Behind the Antifa Mask: ‘I Wanted to Fight for Something’

Anti-fascist activists come from a variety of backgrounds and are only loosely affiliated. Some are veteran demonstrators. Others are youths in search of a cause, including one who told the Washington Post, “I wanted a purpose.”

When summer began, few Americans had heard of militant anti-fascists, or “antifa.” Then came the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where antifa activists were credited with protecting clergy members from attacks by the alt-right. If Trump’s election has emboldened the far right, it has also energized its enemies, reports the Washington Post. Hidden behind masks, antifa activists remain mysterious. Are they everyday citizens guarding against the rise of a Fourth Reich? Or are they, as Trump has claimed, merely the “alt-left” — a lawless mirror image of the white supremacists they oppose?

On Thursday, Trump claimed recent antifa antics had justified his much-criticized response to Charlottesville, in which he blamed “both sides.” “I think, especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said,” he said. Interviews with a dozen antifa activists show they come from a variety of backgrounds and are only loosely affiliated. Some are youths in search of a cause. “I wanted a purpose,” said Sean Hines, a high school dropout from Santa Rosa, Calif. “I wanted to fight for something.” Others have been demonstrating for decades. Many are anarchists, although some vote. They employ a range of peaceful tactics, including publicly exposing white supremacists. While they are all open to using violence, some embrace it — even glorify it. What unites them is the belief that free speech is secondary to squashing fascism before it takes root in the U.S.