Four young men in black-denim jackets and hoodies closed in when the man they’d been waiting for emerged from the Mecklenburg Government Center. One of them yelled, “Jared Taylor, you’re a f———asshole!” Reporters turned shocked faces toward the protesters. The police stood their ground, alert but expressionless. Dressed in a suit and overcoat, Jared Taylor shrugged and continued. He’d heard it all before.
The protesters glared from the crowd’s rear as they listened to Taylor address reporters. Taylor demanded an apology from Patrick Cannon, Charlotte’s Mayor Pro Tem, who had pressured local hotels to deny Taylor, a self-described “racial realist,” a conference room for his organization, American Renaissance.
When Taylor concluded his remarks, the reporters turned to the black-garbed protesters, who identified themselves as members of the Anti-Racist Action Network. All four were white. One of them, Michael Behrle, boasted, “American Renaissance will not hold a convention in Charlotte. If they try, it’ll be just like Canada,” referring to Taylor’s talk in Halifax in January, 2007, which protesters effectively canceled by physically removing Taylor from the meeting hall.
I had interviewed Michael Behrle minutes earlier, having spotted his anti-Nazi arm patch. Twenty-two, white, with reddish-brown hair and a short beard, Behrle heads the Charlotte, North Carolina branch of Anti-Racist Action. He’s a barista who enters latte art competitions. I asked him why he’d come.
“We’re here to show Jared Taylor we’re not going to allow him to take away our rights.”
“But Taylor’s group just makes speeches about immigration.”
Behrle’s jaw clenched. “That’s because they’re white supremacists. They want to bring back segregation, and that’s simply not going to happen. Our action here will show other fascists they’re not welcome in Charlotte.”
Fascists? I wanted to probe more, but he shook his head and turned back toward the other protesters, his eyes fixed on me as he walked away.
For Michael Behrle and many others like him, those are the battle lines in post-Cold War, multicultural America: on one side, fascists, and opposing them, the antifa. The word “antifa” comes from Antifaschismus, the German term for anti-fascism. Dressed in their preferred street garb of black clothes, boots, balaclavas, and anti-Nazi patches are young people, almost all white, driven by an ideology as powerful and magnetic as communism. French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut has warned, “I think that the lofty idea of ‘the war on racism’ is gradually turning into a hideously false ideology. And this anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century: a source of violence.”
What’s frightening is that antifa believe conservatives, immigration-control activists, and Tea Party protesters are clandestine fascists. Behrle’s group, Anti-Racist Action, makes this explicit on its website:
“The National Socialist Movement and similar open fascist forces are seeking greater political legitimacy. They want greater influence within larger white nationalist and reactionary social and political forces, such as the anti-immigrant movement, the ‘tea-baggers,’ and the re-emerging militia movement.”
Antifa activists do not debate their enemies; after all, their enemies are fascists and thus have no legitimacy. Their goal is to confront and silence them. From the Anti-Racist Action website:
“If you can get away it [sic], carry weapons, or if there’s a chance you might get searched by cops, carry items that can be used as weapons in a pinch (hefty flagpoles, thick placard sticks, batteries, maglights, bike locks).…And don’t forget your masks—nothing makes the fascists tremble like a group of black-clad, balaclava-wearing Antifa bearing down on them.”
The “Greatest Generation” fought and won World War II, while the Boomers marched in Civil Rights protests. What’s left for the present generation to do? Plenty, as the antifa see it. In their minds, they have taken up both unfinished struggles, which have resumed with the emergence of nationalist and anti-immigration parties in Europe and America. The Civil Rights movement and World War II have not only merged; they’ve globalized. And the battleground is the streets.
A few days after Taylor’s press conference, Daryle Lamont Jenkins of One People’s Project (OPP) congratulated a small group of antifa in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Charlotte’s Marshall Park, where he shook hands with Michael Behrle. “We just used our free speech,” Jenkins told supporters. “We just used our First Amendment rights before they had the chance to take them away.”
I contacted Jenkins and asked how Taylor’s group threatened his First Amendment rights. He replied that American Renaissance’s efforts to separate themselves from blacks constituted an attempt to effectively silence them. Jenkins further assured me his organization rejected violence. When I asked about Michael Behrle’s threat to forcibly disrupt Jared Taylor’s meeting, he responded, “I just chalk it up to bravado.” However, his website links to Behrle’s Anti-Racist Action Network, which clearly endorses the use of force. Jenkins also told me, “I don’t care what happens to white supremacists.”
Many antifa identify themselves as anarchists and communists. Both earlier movements secularized Christianity’s message that a chosen few will guide the world away from evil and toward the good, which today’s antifa warriors envision as a raceless, classless, unified world. But to get there, the old constraints must be broken. Anarchist and communist intellectuals preached that violence in a holy cause was an act of purification and renewal. Prince Kropotkin, who never harmed a fly or a single detested royal in his life, once wrote, “A single deed is better propaganda than a thousand pamphlets.”
Or as Daryle Lamont Jenkins put it, “If someone wants to be involved with OPP, they have to remember that it isn’t about putting out propaganda.”
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