Anarchists Respond to Trump’s Inauguration, by Any Means Necessary
From NY Times - By FARAH STOCKMANFEB
The videotaped sucker punch that staggered the white nationalist Richard Spencer on Inauguration Day quickly inspired mockery on social media. But it echoed loudly in an escalating confrontation between extreme ends of the political spectrum.
With far-right groups edging into the mainstream with the rise of President Trump, self-described anti-fascists and anarchists are vowing to confront them at every turn, and by any means necessary — including violence.
In Berkeley, Calif., on Wednesday night, masked protesters set fires, smashed windows and stormed buildings on the campus of the University of California to shut down a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, an inflammatory Breitbart News editor and a right-wing provocateur already barred from Twitter. Five people were injured, administrators canceled the event, and the university police locked down the campus for hours.
That followed a bloody melee in Seattle on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, when black-clad demonstrators — their faces concealed to minimize the risk of arrest — tried to prevent a speech by Mr. Yiannopoulos at the University of Washington, and a 34-year-old anti-fascist was shot and seriously wounded by a supporter of Mr. Yiannopoulos.
The outbreaks of destruction and violence since Mr. Trump’s inauguration have earned contempt from Republicans — including Trump supporters who say it is exactly why they voted for his promises of law and order — and condemnation from Democrats like Berkeley’s mayor, Jesse Arreguín. He called Wednesday’s display “contrary to progressive values” and said it “provided the ultranationalist far right exactly the images they want” to try to discredit peaceful protesters of Mr. Trump’s policies.
But anarchists and anti-fascists, who often make up a small but disproportionately attention-getting portion of protesters, defend the mayhem they create as a necessary response to an emergency.
“Yes, what the black bloc did last night was destructive to property,” Eric Laursen, a writer in Massachusetts who has helped publicize anarchist protests, said, using another name for the black-clad demonstrators. “But do you just let someone like Milo go wherever he wants and spread his hate? That kind of argument can devolve into ‘just sit on your hands and wait for it to pass.’ And it doesn’t.”
Anarchists also say their recent efforts have been wildly successful, both by focusing attention on their most urgent argument — that Mr. Trump poses a fascist threat — and by enticing others to join their movement.
“The number of people who have been showing up to meetings, the number of meetings, and the number of already-evolving plans for future actions is through the roof,” Legba Carrefour, who helped organize the so-called Disrupt J20 protests on Inauguration Day in Washington, said in an interview.
“Gained 1,000 followers in the last week,” trumpeted @NYCAntifa, an anti-fascist Twitter account in New York, on Jan. 24. “Pretty crazy for us as we’ve been active for many years with minimal attention. SMASH FASCISM!”
The movement even claims to be finding adherents far afield of major population centers. A participant in CrimethInc, a decades-old anarchist network, pointed to rising attendance at its meetings and activity cropping up in new places like Omaha.
“The Left ignores us. The Right demonizes us,” the anarchist website It’s Going Down boasted on Twitter. “Everyday we grow stronger.”
Little known to practitioners of mainstream American politics, militant anti-fascists make up a secretive culture closely associated with anarchists. Both reject social hierarchies as undemocratic and eschew the political parties as hopelessly corrupt, according to interviews with a dozen anarchists around the country. While some anarchists espouse nonviolence, others view property damage and even physical attacks on the far right as important tactics.