Is It Fair to Compare Leftist Protest Groups with Hate Groups?

Courtesy of Dan Gotlieb

Counter-protesters in Charlottesville, VA.

There’s been many huge protests and rallies over the past couple of years, many of them hinging on a question of equal rights for marginalized communities. When events have focused on far-right-wing speakers and the bigoted demands of white nationalists, we’ve seen counter-punches, sometimes literally, from far-left groups. 

Because of this, the word “antifa” has come into the common lexicon in recent weeks. 

Antifa—meaning anti-fascist—are loosely connected groups of people who intend to be extremely disruptive to far-right hateful groups, sometimes violently. 

Most left-leaning groups of protestors or counter-protestors pride themselves on peaceful protest, but not all. Where does the far left fit into an American picture of protest and civil liberties?

Wayne State University professor and Chair of the Department of African American Studies Ollie Johnson speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the role violence plays in the tactics of far-left groups. 

Jake Neher/WDET

Frank Joyce (left) and Ollie Johnson (right)

Violence has been central to (the African American) struggle for justice and equality,” says Johnson. “It’s been justified in most circumstances because (African Americans) have been oppressed, repressed, persecuted, and (they) still are.” 

According to Johnson, many activist groups have been “infiltrated, sabotaged, repressed and often violently disrupted” by government agencies throughout history. 

Author and activist Frank Joyce also joins the conversation.

As a self-identified pacifist, Joyce is not a proponent of violence, but understands the historical context of violence within social movements. 

Every social change movement in U.S. history…have been overwhelmingly non-violent in the face of an overwhelmingly violent society,” Joyce says. 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 

Courtesy of Dan Gottlieb

A woman in Charlottesville is helped away from the scene after a White Nationalist protester allegedly slammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring many more.


Image credit: Courtesy of Dan Gottlieb

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