The LA Times published a story today highlighting a growing divide between two strains of activists in Portland. On one hand you have the mostly white Antifa groups who have adopted Black Lives Matter as their own cause and are holding protests/riots nearly every night. On the other hand you have black activists who sometimes hold their own protests and who increasingly believe the anarchists are doing more harm than good.
But the most revealing thing about this story may be the tone and the timing. For most of the summer, Portland anarchists were cool. But suddenly the LA Times wants us to know that maybe these anarchists are just in it for the wanton destruction:
The day after President-elect Joe Biden delivered his victory speech, telling the nation it was time to heal and unite, a clandestine Twitter account — @safePDXprotest — summoned Portland anarchists…
Word spread through the group that the target tonight would be the local headquarters of the Democratic Party.
Somebody started beating a drum as a chant broke out: “F— Joe Biden!”
Then the anarchists marched into the upscale neighborhood, intent on destruction.
News flash from the LA Times: These anarchists are bent on destruction! Yes, and it’s curious that prior to the election President Trump was saying so and I didn’t see a lot of articles agree with him. I guess this is one of those now it can be told situations. Suddenly the anarchists just aren’t cool anymore:
Black activists and community leaders, who generally view the defeat of Trump as an opportunity for change within the system, said the anarchists are hijacking the movement and undermining the push for racial justice by continuing to commit violence.
“When people set fire to a building, it really does not liberate me one bit,” said Mingus Mapps, a Black resident who won a seat on the Portland City Council this month. “It does the opposite. It fuels the political culture that makes racism possible.”
There’s a section of the article which focuses on what the anarchists actually believe. LA Times Seattle bureau chief Richard Read, who wrote the piece, looks over some of the literature the anarchists are giving out. There’s a pamphlet about abolishing mayors and one that describes breaking windows as a way to “contest all the boundaries that cut through this society.” It all sounds pretty thin. Why hasn’t the LA Times reported on this before? The anarchists have been handing out the same literature for months. Why is it only now being given a skeptical eye? Here’s how Richard Read was writing about the nightly protests back in July:
In predawn hours Wednesday, a group of women in bike helmets and goggles calling themselves the “Wall of Moms” linked arms to form a barrier between federal agents and protesters…
The women are variously known as “Moms against police brutality,” or “Momtifa,” a play on antifa, the anti-fascist movement. Like participants in the “Dad Bloc,” many followers say they are suburbanites who had been uninvolved but now want to make their voices heard.
Momtifa and the Dad Bloc. Antifa was cool then. Everyone wanted to be Antifa. Now suddenly, it’s a bunch of white people who don’t really represent the cause. What changed? Well, there was an election and then Antifa made it clear they hate Joe Biden almost as much as Donald Trump. Here’s what they did to a Democratic Party HQ about a week ago:
~2:56 PM, November 8, 2020: Democratic Party of Oregon HQ at 232 NE 9th Ave pic.twitter.com/s9BABmZSBD
— e c o n o m y b r e a k f a s t (@econbrkfst) November 9, 2020
Here’s how Read describes it in his piece today.
Two activists approached the building, one holding an umbrella to conceal the other, who spray-painted an anti-Biden epithet on a wall, adding an anarchist symbol. In red, he wrote “ACAB” — short for “all cops are bastards.”
Six more protesters pounded on the windows, shattering 13 of them before rejoining the group keeping watch in the parking lot.
Suddenly breaking windows and painting “ACAB” on other people’s property isn’t cool (even though they’ve been doing both things for months). Plus the LA Times wants us to know the violence is ultimately pointless and possibly without end:
Shirley Jackson, a Portland State University professor of Black studies, said the violence seems senseless.
“With the BLM protests there were clear demands, but it’s very difficult to see an end to something when it’s not clear what the demands are,” she said…
There’s more of this but you get the idea. The anarchists are doing the same things they have been doing since May. But now it’s senseless and worthy of criticism whereas before now it was just another kind of resistance that was often praised in various ways by the same author.
The shift in tone from the LA Times is so sudden that some of the people quoted in the story haven’t caught on yet. A white small business owner in Portland whose windows were broken by anarchists tells the LA Times, “Black lives matter more than my business.” Maybe after she reads this piece, she’ll realize the correct answer was something like I support BLM but I don’t think these anarchists really care about black lives.
And, hey, maybe there’s some truth to that. Maybe the mob cared more about fighting with police and breaking windows than they did about BLM all along. If so, it would have been nice if we could have heard some doubts about the wisdom of the mob prior to this week.