Submitted by Adam Barrington
At least a thousand activists and bleeding hearts gathered on a balmy spring Saturday in downtown Reno to make our voices heard and to show solidarity with victims of police violence.
In particular, George Floyd was on our minds. Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin while officers Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng stood by and watched. The horrific video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s throat has been viewed by all with the fortitude to watch, and it has ignited righteous fury in the American public.
That righteous fury has manifested itself in uprisings all over the country. Reno, as with other cities across the U.S., experienced property destruction and clashes between citizens and police. The mainstream media narrative is that “outside agitators” have been causing the violence, and the blame has been specifically placed on “Antifa,” a term that stands for anti-fascism.
Antifa garnered media attention shortly after the election of Donald Trump, which emboldened white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups across the country. People dressed in black with their faces covered began emerging and engaging in direct conflict with these various right-wing groups. Such direct action has received praise from some and scorn from others. Now, in the midst of nationwide rebellion, Antifa is used as a scapegoat for chaos, and has even been heinously described as a terrorist organization.
Perhaps the most ridiculous element of the Antifa blaming is that Antifa isn’t even an organization. There are no leaders. There are no meetings. Antifa is anyone and everyone opposed to fascism, and individuals alone are responsible for how they react to the presence of fascists in their cities.
Because of this, Trump and his ilk are able to label any protester a member of Antifa and attempt to inflict upon them the full brutality of the law. Trump has made Antifa his Emmanuel Goldstein, a mythical enemy that can trigger pearl-clutching in his shriveled base of supporters.
If not the gang of boogeymen hoodlums dressed in all black and lobbing Molotov cocktails, who is responsible for the destruction on that balmy Saturday? While all of the perpetrators and their motives cannot be confirmed, it’s worth noting that there was a noticeable presence of far-right, neo-fascist groups at the protest–including Patriot Front, a neo-Nazi organization; and Boogaloo boys, a loose-knit club of weirdos devoted to causing another Civil War. Their presence produced anxiety long before the gas canisters started landing at our feet.
White men in paramilitary garb, carrying backpacks and sometimes firearms, were openly visible at the protest. A few even had symbols of fascist groups adorning their clothes in the form of patches or buttons. Patriot Front stickers have been found all around Reno, which should be of grave concern to all citizens.
In short, while the fear of Antifa and “anarchists” is childish at best and insane at worst, there is a very real reason to be concerned about neo-Nazi groups and gaggles of fascist nutjobs poisoning our city.
Adam Barrington is a labor organizer from Cleveland, Ohio. He has worked with organizations such as Community Outreach Group and was an organizer for MoveOn.org’s United Against Hate campaign. During the RNC in Cleveland, Adam helped craft the public education platform for the People’s Justice and Peace Convention. He has a background in adolescent and young adult education and currently resides in Reno.
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