitation. The most extreme measures and heinous acts are acceptable when done on its behalf.
In fact, they are so secure in their beliefs (and so confident of not being fully exposed in today’s media and civic environment) that they rarely bother to hide them. A year before the summer 2020 riots, a New York Antifa member identifying herself as Maura blithely explained to a CNN reporter why she and her comrades felt no hesitation wreaking havoc on private property—and against those with whom they disagree. “Violence against windows,” she scoffed, “there’s no such thing as violence against windows. Windows don’t have—they’re not persons. And even when they are persons, the people we fight back against, they are evil. They are the living embodiment, they are the second coming of Hitler.”
Antifa’s leading academic apologist Mark Bray, an assistant philosophy professor and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook (2017), the widely-cited true-believing authority on Antifa’s beliefs and tactics, once noted that Antifa adherents “have no allegiance to liberal democracy… They’re anarchists and communists who are way outside the traditional conservative-liberal spectrum.”
That view is evident in Antifa’s online TTP guide, Black Bloc Tactics Communique, which mocks pacifism and sets out Antifa’s immediate goals:
- Increased organization of street fighting force.
- Regular physical training in between actions.
- Facilitation of pre-emptive strikes.
- Preparation for eventuality of intensified state oppression and the shifting of the movement of social protest into that of direct social revolution.
In short, what we’ve seen to date is only a prelude.
Former Australian Antifa leader Shayne Hunter once said of his former comrades, “The radical left of Antifa presents itself as being about compassion and empathy; it’s a Trojan horse.”
Antifa, he added, “is more dangerous than ISIS.”
Days before the slaughter in Dayton, Betts was on Twitter with a fellow Antifa militant discussing the recent actions—and violent death—of van Spronsen in Tacoma. What did he think, he asked Betts, was van Spronsen a “villain or martyr?”
Betts didn’t hesitate: “Martyr.”