An Open Letter Denouncing Anti-Fascist Action Bay Area
Antifa has no place in Oakland because it is a racist, reactionary, reductive, counter-revolutionary, and nihilistic organization that has attacked workers and community members as well as engaged in intimidation increasing police repression against marginalized communities.
I am writing this open letter to demand that Antifa in Oakland disband and to denounce their recent efforts which caused the Oakland Police Department to force the Oakland Metro Operahouse to cancel a recent concert and face increased repression while resisting displacement and gentrification.
Some Background About the Situation
Recently individuals identifying as Anti-Fascist Action Bay Area (aka Antifa, see: https://www.facebook.com/antifabayarea/) circulated a post on social media demanding that the Oakland Metro Operahouse cancel a concert with the band Marduk from Sweden. This and all related posts have since been removed from social media.
I contacted my friends in Sweden who are part of the punk and metal scenes as well as anti-authoritarian organizing. I was informed that Marduk were not Nazis, and that Antifa was misinformed. I shared this information with Antifa and asked them to discontinue their campaign. I received no response.
|Antifa member gloats about police cancellation|
In their post Antifa made a call to action threatening to shut down the show by force if the Oakland Metro Operahouse refused to comply with Antifa’s demands.
Members of Antifa were aware that law enforcement was monitoring social media. Prior to Antifa’s actions The Oakland Metro Operahouse had been subject to harassment by city officials looking for an excuse to shut down the venue as part of an effort to gentrify the Jack London Warehouse district.
The Oakland Police Department denied the permit for the concert citing the threat of violence in light of the recent protests at U.C. Berkeley against Milo Yiannopoulis.
I am Lebanese-American, a social justice organizer, and a musician in the punk and heavy metal scenes. In the late 80s the Nazi-skin/neo-Nazi scene was growing and increasing numbers of Nazis came out to punk shows. My friends and I were attacked by Nazis during this time, and the relative safety we found in the punk scene was disappearing.
One day I confronted the Nazis and about a dozen Nazis violently attacked me as other punks stood by and watched. After that the punks mobilized to run the Nazis out of the shows. Eventually the Nazis were driven out of the scene. Similar situations like this were occurring across the U.S.
I moved to Oakland in 1997 and soon began organizing with the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation working with family members of those killed by law enforcement. When reaching out to Anarchists I was often told that they only wanted to work with other anarchists thus precluding them from working with marginalized communities.
I found more success finding allies in the punk and metal scenes which were more racially diverse and less dogmatic about political ideology.
I am also a musician who has played numerous shows at the Oakland Metro Operahouse.
Antifa Caused Law Enforcement to Target Marginalized Communities
Founded in 2001 the Oakland Metro Operahouse has its roots in the punk D.I.Y. tradition and is unique in Oakland because it emphasizes outsider artists. This is particularly relevant to marginalized communities which are underserved by other venues.
Because of this the Oakland Metro Operahouse has been targeted for harassment by real estate speculators and city officials looking to gentrify the Jack London Square neighborhood where the Oakland Metro Operahouse is located.
Threats against the Oakland Metro Operahouse by Antifa were posted on the internet while the permit for the Marduk show was pending. This provided the Oakland Police Department the opportunity to deny the permit for the show. Because of this the Oakland Metro Operahouse is facing increased police repression moving forward.
I have been informed by Antifa that they had no plans to carry out any direct action and that their members were aware that law enforcement was monitoring their communications. Accordingly, Antifa was aware that their threats would result in a response by law enforcement.
This cavalier attitude is an example of privilege and entitlement common among activists who do not personally experience police repression and engage in activities that put marginalized people at risk. Antifa has the privilege of making anonymous threats while it is the Oakland Metro Operahouse, their employees, and the communities they serve who are put at risk.
I attempted to arrange a meeting between members of Antifa and the founders of the Oakland Metro Operahouse to de-escalate the police repression caused by their actions. Antifa was unwilling to meet or consider our proposals.
Antifa Is Racist
|German Antifa Logo|
Antifa is a movement that was resurrected in the 1980s in Germany from an older group that was active prior to World War II. The original name Antifaschistische Aktion was shortened to Antifa and the logos of the red and black flags in a circle were adopted.
In 1999 I was in Hannover and saw the band Dir Yassin perform. Dir Yassin was an Israeli band involved with organizing against mandatory military conscription in Israel and was critical of Zionism. I was informed by one of the organizers of the show that Antifa considers any band that criticizes Israel to be anti-Semitic which Antifa considers equivalent to fascism. Because Dir Yassin was comprised of Israeli Jews I was told that they were the only band that would not be attacked by Antifa in Germany for criticizing Israel.
|Dir Yassin Album Art|
Later I learned that Antifa protests often include activists waving Israeli flags and carrying Zionist banners.
As a Lebanese-American I have always felt connected with the struggle of the Palestinian people. I believe that the liberation of the Palestinian people is inextricably tied to the liberation of all people of color in the world. Like many other Arabs I feel unwelcome within movements that embrace Zionism.
Based on a number of experiences I have come to realize that racism against West Asians is pervasive within the radical left in Germany in which Antifa originated. Antifa in Germany does not fight racism. They claim to fight fascism and “anti-Semitism” which they define to include any criticism of the state of Israel. They do not hold a position against fascism in other countries, and they do not fight discrimination against people of color. In fact, by allowing Israeli flags and Zionist banners at their actions Antifa in Germany is making it known that West Asians are not welcome.
On Bay Area Antifa’s Facebook page they post frequently from the website https://itsgoingdown.org/ (aka IGD) which is an insurrectionary anarchist website advocating the formation of Antifa chapters across the U.S. IGD is encouraging anarchists to form Antifa chapters and proclaim themselves “allies” of marginalized people and claim leadership for themselves rather than work directly as true allies. IGD’s motto is “Choosing Sides Getting Organized”. Accordingly, IGD and Antifa are “choosing sides” supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
|Antifa Zionists in Germany|
This foisting of a racist Zionist organization upon movements emerging in response to the election of Donald Trump is reminiscent of infiltration of movements by agent provocateurs such as COINTELPRO. Antifa’s parent organization in Germany supports the occupation of Palestine which is interconnected to a larger foreign policy by the U.S. and its allies to invade and occupy lands in West Asia. We should not let our movements be infiltrated and coopted by organizations supporting U.S. military aggression.
For its part, Bay Area Antifa is perpetuating the anarchist pattern of claiming leadership on issues affecting marginalized people while simultaneously excluding marginalized people from their efforts. This is particularly true in Oakland where anarchists are commonly viewed as outsiders by historic organizers.
The actions of Bay Area Antifa are hostile to people of color in Oakland. Not only did Antifa’s actions increase repression by the Oakland Police Department, but Antifa also falsely asserted that white supremacists are welcome at the Oakland Metro Operahouse. Prior to Antifa’s campaign white supremacists were largely unaware of Marduk whose audience does not historically include white supremacists. However, in recent concerts targeted by Antifa in other cities there has been an increase in attendance by racists. Many of the people attending shows at the Oakland Metro Operahouse are people of color including immigrants whose safety is placed at risk by conflicts with white supremacists attending events. This is particularly true at heavy metal concerts that draw a large Latinx audience.
Anitfa is Reactionary, Reductive, and Counter-Revolutionary
By its very nature Antifa defines itself by what it stands against and not by what it stands for. Antifa’s ongoing relevance necessitates the ongoing existence of fascists.
As self-identified Nazi organizing declined in the 1990s Antifa became obsessed with heavy metal. This was because a convicted murderer who had been part of the metal scene in Norway self-identified as a Nazi in the mid-90s. Antifa embraced the reductive and reactionary position of opposing any metal band with any tenuous connection to that individual or any content that could be construed as symbolizing Nazi sympathies. Because of this Antifa has erroneously targeted numerous heavy metal groups.
Also, it is counter-revolutionary for an organization that was imported from Germany, which excludes people of color, and exists primarily on the internet to assume leadership over historic grassroots organizing by marginalized people here in the U.S.; and divert those organizing efforts to engage in an obsession attacking obscure heavy metal bands with allegations of racism based on conjecture.
Antifa Attacked Workers and Allies
In their campaign Antifa contacted anyone involved with the Oakland Metro Operahouse; spamming them with messages claiming that Marduk were Nazis and demanding that people cancel the show. Many of the people contacted by Antifa were employees of the Oakland Metro Operahouse who were not involved with booking and their friends. Individuals who voiced skepticism about Antifa’s claims had their names and photos posted online by Antifa who claimed that they were Nazi sympathizers.
Beyond targeting those who disagreed with them, Antifa also demanded that others withdraw support from the Oakland Metro Operahouse. The Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair canceled their event on the same day that Antifa began making these threats. The Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair has not yet publicly explained if they canceled due to threats by Antifa.
Antifa Out of Oakland
I ask members of Antifa to stop organizing under that name and engage in self-reflection on how to be better allies to historic movements led by marginalized people.
I ask that Antifa make a public statement disavowing their online threats and make assurances that they will not attack the Oakland Metro Operahouse so that the Oakland Police Department will no longer be able to use Antifa as an excuse for harassment.
I ask Antifa to remove any postings identifying employees of the Oakland Metro Operahouse or community members who disagreed with them.
I ask that anyone or any group that withdrew support due to demands by Antifa resume their support of the Oakland Metro Operahouse including the Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair.
I ask everyone in Oakland to support the Oakland Metro Operahouse as it fights to survive against the forces of gentrification.
March 6, 2017