About 100 black-clad activists carrying makeshift shields and clubs descended on the California college town of Berkeley over the weekend and viciously attacked a small group of peaceful protestors.
Video footage of the protest shows groups of these activists kicking and punching demonstrators who have fallen in the street, swinging batons at others and threatening to destroy the cameras of anyone documenting their mayhem.
Unlike the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, these assailants in Berkeley weren’t far-right white supremacists or neo-Nazis, but a group of left-wing counterprotestors known as Antifa.
Short for Anti-fascist, Antifa members have over the last year increasingly made their violent presence known at progressive demonstrations and counter-protests to alt-right groups and speakers across the country – leaving many to question Antifa’s role in the leftist protest movement and to ask if the group is causing more harm than good.
“That’s the big debate,” Pamela Oliver, a sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies collective action and social movements, told Fox News. “Most people think that non-violence is the way to go and that violent, aggressive responses could backfire, that is play into the hands of white supremacists by using violence.”
The Antifa movement traces its roots back to militant anti-fascists operating in Nazi Germany during the 1930s, but the emergence of these modern groups in the United States – which are predominantly comprised of radical anarchists and focus more on fighting far-right ideology than on encouraging pro-left policies – coincided with the rise of white nationalists following the election of Barack Obama in 2008.