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Is Antifa a Terrorist Group?

Abstract

Starting in 2016, a number of protests and physical confrontations aimed at individuals and groups associated with right wing politics in the United States have been attributed to an ill-defined entity called “antifa”: short for anti-fascist. A high profile example took place in Charlottseville, Virginia on August 11-12, 2017. During two days of conflict and violence, anti right wing protesters clashed with right wing supporters. During the second day of the confrontation, a right-wing supporter drove a car into a crowd of protesters, killing one person and injuring 35 others. While many antifa supporters see it as a defense against right wing extremism, some on the right view supporters instead as terrorists. I tackle these issues in this essay by applying the guidelines of the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) to determine whether the actions by antifa supporters during the Charlottesville incident consitute terrrorism. I conclude that while the events share many characteristics of terrorist attacks, they do not include all of the elements of terrorism required by the GTD. I also question whether antifa can be considered to constitute a “group” at this point in time. My essay highlights how complicated it is to distinghish terrorism from other forms of illegal violence.

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Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Erin Miller and David Pyrooz for helpful comments on an earlier draft. Any errors are mine alone.

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Correspondence to Gary LaFree.

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LaFree, G. Is Antifa a Terrorist Group?. Soc 55, 248–252 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-018-0246-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-018-0246-x

Keywords

  • Terrorism
  • Antifa
  • Right-wing extremism
  • Political violence