I previously testified in the Senate about Antifa and the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States. I specifically contradicted the statement made by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, Jerry Nadler, that Antifa (and his involvement in violent protests) is a "myth". My main concern remains the increasing use of violence to end free speech across the country – a practice that has been practiced at our locations for years. That danger was evident in San Francisco yesterday when a conservative group gathered for free speech to protest recent actions by big tech companies like Twitter. They were violently attacked and the organizer had knocked two teeth out before the event was canceled.
A conservative group called Team Save America organized the event and was hit by a violent crowd who tried to prevent them from speaking. Media reported that the counter-demonstrators wore BLM and Antifa signs. In a pattern now known, the counter-protesters prevented those with opposing views from being heard. Philip Anderson, an organizer of the event, had his teeth knocked out by someone he identified as Antifa.
As I wrote, while Antifa is more of a movement than a specific organization, it does have members and associated groups. Indeed, it has long been the "Keyser Söze" of anti-free speech, a loosely aligned group that uses measures to avoid simple recognition or association. FBI Director Wray told Congress, "And we have a number of – and I have been quite consistent since my first appearance before this committee – we have a number of properly presupposed inquiries into what we are as violent anarchist extremists and some of them would label these individuals identify themselves with Antifa. "
My biggest concern is that we have to take Antifa seriously as a virulent anti-free speech organization. There is fair criticism of politicians who have refused to denounce or even support the group. Former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee Keith Ellison, now Attorney General of Minnesota, once said Antifa would "strike fear in Trump's heart." This happened after Antifa was involved in numerous acts of violence and its website was banned in Germany. His own son, Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the Minneapolis City Council, declared allegiance to Antifa in the heat of the protests that summer. During the previous hearing, Democratic senators refused to unequivocally denounce Antifa, falsely suggesting that the far right was the main cause of the recent violence. Joe Biden also dismissed objections to Antifa as an "idea".
What is striking is how widespread antifa rhetoric is that people claim that the silence of others is not only laudable or even a form of freedom of speech itself. NBC quotes counter-protester Shagoofa Khan with the proud statement: "We actually kicked her out."
A local resident named Carole Selignan is quoted as saying, "We don't need these kinds of people in San Francisco," while Kristina Lee said it was "working class solidarity against this rhetoric that divides and turns the working class against each other." “It was indeed an attempt to prevent opposing views and voices from being heard. It's an example of how free speech is now being treated as a threat. That comes straight from the Antifa manual.
Rutgers Professor Mark Brays Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook describes what Antifa calls "self-defense," including violence against the police or someone who is considered a fascist. In an editorial in the Washington Post, Bray criticized President Trump's attacks on Antifa as "delegitimizing militant protests":
"I believe it is true that most, if not all of the members wholeheartedly support the militant self-defense against the police and the deliberate destruction of police and capitalist property that has accompanied them this week. I am also confident that some members of anti-fascist groups participated in various forms of resistance during this dramatic rebellion. "
Antifa rejects the basis for free speech. Indeed, the Antifa handbook begins with the following quote from Buenaventura Durruti: "Fascism should not be discussed, but destroyed."