Truthout, January 4, 2021
The past four years have seen terms like “antifa” hit common parlance around the U.S., but have also seen confusing distortions of what that term means. As right-wing pundits work desperately to paint any and all potentially left-leaning protest action as anti-fascist, and then reframe anti-fascism as a series of nefarious terrorist plots, this has shifted much of the climate toward suspicion of anti-fascist activists. Despite the violence related to 2020’s protests being largely from far right vigilantes and the police, the mythology of “antifa violence” has still been spurred on by rumors, conspiracy theories and dubious allegations. This has provided cover to the far right, which uses claims of “community safety” to head into cities and attack anti-fascist protesters, as has been seen in a sequence of confrontations between far right and anti-fascist demonstrators in places like Portland, Oregon. This perception, along with attempts to crack down on activists through state repression, have led to what many people have alleged are excessive sentences that were disproportionate to the charges being faced.
In cases around the country, such as David Campbell in New York City, activists were facing prison terms for what they have claimed are self-defense against violence by far right groups, such as the Proud Boys. For many activists who have made it their job to try and prevent far right groups from parading into marginalized communities, threatening further attacks, they are finding that prosecutors’ offices see them as the antagonist in the situation.
This is what happened to Alexander Dial, a Portland, Oregon, resident who faced a series of serious felonies after a confrontation at an August 19, 2019, anti-fascist demonstration. Dial came to national prominence after photos surfaced of him taking a hammer away from a member of the fascist group the American Guard, which the Anti-Defamation League refers to as “hardcore white supremacists,” amidst what people on the scene referred to as an attack. Dial was wearing a mask and a shirt that said “Beta Cuck 4 Lyfe,” a play on the insult that far right internet trolls try to use to demean leftist men.