Once again, UC Berkeley has accidentally hosted a violent microcosm of American politics. When several far-right groups gathered for a repugnant demonstration, local antifascists counter-protested, leading to a brawl, 21 arrests, and 11 injuries.
The fascist groups present were slight variations on white supremacy and blatant misogyny, from the squatting-in-the-woods-worrying-about-Jade-Helm Oathkeepers to the owns-more-than-one-Pickup-Artist-book Proud Boys. They rallied around support for Trump, insistence on traditional gender roles, and advocating for the literal war crime of mass deportations. The Antifa side, meanwhile, was represented by Defend the Bay Coalition, By Any Means Necessary, and the protest medics of the Pastel Bloc, all united by the appealing idea that literal Nazis shouldn’t get to speak in public.
The clash was between radical groups on both sides of the political spectrum, but please resist the allure of false equivalencies. An easy, tired take is to say that both sides are equally bad, but even if you have complicated feelings about antifas’ tactics or goals, the right-wing hate groups are demonstrably worse. Antifas want fascists out of public spaces, and straight-up fascists want ethnic cleansing. Someone could argue each goal is authoritarian, but no one could argue that each goal is equally horrific.
But, just as Berkeley itself has become a diorama of national politics, the debate around it has to, and I’m sure the internet is full of well-meaning people saying that antifas are just as bad as the evil they’re fighting. They’re not, though. They are not.
(Photo: "Drink," Courtesy of Kjersti Magnussen)