Explained: What is Antifa?

Context: Michael Forest Reinoehl, who was being investigated for the fatal shooting of a Trump supporter in Portland, was killed by law enforcement agents. He was an Antifa supporter. What is this movement?


  • Antifa has been around for several decades, though accounts vary on its exact beginnings.
  • Merriam-Webster dates the term as far back as Nazi Germany, describing the etymology of ‘Antifa as “borrowed from German Antifa, short for antifaschistische ‘anti-fascist, in Antifaschistische Aktion (multiparty front initiated by the German Communist Party in 1932 to counter Nazism) and in other collocations”.
  • While the movement has had a presence in several European countries and has come into focus in the United States in recent years, Antifa does not have a formal organisational structure. 
  • It draws its members from other movements such as Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement.
  • The movement has been known to have a presence in the US in the 1980s.
  • It shot into prominence following the election of President Trump in 2016, with violence marking some of its protests and demonstrations.
  • Antifa members typically dress in black and often wear a mask at their demonstrations, and follow far-left ideologies such as anti-capitalism.
  • They take up causes such as LGBTQ and indigenous rights. What makes them stand out is the violence.
  • Criticising mainstream liberal politicians for not doing enough, Antifa members have often physically confronted their conservative opponents on the streets, although the group also participates in non-violent protests.
  • Apart from public counter-protests, Antifa members run websites that track white extremist and ultra-right groups.

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