An incredible op-ed in today’s New York Times by four liberal clergy members claims that there is a “false equivalency” between violent racists and violent Antifa and that ordinary Americans “cling to unrealistic standards when it comes to what protest should look like.”
Media outlets and commentators representing a range of political persuasions have called attention to recent outbreaks of violence in Berkeley, Calif., Boston and other locations where anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators have gathered. Intentionally or not, they have often promoted a false equivalency between groups that advocate white supremacy and those that seek to eliminate it.
Even mainstream media outlets that typically fact-check the president seem to have subtly bought into Mr. Trump’s “both sides” narrative regarding right- and left-wing extremism. They’ve run headlines that highlight small violent skirmishes while ignoring the thousands who marched and protested peacefully, to say nothing of the injustices that inspired the protests.
Oh, really? That’s not what the administration of President Barack Obama discovered about Antifa:
Previously unreported documents disclose that by April 2016, authorities believed that “anarchist extremists” were the primary instigators of violence at public rallies against a range of targets. They were blamed by authorities for attacks on the police, government and political institutions, along with symbols of “the capitalist system,” racism, social injustice and fascism, according to a confidential 2016 joint intelligence assessment by DHS and the FBI.
Yeah…gotta watch those right wingers every minute.
No doubt there were “peaceful protesters” in Charlottesville. We saw them. But what in God’s name were they thinking when they saw several hundred guys walking around, dressed all in black, wearing masks and helmets, carrying shields and clubs? They knew full well that the fascists and racists were going to get theirs and if they didn’t actually support Antifa, they endorsed them and their tactics by their presence.
But that doesn’t matter to the liberal clergy writing in the New York Times:
Our complaint here is not about the right-wing media outlets that we know will continue to delegitimize anti-racist protest in any form — whether it’s peacefully sitting during the national anthem, marching in the streets, staging boycotts or simply making the apparently radical claim that “black lives matter.” Rather, our concern at this moment is with our moderate brothers and sisters who voice support for the cause of racial justice but simultaneously cling to paralyzingly unrealistic standards when it comes to what protest should look like.
I guess Martin Luther King was “unrealistic” about the people he led at demonstrations not fighting back and trying to be peaceful. But then, that’s only MLK. His standards were a lot different than Antifa.
As Christian clergy members, we place a high value on nonviolence. We are part of a national campaign that promotes proven solutions to reducing gun violence in our cities, and each of us has worked to achieve peace in our neighborhoods. But we know there has never been a time in American history in which movements for justice have been devoid of violent outbreaks.
Yes, but they don’t get it. The violence at civil rights rallies in the ’60s was committed by southern authorities, usually not by the marchers. They stood or sat peacefully while the racists bashed their heads in or let loose a water cannon on children.
Thanks to the sanitized images of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement that dominate our nation’s classrooms and our national discourse, many Americans imagine that protests organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and countless local organizations fighting for justice did not fall victim to violent outbreaks. That’s a myth. In spite of extensive training in nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, individuals and factions within the larger movement engaged in violent skirmishes, and many insisted on their right to physically defend themselves even while they proclaimed nonviolence as an ideal (examples include leaders of the SNCC and the Deacons for Defense and Justice in Mississippi).
Yes, there were “skirmishes.” But those who became violent were usually provoked by police or jeering racists. And the biggest difference is that the violence back then was not organized, it was not planned, it was not a cold, calculated attack which is exactly how Antifa operates.
The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait.
Antifa is using good-hearted but wrong-headed people like this to shield their subversive, violent campaign of intimidating the political opposition. They are not only bashing the skulls of fascists and racists. They are beating up those who they think voted for Donald Trump, making their attacks far more political than the MSM is willing to say.
An intelligent press would be asking the question: Who does Antifa start beating up next?