“Patriots,” Antifa, & Black Bloc*

Now, what do these things have in common? It seems a lot of folks are getting some of them confused with the others. And actions.

Recently, a group of “patriots” heard a rumor that a local antifa group was going to take down a statue of Sam Houston. Openly armed and dressed in makeshift body armor like cosplayers from a never-to-be-made superhero movie, these Texas “patriots” went to Houston’s Hermann Park to confront “Texas Antifa.” Problem was, “Texas Antifa” turned out to be an alt-right troll group, created to discredit the growing number of legitimate (?) antifa groups in the U.S.

I saw pictures on Twitter, and asked what was wrong with those people (the “patriots,” not the antifa). I got a response from one follower who posted an article about possible disruptions by Black Bloc to the then-upcoming G20 summit in Hamburg. He asked if it was unreasonable to think that the “patriots” were afraid of Black Bloc. My reply then, as it was when he repeated the question after the summit, was yes, it is unreasonable. Why? I will answer below. First, who is Black Bloc? Black Bloc is a loosely affiliated group of anarchists whose main goal tends to be property damage and violence during protests. They became known in the U.S. after the Seattle WTO meeting in 1999. They have been more recently been labeled anti-fascists (antifa), and lumped into the growing antifa movement in the U.S.

The antifa movement in the U.S. has largely sprung up in the wake of Donald Trump being elected president. His campaign rhetoric has fueled a rise in hate, and has led many to declare him and his followers as fascists. Granted, there are actual Nazis and white supremacists who openly support the president, but there has been much debate about whether his actions fit the definition of fascism.

That hasn’t stopped people from action, and “antifa” became part of American political dialogue. The antifa movement’s tendency to dress in all black, with their faces covered, has of course led to comparisons and associations with Black Bloc. Their propensity for violent protest has not helped with the associations. There are many degrees of antifa; not all engage in violence. But as the violence increases, the comparisons to the anarchist group will continue.

Where do the “patriots” fit in? It’s a not-so-complicated love triangle. The “patriots” protest at any hint of a removal of statues honoring Confederate figures, or gun restrictions; the antifas protest right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos; and Black Bloc joins in, taking advantage of the chaos. But the “patriots” aren’t dressed for clashes with antifa, despite the Houston protest. They feel it is their duty to fight for what they see as their heritage and Constitutionally protected rights that they think are being taken away by the progressive Left. Although the Houston protest was a result of an antifa rumor, these “patriots” have been protesting long before. The Tea Party movement, a precursor to today’s “patriots,” was conceived early in the Obama years.

So, what do these three groups have in common? Unfortunately, it looks as though the willingness to use violence will tie them together for the foreseeable future. To be honest, the willingness by a group to use violence for political gain is going down the road to terrorism. I still maintain that one group being afraid of another, and the inclination to use violence to counter another movement is unreasonable. Violence begets violence, and to allow it to happen because the other group goes against your political beliefs is irresponsible. Punching Nazis is okay right up until a Nazi punches you in return.

*I put patriot in quotes because I don’t feel they fit the spirit of the whole of the word.