Harsh consequences universally warranted for politically motivated violence

Everyone in the United States, no matter their opinion or political affiliation, has the right to express their ideas in a peaceful, liberated and open environment. Free expression of beliefs and legitimate debate is the only way to further political discussion.

Promotion of political ideologies or platforms should be made through applying logic and by collecting supporting evidence—not through violently and destructively silencing those who oppose you. Violence committed at any time from any side of the political aisle is wrong, unjust and illegal.

The rising violence in today’s political spotlight mostly comes from clashes between two movements, known as the alt-right and Antifa. The alt-right consists of bigots, racists and white supremacists, while Antifa—or Anti-Fascists—entails anarchists and communists. 

The horrific attack committed in August in Charlottesville, Va., by an alt-right bigot was rightfully and immediately condemned; but the violence of Antifa, however, was not.

Members of Antifa do not believe in change through peaceful protest and through electoral representation. Rather, Antifa utilizes direct and violent confrontation as a means to not only dampen the voices of opposing viewpoints, but to completely silence them as well. 

For example, Antifa used news coverage of the violence in Charlottesville to further their following. They promote themselves on social media and mainly seek to attract progressives disgruntled with the Democratic Party.

“What they’re trying to do now is not only become prominent through violence at these high-profile rallies, but also to reach out through small meetings and through social networking,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said.

They justify the violence by claiming that had the people of Germany confronted Adolf Hitler and the Nazis before their ideas reached the mainstream, then Nazi Germany and Hitler’s horrific plans would have never happened. 

This claim, however, is not only wrong, but also historically false. In Weimar-era Germany during the beginning of the Nazi movement, Antifa communists clashed with alt-right Nazi fascists, both violently and directly. Unfortunately, the Nazis and their evil ideologies still obtained control and Hitler went on to commit egregious atrocities despite these violent confrontations. 

Initially rising to national attention at the University of California, Berkeley on Feb. 1, Antifa caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus over an event Milo Yiannopoulos—former senior editor at Breitbart News with very close association to the alt-right—was to speak at. Protesters covered their bodies and faces in black to avoid identification, threw Molotov cocktails that ignited fires and hurled rocks and fireworks at the police. 

Antifa, however, does not only assault the alt-right; they also attack free-speech demonstrators and police, as seen in Boston shortly after the events in Charlottesville.

Further, this violence of Antifa has been demonstrated by their continued actions, as seen in Berkeley, where Antifa associates attacked alt-right demonstrators. Their disregard for peaceful demonstrations was apparent in California, specifically Sacramento, where they caused violence and fistfights in the streets, and at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, where they hurled objects at the police.

Antifa’s actions are so destructive that the Department of Homeland Security has classified their actions as “domestic terrorist violence,” according to Politico. 

While the beliefs of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the alt-right are unequivocally repugnant, the violent and communist beliefs of Antifa are atrocious as well.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe that should do a little historical research on Stalin and Hitler,” Ben Shapiro said, editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire.

Condemnation of both the alt-right and Antifa are not mutually exclusive. Violent and destructive demonstrations do nothing to further political discourse. Anyone silencing the free speech of another person or group through the use of violence in the U.S.—no matter what their opinion—is illegal and unjustified.