Statement on ‘Great Lakes Antifa’ from Cleveland Antifascist Network
From It's Going Down
People that have been with IGD for a long time know that we aren’t prone to secretarian attacks or the airing of internal movement divisions, however we feel that in this instance, a line in the sand must be drawn.
In the last 9 months, many new people have come into our movement, and as people that have been involved for years, we must help point out problem behaviors, regardless of if they are in the work of disruptive elements, informants, or active agents of the State. With that in mind, we share and endorse the following statement from Cleveland.
We do not undertake this task joyously. Those in the anarchist milieu that have interacted with people from the Cleveland scene in the last few years know that we are not prone to get involved in personal conflicts and cause “drama,” and avoid it as much as we can. We are also not very apt to air our collective decisions, particularly when they involve other groups, publicly. But, with this said, this moment, and this specific situation is an exception to this rule. Over the past 8 months we have watched as an organization known as Great Lakes Antifa has caused problems, not only within other cities, but within Cleveland as well, following a pattern of behavior that is dangerous and deceptive. Over the past week this situation has hit a point of critical mass, with threats and recriminations being articulated by a number of different groups, which have forced us to have to articulate an otherwise internal decision publicly, and explain why we will not work with Great Lakes Antifa or anyone associated with them.
Before getting into the specifics of this decision there are some disclaimers that we would like to put forward first. The decision that has been made internally within the Cleveland Antifascist Network is not a result of the horrendous behavior that we have seen some within GLA engage in over the course of the past week, since the Antiracist Action Network statement was released on October 6, 2017. The only decision that has been made as a result of the gas-lighting, threats and general abuse exhibited over the past week has been to articulate already existing concerns in public. This is also not a decision that has been made for personal reasons, or in relation to the dynamics of GLA’s conflicts with groups in other cities. Our decision to not associate with GLA or any affiliated persons is a decision purely based on behavior we have seen in relation to those in Cleveland, and the risks that this behavior poses to our selves, our friends, our communities, our reputation and our projects; the question of whether we like or dislike members or GLA is irrelevant here. This has nothing to do with personality conflicts, things that can be loosely called “drama,” or anything having to do with the social dynamics between us and them, and this is not a question of “purism” – an accusation thrown around by GLA consistently – and one that has been aimed at us in the past. We will be sticking to our reflections of their general strategy and style of action, and articulating our concerns in relation to this only.
We will also not be releasing personal information about people in GLA, although we have it, and we will not be revealing some of the more damning information that we possess. At this point we are unsure what the motivations behind some of the more reckless and deceptive behavior that we will outline here are, but do not feel it is appropriate to reveal any information that could put GLA members at risk for repression by the state. As such, we will reveal as much as we can, and nothing more, while avoiding any additional risk, beyond the risk that GLA poses to itself and others in proximity to it. We will only be discussing what is relevant in relation to the specific behavior that we would like to outline here.
This statement is also not a topic of continued discussion. We have no desire to debate this. For the past series of weeks we have been compiling information, doing our research, obtaining verifiable information and discussing events with people from a variety of scenes and political tendencies, and our conclusions are the same now as they were months ago. We will not be responding to attacks on social media and we will not be engaging with those that wish to debate this. If you do not like the decision that we have made, then please feel free to not associate with us. Given some of the information that we have been privy to over the past week we will be taking a position of protecting ourselves from threats that anyone associated with GLA would like to make, and will be immediately documenting and making public within the anarchist milieu, nationally and internationally, any threats that we do receive without responding to those that may choose to resort to threatening tactics. This is the case for any member of any group associated with the Cleveland Antifascist Network, and any of the people that are within our circles of trust, families, friend groups and associated circles.
Now, with that out of the way, lets get down to it. The reasons that we have chosen, months ago, to not only not associate with Great Lakes Antifa, but to treat them as a possible threat to our safety, can be broken down into five primary categories of behavior: deceptive behavior, recklessness, horrendous operational security and the illusion of security expertise, inaccurate portrayals of relationships and associations in the attempt to gain entry into groups or scenes, and general shit-talking. These behaviors will be outlined below, with as many specifics as we deem necessary to reveal. This behavior began around the beginning of 2017, with our first contact with anyone associated with GLA occurring in February, and has continued throughout the entirety of this year. The decision to not associate with GLA, just for context, was made internally at the end of April / early May, and has been held internally since that time. Since that decision was made we have had other interactions with them, but have also been paying close attention to their behavior over the five months since we chose to quietly disassociate from them entirely. In that time we have not only found that this behavior has continued, but that it has increased in frequency and magnitude, and has hit a point in which our grievances need to be aired to the anarchist milieu at large.
“This person claims to be operating a “Resistance network” which had contacts in 27 states, Puerto Rico, the UK, Canada and Finland, and which has access to significant funding, “training and project management” and technical resources. They also provided their personal cell phone number.”
The initial contact that any members from GLA made with Cleveland, through a Facebook sock puppet account, occurred on February 27th. This account, which currently uses a username in Russian, but which at the time was under the name “Jessica Marie” and signed their message “Jessica,” sent a message in an attempt to get in contact with someone in Cleveland Antifa. We will refer to this person as “XX” as a shorthand to protect their (presumably) real name. This person claims to be operating a “Resistance network” which had contacts in 27 states, Puerto Rico, the UK, Canada and Finland, and which has access to significant funding, “training and project management” and technical resources. They also provided their personal cell phone number.
The first record that anyone from Cleveland can find of XX undertaking any political organizing in the Cleveland area is a GoFundMe page created in February of 2017, attempting to raise money to defeat Rob Portman, a state politician, in 2022. This page was set up by XX, prior to the creation of the Great Lakes Antifa page (which seems to have occurred in March of 2017), who has since become a distinct source of much of the controversy between antifascist crews in the region. This page, which we have found in our research into the group, was set up under an alias, one that has been the medium of much of the communication with groups in Cleveland, with the only update on the page being posted under a verifiable real name of XX. At this point, contrary to claims that XX had been active in antifascist circles in Cleveland for years, none of us had ever had any contact with this specific person. We would not make any contact with them until around one month later.
Our first record of real-life interaction with XX occurred on March 4th of 2017 during a counter-demonstration during a pro-Trump rally. That evening, XX attended an IWW bowling social in town and had some discussions with members of the Red Triangle CLE nonprofit, a group attempting to raise money to open a radical community space in Cleveland. XX told the locals involved in the discussion that they were able to train people in security culture and secure their computers, as well as raise a bunch of money from wealthy liberals. XX claimed that they were part of a big organization that was operating locally, but knew nothing about other groups operating in Cleveland. A day later, XX contacted Red Triangle from a profile under the name “Jessica Marie,” but immediately gave their real name (we have verified this) and claimed to be locked up in organizing for Pikeville for the time being. The following day XX messaged again, and said that they had gotten a call from the office of Senator Sherrod Brown and tried to get the group to attend a meeting about funding. They then sent along a file claiming to be a “whitepaper” about this organization they were claiming to be a part of. Upon checking on this organization we found it to be a small organization, with only a handful of members and no discernible sources for the funding that they claim to have access to.
“XX told the locals involved in the discussion that they were able to train people in security culture and secure their computers, as well as raise a bunch of money from wealthy liberals. XX claimed that they were part of a big organization that was operating locally, but knew nothing about other groups operating in Cleveland.”
Around this time we had started vetting XX, who had contacted the Red Triangle group in late March / early April as a member of Great Lakes Antifa, an organization that has seemingly existed since March of 2017. During this process we attempted to find any history of their past work, and could not find any. We went as far as to contact people throughout the region, and to ask whether anyone knew who XX was, and no one had any experiences with them. We heard through contacts in Louisville that word of the vetting process had reached XX, and they started complaining that they were being “picked on” and said that they wanted nothing to do with the “antifa community” anymore. At this time the approach that was being taken was one of caution, but still possible engagement. After their reaction to the vetting process, a common process in this area, suspicions started to be raised about their practices and their interactions with other groups in the region. Nothing, at this point, however, was severe enough for us to completely cut ties.
In mid-March, after an admin on the Cleveland Antifa Facebook page made contact with XX to discuss Pikeville and transportation to the demonstration. A meeting was scheduled and during, XX claimed to have experience in doxxing people, a claim that was echoed in their other Facebook messages to others within our circles. XX offered doxxing classes, food, transportation and lodging for Pikeville. They also mentioned that they help people get resources for wheatpasting and banner drops. At the end of the meeting, XX handed members of Cleveland Antifa their official business card, which listed their real job, their real name and their office phone number. The group was willing to accept the assistance in getting to Pikeville, but suspicions were beginning to be raised by some around how incredibly open this person was about illegal and pseudo-illegal activities and the connections they purported to have, especially because they were willing to do this and then identify with their real name.
Following this meeting there was a short discussion about logistics for coordinating the counter-demonstration to the white supremacist convergence in Pikeville. Two days before Cleveland was to leave for Pikeville, XX told people from Cleveland that “basecamp” in Pikeville was compromised, that no one should go, and then cut off contact. They then tried to get people from Cleveland to post this information to a group chat for the organizing of “basecamp” which people from Cleveland were a part of, but XX was not. Cleveland Antifa checked the information to others involved in organizing “basecamp” before posting it to the wider group, and were assured that this information was incorrect. When asked where this information came from they said it came from Nashville, but when checked with people from Nashville this was also shown to be incorrect. When confronted about this in Nashville, XX started arguing with others in the discussion, deleted their social media profiles and disappeared. Over the past week, we have been privy to a statement that was being drafted within Nashville Antifa, a crew very close to and comprised of many of the same people as GLA, in which they claim that this claim stemmed from someone in Cleveland outing the real name of this specific GLA member to the people running “basecamp.”
We will discuss this more later, but, in brief, the person being accused of providing XX’s real name to the organizers did not in fact know their real name; although XX was not that careful about what their real name was, having provided business cards to people in Cleveland, identifying with their real name to others in Cleveland and posting the GoFundMe page under both their assumed name and updating it under their real name.
After this incident, and the general behavior of XX and others in GLA around Pikeville, those within the Cleveland Antifascist Network decided that we were not going to have anything further to do with GLA or anyone affiliated with them, but at the time decided that we would keep this to ourselves and not go public with our experiences. Throughout the summer we had no contact with XX or anyone else affiliated with the group. This stayed the case until August 19th, when Burning River Anarchist Collective hosted a community solidarity event in the Slavic Village neighborhood with antifascists in Charlottesville. This was a community oriented event, one that was meant to provide a space in which community organizing could be done around antifascist struggle. During this event 4 members of GLA, including XX, showed up to the event in full black bloc, wearing body armor, held up a banner, snapped a picture and then promptly left. Locally, this raised significant suspicions about the direction and general strategy of GLA, leaving many of us feeling as if their approach was generally reckless.
This prompted an argument, which played out over Facebook, between XX and a member of Cleveland Antifa. The argument was started when the member of Cleveland Antifa criticized GLA for showing up to a community event and being generally intimidating, questioning their strategic decisions in relation to the event. XX got immediately defensive and then cut off the conversation. We have come to find out that this prompted a post on a Facebook page run by another member of GLA, which we will call YY. In this post YY accuses an unknown group, which is clearly Cleveland Antifa, of being “purists” and fostering division, for merely being mildly critical of their approach to a community event.
Also, we came to find out in the weeks following this incident that XX was present at an anti-police brutality demonstration in Euclid, Ohio, an inner ring suburb of Cleveland. During this event XX discussed purchasing weapons and body armor for a group of people. They also stated that they were the “real antifa” and that “other antifa in Cleveland are unreliable and cannot be trusted.” They then tried to recruit a number of people at the event. This fits a general pattern that we have become aware of in the time since the Burning River event, in which XX will approach people either that live in suburbs, or that are on the fringes of activity in Cleveland, offering to provide training, and talking openly about purchasing “weapons” and body armor.
We have also become aware, since this time, that XX has tried to claim that they had done a lot of work with people in Burning River Anarchist Collective, in discussions with local liberals, even though Burning River only knows XX through showing up at their event, and had no interaction with them there. A member of GLA, who we will refer to as ZZ, attempted to use one former member of Columbus ARA as a vouch with a member of the Cleveland Antifascist Network, even though this person had never met ZZ. ZZ then started posting evidence of illegal actions directly to the Cleveland Antifa page on Facebook, encouraging members to participate. We have heard that a person claiming to be in GLA has attempted to use Cleveland antifascists as a vouch in an attempt to get involved in Cincinnatti. We have also become aware that XX has moved to the area. Since then we have been in contact with a number of people that have interacted with XX, who all have similar stories. In this common narrative XX will show up at some sort of event in the suburbs, talk to the people there and then convince them that they should engage in low-level illegal activities, while convincing them that they can help with information security and resources.
“In this common narrative XX will show up at some sort of event in the suburbs, talk to the people there and then convince them that they should engage in low-level illegal activities, while convincing them that they can help with information security and resources.”
Since the ARA Network statement about GLA and Nashville Antifa we have become aware of a number of other incidents that are both disturbing and in keeping with a pattern of general retaliation, deception and recklessness. The Cleveland Antifa Facebook page reposted the ARA Network statement about GLA, and immediately began to get attacked by trolls, claiming either to be in GLA, or to “know people” in GLA. We have heard that XX claimed to have had a four-hour long meeting with Columbus ARA, during which they worked out their differences; we checked with Columbus ARA and this meeting never took place. Through talking to people in other cities we have become aware of a general pattern of XX and others claiming affiliation with It’s Going Down and Idavox, both of which have only had passing discussions with them on Facebook (and with Idavox specifically interacting with them in an attempt to mediate the conflict between Nashville people in the wake of the release of the statement). It has also become clear that GLA has a general pattern of isolating marginally connected radical-leaning people in a city through claiming that known groups vouch for them, then speaking ill of local antifascists and attempting to get people that they have isolated to engage in risky activity, even to the point of providing weapons and body armor.
Needless to say, this is a disturbing pattern; below we will be outlining the specific issues we have had with their behavior since the beginning of the year. In hearing these stories, having these experiences and generally coming to understand the scale of the disruption XX and others in GLA have caused throughout the region the decision was made to break our silence about this situation and explain our decision to not work with GLA or anyone affiliated with the group. Again, this is a long standing decision that was made before our interactions with those in other cities about the subject. We want to reiterate that we are unclear as to the motivations for this behavior, and do not want to openly speculate about this at this time. We would just like to encourage other to approach GLA with extreme caution, to not necessarily take what they are saying at face value and to confirm any claims that they make with others that are involved.
The first thing that struck people in Cleveland as being amiss with XX and their close associates in Great Lakes Antifa that we have interacted with was the way in which they were 1) willing to both divulge details about their group, or what they said were details about their group, and 2) encourage others to do illegal actions in contexts in which their connections to said people were superficial and often did not extend beyond the immediate discussions they were having at the time. This is coupled with a tendency to engage in a sort of aesthetic militancy, wherein GLA (or specifically XX) portrays itself as being “the most militant,” while not actually focusing on the proper or strategic action for the moment.
“This is coupled with a tendency to engage in a sort of aesthetic militancy, wherein GLA (or specifically XX) portrays itself as being “the most militant,” while not actually focusing on the proper or strategic action for the moment.”
The reality is that – for all of the talk and aesthetics of militancy put forward by XX and others within GLA, there is very little actual action to show for it. They have been present at some actions, carried out some minor direct actions within march contexts (which they then would openly admit to online) and engaged in wheatpasting campaigns. Beyond this, there is very little actual action to show for all of the work that they are claiming to have done. Now, we aren’t saying this to discredit their militant credibility as “not doing enough” – rather we are concerned that, despite realtively little engagement in seriously disruptive or confrontational action, they are openly encouraging a sort of reckless militancy based in the idea that presenting as militant, and dressing the part, can compensate for a lack of strategic understanding of the context of actions, the wishes and desires of strategic unity from local organizers (both inside and outside of the anarchist / leftist milieu) or the ways that these impact local dynamics. They tend to engage in this sort of aesthetic militancy in ways that are completely out of context for the actions that they are participating in, needlessly escalating dynamics and pushing community members outside of the closed bubble of the anarchist milieu away.
“They tend to engage in this sort of aesthetic militancy in ways that are completely out of context for the actions that they are participating in, needlessly escalating dynamics and pushing community members outside of the closed bubble of the anarchist milieu away.”
This generally demonstrates not only a complete misunderstanding of when militant resistance is called for, but also betrays a complete lack of understanding of localized strategic approaches to resistance, and the reasons that certain activities may be undertaken in said contexts. This lack of strategic awareness, if combined with rhetorical and aesthetic militancy and a lack of experience, creates the opportunity for newer participants to begin to engage in actions that they are not prepared without an understanding of the possible consequences of that action. By focusing entirely on the need to immediately escalate, without any attention to the strategic imperatives of specific forms of action, GLA risks putting the newer, less engaged and less experienced people within the fringes of the local scenes they tend to recruit their members from needlessly at risk of victimization by the state or our adversaries on the right.
GLA’s open talk of weapons, their tendency to show up to actions in body armor, and their tendency to present as “the most militant” also paints a huge target on their back in relation to the state. This makes GLA a clear target for infiltration by federal agencies and local law enforcement. While this would not be a reason to cease working with a group in and of itself, their tendency to engage in the aesthetics of escalation, combined with horrendous operational security (which we will talk about in a bit) and a tendency to work with newer and less experiences members of a community, presents a significant risk to those around active members of GLA – enough so that we in Cleveland are willing to go on record stating that we will be keeping our distance.
Horrendous Operational Security and the Illusion of Security
Since our first contacts with XX, and later with GLA formally, people in Cleveland have been generally concerned at the absolutely despicable operational security that the group has demonstrated. The initial contact with XX resulted in them sharing information about some sort of secret organization that supposedly existed, being told the real first name of the person reaching out, and being told that they could provide money, support and information security training to individuals that they had not met or previously interacted with in any capacity. This was followed by XX providing people in Cleveland with proof of their employment and real name in the form of a verifiably-true business card to one person in Cleveland Antifa, as well as revealing numerous details about their personal life to others with whom they have no reason to trust outside of a naive general sense of leftist camraderie. XX and others in GLA have also been relatively open with near-strangers (including their own members, many of whom it is evident have not met each other in real life outside the context of anonymous masked action) about illegal and semi-illegal actions to others within the Cleveland Antifascist Network. They have also generously extended this indiscretion to people outside the anarchist milieu, engaging liberal organizations in the area with talks of procuring weapons and body armor for near-strangers on their initial contact with said people.
“What is even more concerning is that XX has portrayed themselves as someone with a sort of expertise in operational security and information security practices.”
What is even more concerning is that XX has portrayed themselves as someone with a sort of expertise in operational security and information security practices. In the interest of being generous to the remains of their reputation, let us just say that when a person tries to convince others that writing their name on Facebook in Russian Cyrillic will protect them from doxxing – and who posts updates to online political fundraisers under their real name, even after creating the campaign under an assumed name sock puppet account – well, it doesn’t particularly inspire confidence in their capacity to teach good operational security. It is clear that outside of the use of Signal chats, GLA carries out most of its organizational discussions over Facebook – a completely monitored and effectively compromised platform which has a history of collusion with law enforcement. Members of the group are also completely willing to provide their personal contact information to people that they have no relationship with, and who they have only met online.
There are numerous problems here which would be enough for most of us to want to keep distance from a group of people. However, the most troubling thing about these practices, and the almost total lack of any coherent operational security practices, is that XX attempts to convince others that they are some sort of expert in operational and information security. This creates the idea that by following the practices that XX recommends that others will be able to protect themselves from surveillance, which is not only far from the case, but also which creates a false sense of security allowing for the open discussion of illegal actions on open social media platforms. Not only are their security practices horrendous, but this false sense of security has made it incredibly easy to map out members of the group, find personal information, and even to get information and documents from people that participate in “private” Facebook groups about internal GLA operations. From what we have seen, the tendency to default to Russian usernames, the shifting of sock puppet accounts while still maintaining the same circle of friends, the thinly-veiled opacity through which XX and others in GLA frame their discussions about internal matters with those outside of the group, gives off the air of people attempting to build opsec around what people who think they know about opsec – but do not actually understand opsec – think opsec is.
If it was this easy for people in Cleveland – who work full-time jobs, have kids and busy lives outside of antifascist work – to gain this much information about GLA and their membership in the span of just over a week of actual info-gathering, then we shudder to think about what the federal agencies have found out should GLA’s aesthetic militancy have alerted them to a potential threat. When combined, the tendency to engage in public declarations of militancy, to openly talk about procuring weapons and body armor as declared enemies of the existence of the state, and to both encourage and brag about illegal activity, their failure to even impose a modicum of functional operational security is clearly a threat to anyone in or adjacent to this crew.
Deceptive Behavior and Inaccurate Portrayals of Relationships and Associations
It is almost impossible to know where to begin, given the layers upon layers of accusations that have been thrown back and forth between GLA and their detractors. So, with that said, we will keep this discussion to the specifics of the local situation and our experiences with XX and GLA. Our mistrust of XX initial was created by their willingness to make completely over-the-top claims about their access to seemingly unlimited resources and the connections that they claimed that they had. In all of the research that we had done, and in all of the discussions that occurred, no specific evidence of the existence of this network of groups, nor of the resources that they claimed to possess, were ever produced or discovered. For some of us, this raised suspicions immediately that not everything was at it was being presented to be by XX and their fellow crew members.
“When we take this tendency to exaggerate their connections with others in the light of a tendency to react to being called out, AS WELL AS a tendency toward building layers and layers of deception on top of one another, it becomes impossible for us to trust anything that XX, or anyone else in GLA, has to say.”
The experiences that Cleveland Antifa had around Pikeville essentially cemented that suspicion. XX, after having discussions with people in Cleveland about funding their travels to Pikeville, became difficult to get a hold of for most of the two weeks leading up to the action. When contact was finally re-established, XX asked someone from Cleveland Antifa to relay a message claiming that the Pikeville “basecamp” was compromised to an internal organizers list from which XX was intentionally excluded. This claim was found to be entirely baseless, and XX vanished upon being confronted by organizers and offered no explanation to their contact with Cleveland Antifa. We have been privy to a currently unreleased Nashville Antifa internal document, which is meant to explain some of the conflicts with ARA Network from their perspective, in which they make the claim that a person traveling with the Cleveland Antifa crew told people at “basecamp” XX’s real name. The problem is (outside of the fact that they essentially dox this person by showing their real Facebook username in a screenshot in this document) the person in question was unaware of XX’s real name at the time, which we have confirmed with the person in question. The name given to people in “basecamp” was in fact the assumed name that XX used freely with many of the people they interacted with.
As stated earlier, we have also been able to track a number of other deceptive claims that XX and others close to them in GLA have made around their associations and pasts in the antifascist and anarchist milieu. XX claimed, for example, they had done a lot of work with Burning River Anarchist Collective , despite only meeting a couple of members of the group once and not actually talking to them about the group. We found that a member of GLA, who we refer to above as ZZ, attempted to use their connection to high profile members of Columbus ARA as a vouch to get involved in Cleveland crews besides GLA; when we checked in with Columbus ARA, few people knew who this person was, and everyone that did said that they were completely unreliable and not to be trusted in an organizational capactiy.
As stated above, we have come to find out that XX claimed that they had a four-hour long meeting with Columbus ARA about the ARA Network statement, a meeting which never happened, and we checked with literally everyone involved with Columbus ARA. We have seen evidence of GLA claiming to have a relationship with It’s Going Down, based off seemingly nothing more than a handful of Facebook discussions. GLA has also claimed this relationship with Idavox, which again consists of a few Facebook conversations and people within Idavox attempting to mediate conflicts after the ARA Network statement. Another member of GLA (reference them as QQ) attempted to use supposed connections in Cleveland (which do not exist) to gain access to people in Cincinnatti. XX has also used a similar ploy, saying that they have been involved in the Cleveland scene for years, which is not the case, in an attempt to either convince others to work with them or to gain access to people in other cities.
Time and time again, people in Cleveland have been contacted and asked to look into these claims, and every time – literally every time – we have found these claims of support and relationships to either be completely overblown, or entirely nonexistent. When we take this tendency to exaggerate their connections with others in the light of a tendency to react to being called out, AS WELL AS a tendency toward building layers and layers of deception on top of one another, it becomes impossible for us to trust anything that XX, or anyone else in GLA, has to say.
Regarding the aforementioned statement about “purity politics” in the wake of our criticism of GLA at the Charlottesville memorial, we would like to take this opportunity to eschew pettiness and rather focus on their over-the-top defensiveness in the context of the other patterns of behavior exhibited by XX and their close associates in GLA, which paints a significantly more disturbing portrait of their conduct with those who question their methods or legitimacy as an organization. The initial issue here is that GLA has a tendency to take justifiable strategic critique and well-meaning discourse as an assault on their character, and react to it in over-exaggerated, overly-politicized ways, rather than addressing it within the context of the critique. This approach tends to mean that minor criticisms, like a criticism of them showing up to a community event in body armor, makes them unbridgeable chasms of absolute political difference couched in absolutist terms. In this specific case, we – a crew that spans tendencies from platformists to nihilists – was accused of “purism” simply for implying that GLA may want to take a different approach to community – and declaratively non-militant – events.
“If we take these incidents individually, none of them add up to any specific necessity to inform the community at large. But, when taken in aggregate, a problematic pattern emerges…”
The problem extends beyond this however. In discussions with others locally that have had interactions with GLA, one common thread appears over and over again. In all of these interactions we are told that XX has told others that all of the antifa and anarchist groups in Cleveland are unreliable, untrustworthy purists that should not be bothered with, and that GLA are the only group worth working with. This generates a situation in which newer, and often younger, participants in the anarchist milieu in northern Ohio are isolated from older, more established groups, and compelled to work with XX and GLA, without any context to make that decision. The conversations that tend to result, which often involve confused new participants wondering why we are awful would be humorous, if the reasons for their perceptions did not all lead back to the same person, at which point it just seems malicious and an attempt to construct a bubble of isolation around their recruits which renders them immune to criticism from what they consider bad actors trying to sabotage their “Herculean efforts” toward a revolutionary uprising. As we have come to understand over the past couple of weeks, XX went about trying to recruit new participants in the radical scene through a process of shit-talking local established anarchists and offering weapons, body armor and training for these new participants. When combined with exaggerating their operational security and information security prowess, as well as making false claims as to the relationships that they have with other groups, the conclusion has been made, and was made long ago, to not associate with XX and others within GLA.
Though this statement may seem long – and fucking believe us, it is – keep in mind that this is what has arisen out very limited interactions with XX and others in GLA in both Northeast Ohio and the wider region in which GLA operates. We do not even have an extensive relationship with XX or anyone in the group – many of us have never met them or anyone in their crew – and this extensive recounting of their behavior has been the result of glancing and tangential interactions. What has been displayed in these limited experiences, as well as the experiences with others, is a disturbing pattern of recklessness, deception, horrendous operational security, a tendency toward an unfocused militancy and an approach which isolates new participants and places them in a potentially insular and risky environment.
“This is not to say that everyone in GLA is unable to be worked with, but locally we have decided that we will not work with many of those within GLA, or the organization as a group.”
If we take these incidents individually, none of them add up to any specific necessity to inform the community at large. But, when taken in aggregate, a problematic pattern emerges – not just in our own community but also in the context of incidents of nearly identical behavior reported by established antifascist groups throughout the region that have, for one reason or another, grown to distrust XX, YY and any number of their comrades who take part in their activities. This is not to say that everyone in GLA is unable to be worked with, but locally we have decided that we will not work with many of those within GLA, or the organization as a group. We would highly encourage others to take the same approach, at least until the situation can be clarified, or steps are taken within the organization to remedy the conflict, pain, mistrust and damage that they have caused here in northern Ohio.
-Cleveland Antifascist Network
Note: Cleveland Antifa and the Cleveland Antifascist Network are not the same organization. Cleveland Antifa is one group within the wider network that is the Cleveland Antifascist Network.