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A Look Inside Antifa: Philadelphia's Black Bloc Activists

Vice News interviewed activists about why they fight fascists behind black masks, why they're unafraid of violent tactics, and why Nazis should scare us all.

Vice’s latest documentary about antifa and black bloc tactics is timely, given the hysteria whipped up in white supremacist and neo-Nazi circles against them tomorrow.

The activists interviewed in the documentary view white supremacists as an existential threat, and they are at a loss to understand why they are reviled for fighting Nazis and other cancers on the body politic.

Why they do it:

While Violet admitted that "threats of incarceration by the state and Nazi violence are incredibly frightening," she also told me that while "it would be impossible during the tough times not to ever wonder if it's all worth it, but when I think of the acts (white supremacists) commit, I see how dangerous their movement is, and I don't question it. I have to be out there."

On the risk of exposure:

Violet and others I spoke with all reiterated that they see the violence they commit as essential self-defense of their community. "Even though it's in self-defense, there are a lot of people who don't agree with using violence against Nazis, so there's no guarantee that anyone—even people on the left—will agree with our tactics," Violet said. "Although I have tons of friends in the movement, there's no way of knowing who would support me if my actions were made public, and that can be scary."

On countering "violent ideologies":

I asked her how she feels about this lack of support, and she paused for a breath before answering. "If there's anything that's truly isolating, it's seeing those who supposedly agree with us and want Nazis stopped chastising us because of our tactics," she told me, with a tinge of irritation in her voice. "Nazism is a violent ideology. Fascism is a violent ideology. At some point, everyone agrees with violence. They agree with police violence, they certainly agree with soldiers' violence against Nazis—why do they not agree with our violence that's being used to stop the same movement? You can't say, 'Now violence is OK' once they're establishing ghettos! That can be incredibly isolating and frightening to know we don't always have their support."

I found this video to be instructive and enlightening. Because antifa isn't an organized group, I don't recommend assuming these people speak for the larger whole, but they still express a coherent and calm argument for why they do what they do.

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